By Clare McCabe
Ah Head Like a Hole. A band we all know and love. But did you know they have a new album out and are about to embark on an NZ tour? Well they are, and recently I caught up with Nigel Regan, one of the original members of HLAH, for a lovely long chat. We covered, amongst many other things: the new album Narcocorrido, what to expect on the upcoming tour, their new(ish) bass player, supporting Aerosmith and that fabulous video for I'm On Fire. We started off reminiscing about previous HLAH videos...
Hi Nigel, I've just been watching some of your videos while I was waiting...
Oh yeah which ones?
Well funnily enough I'd never seen the Glory Glory one - which I love. But then I was just watching an early one, Comfortably Shagged - is that the one that you did in the air conditioning unit?
No that's Wet Rubber.
Oh, Wet Rubber, right. Well everyone's looking very THIN in the Comfortably Shagged video...
Well I still am...
Omigod look at him... yeah well I wasn't speaking about you obviously, I was speaking of other band members...
Well Booga's actually getting thin again himself, he's not the big cuddly bear he was...
Is he? Is he going all healthy on us?
Well he just wants to get back in a bit of shape yeah - being healthy is probably pretty good at this stage. Yeah I'm not a big fan of the Glory video myself.
No? Any reason?
I mean we had a pretty high standard of videos you know in the early days and I just thought it wasn't really up to notch.. but if you like it, that's great.
Now my favorite video obviously is the I'm On Fire one - do you remember much about when you shot that?
Oh yeah definitely.
Can't actually believe that you didn't take that over to England and become really big at that stage.
Well the funny thing about that, I mean that would have cost like $150 grand if we had had to pay for it. The actual version of the song was recorded in my little tiny studio, about 5 foot wide and 8 foot long, on an eight-track with no extra gizmos or anything. And it was the B-side on one of our singles, on the Crying Shame single. And the guy from Flying Fish heard it and said to our manager at the time, 'I'd really like to make your video'. So a song that cost us nothing to record ended up with this massive video and then it became a huge crowd favourite.
Well it has to be a crowd favourite, and live it is even better...Now did I see that you're going to be doing a cover album next?
Yeah a friend of ours Dave Berry, who used to own Kiwi Music in Wellington, he's set up a small studio/live rehearsal space up on the Kapiti Coast and back in the old days when the band first started we used to play a lot of covers, stuff like Tad, Mudhoney, you know a lot of early grunge stuff. For ages we've thought, oh it'd be great to go into a cheap studio and just bash them all out for fun and put it out for people to have. We really used to enjoy playing all those covers and we've recorded some of them. And we just thought in between this album and the next one we'd just go in and whack out a covers album and chuck that out.
Great idea. Do you have to pay lots of royalties when you do covers?
No you don't, because they receive the royalties from it being played. So I think anyone can cover any one's song as long as you put all the official guff in the liner notes, you know publishing company and stuff. I remember when we did I'm On Fire and that video, someone actually did a Bruce Springsteen covers album where they got a whole bunch of bands to do different songs and we found out about it too late because I would have loved I'm On Fire to be a part of it. We always seem to be a little bit late on things like that...
Just missing out... damn it. Now how are the rehearsals going for the tour?
We had our first one last weekend and it's going well. The only trouble is, and I guess it's a good problem to have, now that we've got six/seven albums, it's really hard to pick... you know obviously we want to play more than a few off the new album. Whereas in the early days when you've got one or two albums you can basically play them all. But now it's sort of like a couple from the first album, couple from the second, blah blah blah, like that. But it pretty much works out that we play the ones we're going to play off the new album and all the songs that had videos made for them - so your Fish Across Face, Glory Glory, I'm On Fire, Nevermind Today, Wet Rubber, Crying Shame...
Did you ever make a video for Maharajah?
No we didn't actually... and we've never played that live.
See, that's the best song... why not, it's so good?
Yeah it is good and funnily enough I was talking to Mike about it on the weekend saying let's play it. And we'd be able to now because it's one of those songs that's got a sort of loop sample all the way through it and back in the day we didn't really have the technology to do it, whereas Mike now could trigger all that kind of stuff so we would actually be able to play it.
I think it should be added immediately. And people will be enthusiastic if they hear that, especially if they haven't heard it live before...
Yeah we've definitely heard shouts for it ... you know "Play Maharajah" at gigs in the past.
Now from the new album, I think The Great Wall will be a good one to play live, is that going to be on your list?
It is. And in fact we're thinking the first song.
Absolutely, because it's like a new anthem, like really loud and full on straight away, so that'll be a good way to come on to the stage and get that one out. And it's new so you get your new stuff out first. Good idea.
Absolutely. Yeah I'm glad to hear that you like it actually because I'm pretty proud of that one, actually we're pretty proud of all the songs.
Yeah I was going to ask you that, how are you guys feeling about the album now that it's finished and out there?
Happy and relieved. Compared to the first album, the first album was a breeze recording-wise. We wanted to go with Andrew Buckton who did the first album and he's done a lot of good records, like the Midnight Youth album and a whole bunch of stuff. But unfortunately he shut his studio down halfway through doing the album so... Shihad go on about how they were the last band to record at York Street but it was actually us, we were the last band to record there....
We laid all the drum tracks down there and then we'd go to Andrew's to do the guitars and vocals but then that got shut down. So next minute we had to scrabble around for another studio - we actually did it in like three or four different places. But I think it kind of added something to it... some of my favorite albums are ones where they've done it in different studios.
I was just actually thinking about it earlier and you know we have a lot of love from our fans and if it wasn't for the fans we wouldn't have even been able to do this album because we don't have a record company, we have a distribution deal which is great. I don't know why but Head Like a Hole seem to really struggle when it comes to certain things music industry-wise, like I don't know if it's past misdeeds or something but we struggle to get video grants, we don't get the big media push like Shihad... you know obviously they're in a different league now...
Yeah but they're more mainstream now. I guess if people look at some of your old videos, they might think "ooh I don't think we want to make any more of those"... and maybe they can't get past that? But it must be harder to get money these days anyway than it was back in the 90s?
Yeah it's just totally changed you know and that's why we had to do the Kickstarter thing which ended up working really well and enabled us to make the album. But yeah you don't make any money from sales these days, it's actually the touring that you hope if you don't make money on, you'll at least break even. But we are kind of relying on the tours, we need to make some money off this tour so that we can do another album because we don't really want to go doing another Kickstarter and putting our hand out again and going "oh can you help us do the next album as well"...
No I can understand that, the novelty will have worn off a bit now that you've done it once...
Yeah but it was just a case of we hadn't played for awhile, there was no money in the coffers and there was no-one willing to go "I'll fund you guys $10 grand to record" or anything. We didn't have the money between the five of us so it was just the way we had to go. We never put the money in our pockets, it goes into the band and I'm just hoping that this makes enough money... I've always been of the opinion of an album a year, but there's actually been two years between these albums. So we want to basically get cracking on the new album straight away so that we can get another one out.
So now, live, coming up on this tour, you've got 8-Foot Sativa as support, have you played with them before?
Never played with them before and to be honest I don't actually know their music very well. So I'll be interested to see what they're like live.
Well I saw them briefly at Westfest - did you go to Westfest this year?
No. We were hoping to play at it actually but...
Maybe next year? Now coming up for this tour - let's talk costumes. What are we looking at for stage costumes this time round, have we got anything new coming up?
Oh Booga's always got something ...
That's what I thought. Looking at the Comfortably Shagged video, he is wearing all white which I thought was lovely.
Yep on the last tour, I don't know if you saw us on the last tour, he had this huge cape with a skull on it, it weighed about half a tonne. I don't know how he actually wore it on stage because I would have passed out.
And this time you're playing Studio in Auckland?*
Yeah, I'd like to play the Powerstation but Peter Campbell's got a bit of a... he doesn't like us, so he won't let us play there...
Really? But you've played there so many times before...
Yeah and we'd love to play there again but he just won't have us.
It's a much better venue than Studio but I'm sure we can make do.
Ah yeah I mean we've played in pubs with just a vocal PA before and it's been really good so I'm sure we'll make a good fist of it.
Have you seen many of the bands coming out to NZ lately - do you still go to gigs?
Yeah definitely. The last gig I saw was Motley Crue and Alice Cooper actually.
Did you like it?
Yeah it was great. I mean it was the last chance ever to see Motley Crue live.
Indeed. Right. Touring now compared to what it was like in the 90s, what's the difference? Is there a lot of younger people coming along now?
Ah yes there is. I was just talking about that recently. Like when we first got together for the quote unquote Reunion Tour, there were a lot of people there that were our fans from back in the day who are obviously our age now, 40s and 50s. But since then it's like we've got a whole new younger audience and I think a lot of them are younger brothers and even sons and daughters of our old fans who have said go and see these guys, they were one of my favorite bands back in the day. And now there's a whole new audience there, some of them wouldn't have even been born when we were first playing... It's just really good to see you know. Because for awhile there rock music just died in New Zealand, late 90s, early 2000s, there were no gigs, no-one was interested ... you know it was all dance party and doof-doof. But it's made a huge resurgence since.
Agreed. Now speaking of previous tours, I remember seeing you at BDO when you were playing the top stage. Is that maybe when you first reformed?
Yeah we got back together 2006, so it was maybe like 2007, I'm pretty bad with dates actually so...
Oh yeah same. But I was so excited that I was going to get to see you guys again and that you'd actually got back together. I was like really, can that be possible? And my husband is from England and he had only just heard you from my CDs and he was like Jesus Christ why have I never heard of these guys live before? Because he wasn't here in the 90s so he hadn't seen you live before. So yeah you got some new fans that day. Although I did notice that Booga looked a bit tired that day. It must have been damn hot up there on stage...
Yeah I definitely think that's part of the reason why he's getting fit and healthy, because as the singer you know you do have the focus on you quite a bit and you need to keep that energy up throughout the gig. But what's great about having the second album out now is that to me we're just a band again doing it. I mean we've been back together jeez nine years now, I can't believe it's gone that fast. Mike's son's got cerebral palsy and you know there was awhile there where he had to concentrate on his kid so we didn't do much for about a year. But things are good now and he's healthy. So we're hoping to get over to Melbourne after this tour...
Yeah I see on Facebook there's a lot of people calling for an Australian tour which is good to see.
Well I think what we'll do is go over to Melbourne and play sort of Thursday/Friday/Saturday and see how that goes and come back. And if that goes well then we might go over and do a like Sydney/Brisbane/Melbourne, whatever else we can put together.
But we're self-managed and we've got Eccles to set up the tour for us - we've all got jobs you know to pay the bills and stuff and it can be quite hard, but we just do it. The thing is we've still got the enthusiasm for it and everyone's amping to get on this tour and we're hoping to actually put on a bit of a show, we've got quite a few ideas. Whereas last tour was the big get on stage and rock it out, which we're going to do obviously, but we're hoping to put a few bits of theatrics in there, give it a bit more oomph.
Like it. Now one last question before I let you go, Simon the new bass player. I have known him since back in the day when he was in Anigma and Rumblefish. How has he fitted in to the band, because he's obviously of the same era as you guys?
Awesome. He is the best thing I think we've done like musically, he is just a wicked bass player and you can tell from listening to Blood Will Out and then to this album - you know Blood Will Out is great and I love it and it's got some awesome songs on it, but the musicality on the new album, I mean I just love playing with the guy, he's just so enthusiastic about it and he's contributed massively to the song writing and coming up with ideas and stuff. Andrew was a great bass player but he was sort of more simple and solid, whereas you know Simon he'll put like lots of runs and fills in but still play the song.
Yeah I mean it's probably in his background too - I mean playing in lots of other similar bands?
Yeah absolutely and it's really weird, it's not like he's the new guy or anything. It's sort of he joined and it's like he's always been in the band, there isn't that kind of "oh you're the new guy" sort of thing... yeah he's as much a part of Head Like a Hole as I am or Booga.
He probably saw you live a bunch of times in the early days too....
Oh and Luger Boa supported us on the first tour so yeah. And he comes from the same background and likes the same kind of music.
I remember when he is was in Anigma they played support for Metallica back in the late 80s...
Oh yeah he still talks about that...
Of course, as you would, it would have been such a big thing back in your teenage years... I mean getting to meet Lars and James...
Yeah back when Metallica were still good...
And what were Aerosmith like when you supported them?
Oh we didn't get to meet them or anything. I actually had pleurisy and pneumonia and was in total agony and didn't even know if I could stand up and play. And I got through it but after we finished playing I just went back to the motel and collapsed and ended up in hospital. I didn't even get to watch them.
Damn but at least the show went on... Well that's probably all we've got time for, thank you so much for our chat.
No thank you very much.
We will see you in a couple of weeks at Studio and good luck with the tour.
And he was gone. Off to band practice perhaps? Thanks for your time Mr Regan and we're all looking forward to hearing the new material live - and the old stuff of course - Maharajah anyone?
Head Like a Hole are coming to a town near you very soon. The tour starts July 22 in Masterton and finishes up August 8 at Studio in Auckland. Welcome back boys. Can. Not. Wait.
*Since this interview the Auckland venue for Head Like A Hole has now changed to Galatos
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