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EVERYBODY'S IN DEBT
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
Age 14 REBECCA BARNARD
Nowhere Boys BRITISH INDIA
More Fool Me TIM FINN
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