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Interview: Patrick Robertson of Motor Ace


From Press Release:

It’s 2001, you’re driving home from work, flicking through the radio stations, and Five Star Laundry by Motor Ace is being played on triple j, Triple M and a bunch of other stations in between.  Then, as you walk in the door, the television is blaring and it’s Motor Ace again, with their iconic track Death Defy reaching an even wider audience as the theme song for the beloved Australian television series The Secret Life Of Us.  And you probably caught them performing at the ARIAS and across all the various shows on tv at that time too, that was what it was like during the peak of Motor Ace – absolute saturation, and even then people couldn’t get enough. 
Fast forward almost two decades and Motor Ace’s hoards of fans no longer have to wait for that highly anticipated reunion, because in March and April of 2019, the band we all love will embark on a national tour to celebrate the 20 year anniversary of the band’s inception, kicking off in Adelaide at The Gov on March 29, then moving through Perth, Sydney, Brisbane and finishing up in Melbourne at the renowned venue 170 Russell on April 12.
Within the first month of being on sale, Five Star Laundry went gold in Australia – a massive feat when considering what it takes for a record to go gold in 2018, with just 7 Australian albums having been certified gold this year.  What followed was an exhaustive touring and promo schedule, which included unbelieveable support slots alongside Foo Fighters, Oasis and Blink-182.  It was sold out shows every night, and absolute domination on the airwaves; Motor Ace were a staple in consecutive triple j Hottest 100 countdowns, and a mainstay on the ARIA charts.  Their timely sophomore album Shoot This was released in 2002 to abundant critical acclaim.  It spawned lead single Carry On that held the coveted #1 most played song on Australian airwaves for 8 weeks in a row, and Shoot This, debuting at #1 on the charts and achieving gold sales on release.  It was an electrifying whirlwind, as lead singer Patrick Robertson reflects, “In retrospect, it can look a bit like we came out of nowhere. But we did work very hard with a lot of relentless touring, a focus on writing great songs and energetic live shows. We always struggled a little to find a stylistic niche and felt a little on the outer in that regard. But I think at the end of the day we made some really strong connections, and hopefully enduring ones, with our fans because of our songs above all else.”  Drummer Damo Costin adds, “It was pretty amazing at the time, and something that I still feel very proud of… we definitely milked being number one on the charts.” 
The band are thrilled to be back together to play hits and album faves from Five Star Laundry, and later albums Shoot This and Animal, for fans all across the country, as lead singer Pat Robertson says, It’s been 20 years since we were playing our first shows around Melbourne – at the Punters Club, Evelyn and Espy – and 13 years since the last Motor Ace show.  It feels pretty bizarre to be honest, but really looking forward to playing shows with the guys and most importantly seeing if we can still party!” Damo adds, It feels absolutely surreal, the reason being that when I was 22, and young and earnest, I had no idea that 20 years later I was going to play these songs again!  I am most excited about enjoying those songs again in a live space, excited to play again with a sense of nostalgia and giving my all with the guys.  We really wanna have some fun with it.”

Before they head out on the road Patrick Robertson spared some time to bring us up to date on the tour and more

H2Z: Hi Patrick, Thanks for your time. Let me start by asking, does 13 years really feel like 13 years?
PR: In some ways it does, but it some ways it feels like yesterday. Also, its hard to connect back to it because I don’t really feel like the same person. But, I feel that once we get together and start rehearsing, and then start playing shows it will all come back together really quickly.
H2Z: And you have families now
PR: Yeah everyone has families now, so yeah, a lot of time has passed.

H2Z: In saying that, do your kids understand what Dad did?
PR: Yeah, mine are a bit older, they are at that age, where they are kind of impressed by that. It kind of inspires them. I really want them to see the shows, then they can be excited about it and do it themselves if they want to, and that’s all pretty cool. One of them the other day was apologising to me that she wasn’t into “cool music”, she was only into top 50 and was hoping that was ok with me, which of course it is. We might have to work on her a bit (laughs), but at least she is into it. There is always time (laughs)

H2Z: During its hiatus, did you ever sit back and take stock of the achievements the band had?
PR: Yeah, It’s a weird thing. Starting this process again, and doing interviews and talking with people, it’s having more impact now. I think, I appreciate, in hindsight how difficult it is. While there is some luck, there is so much hard work. I got to know a lot of other bands over the years, that have struggled for a long time, so I do appreciate it more now, the success we had, when at the time I probably thought it wasn’t quite enough.

H2Z: Do you think that some of the artists today understand the hard work bands put in back when you started?
PR: I think they understand the meaning of pain and frustration (laughs). I don’t know. I think everyone works really hard. I don’t know. I think, maybe the danger of, and it’s a double edge sword, is the way music is being made now, it’s a hell of a lot easier to make music, like just on your laptop. You just plug in your guitar and sing into a microphone on your laptop and you find yourself on Triple J. It’s a lot easier to do that, and the only real expense is buying a MacBook or whatever, and getting a microphone, and you can do a reasonably convincing job of it was well. So that’s the way I see it, but I am old (laughs).

But I also think it gives the people more opportunity to make music and us as the listeners more chance to discover new music that we may not have had a chance to discover if it wasn’t for technology. But I do think what is missing is that sense of artists all working together like it was when we first started out

H2Z: On that topic, if you had to pick a band from when you first started to tour with, and one from today to tour with, who would they be?
PR: From when we first came out, well we got to tour with Oasis, and they were the band I always wanted to tour with, and I was very, very grateful to get that opportunity. Now, I don’t know. I don’t really chase down a lot of new music. I sometimes wait for recommendations to come my way as I certainly don’t listen to radio, I’m in a little bit of an “old man bubble”, which I am not necessarily that proud of. While he isn’t new blood I am a massive fan of Ryan Adams, and I would love to play with him as I am a fan of a lot of the material that he is doing. I don’t listen to enough new music, I am on a big nostalgia trip which is headed backwards, especially with the resurgence in vinyl.

H2Z: Do you think the quality of Vinyl now is as good as what it used to be? Do you think it has that same warmth?
PR: You have to be careful about what you buy. I mean, I generally prefer to buy stuff that was pressed in the 70s or 80s. I am pretty sceptical about pressing from the 90s onwards. A lot of record companies are just doing cynical money grabs, and are just doing CD rips onto vinyl, just because they can. Most people don’t understand the technology that goes into it. We, Motor Ace, released our first album on vinyl a few months ago, which we had never actually done, and the only reason we did it is because I found the original analog tapes. I thought that by finding them, it gave us a great opportunity to do it because we get to remaster from those original analog tapes, and it sounds really good and was a worthwhile exercise. So, it depends, you just have to do your research with vinyls, and make sure you are getting the analog pressings and not CD ripped pressings. You have to be a bit of a trainspotter like I am (laughs), it’s a good little obsession to have.

H2Z: Do you see the band recording any new material post tour?
PR: We didn’t plan it that way, and we haven’t planned anything beyond the tour. Probably not. I am kind of focused on, in a creative sense, the other band I have started with Damo (Damien Costin), we started a couple of years ago, called Nighthawk. The album is almost finished, so I really wanna finish that one. We should have it done before the Motor Ace tour starts. We will see how it goes. Maybe we will all get a feeling for it and do something. There are a few tracks I have which certainly didn’t fit this current band, so there may be some scope to do something. I can’t imagine doing a whole album though. It’s just too daunting. It’s actually hard enough to find the 3 to 4 weekends we need to do this tour (laughs).

H2Z: Looking back, what are your proudest musical achievements?
PR: Well, the first album, was just great because it had real energy and real ambition to it, and we got to capture the excitement, and there is something real in it that still resonates today, and I am pretty proud of it. That album over the others does resonate. The second album was a bit patchy, but definitely had some of the best songs I have ever written on it, and it was the most commercially successful which was nice. The last record artistically and experimentally was great, and I had the most fun making that record, so they all have their pros and cons.

H2Z: To finish up, describe Motor Ace to the first-time punter?
PR: Hmmmm I don’t know. Maybe we are a mish-mash hybrid between English Indie and American Alternative, stuck in a weird time of music. It was just before Garage Rock had become cool again, so we got stuck in this little bubble in time. It’s weird and hard to describe yourself really (laughs)

H2Z: Patrick, thanks so much for your time, we look forward to seeing you at one of the shows
PR: Thanks Andrew, See you soon.

Motor Ace is Patrick Robertson (vocals, guitar), Dave Ong (guitar), Damo Costin (drums) and Matt Balfe (bass)

Tickets to Motor Ace 20th Anniversary – A Five Star Reunion tour are on sale now

View Motor Ace Five Star Reunion tour teaser            Stream: FIVE STAR LAUNDRY

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