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 21st, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Mod | No Comments »

Interview with Phil Robinson 2008

(The Sets)

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

Well the punk era was great and gave music a much needed injection but by 1980 it was really running out of steam. Many of the original bands had broken up or had diversified. One of the great things punk did was give people like myself the confidence to perform live without having to be an accomplished musician.

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

There was crossover in the sense that some punks became Mods and were heavily involved. Others didn’t become Mods but appreciated the energy of the music whilst others didn’t like it all and thought it was contrived.

Q. According to a local Mod fanzine of the time, Sets 1 and the Sydney Mod scene came about from people being bored with the punk scene. You were an ex Grand Hotel punk – would you say that was your attitude at the time?

Yes I would agree with that. However the bands that I saw at the Grand Hotel were great. I was very young and I was totally was enthralled by it all. Bands like The Last Words had a lasting influence on me.

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

Well Stuart Hooper returned from a holiday in the UK (he was Welsh) and experienced the Mod thing happening. I guess it was late 1979 and he brought back a heap of records and clothes and it started from there. Of the newer bands The Jam and Secret Affair influenced me and it introduced me to sixties music in a big way for the first time keeping in mind I was only just 16.

Q. Did any of the Sets 1 consider themselves Mods? Or did any become Mods later?

Yes Stuart and myself did. Keith didn’t but he was heavily into the music.

Q. Most people consider you and Stuart Hooper to be the first Sydney Mods? Is this correct?

I believe so. There may have been one or two others that were starting to get interested in it around the same time but we were not aware of them.

Q. The Sets 1 were a short-lived band. Would you say the Sets 1 were one of the first bands that the early Mods rallied around, or did that happen more when the Hosie brothers, Andy Vaughan and new drummer Fitzy joined the reformed band?

Well both. The Sets 1 attracted a few like minded people by accident really. I cant even remember the reason that the Hosies and co first came but it was the beginning. It really started in force when the Hosie brothers, Andy Vaughan and Mark Fitzgerald joined the band. Quadrophenia was released and this brought publicity and more and more people started turning up and the scene just grew and grew.

Q. Where was your first Sets gig? Where did you mostly play after that? Which other bands did you play with/most enjoy playing with?

The first gig was at The Royal Standard Hotel (Andy Vaughan’s dad was the publican but we didn’t know Andy then). The pub closed after a few gigs there and we then mainly played at The Sussex by ourselves and lovely old Stella, the landlady, was full of encouragement for us. After the band was joined by the other guys we branched out to other venues. We weren’t very good initially but people admired our guts to get up and have a go and really gave us great support.

Q. Can you tell us about the vibe of the fledgling Mod scene at the Royal Standard and Sussex?

It was very exciting and bit heady for a 16-17 year old. There was lots happening and the energy was amazing. There were a lot of creative people but generally a lot of nice people who just wanted to have fun. There were so many people to talk to about music, clothes and life in general it was great and you just didn’t want the nights to end.

Q. What was the atmosphere like when playing at the Sussex?

It was incredible playing there when it was packed. It was a sauna even in winter but no one seemed to mind I certainly don’t think that feeling was ever captured at larger venues.

Q. Is it true you guys played with a large target backdrop, covered the Jam’s ‘In the City’, and Stuart Hooper smashed his drum kit after playing ‘My Generation’ 4 times?

This is all true of the Sets 1. My dad helped me paint the backdrop on one of his old paint drop sheets. We did play those songs, albeit quite badly, and Stuart did smash his drum kit.

Q. For many Sydney Mods at the time, the reformed Sets really hit a nerve, and was the most popular band of the Sydney Mod revival scene. What was the secret to the Sets’ success?

Well we were just people that were part of the early scene who played in a band. The Hosies were great organisers and this was a key factor and we also wrote a lot of our own songs about the local scene that the Mods could relate to. We became a reasonable band musically and had lots of energy with Don and Gary Hosie as frontmen so I guess we provided good entertainment.

Q. For Some reason the Sets and the Mod revival were unpopular with many rock writers. Did you feel this was disappointing?

No not really. They were always going to stick to the mainstream acts like Cold Chisel etc.

Q. The Sets 2 were in many ways more than a band to the Mods. It could be said the Sets and the Sydney Mod scene were almost totally connected at the time leading up to the Melbourne Mod invasion tour easter long weekend 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 (if it did)?

Absolutely! Easter 81 was the end for me. This great scene we had was split in two and I knew it would never be the same again.  Some of the Mods thought that the Sets were over controlling the scene on the other hand this control had got the scene to where it was. There were valid points to both sides but the Hosies were my friends – Gary still is, and you stick with your friends. After Melbourne I think Gary thought stuff it, let’s play to other people and got Rob Turner to join the band who was a great guitar player. Not too long after that I joined the Cockroaches. The Mod secne went on for a long time after I moved on and I’m glad a lot of people got enjoyment from it and other bands emerged and built followings in their own right.

Q. What would you say was the highlight of your time with the Sets?

Those early days at the Sussex Hotel for sure and watching the scene grow from a few people into hundreds.

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

I spent 7 years with the Cockroaches. The Sets went on for quite a while after I left and Fitzy played in a popular southern shire band, Just Lust, Gary Hosie with the Mustard Club and Malpractice and Don with Stupidy. Rob Turner still earns a living from music.

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

Well it had an impact. Spy Vs Spy and The Allniters were a couple of the bands to come out of the Sussex and gained a fair national following and record sales but I don’t think that’s what it was all about. It was more for the enjoyment of the people involved and not trying to leave a lasting impression on the mainstream rock n roll scene

Q. Do you have a yarn about a good (or bad) moment from your time with the Sydney Mods and the early 80s scene?

There were many highlights and my experiences from that time are generally happy ones. The low point for me was the bus trip back from Melbourne after Easter 81.  One disappointment is that the Sets didn’t leave a good recording and only the ill-fated ‘Love Ain’t What It Used to Be’ single.

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

There were many talented people and a host of amazing characters but without doubt in my mind the standout was Don Hosie. No one, and I mean no one, could galvanise the scene like Don did. The enormous crowd at his funeral was the last great gathering of people from that time and a testament to this.

(Phil Robinson interviewed by Ariana Klepac 2008)