It was always gonna be guitar for Dai Pritchard, from the moment he sat in the audience, aged 15, back in September 1977, seeing Alice Cooper in Festival Hall in Melbourne. For all the theatrics coming from the charismatic frontman, Pritchard was mesmerised by the two guitarists behind him, churning out power chords and searing licks like there was no tomorrow. That night, Dai Pritchard thought, “That’s what I want to do!”
Over the next 30 years, Pritchard took every opportunity to do just that, though anyone who saw his very first gig, when he relocated from Melbourne to Sydney in the early 80s, might not have realised the potential of the Young Turk up on that stage.
“My first gig was at Brighton-Le-Sands where the Novotel now stands – then it was called Miller’s – Sunday afternoon. I was in a punk rock band called The Vents, and it was tragic! But it was fun!! Loud and fuzzy – cranky boys with guitars – we all got pissed and fell over!”
Anyone who’s seen Pritchard play will know that, apart from the getting pissed and falling over, for him, playing is still fun – glorious, exhilarating, unadulterated fun. Only these days, he brings an incredible arsenal of technical expertise, an expertise broad enough to allow him to slot in easily behind anyone that needs a slice of his power, versatility and finesse.
His apprenticeship through the ‘80s – the decade that forgot the guitar – included a brief stint with His Majesty, a gloriously overblown incarnation of the brothers Burgess, bass player Denny and drummer Colin, who’d been in The Throb and The Masters Apprentices respectively, and then, in 1988, his “serious” original band, Der Straza, fronted by singer Stephanie Howell, with whom he recorded two singles, before Howell was cajoled into a solo career.
Through the 90s and into the noughties, Pritchard gradually found himself the guitarist of choice by some pretty big – and diverse – names, among them Jimmy Barnes, Glen Shorrock of LRB, Doug Parkinson and even Olivia Newton-John. But it was his eight years playing with the late, great Billy Thorpe that consolidated his reputation as a hard- working power player, an association that took him around the country not only with Thorpe but as part of the incredibly successful Long Way To The Top tours in 2002/3, which also saw him play with Marcia Hines.
After that came stints with Nancy Kiel Band, Chris E. Thomas, Steve Flack’s Guitar Heroes and even residencies as a solo acoustic artist. But all through those years, he was secretly wishing to play in one band above all others, dropping seriously heavy hints every chance he could to drummer Paul DeMarco, with whom he played in Thorpie’s band when DeMarco’s other band weren’t touring. That other band? Rose Tattoo.
In July 2005, Pritchard’s dream finally came true, though, sadly, for all the wrong reasons. Slide guitarist and founding member Pete Wells had been diagnosed with prostate cancer and his chemotherapy was making it increasingly difficult for him to accommodate the rigours of touring, and there was a 30-date European tour locked in. With two weeks notice, and the endorsement of Wells himself, Dai Pritchard became a fulltime member of Rose Tattoo, proudly blazing his own chops into their musical legacy on their latest album, Blood Brothers.
“This album is our statement,” Anderson explains. “As Pete said before he passed away, ‘for all them f*ckers that want us to shrivel up and die and go away – f*ck ‘em!’ So we’re still out there doin’ it. So we decided to start from scratch and write a completely new album because as painful as it still is, this is a new band. ‘New band’ as in we now have a new permanent player come in to play slide in Dai, and I remember when I spoke to Peter about it, he said, ‘The good thing about Dai is that he doesn’t play anything like me.’”
For a young gun who only ever wanted to be a guitar player, life doesn’t get any better.