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Stuart MacLeod of Eskimo Joe: “The day we stop enjoying ourselves is the day we don’t make any more music”

Eskimo Joe
(Image credit: Jarrad Seng)

To say Eskimo Joe are a staple in Australian music would be like saying bacon comes from a pig. With a fresh collection of some of their most prevailing songs, The World Repeats Itself Somehow, the band haven’t just dropped a “greatest hits” album, they’ve taken the time to cultivate an anthology of music that serves as a reminder of their sonic capabilities, and the persuasive power their music has to draw in the masses. The choices made for the release makes it something cathartic for the legendary WA rockers, and provides their fans an opportunity to sink their teeth into some rose-tinted gold.

Scoring accolades upon accolades, Eskimo Joe have always hit top marks with their music. With their stellar single ‘Black Fingernails, Red Wine’ nestled firmly in the ARIA Top 50 chart for 62 weeks, and the Inshalla cut ‘Foreign Land’ winning APRA Awards for Most Played Rock Song On Australian Radio and Best Rock Song Of 2010 – to mention just a few of their seemingly unlimited trophies – Eskimo Joe, as approved by their peers and listeners, know how to write good music. 

2020 saw the release of ‘Say Something’, Eskimo Joe’s first taste of new music in eight years. The riveting and electric song saw the band refreshed, emerging from the shadows with a track that couldn’t have been timelier, and proved another moment in the band’s 30-plus years where a buzz had been created – one that will likely be celebrated and welcomed again in the future. The world repeats itself, indeed.


What’s it been like going through the catalogue and charting 23 years of creative growth? 
It’s been a really fun process. We’d re-released all of our older records as anniversary editions, and that was a really fun process, going through all those b-sides. But then having to pick a single collection of songs to represent our entire career… It was actually quite a challenge! Because y’know, we’ve all got our personal favourites, but realistically, this record is about what other people want to hear.

When you have all the records stacked up like that, do you see how much you’ve grown as a guitarist, and all the new skills you’d picked up throughout the years? 
For sure, yeah. It’s interesting – I’ve always seen myself more as a songwriter, rather than a guitarist, but I guess as you create more music and you play more live, you start to understand the instrument a lot better. It starts to feel more natural, y’know? You become more of a guitarist as you play more guitar. I know that’s a pretty obvious statement, but I don’t know… It’s a mindset. 

I think it really is a mindset – some days you feel it, and some days you don’t. But those those nights where you just get onstage and the adrenaline flows through you, it’s… It’s like you’re driving the best car you’ve ever driven. It’s so seamless and effortless, and it feels amazing. Those are the great moments.

As a guitarist, do you aim to increase your skillset, or push yourself further out of your comfort zone with each new release? 
No. I’m not a very technical guitarist – I firmly believe that the song tells you what to play, and you can’t tell the song what you’re going to play. Sometimes you’ll create a little masterpiece of your own and show it to the other guys, and they’ll go, “That’s f***ing awesome, but it’s not right.” And you’re like, “Yeah, that’s fair enough.” But for me, how you express those notes as a guitarist, that’s the key. It’s not about fitting in as many as I can, or trying to find a new technique or effect to squeeze in. It’s about saying, “Okay, what’s the best way to showcase this melody, or this part, or this section?” 

For example, the last record we did [Wastelands], there wasn’t a lot of guitar on it. We just went synth crazy, and there’s only one guitar track that was actually plugged into an amp – the rest was just DI and effects and weird synths. So it’s been an interesting journey with the guitar, but it’s my first love, and I’ll always come back to it. I do love those moments where, y’know, you maybe haven’t picked up the guitar for a few weeks, but then you grab it and all of a sudden it feels like you’ve just got energy surging through your fingers, into the fretboard.

I was kind of surprised to see that there aren’t any songs from Wastelands on this release. Why is that? 
We’re a very nostalgic band at this point in our career, and y’know, when we were thinking about the songs people wanted to hear, those just weren’t the ones we thought about. There’s a couple of songs on Wastelands I would have loved to put on – like, ‘Last Beacon Light’ is one of my favourite Eskimo Joe tracks of all time, but it’s not what everyone else wants to hear. They want to hear the ones they grew up with, and the ones they’ve been seeing like for the past 24 years – so that’s what we put on there. I honestly love that record, but a lot of people didn’t gel with it. That’s the honest truth.

So now that you’ve done this epic capstone release, what’s next for Eskimo Joe? Has the idea of a seventh album come up yet? 
Not a seventh album, but we’re still keen on making music. We had two singles come over the last year or so, and we’re hoping to write another one soon. We’ll just keep trickling songs out. We’re enjoying that method – and that’s all that matters, really. The day we stop enjoying ourselves is the day we don’t make any more music. And in the meantime, we’ve got a national tour coming up – that’s really exciting for us, because it’s been about three, almost four years in the making. To be able to finally get on a stage and play these songs, it’s going to be a real buzz.

What can we expect to see you shredding out on for that run? 
I am a creature of habit, I still love the Tele. it’s been a workhorse since... Well, almost day one! I think the first guitar we played was a Gibson Nighthawk, and then I had an Ovation stereo output guitar, and then I think it was right before we did the first EP [Sweater] I bought a Tele, and I’ve been on Teles ever since. But surprisingly enough, my go-to at the moment is a Yamaha, the 335 copy. It’s unbelievable. You’ve got your push‑pull knobs for switching between the humbucker and single-coils, it’s super versatile, the neck is amazing... Yeah, I love it!

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