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Wreckless Eric about his relentless touring appetite and being, well, reckless

“So, how does this work? Do you have a set of questions?” asks Eric Goulden – better known under the moniker of Wreckless Eric – who has been doing the rounds as a punk troubadour for nearly 45 years at this point. 

Surprisingly, however, he’s not quite au fait with interview structures – truth be told, he seems genuinely incredulous about the fact people want to speak to him at all. Still, speak he does – Goulden holds court for over half an hour during this interview, regaling stories from his early days right up to his most recent tour.
 
“It’s just what I do,” he reasons. “I was always ‘just touring,’ no matter what time of the year people ask me. That’s the small-talk ‘round where I live. ‘So Eric, you’ve been away on tour?’ ‘Yeah.’ ‘Must be good to be back.’ ‘Yeah.’ ‘And you’re going out on tour again soon?’ ‘Yeah’,” Goulden laughs. “Time seems to slip away through a crack in the universe. Amy [Rigby, Goulden’s wife] had an album out that I played on, so we toured that, then I made an album [April’s Construction Time & Demolition] so I’ve been touring that.”
 
Goulden, at 64 years of age, does not shy away for a solitary moment when it comes to the realities of touring in 2018. The man is simply trying to make an honest living the same way he was when he first emerged as Wreckless Eric in the mid-’70s – and in order to maintain that, it means taking the show on the road, without any guarantee that there’ll be an audience to meet you there. “It’s great fun when you’re doing the gigs,” he says.
 
“It’s another thing entirely when you get to the hotel – it’s some horrible room, somewhere out on the perimeter. You’re sitting there on the bed, watching something on the TV you’d never normally watch. You venture out the next morning for a coffee and there’s no hope in hell for anything that’s not Starbucks. On and off, you’re doing this for about 40 days. It gets to the point where you’re checking into another terrible hotel with an air conditioner that won’t shut up, sleeping in your clothes out of fear you might catch something from the bed. You think to yourself, ‘This is my life’.”
 
Goulden likens extensive touring to being a comedian telling the same joke over and over. “It’s up to you to make it work,” he says. To borrow a phrase from the Bee Gees, Goulden started a joke all the way back in 1974 and the world has been laughing ever since – the two-chord wonder, ‘Whole Wide World’ has survived as Wreckless Eric’s signature song, having been covered by everybody from The Monkees to Will Ferrell. Rather than shy away from his sole hit, Goulden is glad the song has assisted in his name still having some sort of impact.
 
“Of course, you spend time being unsatisfied,” he says. “You resent it. You go around telling everyone you’re much more than that song, and these other songs are so much better. After a time, you come to peace with it. You look at the way you used to act towards it, and you think ‘Fuck that – this is a hit!’ That’s what you want, isn’t it? I never wanted to be a star, but I always thought a hit record would be something. I never cared about leaving behind a legacy – all I wanted to leave was an indelible stain. That’s what ‘Whole Wide World’ is.”
 
We could go on for another hour, but Goulden’s phone gets a call-waiting notification. He signs off with hopes people will come out to see him play on his first Australian tour in 38 years. “I almost can’t imagine what it looks like now,” he says. “It was so long ago, and it’s so far away. I don’t know why I never came back. People kept offering, but it was always in these punk-rock packages and shit like that. Not for me, I don’t think.” And with that, he’s gone. Off to explore the whole wide world again.

Wreckless Eric will tour Australia throughout November, hitting The Tote on Sunday November 11, Theatre Royal, Castlemaine on Friday November 23, Northcote Social Club on Saturday November 24 (matinee) and Caravan Music Club that night. More details and tickets via the DRW website