'Me and Brian Johnson spent a lot of time together...' Reeling in the years with The Poor's Skenie

Join Skenie as he Embraces his inner bogan...

The first thing I’m treated to when Anthony ‘Skenie’ Skene picks up the phone is a huge blast of feedback and distortion; “Sorry mate – we’re jamming”. He laughs when I introduce myself as Al from Metal As Fuck and when I ask him about the formation of The Poor (nee The Poor Boys) he casts his mind back and recounts the tale in his gravelly voice: “When I first moved to Darwin, in my home room class I sat right next to the first original guitarist who was in The Poor Boys and he had some mates that he used to jam with, which was Matt (Whitby) and the original drummer Mark. They used to always jam at parties and that, when we were at school and shit, and I used to just come along and fuckin’ sing along all the time; they had some mates from Perth that tried out as singers when they started to get a bit more serious and they didn’t work out...and we had the audition one day and I was in! Originally we were a five piece band; the band wasn’t called The Poor Boys – it was called Foreplay...we were only playing covers and shit when we first started, as you do, and we started getting gigs and started writing our own shit and then we started touring off our own back and the rest is history.”

The Poor have toured with some the biggest names in rock and metal; AC/DC, KISS, WASP, The Scorpions to name just a few. When I ask if he was always a fan of this kind of stuff, I get a hearty “Fuck yeah!”, so what was it like for you, touring with all these heroes? “Fucking unreal! I remember back in the day when I left school I became an apprentice electrician and the band started to go on the road and I turned around to the old man and said ‘Dad, I wanna be a muso, I’m not gonna finish my apprenticeship’ and he was fucking off me and I look back on that now and I think ‘Fuck! I made the right decision’ and meeting all these famous guys that when I grew up, they were my idols and now they’re my friends, it was sort of surreal but they’re just cool people, you know? And we just hit it off like a house on fire.”

So do you have personal favourite among them? “Me and Brian Johnson spent a lot of time together because he’s right into American Football; we were just sitting in a hotel bar one afternoon and he’s having a wine [or maybe that was ‘whine’?] and watching the Gridiron and I’m like ‘Fuck! I miss the football’ – because I love the footy here in Australia – and he’s like (at this point Skenie puts on a well dodgy Geordie accent) ‘D’yer know anything about this game, son?’ and I’m like ‘No, no, I don’t’ and he’s like ‘Dyer fucking well wanna go to a game?’ and I was like ‘Yeah, fuckin’ oath! Teach me how it all works’ so he showed me how it all works and then that was it; every city that we were in, he was fuckin’ ringin’ me up: ‘Ya wanna go to a game, son?’ And the cameramen in the stadiums, they’d pick out famous people and they’d always pick out Brian and put him up on the big screen and I’d be sitting there right next to him giving ‘em the bird.” He laughs as he recollects the memory...“Classic.”

He cites influences such as AC/DC, Rose Tattoo, and Black Sabbath – although he does admit that “I even loved all the hair bands like Whitesnake – anything rock, anything that had guitars in it.”

So give me a quick overview of The Poor’s tour plans. He obliges: “We’re doing Melbourne this weekend and Sydney the weekend after that and then all of us will take a little holiday break over Easter.” He mentions that they might be taking a trip over to France in June, which will determine if they go into pre-production on the new album because according to Skenie “...we’ve got about 17 songs up our sleeve...” but failing that “...we’ll give it a miss and concentrate on the album and maybe go out the next year.”

He laughs when I suggest that perhaps The Poor are like monsters on tour but admits “We can be...definitely...we have been in the past but obviously these days as we’re getting older, you have to look after yourself.” Indeed, it takes its toll on you. “Oh fuck yeah! You know, if you’ve got a gig the next night you can’t go partying all night and expect your fucking voice to be cracking the next night.” You don’t hear ‘cracking’ much in conversation anymore; I should point out that Skenie means ‘cracking’ as in the Wallace and Gromit context :“Cracking cheese, Gromit” – e.g  very good. I think we should all make a concerted effort to bring ‘cracking’ back into the common vernacular.

After Round 1 in 2009 and Round 2 in 2010, please tell me you’re not calling the new album Round 3? “Nah, we’ve gone completely away from that. We do have a working title but I don’t know whether I should fuckin’ let it out yet...” Skenie recounts an interview yesterday when he was brought to task by a label rep for almost letting the cat out of the bag. Secret Squirrel and all that.

The track House from Round 1; was that co-produced by legendary rocker Billy Thorpe? He casts his mind back in the fog of memory;  “That was like...fuckin’ ‘ell...that was like 15 years ago when we wrote that song and we were demoing some of the songs that are on Round 1 in Billy Thorpe’s studio and he just came in one day and heard us playing and he was like ‘Holy fuck! What’s that song?’ and he really dug it and he just wanted to be involved and he sat in with us till the song was done.”

I ask Skenie about what it was like to work with the legendary Thorpe and his reaction is one of genuine pleasure. “He was fuckin’ awesome! He was affectionately known as ‘Cuntface’ to us (laughs)  – but that was only an in joke with us – I reckon if anyone else called him that he’d fuckin’ knock ‘em out!” although Skenie does refute the rumour that House was the last track that Thorpe ever worked on: “ He had another studio after that and he had fuckin’ heaps of people that went through there...but he was a fuckin’ great guy...a great guy...”

The Poor have a distinctly Aussie Pub Rock kind of tag; do you worry about occasionally geeting labelled a bogan? “Nah, fuck that. I am a bogan!” He cracks up laughing again before continuing “I actually got called that the other day by this chick in the street! I parked behind her car and she reckoned I parked too close and I told her to go and get fucked and she said ‘Why don’t you go and get a haircut and get a job, you bogan!’ – I thought ‘I bet I make more fuckin’ money than you, ya fuckin’ moll!’” Skenie is the personification of Aussie dialect. I’d love to get him and Jason Peppiatt (Psycroptic) in a room together...

We touch on The Poor’s break-up and the rise and fall of Lump; family problems and ill health are cited as major contributing factors – how do you handle the end of a band? “I was pretty fuckin’ spewing about Lump breaking up – I thought they were an awesome band; a lot heavier than The Poor. I just loved what we were doing and had really good friendships with the boys.” But fortunately The Poor reformed in 2008 to support WASP so it all worked out in the end, and here they are now. Gigging. Rehearsing. Touring. It just goes to show that there’s life in the old mongrel yet.
I’m nearing the end of my time with Skenie so I ask who is musically blowing his mind? Without hesitation he replies “Alter Bridge – Fuck! They’re awesome! They’re my favourite band; Myles Kennedy has got some fuckin’ pipes on him too...”
The Poor. Monsters on Tour.