The successful Australian musician has a new band and a new hairstyle, and insists he’s no million dollar hippie.
Your new trio consists of Nicky Bomba on drums and Byron Luiters on bass. At what point did you realise you wanted a new line up?
I was just having a little jam with the drummer Nicky Bomba … He’s also my brother-in-law so we just got together for a very innocent jam that ended up being very magical and electric and undeniable.
After that rehearsal I realised that maybe a new direction was needed, which came to me as a surprise. I wasn’t necessarily looking to change. It just happened.
You also cut off your dreadlocks. Was that because Newton Faulkner stole your look?
Newton Faulkner stole my look? That’s funny. Ah no, not that I know of. Unless it’s a subliminal rebellion against Newton.
On TV show Who Do You Think You Are? you traced your ancestors back to the April Uprising in Bulgaria. How did that impact on the album?
A lot of the music was already written so it’s not a concept album, it was a metaphor.
In 1875 there was the April Uprising that my great great-grandfather fought in … Then 100 years later I was born in April 1975 and then in April last year I broke up my band, and then in April this year I’m releasing my new record so April Uprising just seemed to fit for all of those reasons.
You started out as a busker so do you dig deep for them now?
I think it’s a beautiful aspect of culture … It taught me a lot about what I do today. It’s unforgiving. People don’t stop unless they’re involuntarily motivated to stay.
It teaches you a bit about how to snare people and take them on the a journey.
Whenever I see a busker I get nostalgic feelings. In some ways they’re family, you know? I usually give them something. It’s like a karma thing.
You’re a bit of an eco warrior. What did you think of scientist James Lovelock’s comment that people are too stupid to deal with climate change?
You know, I can relate to that to a certain degree due to the fact that we as human beings can make it to the moon but we struggle to hold each other’s hands.
We think we’re so smart but we’re killing ourselves. But at the same time I think things are changing for the better, slowly.
You’re also very politically minded. Would you ever follow in the footsteps of Peter Garratt and go into politics?
No. I think Peter’s a very brave man for doing what’s he’s done and can see the reasons why he’s done it but for me I’m not cut out to be in a high school, sporting, bullying situation.
[Laughs] You only have to watch Question Time in Australia to realise that it’s a bunch of little boys acting immature half the time … For me to get into politics, I don’t want to be handicapping myself with anything and I’d probably wanna punch somebody.
How do you feel about being called a ‘million dollar hippie’?
I find it funny that anybody would care enough to hate me like that … I guess it’s like calling a CEO of Sony a million dollar music lover. Because I’m independent, my record company essentially hasn’t changed since [I started] busking, 75 per cent of the money I make goes back into the business.
» April Uprising out now through Because. Performing at Hammersmith Apollo (0844 844 4748). Wed, Apr 14. £21
Words: Alison Grinter