A quick word: The Mutton Birds

A quick word with the original line-up of 1990s band the Mutton Birds who are reuniting for a 16-date summer winery tour with Avalanche City and Gin Wigmore. Frontman Don McGlashan, guitarist David Long, bassist Alan Gregg and drummer Ross Burge talk about getting back to Nature ... and their other hits.

The Mutton Birds (from left David Long, Don McGlashan, Alan Gregg and Ross Burge) are hitting the road again. Photo / Supplied
The Mutton Birds (from left David Long, Don McGlashan, Alan Gregg and Ross Burge) are hitting the road again. Photo / Supplied

What compelled you guys to get back together for a tour?
DMcG: Alan's face appeared to me on a piece of toast and Vegemite one morning. At first I thought it was a vision of St. Augustine, but the nose was wrong.

DL: I played some Mutton Birds songs with Don at the 2010 festival when he was doing a solo show. It felt so good that when the opportunity came up for the tour I leapt at it.

AG: I was having dinner with Campbell Smith (co-promoter) a few months ago and we were discussing the possibility of the Mutton Birds being on the bill. He said it would be great to have a "heritage act" as part of the line-up. I nearly choked on my tofu salad. Now I have grown used to, and embraced, the idea of being a "heritage act".

RB: It's always fun to get back into a band situation where everybody can speak their minds freely and without inhibition. And it seems to be the right time to do it.

Will there be arguments over what songs to play? If so, who will win?
DMcG: Yes. I'm leaning towards only doing songs that contain references to wild animals, and the others generally start from similarly fixed positions. Ross will prevail, though.

DL: Yes. Ross (but I control him).

AG: After the first 10 minutes of politeness has passed I'm sure we will argue over everything, including what songs to play. Ross will win.

RB: The drummer is always right (okay everybody?)

What's your abiding memory of your early years as a band?
D McG: Mystified disbelief that we seemed to be getting away with it.

DL: It was very exciting; something new kept on seeming to happen.

AG: Feeling completely out of my depth as a musician and trying to keep up.

RB: The happiness of being able to play original songs and the growing number of people who decided that we were worth it.

Had the Mutton Birds continued past 2002 - and you were still part of the band - where would you be now?
DMcG: Talking up our ninth studio album, growing strange facial hair, seeking enlightenment in the East and in Glen Eden.

DL: This is like those alternative history books where people imagine Germany winning WWII. In our case maybe we would still be in the UK and everyone would have a slight English accent. Not that dramatic really.

AG: When I left the band in 2002 you could sense that audiences in the UK were getting bigger and people would travel long distances to see the band. So if we had kept going that loyal following probably would have increased. At the same time The Mutton Birds probably would have been "destined to preserve their cult status" as one reviewer kindly put it.

RB: Probably changed course and now playing oom-pah disco.

Will you be taking any personal styling tips from your fellow tour acts Gin Wigmore and Avalanche City?
DMcG: Hard to tell with Gin. She often seems to forget to get fully dressed. Dave Baxter and I will be discussing waistcoats at some point, I feel.

DL: Al might not wear underpants for every show?

AG: Any styling tips would be welcome.

RB: It's bra, panties and a beard for me then.

Seeing as it's a winery tour - if the The Mutton Birds was a wine, what sort would it be?
I'd like to think of us as a rare Dry River gewurtztraminer: vast and inscrutable - but I'd settle for a supermarket mid-shelf pinot if it was tasty.

DL: We would be a case of chardonnay that's a little too old - somewhat out of fashion and a bit too heady but still has something special.

AG: A red one.

RB: Vintage port

Are there any personal habits of other band members on tour that you're fondly looking forward to re-experiencing?
I'll be looking forward to the voices in my head having a good old chin-wag with the voices in Dave Long's head. (We're usually okay as long as we don't do what the voices tell us.)

DL: My snoring to piss Al and Ross off. When Don and I shared we never snored; it was all designed to wind the others up.

AG: I'm looking forward to the good natured banter with the other guys before the inevitable plunge into acrimony.

RB: Maybe Don's snoring when Al's rooming with him, Dave's snoring when Al's rooming with him and I'm really looking forward to Al's whingeing when I get the double bed.


- NZ Herald

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