With a new album on the way and a stopover at the Perth Arena on Saturday, November 14, as part of their national One Night Stand tour, Cold Chisel are back from the cold. SHANE PINNEGAR chats to keys player Don Walker.
Tales of Cold Chisel’s volatility during their initial tenure together are legendary, but in addition to saying that the band have at long last learnt to get along without antagonising each other, Walker says the prospect of working together again actually excites him.
“It does. The last time we toured, which was in 2011, we had a great time. That isn’t necessarily the default experience of a Cold Chisel tour. We still have our moments, but I think everybody is a lot wiser about how to… I know how I can aggravate the other guys and I avoid it. The other guys do the same, whereas once upon a time I would deliberately do that.”
Despite Chisel meaning so much to so many, the man often labelled ‘Australia’s greatest living songwriter’ doesn’t find the band’s reputation daunting to live up to.
“No. Most of the work that we do is in the rehearsals before we play the first show,” he says. “Those rehearsals are very hard and very demanding as we turn ourselves into the band that we expect ourselves to be and in turn our performance is lifted to the level and the intensity that we expect. It’s not so much what people expect. That level of intensity is a little bit like a drug. We want to work ourselves up so we get our hit.”
Recalling the point in his youth when he started writing music and lyrics, Walker says, in typically down to earth fashion, “I had done a little bit of songwriting before Cold Chisel got together in 1973. Not much. When we did get together in 1973, myself and one or two of the others wanted to do original music. I set about trying to learn how to write.”
Walker says at that time he was listening to, “Duke Ellington, Miles Davis, The MC5, Led Zeppelin. When you’re that age, you love all this stuff equally. Then you’re trying to write songs for your band that has bits and pieces of this stuff in it. It can be a miss, and our songs were a miss for awhile as we tried to synthesise something that was us.
“I think there is a point where you cut yourself loose from your influences. That’s what you’ve got to do. At that point, and there is a certain point in Cold Chisel’s development where you do the same thing: we’re not writing from our record collection anymore. There’s many bands out there that never reach that point,” he adds. “You can listen and you can map their record collection.”
With solo projects and families and lives to eat away their time, one wonders how far in advance the Cold Chisel machine needs to get working so as not to interfere with everyone’s schedules.
“That’s hard,” admits Walker. “Some guys are busier than others. Jim (Barnes) clearly has a pretty packed schedule. In any month of any year, he just does a lot. It’s less so with me – I have a more relaxed life. Ian (Moss, guitar) will be somewhere in between. That means to plan time together we have to plan very, very much well out ahead. Yeah, it could take a year, really, to get far enough in advance that you can say ‘we’re going to do some Cold Chisel stuff in this year, set aside some time. Pick these months, don’t book them in’.
“We had two months at the beginning of this year, February and March, that were set aside. There’s pretty much three-and-a-half-months at the end of this year that are set aside for Cold Chisel. The rest of the time is our own.”
As mentioned earlier, there’s also a new Cold Chisel album ready for release.
“Yes. We finished off recording an album in March,” Walker elaborates. “At the moment, we’re just trying to figure out a track-listing. We’ve got 18 songs, and we want to make it a 12 track album. Between the four of us we have to figure out which songs are going on. As we speak, we’ve got 11 songs on that album. The four of us are trying to figure out which of three songs is going to go into the last slot.”
Walker is confident that Chisel fans will be happy with the new material.
“It’s going to be a good one – what else am I going to say! I’m being honest with you,” he asserts. “It will be out before the tour, and we will be doing songs from that album live. It’s a rock and roll album – very conducive to live work.”of bands that go there. And people are just so thankful that you come out and see their town and play for them. To see that real appreciation for what you’re doing is awesome.”
PIC: DANIEL BOUD