Space Farm track by track by Jim 2013-03-11

Written in one go while listening to the complete album in sequence for the first time.


 …be mindful and aware. Tibetan monks are chanting about Inner Space. And The Break are officially launched by the Sony Empire. Oxygen is the main priority, just try and avoid the potholes and meet and greets.

We seek land, lots of land, and starry skies above preferably, a place to grow sustainable agriculture and the odd illegal substance as the only people remaining on the planet are the Coal Seam gas crew, left to stumble around on Earth in Armani suits with Satnavs built into their Raybans. Aiming to be Lost in Space, we skim out of the gravity of Earth.

 Space Farm

We are the Break. We give you the gifts of Time, and Space.

There’s a machine running loose. I think the drums are about to start. Meteorite shower ahead, the natives are thumping on the side of the space ship.

Heroic interstellar travel into distant galaxies ahead. I think there may be animals involved. Is there any suction left in the evacuating tube? Brian’s bass moves more air than there is oxygen in the Amazon. Space time interruption, there’s a blackhole coming, light is being bent by the relativistic effects of infinite gravity. Machines are feeling frisky and the ride cymbal is clanking like a baby alarm. ‘Space Farm’ exclaims Brian, while the theremin hums like an asteroid belt. This has been the great ‘as yet unrecorded’ closing song for us for the last 3 years of playing together. The fanfare comes with new addition Jack Howard’s horns and Rob’s drums, a clarion call, welcoming the alien force not unlike John Farnham and Livvys ‘Dare to Dream’ did at the 2000 Olympics, only heavier.

 Day 300

Written and recorded mysteriously out of thin air in just 2 hours one Wednesday morning in true Break fashion. Wonky nylon string guitar, muted and hard working trumpet begin, Jim’s Jazzmaster speaks of heroic lost space dogs, trumpet answers the call in a conversation like two horsemen adrift in the Sierra Nevadas, severly dehydrated, or perhaps better in the McDonnell Ranges, more local and with better waterholes (and on Norton motorbikes instead).

Tympani rumble in the distance like thunderheads, whips crack over steaming bullocks, Brian intones like a man hanging from a gibbet, Jack Howard’s muted trumpet grooves like a Tijuana Brass memory, the weather closes in as the campsite smells like the rain that never falls. Rob’s toms thump like a beast and whips drive us on further towards the mid point of Lake Disappointment and Mount Misery, spent, and at the END, as we look above, prostrate. It is then, and only then, that we see the vultures, throwing shapes, smiling, making arcs, doing mad laps above.

 Ten Guitars

A song huge only in New Zealand, and a 60’s hit for legendary singer Engelbert Humperdinck. It was the B Side of ‘Please Release Me’: trust the NZ radio jocks to turn the record over and make this a hit.  Close to the Pole, like the Quebecois, both nations of lateral thinkers.

The song is legend on that side of the Trench. They even made a documentary about ‘Ten Guitars’ with tributes from The Finn Bros, The Topp Twins, Pio Terei, Mika and Dalvanius, and many other luminaries including a fully qualified musicologist. A veritable national anthem especially in the Maori community, it has the strum needed around Patea.

A New Zealand national anthem, also sung in Ireland, and in places like tearooms and loungerooms where the music industry is only a rumour.

It was a chance meeting between Engelbert and Brian at a Melbourne Venue created this juggernaut of a track. When Brian mentioned to Engelbert that we knew, and loved, the song he recorded in the mid 60’s and a collaboration was mentioned, it was ayes and handshakes and promises all around, made in that Valhalla of decadence and diminished brain cells commonly known as backstage. Oaths that seldom are kept under normal circumstances. Days later, we threw the track down in a few hours and sent it off through the ether to Engelbert, in blind Freddie’s hope that there would be a vocal someday far away.

We never expected it to arrive a mere 3 days later. I put up the fader on the Neve board and there he was, in great voice and lost none of his charm, just a GREAT vocal. Our dear friend and now uber producer Nick Launay (Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Nick Cave, Grinderman etc etc) was so excited he DEMANDED that he should mix it, and he did just that at a Toto members Jeff Procaro’s (RIP) home recording studio in LA, and what a fine job, and so it was.

 Everyone has been saying ‘you guys need a singer’ so…. we got one.

 Face The Music

Surf guitars, again, playing a riff that is unencumbered by any intelligence at all, reverb tanks flooded like Warragamba after the rain (thanks Doc). Drums thumped like a Neanderthal. The original title was ‘Caveman Stomp’ which gives you a clue into the intelligence levels required to play it, and took only minutes to record and write, like a Brute Barnard vs Mario Milano wrestling match. You can hear creaks in the tremolo arms in verse 2 that clearly need WD40. The noise at the start like an insect swarm was provided by a Kaoss pad, a microsynth and some Brookvale industrial estate Nescafe instant in a 5L tin. Brian’s vocal more of a barked order than a crooner’s plea. Lowrey keyboard performed by studio assistant Pete, why not, chuck it on, and with everything else, there’s enough substructure by the megaton to support it in the engineer’s report, slabs and pillars of concrete, pour me another.

 Tumbling For Eons Through Turbid Atoms

Where did the Frank Zappa track come from? Is there a bee loose in the bonnet, or under it. Pianos? Turkish clarinets? What’s happening? I thought this was supposed to be a SURF BAND stretching the boundaries and their limbs on their second album, but this?

A Fatherland chant appears just when you were getting uncomfortable. A high note of zoumas that would clean blocked drains. Wasps! A glockenspiel. Are we in Newtown with an indie glockenpop band in 2006 or WHAT. Cockatoo sounds from the right speaker. Take more hallucinogens, suddenly the bottom drops out and you hear bongos. Strings, cheesy, appear. Couldn’t afford real string players as the recording budget was blown by regular visits of a sushi van at 10.30 am each day, manned by someone called Pete (again) who plays bush bass in a bush band. We should have sampled him selling us the seaweed salad for this song. The song the horn of his van plays is ’Bridge Over The River Kwai’.

 Majestic Kelp

Given as a working title for this song, its perfect, originally used as a throwaway name that was soon to be changed, but it stuck, even though it may even be a tip of the hat to Don Mariani’s WA surf band of legend. Hope they don’t sue. Jack Nitzche if he were still with us (RIP) would perhaps hear the echoes in the production, Spectorian, of his gorgeous ‘Lonely Surfer’.

Tim Whitten did a stellar mix in his studio appropriately monikered ‘Wonderland’ . And mixed most of the record there magically and in the spare room. In the mid point of the arc (not such an easy place to find, perhaps where you find yourself face down outside of a Hindley Street nightclub at 3am) Jack Howard’s trumpet slides into the frame from stage left, swimming unencumbered dugong-esque off in The Great Southern Ocean, slowly rising, surfacing for air and wobbling onto to the land mass, emerging onto the Strand covered in crustaceans and mermaids tresses, walking up the beach with a GEN Y sense of entitlement, while noises enter like a Mogwai record, WHAT DOESN’T THIS TRACK HAVE ON IT? Like fitting 9 elephants into the back of a VW, it holds so much with Tim’s mix, the bass pulses, a swaggering Spectorian spectre, sashaying off into the sunset only to perform a slight return like it had Velcro on it and blisters on it’s fingers.

 Whatever Dumb Courage

Gunfighter music again, and thankfully the surf guitars. Written at a Hoodoo Gurus soundcheck at Cronulla Sharks (how appropriate for a surf band) and fleshed out in the studio, Martin’s guitar wobbles like a wobbegong, Jim's guitar shreds his Magnatone amp like its 5pm in North Sydney CBD on a Friday afternoon, 5.30 pm, and we’re moving toward a paperless environment.

A church appears midsong and slide guitars, ethereal spiralling upward akin to a soul in search of spiritual air, all choirs and a nod and a wink to Heaven (not that Hindley St nightclub again). A balloon with too much air perhaps. Back to Earth at the end, and the last verse drives the point home like the girl that never (sensibly) jumped into Ted Mulry’s car. The slide guitar ascends and tries to take it all up into the air, again, but not succeeding with enough upward skyward velocity, the bass grounds its all, an adolescent addicted to many electrical and social networking devices.

Time For Flying

Written by long time associate and Western Victoria resident Howlin Wind. Mr Wind sent up a demo and simply demanded that we record it. It was that easy. Is Telstar still in orbit? Hearing this you would think so, Russian space craft spin around the breakdown part of the song, is there a ghoul playing the saw somewhere, fuzz guitars, and another guitar of the hi octave Joe Meek variety ’ I Hear A Strange World’, the mindblowing 1959 album Meek made in stereo before stereo was even invented, Rob excels at his trademark massaging (or just bashing) of all things percussive, while a heroic Brian chant breaths life into the last verse accompanied by stylophone, Yuri Gagarin would be proud.

Things Are Loud Here

Most of the song titles here are lines from Willoh Weiland’s poem ‘Space’, which we matched to the tracks we had recorded. This occurred in the penthouse of Sydney’s landmark Horizon building, where the band had gained unlawful entry and appropriately where one may glimpse the curvature of the earth. The poem talks of looking for life out there. We are just hoping they are friendly, speak Australian and won’t pull a laser on us.

A pulse appears, a baby is being born on Alpha Centauri. Is this where the ‘Spacefarm’ (patent pending) really is, where we can all be remade, lost in a binary star system, Alpha and Beta. Brian’s shakuhachi hangs like a cloud Magellan over the whole thing, and a  sea monster bass with an attack of the Jah Wobbles. Jazzism pulsing like a moray eel. So this is Jazz. Where did the SURF BAND go? Jon Hassell lives in Jack’s trumpet, while a tambura drones, and the arp2600 does what it does best (makes gurgling sound). Martins Jazzmaster a one take wonder, is that a blue box on a blue bottle? Original title for this track was ‘Queens-cliffe’ as there were some guitars in there that sounded like Brian May, but we ended up turning them down, or off, or both. There’s that damned heartbeat again, a pulse, this will be a great live track once we figure out how to get all the gear onto Jetstar.


Beenalonga time track recorded a while ago, and played live often, tweaked in ProTools like a bride-to-be’s ringlets. The bass sounds like it’s going to be sick. Is that a cheese machine or an organ. Or an Italian? Eko made great organs but this is a Farfisa Bravo Organ found in a hard rubbish collection in Adelaide. Jack Howard makes the song sing with his answering phrases in Latin. Minimoogs turn the middle 8 into a porn scene. In nearby Greece, I hope minors and minotaurs aren’t allowed to hear this. Is this a theme from an imaginary western? Or if there are moustaches involved, they’re not supposed to be ironic.

 Sky, I Use You Like A Mirror

Brian unearthed his trademark ‘Blister In The Sun’ model Ernie Ball acoustic bass, Jim played Nylon String on full echo, Rob got his mallets out and a tambourine, Martin nailed the melody as usual with his deft guitar moves, the male stingray to the female eunuch of Jim’s Minimoog answering phrases (‘Yes Dear’ or ‘Take Out The Garbage Dear’) Recorded pretty much live, we added a Hammond and that was it. Called it National Anthem originally until Lan Del Rey did her own song with that as its title, or lovehandle. Banana I hear you say, is there anyone patrolling the beach enough to see a whale breaching off the coast, or has the social media thing got SO OUT of  hand now where people TAKE THEIR PHONES TO THE BEACH and never get to hear the sigh of a wave, a seagull arcing, 2SM, or smell the Salts.

Space Farm Suite/ Psychonauts For Freedom

A patchwork of some unused instrumental tracks that never got finished, but Willoh’s beautiful poem was the gift that tied them together. The chanting monks usher in Brian, who performed it in one take, and it has swearing in it, but he didn’t flinch. I’m a little bit afraid too. And of meeting aliens in the queue at The ATM on Manly Corso. Is this art rock? Made with a knitting needle in ProTools like a cutup Bowie lyric, or like some of my lyrics that were once cutup in the mulcher. We never lose the surf instrumentation though, even if the Jazzmasters are put through the Whirpool courtesy of the Briggs and Stratton. ‘Words that yearn and then fail us, where do you think a widow’s howls end up?’ That’s the place the monks seek in their meditation, that world where unattachment and clear thought live, beautiful silence, where just beyond and just outside the force field, the mouths of the Whole Wide World are moving.

We got back in the ship here, realizing the silence was all we had craved. All we were really missing now was the motherland, Terra Firma. The movie ‘The Break In Space’ is now drawing to a close. Wherever you find yourself, There You Are.

I’m sure emotion and karma and memory all end up here, on this Planet of Tears, or even a Bridge of Sighs, where the Wind cries Jesus and Mary and poor old Jehoshaphat, but we know he opposed Israel and tried to destroy all the images of Baal that are you are now listening to. Tubular bells and a maggoty Farfisa, over Jim’s mangled Mosrite guitar melody and Martins arpeggios.

A big end in sight, is this the end of the universe? Like the Parramatta Weir is supposed to end the Parramatta River somehow, you know the place, where the bull sharks of Clontarf want to keep nosing upstream, at this arbitrary man made edifice of proud achievement and civic progress, but the mayor always spoils the fun by saying ‘it has to end somewhere’. Did you know, their heads are the first thing to fall off the sculptures that they commission of themselves?

We found the other side all right. The Gyotu monks chant during the piece, such amazing people to record on that day they came to our studio. They gave us blessed cloths and knighted us with their presence, real holy men singing over an unholy racket (at times). Free to return to Earth, the Coal Seam gas mob had gone off to seek an opportunity to buy up some retail space on Betelguese but they ended dancing at the DeathStar. A Moebius strip, twisted and joined to make a single edge. Circular. James Joyce himself revealed that his final book ‘Finnegan’s Wake’ "ends in the middle of a sentence and begins in the middle of the same sentence.” So do we say, and so say all of us.

Re-entry to the planet occurs to a spiritually enriched but empty pocketed band, replete with our lanyards and laminates, our own merchandise stand in the lonely foyer, parachutes open, the end of our journey, give yourself a Pat, and collect your bags at the carousel so...





Liner notes for 'Warumpi Band 4 Ever' complilation.

 ‘Jailanguru Pakarnu’ blasted out on the airwaves in 1983. Here was a new voice seldom heard: an Aboriginal voice. (Clinton Walker’s learned book ‘Buried Country’ dealt with those, but on the airwaves?) Pre Bicentennial. Pre Bridge walk. Pre Sorry Day. Pre Yothu Yindi’s ‘Treaty’ days. This was important, an exception to the rocking white way.

To hear them for the first time in the cold evening air at the settlement of Docker River N.T. was a wow experience. It was Midnight Oils’ first night out of ‘civilization’ on the “Blackfella Whitefella” tour with Warumpi and the crows ate our dinner. We thought it was safe from the dogs on top of the soccer nets. Well, it was that. But as the sun set and the cold rose from the ground, with dogs and kids in the red dirt and fire smoke, Sammy Butcher peeled wide eyed and sweet countrified licks from his Fender Bullet guitar (I never saw it in a case, it just travelled in the back of the truck.) Across the stage in dual guitar heaven stood song man Neil Murray, all cut off sleeves and Stratocaster, singing great backup and the occasional lead, and the rhythm section of Gordon and Hilary, that night, left The Stones in the shade. The singer and writer GR was possessed of a unique charisma, simply born to be on the stage. He owned it. The mantra of ‘You Gotta Be Strong’ was about his people standing up to the corrosion of their culture from within, and from a white society that would studiously avoid the Aboriginal gaze, alternately apathetic and well meaning but at best misguided, even hateful. The hook came back over again and over again until you were convinced, two eggs over easy.

Warumpi’s influence on Australian music was unique. Midnight Oil covered songs like ‘Blackfella Whitefella’ for years (as did Powderfinger) and it still stands as a stone cold classic rock anthem. One of many. Songs that reached across the cultural divide, that were ABOUT SOMETHING, songs of positivity and hope without preaching or Stalinism. There was humour there too, but when they hit the stage there was a job to do. To ROCK, clearly, but music and their appearance was the Trojan Horse of their message, which was all about inclusivity. ‘Black’ and ‘White’, who cares. ‘We’re all in this together.’

That was demonstrated in how they made us feel so at home and welcome as people in their country, around the campsites and in the sound checks, even in finding out we had different names for the constellations in the clear desert night sky. Something went down in the Western Desert. My wife and I named my son after Sammy. I have always and will always work with Neil if he’ll have me. I count them as family and hope they might feel the same way about us.



Notes on Songwriting Summit, Campbelltown Art Centre, 20 September, 2014.

(Disclaimer: This is a simple guide for or those that want to navigate the complicated issue of copyright and collection agencies in the music industry. It is specific to Australia but equivalent bodies with different names exist overseas. Sources not quoted, these are rough notes for the talk with myself, Lindy Morrison (AO, PPCA), Wayne Connolly (prolific producer and artist), Toby Martin (Youth Group, songwriter and author) and Maree Hamblion (Sony ATV))

The file.

These days it’s a pretty wonderful world, with any creative idea you might have being able to be broadcast around the world in an instant after having recorded it on your Mum’s computer in the form of a file. A file could be a book, a photographic image, a play, a song or a movie. This has completely changed the way music has been consumed, shifting it away from a physical object that couldn’t be copied, like an LP or a book, to a digital object that can be copied and shared a million times over.

We’ll talk about copyright which the creator of the work owns and some of the ways that the work can be protected and ways the work can be used to make an income through various bodies such as music publishers, record labels, AMCOS, APRA and the PPCA.

What is copyright?

Copyright exists to reward individuals for their creative endeavour in expressing their ideas as, for example, a piece of music, a painting, a play or a novel. A song with lyrics consists of both a musical and literary work, thus it has two copyrights.

Copyright comes into being automatically, as soon as the creation is somehow recorded or written down, and lasts 70 years from the end of the year of death of the work's creator.

Copyright is an essential part of making money in the music industry. By and large recordings have been the main source of copyright royalties, however in today's climate of declining record sales, and with digital sales still yet to truly prove themselves, are artists losing their main source of income? Or are other uses of music, such as in film, broadcasts and live performances, sufficient to fill the void? What about live concerts and the festival scene (which, in contrast to record sales, are thriving)? Here we will look at the different types of copyright that exist in music, and discuss how songwriters and other musicians can earn royalties from exploiting them. We will ask how these royalties are affected by a newly emerging music industry, one increasingly based around live performances rather than studio recordings.

Jim's exclusive right to communicate his work to the public means that he can make money by having his song played on radio. His exclusive right to reproduce his musical work means that he can also make money if anyone wishes to record a cover of his song.

Jim's permission is not needed for someone to cover his song, unlike for the exercise of other exclusive rights. The cover artist must still pay Jim royalties, but the permission is automatic because of a statutory licence – a right granted by the Copyright Act. It would be very hard for Jim to stop someone covering his song unless it was previously unreleased (because composers have the right to release their work first). He would need to prove to a court that the particular cover version would significantly lower the integrity and value of the musical work itself.

If someone legally downloads Jim's song, he is entitled to both A. reproduction royalties (the work is reproduced in electronic form on the downloader's computer), and B. public communication royalties (the download is considered electronic communication to a member of the public).

Reproduction royalties AMCOS

AMCOS! AMCOS stands for Australasian Mechanical Copyright Owners Society. Mechanical royalties are the royalties earned as a result of reproducing a musical work. Reproduction includes making physical or digital recordings of a musical work (or a 'substantial' part thereof), such as manufacturing CDs or making digital ringtones. AMCOS issues licences to anyone who wishes to exercise this right in a musical/lyrical work. It collects royalties on behalf of its member songwriters and distributes them accordingly, subtracting only its administration costs.

Public performance royalties APRA

Another way that songwriters earn royalties is by exploiting the public communication exclusive right. This includes broadcasts and electronic communications (e.g. Jim's song being played on radio or aired on a television advertisement). Another exclusive right is public performance, so whenever Jim's musical work is performed in public, again royalties are payable.

Whilst it is only songwriters who earn APRA fees from these live performances, that is precisely why copyright exists. It rewards the creative endeavours of individuals who have expressed their ideas in crafting music. bars, concert halls, cinemas, gyms, and schools.

In many cases, APRA issues 'blanket' licences based on a percentage of gross income. For example, a cinema pays APRA 0.462% of its gross box office receipts. APRA then looks at the list of films played and determines which musical works were communicated to the public, and therefore to whom the royalties must be paid.

Even if Jim performs his own original music live at a pub, he will receive royalties. The pub pays APRA fees because it is responsible for music being performed to its patrons (the public). Jim (like you) should make sure he is an APRA member, and submit an APRA return at the end of each live performance.

A publisher usually gives its signed songwriter an advance. Until this advance is recouped, the publisher is entitled to the songwriter's royalties to put towards paying it off. But APRA fees are an exception. APRA pays at least 50% of royalties directly to the songwriter to keep. So starving songwriters who are unrecouped to their publishers can still earn a living.

Usually where copyright music is performed in public or communicated to the public, a licence from APRA (Australasian Performing Rights Association) is required. APRA collects fees from these licences and distributes them to the relevant copyright owners. Licences are required not only by radio and TV stations, but also by most businesses where music is played, such as shopping centres, live music venues, nightclubs,by gigging and submitting APRA returns.

So song writing can potentially be very lucrative. Provided you have not signed a bad deal with a publisher, record company or anyone else surrendering your rights, you can earn decent royalties from having your work downloaded, reproduced, broadcast, performed, played in public, recorded, etc.

For this reason, bands must be very clear about who has written each song. It must be clearly agreed on, documented and communicated to your publishers. Some collaborative, jam-orientated bands agree that all songs coming out of the jam room will be split evenly across band members. Some song writing duos, such as Lennon and McCartney, split everything 50/50. In other bands there is one songwriter and there is a mutual understanding that the other members do not own any copyright in the musical/lyrical works. Whatever the case, get things clear from the outset to avoid messy disputes down the track. In my experience…its better to have 20 percent of something than 100 percent of nothing…

Sound recordings PPCA

The Phonographic Performance Company of Australia (PPCA) issues licences for the broadcast and communication to the public of sound recordings and music videos. PPCA is overseen by record companies themselves, so naturally it fights hard to secure better licensing fees from parties such as radio broadcasters.

PPCA collects royalties and divides them amongst the relevant record companies, which then work out how to distribute royalties to their artists. Your entitlement will depend on your record deal. It may be that the record company keeps all or some of the royalties. It may be that you are entitled to it, but only after the record company has recouped its advances (this is a likely scenario).

The owners of copyright in sound recordings (made from 2005 onwards) are all the performers on the recording, plus whoever owns the master at the time of recording (often the record company). Each will own an equal share of the copyright, and all must consent to the granting of any licences. So if a cover band records Jim's song, the cover band will actually own the copyright in their sound recording! (But Jim must of course be paid for the reproduction of his musical work).

What about non-songwriting band members? Can they only make money from CD sales, merchandise and gigs? Not necessarily. There is a type of copyright that they might be entitled to.

Sound recordings themselves also attract copyright protection. This is in addition to, and separate from, copyright in the musical/lyrical work being recorded. This is good news for musicians who perform on records. The law recognises their creative endeavour, i.e. their performance expressed and captured on record.

Recording contracts can also exclude you from owning the copyright in a sound recording! Many specify that the record company will own 100% of the copyright, rather than splitting it with the performers. Artists should try to negotiate for shared ownership of recordings at the time of signing with a label, although this can be difficult. Recording copyright can be a useful source of income, particularly for non-songwriting band members who do not receive musical work copyright royalties.

Exclusive rights for copyright in a sound recording include making copies of the recording and communicating the recording to the public (e.g. broadcasting). As with musical works, this usually means that licences are granted for a fee, so that the copyright owners are exploiting their asset in order to earn income.

Royalties arising from the public communication of sound recordings are valuable because (a) they can apply to non-songwriting band members; and (b) in today's world where record sales are on the decline, they are a good way of generating income! Radio and TV are certainly not playing any less music, but it is important to realise that these royalties are much less valuable than those paid by APRA and AMCOS. One reason for this is the Commonwealth law which caps radio stations' fees for broadcasting copyright recordings at 1% of the station's gross income! This has been a controversial topic for decades, and is currently the subject of a High Court challenge 'PPCA takes appeal to the High Court'

Owners of copyright recordings can also make money through having their recordings synchronised with films or advertisements, as discussed above. Licence fees can be generous, but will depend on the size and bargaining power of the artist. Again, the performers' share of the income will usually go towards recouping the record company's advances before they actually earn any profit.

There’s earning potential earning potential of having your musical/literary work or sound recording in which you own copyright sampled. The sampling DJ will need licences from the owners of copyright in both the sound recording, and the musical work if a 'substantial' portion of the song is used'..The Verve Bittersweet Symphony 50% to Andrew Loog OLDHAM.

Copyright royalties in today's music industry

We have seen that income from copyright is based around records to a large extent, but, whilst songwriters do gain a lot from record sales and downloads, they also earn income from their musical works being used in ways unrelated to records – i.e. having their music broadcasted, sampled, adapted, printed, played in public places, synchronised in films and advertisements, and performed at gigs and concerts. These continue to be lucrative sources of income despite low record sales.

Non-songwriting musicians, on the other hand, do not earn royalties from musical works. They might own some copyright in sound recordings they performed on, but this is hard to negotiate for, and even if it is achieved, PPCA royalties are significantly less than those earned by songwriters.

With streaming services and file sharing and people less willing to pay for music, the financial interests of all musicians are hurt significantly by decreased record sales. Many people don’t join the dots here because there's a flow on as many recording studios are closing with rising rents and the fact musicians cant afford to use them. We have new DIY ways to make music like protools. Although songwriters may have secondary income sources to fall back on.

But demand for music has not declined. The market has just shifted. Hard-working bands can earn exceptional income from touring and gigging. In contrast to times when concert tickets were cheaper than albums, today we see festival ticket prices exceeding $500 and selling out instantly. There is certainly money to be made in live music.

Whilst it is only songwriters who earn APRA fees from these live performances, that is precisely why copyright exists. It rewards the creative endeavours of individuals who have expressed their ideas in crafting music.

Of course certain types of artists benefit from the festival boom more than others. But the art of the studio album is far from dead. Live acts often sell great quantities of CDs and t shirts at their gigs. Peter Noble, the director of Bluesfest was recently quoted in a newspaper article as saying that tens of thousands of CDs are purchased at Bluesfest each year. These are recordings not only of bands who play at Bluesfest, but also of other artists that the organisers think the audience is likely to enjoy.  Admittedly this is an older audience than say, the Meredith Festival. So perhaps it is a matter of the right bands and the right audiences finding each other.



September 2013.

This was used in "Off the Leash" for publicity for Neil Murray and myself's Darwin gig at the Darwin Entertainment Centre.


Q: Tell us about the first time that you and Neil met?
I know I met him before this, backstage somewhere like Selina’s, but the first time we really spoke was on day 1 of the Blackfella Whitefella tour, out at Yulara Resort. We were throwing swags and amps into the back of the truck. The Warumpis were a bit late getting there, a day or two, but in the bush that’s kind of acceptable. Things happen, you know? I said ‘Where have you guys been?’ I think he looked a bit frustrated by the silliness of the question, and by his lateness as well.
Q: What were your first impressions of Neil?
Being a guitar player, they tend to bond better with each other than those alien creatures, the lead singers or the drummers.
I liked his country ways: laconic, laid back, dry humour, and he’s very honest. Neil will look you straight in the eye in conversation and call a spade a spade if necessary.
Q: In 1986 you and your band mates in Midnight Oil headed to the Red Centre to tour with the Warumpi Band … what was the aim of the tour?
We wanted to see the conditions out there as whitefellas from the Sydney suburbs. We’d heard all the usual things about all the problems there, but wanted a closer look, going with the Warumpis was brilliant because we loved them as a band and suddenly we were on their home turf and we were way out of ours. To our amazement we found the country was full of art, humour, ancient tradition, beauty, great people and an amazing landscape. The experience was distilled onto the Diesel and Dust album, an attempt to record our impressions of our experience in that place and with those people, an album that was given rites of passage all over the world. Who would have thought?
Q: What were your thoughts on seeing Warumpi Band play for the first time at Docker River?

I loved them, they were rocky but their music was kind of inclusive and was about something, something good. Songs like ‘Gotta be Strong’ I loved that one. They had only done that one album at that point, ‘Big Name No Blankets’ I think. Warumpis had a punky, Oz rock and reggae influenced sound, but with anthemic rock and country type songs. Their lead singer was a force to be reckoned with, an amazing presence. I could really relate to Sammy Butcher, the guitar player who hid in the shadows and to Neil’s cut off shirt and Stratocaster type guitar.

That was the first real gig of the tour. Our dinner got eaten by crows because we left it on some soccer nets to avoid the dogs getting it. There were dogs and campfires in front of the stage and the local people huddled around them with blankets draped over them.  It wasn’t our usual environment, which was drunk people and broken glass on the floor of the suburban pub. It was a dry community. Red dirt and kids running everywhere.

Q: You hadn’t had much contact with Aboriginal Australia prior to the tour – how did life change for you after that experience?

No, as a suburban boy I had never met many Aboriginal people.

Well the first thing that happened was Midnight Oil became a world band on the basis of that one song ‘Beds are Burning’. So life became very much more hectic. Somehow it was the karma of the song and the sound of it that gave us rites of passage onto the world stage. We were wanted everywhere all over the world, and this was our big chance. When it comes, you have to grab it with both hands but it’s hard to maintain it for a long time. We toured solidly from 1988 through to 1995 overseas. We had a great run for many years after that too.

I always say my life is divided into two parts, the part before that desert and Top End tour, and the part after. It really was like some kind of acid trip. Nothing was the same afterwards, the whole world looked different through the prism of that experience. What it means to be Australian, what it means to be white.

Q: What did you learn about Neil on that tour?  

I learnt he was a decent and unassuming bloke and a good bushman with all his time out at Papunya, with a true understanding of Aboriginal ways and language. It was a load keeping Warumpis going but he and Cookie did as great a job as they could so there was a toughness there.

I could see he was a great writer. I saw him playing for the singer for the first time, ‘My Island Home’, which Neil wrote for him as a coastal man living in the Western Desert.  I lay on a hammock on a tropical late afternoon up in Maningrida listening. Neil loves rock too, but there always has to be a tune.

Q: What quality do you most admire in Neil?

His dogged nature. He is a force, the quality and output of his songwriting, performances and book writing would put any one else to shame. As careers go up and down, he doesn’t give a rat’s about that and pursues the work. That is the epitome of cool.

Q: Has Neil changed much over the course of your friendship? If so, how?

I don’t think he has changed at all, if anything he’s become more sage like and philosophical like most of us! He’s a stoic, and a bit of a Scot at heart. But he loves a drink and a chat.

Q: In your opinion, when’s Neil happiest?

After a good gig where a few people turn up and he’s appreciated for who he is. He’s an artist who is on a path and is completely true to himself…but it’s also good to be loved.

Q: You’re both coming to Darwin in October to perform – what should the audience expect?

A lot of good songs which we’ve rehearsed and the odd story unrehearsed. I love playing on Neil’s songs. They’re wide open and magical to me. We’ll be playing some from my back pages as well. It’ll be like playing songs around a campfire, but onstage. I’ll be providing textures, ambiences, and the odd fiery lick.

Q: There’s a new Federal Government – what are your greatest fears and hopes regarding the new leadership?

The fear is that they will take us back to the Stone Age. The mining port in the Barrier Reef: the winding back of marine parks etc. As you get older you see the cycles of it, a social progressive government who then wear out their welcome, to be replaced by a conservative government who might get the books in order, who then wear out their welcome to be replaced by a socially progressive government. The pendulum of democracy. The hope? That they don’t stuff up too much, and they give encouragement by their example to young people who care about the country to get into politics and shake it up.




Q: How did you come to know Jim? On the 1986 Blackfella Whitefella tour. It was when George suggested we should have keyboards on "My Island Home" - which we were playing live at the time but hadn't recorded yet. We didn't have a keyboard. Jim did.  So we asked Jim to play keyboard with us on that song. The first time was at Wadeye, and he did so every night from then on for the rest of the tour. It was no trouble to him.  He played on the recording too.

Q: What were your thoughts on Midnight Oil prior to your 1986 tour?   I thought they were a mighty powerful band. I admired their principles. They achieved a level of success the way everyone would like to - on their own terms, without compromising.

Q: Did the Warumpi Band / Midnight Oil tour in 1986 change or deepen your friendship? How?   Certainly started a friendship, as before that tour - apart from the usual perfunctory back stage intros - I didn't really know Jim.  I think once he played with us, I began to see him as a genuine, approachable person. It helped break down the rarified air around the Oils, because prior to Jim getting up with us, we thought they were a bit distant.
Q: What did you learn about Jim on that tour?  I learnt that he was affable, unassuming - a quiet, humble bloke - with a prodigious musical talent that he wasn't the least bit precious about.   That tour impacted on Jim deeply, all of them really.

Q: What quality do you most admire in Jim?   His enthusiasm, his willingness to give his time, his astute, considered thoughts. His sympathetic, yet encouraging ear. His honest response. His interest. The fact that he appreciates and respects my work.

Q: Has Jim changed much over the course of your friendship? If so, how? Not really - he's stayed the same to me. Steady. Reliably brilliant. I know when elsewhere in his life wasn't so smooth, he still seemed remarkably resilient and philosophic or at least gave a wonderful impression!  Since the Oils ended, he's expanded his musical horizon.

Q: In your opinion, when’s Jim happiest? When he's playing an instrument deep within the moment. His playing speaks for us all. Either that or mowing the lawn or cooking eggs.  Could be all three.

Q: You’re both coming to Darwin in October to perform – what should the audience expect?   A seemingly haphazard journey picking off landmarks and exploring secret pools and gullies, arriving at familiar and unknown destinations until a sudden invocation gives rise to a dear and precious thing, an emotional shift, intoxicating to the senses..... well, that’s what we aspire to.   To make something great happen in front of an audience.

Q: There’s a new Federal Government – what are your greatest fears and hopes regarding the new leadership? My greatest fear is that we'll go backwards for a few years and hard fought reforms and gains will be repealed or stripped back.  My hope is that it may stimulate more of the population to take an active interest to compel a future leader to emerge with a fresh, inspiring vision so we can truly become a clever country.




June 2 2013.

Darwin N.T. written the day of his passing.

Mr. Yunipingu.


Only a dull sadness right now.
Our surf band The Break played in Darwin last Sunday night, coincidentally the night of his passing. We met with AJ who is Yothu Yindi's manager, and we were all asking after Mr Yunipingu. He told us he was finally on a recently installed dialysis machine back home in Yirrkala with his family around him.
The last time we were in Darwin in 2011 we met up for a coffee at the Roma Bar with Mr Yunipingu. He was doing regular trips to hospital in town as there wasn't a dialysis machine out in his community. He wasn't in great shape, living in a little flat in Darwin. It didn't seen right somehow for such a leader and one so connected to his land.
He was a great man. A teacher. The first indigenous school principal. A spokesman for his people and therefore for us all.
I remember meeting him for the first time on a boat in Sydney Harbour for the razz a mattaz of the Bicentennial in 1988. We moored off Lady Macquarie's Chair where the Aboriginal silent protest was. We raised the Aboriginal flag up the mast. There weren't many of those on all the expensive yachts around us.
Things have changed since then and Mr Yunipingu and his band were smack in the middle of that change.
Because he was such an inspiring speaker, because he spoke from the heart.
The Oils toured with him through the US on our Diesel and Dust tour and knew him as a brother. He was quick with a smile and a joke and we all loved him, as brothers do.

"Lay me down in the sacred ground.
Keep me from the cold.
Keep me in the deep warm Earth.
Where the stars can see my soul.
Take me where them trees stand tall.
By the waters in the riverbed.
Let me face the rising sun.
Commend my spirit to the wind.
Make NO monuments or mortal crowns.
Or speak my name again.
When you lay me down."

Eulogy For A Black Person ~ K. Carmody (1990)



Liner notes written for 'The Complete Cold Chisel'. Released the year of their reunion tour, 2011.


Jimmy Barnes is screaming in my ear. It’s 3 am one winter’s night in 1980 in the Byron bay hinterland. Midnight Oil is recording ‘Bird Noises’ at a studio called The Music Farm. Chisel are having a night off before tomorrow’s gig at Bangalow Bowling club. I’m at the piano (amongst others) and we’re having a sing a long. Ian Moss has found an amp somewhere and is playing VERY loud wearing a Cheshire Cat smile. Then it got louder again. We play blues, Beatles, Abba, showtunes, anything. It’s a glorious noise. Don Walker hovers around watching events amusedly. Both bands had experienced some degree of success at that point, and it was all on our own terms. Gigging the same pubs, driving the same highways, and eating the same rubbish at the same roadhouses. That united us in a special way. I can’t remember much but we were only a short ride from Mullumbimby. If there was some incredibly powerful weed, it didn’t hinder anything.

Breakfast at Sweethearts is as good an album you could make in Australia in 1979. It sounded positively soft rock Californian then, housebroken even, compared to the blaze of Cold Chisel live. I saw them storm Brisbane’s Cloudlands in 1980. Enough said.

It’s the songs here that are now classics. Shipping Steel, Goodbye Astrid Goodbye, Merry Go Round, Breakfast at Sweetheart’s. Listening now to it remastered, it’s a fantastic record. But it really kicked live. Midnight Oil supported them many times. They didn’t stop and take names. They were bluesy, mean and virtuosic, all incredibly strong and talented people who delivered the goods in a blitzkrieg every single time I saw them. The cover of ‘Breakfast’ shows them looking powerful and regal in the Marble Bar. They looked like kings, self-assured, scarily confident. You felt they had their hands on the power button.

They were inspiring to me as a writer. They were on the vanguard of writing unashamed lyrics that were effortlessly Australian-centric rather than the cod Americana or corks-on-hats bush balladry that was being bandied about at the time. That makes them important. Post Whitlam pride in country. It’s Time. Not to leave the folk movement out of it entirely, Bogle, Schumann et al, but Skyhooks and Chisel were the first rock bands here to achieve a massive audience that wrote from their local area, with no cowering to Uncle Sam or Britain. No real concern about making it there, here was just fine, thanks. Pro audience connection, say goodbye to disco/plastic floor/teenybopper bullshit.

And they put Copmanhurst on the map in ‘Merry Go Round’, made it sound, well, interesting. Where the hell is Copmanhurst? An easy commute from Grafton.

On TV’s Countdown, after they got on the charts and cleaned up all the awards in 1981, they smashed the stage: bands really did that then, not with their roadies, or with special effects. They gave Countdown the finger. ‘Eat this!’ If there is such a thing as an Australian collective unconscious, they were tapped into it. I’ve seen grown men ripping off their shirts, devoted heads to the ground weeping, on their knees screaming “MOSSY!” during ‘Bow River’. More than just love in the room. People got married, had babies, crashed cars to those songs. The soundtrack of many a life. Real connection.

I was playing with Don Walker a few years ago. He is dry, to say the least. We played to 12 people one night. The songs were great as usual. At one point he said to the room ‘I can’t pull a crowd, but I can sure pull a band’. Don lived in the Plaza Hotel in Kings Cross for many years. ‘Plaza’ is a tender song here beautiful sung by Ian. Chisel wasn’t all ball tearing bluster, it was about the songs: they consistently did great ballads: look at ‘Four Walls’ for one.

Sweetheart’s Café was the dawn stop off for those dodging the street sweepers and doing an all-nighter up at The Cross. “The coffee’s hot and the toast is brown” and “She doesn’t have to smile or flirt, she just wears that mini skirt” are possibly centerpieces of the Australian zeitgeist. The slow grind of the Darlinghurst Road underworld, those characters and set piece sleaze infects this record. On ‘Breakfast’ Don’s writing is at its most crystalline. 

Steve had yet to assert his writing skills on ‘Breakfast’. On that legendary night at The Music Farm he ventured that he was writing songs. He had a pop sensibility that surfaced on “East”. I was lucky enough to see them slay Shellharbour Workers Club in late 2010, while Steve was still with us. It was all still there, intact.

Australian audiences would take a bullet for these guys, and their back catalogue is a work of art. They split in 1983, for all the wrong reasons bands always do, a damn shame.  I’m so glad they plan to keep going now dear Steve has gone, he would approve. Because their Last Stand was way too early, because they have all kept playing individually so the tools are sharp, and most importantly, because the songs speak to and mean so much to so many people.