Saw Dave Graney with the Coral Snakes in late ’93, playing to the fame of Night Of The Wolverine. We went two nights running. It’s always interesting seeing one of your completely unpopular favourites just after the masses have caught on — will anyone get it? Will the band play up, talk down, dumb down, take the piss, try to enlighten or what? As it turned out, Dave was Dave and that worked just fine. The fresh young JJJ crowd all danced to “You’re Too Hip, Baby”. Or attempted to, anyway. (Feet planted one metre apart, shut eyes, wave upper half of body back and forth in time. Ain’t it cute? Hi there to the girl in the green top on the Friday at the Grosvenor, if you’re reading this. Come home with us tonight.) Congrats to the wag who shouted for “Gone Dead” — second Moodists single (1982), for those of you that aren’t record nerds. (As Dave said in Juice: “Someone who collects seven-inch vinyl, that’s someone you wouldn’t want to hang around with, really ...”) The ugly people present didn’t destroy the quality — some things are too powerful to kill that way. The Coral Snakes shall triumph.
If it really is true that women just can’t rock — that they just ain’t got the rock’n’roll — then Clare Moore is a man. Clare’s grasp of the shuffle in the rhythmic jam drives the whole thing. Dave comes up with the tunes and words (and I must point out that he blows hot in literary terms as well), but this is only a foundation for the rhythmic interaction of the players. And boy, do the Coral Snakes interact with rhythm. Suave as all get-out.
I can only see a zillion Dave Graney records in suburban hells across the nation, filed right in there next to the Billy Joel, Cruel Sea and John Farnham (this was a real CD shelf), as a good thing. (Hell, the buyers both need and deserve it.) As long as the music’s fine. Which it’s more than. Any other consideration being grossly artistically unsound.
Note also that Night Of The Wolverine is now available in a proper jewel-box instead of a poxy fuckin’ digipak. About time.
Dave is the King of Rock’n’Roll Rock’n’Roll. He is also a top dude and a good talker. I love interviewing people who have opinions and talk in complete sentences.
This interview was done at the end of ’92, when very little of the world cared what Dave Graney had to say. (They changed their tune soon enough.) Dave had just played an acoustic duo set with his guitarist on a Sunday night at the Grosvenor prior to his Nick Cave support on the Monday. And he held the more or less word-of-mouth crowd enraptured. Set was mostly Night Of The Wolverine, with long rambling explanations before each song. (The one for “Three Dead Passengers In A Stolen Second-Hand Ford” being longer than the song itself and rendering the actual lyrics superfluous — the song about the three people who die and the only things left of them are the affectations they put on to piss off the world ... nothing else. No other substance remains. Now, that’s a scary story.) Yeah, the King. Gave him and Rod a lift to the train station after the interview — what a friend of the stars, hey?
Dave Graney is the sort of person you wish you’d had as an uncle when you were a kid.
David of Graney interviewed just before the hit album by David of PF.
Are you just doing the acoustic show on this Nick Cave tour?
“The Coral Snakes are playing in Melbourne, but everywhere else is just the acoustic show. Just to go around and be Dave Graney in a cheaper way. The acoustic show is quite good, but it’s a much better show with the whole band. I do prefer to have drums and piano there. On Wednesday we do a show in Melbourne with the Cruel Three as the Soft And Sexy Sound, which is me, Clare (Moore), Rod (Hayward) and Robin (Casinader) who plays piano and violin; Clare just plays with brushes, it’s with acoustic guitar, no bass and we do different songs. It’s also easier to transport because we just need a piano, two guitars and a few drums.
“We just like to play wherever we can. I think next year (1993) we’ll just be doing the Coral Snakes show because people get wise to it — they think they can get Dave Graney solo cheaper. They’re going to have to pay next year. Everyone’s going to pay next year, ’cos I’m entering my ‘fuck it’ period.”
How representative was the material last night?
“After these Nick Cave dates, I’m going to record this record to put it out next year. It’ll be a lot of those songs. I was going to approach it as a solo thing and keep all the songs really simple as they were when written on a guitar, and also do things that are a little off-the-wall, because I just think, ‘fuck it, I’ll be as Dave Graney as I wanna be.’ I’m going to record it fairly quickly.
”We play a lot in Melbourne and I don’t fall into any particular category or scene in the continuum of post-punk; I get people from different scenes that don’t cross over very much. I don’t go out very much; I went to one gig by a kind of techno group and I didn’t know those kind of people existed ... a very young audience. So I’m my own tribute act in Melbourne.
“Last night wasn’t very representative of the show we’ve been doing with the Coral Snakes. I used to do a lot of talking, and you can’t do it ... we do a serious show in some pretty savage pubs; I don’t like the pace of that any more, and I don’t want to be a clown any more. So we’ve been developing a really stomping rhythm & blues show, which is really like search and destroy, kick out the jams style that just doesn’t stop. That’s the kind of show I like to do with the Coral Snakes.
“I guess last night was representative in a little way of what I do; I like to do those sorts of ballads, but generally I like a little bit of firepower.”
Will this record be the Coral Snakes?
“Yeah. Everything I do now will be the Coral Snakes. I write a lot of songs — much more than I’ll ever record — and when I first started thinking about it a year ago I was trying to focus it on more of a Dave Graney kind of thing, but then I was thinking that I’ve been playing with Clare Moore for more than a decade, and she’s a very musical person, and Rod’s been playing with us since 1988 ... so, although I write and arrange the songs, I bounce ideas off people all the time and everything I do is really the Coral Snakes. A lot of things get focused on me, but I’m through with that kind of, um ...”
You’re a bit of a pop star. You got up there and you were a star — people liked your personality. They were music fans, but there was no reason not to entertain.
“I’ve developed that kind of thing. A lot of my songs were pretty sad, so I had this thing when I started playing that I’d do a lot of talking. It was also so that we could play slower songs in pubs — instead of going straight from a fast one to a slow one, there’d be a person talking to settle into that kind of thing. But, as I say, I’ve grown tired of being a clown. I was never really up there getting drunk and being a fool; people do come along and want the sort of show where I’m a bit of a wisearse, and I don’t feel like it sometimes.
“Increasingly, I like just playing the songs — keeping that distance and just playing the songs. I enjoy that most, really. I’m not the kind of person who has to stand up on coffee tables if ever there’s a group of friends around. I don’t have to be the centre of attention and I don’t have to create drama in my life to make sure I’m alive.
“I’m very, very interested in, and I write lots about, the tension between music being a very private thing and a very public thing. The way people talk on MTV and on radio about ‘golden oldies’, a shared thing of a group of people; but it’s often at its most powerful when people are very private and vulnerable and the music is also created at its best in that fearless abandonment to others.
“This album was to be called Night Of The Wolverine because I have a long song which is about this kind of thing, inspired by this friend of mine who sells concrete in Adelaide and is a very closed, hard person. He’s always been a very funny guy. But people mistake my sense of humour — I often think things are funniest when they’re very serious, and I have lots of gags where I’m very serious, and this is a very serious collection of songs. So I’m not going to call it that any more, I’m going to call it Music For Colourful Racing Identities. I think that’ll capture it, because I’m also increasingly interested in Australian things. I was reading this guy in the paper saying how he didn’t know why the Mafia godfather, the ‘Teflon Don’ on trial in America, why these people always admit they’re in the Mafia; why can’t they be colourful racing identities like we have here in Australia?”
I’m sure people have won libel cases for being called a ‘colourful racing identity.’ (Send any information to PF now!)
“I think it’s something to be, a colourful racing identity. I went to the races last summer in Melbourne. I go to the football in Melbourne, but people don’t dress very well at the football — it’s a winter thing, and they’re losing all the traditional grounds in Melbourne so a lot of the games are at Football Park, which involves a lot of travel for most people — so they get up early on Saturday morning and just put these fucking beanies on ... But you go to the races in the springtime and it’s great — guys with great safari suits, dapper old fellas with twirled moustaches — and you see the stewards of the race meeting who all look like the cast of Homicide, y’know, and they have to go up into this little cubby-house and watch the race ... they all have to wear pork-pie hats, for some reason. I’m not much of a gambler; you have to have a few bets, I guess, but I’m pretty hopeless at it. It’s a great day out just looking at people at the races.”
Coral Snakes versus White Buffaloes — what are the two different entities, and to what purpose?
“The first record I made (At His Stone Beach) was the Coral Snakes, done with some musicians in London and produced by Barry Adamson. I like that tropical feel. I’d spent four years in London and I just liked colourful things. I was reading a lot of American crime writing and one was this thirties book by Jonathan Lattimer called The Dead Don’t Care; and I was writing a lot of songs about sirens and beautiful girls, and it had this description of this Eurasian temptress dipsomaniac femme fatale which said, ‘That was part of her allure — to be as cold and cruel and beautiful as a coral snake.’ I like that kind of thing.
“I got more or less kicked out of Britain in 1988. I don’t have any British citizenship, I’m one hundred per cent Australian, so it’s difficult for me to live in another country. Unless you’re independently wealthy. I did stick there for a few years, though. I didn’t have any money to come back to Australia — I don’t have rich parents — so I had to get a job and earn the money, which is a very slow process in Britain. Conversely, it was one of the most creative periods for me; it helped me get away from all the Moodists stuff and helped me isolate what I wanted to do, that I actually got a kick out of playing music.
“When I got back to Australia, I was really, really excited and my mind just exploded with ideas about ... it was like a fucking storm, y’know. A lot of it was seen as a fascination with Americana, but I was seeing it as a collection of humours — some poem that’s got that in there. I wrote songs that had all this imagery of Custer and so on, but I was looking to a time when America and Australia were pretty formless kind of places; a time — which may never have existed — of freebooters, who weren’t like heroes and villains, it was just a period of great anarchy, and nothing had a name, and it was all incredibly ... it all came at me when I came back to Australia, so I was very excited.
“I wrote this song about Robert Ford and fame. Robert Ford shot Jesse James at twenty-one and became famous, and he went on stage and re-enacted it with his brother all around America. They went on the stage for a long time shooting each other again and again. There were popular songs about them and everything. One was addicted to morphine and eventually hung himself, and the other was shot by somebody who thought Jesse James was a hero.
“But I had a curled moustache and people thought I was some sort of idiot who liked country music, and I thought the imagery of ‘the White Buffaloes’ was just too macho, so I changed it back to the Coral Snakes. I also went back to Britain to record with those people I did the first EP with, so I thought they were rightfully the Coral Snakes; and a lot of the songs I consequently recorded with them on I Was The Hunter were songs I’d been doing with them two years before. So that was why the changes of name.”
This was the most popular question: what happened to the beard and moustache? You don’t have to answer if you don’t want to.
“Like I said, I went along to this gig by this techno group, Def FX, and I was there to meet someone from Caligula, who were playing with them. And the whole audience was a lot of nineteen-year-old boys with these goatee beards. They’re things that young fellows grow to look older, to give their faces some order and character. So I just felt stupid and I felt like I had a mask on. And I’ve been reading a lot of things about Australian soldiers in Vietnam, so I just shaved my face and went out and bought a lot of polo shirts and nice slacks, because I liked that cool National Service look.”
Don’t worry, your face has lots of character.
“Thank you. I’ll tell myself that. It’s funny being in something like rock’n’roll ... You look at the development in American black music and it moves so quickly, generations move so quickly, and then you look at the aristocracy of sixties rock and Eric Clapton’s doing permutations of fucking ‘Layla’ year after year. He’s done so little. There are people like Van Morrison who do lots — perhaps too much — but think of whole generations of the faceless musicians of seventies disco. The Earth, Wind and Fire people, where the hell are they? Nobody sings their praises. Some of the greatest musicians ever. And the early days of hip-hop and rap. Afrika Bambaataa and the Renegades of Funk. Some of it’s terrific and they do the most amazing things. They move so quickly. But the world of classic rock goes on about fucking ‘Layla’ ... it’s flattering a large and indolent audience.”
Whenever the local FM rock station does a request day, “Stairway To Heaven” beats the pants off everything else.
“Even people who like Led Zeppelin can’t bear that song! I’ve been listening to a lot of reggae recently. I just buy compilations, because people say about dance music that people don’t have to have an emotional investment with the personality of the artist, it’s purely functional, but I find that really horrible about dance music.”
The thing about rock is that the artist is the product.
“Mmm, yeah. British music is totally to do with ... nobody is ever hot in Britain. Happy Mondays were, ’cos they were don’t-give-a-fuck dirty types, but it’s usually all alluding to things and using horrible words ... it’s all like Carry On to me. I do like a lot of British music, but a lot of it I don’t.
“But the seventies reggae I listen to, most of those guys are probably dead! Even though Rastafarianism is very anti ... pretty stone-age in regard to women and things like that, I like that they made a virtue out of the poverty, which is quite an aesthetic thing to do; to make that righteous is quite a popular revolt. I also like it because it’s also dealing with imperialists, against Britain and America. It’s a pretty exciting period. I don’t know whether I can get into much reggae ... I do like that part of it. Gregory Isaacs, Big Youth, the Heptones, anything with a nice tune. They’re all really good singers, too.”
What label’s your next record coming on, after doing the live album independently?
“I don’t know, I’m just going to do it. I just want to be in that situation. I gave Fire Records two of the best records they ever put out and they totally didn’t know what to do with them. It was a source of such great frustration waiting a year for I Was The Hunter And I Was The Prey to come out. It was the best collection of songs I thought I would ever do, and it was totally heartbreaking for me.
“It took a while to come out because Fire became involved with Rough Trade just as Rough Trade was going bankrupt, so they didn’t have a distributor for any of their records at all. I hate every act on Fire Records now. I know it’s stupid — I should direct my ire at the people involved — but, y’know ... I’m just glad to be out of it, really.
“I want to be in a situation where we own the tapes of our records. We own The Lure Of The Tropics and we want to own the next one too and just go at our own speed.”
What sort of sales level are you at?
“Pretty low. The Australian music scene is very small.”
There’s all sorts of things wrong with it at the moment. It’s not a good time for individual music.
“You walk into a CD store and anybody competes with thirty, forty years of recorded music. Things made before cassettes, y’know, and now they’re on CD. Very cheap, too.”
There’s lots of good stuff coming out, but you have to be prepared to search for it. People aren’t very adventurous now. Years ago, people’d check stuff out, have a listen, take a punt ...
“Music is a rough game. That’s the way it is. I don’t envision any sort of utopia of music. It’s a rough game, and you’ve got to be rough and tough.”
Is the full Coral Snakes coming over to Perth?
“With the recording coming out and some media attention, we hope to. We like to play as much as we can and going to different places is really invigorating for us. Everyone else is pretty depressed they couldn’t come over here.”
You came to Perth before with the Moodists.
“Oh, years ago. It was very funny. At that time, around 1985, we were getting a lot of gothic people. It was funny because Perth was so fucking hot. It was forty degrees and you’d see these people in black overcoats and black hair.”
The Moodists were big with the goths — they didn’t understand the music, but maybe they liked the pictures on the sleeves ...
“We didn’t look at all gothic. I remember when we played in London I’d be in white Levis and a surf shirt. The goths, we just hated it. We were driving to the gig in Perth and we drove around the block when we saw all these goths coming along.
“It’s pretty amazing when you see goths now. It’s a look like a teddy-boy or something; a look for the sensitive boys and girls of class. It’s a nineteenth-century British look from when the ideal of a woman was to be tubercular and anaemic and near-death; it means you’re not sexually dangerous because you’re not predatory, but ailing and consumptive.
“It’s a version of English psychedelia, strange and nineteenth-century, which all referred to childlike innocence, like what the Cure peddle to this day: how innocent childhood is and how evil the adult world is; a sort of pre-sexual state. I hate the Cure because Robert Smith obviously had a very traumatic time when he was seventeen, but he’s going to be forty quite soon. He peddles all that icky-bicky spider bullshit ...
“American psychedelia was fucking tough — the Charlatans and the Quicksilver Messenger Service were my favourite ever bands. They were fucking tough.”
Do you still have goths in Melbourne?
“When I see them, they look so staggering. They’re the sorts of girls who look striking, but they hate people looking at them, so they mooch around like, ‘why are you fuckin’ looking at me?’”
In Perth, it’s a move against the west-coast ambiance. Also, Perth is a very British town. There’s a Perth accent which is about half English.
“Mm, you speak a lot like Bleddyn Butcher (another Perth boy — ed). The English music I like is ... things move a lot slower than the magazines that are like the nightclubs of Swinging London say they do. I like Jesus Jones because they’re like the Yardbirds to me, they’re creative in that way. The Yardbirds are an English group that I like. They were influential in their look on a lot of the modern British groups. None of them have any of their aggression, it seems, but I like Mike Jones’ voice on ‘Right Here, Right Now’. The Happy Mondays wrote some great music.
“I get out there in the shops. I buy a lot of CD singles. The new Kim Salmon, ‘Non-Stop Action Groove’, is very good. It has four really good songs on it. That’s the way they try to market music nowadays. The Straightjacket Fits. They’re a great live act.”
Your singing style: years and years ago it was very nasal (Moodists, first Coral Snakes EP), and last night you were really singing out of the diaphragm.
“I gave up smoking about eighteen months ago. I think that was a good move. When I started playing acoustic shows, instead of just thrashing out songs, Rod and I picked songs like ‘I’ve Got To Have You’ and ‘Shiloh Town’ that have lots of space in them and open chords; you use the silence in them a lot and it makes them more dynamic. I found I had to learn to sing properly. I’m going to have to do that on the new recording because to do something that intimate you have to resist the urge to start yelling.
“Through playing guitar, I actually got to know keys of songs that suit my voice. B is a good key for me to sing in. I think I will re-record a lot of the Fire stuff. I think my voice has changed when we’ve been doing these sorts of shows over the last couple of years. I do like singing a lot. It’s a pretty physical thing; you have to be in training, it’s like being an athlete.
”Tex Perkins is a great singer, I think he’s coming into his prime. I think he’s done a lot of experimenting with different kinds of things and he’s becoming more confident. He’s a very fearless, natural performer; he’s got the rock action and the charisma like Bon Scott. Other people have tried to be tough guys, but they don’t have the natural, wiry kind of ...
“Tex is one of the few, me included, and Kim Salmon, who don’t come from an art-school background. I’m being classist about this. We don’t come from a scene of art students and being easy with expressing yourself; it doesn’t come easy to people who are from the wrong side of the railroad tracks. It’s not at all encouraged in this country. It doesn’t come easy to consider yourself as an artist, to separate yourself from the world and comment on it, when the world will just say, ‘don’t be a fuckin’ whacker, fuck off, get back in your place.’ That’s why I think Tex is like Bon Scott when he’s with the Beasts — he’s not playing at being hard and tough. Kim Salmon is very protective of what he does and, in that way, hard about what he does. There’s no ironic distance between us and what we do.”
And that’s why you shaved your beard off.
“I have the same kind of thing, but I’m more playful and I think it’s funny. I have some ideas that nobody ever understands each other anyway. I’m not pushing any barrow. My band is pretty solid, I’m pretty solid in what I’m writing and in our performance and we’re pretty rock-hard. We’re just in my ‘fuck it’ period.
“The key thing of the song ‘Night Of The Wolverine’ is ‘I can’t know what you mean, know what I mean?’ which I think is very funny. That, to me, is central to my whole performance and everything. The artist has to be that hard about who you’re telling a story to. You have to demand impossible things.”
Communication of intangibles is your daily working substance and you just have to handle it. You signed up for this job. What do you actually do for a living?
“I make my living doing market research stuff. It’s okay with me, I don’t have to deal with anybody. It’s like fruit-picking, it goes up and down over the year, they pick people’s brains. I come and go. It’s all about adverts and things like that. I did the telephone survey thing once and after a while you assume an actor’s voice and order people around.
“Everybody has to work in Australia, but people make such a song and dance about it. The ideal of an indolent rock star is very appealing to a teenager, but when you’re just slave to your feelings it’s pretty boring, really. I’m just gaining control of these recordings and want to see them released in America and Europe. Going at my own speed. If I have to have a day gig to allow me to eat the kind of food I like ... it’s not exciting for me to have cornflakes for dinner.”
You did a couple of Fred Neil songs last night.
“I had a record of Tim Buckley doing ‘Dolphins’ by Fred Neil and searched out this record of his. He’s got a fantastic voice. He’s like people I admire like Joe South. He did ‘Walk A Mile In My Shoes’ and ‘Everybody’s Talkin’’ and ‘Games People Play’ and then just disappeared — he earned enough money to do whatever he liked, which was to not be in show business. He just went off to Florida. The Jefferson Airplane wrote a lot of songs about him. They called him Pooh Neil. He’s got a lovely voice and a great jazzy brush-drums-and-tremolo-guitar sound. The songs are very easy to play, too; he uses the same chords all the time.
“And the other one, Jimmy Webb, who wrote all of his stuff before he was twenty-one. He’s like a pop Rimbaud — ‘Where’s The Playground, Susie’, ‘Wichita Lineman’, ‘By The Time I Get To Phoenix’, ‘MacArthur Park’ — he did them and just fucked off. He actually did some of his own records, like The Yard Goes On Forever. I admire those kinds of people.”
You’ve been in this music thing for over ten years now. What do the next five, ten, fifteen and twenty years look like for you?
“I’ve tried other things. This fellow wanted me to write a film script with him and I tried to do that, but I don’t like movies very much. He said, ‘we’ll do this and this, we’ll get this money,’ and I’m always interested in money, but I don’t think at all visually. I have friends who are artists and I go along to their exhibitions, but I feel like a complete buffoon. I don’t know how to look at things. I’m not interested in it, really. I have a good memory for words and what people say and I read a lot, but pictures are all the same to me, really.”
Have you considered writing fiction?
“Yeah, but I’m heavily into not expressing myself these days. I have this book called The Rise And Fall Of A Regency Dandy, about a contemporary of Byron’s called Scrope Berdmore-Davies, who was just a quintessential dandy, which I like as a political movement. They were around after Napoleon’s defeat. They were just men-about-town, but they weren’t fops; fops were ineffectual decadent aristocrats and very effeminate, but dandies had very strict ways of dressing and became popular socially. Beau Brummel was the leader of them.
“He and Scrope Berdmore-Davies gambled — they didn’t work, they were like rock stars — but none of them had the money because they weren’t from rich families; through sheer force of personality they would walk around telling people to pick up their bags and getting clothes for free and so on; acting like aristocrats. They formed a rival aristocracy. I love the dandies.
“Both Scrope and Beau Brummel ran up huge gambling debts and didn’t have family money to fall back on and eventually had to go into exile. They had just lived very, very flamboyantly, way beyond their means; and Byron left behind his writing, but Scrope left behind a trunkload of unpaid bills for clothes and food and wine, which were discovered in a bank in Pall Mall in London in the 1980s. I think that’s so fucking admirable, that somebody just lived and didn’t return like a cat to its own vomit and have to comment on it. Just bills! I’d love to do that, but where do you go to now? Portugal? Seattle?
“The idea of writing ... it’d be okay, but why amplify the stories? I’m pretty ambivalent about expression. You’ve got to have some reason for doing it. I have actually been thinking about writing something, and if I did it would be something like Dennis Hopper’s The Last Movie — I would have to kick a big goal. I haven’t read Nick Cave’s book and I feel that I should; he’s always had an amazing sense of himself. In this country, that sort of thing is crushed out of people — children who show talent are usually just told to shut up and smacked a lot.”
“Go out and play footy! You some sort of woofta?”
“Football players are encouraged so much. I come from a family of football players. In a world where football players are given everything, there are a lot of wusses. I do admire Nick Cave’s sense of artistry; the courage of his convictions is very strong. Although he’s a very successful artist; and once you’re successful ... fuck, y’know, I could be a very nice guy if I were successful!
“I would maybe write something, yeah, but I really like to write songs. I would like to write songs for people, that kind of thing.”
So why do you write songs? What’s the motive spark?
“It’s usually a musical thing. Songs are nice, melodies are nice, mucking around with them ... words aren’t everything. Often I discover new chords. Major-seventh chords, I just love ’em. They’re very cheesy, cabaret chords. They always have one note in ’em that’s just wrong. Erik Satie, Paul McCartney. I write lots like that.
“I think next year’ll be pretty make-or-break for me. I’ll see how this next record goes. I can’t really survive, and it wouldn’t be much worth continuing, if I don’t get some action outside Australia. I don’t need my stuff to be verified by European or American eyes to make it real, it’d just make me a bit more economically powerful with a bit more control over my own life.”
Any words for people in Perth who care?
“I would like to come back and play properly and I think that’ll happen. We went to Adelaide this year and that was good, although Adelaide is a lot more insular than Perth. People there have much more of a chip on their shoulder and are sometimes actively disinterested in things that aren’t from Adelaide. I’m from South Australia. South Australia is my mythic plane. I understand South Australian people and their things. I sometimes get a train to Adelaide and South Australian people are very identifiable to me, as compared to Victorians.”
But Melbourne is your home.
“Yeah. South Melbourne is great, it’s the first place I’ve really liked living in for a long time. South Melbourne is very pretty. I can walk to the city or walk to St Kilda. St Kilda used to be a bohemian kind of suburb, though it’s not so much any more. There’s no youth culture in South Melbourne. None. It’s an old community. It’s got the old South Melbourne oval, which is just derelict and ghostly now. Lots of those grounds are like that — North Melbourne, Richmond ... Youth culture things just make me angry if I’m around them — those nouveau hippies and fucking cafés and bars ... I don’t want to be angry like that all the time, so I don’t live there. There are people in Melbourne who try to preserve the haunts of their youth, but they’re just against change of any kind, really.”
This is a rant that was originally an album review footnote, but this is a fine place for it. The ‘women can’t rock’ theory is usually advanced by those born-agains who believe that true ‘rock’n’roll’ is the sound of unlayable adolescent male sexual anguish to a twelve-bar blues, that all rock’n’roll is to be judged against this criterion and that unlayable adolescent males (fanzine editors; hip record shop assistants; other people of opinionation but no life) carry the Verdict in their sweaty, acned palms. Well, fuck ‘rock’n’roll’ then. (Insofar as it involves these people; remember, the music is never, not ever, to blame.) I dislike unlayable adolescent males even more than I do most people (just about anything socially tolerable about the male of the species varying in direct proportion to their distance from this, uh, ideal) (and before you start, I’m none too keen on most of the female half either) and certainly wouldn’t trust, of all things, my listening to them.
I know this is missing the real point: that this sort of asocial obsession with art has generally been a male domain, women generally tending to be more interested in having a life. Of course, this goes on to the question of what degree of artistic asociality in women is tolerated by society, and how much space female glowering loners are allowed (not much) as compared to male ones (heaps) — can you imagine a female Warren Ellis feeling free to develop, for example? — etcetera etcetera, we could go on for hours. But remember that we’re not discussing statistics; we’re talking about amazing and incredible new sparks generated by individuals on a (by definition) unpredictable basis.
None of the above has much to do with Dave Graney and the Coral Snakes per se, but it does have a lot to do with music, that we need more of the great stuff and that any factor standing in the way of that needs to be dealt with.