MILESAGO - Interviews

Interviewed by Michael Hunter

This interview was recorded for Roots & Branches, Michael's folk/folk-rock music show on Adelaide community radio station Three D Radio ( It was broadcast on Thursday, May 9 2002. Spectrum were playing in town the following Saturday at the SA Folk Centre.

Before the interview, we played 'Dancing At Midnight' from Mike Rudd & Bill Putt "Living On a Volcano" and 'Esmeralda' (Murtceps) from Spectrum LP "Red Orange Yellow Green Blue Indigo Violet".

Michael Hunter: (back announces tracks).It seems rude to be talking about you and not actually be talking to you so Mike Rudd, welcome to the show.

Mike Rudd: Thank you, Michael.

MH: Now what were you just saying off air? I was playing that particular version of Esmeralda from an old vinyl compilation which hasn't come out on CD as such. You were saying there's another version as well?

MR: Well, there is a compilation on CD, the Raven compilation "Ghosts: Post Terminal Reflections". We actually are probably the best marketer of that particular CD, but I'm actually at the moment in the business of - although you wouldn't conclude that necessarily by watching the way that I work - of going through the back catalogue and committing them to CD format and releasing them on our own Rare Vision label.

MH: I know you're doing that for some of the Ariel material…

MR: We're starting off with the Ariel stuff but then we'll go back through the back catalogue, as much as survives of course.

MH: Well that's the thing. I've heard stories about certain record companies and their fairly cavalier attitude towards master tapes.

MR: Yes. I've had subsequent evidence that suggests that Australia is not alone in this. Even, God help us, in America there's some just horrific stories, which ends up with the record company actually going to bootleggers to get copies of stuff that they don't have any longer. It's a very odd world out there.

MH: There's something very wrong about that.

MR: There is, but I mean when we were doing it we didn't think we were doing anything historical. Hysterical maybe but not necessarily historical, and it's somewhat a revelation in the last few years, that people approach you looking very earnest and saying "Look, I'm doing a thesis on some aspect of the sixties or seventies, can you help me out?" And you realise that what you considered to be fun at the time and it was of no relevance whatsoever apart from to yourself, actually has some resonance.

MH: It was very much of its time, so I guess those who weren't around at the time need somebody to let them know what it was like.

MR: Well yes, and so they should because these are the interesting times we were worried about, and they're not that interesting when you compare to what was happening then which was all pioneering kind of stuff and very exciting, just jolly good fun. And now everybody knows too damn much from too damn young. In some ways, the children that are coming up now have had a lot of their childhood robbed. And one would have to lay that at the door of so-called progress and television, to be frank. You can't avoid having stuff in your face that when I was a kid, I knew nothing of and kids today know everything about.

MH: So people are growing up quicker?

MR: I think so. I think they're losing something that probably could be something fantastic, or fantastical, and fantasy. I think a lot of that's possibly gone. A lot of the kids that were sensitive and maybe introverted are now depressed.

MH: So is this the sort of thing you tell people coming to you looking for a thesis on Spectrum?

MR: Not at all. No, they're not interested in that. They're interested in "What happened, man?" - the nuts and bolts kind of thing, they're not interested in theories. I guess as you get older you come up with more theories about things and people get less and less interested!

MH: Is that because you don't have too many memories of the time, or the memories are fairly clear?

MR: The memories that I have are clear but there's a whole lot of stuff I'm discovering. I've had a couple of friends over from New Zealand lately and they've reminded me... well, reminded me, they've revealed to me things that happened then that I had no memory of whatsoever. Fortunately, some of it's on film and so forth and I'm anxious to see me starring in this role I never knew I had!

It's all to do with a friend of mine from Christchurch in the early sixties. He was barely an acquaintance then but he's now interested in doing some kind of narrative about the time that the Pretty Things arrived in New Zealand. Of course, they may have touched down in Australia but it was ever so brief because they weren't allowed to tour in Australia. They did tour in New Zealand and this guy ended up with Viv Prince, the drummer, ended up with his jacket. It did the rounds of various bands in Christchurch and he's thinking of putting some kind of narrative, whether it ends up as a book or a movie, around this jacket which is a nice premise. But in the course of researching this - I was going to art school at the time which is a hotbed of music as it turns out - there is apparently some film lurking around of the Pretty Things but also myself in some University procession, the capping week in Christchurch, and I have no memory of that at all!

MH: And whatever other memories might come flooding back from that as well. Well OK, that was then and we could do the whole history lesson which would take all night…

MR: Yes, and everybody's going glazed already, I can hear it…

MH: Oh, certainly not! So alright, there was the Spectrum split in '73 which led to Ariel but there were a couple of reformations of Spectrum; I remember one in about '84…

MR: Yes, that's about right.

MH: And then the current lineup of Spectrum, the trio, how long has that been together?

MR: Probably since about '96. Well not exactly the trio since then, Bill and I kind of got back on the road ever so tentatively then and then acquired Robbo somewhere along the way, so I guess four or five years Robbo's been with us. The time has flown. When we were actually recording at Ross Ryan's studio and Robbo used to record with other formations there and he was recommended, we went round to his place and had a rehearsal and we got about halfway through it and we realised he knew everything. So we called off the rehearsal and we haven't bothered since!

MH: Every show's a rehearsal!

MR: That's right. In fact, I've got a very interesting remark I put up here on the wall. I don't know what you call these, it's not a palindrome but it's a paragraph version of it - "Rehearse like you're playing - play like you're rehearsing" which I think is not a bad invocation.

MH: Where are you at the moment as a matter of interest?

MR: I'm in what I laughingly call my music room which is really where my computers lurk and catch me by surprise every day and lure me in and seduce me.

MH: They do that. I must say that for the upcoming gig, in a couple of places I've seen it advertised as Spectrum and Murtceps and others it's just Spectrum. Is it a bit of a thin line there anyway?

MR: The Murtceps thing wasn't our idea, I don't know how that got into the equation but it wasn't worth fighting about. I think at one stage when we were beginning this again, I kind of conjured with the notion of the two names but just for simplification, we've stuck with Spectrum. I think that actually does cover everything pretty well. Just the name suggests too much eclecticism for one's own good and that's where I'm at.

MH: Bearing in mind it's a three piece, is it largely acoustic now?

MR: We are playing at the Folk Centre and you might draw that conclusion but we do play it by ear. We have the capacity to play probably for most part of the evening at a fairly moderate volume and using a nylon string guitar so we'll probably start off that way but at some stage the folk concert will be over and we'll probably lurch into the more electric side. But we're certainly not deafening and I like to think that the volume we play at is quite acceptable and if we've got a listening audience then we moderate it even further because we don't like hammering people at our age.

MH: And folk doesn't have to be soft and gentle and nice anyway.

MR: I think Bob Dylan changed that. Whether he did it successfully or not at the time - I think it was at Newport wasn't it? - he did change folk music because they had to broaden the definition and a lot of bands who might have been considered folk were not considered folk because they were electric, managed to get into the definition. It changed irrevocably then.

MH: And a damn fine thing, some may say.

MR: Yes, some may.

MH: I must admit I'm slightly reticent because every damn interview you've done since 1971, somebody's talked about I'll Be Gone but as part of that as well, could one even call that a folk song? Because it's just gone into the consciousness of the general public and everyone knows it and it's just there, if you know what I mean?

MR: Yeah, I do. It's interesting, I don't know how to exactly define it. Somebody in Sydney, Bruce Elder, there was some discourse provoked by Bruce in The Australian to the effect that Australian music had produced nothing original and he made heavy emphasis on Spectrum of course in that definition. And I thought well, where do you place I'll Be Gone? Because to me, that's like nothing else in pop music. I mean, it's identifiably Australian but that was the context that it came out of and I don't know whether you could say that it was like anything else in particular. It may have been said of the albums that we sound a bit like this or that, Pink Floyd or something like that, and I could argue that as well. But just taking I'll Be Gone, I think it's a fairly novel, if slight, song.

MH: It's very simple but maybe that's part of the reason it's lasted so long.

MR: Yeah, I think that's got something to do with it. It's funny about songs, you know, especially pop songs. They tend to reflect the speed they were written at. It was one of the first songs I ever wrote and I wrote it fairly quickly. It evolved, because if you've heard the "I'll Be Gonz" CD, there's a very lovely quirky little version of it at the end which is actually the first version that the band had on acetate. It's kinda cute and clumsy but that was the song as it first was and it definitely evolved and I think the important part of the evolution was my playing harmonica on it. It became the identifiable part of the song.

MH: I was going to mention that CD later but since you've mentioned it now - "I'll Be Gonz" is celebrating 30 years since the first release, and it's all different cover versions and various wacky versions there have been around the world in that time of I'll Be Gone.
MR: Yes, it's got versions by disparate people such as Manfred Mann, John Williamson… oh goodness I've run out already… There are a number of Melbourne bands of different genres that we did invite to record rather hurriedly and I think we got four or five versions. There's one by a Jewish band Klezmania and that's very odd. I might mention that was actually recorded at the National Folk Festival. They didn't actually have the song in their repertoire until they went up and they were practicing in the van on the way up! But it's a charming version. I'll say this about it, you can't possibly like all the versions of the song on it, but you've got to like something!

OK, moving on. So you'll be doing all the Big Hits and everything but you're still writing new material, a lot of which is blues based, which I guess is part of the reason behind the Folk Centre being considered an appropriate venue…

MR: We did Port Fairy a couple of years ago and we really enjoyed that and that's your typical folk festival. We thought at that stage it would be nice to do a few more festivals and if they happen to be folk festivals that's fine. We ended up last year by doing a blues festival in Bridgetown in West Australia and that was fun but we kind of stretch the definitions of whatever we go into. We're certainly not folk but there again we played at Tamworth and we're certainly not country. We're certainly not anything of any one thing that you'd care to nominate. That's why I think the name Spectrum is so appropriate.

MH: Look, any band or individual that jumps genres in such a carefree manner is quite OK by me.

MR (laughs) The unifying factor is our ability, really, and the constraints are just those of our ability to interpret the things and they always seem to come out in an identifiably Rudd/Putt kind of way.

(Talk turns to merchandise available at the gig…)

MR: I would have liked to have had some Chants R&B stuff which was my first band, and that's achieved some kind of notoriety in the last few years as well but John Baker, the head honcho of Zero Records is currently tour manager for White Lion, they came over for the Big Day Out, and he hasn't been contactable really, so I don't have any more stock. I've had it up until recently and it's done rather well. It's your basic recording, the band that I had recorded was playing in a basement in Christchurch for a couple of years and one of the former guitarists thought he'd take a record of it so he took down a little primitive tape recorder and stuck it in front of the band one evening and that was that. John Baker, bless his heart, got his hands on this and converted that along with the few bits of proper recording that we did into quite a comprehensive CD.

MH: So what with that and before too long, the remastered Ariels and Spectrums finally - it's taken an awfully long time and it could be seen as unfortunate that you've had to be the ones to do it…

MR: Actually, if some record company had decided to do it, they would have done it by now. I've been the holdup up until now. So look, I promise everybody that I will get stuck into it when I get back and we should have some action in the next month.

MH: Excellent. Well, that's on the public record now…

MR: It is, yes. Damn.

MH: I was going to finish our chat by playing another song from the Living On A Volcano CD, a very nice track called Indian Summer. Anything you can tell us about that?

MR: It's part of the world of Bill. He's been developing… there's another couple of tunes that he's written, well he's probably written many more since then but another couple of his songs that we do since then, and they're very lovely. It's actually been quite a flowering because he's been regarded as the archetypal bass guitarist with the large moustache, and now he is also a guitarist and a downtuned slide guitarist with a large moustache…

MH: Well, thank you so much for having a chat with us tonight, and we'll all see you at the Folk Centre.

MR: An absolute pleasure, Michael. See you there.



Our sincere thanks to Michael Hunter for transcribing his interview and generously allowing us to feature it on MILESAGO, and as always, our thanks to Mike Rudd.


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Interview © Michael Hunter 2002. All rights reserved. Used by permission.