Electric Mary are Australia's last great hope for the title of 'Killer Blues-ish Hard Rock Band'. They carry on a lineage which began with the melding of blues structures to rock energy in the late '60s and early '70s and which has continued through artists like Whitesnake, Badlands, Mr. Big and Richie Kotzen. Soulful vocals, monster grooves that the dudes can headbang to and the chicks can dance to (or vice versa, really), and killer guitar work. The band is currently bunkering down in the studio to record some new tracks, but they'll emerge into the Melbourne night this weekend to appear at the Rock 'N Load festival at the Espy.
"We're doing some shows in Japan in July, so they want to release a tour album," Singer Rusty Brown says during a break in recording." So we're going to combine six songs that we did in America, live in a studio in New Jersey, and two brand new unreleased songs written over the last couple of months." It'll be the band's first ever tour of Japan, and it's a market that has a well-known love of the kind of melodic hard rock Electric Mary peddles. "We're really looking forward to it. It's kind of a haven for rock bands, especially '70s and '80s bands that are still going and who we maybe think disappeared, but who actually have a really good career carved out in Japan. Guys like one of my favourites, Richie Kotzen. Actually, In our last band that Venom and I were in, we were in LA doing a show at Ian Copeland's club and Richie Kotzen was there. So I went over and said hello to him, said 'I've got your album, Mother Head's Family Reunion!' and he said 'Oh my god, I've sold like 30 of those records in Australia and I've met somebody that has one?' And I said 'You wanna get up and play with us?' and he's like, 'No.'" he laughs.
The band has had plenty of opportunities to play with some of their other heroes though, including Deep Purple and Whitesnake whose founder, David Coverdale, was one of two vocalists in Brown's favourite Deep Purple line-up, and whose music he feels particularly defensive of. "That's my absolute favourite. I saw an interesting thing the other week – Black Country Communion were playing Mistreated but Joe Bonamassa kept playing the riff back to front! I was thinking, he must have done it on purpose because Glenn Hughes (the other Deep Purple co-vocalist from the Burn era) is in your band and he would have told you. Have a look on YouTube! I've watched it a few times, and he goes [sings the riff backwards]. It's just wrong!"
The lead guitar slot in Electric Mary is one of those coveted positions. Irwin Thomas – otherwise known as Jack Jones – held the gig for years, but stepped down when he moved to New York. Shred demon Glenn Proudfoot then stepped in, but he's so busy writing for Guitar World and gigging in Czechoslovakia that he had to call time too. The band's new guitarist is Brett Wood of Pete Murray's band. "Glenn came in and played some shows but he's now doing great work in Europe. Good dude. Left-handed too. Lefthanded Gibson SG player."
Fans will get the chance to witness Wood's axe skills at Rock 'N Load, which will feature over 30 acts across the Espy including Bugdust, The Stiffys, King Of The North, Ten Thousand, Heaven The Axe, I Am Duckeye, The Charge, Anna Salen, Hailmary, Shadowqueen, The Morrisons, Beggars Orchestra, Shadowgame, Bottle Of Smoke, System Of Venus, Arcane Saints, Apache Medicine Man, The Vendettas, Riot In Toytown and many more. "We did the Rock The Bay festival and that was really good too," Brown says. "That was a massive night for us. So the 32 bands and three stages of Rock 'N Load, I reckon it's gonna be another great day. And it looks like the weather's going to be good for the weekend too, so all the rock'n'roll heads are going to be out."
In the meantime, as we wrap up our chat and say our goodbyes, Brown has a request for Beat: "Maybe you could have a word to the typesetter and put a nude photo of me on the cover," he says. "But I used to play in a band with [Beat founder] Rob Furst in the '80s. He was pretty good too, actually! A good keyboard player, a good songwriter. I saw him not long ago and he said when I got back from Europe we should catch up. So I sent him an email and he never replied!"
BY PETER HODGSON
ROCK 'N LOAD festival is at The Espy on Saturday May 26.