Ex-red Wiggle Murray Cook has injected his creative energy into The Soul Movers

WHEN Murray Cook hung up his red skivvy and said goodbye to life in The Wiggles in 2012, he felt a little lost.

Entertaining packed houses of kids, shaking his index fingers and singing songs like Hot Potato and Fruit Salad had become second nature after 21 years.

In time Cook, who remains a Wiggles shareholder, began to explore other adult musical projects. Eventually it led him to joining the relaunched Sydney soul-rock band The Soul Movers, who were originally founded by Radio Birdman guitarist Deniz Tek in 2006.

The Soul Movers, who were led by Tek and his then girlfriend Lizzie Mack, released the album On The Inside in 2009 before Radio Birdman took priority and the band dissolved.

“I was kind of feeling my way for a few years, I guess,” Cook tells Weekender of his music career after The Wiggles.

The Soul Movers - Fool I Am

“It took a while to get over not touring all the time and getting used to normal life. But it was also great as it gave me the opportunity to play in lots of different things with different people and work out where I wanted to go.”

It was then that Cook bumped into Mack and she handed him a copy of On The Inside. Cook was instantly a fan.

“I got together with Lizzie and wrote a whole bunch of songs and decided that this was my main creative outlet and I’d concentrate on it for a while.”

The result was Testify, an album of energetic blues, soul and rock. Joining Cook and Mack in the five-piece are Radio Birdman keyboardist Pip Hoyle and Andy Newman (bass) and Darren Ryan (drums).

Cook called in a few favours from his Wiggles buddies in the making of Testify. The album was recorded at The Wiggles’ Hot Potato Studios in north-west Sydney and ex-purple Wiggle Jeff Fatt played keys when Hoyle was unavailable.

Tek also made an appearance on guitar and former Go-Betweens violinist Amanda Brown featured on a track.

Having an ex-Wiggle play alongside a member of Radio Birdman, one of Australia’s most iconic and celebrated punk bands has raised eyebrows. However, the 57-year-old Cook doesn’t find it surprising. 

“I’m a big fan of music in general and go to see lots of bands,” he says. “I actually know a lot of people in big rock bands, so to me in doesn’t seem unusual at all.

I love it as much as playing to 6000 people at Madison Square Garden.

Murray Cook

“But if you only know me from The Wiggles it does seem a bit odd. We move in those circles and have similar backgrounds in many ways coming from playing in bands.”

Cook, who played in pub rock band Bang Shang a Lang before The Wiggles, first became enamoured with soul music in the ‘80s when he bought a box set of R’n’B and soul from 1947 to 1974.

However, it wasn’t until The Soul Movers that he’s been free to explore the genre’s smooth and funky style in his songwriting.

“Musically with the Wiggles we did different styles of music. With kids you’re not as tied to genres in some respects,” Cook says.

“But I do enjoy the freedom of getting to play in smaller venues and talk to people after the gig, it’s really nice. People are often surprised when they see me at these shows and ask ‘what are you doing here, why you playing these little gigs’?

“But I love it as much as playing to 6000 people at Madison Square Garden.”

Outside of The Soul Movers, Cook has created a stir online in recent months for his energetic performance in DZ Deathrays’ music video for their song Like People.

DZ Deathrays - Like People

In the video Cook starts out as a cranky old man in a public toilet before he becomes possessed by his former Wiggles persona. After dancing himself into a lather he passes his energy to the DZ Deathrays.

“It was pretty tiring as I’m in every shot and it was basically 10 hours of dancing and jumping around,” Cook says. “In the past I was quite used to it, but I haven’t done it in a few years. I could hardly walk the next day.”

The Soul Movers play at the Stag and Hunter Hotel on Saturday and the Grand Junction Hotel on Sunday.