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Feature Interview: Ben Salter 'The Gin Club'

the gin club

The Gin Club are that band who have seemingly been around forever, although we haven’t seen them too often in the last few years as many members have branched out into solo careers and simply become adults with adult responsibilities beyond turning up to the next gig.

That will all change at the end of the year as the band kick off their 10th anniversary tour across Australia and launch a re-release of their classic self-titled debut album on vinyl. Ben Salter is a busy man, as evident by a few stifled yawns during our interview (I hope it wasn’t my questions and a hangover), but he agreed to do a phone interview from Melbourne with the team at AAA, even after some miscommunication resulted in a delay – namely, forgetting to account for daylight savings.

Hi this is Jess from AAA Backstage. Am I speaking to Ben Salter? 

Yup, this is Ben. 

Sorry about the mix up this morning. These things just happen sometimes; I hope it didn’t throw your schedule out too much.

That’s okay, as far as I know it wasn’t your fault.

Yeah, well I just woke up this morning with an email in my inbox saying I had an interview in fifteen minutes. There was just a bit of miscommunication there, but I’m glad we were able to resolve it all. 

Right, no worries.

So you’re in Melbourne right now?


Is that where you’re basing yourself now?

For the time being. I’m sort of all over the place.

Oh really? Just with touring and stuff like that?

Yeah, yeah, always on tour. 

Alright, well I’m here to talk about the 10th anniversary tour, you and The Gin Club are organising for the end of this year. Can you tell me a little bit about what inspired you and the rest of The Gin Club to do this 10th anniversary tour? 

(laughs) Mainly because it was our 10th anniversary.

Was it just a matter of everybody being in the right place, right time?

Well, we just thought we should commemorate the 10th anniversary in some way, you know, ten years is a long time for a band to be around. 

Yeah, it’s definitely a milestone.

We haven’t ever stopped playing. We recorded another album earlier this year that’s going to come out next year and we just thought we’d do a little tour and re-release the first album on vinyl because we’ve always wanted to release our albums on vinyl, but never had a chance.

So how do you think the listening experience will be different on vinyl? Did you decide to release the album on vinyl because you prefer the sound or because vinyls are becoming more popular?

We just wanted to re-release it anyway because it’s ten years old and we thought, why not do it on vinyl.

Can you tell me a little bit about what you and the rest of The Gin Club have been up to and how this will influence the direction the band will be going in?

Well, we all sort of do different things; there’s eight members of the band so it would take me a long time to go through what every single person has been doing. I’ve just been doing my own stuff, playing lots of solo stuff. I just came back from three months in Europe where I did 52 shows over there, which was amazing, and before that I released a new EP called ‘European Vacation.’ And I think a couple of the members of the band are studying. Bridget’s a lecturer at QUT so she’s been teaching a lot. We’ve all been doing lots of stuff, we tend to only come together when we record and when we do shows and even then not everybody is always available. I’m looking forward to hanging out with everybody a bit more.

Do you think that the tour will be an opportunity to re-invent The Gin Club in any way?  Ten years is a very long time and I’m sure that you guys have all changed and matured a lot since you met ten years ago at O’Malleys.

Well, it’s not as if we haven’t seen each other in ten years so it’s not really, a matter of getting back together. We’re always in touch, we’re all friends, we all see each other outside of the band so yeah no, I don’t there will be any re-inventing. There’s been a progression of the sound over the course of the albums. I mean we’re just going to get together, rehearse and go out and play. Just doing what we know how to do.

Let’s just go back to the sound of the band for a second here – how would you personally describe the sound of The Gin Club?

We don’t really like playing that game, because you sort of just end up saying the same things, I mean, we’re like a rock band, but we have country and pop. We’re not hard metal – I can tell you what we’re not. We’re really just a rock band, but then that’s sort of not doing us any justice either because there’s eight different song writers and eight different singers, eight different voices, eight different styles of playing, and we all swap around. The best thing you can do, if you really want to know what we sound like, is just listen or come and see us. 

I was just asking because I was interested to know how you decide what songs are right for The Gin Club or what you might use for your solo stuff or other projects you might have, because the sound is so wide spread.

Well, most of the songs I write probably could be done by The Gin Club. It’ just a matter of what everybody else thinks. When we get together to record we play each other’s songs and see what everybody gets excited about, and sometimes it’s just a matter of the day, where some things work and some don’t. I mean there’s things at the heavy end of the spectrum that probably wouldn’t suit The Gin Club that I would save for Giants of Science or something, but between my stuff and The Gin Club stuff there’s not a whole lot of difference. The first couple of songs I recorded with The Gin Club were originally songs that I’d been performing solo that I just sort of gave to the band. I mean it was originally sort of a collective of solo performers all playing together.

Do you think that the tour and re-release of the album will attract new fans or do you think it will be mostly old fans present at the shows? Do you think the sound of The Gin Club is something young people of today can really get behind?

I’m not really sure. Because it’s a 10th anniversary tour and because we don’t have a new release to support it I’m expecting that we’re probably going to get mostly older fans there. We don’t really get played on the radio much anyway so I’m not really sure how we get in touch with new fans. We do have a lot of younger fans, but you know, it’s difficult. I mean we get played a little bit on Triple R and PBS In Melbourne, but as far as actual airplay we don’t get a lot, so it’s really just a matter of playing to people to attract new fans. But once we release the new album than hopefully we might attract a few new people, but we’re pretty happy the fans that we’ve got, they’re pretty loyal. It’s always nice to have more people at the shows, but we don’t really have any big aspirations of taking over the world at this stage. We just want to play and enjoy each other’s company. We like playing music and getting to travel.

Well, being a Brisbane band I’m sure you have always the same group of people at your shows. It’s a small community, but a supportive one.

Yeah, and often in other bands.

Yeah, or in other bands that you’re in.

Yeah, yeah.

So with the new album that’s coming out next year, what kind of direction will you be taking that in?

It’s pretty much the same stuff. We’ve already recorded a lot of it. There’s nothing radically different. There’s a few songs by me, a few songs by Adrian, Orla, we all sort of contributed a bit. We haven’t decided what’s going to be on the final album so it will be interesting once it’s all mixed.

And the development of that album was just sort of motivated by wanting to have a new release out because of the time?

It’s just what we do. We write songs together and play them and release them. That’s the motivation for me. It’s a fun thing to do. 

Will you be doing any overseas tours for that album? 

It’s very difficult. We really want to try and go over to Europe, but getting everybody together is always difficult. We’ve had a lot of offers to go overseas, but we’ve had to turn them down in the past. Hopefully in the next couple of years we’ll go over there, but I’m not terribly concerned. We try to take it fairly sort of easy because there’s so many personalities involved and make it as fun as we can for all of us.

It’s interesting that you mentioned that actually, because that relates to one of my questions. It’s always hard for bands to remain intact at all, let alone for 10 years. How have you managed to keep the band together for so long?

I think it’s just that we all enjoy it. We’ve managed to sort of get our expectations in line with our abilities and so we’ve never really had that syndrome where people get disillusioned with playing in a band. We’ve had our ups and downs but I think everybody’s at a level where they’re at the amount of commitment to playing music that they’re comfortable with. I mean I play music all the time, I’ve got my solo stuff and a couple of other outlets and the rest of the Gin Club have jobs. It works really well. Basically we all just love each other and we’re all really good friends. We’re the biggest fans of each other’s music. So when that happens the rest of it happens pretty easily.

Getting back to the 10th anniversary tour – will the full line-up be touring?

Unfortunately not. It’s sad, but we just can’t get everybody to do all the shows.  So Dan the keyboard player won’t be able to do any shows out of Brisbane. Orla is in Sweden – he’s sort of being back and fourth quite a lot over the last ten years. But at the moment he’s in Sweden and can’t really afford to come back here. So for the moment it’s just going to be the rest of us. And for some of the shows we won’t have the drummer, but it’s still not a bad number. 

Yeah, that’s still a pretty big line-up. So what are you most looking forward to with the tour – are there any places or venues you’re keen to revisit?

I’m mainly just looking forward to hanging out with everyone for a concentrated period of time and being on stage with them. It’s just a really fun thing to do.  We all eat together, stay together and then get on stage. Anybody reading this who’s been in a band will know exactly what I’m talking about. The Gin Club is a really funny, intelligent, different group of people and it will be great to get together and catch up.

Well, best of luck with the tour, Ben and thanks for taking them time for our chat. I might see you at Black Bear Lodge in December!

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