Feature: The Dead Salesmen


The Dead Salesmen are one of our country’s musical treasures. The revered Ballarat group deliver profoundly affecting songs; articulating the deepest of sorrows while offering a life-affirming sincerity through shimmering, stirring melodies. In a special partnership with Heart of the Rat Records, The Dead Salesmen’s brilliant 1998 album, Amen, will be reissued on limited edition deluxe vinyl. What’s equally exciting for devoted followers is the band will perform together for the first time in 13 years to launch this special vinyl reissue of Amen.

“Sonically, it’s definitely the best album we ever produced,” says bassist Patrick Bath, “and thankfully it was recorded on big two-inch tape, so it’s got a very nice, warm analogue feel, which lends itself very excellently to being on vinyl.”

For Bath, The Dead Salesmen’s three albums – Jealousy (1993), Bluestoned (1995) and Amen (1998) – capture three distinct periods in the band’s existence. “The first one was very much a youthful album; it’s a lot faster and it’s got a lot of exuberance and energy about it,” he considers. “The middle album is our dark period and that’s where we’re getting a little bit grungier… The third album has a real beauty to it… There’s a maturity and intelligence to the lyrics.”

Although the bulk of Amen will be performed at the launch, the band will also play numbers from Jealousy, Bluestoned, and possibly some off their EPs. Bath has been making albums since he was 16, but knew very quickly that The Dead Salesmen represented something he wanted to be a part of.

“When the Duo [singer Justin ‘Hap’ Hayward and guitarist Justin Ryda] got together and wanted to make their first recording, I was helping to produce and we made a tape and sold it ourselves at record shops,” he relates. “I had my own funk band… [But] I was so immensely impressed with the songs that the Dead Salesmen duo were coming out with that I was extremely happy to let go of that band and become a member of The Dead Salesmen.”

Julitha Ryan – who joined the band for the recording of Amen and their Only Fire EP – will be on stage with Bath, Haywood, Ryda and drummer Len Hyatt for the vinyl launch. Despite playing their last show together in March 2002, they’re all closer than ever. “We played very solidly for around ten years and we were living in each other’s pockets,” Bath recalls. “I dearly love all the members of the band.”

Across their career, The Dead Salesmen always maintained their integrity, sincerity and artistic ideals. “When you’re in a band, it’s like you against the world,” says Bath. “At the time we were together, we really believed – and still do – that we were something really genuinely special. So that in itself led to us wanting to maintain this integrity and I even think when we finally split up, it was partially that if we can’t be as great as we possibly can be… if we can’t live up to our own ideals then we didn’t want to do it anymore.”

The special reissue of Amen on deluxe vinyl is selling well, so Bath hopes to, ultimately, reissue all their albums on vinyl. “That would be my dream and then launch all of them,” he enthuses. “There is a bunch of songs we wrote that never ended up on an album and I would love it if we actually got together to record those last few songs. It would be a question of us all being able to find the time and being able to really commit to doing it with the same authenticity that we did everything else with, so as long as we felt we were in a position to do that, I think we could possibly do it.”

Christine Lan