Don’t worry about locking up your daughters … it’s your mothers you should be worried about! Melbourne’s own Dirty Rats have been rocking out since arguably the best decade for Australian Rock – the eighties – and are showing no signs of slowing down! They’ve recently released their first full length album, ‘Rock n Roll’, and it’s an absolute banger (if you haven’t heard it yet, do yourselves a favor and do so!). In the midst of this release, and the band still rocking local stages like there’s no tomorrow, OVERDRIVE were fortunate enough to speak to Wayne “Richie Rat” Rich, Dirty Rats front man, about their latest release, and what it’s been like rocking through Melbourne for over thirty years!
Dirty Rats are comprised of band members Wayne ‘Richie Rat’ Rich (vocals), Anthony ‘Chooka’ Chapple (guitar), Jamie Beovich (bass), and Andy Thomson (drums).
If you’re unfamiliar with who the Dirty Rats are, never fear! Rich was kind enough to give us the lowdown. He explained, “Dirty Rats are a four-piece rock band from Melbourne. We play ‘old school’ hard rock, trying to stay faithful to the sound the band had in the 80’s when we were all fresh faced and optimistic, and had hair and stuff. The original Dirty Rats were a mainstay of the Melbourne pub-rock scene throughout the 80’s, but due to some internal and external issues, they went into hiatus for a long time, before reforming in the 2000’s. This current lineup has brought the Dirty Rats kicking and screaming into 2017, while still retaining our hard rock roots and sound. Dirty Rats are a little older and worn around the edges, but in my opinion, we still produce some of the best rock coming out of Melbourne today, and certainly give one of the best live performances you’ll see in this town.”
Having been in the system since the eighties, Rich explains what it is that fuels himself as a performer, although only joining Dirty Rats a couple of years ago. He explained, “There were a lot of lineup changes over the last decade or so and now Jamie (Beovich) is the only original Rat in the band, although we have all been playing in different bands over the years. I only came on board in 2015 after answering an ad on gumtree, best move I ever made. For me, and I am pretty sure it’s the same for the rest of the guys, it’s never been about money, not that there’s any of that around, but more about the writing and performing that drives me. Looking at the streaming sites or getting feedback from digital radio showing that people are downloading and listening to our music is like crack to me, it’s what makes me want to write more songs, do more shows, record more albums. That and I get to hang out and perform with some awesome fucking musicians like Jamie, Chooka (Anthony Chapple) and Andy (Thomson).”
Attention shifted to what inspired and motivated not only ‘Richie Rat’ as an individual, but Dirty Rats as a band, and a plethora of Australian Rock bands made the cut, as you would have assumed, as well as some more notorious Iconic bands. Rich explained, “There’s the obvious stuff like bands I grew up listening to, mostly Oz rock like Rose Tattoo, Mental as Anything, Hoodoo Gurus but also loved a lot of stadium rock, like Deep Purple and Rainbow and man I was a HUGE Kiss fan. Mostly I write lyrics for the melodies that Jamie comes up with. My inspiration for most stuff is my life and what I have experienced in the case of songs like Not Alone, but sometimes if we are just jamming, stuff just comes to me, like Rat Town. With Rat Town, Jamie was just jamming on a riff he had made up and suddenly the first verse was just in my head. The whole song took us about 45 minutes from riff to arrangement, it was pretty cool actually. When that happens, it’s just magic, and it’s usually the songs you don’t think too much about that turn out to be the crackers.”
Rich took us on a quick trip down memory lane, and gave us insight into his most memorable moment as a performer, and during his short time with Dirty Rats. He explained, “For me, playing to 9 people at a brewery in Mirboo North. Every one of them danced for every song and I fell off the stage, about a four foot drop, onto the dance floor. I still maintain I was trying to jump, but my dodgy leg let me down. As a band, I reckon the day we recorded the album, Rock n Roll. Everything just came together musically, we had fun and it was just so easy and laid back. I think a lot of credit toward how good the album sounds is because it was so much fun to make.”
All attention soon shifted to their album, ‘Rock n Roll’, which they have recently released. Rich gave us insight as to how the production of the album came about. He explained, “As I said before, I have only been with the band since 2015, but from the time I joined the intention of the band as a whole was to record an album of original hard rock. I think that once we started writing new stuff and re-working some of the older stuff, it became apparent that we had enough good material and it would be stupid not to record it. The fact is that the commercial market is flooded with pre-manufactured pop and watered down stuff for the teeny bopper crowd and we felt that we wanted to get our stuff out there for our demographic, the rock fans over 40 who are nostalgic for the music they grew up with, but wanted something new, not just the same old regurgitated stuff that classic rock FM stations throw at them. The most exciting music I have heard over the last decade or so was stuff from Jet and Wolfmother, new original songs that drew on and reminded me of the stuff that was the soundtrack of my youth. The first Wolfmother album just blew my mind, and I had to buy a second copy of “Get Born” because I wore the first one out. I always wanted to write songs that would have that sort of impact on my generation, something that would make my mates go, “oh fuck, that’s awesome”, and I think with Rock n Roll, we have accomplished that.”
Staying on track, he continued to talk about the length of time it took the Rats to piece this album together, and being their first full length album they wanted to ensure they ticked every box (and trust me, they more than did that!). He explained, “We started seriously writing and arranging for the album around mid-2016 and recorded later that same year. I was lucky, cos Jamie and the lads pretty much had all the songs worked out before I even showed up. All I had to do was write a couple more, which wasn’t too strenuous since I already had the lyrics to Not Alone from a previous solo act, and Rat Town kind of wrote itself, so it was pretty easy from my viewpoint. Jamie and Andy kind of came up with the idea that we should just record the album “live”, just go in and play as if we were doing a gig, and I reckon that was the best way to go, as it gave the album that rough and ready feel that we were after. We have always been a tight band musically with a good feel for how we each perform, so most tracks were recorded in just one or two takes. We had to do some overdubs with the guitar parts due to some changes in guitarists, but otherwise we just got stuck in and got it done. The marketing and distribution was probably the hardest part in my opinion, very steep learning curve that I am pretty sure we did not take anywhere near full advantage of. I have learned a lot about internet radio in the last 6 months and it is a bit of a standing joke amongst us at the moment that we are getting phenomenal airplay on internet radio and podcasts in America and countries like Croatia, Serbia, Japan and Israel, but can’t get played in Australia. I think what we have learned will serve us well though when we bring out the new album next year.”
If you’re a fan of the Dirty Rats the question would remain, “What’s next?” Rich gave us full insight into what he believes the future holds for the Rats moving forward. He explained, “We have always primarily been a working band, so we are still gigging in venues around Melbourne, playing original sets with other original bands. We have a little side project, doing classic rock covers shows to raise money for our next album, so we will probably be alternating between the two for the rest of the year. We have been writing new material for probably the last 6 months or so and working a couple of the new songs into our live sets to see if they go over, and so far that hasn’t been too bad. Couple of hits and misses, but I reckon by early next year we will have more than enough to record a new album of entirely new songs. Some of the tracks we have been coming up with will need a bit of arranging to get them to where we want them, but there have been some absolute crackers and I can’t wait to get them into the studio. Hopefully the new album will be out around mid-2018 and we can build on the audience we have both here and overseas with maybe a couple of small promotional tours to raise our profile a bit. Either way, I think more people are going to hear our music, either live or through their preferred streaming service, and I reckon that’s what makes it all worth it.”
Get their album ‘Rock n Roll’ HERE!