Chugg on Gudinski

Published in The Music Network


Michael Gudinski and Michael Chugg share more than just their Christian names. The pair are doyens of the Australian live music scene, giants in their field. No two promoters in Australia are as omnipresent as Gudinski and Chugg, and none of the big impresarios are quite so gregarious as this pair. What they’ve seen could fill volumes, a small library perhaps.

Gudinski and Chugg were once close colleagues, working at the coal-face of a buzzing live music market, one which was striding away from amateurism and into the glare of a bona- fide profession.
Since its birth at the turn of the ‘80s, Gudinski has always been the beating heart of Frontier Touring. However, with Chugg running the show in Sydney, the company had established a shrewd business footprint. In the 1990s, Frontier Touring was a tale of two cities – Melbourne and Sydney.

Before the decade was out, Chugg ensured the tale wouldn’t quite have the happy ending. Chugg left the Frontier family in 1999, and went it alone with a new business.
Chugg has only fond memories of his lengthy stint working alongside Gudinski at Frontier Touring. “It was the best thing that ever happened,” recalls Chugg. “It was an exciting time. There was no industry. There was nothing laid out, there was no road. Just a whole lot of young cats breaking barriers and breaking bands. We were getting out there and working hard and having a lot of fun at the same time.”

In the early ‘70s, Chugg was a jack of many trades. But it was the live business he wanted to master. Chugg left behind his home in Tasmania to embark on a new life in Melbourne. “Was I a wide-eyed kid from Tassie? Yeah, I was a bit like that for the first few years,” he admits.

Gudinski was already blazing his own trail in the music industry, particularly in his hometown Melbourne. He’d established the Consolidated Rock Agency with Michael Browning, who went on to guide the career of AC/DC and launch the rock group into the international market. Chugg caught the eye of Gudinski and Browning.

At the time, the aspiring promoter was working in a linen warehouse by day, managing artists and putting up posters by night. In was an inauspicious start to his “mainland” career, but Gudinski and Browning took a shine to Chugg and brought him into the fold. And there Chugg would stay.

“Here was this bloke from Tasmania, who was older than me, managing a band part-time,” recalls Gudinski. “But we liked him. We liked him so much we gave him a full time job in the office.”

Consolidated Rock later folded, and Chugg would team with Roger Davies to open a new Sydney-based agency, Sunrise. The sun would set on that chapter, and Chugg later joined Gudinski’s Premier Artists/Harbour Agency. In late 1979, Gudinski rounded up a small team of trusted, clever contemporaries and forged the Frontier Touring Company. Chugg would be one of the founding partners of Frontier, sitting alongside the likes of Ray Evans, Frank Stivala and Philip Jacobsen. Chugg’s job would be to concentrate on the production and staging of the shows, Gudinski would focus on running the business.

“We all learned a lot from each other,” muses Chugg. “And we learned from people like (the late rock pioneer) Billy Thorpe, who had a big impression on us in the early days in the early ‘70s.” Working alongside Gudinski was always a lesson. And the pair quickly established a common connection – they both loved a party. But business was business. And the live business was on the up. “Sometimes we learned what not to do, and sometimes what to do. It was a real growing and learning experience. It’s still a learning experience,” says Chugg. And what did he feel Gudinski learned from him? “Moderation,” Chugg laughs.

Not surprisingly, Chugg created a void when he abruptly split from his Frontier Touring colleagues. “It was around the time when I had the success with the film Chopper,” recalls Gudinski. “In the nicest possible way he went around the world telling everyone I would become a film producer. I let him get off to a bit of a start, and he snared a few tours. I went up to him one day, and told him ‘(I am) the tortoise and (you are) the hare’. He thought he’d scoop the pool. But that’s business.”

Business, for both parties, is good. Michael Chugg Entertainment has emerged as a dynamic promoter, touring no-lesser stars than Coldplay and Pearl Jam this past year. Chugg is on board to co-promote the Australasian AC/DC dates with Van Egmond Group. The achievements of Frontier Touring are well documented in these pages.

Chugg has particularly fond memories of his two decades with Gudinski and Frontier Touring. “There were a lot of great moments, Guns N’ Roses was a very proud tour, and the Madonna tour was a very proud moment for Frontier. We had a lot of great times, and we did a lot of great things. We had a lot of fun working on the Sound Relief concerts last year (Chugg co-promoted the Sydney Cricket Ground show, Frontier handled the Melbourne Cricket Ground concert). I went overseas, because I knew if I was here on the day, we’d end up having a big blue,” he adds with a laugh.

The Gudinski-Chugg rivalry has proven a colourful one through the years, but the pair has well and truly made peace. “There was never really a hatchet to bury,” says Chugg. “We’re just trying to move on.”


Click here for the original article.

Click here for the “Thirty Year Frontier” feature.

“No Regrets”. Click here the Michael Gudinski interview.

Lars Brandle chats with the execs who are next in line to the Frontier throne. Click here for the story.