If there was one band that is all Aussie biker that band would have to be Black Label! Black Label work tirelessly playing for and lending support to the motorcycling community and are a common feature of many bike shows or charity events.
Originally from the Central Coast of New South Wales back in 1988 Black Label started life as an American Southern Boogie band but couldn’t score gigs. The boys had to find an audience and knew of other Boogie bands that were playing biker shows and the popularity with the Southern Boogie sound with the biker. Having grown up with some boys that rode and members of clubs the boys put their hands up and word spread. As time went by the boys found themselves playing at around 98% of the clubs around Sydney.
Today there are none of the original members left in the band, George “Geordie” Muscat, drummer and longest serving member joined the band in 1994 and decided to move the band to Sydney’s western suburbs to recruit new members.
As time went on the line up changed many times and with different members coming through over the years the writing shift changed from their original beginnings as a Boogie band. One of the first to join was front man Steve Mulry (if you are thinking that Mulry sounds familiar let me answer it now! Yes, Steve is the brother of the late Aussie legend Ted Mulry who came up with that legendary song of the seventies Jump in My Car - so there you go!) With the addition of Steve, the band’s direction turned from Southern Boogie to a heavier classical Heavy Metal sound. Steve loves hard rock with his influences, styling and stage presence representee of rock gods Thin Lizzy and Black Sabbath.
With the new members came new ideas and styles and they all started writing. George Geordie Muscat (drums) took his influences from The Rolling Stones, Loz Marlow (Bass) from Rage Against the Machine and Audio Slave whilst axemen (guitarist) Ross Flynn and Jon Ford from Slash and AC/DC respectively.
The mixture of all these influences produces a sound that’s instantly identifiable to Black Label whilst still giving respect and an identifiable styling of their idols. The sound is a mixture of modern Rage Against the Machine, Wolf Mother and the classic medieval styling of Iron Maiden. Whilst the band have their own authentic styling Black Label’s live shows are a showcase of their influences. On one hand you have Steve belting out the tunes and lifting the roof much along the lines of Ronnie James Dio all the time stalking the stage in a way reminiscent of the other legendary Black Sabbath front man Ozzie Osborne. You have Loz venting his rage in his head banging and head tosses and the guitar maestros Ross and John doing their best Slash impersonations using the feedback amps as foot rests. While all this takes place Geordie sittin’ back beatin away on the pig skins and cymbals Charlie Watts style, happy for the spotlight to focus on the strings and microphone. The band says the sound they produce live is close to the CD quality. To hear and see the band in an auditorium for the first time just blew me away. The boys credit their action packed live performance down to an adrenalin rush and the crowd.
Black Label also says the live sound is only possible due to having the same “Back line” as AC/DC which is Gibson Guitars, Sonar drums and Marshall Amps. Geordie recons when you put us in a small room it’s like driving a Hot V8 in city traffic at 20 kph, its just impossible! The thing just wants to jump out of the box!
The band now does around 80 gigs a year sometimes two gigs a week. “Not bad for a band no one knows!” Says the bands front man Steve adding a tongue in cheek quote from the bands bio “ we’ve played thousands of gigs to hundreds of people!”
There was a stigma that came with playing at so many biker functions, over time the band was perceived to be a biker band. The boys didn’t mind the fact that most of their work was coming from bikers and rather enjoyed the fact the bikers never whinged about the volume and they could crank it up and they never had to chase them for their money. The band is first to admit they aren’t bikers and don’t even pretend to be but they do know the real dudes!
The Biker/Black Label relationship was only to get stronger when the band called on three clubs in particular to help them out when their gear was ripped off. The boys reported the theft to the coppers and as the boys put it “they did fuck all”. So after a couple of weeks the band asked three of the 1% clubs to keep a look out for their gear and to their amazement and relief the band had all their gear back four days later. The boys were over the moon and deeply indebted to the clubs.
With all this talent it begs to wander why these boys haven’t made the big time. Geordie puts it in simple terms and says “ What’s played on the radio isn’t always necessarily the best! There’s a whole other side to the industry, (radio) which is all the hype. In the old days radio stations had to play a certain percentage of Aussie content and then the government softened broadcasting laws. People in the industry told Black Label no-one listens to heavy rock and radio only plays top 40 hits or shit that plays around drum machines.
People have tried to mould the boys but they have resisted the temptation which in their own words “could have been a good thing or a bad thing and could have halted their careers a little bit, you want to get on stage with an honest feeling about yourself and be able to say this is me.”
After being told in no uncertain terms they wouldn’t make it, Black Label side stepped the agencies and started to get gigs themselves and within a couple of years the agencies were trying to put together bands like Black Label. Geordie tells the story of the time he decided to go along to one of the auditions for a drummer for one of bands, at the end of the audition Geordie was offered the job and was told the band was looking to be another Black Label because quote “they’re the real deal”.
If emulation is the greatest form of flattery it only gets better for our boys. With a loyal following in Europe, when Black Label tour they have to tour under another name because while they own the Black Label trademark in Australia and have had the name longer than the other band Black Label Society the boys know its not worth fighting with the US band saying “It aint worth fighting his worth $6,000,000 and we’re lucky to be worth $6!” Happy with knowing the name is good enough to steel is satisfying enough!
Their new album is called Blood Money. Steve and Geordie describe the new album as a labour of love and they mean that in all honest sense. The album was recorded in “bits and pieces” over a four year period. When the boys toured Europe the album was put on the backburner. They heard the album in its entirety on the tour bus in Berlin and hated it and did a lot of re-recording. Geordie blames the band putting it down to the production saying “ There’s an old saying never let go of the reigns and we did! When all that was happening we were just too busy getting ready for the tour and all the boys are family men with jobs. Being so busy sometimes attention to detail goes out the window. Not saying we didn’t give a shit its just life and we are all so busy!”
The songs were always to the boys liking, it was just the way they recorded them “sometimes you don’t know if your going forward, backwards or even sideways” they said and it didn’t turn out the way they imagined it would, so they went about making changes.
Happy with the drums they left the drums, changed a little of the guitar and bass then listened to the changes and went back and forth making changes. Geordie compared it to polishing dog turd because that’s what its been like the whole way through going on to say “We’ve been doing the album for a long time and a considerable amount of money went into it, all the money we made from gigs was getting put back into the album to make it sound good. We don’t go out there and say we should have a song at this speed or in this key, we just write from feelings and how things are done and it’s just how it turns out.”
After lessons learnt, Black Label like to be fiercely independent and in control and still have their own independent label but have licenced their CD/DVD Seven Deadly Sins for distribution to the Rajon Group/ Sony BMG and the European release of Blood Money has been released under the name Lawless Breed to EMG records Berlin Germany.
Black Label loves the small intimate Pub (as in the glory days of Pub rock) gigs saying, “The crowds love us, we put the Ocker back into Rocker!” The boys have preformed with some of our best - The Angels, Rose Tattoo, The Radiators, Diesel and Screaming Jets and up and comers Electric Mary.
The boys put everything into their music and they also seem to go all out when it comes to their merchandise, CD’s and T-Shirts which are all available on Black Label’s website www.blacklabelaustralia.com.au
Get behind the band who gets behind us! Black Label!