It’s been a few years now since Baby Animals reformed, released a new album and hit the road. They’ve done the reunion/rejuvenation thing particularly well from a fan standpoint, with lots of different fan packages, and all that fun stuff that really helps folks to feel engaged with the band they love. Until now there’s been one particular little event that hasn’t happened: a reunion of the original line-up. Current drummer Mick Skelton and bass player Dario Bortolin do an incredible job of representing the classic material and the band’s current identity, but there will always be fans who want to see the original quartet of Suze DeMarchi, Dave Leslie, Frank Celenza and Eddie Parise on stage. And for two shows only, they can. And not only that: the current line-up will be represented too. In May, Baby Animals will play to very special shows made of two sets. The first set will feature the current line-up celebrating the past 25 years of rock. The second will see the original line-up reunite onstage to perform their debut album in full.
“The songs have mutated and evolved over the last 25 years, with the new guys and everything,” says guitarist Dave Leslie. “So I’m actually going to go and revisit the old recordings and bring back the old sounds. I actually just bought an old Marshall Guv’nor pedal because I used that pretty much all throughout the record, with a Marshall JCM800. So I’m going to go back to those tones and do those parts as authentically as possible. So that’ll be an interesting experiment because the songs and solos have changed. So to get back to where it was will be a lot of fun. Hopefully it won’t be too challenging?” So will 2016 Dave be cursing 1991 Dave for things he played back then? “I’m looking forward to noticing whether there’s been some progression rather than regression over the past 25 years,” he laughs.
One of Dave’s most recognisable guitars is the Fender Stratocaster seen in the video for ‘Early Warning.’ “That’s a ’79 Stratocaster that had EMGs in it. It was my first ever Fender and I’ve still got the neck. I still use the neck but well... it was a really heavy late 70s body with a three-bolt neck, and the neck bolt holes started to get wider and the neck started to move. So Grubisa built this amazing white alder body for it, married it to the neck and it’s never sounded better. It’s a beautiful Strat.” Dave hasn’t held on to much gear from that era. “It’s a pity because I did have a really nice Marshall MkII Super Bass that I used to use all the time but that fell by the by. But I’ve been evolving and trying new things. I haven’t held onto a real lot of stuff from back then.”
Also being released in 2016 via Social Family Records is BA25, a live album drawn from when the band toured with Van Halen in the early 90s. “We recorded it, and I think it was broadcast, from this club in Boston when we were out with Van Halen. It was the night after Ed gave me my Ernie Ball Music Man Edward Van Halen model, so I remember changing strings on it between soundcheck and gig, because there were 9s on it and I wanted to change it to 10s. I used it and it might have gone a bit off a few times, but the band was on fire at that point. We were playing really well. And later that night we went to a TV studio and did a live cross to the ARIA awards. It was a big night, that one! Not a lot of sleep was had! Then it was back into the bus and back onto the VH tour! Crazy! Those days are a little blurry... I’m glad I remembered to take my camera and took so many photographs because that usually helps to jog your memory. But they’re usually photos of the band being obnoxious in band rooms in exotic places. There weren’t a lot of tourist pics taken!”
As for the rest of Baby Animals’ 2016, Dave and Suze have been kicking around some songwriting ideas, but are currently focused on the stage. “We’ve got a fair few gigs coming up in the early part of the year plus this thing in May, and I’m looking forward to getting out and getting amongst it. And it’s good that Mick Skelton is going to be doing these gigs [following the tragic Thirsty Merc accident which claimed the life of tour manager Shane Cooper and placed Skelton in intensive care]. Our first one back will be at the Day On The Green on the 23rd of January so I’m really looking forward to that.”
May 21 - Forum Theatre, Melbourne VIC
May 28 - Enmore Theatre, Sydney NSW