From The Wiggles to DZ Deathrays, Murray Cook isn't going anywhere
The Red Wiggle's latest venture, The Soul Movers, just dropped a DZ Deathrays-featuring film clip.
Header photo by Ian Laidlaw.
I don't think there's a single person in Australia that doesn't know who Murray Cook is, or at least doesn't know a song written by him. Best known for being a founding member of The Wiggles, Cook has been a mainstay of the Australian music industry for well over 30 years, finding his beginnings in a few Sydney-based rock bands before, in 1991, he founded The Wiggles with Anthony Field, Greg Page and Jeff Fatt. From there, he's become one of Australia's most well-known and critically acclaimed guitarists, dubbed "the most influential guitarist in the world" due to his work with young children through The Wiggles - influencing generations worth of guitarists, including many of Australia's most prominent names today.
While Cook may have left The Wiggles in 2012, he hasn't slowed down. He joined a handful of Sydney-based bands to continue his passion in music, before joining The Soul Movers, a soul/R&B/classic-rock band that is his primary music focus now, seven years following The Wiggles' disbandment. He's also regularly spotted at live music gigs across Sydney, whenever he has the time, and it's impossible to skip over his work with DZ Deathrays, which threw Cook back into the public sphere thanks to an appearance in DZ's highly-popular Like People clip and then, famously, crashing their set at Splendour In The Grass last year to rock through Like People and a classic rock cover or two.
The Like People appearance and Splendour In The Grass cameo ultimately kicked off a bright partnership for Murray Cook and DZ Deathrays, something continuing to blossom in 2019 with the release of The Soul Movers' latest video for You Better Believe It!. It's the perfect entry point into the soul ensemble if you're yet to be acquainted, bringing a retro, 70s-crossed-80s feeling with its slight funk pulse and a soulful vocal from frontwoman Lizzie Mack. It's undeniably old-fashioned - you could picture playing from a jukebox in an old 80s movie - but the forward-thinking mish-mash of genres it presents is undoubtedly slick and addictive, offering the perfect entry point before their new album, Bona Fide, arrives on March 15th with a long-winding Australian tour to match (kicking off next month).
"This album is a quantum leap. As we planned our musical pilgrimage to these iconic US studios, we consciously wrote more roots-oriented songs to try to reflect a wide range of American music styles," says Murray on the album, spotlighting the album's creation in the US, where it was birthed in the same studio as Aretha Franklin's RESPECT. "Bona Fide feels like the first one to truly capture our ‘real sound’," continues frontwoman Lizzie Mack on the album, which you can pre-order HERE. "It has an original flavour to it that had to come from the Aussie/ American combination of players and approaches to this type of modern soul music. It’s a standout and really satisfying for me to finally have on the outside what I heard when first writing the songs."
With You Better Believe It!'s DZ Deathrays-featuring video clip out now and the album release soon looming, we caught up with the band's famed guitarist Murray Cook himself to talk about the record, DZ Deathrays and more. Watch the clip below, find their full list of tour dates HERE, and dive into the chat underneath:
I wanted to start this off by talking about your relationship with DZ Deathrays – you guys have a pretty tight connection now, whether it be via appearing in video clips, Splendour and what not else. How did that relationship come about?
It actually came about via Violent Soho, who I ran into at the AIR Awards in Adelaide a while back, and then I ended up running into them again and again – at the ARIA Awards, at gigs and so on. Some of those guys are married with little kids so we quickly bonded over The Wiggles and children’s TV and whatnot, and from there, I was introduced to their label – IOHYOU – who also looks after DZ Deathrays, and it all went from there.
The IOHYOU team and the Like People director hit me up asking if I wanted to appear in the video and yeah. I didn’t know DZ Deathrays at that point, so I checked them out and really liked what they were about, so I said ‘yeah, why not?’ and did the video from there. It was a long, tiring day – it was like a solid ten hour shift and we were basically on the screen the whole time – and because I hadn’t been in The Wiggles for a long time at that point, I wasn’t really in the tip-top fitness you have to be for a video like that, so it really took it out of me. It was a hard day, but it was fun, and it kicked off that relationship which in the time since, has really blossomed.
From there, I went to a couple of their gigs and then eventually, they hit me up saying ‘do you want to come and do a couple of songs with us at Splendour?’ We did Like People and then we wanted to do a couple of classic rock songs, so we did Highway To Hell and it was great. I got to do some shredding – it was pretty mind-blowing.
Had you gone to Splendour before that point?
No – never. I’ve been to a lot of festivals over the years but never Splendour. It was incredible though, and because most of the audience were in their 20s, they all grew up with The Wiggles, and it was a huge time. It was really great fun.
Now, my band – The Soul Movers – have a new album coming out, and we filmed the first video at Balmain Town Hall which is where the DZ Deathrays clip was filmed. So we thought ‘hey, let’s hit them up again and see if they want to come on and do a little cameo,” and they did, and re-enacted a little part from their video. It’s a nice, closing-full-circle situation.
Yeah, it’s a nice bringing it all back together moment.
It is. But you know what, we’ll probably do more things together soon. We’re tossing around a few ideas at the moment, one of which involves the ABC show The Set – they did a song there which I don’t think ever got aired, where they strip everything right back to almost Nirvana Unplugged levels, which really suits our sound. So, I’m thinking about hitting them up soon and seeing if they want to do something together in the studio at one point. I’ll have to put that to them and see what they think; a Soul Movers x DZ cross would be super interesting.
There’s obviously a pretty big difference between a Wiggles show and a DZ show – what’s the most surprising change you’ve found going between these two sides?
I come from a rock background initially before The Wiggles, so it’s not all new to me, but there’s still been a couple of things that have caught my attention. It was really quite exhilarating to play that loud on that big of a stage, especially at somewhere like Splendour – I can’t say we ever did something like that for The Wiggles. With the Soul Movers, we do some pretty small venues, but when you play those big, massive capacity festival stages like Splendour, it’s really loud and quite confronting being on stage – it’s madness.
You were involved with a few bands in the 80s before you moved into The Wiggles, right?
Yeah. Anthony and Jeff were famously in a band called The Cockroaches who had some pretty big hits in the 80s, but I was between a few other bands playing around the same time that obviously weren’t so well known.
Does going through those bands, through The Wiggles, into now where you have The Soul Movers and work with DZ and You Am I – does doing things like that continue to keep your passion with music after all this time?
Yeah. I’ve always been passionate about music and always used it to stay busy, even during The Wiggles, who would have one of the most vigorous schedules out, I’d still be playing with some bands on the side. Playing in The Wiggles is different though; it is a proper band, we record all our music and play all our instruments, but it has such a busy schedule. It’s nice to be in a band where we don’t have to worry about touring all the time and where we don’t have to worry about all these major things that many big bands have to go through. I guess something like Soul Movers doesn’t so much reignite my passion but allow me to indulge in that passion because I have a bit more time.
The Wiggles would have a vigorous touring schedule – playing multiple shows a day, almost every day of the year.
Yeah, we probably worked more than any band in Australia. We were touring basically non-stop – around ten months of the year, sometimes 11 – doing multiple shows a day. We’d spend about four months a year in the States during our peak, travelling on a tour bus and doing arenas. It was basically a big-scale touring rock show, but for kids. Then we had to record and do television and everything else on top of that – it was long.
Photo by Tom Wilkinson.
So the Soul Movers – they were born in 2006, was it?
Yeah, the original band did. It was started by Lizzie, the singer and her then-partner back then. I’d never really heard much of the Soul Movers before aside from their first album, but they went on a bit of a break for a while before I reached out to them and asked if I could help with anything. We started up again, maybe around four years ago, and did an album at the end of 2017 which went really well. Then we have the new one coming out in March.
It’s been a great adventure. We went to America to record and everything – it was a very exciting time.
Did Soul Movers feel like a natural progression for you after that era of The Wiggles disbanded?
Yeah. When three of us left The Wiggles, it was presented to the public that we were all retiring – which is very much not true. I’m definitely working now, almost as much as I was back then, it’s just at a much more relaxed pace away from the public eye a bit, which is nice. We’re certainly not playing as much as we used to, but we do still do a lot, and we have a good time doing so.
I don’t think I’ll ever stop playing music. It’s what I do, it’s what I love, and it’s great to have the opportunity to continue doing that with the Soul Movers.
And Soul Movers wouldn’t be as well-known as Murray Cook, or The Wiggles, or DZ.
Yeah, it’s definitely not. We’re just trying to get it out there and try to pick up as much cross-over as we can. It’s great being able to play shows, have an audience, and put records out without that massive pressure though.
For those people that haven’t introduced themselves to Soul Movers, what should people expect from it?
Well, it’s an old-school R&B/soul band with a really great female singer. It’s pretty high energy and we try to incorporate some rock stuff in there too. It’s quite retro too, so we have a pretty big fan-base within the older crowd – definitely older versus something like DZ Deathrays anyway - but we make a connection with younger people too. We played Cherry Bar in Melbourne not that long ago which is packed with younger people and they went nuts.
It’s actually really great how open young people are to music nowadays, much more to when I was young. They’re not incredibly judgemental and go “oh, that’s old people music” or something like that. That’s a really helpful thing I’ve found, especially for something like Soul Movers. It’s much healthier for the music scene too.
You’re obviously someone who is pretty well-versed in how people make their first connection to music – do you have any ideas to what has caused that open-mindedness in young people and music?
I think it’s just kids growing up with their parents’ records. They grow up hearing all this music and become connected to it – even decades later – and always associate with it in some way. Then, when they hear music that sounds vaguely the same, they respond to it well. I listen to community radio and triple j and there’s such a wide range of music played – a lot of it I don’t like, a lot of it I do – and I think because there’s so much music around and it’s all so easy to access, it’s easy to find something you love – a lot easier than when I was a kid, that’s for sure. It’s so easy to access music. Things like Spotify aren’t so good for the artist, but they do amazing for the greater community.