Strange Tales And Stab-Happy Exes

15 September 2017 | 9:48 am | Rod Whitfield

"There was a lot of violence, and if you were kind of an effeminate man with long blue hair or something, you're going to attract a bit of attention."

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While there may be somewhat of a stigma attached to the term outside prog circles, the new solo record from Regurgitator's Ben Ely could possibly be deemed to be an 'autobiographical concept album'. There is a singular, very strong thread running through Strange Tales Of Drugs And Lost Love (yep, it's all in the title) - that of his rather eventful and angsty upbringing in the suburbs of Brisbane. Stigma be damned, Ely does not shy away from the term, in fact, he embraces it.

"That's actually quite flattering, I love prog-rock," he reveals, "it was my teenage years, I'm a big Rush fan, even though it doesn't sound like it!"

The city of Brisbane, as it was in the late '80s and early '90s, plays a massive part in the memories that he drew upon when writing the album and constructing its world and imagery. "It was pretty crazy, looking back on Brisbane in that era," he recalls. "If you were different in this town at that time, you were not very respected by the law, and out in general at concerts there were a lot of skinhead gangs and punk gangs around, there was a lot of violence, and if you were kind of an effeminate man with long blue hair or something, you're going to attract a bit of attention."

Ultimately, at that stage of his life, he felt he had to get out of Dodge to get away from that life and some of those experiences. But as we sit here now, those times and those memories have become a huge inspiration for him in writing the record. "I lived away from Brisbane for so long and then I just moved back at the start of last year," he remembers. "Just moving around the city and going to different locations brought all these weird stories back. It's weird, if you have that time away from a place where you grew up and then go back to it, your molecular structure has probably re-generated three or four times since you were there, and it's almost like you were an entirely different person, but it was you, but it was not, if you know what I mean."

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One particular memory of those times is very vivid for him, and was the inspiration for the album's second track, the appropriately titled Amanda's Lost It. "The second song is about my first girlfriend, who got possessed by the devil," he deadpans. "She tried to stab me and then ran off into the forest and I chased her, and she thought these giant hellhounds were chasing her, and I had to calm her down. She said she thought she saw the devil and she thought the devil was in her.

"For your first romance, it's a weird set-up for your life."

He is taking the record on tour nationally from late September through to early October, where he'll strongly feature the new record, some of his older solo works and maybe even the odd re-imagined 'Gurge track as well.