Tex Perkins & the Dark Horses
Tex Perkins and I catch up for a beer and he seems a little subdued, although perhaps that’s a bit unfair, as maybe I’m comparing him to other times I’ve interviewed him – literally in bed with Tim Rogers, for example, empty bottles of vintage champagne rolling around on the floor – or to when he’s on stage. On stage is indeed where Perkins is in his element, whether it be pacing like a caged lion in front of the Beasts Of Bourbon, strumming an acoustic guitar with Rogers as part of T’n’T, laying down the moves with the Ladyboyz or writhing like a lyrical serpent with the Cruel Sea, this is where the man belongs and where he thrives. It’s no wonder then, sitting at the pub talking about what’s happening, that he’s not, to my mind, as ‘out there’ as I was expecting.
He is excited though, excited as Tex Perkins can be, for there’s a new Dark Horses record afoot, the first since 2003’s, Sweet Nothing, and this is nothing to be taken lightly. It seemed, for a long while, that the Dark Horses were no more, but as Perkins tells, nothing is as it seems. “Nah, I never pull the pin on anything,” he offers when I ask if the Horses actually called it quits. “My nature, and my musical life, it’s a smorgasbord. You know, chow down on the potatoes for a while, get my fill of those…then move on to something else.
“That’s probably a poor analogy, but I do something for a while and then rather than just have a break, I do something else,” he adds. As such, the Dark Horses never went away, Perkins just did something else. Multiple things in fact – since Sweet Nothing was released, he’s released a record with the Beasts, with Tex, Don & Charlie, with the Ladyboyz, with T’n’T, but it’s back within the warm folds of the Dark Horses that he finds himself now, more for reasons of logicality than anything else. “Well, this is very much me returning to songwriting, proper songwriting,” Perkins muses firstly on this new, self-titled Dark Horses record.
“So this album is written mostly by Murray Paterson and myself, Murray was in the Dark Horses, and we’ve worked together sporadically since then…but when we really got back together again was on the Beautiful Kate soundtrack,” he goes on. “So we worked on that for almost a year, and there were songs left over from that and we just kept writing and the Dark Horses was the logical vehicle for that.” It was in 2008 that Perkins and Paterson worked on the soundtrack for Australian film Beautiful Kate, and from that, this dark, brooding country/rock n’ roll album has developed, one which to my mind evokes images of Johnny Cash who incidentally, Perkins portrayed in the musical, The Man In Black last year.
“Well, a bit, but not enough,” he elucidates when I ask how much of an influence Cash was to this record. “Playing The Man In Black in those big theatres…and singing in a tenor tone, and sometimes even lower, you can see the effect that has on people…so I’m thinking, ‘It’d be good to get that into my own music’, but I don’t think I really have. I tried to get that in there, I was aware of that fact, but I really have to serve the songs as they come up and I don’t think singing down there all the time would have been appropriate.”
A fair call, and as a result of Perkins and Paterson just letting the songs come through, Tex Perkins & The Dark Horses is a record that stands strong as a record in its own right. You could call it stripped back, but it’s really a slab of raw meat, bare and honest yet powerful, as you’d expect a DH record to be. It’s rock n’ roll in its power, and it’s country in its delivery, and it also comes across as quite melancholy, you’d think the man had come out of a pretty dark place. “Yeah, what’s going on with me?” Perkins asks with a laugh. “But I hope the humour in it is still present.”
In addition to this new DH record, there’s a country album already in the can too, recorded with the backing band from The Man In Black, something Perkins is hoping will be released in the coming months and something I for one, am looking forward to – Tex Perkins singing country? Sounds good to me.
To move back to something we talked about earlier though, just to wrap up. Perkins mentioned he never pulls the pin on any project, but there was one exception, the Beasts Of Bourbon – the real reason they broke up whilst on tour in Europe in 2008. “Yeah, the real reason we drew the line was our second last gig was in Berlin and the next gig was in Norway, which was a two day drive or something,” he explains, a twinkle in his eye. “So we thought, ‘I don’t wanna drive to Norway, do you wanna drive all that way?’, so we thought, ‘Nah, fuck it, but we’ll need a good excuse’, so we split the band up.
“So basically, with one show to go on the tour, we announced that the band was over, mainly because we didn’t want to get in that fuckin’ bus for a few days,” he laughs. “Sorry Norway.” Straight from the Dark Horse’s mouth. No such worry for the Dark Horses themselves though, as just one listen to this new record, will attest.
Samuel J. Fell