Interview with King Bunny of Bunny Racket!

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Towards the end of 2016 King Bunny spent some time in England with his wife, Poppy, and son, Wolf. I was lucky to spend a few days with them and one day he and I sat down and had a chat about his love of music and how the whole Bunny Racket idea came about… Big thanks to King Bunny himself for sparing some time, but also to his fabulous family who provided me, as well as my own  family, with fun and laughter as well as some brilliant evenings of cooking and – inevitably – rock and roll……

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Dock Ellis Records: You’ve obviously been a music fan since you were young. What was the soundtrack that you grew up with? What’s the earliest kind of music you can remember hearing?

King Bunny: The earliest music that I was given was when I was living in northern west Australia back in the early 80’s and I would have been Grade 1 or Grade 2 at the school. My neighbour’s older brother gave me a cassette tape with Creedence Clearwater Revival on one side and INXS on the other. It was my first tape. Probably a year after that I was given a little tape player, a little ghetto blaster thing, so I held onto that tape for ages. I probably still have it actually. Yeah it was the ‘Best of Creedence’ and I think it was ‘The Swing’ by INXS.

Dock Ellis Records: Not a bad start really.

King Bunny: Yeah, it really got me on my way.

Dock Ellis Records: Were those sounds kind of what your family was listening to and it was just the general soundtrack?

King Bunny: My family, my mum and dad listened to the classics: The Beatles and Elvis and all that. I really did look up to the older kids at school for a whole lot of stuff and music was one of the main things, so I was always interested to hear what my friends’ cool older siblings were listening to at the time. I moved around a lot as a kid, so it changed. I was always within different demographics when I grew up – different schools, different …

Dock Ellis Records: …different music wherever you were?

King Bunny: Different music in different places. I ended up in Perth for my early high school years and a lot of my friends’ older brothers and sisters were really into punk rock, so that sort of kicked off a new love.

Dock Ellis Records: Do you have a kind of definitive ‘before and after’ moment where you suddenly thought: that’s it for me, that’s the music I want?

King Bunny: It was in Perth and I was heavily into the Ramones and the Sex Pistols and The Damned and Dead Kennedys. The Ramones came and they did an Australian tour in ’91 I think it was. My mates and I, we were about 12 years old. One of them was wearing a Ramones t-shirt while working for his mum in Fremantle and someone came up to him and said, “Oh you’re a Ramones fan little fella?” He’s like, “Yeah that’s right.” He said, “I’m bringing the Ramones to Perth, I’ll give you some tickets if you want? The gig’s in a couple of weeks.” We got four tickets so we just had to convince our parents that it was cool that we could go – and it wasn’t – but we went anyway.

Dock Ellis Records: Did it blow your mind?

King Bunny: Yeah, it was pretty amazing and it was absolutely jam packed. It was at the Showgrounds in Perth and there were just punk rockers everywhere. We were small – I was small anyway for my age – but we were 12 years old, got into this gig, couldn’t see anything, and it was wall to wall people. We got picked up and put on the shoulders of these older punks. I remember riding on the shoulders of this guy and he had a super glued Mohawk and it stabbing into my stomach and all my mates got picked up and moved to the front just for being little kids. They all looked out for us, so I thought this is a really cool community to be part of.

Dock Ellis Records: Wow – that does sound great. What about the scene in Australia then – and local bands? Were there bands that you were particularly into or?

King Bunny: Yeah there was a band called the Hard-Ons.

Dock Ellis Records: I remember them very well. I saw them live in Australia and I saw them live in England as well.

King Bunny: They’re still playing.

Dock Ellis Records: I met them! I went to signing session – they were hilarious.

King Bunny: Blackie and Ray, yeah.

Dock Ellis Records: They wrote really revolting things on the record they signed for me!

King Bunny: I’m sure.

King Bunny: They toured with the Ramones on that tour. There were a lot of cool Australian rock ’n’ roll bands at that time like Tumbleweed, Spider Bait, Mass-appeal, Nunbait, all these great bands.

King Bunny: There were heaps of cool bands. The Splatterheads was another one. All these great bands.

Dock Ellis Records: Most of whom haven’t really reached over here in terms of even word of mouth.

King Bunny: No, that’s true. There’s a lot of them didn’t do much more than play heavily through the early ’90s in Australia and make a mark and influence a heap of bands, and take a lot of drugs, and not do much musically. That is what happened to a lot of bands, but the Hard-Ons have been playing forever.

Dock Ellis Records: 30 years at least.

King Bunny: Yeah something like that. I used to go and watch those guys play a lot. As I moved from school to school and town to town when I grew up I always had that in common with my mates, like “I’m into this sort of music.” It was always a way to connect with new friends in new areas. But yeah the Hard-Ons… I must have seen them about 30 times. I did a bunch of shows with them in my old band Fort, and that was pretty epic. I remember doing the first show with the Hard-Ons and loading in to a venue in Sydney. It was a steep staircase up to… Bar Broadway I think it was called. Blackie and Ray came down and unloaded all our gear and dragged it up the stairs with us.

Dock Ellis Records: Brilliant! When did you first form a band or join a band?

King Bunny: I was living in Canberra. I got dragged over from the west side of Australia over to Canberra for family reasons. I ended up at this school which was an art and music school. There was a really great band at that school called Solar Cat. I hung around those guys a lot.

Dock Ellis Records: Solar Cat?

King Bunny: Yeah – Solar Cat. Their singer didn’t turn up at one of their gigs at this bar called The Terrace Bar, which was a pretty iconic rock and roll place there. They just said, “Andy jump up, sing.” I ended up singing a set with Solar Cat. Within a month or two after that I recorded a bunch of songs with them. We played some supports with Tumbleweed and Pod People and all these cool bands. That sort of got me going. Gave me the confidence to jump up on stage and start doing stuff with bands and music.

Dock Ellis Records: But then Fort came a bit later?

King Bunny: Fort came… oh… it would have been about seven years after that I guess. There was a lot of music in between that time. I had moved to Byron Bay and met a guy that was putting together this band. He had seen Solar Cat years before and said, “Oh we’d really like you to try out for this band I’m putting together.” I wasn’t interested at all. I didn’t even know if I wanted to stay in Byron Bay. I was just like, “Oh I don’t know.”

I ended up going and having a jam with them and really getting along with all of them. I thought what they were playing was way heavier than what I was listening to at the time, but you know, over a period of a few months we sort of found a sound that we all liked and started playing with that. The main idea with that band was to just get as many gigs with all our favourite bands around the world as we could.

Dock Ellis Records: You did indeed play with quite a few.

King Bunny: We did. We got to play with all my favourite bands at the time. We got to play with Clutch, Monster Magnet, Fu Manchu, Helmet, a bunch of great rock bands. Yeah, it was just one after the other. Then Kyuss reformed and did a world tour. We got to tour with those guys too which was amazing.

Dock Ellis Records: That’s obviously how you got to know Brant?

King Bunny: I got to know Brant sort of before that because he was touring as a solo artist with his band The Bros. A promoter friend down in Sydney contacted me and just said, “Oh I’d like to get you guys to do this tour with Brant Bjork.” I knew of Brant Bjork through Kyuss, but I wasn’t overly familiar with his solo stuff, but I had a listen to it and I loved it. I said, “Yeah I’d love to tour with him, he sounds like a great guy.” He came and we did this tour around Australia and it was just a real blast, my band and Brant’s band in a couple of vans just driving around Australia playing rock ’n’ roll.

Dock Ellis Records: Was that Fort?

King Bunny: Yeah, and it was really fun. From that, every time Brant came to Australia we’d get together and do more shows. He’d usually come and spend some time at our place after his tours before he headed home. Good times.

Dock Ellis Records: Hang out?

King Bunny: Yeah every time he came over it was usually with a different group of musicians, his band sort of changed a lot.img_6115Dock Ellis Records: So fast forwarding to Bunny Racket. What started it? Was it partly inspired by Wolf’s arrival or had it been … ?

King Bunny: It had been bubbling away a lot earlier than that actually because it was in the early days of Fort and I was living in this house outside of Byron. The house was in the rainforest and it was a bit of a hippy pad. We built a bit of a makeshift studio in there so we could jam in there – we could record stuff, and demo stuff in the house. There were instruments everywhere and people everywhere most of the time. Whenever there’d be a big gig in town we’d invite people back and have a party back at that place. The recording set up was pretty basic, but in enabled us to throw down ideas whenever they came.

Whenever anyone would come around, more often than not it’d turn into a bit of a recording session. There were always a lot of friends coming round with kids. That was when my first mates had started having kids. Instead of leaving them out in the cold we’d get them involved in the recording process. I used to love just getting them on a drum or getting them on a guitar or something really simple and getting a beat going and showing them how to record and how easy it was to make music and send them home with a CD for them to play to their friends.

Dock Ellis Records: Fantastic!

King Bunny: That’s how it started. I had an idea to put a band together with a lot of make believe characters and invite people to be different characters within the band and record these songs so that kids could get into it.

Dock Ellis Records: But you ended up with rabbits… ?

King Bunny: That happened a lot later because I was working on concepts of how I would deliver this music to kids. I had a lot of different ideas, I wrote down heaps of different ideas and who would be the key players in this band and what their characters would be.

Dock Ellis Records: Was that with animals as the kind of main focus or did you think of some other ideas as well?

King Bunny: I thought of a band that was kind of like the Secret Seven or a bunch of kids with a couple of their make-believe friends that were all the instrumental part of this band. It could have been like four or five children with a monster, a monkey, it could have been anything like that, but there was a heap of different ideas for that. I wrote a lot of songs and recorded some really out there, ridiculous, almost too scary for kids sort of songs. Really freaky sort of songs that were a bit of a laugh. They’d usually scare the kids enough that they’d want to hear it again, “Play it again Andy, that’s crazy.”

Dock Ellis Records: In terms of the music which you were playing earlier and all the music that we were listening to when you were younger, are these the same bands that influenced Bunny Racket?

King Bunny: Yeah all those. And a lot more too. The early punk stuff and classic rock and roll, and early heavy metal, all of that’s made a huge impact and I still love all that stuff. Judas Priest, AC/DC, Black Sabbath, Zeppelin, I love all the bands that those early bands have inspired. I can draw influence from anything that I’m listening to at the time. Bunny Racket has as much KISS and AC/DC as it has Ramones and Fu Manchu!

Dock Ellis Records: Cool. What about kids TV, that’s obviously a fairly integral part of Bunny Racket?

King Bunny: Totally. We spent a lot of time watching Saturday morning cartoons as little kids. Every element that made my childhood magical – and fun, and exciting, and memorable, I want to pull all of those elements together and inject them into Bunny Racket, so that it’s just a one stop shop for really awesome ideas and inspiration for kids. The Muppets, The A-Team, He-Man, MTV and everything in between. A whole lot of Dr Seuss too!

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Dock Ellis Records: Did you think about some of the… …perhaps more imaginative kids shows, things which occurred to me was stuff like the Banana Splits who seem to actually have an appeal to more than one age group. They actually seem to be doing something genuinely interesting rather than just making what you might call standard kids television.

King Bunny: Yeah, well I think standard kids television these days would be the sort of TV that parents would just put on just to keep their kids entertained and out of the way.

Dock Ellis Records: The electronic babysitter?

King Bunny: Yeah, which is absolutely what I don’t want Bunny Racket to be. I want it to be something that children and their parents can share together. There’s a tip of the hat, there’s that nostalgic element that makes the older generation want to get involved and really get into it. So Bunny Racket reminds us of the stuff we loved as kids. The soundtrack is clearly inspired by the music I was listening to when I was younger. I want big kids to sit there and watch and listen to BR with their kids.

Dock Ellis Records: In some ways that’s kind of how you wanted kids’ music to be when you were growing up because there wasn’t anything like that when I was growing up either.

King Bunny: No. On a whole it was pretty dull. And still a lot of kids’ music sounds like it has been made by people who just don’t care. There are always exceptions, of course.

Dock Ellis Records: Yeah I would agree. Moving on to the album… It is obviously designed to be fun as well as good to listen to, and you recorded it in America. How did the American connection come about?

King Bunny: It was through Brant. I do spend a fair bit of time in the States, usually in California, just through playing music. Poppy and I were in California and I was catching up with Brant and telling him about this idea. Earlier than that we’d talked about collaborating on a project of some description before, but this was pretty relevant because Brant and his wife Zaina had just had their second son, Brazil.

He was into the idea because he’s been sort of trying to share all his love of music. Brant’s a real collector. He’s got toys from his childhood and all this great stuff like old guitars and drum kits and lots of records around the place. He’s always trying to show his kids the right way. He just thought, “Wow, this is a cool idea, I wanna be involved.”

This got me more amped, so we just got the ball rolling and locked in a time when I could go over and record. He had an all analogue studio set up in Joshua Tree called ‘Jalamanta’, which was a really simple studio with some really good equipment on a really beautiful bit of land in the desert. He just said, “Come over here. Stay for a couple of weeks. We’ll just camp out in the studio and get this thing happening.”

Dock Ellis Records: Fantastic. Did he get Robby Krieger involved or … ?

King Bunny: No, that was Harper. Harper is a studio engineer. He’s a bit of a wizard when it comes to the old analogue gear. He was responsible for setting up Robby’s studio in L.A. and was working on a project with Robby on the weekends.

We had been busy all week laying down the first of the Bunny Racket recordings and he was due to head back to Robby’s on the Saturday. He said, “Do you mind if I play Robby a few of these tracks we’re recording, I think he’d really be into it?” I said, “Yeah, sure. I’ve heard that before, yeah go for it mate” On the Monday when Harper came back to Jalamanta Brant and I had been mucking around with some more stuff, and he came and he said, “Oh, I played those tracks we recorded last week to Robby, and he really loved them.” I said, “Oh yeah?” He said, “Yeah he asked if he could play them.”

Dock Ellis Records: Did your jaw drop?

King Bunny: Well I thought he was joking. I said, “Oh yeah, sure.” He said, “No he genuinely wants to play on your record, he thinks it’s a great idea. He’s really into the idea of introducing good music to kids.” I just said, “Well whatever it takes, I’d love him to play, that sounds great.” So that’s what happened. We finished off what we were doing in that part of the studio and then took all the tapes over to his studio, and he laid down all the lead guitar tracks.

Dock Ellis Records: Wow. What about the films – are they going to be filmed in his studio?

King Bunny: They’re going to be filmed all over. The idea is for every song on this album there’s a video. When I say a video, not just a music video but a bit of story that helps the piece that story together.

 

Dock Ellis Records: Along the line of The Chicken is Not a Fruit?

King Bunny: Yeah but that’s just a music video, so they’re going to be seven minute videos. Within that seven minute video-

Dock Ellis Records: -the song will appear.

King Bunny: Yep. I want all these songs to have an equally strong visual element. Most kids these days find their music online. A little different to how we would find our music back when I was in high school. It was all mix tapes and radio shows. You might have your favourite radio show. It might be a hard rock show at night time or whatever it was, a classic rock show or punk show and you’d know when they were played so you’d listen to your DJ and he’d introduce new songs, and you’d go, “Oh great, I might chase that band up. I might buy that record. That sounds like a good song.” That’s how I sort of came about a lot of music.

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Dock Ellis Records: You’re lucky the quality of Australian radio is a great deal better than it used to be here.

King Bunny: I wouldn’t say that these days, but that has changed a lot now where kids – especially young kids – will get their music from YouTube. That’s their radio, that’s their TV, that’s their games, that’s their downtime really. It’s about bringing these songs to life with really awesome visuals and stories and a whole package. If they like one of these episodes they go, “Great, I want to see the next one.”

It’ll be a rock and roll series following a giant bunny with his creation of music, in turn who he meets along the way, who he collaborates with, how the songs are put together in these beautiful environments. It’s going to bring elements from all those TV shows that we loved when we were kids or early Saturday morning cartoons. Also the music side of things, it’ll have a tip of the hat to whoever is involved in the recording process of the song as well.

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Dock Ellis Records: Excellent. Are you planning to work with Brant and Robby again in terms of actually recording music with the original Bunny Racket line up?

King Bunny: I am – in about two weeks I’m going into the studio, Robby’s studio this time. His studio is really one of the best studios that I have been in. He is a collector of old gear and still has a lot of the old Doors equipment lying around. It’s like a museum. It’s amazing!

Dock Ellis Records: I bet.

King Bunny: It’s the kind of studio you would build when you know exactly what you want, so he’s done a beautiful job on it. Yeah, we’ve got it booked out for a week this month, so looking forward to that.

Dock Ellis Records: Sounds fantastic. What about the live band you’ve been playing with, what can you tell me about them?

King Bunny: That came together because I really wanted to let people know about the project, and I love playing live. I got offered a couple of gigs and I thought that would be great way to get Bunny Racket rolling. The first gig we played was at Splendour in the Grass, which is a music festival in Byron Bay. It wasn’t going to work out to get Brant to fly out to Australia for a gig or two, so I asked around and put a band together back at home. It’s had a few line-up changes within a few months but it’s pretty solid now. Hamish played drums in Wolfmother, and he played drums in The Vines, now he plays drums in Bunny Racket. I’ve also got Stu Hume who’s the old Fort guitarist playing guitar, and on bass is a guy called Killer, who plays in a band called the Goons of Doom. All of us have kids, all of us live nearby. We’re all in love with rock and roll.

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Dock Ellis Records: They share your vision?

King Bunny: Yeah, yeah. We all dress up like rabbits and get out there and play really loud to a bunch of young rockers.

Dock Ellis Records: Has that been the audience that you’ve been playing to? Has it really been just a large amount of kids jumping around to rock and roll?

King Bunny: Yeah, the Splendour gig was our first all ages show. It was a kids fest! Lots of fun. We put on a couple of our own shows before I left Australia.

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Dock Ellis Records: You sold some out.

King Bunny: We sold out our last gig at Brunswick Picture House. That was awesome! It was just pretty wild actually. It was a really hot day and it was wall to wall kids and adults rocking out. The kids were just going bananas down the front.

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Dock Ellis Records: Has Wolf been to one of these shows?

King Bunny: He’s been to all of them bar one. We played in Sydney at a kids music festival, he didn’t come to that one – he was busy.

Dock Ellis Records: Did he love it?

King Bunny: He loves it, he loves it, he really loves it! He talks about Bunny Racket more than I do. It’s so much fun!

Dock Ellis Records: I think having a son who’s into the music you’re playing must just be such a drive.

King Bunny: It’s awesome. I’ve got demos of the songs that we’re recording next month and he’s got his favourites just from listening to some those. He’ll sing most of those already. Yeah he’s mad for it.

Dock Ellis Records: That’s really cool.

King Bunny: Oh my God!

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Dock Ellis Records: I guess the last obviously question is about Bunny Racket plans for the future beyond the series of films which you’re making, are you thinking further than that or are you just kind of focusing on the films?

King Bunny: I’m always thinking about stuff, and like any creative endeavour I’ve got really big ideas and I hope all of them go to plan.  Yeah, I’d like to have a bigger touring show. I’d like the series to take off and I’d really like to be releasing a record once a year. I’d like to be releasing a new series once a year, so I’d like to spend half the year writing, recording and filming and the other half of the year touring the live show. I’d like the live show to be a big show, like a production.

Dock Ellis Records: A rock and roll show?

King Bunny: Or it to be like a cross between Sesame Street Live and a straight up rock show.

Dock Ellis Records: That sounds like a good concept.

King Bunny: Yeah, you can just bring the whole family and everyone rocks out hard and it’s really entertaining and really high energy and lots of fun.

Dock Ellis Records: Because you talked about playing in potentially Europe and America.

King Bunny: Right. I want to re-record all these albums in a bunch of different languages as well, want to release these records in Japanese, German, French, Spanish… I want to grow this thing in different countries so we can tour.

Dock Ellis Records: I mean it actually moves beyond making music and making TV and things like that to actually become a kind of educational concept to some extent.

King Bunny: It is, definitely, Bunny Racket is an educational thing, but the emphasis is on rocking out and having a good time. Like the series will teach basics, basic skills, but the idea is just teaching kids to be comfortable with themselves and to have a really good time.

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Dock Ellis Records: And that music is fun.

King Bunny: Yeah – to have a lot of fun!

Dock Ellis Records: I think that’s great.

King Bunny: Music should definitely be fun. Music should open doors to new experiences. I think this is a good way to do that and to not dumb it down. Music doesn’t need to be dumbed down, like any of this kids stuff. Kids will accept anything you give them early on, they’re pretty honest if they don’t like it, but they’ll give anything a go. I think if you start them off on the right track with something you know is really cool, and really good, and worthwhile, and has done a lot for you personally – this is me talking – then it can only be a good thing. If your kid decides, “Hey I’m not a rock and roller,” then that’s cool too. There’s plenty of other things to do, but this is for the little rock and rollers out there.

Dock Ellis Records: …of which there are loads, undiscovered.

King Bunny: Absolutely.

Kind Bunny is currently in California working on the next stage of Bunny Racket. In the meantime the album is available in North America – and beyond – here:

Dock Ellis Records in the USA

You can also find it in Europe – and indeed elsewhere – here:

Dock Ellis Records Europe

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