[Interview] DRAGON

They’re one of the most loved bands to call both Australia and New Zealand home, and if 45 years’ worth of hits wasn’t enough, then touring the best of the Countdown years will surely wet your appetites for some classic Aussie rock. The band is DRAGON. The hits are endless. The concept is sensational. Hitting the road these next couple of months is the ‘Phoenix Years’ lineup of a classic Countdown band in their own right, Dragon. Dragon will be playing shows up and down the East Coast celebrating not only Australia’s favourite music television show, Countdown, but also all the bands that hit success on the show. With songs from the likes of AC/DC, Skyhooks, John Paul Young, and of course Dragon themselves, this tour is the ultimate for any old school Aus rock music lover.

Taking some time out of a busy schedule to have a chat with CHRIS CONDOLEON is the band’s guitarist/vocalist, MARK WILLIAMS – pretty nice considering the guy has just come out of a heavy weekend with a cold. “We did three gigs in 24 hours and they were about 1000 kms apart. I think we all got about three and half hours sleep in the middle of it.” Settling down now at home until their next gig on the weekend, Mark talks the tour, new music, and losing ones’ voice.

The shows have been fantastic, they really have. I mean we’ve been going for over 12 years now so I think the machine runs really, even under that duress, you kind of know what you gotta do and you power on, until you get home. There is a bit of a break now; I mean there’s stuff to do during the week and time to get the voice back, but the voice is okay. I woke up yesterday morning with absolutely nothing, but then within 3-4 hours it was all back, almost all back to running order. But the same will happen today, I just have to get it back up and running you know. I really have to have a sing every day, even when we’re not having a gig, just to keep it going.”

Thankfully for the guys the days of 5-6 gigs a week are over, except of course for the really big touring bands, but for Mark, this tour is different, and all the feedback has been very positive. “It’s amazing the amount of people that want to hear that stuff, and it’s really just an excuse to have a party. So we’ve been getting really great crowds coming along to every show. It was surprising to us because it was a concept. We went “ooh should we do this“, you know, but it actually works out alright because Dragon had a lot of success…well I’m not actually sure if Molly got on well with Marc Hunter back then – you know they were both ratbags anyway, but Dragon does owe it a lot of success, and it kind of works in really well. It really is a tribute to all Australian artists that owe a hell of a lot of their career to Countdown, and then the second set is just Dragon – our stuff.

For a lineup that’s been touring now for 12 years, and a band that’s been formed for 45, playing these shows now comes down to simply getting out to seeing as much of the country as they can and visiting a lot of the towns that they’ve yet to play in their long illustrious career. “I think it’s the only way you can continue to tour after so long in a country the size of Australia, and the vastness (you know there are a lot of towns to work); because basically you can’t unless you put out an album every 6 months, which we can’t do…we try, but you can’t. We do however have demos in the wings that we did earlier this year but haven’t had time to go back to them. In the end though I think it’s just a matter of keeping the band working really, in that sense. So the idea came while just sitting around in an airport lounge, cause it’s the only time we get the chance to have a meeting. So we’re sitting around there and trading off ideas, and we were all a bit sceptical…well all except Todd because it was his idea, well him and the agent anyway. We kind of went with it and it really just keeps us able to work and do what we love, but it also reaches a really big audience, so I think that’s how it all started.

It’s certainly not all just work for the band though; it’s still their passion and they’ve come a very long way since they started all those years ago. “We’ve changed so much since we started. I mean I remember when we first started and I’d never been so nervous in my life – the band had had a long break or hiatus and I wasn’t even involved in it, but then when I got the call to come in; this was a new thing for me coming back into a band, because I started in a band, but coming back into a band was kind of a new thing. So it was kind of nerve racking for the first 3-6 months, and then after about 2 or 3 years into touring again I lost my voice completely for 6 months. So we had to hire singers to come in and sing but I continued to play guitar and was just part of the backline. But that 6 months cemented us as a band, where I didn’t sing, I just played, and that’s where we found…the unit. From that moment on we’ve never looked back and it’s as exciting as ever. We could be doing the same songs for ever and ever, but each time, with a new audience, it’s just as exciting as when we were starting.

The show itself is broken into two parts, which Mark says is mainly to give them a bit of a lie down between sets (not really). Each set goes for about 50 minutes to an hour, however if the audience is really going for it and the vibes are good then they’ll go that extra mile. As for picking the setlist from A LOT of songs to choose from, it all really comes down to trial and error. “We’ve sort of narrowed it down to the ones that work really well. It’s really the songs that we feel very passionate about and really get into. It seems to have trimmed itself into that kind of thing. The process is that Todd turns out a list of songs and we sort of tried them and basically it’s just trial and error with what the band can do or feels good about doing. I mean obviously there are songs that don’t fit us, so we kind of kept it to those songs that we feel we can play the shit out of. Some of them might have had a cringe value until you sort of do them and then they’re fun and you go, okay well this works cause it makes me laugh.

Of course the Countdown songs do get their own Dragon touch to them… “You know we’re only an acoustic guitar, an electric guitar, and a bass and drums, and that’s all we got. However, our drummer is extraordinary. He plays keyboards with one hand and he sings like a motherfucker. Then he could be playing kick drum and mandolin as well, so it’s scary. We’ve got a really versatile little genius in our band and it helps. Some of the songs though that have kind of recognisable sounds within the song, we’ll just program that and sample that, so there’s things that are added to the songs but basically that’s it – just two guitars, a bass guitar and drums, so it can’t help but become something of our own which is a lot of fun too.”

Naturally you would think that by playing a set of songs from a host of classic Aussie bands, paying tribute to one of our most iconic music television programs in history, you might expect to find some of their peers attending the shows…but Mark says otherwise. “I don’t know if they want to come along and see the shows; the other artists or other people in the industry that is, but our feedback is basically from the success it’s been and that’s from the audience’s point of view. It’s funny though and I’m kind of embarrassed…well not embarrassed but we were doing this show with a whole group of bands, and we were only doing about 2-3 songs for this show, ‘Gold’, featuring just Australian artists, and at the end of it they (the promoter) asks a couple of artists if they want to sing a cover (something like ‘Evie’, or something from all that sort of stuff). Anyway, Angry Anderson got the call but didn’t know about the cover and only found out a couple of days before when he had the big sheet of words on the ground that he’s trying to sing to, and he comes off stage so IRATE. He was so mad that he said “I never, ever, do any other artists’ songs”, and I’m thinking to myself ‘oh no, we do one of his songs in our show’. Of course I didn’t want to tell him that so I just kept very quiet and agreed with him. So I don’t think we’re going to be seeing him at a show, I really don’t.

As for the looming 50th anniversary of the band… “I think we’re celebrating that fact right now just by getting around and playing every time, but yes most definitely we will still be going in 5 years’ time. As I said, we’ve got a whole bunch of demos that we haven’t gotten around to yet but we will. It seems like in any band, musically you grow together, and I think you look at those things and we’ll be looking at a new approach and it never ends. It just keeps the brain ticking and the heart beating.

Countdown Oz Chartbusters tour

Ryde-Eastwood League Club RYDE – 6/05/2017
The Australian Brewery ROUSE HILL – 12/05/2017
Sandstone Point Hotel SANDSTONE POINT – 20/05/2017
The Home Tavern WAGGA WAGGA – 26/05/2017
The Kinross Woolshed THURGOONA – 27/05/2017
Astor Hotel GOULBURN – 2/06/2017
The Oaks Hotel ALBION PARK – 3/06/2017
Lizotte’s NEWCASTLE – 9/06/2017
Canterbury Leagues Club BANKSTOWN – 10/06/2017
Dee Why RSL Club DEE WHY – 16/06/2017
Wenty Leagues WENTWORTHVILLE – 17/06/2017
The Taren Point Hotel TAREN POINT – 30/06/2017
The Bridge Hotel ROZELLE – 1/07/2017
The Kingston Arts MOORABBIN – 14/07/2017
Hornsby RSL Club HORNSBY – 22/07/2017
Centenary Rocks! Festival SEVENTEEN MILES ROCKS – 23/07/2017
Beach House Hotel SCARNESS – 28/07/2017
Twin Towns TWEED HEADS – 29/07/2017
North Sydney Leagues Club CAMMERAY – 5/08/2017
Hamilton Hotel HAMILTON – 6/10/2017
Villa Noosa Hotel NOOSAVILLE – 7/10/2017
The Cube CAMPBELLTOWN – 14/10/2017
Towradgi Beach Hotel & Waves TOWRADGI – 22/10/2017

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