INTERVIEW: Tim Rogers
Loquacious, enigmatic and down-right eccentric - there are many labels one could easily throw at undisputed musical legend and storyteller extraordinaire Tim Rogers. Whether fronting iconic Aussie alt-rockers You Am I or lending his hand to soundtrack scores, there is seemingly an endless well of creativity lurking in the brain of the boy from Kalgoorlie, and this very fact has resulted in an upcoming run of intimate shows for 'The Endless Cycle of Maintenance' tour starting next week.
But before he takes his latest batch of tunes on the road, The Soundcheck stole a moment with the man himself to chat motivation, ruminations and the secret to unlocking his stories. Interview below.
TIANA SPETER: Hi Tim, a total treat to chat to you today. Let's jump right in, we've got something pretty exciting to discuss, notably that your tour 'The Endless Cycle of Maintenance' is kicking off next week! What prompted this latest adventure for you?
TIM ROGERS: A desperate need for attention. And I've got a bunch of songs that I needed to finish and I wrote most of them when I was onstage in a theatre production. And I had to be still for a lot of it, so I wrote the majority of them then, and I find if I go out on the road and travel around by myself and play shows - I finish songs. Because you're playing every night and you've got your mind just thinking on the art. So, I'm hoping to finish these songs, and a tour is the only way to do it.
TIANA: A genius move! Nothing like the looming dread of a deadline!
TIM: With the middling kind of success that I've had, it means that I don't have a lot of deadlines. Between myself and Andy my manager, we just set dates and go for them. But with these songs, I'm not really sure what to do with them? I just want to finish them, rather than think "oh, I'm gonna do an album". I'd like to finish them and just throw them around and see who picks them up, you know? So just to think about it with no plan, apart from making them as good as possible, is quite a luxury!
TIANA: And the tour is not only going to see these new songs come to life, but also it'll see you playing at some pretty intimate venues. It makes me wonder, as someone who has played your fair share of large venues in the past, do you have a preference for larger or smaller crowds these days?
TIM: Just the difference, to tell you the truth. I know it's very diplomatic-sounding, but I've always liked that with the band we can play in front of a lot of people and then the next night we're playing in someone's toilet. I think we've toured with a lot of acts where they're playing the same kind of venue every night and you can see the ennui creep in. But for myself, it's the difference, another week in the circus!
TIANA: Along the way you have obviously performed some insanely massive shows, including some alongside some of your own personal childhood heroes. Is there one particularly memorable live show that springs to mind amongst the countless ones you've played?
TIM: Probably less of the bigger ones, the Stones and Who, they were pretty incredible and odd and surreal. But we've toured with bands that we really, really love, Rocket from the Crypt and touring Europe with Wilco was really good fun. And when you're kind of...not necessarily on the same level, but have a similar sense of humour and age and alike...they keep happening. I think now when myself or the band tours with me, we meet up with like-minded people and we're all friends. And it's really something special when you're in a different country, just with that shared sense of humour. There's lots of stories but...you're gonna have to buy me a cocktail first!
TIANA: Dammit! I knew it. I knew there was a catch! Now flashback to last year, it feels like only yesterday that you were releasing 'An Actor Repairs' and then *BLINK* and we're in the latter half of 2018...but last year you also unveiled your memoirs 'Detours', which I read was partially motivated by money, but also the desire to collate some of the bizarre and hilarious stories in your life. Firstly, how much did you leave out?!
TIM: Yeah, it's not an autobiography so there was no need to be comprehensive and I only wrote about what interested me. And because it's not an autobiography then there's no pressure to worry about what you leave out. I'm not interested in an autobiography at all. I've had a good life, but not an extraordinary one.
TIANA: In terms of storytelling, did you prefer the more straightforward storytelling aspect that you got from writing the book, or do you still prefer your narratives in song-form?
TIM: Um...that's a good question! I probably prefer writing songs, that's my first love. But I've enjoyed coming to writing prose later in life. I kind of enjoyed the discipline of it and the grit of it, it's actually quite hard work, mentally! The editors and going to writing festivals and meeting authors, that's been absolutely worthwhile, it's almost like I can forget about what I wrote and just enjoy it as learning, really. Meeting authors and being in contact with them, that's probably been the most pleasing aspect of the whole thing.
TIM ROGERS MEMOIRS 'DETOURS' AVAILABLE HERE
TIANA: For someone who is so intrinsically linked to the Aussie music world, it's quite unique and amazing that you have maintained your presence so actively since your earlier days until now. Do you believe you have a secret ingredient or catalyst that you can chalk up to your longevity in the industry?
TIM: A bit of ignorance I think, really. I don't feel really part of the music industry, I don't really have a lot to do with the powers that be...
TIANA: That's perhaps a very good thing!
TIM: Well if anything, it's kind of helped really. I'm not good in those kind of situations, like competitive situations and thinking business-wise. I'm lucky that I've just been left up to my own devices and I was managing myself for a while there, but I'm pretty available to just concentrate on the artistic side of it. And even when I go back to day jobs, really they're just jobs that are menial and I can still think about creative stuff, whether it's prose or songs or theatre pieces.
TIANA: As we touched on earlier, you've played alongside some of your childhood heroes, spanning from The Stones, to The Who and The Replacements and beyond. And it's a rare claim to play alongside your heroes, let alone ones at that calibre. But these days who would we catch you listening to? Anything that may seem outside the norm?
TIM: Well, doing theatre stuff, I'm right out of my comfort zone there, I'm actually writing a theatre piece at the moment. It's very unusual, it's a different discipline, and working with people not specifically in music. It can be a little frustrating because you don't have that short-hand that you have with other musicians, but I just enjoy the challenge of it and if something scares me these days I'll be more inclined to say "yes". Like - to go out on this tour and just play songs that I've done 500 times is a little less interesting than going out and trying new songs and just trying to finish writing them.
TIANA: It's that old cliché of "life begins at the end of your comfort zone", which I feel isn't actually that clichéd...
TIM: Yeah, it frays my nerves a bit! But it keeps me relatively thin (laughs).
TIM PERFORMING 'HEAVY HEART' ON RECOVERY (1998)
TIANA: To finish up, your upcoming tour is called 'The Endless Cycle of Maintenance' - what's the one thing Tim Rogers needs to maintain his sanity?
TIM: Cheap tins of beer (laughs). No, the health of my daughter, absolutely. She's just in town from New York for a couple of weeks, and that's the only thing that keeps me going.
TIANA: That's actually beautiful. Well it sounds like I owe you some cheap beer and cocktails next time to drag some more stories out of you, but hope the tour is fantastic, and thank you so much the chat!
TIM: Thanks, I appreciate your time.
TIM ROGERS WILL BE JUMPING UP ONSTAGE FOR 'THE ENDLESS CYCLE OF MAINTENANCE' TOUR STARTING NEXT WEEK. FOR TICKET INFO HEAD HERE.
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BY TIANA SPETER