Push Push reunion 25 years in the making
Love 'em or hate 'em - and the consensus seems to be that if you were around in their early 90s heyday you fell into one of those two camps - Push Push are back.
Back performing together on stage, back shooting a new music video, and back releasing new music for the first time in 25 years.
Two years ago last Christmas was the first time all five band members had even been in the same room together in two decades.
Now here they all are together again, lined up on a couch in a central Auckland cafe to talk about the old days, the new days, and everything in between.
Well, lead singer Mikey Havoc isn't quite here yet - he's in the studio next door, rock-gurning furiously into the camera as he films his portion of the new Push Push music video Talk2Me. The plan is for him to join us when he's done, although that doesn't exactly come to fruition - but more on that later.
For now I've got half an hour or so with bassist Steve Abplanalp, drummer Scott Cortese, and guitarists Silver and Andy Kane, who's also producing the band's new four-track EP, out on April 13.
Push Push first exploded onto the New Zealand music scene in 1991. Their insanely catchy debut single Trippin' went to number one and spent 25 weeks on the Kiwi charts, as well as peaking at #25 in Australia, spending 10 weeks on the charts there.
The following year was a big one for the band - they released gold-certified album A Trillion Shades Of Happy, won best group and best video (for Trippin') at the 1992 New Zealand Music Awards, and opened for AC/DC at Mount Smart Stadium in front of 40,000 people.
"I remember Angus Young running into our trailer after the show," says Cortese of the band's biggest gig. "He was head down, towel over his head, and we're all standing there going 'What the f...?'"
"Then all these bodyguards came in, pushed us aside and grabbed him out. They were gone while the audience was still shouting for an encore."
AC/DC might have been Push Push's biggest live concert gig, but the band had in fact played to a much larger audience than that already, performing Trippin' live in front of an estimated television audience of seven million people on the Australian variety show Hey Hey It's Saturday.
"We got flown over because Trippin' had just hit number one and Hey Hey was just starting to broadcast to New Zealand," recalls Abplanalp. "They wanted the band with the number one song at the time and it happened to be us, so we flew over and insisted on playing it live, not to a tape. All of 20 years old. Hilarious."
Unfortunately the performance didn't quite go to plan.
"Basically what happened was my guitar went out of tune after about 30 seconds because I smashed straight into Steve and put my E-string out," reveals Silver.
"We were so fucking precious!" adds Kane. "Play to a tape? No f...ing way - you've got to be joking! And we had no idea."
By that stage Push Push had already supported the likes of Poison and Alice Cooper, and gigs with acts like Def Leppard and Skid Row were to follow.
"Alice Cooper actually came into our caravan, cos we'd played My Sharona as a cover," remembers Cortese. "He came in and said, 'That's one of my favourite songs'. It was awesome."
"The guys from Def Leppard were really friendly as well," says Abplanalp, as the band lapses into a bout of gig nostalgia.
"I remember getting stoned with Vivian Campbell somewhere in Herne Bay," chimes in Kane. "He played in Dio - like 17 years old and playing in Dio. He was a dynamite guitarist."
Soon the guys from Push Push will have another band to nostalgise about, after they join The Darkness for a three-date tour of New Zealand later this month.
"Had to kind of think about that a couple of times," says Kane, of allying themselves with the over-the-top British rockers. "They're an interesting band. On the face of it they could be construed as Spinal Tap-ish - but I don't think they are. I think they're just kind of unashamed, which is a really good way to be - unashamed about the type of band that they are."
Having spoken to The Darkness bassist Frankie Poullain a few weeks earlier, I figure this is the perfect time to mention what he told me about Push Push: "We heard they're like an iconic band who kind of divide opinion. And we like people who divide opinion."
"That's pretty true," replies Kane to general laughter. "I think you either loved or hated us."
Whatever other people thought of them, it sounds like Push Push had a bloody good time back in the day - which makes their abrupt breakup in 1993 all the more puzzling, especially given the band's upward trajectory at the time, complete with plans to move to Australia. So what the hell happened?
"We didn't have a massive breakup," explains Kane. "There were just things that happened that meant we weren't together anymore," he adds cryptically.
"I think at that point, as 20, 21 year olds, we were still finding our way in life in a lot of respects. And we were kind of thrown into this thing and it was kind of nuts. It's like when you see football players suddenly thrown under the spotlight and they're not quite sure how to deal with it - they're still young men and the frontal risk-taking part of their cortex hasn't settled down yet."
"We spent a LOT of time in each other's company - and for the most part it was great. But by the same token, you kind of start pushing against each other - excuse the pun. Mike and I banged heads quite a lot during those years - which in a lot of ways was great, because it became creative, but in some ways it became difficult."
For his part, Havoc - he never did make it onto the couch with the rest of the band, necessitating a phone call a few days later - seems to shoulder most of the blame for the band's breakup himself.
"It was like a last-minute decision from me," he says. "I didn't think Australia was actually going to be the massive goldmine everyone seemed to think it was going to be, and I sort of had stuff I was doing here that I was interested in. At the time, I personally wasn't getting anything near out of the band as what I had been getting out of it, you know? And so it felt like maybe it was time to move on."
"But it was a long time ago."
Fast forward 20-odd years and the now trans-Tasman band members - both Silver and Kane are Sydney-based - decided it was high time they got together for a "reunion rehearsal". But not before a dinner at Auckland's The Mexican Cafe was convened to "see if we could deal with things".
"And it was super-instant, super-easy, super-good," says Kane. "We realised there was enough water under the bridge at that point."
"The next day it was a bit like being sucked into this time vortex, and all the good and bad things that were there before were still there - but that was OK, because we were comfortable operating on that level with each other. And the songs sounded OK - once we figured out what it was we'd actually play. So here we are."
And while the four previously unreleased tracks on their new EP are all either a quarter-century old or reworked songs from that same era, Push Push aren't ruling out the possibility of releasing fresh material in the days ahead.
"Potentially, yeah," says Kane. "I kind of harboured this idea of maybe doing a song a year. Even that might be slightly ambitious, but I figure it's possibly doable - just for our own purposes really. Just so we can kind of keep doing this thing that we've rekindled that we quite love, you know?"
"We are brothers from other mothers - we're very brotherly together. It's nice to be in that space, and the ultimate symbol of us being brothers in that space is a good song."