Biography: The Immaculate Crows were originally named and founded by Bruce Neilsen (lead guitar, songwriter) in late 1981. The original band members were Bruce, Mark Kassulke (rhythm guitar and harmonies), Brad Leaf-Milham (bass), Chris Allen (drums) and Hamish McKie (singer). Hamish and Mark Kassulke left and were replaced by David Page (vocals) and Mark Hocknell (guitar). David had been a teenage pop star for a brief time making appearances on shows such as Countdown and The Paul Hogan Show. He was the first Australian to be signed to the prestigious Tamla Motown label. His pop career ended once his voice broke. He joined The Immaculate Crows sometime in 1982.
The first recording was made on 27 June 1982. Two songs, ‘In The City’ and ‘Dingo’, were recorded. ‘In The City’ was inspired by Bruce’s visits to seedy nightclubs as a frustrated young man trying to meet someone to connect with. It is pretty much an indie-pop song. On 1 September 1982 The Immaculate Crows recorded ‘Psychedelic Girl’ and another version of ‘Dingo’. This was a 2 track recording done in the now defunct Basement Studio. ‘Dingo’ was inspired by the Azaria incident where it was finally considered during a coronial inquest that baby Azaria had been killed by a Dingo. This is possibly the most original Australian punk song done in this period as it starts off with a folk style harmonica, then a sinister riff being replicated by bass and guitars followed by an almost metal type riff and David’s amazing scream.
‘Psychedelic Girl’ was inspired by a night Bruce had with someone called Fiona who gave him two acid tabs. As a result they both ended up not being able to sleep and amused themselves doing simple things like tripping while walking through Toowong Cemetery, visiting a bisexual bi-polar ex-priest and finding new pleasures in looking at a Donna Summers poster. This was also one of the most original Garage songs of this era as it started off with a heavy bass/drum pattern which gave it a slightly Psychedelic feel combined with Bruce’s use of a flanger on his guitar part. A copy of this recording was provided to Brisbane Community Radio Station 4ZZZ and played heavily for a considerable period of time on a daily basis during which The Immaculate Crows played many 4ZZZ gigs and were told that they would be supporting big acts like Midnight Oil and The Allnighters. However, David left to be replaced by Hamish and then Chris left. David Page was possibly the first gay indigenous person to be a vocalist/front person for an Australian Alternative band. He was also the director of music for the Indigenous Bangarra Dance Theatre and was one of their integral members until his death in 2016.
The band struggled to replace Chris and in the process lost a lot of the momentum they had gained. Bruce wasn’t happy with the replacement (Neal) and left to form and name two other bands Insurrection and The Popes before reuniting briefly with The Immaculate Crows before they broke up in early 1985. The Popes only played once but it was at Brisbane’s biggest and most respected venue at the time (Festival Hall) in front of thousands of Catholic schoolgirls.
Before they broke up The Immaculate Crows had some free studio time with an audio engineering student and recorded ‘Family Life’ which was inspired by a domestic incident Bruce remembered from when he was young. It is basically a ‘New Wave’ style song featuring Hamish on vocals, Mark Hocknell, Brad, Bruce and Dave Taylor on drums who had come over from The Popes to join the Crows. This recording also had Tricia Bones from Trish and The Trash helping out on harmonies.
No songs were released commercially until 2019 when Bruce converted the Eighties recordings to digital and released them for streaming. He also reunited with former bandmate Mark Hocknell and for a brief period of time until February 2021 fifteen songs from this partnership were released which consisted of older songs that had never been recorded and completely new songs. Bruce wrote and arranged all songs and Mark produced and played on the initial tracks. Bruce also played on all tracks and Carolyn Neilsen recorded all vocals plus extra parts done by Bruce. Vocalists are locally sourced Brisbane musicians with varying degrees of recording and singing experience.
Since 2020 The Immaculate Crows has become a loose collective where Bruce writes, arranges and plays on all songs, Carolyn Neilsen produces all songs and a core group of singers and other musicians are drawn on when necessary. The core singers currently are Daphne Mae, Jessica Shipley, Ray Foai, Nicky Steel, K M Steele and Elena Skoko. Wayne Harvey is a new addition to guitar playing duties.
Song genres vary from Alternative to Psychedelic, Punk, Indie Pop, Rhythm and Blues to Country Folk and Alternative Country. Song themes vary from Youth Suicide, Poverty to Domestic Violence, Unrequited Love and Alienation, with most songs focussing on the human ability to understand deeply and connect with the problems we sometimes face.
Kagenstudios does all mastering.
Listeners and Journalists have said the music reminds them of artists as disparate as The Stone Roses, Public Image, Siousie and the Banshees, Patti Smith, Jefferson Airplane, Black Sabbath, Pink Floyd, Echo and the Bunnymen and Paul Kelly. All these artists are completely different to each other which shows really how unique The Immaculate Crows sound is.
Have you always been interested in music? What is your story
and how did you start making music? My father liked Jazz and I listened to his records and Dad practising on Clarinet and Chromatic Harmonica. I loved the Beatles and early Sixties Rhythm and Blues bands like Them, The Yardbirds and The Rolling Stones and started playing Blues Harp. I wrote Poetry for a number of years and eventually had Classical Guitar lessons until deciding to concentrate on Electric Guitar instead. I founded and named the original Immaculate Crows band in late 1981 and gradually became the principal songwriter and Lead Guitarist. We were getting heavy airplay on local Community Radio Station 4ZZZ and were about to support major bands like Midnight Oil when our drummer left. I wasn’t happy with his replacement and we lost momentum. I left to form two other bands ‘Insurrection’ and ‘The Popes’. The Popes only played once but at the biggest venue in Brisbane at the time called Festival Hall in front of thousands of Catholic schoolgirls. I had a brief reunion with some of the Immaculate Crows but the magic was no longer there and we fizzled out. I was disenchanted with bands and ceased performing in early 1985.
I reunited with former bandmate Mark Hocknell in 2019 and for a brief time we had a partnership where I wrote, arranged and played on all songs and Mark produced and played on the initial tracks and my wife Carolyn Neilsen recorded Vocalists and extra tracks I did and produced the final mix. Kagenmusic has been responsible for all mastering. Fifteen new releases came out of this union until Mark left in February 2021 to pursue his own recording. Songs released were and continue to be a mixture of first recorded versions of songs I performed and wrote in the past plus completely new songs. Since Mark left Carolyn now fully produces all releases of songs that I write and arrange and Kagenmusic still does all Mastering.
What are you working on now? Any future releases we can look
forward to? I am currently working on five different songs; ‘I Get You’ which is sort of a jazzy Romantic ballad, ‘My Sister and Me’ which is an Alternative Country song featuring Piano Accordion, ‘Same Old Blues’ which is a Ma Rainey like blues, ‘Two Time Loser’ which is a Blues Ballad and ‘Torn In Two’ which is a guitar driven New Wave song I wrote and performed in 1984. Most of the releases to date have been varying styles of Alternative and I felt it was time to try some different genres although anything I record ultimately will have a unique flavour.
What Is Your Ultimate Goal In The Music Industry? I don’t ask for much apart from ultimately getting a Wikipedia mention, featured in Guitar Player and prominent music mags such as Rolling Stone and Pitchfork. At least for starters! Lol!
What Has Been The Biggest Challenge In Your Career Thus Far? Getting my name out there after such a huge hiatus from making music.
How do you go about writing a song? Do you have a melody in
your head and then write the other music for it or what’s Your typical
songwriting process? I don’t have a fixed process for writing songs. Sometimes I write lyrics and then find Chords on the guitar that suit them. Sometimes I like a Chord Progression and find lyrics that suit it. Sometimes I have a melody in my head and try to find lyrics for it.
How do you feel the Internet has impacted the music business? So many Independent Artists can do Home Recording now and have more creative control over what they are doing rather than having a Record Company appointing a Producer and trying to mould the Artist into something they aren’t
List some famous musicians currently on your playlist? Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix, Gary Moore, Motorhead, B52s, Ramones, The Beatles, Black Sabbath, Pink Floyd, Santana, Jefferson Airplane, Grateful Dead, The Cure, Jeff Beck, Patti Smith, P J Harvey, Sonic Youth, Johnny Thunders, Buzzcocks, The Specials, Television, Madness, Hawkwind, The Byrds, 10000 Maniacs
What Did You Do Before You Started Making Music? Wrote Poetry, Was studying to be a Psychologist, Worked in a soul destroying job in The Public Service, Was a Junior Football Coach for ten years, Got a Brown Belt in Wing Chun Kung Fu
Would you have any advice for young people wanting to follow
in your footsteps? Don’t give up on your dreams! Believe in yourself and do what it takes to pursue your love of making and playing music without losing your humanity in the process. Stay physically and mentally strong as you need to be in the best shape you can be to enjoy the challenges of music making.
If you could change anything about the music industry, what would it be? That is a difficult one! Removing some of the leeches and scammers that prey on Independent Musicians would be a good start. It is a shame that there isn’t some sort of Universal Consumer Protection body that weeds out the ‘bad actors’ in the so called Music Promotion Industry that are happy to drain limited finances from aspiring Artists and give little or nothing in return.
How do you feel about originality? When I listen to other Music Artists I am particularly drawn to ones who have a unique sound and make an emotional connection to me. I appreciate Musicians who were pioneers in their time. I am not Genre driven so am able to listen to many different Artists across diverse Genres but am not particularly drawn or influenced by any one Artist which enables me to keep my own music as fresh and original as possible. My music definitely has Retro elements but ultimately is hard to categorize.
Is there anything else we should know about you? or Something
that you would like to add? Yes, there are virtually no Songwriters on this planet that write songs as strong and unique as mine. I am also a pretty good guitarist and modest too. Lol!
Links to where your music can be purchased