The West

Ross Knight, front, and the Cosmic Psychos. Picture: Supplied

Cosmic Psychos frontman Ross Knight credits his old mate and Pearl Jam frontman Eddie Vedder for getting the Melbourne yob rockers on this year's Big Day Out bill.

"Honestly, it's probably the only reason we got the gig," Knight laughs over the phone from his cattle farm and vineyard in Mia Mia, near Bendigo in central Victoria.

"Ed might've gone 'Look, we'll come down there if you get that useless p.... off his farm and on stage with us'."

Knight will also reconnect with another Seattle band, Mudhoney, who are also on the tour nicknamed the Big Day Off because of the relatively relaxed run of six gigs in 17 days. "That'll be an absolute bludge," says the singer of Cosmic Psycho classics, such as Dead Roo, Thank Your Mother for the Rabbits and Nice Day to Go to the Pub.

Knight reckons he's got some work for Vedder in between Big Days Out.

"I'll put him to work. I don't want him getting lazy. I want him to keep his hands tough," he jokes. "Put him with a shovel first, then he can progress to a tractor. We all start at the bottom, no matter who you are."

Cosmic Psychos started in 1985, when Knight's high school band Rancid Spam merged with guitarist Peter Jones and drummer Bill Walsh's group Spring Plains.

Soon the larrikin bassist took on vocal duties and Spring Plains became the no-nonsense, beer-swilling pub punks with the simple approach.

"We don't tune guitars, we don't change strings," Knight explains. "We get to the venue and go, 'Is the beer cold? Where is it?' and everything else just takes care of itself."

Despite modest intentions, the Psychos built a fan base in Australia, playing the very first Big Day Out in 1992 plus the national 1993 and 1995 editions.

More notably, and as documented in the recent rockumentary Blokes You Can Trust, the band influenced the Seattle grunge scene.

This bemuses Knight, who claims he doesn't class himself as a musician but has to take the word of the big names praising Cosmic Psychos in the doco, including Vedder plus members of Mudhoney, the Melvins and L7.

"I think we influenced (Seattle bands) how to act like bloody clowns at parties," he says. "You listen to Nevermind, then you listen to a Cosmic Psychos record, there's quite a lot of difference between them, apart from the 24 million sales."

Speaking of Nevermind, Butch Vig produced that seminal album immediately before working on the Cosmic Psychos' third album, Blokes You Can Trust.

Knight says his band used to play Nirvana's debut album Bleach before their shows and were "itching" to hear the follow-up while working with Vig.

"We were given a demo cassette of what they were doing . . . so we knew a few of the songs already," he says. "But when Butch played that stuff, I went 'Jesus, that could do anything' - and it did."

Cosmic Psychos were probably too rough, too rude and too irreverent to cross over to the mainstream, but that never bothered Knight.

"I never would have lasted because I'm a normal bloke, I just like doing normal bloke things," he says.

"There's a lot of bands we've known along the way that just aren't around anymore because they had their time in the sun and then they burnt out.

"They had other people telling them what to do," Knight adds, "whereas we're lucky enough that people will tell us off, but they won't tell us what to do."

Not that Cosmic Psychos got through their heyday unscathed, with Knight falling out with Walsh over real or perceived financial abnormalities.

"At the end of the day it was just money," says Knight, who suggests earnings from their lengthy international tours occasionally didn't quite add up.

The documentary details some money issues closer to home. Knight has separated from his wife, and is unsure whether he will be able to keep his farm.

"I'm out panning for gold," he jokes. "I owe more money than the American government and I can't print money. I don't know where I'll be in five years, but I'm back home for now."

And with the Cosmic Psychos - bassist John McKeering and drummer Dean Muller now complete the trio - completing another enjoyable US tour last year and the Big Day Out to come, Knight reckons an eighth studio album isn't out of the question.

"I'm sitting on the tractor or the 'dozer every day and I'm thinking of all these wonderful songs, then I get home and forget about them," he says.

"That's usually a sign for me that it's time to do another album. It won't be any different to the rest, so it'll be easy to do. It'll keep the beer flowing."

The West Australian

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