Lost Newcastle - Carol Duncan
Ben Gillies - Silverchair/Bento 2012

Ben Gillies - Silverchair/Bento 2012

January 10, 2018
Silverchair have been one of Australia's most successful bands for the last 20 years. Drummer Ben Gillies joined Carol Duncan in the studio for a chat about his solo project - Bento, and why he continues to call Newcastle home.
Daniel Johns, Chris Joannou and Ben Gillies were just kids doing work experience at a Newcastle radio station when I first met them nearly 20 years ago. Those three boys have gone on to become strong and confident men and wonderful musicians - collectively and individually. I suspect the whole town is pretty proud of them.
In 2012, the band have celebrated 20 years of Australian and international success, 21 ARIA awards from 49 nominations, 6 APRA awards, and all five of their studio albums have reached number one of the Australian album charts.
Over the last few years the three members of the band have also gone out to do their own musical projects and drummer, Ben Gillies, came into the studios to talk about life, music, growing up in public, and taking the leap into solo performance.
What was it like, being a kid, being thrust into that level of media interest and intrusion? "We were pretty unaware. Blissfully unaware. We were too worried about playing our music and running around and going to diners and just being teenage boys. We had good people around us, so we were fairly sheltered."
The members of Silverchair studied at Newcastle High School when Peter McNair was principal. "He was a really good school principal. I remember a few times, the three of us would rock up to his office - in a good way, we weren't in trouble - but we had these grand ideas of putting concerts on at the school and we'd sell him on why we had to do it and how we could make it happen. He was really accommodating. I'm pretty sure he wasn't supposed to do some things he let us get away with. He let us put on concerts, we'd rehearse in the music room and do all kinds of stuff."
It's often suggested that parents are the biggest obstacle to their children pursuing their dreams. Parents want their children to be secure, to 'have a good job', so convincing your parents you want to be a rock star, and then actually pulling it off, must be quite a coup! "We were young enough to just go with it. We were still just teenages running around so we were living in the moment. But we were setting ourselves up for a long-term career, we weren't thinking 'let's just go out and milk this for all its worth and then it's all over'. We were conscious of making long term things. And our parents were as well, all the people around us. We were very lucky."
Ben Gillies late 2012 released his first Bento album, launched with the single Diamond Days and a fabulous video featuring a very interesting young actor. "He's a family friend of the producer. We did a bit of casting to have an l a few different possibilities but, the producer just said I know the young boy to do it. He gets right into character. His whole family really helped out, they were really accommodating. He's just seven."
"It was a two day shoot, we did his stuff first then we did the performance stuff with me. He rocked out, there were a few moments he was on the performance stage and Holly, the producer, came up and said he'd been asking, "Why is it all about Ben today, it feel like this music video is all about Ben today. Why isn't it about me as much today!"
Bento isn't Ben's first solo effort outside Silverchair, he's previously released music with Tambalane, "Tambalane was a stepping stone really. Kind of like a summer fling. I think I really wanted to write with another person, because I hadn't had that responsibility of writing on my own."
" Outside Silverchair there isn't the infrastructure and the big budgets and all that. Doing stuff independently, it's almost a lot more pressure on the songwriter. Everything is you, there's no one else to take the load a bit. For me to do something outside of that with Tambalane was that step to get to Bento, to give me the confidence to do my own thing."
"It's scary as hell but I think it's one of those things where I don't want to be a old man, sitting in a pub somewhere drinking a beer thinking, 'Why didn't I give that a crack back when I had the chance."
"The thing with Silverchair as well is because it is such a big beast, and it's great, I love that side of what I do, but it does take up a lot of energy and time. So I've never really had enough drive to do my own thing. Silverchair going into indefinite hibernation has just given me the time and the freedom to be able to do it. Now I have that confidence to think, 'Bugger it, I'm going to do my own thing'. The confidence, the motivation, the time, the effort, it was the right time."
"You do have to have that understanding that people are subjective. Everyone in the world isn't going to love your music. But you still want it to be received positively. The reaction has been amazing. It is you putting your neck out there. It's almost like you're standing in front of people, the full monty saying, 'Here I am, check it out. Here it is, I can't change it, and it is what it is."
So. Silverchair's 'indefinite hibernation'. What gives?
"Even if you do work with someone for 20 years, and you go to work from 9-5, you still have some time to yourself, and can do other things. It kind of feels like a business relationship with a marriage on top of it. You spend so much time with those people, not just the guys in the band, but management and crew. All these other things can come into it."
"I think the reason Silverchair has had such good longevity is because we've been able to recognise when we all need to take a breather and go and do other things. The funny thing is, we've done it three or four times and every single time people say, 'What's happening, where you are going?'. We've done this before, and it's nothing new."
"There's nothing worse than breaking up and deciding that all we really needed was time, then coming back to it and saying we're reforming. It's much better to say we're taking a breather and you come back and nothing's changed. We don't want to do a (John) Farnham 'final tour' several times. That's a genius move though, you've gotta admit."
And on to Bento and selecting musicians to work on his new baby.
"We were in the studio in Sydney and the producer and I would clunk away on different instruments. We'd just get on the phone, if we were working on something and thought it's needed a nice piano part or whatever it was we'd call friends and it was whoever was close by. Whoever was within 10 minutes of the studio, they would come in. Out of that we actually got three guys who became pretty stable throughout the record. And they helped mesh the whole thing together."
"It is a new project and I can't assume that Silverchair fans are automatically going to come to Bento. I just have to get beyond that and make other people aware of it. This is the first step in many, I have to keep making music and getting it out there. They way the music industry is these day, you really have to have that social media stuff in people's faces. And videos and photos. I love that stuff. It's so much fun. As long as you make it fun, I think people can connect to that and feel like they can have involvement and see behind the scenes."
"I've always said creativity breeds creativity. The more you do it, the more ideas you get, and the more it snowballs. I've already got 20 songs ready for another record and I keep calling my manager and saying 'I've got this whole new concept for another record and it's going to be great and we can do this...' and she just laughs and says, 'OK, just slow down!"
Success on the scale of that enjoyed by Silverchair over the last 20 years should mean that Ben Gillies could choose to live anywhere in the world, yet he remains based in Newcastle (as Daniel Johns often does, too).
" I think Novocastrians all know it's a pretty special place. I've had some Sydney friends who have moved here purely out of necessity and after six months, they'll be like, 'I had no idea how good this place is!' and I say, 'What do you think I tell all my friends?!'. Its feels like (Newcastle) it's connected enough to the world, it's two hours to Sydney but it's just out of the way enough that it's quiet and you can relax."
Will Ben Gillies be delivering another Bento album?
"I think it will go off on a different tangent. It will still Bento, Bento is my baby. It will be a bento box but different, it might not be sushi, it might be a tuna sandwich!"
Jeff Martin - The Tea Party/The Armada 2011

Jeff Martin - The Tea Party/The Armada 2011

January 10, 2018

Jeff Martin and band – The Armada
Social media makes the world smaller.  And it makes my life richer.  Because I have conversations (sometimes only in 140 characters!) with people from around the world who are generous, warm people who share the stories of their lives – the happy, the sad, the fabulous, the rare, the raunchy – you name it.  Ordinary people with ordinary stories, just like you and me.  Somehow the twitterverse led me to @abhijitmajumder who is the editor of an Indian tabloid newspaper.  Let me say right here that I’m not at all sure Abhijit’s newspaper and I have very much in common at all, and while I don’t actually know him, I suspect he’s quite different to his newspaper’s target audience.  In the best possible ways.
Within minutes of Julia Gillard becoming Australia’s 27th Prime Minister, Abhijit sent me a note on Twitter asking what I thought a change of PM might mean for Indian/Australian relationships, particularly in light of the highly-publicised ‘race attacks’ on Indian students in Victoria.  To be honest, I have no idea, I suspect essentially the relationship is a very good one and I don’t see much changing at all.  International student education has been one of the biggest contributors to the Australian economy over the last few years.  Third largest, actually.  Behind coal, then iron ore.  Education of students from overseas.  Huge, huh?!  My considered opinion, and that of Indian friends in  Australia, is that it is not what it seems and has been heavily misrepresented by Indian media.  My note of caution, though, is that perception is often reality.  If I was a parent in India, how would I feel about sending my child to Australia?  Food for thought.
I assured Abhijit that the vast majority of Australians aren’t racist and are appalled by the perception that we are and disgusted by the tiny minority who somehow manage to have all of us tarred with the ‘racist’ brush.  I mentioned Vindaloo Against Violence in February this year, the idea of a young woman in Melbourne.  It was a day of ‘solidarity’ where Australians were encouraged simply to spend the evening in their local Indian restaurant.  Naïve, yes, but simple, elegant, meaningful for those who took part, even if it does seem a bit naff.  Abhijit suggested I write about it for his paper.  I’m still thinking about the pros and cons of that, we’ll see, but to be honest I’m still struggling with it.  It seems such a simply thing to do.  I write.  But.
My problem with writing about it is that it would go to an Indian readership that is still hearing about ‘honour killings’ on a daily basis or the Bharat Bandh (a day of general strike action by the community to complain about sharply rising prices, etc) which involved a level of violence and disruption that we don’t see here, and wouldn’t tolerate.  So at the moment I’m battling with telling the VaV story in the light of activities in India that disturb me greatly.  They’re nothing new, but I need to find a way to hose down my gut reaction of ‘Hang on!  You’re still killing women who marry outside their caste?’  I don’t know.  Maybe this will be the story I can’t actually find the words for?  I’m wondering if the angle needs to be … if I was an Indian woman I’d have ‘given cause’ numerous times by now.  I dragged a friend into the conversation on Twitter and Abhijit responded, “Feel ashamed to describe it. Honour killings are murders of young lovers who have married across caste. Barbaric.”
” … murders of young lovers …”
Oh my heart.
I sent Abhijit a song written by Jeff Martin, formerly of The Tea Party.  The song is called ‘Morocco’ and it is about the honour killings of women in the Middle East.  Different location, same tragedy.  Jeff and I talked about it during one of his visits to my studio and I asked him how he came to write about something as dark and horrific as an honour killing.  “It’s a song inspired by an article I saw in the Sunday Times in England about young women from the Muslim world – honour killings – it’s just a travesty that these things still happen in this day and age when we’re supposed to be civilised. “
I suggest that this is dark material to visit for a song, “It’s necessary.  Things like these travesties that occur, and the fact that we’re supposed to be an evolved species on this planet.  That people can take these beautiful books of love that were created centuries ago and manipulate them and twist them into these things that are basically dripping with hatred and oppression.  I can’t stand parameters being put around the soul of a human ‘becoming’, so at any point where that faces me, it will probably come through in my music.”
Jeff Martin is a father, his little boy Django is just a couple of years younger than mine, how will he explain issues like this, different beliefs,  to his son in the years to come?  “Extremism is everywhere.  You find it in the Christian religion, the Muslim religion, you find it everywhere.  The only thing we can do with those that come after us is teach tolerance.”  Is this one of the gifts of his music, an entree into other cultures, other people, other loves?  “Absolutely.  That’s one of the reasons I travel so much.  I spent a couple of months in Egypt travelling back and forth between Aswan and Luxor.  I met a particular family in Luxor – they had nothing as far as western pleasures are concerned, but they wanted to share everything with me.  I stayed in their home, it was such a beautiful experience with beautiful people.”
We have so much to offer each other, and to learn from each other.  When are we going to be brave enough to embrace it?
Here’s Jeff’s song, Morocco, recorded live in my studio last year.  Enjoy.
Malcolm Turnbull NBN 2013

Malcolm Turnbull NBN 2013

January 10, 2018
Malcolm Turnbull has been in Newcastle to deliver the annual Barton Lecture at the University of Newcastle. 1233's Carol Duncan spoke with him at length about the National Broadband Network, Tony Abbott, same-sex marriage and leadership.

Malcolm Turnbull and Carol Duncan
Malcolm Turnbull and Carol Duncan in the 1233 studios. If you want to know why Malcolm is holding a pomegranate, you will have to listen to the interview. (ABC Local:)
On the eve of Malcolm Turnbull's visit to Newcastle, the New Zealand parliament voted to redefine marriage as a union between two people, becoming the first country in the Asia-Pacific region to do so.
CAROL DUNCAN: Why do we still not have this right for Australians?
MALCOLM TURNBULL: We can (do this here) but as you know the parliament considered the matter last year and voted against it. But it's open to coming back again.
There is certainly much more rapid change in this area than many of us, including myself, had anticipated. In addition to New Zealand legislating, the UK is in the process of doing so, France has done so, there are now I believe 10 US states where gay marriage is legal so the trend is only going one way. I think the changes in New Zealand and the UK are going to have a very big impact (on same sex marriage legislation in Australia).
If you go back to the 1850s when there was a case in England called Hyde v Hyde in which a judge gave what became the classic definition of marriage for a long time which is a permanent union between a man and a woman. He did so on the basis that this was what was accepted in what he described as 'all of Christendom'. We wouldn't use that term any more but if you were sitting in a court in London or anywhere else today and you had to ask yourself 'what is the accepted definition of a marriage in the western world, or in countries of a dominant Christian tradition, however you wanted to define it, you certainly couldn't say it is a permanent union betwewen a man and a woman because there are so many of those countries, very substantial and important countries, which recognise gay marriage, so there has been a big change.
I would have said this was going to take a long time but I think it will happen sooner rather than later. It will become increasingly difficult for Australia to maintain opposition to arrangements which are accepted in countries with which we are so close, which we have so many people going to and from, so many people coming here from New Zealand. I think there has been a big seachange in this and it's happened incredibly rapidly, within the space of a couple of years."
CAROL DUNCAN: It is often suggested that you don't actually believe in the policy on broadband that you are having to present for the coalition, or that you don't really believe it is the best option for Australians.
MALCOLM TURNBULL: It is, I have absolutely no doubt about it. If I wasn't a politician, if I was back in my old job in the business world and the government, any government, asked me to advise on what the best course of action would be, I would describe exactly what our policy is because you get the right balance between the level of investment, affordability - being able to price the internet access at a price that people can afford, and speed, giving people the services that they need. So I think we've got the balance right."
The problem with Labor's scheme, let's be quite frank about this, Labor has said they're going to run fibre optic cable into 93% of Australian households. We criticised it as being too expensive. We actually think this project will cost $94bn, taking a very long time, it's running way behind schedule. After four years they've got less than 20,000 people connected to the fibre and they'll be lucky by June 30 to meet 15% of their targets.
CAROL DUNCAN: In 2003, Telstra executives told a Senate inquiry that the copper network had to be replaced, that it was 'five minutes to midnight' for the copper network. Should we be relying on the copper network at all for such a massive piece of infrastructure?
MALCOLM TURNBULL: You've got to remember that under our scheme we are replacing almost all of the copper. The only copper that would remain in the customer access network is the last four or five hundred metres to the premise, and the reason for not replacing that is that as long as it is in good condition, as long as the length is short, you can deliver very high speed broadband - up to 100 Mbps - so you can deliver very high speed broadband, certainly more than fast enough for what people want and what people value, but you save a gigantic amount.
The depressing thing about these networks is that it's really the last mile, it's actually less than a mile, that costs all the money because it's so labour intensive.
CAROL DUNCAN: What about those areas where the existing copper network, in some cases up to 100 years old, will not be good enough for the job?
MALCOLM TURNBULL: If that's the case, your area would be a candidate for either having that copper remediated at the time of the build, and we've taken account of that in our policy, or if you've got areas that have got endemic problems in terms of maintenance and water penetration then you may replace them with fibre and do so now.
So you just have to be pragmatic and practical about it but the changes are literally, you're talking about saving $60bn."
CAROL DUNCAN: In January 2013, Bloomberg's list of international internet speeds indicated that large parts of the world are already accessing speeds faster than 25Mbps, so is cutting the fibre at the node to save money now simply a false economy if over the longer term we have to continue to make very large investments in the very near future to upgrade the coalition's alternative NBN?
MALCOLM TURNBULL: No, I don't believe you'll need upgrades in the very near future.
Most people will get by 2016 on the fixed line upgraded network 50Mbps or better. We've said 25 Mbps is the minimum, that is the direction that we will give NBNCo as the minimum, so they have to do it on the basis that nobody gets less than that.
Our goal, and our direction to NBNCo will be that by 2019 to ensure that at least 90% of the people on that network have not less than 50Mbps.
CAROL DUNCAN: Singapore offers a download speed of about 50Mbps on average, Japan is rolling out a 1Gigabit (1000Mbps) network ...
MALCOLM TURNBULL: Which is useless by the way, for a residential customer, it's a marketing gimmick.
CAROL DUNCAN: Should we be building two networks, one for industry and research, the other for domestic users or simply investing one big network to cater for all needs?
MALCOLM TURNBULL: If your question is 'should you be providing higher rates of bandwidth to industry and research and businesses than you do to residential consumers' the answer is obviously yes, because they've got market for it.
You can spend a gigantic amount of money, $94bn, and connect every cottage, every flat and every townhouse in Australia to a fibre optic cable that's capable of running at 100 Mbps or ultimately at 1Gb, the vast majority of those customers have no use for, no value for and will not pay you for those very high speed services. So you're making a gigantic investment upon which you can get no return and as a consequence you end up having to charge people a lot more.
You've got to remember that under Labor's plan, this is not my figure, this is what they have said in their own documents given to the ACCC and their own corporate plan 'wholesale prices will treble over the next 10 years for broadband access'. Now they've (prices) been coming down for the last 10 years and it's no wonder they'll go up because if you're investing so much money in the network then you've got to get a return on it.
"I think a very important thing to bear in mind is that we've got to be practical and hard-headed about this. This is serious money. We're talking about all the other infrastructure investments we need to make in Australia. The great virtue of telecoms networks is that, unlike a bridge, you can expand them incrementally, bit by bit."
CAORL DUNCAN: Could it be expected that to delay the full roll out of fibre will increase future cost of completing the equivalent work as designed into the government's NBN? We often see major cost blow-outs with delays in major infrastructure construction across the country.
MALCOLM TURNBULL: Let's assume that we can spend $900 on average to get a premise up to the most part 50Mbps but no-one less than 25Mbps, and we can do that now. And let's assume it's going to take us the best part of another $3,000 to get them up to 100Mbps and up to 1Gb with FTTP, but let's assume that there's not going to be any demand for that very high speed in those residential areas for, say, 10 years, I'm saying you would be better off postponing that investment, keeping that extra $3,000 in your pocket, earning a return on it somewhere else or not having to borrow it, and then when the demand is there making the investment then. It's just labour costs, labour costs will rise with the price of inflation but so will everything else.
But the big difference is if you build a bridge you cannot build a bridge with demand just 10 years ahead because you can't just keep adding lanes every 10 years. You've got to think ahead 30, 40, 50 years.
With a telecoms network, you've got the ability to build it for now and the foreseeable future, and you've got the ability to upgrade it progressively over time as demands change, and you don't really know what the demand's going to be, and above all as technologies develop. And so while postponing investment until it's needed may seem a bit hard-headed and sounding too much like a canny accountant than a visionary politician, it actually makes great sense because if you postpone that investment until it's needed the opportunity cost on the money that you haven't invested and that would have earned no return in that time, so you've got your investment in your pocket or doing something else, but also when you do come to invest you're using the latest technology and that's a powerful argument to take a more steady and businesslike approach to it."
All politicians are susceptible to grand gestures, but this is a case where you can actually be heard-headed, pragmatic, make the network affordable for both the taxpayer and the consumer and have the advantage of the best technology when you need it.
CAROL DUNCAN: Why do you think that a lot of social media commentators suggest that you don't actually believe in the broadband policy that you are having to sell as Shadow Communications Minister?
MALCOLM TURNBULL: I have no idea. I think they're transferring their own views to me.
I can assure you that I do (believe in the coalition broadband policy).
I've been involved in the internet in Australia since it really got going, I was one of the co-founders of Ozemail. I'm digitally connected, I'm online a lot, I'm not a luddite, but I'm just saying to you that you can achieve everything you want to do, get everybody online quickly and affordably, I mean remember this - people in the bottom 20% of incomes are nine times less likely to be online than people in the top 20%."
CAROL DUNCAN: Can those in the bottom 20%, however, afford the $5,000 being suggested to connect to the coalition's alternative NBN?
MALCOLM TURNBULL: No, you don't need a fibre optic cable. This is the great fallacy you are labouring under is the notion that to have access to the digital economy you need to have a fibre optic cable into your house. It doesn't matter what the technology is as long as you have the speed that enables you to do all the things you want to do."
Now, you talk about 25Mbps, and I say that as a minimum, with 25 Mbps you can stream, download simultaneously four high-definition video streams. That is a lot. You can do all of your e-commerce, all of your tele-conferencing ...
CAROL DUNCAN: But there's been a television released this week that requires greater speeds than that.
MALCOLM TURNBULL: The real issue is, are people prepared to pay for it. Are they prepared to pay for that investment.
The answer is that you will never get a return, at least I don't believe, I cannot foresee a time when you can get a return from residential consumers for those very very high speeds. If I'm wrong, and it doesn't matter whether I'm right or wrong, because the flexibility is in the network.
We will build it so it is capable of being upgraded to FTTP as and when demand requires it."
CAROL DUNCAN: Do you believe there is a perception that women don't like Tony Abbott very much, that women aren't comfortable with him.
MALCOLM TURNBULL: I'm not sure that's right. I think that's something that's asserted and I know one woman who doesn't like him very much - that's his opponent the Prime Minister - but you look at Tony, I mean there he is, he's got two lovely daughters and he's got his wife and he works with plenty of women in his office.
The proposition that Tony Abbott is a misogynist I think is just wrong. You can make a lot of other points about him but the idea that he is a woman-hater is just nonsense.
CAROL DUNCAN: I often see comments about the September federal election along these lines, "I wouldn't vote for the Liberal Party under Tony Abbott, but I would vote for it under Malcolm Turnbull."
MALCOLM TURNBULL: That's very flattering and I'll always accept a compliment, you don't get a lot in politics. All I can say is that I am part of the Coalition collective leadership team. We are not electing a President. Tony Abbott is the leader, he will be Prime Minister if we win.
CAROL DUNCAN: For better or worse a lot of Australians do actually vote on personality.
MALCOLM TURNBULL: Yes but there is more than one personality in a government and there is more than one personality in an opposition, too, and so we are a team.
So you might prefer Malcolm Turnbull to Tony Abbott or you might prefer Tony Abbott to Joe Hockey or Julie Bishop to all of us, but the fact is that we're all part of that group. We're a package deal.
So all I can say to those people who say 'I'd rather have Malcolm Turnbull than Tony Abbott' is thank you, very much for that generous sentiment but I'd still urge you to vote Liberal because I will be there. I am part of the leadership team and it is a collective leadership team."
CAROL DUNCAN: So for those people who aren't comfortable with Tony (Abbott) you'll be there to rein him and make him behave in the ways that perhaps they wish?
MALCOLM TURNBULL: Well I'm not sure what they want me to rein him in on? When you ask people about that they keep on talking about his swimming attire. I don't know that that's my responsibility.
CAROL DUNCAN: Are people perhaps concerned that his obviously strong faith will interfere with his policy-making decisions?
MALCOLM TURNBULL: Well, I don't think there's any evidence for that. He's a very practical person. He recognises the Liberal party and indeed Australia is a very broad, diverse community.
We use the expression 'a broad church' not to express that we're all religious but that there's a wide range of views, and as the leader you've got to accommodate all of those views and I sought to do that when I was leader.
CAROL DUNCAN: There are lots of points that you two differ on, how hard is that?
MALCOLM TURNBULL: Well we differ famously on the question of the republic but that is, in effect, a free vote issue in the Liberal party so there are plenty of Liberals who think we should be a republic, Peter Costello comes to mind, but there are plenty that don't - John Howard and Tony Abbott are staunch monarchists so the Liberal party survives notwithstanding differences of opinion.
We have a common purpose in restoring capable, competent government that seeks to enable people to do their best rather than telling them what is best. So we've got a philosophy of government but we don't agree on every issue.
Catherine Britt 2008

Catherine Britt 2008

January 10, 2018
In this conversation with Carol Duncan, Catherine Britt talks about the pressures of growing up under the spotlight, life in the country music capital of the world, and 'growing up on 1233 ABC Newcastle'.
After being plucked from obscurity as a 17-year-old by Sir Elton John, which led to a duet and a record deal in the United States, Catherine Britt spent six years growing up in Nashville.
But after a difficult time personally the Newcastle-born country music entertainer has spent the last year at home, re-evaluating her life and her career.
In this conversation with Carol Duncan, Catherine Britt talks about the pressures of growing up under the spotlight, life in the country music capital of the world, and 'growing up on 1233 ABC Newcastle'.
Nigel Westlake - Smugglers of Light

Nigel Westlake - Smugglers of Light

January 10, 2018
In 2008, Australian composer Nigel Westlake's son, Eli, was killed in a tragic road rage incident. With the support of his family, and his son's friends, Nigel used his love for his son to establish a music and film program to support young indigenous Australians. 
In an interview in 2011, Nigel reflected that after the death of his son, "I really thought I was finished musically. There was nothing more to be said. The muse had disappeared."
As children, our greatest fear is the death of our parents. As parents, that fear is the death of our children. An unimaginable loss. But so often, great loss is inspiration for great work, and for Nigel Westlake and his family, Eli's death led to the creation of the Smugglers Of Light Foundation - an organisation using music to help indigenous youth reclaim their heritage through music and film.
So how did Nigel gradually deal with the loss of Eli and find the momentum to continue and find purpose.
"At that particular time (of Eli's death), that's how it felt. I didn't mean that I'd said it all musically, by any means. I meant that there was no incentive to write."
"Looking back on it now, it's five years ago this week that we lost our son, Eli, I think for the first 12 - 18 months the thing that was most present in my mind was to keep memories of him alive."
"It was like keeping him in a vault. I didn't want anything to come in or go out and I was so protective of those memories I couldn't give way to anything. I couldn't give way to the creative process and sit down and absorb my mind in a piece of music. My thoughts had to be with Eli."
"That's what drove me to form the Smugglers of Light Foundation in his memory, to take those memories and the thoughts about his future, the life that he might have had, his qualities of empathy, compassion and so forth, and bundle them all up in to a package called the Smugglers of Light Foundation."
"That gave me a good focus to get that on the road but starting something like that is a very big undertaking and I knew absolutely nothing about what I was doing, so it was a very steep learning curve. Musically, it didn't seem important at that time."
The moment of decision, the catalyst for the foundation started at the family home when the house overflowed with Eli's friends and family, gathering together to share their grief.
"It was the week after Eli had been killed. Being a young man with so many young friends they all descended on our house and they actually lived with us for a week or so."
"All these young people - some we knew quite well, others we didn't know so well. At night they'd stoke up the fire and find a place on the floor or couch and sleep the night. There were never less than 40 or 50 people in the house at any one time, a constant flow of young people and also close friends and family."
"It was during that time that we got talking to these young people and they were saying, 'How can we remember him? How can we never forget him?' One of them said, 'Yeah, we should form some sort of foundation or charity or something' and I raised my glass and said, 'Yes! Well here's to Eli's foundation!'. I didn't have a clue what I'd let myself in for."
"It was about three weeks later when the house was totally quiet and the chill of winter had set in and it was like a mausoleum, my wife and I were looking at each other thinking, 'What the hell have we done? How do you start a foundation?' But there had been about 40 people there who were witness to me raising my glass so I had to keep that promise."
"I was actually sad to see them go because what had brought us together was our love for Eli and from that time we've maintained very close relationships with many of them."
"Every year on the anniversary of his death a lot of them come up to the country where we laid him to rest and just be with us for a short time. So it's created a wonderful connection for us with a different generation."
"There are so many things that I look to as positive outcomes from losing Eli because you can't wallow in the tragedy of it. You've got to find a way to use it as a catalyst to move on, and that's been a catalyst for re-connecting with those young people, that's a great thing."
Having the idea to create a foundation in Eli's memory is one thing, doing it is surely another.
"The first thing I did was I went to APRA (the Australasian Performing Rights Association) of which I've been a member since the mid-80s. It's an agency for Australian composers and it's the lifeblood of Australian music because it's where all the residual payments for music usage on TV, film, radio, etc, is collected and distributed amongst members so it's pretty much how someone like myself, a freelance composer, can focus on that fulltime with those resources."
"APRA have a wonderful history of connections with charities, they're very support of the Nordoff Robbins Music Therapy Foundation, they also are very involved in Support Act - a support mechanism for retired musicians and composers."
"Brett Cottle, the CEO of APRA said, 'Come in and talk about this foundation thing' and I went in with a long list of questions, an incredible apprehension and lacking in confidence of not knowing what I was doing."
"Brett said, 'Well that sounds great, APRA would like to be a partner of organisation and we'd like to supply you with all the accounting and legal facilities free of charge and just to kick off the foundation here's a grant'."
"It was unbelievable. So it was through APRA and our connection with them that we've been able to get off to a fairly quick start."
"We're still a very young organisation and we've got a long way to go, but we are doing stuff and I realise that in the bigger scheme of things it's kind of a drop in the ocean but at least it's something and it's something that we feel very passionate about and whenever I'm in indigenous communities I really do feel Eli looking down upon me, his eyes awash with tears of joy. It's a great feeling to be able to take that tragedy and turn it into something that is tangible evidence of him."
"One of our main programs at the moment is called Song Nation. We have a team of three people, one of whom is Gail Mabo - daughter of the famous land rights campaigner Eddie Mabo - Gail has become the patron of the Smugglers of Light. She is a wonderful woman, very dear friend."
"She saw what we were doing in Townsville a couple of years ago and said she wanted to be part of it, offering to do whatever she could to help. They go to remote communities and this year we're going to the Torres Straight and some far-flung communities in WA. We spend four or five days with the young children. "
"The first thing we do is bring in elders of the community and we have them tell stories about the history of the culture, their origins and so on, and then we get the kids to encapsulate those stories into a form of music, whether that be hip-hop or a song."
"We do an on-the-fly production number with the kids recording their song and then we do a choreographed film clip. Gail helps do the choreography because she studied at the Aboriginal Islander Dance Theatre some years ago."
"It's basically getting the kids connected with their culture which in some communities is alarmingly fragmented."
"The kids sometimes have no reason to speak to elders so they don't really have a handle on where they've come from or the heritage that they're sitting on top of."
"It gets them involved in where they've come from and they get to express that through music and film."
"The films inevitably have very powerful positive messages about reconciliation, about future aspirations, about dreamtime stories, and those clips go up on YouTube and attract tens of thousands of hits which in effect disseminates positive mantras throughout those communities."
"When our team goes to communities, a lot of those kids already know most of the songs that we've written in other communities and they've got them as ringtones on their phones - it's amazing how they embrace it."
"We've had school teachers coming up to us and saying that the kids are coming back to school, that they're interested in learning, some of them going to university next year, so it's a very small thing but it seems to have a very positive outcome."
"We also have an annual scholarship for an indigenous film-maker or musician, a small amount of money to help them gain skills in their chosen fields and help them open doors for their future employment."
Russell Morris, Mitch Cairns, Mark Tinson 2013

Russell Morris, Mitch Cairns, Mark Tinson 2013

January 10, 2018
2013 has given Australian music icon, Russell Morris, an unexpected hit record some 44 years after his first national number one smash with pop-psychedelic smash, The Real Thing. I produced this music feature with Russell in 2014, although I first met him in about 1992 when I interviewed him in Hobart. He's smart, funny, brilliant and has always been just bloody fabulous and generous to me. Except for that time he rang my show to wish me a happy birthday and I thought he was JPY! Sorry, Russell! xx
Russell Morris - still the real thing
Australian music industry icon Russell Morris joined Carol Duncan's program while doing a series of performances in Newcastle and surrounds. (Carol Duncan:Carol Duncan)
"This album (Sharkmouth) was done out of a labour of love because I like roots and blues music and I'd always wanted to do a roots and blues album."
"I chose Australian history because I've always loved any type of history. You'd think the two kisses of death for a gold album would be blues and Australian history, so it wasn't done with the intention, it was just done as a labour of love which has proved to be really enlightening."
"Producer Mitch Cairns' foresight was out of desperation of staying alive. At that stage, Brian Cadd who I was working with, had decided that he was going overseas and he dropped the bomb on us that he might not be coming back."
"At that stage Jim Keays was very sick and Mitch said, "You've gotta do something or we won't have any work!" And I said, "Well, I've got the blues album," and he said, "Well, FINISH IT!"
"It is a great thing (the success of Sharkmouth) and I have to thank particularly the ABC because they ABC embraced it from day one and just went 'bang', but the commercial stations just didn't want to know. The ABC just broke it right across the country."
"If anyone was going to have a gold record this year you'd have put me at the bottom of the list."
"I think what happens with a lot of my peers, a lot of people will see a new record and whether it's from Joe Camilleri, Daryl Braithwaite - they pre-judge it and don't listen to it."
"I remember when we first started in Melbourne, Ian Meldrum said to me, "We'll go and see Stan Rofe at 3AW." Stan Rofe was a big star to me, he was on air and I'd heard him on the radio station and I said, "Well how are we going to do that?" and he said, "We'll just go up to the radio station!"
"So we went up to the radio station and walked in and Stan came down and had a cup of tea with us. Ian said, "We've got this, what do you think?" and Stan said, 'Love it, I'll play it.'And that's what it was like."
"Well, Mitch and I spoke about it (initial expectations of Sharkmouth) and I said if we're lucky we might sell 5,000 copies, if we can get an independent release."
"We'd have sold them at gigs to try and get our money back and if we had a small deal with a company and sold 5,000 or 8,000 we'd have made the money back." Gold status is in 2013 is 35,000 and Sharkmouth is now creeping up towards platinum - it's around 60,000 now and platinum is 70,000."
"When I did the unplugged album with Liberation it sold around 8,000 so it's been a great experience for both of us."
"We signed to an independent record company and they took it and then rang me up, the first time it went in to the charts at about number 89, then it jumped to 49 and I was over the moon. I rang Mitch and we celebrated, and then the next week it jumped 20 places again and it just kept going right up into the top 10."
Russell has continued a great tradition started by The Beatles of being turned down by every record company in the country and then having a success.
"I tell you what is ironic, The Real Thing was turned down as well. EMI hated it, they thought it was the biggest load of rubbish they'd ever heard."
"EMI didn't want to release it, they were only going to release it in Melbourne to try and make their money back because I had a following in Melbourne, so Ian Meldrum and I got in a car and drove to Sydney to go and see all the (radio) program managers because at that stage you could knock on the door of these commercial stations before they became corporate and say, "Can I speak to the program manager," "Here's the song, what do you think, our record company think it's a load of rubbish, would you play it?" 'Of course we'll play it, will you sign that?'
"So we signed a petition that came out to really stick it to the record company. Radio and record companies at that stage weren't getting along very well. It was just prior to the record ban where radio wanted to stop paying royalties to radio for playing songs on the air."
Russell Morris is thought of as having lots of pop hits and a pure voice but he dabbled in blues back in the 1970s when he used musicians from Chain on one of his albums.
"They were my favourite band. I always use Barry Harvey and Barry Sullivan always, on everything, and I'd always used Phil Manning, so strangely enough it's actually Phil Manning playing all those licks in 'Sweet, Sweet Love' and you'd think, 'Who's this syrupy guitar player?' and it's Phil Manning!"
"It's (blues) where I wanted to head but I was painted into a corner once I had a pop hit and the record company saying, 'You've got to produce another hit!' and it became a factory after a while. You get caught in it."
"I actually wished Chain had been my band because it would have taken me on a whole other direction. I don't think Ian, Molly, would have been too happy although at that stage we'd sort of split."
"He's still my best mate but we'd had a couple of professional disagreements. He saw me as Australia's Davey Jones from The Monkees or some such thing and I wanted to go in a different direction completely as a singer/songwriter so we differed on the way we were going and the record company was pressuring for another single, but I really would have loved to be with a band like Chain."
"But your fate is your fate. Whatever happens, those doors open and close for a reason and maybe if I'd started it earlier then it wouldn't have worked."
"I was happy doing The Real Thing, I quite liked psychedelia. I didn't like pop a lot but I remember Ian (Molly Meldrum) had done a number of songs with me and we'd done 'Only A Matter of Time' which I absolutely loathe, it was on the back of The Real Thing, and a couple of pop songs and I said to Ian, 'This is rubbish, we're not going in the direction I want to go,' I said, 'I'm not John Farnham, I'm not Ronnie Burns and I'm not Normie Rowe. I want to do something that they wouldn't even contemplate thinking about doing. I want to go in that direction. Let's go psychedelia, let's go into something more band oriented than a pop single.'
"Ian, to his credit, agreed and said, 'You're right, they're not different enough."
Russell Morris actually had a whole album ready to go at one stage and decided it wasn't good enough and he wanted to re-record the whole thing.
"EMI had gotten a record producer and he'd gotten a head of steam up and away he went. I tend to go along with things and say to people, 'I don't know if this is the right thing ...' and they don't listen, they don't listen ... and all of a sudden they go, 'You know what? Scrap it.' And that's what happened. He went ahead and put strings and brass on everything and it just drove me insane. I said to him, 'I'm not releasing it."
Russell Morris on recording The Real Thing.
"We used 8-track recording for The Real Thing. There was only two tracks for the effects, one for the vocals, everything just kinda got bounced down, I don't think we even slaved another machine to worry about generations. I think we did slave another machine for the effects."
"I cannot take any credit for it. Ian Meldrum was the total architect, it was his concept from start to finish."
"A lot of it was trial and error, experimentation, but giving Molly his dues he doesn't know what he wants in the studio but when he stumbles across it he knows instinctively that it's right. Everyone else will be nodding off at 3am and he'll have had some poor bloody guitar player out there playing the part over and over, 'No! Try it this way! Try something else! Make it sound like stars!' And that's what happens."
In December 2011, Ian 'Molly' Meldrum had a serious fall while at home which for a while it seemed he wouldn't survive.
"He wasn't putting up Christmas lights. I was with him that day and I think that was a story that got fed around."
"I was there that day, the reason he fell is because of him. We were doing a song for Jerry Ryan who was doing The Green Edge, the cycling team, and I was doing a duet with Vanessa Amorosi."
"Ian had the master tapes and he said, 'Can you take these down to Sing Sing as you're going home?" So I left. "He was about to head to Thailand and he probably thought he'd catch some extra rays of sun. He's got a latter cemented into the side of his wall which goes up to a sun deck. He was climbing up there with his mobile phone, his cigarettes and trying to juggle those and lost his balance and fell."
"He would have died except his gardener, Joe, happened to be there. It was real touch and go as to whether he was going to survive but he's great now."
"It was funny. They (the hospital) said, 'Ian wants to see you in hospital. You cannot talk to him about mobile phones. If he asks for your mobile phone you cannot give it to him. If he asks for drinks you can't go and get him one. Do not talk to him about getting out of hospital."
"It was horrifying. I thought I was going to get in there and expected to see Ian sitting in a wheelchair and drinking soup through a straw, but I got in there and there he is sitting with his baseball cap on and his tracksuit reading the paper!"
"I said, 'Ian, I expected you to be sitting here dribbling, everyone's given me such a hard time!' And he said, 'Oh they're all such pains in the ....' "And they'd said to me, 'You cannot stay any longer than 20 minutes and if he shows any aggravation you have to leave immediately."
"My 20 minutes came up and I said I'd better go but he said, 'Don't be ridiculous!" "I ended up staying for two hours."
"I was also off to Thailand and flew out the next day. I got to Thailand and I got an email from Amanda Pelman who is Brian Cadd's partner who's great friend of Ian's, and it says, 'What have you done? Where is Ian? You were the last person to see him and now he's disappeared?"
"After I left, Ian started to figure out how to get out of there because you can't get out of the ward without a special card and the nurses won't let you out."
"He conjured this story and told told them, 'I've decided to do physio' which he'd been refusing to do, and they said, 'Oh that's great Ian, when do you want to start, Monday?"
"He said, 'I want to start now, if you want me to do physio I want to go over and have a look and do it now.'" So they took him."
"They got a nurse to take him over and took him down the street and as they got to the street he turned one way and just kept walking."
"They couldn't find him!"
Hugh Laurie

Hugh Laurie

January 10, 2018
Despite his incredible success as an actor and comedian, Hugh Laurie now calls himself 'musician'. His leap of faith to pursue his life-long love of blues music is proving to be a great decision - both for Hugh, and for music lovers.
Hugh Laurie, actor and musician
I was thrilled to be able to chat with Hugh in 2014.
Hugh Laurie has loved the blues since he was seven years old. (:supplied )
"I'm following a well-trodden path of English musicians, which is how I describe myself now, who have been entranced, hypnotised almost, by this extraordinary music of the American south," Hugh says.
Since hearing his first blues song at around age seven, Hugh has been smitten.
"It was like an electric shock that went through me," he recalls.
"I'm still shivering, still juddering even now, all these years later.
"It's never let me go."
Many people were suprised that after his great success in America with the hit TV show, House, Hugh's next move was to form a blues band and go on tour.
But he has no regrets.
"This is the greatest adventure of my life, and it's the greatest thrill," Hugh enthuses.
"This is a whole new level of visceral pleasure that I get from music."
He describes himself as "quite a self-conscious" actor who approached every scene as a technical problem to be solved.
And despite the huge popularity of House, many awards and critical acclaim for his performance as the brilliant but cantankerous doctor, Hugh was constantly doubting himself.
"I would always spend my evenings sort of beating myself up for the day before, which is a complete waste of time," he admits.
However despite being aware that launching a career as a blues muso could make him the target of ridicule, after 120 shows Hugh has a new sense of confidence.
"I know we put on a good show," he says.
Hugh is in awe of the blues musicians he's performing with, and sometimes during shows he loses himself in the pure enjoyment of their playing.
It's a sweet pay-off for a man who's taken such a big risk with his career.
"I'm almost ashamed of how lucky I am," he says.
Rob Hirst

Rob Hirst

January 10, 2018
Rob Hirst - The Sun Becomes The Sea album release feature 2014
First published ABC Radio Australia

18 November, 2014 12:07PM AEDT

Rob Hirst - a new solo album and the Midnight Oil 'anti-plan'

Rob Hirst has a new solo album out - released under his own name instead of one of the innumerable musical units that he's part of. The Midnight Oil drummer and songwriter celebrates his new songs with an unexpected collaboration with his artist daughter, Gabriella Hirst.
Rob Hirst oozes 'proud dad' as he talks about the achievements of the offspring of some of his bandmates.
"We've all got very talented sons and daughters now, all very grown up, and my daughter Gabriella is now in Berlin after finishing her courses at COFA in Sydney and the National Art School. She did very well, got a travelling scholarship and went to Berlin."
Gabriella Hirst's art is, indeed, striking and beautiful. And perhaps unsurprisingly, her work seems to share her father's social and environmental concerns.
"She was looking out over a wasteland where she was in north-west Berlin, went for a walk in the afternoon and asked one of the locals why it was so deserted. He told her that until recently there had been a poplar forest full of birds but that despite the protests of locals the little forest that had acted as a buffer between quite an industrial area and the local residences had been levelled to put in a department store or factory."
"But he also told Ella that he'd gone for a walk on the day they cut the trees down and found 24 birds' nests. He sent them to Ella and she painted them as part of her Berlin projects in watercolours on silk flags, which the man then attached to bamboo poles and put back where the forest once was as a symbolic gesture to remind people of what was lost. Being ephemeral artworks, she expected them to be souvenired, which they quickly were, but they fly now from the balconies of neighbouring apartments overlooking this area."
Rob's album, 'The Sun Becomes The Sea', features 24 of his daughter's bird artworks in the hardcover booklet version of the album, which he had made to protect Gabriella's artwork but there are a few of them online.
"I was just finishing a bunch of songs that I'd been doing over a couple of years down at Jim's (Moginie) studio and I thought for the first time that I'd put it out under my own name rather than under the Ghostwriters or whatever. It's just one of those lovely synchronicities where she was finishing her artwork at the same time and agreed that I could use these beautiful watercolour birds for the sleeve of the book and for the new website which finally links the Oils, the Backsliders, The Break, Angry Tradesmen, Hirst and Greene, Willies Bar and Grill, etc."
Unusually, Rob made the decision to make all of the songs on the album available online for free.
"I just thought it would be a nice gesture and I had such fun making these songs."
I point out that a similar 'nice gesture' recently backfired somewhat for U2.
"I would never be so presumptuous as to upload these 11 songs on people's iTunes!" Rob laughs, "It's available for those that seek it out and like it and there's the option for people to go to a few of those old-fashioned record stores that still exist, and which we really want to support, and get the hardcover booklet with all of Gabriella's birds and other information on it."
The exhibition of Midnight Oil's incredible place in the Australian music industry was a huge success at the Sydney exhibition hosted by the Manly Art Gallery and Museum and will be hosted by Newcastle Museum early 2015. How does Rob Hirst feel about his life's work being treated as a museum piece?
"We had so many people come through and they were pleasantly surprised. I think they thought, 'Oh Rob's dug out a few old posters and stuck them on the wall with blu-tack' or something. In fact, we spent about two years working on it; this is me, curator Ross Heathcote, Virginia Buckingham, Wendy Osmond who did the art direction on it."
"We've got a special film which runs an hour and fifteen minutes made by Rob Hambling about the making of '10 to 1' with Nick Launay producing back in London all those years ago, and we've sourced all this film from 1984 of the band backstage in South Australia at Memorial Drive, and at Main Beach on the Gold Coast. There's a lot of home movie footage, the Exxon banner from New York City, a full stage set-up of the band with the exact drums, guitars, amps, backdrop, lights and even the PA to be authentic from 1987 to 1989 which we toured on the back of the Diesel and Dust album."
"There lots of little early recordings that have never been heard, a song we've never released before, and the piece de resistance is a replication in a box which has sticky carpet, three screens when you walk in and a curtain you pull behind you. It has footage of the band playing at the Tanelorn Festival in 1981 and there's two sets of headphones you can choose from - one is loud, the other is really loud - and you can stick to the carpet. There's elbows that come out from the side of the box so that you can be elbowed in the ribs. What I was trying to do was replicate what it was like coming to see Midnight Oil back then at the Mawson Hotel, the 16 Footers or the Ambassador or whatever."
I enquire as to whether the box also has the special scent that some of our more notorious venues had. Rob Hirst assures me it does.
"I've poured so much Tooheys New into that carpet, you've got no idea, and I've ground some lemon chicken and sweet and sour rat or whatever into it. Remember in NSW in those days the liquor laws stated that the pubs had to pretend to provide a meal if they were serving liquor late. No-one would ever touch those meals but they'd be knocked off the bar and into the carpet. So after three months in Manly it's getting quite fruity in there!"
"It's funny, one of the last surviving venues down here (Sydney), The Annandale, has just ripped up there carpet. The carpet was legendary. It was despicable. They could have scraped it for a new form of penicillin! But they shouldn't have thrown it out. I'd have taken a square metre of it and put it in what became known as 'Rob's Folly', but is now known as 'The Royal Antler Room' which is the Narrabeen pub that Midnight Oil first started playing all those years ago."
"The curator, Ross Heathcote, named it 'Rob's Folly' because he was bemused by the idea. He didn't think I'd ever build it, but over six months with a couple of hard-working, underpaid friends we actually made it. It looks like a giant road case but it's big enough for two or three people to cram in and get blasted by Midnight Oil at the Tanelorn Festival."
Rob describes the opening of the Midnight Oil exhibition at the Manly gallery with great affection and it's obvious that he still finds great joy in every tiny connection that his career has afforded him - from those with names to the 'unknown' members of road crews. Indeed for just a moment he sounds a bit misty when reminiscing about the night of the opening and the loyalty of the huge crowds who were not only Midnight Oil fans but turned out in droves to see the exhibition. I gently accuse him of getting mellow and soft in his dotage as he describes this 'gathering of the tribes'. This quickly turns his thoughts to Newcastle.
"Newcastle will be the same. After all, Newcastle meant so much to the band. We went time and time again until we finally did a huge gig on Redhead Beach. We expected to find maybe a couple of thousand people, but there must have been 25,000 or 30,000 people on the beach. That kind of paid us back for all the hard work. We'd spoken to The Angels and (Cold) Chisel who'd just preceded us a little bit, and they said, 'If you get places like Newcastle you'll get the most loyal audiences on earth', and that's what happened. And of course a few years later was the earthquake benefit and we were lucky enough to be on that bill as well, and that gig goes down as one of the great shows we've ever played."
Midnight Oil, of course, achieved success with not just a lot of hard work, but what Rob Hirst describes as an 'anti-plan'.
"We'd heard all these terrible stories of bands that we'd loved that ended much too early, before their time, through no fault of their own. They were brilliant musicians, songwriters, performers, but through management or lousy agency deals or record company stuff-ups they hadn't fulfilled their potential. So we looked at them and because Pete and I had done law - Pete finished law, I didn't - but we knew our way around a contract a little bit. So when we signed with an independent label, even though we were being chased by the majors at the time - that made us too anxious, so we signed with an independent label which we called 'Powderworks' after the first song on the first album and gradually eased ourselves in."
"I think that stood us in good stead because we were able to build this very loyal live crowd - initially in Sydney, Newcastle and Wollongong and then interstate. But because we took it softly, softly, I don't think we made the horrendous mistakes that some of the other great Australian bands had done."
I point out the obvious that Midnight Oil weren't trying to seduce an audience with songs of sex and drugs and rock & roll like every other band, but were insisting we have a look at contemporary Australian issues.
Again, Rob is amused, "Yeah, we were decidedly unsexy and we didn't take anywhere near enough drugs although I was on ascorbic acid (vitamin C) for about 15 years."
"Probably two of the most maligned rock managers of the time were Gary Morris who looked after us, and Chris Murphy who looked after INXS, although Gary also looked after INXS initially but then just us once he realised we were more than a handful."
"Those managers were much feared and not very liked in the industry, but they were fiercely loyal to their bands and Gary not only was a real strong-arm, Rottweiler kind of manager which you need to protect a young band that has big ideas but no money in the bank, but he also threw all these crazy ideas at us all the time. One in every 100 of his crazy ideas was brilliant and we'd actually do it."
"The best bands seemed to have been the most unlikely bunch of people - and I include their management in that - all thrown together and all providing different talents to an end that make the sum much stronger than the individual."
"With Midnight Oil and Cold Chisel, for example, the songwriters weren't the singer. In the case of Chisel it was Don Walker writing for Jimmy (Barnes), and with the Oils it was Jim (Moginie) and myself writing for Pete (Garrett). There were others in the band that were great performers - Pete was this extraordinarily charismatic singer, Jim was a whiz in the studio, Martin (Rotsey) was great with arrangements ... and everyone kind of had their place."
"Back in those days you actually sold albums, they weren't all pirated or downloaded for free so we could quickly pay back that poor bank manager in Chatswood and get going and make our own career even thought we didn't play Countdown and we didn't play the industry game."
They most certainly didn't. And I suggest that to a then-young and female Australian music-goer, Midnight Oil could appear a bit intimidating. A bit cranky.
"We were a bloody-minded bunch of bastards back then and, yeah, we were cranky all the time. If you look at photos from that time we look really cranky. A lot of bands want to look cranky but we were actually cranky because we were tired and probably hungry and pissed off about something."
Yes, I detect Rob Hirst pulling my leg a bit, but only a bit. He admits that if you were anywhere near the front of the stage during a Midnight Oil gig, or The Angels, or Rose Tattoo, Cold Chisel, whatever, you were a member of a fairly tough breed. I assure him I was happy at the back of the room but I suspect the safest place may have been behind the drum kit.
False rumours have just done the rounds that Robert Plant had knocked back $500-$800 million to reform Led Zeppelin. Big numbers. What would it take for Midnight Oil to perform together again?
"Robert Plant. I really admire the man, he keeps reinventing himself. It's long not been about the money for people like that. But it's one thing cruising around the pubs and just playing a medley of your greatest hits and a lot of bands fall for that trap. But I think Midnight Oil is among that bunch of bands that would be much too musically curious to have ever done that."
"If we were ever to get back together, it would almost certainly be with new material and we'd have to feel we were contributing something rather than just some nostalgic act in sparkly jackets doing the clubs. Whether that will happen I have no idea."
Rob Hirst's new album, 'The Sun Becomes The Sea', is a beautiful personal work recorded in memory of his later mother, Robin, who ended her life a few years ago after decades of living with depression. In a recent interview Rob pointed out that it's important we talk about depression, that we acknowledge the importance of mental health in order to help people.
"It's not just my mum, there are other members of the family who have suffered from it and it is as strong as any other inherited disease. And possibly more lethal because we don't talk about it and don't address it."
Rob and his daughters sang 'Someone Scared' at his late mother's funeral and he suggests that this song was the catalyst for the full album.
It's a terrible thing to admit, but as a high school work experience kid I spent a week at Powderworks when Midnight Oil's 'Bird Noises' EP was being pressed on to gooey black vinyl. I simply wanted to know how music worked.
I wish I hadn't been such a good kid and actually nicked one.
And frankly, I'd have pinched one of Gabriella Hirst's beautiful silk birds from the poplar forest, too.
James Reyne

James Reyne

January 10, 2018
James Reyne - Friday Music Show feature interview 2014

James Reyne has an enviable career in the Australian music industry - first appearing on ABC TV's Countdown in 1979 with both of his arms in plaster after being hit by a car in Melbourne.
Australian Crawl held court around Australia's pub rock scene for just seven years, but the sound of the band and the themes of their songs are the story of numerous Australian summers.
As a solo artist, James Reyne has released over a dozen albums, continued to tour Australia and internationally with audiences of up to 200,000 people.
ABC Newcastle's Carol Duncan caught up with James Reyne ahead of his Anthology tour.
"I'm enjoying it more now than I ever have. I've developed an attitude over the many years that I've been doing this that it's amusing. You can't let most of it worry you. Certainly most of the people of my generation who were in it for the wrong reasons or the shifty ones have been weeded out. There are still a couple floating around and you run into them occasionally and think, 'How is this person still here?'
Knowing my attempt to get James to name names will be rebuffed, I ask anyway.
He laughs, "No, I'm not going to name any names because they're usually quite litigious people anyway."
"I just think it's quite amusing. It's like a crash-course in human nature. You see a lot of extremes of human personality in quite a short time, and up close!"
"I've made some fantastic friends and there are some wonderful, wonderful people who work in this industry and most people are genuine with depth and credibility."
James Reyne, particularly given the success and image of Australian Crawl, is perhaps seen by many as the quintessential sun-kissed Australian, yet like so many of his generation of peers he wasn't actually born here.
"The ten-pound Pom thing, and Adelaide - the ten-pound Pom into Adelaide. It astounds me. A little city like that, the amount of music that came out of there either British or Scottish-based. We owe Adelaide. But yes, I was born in Nigeria,"
"My father was an Englishman in the Royal Marines, he was ADC to the Queen, but he left. He didn't want to be a career soldier. He got a job with BP and he was posted to Nigeria. My (Australian) mother and he were not long married and they went to Nigeria when he was posted there. He'd be out in the field and she'd be sitting in a house in Lagos and my brother and I were both born there."
"I was tiny, three or four, when we came to Australia. I have a really vague memory of one little thing in Nigeria, but I don't really have any other memories of it."
James Reyne is heading toward 40 years in the Australian music industry with a career that has taken him to stages around the world with massive audiences, but names Creedence Clearwater Revival as one of the first bands he remembers hearing on the radio.
"There were probably things I heard before that but I remember hearing Creedence and thinking, 'Wow! What is that? I want to do that!' I'd have been 10 or 11 and it was probably Proud Mary or Born on the Bayou or something like that. I've been a total fan of John Fogerty ever since. I love all the Creedence stuff and some of his solo stuff. Like everybody, it was my formative years, I just love all that and that led me into other things and I was just hooked,"
"There was a great show on the ABC called 'Room to Move' and it was hosted by a guy called Chris Winter. I think it was a Sunday or Monday night, quite late; we used to listen to it on the radio under the bedclothes. A few years ago I did a show with Tracee Hutchison on ABC 2 and Chris was our producer, I remember going, 'Chris Winter WOW!'"
"He was brilliant, and I was hooked. His whole approach, his on-air style, his whisper - it was brilliant. So I fell in love with that, it was the first sort of album show. Then I started to get into albums with my friends at school. We'd collect albums and we had a little folk club - we got quite serious about
"I remember really loving records from Creedence, Little Feat, Ry Cooder, Jerry Jeff Walker but I think Dan Hicks and his Hot Licks 'Last Train to Hicksville' - as a whole album there's not a dud moment on it. So if anyone can find it, get it. It's brilliant. The whole history of Dan Hicks and his influence - he was in a band with a guy called Robert Hunter who essentially invented the San Francisco scene. This is before The Grateful Dead and so on. I was really in to the sociology of it - the background of who influenced who,"
"I used to pore over the album covers and sleeves and read all the liner notes. I don't know that there's much you can put on liner notes now that would be as interesting as they were then. That was your only access because there was no Google or anything. Your only access to any information about the band is what was in the liner notes."
By the time James Reyne was just 20 years old, his band with a group of art college mates had been renamed Australian Crawl and taken off on the pub circuit, and although James admits that although they had no idea what they were doing, they were having fun.
"I was never thinking, 'This will be my career' or 'this will be my job' or 'this will be something I'll do for another 30 or so years and keep doing',"
"We weren't very good. The first band was terrible! But you've got to do your apprenticeship and you start learning. But I wasn't aware of it, we were just doing it."
James Reyne has always appeared to be a complex person; well-spoken, intelligent, thoughtful, possibly a bit feisty. What about the 20-year old James Reyne?
"I was at the Victorian College of the Arts Drama School and it was about then that we all had to make a decision, are we going to do our tertiary courses or are we going to do this band thing? I guess it wasn't so much 'serious' but we figured, 'I guess you've got to make a decision and if you're going to do it you have to dedicate yourself to it'."
"But the 20-year old was, I dunno, pretty happy-go-lucky. He had a big mouth."
Was he confident?
"I guess relatively confident, but if I saw what I thought was a 'real' band or anybody from a real band somewhere down the street, (I thought) they were a cut above me. I never thought I'd be breathing that rarefied air. I just thought 'those guys must have an extra gene'."
"Joe Camilleri. I'd see The Falcons all the time, I'd see The Sports, I'd see The Pelaco Brothers and Joe and Steve Cummings were in The Pelaco Brothers."
"Where we grew up on the Mornington Peninsula, in summertime they used to have bands come down and play in the boat clubs down there. Every club had a boat house that they'd put a stage in and bands would play in there,"
"In my last year of school I used to go to a place called Reefer Cabaret in Melbourne at a place called the Ormond Hall and I remember I loved Arial, I loved Spectrum, Chain - I loved all those great 70s Australian bands. I remember going to the Myer Music Bowl when Thorpey (Billy Thorpe) had 200,000 people there. I was a fan of all that stuff. I remember seeing Skyhooks before Shirley (Strachan) joined. I was aware of Shirley, I didn't know him, but I was aware of him because there was a surf band that played around where we grew up called Frame and Shirley was the singer of that band. He was such a personality, everybody was aware of him."
"It was certainly a very unique time and a very formative time for Australian music, for Australian rock and roll and pop music. This is pre-Countdown and any of that stuff and there were so many great bands around; The Dingoes, Carson - I was a huge fan of Broderick Smith. What an incredible presence on stage, incredible singer and harmonica player. He was in a band called Carson, sort of boogie/blues band, and then they went and formed The Dingoes,"
"I used to see as many Dingoes shows as I could. There's a pub in Prahran called the Station Hotel, I used to go to the Station Hotel quite a lot and they'd have Saturday afternoon sessions where The Dingoes would often play. That would just devolve into fantastic mayhem."
I've interviewed James Reyne a few times over the last 20-plus years and I've never quite felt convinced that he's entirely at peace with his back catalogue of wonderful work. I have often wondered if he perhaps underestimates the importance of his music to his fans. Is this why it's taken so long to get Anthology together?
"Well, it's actually got very little to do with me! A record company merger meant that the new label realised that the Australian Crawl back catalogue wasn't available digitally, and although they can kind of do whatever they want because they own the masters, they asked if I wanted to do it and bring it up to date. I paid for my more recent solo records so I made a list of about 50 or 60 songs, cut it back down to about 40. And good on them. They've put the solo stuff on there, the ones that people would know, but it's a good cross-section of all of it right up to the most recent stuff. Why did it take so long? I never thought of it! It's just the story so far, I'll keep making records."
But has he been dissatisfied with the big machine of the music industry?
"I'm not so naive as to think that's just the nature of how it works. You're there as long as they need you and then you're not and that's fine and that's the way it works. No, it's not dissatisfaction, a lot of my amusement or ammunition I can get for song writing is just human beings. So aspirational but so easily impressed. People get so easily impressed with all sorts of things, not just the entertainment industry,"
"But I think we're all aware now with the media generally people are drip-fed what they're supposed to be hearing and seem to lap it up. And adopt these opinions! They read a crappy headline and that becomes their opinion and they know all about it! Well, no, you don't. You haven't studied the situation in the Middle East. You don't know."
"In terms of the entertainment industry I find a lot of fodder in the way people are so easily impressed and so aspirational about all this silliness."
In a time when independence is increasingly a healthy option for artists and creatives of all sorts, does James Reyne feel there is a disconnect between the work of an artist and what a corporate entity only sees as 'product'?
"I think the role of the big, big record companies is getting less and changing. Certainly changing, they're less significant in the scheme of things. They're still there and still part of it but I think the disconnect between art and commerce is always going to be there."
And yet independence is creating a healthy relationship between the artist and the audience, particularly via crowd funding - Kate Miller-Heidke being a good case in point. Kate says that crowd funding O' Vertigo cuts out the middle man and brings her back into a relationship with the people who love her music.
"That's right. I think the response was so good she raised more than she needed, which shows how loyal her fan base is. I didn't understand it when it first started happening, but I do now. I think it's a very viable development."
"The last four solo records I've made I've paid for myself and then licensed them to a distribution company - it gets quite expensive and you're never really going to make your money back."
"I still love writing, I write more now than I ever have and I think I write better because it's a craft and I've been doing it longer, I apply myself more to it now than I ever have."
"I'd like to think I'm a songwriter who is always learning, trying to get better and trying to improve the craft. I'm quite self-critical. I've also written a few other things but I won't talk about them because I've learnt that you jinx them until these things get up and running!"
James Reyne's career has also included varying degrees of success as an actor - harking back to his tertiary studies at the Victoria College of Arts Drama School. Is there more he wants to do other than music?
"Oh plenty! I've got about five things bubbling along at the moment. A few times people have said, 'James, you've got to write the book'. I'm not going to write the book! The world doesn't need another rock autobiography and I think unless you can write the real book and name names," James laughs, "you're going to get the pasteurised version of something of nothing ...." Who wants to hear that stuff? It's boring. It's been done. That's not to say anything bad about anyone who has written a rock biography, because some of them I know and they're lovely people. Mark Seymour wrote a great one. I loved Mark's (book). He's a friend and a good writer."
On a roll, the tongue remains firmly in cheek.
"I always wanted to do 'Australian Crawl The Musical' and you either do it as a really bad kids' play and get kids to play it with terrible home-made props or you do the most stonkingly gay thing you've ever seen with a chorus of boys in tight board shorts! We could do that!"
I suspect I'd be happy to see either version and after interview number whatever over a couple of decades, James Reyne actually sounds more genuinely comfortable in his own skin than he ever has.
Kate Miller-Heidke

Kate Miller-Heidke

January 10, 2018
Kate Miller-Heidke is one of Australia's most outstanding musical talents with a career exploding in all directions from pop to theatre and international opera. I spoke with Kate about her incredibly successful decision to crowdfund her latest album, O Vertigo, and the increasing demand for her to work in different genres.
As a classically-trained singer, Kate Miller-Heidke is happy to accept the challenges for her voice of pop, opera, and everything in between.In this interview, Kate reveals her dream of composing her own hit musical.
Kate posted on Facebook, "I did a big interview with Carol Duncan of ABC Newcastle which she extended into an hour-long piece. Lots of music in this one, including some rare stuff (and even an iphone live bootleg recording). My mum reckons this is the best one ever so give it a listen if you're into this sort of thing. Maybe while you're on the train, or taking a bath."
I don't mind if you listen in the bath. 
Iva Davies - Friday Music Show feature

Iva Davies - Friday Music Show feature

January 10, 2018
Iva Davies is one of Australia's most accomplished musicians and composers with a career spanning over 30 years with his band Icehouse, and as a composer for film and theatre. I produced this feature music show with him in 2014.

The number one song on the Australian pop music charts in 1980 was The Buggles 'Video Killed The Radio Star', accompanied through the year by such gems as Michael Jackson 'Don't Stop Til You Get Enough', The Village People 'You Can't Stop The Music', Split Enz 'I Got You', The Vapours 'Turning Japanese' and Queen 'Crazy Little Thing Called Love'.
In May 1980, Australian radio stations started playing a song by Sydney band, Flowers. 'Can't Help Myself' made it into the Australian Top 10 and was the first song from their debut album, 'Icehouse'. I think I was first in line at my local record store to by the single and was enormously envious of my older brothers who would regularly see Flowers playing at the local pub. 
IVA DAVIES: We came from quite a distinct stream of music which generated by the punk movement out of Britain, but then it morphed into a strange hybrid because of technology. There was an explosion of technology, especially synthesiser technology, at that period, so we were a kind of punk band with synthesisers which was a bit odd. But clearly, these other people were not, including Michael Jackson! There were all sorts of strange things going on, strange fashions; it was a very interesting time."
The first song we put out was called 'Can't Help Myself' and we'd been playing all these classic punk venues for about three years before we put out that first record. I remember being told it had become a disco hit in Melbourne and I was semi-horrified. I was very pleased it was a hit, of course, but a disco hit - we weren't a disco band!
By the time we got to 1980 we'd been playing quite a few of our own songs but still had lacings of the odd cover version of things not even particularly fashionable at the time, things like T-Rex songs, but by then we'd really turned into an original band and signed with a small independent label in Sydney called Regular Records and we'd recorded our first album, and although they constitute really the first 10 songs I ever wrote, they did have a certain flavour about them that I guess was, again, a hybrid of punk with synthesizers.
CAROL DUNCAN: Iva, you mustn't have been very long out of the Conservatorium by this stage?
IVA DAVIES: I dropped out of the (Sydney) Conservatorium when I was about 21, so I was about 23 or 24 by this point.
CAROL DUNCAN: So how did you decide to steer your songwriting and music releases in that environment at that time?
IVA DAVIES: It's a terrible admission to make considering that 'Can't Help Myself' made it into the Top 10, that I was probably fairly unaware of radio except for 2JJ. That's a terrible admission for somebody who's trying to break into getting airplay on radio!
CAROL DUNCAN: Something like The Vapors 'Turning Japanese' would have been all over 2SM (in Sydney) at the time. 2SM would have been the number one commercial pop music station in the late 1970s.
IVA DAVIES: Indeed, and I missed a great deal of that. I think we were pretty well buried in our own world and our own world had been dominated by what I'd listened to as I grew up, quite a lot of classics, psychedelic and heavy rock bands including Pink Floyd and so on. And then when Johnny Rotten (the Sex Pistols) arrived, the world was turned upside-down quite literally.
He put all of those big bands out of business overnight and London was the place to be. I remember very clearly when Keith (Welsh) and I, our bass player and co-founder of Flowers, we'd been playing almost every night of the week, sometimes nine shows a week. There were clubs all over Sydney, there were clubs all over Melbourne, there were really great bands everywhere and on any given night down the road there'd be Midnight Oil and INXS and any number of bands.
When we arrived in London for our very first international tour, we looked at each other and said, 'Let's get a copy of New Musical Express (NME) and go and see a band 'cause this is where it's all coming from!' And there was nothing on!
I was absolutely gobsmacked that Sydney was a hundred times more active than London on a club scene. It absolutely mystified me. All the pubs shut early, there was nowhere to go!
CAROL DUNCAN: Who did you admire at the time?
IVA DAVIES: I didn't buy albums of anybody, I didn't consume music. I was very curious about music but most of what I listened to was via 2JJ. 2JJ was a very progressive station; I think it's been forgotten to some degree. 2JJ were playing things that had been bought on import - they hadn't even been released in Australia yet - and so it was fascinating.
We were hearing things we thought before anybody else in the world had heard them, things like Elvis Costello, XTC, mainly British bands but the odd thing coming out of America. There was a real movement of punk and new wave.
CAROL DUNCAN: So you and Keith have taken off to London, you're going to see all the bands, but there's no-one home?
IVA DAVIES: There's no-one home! I remember thinking at the time, 'Well where did The Cure come from and where did The Clash and The Damned and The Jam come from? Where are they all'?
I had imagined that London was heaving with little clubs with all those names playing in them every night but it was really something created through the tyranny of distance, I guess. We had amplified that whole thing that had started with Carnaby Street, The Beatles, and Rolling Stones; and in my mind, and I'm sure in the minds of many other Australians, this was the mecca that we were going to visit. But it turned out it was really as much a product of BBC1 and radio and record companies than it was of an active pub music scene which was exactly what we had in Australia.
CAROL DUNCAN: So, what did you do, turn around and come home?
IVA DAVIES: We went off touring. We went off touring with Simple Minds who were just starting to break through in Europe. They'd a quite successful album, and we did a reciprocal deal with them where we said, 'OK, if we are your support band in Europe, that will help us, and you come to Australia and be our support band there because nobody knows you. In fact, to this day, and I'm sure Jim Kerr from Simple Minds would take credit in saying that tour we did with them really broke Simple Minds in Australia - it was off the back of that tour that they started achieving success here. Of course, many many albums and many many successes later I still catch up with Jim Kerr quite frequently.
CAROL DUNCAN: I remember seeing the two bands at the Manly Vale Hotel.
IVA DAVIES: Very possible! That was one of many hotels in that northern beaches area, and I ended up living on the northern beaches by accident. It was quite tribal. There was a very big pub at Narrabeen called the Royal Antler and it was our first proper gig, I guess, and almost residency. At one point we and Midnight Oil were alternating weekends. We never met them, but there was this kind of unspoken rivalry for the same audience of mad, drunken surfies.
CAROL DUNCAN: It was one of Sydney's great beer barns.
IVA DAVIES: It was and they were mad, of course, mad drunken surfies and probably a few other substances, as well. But they were great nights. It was a big place; I think it held something like 1500 people. And you're right, we probably did attract slightly different audiences, and certainly we also had the other side of us which was playing the inner city hotels which, of course, were very driven by the punk movement, so we'd look out on a place like the Civic Hotel and there'd been a sea of black and safety pins.
CAROL DUNCAN: Why did the name change come about? Was it as simple as swapping the band name and album title?
IVA DAVIES: It was, but we actually had no choice. What we hadn't realised was that while we were happily going along as Flowers in Australia and New Zealand, as soon as we signed to an international record company and they said, 'We're going to release this around the rest of the world, we need to do a little check on the name. It hadn't even occurred to me that a band name is like a company trading name and, unfortunately, there were at least three other acts around the world trading on the name 'Flowers'. One of them being the very, very famous session bass player, Herbie Flowers, who you probably know best for being the creator of that wonderful bass line that introduces Lou Reed's 'Walk On The Wild Side'.
So there were objections and we simply had no choice, we had to come up with another name. This has happened to a number of Australian bands. It happened to Sherbet who became Highway, and The Angels who became Angel City. Our logic was fairly simple - people here in Australia and New Zealand only know us by two things, that is the name of the band 'Flowers' or the name of the album 'Icehouse'. So, we became Icehouse.
A band name becomes its identity in a far bigger way that just a set of letters. I've had this discussion with my 17-year old son who has got a collection of friends in a band and they haven't been able to think of anything. I keep asking what the band is called and they're called something different every day. I said 'you better get it right because it will end up owning you'.
CAROL DUNCAN: Your son has actually played with you?
IVA DAVIES: Yes, oh you know about this! I had a fairly mad idea last year, although the idea had been around since 1983. I remember we were touring in Europe and we had a number one song in Europe so there was a lot of pressure on me. I was doing millions of interviews and we were playing very big festivals of 30,000 people.
We were playing on one and I was standing on the side of the stage next to my band and Peter Tosh's band was playing - Peter Tosh was the co-founder of Bob Marley's Wailers - and it was a big band, 9 or 10 people on stage, backing singers and whatnot, and I said to my bass player, "See the guy at the back going chukka, chukka, chukka on the guitar, the laziest job in the world? I want his job. I had a conversation last year with somebody about this moment and they said, 'Why don't you do it?'
Our manager thought I was mad, a number of promoters thought I was mad, too, but what we did was completely re-invent Icehouse as an eight-piece reggae band. We added some extra guys from Melbourne to give us a brass section and we re-arranged every one of the hits that we'd been playing in the classic repertoire as reggae songs.
We put two shows on - one in Melbourne, one in Sydney - as a kind of Christmas party because my feeling was that the reason we were doing it is because reggae makes you want to dance and smile and laugh, and we had the best possible time, it was just fantastic. We've just released the recording of the Sydney show and re-named the band DubHOUSE - the album is DubHOUSE Live.
I wanted to get my children to come. My daughter is OK because she's 20 but my son was under age, under the drinking age, and the only way I could get him in was to put him in the band. So I said to him, 'Look Evan ...' he's17 and a very good guitarist, 'I'm sorry, you're not going to get a rehearsal, you're not going to get a sound check. Here's a recording of a rehearsal of Street Cafe done in this style, you've got the guitar solo, go home and learn it and I'll see you on stage."
And so the poor guy was thrown on stage with absolutely no preparation whatsoever, but fortunately, he had done his homework and had a great night.
CAROL DUNCAN: How do the kids see your career, Iva?
IVA DAVIES: Well the strange truth is that they didn't. I finished the last tour that we did back in the day, as it were, when my daughter was six weeks old. Effectively, we didn't play again and my children grew up.
In 2009, our long-time tour manager, Larry, who works for a very big audio production company - he'd been working for with us since 1984 - came up with the idea for Sound Relief (concerts held in Sydney & Melbourne for 2009 bushfire relief) and actually volunteered us, so we were the first band on the bill for Sound Relief.
By that time in 2009, my daughter would have been 14 or 13, and my son 12 or 13, and that was the first concert they ever saw me play. So they'd grown up all those years not knowing anything about it, or relatively little.
CAROL DUNCAN: Did they think Icehouse was cool or were you 'just Dad' and therefore couldn't possibly be cool?
IVA DAVIES: Strangely enough, I seem to have breached the cool barrier into the cool area. A very strange thing happened, before that Sound Relief show and before my daughter really got to appreciate my association with it. She came home from school one afternoon, waltzed in the door and announced, 'I LOVE THE EIGHTIES! I love EVERYTHING about the eighties!'
Strangely enough, the eighties are going through a whole new generation of cool at the moment. Except for the hair, and a lot of the clothes.
CAROL DUNCAN: When you look at that part of your career, the pop/rock part of your career, what do you see, Iva?
IVA DAVIES: I'm proud that we worked very hard, I believe, to maintain a kind of class and a quality. That went through everything, even the recordings themselves. I went through the graduation from vinyl to CD, which was a massive turnaround, and it happened incredibly quickly.
I remember having a talk to a record company about it and they said, 'Last year we manufactured 80% out of vinyl and 20% out of CD, this year we're manufacturing 80% out of CD and 20% out of vinyl, and the following year we're not making any vinyl at all. That's how fast it turned around. But 'Measure for Measure', our fourth album is one of the first three fully digital recordings ever made in the world, which was a real milestone, so it's the first completely noiseless recording that was made for the new format of CD. It's moments like that that I reflect on and think, well, that's because we really put a lot of care and attention into these things.
CAROL DUNCAN: Iva, you're also seen as one of the pioneers in Australia of bringing in synthesizers, computers, the Fairlight and so on. You mentioned an interesting word there, 'noiseless', and that's perhaps where the feud happens between the vinyl purists and people who are very happy to purchase their music in a digital form whether on CD or via digital download. How do you see the vinyl vs CD war when it comes to audio quality?
IVA DAVIES: I noted with some amusement touched with horror a program that Linda Mottram did on 702 in Sydney where there was this discussion about vinyl, and she spoke with a so-called expert who was out of a university, and with due respect to that professor I desperately wanted to call in and say, "Can I just tell you about what actually happens when you're making pieces of vinyl and why they sound the way they do, and how it is absolutely possible to make CDs sound exactly like vinyl IF that were the endgame that you wanted to have in mind.
I won't go into it now but the fact of the matter is it's all about a process called mastering. The way that tapes, mixes, were mastered for vinyl had to be very particular because of the intolerance of vinyl - vinyl can't carry very much big bass. I found that out with the Flowers album when I insisted to the co-producer that we put lots of bottom end into it and then realised a bit later on when the mastering engineer said to me, "I can't cut this to vinyl, it's got too much bass in it." They're the sorts of mistakes that you make when you're young.
I'm a firm believer in anything that doesn't have moving parts and that is digital. I'm afraid I've moved on from anything old-school quite happily.
CAROL DUNCAN: Did you call in?
IVA DAVIES: No, I didn't, I just thought it's probably too difficult a conversation to have in detail over the radio but it does infuriate me because I'm sure if you got any mastering engineer on to the radio they'd say to you it's mainly because people don't understand how these things are made.
CAROL DUNCAN: What gave you the confidence to leap into these new technologies?
IVA DAVIES: Perhaps it was more out of ignorance than anything, I certainly didn't see any risk involved, but the main driver for me was that these were new toys. Every time something new was invented, my eyes would light up and I'd think, 'Imagine the possibilities!'
I remember expressly that conversation I had with our management where, out of sheer co-incidence they'd moved offices from where they were in Bondi Junction to the top storey of a two-storey building in Rushcutters Bay and the ground storey was where they made Fairlights, believe it or not. Management were oblivious to this, they had no idea what was going on down there. But I did and I came to the managers one day and said, 'I desperately want to get one of these machines, they are amazing.'
Of course, I was proven correct because they revolutionised music forever. I think apart from the technology of recording, the sampler - which is what a Fairlight was - was the single most influential piece of technology ever created. I said this to my management, that I was desperate, that I'd really like one, but the catch was they were $32,000. That was in 1981 or 1982 so you can imagine how much money that was then - it was half a small house.
But I got one, and interestingly enough my management were quite philosophical about it. They said, 'Well, it's a lot of money, but according to our calculations you'll pay for this with the first two projects you use it on.' And they were right. The first project I used it on was my very first film score for Russell Mulcahy's 'Razorback', which is about 95% Fairlight.
The great irony of that was that I kept producing bits of music, because Russell Mulcahy was out in the desert filming scenes and he kept dragging up Peter Gabriel's fourth album, the one with Shock The Monkey on it, and they were out in the desert with this blasting away on a ghetto blaster and I got it into my head that this was what Russell likes. So I kept producing Gabriel-esque soundscapes and so on, and the producers of the movie kept coming back to me and saying, 'No, no no - that's not what we want, we don't want this.' In the end I was getting various clues from them but didn't really know, but I had another go along the lines of Stravinsky's 'Rite of Spring' - a fairly mad piece of classical music. I constructed all this with the Fairlight, it was a quasi-orchestral thing. I took it back to them and they said, 'Yes! That's exactly it!' and I said, 'Well, if you wanted that sort of thing why didn't you go and get a classical composer.'
In its day, 'Rite of Spring' was a controversial piece of music, and Iva Davies shares a birthday with Stravinsky.
Considering that it was 1913 when that piece first hit the stage for Diaghilev's ballet company. It wasn't just the music; it was actually the subject matter of the ballet that I think was fairly upsetting to a lot of people. It's all about primal sexualism, basically, so you can imagine that to an audience of 1913 that sort of idea was fairly horrifying.
CAROL DUNCAN: In 1984, you've got Razorback, also 'Sidewalk' - the third album from Icehouse, at this point did you consider that you didn't actually have to be a pop star?
IVA DAVIES: No, I had a very strange life prior to that because I had a completely Jekyll and Hyde existence. I took up the guitar when I was 13, and taught myself, and it was probably also the year that I started taking oboe lessons. I had these two parallel lives and completely separate lives. I had a set of classical people - when I was in high school I played in a wind quintet and we used to rehearse every Saturday morning. We all had our first cars at that point. They were my friends and we went off and won the City of Sydney Eisteddfod and so on. They never, ever met the guys that I was in the acoustic band with. Ever! Because I just had these two lives. So my course was fairly accidental all the way through, it was probably always going to be accidental.
To this day, I keep remembering things that I did. I remembered that I was in the orchestra that was primarily made up of members of the Sydney Symphony and the senior Conservatorium orchestra, of which I was a member, for the staging of the two first Australian ballets in the Opera House. I would have been about 19 and, of course, that's a fairly big moment for the Opera House to have a night featuring Australian opera in that building, and I'd completely forgotten about it. There are things from both lives that I've forgotten about.
CAROL DUNCAN: 1985, your double life really starts to change as you start working with the Sydney Dance Company.
IVA DAVIES: I have to give credit to our managers to some degree who recognised - Ray Hearn was managing us from the beginning. I think he considered himself to be a very erudite individual, he was very widely read, he'd seen every movie possible, and he had a huge record collection. He wasn't a musician but I think he spotted in me the potential that if I kept on that very two-dimension wheel of 'write an album, record an album, tour an album, write an album, record an album, tour an album ...', that I would burn out, that I needed something else to do. So it was he who went and pursued the soundtrack idea with Russell Mulcahy, and it was he who introduced me to the Sydney Dance Company who were a very dangerous company at that point. People forget that they did ballets entirely naked and this was quite revolutionary stuff in its day. They had a very young, hip audience. So it was a very smart move. But it was also a move that was good for the dance company. I had also forgotten until reminded about a month ago that in the Opera House's entire history this has never been repeated, but they did a very dangerous thing. They put two shows on a Friday and a Saturday night, one at a conventional hour and then a whole other audience would turn up at 10.30 at night and we'd do it all again. The staff at the Opera House thought this was going to be an absolute disaster, 'Nobody's going to go to the Opera House at 10.30pm to see a show', but they did and they were all my audience and they were coming to see what all the fuss was about. It was the most successful season the dance company has ever had.
CAROL DUNCAN: Were you worried about your pop/rock audience coming over to see what you were doing and being disappointed?
IVA DAVIES: I've always utterly failed to understand what the problem is between the various tribes of music. I started of as a bagpipe player when I was six, and although I went through that very, very particular stream of classical musicians, and they are, and they are a very exclusive lot - a lot of them, and they are a very intolerant lot - a lot of them, I think things have improved. But at that time they very much looked down their nose at 'popular music' and rock and roll, but by the same token it was equally prejudiced the other way around. I've never understood why. I don't get that you have to be one or the other but not all of them. In my head, there was absolutely no problem with my audience turning up to the ballet.
CAROL DUNCAN: What gave you the confidence to follow both streams?
IVA DAVIES: Only because I can kind of speak both languages. I had a discussion with somebody the other night about music and it is another language. It's certainly a language when you read and write it and I learned how to do that. But my dialogue with rock and roll musicians has to be completely different because most of the people I played with all these years don't read and write music. But rock and roll musicians communicate in a different kind of way. So because I'm comfortable in both of those languages, I can happily flick between the two of them, at whim almost.
CAROL DUNCAN: Which is why I don't' let my kids drop out of their violin lessons - I want them to have that other language.
IVA DAVIES: From my point of view, by miles, the single biggest advantage I've had in my work and succeeding in the broad framework of popular music is the fact that I was highly trained. That is the most sure, certain way to cut every corner you can - to actually know what you're doing.
CAROL DUNCAN: December 31, 1999, and Icehouse is performing at the Millennium New Years Eve concert outside the Sydney Opera House and there is a moment on your face where it's just occurred to you how very special that moment is.
IVA DAVIES: The penny really didn't drop, I mean, there was such a lot of pressure involved in that. The transmission, the TV director, Greg Beness, had synchronised a whole lot of footage to be running in parallel with shooting the performance. We had backups of backups because, of course, everybody thought that every computer in the world was going to blow up at midnight being the Y2K bug and so on. It was going out to about four billion people. It's not as if you can get to the end of it and go, 'Oh, we mucked that up, can we have another go?', 'Oh, they've already counted down; we're in a new millennium'. So I was incredibly aware of all of that and actually I've watched back some of the footage and it takes me a fair old while to settle down, it's (The Ghost Of Time) a 25-minute piece and it took me a number of minutes before I was, 'OK, we're up and running, everything seems to be working, everybody knows where they are, I can hear everything ....'
I got to the end of it and stepped off the stage, Frank Sartor the Lord Mayor of Sydney gave me a glass of champagne, Richard Wilkins counted down from 10 and the fireworks went off directly over my head and I went, 'Wow!'
CAROL DUNCAN: From this point, your other career really takes off and you head off to work on Master and Commander.
IVA DAVIES: Yes, I've said to other young bands over the years, 'Just be aware - you never know who will be listening,' and so it was with thus that one person who was listening to The Ghost of Time on the millennium eve as it was going out, one of those four billion people, was one Peter Weir - an iconic Australian film director.
This is how bizarre the next few years ended up being for me in terms of things just popping out of seemingly nowhere. I was sitting in my studio one day up on the northern beaches and the phone rang. A voice said, "Iva, this is Peter Weir. I'm filming Master and Commander on location in Baja, Mexico. I've fallen in love with The Ghost of Time. I want you to reassemble your team and give me a score like that."
The whole experience was incredible, to go to Hollywood. I remember I had a colleague of mine, my music editor, had worked quite a bit in Hollywood on 'Moulin Rouge' and other things. He took me to the Fox lot and was very well recognised, but the thing that became immediately apparent was how incredibly well-respected Peter Weir is in Hollywood. Even though you don't necessarily associate him with massive blockbuster success time and time again, he's respected by directors and quality people in Hollywood and that's the difference.
CAROL DUNCAN: Is it difficult to do this sort of work, to create something to someone else's demands?
IVA DAVIES: I was very fortunate because Peter Weir has immense respect for music. He said to me not once, but twice, 'Music is the fountainhead of the arts,' that's how important it is to him. But having said that, he uses it very sparingly and in a very subtle way. So I had the great luxury to have three months to work on what equated to, in the end, not much more than 35 minutes worth of music. If you go and see a movie like 'Lord of the Rings', the composers had to write music from end to end of the film, so we're talking two and a half hours of music. Three months to produce that amount of music meant that it could be done with care but at a fairly unstressed pace, as it were. And that was fantastic. I have no doubt that Peter Weir quite deliberately planned the whole thing that way, so that it would be NOT a stressful operation. He's a consummate film-maker and he knows exactly what he's doing, so he schedules and plans things very well.
Having said that, I always knew that the brief of a score writer is to write what the director wants to hear, not what the score writer wants to hear, so that was very apparent and so be it. Very often these films are the vision of a director and music is just one component of that. It should feed into their vision.
CAROL DUNCAN: What are the professional moments that you hold dearest to your heart?
IVA DAVIES: In terms of recording, I had a quite surreal moment. I was very influenced by one Brian Eno who was an absolute pioneer of synthesizers and electronic music, and in fact probably invented the term 'ambient music'. Of course, he was a founding member of Roxy Music but went on later to become incredibly successful in his own right and especially as a producer, he produced almost all of the U2 albums - massive albums. But I'd been following him since he was an early member of Roxy Music and especially been guided by his approach to synthesizers, which was very esoteric and completely at odds with a lot of the nasty noises that were being produced in the 1980s, for example. And I thank him for that because it probably stopped me from making a lot of bad sonic mistakes.
The producer I was using at the time was a friend of his and I found myself having a conversation with the producer about the song we were working on at the time - a song called Cross the Border - I had in mind Brian Eno's backing vocal style. I knew that the producer, Rhett Davies, had worked with Brian Eno. I turned up to Air Studios, another very famous studio in London, to do the vocal session and in came Brian Eno. So there was a moment where I was standing in the studio, standing next to Brian Eno who was singing my lyrics and my backing vocal line. That was a real moment for me because he was a real hero of mine.
CAROL DUNCAN: At what point did you realise that you had been successful enough to truly pursue anything that you wanted to do?
IVA DAVIES: I spent most of my career not quite believing that things would work. In fact, I remember very clearly - we'd been working for years and years, working around these pubs, the first album came out, and I remember the first royalty cheque turned up. The accountant for the management company asked me into the office and said, 'Well, here's the cheque for the Flowers album for you,' and I looked at it and I'd been broke for years. My parents had to keep paying the odd rent payment for me and so on. We weren't earning any money at all, the album had only just come out, and I saw this cheque and it was for $15,000.
I looked at Gino, who I had lunch with today - same accountant, and I said, 'Gino. This is amazing. This is incredible. I know I'm just going to fritter this away. I know I'll never get any more money out of this business. What's the deposit on the cheapest, cheapest, cheapest house in Sydney? Well, I bought the cheapest house in Sydney with that deposit, but of course, it wasn't the last cent that I made out of the music business.
But for many years, for a long time, I really didn't consider that it was going to last, that I was going to make any money out of it. It's that classic thing where, luckily my parents didn't call me on the phone and say, 'When are you going to get a proper job?' they were very supportive. I think I was the one secretly calling myself and saying, 'When are you going to get a proper job?'
CAROL DUNCAN: What are you still learning?
IVA DAVIES: I'm still learning technology because unfortunately, it won't sit still! The industry standard for recording is a system called Pro-Tools, you very possibly use it in the studio there and it's certainly in every recording studio in the world. I've been working with Pro-Tools for a very long time but, of course, like any other software, there's a new release of it every five minutes. So I'm actually getting to the stage when I really am going to have to run to catch up! So unfortunately at my age, I'm still having to learn technology because it's the basic tool of my trade and that's never going to stop.
CAROL DUNCAN: Are you still as excited by it as you were in the mid-1970s when you and Keith Welsh started 'Flowers' and when you went and harassed your management to allow you to buy that first Fairlight for $32,000?
IVA DAVIES: I think I take it a bit more for granted these days because things have exploded in the way that they have. You can imagine the climate in which a piece of technology like the Fairlight came out; it was just mind-numbing. It was unlike anything anybody could ever imagine, whereas I suppose every time there's a new release of Pro-Tools, it's got a couple of lovely new features but it is a development of something which has been around for much more than a decade now.
However, having said that, there seems to be a whole new generation of software writers who are incredibly interested in music and incredibly interested in playing with sound, and these are the people who are coming up with all the new noise generating bits - soft synthesisers and all that sort of stuff. That's kind of where the interesting new area is.
CAROL DUNCAN: And Keith Welsh has been on this whole journey with you?
IVA DAVIES: Indeed. In the music industry the whole time. He and I have been working closely over the past three years and we've started playing again and we re-released the entire catalogue. We put out a compilation called 'White Heat' which is about to go platinum.
CAROL DUNCAN: What would you want the young Iva Davies to know?
IVA DAVIES: That's a good question! I think I probably did seize most opportunities that came my way so I wouldn't necessarily say, 'just go as fast as you can with every opportunity that you can', I probably would have said, 'Put more attention to the money and where the money is going and who's getting it!' As a forensic accountant, I'm a kind of 'overview guy' as opposed to a 'detail guy'.
Greenpeace 2015 - What’s At Stake For The Great Barrier Reef  [Adani Coal Mine]

Greenpeace 2015 - What’s At Stake For The Great Barrier Reef [Adani Coal Mine]

October 20, 2015
Commissioned by Greenpeace Canada in 2015 for their podcast. Link to original post https://soundcloud.com/greenpeace-canada/ep-29-what-to-say-climate-change-vs-global-warming-whats-at-stake-for-the-great-barrier-reef
Local Treasures visits Newcastle Mosque

Local Treasures visits Newcastle Mosque

September 30, 2014
Unlike the huge and elaborate mosques seen in the Middle East, Newcastle Mosque is a small and humble building in Wallsend, but just as Christ Church and Sacred Heart Cathedrals are central to their respective Christian faiths in Newcastle, so is the mosque to Muslims. This interview from Carol Duncan's Local Treasures program in 2014.
Warren Smith retires

Warren Smith retires

September 19, 2014
One of Newcastle's living Local Treasures would have to be lifeguard Warren Smith who is retiring after nearly 40 years of keeping a safe eye on the waves. ABC Newcastle's Carol Duncan dropped in to Nobbys Beach to chat with Warren before he hangs up his wetsuit.
The Wreck of the Adolphe

The Wreck of the Adolphe

September 16, 2014
The French barque Adolphe is just one of many shipwrecks that litter the entrance to Newcastle Harbour, yet 110 years after the disaster, this vessel is still one of the most visible. Carol Duncan spoke with Deb Mastello of the Newcastle Maritime Centre.
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