From scooters to ski pants, from white lipstick to winkle pickers, STARK RAVING MOD! is a celebration of the 60s-revival Mod subculture in 1980s Australia.

Posted: November 14th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Mod | No Comments »

Interview with Gary Hosie 2010

(The Sets)

Q. What did you think of the local punk/new wave scene around 1979–80?

Don and I got into the punk thing in late 77/early 78 when a mate of ours, Matt Dickson, returned from the UK with a stack of vinyl – early punk stuff but also Graham Parker and Dr Feelgood. We loved it all and got right into it, the music the clothes, the idea of a ‘movement’. We always said though, wouldn’t it be great if it was ‘mod’?

Q. Would you say there was a crossover between punk and the 80s mod revival scenes, and how did they differ back then?

There was. A lot of people who were taken by punk moved into mod for similar reasons. Many were creative people. There was an interest in something ‘new’ and again, the togetherness of a movement or gang. The music was more appealing in the long term. Punk should have been a short, sharp, shock but it went on too long. Musically, for me, its appeal was relatively short lived and only occasionally would I now listen to that stuff. The RnB stuff never goes away though.

Q.  What got you into the mod and 60s revival sound? What artists (old and contemporary) influenced you?

We were kids in England when the mods and rockers thing was in full swing. We would see it on the news and ask mum and dad if they were mods or rockers. They used to say ‘mods’ but of course, they were neither. My uncle had a nice red and white Lambretta and I have a photo of myself sitting on it 62 or 63.

I was always loved the album Quadrophenia, the music the sleeve, everything and again there was that feeling of ‘If only…’ When we started to read about what was happening in the UK and thenstumbled on The Sets at the Sussex with 2 very mod looking blokes in the band, well, we were IN! We were already dressing that way but did not really have it down pat until we did some research!

As for influences, mine were The Who, both musically and visually, Dr Feelgood, Graham Parker, Thin Lizzy and Mott the Hoople. My contribution was mainly lyrics. Andy was the main songwriter and his songs dictated the sound of the band more than I did. Phil as well. They were both influenced by the 60s but obviously affected by the punk sound, too. There was a strong Buzzcocks influence on the earlier material.

Q. When you first joined the Sets how long had you been a mod for? Or were the two events simultaneous?

We saw the original Sets very early on and were already well on our way. By the time we reformed The Sets we were in it up to our necks!

Q. The original Sets broke up in mid 1980. Can you briefly fill us in how the reformed Sets came together? Who was in the band at that time?

Donald and I were looking to form the ultimate mod band and we hooked up with Andy Vaughan and then Phil Robinson and Stuart Hooper. Donald wanted to call it the 5 Hip Young Men. (It sounds like a boy group now.) Eventually we thought, why not the Sets? (In retrospect I am glad of that now. It would have been embarrassing doing the Powerhouse as the 5 Hip Young Men!) A few people probably would have been busted doing the graffiti as well!

Q. What kind of music did the Sets play? What was the percentage of covers versus originals, and did you introduce more and more originals as you went on?

The first gig had 3 or 4 covers out of 10 or 12 songs. There was a strong punkish influence as we had all only recently been through it. We didn’t want it to be a ‘60s’ band. We felt it had to be ‘modern’ to be ‘mod’ but we had that influence as well. We grew up with 60s music. The ratio didn’t change significantly. We never wanted to be a covers band.

Q. Was the Sets your first band?

Yes, it was.

Q. Many Sets songs were about the mod scene, e.g., Life on a  LI. Besides the music, do you think this was one of the main reasons that the band had such a big local mod following compared to other mod bands of the time?

For a start we quickly assumed a leadership role with mods because we were organizing parties at Duntroon Ave and helping out some of the bands when there were no gigs and mobilizing people to go to gigs when there were. The idea of forming a band hadn’t really entered our heads so we were trying to create a scene not a following. The bands and of course the participants were the beneficiaries not us!

This was before we reformed the Sets so people looked up to us already. People respected us. Don had a following before we were in the Sets, more so than some of the bands! When the band started, people had reasons beyond the music to follow us. The parties, the camaraderie, the inclusion and the protection. No other band offered that. Some bands resented that they were ‘better’ than us but we had the following.

Also, there weren’t really any other mod bands, just bands we liked. They weren’t mod bands, although some had a mod in them. They liked the scene but they didn’t say they were mod bands though. The question arises, what is a mod band? Listening to people now, there seem to have been a lot more ‘mod’ bands around then than I remember!

I think that is important because most of the bands that are referred to as mod bands in the Sydney scene were not considered or even referred to themselves as mod bands at the time. It wasn’t a good career move and most were hoping for a career. Now, with the internet it is convenient.

Because we were blatantly mod it was only natural that the mods would gravitate towards us.

The Sets members were mods, our songs were about mod and we came out in media interviews and openly stated we were a mod band (career suicide!). No one else did that. The Go were the closest thing but they never broke out of a small circle of gigs and a small scene. They were preaching to the converted whereas we led the way.

We also had the advantage of starting when the movement was in full swing in the UK so people were reading about it in the press and this created a lot of interest. Some of the later bands didn’t have the benefit of that because the New Romantic thing took over.

Q. Would you say that the Sets were the first significant mod band of the 80s in Australia and why?

I go back to the previous point. There are not a lot to choose from. We were the most influential in terms of building a large following and growing the mod movement. We were the most interviewed, the most loved and the most hated. We had imitators and the members went on to form or join other bands that also did pretty well – Stupidity, The Mustard Club and the Cockroaches, which says something about the talents of those involved.

If you don’t count the Allniters as a mod band, and for a while I think they were, we were the biggest crowd pullers and played the most headlining gigs in major venues. We were the most mod.

Stupidity also pulled big crowds and headlined all over the place, so even after the Sets were gone, our influence carried on through Don and Andy’s participation in that band.

I don’t mean to sound arrogant but other bands were just bands, some were really good but they just played. The Sets were totally immersed in the movement and organizing the movement. We had a hand in Shake ‘n’ Shout (although Steve Dettre must take the major credit) which was a great fanzine and is now a sought-after artifact. So the fact that Sydney mod is remembered and respected and is mentioned in books and has books written about it has a lot to do with The Sets and Donald, in particular. There would barely be an article about Aussie mod that doesn’t mention Don, which is how it should be. Very few individuals get a mention. That alone is hugely significant. Our appeal and influence went beyond the music.

Q. Where was your first gig? Which other bands (if any) did you play with? Did you start off as a support act, and how long before you headlined?

Our first gig was at the Sussex in the Pit but I cannot remember whether we played on our own or as a support. I have no recollection!

Q. What (if any) were your favourite venues to play and why? Does a particular gig stand out in your memory?

I always enjoyed the Sussex. It was so close and sweaty. The Governor’s Pleasure was great too. We did a gig at the Paddington Town Hall – our first big gig away from the Sussex – 4 or 500 people. The place went mad. It was just unbelievable. The Manly Vale, too, was sensational, with over 800 people for us and the Allniters. We ran out of songs and Andy and I did ‘My Generation’ as a duo with Andy smashing the guitar!

Q. The Sets never tried to find that 60s sound like some other local bands. Was the Sets’ sound a bit of a mix of raw punk and mod?

Punk and RnB were the main influences, even more so after Andy saw Dr Feelgood for the first time. He immediately came back with some great RnB riffs that became ‘Turn the Other Cheek’ and ‘Why Don’t You Dance with Me’.

The mod bands of the time, like the Small Faces, I am sure thought of themselves as RnB bands, not pop bands or 60s bands. We thought of ourselves as an RnB band albeit with a punk influence.

Q. The Sets were in many ways more than a band to the mods. It could be said that the Sets and the Sydney mod scene were almost totally intertwined during the time leading up to Easter 1981. Can you tell us about some of the social activities that you, Don and the Sets organised – e.g.  Club of a 100 Faces, the Alibi Club, Le Vents at the Lismore Hotel, Midnight Mass, parties at your home at Duntroon Avenue etc.?

We wanted to make sure there were things for us to do, places to go, with music we wanted to dance to. This was really important because much about mod is about music and dancing. Some places worked well others not so well. Some we stopped when the owners got greedy. Usually we didn’t charge unless we had expenses. We put a lot of time and effort into those nights that often was taken for granted. People from outside of mod came along and loved it. It is arguable, but the Alibi Club may have been the first ‘Dance’ club in Sydney.

Q. For some reason, the Sets and the mod revival were unpopular with many rock writers. Did you find this disappointing or unfair?

Mod was the first youth movement to undergo a ‘revival’ so it was viewed as a nostalgia freak show (as one journalist noted). Not current. There was no political angle so it was seen as lacking substance in the way that punk was seen to have had substance because it was about rebellion, whereas mod was about having a good time. We saw that as important. Mod was about freedom and the clothes gave you the freedom to go for drinks at the Regent and then head off to a gig as well as hold down a job in an office, still wearing the clothes of your choice. If you were a punk with an office gig, really you were playing dress-ups on the weekend.

The abovementioned journalist also missed the point. This was no longer a trend but a lifestyle choice in the way that you have skinheads, metal heads or rockers. (It didn’t help that Donald was shagging a journalist’s girlfriend at the time and when they came out things got worse!) Too many bands had ties with journalists who wrote some pretty dishonest stuff to support their mates. Some of it involved being dishonest about The Sets.

Q. During the end of the Melbourne mod invasion tour in 1981, at the peak of the Sets’ popularity with the mods, some mods had a fall-out with the Sets, resulting in a split in the scene. How did this change the direction of the band?

Well, we were mighty pissed off to say the least. There were personality issues that affected people close to the band and that was part of it, but there was a bit of unrest from people who hoped to gain something from the split. We were keen to keep it together and grow. Splintering would only weaken the momentum.

I understand that some people didn’t like being in our shadow but without even the shadow they would have been nowhere, which is where some of them went after the split anyway.

The Sets were in a position to play big gigs in more areas and this took us away from the mod ‘haunts’. Some saw this as ‘selling-out’ but we saw it as a chance to tell the mod story and expand the movement. Maybe there was a chance to ‘crack it’, too! We felt we had the talent and the opportunity was presented so we ran with it. It’s only a sellout if you lose your values and we didn’t. I have to say though, it is easy not to sell out when you don’t get the opportunity!

Sadly, some people who should have had more sense went in what we considered the ‘wrong’ direction. Many came back to the fold when they discovered the alternative. In the end everyone lost to varying degrees.

We became even more Mod as a result, with the Meadenist thing, Midnight Mass, etc. The music we played became more diverse and probably more like the earliest Mods in the 60s in some respects.

It was also partly a generational thing. Someone referred to us as ‘sophisticated mods’. The younger ones coming in didn’t relate to us to the same degree. We had jobs, more money, better clothes and there was some snobbishness about ‘tickets’ etc. We were less interested in drugs or fighting.

I can understand some people feeling left out although I am pretty sure that didn’t emanate from the Sets directly. Don was accepting of everyone, and guys like Phil, Fitzy and Andy are the salt of the earth.

I am happy to say that with a few exceptions there is no lasting animosity and it is great when we all get together. We are all over or pushing 50 so it would be a shame if we couldn’t leave it behind after all this time!

Q. What new members joined the band after that?

Rob Turner joined to give us a lead guitar and then Phil left to join the Cockroaches. He wasn’t happy with the splitters so there was less reason for him to stay. We were upset but it was a good move for him. Keith Pickering replaced Phil and we felt the need to change drummers to better fit in with Keith and we asked Fitzy to leave. I have always regretted that, but Fitzy became a good drummer and I was happy to get him into the Mustard Club and enjoy playing with him now in Out of our Skulls and The Sets. We had a few drummers and I think musically it was a great period with our song writing was developing. People overlook the quality of the original Sets material, I think.

Q. When the Sets broke up, did any of the members form new bands or merge with other bands?

Donald was itching to form Stupidity whether the Sets broke up or not. I didn’t like the idea so I said lets call it a day. Rob and I had become the main songwriters by this time so we started putting the Mustard Club together.

Q. What recordings did the Sets make?

We only released one record and it was a disappointment. We had struggled to capture the live sound and energy for the first 3 song choices and ended up settling on ‘Love aint what it used to be’ and due to a lack of cash used a live recording from a gig at North Sydney Boys High of ‘Life on a LI’ as the B side. When the record was pressed we were reasonably happy until it was sent to the radio stations which were of course mono in those days. Due to a technical problem that I don’t understand, when the song is played in mono, the vocals totally disappear! It couldn’t be played on radio! We were devastated! We have a number of live recordings and some unreleased demos but that is all.

Q. What aspects of mod and the mod scene appealed to you and which (if any) didn’t?

I loved the music and the dancing most of all. I also liked clothes. The best thing was the ‘gang’ thing, the feeling you had with a group of like-minded people. It was always great to turn up to a place with a group of scooters and great looking boys and girls dismounting and striding in, whether it was a gig, a party or the Paddington markets. I loved it all.

I didn’t like drugs and the behaviour it created. It was part of the reason for the split I suspect. There was too much of it going on and that leads to problems.

Q. In your opinion, do you think that the Australian 80s mod scene was a flash in the pan or has it had any lasting influence on Australian music and pop culture?

I don’t really think it had much of an ongoing influence. If the mod thing rises again it will do so out of interest in the 60s mod scene and the bands and it will emanate from England. We were part of the mod story but I don’t think we influenced much in the long term, although in the short term perhaps.

Q. In your opinion who were the ‘stars’/standout musicians and performers of the 60s-influenced/mod Australian music scene?

Other than the Sets you mean? Well, obviously on an individual level Donald was the standout personality and qualifies as a ‘star’ but he was much more than that. He was a one off and no one comes close. As far as bands go, well the early Introverts had their moments and I really liked Chris Vaughan as a player and he looked good on stage. The Little Murders were probably the best band in musical terms and they had good songs and vinyl. The Alniters always had guys that were mods at heart and they were very successful. The Go were solid and ‘of and for’ the scene which I respect them for. Rohan de Meyrick was great, he should have been in the Sets if he had been old enough!

Q. Could you give us a general rundown on your musical activities after the Sets during the 80s.

Well the Mustard Club came straight after the Sets. We wanted it to be powerful and passionate, with great songs and great musicianship. A step up that would prove we were more than a cult band. It would cover a wider range of influences. We were still into RnB but wanted do something more.

I remember saying to someone ‘We don’t want the mods to come and see us because they think we are a mod band. come and see us if you like us’. This was reported as ‘We don’t want the mods to come and see us’ so we didn’t get the level of interest we had hoped for, whereas Stupidity picked up the Mods, even the ‘splitters’ and of course they had the party scene around Don as an added bonus.

The scene was dominated by either ‘fun’ bands or Joy Division type stuff. The original MC weren’t fun but neither is the Who, Stone Roses, Arctic Monkeys and most of the greats. They are exciting, powerful, and moving. That is what we wanted. A lot of people who saw the band loved it but the party scene was better with the Stupids so they went there.

We have some excellent live recordings of the early Mustard Club and when I play it to people now they are blown away by how good it is. Eventually we lost confidence and started to go more ‘fun’ and after a few line up changes we moved towards RnB and then became a heavy version of the Sets when Donald joined. I really enjoyed the band with Don in it but musically it was not as satisfying as the early version. The crowds were bigger though!

I formed Gary Hosie’s Bullfighters after meeting Kydric Shaw (from The Agents) and getting excited about playing again. We wanted to play our more immediate influences, stuff like Graham Parker, Elvis Costello, that sort of thing as well as some originals. I loved that band; it really pushed me to get better. The interesting thing was that in the early discotheques at the Lismore and places, some people didn’t think we should play the likes of Graham Parker and Nick Lowe, even Dr Feelgood because they weren’t mod, it didn’t have the ‘label’. We saw it as great, soulful RnB. Let’s face it, Sam Cook wasn’t a mod either. Later I read that GP, Nick Lowe and the Feelgoods had all been mods! Looking at some of the earlier questions, you have to ask, what is a ‘mod’ band?

Don and I later formed the Perennials playing mainly our originals, and Kings for a Day which was ‘the best of New Wave’ with songs by the Pretenders, Ian Dury, Godfathers and more. Good fun!


Favourite contemporary mod band: Secret Affair – Great voice and good songs, they went beyond ‘fun’

Favourite contemporary mod song/s: ‘Frustration’ by Purple Hearts without doubt, followed by ‘I’m Not Free but I’m Cheap’. Also, ‘Soul Time’ by Graham Parker ‘Graduating from a Lambretta to a Triumph Herald car’. Great stuff. I went from a Lammie to a Triumph 2500 TC! On a personal level I still love ‘The Rest of My Life begins today’ (Mustard Club) and ‘Why Don’t you Dance with Me?’ (The Sets).

Favourite sixties mod band: Well they weren’t a mod band but the Mods liked them – The Who of course!

Favourite sixties mod song: My Generation

Favourite mod singer (sixties or contemporary): Roger Daltrey and Graham Parker

Favourite mod album (sixties or contemporary): The first Who album is a cracker!

Favourite mod wardrobe item or mod accessory: I love a good boating blazer!

Favourite mod nightspot (for leisure, not gigging): You couldn’t beat Duntroon Ave really! The Hip Hop Club was good, too


Vocals: lead Gary Hosie, backing Don Hosie

Lead guitar: Andy Vaughan, Rob Turner, Chris Vaughan

Bass guitar: Phil Robinson, Keith Pickering

Drums: Stuart Hooper, John Voulgourakis, Mark Fitzgerald, Hans Boss, Phil Manzil, even Steve Dettre for one gig!

(Gary Hosie interviewed by Ariana Klepac, 2010)


Keep your diaries free on 16 April 2011 as there will be a REUNION GIG at Luna Park, celebrating 30 years since the Mod Melbourne Invasion of 1981, where Mods from around the country massed in the streets and clubs of Melbourne for a long weekend that will never be forgotten.