Interview with Tim Rogers
The very iconic Tim Rogers, is about to release a new album soon and is currently on tour. We spoke to him about the new album, Reclink Community Cup (and football in general) and about his love of jazz music.
You have a new album coming out soon, An Actor Repairs. How did the recording go and are you happy with how it sounds?
This record was actually supposed to be done with an orchestra but money and time became an issue so I re-calibrated all songs in a very short time at the studio out in Yarraville, Melbourne. It was a really exhilarating time. I was surrounded by musicians that I love and admire and they were playing these songs that I have grown to love. I’m ecstatic with how it’s turned out.
You are also about to release a memoir of sorts about your life. What inspired you to put pen to paper?
No, it’s not a book about my life at all actually. It’s about 16/17 pieces and they’re more journalistic. I don’t have a particularly florid or interesting life story but being a performer, I’m often in situations where people are disarmingly frank with me and; living very peripatetically, you see lots.
I was asked to write some journalistic pieces for magazines and then an agent/publisher asked me to try my hand at a book; some fiction and some non-fiction so I did and it ended up where it is now. It will be out in August and I’m actually really happy with how it turned out.
It was very difficult because I’m not a trained writer at all or a pro in journalism and it’s been a massive learning experience and, and I’m quite over it.
I’m looking forward to seeing it
Yeah me too.
You have played in the Reclink Community Cup before and it’s a great charity. How did you first get involved? Does your team always win when you play?
I didn’t play last year, I just coached. I’ve been playing the Melbourne one on and off for 10/11 years but I’m often away, overseas during the Australian winter.
I was just asked by some people involved to coach an Adelaide team and I love coming to Adelaide and I grew up, for a number of years, with Adelaide footy and met with Col and Sean Kemp, people who were involved with the teams and really liked hanging out with them.
It was good. I really hope it grows but I probably won’t be involved this year at all. I think I’m going to be away anyway but all power to it. I think Reclink is an incredible charity and I hope it grows. Melbourne seems pretty on track but best of luck to everybody.
I know Perth is going quite well as well
I was just speaking to someone about it today about that. I’d consider it if the timing was right, if I was in the country, I’d maybe consider playing again but maybe in Perth.
You are a massive Roos supporter and put on Roosistence a few years back when there were talks about them merging with the Gold Coast. How did you come to support the Roos? What do you think their chances of getting into the Grand Final are this year?
I was still living in country, Western Australia when I first saw them in 1975. I was just a 5 year old. There’s no real, lucid reason why I started going for them. I just saw a couple of the players and liked their style and that was my team. The whole thing about the Roosistence Movement, was not for myself, I mean, I’m kind of all over the shop and I do love football as a game but I probably like more what it offers in a community way; particularly for people that aren’t doing all that well.
If you hang around football clubs, forgetting all the big money aspect of it, a lot of people who are quite unwell really need it and they really need that tactile association with the club. They feel that it’s part of their community, their neighbours and people that they see each week, or each couple of weeks.
When the AFL decided that North Melbourne wasn’t a big enough club and didn’t have enough money and should be relocated, I found that very un-progressive in a humanistic way.
Being told you’re not successful enough, you’re not wealthy enough just seems to be a way of pushing people out and I really resented that so I got a few like-minded people because we wanted to kick back against the pricks in a way and just put our affections on display. Just because you’re not the biggest, you’re not the most successful, not the richest; it doesn’t mean that you’re worthless and that club being in Melbourne was very important to a lot of people. Not a huge amount of people but some people and people I cared about and I would have done the same thing if I was going for the Barnawartha Thirds. As well as the AFL I like getting around to see small leagues and gal’s games, kid’s games. I just love getting involved even if it means buying 20 cans of Melbourne for 3 bucks. That’s money that goes to the club. It means the kids can keep playing together and it can be good for people. This spectre of the AFL is seen as this all-conquering, lumbering beast – it is that. It is that but the game itself can be helpful for people.
I know it’s really helped my brother actually meet people
Well, the social aspect of it is important and it’s unfortunate the only time it gets publicity is when there are ugly incidents with crowds but you could have your brain surgeon on your left, your meth dealer on your right and you do get to learn about people. When I go to the footy, I like to put on a three-piece suit and go and hang out and you hear people’s stories once you’ve discussed your team’s flailing chances for the year and their terrible recruitment policies and you get to engage with people that you ordinarily wouldn’t so it can be a wonderful thing.
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?
Well I thought that the whole presentation was just so straight that I wanted to fuck with it a bit because I think that was the spirit of the record. It was experimental, it was sentimental, it was a whole lot of different things so I went into it with the spirit of just trying to nudge it a bit. It didn’t really work out because this presentation was just really straight but I didn’t feel intimidated because the record meant a lot to me as a kid. It doesn’t mean a lot to me these days but I wanted to do it justice and I wanted people to enjoy it. Again, if something like that was to ever come around again I would need it to not be so straight. It’s an overused term but I think the interpretation that I was a part of, and I’m criticising myself here, it’d need to be more obtuse or something. I get asked to do shows like that quite a bit and I’m saying no far more times than I’m saying yes because if it’s looking like it’s going to be delivered straight down the line then I don’t see value in it. People seemed to enjoy it so, I’m very happy for them.
You have collaborated with some great musicians including The Bamboos and Tex Perkins to name a couple. Is there anyone that you would love to make music with that you haven’t had the opportunity to as yet?
There’s hundreds yeah! Geez, well I played a show recently with a jazz trumpeter, Vince Jones – I’d love to work with him one day. I do like working with jazz musicians more than most because the music intrigues me and baffles me and through The Bamboos I met a lot of jazz musicians who are right up for collaboration and they don’t mind that I’m not very musically literate.
Harmonising within a jazz context throws melodies out and the idea of a pop melody – it’s not the go-to method. You’re really just throwing yourself into a tumble dryer and I like that, what that can do lyrically. Writing lyrics for pop songs can often, you’re drawn to having everything to a meter and a particular rhythm and that can get a little tiresome. If you’re gonna try and kick against that and try and be interesting within the pop industry; it’s always a challenge and I’m glad to be there but yeah jazz players – they flip me out. It’s such a thrill sitting there and listening to someone really at top of their game and it’s heavily intellectual music as well as emotional music if it’s played right. That’s why there’s quite a few jazz players on my new record because I just wanted to be in their company and talk about Ornette Coleman or Art Blakey or Marsalis on Music. I learn a hell of a lot every time I play with people like that.
You have spoken openly in the past about your issues with anxiety and panic attacks. Do you think that enough is being done about mental health within the music business and do you have any advice for those suffering from it?
The only reason I talk about it is, there’s possibly still folks who don’t feel comfortable talking about it and because I’ve been lucky enough to come out the other side. In a lot of respects, that it was a horrible experience that I accepted for awhile and just thought that was all it was going to be and felt that that was the end of a really enjoyable existence. I found it abating through living quite well and medication. I went a long time without medication and living very badly and then it coming back. People can get afflictions and need to be treated medicinally and with therapy and that’s a different realm from what I’m talking about. That is not a death sentence necessarily for people but I think that if you know your potential for certain kinds of mental health problems then I think living simply and living well is a good way to start. If you have this notion of, I’ve got to watch what my drug intake is and certain drinking regiments, I mean, I’m a drinker – what the hell? But I know that I can’t do it 24 hours a day, 5,6,7 days a week any more because I am going to get myself into the zone, as you will, of falling back and then I’m no good to anybody. Living simply and living well and these days, I’ll tell any kids I’m talking to about it, just get off your fucking telephones really and computer screens and really get amongst it, get amongst nature, amongst literature, amongst poetry, amongst music and just look up. If it’s got you as a teenager, it doesn’t mean the end of anything. It’s a combination of hormones and the like and unfortunately, you’ve just got to talk about it and tough it out with people and chances are, you’ll get through.
As someone who originally came from Kalgoorlie, did you ever expect to do even as half as well as you have done?
Oh fuck no. God, no. Even when I was 21 and I was pretty sick, it was a big achievement for me to get a job working the local pizza store. I was working there for awhile and going to the pub every night after work and I thought “this is my lot, that’s fine.” I liked listening to records and reading books so that was fine. Then, over 15 years, the band kind of, the band started happening. We didn’t work hard at it, we travelled a lot, we were dedicated to it in a way but it always felt like we’re gonna be back working at the pizza store next week. It wasn’t our destiny or anything. Sometimes I wake up and feel very, this is my understanding, this is what supposed be happening and come touch the hem of my garment. You know, I’ve got a pretty sizeable ego at times but the other side of that, the large swaves of the week and of the day, I’m just so grateful for the luck that I’ve been afforded and grateful for my own ignorance really. If I was a more sharply attuned human, I wouldn’t have just gone along for the ride like I have and put so much into trying to learn how to write properly and to perform properly, probably at the expense of a lot of personal relationships but I’m very grateful for where I am.
You are about to head off on tour again. Do you still love touring? What are some of the strangest moments that you have had on tour?
I’ve got a little bit of a love/hate relationship with touring. I actually don’t really enjoy touring that much, the travelling. Once you’re on stage though…and look, I occasionally like talking to people, I’d rather be alone but you do hear some good stories along the way, finding new pubs and, it’s mostly pretty great but I just don’t enjoy travelling but getting there’s great. There’s always ridiculous moments on tour. It’s like an hourly occurrence in the way that people approach you. Music does odd things to people and people are incredibly intimate with you very quickly and I guess that doesn’t happen a lot in other occupations unless people are really loaded so being a musician and treating music the way I do, it’s like people think you are just loaded all the time. That’s not physically the case but a lot of the time. People have altered my music and they behave very intimately so you get to experience heightened relationships with people and then suddenly you’re away from it and you don’t see people again for months or years. So yeah, those ridiculous moments and lots of travel moments – those sort of near death moments, definitely while travelling, or near serious injury or harm are frequently absurd and hilarious.
And something that you would have never expected
No, just these days trying to be kind to people and be generous. I haven’t always thought that way but definitely feel that way at the moment.
When you first started out, what was the most valuable piece of advice that you were given?
Nothing said but the people I started touring with were a little older and were generous and smart and intelligent and it was, kind of, an intelligence that was born from being enthusiastic and wanting to learn more. So it was, just be inquisitive and generous and that was just by example, whether it was Tex Perkins or Goose or the bands that we toured with, Brad Shepherd from the Hoodoo Gurus and a whole lot of overseas bands that we toured with. The people that I will remember and feel most affectionately about were the smart ones and also, the funniest people I ever met were musicians. They’re far funnier than comedians.
Lastly, do you have any hidden talents that we don’t know about, for example cooking, acting etc?
Well I do a lot of acting but I know I’m not particularly talented. I get offered jobs because I’m ugly but interesting but the hidden talents…I’m a landscape gardener so maybe that. That’s a job that I’ve had for quite awhile.
That’s one that I wasn’t expecting
Ah, you’ve gotta have a job you know.
Thank you so much for talking with me today
Is there anything that you would like to add that I may have missed?
I have nothing to add but my own mild genius, nothing to reveal. Thank you ma’am. Very nice talking to you.