Ian Rilen



Drum Media - Michael Smith - 11th May, 2005

It's all there in his gritty, streetwise, bittersweet sings, all delivered with a voice Tom Waits could comfortably put a harmony to, simple songs of love, booze, rock 'n' roll and the bruises each of them leave behind, all wrapped up in the kind of angry, dislocated guitar sound that makes the White Stripes and Blues Explosion so exciting. The title of the new album from Ian Rilen and The Love Addicts says it all - Passion Boots and Bruises (Phantom/MGM).

"I think most of them are from my own experience, unfortunately!" Rilen wryly admits. "Paul Kelly's the perfect storyteller, and I remember telling him once "Wish I could write you, tell all these wonderful stories' and he said, 'Oh f**k, I wish I could write songs like yo, and get it over with in four words!"

Rilen does manage to get one 'story' onto the new album Grey Street, though it's a song he doesn't play live much. What's interesting though is the way songs get written.

"In Melbourne in the late '90s, there was a spate of prostitute murders around St Kilda, and I was just walking to a gig at the Price of Wales one night, freezing winter, a horrible Melbourne night, and the song just came to me as I was walking along, my footsteps created the rhythm, and I was walking down Grey Street!"

Joining Rilen, who is back from living in Melbourne again, on the record is former 'rebel' Triple J announcer Tony Biggs on drums, who first worked with him in Hell To Pay. Sadly Biggs' health has seen him drop out of gigging. Then there are guest guitarist Kim Volkman and bass player Sean Docherty.

"I first saw Kim busking on a dobro out the front of the supermarket in Ackland Street, and after about the third time I saw him, I asked him if he wanted to join my band. The bass player at the time was Cathy (Green, ex-X drummer_, but she was having a baby so Sean, who is Kim's half brother, just jumped in straight away, and played with us eight months and did the album. But it was always Cathy's spot, so as soon as she was up for it, she was back and playing like a million dollars."

Sticky Carpet (March 18th, 2005)

"I been tryin' to change, tryin to change my life, been married 27 times but just met my future ex-wife; we'll have it: passion, boots and bruises"
- Ian Rilen, the title track off Passion, Boots and Bruises

Ian Rilen is an Australian rock institution. The Keith Richards of Australia, or "a national treasure", according to Cold Chisel songwriter Don Walker, the 57-year-old lives and breathes the rock 'n' roll lifestyle - you can hear it in his gravelly voice and see it in the crevices of his face.

He never rehearses, confesses to being unmanageable, and once had to look up his own songs on the Espy jukebox to jog his memory.

He has thrown over girlfriends for a schooner of beer, and he doesn't mind the new rock kids coming up to him and squealing "You're a bloody legend"!

His memory is like a sieve and his favourite place to play is on the sticky carpet of St Kilda's Greyhound Hotel, "where the bitches are falling on the feedback".

Rilen wrote two Australian pub anthems - Bad Boy for Love (when he was in Rose Tattoo) and TV Glue (as frontman of X).

And now, having moved back to Melbourne from Sydney, he releases his second album with the Love Addicts: Passion, Boots and Bruises.

Over grinding swampy blues rock, he spills his guts about girls, mobile phones, his hometown of Bendigo, St Kilda street workers, the music industry and more girls.

His motto is encapsulated in opener Booze to Blame ("it's a shame, booze to blame"). And his band put on just about the best live rock show in town. Catch them when they launch Passion, Boots & Bruises at Cherry, AC/DC Lane, tomorrow, and also check out his country band, the Pushers.

Addicted to Rilen

The documentary on the life of Ian Rilen, whose new single is reviewed on these pages today, s slowly coming together.

Many famous names, including Molly Meldrum and Paul Kelly, have already agreed to appear. On Saturday, Rilen and his band The Love Addicts play at Spectrum in Darlinghurst, supported by The Wild Idols.

As a sidebar, Rilen's new live version of hs Rose Tattoo classic Bad Boy For Love, which appears on the single, was recorded at a soundcheck.

The Australian (Mark Mordue - 20th September 200

Former Cold Chisel songwriter Don Walker calls him 'a national treasure'. Hunters and Collectors made his song 'Stuck On You' a live anthem. Rilen even sparked a minor craze for singlets on Oz Rock front men when Mark Seymour, then Tex Perkins, imitated his on-stage look. Indeed each new generation seems to rediscover Rilen as an inspirationally authentic figure akin to a modern-day bluesman.

Unless you're a music fanatic, though, or a denizen of Darlinghurst or St Kilda, it's unlikely you would know of him. Because as much as they say a lot about Ian Rilen he probably puts it best himself when he sings, with a succinct blend of humour and menace and pride, 'I'm bad for good.'

It's not something he entirely controls, of course. Lately, for instance, every time he tries to show someone a video of his new group Ian Rilen and The Love Addicts, it breaks. He shakes his head and works away at my complimentary cassette with a pencil, muttering 'Someone must have put the mozz on me.'

"I've very rarely fucked up in live shows in the last thirty years, though," he states defensively. "Afterwards maybe. but I don't do any shit before. I don't smoke pot or anything. I still remember the time I had a line of coke years ago before playing. We were four songs in before my feet hit the ground. When I realized I said "Good evening ladies and gentlemen, I'm back!"

The word 'bad' comes up a lot around Ian Rilen, you see, not least in his own songs, notably the Rose Tattoo classic 'Bad Boy For Love', which he says 'still keeps me in beer money'. By the time it was becoming Rose Tattoo's first hit in 1977 Rilen had left the band because "they weren't hard enough" and "it was turning into the Angry Anderson show". "I was also starting to write songs like 'Hate City' and Angry didn't like that. He thought it was too punk."

A reformation tour in 1999 that featured their original and toughest line-up included a contract stipulation that amused Rilen. 'Pete Wells and Angry demanded that they not be on the same floor as Mick Cox and I in any hotel we stayed at. We always did like to party out more than they did.' Rilen forgets to add that Anderson and Wells also requested they not travel in the same vehicle because of he and Cox's inability to wake up and get to the next gig in what might be called comfortable time.

Rilen has 'heard all the bullshit' before, of course, how he's halfway between Iggy Pop and Dorian Gray, how he's gifted with a reptile handsomeness that mostly belies his demonic lifestyle. "It's better than being half way between Johnny Farnham and Perry Como," he supposes, puffing on a Camel and breathing out a burst of smoke that suggests he must be laughing, a distinct blue 'X' tattooed on his index finger.

Now into their 25th year, X are arguably the most important and enduring underground rock band in Australian music history. Rilen still recalls seeing them at an early rehearsal session. 'They were playing their instruments so hard they were soaked in blood.' The passion impressed him enough to leave Rose Tattoo and join up.

As their bassist and sometime vocalist, Rilen still shares the unit creatively with its other great survivor, guitarist and singer Steve Lucas, after a series of deaths, departures and sporadic break-ups that would have wiped out most other acts. X recently celebrated their 'silver jubilee' with the release of Evil Rumours, a double live CD recorded at Sydney's The Basement. 'No one ever really captured the full flight of X on record,' Rilen says now. 't was unfortunate. You just had to be there to cop it.'

Over that time Rilen has distinguished himself with a downward stroking, 'wall-of-sound' bass style, a gravel and honey voice that hints at Tom Waits and even Jacques Brel, and hardcore, surprisingly melodic songwriting reinforced by lyrically minimalist pictures of street life. For a man who claims, somewhat awkwardly, to be 'no good at reading books', his taste in songwriters is decidedly refined, with a notable passion for Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen as well as the fine and low arts of conversation. 'If you can say it in a few words or less it's always better.'

Given X's wayward approach to everything and a highly charged personal history that included Rilen taking up with Lucas's wife for a while, it's no surprise there has been a need to pursue other tangents. Ian Rilen and The Love Addicts are but the latest example. In distinguishing the two bands Rilen says The Love Addicts "rock like shit, but with highs and lows. It's soft and lazy and sleazy, but then it snaps out," he adds with an excited snarl. "As opposed to X, which snaps out all the time."

He's just recorded a new CD with The Love Addicts for Christmas release under the title of "Passion,Boots and Bruises". In that group Rilen prefers to play a loose style of rhythm guitar, saving his devastating and punishing bass work for X. He points to the bass guitar that has kept him company for so long, lying in a corner of the room, noting that he has no copies of anything he has ever recorded, nor does have a car, a home, or a stereo. "Someone could come to town for three weeks and own more than I do. I've thought about it lately. Music has taken everything I've got."

His Fender Telecaster 61 has burn marks on the side and an atmosphere of long-term damage written all over it. Aside from his aggressive playing style, it bears the marks of his relationship with then girlfriend Cathy Green, who was X's extraordinary drummer from 1984 till 2002. Rilen and Green's relationship would prove as combustible as his friendship with Steve Lucas. "Girls are girls," Rilen says, as if it were a futile mystery, before confessing, "I came home late one." He pauses for quite a while without saying a word. Finally I say, "night?"

"Actually I was gone about a week," he says. "I remember pulling into the driveway and sitting there too frightened to go inside. You'd know the sound of my Buick pulling in anywhere though. When I did finally go in Cathy was sitting at the kitchen table reading the papers. She just said 'hello'. And that was it. I thought, 'I've gotten away with it!' Then I said, 'Can you smell something burning?' I looked over to the stove and there was my guitar, both jets on full bore. It'd taken me five minutes to do my cowardly creep inside. She must have put it on as soon as she heard me."

Rilen admits he doesn't make a living from his music "yet, but I'm working on it". The fact he's on his way back down to Melbourne for his girlfriend's 21st birthday tonight might give some indication of both his charm and his energy along the way. Does getting old frighten him, I ask? "No," he says. "Music is about how you feel inside and how you give that to people. If you're lucky it's enough to do the job."