SACRED COWBOYS: The Sacred Cowboys’ frontman is Garry Gray (lead singer/lyricist), who as a member of the ‘Negatives’ (’77/’79) and the ‘Reals’ (’75/’76) was a pioneer of indie music in Melbourne.
“I have been fortunate as a musician. Throughout my years as an artist I have worked with the best musicians on the scene. In the Reals and the Negatives, I worked with Chris Walsh, Ollie Olsen and Mick Holmes. In the early Sacred Cowboys, Janis Friedenfelds, and Mark Ferrie. In the late 80’s , Stephan Fidock joined the group on drums. In the 1990’s and 2000’s, Penny Ikinger and Spencer P Jones worked with me in the group. Ash Wednesday in the late ’80s and 2000’s…. Some of the great sounds you hear on the albums come from the strong production sense of Terry Doolan (original gutarist) and Nick Rischbieth (bass palyer). I have collaborated with numerous musicians under the umbrella of the Sacred Cowboys…. and to quote a friend, I’m “keeping the vibe alive”. Garry.
Gray was a founding member of the ‘Sacred Cowboys’ in 1982. He reformed the ‘Sacred Cowboys’ in 2006 with a stellar line up which includes: Spencer P Jones (guitar); Penny Ikinger (guitar); Nick Reishbeth (bass); Stephan Fidock (drums); and special guest on keyboards for the August 2006 shows, Ash Wednesday (keyboards).
Founding 1982 members include Johnny Crash (drums) and Mark Ferrie (bass) who were both previously members of Melbourne pop band the Models; Terry Doolan (guitar); Andrew Picouleau (bass); and Ian Forrest (keyboards). Nick Reishbeth joined the group in 1983. In 1987 Stephan Fidock joined on drums.
The ‘Sacred Cowboys’ began playing inner city Melbourne in early 1982. Within six months, the ‘Cowboys’ signed with Mushroom/White Label and recorded the ‘Nothing Grows In Texas’ single. After their so-called ‘legendary performance’ on Molly Meldrum’s Countdown pop TV show on the ABC, Molly said, “This is the worst group I’ve seen in 5 years.” This set the tone for their long career as one of Australia’s seminal alternative groups.
Ram Magazine’s Ed Southern had this to say about the 82-85 ‘Cowboys’: “He’s an icon from the fantasy of the Great Western Dream. Dripping rock power an insatiable survivor riding roughshod, etched against a deep desert sunset he is the good, the bad, and the ugly. Give him spirits, a rifle and shade for his laughing eyes. He projects, scratches against the night, guttural, sombre, aloof, melodic and loud. He is committed to every performance. He takes no prisoners. He is the Sacred Cowboy. Here is a rock genre that can only be described as the coming of age of all we have ever felt. The big guns discovered again.”
Between ’82 and ’85 the Cowboys relesed 2 singles, ‘Texas’ and ‘Bangkok’, a self-titled EP on the White Label, their first self-titled album on French Label, New Rose, and the live/basement tapes ‘We Love You’ album on ManMade.
Phase 2 ran from ’87 to ’92. Juke magazine’s Byron Smith wrote in ’89/’90: “There are many notable exceptions, but I don’t think the early Cowboys always fully captured their live venom in the studio. This is where ‘Trouble From Providence’ holds all the aces and a knowing smirk. Hypnotic guitars and Gray’s powerful lyrics push it all along. It creates a distinctive new signature for the Cowboys and at times almost the total attainment of their Suicide/Chilton vision. Garry Gray’s persona of ice-cold authoritarian is etched into the music and drags it along with him, yet with that sense of irony that is key to what the band is about. The Cowboys return LP delivers something that all too few records ever touch upon these days”. As well as the ‘Providence’ album, 2 singles were released: title track ‘Trouble From Providence’, and their signature tune, ‘Hell Sucks’.
The Cowboys continued playing and recording in the ’90s. Notably, the Cowboys released a ‘best of’ cd ep called ‘Black City’, which saw the Cowboys playing live and writing new material. This album was listed in Australian Rolling Stone’s Top 100 albums of the 20th century. ‘Things To Come’ was released in ’96. The ’90s line-up saw Spencer P Jones and Penny Ikinger joining Terry Doolan on guitar both live and in the studio.
In 2005, the ‘Hell Sucks’ single from ‘Trouble from Providence’ was selected for Clint Walker’s, ‘Inner City Sounds’ compilation. The subsequent review of ‘Hell Sucks’ by Unpeeled Website reads, “Sacred Cowboys ..Hell Sucks.. is such an awesome bit of sneering, rocked-riff cool-aid gonzo rock that they should be rolling around in coke encrusted silk sheets wondering what year it is.”
In June 2006, the ‘Nothing Grows In Texas’ single was re-released on ‘Tales From The Alternative Underground V2’. Out now on Bang! in 2007, the release of the ‘Cold Harvest’ album. When Gray reformed the Cowboys in August 2006, the group played a series of shows in Melbourne, Australia and found time to record the finishing touches to the ‘Cold Harvest’ album, to be released on Bang Records. Joining Terry Doolan in the first line of the guitar assault we find Spencer P Jones and Penny Ikinger. Gray says, “‘Cold Harvest’ is a departure from ‘Providence’. Most of the songs are narrative in style, a kind of urban uprising driven by dysfunctional dreamers and powerless onlookers. I wanted us to do this as a guitar album.”
The ‘Sacred Cowboys’ ride again. Gray says, ‘It’s about time. The world is at high noon and there’s gonna be a showdown.’