Australian power pop legend discusses his three decades-plus career, current favorite bands, his desert island discs, and more.
BY TIM HINELY
Wait….what do you mean you haven’t heard of Dom Mariani? Where have you been? As you’ll read below Mariani has been a fixture on the Australian garage pop scene for decades, but yeah, he’s from a town outside of Perth, the most isolated city in the world, so you will forgiven (sort of).
Though he and his bands (The Stems, The Someloves, Majestic Kelp, DM3, and, most recently, Datura4) have been a favorite amongst power pop folks for years he hasn’t really made a dent in any kind of commercial scene, at least here in the USA—not that he cares. It’s a damn shame, too, because Mariani writes these songs with monster hooks that really should be blasting out of car stereos everywhere. (For a good overview of Mariani’s 1984-2004 activities, check out the anthology Popsided Guitar, on Citadel, which features extensive liner notes from BLURT editor Fred Mills.)
Late last year the Alive Naturalsound label (part of the Bomp family) released a terrific DM3 compilation called West of Anywhere which is well-worth picking up for a beginner or a longtime fan. The same label also released the debut album from Datura4, which features fellow guitarist Greg Hitchcock from You Am I and the New Christs; BLURT’s reviewer noted that Demon Blues departs from Mariani’s “usual pop aesthetic, however, [instead focusing on] heavy blues-inflected psych rock.” (Below: current Datura4 lineup)
I sent Dom some questions via email and he was more than happy to shoot me some answers.
Ed. Note: This interview originally appeared in Dr. Hinely’s most excellent fanzine Dagger, which you can find on the web HERE. Many thanks to Tim for allowing us to republish his interview with one of our favorite artists.
BLURT: Where were you born, in Fremantle, Western Australia? If so, when did you move to Perth?
DOM MARIANI: Yes I was born in Fremantle and have lived here all of my life. Fremantle is about 30min west of Perth and is a port city with a big European influence of mostly of Italian, Croatian and Portuguese origin that migrated here in the fifties.
Tell us one unique thing about each Fremantle and Perth that we might be surprised by Fremantle.
This may not be a surprise, but for music fans Fremantle was Bon Scott’s home town and Tame Impala are also locals. Perth is known as one of the most isolated cities in the world.
Was there much music in your house growing up?
Both my parents were music lovers. My mother loved to sing and my father had a decent record collection of ’50s and ’60s Italian classics, but they also appreciated Elvis and The Beatles. They encouraged both my brother and I to appreciate music and take up an instrument.
Was there one particular moment that you thought you’d want to be a musician (ie: seeing a specific band on tv maybe)?
I was into music from an early age, but I can’t pin point a particular moment. We’d have the transistor radio on a lot at home. An older cousin that had a record player introduced me to Manfred Manns’ Do Wah Diddy Diddy, The 1910 Fruit Gum Co. and” I Wanna Hold Your Hand.”
Elvis movies, seeing The Beatles on TV, The Monkees, Beatles cartoons,….there were also some great Australian music programs like Six O’clock Rock, Up Tight, Bandstand and GTK. I believe all these things combined were early influences.
Was the guitar your first instrument?
Yes it was. My very first guitar was a steel string acoustic gifted to me by my parents when I was 9.
Being on the other side of the country, were Aussie bands like The Saints and Go-Betweens big influences or was there other stuff happening locally that influenced you more?
Not so much those bands you mentioned. In the ‘70s there were bands like The Zoot, Masters Apprentice, Billy Thorpe and The Aztecs and AC/DC were bands I liked. The Sunnyboys, The Church and The Hoodoo Gurus came along in the ‘80s. Locally – the Manikins were my favourite band.
Was the Go-Starts your first band?
No – I was in a high-school band that started out as Impact. We lost a member after leaving high-school and changed our name to Gypsy. We were then a power trio.
How did The Stems come about? What do you remember most about that band?
The Stems came pretty much straight after The Go-Starts called it a day. I wanted to start from scratch and form a band that was more sixties influenced. It all happened pretty fast. We’d build up a good local following and we tried our luck on the east coast when our first single was released on Citadel. Luck was on our side and things went very well for the band. We recorded a new single and an EP while we were in Sydney. Both produced by Rob Younger. Those releases helped establish the band nationally and we were able to tour more often. It was a very exciting and somewhat crazy time. We were part of a great period for Australian rock and roll. We signed to a major label and released our debut album ‘At first Sight Violets are Blue’ in 87,…by the end of that year we were done. Poor management and the usual band problems ended a great run.
How about The Someloves? DM3?
The Someloves was a side project to begin with. Darryl Mather and I shared a house in Petersham n ’85 while The Stems resided in Sydney for 4 months. Darryl and I became close friends and suggested we write and record some tunes together. I recall writing the songs (“It’s My Time” and “Don’t Talk About Us”) a few nights before the recording session. These were released as a single on Citadel. We recorded another single (Know You Now) a few years later. It was still a side project at this time, but after the Stems split the label were keen for me to keep going with another project. Darryl and I had discussed doing an album together, so I suggested this to Mushroom and they were right behind it. Recording Something or Other with Mitch Easter was a great experience. A friendship that continued through to the DM3 recordings, and Darryl’s Orange Humble Band.
We did have plans to record another, but it got complicated and we decided to walk away from it. The problem being, that we lived opposite sides of the country and we were a studio project which didn’t sit well with the label. The pressure to tour was something Darryl was not giving in to.
DM3 came shortly after The Someloves project. DM3 was prolific for me. I’d gone back to working a day job and out of contract with the major, so I felt less pressure. I had a solid line-up, wrote a bunch of new tunes and played regular local shows. We built up a respectable following in parts of Europe where we were able to tour several times in the 90’s and in most recent times with the revived interest in the band.
Any other notable bands I’m missing? I know you’ve been in a ton.
Right now it’s Datura4 (listen below). We play quite regular and have just completed our second album. The Majestic Kelp is an instrumental side project I’ve had going for a number years. The Kelp have released three albums and are now working on a fourth. The DomNicks from a few years ago where I teamed up with one time Clash member Nick Sheppard. We released an album titled Super Real.
Is it true that you are an architect? If so do you see any parallels between that and being a musician?
Not an architect, but a building designer. I studied architectural drafting and worked off and on while I was between bands, but I have been doing that full time since the early 90’s. With music and architecture I have the best of both worlds. They are both creative.
Who are some of your favorite current bands?
I like the Greenhornes, Temples out of the UK made a great album a few years back. Tame Impala from my home town, Kelley Stoltz, Ty Segall, Allah-Las first album was great, Queens of the Stoneage.
Can you name a few local Perth bands that might not have heard of but need to?
The Manikins and The Bamboos.
Musically, what are you doing at the moment?
Datura4 is my main band. We’ve released one album ‘Demon Blues’ through US label Alive Natural Records and just completed another, due for release in October I’m told.
Care to name your top 10 desert island discs?
This is always tough,..
Let it Be – The Beatles
After The Gold Rush – Neil Young
Notorious Byrd Brothers – The Byrds
Underground – The Electric Prunes
Physical Graffiti – Led Zeppelin
Sticky Fingers – The Rolling Stones
Radio City – Big Star
Are You Experienced – The Jimi Hendrix Experience
Pet Sounds – The Beach Boys
Cosmos Factory – Creedence Clearwater Revival
What’s been your proudest moment as a musician?
Opening for John Fogerty – My musical hero.
Any final thoughts? Closing comments? Anything you wanted to mention that I didn’t ask?
Stay true to your to yourself and the rest is easy.
On the web: