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Howzat! Archive - February 1st 2012

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The first Big Day Out hit Sydney 20 years ago last week. The masses packed into the Hordern Pavilion for Nirvana. In the crowd was a 13-year-old named Ben Lee. The gig changed his life. "I felt that if there was a manual on punk rock, someone just inserted the floppy disc and downloaded the whole thing into my system like The Matrix - and it all came through Nirvana," Ben told Howzat! "I think a band like that only comes along every 15 or 20 years, and they inspire people to do it themselves. Nirvana was that band for me. I walked out of there and said, 'I'm going to start a band.'" Soon after, Ben formed his own band called Noise Addict.

Ben kept a diary as a kid, though he struggled with the concept of it being "secret". "I couldn't get the point unless you were publishing it. I wanted to share it with the world." He dreamed of being as big as Elvis, Kurt and Michael Jackson. "It never happened," he says ruefully, "not yet."

Not many child stars have lives with a successful second act. As Saved By The Bell star Dustin Diamond reflects, "All these child stars grow up and they're knockin' over banks and getting prostitutes." But the documentary Ben Lee: Catch My Disease - which aired on the ABC this week - shows that Ben has turned out okay. "Everyone wants to be famous, but they don't know what they want to use their fame for," he says, adding that he "wants to nourish people's souls".

The movie was an 11-year journey for Melbourne filmmaker Amiel Courtin-Wilson. Ben caught Amiel's eye when he declared that his 1999 album, Breathing Tornados, was "the greatest Australian album ever". Ben's ex-girlfriend Claire Danes claims he was "playing the character of an arrogant pop star". Catch My Disease documents a spiritual journey. "I'm not hiding behind characters any more," Ben states. "I need to start becoming what I am, instead of what I want to become."

"What is success?" Ben asks in a poignant moment. "I don't know what I am looking for." The movie shows Ben's retreat to India, where he has a guru. "I know it's a rock 'n' roll cliché," he smiles, "get successful and go and get a guru." What will Ben do next? His official website hasn't been updated since the release of his latest album, Deeper Into Dream, though he has been busy tweeting, asking if anyone has had experiences with Nadi astrology, revealing he's reading Samael Aun Weor's Treatise On Revolutionary Psychology ("Any attempt at liberation that does not take into consideration the necessity of dissolving the ego is condemned to failure"), and quoting Swami Shivananda: "The thief has more place on the spiritual path than a coward. He has the courage to do the crime."

Like Deeper Into Dream, the Catch My Disease doco won't convert the Ben Lee haters. Perhaps he's just a little too articulate and deep for Aussie rock fans. But Ben doesn't seem to mind. "Success," he eventually concludes, "is knowing the truth."

Henry Wagons continues to make inroads in the US, doing a cover of Dylan's Positively 4th Street for American Songwriter magazine. Henry calls the song "one of the best mental disintegrations in history … it's the best hate and exasperation song ever." You can get a free download at

An album that Howzat! has been enjoying over summer is the self-titled debut from The Cloaks (on EEO Records through MGM). The Cloaks is a great name for this band because who knows what is concealed underneath. The album swings from prog rock to '60s pop. Produced by Matt Church, it's quite a trip. The Cloaks are playing with Matt Church & The Golden Apples, who are launching their new album, Girl In The Golden Helmet, tonight (Wednesday) at the Northcote Social Club.

As the Herald Sun's Cameron Adams tweeted, "Triple J's Hottest 100 proves Australians love Australian music. If only commercial radio realised this #nomorelmfaoandpitbullthanks." For the record, the listener poll featured 44 homegrown hits (including half of the Top 20), compared to 51 last year. Aussie songs have topped the list in 10 of 19 years.

Adelaide's Sia has a hand in Australia's new number one song, Flo Rida's Wild Ones, but Timomatic slips from two to six. And Matt Corby rockets from 42 to eight.

Set It Off TIMOMATIC (number six)
Into The Flame MATT CORBY (eight)
Don't Worry Be Happy GUY SEBASTIAN (nine)
Boys Like You 360 & GOSSLING (19)
Somebody That I Used To Know GOTYE (21)
Good Night REECE MASTIN (22)

Boy & Bear return to the Top 10, jumping from 16 to nine.

Falling & Flying 360 (number eight)
Moonfire BOY & BEAR (nine)
Reece Mastin REECE MASTIN (13)
Making Mirrors GOTYE (15)
Vows KIMBRA (16)
All For You COLD CHISEL (20)
Busby Marou BUSBY MAROU (40)

Pointless Beauty BEN LEE
Song For Grace ANIMAUX
Morning Yard THE CLOAKS
Positively 4th Street HENRY WAGONS

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