Interview with Don Walker of Tex, Don & Charlie
TEX, DON & CHARLIE release their third studio album, YOU DON’T KNOW LONELY on June 30 before heading out on the road on a massive TWENTY DATE TOUR in August & september.
Amnplify’s Pauli Dee spoke to Aussie music legend Don Walker about his song-writing, performing live and how recording was back in the old days with COLD CHISEL.
Pauli: G’day Don. Thanks for chatting to us.
You have a new album coming out in a couple of weeks with Tex Perkins and Charlie Owen “You Don’t Know Lonely.” Where did you come up with the title for that?
Don: It’s a line out of a song, which I think is about the fourth song on the album & the name of the song is “As good as anywhere” and quite late in the piece, we were looking for a title for the album & we searched through the song titles first& then searched through lyrics & Tex & Charlie liked that one!
What can your fans expect from “You Don’t Know Lonely?”
Well have you heard the album?
I have, but I know most people that will listen to or read this interview may not have yet!
Well it definitely sounds like previous Tex, Don & Charlie albums, except we’re twelve years older! I’m not sure I can say we’re twelve years wiser, but you know! It still has the same sound. It’s basically the three of us, although on quite a few tracks, we’re joined by a new rhythm section, Charlie Drayton on drums, we’ve got Garett Costigen on pedal steel & Steve Hadley playing bass… Sometimes its a full band, but most of the album is made up of the sound that Tex, myself and Charlie make together. Its all song-based. It always has been with Tex, Don & Charlie.
I know you’ve written a few of the songs and Tex has written a few of the songs. Have you written songs TOGETHER?
We didn’t write together this time. We’ve written together in the past, but not for this album, no.
So when you want to write a song, is it something you sit down and conciously do inside a certain time-frame, or do you find yourself writing continuously whether you’re working on a project or not?
I continually write when I get any day when I have time to get away and spend a few hours without other distractions crowding that out & that’s by no means every day, most days I don’t get that chance.
Your mother and sister are both writers. I’m thinking writing is in your blood.
Do you think one needs to be born to write? Or do you think it’s something that can be learned?
I think it’s entirely learned. I’m not a born writer, I don’t think anyone is. I think you have a belt at it & some people are great at it from the first thing they write and then there’s others that have to write some bad stuff before they pick it up and write some good stuff and I’m probably in that second category.
hahaha You think? I think you’ve done alright!
Yeah well you never heard the early stuff. The stuff that was never recorded! By the time we came around to record, I had figured out a few things, but one of the reasons why we didn’t record for a while was simply because I wasn’t writing good stuff!
Do you still write stuff that doesn’t get recorded?
Yes. I have a lot of stuff that hasn’t been recorded. Thats often just because I haven’t gotten around to it or whatever it is that Im working on just hasn’t found it’s slot yet.
Do you enjoy that writing & creating side of your music as much as performing live?
Its different. Its obviously different. I enjoy both. The studio can be quite intense. Especially the way we record, both with my own band and with Tex and Charlie and also the way we recorded with Cold Chisel because it’s performance based. We try and get a performance of the song that actually happened! It happens quite quickly, so you’ve really got to be on because you’re only going to play the song two or three times and one of those times, might be on a record forever, so what you do matters. You’ve got to be focused and it’s quite intense, but there’s no people around. When you’re on stage, there’s a lot of people around. You can only do each song once so you have to get it right, but if you don’t; if you cock it up or make a mistake, no-one’s going to hear it again tomorrow!
Hahaha true & you’re about to hit the stage on a massive 20 date national tour.
Have you started rehearsing for that yet?
No. We’ll do rehearsals for that mid-August. It is a long tour, from mid-August right through until the end of September. I think we finish in W.A around the 23rd September.
Mate, it’s a lot of dates and they look almost back-to-back. That’s got to be exhausting, right?
It is a bit. It looks a lot like a young mans tour & there’s a couple of jumps in it. Theres one night we’re playing in Adelaide and the next night we’re playing in Cairns & there’s a couple of jumps like that. One night we’re in Wave Rock, the next night we’re in Darwin, but I had a close look at the schedule and it’s do-able and there’s no real horror days in there.
Is there anywhere in particular that you’re looking forward to visiting?
I’m looking forward to visiting all these places. Some of them I don’t see too often, like Darwin & Cairns. I get to W.A a bit more regularly but I always look forward to that because I have family there.
Is making music now different to 30 years ago?
Well 30 years ago I was making music with Cold Chisel and the recording procedure that I described to you earlier of trying to get a performance in the studio and trying t get it quickly, which was always the way Cold Chisel was built to work and the way we wanted to work, but in those days, people didn’t make a record like that. They built a recording brick by brick instead of going in there and performing the song. The first big success we had with Cold Chisel was when we went in and started working with Mark Opitz, who put us in the studio and just let us play and that was some of the way towards the way we record now in the various outfits that I’m involved with.
Do you feel like that brick-by-brick layering process in the studio is more prevalent now?
Oh yes. Most people have always done it like that. Now you have the added complication of people doing it with protools on the laptop, so you can sit there and add layer and layer and add more and more instruments on a track and often it’s not a great song underneath it all, it’s just this confection of ever-thickening sugar over the top. You can always tell records that are down on protools & these days, it’s most of what you’re listening to.
And would I be wrong in presuming that recording in that way that you do would make it easier to transfer that across to a live performance?
Bang on! That’s exactly true.You haven’t layered a million things on top of what you’ve done. We’ve just played it in the studio with the instruments that we have, so when it comes to doing it live, there’s no big challenge of “we have 6 guitar parts to play here”
It’s always great to hear a live performance that sounds as great as the original recording.
Yeah, although you like a live show to have a bit of unpredictability & energy that you’re not going to get listening to the record at home. The point to going out and seeing a live show is the unpredictability and the risk that someone might bugger something up! Thats part of the thrill of sitting there watching a band really hanging themselves over the edge and then if they don’t stuff it up, they’ve still put themselves at risk and that’s part of the thrill. Thats when I start clapping!
What are the advantages of working in a team like Tex, Don & Charlie, as opposed to working solo? …Or the disadvantages?
I can sit back a little bit! There’s certain things that Tex takes care of and I don’t have to worry about because I know he takes care of what he takes care of very well. I don’t have to be looking sideways to make sure it’s done well. It’s the same with Charlie and I suppose being part of any team is the enjoyment of trusting the guys on either side of you.
I’m being wrapped up mate, but have you got any plans for after the tour? Or are you going to take a long well-earnt break?
My next thing is bringing all my solo stuff out on vinyl. That doesn’t have anything to do with Tex, Don & Charlie, but Im slowly working through the preparations to do all of that.
Excellent. I’m looking forward to your show. Thanks heaps for chatting to us.
TEX, DON & CHARLIE
YOU DON’T KNOW LONELY NATIONAL TOUR
Wednesday, 23 August 2017 – Factory Theatre, Sydney
Thursday, 24 August 2017 – Factory Theatre, Sydney
Friday, 25 August 2017 – Meeniyan Town Hall
Saturday, 26 August 2017 – Ulumbarra Theatre, Bendigo
Tuesday, 29 August 2017 – Thornbury Theatre, Melbourne
Wednesday, 30 August 2017 – Thornbury Theatre, Melbourne
Thursday, 31 August 2017 – Memo Music Hall, St Kilda
Saturday, 2 September 2017 – Memo Music Hall, St Kilda
Wednesday, 6 September 2017 – Street Theatre, Canberra
Friday, 8 September 2017 – Cambridge Hotel, Newcastle
Saturday, 9 September 2017 – Bellingen Memorial Hall, Bellingen
Sunday, 10 September 2017 – A&I Hall, Bangalow
Wednesday, 13 September 2017 – The Gov, Adelaide
Friday, 15 September 2017 – Tanks Arts Centre, Cairns
Saturday, 16 September 2017 – Brisbane Festival, Brisbane
Wednesday, 20 September 2017 – Badlands, Perth
Thursday, 21 September 2017 – Badlands, Perth
Friday, 22 September 2017 – Prince of Wales, Bunbury
Saturday, 23 September 2017 – Wave Rock Weekender
Sunday, 24 September 2017 – Darwin Entertainment Centre