Interview with The Guru: 10 questions with Dave Faulkner

Dave Faulkner is the singer/guitarist of legendary Australian band Hoodoo Gurus. He currently writes about music for The Saturday Paper. He chooses to write about alternative and relatively unheard of artists, introducing them to a broader audience. Two of his recent articles feature Melbourne post-punk act Gold Class and Newcastle producer Szymon. I had the pleasure of interviewing Dave this month and learned a thing or two about both the music and journalism industries. By ANDREW READ

Hoodoo Guru Dave Faulkner. Photo: Facebook
Hoodoo Guru Dave Faulkner. Photo: Facebook

How did you get into journalism? Was The Saturday Paper your first journalism job?

Initially the role of music critic for The Saturday Paper was offered to Tim Freedman. Tim expressed misgivings about the demands of the job and he recommended that I help share the workload. I had never done anything like it before but Tim had enjoyed reading my acerbic comments about music in emails when we were both serving as judges for the Australian Music Prize (the AMP), a role that I still perform today. After contributing one review to The Saturday Paper, Tim decided to step aside for a while to concentrate on a stage show he was devising about Harry Nilsson and I have continued doing it in his stead ever since. I’m not sure why Tim hasn’t contributed any more articles since his first one but he was very complimentary about my writing when a rang me after my second review was published, something I very much appreciated at the time. As you can see, I pretty much “fell” into the role. If The Saturday Paper’s editor had approached me alone I probably would have declined the offer.

Are there any specific journalists or articles that made you want to get into writing?

To be honest, no. I’ve enjoyed reading a lot of music journalism, in particular Lester Bangs and Richard Meltzer but, as a musician myself, I’ve often felt I’ve been misunderstood or treated shabbily by “hacks”. There is a great deal of suspicion, if not enmity, between musicians and the critics who are appointed to sit in judgement upon them. 

Your artist choice is always great — often not mainstream, but still appealing to a broad audience. What’s your usual process of deciding a topic/artist to review?

I just write about the albums and artists I enjoy. They may be artists that are familiar to me or ones I’m discovering for the first time. I discuss my choices with my editor but we have an implicit understanding that I will only review albums that I really like. I would find it too difficult to do anything else. I’ve always had a very broad taste in music, something that would probably surprise people given my long, single-minded career spent writing for my band, Hoodoo Gurus. Being able to “turn on” the readers to a wide variety of music has been one of the pleasures of this (part-time) job. I have no rules about age, era or genre, and I will happily talk about an interesting reissue from a long-established artist one week and a debut album from a neophyte the next. The only thing i won’t do is review an album simply because the rest of the music industry (or a vocal part of it) deems “important”. A lot of contemporary music, whether mainstream or “indie” (a term I hate), feels like a rehash to me and I steer clear of it. That said, I do feel an obligation to keep pushing our readers towards new music and I search high and low to find records that inspire me amongst the deluge of new releases. I strongly believe that great music can be discovered in any genre or era, including the current 

Did you used to write back in the early days of Hoodoo Gurus? Ever written an interview with yourself to get published for band promotion?

No, the only prose I’ve written since leaving high school has been the liner notes for a couple of our albums, oh, and a lot of Facebook posts on the Hoodoo Gurus page.

How is the current state of the music scene in Sydney? What’s the difference between here and Melbourne?

Music is always in a state of crisis, particularly since the advent of wholesale theft of artist’s work online. That Pandora’s Box will remain open, unfortunately, and for most artists their survival depends entirely on their ability to make money through performing live. Melbourne appears to have a healthier live scene than Sydney but Sydney’s is certainly vibrant and nothing to sneeze at. A flourishing community of musicians can lead to interesting collaborations but it can also lead to a self-congratulatory “groupthink” (everyone says so-and-so is good so they must be). Most of the interesting artists and art throughout history has been created outside the mainstream by mavericks and pioneers who ignored prevailing wisdom and sidestepped obstacles they found in their way. To be blunt, I’ve heard a lot of boring music coming out of Melbourne from people celebrated by their peers and the Melbourne “music mafia”. Unlike viticulture, geographical origin is no guarantee of quality.

Journalists and police ministers saying Sydney’s ‘live music industry is dead’ is a big hindrance to the success of the city’s live music scene. What are the differences between the industry now and in the 70’s and 80’s in Sydney/Australia? Any ideas on what would improve Sydney’s music culture to help it thrive?

This is too big a subject to answer in a couple of sentences. Here’s a link to a keynote address I gave on the subject two years ago at Sydney Town Hall as part of the City Conversations series presented by the Sydney City Council.

Hoodoo-Gurus-roof-top_t620

Of all the songs you’ve written, which is your favourite? And what makes that one stand out in your mind?

I don’t have any favourites, but I always use ‘What’s My Scene?’ as a textbook example of what I consider my strengths as a songwriter: a strong melody matched with economical, comprehensible lyrics (conversational in style). Lots of energy and momentum in every department.

What is a great piece of writing you have read recently?

I’m frequently amazed by the journalism I find in The Saturday Paper. I know that sounds glib but it’s true. In particular, the recent series of articles focusing on the inhuman conditions people have experienced in our government’s offshore refugee detention centres have been remarkable.

There are so many clickbait style ‘news’ sites out there now. Are there any bad journo techniques or styles that frustrate you, or any things that future journalists should avoid doing?

Superficiality is a curse. Lightness of touch is a gift. If you can balance those two opposing forces you’re doing well. I have no advice to offer on journalistic ethics than to be scrupulously honest with yourself first and foremost, the rest will follow naturally from there. The question for anyone is always, does it pass the sniff test?

Any advice for journalists wanting to get a job in the industry?

I have no journalism-specific career advice other than what I would give anyone embarking on any career: don’t do it simply because you can, do it because you just can’t stop yourself. A couple of quick clichés to finish: 1. The ends don’t justify the means, but the means should justify the ends. 2. Starting a career is easy, sustaining one is the challenge.

Joni Mitchell stable after collapse

Joni Mitchell in concert, 1974. By Paul C. Babin [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons
Joni Mitchell in concert, 1974. By Paul C. Babin [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons
BY CURREN RAJAN
@currenrajan

Joni Mitchell is in “good spirits” after she was rushed to the intensive care unit of a hospital in Los Angeles yesterday.

The 71-year-old musician was found unconscious at her home in Bel Air. She regained consciousness during the ambulance ride to the hospital. The singer-songwriter’s official website released a statement declaring that Mitchell was awake and undergoing tests.

Joni Mitchell’s 1971 album Blue came 30th on Rolling Stone’s list of the 500 greatest albums of all time. She has received eight Grammy Awards and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1997. The musician announced in 2007 that she was retiring because of a rare skin condition.

Q&A: Lime Cordiale’s Louis and Oli

Louis (L) and Oli Leimbach of Lime Cordiale. Photo: Laura-Mae Williams

 
 
Northern Beaches brothers, Oli and Louis Leimbach are on their rise to fame. With an upcoming tour of the U.S and various festival appearances, Lime Cordiale is working up a storm. Known for their chilled out personalities and unique beach pop music, it’s no doubt that everyone is keen for a new album, inspired by the Lime Cordiale boy’s international adventures. They spoke with LAURA-MAE WILLIAMS.
 
When & why did you guys form Lime Cordiale?
Oli: I had some bands in high school. In high school they just kinda form and drop off and change names and someone quits and everything just kind of tumbles downhill. Then, after high school we just started playing together, we were on a bit of a family holiday and we didn’t really have anything to do and we just started playing together. As you get older, as brothers, you kinda stop fighting and you work together a bit more.

What’s your favourite thing about being in a band?
Louis: Playing music.
Oli: (Laughs) Yeah but just how you meet so many people. There are just so many different people at every gig. It’s the easiest way of making friends, when you’re in Melbourne or just a different city. There are so many people there and you have a reason to say hi and you can kinda hang out and they can show you the cool places and the different cities. Just having a purpose when you’re travelling, I think, is one of the coolest things.

What’s been your craziest/favourite gig?
Oli: Early on we did one at Palm Beach, on a wharf and we kinda threw a party and built a stage on the wharf and about a thousand people rocked up. It went insane. It was just way too much.
Louis: This girl fell off the stairs and broke her head open. Then we had to get it shut down.

What’s been your biggest challenge as a band?
Oli: Louis broke his leg on a Wednesday, (and) we had a gig on the Friday in Melbourne. He broke it, spent a night in hospital and we had to put him in the car and drive about 20hrs, do the gig, and drive straight back. Louis couldn’t even get out of the car.
Louis: Broke it skateboarding. Really badly. That was probably the biggest challenge, for me! It was fine, I was so high on… medical little things.

You’re about to go and do a tour around the U.S. Where are you going?
Oli: We are going to go, Austin Texas because there’s a big festival called South by Southwest and that’s our main thing over there, we are playing five times at that festival, different showcases and things. It’s like a showcase sort of festival to show off bands. Then we will be going back to L.A and hopefully doing a bit of a tour, its being set up at the moment.

What are you looking forward to most over there?
Louis: Just to go surfing over there. Pretty keen to do that.
Oli: Just being somewhere different, it’s a bit freaky because we kind of just have to start again in a lot of ways, because our fan base that we have is here. Yeah, just travelling and seeing new things as well. It’s just a completely different world.

Will this tour inspire a new album for Lime Cordiale?
Louis: Yeah, I think so. Oli is writing one at the moment about L.A and he hasn’t even been there yet. He’s cheating.
 

Lime Cordiale’s Sleeping At Your Door
 

Here come the Sons

(L-R) Wes Taylor with the Sons of Sun stage band Steve Broughton, mastermind of the show John Kennedy and former Red Wiggle Murray Cooke.

 

BY WES TAYLOR

American president John F. Kennedy had a drastic situation over his stand-off with the Soviet Union in the ’60s with the Cuban Missile Crisis, but his namesake, Australian musician John Francis Kennedy, has no crisis over his new musical concept, Sons of Sun.

Well-known Australian musician John Francis Kennedy has developed an intimate stage-dinner-music show about Sam Phillips, best known as the recording engineer who discovered Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins, Roy Orbison, and Jerry Lee Lewis.

John has the perfect background to present such a show, growing up in Liverpool in England just as The Beatles’ popularity was exploding, all the while listening to his parents’ country music. “There was a fascination with country music … [maybe] if you live in a sort of grey, miserable, industrial town in the north of England, this image of wide open spaces and cowboys is very appealing,” he says. “My parents were into country and western music, I used to hear that as a kid.”

As The Beatles were taking off John was embarking on a voyage of his own, arriving in Australia in the mid-sixties with his parents, who were seeking to take advantage of the economic opportunities on offer in the Lucky Country.

John spent his formative years growing up in Brisbane and formed his first group JFK and the Cuban Crisis with friend James Patterson in 1980, and they quickly established themselves on the local scene. During this time, he released two albums and supported major acts including Ian Dury and the Blockheads and The Pretenders. The band relocated to Sydney in 1982 and added a new rhythm section, becoming the resident band at the Southern Cross Hotel in Surry Hills.

John recounts the rather depressing tale of leaving Sydney at the end of the 1980s, facing the break-up of his then-current band, Love Gone Wrong. “We’d broke[n] up and I had the choice of either starting a new band again, [with] a new lineup, recruiting new members and basically developing a new band, to get it to a point where I had been,” he says. Faced with this unappealing prospect, he instead packed his bags and guitar, heading to the US, spending six months in L.A., New York and Texas. During this period, he scored gigs wherever he could, including solo acoustic sets and small gigs in bars and clubs. At the end of this period he travelled to London, but found it difficult to break into the scene there. It wasn’t a totally lost cause, however – contacted by a contemporary in Berlin, he found himself invited to sit on a panel about independent music, and to record an EP.

Staying in Berlin for four years and becoming instrumental in the small but thriving music scene there, John formed another band, John Kennedy and the Honeymooners, and released another EP with that band. Having met his wife in Berlin during this time, the freshly-minted couple wanted to see the world. They packed up and travelled to Singapore and eventually to Lamma Island near Hong Kong – widely-known as a mecca for Western backpackers because of its cheap rents and alternative lifestyle. Renting a performance space at the Fringe Club, John cut his teeth on small theatre-type shows where he developed the art of relating to a small, intimate audience. “That was pretty much the first experience I had doing little theatre-type shows … doing them still primarily as a solo artist lent itself a lot more to talking. In a sit-down situation it just gives you the opportunity to talk more, [and] makes it easier to relate to people.”

Leaving Hong Kong after an extended stay, John and his wife settled in The Netherlands, where he again quickly established himself as a must-see live act in clubs and bars all over that country, which was itself supporting a very healthy live music scene at the time.

John’s life experiences and influences all led him to return to Australia, where he eventually released two CDs – ‘Sons of Sun’, volumes one and two. These consisted of cover versions of songs by artists that started their careers at Sun Records in Memphis – and that’s where the idea first started to form for the stage variant. John had always been fascinated by these musicians and, in particular, Sam Phillips. “Before he found these white hillbilly cats like Elvis and Carl Perkins, his mission was to have black rhythm and blues heard by a wider audience,” Kennedy says. “There was all sorts of cross-pollination going on.”

He had always found the music intriguing, and this led to him having the idea of how to present these songs live, without the conventional performance tropes of a cover band. The idea was developed in conversations with a colleague from Melbourne, playwright Kieran Carroll, with whom John had previously developed music for another show. Kieran then developed the show with three actors playing multiple roles, with John and a three-piece backing band on a very small stage, almost taking on the role of the famous performers from days gone by joining with the actors on stage and playing the classic hits from these long ago recording superstars

All the while John focused on Sam Phillips as the main element of the story. The stage play, which features 35 songs and is specifically crafted for small, intimate dinner theatre restaurant venues, is proving to be very successful. John is certain that the reason is simply the appeal of the music. It’s also certain that the experience and passion John has for live independent music will mean he’s never in Crisis.
 

Don’t hate on me! I heart Justin Bieber

Reaching through the screen to steal our hearts: Justin Bieber in Paramount Pictures’ Justin Bieber: Never Say Never. Photo credit: Courtesy of Paramount Pictures

BY KATE DAWSON

When it was announced last August that Paramount Pictures was prepping a motion picture about Justin Bieber’s life, the general reaction was, shall we say, a scoff. The guy was only 16 years old at the time, had only produced two studio albums, and had really only been on people’s radar for a couple of years. Considering other musical biopics that have come out in recent times (Joan Jett’s The Runaways, John Lennon’s Nowhere Boy, Michael Jackson’s This Is It, Bob Dylan’s I’m Not There, The Beatles’ Across The Universe and so on), it seemed ludicrous that someone so young could have a “life story” so early in his career. Of course, the typical backlash associated with the teen sensation was to be expected; Bieber faces just as much criticism (mostly male) as he does admiration from his adoring (mostly female) fans. Details of the film’s release were leaked over the course of the next few months: it was to be directed by the man responsible for both the Step Up sequels; it would use the latest 3D technology; the promotional 3D glasses were bright purple; and finally the movie would be named after Bieber’s hit song used in The Karate Kid remake, Never Say Never (featuring Will Smith’s wannabe-rapper son Jaden). All of these things evoked positive reactions from Bieber’s horde of screaming tween fans, and more moaning and groaning from his “haters”.

Personally, I’ve never had anything against the kid. Being female, I suppose I have less of a tendency to find him annoying, but I do honestly enjoy his music and appreciate his talent. My knowledge of Bieber before seeing this movie was that he was discovered on YouTube, fought over by Usher and Justin Timberlake, knows how to play a couple of instruments, can dance really well and has quite a girlish voice. Other than that, I would hear his songs or see his videos on occasion and think “Yeah, the kid’s not bad.” Seeing all the fuss young girls make over him didn’t particularly irk me, in fact I found it pretty amusing. I’ve always thought he was cute, but mostly in a wait-five-years-then-we’ll-talk kind of way. Apart from that, I had no feelings towards him, good or bad. When I heard about this movie, I was among those thinking it was a horrible idea. I mean, what on earth would they show for 110 minutes about a 16 year old? Sure, he’s got that whole Beatlemania thing going on but really, the only people who are going to want to see that on the big screen already love him enough! I just couldn’t see how this movie would convince a non-Bieber fan that he is the real deal. Boy, was I wrong.

Within the first five minutes of this movie I was grinning from ear to ear. I’ve heard people say there must be subliminal messages in there, because people seemed to be coming out of the theatres with a full-on case of Bieber Fever. I’m not sure about Chu’s brainwashing techniques, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it were true. The opening to the movie is unreal, it pulls you into the mad world of Justin Bieber instantly, and it’s quite a fun place to be. There’s catchy music pumping, bright colours, a great light show, and some truly awesome use of 3D filming. From start to finish, people were bopping along in their seats, smiling, laughing and going “Awwwww!” I’m not ashamed to be included in that group. Walking out of that cinema, I had a mixture of feelings. I was elated by the content, but mostly in shock and thoroughly impressed with just how good it was.

So what made it so unexpectedly good? First thing, Chu chose to include a lot of home videos of Bieber from his childhood growing up in a small town in Canada, where his single mum raised him with the help of her parents. This gave the movie heart. Interviews with both his mother and grandparents were moving, and immediately you stop thinking of Bieber simply as a money-making machine built by Usher and Island Def Jam. Secondly, thank God for all those YouTube videos, because they sure came in handy for this film. Audiences who hadn’t seen a very young Bieber performing in singing competitions in Canada, playing his guitar on the street for dozens of onlookers, practicing the piano and the drums, will be pleasantly surprised by the inclusion of what is essentially proof that Bieber is genuinely talented. Say what you will about the guy, but you cannot deny his musical ability after watching this movie. Thirdly, the documentation of the 10 days leading up to his all-important performance at the prestigious Madison Square Garden venue in New York was very well done, showing the ups and downs of rehearsals and preparation with some great cameos. Finally, the 3D was splendid, far beyond anything I’d have thought possible for a musical documentary. Wonderful use of this technology went a long way to making the concert sequences really pop – it’s almost as if Bieber’s outstretched hand is going to grab yours and pull you through the screen. Also, all of the music was phenomenal. All in all, Never Say Never was top notch entertainment for the entire duration.

Highly recommended for the non-Bieber fan, especially adults who doubt his capabilities at making a lasting impression on the industry. Obviously young female fans will love this one, but it’s the skeptics who will be bowled over by this unanticipated eye opener.

Director: Jon Chu (Step Up 3D, Step Up 2: The Streets)
Starring: Justin Bieber, Usher, Ludacris, Snoop Dogg, Sean Kingston, Miley Cyrus, Jaden Smith, Boyz II Men
Theatre Release: April 2011
Studio: MTV Films/Paramount Pictures
Rating: G