Music Matters blog

Published by Music Matters


Music was always a presence in the family home. It wasn’t so much noise in the background, rather a shaping influence much like the voice of an elder. Mum is the guardian of an imperious – and ever-expanding — record collection. She would fill the house with tunes, sounds to suit her mood. Music would soundtrack the everyday. As a young lad, the album artwork would have me spellbound. As a pre-schooler, I’d dip into this vast mass of vinyl, where I discovered bands with strange haircuts and equally odd names. The Beatles, the Bee Gees, the Rolling Stones. A husky-voiced man called Bob Dylan sang to a Tamborine Man, and implored everyone to get stoned. It sounded like fun.

Music was the third parent. To this day, Mum insists my first word was “ABBA”. I learned to read from the grim handbook which accompanied Jeff Wayne’s War of the Worlds epic. Mum owned a copy of the extraordinary A Clockwork Orange soundtrack, recorded by Walter Carlos – many years before he became Wendy. The album was an epiphany; here was a sound which dazzled my young ears. Captured in the grooves was Carlos’ arsenal of analogue synthesizers, set to classical music. And the gatefold sleeve carried pictures from the movie, including various snaps of naked actresses. I listened to that album many times.

My father has an uncanny knack for playing any instrument by ear. He’d crafted some canny tricks with the piano – playing jazz with his hands crossing over one another. And with his back turned to the instrument. Amazing stuff. But it was nothing more than a party trick to him. Here was this great talent, no more than a stunt to pull for a captive audience. I’ve not spotted him with a guitar in hand, but no doubt he could play it with some venom.

The music, well it rubbed off on the two youngsters.

My brother Axel, who is three years my senior, always had a great artistic talent. He could draw from a young age. Sophisticated drawings, completely unlike the scribblings I could muster. We established a nice arrangement where he would draw, and I would perform the colouring-in. Through his skill with a pencil, we mapped out a childhood dream – a rock ‘n’ roll fantasy –which was realised in a way.

Like every other young kid in my generation, we looked to KISS for inspiration. These guys would hurl lightening from their guitars, spit blood. In primary school, I landed a detention for swapping KISS trading cards in the school-yard. Apparently, dealing KISS cards was like playing with fire. My friend’s religiously-inclined mother had banned him from listening to the band. For a young guy, there was clearly a lot to like about these rock demons. My father, though, wasn’t quite as straight. On the night of November 25, 1980, he took myself and my brother to see KISS play at Lang Park (now Suncorp Stadium). It was my first experience at a show. Admittedly, the action was hard to spot from my distant vantage point. Particularly so, considering dad was too stingy to pay for a ticket. But he took us to the site regardless, and we grabbed an angle from behind a fence, my skinny frame sat on his shoulders.

My brother and I wanted what KISS had, and we hatched a plan. As two young dreamers, we would analyse our KISS cards with the Destroyer album playing on the stereo. We dreamt up our own band, which Axel fleshed-out with crayon and paper. We’d given this project the ill-advised moniker of RIPPER, a name we’d lifted from a compilation in Mum’s collection. If memory serves correct, the album had a picture of a woman wearing torn jeans with the word “Ripper” written across her naked arse; The concept of the band RIPPER was no less ripped-off. We all wore facepaints in this “cartoon” group. And there were fireworks. I played the organ (!!!), and no doubt had feline paint on my face.

Incredibly, some 15 years later I would share a stage with Axel, myself sat behind the drumkit and the big brother playing guitar, just like in those early drawings. There were no fireworks, and very little makeup. But we did rock, possibly.

That third parent, music, is still guiding our lives. Axel has found his niche in Berlin, where he has been based for some years with his post-electro clash group Team Plastique. Myself, well, I write about music. And I’ve been lucky enough to carve a great career out of it.

Music still inspires me as it did when I was a child. And there are few things more amusing than seeing my daughter dancing up a storm on a Saturday morning, with Rage pumping out of the TV.

I’m still impressed with my Mum’s vinyl collection, and my Dad’s musicality. And my brother’s creativity is hard to beat. And I still love the soundtrack to A Clockwork Orange, though vinyl sounds better than the CD. And those pictures on the gatefold sleeve were bigger and better than the reproduction in the CD artwork.
My life was shaped by the music happening around me. The dark hues of Nick Cave and the genius of the Go-Betweens, the pop masterclass of Duran Duran and the electronic world-of-wonder that is Boards of Canada.

Music makes us giggle like a child, and punch the air like a fool. Music takes us back into the past, and makes us think about the future.

Music is part of my tribe’s DNA. Yes, Music Matters absolutely.