When Ben Ely (Regurgitator, Burning Circuits) returned to Brisbane after 16 years living in Sydney and Melbourne, he found himself drawn back to the city's 'bad, old days'.
“After I moved back and just moving around the city going to different locations around town, it brought back memories and these stories of the early '90s and late '80s when I was younger and how crazy things used to be back then.
“I was writing songs and these weird stories fell out of me. Maybe because that was me at the time settling back in and having this weird nostalgia, but it's almost like I was looking through a window into myself.”
From these memories and recovered recollections Ben has compiled a solo album entitled 'Strange Tales Of Drugs & Lost Love', a loving homage to a time when being young and dumb in Brisbane meant having to get your arse kicked. “In those times of the post-Joh [Bjelke-Petersen] era, and also post-Ronald Reagan with the concept of the nuclear arms race, it was a crazy time back then,” Ben says.
“The gigs were quite violent, and there was a lot of stagediving and threat of violence from police and the skinheads who would show up at gigs. I've been beaten up three times in my life and it was always by the police, just because you look a bit different. I thought they were such strange stories, so I got into this idea of making this weird collection of stories.”
Ben left Brisbane in 2000, spending nine years in Sydney and another seven in Melbourne before coming back home for good at the beginning of last year.
Upon his return, Ben says the city he left had done a lot of growing up while he was away. “I did feel that it had progressed a lot more culturally,” he says. “There's a lot more venues for people to get involved with for their music, art or dance throughout the city.
“I feel like it's a lot more encouraging and supportive of the differences in people, like if you're a bit of an arty weirdo now it's probably a lot easier to get by I think. In the late '80s if you walked down the street with a blue mohawk you'd probably get pulled over by the police and searched.”
The album is a retrospective of unique, personal tales pulled from the nebulous haze of Brisbane suburban legend, from Ben's first stage dive at St Paul's Tavern in Spring Hill, to his tragic first love Amanda who believed she had been possessed by the Devil.
“In Brisbane, especially in the late '80s, there wasn't a hell of a lot going on so people made their own adventure, and things can get a bit crazy when teenagers are dropping acid and driving through mountain ranges and crawling over cars,” he laughs.
“Things can get a bit strange, so I find all that stuff fascinating and looking back on it, it's like a shadow of me... it's like I'm writing about a character that existed but it's not me anymore.”'Strange Tales Of Drugs & Lost Love' is available 15 September.
Ben Ely Shows
Thu 21 Sep - The Record Crate (Sydney)Fri 22 Sep - Grace Darling (Melbourne)
Sat 23 Sep - Karova Lounge (Ballarat)Sat 30 Sep - Brisbane PowerhouseSun 1 Oct - Dashville Skyline (Hunter Valley)Sun 15 Oct - Hotel Brunswick (Brunswick Heads)