are a punk rock
band from Sydney
that formed in 1982. They have been called Australia's most commercially successful independent band
, with over 250,000 total record sales.
1980s: Early days
The Hard-Ons' origins can be traced to Western Sydney
Boys High School, where all three band members were students. The multicultural trio of drummer/vocalist Keish De Silva (of Sri Lankan
descent), guitar/vocals Blackie
heritage) and bassist Ray Ahn (Korean
ancestry) were initially too young to play gigs in pubs, but honed their skills playing at parties and school dances. After all turning 18 years old, the band made its first 'proper' live debut in June 1984 at Ultimo
's Vulcan hotel. Quickly gaining a considerable following, the band released its debut EP
(Surfin On My Face
) the following year.
Subsequent recordings like Smell My Finger, Dickcheese, Love Is A Battlefield Of Wounded Hearts and Yummy! were well-received by fans and set the blueprint for the 'Hard-Ons sound': messy pop-punk with metal and psychedelia elements. The band also showed their independent punk spirit, with the members deliberately controlling their own careers: recording, booking and promoting themselves, creating their own artwork, choosing support bands and even managing the merchandise desk whilst on tour. These unconventional decisions, combined with songwriting talents, powerful live performances and a healthy sense of humour earned the band a large following in Europe as well as their native Australia.
1990s: Split and reformation
Following the release of 1994's Too Far Gone
, the band members announced that they were breaking up, with an interest in pursuing projects outside the Hard-Ons' style of music. This break was interrupted by a 'reunion' gig in October 1997, which was followed by the release of a new EP (Yesterday And Today) and a Best Of compilation
. Following This Terrible Place...
in 2000, the band's first line-up change occurred, with charismatic drummer and singer Keish deciding to leave the band. To accommodate this, guitarist Blackie
took up full-time vocals with the group and Front End Loader
drummer Pete Kostic was brought into the line-up. This new trio released Very Exciting!
A 1987 BEAT Magazine article described the Hard-Ons' sound as "Motörhead
meets the Beach Boys
" ; a quote that goes some way towards describing the band's take on the punk rock genre. Though originally inspired by punk bands such as Sex Pistols
, The Buzzcocks
, The Damned
and The Saints
, the band also blended pop, psychedelia and metal elements; "death-pop" as once described by Ray Ahn. The band were also noteworthy not only within punk, but also within rock music for having their lead vocals handled by Keish, the group's drummer. The physical challenge of drumming to the band's fast punk rock songs as well as singing (as opposed to shouting) made for charismatic live performances. Guitarist Blackie
provides another original touch to the band with his guitar playing. Backed by Ray Ahn's bass playing, Blackie
's guitar solos
have a distinctive sound which is both melodic and messy, often making use of feedback
Major recurring lyrical themes range from girls, love and relationships (e.g.: "I Do I Do I Do", "Just Being With You", "Girl in the Sweater") to toilet humour ("I Farted", "Oozin' for Pleasure") as well as other variations, particularly in the post-Keish line-up of the band.
Although not as widely known as some classic punk and independent bands, the Hard-Ons have carved a notch into the world of punk rock and have assembled a cult following of fans worldwide. They are also said to be Australia's most successful independent band ever, with over 250,000 records sold worldwide and 17 consecutive number one hits on the Australian alternative charts, their popularity far outstretches the shores of Australia with cult following especially in Europe and at one time a UK cover band known as Suck n Swallow. The band have a number of prominent fans such as Jello Biafra
and Henry Rollins
(who they recorded the AC/DC
cover Let There Be Rock
with in 1991), as well as having toured with The Ramones
, Foo Fighters
, Red Hot Chili Peppers
, Butthole Surfers
, as well as countless other bands.
In 2005 the 21st anniversary of the band's first pub gig was celebrated by an Australian and European tour as a four-piece, with Pete drumming and Keish front stage, centre on vocals. Although technically still a three-piece band, it is clear that Keish De Silva still shares a close relationship with his old band. Recordings were made in 2006 with contributions from all four band members (though primarily Blackie
, Ray and Pete), with the intention of releasing a double album of material. This project was eventually released as two separate albums: the 'poppier' Most People Are a Waste of Time
(2006) and the 'heavier' Most People Are Nicer Than Us
(2007), with subsequent tours around Australia.
The band reportedly recorded a record with U.S. comedian Neil Hamburger on guest lead vocals in January, 2008.