30 Odd Foot Of Grunts/ In Print: Page One
"He survived slavery, sword fights, and a tumble with a tiger. But can Gladiator«s Russell Crowe conquer an unruly crowd of Texas rock fans? He will find out next month when his Aussie band, 30 Odd Foot Of Grunts, plays three sold out shows at Austin«s Stubb«s BBQ (the group is now recording nearby). Tickets for its first post-Gladiator gig have sparked an eBay frenzy, with bids as high as $500 to see Crowe moonlight as a singer-guitarist. "There«s a lot of fans of the music, and then there are some who are just curious to see what it«s all about," says Stubb«s co-owner Charles Attal. Not surprisingly, he adds, "There«s certainly a lot of women coming." What are they in for? EW music critic David Browne lends us his ear and reviews the sextet««s latest single, available at www.gruntland.com.
On its site, 30 Odd Foot Of Grunts describe their music as "Rock & Roll !!!" But the band«s free downdoad neither rocks or rolls, let alone merits three exclamation marks. Not even two minutes long, the slight "Juda«s Cart" merges a gentle folk melody with Crowe«s lyrics about a man whose evil ex-wife takes custody of their daughter, though she left him "some seven years ago." Like his characters, Crowe sounds beleaguered, yet also indistinguishable from any standard pub folkie.Then again, what he doesn«t sound like is a showboating singing celebrity a la Willis or Hasselhoff. That sound you are hearing is a Roman stadium full of people thanking the gods for small miracles. B- "
(Thanks to Ann, Charlotte and Cory Ann!)
(Please note: The following articles are reproduced in their original form. The inaccuracies of some facts are the writers, not ours, and we have noted the correct information where the errors are most glaring.)
THE ACTOR'S MUSE
30 Odd Foot of Grunt's Russell Crowe is an actor, but once upon a time he was Russ Le Rock . . .
Russell Crowe is one of those actors whose voice is so seductive and corrosive in timbre that like William Hurt, you could watch one of his movies with your eyes closed and just listen. It's not surprising then to learn that for the last fourteen years he has been in a band called 30 Odd Foot of Grunt [sic] who have just released a new album Gaslight.
Speaking from his home somewhere inland from one of NSW's coasts (he asks that his hometown not be revealed), Crowe is the guy who, on celluloid terrorized the streets of Melbourne in a skinhead war against g***s' in Romper Stomper, and the short fused cop who fell in love with Kim Basinger in LA Confidential. He also got to shag Sharon Stone in The Quick and the Dead, and starred opposite Denzel Washington in Virtuosity.
Given the way he excels at mad-as-a-cut-snake characters, you could be forgiven for expecting 30 Odd Foot of Grunt [sic] to be a musical interpretation of the same. It is however bruised but folky pub rock.
The band's latest album Gaslight contains characters and sentiments that could only have been borne from one place on earth - Darlinghurst, NSW. Crowe was once upon a time the subject of numerous sightings in pubs such as Oxford St's Courthouse and the Gaslight Inn where his skill for partying grew into something of a minor local legend. "It's not named after the Gaslight Hotel as such," Crowe growls amiably, "What I was intending was that it was not high tech. It was just another way of saying lo-fi. The album's concept and the recording of the album and the way we do things is a little old fashioned, we don't use all the machines and stuff."
Was there any particular reason you decided to do this album now after mucking around with it for so long?
"Gee wizz you got a nice attitude." he laughs. "Having 'mucked around' with it for so long.' What do you mean by mucked around?"
I just thought acting would be your first priority...
"There isn't any priority really, they're both creative expressions at the same level and from the same place of commitment. But the day job does fuck with the bandâs schedule, absolutely. Doing another release was about providing something for the people who follow the group through the internet.ä
As a songwriter Crowe has that peculiarly Australian knack of telling narrative tales. He has the rugged demeanour thats one part fireside larrikin swaggie and one part inner city cool.
"Quite frankly, without a story I don't really see the point of a song. I think regardless of how rambunctious our - sound gets at times, we're a folk band, that's what we do. We're just telling stories. I'm a really big Billy Bragg fan I think he's incredible," he confesses. "He's a very smart fella." One of the albums most interesting tracks on the tale of a painter and docker called Barry Kable who wound up living on that stretch of street around the Darlinghurst Post Office, surviving on cheap port and the kindness of people like Crowe's bandmate Dean, who drove a van for the Sydney City Mission for seven years.
"Dean had to deal with Barry everyday for five years," Crowe recounts with admiration, 'and he knew at a certain point in his shift that he would have to go and collect Barry from the streets and try and convince him to go and sleep it off at a hostel."
"I think Dean's a hero man, spending his life devoted to people on that level of charity. I mean there is very little to gain, personally or financially out of doing that sort of stuff."
Crowe wasn't always the big Hollywood star or even the big Australian star. There was a time when he lived in a scummy flat, splitting $3.20 a day between cigarettes and fried rice.
ãI think about it all the time" he says almost somberly, "I look at my environment on a regular basis and remember where I was and say 'by the grace of God , ' you know. I think you have to, you're very silly if you forget where you come from."
And that is something that is evident in his understanding of his music.
"As an actor I can jam with anybody. I can play my instrument at the highest level possible - that's not what I think, that's just the way it is, that's why I get to work with the people I get to work with, you know. I just finished working with AL Pacino and the other year I worked with Gene Hackman."
"But as a musician I work on a much simpler level. As a musician, I can't jam with other musicians. I couldn't sit down with a great blues guitarist and do fuckin' anything.ä
Gaslight is out independently.
ROCK AND CROWE
In spite of his ever growing popularity as an actor, Russell Crowe prefers to take a back seat when it comes to his band, Thirty Odd Foot Of Grunts.
But he admits, albeit begrudgingly, it was inevitable his name would be used to promote the outfit, which pulls into the Gold Coast this week.
His reason for such reluctance is simple."It's virtually impossible for the band to be listened to objectively," he says. "There seems to be a political level to it when I'm associated with it because of what I do for a day job."
"I don't begrudge people their cynicism when you know what's happened to popular music in the last few years; of course people will be a bit dodgy about things."
Crowe's 'day job' is his successful movie career which spans 19 films, with another three in the pipeline, and two AFI awards. Crowe and fellow guitarist Dean Cochran formed Thirty Odd Foot Of Grunts in 1994, producing a unique blend of folk/rock music which encompasses the raw songwriting talents of both men.
Their latest album, Gaslight, offers 11 tracks (plus three unlisted bonus tracks) featuring a variety of sounds from the gritty opening number Circus to the Bowie-esque She's Not Impressed.
There's the bluesy What You Want Me To Forget, and The Legend Of Barry Kable, which tells the story of a man forced to live on the streets of Sydney.
Even rap gets a workout with the funky Nowhere.
Copies of the band's work are only available through the Internet via www.gruntland.com.
THE REALITY OF MUSICAL GRUNT
"The great thing about playing with musicians that are not session musicians and are not mercenaries, they're there because they love the songs and they love the music."
And that's the whole point about 30 Odd Foot Of Grunt [sic] for Russell Crowe, the band's singer, guitarist and one of the songwriters of this humble musical collective. Most readers will be more aware of Crowe in his other guise, as an actor, and more on his thoughts about that later, but for him, this is the real deal, the thing that roars quietly away in his spirit, the reality that gets him through the unreality of his ãday job.ä And it's not easy keeping a band together with that sort of day job.
"We have our conversations, we really do. And funnily enough it always comes out when we've had a really powerful night in a rehearsal room. The more we play together, year in year out, sometimes we go into the room and just casually start something and at the end of it we'll be looking at each other going, 'F--k.' There's a certain connection that we have when we play together, its indefinable. So we do ask ourselves where are we going to go with this -- what I say is itâll [be] whatever you want it to be. And I can understand the difficulty for these guys who are so passionately involved in music having to basically put it on the shelf but I have to do the same thing. When we come together, this is the real point in our otherwise unreal existences."
Their debut album, Gaslight, is a mix of live and studio recordings from a variety of sessions both in Australia and overseas, and while there are 11 tracks credited, you actually get 14, so there are surprises throughout the listening experience.
"Actually it came from Dave (Kelly) and Garth (Adam) sitting around having a chat about how many hits we were getting on the Internet. We recorded two shows at the Esplanade last year, so we had these two 24-track digital recordings, and Garth's idea was to put a live EP together because everyone was getting a bit restless on the Internet Îcos they hadn't had anything new lately. So that's [what] we intended doing but as we were talking, we've got so many songs recorded because we've been playing together over such a long period of time, that it kind of gets in your way when you start thinking about what you're going to do next. Though you've been writing new songs you start feeling a bit crowded, so I said we've got to let some of the kids go, we've got to let them out of the house and let them live their own life. So it went from being a live EP to a live and studio album that people on the Internet could access. That allowed us to be a little retrospective as well and bring some songs onto this album -- things like Eternity and Wendy -- which we may never get back to as a band in terms of recording."
Even so, the version of something like Wendy in particular is one that you wouldn't expect to hear from any band let alone this one, recorded as it was on 8-track in an apartment in Los Angeles with about 30 people sitting around on the floor. The fact that there are live tracks on there too allows Crowe to present another aspect of what makes this band tick, the Spoken Word introduction to The Legend Of Barry Kable, epitomizing the storytelling approach to the songwriting.
"All the songs come from some real point. Sometimes you combine characters, as any writing does, but it's about personal experiences. What I do in my day job is I take on somebody else's life and I project their thoughts, emotions and feelings and their time and place and geography, through dialogue and costume. But that's a performance. It really has nothing to do with me. It is me, physically, and it's me driving the train, but I don't live in 1952, I wasnât born in a computer, Iâve never been a neo-Nazi skinhead. But these songs, these are about my life, about things Iâve experienced. Not that I really believe anybody should give a shit, but I do and the way I express the things that Iâve seen personally is songs. It's an absolutely valid creative expression, and itâs of no greater or lesser importance than any performance I do as an actor. These are all reality-based stories."
Since 30 Odd Foot Of Grunt [sic] don't have to answer to anyone but themselves as artists and their fans, the way they make music and the way they've made this album hasn't been compromised by any commercial consideration or company pressure.
"A lot of people have questioned the way the album runs. I didn't want it to be comfortable. I get so sick of buying an album where the first three tracks you already know, and then it's so f- -king safe and if thereâs anything a little untoward or extreme, they put it at the end. I thought you start off with Circus and then you go totally south by going to something like You Treat Me Like Chocolate, which a record company would probably encourage you to hide if not drop all together, but that's a very sensual piece of music. From there you go into the middle of a room with 500 people! I wanted the feel of it to keep changing, so it's an album that you have to get used to, that you have to know to enjoy. You can't put it on as background music."
THE ODD 30 FOOT
30 Odd Foot of Grunts
It's a strange name but a good one! I bet it caught your eye. So read on as we find out more about this band from singer/guitarist Russell Crowe.
Thirty Odd Foot of Grunts, has it always been 'Grunts'? I was under the impression it was 'Grunt.'
I'm assuming a lot of the songs off this album Gaslight were recorded at different places, different times. Is that just because that's how it fitted in with your schedule?
Usually to record something?
What I liked when I listened to your album was the differences in sound, especially like when you played the Legend of Barry Kable (a live track).
How was the recording in retrospect?
It wasn't quite the feel?
What impressed me about what you're doing, Russell, is you're not using the "I'm Russell Crowe, come and see me play in my band."
What about this photograph of Lebanon on the front cover?
But isn't that a great Australian tradition?
And you've proved on the album that you guys can play together live.
That reminds me of Don Walker. How did you guys hook up with him to get a song on your album?
It seems to fit in with your style of music too. It's very storytelling.
THE REAL McCOY
Theyâre not interested in record deals and couldnât care less if you don't like their songs. Go! journalist LISA ZANARDO spoke to 30 Odd Foot of Grunts front man Russell Crowe about their music.
It didn't take me long to realize Russell Crowe is passionate about music, especially his songwriting. As an actor, he spends so much time being someone else, writing and playing music is one way Crowe can be himself.
This philosophy extends to the rest of his band, 30 Odd Foot of Grunts, whose latest album, Gaslight, I can only describe as a series of emotive stories based on real life and put to raw rock melodies.
In its six-year existence, the band -- made up of Crowe on guitar and vocals, Garth Adam on bass, Dean Cochran on guitar and Dave Kelly on drums -- has shunned commercial pursuits in favour of freedom -- freedom to play their kind of music the way they like it.
"The product is what it is," Crowe said. "It's like, I'm in a band, this is our album, this is its cover art, that's us and that's life," he said.
"The point of being in a band is not about singing other people's songs or taking a past hit and redoing it, but when you're in a commercial environment that's what it becomes.ä
ãWhen I'm playing with these three guys it's a powerful thing. We're the real McCoy, and I don't care if people don't like a song, because I didn't write it for them ... I wrote it for me."
Gaslight is an extended playlist that Crowe said was an example of the band's work during the past five years. It jumps between live and studio-recorded tracks, which demands listeners 'bend an ear' to each and every song.
"I wanted it to be an uncomfortable listening experience because it's not the sort of album you can get into at arm's length.
"You really have to listen to it to understand and appreciate what it's about."
Despite his acting pursuits and ability to play guitar, Crowe has always considered himself a Iyricist and admits his songs chronicle a certain emotional passage of his life.
"Music is about story-telling, distilling moments, and IÊcouldnât ever possibly lose that."
Asked if he had put his acting career on hold for 30 Odd Foot of Grunts' national tour, which takes in the Ballina Club RSL Club on Tuesday, Crowe just laughed, saying: "My acting is never put on hold; even though I'm thousands of miles away, the finger can still reach out and touch me."
He is working on a new film directed by Ridley Scott titled The Gladiators in which, ironically, he is cast as a member of a rock-and-roll band.[sic]
As far as we know, there were no rock bands around during the Roman Empire!
See GLADIATOR for what the film is really about.
THE REAL CROWE
He might be an internationally famous actor who has played Jack Thompson's son and Sharon Stone's love interest, but for Russell Crowe, music has always been the touchstone of reality.
Crowe and his band, Thirty Odd Foot of Grunts, will play at Central Coast Leagues Club oil Thursday and Crowe is looking forward to the gig as a break from his "day job".
"As an actor you have to get into someone else's life, consider their pressures and influences, but when I write and perform music I use my own experiences," he said.
"It is the true expression of who I am and it is wonderful to be able to communicate that.
"It breaks down a lot of barriers -- there's not much glamour involved in riding around in a beat-up Tarago that smells of other blokes' feet.
"I'm just one part of a band whose members all have their own story to tell.
"It's a real, full, deep experience."
Crowe has always had the acting bug; he made his debut as an extra on TV when he was just 6.
But for many of his formative years, the music took over.
He has been playing with guitarist Dean Cochran since 1984; bass player Garth Adams joined them in 1987 and drummer Dave Kelly came on board only in 1995.
Crowe has achieved great success as an actor, appearing first in some high-profile Australian movies, including The Sum Of Us with Jack Thompson, and launching into a Hollywood career with the movie L.A. Confidential opposite Sharon Stone.[sic]
But he has always made time to work with the band.
"Sometimes it's hard because of my schedule but I will always find time to play music," he said.
This year the band has released its latest album, Gaslight, and midway through 1999 hopes to do a full tour of Australia.
Meanwhile Crowe's latest film, Mystery Alaska, is due for release in April.
He has just finished work on an as-yet-untitled film in which he plays a 54-year-old research scientist -- a role which he found a tremendous challenge.
"Playing someone so opposite to myself was very interesting," he said.
"It's wonderful to have had the opportunity to work with actors like Gene Hackman [in The Quick and the Dead] and Al Pacino."
"I've always had a great respect for what I do and I think that has paid off."
Russell starred in (his first American film) opposite Sharon Stone.
His love interest in was Kim Basinger.
The release date has now been pushed back to the fall of 1999.
NO HIDING CROWE'S FEAT
In the space of a week, Russell Crowe and his band, 30 Odd Foot of Grunt [sic], will perform at the Ballina RSL and Johnny Deppâs infamous Viper Room in L.A.
Despite the incredible contrast in culture, the actor/singer/guitarist insists the two gigs wonât be much different.
ãRock 'n' roll clubs are similar all over the world," he says. "The Viper Room is the same as most Aussie clubs - it's just smaller."
Crowe formed 30 Odd Foot of Grunt [sic] 14 years ago, and would been just as happy for the band to remain anonymous.
But his fame as Russell Crowe ãthe actor" meant people were constantly pointing the finger at him to push the band. Finally, he gave in.
But his passion for music will always remain his driving force.
"There's absolutely no credibility crossing these boundaries and I get sniped at all the timeä Crowe says.
ãI don't do it because I enjoy punishing myself; I do it because I care about music.ä
ãIâd never prostitute one creative outlet to drag the other one in front of people."
ãI was doing music a long time before I got into acting - it's just our albums were always rocketing straight to the bottom of the charts! "
The band's latest album, Gaslight, is basically about storytelling - a factor Crowe considers a crucial part of music.
ãI like anything that can get you on an emotional level. I really like lyricists, people that can use words cleverly," he says.
Much of the material for the bands songs comes from the membersâ varied backgrounds.
Guitarist and co-founder Dean Cochran has worked for the Sydney City Mission for several years.
"He spends a lot of time pulling druggos off the streets. One of our songs, The Legend of Barry Kable, is all about that," Crowe says.
"The information I gather between jobs helps with my acting and fuels my songwriting.ä
"We've all got day jobs, and do lots of different things. It's an indescribable, indefinable thing that happens when we're together.ä
"We play such a variety of styles on any given night at a pub - and I don't mean variety like going shopping at Big W - it's reflective of our personalities and our broad taste in music."
Although one of the band's songs was used in the movie , in which he starred, Crowe says he has no plans to combine his music and his acting careers.
"I've been asked a number of times to do a music bio," he says.
"But they're two totally separate things for me."
With Thirty Odd Foot of Grunts set to tour there are sure to be connections made between the skills of Russell Crowe as an actor and musician.
But before you judge the sound of Thirty Odd Foot of Grunts forget all those preconceptions that you may have of Russell Crowe as an actor and prepare to listen to him as a musician and as part of a band.
"If you respect me as an artist give me a minute, let me show you another artistic expression that I do, that I do at the same level, comes from the same place, same soul,ä said Crowe, the conviction apparent in his voice.
The band is set to perform in Wollongong as one stop on a tour which includes an appointment in Los Angeles.
"We have never played, done a single show in Wollongong.ä Crowe said.
"Considering we have toured the last three years in a row, we are really looking forward to playing there.
The band is Garth Adam on bass, Dean Cochran on guitar, Dave Kelly on drums, and Russell Crowe on vocals and guitar. The sound of Thirty Odd Foot of Grunts is raw, atmospheric and passionate. The lyrics of the band are heavy and emotive, with songs like The Legend of Barry Kable, Circus, What's Her Name? and You Treat Me Like Chocolate certain to stun the audience with their power.
The new album from the group, Gaslight, follows in the tradition of 1996's debut EP Photograph Kills and the 1997 single What's Her Name?
Thirty Odd Foot of Grunts is planning the tour as a chance for not only its old fans to catch up with their favorites but also as a chance to introduce some new songs.
"We are going to open with some new stuff, play pretty much of the album. It was a matter that we had so many songs recorded that we had to let some of the kids leave the house, go out into the real world," Crowe said with a laugh.
Members of Aussie band 30 Odd Foot Of Grunts have once again loaded-up the van and hit the road for a summer tour.
The tour up the east coast marks a comeback by the band, which has been lying low for the past few months with only one performance on Channel 9's The Footy Show.
The tour also follows the arrival back in the country of lead singer and internationally-acclaimed actor Russell Crowe.
Crowe has been balancing his thriving acting career with his music.
"The schedule is killing me, but at the same time I have no complaints about my life." Crowe said.
Showcasing songs from its latest album Gaslight 30 Odd Foot of Grunts will bring to the punters a unique blend of Australian rock and folk music.
RETURN OF THE ANTI-FRONTMAN
You'd be hard pushed to find Russell Crowe's name on Thirty Odd Foot of Grunts' new CD - it's no Hollywood vanity side-project as Megan Turner discovers
Russell Crowe. Now there's a name with clout; a name that fairly shimmers with both Hollywood stardust and artistic credibility. A name that could, surely, launch a thousand songs into high rotation on the nation's airwaves.
But you'd need an eagle eye to find that name anywhere on the packaging of Gaslight, the new CD released by Thirty Odd Foot of Grunts, the raw and rootsy guitar band Crowe fronts.
The star of such films as Romper Stomper, Virtuosity and LA Confidential is the anti-frontman, deflecting rather than courting the limelight, keeping his much-prized integrity intact.
"The requirements that a record company would put on me would take the band to a different place and I'm not prepared to do it that way," he says. "I know that with one turn down that corridor, I could make money for jam. But that's not what it's about. I'm sorry folks."
And so there's no corporate marketeering, no shameless posturing or prima donna rock star trip, just a direct relationship between the band and their fans via the internet (Gaslight is available only through mail order) and live performances (in an itinerary which, incongruously, sees them playing The Viper Room in LA four days after the Ballina RSL).
Thirty Odd Foot of Grunts evolved from a friendship Crowe struck up with guitarist Dean Cochran in New Zealand in 1984. Together with bassist Garth Adam and drummer Dave Kelley, they share in a collective songwriting history of nearly 14 years.
While Crowe's "day job" demands the lion's share of his time and the band project is kept deliberately low-key, Crowe is emphatic that TOFOG is more than a diversion.
"I treat it seriously," he says. "I wouldn't do it on the basis of something to do on my summer holidays. It's another creative expression."
"If you have any respect for what I do as an actor you know I'm not a fucking soap star. I don't have an empty attitude to what I do as a screen performer. I do work that has content to it. If you acknowledge that, give me the opportunity to show you the same artist coming to you in a different medium."
TOFOG play the kind of music that seems tailor-made for a long, beverage-filled night in a sweaty room full of testosterone-charged punters, but Crowe shuns the definition "classic Aussie pub rock".
"That implies there is not much of a narrative thought process," he says. "If a song doesn't have a narrative it doesn't have a point. Those 'oh yeah baby' songs, they fit in a certain place, but for me it's got to be about the story. I'm not a musician's musician; I'm a storyteller."
And the inspiration for Crowe's impassioned and honest, "these are the facts, jack" lyrics? Ask a cheesy question, expect a cheesy answer. "Real life, baby," he growls in the classic film noir patois of his LA Confidential character.
The sounds on Gaslight are a disparate as the times and places that spawned them. "Every song takes you to a different place," Crowe says. "There are live tracks that pop up in the middle of the album; it finishes on a whisper and starts up again with the hidden tracks . . . The very last uttering on the album is a sigh. Then you go and lie down and have a little think."
Crowe Spreads his wings
Russell Crowe and his band are obviously planning to take their act beyond the occasional appearance on The Footy Show.
Crowe and Thirty Odd Food Of Grunt [sic]- as the band is known - were jamming on top of a Surry Hills building yesterday for a new film clip.
Sources told Thirteen the clip will feature on an upcoming album release.
Crowe, dressed in a baseball cap and t-shirt for yesterday's gig, has not previously been particularly keen to push the band.
But he spent time in a US recording studio recently and has co-opted local guitarist Dean Cochrane.
The group appeared recently on The Footy Show, signaling they might be taking themselves seriously.
Crowe has said it tends to be a part-time concern.
But life in showbusiness is never easy - the group spent about two hours playing yesterday before dodgy weather drove them indoors. (Photo by Nathan Edwards)
All articles courtesy of 30 Odd Foot Of Grunts
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