Through most of the 1990s, Geelong’s Magic Dirt were at the vanguard of an Australian resurgence of guitar rock that was played loud and had heaps of attitude and outsider street cred. Call it grunge if you like, that’s probably the closest you’d come to finding a category for the sort of music Magic Dirt pioneered, but it’s probably a bit reductive for a band that achieved so much in Australia and overseas.
...we’re going to regroup, probably mid year and talk about future plans
Around The Sound spoke to Magic Dirt’s singer and guitarist, Adalita Srsen, over the phone, while the band was between legs of the ‘Hotter Than Hell’ tour, to find her genuinely upbeat about where they’re at right now.
“It’s been nearly 10 years since we last played live. We’re so glad we came out when we did. It puts a big smile on our faces and makes it all worthwhile. It’s just so heart-warming and we’re really happy.
“It’s (‘Hotter Than Hell’) a really big festival and it’s been fun catching up with old friends from back in the day. All the bands have been awesome. It’s great to play loud again! The crowds are fantastic and the response from fans has been amazing. We’ve had some people travel from interstate. One fan has been at every show. We’re feeling a lot of love from the fans. It’s quite overwhelming, actually, we weren’t expecting it to be that full on, but it’s been great.
“It’s great doing it in the heat of summer. I really enjoy sweating. It’s just been amazing. I think the extreme weather brings us together, the audience and the band. It bonds you.”
If you’ve tracked Magic Dirt from their origins in the early 90s to the turning point in their career in 2009 when the death of bass player, Dean Turner, saw them take an indefinite hiatus, you might be forgiven for thinking that their current trip across Australia is a bit of a one-off, legacy type thing. Speaking to Srsen, she confirms that this is the case — almost.
“We’re one of the gate keepers of that era, kind of a heritage band in a way.” But, after a pause, Srsen elaborates. “We can still play that music and there’s kids out there who really like it. There’s some new fans out there for sure. Not as many as the old fans; we do have a lot of fans that saw us back in the day and we’re all kind of that middle age, but there are a few young fans in there, which is really nice.”
Then, Srsen really warms to the topic.
“It’s so surprising, because you just don’t expect that you’ll get new fans, but people are still discovering our music. Sometimes they’ll discover it through my solo stuff. I’ll have people who have just known me from my solo work and then they discover Magic Dirt. They get recruited that way and now they come to all the Magic Dirt shows.”
“It’s really nice to get new fans. That’s another bit of validation that’s really cool. There’s quite a few young kids now who really love grunge and 90s music, so they want to talk to you and they want to come to shows.”
The ‘Hotter Than Hell’ tour also coincides with the reissue of Magic Dirt’s 1993 EP, Signs Of Satanic Youth, which brings this release to the digital marketplace for the first time.
“We were planning to do the reissue, but we weren’t sure when it was going to happen, but the two together (Signs Of ... reissue and tour) just felt like, let’s do this! We’ve been wanting to do it for a long time. We finally secured the rights last year and were able to make it available digitally. It wasn’t available to stream or download anywhere until last year. We’re really happy about that.
“To have it out on vinyl is amazing, because it’s only ever come out on a double seven inch, and that was very limited, around the early 90s. The reissue is out on coloured vinyl and black vinyl and it’s pretty much all sold out already. The response was totally overwhelming. We thought it would go OK, but not that well, so we’re really happy. It’s a little dream that we’re realised now. We’re talking about pressing some more copies.”
The more we speak to Srsen and hear the delight in her tones about Magic Dirt being back on the road and having their music available in new markets, as well as selling out the vinyl pressings of Signs Of Satanic Youth, the more we’re tempted to ask, what’s next? It’s a vexed question for a band in Magic Dirt’s position because, well, there’s so much history for starters. But the sense of the band’s renewed momentum and joy in being together again meant that it would have been remiss of us not to ask.
“We’re thinking (Srsen laughs). We’re discussing and thinking. We’ve got a couple of festivals coming up and then we’re going to regroup, probably mid year and talk about future plans. We’re kind of taking it pretty slow at the moment (laughs again), because it’s all pretty new. We’re going to see what happens. We’re just taking it slowly at the moment. But it’s nice, we’ve had a lot of people asking, ‘What next?’”
The word we’re going to leave you with there is ‘new’. The way Srsen talks about Magic Dirt’s current foray into performing live and (re)releasing music suggests that there will be something coming, sometime, from the Magic Dirt camp. Whether it will be new music and/or more touring remains to be seen, but their current outing on the ‘Hotter Than Hell’ tour is showing that Magic Dirt still have relevance for audience members old and new, so maybe the time is right to pick up the mantle once again.
A resurgent Magic Dirt on the scene? Hell, yeah! That would be hot!
The ‘Hotter Than Hell 2019’ tour rolls into Dunsborough on Saturday 23 February, featuring Spiderbait, Jebediah, Magic Dirt, 28 Days and The Tommyhawks. This leg of the tour is sold out and is the last of this summer’s dates.
Magic Dirt play the Golden Plains Festival (VIC) on 9 March and the Gum Ball Music Festival (NSW) on 25 April.
Photo by Anita Frank