Straight from the lip – Jimmy Barnes –

Straight from the lip – North Island Herald 3rd February 1989

IT ISN’T every honorary member of Wellington’s Black Power who talks of his forthcoming month long holiday at his home in Thailand, and the 24-track recording studio he is building at his country estate in the southern hills of New South Wales – but rock’n’roll makes for some strange bedfellows.

And for Jimmy Barnes,the working class man who pours out hard-drinking, throat-tearing power rock,it all sits pretty easily.

In Auckland for tonight’s Mt Smart concert with Iggy Pop,the Choir boys and Knightshade,Barnes shoots straight from the lip with the kind of tell-the-truth attitude which has made him a true Australian hero.Right now,Barnes is in a between-albums limbo with one eye on the lucra tive but as yet out-of-reach American market.nort-island-herald_3rd-feb-19891

HIS last album partly recorded in Los Angeles – didn’t crack the big one but although he acknowledges rock is big business, he says he isn’t busting himself to appease the Americans.

“The last thing in my head when I’m writing is that American market. It doesn’t matter if it’s for America or Belfast, a good song is a good song,” he says in his Auckland hotel room. “I was probably aware of it when I did the last album because I was in America recording it with Americans, but it isn’t something I plan to do.

“That last studio album, Freight Train Heart,was panned by some Australian critics for its “American-ness,” and while Barnes admits the best parts of the album were recorded back in Australia, he has some opinions about those writers.

“I didn’t get a lot of flak but that’s the Aussie press. It’s probably a bit like here – a very British mentality. Once people get up you knock them down again. “In America if someone is successful they love it. I guess in Australia I haven’t come up against that too much because of my image. “I just do this for fun. If it can be organised to make big business out of it,fine. But the fun part for me is performing – that’s why I got into the business and why I’m still in it.

“The hardest bit is trying to make a record you’re happy with. Most artists are never happy with what they’ve done. Game plans (for the American market ) can change but the music’s got to be strong for a start. To get original material together Barnes heads off to his home on a beach in Thailand where he,his Thai wife and three children go at least three times a year.

“WELL just go there for a month and relax and I’ll write songs. I wrote half the first album there and I get a bit more inspired in that place. “But I’ll look at any songwriter whose work is good. I prefer to co-write. I’m not that good a player and get stumped, but I write melodies, and once somebody starts something I can wring it out of them.

And that explains the building of a 24-track studio at home. As a self confessed family man, Barnes says he doesn’t like spending months away from home recording, and the convenience of a good home studio also allows him to capture the immediacy of the moment.

He says the demo tracks for Freight Train Heart had a better feel than what turned up on the album, and if he had clean 24-track recordings could simply use those. Performing is what he loves best “but you don’t want to drive people nuts so I’ll keep a low profile for the next few months.”

An idea for an Australian pub tour,however,is being considered at present,a circuit close to his heart but one which is apparently dying. “That was responsible for a lot of great bands. Cold Chisel came from that and it was where we learned to play, sing and dodge cans. I haven’t done a city club tour for about four years but I’d like to put some effort back into that scene.

“Also, a lot of bands today make a record before they tour,and they ‘ve got such a high profile they go straight into a concert situation. “Because they haven’t put the groundwork in the pub scene misses out. A lot of bands who have done that could have done with four or five years of get- I ting cans thrown at them – some are pretty use -less.”

BARNES’ slow climb to the top,dodging cans and tearing into the vodka, are a little way behind him now. He’s a family man – “but you should have seen me at three o’clock this morning” – who says he’s got things into a nice balance.

When he rocks,he rocks as hard as the best-but today he’s a bit of an anachronism, as he says himself: “There’s something missing when bands learn to make videos and albums before they learn to perform.” Whether the American market is ready for his particular style remains to be seen, “but you can almost bet Auckland will lie down and roll over once again When he tops the bill tonight.

-Graham Reid

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~ by viradoang on 12-February-2009.

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