December 6th, 2020Punk lives on
“Harrietville was a wonderful introduction to Australia. It was late. I was sitting out on the deck of the cabin where we were staying, playing guitar by myself. Stacy walked out of the woods with her fiddle and then a few other people came in, even a cello player, and we had a big jam. That single moment convinced me to move down here.”
There is no doubt that relocating to regional Victoria was a big change for this musician, but he was ready for a change. And while Daylesford may seem like a long way from anywhere when it comes to live music, it is a great base while Steve and Stacy are off touring. Unfortunately 2020 put a brake on all that.
Steve was born in Birmingham, Alabama, his mother was a teacher, his father an engineer working for US Steel and his first guitar was a Silvertone from Sears Department store. By the time he started college in the late 1970s he was in his first working band. His base was Richmond, Virginia where there was a huge punk music subculture with dozens of venues – Daylesford in contrast, has none. It was a complete do-it-yourself scene where you didn’t need attention from any major record labels to make a living and Steve was hooked.
“We had every band you have ever heard of come through there. Because it was really a tight small community, bands spawned bands and within a year I was playing in five and doing two or three shows a night every weekend.”
One of those outfits was Death Piggy which Steve started with his good friend, the late Dave Brockie and the nucleus for GWAR. GWAR, with a constantly changing line-up, continue performing to this day and in the global metal scene retain a huge cult following. They have released 13 studio albums, two live albums and numerous singles, and have sold more than 820,000 records in the US alone. They last toured Australia in 2014 when they upset some conservatives with their controversial beheading of an effigy of then Prime Minister Tony Abbott.
It was 1985 when Steve and Dave met artists Hunter Jackson and Chuck Varga who had created a range of home-made and very crude props and costumes for a movie project called Scumdogs of the Universe.
“We saw the costumes and said: ‘Hey guys, we have a show tonight, can we wear those costumes?’” says Steve. “They said ‘OK’ and so we went home and wrote about 10 songs in an afternoon and called the resultant performance group GWAR.”
The mid-80s was a period when hair metal was huge and GWAR evolved as a way to make fun of those major label commercial acts. The first shows were rough and raucous but they gradually developed the characters as escaped barbaric interplanetary warriors from a crashed spaceship in Antarctica.
These characters included Flattus Maximus, Beefcake the Mighty, Nippleus Erectus and Slymenstra Hymen. Steve Douglas performed as Balsac the Jaws of Death. Their shows featured lots of fake blood, gore and beheadings of effigies of public figures and anybody was fair game, from politicians and celebrities to religious leaders. Basically anything or anyone that presumed they were important. GWAR tore it all down at full volume in 4/4 double time.
Steve played guitar on GWAR’s first album Hell-O and stayed with the band for around four years. It was a wild time but not something he wanted to make a lifetime career out of.
Eventually he shifted into acoustic punk, alt country and bluegrass which led to a stint with The James King Band and that appearance at Harrietville in 2004.
Today Steve and Stacy are the driving force behind the Resignators, a seven-piece ska punk group. It has not been a good year for doing anything public so they have been at home producing music instead, including their latest single Blue Bird Tattoo, which is all about Sharpies falling in love. (Sharpies were a Melbourne-centric youth subculture during the 1970s).
It’s a long way from the mayhem of GWAR but that same do-it-yourself ethos permeates everything they do. In fact, it’s the only way to survive if you want to make a career out of music, especially over the last nine months.
“The Resignators has been a great fulfilling band,” says Steve. “It’s always evolving and we have drawn more and more local talent over the years. Hopefully we can get out and tour and to be honest we are really missing that because we have friends all over the world. We will certainly be looking forward to 2021.”
Above, The Resignators, left to right, Steve Douglas, Stacy Kilpatrick, Francis Harrison, Jeremy Meaden, Rich Holland and Nick Ross
Image: Peter James Photography
Middle: GWAR during Steve’s tenure, from left, Mike Bishop, Dewey Rowell, Mike Bonner (kneeling), Steve Douglas and Dave Brockie
Below: Steve in GWAR
Words: Tony Sawrey