More than 30 years after releasing their iconic hit ‘Sounds of Then (This is Australia)’, Aussie icons GANGgajang are back on tour. Scoop caught up with drummer Buzz Bidstrup about writing an Aussie anthem, going nuts with the surfing community in Brazil and feeling sorry for the younger generation.
Few may know that GANGgajang’s iconic song ‘Sounds of Then (This is Australia)’ started life as a poem written by the band’s singer Mark ‘Cal’ Callaghan, based on the time he lived in a house next to the cane fields in Bundaberg, Queensland. Drummer Buzz Bidstrup described the song as ‘a strange beast, because to crowds who had had already enjoyed three singles and an EP from us, it was just another song in our set’. It wasn’t until advertising giants Coca-Cola and Nine Network used the tune that radio stations started playing it and it swiftly became an anthem.
The next big break for the band came a couple of years after the success of ‘Sounds of Then’ in 1987. A friend of Buzz’s was an artist for American retail sports company Quicksilver, which at the time had signed the top five pro surfers in the world. After just one meeting with the company, every song from the GANGgajang album was set in the film, Mad Wax, making it the first surf film to feature just one band’s music as the soundtrack.
When the band hit the road on a worldwide tour, they found themselves playing to massive crowds in the surfing communities of Brazil, with 10,000 attending their show in Rio and another 15,000 coming to a gig in San Paolo.
Buzz described the vibe in Brazil as ‘out of control’. ‘At the time a surf judge who had his own radio show played Aussie surf music to Americans,’ he said, ‘which I remember being GANGgajang, Midnight Oil and the Hudu Gurus’.
GANGgajang had become surfing royalty across the Americas, but it was a ‘huge jolt to reality to come back home to Australia and play for 350 people’, said Buzz. ‘Especially after playing a huge concert for the US Max Wax launch in California’.
Buzz said he feels sorry for the younger generation; ‘it’s really hard for people to make a living out of music. Even though laptops allow anyone to make music now, that isn’t necessarily a good thing. It might still sound good, but it’s no replacement for the talent a writer and player has’.
In his spare time Buzz is CEO of charity, The Uncle Jimmy Thumbs Up Program, providing health and nutrition education and music programs for Indigenous Australians.