There have probably been more sophisticated explanations in the annals of rock music as to why a mature and experienced musician may feel that he has a vocation for rock ‘n’ roll, but here’s Pete Wells’ reply: “What else can you do in Australia but write rock songs?” he asks with amusement. “People always think everything’s so exciting over here, when in fact it’s dead boring. There are no crocodiles here, with the exception of Angry Anderson perhaps, and I’ve never run into Crocodile Dundee.”
Pete Wells is the guitarist and songwriter with Rose Tattoo, one of the hottest temptations since the invention of the electric guitar, while the above mentioned Angry Anderson is the group’s vocalist. Anderson, the band’s visual and acoustic focus thanks to his conspicuous appearance, is a real live wire. His raw, whiskey-soaked voice releases pure adrenaline, lending expression and ferocity to Rose Tatttoo’s straightforward material.
“My voice is a gift from God,” Anderson comments on his talent. “That’s nothing to do with me, I owe it to a higher power.” Together, Wells, Anderson and their colleagues, Rob Riley (guitar), Steve King (bass) and Paul DeMarco (drums), have just come up with their new studio album, entitled Pain. The record consists of almost sixty minutes of pure, undiluted joy of playing, and one of the current song titles – ‘No Mercy’ – highlights the record’s uncompromising attitude.
Rose Tattoo don’t hold back in other respects either, seeing that numbers like ‘Someone To Fuck’, ‘Hard Rockin’ Man’, ‘The Devil Does It Well’ or ‘One More Drink’ require no further comment. As Anderson roars out his down-to-earth rock prose in no uncertain terms, Rose Tattoo’s musical style is equally blunt and honest. They don’t waste any time beating about the bush but overlay pulsating rhythms with loads of steaming hot guitar riffs, while the bass generally grooves away stoically on one basic note, accompanied by slide guitars and earthy solos.
“That’s the great thing about our music: there’s no faking it, on our albums you get that authentic, pure rock ’n’ roll feel,” Pete Wells explains the prevailing direction on Pain. “That’s precisely what we’re known for and what people expect from us.” The 16 tracks on Pain were produced by Rainer Haensel at the Karo Studios in Brackel outside Hamburg, with former Victory guitarist Herman Frank (Saxon, Nostradamus, among others) in charge of the mix.
It was in 1976 when Peter Wells, erstwhile guitarist with Infamous Buffalo from Sydney, set out looking for some like-minded spirits to found an aggressive new street rock ‘n’ roll group. His conditions were that all members had to sport tattoos, short hair and dress in the same style. At that time there was a vocalist in Melbourne whose voice was reminiscent of a young Rod Stewart. Anderson met up with Wells, and the chemistry between them was dynamic from the word ‘go’. Featuring a blues rock sound which brought back memories of early Stones and Faces, Rose Tattoo performed their debut gig on New Year’s Eve 1976 and went on to sign a contract with Albert Productions, home of Australian rock acts of the tougher persuasion, like AC/DC and Angels. House producers were the legendary Harry Vanda and George Young, both of Easybeats fame.
The first Tattoo single ‘Bad Boy For Love’ was an instant radio smash, followed by an eponymously titled debut album in 1978, later rechristened Rock ’n’ Roll Outlaws. The band toured tirelessly during the first years of their career and brought out their second recording Assault And Battery in 1981. By this stage, Rose Tattoo had become something of a rock ‘n’ roll samurai: Angry frequently lost consciousness on stage or stood in front of his audience, overcome by emotions and covered in blood. “There used to be a lot of drugs and alcohol involved, but luckily that’s all behind us now. We’re much wiser. Or at least I hope so,” grins Wells.
Suitably, their third album was called Scarred For Life (1982) – a title that says more than a thousand words. After tours with Aerosmith and ZZ Top, the Rose Tattoo story ground to a temporary halt in 1983. It took another ten years before the band, on request of their faithful fans Guns N’Roses, who had recorded a cover version of the Rose Tattoo standard ‘Nice Boys’, got together again, appearing as opening act during the Gunners’ 1993 tour of Australia. During the show at Calder Park in Melbourne, Slash and Duff joined Anderson & Co. on stage for the first time.
In 1999, Rose Tattoo came to Europe at long last, performing a number of spectacular shows during tours like ‘Songs Like Hurricanes 3’, featuring Boehse Onkelz, Saxon & Danzig. This feat was repeated one year later at the Wacken Open Air 2000, where the band proved to the – in sections extremely young – festival crowd what real rock ‘n’ roll is made of. The musicians used the fantastic atmosphere generated by the almost 25,000 punters to record their live album 25 To Life at the Wacken Open Air. “We were a little nervous at first, but at the same time we felt incredibly motivated to really do our best,” Anderson recalls. “We went out on stage and said to ourselves: no matter what happens, we’re going to do the best we can. The atmosphere was really awesome.”
The following summer Angry & Co. set out for another assault on German stages, causing a major stir with their impressive club performances, before the musicians returned to Oz to compose the material for their current album Pain, which is about to be released.