The Hard-Ons are back with their rampaging 12th studio album, So I Could Have Them Destroyed, and a national tour that will bring them to Perth for two dates on 15 and 16 November. Formed in Sydney in 1981, The Hard-Ons are self-described as a ‘punk’ band, although when Around The Sound spoke to bass player Ray Ahn, he was having none of that!
I’ve got no idea what punk is any more.Rah Ahn, The Hard-Ons
Asked whether The Hard-Ons are still as punk as, Ahn told us, “It’s hard to say. That term, ‘punk’, the more I read about it, thanks to social media, I’ve got no idea what punk is any more. You read people’s lists of the 100 greatest punk records of all time or 20 essential Australian punk bands. For some reason, I get joined onto these lists all the time and I think, ‘What the hell am I doing here, I don’t relate to these people.’ I relate to them on a human level, but I’m not really into the music that they’re into and I don’t think they’re into the music that I’m into. At some point the word ‘punk’ was bandied around in relation to the band I’m in, The hard-Ons, but I’ve got no idea.”
New album, So I Could Have Them Destroyed sees the Hard-Ons distilling their best musical traits, brutal velocity, rampaging guitars, throbbing rhythms, beautiful harmonised vocals. and sticking to their tried-and-true dogma: no fat, just muscle. Speaking about the new album, Ahn said, “Punk records have that crazed, chaotic rhythm that hard rock records don’t have. I think The Hard-Ons still have that. We’ve always had that because we grew up listening to those punk records. The blueprint for us was Ramones, Damned and The Dead Kennedys. Our new record, some if it’s not punk at all, it’s just metal. Some of the music that’s on that record is just purely thrash metal and a lot of it’s just pure pop.”
A lot of wonderful contradiction in all of that, but maybe that’s the point!
Whether or not Ahn sees The Hard-Ons as a punk band, he’s sure got a lot to say about the genre. Warming to the subject, Ahn told us, “I’ve got no idea what it is, but when people play me punk music I think, ‘This is so exciting.’ It’s incredible! I’ve had conversations about punk with two really, really legendary figures. One was Captain Sensible from The Damned, the other one was Rob Younger from Radio Birdman. At different times I talked to these two guys about punk — not the ideology, or the fashion, or the shoes they wear — just purely the musical aspect of it, what separates punk from rock and roll. If you look at the first Damned album, or the first Saints Album or the first Ramones album, what’s going on there musically is… The first couple of Ramones albums, they sound impossibly fast, but when you get the drum beat and you listen to it, it’s actually not that super fast. but when the music’s playing, the velocity seems like it’s out of control, so that adds to the excitement.
“I was talking to Rob (Younger) about that, and it’s the anticipation of the next verse coming along, the bass player and the rhythm guitar, they just charge ahead, so there’s this rushing element of the rhythm and what the drummer’s doing. That’s what adds that urgency. So, when you have that brutal urgency in the rhythm, which is exacerbated by the drummer playing 16 notes oh the hi hat, rather than eighths. You listen to Fleetwood Mac or The Eagles and you’ve got eight notes on the hi hat, you listen to The Ramones and you’ve got 16 notes on the hi hat. So you’ve got this velocity on the hi hat and the ride cymbal and then you’ve got the bass and the rhythm guitar player sliding their note right into the next bar without wanting to really wait. The band sounds like three or four musicians racing against each other. You’ve got this urgency and that doesn’t exist in rock music or normal music.
“I think The Hard-Ons still have that. We’ve always had that because we grew up listening to those punk records.”
Speaking about the recording of the new Hard-Ons album, Ahn told us, “I think we decided really early on, we’d just see how this pans out. I think we had this thing where we were going to back ourselves to come up with good stuff. It doesn’t always work. We’ve gone into recording studios really well prepared before, sometimes too well prepared and then we’ll do something that’s just off the cuff. We go along with our gut feeling in the studio, we’ve got to try to just with it. There’s a little bit of discipline that’s missing in the band that a lot of other bands have. But that’s to our eternal advantage.”
“We had amazing discipline back in the 80s and 90s, to the point where two guys in the band gave up drugs and alcohol, that’s me and the guitar player (Peter Black). For some reason we just stopped. It probably had something to do with going on four-month tours of Europe and stuff like that, where we were playing every night, just looking at the schedule and thinking it’s quite daunting, but it was what we wanted to do. We didn’t whinge, we just got in a van and toured around the world. We don’t do that any more.”
Stayers, they are, and definitely not whingers! Check out the new record, go and see the live shows. Make up your own mind, punks!
The Hard-Ons play The Rosemount Hotel on 15 November and Mojo’s Bar on 16 November. For more information, click here.