Q&A with veteran musician Dave Tice, has left his mark in the history of rock, punk and blues across Australia and UK

"I think the greatest thing about Blues and Rock is that they relate to the general population, it’s about human concerns, real life not some childish fantasy. We all feel pain, love, worry, joy and depression and in their best forms Blues and Rock express those feelings and enunciate them for the greater community. As the old saying goes :- “3 chords and the truth” that’s all it needs. Keep it simple and we can all relate to it."

Dave Tice: A Pure Rock n' Blues Life

Musician, composer, songwriter, producer and performer of both live and recorded works, Dave Tice has left his mark in the history of rock, punk and blues across Australia, UK, Europe and the known universe. His professional career developed in 1970 as a founding member of Australian heavy rock outfit Buffalo (with Pete Wells who later formed Rose Tattoo). Buffalo produced 5 albums which in 2011 are still receiving reviews by noted journalists and along the way collected gold records and Aria nominations and helped to define the style of music now recognized as Australian pub rock. With the 7-year itch seeing the demise of Buffalo, Dave was invited to London where he fronted seminal UK R&B Punk band, The Count Bishops with whom Dave recorded another 3 albums with the single “I Want Candy’ charting in the UK top 40. “The Bishops” toured extensively in the U.K. and Europe sharing bills with Doctor Feelgood, John Cale, The Clash, Motorhead, The Stranglers Bo Diddley and some. During this time Dave co-wrote on two released Doctor Feelgood songs. Dave returned to Oz in ’84 and performed with an array of his peers across Australia and recorded on ‘Headhunters’ collectors album ‘Outlaw Boogie’ and the award winning Blues album ‘Sippin’ and a Slidin’ by blues collective ‘J. R. And The Bar Kings’.                      (Dave Tice, 2019 / Photo by Noel Plummer)

With the success of Sippin’and a Slidin’ record label Full Moon financed a solo album for Dave titled Lay Down With Dogs, which showcased this now seasoned performing songwriter in a collaboration with seven self-penned tracks and a number of co-write’s with Dennis Walker (Robert Cray Band writer and producer) Johnny “Guitar” Crippen (Dr Feelgood) and Mal Eastick, a legendary Australia Bluesman who also appears in one of the works along with other special guest performances peppered through out. The early ‘90s saw the beginning of a long term collaboration with former AC/DC bassist Mark Evans which continues to this day. Tice & Evans perform semi acoustic shows across Australia. Tice and Evans have two albums under their belt, Brothers In Arms on the way through Lungata Records, national touring and international prospects in 2011 and 2012, Dave Tice is just warming up.

Interview by Michael Limnios

How has the Blues and Rock Counterculture influenced your views of the world and the journeys you’ve taken?

I grew up for the first 13 years of my life on a farm in England and experienced very little of city life, fashions and culture. We didn’t have television or even electricity; the music I heard was from a battery powered radio and that was classical and a little Pop, none of this inspired me until one day I visited a school friend’s house where they had a TV and I saw The Rolling Stones performing “Not Fade Away” I was immediately drawn to the sound and raw quality of it but never considered it something I could aspire to doing myself.

In 1964 my father decided to migrate to Australia with the family to seek a better life and we ended up spending 18 months living in a migrant hostel where I met other kids my own age who’d grown up in places like London, Liverpool and Birmingham; they were hip to the music being played by British Rhythm and Blues bands and I was introduced to many of the artists those bands were inspired by, Muddy Waters, Howling Wolf, Robert Johnson etc. The music these guys made was raw and immediate; uncomplicated and honest, it spoke of the struggles and challenges we all face dealing with life in this world. This stuff inspired me to try to do it myself, I’ve been doing it ever since.

Although I have wandered through other genres throughout my career, I always return to Blues inspired forms. There are few limits to it, a musician can stretch out and express himself freely within deceptively simple formats and push the boundaries. In fact that sort of thing is encouraged, and I think it’s influenced my life philosophy in general. I don’t respond well to authority and like to go my own way, I hate bullies and bad manners and tend to side with the underdog.

How do you describe your sound, music philosophy and songbook? Where does your creative drive come from?

My own sound, if I can call it that, is based very much in the Blues; I am not an educated musician, everything I play is self taught, I like it simple and raw. One note can express as much, or more than, a hundred twiddles. The songs I write are inspired by experiences I’ve had, situations I’ve had to deal with or seen others deal with. Much like the musicians who inspired me from the beginning.

The creative drive really comes from an inbuilt desire to express myself, I usually write to suit the act/band I’m working with. But initially it comes from an early realisation (around 1968/9) that if I ever wanted to have a long term career and also make records I had to write my own songs. To be taken seriously and not be just another cover act it was imperative to write my own material.

"I fear for the young musicians starting out and trying to build a career, the idea that an appearance on a talent contest and instant “celebrity” can grow into a career is ridiculous. It takes years of dedication and experience to make a real musical career and without lots of venues to hone your craft how can you do that." (Photo: Dave Tice, a veteran musician, composer, songwriter, and producer)

Which meetings have been the most important experiences for you? What was the best advice anyone ever gave you?

Probably THE most important meeting I had was meeting Pete Wells in Brisbane around 1967, he was already a working musician while I was still banging away in a garage. He played Bass at that time, although in later years he became a legendary Slide guitarist and formed Rose Tattoo. Pete also loved the Blues and over the next few years he and I formed a number of Blues bands in Brisbane before moving to Sydney and forming Buffalo, a Hard Rock band. We worked together for 11 years, made records together and remained close friends right up to the day he died, despite moving on to different projects he was always like my big brother.

I’ve met and jammed with some of my heroes including B. B. King who I met when he toured Australia with U2, my band at the time was booked by U2 to play for B.B’s 64th birthday, half way through the party he joined us for a 30 minute jam.

The best advice I ever had was from my father, I was about 10 years old, and we were returning from a fishing trip, chatting like father and son. He said: “son there are many things in life to enjoy and you should take the opportunity to experience them all, but always remember… all things in moderation”. I never forgot those words and they’ve served me well; the music business offers many temptations to the unwary and I’ve seen more than a few of my contemporaries destroy themselves by falling foul of those temptations. I’ve sampled many of them myself but always practiced moderation, this is why at 70 I’m still alive and able to perform live.

Are there any memories from gigs, jams, open acts and studio sessions which you’d like to share with us?

You know I’ve been playing, writing and recording music for over 50 years and during that time I’ve had many, many memorable gigs, it’s not easy to pick out one or two. It’s all been great; as I often say, “it hasn’t always put food on the table, but it’s always fed my soul”. Of course, jamming with B. B. King was a highlight; recording Buffalo’s first album was a great moment. Opening for Black Sabbath, Rainbow, Status Quo, Slade. Touring with Motorhead, having Doctor Feelgood record two songs I co-wrote. Being invited to join “The Count Bishops” in England after Buffalo broke up, and recording 3 albums with them. Even making an appearance on Top Of The Pops was a blast, although miming wasn’t something I particularly liked. This whole journey has been a wonderful adventure, something I never dreamed would happen; there have been ups and downs but always the music has been a great consolation and an escape from the cares of the world.

"Always read the small print, don’t trust the man with the cigar, collect the money yourself. Be fair and honest with your colleagues, don’t let your ego run away with you. Remember that a band is the sum total of all the members, no-one is more important than anyone else. If you have a good band changing one member means it will never really be the same." (Photo: Buffalo, an Australian band formed in 1971)

What do you miss most nowadays from the music of the past? What are your hopes and fears for the future of?

I was lucky to begin my career when Rock/ Blues and live music was just taking off, the very early years were a hard struggle but the 70s was a great time to be in a band in Australia. There were so many venues, bands could play 7 nights of the week and the kids were out supporting them everywhere. During Buffalo’s heyday it wasn’t unusual for us to play 3 venues on a Saturday night, and we often did 12 shows a week, including lunch time concerts at schools. That’s what I miss the most; these days (and especially since the advent of Covid) there are so few venues where live music can happen. The music that we’re fed by mass media is soulless “product” and has no lasting value, it might as well be advertising jingles.

I fear for the young musicians starting out and trying to build a career, the idea that an appearance on a talent contest and instant “celebrity” can grow into a career is ridiculous. It takes years of dedication and experience to make a real musical career and without lots of venues to hone your craft how can you do that. Real live performance is a conversation between act and audience, one feeds off the other and for that period of time a community is created. Videos, MP3s do not achieve this, we are social creatures and need the freedom to let loose and share with others. Moments when we can all forget about the rent due, the car payments, work commitments or the heartbreak of a failing relationship.

Make an account of the case of blue and rock in Australia. Which is the most interesting period in local scene?

There has always been a strong Blues influence in Australian Rock music, the first Australian band I ever saw live in 1966 was a Blues band called “The Purple Hearts” in a coffee shop in Brisbane and there were at least 3 other Brisbane bands at that time playing Blues. In the early 70s a band called “Chain” recorded an album called “Toward the Blues” and had top 10 hits with songs from it. All over Australia there were Blues based bands and there is still a thriving Blues scene here. AC/DC are basically a Blues band, I still play mostly Blues when I work live and always will.

"The creative drive really comes from an inbuilt desire to express myself, I usually write to suit the act/band I’m working with. But initially it comes from an early realisation (around 1968/9) that if I ever wanted to have a long term career and also make records I had to write my own songs. To be taken seriously and not be just another cover act it was imperative to write my own material." (Photo: The Count Bishopsa British rock band, formed in 1975 in London and which broke up in 1980)

What has made you laugh from "Buffalo era" and what touched you from the famous "Live At The Hope And Anchor" (The London R&B Sessions, 1979)?

I think I never stopped laughing during my time in Buffalo, it was all one big party, and I was always amazed to be part of it. We had girls throwing themselves at us everywhere we went, people wrote about us in the press, we rarely had to pay for a drink. How could you not laugh?

Our part (The Count Bishops) of “Live at the Hope and Anchor” was a sort of affirmation of our place in the British Rock scene of the time, the venue is very small, perhaps 50 people capacity but all the bands that were part of those recordings had crowds that greatly exceeded those figures every night; we would have had around 70 crammed in, the sweat was running down the walls and the smell was eye-watering. But the response was amazing and never to be forgotten.

What are some of the most important lessons you have learned from your experience in the music paths?

Always read the small print, don’t trust the man with the cigar, collect the money yourself. Be fair and honest with your colleagues, don’t let your ego run away with you. Remember that a band is the sum total of all the members, no-one is more important than anyone else. If you have a good band changing one member means it will never really be the same. Be adaptable, nothing lasts forever so you have to be prepared to move on. Persistence pays, believe in yourself and don’t give up. Be careful who you listen to, not everyone has your best interests at heart and very few people really know what they’re talking about. Remember The Beatles were dismissed by many record companies and the ones that did are regretting it now.

What is the impact of Blues and Rock music on the socio-cultural implications? How do you want it to affect people?

I think the greatest thing about Blues and Rock is that they relate to the general population, it’s about human concerns, real life not some childish fantasy. We all feel pain, love, worry, joy and depression and in their best forms Blues and Rock express those feelings and enunciate them for the greater community. As the old saying goes :- “3 chords and the truth” that’s all it needs. Keep it simple and we can all relate to it.

(Photo: Dave Tice)

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