WARNING! This interview contains explicit content.
Brendan: Hey, everyone. Brendan the Blind Guy here. Today, I'm speaking to
the Queen of Australian rock, Miss Sarah McLeod. How are you,
Sarah McLeod: The Queen of Australian rock, eh?
Sarah McLeod: Where'd I get that from? That's great. Thanks.
Brendan: Well, you've been around and done so many projects over the years that
I've read that people are referring to you as Australia's Queen of Rock,
so ... Yeah, good on you.
Sarah McLeod: I have done the hard yards, yes, I know. I've been around and around
and around, and I'm still going.
Brendan: And all for someone that's only 21.
Sarah McLeod: Can you believe it?
Brendan: I know.
Sarah McLeod: And I defy gravity.
Brendan: Wow. Nice.
Sarah McLeod: No, it's good. I feel like I learn something new every day, so I feel like
there's still so much more that I can do, musically, and in my life, and
it's exciting. I'm more inspired and I feel like I have more to offer now
than I did when I was 21, like way more.
Brendan: Aw wow! That's great.
Sarah McLeod: I'm super excited for what I'll be able to offer in another 20 years. So,
Brendan: Yeah oh wow we will. Right so you're about to go on tour for your third
album, if I'm correct. Third studio album, Rocky's Diner. So are you
geared and ready for that tour? How's all the rehearsals going?
Sarah McLeod: Really really fine, actually. Firstly, I'm not a rehearsing kind of person.
Every tour I've ever done, I kind of go maybe one or two days before, I'll
just sort of run with it and go, "Yep, off we go, it's going to be great."
But this particular show, because it's different to anything I've ever
done, like vastly different to anything I've ever done, we've actually
been in rehearsals pretty much all year to get it right. It's been so much
work to get it right.
Yeah so I'm playing with Mick Skelton, who's a drummer. He's in the Baby
Animals and he and I have been playing together on and off as an
acoustic duo for about 12 years, minus a five year hiatus where we had
a massive fight. We didn't talk to each other for five years. So he and I
are really in the pocket, groove-wise, with each other. And like 12 years
ago, we used to talk about doing an electric duo, and we wrote a whole
bunch of songs back then, but we never actually did it live.
So it's been a long time coming for us, and we've finally got to the point
where we're doing an electric duo that we've been talking about for so
long. And then I decided ... When we were talking about doing it, Mick
was like, "No, I just don't think that electric guitar is going to sound as
good with the drums. I think we should stick to acoustic, because
without a bass, it's just gonna sound shit."
And I was like, "Well, I've got an idea for that. What about I instal a bass
pickup in my guitar, and instal a second output, and see if I can make a
bass sound, as well?" So we did a lot of trial and error of the pedal chain
and what kind of bass pickup to get, and I finally worked it out of how
to make the bass sound come out as well, and be able to have individual
instruments operate completely independently of each other, but
coming out of the same guitar.
Sarah McLeod: But I had to relearn everything and like rewrite all the parts so that I
could have one finger playing the bass while the other fingers are still
holding down the rhythms and the riffs. So it's taken a lot of work. And
singing at the same time, and I'm dancing all over the pedal board.
I used to never even have pedals, too. I've never, ever had pedals. I
thought pedals were just things that you use if you're not a very good
player. But I now have so many pedals, and originally that freaked me
out, but I know what to do with them all now. So it's a lot of work, and
the show is quite ambitious, but I've realised that the only way to do it
comfortably was just sheer repetition, and blood, sweat and tears. So
I've just been practising and practising and practising .
So my playing is completely different league now to what it was six
months ago, and this band is like nothing that we've done before. And
even the tour that we did on the Giants tour, which was in August, the
warmup tour, the rehearsals that we've done since that tour, and the
new songs that we've put in from the record that we weren't playing,
and the way we've revamped some old songs, it's like a totally different
band again. So if anyone saw what we did on the Giants tour, it's like
that on steroids. So it's gonna be so cool. I'm really excited.
Brendan: Yeah wow! That sounds like you're taking multitasking to a whole new
Sarah McLeod: I absolutely am, yeah. I'm like that with everything. I'm a megalomaniac
who likes to do everything myself, seriously independent, and I'm always
doing 20 things at once. This morning, I just moved house this morning,
and I'm doing interviews while I just put the last of the stuff in storage
while I'm driving out to Revesby to pick up the t-shirts and merch while
I'm still doing it. I pull over, I do an interview. Drive here and I pull over
and do an interview, and go back and clean the house, ready to give the
keys back. And yeah...
Brendan: Wow, how the hell do you find all that energy? I mean I've moved around
so much in my lifetime, and it takes it out of me, so how do you still
end up powering on, being Superwoman?
Sarah McLeod: It's a state of mind. I just know I have to do it. I set myself goals that
are a little bit beyond what I should, and then I go, "Well, I have to,
because I've said that I would." So I just do it for whatever. And last
night, I rehearsed yesterday for like eight hours, so by the time I got
home ... And I knew the removal men were coming this morning, we
hadn't packed up my house. And Cha-Chi, she's my dog, she's sitting
there watching me. I'm like, "Okay, now we're gonna pack up this and
grab this." We drank a bottle of wine and we sang a few songs, and we
packed the furniture. Yeah, you know you just gotta do what you gotta
Brendan: So, before I talk about your beloved Cha-Chi, I wanna talk about your
new album, Rocky's Diner. I was listening to it, and it's like, "Yeah, this
really does make me feel like I'm sitting in a funky, cool, rock out back
diner." What's the stories and the influences behind it, and the making
of? Share a few stories from it.
Sarah McLeod: OK so I had this idea that I wanted it to be like set in Hell's Kitchen and
Little Italy in the '50s. So two separate places in New York. This is just
like a really rough vision I had before I even started. When I had the
idea for Rocky's Diner, it was actually the third song that I wrote. So I
went to New York and I wrote the album from scratch over there, in
three months. The first couple of songs that I wrote were the wrong
style, because I was finding my feet. I had just watched all of the Rocky
movies back to back, with my mum, at Christmas. So the first couple of
songs I had were a bit like Eye of the Tiger, which I just shelved. I mean,
shelved as in I put them to one side, not shoved them up my ass. That
would be weird.
Brendan: Just a little bit.
Sarah McLeod: So I put them aside, and then on the third one, I got the idea ...
because I had a bit of writer's block, so I went down to Little Italy to
have lunch. I was sitting in this restaurant and I was looking around, and
I had a red and white chequered tablecloth, and a beautiful old Italian
man who was like super attentive, and asking me so many questions and
finding out things about my life, and I ended up telling him my life
story. And I noticed he was doing it with everyone in the place.
And there was all photos on the walls, framed photos of him with
different celebrities throughout the last 20 years. There was a TV on the
wall that had a screenshot of Dean Martin on it, like it was just paused,
this smiling picture of Dean Martin, and they were playing Frank Sinatra
in there. I thought, "This is just brilliant." I loved the idea of it being
like a lonely hearts club. People go there and they're not there for the
food, they go there to talk. They go there to connect with other people.
Then I had this whole thing about how, as human beings, really our main
goal in life is just to find love and to connect with people. And that's
what we're trying to do, in all different ways. So it became about just
the simple things in life, like finding comfortability, a friend, finding
your comfortability within without actually having possessions, or the
idea of what society thinks that you should have.
You just finding your peace and your inner inspiration just from sitting,
eating a few peanuts and talking to a stranger. Or just sitting on the
side of the road playing cards with someone you don't know. Just really
simple, day to day level of just trying to connect.
Brendan: Yeah. Wow That's great.
Sarah McLeod: That's what the whole thing came from.
Brendan: Very thought-provoking. It made me go, "Wow, that's a really good
Sarah McLeod: Yeah, it's not about what we have or what we've done or where we're
going or who we know, it's about how we connect. That can be on just
so many levels, but I find that the beauty in that is when it's on the
Brendan: And so speaking of making connections, I've gotta bring up your beloved
Cha-Chi. I mean I noticed you're bringing him along on the upcoming
tour, and he's featured in your killer new video. What-
Sarah McLeod: She's a girl.
Brendan: My bad, my bad.
Sarah McLeod: She's got a boy's name. I've spent my life saying, "Cha-Chi's a girl, dude.
Cha-Chi's a girl, dude." Everyone asks her she's a boy, don't worry.
Brendan: I wanna kind of go into ... because I'm an animal lover, too. I've got my
guide dog, Rusty, who's probably howling, trying to get into the room at
the moment. But I wanna talk a bit about the bond you have with Cha-
Chi and the relationship you have with him ... her.
Sarah McLeod: Her, yeah. Cha-Chi is a very special soul. I'm not sure what it is, but I
have a feeling ... I've been trying to work out what it is ... Because she
feels ... we’re like Elliot and ET She feels my feelings and my emotions,
and sometimes she feels them before I feel them. It's very difficult to
explain, but say for example, her and I are in a room together, and I get
a phone call, and it's bad news.
Before I even say, "Oh, that ..." Before I even say anything, if I suddenly
feel different inside, she comes over to me and presses her cheek into
my face. That's her way of kissing me, because I taught her that I kiss
her on the cheek. She's not supposed to lick me. She comes over and
presses her cheek on me, to comfort me. It's really strange. She does it
all the time. She knows what I'm feeling before I feel it.
It’s obvious , if I'm stressed, she'll get stressed, that's normal, but it's
the compassion that she has, that I find is really weird. I often wonder if
she can see colours. I wonder if maybe a colour around my aura or
something changes while I'm on the phone and she can see it. I don't
know. I can't think of what else it could be.
Also, if I'm on the phone to someone and they go, "Great. Okay, cool.
See you in a second," she will hear the words, "See you in a second," and
she'll just jump you up and bark and go to the door. I think, "What, do
you speak English? What's going on?" She's really, really connected to
me, and it's really intense. I love it.
Brendan: That's fantastic. That really solidifies the saying that a dog is a man's
best friend ... well, a woman's best friend too. Yeah.
Sarah McLeod: Yeah totally. She's my little lady. She's 12 now. I've had her since she was
six weeks old. Except for a couple of tours here and there, we've pretty
much been together ever since. Every partner that I have always knows
their place in the food chain is second to her. I also make that very clear
at the beginning.
Brendan: Yep, That you're a package deal.
Sarah McLeod: Yeah, yeah. Dog comes first.
Brendan: Yeah, right so even though I could talk about animals and the love of
them all day, I wanna talk about your new video for Wild Hearts. That's
pretty amazing. Tell me about the making of that?
Sarah McLeod: Again, that was trying to bring out the beauty in the simple little things
in day to day life. People connecting in the street. People like making
music together just for fun, in the street. And I wanted Cha-Chi in the
video, because there's nothing that sort of depicts that more than the
simplicity of a connection with an animal. An animal doesn't look at
what you have, where you're going in life, if you're funny or if you're
ugly or pretty. An animal just thinks in the most simplest terms, and
loves you for who you are.
And so I wanted her in the video as well, because she really personified
that idea of the beauty in the simplicity. And then I thought, "We'll be
cruising around observing people in the street and how they're
connecting with each other. And I'll get a convertible, so that we can
see her." She'd never been in a convertible before, mind you, so she was
loving it. Although, she kept trying to fall asleep, so I had to take one
arm around her, which was holding her up. So it looks like she's sitting
up, but I was fully holding her and going, "Don't fall asleep. Look at the
camera. Don't fall asleep." Yeah, it was really cute.
Brendan: So, you've done some pretty amazing things through your musical
career. Started off in Bali with the band, and then you went on to form
your own band ... oh, God, what was it? The Fallen Monster?
Sarah McLeod: Yeah, Fallen Down Monster, was the name of that one.
Brendan: And then you, of course, formed the Superjesus, and then you've done
the solo stuff, you've lived in London, and you've also-
Sarah McLeod: Also a project called Screaming Bikini.
Brendan: That's right, that's right. God, there's too much to try and remember.
Sarah McLeod: I don't even try and remember it. I just forget. I just live in the now,
and I forget about everything I did yesterday. I'm notorious for that, but
what to do? I don't know. What I'm doing right now, that's what matters,
and what I'm doing tomorrow.
Brendan: And also, one achievement that really stood out to me, and I've
definitely gotta mention it because of the loss of the beloved Hugh
Hefner, you performed at the Playboy Mansion-
Sarah McLeod: Twice.
Brendan: What, sorry?
Sarah McLeod: Twice, I did.
Brendan: Oh wow. Because I'm gonna tie this into another question I was gonna
ask, but I love asking people what's their biggest kind of ...you know
that moment that really makes you burst out laughing and really makes
you go, "Ha, ha, ha. What the ..." you know, that funny eff word? So
c’mon is it... I'm starting to get the feeling that that story might be
connected with the Playboy Mansion.
Sarah McLeod: There was a few very bizarre moments at those parties, yeah. Really
bizarre moments. They're kinda sketchy, the details of that, because I
did my show and then partied a little bit, so I can't really remember
what happened, but I remember on the first gig, I was climbing the
scaffolding. The first gig that I did, I didn't have a guitar. It was more of
a club thing that I was doing. And the second gig, I did have a guitar,
and I had Mick on drums.
The first one, I was just singing, and it was raining. And I climbed the
scaffolding and I was dangling down into Hugh's cabana, with all these
ladies. I was like waving at him, and he was like, "I'm enjoying the
music," and I was like “Thanks man”. This is so weird. And then I forgot
what happened during the night. I woke up with Ron Jeremy's autograph
on my boobs. I don't know what happened to me.
And then at the party, the following year, and I shit you not, I woke up
with his autograph, again, on my boobs. I don't know if he does it to
everyone or what, I can't remember. Maybe I asked him to do it, and like
memory of the year before, I've no idea. But I woke up with ... "You're
kidding me, not again."
Brendan: That's when you know you're partying quite hard the night before.
Sarah McLeod: Yeah, totally. I'm not sure what happened to me that night, but I can't
really remember very much at all.
Brendan: Well, unfortunately, I've gotta speed things along a little bit, because I
mean we're both chatterboxes. Well yeah..
Sarah McLeod: Yeah. Fine.
Brendan: So what's been your kind of biggest, most defining experience and
achievement throughout your career, would you say?
Sarah McLeod: Well just on a personal level, I think the making of this album was
actually my biggest hurdle that I had to overcome, and I'm most proud
of this. I'm more proud of this than being like being inducted into the
Hall of Fame or winning ARIAs ... and that sort of stuff. I sound such a
wanker, but you know what I mean like as far as getting accolades,
which are nice and all, but this album was like difficult, as in a huge
challenge. I set myself this challenge that was just astronomical and
super ambitious, and I did it, and I love it. And to me, that's the most
satisfying career moment that I've ever had. I feel fantastic about it.
Brendan: Oh wow! That's great.
Sarah McLeod: Yeah I worked much harder on these songs than I have with any other
record. I pushed myself harder with all the lyrics. I love every song, I
connect with every word, and there's nothing in there that I think is
fluff. Whereas, stuff I've done in the past, you know, you sort of skip a
line here and there, you go, "That rhymes and fuck knows what it
means." This one, I was really on my case about, "Does that make sense
to the story?"
There's only a certain amount of lines that I can say in one song, so I
can't ... Every line is high class real estate. It's gotta mean something.
It's got to support the rest of the story. And I want someone who's not
me, who's never heard it before, to turn it on and be able to follow the
story and understand what I'm talking about. And I worked really hard at
that, way harder than normal. And now, it's in my soul. I love it, and I
think that's why.
Brendan: Yeah, you can really hear your heart and soul coming out in it. So yeah
you've done well. You've hit the mark on that one.
Sarah McLeod: Thanks, Brendan. Yeah I'm really mega proud about it. I'm really
satisfied that I worked hard and I achieved that. It doesn't matter if it
sells, or if it doesn't sell. It's not about that. It's about that I've made
that body of work and I love it. So for me, you know that's the success
and it's already there.
Brendan: Nice. Well I've got two more questions. So the first, what's kind of
happening behind the scenes, kind of brewing for after your big tour for
the album, and you know into the stars and beyond?
Sarah McLeod: Well the album tour keeps getting dates added to it, but at the moment
it's going right through until after Christmas into January. We haven't
announced the second lot yet. I'm just basically gonna keep playing this
show with Mick, which is so exciting, because we get better every night,
and I feel like I learn something every day. So every night, we're like
15% better than we were the night before, so I can't wait to see what
we're gonna be like by the end of this tour. And then after that, there's
some Superjesus plans, which I'm not allowed to divulge, as yet.
Brendan: Ooh, that is such a tease. Come on.
Sarah McLeod: No, I'm not allowed to talk about it yet. And I've written a book.
Brendan: Okay, fine. Well, finally, you've inspired so many people around the
country and have proved that rock will never die, and I thank God for
that. So what kind of message would you have to your fans and people
that have been inspired by you to kind of follow their inner rock star?
Sarah McLeod: Well you find what kind of music you like the best, and go for it with
reckless abandon. You know work really hard at your craft. If you wanna
play piano, then work really hard at being the best pianist you can. And
write songs and work hard at sculpting good songs. Don't put out inferior
work, and if it's not the best that you can do at that time, don't put it
out. You know in your heart of hearts if it's the best work that you can
possibly achieve at that point in your life.
So you've got to be your own worst critic, but also be gentle on yourself,
and have an open heart and an open mind and be patient, because all
the best ideas will come eventually. If you sit there long enough, it will
come to you. And a really good story actually that I saw once in an ABBA
documentary ... It was one of the guys, I don't know if it was Benny or
Bjorn ... and he said this one thing, and it changed my life in terms of
how I approach songwriting.
He said, "It's like you're sitting looking at a cupboard, and inside that
cupboard is a monster, and the door's shut. And you're sitting there
waiting for that monster to come out. But you're just gonna have to sit
there and wait and wait and wait. Because you know that the minute
you leave and go and make a cup of tea or give up for a bit, the
monster's gonna come out and go er er er er er, and then go straight
back in there."
So it's about absolute persistence. When I heard that, I went, "Oh, so it's
not just because he's a genius and we don't have that talent so we can't
write like him. It's not that. It's hard work." I start most of my songs
with a pretty shit idea, and if you sit there long enough and work on any
idea, it morphs into something else that morphs into something else
that morphs into something else. So if you keep working on it,
eventually it will be cool.
Brendan: So, that's exactly how you polish a turd.
Sarah McLeod: Yes. [laughs] Yep just Don't put that in a headline.
Brendan: Well, it's been an absolute pleasure talking to you and I will catch you at
your Newcastle show on the 12th October, and I'm very, very keen for
Sarah McLeod: Unreal. Yep
Brendan: Thank you so much, Sarah.
Sarah McLeod: We'll be super cooking by then.
Brendan: Aw I can't wait. Thanks heaps, and have fun moving houses.
Sarah McLeod: Yeah thanks, Brendan. Okay, thanks a lot for your time.
Brendan: Thanks heaps. Bye.
Sarah McLeod: See you.