With the An Actors Repairs album tour coming to an end Hi Fi Way: The Pop Chronicles had an opportunity to speak to the great man Tim Rogers about his latest masterpiece and where his journey will go next beyond the tour. The songs on the forthcoming album were written and re-written over two years as an accompaniment to a performance piece Tim was attempting, concerning the retirement from the stage of an elderly Actor. Tim explains more.
Congratulations on the album, are you satisfied on reflection with how it panned out?
Yeah I am actually particularly given it was supposed to be so different and then the way it was recorded was out of necessity which is money and time. I thought initially it was a compromise but it worked in our favour because doing it the other way I envisaged I would have been a little more intimidated or less willing to put myself out on a whim. I’m exceptionally happy!
Did you think initially it would take as long to write and record as it did?
There was four different versions of each tune and also maybe another twenty songs around. I don’t always have the luxury to be able to either make records or put projects out there, it is a money kind of thing then other jobs come up and I knew at two years it was the right thing because previously for the past sixty years I’ve just been writing things and never editing myself. This time I thought let’s get in to editing and reworking things not second guessing myself. Also, not just thinking that’s good enough. I wanted to rework things and shape them. Possibly that’s the last year and a half of writing prose and working with editors. Maybe that’s influence making the music and I’m a little more interested in just tossing things up and making it all loose. I also started to enjoy crafting things a little more and I’ll get bored of that soon and I’ll get back to doing things half arsed.
Four versions of the same song? Was there something that didn’t quite click or work for you?
Yeah, it was being able to sit with the songs for a month or two and playing them to myself thinking this is too reminiscent of something I’ve already done or I’m not testing myself enough. About half of them were written with an orchestra in mind and cordially obtuse, some of them I thought I was actually being genuine and pretentious here because I’m just trying to show off and look what I can do with these chords and this melody. That wasn’t the best accompaniment for the lyrics. I was trying to extend myself to curtail myself and not showing off with what I can do. It has to be good, it has to be enjoyable and that’s why I did three, four or five versions of everything.
Orchestral arrangements sounds exciting, is that a glimpse in to the future where you might go next?
Well, I have been in conversation with the Jack Stevens, Art Director of the Melbourne Symphony who is a friend and he expressed an interest to work with me. I was knocked out but he said what do we want to do as this is out of the realm of what we normally do and because I work with orchestral musicians individually quite a bit I thought to work with him on arrangements would be really good fun. It is possible there will be something in future, it is great to be asked to do things. If it was up to me often I would be happy going back to my gardening job and going to the pub but when the offers come in from people who you like and respect them it is get out of the pub and get to work.
Do you find that a lot of your songs lend themselves to either You Am I or Tim Rogers or any other project you might be working on?
Um, not sure, sometimes it feels very deliberate and then when I’m staying in a hotel room in Perth I went out drinking, I stopped that a few hours before the show and I was changing guitar strings and I started writing something. It was completely purposeless, so I’m not writing for a project. It would be good after the last couple of years of writing for projects specifically be it the band or this band or this show. I’ll just try and write songs and after they are finished then assign them to either the band or something else because it was posited by someone recently that You Am I had not done anything that was pretty in a while or pop and that we tended to bash the hell out of everything. I took umbrage with it but then I thought that is quite a point because we get excited when we get together. We need to do something more intricate and maybe a little more delicate might be the go, so that is on my mind.
Is Youth an indicator of what you want listeners to expect from the album?
No, no, no its not! The way it was originally written made it sound like the rest of the record but on a whim a week before recording we wrote the song to the way it is now and then I spoke to Davey about him playing bass on it and getting Brett who plays with Davey to play drums on it. Talking to those guys I thought hang on, a different version to the song came and we rewrote it again and got those two in to run through it and there it was.
That was the one I had the clearest, I hate using the word vision but I did have it in mind the way I wanted it to sound. It was only a week before we recorded and we got there really quickly which was a real testament to surrounding yourself around people who you trust. Often you can get what you’re going for because you’ve got a shorthand. Everyone who played on the record, maybe apart from two people were long time collaborators with me and friends, people who you trust. It was quite a special feeling making me think that the past thirty years haven’t been a waste.
Is You Am I still simmering away in the background?
We’ve got a tour with the Hoodoo Gurus around the country in three months. It is always there, I’m really wrapped up in finishing this record which I finished a month ago, the book and a bunch of other theatre projects… when the band comes around we drop everything and that’s the way it has always been. It is like when the bat phone goes off, we’re there!
Brian Ritchie let it slip at a Day On The Green that he was looking forward to your memoirs coming out. Is there much you can say at this stage?
It is not a memoir, not at all! Very little autobiography there, very little about the band because that is for someone else to write about. I think it must be far more interesting account of what went on and what does go on, so mine is more anti-memoirs. It’s writing and I don’t think really that there’s enough interesting going on for a memoir or autobiography.
It is more like journalism what I’m writing and I’ll wait until my life gets more interesting and maybe write about it one day. It has been really difficult to do and it has been a real test but I do want to do more of it. I think it is actually quite good as well which is a surprise. I read back a lot of it just recently and I was very pleasantly surprised. I thought I would need to leave the country when it came out. I think I might stick around.
Will it be out this year?
Yeah, late August.
Music theatre is something that you seem to be born for. Are you looking to do more of that?
No, I don’t think so. Even though the What Rhymes With Cars & Girls musical is coming again later in the year the discipline of theatre and musical theatre kind of gets to me. I wouldn’t mind writing for it but performing I’m really not sure. The discipline doesn’t go very well with my emotional state so I enjoy my life of the periphery. Little things like the Bowie shows were great and I enjoyed doing it but I do get asked to do things like that and I say no far more than I say yes to.
Interview by Rob Lyon
Tim Rogers new album An Actors Repairs is out now