To start, we’d like to go back to the very beginning. What was your first encounter with music and what about it planted the seed for your eventual desire to perform professionally?
My dad played the piano and wrote a song for each of his kids. Here’s one about my sister: “Cute as an apple and sweet as a pie, but Jane don’t you smother your poor little brother – Jane, Jane, JANE!” At which point we’d all run out of the room, kind of scared, but kinda delighted – his loud voice was so funny and scary!
What was the inspirational common ground you shared with the rest of your Models band members in its formative stages?
The band didn’t go to school together like Nick Cave’s band, the Boys Next Door, or weren’t brothers like the Farris brothers from INXS. In fact, we came from all over Melbourne, the drummer was from Adelaide, but we’d all collect at gigs to see bands that we shared an interest in. The Saints, Radio Birdman, The Moodists, The Sports – the list goes on. We’d all come from different bands – we were a kind of punk, electronic music hybrid, with a sense of humour.
It wasn’t long before the Models was supporting the likes of the Ramones, The Police, The B-52’s, XTC and Midnight Oil – at what point did you know the band was on to something in terms of reaching a receptive audience?
The band has always been really well-received live. In the early days, there might be some comments about our choice of hair colour, and queries about our sexuality and gender expressed with vigour. A lot of the gigs we played were rough as guts, but we usually won over the crowd in the end.
Do you have any wild stories you care to share from those early touring days? We imagine the Ramones would have been a crazy time …
The Chequers Nightclub that we played at in Sydney for a couple of nights had previously hosted singers like Shirley Bassey and Sinatra, and yet was ridiculously small for a band like the Ramones at that stage in their career. It was very much like what I imagined some of those seminal New York gigs (Max’s Kansas City) would be like. The Ramones were all very pale, translucent. Johnny Ramone was hyperactive, but altogether they seemed – dare I say it – as displaced New Yorkers, kind of shy! Onstage, however… It was definitely, a career highlight for me.
How did/does the band approach the evolution of its sound while remaining cognisant of its core identity and ethos?
At some points in our history, the band seemed to change lineup more frequently than change clothes. The band frustrated record company and management alike. We loved the recording studio and working with different producers and engineers, so I guess the band was stylistically difficult to pigeonhole.
We’re very excited to catch Models when you play at GOMA on Friday August 25! What can fans expect from the performance?
It’ll be a set that includes stuff from our earliest release as a giveaway single at a gig in 1979, and right through the first 6 Models albums. That’s not by design, the set just seems to have evolved that way. It’ll have a song of mine from my Ten Happy Fingers solo album of 1989 that we recently re-recorded as a band. It’s called ‘You know what I like about that guy? (Nothing!)’. I hope the audience finds my voice – and the song – a little bit funny and a little bit scary. Can I add that the band are thrilled about coming to play at GOMA? In my opinion, it is the best contemporary art gallery in Australia.
What words of wisdom would you give to musicians aspiring to break into the scene?
Music is arguably, more important to us all, than ever. Value what you do and the contribution you make. Turn off the talent shows. Create your own journey. Look after yourself. Keep going.
We are all about finding inspiration in the world around us! What is something is especially inspiring or motivating in your life?
Bassist Mark Ferrie and I have rediscovered floatation tanks, that were big for a while in the Eighties, and seem to be resurgent everywhere at the moment. If you can’t or won’t meditate, this is a great way of getting some clarity back in your life. Motivation? To get out of bed it would have to be my dog, Wilson. Inspiration? My adult kids – Ed, Jess, and Henry. I love ‘em.