Sometimes, you've just gotta tell 'em


Metropolis, Perth, Monday October 28th 1991

(Originally featured in Party Fears #17, December 1991

The Rock Awards. Here is the story you didn't see in X-Press or the West Australian. Excuse me if I wank on a bit, but I think I've earned the right. (If you're not from Perth, I'll try to keep this comprehensible.)

To cut a long and potentially juicy story sort, Party Fears won the top award of the night - The Golden WAMI For Services To The Industry: David Gerard. This is for having published PF for the past year every two months without fail and intermittently for the five years before that.

How this was actually possible is a story in itself. As you know, the big-time rock industry is a subculture in itself. They occasionally trot out the ontological definition of the Perth Rock Industry (that a thing actually is what it is defined to be) - that anyone who is in a band is in the industry - but, in practice, if you're not part of a certain industry subculture that has gone out of its way in the past to exclude certain bands (our music, to be brief - what you read about in Party Fears), you don't exist and have no business claiming to. (This is why The Night After, the house band at the nightclub Gobbles [for Christ's sake], keep getting nominated.) (Kevin Price, then of Show Business Australia, speaking in his official capacity as representative of the company that put on the 1986 Rock Awards: "These original bands don't deserve awards. They don't have a high profile and don't make much money." [West Australian Reflex, 20/4/86, p7.])

Of late, the active hostility has quietened down, basically since the bottom dropped out of the cover-band market (V-Capri grossed three million dollars at the door in 1985 and I hope they enjoy their present day jobs) and they have realised that something else is going to have to do the job. (I got a ridiculous series of phone calls from these people earlier this year - people who wouldn't know what music was if it bit them on the arse thinking that something called 'alternate' is the way to keep afloat. The sort of people who voted Stephen Cummings 'Top Alternative Artist' over Nick Cave at the ARIAs.) X- Press has even become a readable music magazine - certainly a considerably better music magazine now as a 'lifestyle' magazine than it was when it was actually a music magazine - though it's been observed to be tightening up again of late.

The Rock Awards voting is two-tiered. The WA Music Industry Association (WAM) keeps a mailing list of everyone it can track down in the industry and sends them nomination forms, returns then being tallied up by an independent accountant and presented to a judging panel of twenty-five Industry Figures - this year's including me, Bernard Langham, Pat Monaghan, Rob Grant, Leanne Casellas and a few others as well as the usual industry-subculture people, so there was a fair bias of artheads - who add their own nominations and then vote amongst themselves to determine a sensible industry award list.

This year's was fraught with problems. Huge numbers of forms (e.g. mine!) did not get sent out due to computer problems, pissing many people off and inviting the first round of accusations of bias. Forms were available at industry (subculture) meeting points and so (surprise!) some people sent in millions for themselves (e.g. Phil Bennett - so sue me. Your name was in every category. Who else would have nominated Toys Went Berserk as a great achievement by a WA artist? e.g. Allegiance, who had a large number of entries all in the same handwriting, no less; complete disqualification was seriously considered). Not surprisingly, the judging panel's own nominations exceeded those sent in and knocked most of them off the final four. My own was one of those added, by the way; and that's how I got on the list and made it.

WAM is a potentially useful organisation with some decent people involved; I was on the committee for three years and only quit due to time problems; Ian Underwood of the Kryptonics was on it for almost as long; Mark Ghirardi is presently on it. There is also, once you accept that the idea of 'awards' for the 'best' is fundamentally rubbish anyway, the possibility of an awards night being at least something of worth and decency. But the Industry daisy-chain of noses up arses continues circling around and around, oblivious to the world outside.

The start of the night was the industry party. We got there at 7.45pm. Free beer, bourbon and coke and cocktails, the last being courtesy of the performance artist* (he couldn't have been there to serve people) doing the balancing act with the tray with all the green things on top. The clear green things were nice (Midori-based, I think), but the creamy ones were distinctly dodgy and to be avoided. The nibblies (nicotine-glazed to perfection) were actually quite nice (none of us had had tea yet that night), so we took loads. The strawberries were damned weird - two or three inches long and warped to one side. Industry strawberries, obviously.

Music Industry parties. Let's get this straight: they are ugly, ugly, UGLY* scenes. Sardined with Industry people. In case you've never seen a whole lot of them together, Industry people look like neither decent people (you and I), yuppies or even just suburban losers. Industry people are grossly deformed mutant mongoloid creatures with no ears whatsoever. (Some of them started with them, but you can tell those ones by the featureless steel plates - guaranteed 100dB sound attenuation or better - on either side of the head.) The sight of a whole lot of Industry people getting together, having fun, drinking, enjoying each other's company is stomach-churning, and I don't mean that as a metaphor.

We grabbed as many green things and anything else we could as anti-nausea medication and sunk them as absolutely fuckin' fast as possible. Trust me: you would have done the same. If you'd been there, you'd have understood to the depths of your soul that it was either go for the drink or get the old Uzi 9mm out right there and then and start production on Terminator III without delay. This was a job for Dr. Duke. I remembering reading in P.J. O'Rourke's Holidays In Hell of the Beirut bar where the journalists all stayed; the bartender there gave out something that would let you get to the twentieth drink and keep right on going, for the simple reason that, with the horrors around you, you would really fuckin' need to. This was a bit like that.

Down to the tables. Metropolis has a rat's maze of about six hundred bars connected by intertwining stairways all wrapped around a dancefloor below, where the Industry tables were placed. Cans were three dollars and eighty cents and they don't serve VB. There was a dish of peanuts on the table, but not all the effort in the world could convince them to refill it. Hey, our tickets only cost thirty dollars; we don't deserve service. (A lot of money to waste? If you'd been there, you'd have felt it worth every cent. Trust me.) Metropolis has good sound and nothing else to recommend it; I suggest you avoid it wherever possible.

The night opened with a speech from John 'Scumsucker' Dawkins. 'Shitbag' Dawkins opened with a speech saying the Prices Surveillance Authority were fools, which they at least half are. (So why doesn't 'Pusball' Dawkins stop 'em himself?) For the uninformed, John 'I fucked the students over completely' Dawkins is the Federal Minister for ensuring that an education remains the privilege of the rich. What he was doing here, I'm not sure; we didn't applaud, but we did half-consider going around the back to beat the fuck out of the arsehole. The Sweet Blue Midnights were next up, playing enswathed in pink light and dry ice. The band is jazz for people who think of Kate Ceberano as a serious jazz artist. "Oooh, we're listening to jazz!"

The 'Most Popular' awards were voted on by people who had taken a hundred copies of that week's X-Press and sent in the voting forms therein.

Most popular new band: Book Of Funk; Most popular single: Chevelles "Be My Friend" (justice); Most popular album: Dave Hole Short Fuse Blues; Most popular venue: The Beat Room, Melbourne Hotel (someone was on the ball here: backing music for the announcement was "Wildfire" by the Healers); Most popular tape: Mars Bastards Six ("Hey, I was surprised" - Jeff Baker. I stood up and gave a standing ovation to that one. Justice); Most popular band: Allegiance, who then played: lots of speeding, metalling, duelling guitars.

Next up, the industry/Industry awards:

Best lighting: Alex Manfrin, who also draws Sick Dog, Jeremy The Boring Old Pseudo-Intellectual Of The Club Scene and Sarah Pax; Best sound engineer live: Ray Godfrey; Best sound engineer recorded: Rob Grant, Poons Head (justice); Best live special event: 6-RTR Go Loco (justice); Best venue: Ozone (no-one goes up to collect it); Best Female Vocalist: this is not won by Laura MacFarlane, nor by Cassie Mladineo, but by Elizabeth Sanderson of the Sweet Blue Midnights, whose Gobbles residency should be coming up soon; Best Male Vocalist: won by Rob Snarski (major attack of justice), followed by the video trick again. In 1986, they did this when nominating Richard Lane for best keyboardist; they showed a video of Dom Mariani. This year, guess what the backing was? Thirty seconds of David McComb. Brilliant. (Courtesy producer Greg Green.) Do you people ever wonder why we don't think much of you? Best Guitarist: Ken Stringer; Best Bassist: Jim Butterworth, Healers (justice) (y'know, it's interesting to see who comes up to accept the awards for the winners on the arthead side of the tracks. Nearly none of us bothered showing up - not being aware of the composition of the judging panel - preferring to leave the Industry to play with themselves as usual. Tch, what you miss out on); Best Keyboards: all nominations industry shite, who cares who won. At the judging panel, myself and one other* nominated A Terminal Posture (who are my tip for the top, i.e. a band with genuine potential to be really good on a long- term basis) for everything they were eligible for (Roy and John in this category, f'rinstance). Six out of the twenty present concurred as their ears were open and they had heard the band. The other fourteen didn't, presumably since the band members didn't hang out at Gobbles or the Backstage Bar. No nominations for ATP made it through; Best Drums: Miles Hitchcock, Healers (justice).

Dude Ranch (aging country-oid band) play, then we have the WA Country Awards announced in the manner of a bag tacked on the side of Rock'n'Roll. Bewdy! Phew!

Best producer: Norbert Roth (Healers album) (justice); Best songwriter: Kim Salmon, justice once again - Rob Grant (his engineer) accepted it; "Kim is a very talented boy and the industry recognises his talents." Rob Grant is a sarcastic bastard and, we would like to note for the eyes of history, a true hero. Rob made extra effort and shuffled recording bookings to make it to the judging panel for the sake of the indie bands and this is one result; Best single: Kim Salmon "Lighting Scary", yet more. By the way, did you know that a certain PolyGram W.A. promotions manager was totally unaware that the one PolyGram artist then resident in Perth (initials K.S.) was even on the label? This has a lot to do with her being a fully paid-up member of the industry subculture as well as the first editor of X-Press; Best album: Healers Secret Show (when announcing the nominations, they named it as "This Windy City") (still more jj ...); Best cassette: The Original Band Co-Op Uncovered, which only made it onto the nomination list by strong Industry backing. I had tried at the judging panel to get almost every one of our cassettes on the list, but no-one had heard of them. I suspect I was one of the few in that room to actually have more than five Perth tapes in total and the only one to have paid for them to listen to; Best video: Someloves "Sunshine's Glove". Justice.

Storytime play. Instro prog three-piece; didn't wow me, but didn't offend me. No opinion.

Most promising new band: Dixie Outlaws; Best band or artist: Dave Hole; Andy-Clayton Smith Award For the Pursuit Of Excellence: 6-RTR - yet again, a triumph for... Golden WAMI For Services To The Industry: guess who.

Weaved up there, notes in hand. I had my white Terminal Posture T-shirt on for statement purposes and, glory be, here was the chance. Bernard Langham had handed me the Brautigans' unused 'acceptance' speech - a list of deserving Perth bands with a profound 'fuck you' to the industroids at the end - and Nathan of Bob's had given a similar list of ideas.

We understand: It's a jihad. (Or a crusade, for those uncomfortable with Islamic metaphors.) We are here to defend the true nation. Sometimes, you've just gotta. Sometimes, the truth must be spoken. Sometimes, justice needs to be seen to be done. Sometimes, you've just gotta tell 'em.

I did have a thirty second speech prepared. Thirty seconds is the ideal length for an acceptance speech*:

"Thank you for this award. Party Fears Magazine has come out regularly this year and for the foreseeable future and has been spreading the word on Perth music around the world in that time.

"But Party Fears has never been about the industry in any way at all. Party Fears is about music. Music bears the same relation to the music industry as gourmets do to meat packers. If an industry person claims to have anything to do with music, he is a liar and is after your money. If you want to get into the music industry because you are into music, DO NOT. Be an artist if you like music. Thank you. Enjoy your drinks."

The expected reaction was something along the lines of some of the audience cheering and some booing (or at least muttering) while these simple and, as far as I can tell, one hundred percent accurate statements were being spoken.

As it happened, the speech got a bit more of a reaction than that - wild cheering and a half of a standing ovation, though you wouldn't have seen that reported in X-Press, of course - and I got a bit heated and decided to go for it:

(etc.) "...MUSIC bears the same relation to the Music INDUSTRY as GOURMETS do to MEAT PACKERS!" (cheers) "If someone from the Industry claims to have ANY FUCKING THING to do with MUSIC, he is a FUCKING LIAR! Kick him in the FUCKING shins and RUN!" (cheers) ...

I am sorry to report that no known tape of the speech exists (I thought WAM had one, but they don't - "we didn't know it'd turn out interesting, you see") - and you wouldn't believe how many people have asked me for a copy - but it did contain:

What did I forget:

In response to the X-Press review:

Other press reaction: Notice how both X- Press and the West Australian slagged hell out of the speech whilst failing entirely to report its content accurately. Then the second-best bit: the identical (word for word) industry denunciations printed in both - on the same day. (Courtesy Sean Diggins, industry hack par excellence.).

The best bit was the detailed personal attack from 'Scat Rabies' in X- Press 14/11 revealing the terrible details of my sex life. When it gets down to that level, I start thinking someone's taken it a bit personally. Hey, maybe they really do fuck pigs.

The present: The Golden WAMI is presently sitting above my fireplace. Four point two kilograms of steel. I think it's actually an award for body-building.

True but cruel: The gold plate is already coming off, as is the nameplate, but I am doing better than the Healers - their nameplates fell off before they even got their awards. One double winner has the awards on either side of a double-glazed window in case of fire. One young band was using their award as an ashtray on the night.

For those who think that little talk with the industry might somehow harm a certain class of band: you're being harmed anyway. If you try to 'work with' (for) the Industry, you'll end up doing all the work anyway and pay someone else for the privilege. If that sounds good, hey, feel free.

The best part of the award: So far I've received well over half a carton in congratulatory drinks and am well on my way to a full one. (Anyone wishing to add to it is entirely welcome.) Who invented this wonderful custom? Must thank them.


* Asterisked lines are courtesy of other people whose identities are being protected.
[ Party Fears #17 ]