Interview with JOSH PYKE
Aussie great Josh Pyke has a 10th Anniversary tour coming up so Karen Lowe from Amnplify thought she would catch up with him and ask him a few questions. Here is the result.
You are currently doing the Best of tour. How have the shows been going? Are there any songs that you haven’t played for a long time that you are enjoying playing again?
Yeah, the shows have been going great it’s just been a real kind of celebratory tour vibe at all the shows, because we’re playing Memories and Dust from beginning to end and it’s just been so much fun seeing everybody respond to that album again.
There are a bunch of songs that I’ve never played from that album live, like Covers Are Thrown and Someone Else’s Town, which I hadn’t played for 12 years. So it was kind of good reclaiming myself with those songs and re-engaging with what I was on about when I wrote those songs in the first place.
You have also announced a tour for the ten-year anniversary of Memories and Dust. What have been some of your best memories over the last ten years?
There have been so many. I mean, getting to see so much of Australia from touring, playing Glastonbury over in the UK, and doing so many UK tours, and the friends I’ve made over the years from touring.
There just been so many, (including) playing with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra a couple of years ago was a huge achievement for me. The whole thing’s been great and it’s been great to kind of, have the chance to reflect on all of that this year.
What song still speaks to you the most, personally, from Memories and Dust and why?
It’s a tough question and I think towards the end of all my albums, there are always a couple of really reflective songs. On Memories and Dust, the song Monkey With A Drum is one that still resonates with me, which is about the dichotomy between having a personal life and a public life when you’re a performer, and the idea of how you think you’re being seen by punters versus how you are seen by your friends and family, but also by yourself.
Rage is celebrating a milestone this year too. If you could program Rage again, what videos would you choose and why?
Oh gosh that’s tough. I’ve done it a few times and you get to choose (from) many, songs. I think I’d like to focus a lot on Australian emerging artists, because more and more in the Australian music industry there are fewer opportunities for emerging artists to get their music heard. So any opportunity there is to get that happening I think is a good thing.
At the end of the year, you have announced that you are going to take a hiatus with your own stuff. What prompted this move? And what are the next creative projects that you have planned?
In terms of prompted it, it’s something I’ve been wanting to do for a little while, you know to take a break from touring basically and I just felt like doing this anniversary tour and doing a ‘best of’ just seemed like a nice and neat time to do it.
In terms of the projects I want to do, I worked on a children’s television show this year with Justine Clarke, and I just found that really rewarding to be in the film and TV world, so I’d like to do more of that stuff.
I’d like to do some writing of some sort, I’m not sure what, and I’m working on a concept album with an Australian author called Margo Lanagan. We’ve been slowly chipping away at something, so there’s a few things on the boil but to be honest I’m not 100% sure. I’d like to produce with some other artists as well and these are all things that I’ve dabbled in in the past, but I’d never had the time to dig into because I’ll always go away on tour.
You have performed in the White Album Beatles Tour several times now across Australia with other great musicians. Did you feel nervous taking on one of the most well known bands or feel any pressure to do the best job that you possibly could?
Yeah, absolutely! When we first did it I was very daunted because I’d never played music that wasn’t my own, but I just of decided that it wasn’t going to be a covers show, it was going to be a tribute to The Beatles. I just approached the songs with my own voice, which made things a lot easier to handle.
You have created the JP Partnership. For those that don’t know about it, what is it and how would someone go about applying?
It’s an annual grant, which offers $7,500.00 and mentorship from my management booking team and I, to the winner. Every year in January we announce it and you enter it by sending in a business plan and some samples of your music and that’s it. And then I personally judge them all.
There are over 200 entries every year and it takes a long time but it’s a passion project but I mean it’s been great. The last two winners are absolutely kicking ass (Alex Lahey and Angie McMahon), and the most recent winner (Angie McMahon) is doing really good stuff as an emerging artist so yeah it’s good to be apart of. And Gordi won the second time and she’s also kicking ass all around the world so it’s been really good.
So what made you decide to do create the JP Partnership?
Well because it’s the right thing to do, we are one of the most underfunded countries in terms of arts funding and there’s less and less opportunities for emerging artists to get their music heard on radio and there’s no music TV shows left. And you know, I was in a position to do something to help so I decided to do it.
You have many reoccurring themes in his lyrics, seasons being one. You have mentioned: Winter, Summer, and a reference to Autumn but we can’t really can’t find a ref to Spring. Since we’re coming up to Spring, are there any plans for a Spring themed song for the future?
The other day, I can’t remember who I was talking to about it, but we were saying how I should write an album which is just based on seasons, because Spotify seems to add songs that have references to whatever seasons we’re in, to all their playlists, so it would be a really good way to get on heaps of Spotify playlists.
If you had the chance to collaborate with anyone in the world, who would you love to work with?
I’ve thought about this… I get asked this a lot, and you know The Shins, the song writer, James Mercer, I think is great and I met him once years ago and he seemed like a nice guy as well so I reckon it would be cool to write a couple of songs with him.
You have supported some pretty big names over the years. What have been some of your favourite shows and why?
Early on I toured the UK with Ben Kweller, and that was a hugely eye opening experience and I learnt a lot. And also early on I toured Australia with John Butler and then with Eskimo Joe, and you know I’m still friends with all of those guys and they were really pivotal tours for me, where again I learnt a lot and also was exposed to a much greater audience.
Those are the sorts of things that young artists really get a lot of value out of, if you’re supporting acts larger than themselves and trying to do it the old fashion way – converting those fans to become your own fans, so yeah they were really important.
If you could organise your own music festival, what bands would you have headline it?
At the moment one of my favourite Australian bands of all time is Cloud Control, so I’d probably organise an Australian music festival and get those guys to headline.
What’s the craziest thing that you have done – something that you look back at now and think “what the hell was I thinking?”
I actually often think back, apart from illegal things that I can talk about, once when I was about fifteen, me and my friends used to camp illegally in the national park in Sydney, and we were hiking into the park and you know, it’s right on the cliffs, above the ocean, and if you fell off the cliffs, you would die.
I remember climbing over the cliffs, and finding this cave and then once I was in the cave I had to climb back out over an overhang, and climb back up, and I just did it to show off, you know, it was stupid. I often think back about that, having kids of my own now and I often think what an idiotic thing that was to do.
It could have just gone really wrong you know. I remember when I was climbing back on to the top of the cliff, I was really scared, and I could feel myself on the edge of falling and I was like what are you doing.
Do you have any hidden talents that we don’t know about?
I do like cooking, and I reckon I’m not a bad cook. But hidden talents…I don’t know if I have any hidden talents. Anything I was ever good at I’ve tried to pursue, so I was good at music and I turned it into my job but I’m pretty average at everything else in my life.
As a fan, it’s often quite hard to go up to your idols and say hello for fear of being turned away or fear of seizing up and sounding like an idiot. As a musician, how do you go at meeting your idols? Have you ever gone to speak to someone and just seized up?
Funnily enough, years ago I met Quan (Yeomans) from Regurgitator, at a Big Day Out after party, and I was a massive Regurgitator fan in my teens, and I mean I’ve met so many famous people and I don’t care about it. But for some reason when I met Quan I was just acting like an idiot and then afterwards I was like, what on earth was I doing, just talking heaps and saying weird shit.