It was a joy to look back over certain history - rather than forward, in trepidation, with gnawing heart, towards an unknowable future. Every other time I’ve sung on stage, the experience has been weighed down, at least to some extent, by questions that just didn’t need an answer last Sunday.
How will the audience respond to our music? Will it please them? Does it please us? Is it time to make music that pleases them but which might not necessarily please us? How many people are here because of the support band? Will my pants split? Where do I rank on the ladder of cool? Are my balls visible? Am I too stoned to sing? Am I too drunk not to sing? Can I really sing at all? Can what I am doing technically be termed ‘singing’? Who can I fuck? Can Nick Cave ‘sing’? Is the crowd dense enough to dive on? Who can I fuck without alerting my girlfriend? Am I being true to myself? Who can I borrow money off? Is my father turning in his grave? Is what I’m doing ‘art’?
What will the record company think? Can I hear myself? Is the bassist having parallax error on his fretless? Why can’t I remember the lyrics? Will anyone notice? Have I actually written any lyrics? Is the solipsistic keyboardist riding a wave of his own grandeur? And my hair? Oh god! My clothes? My shoes? How fat am I exactly? Am I going to trip over a cymbal stand? Is the mike lead going to fall out? What will I say when the song’s over? What will happen if I pour beer into the foldback monitor? Is it obvious that the bassist is incompetent? Is there a polite way to tell him not to do that thing with his neck? Will we ever succeed? Are we succeeding now?
Is the drummer an amphibian? Is the guitarist going to stop playing and eat the Chinese meal steaming on top of his amp? Who can I score off in the audience? Is the keyboardist really eating an hallucinogenic omelette? Where is my beer? Why is that guy smiling at me like a self-satisfied sphinx? Does my howling sincerity come across as lame? To what extent am I completely deluded …?
I don’t know that I was ever quite so neurotic, but you get the picture. On Sunday, all that shit, it just didn’t matter – not to us, not to the audience - we were permitted to just enjoy the day, the music, the people and it was an absolute fucking pleasure that I’ll carry with me to the grave.
(photos by Brendan Young)
Friday, August 21, 2009
Wednesday, August 19, 2009
Carbie Warbie took this lovely shot of the end of Sunday's show. That's the beautiful Dolores getting her just desserts.
Oh, and we've rabidly accepted The Wreckery's invite to play with them at the front bar at the Espy on August 29. It's free. I can't wait. See you there.
Some fabulous shots from Sunday at the Corner by Andrew McDougall. These ones are mainly of me, apparently, with pictures of Sean's Kelly's cameo and sword swallower Baroness Micha at the end. Andrew's Flickr album is here, and includes excellent photos of Hugo Race, Brian Hooper, Steve Kilbey, Nick Barker and all the sainted souls to who I am so thoroughly indebted so for helping me out. Not forgetting, of course, Dolores San Miguel, David Bridie, Chris Walsh, Andrew Park, Simon Polinski, Mark Gason, Mick Lewis, Cathy McQuade, Kerri Simpson, Carl Manuell, Bryan Colechin, Angus Hooper, Osker, Jo, Michaelangelo, Snicket The Wonder Dog and any performers I've forgotten and every last living soul who came on the day. Eternal gratitude.
Tuesday, August 18, 2009
I’m not even looking at that post I made on Sunday night. I’ll go from the fact that I thought 2.00am was 2.00pm, that it may be a bit sodden. Forgive me. (I'll sneak back and edit it later.) I spent yesterday in bed and woke up this morning with a damaged wrist and throbbing neck muscles. How did that happen? I had everything else covered. Why didn’t I practice headbanging?
There are some photos of the show popping up. Check out Leila Morrisey’s shots at Faster Louder (Where are the handsome ones? They have to exist, surely?)
Thanks to everyone who helped make Sunday such a great day. Kudos. I’ll write something a bit more substantial tomorrow. I’ve scored a copy of Star Trek and I’m about to watch it.
Monday, August 17, 2009
Okay, it’s two pm.
Jenny is asleep.
Polly is asleep.
In the near-nether regions of the city
is somnolent, it’s true …
at peace …
Only the clickety-clacks,
And purrings of my mind,
Like a moebius note
From the lunatic guitar
of my friend and colleague Mick Lewis
who did such a very
good job last night indeed.
My busy old head
Like ... an abominating
From the cricket in its nighthole;
Recharging and discharging
Like the Grand Capacitor of our Bi-valved Overlords
At every point
On the vast psychotropic spectrum
Of unalloyed animal excitation.
I can’t think of a gig,
(At which I’ve had the privilege to sing),
Which came close to last night.
Never had a better crowd.
A better band
Never such vibes.
It’s glorious what can burst
What can erupt like a toothed alien embryon ...
When the room
is so completely on your side.
Wednesday, August 12, 2009
My final e-bill for the show. Forward it where you can. The image is borrowed from the cover of the Ears first single Leap For Lunch/The Crater. The model, if my memory serves me correctly, was Tom Rippon, and the photographer was the guy who was portrayed in Dogs in Space as a sarong-wearing Lothario with a penchant for Eno records
Tuesday, August 11, 2009
Things are moving in a satisfactory manner. The casting agent, Victoria Holt, seems very impressed with me. She tells me I have some kind of mystique and has offered to find me more work in the vein of the Ovaltine ad, if I agree to have her as my personal manager. She is drawing up some kind of contract.
I’ve been a strikingly efficient being of late. The general lassitude in the group is bothering me, but we are sounding good. Six songs now, one an instrumental.
I had a dream last night in which there were seven layers of existence. I lived in the second, but found a way into the first where dwelled ‘the ennobled horses”.
Carol is completely slack. I’ll look for another house later this week. I’ll have the money.
I’ve been drinking less and feel as if it’s doing me good. Victoria Holt rang Philippa yesterday to try out for something, but she slept through the call. She was very depressed when I arrived yesterday afternoon, but we had a good night. I like Philippa, but …
I must do this. I must do this … But I’ll probably do that
That offer by Victoria Holt was a bit of a cusp point for me. I understood that she was quite influential in her industry, and that I might have had some kind of career there, but after I let her know that music would always be my priority, her enthusiasm waned.
Often, in these latter days, I think of myself as being a complete slackarse in my youth, but perhaps I’m a little hard on myself. From these diary entries, I seem to be quite driven, quite determined. Whether my actions conformed to my resolutions is another matter, I guess. I had my venal urges to contend with and they were truly a force to be reckoned with.
Five days out from the show now. Hair: growing. Clothes: undecided. Body: firming. Brain: whirring. Heart: tremulous.
In a dream last night there were so many people at the show that I had to use a helicopter to get to the bandroom ..
I saw Watchmen again yesterday on video …
“Every day the future looks a little bit darker, but the past, even the grimy parts of it, keep on getting brighter …
Diaries - 1981
Monday, August 10, 2009
Life is spiralling down to the nodus of August sixteen. I’m not nervous, I’m just worried that something will go wrong … But then … the tea-leaves have oriented themselves auspiciously thus far. (I look a bit dangerous in the photo, I know; it's an automatic band-photo expression)
I’ve become reacquainted with just how hard grungy rehearsal rooms can be on the voice. One has to sing or else scream at full volume to be even vaguely heard against the sonic wall of the band. It’s hard for an instrument of mere flesh to match the output of dedicated noise-making artefacts like drum-kits and Marshall amps, even with the help of a PA. I’m pretty husky after yesterday’s practice. I’m going to have to take it very easy. No nasty cigarettes. Plenty of fresh air and exercise. We’re having a last rehearsal on Friday night; I’d should be careful not to blow my fragile old voice box.
Then, there’s the question of facing an audience. There are elements of caricature and all that, but it’s not like playing a part in a play. It’s me on stage. I bear the same name as I do in real life. Perhaps, I should just attempt to replicate the very different me that fronted The Ears two and a half decades ago, with a few modifications for the sake of dignity … and the depredations of age. It just feels a little odd. Thankfully my fellow band-members have been very understanding of my attempts to rediscover my rock-star persona in the rehearsal room.
With me in the photos are Mick Lewis [guitar] x2 and Carl Manuell [drums]
Friday, August 7, 2009
The second showing of Livin' On Dog Food is tonight. I'm going again, not just because there may yet be someone I haven't told about the Ears reunion, but because It was genuinely interesting, and I found myself dwelling on the past in quite a nice way, freed from any lingering pain or grinding embarrassment. Bathing in nostalgia is one of the pleasures of increasing age - that's if you can keep it in check.
I had a brief conversation with a Latvian in the ACMI bar last night, who asked me if I was getting tired of the recent recrudescence of early Eighties material. As I tried to formulate a reply, I spilt my beer over him. Typical. I lost my car keys too and had to walk home from the station. The answer was 'no' by the way; my candle of remembrance will burn at least to the 16th.
At the end of last night's 'Post-Punk Mix-Tape" there was a short film made by David Collyer titled Wind In My Heart. It was nothing special really, just curious for me personally. I played the main character, a friendly gravedigger in the process of bleeding to death, and, my god, I was handsome in those days. Slender, red hair, white teeth, perfect flesh ...
But age has wearied me, and the years condemned ... Nice to look back on though, a gem to nurse in my heart. Something my daughter can brag about one day ...
Anyway, here's the poster for 'Livin' On Dog Food'
Wednesday, August 5, 2009
Since Sunday, I’ve been doing the bare bones, eating, taking the child to school, napping, eating again, putting the child to bed. These days. even a moderate expenditure of social energy impacts on me for many days hence. Unlike, I’m sure, powerful, well-seasoned campaigners like Nurin and Emma de Clario.
Seeing Dogs in Space afresh was a surprising pleasure. It was fast moving, it didn’t sag and, strangely, it seemed a far better film today than it did at the time. Perhaps current audiences [by that I mean me] are more accustomed to films without a strong narrative spine.
The documentary We’re Livin’ on Dog Food was utterly fascinating. It returned me to the early eighties a lot more efficiently than the fictionalisation. Footage of the freshly squeezed Ollie Olsen and Rowland Howard [then of The Young Charlatans] daubed in makeup, bursting with romantic sensibilities and dreams of glory, was just wonderful. The two were to go their different ways, one to the North of the Yarra to pursue hard-edged no-quarter-given industrial mayhem, the other South to inspire a more flamboyant generation of post-punks, including my band The Ears. The film was a box of memories as complete as anything like that could ever be expected to be. Pierre, who was sitting a few seats down from me, ought to have been interviewed. He was one of the few key figures who didn’t get sufficient mention, and the film would doubtless have benefited from his wit and his bitchiness.
Sometimes, I wonder if the medications I take are disordering the functions of my amygdalae which, I am told, are the seat of emotion. There is a section of the documentary in which I describe the circumstances surrounding the death of my girlfriend Christine. My reaction was a kind of stunned fear or horror, as if some dark uniformed figure was about to enter the theatre and call me out. Over the intervening decades, the grief I felt at the time has attenuated to a keening note on the wind. What remains is a statue of sorrow rather than the sorrow itself. They say time heals all wounds, but I wish … not so completely.
Saturday, August 1, 2009
I missed the original première of Dogs in Space. I had seething issues with the film and nothing would have dragged me out in its support. There was an article in The Age the next day titled something like – Dark Premiere for Dark Film – accompanied by a photo of black-clad people mounting the stairs into the cinema. Edward Clayton-Jones of The Wreckery was among them, I remember that, and I also remember suppressing my visceral regret at not having been there.
Well, tonight, decades later, I have my second chance to show my face at a public screening of a film that’s been a constant presence in my life since it was released. Over the years since, I don’t think I’ve done more than a handful of interviews - whether theatrical, literary, operatic or band-related - in which Dogs in Space hasn’t come up. Inevitably, it’s the angle which journalists choose. Somehow it still manages to overshadow whatever I’m doing at the time. And I won’t even try to describe the effects it’s had on me in a social context.
I’ve never seen the film in a cinema. The first time I watched Dogs in Space was in a darkened room at a production house. I emerged speechless and in tears, then walked around the block about ten times. I did see it again, later, but several blue moons have passed since I’ve viewed more than a snippet.
I think that tonight, with all the raw emotions eroded by time, it will probably be like revisiting an old friend. One among many - as I imagine the audience will be writhing with degenerated eighties contemporaries.
Yet the question remains: what shall I wear?