1970’s Perth band The Victims were pioneers of punk music not only here but nationally and eventually around the world. Original members Dave Faulkner and James Baker are once again teaming up with Hard-Ons bassist, Ray Ahn, for some hometown shows.
In 1975 through ’76 Perth drummer James Baker went overseas on a trip that took him to London and New York.
He arrived at these places at a time when punk rock was emerging as a voice for disenfranchised youth. It was also simply fun to play loud and smash shit up (let’s not get academic). By being in these places at these times he was in close proximity to the likes of The Sex Pistols and The Clash, The Heartbreakers and The Ramones.
Then he came home to sleepy Perth, with work to be done. Bands such as The Cheap Nasties and The Geeks were in existence, but gigs were few – and fewer in between – and any notion of a ‘scene’ was less than nascent. He formed The Victims with vocalist/guitarist, Dave ‘Flick’ Faulkner (later of The Hoodoo Gurus) and bassist, Rudolph V (aka Dave Cardwell).
“There wasn’t any original bands in Perth in 1977,” Baker recalls. “Dave Warner… and The Cheap Nasties perhaps, so there was no alternative scene, whatsoever. Only what was created by us and The Cheap Nasties. Some other bands started in that period but none were really serious. None of them ever made records or got past doing the odd gig, really.”
“Even The Victims were lucky to put a record out, to be honest,” adds Faulkner. “It’s just that we had a fan whose parents had a bit of money!”
Crowd-funding at its earliest, then?
“It was indeed,” Faulkner laughs. “If only we’d kept doing it since!”
In typical punk fashion, the members of The Victims were railing against normality. Equally, it seems, they were rallying towards the music.
“The main thing was that we were all reading about this music, then finally getting to hear it, but it was always months after the event because you had to wait until the magazines arrived via ship,” Faulkner recalls.
“And the same with the albums; the earliest you’d get it was like about eight weeks after a record came out. On top of that feeling of being isolated just physically, you were literally isolated because you were out of synch a couple of months with anything you wanted to hear; and knowing there was no other way of finding out because no one else in Australia was paying the least bit of interest in it.
“Nothing was in the newspapers. Countdown had the music you watched, but they only had the Pistols on once and Molly was laughing about them.
“It was a secret society, in a funny way, because no one else cared. We were forced to be a secret.”
“And we also didn’t like any of the other bands,” Baker notes. “We were rebelling against them as well… against what we thought was mediocrity.”
The cover band scene of the time was lucrative enough, but uninspiring to an emerging generation of punks.
“If you wanted to make money you didn’t play punk rock,” Faulkner notes, “that was the last thing you’d do. But making money was the last thing we were thinking about.”
Besides that, the clothes were awful.
“We just felt like aliens at the time,” Faulkner says. Lepers (laughs). We were listening to music that other people felt made no sense to them or that it was stupid, or horrible, or whatever. The way you looked was insulting to them, ‘cause you didn’t wear Hawaiian shorts or pastel colours.
“We stuck in their craw, so to speak. And we tried to. We actually revelled in it. We felt superior, I guess. We were snotty about it – we knew what was good and what was cool and they didn’t.”
The Victims would eventually find a home of sorts at the infamous Hernando’s Hideaway in East Perth, as well as the Governor Broome Hotel, plus other simpatico shows in halls and various odd venues. An early show at the Kewdale Hotel resulted in a media splash that Faulkner, echoing The Sex Pistols’ infamous BBC talk show scandal, remembers as The Victims own ‘Grundy event’.
“After the first two songs the guy turned the PA off,” Baker says. “We kept on playing, because for some reason the stage power was still on. There was all these truckers there walking out giving us the finger. I remember going home and phoning up (Perth music journalist) Ray Purvis and telling him that they’d kicked us out of the Kewdale Hotel. He managed to get that in the Sunday Independent.
“It was exactly what we wanted – Punk Band Kicked Out Of Kewdale Hotel (laughs). It was perfect.”
The worst thing that could happen was actually the best thing that could happen in terms of notoriety. And it’s not like there weren’t other places to play.
Faulkner: “The Governor Broome was the first venue, apart from our house. James went there, walked in over the Horseshoe Bridge and asked the publican, didn’t you? Then it became a band venue after that?”
Baker: “No bands used the play there before, like blues bands back in ’74. But if they had bands on Saturday night we played Friday. We did about four gigs there. Then it opened up about a year later I think when The Scientists played there.”
Faulkner: It stopped for us for some reason, nothing bitter and twisted or anything. So we just booked our own gigs elsewhere then James found Hernando’s, walking back to Victim Manor one day (laughs). Just wandering the back streets of East Perth!”
Baker: No, someone told me that they had jazz bands on a Wednesday night, so I asked him if they wanted a rock band on a Thursday night. And he was quite open to it.”
Faulkner: It was an Italian restaurant or something and it was upstairs behind the Commonwealth Bank. So you had to go behind the carpark to get up the stairwell at the back.”
That building was more recently known (until 2014) as Shape Nightclub. Hernando’s Hideaway in that time and beyond, became infamous…
Faulkner: “It became our home, where The Victims really came to be. And that was the whole punk scene, other bands would play there as well.”
Baker: “We’d play a couple of gigs at town halls and at the uni. A couple at the hall. A couple meaning two, nit half a dozen (laughs).”
Faulkner and Baker estimate that The Victims played around 20 or so gigs in 1977. The trio burnt briefly and brightly.
But just why did they break up?
Faulkner: “Well… it was a whole lot of things. I mean, the scene itself was a little bit…”
Faulkner: “Yeah. The spontaneity of doing something to rebel against conformity ended up being this conformist scene. Everyone had to be like, ‘I’m so bored’ or ‘I’m on the dole’ – just parroting clichés of punk, you know? We kind of got sick of that and we wanted to not be restricted by it. We didn’t want to be restricted in the first place; that’s why we liked punk, it was freeing. So that was one of the things; and another was that… I can’t really say (laughs).
“On top of that also, I got a job and I was saving money to go overseas, because James had been travelling for more than a year and when he came back we were all just wide-eyed at all these stories of all these incredible bands and things he’d seen and done. The people we were reading about in the newspaper, like Sid Vicious and The Clash and The Ramones, well he’d been mingling with them. If I’d been there I could have been doing that too and I thought, now I’d do that, whatever the next generation of that is. I wanted to see that scene for myself. We had that feeling of being out of the swim, so to speak, of where the action was elsewhere in the world, musically. I wanted to travel and see that. I was 21 and that’s what I wanted to do. So it was a combination of things, plus the reason I can’t tell you (laughs).”
Baker although sparingly, is a little more forward on the matter.
Baker: “Well we had a falling out with the bass player.”
Faulkner: “Yeah… and who is not involved with this because he doesn’t want to know about The Victims anymore. He doesn’t want to talk about it anymore, so we haven’t.”
In his place is Ray Ahn from The Hard Ons, of inestimable punk rock pedigree himself. Ahn joined up in 2014 for the band’s first shows together as The Television Addicts.
Baker: “Because apart from being a nice guy and a great bass player…”
Faulkner: “And a punk fan who knows his shit!”
Baker: “… he told me he’s the biggest fan of The Victims. It’s his favourite band. I thought, ‘geez mate, there’s plenty of other stuff out there!’ (laughs).”
Ahn is not alone on that one. For many years, around the world, people have discovered The Victims and fallen fan to them. To have achieved so much from so little time, in what was the last place on earth in 1977, The Victims, speaks volumes for this influential Perth band.
Baker: “Yeah it was fun, it was a fun band to play in. It’s mostly good memories, you know?”
Faulkner: “Well it is a precious jewel, really. A happy accident, whatever. It was a pretty special time in my life as well. It shaped me incredibly. The things I learnt, just from the things that James turned me on to, bands like The Flaming Groovies and things like that, even the New York Dolls, whom I’d heard of, but hadn’t paid attention – James was a huge fan and he made me really hear that.
“So these things are really important things to be influenced by. And the music itself and just being in The Victims, it was a great band. Our audience loved us, we loved playing for them and it was great fun. That energy was incredible.”
The Victims are joined by The Peep Tempel, Peter Bibby's Dog Act and special guests on Friday, August 11, at the Rosemount Hotel and Saturday, August 12, at Mojos. Ray Ahn will also appear for a signing/Q+A session to launch his new book, The Art Of Ray Ahn, on Thursday, August 10, at Diabolik Books in Mt Hawthorn from 6.30pm.