Joe Hansen, Grinspoon

I guess it's the power of music and it's nice to think that has stayed with a lot of people ...

Prepare to feel old – it’s been 20 years since Grinspoon released Guide to Better Living, the band’s first full-length album. Little did these four lads from Lismore know that we were creating music history, with the legendary album still etched in the minds of the masses despite two whole decades passing by. Earlier this year, Phil Jamieson, Pat Davern, Joe Hansen and Kristian Hopes broke their four-year hiatus to embark on the 20th-anniversary Guide to Better Living tour, taking the iconic album cover-to-cover across the country in a series of killer shows. Yep, a few years have passed, but the shows were just as badass as they used to be. The tour is over, but there’s one last hurrah for 2017 – Best Night Ever at NightQuarter on December 30. With the foursome due in town in just a few weeks, we thought we’d catch up with bass guitarist Joe Hansen for chat about wild crowds, keeping the chemistry and seeing Phil Jamieson in his activewear.

Let’s go back to September 16, 1997. What do you remember about the day Guide to Better Living was released?
Oh gees. I remember we were obviously pretty excited to have it out there, it was pretty wild. We were just four guys hanging out in Lismore and to actually get a major label deal, make a record and have it released was awesome – we all went down to the local record store called Choppers in Lismore and there it was, our album sitting there – it was pretty rad at the time.

What was your first thought when the idea of a 20th anniversary tour was tabled?
We were a little bit like, do reckon we can pull it off? I guess you evolve over the years and some of those songs were pretty fast and furious and, well, ‘shouty’. So we thought we didn’t want to get ourselves into something and then get to actually practising and think ‘ohhh gee I dunno about this’ … yeah there was a little bit of trepidation, but I think we all felt pretty comfortable. The way we wrote those songs was in the rehearsal room just with four guys and no studio trickery, so we felt confident we could do a good job of playing them live again. Some of the songs we’d actually never ever played live though. We announced the tour way before we actually rehearsed any of the songs, so we were kind of just hoping that by the time we got to the rehearsal studio they’d come together fine … which they did!

The tour turned out to be a crazy success! How did it feel to still be packing out shows two decades on?
Yeah, it’s pretty crazy. For us to have released it back 20 years ago and have it go really well, and then re-release it and do the tour and have that do really well, I mean, that’s pretty cool to be able to stand the test of time in that way. When we first started it was just a few guys in a band room without any clue, just doing it because we enjoyed it. Yeah, 20 years on to look down on the stage and see people right into it, it’s just cool. I guess it’s the power of music and it’s nice to think that has stayed with a lot of people. It was awesome, it feels pretty complimentary.

It’s unique to see the original founding members of a band still together after such a long time. Do you think this has played a part in Grinspoon’s ongoing prominence? 
Yeah, I do think that. Like, I think it’s pretty cool when the chemistry works with the original members to start with, then it’s nice to keep that (if you can). A lot of the time when you chop and change members, the chemisty gets lost and bands lose their way. Having said that, I think we’ve all actually sacked ourselves a few times! I remember one time Pat did a really shitty gig – I think he might have drank too much – and we were in New York. He took off straight after the show, and later on we knocked on his door and he said, “guys, I’ve already sacked myself, you don’t have to do it.” (laughs) We’ve all had our ups and downs over the years, but the cool thing is that we’ve all persevered and pushed through to stay together.

From what we’ve seen, you guys are still emitting just a much energy on stage even though a few years have passed! It’s physically pretty tough – what’s the secret?
I think we just still get excited! We don’t really think about it when we’re on stage, the crowd is going wild and that’s what the music does to you. It kind of just comes naturally, it just happens. Although, I’ve got to say – Phil (Jamieson) has been doing a bit of extra training. I had seen him on the treadmills early in the mornings in his activewear on tour. When I woke up to go have coffee and breakfast, he was coming back into the hotel room with his towel, in his activewear, holding his little drink bottle. I was like, ohhhh I know what you’re up to. It’s cheating! That’s not allowed!

What did the four-year Grinspoon hiatus bring for you?
For all of us, it allowed us to spread our wings a little and get involved in other things, and other things in life. For 20 years, if anything came up with the band, it would be – drop what you’re doing, because Grinspoon is doing this. And that’s what our families put up with as well, so I would just be like “Oh, guess what? We’re going on a six-month tour …” or whatever, and that would be that. Total priority went to Grinspoon, and you have to do that. The hiatus gave us the opportunity to spread the wings and also make sure our families remembered our names and who we were! We all needed it, we all needed that time in our normal lives. But it also made us really keen to get back together and rekindle the camaraderie on the road as well.

You had to get through around 30 shows for the tour. Would you say that the on-the-road tour life is generally a bit more tame 20 years on?
Um (laughs) yeah it is … because we were pretty un-tame to start with, if I can describe it that way. We didn’t hold back, back then. We had a bloody good time and we kind of had this attitude that we didn’t know how long it was all going to last, so if someone was going to invite us to a party and hang out with other bands and have a drink, then we were like – let’s not knock it back, because this could all be over really soon, so we kept on making the most of it and had a really good time. It’s not like we’re teetotallers or anything now, but it’s just a little bit less excessive these days! Put it this way – Phil now comes in early in the morning after going to the gym, but back in the day if he was rocking up early in the morning, it was because he had been out all night! So yes, things have changed a little bit.

You guys are on the Gold Coast as the headline for Best Night Ever! at NightQuarter – it’s your last show of the year, what can us Gold Coast folk expect?
It’s going to be … the best night ever! We’re going to mix it up with a few greatest hits, plus a few surprises and some lesser-known songs. We’re going to bring the energy, and for us it will kind of be our New Year’s Eve party together, so we’ll be having a good time. It will be fun to do some songs we haven’t done in a while!

What does the future hold for Grinspoon?
We’ve got some more gigs early next year – we’ll be at Hotter than Hell. Then after that, we might have a little break and write some songs behind the scenes and see how that goes … maybe some new material. There’s no rush and there’s no plan as such, but we might throw a few demos around and see if we can come up with some new material at some time in the future.

You can catch Grinspoon at Best Night Ever at NightQuarter on Saturday December 30. Head to our Events Guide for all the details.


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