It’s great to see our Canberran suburban pubs continue to support our local live acts as the occasions arise. On this particular occasion I was at the Ginninderra Tavern in Belconnen on the 22nd December 2017 just before Christmas and one of the local’s was having a 50th Birthday. My attention was fixed on the solo man lugging in equipment to set up for what was a polished and professional set. Peter Wood (Hating Alice) was the solo artist and as I discovered, one of Canberra’s hardest working performer. With over 40 years of performances including 15 years of Australian touring with a Beetle’s band, Peter talks about his passion for playing the pub scene, some technical advise for solo artists and encouraging words for anyone considering a career in performing.
Interview by Keijo and Peter Wood
Keijo: I’m back in my old stomping ground, Canberra, Ginninderra Tavern, Totterdell st. If you’ve lived in Belco you’ve probably lived in Totterdell street. I’m sitting down with Peter Wood, a local artist. Peter, how long have you been living in Canberra?
Peter: about 40-45 years
Keijo: so you know the place like the back of your hand. And you mentioned you have been playing a lot of solo gigs lately?
Peter: yeah for the last 12 months I’ve just been a soloist. Left the band thing behind for a while. Just playing a lot of solo work and there is a lot of work for that around Canberra.
Keijo: So previous to the solo stuff, was that Hating Alice?
Peter: yes that was the band, a 3 piece band doing basically the same stuff, originals as well.
Keijo: and is Hating Alice ever going to get back together?
Peter: yeah, absolutely next year
Keijo: fantastic, I’m already looking forward to it.
Peter: a new CD and everything we are recording at the moment
Keijo: so do you get a chance to play a lot of your own original stuff when you are doing this solo?
Peter: I sneak them in, nobody knows, sometimes I announce them sometimes I don’t because a lot of places don’t like original stuff.
Keijo: that’s good, so there’s still a lot of demand for solo artist’s in Canberra.
Keijo: I’ve been away for a while, I’ve just come back to Canberra and people are saying there’s not a lot of places that actually support live music what’s your opinion?
Peter: no, not band wise, very rare to get a band gig somewhere but as far as soloists go, as you can see this place is pretty small so to put a band in here would be like suicide the people would just go crazy. Soloists you can turn them down, put them in a corner. It’s like having a stereo system you can turn them up or down. It doesn’t worry anybody. Last night I played George Harcourt which is really loud, and played a lot of Metallica a lot of my own stuff, heavy stuff. Your Foo Fighters and all that but today it will be a lot more laid back.
Keijo: So when you are talking about playing like loud and Metallica and things like that and you are a solo artist, just curious about the technical set up, so are you playing to MIDI tracks here.
Peter: Absolutely, I’m play the bass, I’ve got a recording studio. So I’m pretty spoilt, so I can go in there and play the bass myself, and then just put down drum tracks. So it’s just a 3 piece thing again, it’s exactly what I do with the band and I love the sound, I don’t like competing with another guitarist, so I always have just one guitar.
Keijo: so you are actually just playing to yourself.
Peter: no, the MIDI files I don’t like. Some of them are really bad and plus I like the live versions more than what you get on the CD. Metallica live with Sandman or something like that, or even the Angels live, it’s a total different thing. Queen. They do different live things, so I tend to go there and listen to them and sequence to that. Then I get that extra vibe or verse that you won’t get on the CD.
Keijo: And is that something you feel that sets you apart from other solo artists?
Peter: Yeah I think so, I don’t really get out to see many. Sometimes I’ve been supporting. I supported a band called Chasing Nimbus at the Transit bar and they were awesome but I just played acoustic guitar and did all my originals on acoustic which was another challenge but it came off great.
Keijo: When you are doing a lot of solo stuff do you ever like to do duo’s or hook up with other local artists?
Peter: I hooked up with a guy called Paul Lyons who plays Robin Gibb in the Australian Bee Gees show. He’s overseas in LA. He comes back to Canberra and gives me a call. He’s awesome, has nailed Robin down to a tee. That’s a hard voice to copy.
Keijo: I’d be waiting for him to come back as well. Is it corporate type stuff that you like to do or is it anything?
Peter: No, it’s all pub. You put me in a place where they’ve got suits and tie’s on they’ll throw me out 5 seconds after the first song. But all pub stuff, I love the closeness of the clubs, not keen on the corporate which I did do a lot of. In my earlier days. I was in a Beetle’s band for a good 15 years touring around Australia. I love the closeness of the crowd, even tonight it’s going to be great, as you can see the people are right infront of me. If you muck up they are going to let you know right to your face. I love it, it’s awesome.
Keijo: If you had something to say to a 20 year old in Canberra, he’s picked up a guitar, he wants to do live music as you’re doing, is there anything you can tell him, is there any advice?
Peter: oh my god, just don’t give up I suppose. I had a young fella get up just last night who worked there pouring beers and cleaning tables, this guy had so much talent. He would have been 21, 22 he was a bit nervous and I said just get up and do it and he did, and he just killed them, he was awesome. I just say don’t give up and keep going, I mean I’m still going !
Keijo: Very impressive. I’m just having a quick look at your set up, it looks like we’re set up for some kinda stadium rock thing going on.
Peter: it’s all I’ve got, the bigger the speakers, people think it’s going to be loud, it’s not. It’s just the quality, you know, you’re a player as well. These little tinny speakers you put on stands just give this eerie terrible MIDI sound but these big speakers that I play through. The richness of the guitar and the vocal come through really nice.
Keijo: so you are looking for the full range from the full bass sound to the top melody.
Peter: absolutely, and it doesn’t matter where I play, I use the same gear. It could be a $400 gig down to a $100 gig it doesn’t matter. The set up is the same, the performance is the same. So it doesn’t matter.
Keijo: do you find you have to tweak your sound a lot, so are you playing on the knobs too much?
Peter: no not really, the outdoor gigs are a bit of a challenge for me. In here tonight it’s going to be awesome the sounds going to be really nice and fat.
Keijo: It does look like a really contained sound with double brick walls.
Peter: Yeah but last night at the open one it was, it got to a point where it wasn’t coming across that good but the people dance and had a great time and in the end that’s what you are really there for. I had a great time.
Keijo: Pete, I’ve taken up enough of your time, I’m going to stick around and have a few beers, have a bit of a laugh – at myself not you. Just want to thank you for your time and keep rockin
Peter: thanks dude, this is great thanks for having me mate appreciate it thank you sir.