The Drones were undoubtedly one of the best Aussie indie bands of the noughties. Singer and chief songwriter Gareth Liddiard’s songs are relatable to many of the bands fans so it came as no surprise when he started playing solo shows last year.
With an album due out later in the year, Gareth found a few moments to answer some questions about going out on the road alone, what The Drones are up to and whether the internet is destroying the music business.
Music Feeds: How do you find the whole process of touring on your own, without the band?
Gareth Liddiard: It’s cool. I like it a lot. It saves me talking shit. I talk a lot of shit. If it isn’t journalists then it’s band mates pressing me for definite views about subjects I’m generally rather ambivalent about so I feel like less of an asshole when I’m by myself. If you’ve seen that show Saxondale then you’ll know what I’m like. I’m like Tommy Saxondale pretending not to be in a really fucking bad mood, but I haven’t toured alone anywhere except Australia. That’d be different cause the tours are longer overseas and every effort’s thwarted, no matter what it is your trying to do. If you go to the toilet there is no toilet paper, if you need to sound check there is no time, you need sleep but it doesn’t suit the schedule, if something breaks there’s nowhere to find a replacement, you check into a hotel and they don’t take your kind of credit card, you’re starving but all the restaurants are shut cause the country you happen to be in goes to fucking sleep in the afternoon cause they’re up all night on cocaine, or you actually want cocaine but you’re in Germany. Then you finally get to your show and no one’s there anyway. All that stress would be too much to bear if I were alone.
MF: It seems like a lot of people are doing solo albums and shows now, was it a case of you always wanting to do the solo thing but a band came along, or was it that the solo idea came from being in a band?
GL: Who knows. I just got my first nice guitar so that’s where the idea came from mostly. It’s a nice old Martin acoustic and it just begs to be played so that’s what I’m going to do. So when I say solo I actually mean alone. It’s nothing to do with the band really. There is “solo” where you write songs and play them alone with your own accompaniment and there is “solo” where you write songs and you get people to play along with you. I’ve been doing the latter for ten years and thought ‘why not go alone for a change of scene?’.
MF: The album comes out in August-ish, what can fans of The Drones expect to hear from your solo material?
GL: Me and an acoustic guitar playing some weird songs about all sorts of bizarre stuff. something along those lines.
MF: Have you found that playing solo gigs, you have a different connection to the audience compared to the connection The Drones have with their fans?
GL: Yeah. I’m not exhausted and all revved up when I do it alone so I can actually have a conversation with the audience; a conversation where I talk a lot of shit. It’s too hard to do that in The Drones, but Mike and Dan can do the talking while I re-familiarize myself with Earth’s atmosphere. With the solo thing it’s generally more relaxed and I don’t really feel like the guy up there on stage while the crowd is way, way over there. It’s more like there’s been some kind of mix up and I’ve got the mic until it goes to whoever it was actually intended for, so I just talk shit and the crowd can talk shit too and we seem to get on ok.
MF: Are there any plans in 2010 for The Drones?
GL: Yeah but the best laid plans of mice and men often fall asunder so whatever I say won’t be so. That’s a bit boring so the most interesting thing would be that we’ve made a live DVD that’s yet to be released. All the folk who went to these two shows we filmed in Melbourne think that what they saw is what they’ll get but those shows were just to bankroll this other thing we did. We set up a tonne of gear in a huge warehouse and filmed and recorded ourselves playing a big bunch of our weirder, more obscure tunes. That’s the real point of the live DVD, so that’s cool.
Other than that we’re not going to do very much else in public. I have no idea when we’ll do another album. I’ve seen talk in the press about us starting work on a new one already but that’s bullshit. We did about two months more touring than we can stand so we’re all in desperate need of some serious time out. And next time we’ll set a five year limit to tours. Stupid.
MF: Do you feel the availability of music online has made a benefit to the industry or is it slowly destroying the scene?
GL: It hasn’t benefited the recording side of the industry but who cares. I’m like other musicians, whether they admit it or not (and they shouldn’t have to feel as though they can’t say it), in that I think it sucks that less than half of everyone pays for recorded music anymore. It’s pretty bad. What does a plumber earn? Scratch 50% of that and see how he feels, you know? There’d be riots if that happened to anyone else but for some reason it doesn’t get postal with musicians. But once improved broadband makes it easy to download movies the government and the law will step in, I think, and find a way to minimize piracy.
Anyway, that sucks but shit happens. Apart from that I think it’s all the same. All the same in the sense that yes I have Google and Facebook etc and it makes me more competitive in whatever market I’m in but it does the same for everyone else so it cancels out.
Remember how they used to say that computers would lighten our work load? Well, they certainly did that but they didn’t make the working day any shorter so we just do twice as much work and no one is doing more work than anyone else so whoopee shit.
MF: If you could take any two artists in the world out on tour with you, who would you take?
GL: U2 and AC/DC. That way we’d play to more people.
MF: What artist/albums have you been listening to a lot lately?
GL: Um… Abdel Hadi Halo. He’s from North Africa I think. He’s got this big feral sounding (feral like Max Max not Greenpeace) orchestra and he sings like he knows what he’s talking about. It reminds me of Eisturzende Neubauten. and Toumani Diabate who is also from that part of the world. He plays the kora and it’s a beautiful thing and I have just discovered The Wipers. 1977? wow. So to all those Wipers fans who haven’t been bothered to let me know sooner, like high school sooner, thanks a fucking lot.
Gareth Liddiard takes his solo tour, and a very nice new guitar, on the road this week. Check out the dates below:
Thursday 15th April
The Troubadour, Brisbane
w/ Ben Salter (The Gin Club / Giants of Science)
Tickets $20 + bf from www.oztix.com.au
Friday 16th April
Notes Live, Sydney
w/ Jed Kurzel (The Mess Hall)
Tickets $20 + bf from www.oztix.com.au or (02) 9557 5111
Friday 23rd April
Northcote Social Club, Melbourne
w/ Jacky Winter (aka Phil Gionfriddo – The Bowers / Dynamo)
Tickets $20 + bf from www.northcotesocialclub.com / the box office 94861677 / in person via Corner Box Office