February 28, another long overdue update

Oh, dear internet,

I’m sorry. I’ve been neglectful. It’s been a while. Too long, really.

The Arrested Development trivia thing went really well, thanks, I reviewed a tonne of stuff for Sydney Festival, reviewed a bunch of films for the Sunday Telegraph, and did other stuff, probably. To be honest, January was kind of a blur.

Everything will so much easier once I have this going on.

Everything will so much easier once I have this going on.

February too, actually. Why? Funny you should ask.

Writing, mainly.

The regular 10 Things stuff’s been turning up at the Vine every Mon-Thurs morning at some ungodly hour – most recent bunch are below – and I was off in Adelaide doing some travel story research and then in Perth covering Perth Festival for the Guardian, which was great fun – saw one great show, one good show and one kinda lousy one, did interviews with Kate Stelmanis from Austra, Will Sheff from Okkervil River, Colin and Graham from Wire and Flavour Flav from Public Enemy, and knocked out a Perth Music in 10 Songs thing which left out a load of amazing music.

For the Guardian I also interviewed Neil Finn, and wrote about the awesomeness of the Paul Kelly/Kev Carmody classic ‘From Little Things Big Things Grow’.

Actually, all my Guardian stuff is easily found right here, should you fancy reading it. 

Also, iI did a load of stuff for Time Out, most of which is in the current issue which is on newstands right now (including a bar review of the revamped Argyle Hotel in the Rocks, which has a great dumpling bar these days: an idea I would like all things to now incorporate, including but not limited to bars). One thing was a very fun Iron & Wine interview.

And I did my snarky Word on the P Street weekly columns for Time Out, which featured my worst song of all time countdown: the publicly voted Nottest 100 (and the results are here).  Also which played-out Australian dining trend are youyour Australian government rating-busting television events of 2014Sydney or Melbourne: which city will kill you first?, and… actually, let’s make this easy: all the Word on the P Street columns are here. Go read the hell out of ’em.

Elsewhere, I bitched about the INXS telemovie for Fasterlouder, and also did a thing on the Morning Show about INXS videos. So you can see and hear me LIKE I’M RIGHT THERE. Yes, you’re right: I’m much better looking in print.

I also did a thing on being friends with someone you find attractive for Daily Life, because I move in incredibly good-lookin’ circles.

And I did some radio for the ABC, and a lot of print writing which hasn’t come out yet – but it will, I’m reliably assured.

And here’s the most recent 10 Things below, if you want to feel angry and ashamed about being Australian at the moment. You’re welcome!

You going to Golden Plains? I’ll see you there, then.

Yours ever,


10 Things - So, who beat Reza Berati to death? 10 Things – So, who beat Reza Berati to death?

10 Things: Environment minister sick of dumb 'environment' stuff 10 Things: Environment minister sick of dumb ‘environment’ stuff

10 Things - Fred Nile expresses disapproval of choices made by dead woman 10 Things – Fred Nile expresses disapproval of choices made by dead woman

10 Things - Holiday in Cambodia! 10 Things – Holiday in Cambodia!

10 Things - Schapelle 2: Electric Boogaloo begins production 10 Things – Schapelle 2: Electric Boogaloo begins production

10 Things - Why you should be ashamed to be Australian right now 10 Things – Why you should be ashamed to be Australian right now

10 Things - Today in Chris Brown hits people news 10 Things – Today in Chris Brown hits people news

10 Things - Patience is a virtue 10 Things – Patience is a virtue

Sydney or Melbourne: which city will kill you first?

First published in Time Out Sydney 27 February 2014

Dear the Internet,

The Guardian recently published an interactive map showing how one’s life expectancy changes depending on where in the world one lives. It’s a fascinating tool unambiguously showing that people in big cities tend to live significantly longer than those in rural and remote deathtraps.

Come for the stress, stay for the not being a hellhole in the middle of a bone-dry mountain range!

Come for the stress, stay for the not being a hellhole in the middle of a bone-dry mountain range!

However, looking at our wide brown land that’s girt so controversially by sea, it’s notable that those who live in Sydney apparently die six weeks earlier than the national average.

It’s hardly a surprise, of course: life in our biggest and most exciting/stressful city is a rollercoaster of pluses and minuses. To illustrate this, I’ve elucidated the elements that extend and diminish life for Sydney residents, alongside those of our nation’s secondary Sydney: Melbourne.

Sydney vs Melbourne 2

So which city is better? One thing is clear: they both shit all over Blinman.

Seriously. You ever been to the Flinders Ranges? The town’s a goddamn hellhole.

Yours ever,


Kris Kristofferson interview

First published in Time Out, February 2014

The country and cinema legend looks back at his legacy

Let’s not mince words: Kris Kristofferson is an honest-to-god legend. The man is one of the great American country songwriters – ‘Sunday Mornin’ Coming Down’, ‘Me and Bobby McGee’, ‘For the Good Times’ – and was one quarter of the outlaw country supergroup the Highwaymen, standing tall alongside Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson.

He’s also an accomplished actor, probably best known for starring roles in A Star Is Born and Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore. He also has the peculiar honour of having starred in one of the most disastrous films of all time, the studio-killing 1980 Michael Cimino film Heaven’s Gate.

kris-kristoffersonIn 2013 he released his 21st album, Feeling Mortal: a typically wry album reflecting on his 77th year on the planet, and he’s coming to Australia for over twenty shows all over the country, including such non-traditional touring destinations as Rockhampton, Lismore and Renmark.

“I’m looking forward to the tour,” he chuckles in that immediately-familiar rasp. “I’ve been doing a film up here and I’m tired of it. I feel pretty lucky to make my living like this, but I really like the music part better than the movies.”

Most performers half Kristofferson’s age don’t do Autralian tour schedules this long, much less this extensive. “Well, I’m glad to be doing it!” he laughs. “I’ve always enjoyed playing in Australia: I’ve always felt a good connection with the audience for some reason.”

Feeling Mortal follows 2009’s equally strong Close to the Bone, and the recurring motifs of loss, mortality and experience make them seem almost of a piece.

“Well, ever since the first albums that I cut, I feel like it’s represented what I was going through at the time, and I think that’s why. I mean, I certainly feel mortal – if you don’t feel mortal when you’re 77, there’s something wrong.”

That being the case, what sort of person makes an entire album about feeling one’ s age, and then goes “…and so now for an extensive world tour where I perform night after night after night?”

“Yeah, but there are a lot worse ways to have to make a living, you know? It’s definitely the thing that comes the most natural to me.”

The sets naturally include his old classics, and Kristofferson feels absoutely fine about performing songs he wrote forty-odd years ago.

“I guess it’s kinda like your kids: once it’s yours, it’s yours,” he shrugs. “Songs like ‘…Bobby MaGee’ and ‘Help Me Make It Through the Night’ will always feel like my own.”

Sure, but every parent still has moments of feeling like “I love you, but I really don’t want to hang out with you right now”?

“No!” he laughs heartily. “But I tell you, my kids and I get along real good. I got eight of them and they are really easy to be around. When they’re together all I hear it laughter. It’s a blessing. And they’re all smarter than I am.”

That’s no small claim: Kristofferson was a Rhodes Scholar, before rising rapidly through the military as a pilot before music and acting caught his attention. The man has a brain on him.

“Yeah? Well, that’s kinda hard for me to believe too,” he laughs. “But I got no complaints.”

He’s pleased at the suggestion that Feeling Mortal is less a dark reflection on the proximity of the reaper and more of a wry celebration of a life well lived.

“I’m glad you feel that way, because that’s the way I feel. I really don’t think anything negative about gettin’ old. It happens to everybody,” he says, “and I’d rather get old than not.”

Which is a rare sort of attitude for someone in youth-obsessed industries like music and movies, but Kristofferson doesn’t sound like a man that gives much time to doubts.

“You know, I was never worried about whether I was like the other people or not. I’ve never felt any pressure to be as good as Johnny Cash, or Waylon or Willie – I used to just stand up there amazed to be on stage with them. And I feel that way about the films as well, and I have no idea why I didn’t have more doubt about whether I could do it. But it’s all worked out.”

Well, it appears that if it didn’t work out, there;d have been no hesitation in trying something else.

“Yeah, it’s true. Looking back, I was into football and boxing when I was at school, and that was what I could really lose myself in. And I don’t know how I could have been audacious enough to do either one: I wasn’t big and I wasn’t fast, but I still got to play and I think it was just – like the music – that my heart was in it. It’s like songwriting: I’m sure many people in the world thought I was crazy to go from being an army officer to being a studio janitor trying to be a songwriter, but I never questioned myself – and I’m glad I didn’t.”

Not even when making Heaven’s Gate?

“Well, I always thought it was a good film, but it didn’t last a week in the theatres. The critics gave it unfair reviews,” he shrugs. But look back at it now: great actors, great director. What an opportunity!”

Your ratings-smashing Australian Government blockbuster TV events of 2014!

Originally published at Time Out Sydney, 14 February 2014. Art by Robert Polmear.


Dear the Internet,

If there’s one thing that our nation learned last Sunday with success of rating smashers INXS: Never Tear Us Apart and the Schapelle Corby biopic Schapelle, it’s that we Australians love nothing more than seeing our own stories ineptly reflected back at us.

This hasn’t gone unnoticed by our Federal government, who recognise that the best way to win hearts and minds in support of their political agenda is by telling our culture’s greatest stories on the small screen.

That’s why the following three blockbuster television events are currently being rushed into production – so here’s a preview of what will, unless Labor and the Greens block it in the upper house, be 2014’s federally-mandated Must-See TV!

Sophie’s WorkChoices
Australia’s sweetheart Lisa McCune is Sophie Everywoman, a single mum struggling to balance her work and personal life under the yoke of protectionist unions forcing her to accept award wages, OH&S standards in the workplace and crippling obligations like employer superannuation contributions and paid leave.

However, a chance meeting with dashing Howard-era employment minister Kevin Andrews (Julian McMahon) makes her realise that she really can have it all simply by outlawing collective bargaining and allowing her to negotiate as equals with her employers, who promptly make her position casual. Now freed of all her uncompetitive protections, can she finally achieve her dream of seven day a week working poverty? Find out in this heartwarming story of hope, love, and unaffordable child care!

An edge of the seat thriller where the first casualty of the truth… is profitable industry. Mild mannered environment minister Greg Hunt (David Wenham) uncovers a shadowy well-supported and peer-reviewed global conspiracy of scientists and researchers attempting to ensnare international governments in fiendishly urgent and united action to mitigate the effects of climate change.

Can he and his rag-tag gang of powerful industrialists, international media magnates, discredited scientists and highly-paid lobby groups stop this insidious cabal of under-resourced academics and keep industry safe from their dastardly fact-based agenda? Also stars Claudia Karvan as Gina Rinehart, Hugh Jackman as Clive Palmer, Daniel Craig as Lord Monckton and Cornelia “Morag from Home & Away” Francis as CSIRO Chief Executive Officer Megan Clark.

Oh, Tampa!
A knockabout musical farce about the 2001 Children Overboard affair, where goofy prime minster John Howard finds a simple, politically-motivated fib claiming that evil refugees threatening to drown their own children spirals out of control and wackily becomes the basis for Australia’s federal immigration policy for the subsequent decade.

With Anthony Warlow as Howard, David Campbell as immigration minister Philip Ruddock and Phil Scott as wandering minstrel The Children Over-Bard, Oh, Tampa! features towback-tapping numbers like ‘The Only Good Ship (Is Citizenship)’, ‘Political Wedge Issue Blues’ and ‘I’m Not A Racist, But… (…Obviously, I Am)’.

Set your VCRs now, Australia.

Yours ever,


Custard interview

First published in Time Out Sydney, February 2014 

The Brisvegas 90s legends make a long-overdue return

Dave McCormack, dear reader, is a very conversational person. He’s effusive, chatty and extremely charming, although even he has found doing press for the upcoming shows by Custard, the Brisbane-born band he fronted from 1990 to 1999, has been a bit odd.

“I’ve been doing interviews and it’s hard because I don’t really have much to promote or sell,” he explains. “Most bands, they’ve got a new record out and they’re doing this and that, they’re gonna tour America and they’re doing a video clip – I don’t have any of those fallback points.”

They never aged. FACT.

They never aged. FACT.

See, Custard’s reunions – like much of Custard’s career, really – have been quite casual affairs. “Absolutely! We just go with the vibe and see what happens, and if it seems like a good thing to do, we do it. You could write this whole article without talking to me, really – you know what’s going on.”

Custard did a few shows around the place last year, including Meredith Music Festival last year and their first Sydney shows in 12 years – which seems a long time given that all the members live, for the most part, in Sydney.

“It’s good to have the old gang back together,” he grins. “It’s very lovely. We hadn’t done a gig together for ten years, until 2009 [when they played in Brisbane for Queensland’s sesquicentenary], for a lot of reasons, and the whole subject of getting back together seemed impossible and then we did bite the bullet and got in a room together, and from the very first chord in rehearsal it just seemed to come together. I think it was a lot of muscle memory: after doing so many gigs for so many years we did sort of gel like an organic beast.”

Did the existence of those aforementioned reasons mean that the first rehearsal involved clearing the air at all?

“Not really, no. I think there probably is a lot of undiscussed and unresolved tension, but we see each other so briefly and it’s mainly getting on stage for gigs, that we’re all pretty happy with the way things are going,” he shrugs. “I mean, everyone’s really nice to each other and we’re all enjoy each other’s company. We spent a lot of time together for ten years, so there is a brotherly thing there. There are things that you just don’t have to discuss.”

He’s quick to point out that the band haven’t exactly laboured over the set for these shows either. “It’s just a matter of booking a rehearsal room for an hour, running through the set for 45 minutes, having 15 minutes of free time, and then off you go.”

Well, a well-drilled Custard would be a strange thing…

“It would defeat the purpose!” he declares. “I’ve always been a fan of the happy accidents. And I like to think that the people who come along do so for the accidents as much as the parts we play right. It’s the greatest hits played in the same versions as the recordings, played to the best of our abilities. Any changes are due to ineptness rather than anything else.”

He’s also pleased that 2011’s seen the return of a number of their contemporaries.

“I’m so glad that the Hummingbirds are back! They’re vastly underrated band. I loved the Hummingbirds – when did ‘Alimony’ come out, ’88? ’87? They were blazing a trail for guitar pop. Simon Holmes, great songwriter. ‘Two Weeks with a Good Man in Niagara Falls’ – what a great song,” he gushes. “He’s a guitar hero.”

Well, as YouTube attests, McCormack was quite the player in his day too – barking out ‘Apartment’ while playing those fiddly riffs…

“I’ve matured into doing one thing at a time now: I can’t do fiddly guitar and sing at the same time. But where we came from was this bumbling, not-really-that-good-at-our-instruments thing. None of us are that good, but when we get together with the right songs, we can play the tasty little bits – which is nice, I think. If any of us were hired as session musicians, I think we’d fail spectacularly.”

Except Glenn Thompson, of course – the band’s multi-instrumentalist drummer, recruited for the reunited Go Betweens, no less. Not only could he be hired as a sessioneer, he actually has.

“True, Glenn has. He’s the exception to the rule. He’s a very talented musician, and a great songwriter. His album [Beachfield’s Brighton Bothways] is unbelievable. Unbelievable.”