Back in town for a bit of a break from travelling the world as a roving busker, Perth-spawned agit-folk troubadour Benny Mayhem launches his latest single, Mindless Greg The Media Consumer, at the North Perth Bowls Club this Sunday, December 7, with support from Black Swan, Hayley Beth, Todd Pickett, Turin Robinson, Caroline J. Dale, Ben Elliot, Mark Neal, Wheels McKenzie and MC Jake England. TRAVIS JOHNSON has a word.
You’re a travelling man now! How’s that been treating you?
Incredibly well, thanks. I feel like I’ve finally cottoned on to something that I should have known all along. I come from a long line of seafarers and wanderers, I suppose, plus it’s part of the Australian condition, too. How did us Whitefellas end up out here, so far from our ancestral homes? But there’s more to it than that. Travellers, more than any group of people, just ‘get it’. You can meet a person you barely know, spend one night together in London or Paris or Brussels, and become firm friends for life. Travellers transcend time and distance. They talk about places, experiences and adventures. They solve problems. They trust each other – they have to – and they have to be able to tell, on a dime, whether the bloke offering them a lift is genuine or not. What matters is survival, adventure, and achievement in face of improbable and terrifying odds.
How does one go about surviving as a professional troubadour?
Tenacity, hard work, and an unbridled – almost foolish – commitment to lifestyle and craft. There is a peculiar self-deprecating realism among those who have spent their lives on the road in Europe – die Strasse, as they say. Most troubadours don’t see themselves as ever becoming famous, necessarily. Don Partridge was the exception, not the rule. Instead they are compelled by a sense of duty, and a dogged determination to make their money playing music, no matter what the cost.
Tell us about this new single. What was the inspiration?
Well, it was just a catchy tune that came to me before I left Perth in 2012. It’s hard to write songs on the road, because of the closeness of accommodation and all that. Even if you manage to wing a hotel room – well, I started playing very, very quietly one night at a Hotel Ibis in Leeds – well posh – only to have a knock on my door by some fucking nerd with a gigantic boom mic noise detector, who said “Is someone here playing a musical instrument?” Jesus, it was 8:30pm on a Saturday night!
So I worked on the song slowly, and I applied it to this concept I had had, for quite some time, about Mindless Greg The Media Consumer – who could be any of us, really – but in the Rupert Murdoch environment he takes on a particularly damaging form. Part innocent and misled, part insecure and afraid, Mindless Greg reads the papers, watches the news, and suffers a peculiar kind of demented psychosis. It comforts him, somehow. These are the people who elected Tony Abbott: incapable of recognising that they were duped, cajoled and lied to by the very rich white men who would rip away their social wage, health care and who would deny their children an education. Mindless Greg is the ultimate death knell for Australian democracy. Yet he is legally obliged to vote.
That’s quite a lineup for the launch. How easily did that come together?
Actually, remarkably easy once we were at the stage where we could ask people to play. The hard part was getting the venue, and the date, and of course we’ve had to think outside the square in order to even do the show at all – as many people are having to do now in Perth. That’s a real shame, but I am really lucky to have Stefan at Teledex on board to run the show. Lovely guy who doesn’t give up. I think we’ve nailed it.