Togatus. July 2012 FREE!
Gay Marriage . Emma Louise . Black Milk Clothing Jonathan Boulet . Tasmaniaâ€™s Young Politicians . Xavier Rudd
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Photo by Jordan Davis1
FROM THE EDITOR Alexander Gibson Hello Togatus Readers, Welcome to our third issue for 2012. I’m thrilled to bring it to you, as there are some really important articles I hope will induce some discussion. Firstly, we enter into the marriage equality debate: a debate said to be the equality battle of our generation. We hear from two homosexual UTAS students about how they feel about the prospect of legalising gay marriage: one for and one against. As a believer in all equality, regardless of the participants, I was confronted with an interesting opinion recently: that homosexual people may feel less than enthused about heterosexual people campaigning in their favour, due to the hypocritical nature of it. My immediate reaction was one of indignation: I’d assumed my actions of support had been received with gratitude by the gay community. After some thought, I came to two new realisations. Firstly, while I can sympathise, I don’t understand what it feels like to be discriminated against according to my sexual orientation. I’m getting married in March, and while I was thrilled to be making this commitment, it was hard not to feel like a bit of a traitor, like I was condoning the inequality of marriage due the exclusion of some. Assuming that my campaigning for the legalising of gay marriage as unquestionably appreciated is probably quite presumptuous. Here I am, happily indulging in my own legal freedom to marry the person I love and share that celebration with my closest friends. Maybe I’m not as desirable a candidate as I initially thought. However, my second realisation was that while I personally believe that everyone should be given the right
to marry, I’m mostly interested in fighting to ensure that the society I live among is free from inequality. That’s a value I hold just as dear as the next person. I want my kids to grow up free of prejudice and full of understanding, and how do I expect that if those who govern and make law-binding decisions aren’t placing more value on that? Have a read of the articles inside and see where you sit. Secondly, and very fittingly, we get a chance to hear from some of Tasmania’s young politicians. Members from various parties around the state have shared the reasons they’ve chosen to join their respective political party. To add to the above, we have a huge list of interviews for you. We hear from TUU President, Saleh BinTalib as he reflects on his time in the role and answers some of the questions the student body may have. We also hear from the head of Marketing and Operations for Black Milk Clothing, Cameron Parker, Musicians Emma Louise, Jonathan Boulet and Xavier Rudd. We hope you enjoy the issue! Ally Gibson x Photo by Jordan Davis
Alexandra Gibson The last time I was truly embarrassed was last night, when I locked eyes with an old friend across the room. Was trying to remember where I knew them from and was mid-wave when I realised it was Ben from Masterchef. 2
CONTENTS From the Editor / 02 Contributors / 06 Interview with Saleh BinTalib / 08 Black Milk Clothing / 12 Tasmania's Young Politicians / 16 Adventures / 20 Emma Louise / 28 A Common Ground / 32 Gay Marriage: For and Against / 36 Jonathan Boulet / 40 Xavier Rudd / 43 My Time with the Bosnian Cleaner / 47
Photo by Jordan Davis 5
Stacey Armstrong The last time I was truly embarrassed was earlier this year when a Malaysian Border Security lady wished me goodluck with my pregnancy. I wasn't pregnant. Armstrong, p.2–3, 12-15, 32-35, 47-48
Sarah Foley The last time I was truly embarrassed was when I had to explain it is only semi-unintentional that my kittens are called 'Belle' and 'Sebastian'. Foley, p. 4-5, 28-31, 43-46
Hayley Francis The last time I was truly embarrassed was when I found out the Borat movie wasn't really a documentary! Francis, p. 6–11, 16–18, 40–42
Sam Lyne The last time I was truly embarrassed was several years ago at a friends 21st. Well, I wasn't embarassed at the time, I was the next day however, after I learnt that I'd broke several glasses and danced like Spiderman. Lyne, p. 1, 20-27, 36-39
FEATURES Laura Ashton The last time I was truly embarrassed was my 21st birthday. I passed out with a bottle of wine in hand, by 9:30 pm while the party went on without me.
Amelia Higgs The last time I was truly embarrassed was in grade 4, when my mother came to my classroom and began dancing to the PA music, bum-danced her way into an art display and knocked it over in front of my entire class. Thanks Ma.
Fabian Brimfield The last time I was truly embarrassed was when I realised that Wales is actually a real country, despite believing for 19 years that it was made up.
Ella Kearney The last time I was truly embarrassed was when I accidently pressed the rescue alarm instead of the flush button button in the disabled toilets at uni and had to casually saunter out like it was nothing to do with me.
Jordan Davis The last time I was truly embarrassed was when at Falls a year or two ago, I took a huge swig out of a mates 'frantelle' bottle expecting to taste the amazing synergy of cheap rum and homebrand softdrink. Turns out it was golden liquid of another kind. Mmm tangy.
Hannah McConnell The last time I was truly embarrassed was when I heard a contestant sing, or should I say butcher, Smells Like Teen Spirit on The Voice. I was embarrassed for that girl. Kurt Cobain must have been rolling in his grave.
Hannah Grey The last time I was truly embarrassed was when this guy at work leant in over the bar and hissed, "hey, doesn't that guy overthere look like Sting? And I gave him a puzzled look and answered, who's Sting? And he spat his drink out in disbelief before launching into a rendition of Message in a Bottle.
Alexander McKenzie The last time I was truly embarrassed was when my Visa police check came back with Disorderly Conduct. Urgh.
Alex West The last time I was truly embarrassed was when I sent a dirty text message to my best friend that was meant for a ladylove at 4.30 in the morning.
Photo by Jordan Davis Illustrations by Hayley Francis7
Amelia Higgs AM: How did you come to be the TUU president? What lead you to the point where you decided that this is what you wanted to do? SB: I started off as the International Students’ Officer and then I went on to become the Vice President. And when I became Vice President… I’d always said to my friends that Vice President was probably as far as I’d go, but there were a few things that happened when I was Vice President that triggered me to run for President. It had me believing that some things in this organisation needed to be done differently, so I guess that’s the reason why I went for President in 2010. So what were the things that you thought needed doing differently? Well, we felt that there was a lack of leadership on several matters, and we also felt that there wasn’t a clear direction for the organisation. So a few of us thought that we would get together, get a few students to run together, and hopefully set up a strong team. Obviously one of the biggest things that has occurred in the last 12 months is the sale of the TUU assets, and you personally came under a fair amount of fire from the students about that. Were you surprised by the student response? Not at all. I saw everything coming. We always joke about it around the office: I’ll be remembered as the President who sold everything off. At the end of the day the decision was made by the TUU Board of Management and I was
probably one of those who advocated to the board to say that it was very important to engage at least the SRC on the matter. So when that wasn’t the direction that was taken, obviously being the face of the TUU in more ways than one, I’d be the first one to be put under pressure. There was a lot of outrage from a lot of students, and people got fairly upset that the news hadn’t been made public earlier; students felt as though they hadn’t been kept in the loop. Was that an oversight by the TUU, or did the TUU not have the opportunity to get it out in the open before that point? Things happened very, very quickly. I think it was probably… there was lots of chatter going on that this could possibly happen. The SRC was made aware of it, we had a chat, and we said that until we had clearer details there was nothing we could do. We – a few members of the Board of Management – had always been pushing for the University to provide the details, if this [the sale] was going to happen, in advance. Then we forced the issue to come to a head and the University put a letter out to us, which is already out there now in the public domain. As members of the board, a few of us were put in a very delicate spot. We had to respect the Board’s and the University’s request for the whole process to be business in confidence, and at the same time, we really wanted to engage the students, so we were put in a spot that just couldn’t be explained to anyone. So could you say that it was the University’s fault 8
Interview. that there wasn’t more discussion, because they wanted that business in confidence? I wouldn’t say so. I don’t want to shift the blame to anyone. On the whole I think that everyone could have done the whole process in a much more open manner. But, as I said, I don’t want to shift the blame and go back to what’s already happened. But it was a very difficult period for several of us up here [at the TUU]. In a media release that you put out last year, it was said that one of the reasons the assets were being sold off was to make those services more economically viable in a competitive business environment. Was the TUU, as far as you know, struggling to keep those services viable? Yes. We’ve always had a loss. The year before last we had a loss of a quarter of a million dollars, and last year if this transaction had not happened, we would have lost maybe half a million dollars. So if that trend continued, whether or not we could have been safe through the Student Services and Amenities Fees (SSAF) – that’s another question. But if that trend had continued for several years, chances are we would not have been in the position we’re now in. So there was a risk that the TUU would have gone under completely? Yes, there was. The other thing that got said was that because of the sale of those assets, the TUU would see an increase in its income. Are you able to point to the sorts of things that funding has gone towards? You would have seen the biggest O-Week in six years and the first free concert in six years which we were extremely proud of, to have done that. Even before money from the Student Services and Amenities came through, clubs and societies have seen a big increase and I think the Student Societies’ budget has increased by three-fold. The Sports Clubs’ budget has increased by almost double. So you know, there are things. And we’ve got financial security in a way. Obviously we don’t have a direct say in the catering outlets any more, but it just means that right now the TUU has gone back to its roots in a way. That’s to look after the student experience on campus, to be the independent advocate for students, and we now have a chance to build it from bottom up again. The TUU also said that with the sale of the assets, it was going to negotiate for an ongoing portion of the SSAF funding. Has that been successful, or is it going to be? We expect to be making an announcement very soon – by the time this is printed, we should have everything
WE ALWAYS JOKE ABOUT IT AROUND THE OFFICE: I’LL BE REMEMBERED AS THE PRESIDENT WHO SOLD EVERYTHING OFF.
in writing from the University regarding our submission for funding and the initial outcome for the remainder of this year. Utilising the guidelines set forth from the federal government, we have applied for funding that will assist in the continuation and improvement of student media, clubs and societies and advocacy services and most importantly increasing the level of representation and development programs for all students of UTAS. The funding will also allow us to be able to compete and host for national, perhaps international, university sporting events and academic conferences. A couple of weeks ago the TUU ran a SSAF Q and A, and a student asked whether the sale of the assets might have been instigated by the University because it knew the SSAF funding was coming through and it wanted to spend the money on catering and accommodation. Do you think that that’s a reasonable proposition? That’s a reasonable proposition to be made. We obviously said last year when comments were made to us that our services were not up to scratch. I’m not going to beat around the bush: our services were not up to scratch. The coffee was crap. Things such as that. And we’ve always said that we didn’t have the budget to fund such things. We used to, pre-VSU and so on, but we said that services could have improved with the SSAF, so that was something I pointed out time and time again at the Board of Management meetings. But we kept being told that the University didn’t even know yet if it was charging it, and I think you’ll find from the SSAF allocation that will be announced soon – I’m not sure if that funding even will go to catering actually. There’s a lot more in terms of activities and support for students. The University will have to explain why it didn’t fund those catering outlets.
THE YEAR BEFORE LAST, WE HAD A LOSS OF A QUARTER OF A MILLION DOLLARS, AND LAST YEAR IF THIS TRANSACTION HAD NOT HAPPENED, WE WOULD HAVE LOST MAYBE HALF A MILLION DOLLARS.
I had a look at the report the TUU released recently on the SSAF survey you ran. I found it really interesting that students placed low priority on things like funding for clubs and societies, student advocacy services and student media. But they placed high importance on emergency assistance, on-campus health care, improving food and beverage outlets and Unigym subsidies. Did you find those responses surprising? I can’t remember how low [the response] for clubs and societies went, but I think they were in the mid-range so I would probably put that as a positive. We were not surprised that face-to-face counselling was up there. We keep saying that face-to-face counselling has to be improved, so the University has taken that on board. I was actually a bit shocked to see student media ranked very lowly. In the negotiations that we had when we 10
Interview. were discussing the survey results with the Univeristy, a member of the University said that Togatus should get zero funding. But myself and the Post-Grad President almost had a 20-round boxing match with them, arguing for half an hour that we need funding for Togatus. I’m pleased that our argument has been heard and Togatus will receive substantial funding. And health care on campus, I think you’ll find that the Launceston students do not currently have an on-campus medical service so that’s something that is going to change. So in relation to SSAF and the sale of the assets, it seems that a lot of students didn’t understand the separation between the SRC, the Board of Management, the Societies Council and other bodies. Do you think that there needs to be more student awareness about the various bodies of the TUU and how they operate? Definitely. I think you’re right on the money there. The Board of Management looks after the financial activities of the organisation, as per the constitution. From time to time the SRC and the Council can provide feedback and advice to the Board about how things are done, but at the end of the day the financial decisions are made by the Board. We are also now looking at the Constitution in a formal review, so these are the kinds of things that are going to be looked at. But when someone is the President, whether it’s myself or someone in the past or in the future, they will find themselves in a very delicate position because they’re caught in between the University Council, which they’re a member of; in between the Board of Management; in between the SRC and between the student-body as a whole. So that person is in a very difficult position, especially in matters such as the sale.
I’m not sure. I’m thinking of taking a break from things, and I need to start looking for a job. The job market isn’t looking very interesting, but hopefully when I graduate at the end of this year the job market will be much more stable. So having been President with the TUU, do you have any political aspirations? I was waiting for this question! Obviously that’s what everyone thinks when you sit in this office, everyone thinks that. I don’t think I’ve got what it takes to be a politician. I don’t understanding the backstabbing nature of it, so it’s not for me. Finally, from this point on, where would you like to see the TUU going? I’d like to see it survive for another 129 years! I would like to see it grow from strength to strength, now that we’re a leaner and meaner organisation. It will be very sad to leave after everything we’ve gone through in the past two years. The TUU is in a very lucky position because we are the only student union and the only University in Tasmania, so we’re very strong. And like I said, I really want to see it keep going from strength to strength. Photo by Ally Gibson
Do you think that social media is helpful? Do you find that you get a lot of useful student feedback that way, or do you think that it just complicates the issue? Social media is actually something that TUU has just gone into last year. With the sale last year, you can see how social media blew out for us. We have always said that sometimes the privacy of an individual might, you know – you don’t get any privacy from anyone with social media. But I think that social media, if you use it properly and correctly, then it’s actually a useful tool to get the message out there. At the same time, it’s another way that you’re opening yourself up to more criticism. But to be honest, if you are not open to criticism then you probably shouldn’t be in this job. Where are you planning to go personally after TUU? I definitely want to finish studying at the end of this year. 11
Black Milk Clothing Laura Ashton Cameron Parker is the marketing and operations brain behind the clothing label Black Milk Clothing. The fashion house has gone from a one man show of designer James Lillis to a passionate team of 100, with three studios in Brisbane and one in Melbourne. From it's infamous galaxy leggings to its collaborations with Jeffrey Campbell Shoes, Black Milk Clothing has developed a dedicated community of legging wearing “Sharkies” all over the world. I had the opportunity to grill Cameron amid his roller coaster ride of launches, potential New York studios and new designs. Here is what he had to say. Black Milk: A Brief History The name Black Milk came about randomly, it's actually the title of a Massive Attack song that designer and creator, James Lillis really liked. It all started with Lillis thinking about women's legs. He thought, “there must be more to leggings than black cotton”, so he wrote about it on his blog Too Many Tights. He thought about patterns and prints and it turns out that girls felt the same. They wanted more from their leggings and here a community
of tights loving ladies grew. Lillis went out, bought a second hand sewing machine and after a lot of trial and error he finally made the perfect pair of leggings and then someone asked to buy those leggings.
Cameron Parker on Being 100 per cent online and imitations We're so happy we decided to be a hundred percent online! We've been able to keep manufacturing in Australia, it's been better for profits and it's allowed us to build a strong relationship with our customer base. We get immediate feedback on our products in real time. There is really no other label where the designer listens to the customers and responds to their ideas and suggestions. They're really a part of that design process. When we see a business imitating the prints it is frustrating, but we can't stop it and we aren't the type to get aggressive. We know that while others may reproduce our prints or leggings, no other business can keep bringing out content the way we do, like 30 pieces every couple of weeks.
On “Sharkies” A year ago, whenever we did a launch the website would crash. We had girls log in from all over the world, in 12
Europe they'd get up early, Americans stayed up late and everyone attacked the site at the same time. We'd sell out in minutes and then the site would crash from so much action. We would have to put up notices on Facebook about the crash and that we didn't know how long it would take to recover. We described it as a fierce attack, like a predatory animal had feasted on us! The animal that came to mind to describe our customers was sharks, thus the term “Sharkies” was born. The girls have really created a huge community; they are essentially our sales team! They wear the leggings, talk about the leggings, get together and form bonds.
On going international and the Black Milk Community Without Facebook we wouldn't be here today! We have been so successful due to the social media communities we have formed, on Instagram, Pinterest, YouTube, Twitter and the blog. James is thinking about opening up a studio in New York and collaborating with Star Wars, but we will never make the transition to manufacturing third world. Australia is our home, the team here is passionate. They wear the leggings and love what they do, they get a buzz from the community they're a part of. However, we do
find it hard to find sewers, because there hasn't really been anything like us before.
On Collaborating with Jeffrey Campbell Jeffrey Campbell has been around since the beginning! It started when we had a model wear JC's on a shoot. The customers loved the shoes and emailed us to find out where they were from. We saw the range on Solestruck and our customer base are essentially the same: if you wear Black Milk you wear Jeffrey Campbell. So we thought, we’ve gotta talk to these guys! We emailed them and were basically like, “let's be best friends!” It's gone from there and it's been a really easy collaboration, however the shoes are currently only available for pre-sale and will be available in the near future. Visit Black Milk @ blackmilkclothing.com
TASMANIA'S YOUNG POLITICIANS Susan Austin (President of the UTAS Resistance club)
Adam Clarke (Tasmanian Young Labor President)
I am involved in Resistance because I want to help create a better world. I think that capitalism is an inherently flawed system that leads to the enriching of about one per cent of very wealthy, privileged people in the world at the expense of the great majority of people (the other 99 per cent). Capitalism also leads to environmental destruction. I want to work with other like-minded people to change the whole social and economic system imto one that is based on real participatory democracy, on the meeting of human needs and on the principles of sustainability and equality, instead of on private profit and consumerism.
The Labor Party at its core stands for equality, dignity and fairness for all people, both at home and abroad. This is equally as true for social freedoms as it is for economic fairness. Everybody deserves to live their life as they see fit, so long as this does not infringe on the rights of others. This means we must work to eliminate the scourge of discrimination in all its forms; whether it is based on gender, race, ethnicity, origin, disability, sexuality, faith or any other factor that contributes to the diversity and vibrancy of our society. It also means ensuring that every person is given a fair go to achieve their full potential.
Resistance helps to educate, inspire and organise other young people to think critically about society and to co-operate together to campaign for positive changes. Resistance is affiliated to the Socialist Alliance, which is a political party that both builds grassroots campaigns and runs in elections. Our biggest challenge is being able to break through the corporate media which largely tries to ignore us and only provides media space for the major parties, which perpetuates the status quo. We think our ideas about equality, democracy and social change are very popular so if more people knew about us it would help our organisation and our movements to grow. Our other challenge is that many young people are under a lot of pressure with work and study and itâ€™s hard for them to find the time to get more active. But we just remind people that every bit helps!
This requires an economic agenda focussed on spreading opportunity, not entrenching privilege. Equitable access to education, healthcare, social insurance, housing, the right to a safe workplace with decent conditions and fair remuneration are all fundamental to a society based on fairness, decency and respect. Labor prioritises people over profits and society over corporations. We care about the sustainability of our planet and leaving a better world for future generations. Labor encourages internal debate and discussion and admonishes conformity. I encourage anyone who wants a better world to join the Labor party to make their voice heard and help shape a progressive future. 16
Reflection. Madeleine Charles (Tasmanian Delegate to the Australian Young Greens Working Committee)
ideology, individual freedom, freedom of enterprise and the idea that government isn’t there to do everything for you, it’s there to incentivise.
Within our lifetime marriage equality will be realised. Within our lifetime Australia will start working towards a nation not tainted by our horrific human rights abuses in the past and at present. Within our lifetime the extreme poverty which is immersed in the global community will be something our grandchildren struggle to comprehend. Within our lifetime we will need to make necessary transgressions to a less carbon intensive carbon based economy and an economy which is an ecological sustainable economy; not just to the economy but to the environment – a valuable resource in which fuels the air we breathe, sources the food we eat and creates an environment which we develop our perception of society.
My time at the Tasmanian University Liberal Club and in the Australian Liberal Students’ Federation has cemented those first reasons that I joined the Liberal Party itself.
The Greens are working towards a clearly defined charter encompassing of visions for ecology, democracy, social justice, peace, culture, information, meaningful work, information and global responsibility with a long term focus. I’d like to see: - Greater protection for the Great Barrier Reef and Oceanic health - Investment and progression to a carbon natural economy - Immediate improvement of detention centres and processes - More subsidies to support families transitioning to carbon efficient lifestyles - 0.7% GNI – in aid immediately - Global leadership on human rights and climate issues. Christian Street (Vice President of the Australian Liberal Students’ Federation) I joined the Liberal Party as a Young Liberal in 2007 and started with the Student Liberals when I arrived on campus in 2010. Generally, when people hear how involved I am their first question is always, “Why?” and then, “Why Liberal?” For as long as I can remember I have had an interest in politics and the way decisions were made and by whom. Even as a kid the scale of it all fascinated me. As I got older I started to think about which party really fitted with what I thought of the world. It was the Liberal Party. The Liberals appealed to me because of their
We have had a consistent message about compulsory student fees. No student should be asked to contribute to services that they may not need or use. It has been the cornerstone of Liberal Student policy for years and with the introduction of the Student Services Amenities Fee will continue to be one of our greatest issues. I am proud to be a member of a party that has also consistently fought for a better and fairer youth allowance deal for regional students. In those two policies I see so many of the reasons that I first joined the Liberals. The debate around compulsory student fees was one primarily around individual rights and freedoms and not being forced into payment for something you may never use or enjoy access to. The second is about helping those who can’t help themselves, one of the best functions of government and at the core of Liberal belief. Joining a political club on campus was one of the best things that I have done at Uni. The access that it gives you to decision makers and other like-minded people is brilliant. I still believe that it is the best way to get your voice heard and be a part of the decision making process and I would encourage anybody thinking about it to dive in and see what we are all about. Tasmania is a great place and the University of Tasmania is a great institution. We deserve to be proud of our state and we can be a state second to none. As young people we are the future (clichéd but true). I decided a long time ago that it was time to get off the sideline complaining about things happening above me and throw myself into the middle of it all. If you have a concern for this state and this country and love it like I do, you should get involved too. Christian is the Vice President of the Australian Liberal Students’ Federation, President of the Tasmania University Liberal Club and avid lover of freedom and liberty. Photos by Hayley Francis
by Jordan Davis
Hannah Grey Emma Louise’s melodic musings spilled onto the scene early last year with her EP Full Hearts and Empty Rooms, which has since gone gold with 35,000 sales. Now the songstress has toured worldwide and signed with US indie label Frenchkiss Records; her debut album is set for release in early 2013. Hannah Grey chats to Emma Louise about her upcoming Sparks Tour, how that heady hit “Jungle” really affected her musical career and what it was like to be courted with snail appetisers. HG: Your debut EP, Full Hearts and Empty Rooms, has gone gold with 35,000 sales. Did you anticipate it would be such a success? EL: No, I really didn’t. I didn’t even expect it to be on the radio! I recorded it a few streets away from my house, back home in Cairns and it was a really low-key event. Your song “Jungle” proved to be really popular, and it was number 23 on the 2011 Triple J Hottest 100. Do you feel this put pressure on you to continue this kind of success in your upcoming album? It definitely did at first, before I started recording my new album. I had noticed that at live shows many people
had come just to hear “Jungle” and were kind of talking through the rest of my set. That sucked a bit, but then again if it weren’t for “Jungle” then people wouldn’t have come to my shows at all. At the same time, it is really important for me not to write ten more songs like “Jungle” and I am happy that I have been able to stay true to what I have always wanted to do. Do you want to talk a little bit about your new single, “Boy”, from your upcoming album? It has been getting a lot of airplay on Triple J. I am really happy with “Boy”, because I wasn’t trying to replicate “Jungle”, and I was just writing about what I felt, so it worked out really well. In fact, my whole album isn’t just going to have ten singles on it, you know. I am really pleased with how it’s going because I feel really strongly about all the songs on the album too. “Boy” is about someone who maybe smokes a bit too much and could be making better choices in their life. I guess everyone knows someone a bit like that. Again, I didn’t really think it would be a single, which is good because I didn’t write it to be a single. I am really happy that it has been getting a lot of airplay. My friend absolutely loves “1000 Sundowns”. Can you tell me what this song is about? Oh yeah. That one I wrote about my auntie and uncle. It’s kind of the story of their relationship. They met when 28
they were 16-yrs-old and got married and stayed together until they were 60 and a few years ago, he passed away with cancer and I wrote it about that. I think it is a really sad song. I wrote it when I was in grade 12 and now I think it relates to different things in my life. It’s funny how that happens. You recently did some shows in the US and the UK, which included playing at the Great Escape Festival in Brighton. Did you enjoy sharing your music with a different audience and what did you find were the biggest differences in playing overseas? I loved playing all the shows in the UK. Everyone was really attentive and appreciative of the music I was playing. It was different playing at a wide range of venues and I had never been to the UK before so that was awesome. In America, in the beginning of the year, I played at the South by Southwest Festival. That was a difficult one for me because I didn’t anticipate how big the festival would actually be. Hundreds of thousands of people came to the festival and I found it really intense. I think next time I am going to be more prepared. I wasn’t really used to playing at festivals at that point in time.
That's great. So, you are only 21-yrs-old? Not yet! Wow. Do you find any of this overwhelming? Absolutely. It has been a massive change, because I finished high school and was just chilling out and busking on the weekends. I went from having all the time in the world to myself and now this weekend is my last weekend off until after the first weekend of my tour! But I am definitely working on it and learning about this whole process. Did you always have your sights set on a musical career? I didn’t really have my heart set on any career; I guess I was just floating along. I have always, well, since I was 15-yrs-old, enjoyed playing my music to others. I didn’t really do well in school and that may have been because I put all of my energy into music. It really only dawned on me after I made my EP that I could actually do this for a career, so that’s why I have been working harder. Definitely my goal now is to not be a success over a three-year period or anything short term; I want to be able to take my time.
Thesis Your Editing album isAustralia set to be released early next year. I HAD NOTICED THAT AT How is everything coming along for that? It is going really well! We are just working on it at the 0409 LIVE SHOWS MANY PEOPLE moment 678 in the 074 studio. I am kind of going back and forth between rehearsing and working on the album. It is firstname.lastname@example.org HAD COME JUST TO HEAR coming together really nicely. Most of the songs I have written are brand new for the album, which is really "JUNGLE" AND WERE KIND www.kookaburraediting.com.au exciting. That means we will also have to learn them OF TALKING THROUGH for the live set which will be really fun. THE REST OF MY SET. Will your debut album be similar in sound to You just got signed to US indie label, Frenchkiss Records. How did that come about? We had a few labels interested and at the end of last year, Hannah [my keyboardist] and I went over to New York with Rick [my manager]. When we arrived, we met up with a whole bunch of them. It was funny: some of them had the company card and were taking us out to these fancy restaurants where we were served snails and all these funky things. They talked about how much money they would make me. It was a bit scary. I think they were really banking on me writing more songs like “Jungle”. But when I met with Frenchkiss Records they said they wanted me as an actual artist. That was amazing, because I don’t feel any creative pressure to write a certain type of song. They are also just really nice, friendly people.
your EP, or will it feature tracks with different influences? There is a more electronic sound and we have been working with a drum machine and a synth and stuff. In saying that, the songs on the album won’t be entirely different, there will still be a really organic sound. Can you give us a hint about any themes that will be encompassed in the album or where you got your latest inspiration? I think a lot of the inspiration is what is happening in my life at the moment. There are stories about moving away from home and missing my lover and that kind of stuff. You are just gearing up for your Sparks Tour. Are you excited to be playing at Splendour in the Grass? 30
Interview. I am! Actually I have a month off in August, and Splendour is the last show so that will be a very fun time for me. So, why isn’t Tasmania included on your tour? Do you know, it’s a bit of a scabby tour this time to be honest. We aren’t going to WA either because I am not signed with a label for this tour, so I am doing it all independently and there are certain sacrifices we had to make. But I wish I was coming to Tasmania — last time it was so amazing. Beautiful place. Your Youtube.com channel is really popular and you have chosen to upload many songs to share with your fans. Was this a factor that assisted your transition into the music industry? It definitely helped. I would write a song and practice it a few times and then put it up on Youtube and people started listening. That definitely encouraged me to put more songs up. I think I started uploading them just so I would be able to remember how the songs went! It was a good way for people to hear more of my music and it helped me out with labels and stuff. I have actually got a video coming out soon, which you will have to stay tuned for.
So how did things really kick off for you? I can’t pinpoint an exact moment. I think maybe when “Jungle” got on Triple J — that was a moment that got the ball rolling. That was when quite a few people were rocking up to the shows. I guess some people might think, “Oh wow that was so quick, she’s so young, she didn’t have to work for it”, but I think it’s important to remember that there is always a lot of work behind the scenes. You have supported Josh Pyke, and artists from Big Scary and The Middle East will be joining you on your upcoming Sparks Tour. Who are your favourite Australian artists and who do you hold high as musical influences? During high school, Josh Pyke, Lior and Missy Higgins were my biggest inspiration. To get that tour with Josh Pyke was really amazing. I absolutely loved him when I was younger. Missy Higgins was one of the first albums I bought and I remember listening to her stuff and thinking, “wow, I really want to do something like this”.
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A Common Ground Alexander McKenzie It was one of those classic June, Hobart mornings. The air was cold and crisp as I walked down to A Common Ground in the Salamanca Arts Centre to have a chat to the manager, Sheona McLetchie, about Tasmania’s food scene – where it’s come from and where it’s heading. Sheona initially moved to Tasmania to run the cheesery at Bruny Island Cheeses before changing jobs to work for Matthew Evans, Nick Haddow and Ross O’Meara in their collective shopfront. The store is very charming, and I was impressed with the thoughtfulness of her approach. She, and the store she runs, has an obvious connection to the land and regions where the produce comes from. It’s not pretentious – the marketing of the home-grown pork, cheese, jam and honey is not overdone. AM: What do you think has changed in Tasmanian food while you've been involved? SM: I think it's developed and progresses; I think it's actually grown up. Do you think that’s just because of press and the amount of attention it’s getting?
That’s definitely a factor, and I think perhaps that has created awareness of all the little guys who were doing it all the way along and weren’t getting press. And perhaps all those people that were just growing their own vegies and having their own chickens and there wasn’t all that fanfare about it. It’s nice that there is press, as it’s given them a little bit of respect and the general public now have the awareness to go and get their meat from that guy or this girl. And the Salamanca Market stops being about touristy Tasmanian t-shirts and more about food and local produce? Yeah, decent food and not just eating it because it’s got a Tasmanian tag on it – you know, it must be good. I think there’s still a bit of that going on, but I think we’re growing out of it. I think it’s really nice because now we can say, “this is a Tasmanian product and it’s an excellent quality, well sourced, well made Tasmanian product.” There is a natural perception that because it’s from Tassie, it must be good. Do you think some people get away with not putting in the effort and making sure their stuff is good and just sort of riding that? I think we’re getting better. More and more, we’re 32
not saying, “oh well, you’re stuck on the island now, whatever we serve you – coffee, food or whatever – is good”. And understanding that most people are savvy and worldly and they want a good product. Do you find that most of the food that you source is Hobart and Southern Tasmania based? I did notice that you’ve been north before. There’s a lot of stuff from the Channel, but I have to say, there is quite a lot of stuff from the North West. Cause the grains, the spelt, the flour and the quinoa are all North West. Our meat producers – two of them – are North West, from Mt Gnomon and occasionally we get some bacon and such from Penguin way and Blackridge Farm at Wynyard. There’s quite a few little food pockets. There’s the Huon and there’s definitely quite a bit going on in the North West. I can’t remember these things happening five years ago, even two years ago. And the first big press event that I can remember happening was when Matthew Evans came down and did the Gourmet Farmer. Do you think that played a big role in Tasmania turning it on a little bit? I think that, along with Rodney and Serévine at the beautiful Agrarian Kitchen, you know, and then Luke [Burgess]
getting credit at Garagistes, I reckon there have been a few core things where people have actually stood-up and paid a bit more attention. You did have to be a bit careful down here, because it is such a small community and it’s just one of those situations where if you go to express an opinion like, “I don’t like that”, and then the message spreads through the community that, “oh that girl in that shop said she doesn’t like...”. It’s one of the frustrating things about the Hobart community and food. In that, it is so small and fuelled by politics.
Yeah you’re right, there’s so much food wank. I’ve been in the industry for 20 years and I still need to go home and have a big old vent sometimes. I have noticed that you’ll go to Pigeon Hole and Luke Burgess will be sitting there and for someone that’s interested, it makes you feel good about where you’re eating. And if they’ve got faith in what they’re doing then I should too. Do you think 33
that wouldn’t happen on the mainland or that you wouldn’t notice it as much because the faces are less obvious? If you’re in the industry you notice it. You know that that was such and such over in that place, but it’s a much smaller pool here and you definitely notice it more. Do you think it’s a good thing for Tassie that there’s that element of celebrity chef happening down here a little bit more? Personally, I don’t like it, but I never have. Professionally, it can’t hurt the industry. People are coming in here with their bucket list – a lady yesterday had it written down on her map and she’d obviously read it in Epicure. She asked me where to go and get cake and I said go and visit Alistair Wise up at Sweet Envy and her mum said, “That’s not on her list”, and she went “Yes, it is,” and she was really chuffed. You know, she told me, “We’ve already had breakfast at Pigeon Hole,” and I asked if they were having dinner at Garagistes. And she goes, “Yep, we’re going there tonight”. I think it’s really good, people are coming down and they’re going to go there, they’re going to go to Ethos. They’re not just going to go out to MONA, they might have read about [us] in the Qantas Magazine, etc. and it’s getting them looking for things. But you know, it must be really difficult because Tetsuya was here last week and he was just trying to sit and have breakfast, you know, and he couldn’t just sit and have breakfast [due to disturbance from the public]. I think that element for someone that is kind of famous would be difficult. I was thinking, you know, like Jay up at Pigeon Hole is going to be in the next GQ and I think then with all the Masterchef stuff it makes you feel a bit funny. Is that going to change how the whole place feels? Just to have your toast and eggs? Yeah, your brekkie. And you know, the crowds are there with their Lonely Planets and the little hole in the wall in West Hobart, isn’t a little hole in the wall anymore? Yeah you’re right, there’s so much food wank. I’ve been in the industry for 20 years and I still need to go home and have a big old vent sometimes. It’s so pretentious sometimes. Food is about love and company, you know? And having a good time. It’s great that things are vibrant and trendy and all the rest of it, but ultimately, I find that really difficult. 34
Food is about love and company, you know? And having a good time. It’s great that things are vibrant and trendy and all the rest of it, but ultimately, I find that really difficult. I just wanted to have dessert, you know? Yeah, I just wanted to have a coffee, a flat white, I didn’t really care where it came from and who ground it or whatever. It’s good that we’re aware, but I think it’s a double-edged sword. But in a small town like Hobart, you can’t just be lazy anymore, as you were saying earlier, which I think is a good thing. But I don’t know if the rest of it is. We don’t need to go around high fiving each other? No, exactly. A Common Ground is open from 10-4 Monday to Friday and 8.30-4 on Saturdays. acommonground.com.au
Gay Marriage For and Against
Against Fabian Brimfield These days, if you tell someone that you don’t agree with legalising gay marriage, you’re met with a fierce barrage of screaming and shouting. To which you can only try and close your eyes and ears and wait for the spectacular frenzy of flying spittle to stop hitting your face, or you can just pretend to be dead and wait for the predator to go away. People who don’t agree with legalising gay marriage are automatically branded as backward religious bigots, or members of the Liberal party. Or both. But actually… I don’t believe in religion, and I don’t vote Liberal. In between the screams you may be able to make out semi-coherent arguments like “how dare you impose your views on someone else” and “you wouldn’t understand what it’s like not to be able to marry”.
Hold on Sister. Firstly: you can’t tell me what I should and shouldn’t be in favour of. The whole marriage equality debate is in part centred on the right to choice, being able to choose whom you can marry, regardless of gender. So telling me I should feel a certain way is a little rich. Secondly: my people? What makes them my people? Contrary to some frustratingly popular belief, the gay community doesn’t act or think as a collective. Our minds aren’t linked by some kind of otherworldly, telepathic transmission to a hive queen (presumably Madonna) who decides what we should or shouldn’t believe. We aren’t bees. I don’t go around preaching about the hardships of living as an overweight, black woman with three kids in Detroit, because well, frankly I have no idea what that’d be like. So I look fairly wryly upon straight people preaching about how hard life is, not being afforded the right to marry, because they have no idea either. My cynicism to the whole issue probably appears obvious by now, but I don’t actually have a problem with the concept of marriage equality. I realise, as do most people (from both camps), that it is a change that is absolutely inevitable. In fact, it’s a change that’s very close. Barrack Obama now supports marriage equality; all he has to do is wait for all the other fat, white conservative congressmen in big old America to play ideological catch-up.
But actually… I do understand. I understand, because I am of the ilk that gets a little too excited when Shirley Bassey makes an appearance at the Queens Jubilee, and I’m the kind of guy who takes a week off from uni to grieve when my favourite Ralph Lauren jacket gets discoloured in the wash. I am well gay. So last week when a girl came confidently up to me before a lecture and asked (more like demanded) me to sign a petition in favour of legalising gay marriage, and I politely declined, you can imagine the look of pure shock and surprise that draped her dismayed face. “Uhm, what? You should be in favour of this, it’s your people’s future”.
My issue with marriage equality is the reprehensible tenor of the debate from both sides. For example, the view same sex couples shouldn’t be able to marry because they wont make good parents: unjustifiable, untenable, and downright silly. When quizzed about why he didn’t support Gay Marriage on the television program Q&A in May, Joe Hockey had to explain to a national audience that he didn’t support gay marriage, because he didn’t think it was in the best interests of children to grow-up in a family of two fathers, or in the case of his colleague Penny Wong who was sitting opposite him that night, two mothers. But watching his performance, you might come away feeling that Mr Hockey delivered that line with an extremely heavy heart, and if you did, I’d agree with 37
you. I suspect that he doesn’t believe what he’s saying. Unfortunately, the good majority of his electorate do believe that gay couples would make bad parents, and so does his big eared boss. Then there are the religious types, who use the bible to tell us that homosexuality is a sin, and so forth. Well, using the bible to justify a stance against marriage is like using the Heart Foundation Tick to justify eating a Big Mac. At the end of the day, you’re only reading the parts you want to read. So what’s wrong with legalizing gay marriage then? If the people against gay marriage can’t conjure up a good reason not to, then why not just let us marry?
I DON’T NEED A LAVISH CEREMONY OR A DIAMOND RING TO SOLIDIFY MY TRUST AND COMMITMENT TO ANOTHER PERSON. I DON’T NEED A WORD, STEEPED IN RELIGIOUS HISTORY, TO SHOW THE WORLD THAT I WANT TO SPEND THE REST OF MY LIFE WITH A PARTICULAR PERSON. Well, here are my issues. Firstly, the increasingly militant attitudes of marriage equality supporters, gay or straight, do not contribute to a healthy debate. Take for example, the girl who approached me in my lecture telling me that I should be in support of gay marriage. Whether she realised it or not, she is essentially saying that people who don’t think the way she does are wrong and therefore don’t matter. Yes, my views are unusual, but it doesn’t make them any less valid. Attitudes like hers are toxic, and when the large majority of equal marriage supporters think this way, they
stoop to the same level as those who say that gay couples make bad parents, or that homosexuality is a sin. Secondly, we largely enjoy the same rights as married couples through civil unions. Sure, our “marriages” are done in lawyer offices with public notaries, instead of a cathedral with a flower girl, but we still get all the same benefits at the end of the day. But the larger gay community has said “no, civil unions aren’t sufficient, we want marriage”. Stripped of legal rights, fanciful daydreams of pretty white weddings, and smooshing your partner’s face with cake, marriage is just a word. A word with meaning, social importance, and symbolism, but still just a word. A word used to describe an event in a church, no less. Is that what we really want, to get married in a church with a priest reading from the bible? To me, that seems kind of gross, and unless you radically change and contort the concept of marriage as it’s been known for hundreds of years, which seems unlikely to happen in a vacuum, what we’re asking for looks like something that not many of us really want. It makes us look a little desperate to be like all other hetero couples in the world, yet we pride ourselves on being different. But most importantly, I don’t need the word marriage to express how I feel for someone. I don’t need a lavish ceremony or a diamond ring to solidify my trust and commitment to another person. I don’t need a word, steeped in religious history, to show the world that I want to spend the rest of my life with a particular person. At the moment, the only benefit I can see to getting married one day is perhaps the bridal registry, because I’d love a new set of linen and a toaster. Achieving marriage equality has become less about legitimising ourselves as an appreciable portion of society, who should enjoy the same rights and benefits as everyone else, because essentially we’ve already achieved that through civil unions. Now, marriage equality is just another way to stick it to the religious bible bashers and socially conservative. It’s another small win for the gay community, but when it happens, it’ll be a hollow victory. 38
For Alex West Around the country now there are gals just like me, falling in love. Cary Grant, white picket fence, Jane Austen kind of love. Gals like me are meeting families just like yours. Fathers like you are asking people just like me, what my intentions are with their child. People like me are sitting next to hospital beds, spending Christmas together, and families are asking when the pitter-patter of little feet will be heard. We live in a secular society. Marriage has outgrown its religious histories and is now a social symbol and statement of commitment and love. It is a public institution that binds families and provides stability. More than that, it is a commitment to love that lets the other person choose which DVD to watch, even if it is National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. Marriage as an institution has changed and it continues to do so. The same arguments that the right-wing lobby groups are using against marriage equality are exactly those seen in the fight for colourless marriage. Marriage has strayed so far from the bible that it cannot be renowned as only a religious intuition. For instance, I find it hard to believe that anyone would consider the sentiments written in Ephesians (Chapter 5: verse, 2223) relevant to marriage today: “Wives, Submit to your husbands, as to the lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ is the head of the Church…” If so, should I, on my friend’s wedding night, tell her husband that she isn’t a virgin, so her town can stone her to death on her father’s steps? Because according to Deuteronomy 22: 20-21, that’s exactly what should be done: “If, however, the charge is true and no proof of the young woman’s virginity can be found, she shall be
brought to the door of her father’s house and there the men of her town shall stone her to death.” If the definition of marriage remained the same, I wouldn’t be writing this article, divorce would be illegal and there would be daily execution for adulterers. Denying marriage equality delegitimizes love. My love is not worth any less than heterosexual emotion or desire. The notion of straight relationships and relations being natural or normal has been perpetuated by right-lobby groups. These are unnatural views and they have been embedded into society and validate straight-love as more legitimate. One of my favourite parts of growing up was the homophobia that I “chose” to subject myself to. It’s this kind of homophobia that contributes to the devastating mental illness and suicide figures for gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer youth. Not to mention the place around the world that would put me to death for even writing this article.
I DON’T WANT TO GET DOWN ON MY KNEE AND SAY, “WILL YOU SPEND THE REST OF YOUR DAYS WITH ME IN A RELATIONSHIP THAT ISN’T RECOGNISED AS EQUAL OR AS IMPORTANT UNDER THE LAW?” Maybe I don’t want to get married. Maybe I won’t find that person that I will let subject me to Nickelback. But if I am lucky enough to find that person, I want to take her home to my mother. I want to get down on one knee and ask her to be mine. I want to be joined with her in an institution that I have profound respect for; union that my community sees as the ultimate commitment. I don’t want to get down on my knee and say, “will you spend the rest of your days with me in a relationship that isn’t recognised as equal or as important under the law?” If you don’t like gay marriage, don’t fucking come to my wedding. I probably wont invite you anyway. 39
JONATHAN BOULET Hannah McConnell With a second album now under his belt, Jonathan Boulet is certainly one of Australia’s rising music stars. Hannah McConnell caught up with him to talk all things music. HM: Congratulations on the release of your second album, how does it feel to be sending it out into the big, wide world? JB: It feels great. It’s been far too long coming so I’m just happy for it to be done. It’s funny, because it kind of feels like it’s over. Releasing the CD feels like the last thing you do, but really it’s the start – we have to start touring and everything. How did the recording process of your second record compare to your first one? Well this time around it was the same thing, I was still in the garage. And I got a couple of new instruments and some more gear to try and make it a bit better. And basically from last time I think I’ve learnt a lot, I think I’ve gotten a lot better at production. Other than that, we got people in for the group vocals instead of trying to layer the same voice. So they actually sounded real this time. What other instruments did you get in? This time mainly there was the marimba. It featured a lot on most of the record; I kind of wanted an instrument to feature throughout the whole thing. So how many instruments do you actually play? Well this is debatable, but I will give anything a try. Ok, so what would you say that you play well? I reckon I play the drums well and that’s about it.
How old were you when you first started playing the drums? I was about ten years old. My parents got me a drum kit and I started bashing away at it. Then I started getting more serious through high school I guess, I started playing in bands and it became more than just messing around. Were you in several bands throughout high school? Yeah, kind of. There were a lot of mess-around, jammy bands that would just stay in-house and not play any shows, but with the guys from Parades, we started a punk band and that was probably the band that I was in mostly; the band that started playing shows. Can you remember playing your first gig? Yeah I think so! Actually, it was one of those Relay for Life gigs! At a showground somewhere, and it was freezing cold and it was all of our parents watching us and all of our school friends. We basically did all covers, maybe one or two of our own songs. And our bass player jumped up on the bass drum and jumped off the bass drum and the crowd was like “Yeah!”. And then I could hear my mum, from within the crowd, and she’s like “Noooo!” Because she was worried about my drums. Well she probably bought them for you. Oh yeah, she wanted me to take care of my stuff. What kind of covers did you play back then? We did Alexis on Fire, Thursday, Lost Profits. All our favourite punk songs at the time. How would you describe your sound to someone who hasn’t heard your music before? Oh, I hate describing my music, I just say it’s pop. 40
Ok, that’s fine. So you’re about to head off on an album tour, where are you off to? I’m going all over the shop. Gold Coast, Brisbane, Byron, Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, Perth. I think that’s it. Not coming down to Tassie? No not this time. It was a pretty short tour as it was pretty late notice, we had to pull it together pretty quick. Keeping it short and sweet, but next time we’ll have more time to organise so the next time we’ll probably make it a bit more expensive. I’d love to go to Tasmania. So you haven’t played down here before? No I’ve never been before, and I’m jealous of all my friends that have been there. Who are among your musical influences? For me, it’s everything. I listen to a lot of different music really. I can go from heavy music to electronic to whatever. I like everything! Well what’s on your iPod at the moment? Lately, I’ve been listening heaps to Swans. Someone introduced me to them and their latest album is just so good, it’s really heavy and really brooding kind of music. That, and I also found this band called Zoo, they’re from Indonesia, it’s like hectic, crazy drumming with weird psychotic kind of screaming and rambling vocals on top. It’s really cool. Is there a kind of music that you hate? Oh yeah definitely, haha! Ok what kind of music do you hate? These days I hate most music. I hate surf rock, I hate surf bands, I hate dance bands, I hate folk bands, I hate tribal pop, I hate mediocre indie music, or just boring pop music. There’s just so much of it that we just don’t need. What was the first CD or cassette you ever bought? Probably with my own money, I feel like it was… Blink 182. Take Off Your Pants and Jacket. That was the first time I had a bit of money. So you’ve played at Splendour in the Grass, that must have been amazing… Yeah, that was ridiculous.
really have to do much to win them over. They’re not just going to stand there and analyse. But on the other hand, the little gigs are so much fun. It’s almost the same thing, there’s a small room with a couple of people in it – it’s intimate so there’s this sense of occasion when it’s like that. Tell me more about Splendour in the Grass, how was it? It was ridiculous. We had a crew of about 12 or 14 people and we were just having the time of our lives, just skipping through the backstage area and stealing ice creams as we went through. The show was so much fun, it was just scary. We walked out onto the main stage - it was such a huge amphitheatre. It was more people than we’d ever had before, it was crazy. We got about twenty minutes into the set and were onto our last two songs, but we had 50 minutes dedicated to us and we were like, “oh crap!” So we just jammed a bit and made some stuff up. Do you get stage fright before stuff like that? Maybe not stage fright, but definitely with stuff like that, when you know it’s a milestone, you get a bit of nervous energy. But it’s more like excitement than nerves, I’m more psyched than not wanting to go on. It’s an opportunity to expand.
These days I hate most music. I hate surf rock, I hate surf bands, I hate dance bands, I hate folk bands, I hate tribal pop, I hate mediocre indie music, or just boring pop music If you weren’t a musician, what would you want to be? I’ve thought about this before, and it all ended up with me probably killing myself. Oh. I’d probably just get a job in a business or something and just get sick of it. Yeah I dunno, I just can’t imagine doing anything else other than music. Maybe if I could get a job in a recording studio.
Do you like playing at big festivals like that or smaller, more intimate gigs? Well they all have their benefits. I love festivals, because people are so geared up already; they’re already buttered up. Everyone’s ready to have a good time and you don’t 42
Hannah Grey Xavier Rudd is a busy man. The musician has just returned from overseas and he is set to embark on an Australian tour in August. He managed to record his new single, “Follow the Sun”, in a couple of hours before picking the kids up from school. Xavier is also a keen activist, and Hannah Grey chatted to the singer about his music and how environmental issues influenced his new album, Spirit Bird.
HG: Your new album, Spirit Bird, was released just a couple of weeks ago in Australia. Are you happy with it? XR: Yeah it’s great — I am really happy. It’s nice to get it out, because it has been a long time coming. Are you in Australia or are you overseas at the moment? I saw some photos of you in California the other day! I am in Australia now. I was over in California doing some press for the new record. I wasn’t doing any shows though, apart from an acoustic set for the Sea Shepherd Dinner. Do you want to talk a bit about the highlights of the recording process? Yeah! What would you like to know? 43
Interview. Everything! How long had you been recording the tracks for, where did you find your inspiration and what did you enjoy about the whole process? Well, I guess the last two years have really gone into this album. I got a lot of the inspiration from the Kimberley and the work that I have been doing up there. I recorded the album in Canada, in Ontario, in a place I’d never been to before, beside a lake. That was really beautiful. I chose to record “Follow the Sun” back home in Australia. The whole process was really great and I chose to feature a lot of Australian birds in it. Groovy experience. Do you want to talk about why you chose to feature bird noises among the percussion in your tracks? As Spirit Bird is also the album title it seems to be an overarching theme? It was an idea that I have had for a while, and I really wanted to develop that idea and I came across this guy called David Stewart who records bird noises around the country. He had heaps! So I ended up buying a soundtrack and then when I started working with it, it was amazing because I had these ideas in my head and every time I added a singing bird to a song it was just brilliant. Birds really work with the pitch and tempo.
I JUST SHUT MY EYES AND CHANNELLED WHAT WAS COMING THROUGH ME AT THAT TIME. I SANG AND AT THE END I THOUGHT, "YEP, THAT'S DONE. I CAN'T DO THAT AGAIN." Spirit Bird is your seventh studio album. What would you say are the biggest differences between this album and your earlier work? I guess it’s a little bit like my earlier work in a lot of ways, and I’ve gone back to playing solo in this record. Whereas in my last few albums I have sung with other people. I think this album has a new vibe completely. I have been touring internationally for twelve years now. I have experienced a lot and I am stronger now technically, spiritually and emotionally. There is a lot of stuff there. The track “Prosper” is kind of chilling. Can you explain the meaning behind this song? I recorded that in New Orleans, because a guy was 45
Interview. preaching in the street and I just recorded him on my phone. It was almost a lead-in to “Bow Down”, which featured Anishinaabe Singers chanting; the ancestors of the land singing away. Then the song is layered with the sounds of galahs and cane toads; cane toads for obvious reasons and galahs because my old man used to refer to politicians as galahs. Your press release stated that many of your songs focus a lot on spiritual ancestry, and you mentioned earlier that you felt a strengthening spiritual connection coming through in Spirit Bird. Do you want to expand on this for our readers who might not understand what you mean by this? Well, a lot of the time when I play music I feel the spirit coming through and I have always felt a strong connection to the country and culture. Music to me is usually always a personal reflection on something and sometimes it will be something really powerful that comes up through me. It almost falls out of me. And I don’t really understand. In culture, I attribute that to the spirit coming through. And I try not to understand this in my mind, because it’s just ego really. It is hard to explain. “Follow the Sun” has been your highest selling single to date. Did you expect that this track would be so popular in such a short space of time? Not at all. It only took me an hour and a half to record it, because I had to pick up my kids from school. It was a simple song to me, because the way it sounds, was the way it came through. It was all very easy. The concept came from just coming home and reflecting on the beauty of Australia. So your Australian tour starts in August, and then you will be touring Canada. Since you have just returned from overseas, do you find all this travelling exhausting? It does get tiring, but I care about what I do. This album is precious to me and I want to get out and play and share it with people. I have had a fair bit of time off and life is what it is. This is the only thing that I know how to do well. So you aren’t going to make it down to Tassie this time around? Good point! I am going to ask why we aren’t making the trip when I get off the phone to you [laughs]. It is a bit out of the way, but I do like to make the effort to go down there.
two Aboriginal aunties [a term used to describe an older Aboriginal person] that I often see when I am over there and they give me medicine and stuff to keep me safe on the road over there. They came out on the day that I recorded that song. And I was playing that song, but I didn’t actually have any lyrics for it and I was looking at them through the window and I just shut my eyes and channelled what was coming through me at that time. I sang what I sang and at the end I thought, “Yep, that’s done. I can’t do that again." I found that process interesting. Tracks such as “3 Roads” and “Culture Bleeding” feature a lot of didgeridoo, and the use of this instrument really sets you apart among contemporary musicians. When did you learn to play it and what do you like about it? I have always played it, since I was a kid. Ten years ago in Arnhem Land I got one and learnt a lot about the spirit and tradition behind the instrument. It’s a really different instrument and it carries a lot of energy. It can be really temperamental and it has to be respected. It is almost like a guardian. I feel like it carries this role in my music too. “My Own Eyes” is an unreleased track that was just put up on your Facebook page, and it’s already got hundreds of likes. How come this one wasn’t included on the album? It is actually a Marvis Staples song. She wrote it about Georgia, about the South, and the racism down there. And then I asked her if I could take the song and put in my own verses relevant to Australia and she agreed to it and I sent it to her. I probably could record it, but I don’t want to make money off it; I would rather that be a gift to the people. You are also an activist. What issues are you passionate about at the moment? I saw one video you uploaded on Aboriginal land rights. There is a number. I am open to supporting any environmental cause, in this time and on this earth, that I can, through what I do. There have been huge injustices in terms of country and culture worldwide. This album is really close to the issues surrounding the James Price Point Woodside Gas Development Plan in the Kimberley. The Kimberley is one of the last untouched pieces of wilderness on the planet. There is not a place like it left in Australia. I am also passionate about the Sea Shepherd and of course Tassie forestry!
Do you have a favourite track on the album? Every track is special to me, but maybe “Full Circle”. That song is interesting. When I was in Canada I saw 46
My Time with the Bosnian Cleaner Ella Kearney I was 15-years-old when I started my first job at a bakery in North Hobart. Before my first shift, I had been instructed to wear either a black or white top. My interpretation of this was to wear tight, black gym-style pants with an extremely tight white ‘cross-over’ top. I was heavily into J.Lo at this point in time. This heinous outfit was my first mistake in grinding the gears of the senior staff. Though it wasn’t the boss or the diligent, beaver-faced supervisor that I needed to worry about. The moment I saw the 4ft Bosnian cleaner, Melvina, I knew, deep in the shackles of my bones, that no one had ever despised me more. When you start your first job, you are usually completely shit at everything. Not only are you shit, but you take double the amount of time you should to complete most tasks. It’s kinda’ like your hands haven’t fully formed yet: you handle the cups weirdly, you drop things and everything’s too heavy. Taking out a coffee is the longest, most painful event – for you and the customer. Your more experienced workmates are infuriated with your incompetency, but they keep it veiled beneath a strained smile. The cleaner at my first job, however, had no
qualms about telling me how it was. No matter what I was doing, within minutes Melvina would push me out of the way and be furiously demonstrating how to do it correctly, swearing in Bosnian and spitting with rage. While cleaning the bread racks, I’d be humming away to the radio and look up to find Melvina staring at me with pure disgust. Granted it was Craig David. Melvina refused to greet me and would complain loudly about me to the other workers in a strange Bosnian-English hybrid.
She started calling me, what I considered an affectionate nickname, “Bitchka”... What can I say? I was moving up in the world. However, after my six-month induction period, something very odd happened: Melvina smiled at me. She peeped from around the pie oven with a sneaky little grin. It seemed to surprise her almost as much as it surprised me. Later in the night, she grabbed a large French stick from the basket and shouted “This big enough for you Ella?!”. At this point, the fact that Melvina was thrusting back and forward with a French stick did not disturb me in 47
My interpretation of this was to wear tight, black, gym-style pants with an extremely tight white ‘cross-over’ top. I was heavily into J.Lo at this point in time. the slightest – I was elated. She started calling me, what I considered an affectionate nickname, “Bitchka”. She would tell me about her nieces and nephews and even introduced me to her boyfriend, Ken. She showed me the strange wounds on her back and invited me to give her back massages. What can I say? I was moving up in the world. I got to know Melvina’s routine in intricate detail. Her hot-chocolate with 10 sugars, her cigarette breaks timed perfectly to meet up with Ken, her wart that seemed to have its own face and, of course, her French stick theatrics. Melvina and I had formed a type of language to use with one another. Sometimes I found myself talking in a strange Bosnian accent outside of work. The only thing Melvina liked more than sugar and cigarettes were boys. She constantly asked whether “I make the love” to my boyfriend and whether “I marry he”, after a while I gave up telling Melvina I was 15-yrs-old. After a year and a half I quit the bakery. For a few months afterwards when I saw Melvina hobbling up Elizabeth street, she would eagerly come up to me and ask me “Who my boyfriend?” and whether I was getting enough hours at my new job. Nowadays when we pass, she gives me a vague smile as though she has forgotten all the back rubs, discussions about boys and joyful swearing fiestas. Not long ago I queried my friend Ajla, also from Bosnia, about the meanings of certain words I remember Melvina using. I eventually got to “Bitchka”. Ajla told me this translates to the c-word in English. Ah well. Photo by Stacey Armstrong
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