First in a series of interviews with bands performing at this year’s Nevermind The Warp’d Tour Festival, Ragged Press’ Matt Gleeson caught up with Dee Dee, vocalist and guitarist with Wollongong punk legends Topnovil.
MG: Thanks for giving me a little bit of your time. Now I’ve got to admit I’ve never seen you guys live. I seem to be out of the state every time you come down to Melbourne.
Dee Dee: Aw yeah, it’s usually the way man. The thing that happens is that we book shows down there and then there’s three other shows on the same night. I guess it’s a good thing and a bad thing about Melbourne, there’s always something going on, so not everyone sees us at the same time.
MG: I can’t even claim I was at another show mate. I’m always in bloody New South Wales when you’re in Victoria! But yeah you’re right, Melbourne does have a lot of venues, a lot of bands and it can be hard. I was talking to somebody else about that tonight. It can be difficult sometimes, because you’re spoiled for choice down here.
Dee Dee: It is, yeah.
MG: So what can we expect to see at a Topnovil set?
Dee Dee: Geez, man I don’t know. I guess you have to come check it out. It’s high energy street punk I suppose, with sort of mix between rock and roll, a bit of old school punk mixed with new school I suppose.
MG: I’ve got to say that you guys have a great rep for your live performances. Every time I’ve missed the show, people come and rave at me about what a great show you guys have put on.
Dee Dee Ah that’s good to have people talking like that.
MG: You guys have been around for a long time. You’ve been playing punk for a long time. What’s your earliest memories of punk? How did you get into this music?
Dee Dee: Aw I don’t know man. The Wollongong Youth Centre, there was always punk bands and things playing there. It was sort of what was happening at the time. There was sort of a resurge in the 90’s I suppose, a lot of punk bands coming out and stuff like that. So the local youth centres, there was bands playing stuff. Wollongong bands like Thug and stuff like that. I guess we were already into music and started playing instruments and that was kind of the path we took because the people we looked up to in our own area were already playing punk and that was sort of what was going around at the time. There was Rancid and stuff like that on the radio, and that’s what we were kind of into. I guess that’s what influenced us.
MG: It sounds like your local scene has been pretty important to you.
Dee Dee: Yeah, Wollongong’s punk scene back then was huge. It’s still got a pretty strong scene now, but nothing like what it was back then. Everyone was starting bands and playing in two or three bands and there was always show on. House party shows and stuff like that. There was always bands to go and watch and it was really good. It was a good, healthy scene.
MG: It seems like it’s still a pretty vibrant scene up there too though.
Dee Dee: It is good. It’s like a family I suppose. I mean the whole punk scene in Australia is for us, you know you travel around, people give you their lounge room floors to sleep on and they always happy to share beers and their food with you and have barbecues and that, but I guess your hometown kind of you know, your close family and stuff that you have grown up with as well. The Wollongong scene, the smaller it’s got, the tighter it’s got, I suppose. It’s a pretty tight knit scene.
MG: Wollongong has got a pretty incredible rep actually. We feel it down here. Guys like Lochy Rowe and a few others, and yourself and Topnovil have made an impact on the scene on a larger scale. What do you reckon makes Wollongong so special compared to other places where we don’t see as vibrant a punk scene?
Dee Dee: I don’t know man. It’s a working town, a steel work town. I suppose playing in a punk band is a good escape I suppose. For us boys in our band it’s a way for us to travel and see places and hangout with our friends. It’s taken us to places on the other side of the world and stuff like that, so for me, you know punk has done so much for me and showed me so much I suppose. Yeah and it all started with the Wollongong scene and I suppose wanting to you know, push it further beyond that.
MG: I was going to ask you about that, because you toured Europe earlier this year. What were the highlights of that?
Dee Dee: It’s a pretty long list. I think for me, we played with some of the bands we’ve looked up to our whole lives. We were just ticking things of our bucket list. I got to meet Lars from Rancid, who is one of my heroes. We played with U.K. Subs. We played with The Exploited a couple of times and got to hangout with them all. We played with The Casualties, Total Chaos, bands that you just wish that they’d do come to Australia occasionally. We spent a month over there and just pretty much bouncing around and playing with so many great bands. It was just so good.
MG: You guys cite 77 punk as a heavy influence, and you’ve also talked about that 90’s punk resurgence. I’m wondering who would you rate as the ‘Godfather’ of punk?
Dee Dee: I guess each of us in the band have all got different things, but for me I guess The Clash are probably the one that is for me, but the other boys have probably got different ideas on what they’d think, but for me as a songwriter, and for style, I’d say The Clash. Sex Pistols as well, but I’m like a huge fan of the Ramones. I guess to me, because we came later, you can go back and look at them all and enjoy them all.
MG: Is there any plans to record again soon?
Dee Dee: Yea. We’ve started demoing stuff recently. We’ve already recorded two songs that we hopefully that we’re hopefully doing with a band from France as a split with them next year. We are also going to put an E.P. out as well and then maybe something else towards the end of the year. Next year is our 20 year mark for us. We are looking at different things that we can do.
MG: I was going to ask you about that too. I mean you guys started in 1997. You’re looking down the barrel of 20 years. That’s a long time for any band to be together. What’s the secret?
Dee Dee: Well I don’t know mate. Punk rock’s fun. It’s our life for us and like I said, it’s a great way for us to get holidays to see mates and hangout and drink beer and play music, and playing gigs is just part of it I suppose. I mean it’s a great part, but like we get to do some great things and meet great people. It’s always fun. There is never a dull moment that’s for sure.
MG: So this will be my final question, and I’m asking all the bands that I’m interviewing for the Nevermind The Warp’d Tour Festival this question. What’s the nicest thing that the Nevermind The Warp’d audience can do for Topnovil?
Dee Dee: Aw mate, just show up and enjoy the set. Like the whole day is going to be great. Mik and Kacey put on great shows. It’s so good to be there amongst it and see all the bands. It’s always a broad range of bands and stuff like that. We have a ball just being there, but if everyone gets into our set while we are playing, that’s a bonus. We’re just, like I said, just happy to be there. It’s always a great time there anyway.
MG: I think people getting into your set will be guaranteed mate. Don’t think you’ll have any problems there. Thanks for your time and I really look forward to finally catching Topnovil play.
You can catch Topnovil playing at the Nevermind The Warp’d Tour Festival!
Photography by Rod Manning