First published on 14 Jul 2011. Updated on 14 Jul 2011.
‘The Size of a Cow'. ‘Welcome to the Cheap Seats'. ‘Don't Let Me Down, Gently'. ‘It's Yer Money I'm After, Baby'. In the late 80s and early 90s the Wonder Stuff were one of the UK's most consistently successful bands, transforming from undergraduate favourites to arena-filling superstars before their sudden 1994 split. They reactivated a few years back and have been touring the UK on and off ever since, but this will be their first Australian visit since touring behind Never Loved Elvis in 1991.
"I know, it's outrageous," an incredulous Miles Hunt exclaims in his thick West Midlands accent. "It's been 20 years!"
Hunt's been the voice, guitar and songsmith for the band since its inception and is only momentarily perplexed when asked if this tour (with Jesus Jones and local pop geniuses Clouds) is something of a Hits & Memories affair.
"Erm, I suppose it is, isn't it?" he considers. "Which I don't see anything particularly wrong with. Magazine split up in 1981 and they were big favourites of mine when I was a teenager and I never got to see ‘em live, and they reformed two years ago and it was amazing. I s'pose there's obviously the nostalgia element, but they sounded as relevant to me as anything that I would listen to that's contemporary. Except better, obviously."
It's a flash of the Hunt of old: the acid-tongued interviewee who, at the height of the Wonder Stuff's UK popularity, was never above explaining exactly why so many of his fellow bands sucked. So things haven't changed? "Well, there's very little in the way of decent contemporary music around, so it's nice to hear someone actually playing something they invented."
So you don't consider the new Kaiser Chiefs album to be a groundbreaking epic of pop magnificence? "You know what? I've got this far without hearing a single album by them," he laughs gleefully.
He turns reflective when it's pointed out that he and guitarist Malc Treece are now the only surviving founding members: original bassist Rob "The Bass Thing" Jones died of a suspected heart attack in 1993, four years after leaving the band, while estranged drummer Martin Gilks was killed in a motorcycle crash in 2006.
"I know," he sighs. "I s'pose you've just gotta be thankful that me and Malc are still hanging in there. I mean, it's weird. You get to our age and you don't feel like your life's changing, you don't feel like a different person, and then you realise that you haven't hung out with the Bass Thing for 20 years and go ‘wow, time's really marched on'. Although I think it's safe to say that had Martin or Rob survived, I don't think we'd be in the same band – but I'd like to think I'd have been friends with Rob."
On a happier note, he insists that the gigs are celebratory affairs. "The people who are my age and older tend to think ‘I won't be jumping around tonight, but it'd be good to see the band back' do find themselves jumping around, because the music inspires it. And they sorely regret it the next day," he laughs. "I'll check our Facebook the day after a show and there'll be loads of people complaining about aching limbs and bruises and twisted ankles. But when we reformed in the early 2000s we were surprised to see all these quite young people who'd never seen us at the time, and we were like ‘where did they all come from? We were expecting fat bald blokes squeezed into old T-shirts that don't fit them anymore!'"
So the tip for the older fans is to have a good stretch? "Yes. Definitely. There's something in the music that makes people want to shove each other about and jump up and down. It's an involuntary reaction, so prepare yourselves."
Jesus Jones, The Wonder Stuff and the Clouds play the Palace Theatre, Fri 19 Aug 8pm