Many people might be jealous of Australian-born Londoner Andrew Mueller. As a music journalist for over two decades, he’s toured with the likes of U2, Radiohead and The Cure. He’s also done a bit of travel writing and war reporting on the side, while also starting his own country music band. After putting a bunch of his stories into a book, we read it, and had to meet him…
What links music and travel?
I make a joke along those lines in the introduction. It’s not entirely glib; there are certain similarities, especially between rock music and war, largely dominated by not terribly bright and massively overindulged men who think they know everything. You give a guy a guitar or give a guy a gun and all of a sudden he regards himself a slightly different way and regards the world in a slightly different way. It’s a desire to take charge, a desire to get yourself into trouble.
How easy is it being on the road with huge bands? Are they welcoming of you?
It varies hugely. A lot of it just comes down to personal chemistry. The difficulty comes when bands begin to believe their own press, start to think of themselves as mystic creatures. All you’re asking is, “can I hang around for a bit, I don’t eat much”. I understand if people don’t want to do press, that’s fine. But if you don’t want to do it, don’t waste my time.
Who stands out, in a good way?
You can tell an awful lot about people by the people they surround themselves with, especially with rock bands, when they can surround themselves with anybody. U2 for example, surround themselves almost entirely with people they have known since they were teenagers, and who aren’t about to start taking anyrock star crap.
I’m guessing they’re not all like that?
You find people who have persuaded themselves that working for a rock band is literally the most important thing in the entire world. I’ve had to pull the management aside and say, “look, I personally don’t care if this story gets written or not, if you want your band to get attention you have to get the band to co-operate”. They were kinda surprised.
Do you ever get star struck at all?
Yeah, when I first started doing this. There’s something really wonderful about that, it’s like being young and exposed to all this for the first time. All of sudden, your hands are suddenly trembling from trying to fire up a tape recorder.
Any dream interviews left?
The list is still incredibly lengthy. In terms of musicians there’s not a lot left. Springsteen would be the big one.
What took you to England originally?
I was 21, so at that age when a young Australian hoists a backpack and goes off to see the world. What It mostly came down to was my girlfriend was keen to travel and I was keen on her so off I went.
Have you travelled in Oz much?
Not as much as I’d like to. There is so much I haven’t seen that I would like to. One day I’d like to do the two big rail journeys, the Indian Pacific and the Ghan. I love travelling by train.
Any particularly scary moments?
There’s been a few. I’m always a little reluctant to oversell them because I’m not a proper war correspondent, and I’ve got friends who are. The first properly fraught moment was a useful education. This was in early 2000 on the West Bank. It was a matter of crouching beneath brickwork while things hit everything. I remember thinking “this is just horrible”. I’m still interested in those places, but I have no interest in flying home as cargo.
Weren’t you arrested in Cameroon?
Yes, that happened in 2005. It was incredibly fortunate. I’ve got friends who’ve been properly arrested in west Africa and it was really no fun, whereas for me I was absolutely helpless with laughter. It was an utterly surreal and peculiar experience. Anybody planning on getting arrested in west Africa, I do recommend Cameroon. Nice people, good food, and frankly saved a couple of nights accommodation not noticeably worse than the hotel I was already in.
Andrew’s book, Rock and Hard Places, is out now through Affirm Press.