[Powderworks] An Interview with Rob
Fri, 02 Aug 2002 15:50:14 +1000
I found the following interview with Rob on a Brisbane website. It contains
some information we already know, but some we dont as well.
Midnight Oil – Fresh frontier
They might be a country mile from Slim Dusty's century-strong record of
records, but perennial Aussie favourites Midnight Oil show no signs of
abating with their 14th album, Capricornia.
"So far, so good," drummer Rob Hirst enthuses of the album. "People seem to
like the melodic quality to the album, even using the dreaded three-letter
word 'pop', which is not something we've really been known for in the past.
But it's quite nice when pop meets Midnight Oil because there's the melodic
thing, but hopefully the urgency as well."
Hirst puts Capricornia's melodic edge down to the choice of songs and the
"desire to do lots of singing".
"There's a lot of background singing there with Bones [Hillman], myself and
Jim [Moginie] chiming in at every occasion. It was written into the songs
from birth, but certainly working with [producer] Warne Livesey again, he
particularly likes that side of Midnight Oil as well - everyone singing.
He's always encouraging us to do more singing, so perhaps that's the
connection with Diesel & Dust and Blue Sky Mining, as we used Warne on both
those albums and there's a lot of singing on both those albums."
Why did you decide to use Warne Livesey again?
"We knew we could work quickly with Warne with all the water under the
bridge. We could get stuck in first day. Also, we trust his judgement and
were really happy to hand that process over to him, as long as the band was
entirely ready. By the time we went into Festival Studios, we'd demoed
everything up so we could just throw the versions down without worrying
about arrangements or whether 'this' was the right speed… We really knew the
material well this time.
"With some time off, we'd have the luxury of doing about three sets of
demos. It started with Jim and myself, at Jim's place, working up the songs
we'd written and combining them and handing them on to the band. The band
would respond to the ones they liked and then we'd go and play them live. We
hadn't done that for quite a few years - the luxury of playing them live -
and it becomes obvious which ones are working.
"By the time we went in [to the studio] in June/July, it was simply a case
of getting the take. Some of the songs are first or second take, like
'Mosquito March' and 'Under The Overpass' are first takes."
Midnight Oil's year of pre-production not only consisted of demo recordings
and live tests, but an outback sabbatical.
"Before the Olympics, we went out to visit the communities in the desert
once more and camped for a few days outside Papunga and met some people we'd
met on the Diesel & Dust tour all those years ago, including Sammy Butcher,
guitar player in the Warumpi Band.
"We did a show out there at Papunga and also one with NoKTuRNL at Alice
Springs as well. We did a bit of thinking about things as well and Jim
brought up this idea of loosely basing an album on Xavier Herbert's 1938
novel Capricornia. He'd already written some at that point.
"[The trip] was also to talk over other stuff: the direction of the album
and how we would put it down, our involvement in the Olympics was coming up
at that time… we got a whole lot of things straight."
It was at Papunga that the Oils came up with the idea for their Olympics
outfits emblazoned with 'sorry'.
"When we made that appearance at the Olympics, we still weren't sure really
how it would be taken - only one or two people from the Olympics knew. We
thought they might not show us or shut down that part of the show. As it
turned out when we walked out, it was such a warm response; we knew
immediately that there was a great feeling for the campaign for European
Australians to reconcile with Aboriginal people in that way. With Yothu
Yindi following immediately afterwards with 'Treaty', it seemed like the
right context for that kind of comment."
Such sentiments are further explored throughout Capricornia as the Oils
continue their proud tradition of informed social commentary, particularly
on the likes of 'Too Much Sunshine'.
"The original theme," Hirst says of the song, "was a little bit like the
theme for 'Best of Both Worlds', whereby we've got so much staring us in the
face in this country, but we tend to be a bit heat-struck. With the
exception of a couple of songs - 'Bedlam Bridge' comes to mind - most of our
songs are entirely based on our backgrounds in Australia: where we've spent
all our lives, despite the long tours.
"It has to come from here - it's the only place we can speak about with real
authority. And even now you get the sense that this is a fresh frontier of
ideas and potential, whereas you go to Europe, particularly, and they're
ancient civilisations - you're not sure what comment you could make."
Fans with an itch to scratch may have to bide their time with the album
before they get to hear it reproduced live.
"We did a bunch of shows around Sydney and Melbourne to premiere the album,
but we'll have to wait to come to other states till later in the year,"
Hirst says of touring. "We've got to go to the States for a promo tour in
mid-March and then another five weeks in May. We'll come around and do a
decent Australian tour later in the year, but we'll have to see what happens
in the US, Canada and Europe."
Capricornia is out on Columbia/Sony.
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