I have been procrastinating over this first piece for months–on the diving board, afraid to bellyflop. Normally I run into the ocean without checking the water temperature, laughing and screaming on impact, but as this was going to the great out there, doubts and demons have been circling like Ibis over a loaded bin. My virtual trash is overflowing. Eventually the sane voice scrambled to the fore- and pushed stage fright aside. No one really cares whether you do, or don’t, so do it anyway. Belly flops make for better divers, and the sting is good for circulation. This is my first set of musings, at least an introduction, it will be good enough, and I will no longer be the virgin blogger. Hallelujah.
On the back deck of Glenn Helen Station in a deep gorge off the Stuart Highway in the red lands of the Northern Territory, I received a flash of insight. In the magic blend of clean air, ancient spaces and ice-cold beer, I got why I’d been stalling so intently. It had to do with seeing myself, or rather not seeing myself as being a part of the music business, which was ultimately the motivation to write. Say stuff, share, connect and maybe get follow through to our music. But if I wasn’t in the business, then I did not have a right to speak about it, even indirectly, I had no authority, no permission. This insight was perverse, because when I meet new people and they say what do you do? As we all inevitably do, as we try to rapidly get a handle on the human standing in front of us. My usual reply, is that I look after a Music Label. I remember going through a phase of saying “I was a Domestic Goddess, relishing in the activities of being a Mother”, often this did not elicit the same response of “Oh Wow that must be so interesting…” well yes, it is, sometimes, and....., I wondered why they thought so. What was the picture conjured up by “Music Industry”? Was I trying to make myself interesting by association? Despite any number of Chardonnay’s, until the other day I would feel like a bit of a fraud, and I’d stumble around trying to defuse their enthusiasm. What was that about?
I know lots of people working in and around Music, and for most of them it’s been their passion since they can remember. It’s what they always wanted to do. Either as performers sacrificing money, relationships, and security, endless practising, to play, perform and be heard; or Managers and Radio DJ’s who were the best fans of the artists they loved, still are, and can list the bands, the genres, the concerts, the great moments, with the gusto and relish of a Monty Python lover reciting the Parrot Sketch!! To me these were the sort of people who belonged in the Music Industry, who had earnt the right to be “interesting”. My partner Michael, is one of the truly passionate ones. He and I have been together since we were kids. I think he played his first chord on my old Ibanez acoustic, one strum and he was hooked, on guitar, well on me too actually, but that’s another story. Whereas after 2 years with that beautiful instrument I had Greensleeves, and Take Me Home Country Road as my only party pieces. Michael dropped out of Engineering, incurred the wrath of his parents, joined a rock band, and married me. In my head, my career story went like this: I studied Economics, got my degree, worked as an Insurance Underwriter, saw the light, reinvented myself as an Actress, ran our Removals Business to make money, birthed our kids, volunteered at their Steiner school, cared for my Mum, all whilst supporting Michael’s musical ambition. He was riding the Music business, I was a pillion passenger.
But then, my red centre epiphany, which was much faster in clock time, and more profoundly to me than my explanation may be able to convey. I had a revelation, realising that I have been smitten with music and all its sidelines since I could remember, since well before Michael’s first strum. A rapid flashback sequence, without a tunnel of light at the end, saw me taking Jimmy Hendrix Band of Gypsy's to a show and tell session in Grade 6 at Orange Grove Primary School. I’ve always sung, (even when I don’t know the words, sorry friends), as a teenager I bought every issue of “Spunky Magazine”, (so shitty that I lost that box), I was there for Countdown, and Donny Sutherlands “Sounds Unlimited”. I had a crush on Shirley Strachan from Skyhooks, and knew all the words to Smut. I queued overnight with Michael to get Bruce Springsteen tickets, worked as a door bitch at the Miranda Hotel, ducking when the big Maori Bouncers decided to get serious with overzealous drinkers. When Michael joined Blah Blah Blah, and began his journey as an independent artist, I created artwork, made posters, delivered press kits, booked gigs, and put condoms on carrots on live TV when the notorious Blah Blah Blah Show aired on the ABC. At Uni I’d played bass briefly and badly with Penguins on Safari, (the incarnation before Tim Friedman), sang as one of the Blah’s doo wop girls, recorded vocals on their sadly unreleased debut album. I remembered late night backgammon games and the mysterious white powder on the toilet tops in the Manzil Room, and the smoky rooms and beer stained carpets of Sydney’s most iconic pubs. Then there was The Lovers, Seeder, and Club Acoustica which with Michael Hardwick, Martin Contempree and a dedicated crew of music lovers went on to become a well-respected national A&R treasure trove. I unwittingly began working in the music business.
So, my flash insight back story suggested that I did indeed have a history in music. Not a famous one, not a wildly successful one, (in that it hasn’t yet paid the bills), but it was without doubt a consistent one. Maybe I did fall into the business unwittingly, courtesy of Michael’s aspirations, but I wasn’t a fraud, and though I may never be selected from to appear on the panel of RocKwiz, the business of music has occupied much of my life. I gave myself permission to say with confidence that I work in music, I can write whatever I want, and the
Bin Chickens can circle elsewhere.
I look after a small independent Australian Record Label, and the various career incarnations, experiments and side tracks have given me the diverse skills this role seems to require. As far as titles go, I’ve erred away from most, and prefer to call myself the Label Mama, because like running a home looking after a Label requires me to reassure, remind, cajole, sign permission slips (contracts), organise pocket money (royalties), and do my fair share of canteen duty (aka- merch desks). I get a kick out of nurturing our artists, and their creativity, and taking care of all the little day to day things that need doing, sometimes this includes patching knees and putting on psychological band aids. I guess it’s the times of performances, videos recordings and planning strategies, that give it the wow factor, and perhaps it’s those bits that people think of when they imagine what it means to “look after a record label”. It is interesting, and I am looking forward to it becoming lucrative, for us and all the artists riding the good ship Underfoot. These musings will be informed by all that is me, my opinions, my history and my visions, and my collaborations, and hopefully readers will be able to relate, and be seduced to explore the music that comes out of Underfoot Records.
The distilled version: Give yourself permission to do what you love, the voices in your head are probably speaking bullshit.