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Aussie artists
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Howzat! Archive - June 9th 2010

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The artist bio is often deadly dull or filled with hyperbole. Rarely is it brutally honest. But the bio accompanying Jason Walker's new album (out now on Laughing Outlaw Records) tells a vivid tale: "Ceiling Sun Letters is a drug album," Jason states. "During the writing and recording of it, I was dominated by a fear of death and the nervous energy that followed my two near-death experiences I lived on a diet of [anxiety drug] Xanax, anti-depressants, cigarettes, alcohol, cocaine, marijuana, the odd dragon-chasing session and bingeing on food. It's about trying to communicate the chaos that everyone experiences at various points in their lives, and trying to swim against the logical current to get the word out. I was not at all well during that period." "There's only so much that one person can take," Jason sings in Advice To Beginners, "you'll dream of a time when you didn't ache." But the tough times led to an artistic triumph - Ceiling Sun Letters is a ragged masterpiece.

So where did the title come from? "This might destroy the mysticism of it, but my email address was getting spammed very generously a few years back," the Sydney singer-songwriter tells Howzat!, "and they were obviously using a random word generator for the subject line to get through the filter. I received one email entitled 'Democratic Educator' - which I really like and have used as a song title - and another entitled 'Ceiling Sun Letters'. It just seemed quite an odd and beautiful phrase."

Jason will be in Melbourne next month, with shows at the Empress on July 9 and the Espy on July 11. How does Jason's panic and anxiety disorder affect his approach to live performances? "They're both triggered by a variety of circumstances in my life over which I feel I have little or no control. For example, getting on a crowded train or a bus can make me freak out - internally, I hasten to add - as do car and security alarms. I seem to have this thing about live performance where I just instinctively know that I can control what's going on to a certain extent. Music is probably one of the few areas of my life where I can get up on stage no matter what I'm feeling. But I've had some terrible panic attacks before gigs, where the feeling of stage fright, which I still get, overwhelms me and it becomes something else, like an intense desire to prove a point. Things can actually get better then, it can improve what happens on stage."

In 2006, Jeff Apter asked Tim Finn how he'd feel if he wrote a book about the brothers Finn. "I'd be horrified," Tim replied, smiling. Jeff says Tim initially gave the project "his reluctant blessing", but he later refused to be involved with the book, Together Alone, ($34.95, Random House). Indeed, Jeff was unable to speak with most of the key players, including Tim and Neil, Michael Gudinski, Phil Judd and Split Enz's manager, Nathan Brenner. The result: a fraction too much fiction? Perhaps. But Jeff - who has previously done books on Silverchair and Keith Urban - has done an admirable job, delivering a highly readable book, filled with fine anecdotes. An example: Enz bass player Nigel Griggs was so paranoid during the making of 1983's Conflicting Emotions album, he planted a tape recorder in the studio's control room. Together Alone also documents an unusual creative love story, between Enz founders Tim Finn and Phil Judd. Jeff writes that Tim "grieved" when Phil's daughter, Amy, was born, quoting a Judd acquaintance: "It marked, in Tim's mind, the end of the special bond he shared with Phil." Sadly, they remain estranged. Tim's most recent solo album concluded with a song called More Fool Me. "We couldn't keep our band together," Tim sings, "you and I were always gonna blow it somehow we've lost everything." Phil - an immensely talented musician, who also fronted The Swingers - was recently convicted of stalking three young girls. It's a tragic tale. There are some glaring omissions in Together Alone (Jeff fails to mention Peter Jones, who replaced Paul Hester in Crowded House in 1994), and without the involvement of the main subjects, it lapses into a chronological roll call of Neil and Tim's various musical projects. But that's no bad thing when the music is so good. Every Finn-related album has at least one magic moment, a song that provides the soundtrack to a significant moment in your life. As Jeff writes, "Neil and Tim Finn have left a permanent impression on probably millions of listeners and admirers around the planet, both together and alone."

Just four Aussie acts in the national Top 40.

We Speak No Americano YOLANDA BE COOL (number four)
Mr Mysterious VANESSA AMOROSI (21)
Unbroken STAN WALKER (23)
Seventeen JET (33)

Top 5 debuts for two Perth bands.

Immersion PENDULUM (number three, debut)
Innerspeaker TAME IMPALA (four debut)
Iron Man 2 AC/DC (seven)
Down The Way ANGUS & JULIA STONE (11)
This Is The Warning DEAD LETTER CIRCUS (13)
Golden Rule POWDERFINGER (14)
Spooks THE BEAUTIFUL GIRLS (18, debut)
Enchanted Way DAVID HOBSON (19)
April Uprising THE JOHN BUTLER TRIO (25)
Conditions THE TEMPER TRAP (32)
Hazardous VANESSA AMOROSI (37)

Everybody's In Debt JASON WALKER
Easy Targets LAZY SUSAN
More Fool Me TIM FINN

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