Your latest EP Obladi Diablo translates as ‘pop music is evil’ – do you really think this is the case?
The title is tongue-in-cheek, and a bit of a dig at current popular music. Lady Gaga and Bruno Mars don´t really stand up against Prince or Elton John – and the use of auto-tune as a vocal effect surely is the greatest sin of all. Enough already! Plus Obladi Oblada is in my top 10 worst songs of all time. Along with Agadooand Tubthumping.
Do you find yourself always moaning about the music played on the radio?
Not really. I try to spend my energy more wisely.I just don´t listen to commercial stations, though I am bemused that this is what a lot of people choose to listen to.
What was the inspiration behind the writing of the songs on the EP?
The songs are from a pool of writing spanning a few years, so they’re all about different things. I write mostly about personal experiences – love, loss, lies and even things not starting with an ´L´. Human interaction is always interesting and a bit of a mystery. Song of The Artesian Water, which was recorded in my bedroom, is actually a Banjo Paterson poem – all the lyrics are his original words except for the bridge. The song is about drilling for water in the outback – for me, it was a metaphor for looking for love in this mad world. In his version they find the water [but] it wasn’t where I wanted to take it, was a bit Hollywood for my liking, so I threw in some more devils and desperation.
How did recording and playing as more of a band effect this EP compared to your previous one?
Obladi Diablo was recorded with Craig (Williamson) and Leif (Van Den Dungen) who I´d been playing with live for a year so going into the studio was smooth sailing. My first EP was recorded with guest musicians – Charlie Owen (Beast Of Bourbon), Johnny Nolan (Powder Monkeys), Shane Walsh (Tex, Don & Charlie), Ian Kitney (Temperance Union) – but they are such amazing players. I guess the difference would be that I was more relaxed recording the second EP as we had already developed the songs.
You’ve toured in Europe and the UK, how does playing there compare to the southern hemisphere?
I´m not sure audiences differ so much between hemispheres – when someone’s digging my music, it´s awesome whether they´re standing upside down or not! I’ve had a really super response in Europe so far, however. I played Colours Of Ostrava [festival] in Czech Republic and Bionic Folk Blues Festival in France, both of which were highlights.
You have a commanding voice – when did you decide to start singing?
I’ve always sung, it was just something I did naturally since I was a kid. It took a long time to begin performing, though, for lots of reasons. I got distracted for several years by dance music and partying – I was even a DJ for several years playing breakbeat, trip hop and electro. When I came back to earth and picked up a guitar again, I spent several years writing with people and jamming but nothing really worked out. It was only when I went solo that things took shape, I started gigging and built things up from there.
You grew up in Sydney but broke into music when you moved to Melbourne – do you feel a closer affinity with one city over the other?
After nine years, Melbourne is now my home. Sometimes I wonder if I would have started gigging at all if I´d stayed in Sydney. At that time there weren’t a lot of grass roots opportunities to get up and play. Entertainment licences for venues were very expensive, they instead installed pokie machines to make a dollar, and this really destroyed the live music culture. Things are slowly changing in Sydney now – but Melbourne´s live music scene is one of the best in the world without a doubt.
You’re playing with Irish rock band Ash this month in Melbourne, are you looking forward to it?
You probably won´t guess from listening to my music, but I was a big fan of Ash in the Nineties, in particular their album 1977 which they are playing on this tour. I’m really excited – it will be loads of fun. I think it´s good playing with different types of bands anyway. Scenes bore me – I’ve never stayed in just the one circle.
Obladi Diablo is out now.
Plays The Corner Hotel, Melbourne, Aug 29. $59
57 Swan St, Richmond VIC 3121 Richmond
Photos: Liz Reed