Touring in support of The Rules Of Attraction album, Tim Rogers & The Bamboos head to the Rosemount Hotel this Saturday, July 4, supported by Felicity Groom. BOB GORDON catches up Mr Rogers himself.
This Bamboos album is probably what many were hoping for when I Got Burned came out in 2012. I’m interested in how this has come together, was it baby steps or a grand plan? Did you think that I Got Burned would come to this?
I hoped it would; I didn’t lay any bets on it because, the way its set up at the moment with Lance (Ferguson, songwriter/bandleader) and my friendship if he asks me to do anything, I want to be involved. It’s just social, but I’m a huge fan of The Bamboos, in particular Lance’s songwriting and Kylie Auldist as a singer and I travel very daft distances to see them. I was talking to Davey Lane the other night, and it’s similar to when I asked Davey to join You Am I, his first thought was ‘I don’t want to fuck up my favourite band’, and when Lance has asked me anything in the past it’s been, ‘well I don’t want to fuck up my favourite band’. But I trust in his judgement and intuition, and if he asks me to do something, I’ll do it. It’s like being offered a job or a sexual favour, you can’t say no to anything.
Were you surprised at the impact that I Got Burned made?
Well it’s really the most successful thing I’ve been involved in, but because I didn’t write any of it and it was absolutely Lance’s idea 100 per cent, I didn’t do lyrics, and the idea to go into falsetto was Lance’s idea as well, from my memory of it anyway.
I got onto other things. I really enjoyed the experience, but I was a hired gun and I guess on that record there’s other guest singers and I was surprised it got picked out as a single. I really love the song, initially I though it was kinda great, but now I can see its value and its charm, which I didn’t at the time. I guess when you get offered something great and it’s fun and it’s exciting, you just get enthralled in that kind of emotion and that sensation and can’t look at it objectively. But I can listen to the song objectively now, and it’s good (laughs). It’s Lance’s songwriting and John Castle’s production as well. It’s rare that I’ll listen to a song for its production, but Bamboos records or anything that John touches are records I listen to in terms of production, and enjoy from there as well.
How were the 2013 shows? You did the Perth Festival one here, how key were they to the coming of an album?
Well we weren’t even talking about it at that stage. It was just the tour, and that was it. Lance is very forthright but he’s also just just very, very cool. He’s smart and funny and his mind’s going a million miles an hour but he’s just forthright. You know, we’d never get loved up and drunk at 6am and talk about making a record together; we’d just talk about everything but the future of working together because there’s so much else to talk about.
And when the last Bamboos album, Fever In The Road (2013), came out – which is actually my favourite Bamboos record – there was a little part of me that was like, ‘Gee I wish I was involved in this’, but again I love that band and I was glad that they did it without me or any guest singers. So, I kind of just wait for Lance to call the shots, he’s the boss, and I’m a very, very willing and eager employee.
You’re kind of ‘a’ driver not the driver?
Well I’m not really the driver in You Am I either. Maybe initially I was, for the first couple of years, but then I think between Russ (Hopkinson, drums) and Andy (Kent, bass), they’re mum and dad, and Davey and I are kids in the back. I think I came to the realisation maybe 10 years ago that I’d made life hard for myself and I kind of gave up, really. By then any vestiges of ego I had were gone and I looked around and thought, ‘hang on, I’m not the smartest guy in this band, I’m not the best songwriter and I’m not the best player, I’ve got no musical knowledge and I’ve got no business brain, so why would I pretend that this is my ship to steer?’. It’s not at all.
I think, creatively, Russ has a far greater impact on the band. So again I just feel like a really willing employee or a family member that does his bit and does it happily. That’s definitely no self-flagellation or modesty or whatever, it’s just the truth of it. When Davey and I go out drinking every couple of days it end up like we’re kind of waiting around for mum and dad to call and be like ‘get on a plane, we’ve got a show here and there’.
We just concentrate on trying to make the chords and melodies and harmonies. We’re the kids in the back of a Fairlane I can tell ya.
I’ve only spoken to Lance a couple of times, but I’ve found him really quite centred and present…
Yeah, that’s true. I mean we only had our first show doing all these songs last night and I was really, really nervous about it. Really nervous.
Whereas he maintains this assuredness and confidence . It isn’t misplaced, it’s not chutzpah. I think my kind of confidence comes from chutzpah and brio and ignorance. Lance does the work, turns up prepared, but it makes it really fun for everybody. I can see it with the Bamboos, their musicianship is at a level I’ve never experienced. We can be backstage and the horn section are playing the Ornette Coleman riffs. or ‘You wanna hear this Gerry Mulligan baritone saxophone riff?’ Then Uri the bass player is either doing Jaco Pastorius or Cliff Burton from Metallica riffs. Anywhere you turn in that room there’s different music going.
They’re prepared; they turn up prepared and they proceed to having a fucking load of fun. I’ve been in a very, very fun rock’n’roll band for 25 years, and hopefully another 25, and I know that you really just have to give in to the fun and ridiculousness that being on the road can give you. But the Bamboos again, they’re on another level.
So it’s schooled but it’s not like a conservatorium approach?
Yeah, it’s not. They’re very generous with that knowledge, because I’m not schooled, and those individual musicians may be schooled I’m not exactly sure, but it seems like they don’t look down on me at all. I’m part of the gang. So whatever I can bring I’ll give it and then more. Maybe it’s a relief for them to be with someone who’s a bit of a flake. But even the way they are with each other, they’re trading riffs all the time and songs and music. It’s hugely, hugely inspiring.
Don’t forget that when you and Tex Perkins did the WASO thing back in 2006, there were orchestra members in their late 50s and 60s playing and you could tell there was this regard from them to you guys as musicians who are somewhat Maverick and have done their own thing…
Well I think if you know where you come from and you go into those situations… I want to be somehow kind to people, and if you’ve got work to do you have to throw yourself open and go in with no airs and no graces but go in and be kind.
Whatever I’ve got, I can’t define it, but I want to share it. I’ve been extremely fortunate and lucky, so rather than put a big wall around that and covet my luck I want to share it. I want to give something back. And if folks can respond to that then that’s human interaction and that’s what we’re doing this for.
So how was the first show last night?
It was amazing! It was a radio show and great little crowd, it was cookin’… really, really good. I got through it and proceeded to celebrate well, well, well… well, up until about an hour ago. I’m really excited, we talk about doing Bamboo songs when constructing a set I can go back through the past five or six Bamboos records and say, ‘oh can we do this? Can we do that?’ I’m a drunk uncle at Christmas and someone’s just wrapped a couple of bottles for me.
The joy of which we do, is also taking songs that we all now and love or would nominate as being guilty pleasures – but I don’t think there’s anything guilty in just loving great songs – and doing them in a Bamboos way.
So there’s the though of going go out and doing Curtis Mayfield songs, The Chi-Lites or The Meters, but they can do that at the drop of a hat so why not do Teenage Dream by Katy Perry or sing Seek And Destroy by Metallica, or just do something and ‘Bamboo’ it (laughs). That’s where the interest lies for the. There’s no snobbery at all, all of them, especially Lance, will say ‘yeah, we can do that so why don’t we try something that we would expect and folks wouldn’t expect us to do’. So I think there’s going to be some perverse level pleasures on what we play on tour.