Music / Interview

Conversation Corner: Push Push vocalist Mikey Havoc

This month we chat to Push Push vocalist Mikey Havoc about juggling various roles in the music industry ahead of his KISS support slot

If you think back to 1991, you’re sure to remember a bunch of Kiwi rockers called Push Push and their huge single ‘Trippin”. Spending six consecutive weeks at number one of the Kiwi charts, and even making it’s way to the Australian airwaves, the single made Push Push a household name.

Talem from their debut album A Trillion Shades of Happy which they released the following year, the band were on a roll. Support slots for the likes of AC/DC and Def Leppard soon followed, as did a couple of RIANZ awards. But before the decade was out, Push Push had called it quits.

25 years later, and 2017 saw Push Push return to the studio to finally record their long-awaited follow-up and reignite their musical journey.

Now in 2019, Push Push are set to support rock titans KISS on their farewell tour of New Zealand. We sat down with vocalist Mikey Havoc to hear what he’s been up to for the past couple of decades and to see how the band is going.

You’ve worn many different hats around the music and media industries. Can you tell us a bit about that

Developing an obsession with music at school led to following bands, which led to starting our own. It was so much fun. We wanted to see if there was any chance it might go further and we could gig and record and tour.

My first job out of school was at a record shop and building the band while working somewhere that sold music ticked a lot of boxes when you’re 18 and 19 years old. The hard slog and determination paid off, and I left retail to become a full-time lead singer of a band. Push Push had all kinds of exciting success for a few years including working with some of our heroes and breaking new ground in the industry as well. Bloody good times.

When the band and I parted ways, I started sniffing around radio, which I originally hated until I found bFM. Turns out radio is utterly fantastic and has been a massive chunk of my life ever since.

At that time, I played in a few other bands and was getting DJ gigs at the odd bar. My musical taste had expanded out from just rock, and I was getting deep into a dance music explosion which led to an ongoing side career in club and party djing. Turns out that playing great tunes to people is a lot of fun, so I’m still doing lots of that.

A year or two later, some friends and I opened a bar in Auckland called Squid. We created a bar for late-night shenanigans upstairs and downstairs was a live music venue. For a good five years, it was the best bar in the world with the best punters and played host to so many amazing bands, DJs, and performers during its time that I find I’m still very proud of it.

What was happening on my radio show felt like it needed to expand, so a nervous but successful approach to TVNZ was made to create a TV show with a similar vibe. That ended up being better than I ever expected and for seven years I was lucky enough to make television by asking “what sort of television shall we make today?” which in New Zealand is very very rare.

Every single day I am grateful for the music and the radio and the tv and everything else I have been able to be a part of as a creator, performer, and broadcaster. I also think what an awesome period in history for music and culture and life I have been lucky enough to be an integral part of.

I’m an all-round family entertainer.

With all these different roles, what are your tips and tricks to keeping a good work-life balance and keeping all your passions feeling fresh?

The work-life balance thing I’m not sure I’m that good at, but I have become very good at keeping myself busy with stuff that I love or am fascinated by. Very seldom have I found myself working and feeling like I’m just slogging it out waiting for home time. That makes things a bit easier because I am kind of lazy and I do like the thrill of just winging things as well.

The passion thing is easy because the world is so exciting and interesting. It can be so surprising and unpredictable. As humans we can sometimes forget just how utterly phenomenal it is that we even exist.

It’s been nearly three decades since Push Push broke onto the Aus and NZ charts with ‘Trippin’’ – all this time on, how do you look back on that experience?

As a great great time in my life. We worked really hard and it definitely had its shit moments but we had so much fun, hanging out, being in a band, touring, writing and recording. It’s a very deep bond you form and the music means you can revisit those feelings whenever you want . It took me a long time to be able to look back objectively, but when I do, it’s humbling and makes me very proud

After a pretty solid break you got the band back together in 2017. Tell us about the last few years and what you’ve learnt or experienced since starting up again?

There was a period there where we weren’t all in the same room together for 20 years! When we did finally get together for a jam, for old times sake, it was so much fun and a huge reminder of what our lives were all about during the heyday. It’s the best way of feeling 20 years old again.

The other thing I’ve learned since then is how much the band meant to other people during that time. It’s easy to focus on yourselves, but I’ve come to understand that for many people Push Push marks a time, or represents certain moments, in their lives that they will never forget. Being the soundtrack of a pivotal moment in someone’s life is very cool and very flattering

Push Push are preparing to support Kiss at their Spark Arena show. How are you feeling heading into it?
Andrew McManus, the promoter, was here for the We Are One charity show in Christchurch and asked around during the concert who a good local support might be for Kiss in Auckland. Our name came up and I got a call asking “What’s the band up to and were we keen to open for Kiss in December?” I think one of the very first songs we ever worked out how to play was a Kiss song. The answer was Yes, obviously.

It’s awesome to be asked to be part of their final tour ever and we are making sure that we get there on the day ready to do what we were/are known for – a nice big noisy show. We are ready to rumble.

You’ve previously performed with the likes of AC/DC, Def Leppard, Alice Cooper. What are some lessons or tips you’ve learned from sharing stages with acts of that calibre?
That it’s their stage, their show, their punters, and if you respect that you’re pretty sweet. It’s a good thing to respect your bandmates and be eternally grateful to your crew who work so hard and have your back. The punters have paid to see you do what you’re doing, don’t give them any less than your best. Also maybe that playing “The Hits” isn’t a bad thing. They are hits for a reason.

Tell us about your new EP. What was it like getting back into the studio and how much has changed since you recorded your last album?

Our album A Trillion Shades Of Happy was made when the tracks were still being recorded onto 2-inch magnetic tape. I think Protools was just arriving.

Recording Talk2Me was a whole different bucket of balls. Half the band were living in Australia by then, so we actually were shooting parts back and forth between countries until the very final tweaks which we did here. So our studio process was different but it was still us playing together, and that part felt a lot like the ‘old’ days. Exciting and inspiring. The songs were actually written for our second album that was never made, so the lyrics are from the 22-23-year-old me. I was surprised how relevant they still sounded and how happy we were to release them so many years later. The songs sounded fresh and hadn’t aged badly at all. Very pleasing.

Recording is different. Promotion is different. Videos are different. People’s listening habits are different. It was good for us to adapt and get our heads around all those parts of the process too.

I’m not the most technical of the group but what I do find inspiring about recording and the tech around it now is what tools are readily available to recreate the sound you have in your head almost perfectly. Music is so cool.

Push Push will support Kiss when they farewell New Zealand fans at Spark Arena on Tuesday 3 December. Tickets are on sale via Ticketmaster.co.nz.

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