Going Back.


I drove out to Newcastle with a mate on Wednesday night. He lives in Toronto, but he’s back Sydney-side for a few months, and it’s been great catching up.

We decided to get out of Sydney for the night to catch a small hardcore show. A UK group, Basement, was headlining, with a few local Australian acts. Tiny little warehouse gig.

It was the first time I had been to a “local” sort of show in years. Back when I was younger, I’d be down at The Den every Thursday, and the Hype rec centre each weekend. We used to memorise every lyric from the local acts. Bands like Game On, The Valley, Die Trying…It felt vibrant and alive back then.

Wednesday’s show felt like stepping back in time to 2006. There were even a few familiar faces, people who we used to hang out with, back in the day. As I looked around, I couldn’t help feeling excited for the younger kids there. For some of them, it might have been their first gig. I recognised the looks on their faces, slightly intimidated but thrilled to be there. That’s how I used to look.

Over the last few years, some of that old excitement has faded for me. I don’t go to many shows, and I gave up playing music. I’m quieter now, than I once was. More inclined to stay at home and work on art or writing, less interested in cutting loose.

Maybe the biggest difference between now and then is in my mindset. I no longer believe that everything I am doing was never done before. That’s how it used to be when I was a kid. I thought we were doing something unique and remarkable.

I guess feeling and thinking that way was pretty ridiculous. I guess it doesn’t make a lot of sense now. Maybe it’s feeling that way that enables great music and great art to sometimes burst out of nowhere and change the game. I don’t know.

I’m writing this over a coffee in a small back alley cafe. The kind of place I would never have been inside 10 years ago. I’m feeling calm, I’m feeling relaxed.

Looking back, I miss who I used to be. But all the same, I like the guy I turned into. I might not ever feel a fire inside me again, and I might not ever make art that changes the world. But I’m happy.

Henry Rollins On The Ramones.


Henry Rollins:

The Ramones are the lesson on how to do it. They worked tirelessly on the road and in the studio. They were great and they knew it. The challenge was bringing the world up to speed.

If you want to hear a band damn near kill their audience, check out The Ramones’ in-concert epic, It’s Alive. They are almost sadistic in how they tear through the songs, seemingly bashing them senseless to get to the next one, as if each song will never be played again and must be given proper trajectory into the stratosphere. They truly achieve something that is bigger than the four of them.

If you never had the chance to stand in front of this band, I dare say you missed out on something truly spectacular. I will never forget the first time I saw them. When they walked onstage and, within 10 seconds, started playing, I thought I was going to explode. The show was the very definition of how powerful true rock music is. I couldn’t understand how they could keep going. It was as full-on a live experience as I have ever had and almost ruined me for going to other shows.

I never did have the chance to see the Ramones live. Being born in 1989, I guess I lucked out. However, my first experience of the band was listing to It’s Alive. My older brother’s girlfriend gave him a copy of it on CD and I remember listening to it over and over again, just being blown away by how intense the music was. A song would still be ringing out as the band screamed “1-2-3-4″ and launched into the next.

Recently, I found a copy of It’s Alive on vinyl at my local record store, and I just had to pick it up. When I dropped the needle, it took me back. To the days when I was just a kid and everything seemed simple. To some extent, I think that’s what the Ramones will always do.

R.I.P Tommy, Joey, Johnny and Dee Dee. Here Today, Gone Tomorrow.

Merchandise: we don’t have to buy it.

Art, Creating, Culture, Dreams, Lifestyle, Music, Seriously Dude??, Writing

It came to me that I have lived a life that operates through accumulating and then forgetting objects. This is a human behaviour, and it is something we all do. However, in my case, it has been more specific in that the nature of the items I have gathered is the same. I own branded items in their thousands. Keychains? I got ‘em. T-shirts? I got ‘em. Sneakers, sippy cups, collectors items, action figures, hats, albums, DVDs, video tapes, books and pamphlets. Even my notebook that I have been using lately is branded by Disney.

So what does this mean? Well firstly, it means that if all the items in my life that are emblazoned with logos were ever to reach sentience and rise up against me, I wouldn’t have a fighting chance. I would go down within moments of the coup. There would be no warning shot. My Star Wars straw holders would strike first, positioned as they are near my bed. I fear it would not be a bloodless victory. Strength through sheer numbers would win out.

Secondly, and somehow even more scarily, it means that my life has been, to some extent, a long attempt to define myself through the acquisition of items. Items that have a cultural or artistic significance that in my mind will give me an identity that I can wear.

I have always struggled with identity. I have struggled to recognise, in my mind, exactly who and what I am. This has manifested itself in many ways. I have, in the past, had great difficulty committing to many of my artistic endeavours. I chop and change so quickly and so constantly that many of my closest friends have likened my creativity to a character in a certain song by Katy Perry.

But I think the clearest way my struggles with identity have appeared is through my buying habits. I buy or have bought so many items that just do not add value to my life, simply because I thought they would make me into a certain kind of person.

I see you there, looking sheepish. You’ve done the same thing at least once or twice.
And we often are just a little manipulated by the things we see around us. We are bombarded by public relations and advertising professionals. And I should know, I didn’t study three long years of public relations at college for nothing.

There is good news though. There is something I have, very slowly, become aware of.

I think Fugazi said it best. “We don’t have to buy it”.

And we don’t have to buy into it. We can, if we are conscious of it, take over the ownership of our buying and our impulses. This isn’t a long rant about how we should never spend money etc etc. I’m just saying there are better ways to spend it than on merchandise branded by Nike, Adidas, McDonalds, Formula 1, a football team, whatever. There are artists bands poets writers performers and more out there who are struggling to create the culturally important work that could some day have the power to pick you up and drag you kicking and screaming from the darkest moments of your life. The $160 sneakers you (and I) are mulling over could go a long way towards funding their work. Think about it. Think about the value of a night watching a group of people who believe firmly and thoroughly in the music they are making versus the value of a mass produced pair of shoes that you saw a blogger wearing at fashion week.

We. Don’t. Have. To. Buy. It.


What goes on?

Creating, Culture, Music, Seriously Dude??, Writing

I was out last night at a venue in Sydney to catch a few local bands, including one from Melbourne called Magic Bones. That band were one of the best live acts I have seen in a long time, and I was blown away but their attitude, their music and the sheer lack of pretentiousness. Fantastic act. Unfortunately, by the time I headed out of the bar and caught the long two hour bus ride home, I was feeling pretty disheartened. Why was this?

Because the whole evening just didn’t feel right. The room was full of people out to have a good time and a bit of a party. They were all dressed for a night out, and good on them. But when did going to a bar to see a bunch of indie/alternative bands become just another evening out on the town? When did it stop being all about going and catching some honest music for the sake of it and start being about looking a certain way, doing shots and ignoring a hard working band who are sweating it out on a tiny stage playing songs they believe in? To some extent it kind of felt like the music last night was being treated like window dressing. And that isn’t how things ought to be.

I don’t really know what has gone on for it to reach this point. But when I was younger, and going to shows it was definitely more about a shared love for the bands and the music and the culture that surrounded us. When I saw Gorilla Biscuits with my best friend, people cried in the mosh pit from the sheer emotion of the moment. We drove two hours to see that gig and then we jumped right back in the car afterwards and drove home. And we did it in torn vans and old t-shirts.

Maybe the problem is with me in some way. Maybe I’m being judgemental. Maybe I’m just taking these people at their appearance and not seeing the hearts and minds underneath. But you know what, when a lot of them were hanging at the back laughing and shouting over the music, it didn’t feel like there was a lot of love in the room.

I think what I’m trying to say is, if you want to put on your new heels or that tailored suit and hit the town that is more than fine with me. Sometimes we all want to look sharp and party like there’s no tomorrow. But perhaps you could save it for the clubs. And when you go see a band, focus on what they’re doing. That is their art. You don’t know how much those songs they wrote mean to them. How heartbreaking it is to put yourself out there in your own lyrics, at your most vulnerable, and see people standing with their backs to you because they’re chatting someone up at the bar.

The best things I have ever done.

Creating, Culture, Dreams, film, Music, Uncategorized, Writing

Hindsight is a wonderful thing. It has enabled me to pick out the thread of my life from what felt like total chaos while I was so busy living it. I have started to look backwards now in a way I never used to. I have started looking back without the ache and the pain that a lot of memories can conjure, and in doing so I can begrudgingly say that a few things did turn out for the best, though at the time I thought they were the absolute end of the world.

I’ve also been able to see where I really did go wrong, and where that affected the course of my life. And I’ve been able to identify the times I did the right thing and made the right decision. I think it can be hard to pick the things that changed your life without focusing on the negative. Overall, - and this is by no means conclusive because everything is still being written - I have decided that I really do think these are the best things I have ever done…so far!

1. Go to drama classes

I was a very very shy teenager, and struggled to express myself. Having a speech problem that required regular visits with a speech therapist to overcome really didn’t help. I was often nervous and unable to hold a conversation with people. I found that people never understood me and every time someone asked me to repeat myself I died a little inside. One of the best things that I have ever done (if not THE best thing) is attend drama classes with the Helen O’Grady drama school program. It brought me out of myself in an amazing way, and taught me a confidence I didn’t think I had in me. My ability to interact with people and project something more than stifling nervousness was directly shaped by those drama classes.

2. Start a band

When I was in my first year of a liberal arts degree, I founded an electronic music duo called The Bright Young Things. This was a big step for me, and it was certainly something very new, as my music up until that point had been largely focused on punk rock and hardcore. Creating an entirely different kind of music pushed me to think very differently about songwriting and performance. And it also pushed me to collaborate in a way that I hadn’t really before. The guy I started the band with, AJ Dyce ended up becoming one of my best friends, and I’m now one of the Groomsmen in his upcoming wedding. That connection is something I wouldn’t trade for anything. Some pretty cool stuff happened because of that band too. We did end up being signed to an independent record label, which enabled us to put out some music we really believed in, and we were played on national TV and on the radio. The other day, in a book shop, I even heard one of our singles played and it was such a great feeling. I learned a lot from being in that band. I learned how to deal with failure as well, when things sometimes just didn’t quite go right. No regrets there at all.

3. Leave my band

In the end, for a number of reasons, I did end up leaving the Bright Young Things. We parted on great terms though, and those guys still mean a lot to me. I believe in their music and I believe in the ability of their music to really touch some lives and get people moving. In the end, I guess my creativity led me in some very different directions. And having the courage to say you know what, that is just okay was really good for me. I was able to take a lot of the things I had learned from BYT and put them into new projects with a sense of enthusiasm and excitement. My work this year, while definitely not life changing for anyone is certainly stuff that I am happy doing. Stuff that inspires me.

4. Study my masters

I ended up going back to Uni at the encouragement of both my Mum and my girlfriend Emily. I took up studying a masters in media at Sydney’s University of Technology. Suddenly, I had a reason to get off my butt and get out of the house every single day, work on new things that I wouldn’t have considered otherwise and be pretty far out of my comfort zone. Suddenly, I was surrounded by other creative people that I collaborate with and bounce ideas off. I made some great friends as a result of which I am now working on a comic book a bunch of short films and a web series. I have edited scripts for some super talented writers and directors (I’ll share a bit more about one of those projects soon) and been able to really thrive.

5. Fall in and out of love.

I know. This one sounds pretty emo. But you know what? When I was young, I was a total emo kid. So I’ll own that. One of the best things I did was fall in and out of love for the first time. Because the fact is that when it happened it wasn’t that person’s fault any more than it was mine. I learned a lot of empathy through that, I learned how my actions and words can hurt other people, and I learned that I am not always the most important person in the world. I am not really proud of the way I was in that first long term relationship, but I am proud of who I have become in the years following it. It really showed me some things about myself that I think at the time I wasn’t really happy to see, about the way I interacted with people and the way I communicated. In showing me those things though, that experience taught me what I needed to change the most. Plus I think at least to some extent it introduced me to the importance of particular memories and moments.


Those are just the things I’ve thought of right now. I’m hopeful that this list will grow a lot over the next few years. I’ve written it down in a notebook and I’ve put that notebook on my shelf. I’ll read over it again maybe in a year’s time. And I shall write some new thoughts on it. I think life can be really tough. It can be heartbreaking. It can be full of some really difficult lessons and realizations. But I don’t think I’d have it any other way. No matter what I say during my Tom Waits listening sessions!

What writers can learn from Indie Musicians.

Creating, Culture, Dreams, Music, Online, Tech, Writing

I’ve explained before that my background is in music. I was an indie musician for seven years, and I was signed to a record label for three. Over that time, I have gained something of an insight into the way in which indie musicians stay afloat in a constantly changing and challenging industry. Gone are the days when bands or artists could sell millions of copies of an album or single without being a hip hop artist, boy band or mass produced pop star. These days, Nirvana wouldn’t get a look in.

In this climate, I honestly believe, music is better than it has ever been. Some of the artists that survive now in an indie world are breathtaking. They survive by maintaing a relationship with their listeners that would have been almost unthinkable in the past. They talk to their fans and communicate constantly, whether by chatting outside of a show or talking on twitter. They enable their fans to become an important part of the development of their art by using Kickstarter, or asking for direct donations, or offering direct presales.  They come up with new and exciting ways to share their music. For example, some artists sell T-shirts instead of CD’s or LP’s, and the T-shirts come with a download card for the actual music!

I can’t help but feel that all of this just makes music better. It makes it more accessible. And in many cases, it makes it a lot more about a shared love for the work that these artists do. Now, the music industry has had to fight a battle 10 years ahead of the publishing industry. Where publishers are at now with ebooks and the digital world encroaching on their traditional territory is kind of where the record labels were at with downloading and the MP3 about a decade ago. The Kindle and iBooks stores are cutting into the profits the same way that iTunes did. So to my mind, it would make sense for writers and publishers to start looking to the music industry for inspiration.

Why can’t we sell a T-shirt with a card that enables you to download an accompanying ebook?
Why can’t we set up a site like Bandcamp and sell directly to our readers? Sell merch and signed items and random awesome stuff?
Why can’t we tour? Book our own shows? Do readings and signings of our own?
Why aren’t we on twitter, on facebook, everywhere, finding the people that care about our art and showing them that we care about whatever is going on in their lives?

I think this can be an impossibly exciting time to be an author. Just as it is, in my opinion, and exciting time to be a musician. In the end, we are artists and we love our art. And there are people out there who will love our art too. We just have to find them, connect with them, and grow with them.


Art, Creating, Culture, Dreams, Music

To this day, there are few things that excite me quite as much as discovering something amazing in the world of art, music, film or writing.
I experienced that yesterday when I heard the band fIREHOSE for the first time. They were an alt rock band from the United States formed by Mike Watt, George Hurly and Ed Crawford in the wake of D. Boone’s death and the subsequent end of the Minutemen. I’ve been a Minutemen and Mike Watt fan for a long time, particularly enjoying Three Way Tie for Last. But for whatever reason, I never actually gave the Hose a listen. I’m certainly glad I did. I think I’ve played the debut album Ragin’, Full On three times through on the bus home last night and the bus out to work this morning. Punk and jazz influenced college rock with the amazing musicianship you’d expect from the Minutemen’s rhythm section and some quite surprisingly soulful vocals.

I started thinking about the fact that there is an exciting and inspiring amount of work out there just waiting to be found. There are bands that right now, reading this, you have never heard of. And when you do hear them, however that happens, they are going to transform you, just a little. There are books like that too, with characters you haven’t met yet who will someday damn near break your heart. Every time you discover something new and truly wonderful and exciting, it will bring something new to your life. Something enriching. That, let me tell you, is something to be thrilled about.

And the best thing? There is new stuff being created all the time. You can’t run out of it. There are so many pages being written right now, full of so many new combinations of old words. Discovery is, for me, one of the best parts of creating anything.