Surfbeat: The guitarist with the ocean eyes

Surfbeat: The guitarist with the ocean eyes

The Cruel Sea were an Aussie band that captivated audiences around Australia with a mix of funky surf guitar sounds and bass driven grooves. While Tex Perkins stole much of the limelight as lead signer, it was the guitars standing behind him that provided the groove and drive. James Cruickshank was lead guitarist with The Cruel Sea. This is an excerpt from an interview I did with him just on 25 years ago when the band were at their peak.

Cruickshank: I lived in Melbourne and I always had a thing with the ocean so I sailed a lot until I was ten on Port Phillip Bay and then moved to Sydney to a place called Stanwell Park which had surf. I got a foamy, a little Midget Farrelly one and then I started riding a kneeboard for a while then when I was 16 I knicked off from home and went up to the Gold Coast and stayed up there for four years and just generally hung out. I was a builders labourer and just went surfing all of the time. It was just in that period of your life that I’m sure everyone knows where you just dream about surfing and you have nightmares about, how when you were young and you just go ‘imagine how fucked it would be if you couldn’t go surfing all of the time.’

I’m a goofy footer so I really like places like Kirra which can be a lot of fun because people see you on their backhand and just go ‘see ya’ but I loved Currumbin before they built the harbour there. It was a beautiful long wall and you’d flick off because your legs would be so tired and it was just great for big round house cutbacks and re-entries and stuff.

I grew up listening to Daddy Cool, Black Sabbath, Led Zepplin, The Doors. I guess that I look to the older music more then the new stuff. I don’t look to U2’s new record to see where I am going to go, I might buy a Billy Johnson record or something like that cause just to hear the spirit of people that’s what I listen to. I listen to heart and feel. There is a real pure spirit and feel to just a microphone and acoustic guitar and voice and being able to get intensity out of just that because then when you start to amplify it and put it under lights then it just gets better. I’m a big fan of rhythm and space. To me it is just as important where you don’t play as it is when you do play.

To me surfing is just going away with your mates up the coast, smoking a bit of pot and just doing it for the love of it, the love of being in the water and checking out your mates. It’s the one thing I love about Australia. I was in Biarritz recently and they have got great beach breaks around Hossegor and stuff like that but the French people its just not in their blood, you see it in the eyes, the ocean eyes.

It’s a really strange thing, a really unique thing to Australia I guess.

Written by John Foss