Walking down Brunswick Street, Fitzroy, I spot the head I’ve been told to look out for outside a tiny hole-in-the-wall cafe: DC Root. All-over black cowboy get-up and the much-loved cowboy hat. Ordering myself a glass of wine (fuck, I love Melbourne) I awkwardly pose my first incisive question to get the ball rolling.
How sexy are Root! as a band? And in his mock-conciliatory tone, full of self deprecation, he answers, ‘We’re actually a very sexy band – myself excluded of course. I’m proud to share the stage with that kind of smouldering sexuality. See, we work on two levels: I confuse the girls with my faux-Bernard Shaw syllogisms, and Doug and Henry bring this sort of massive silent sexuality. It’s a one-two punch.’
Root! are the gathered ashes of TISM pulled from the urn and rubbed in the face of the awful celebrities and outer suburban arseholes. They still warn against the dangers of becoming a complete fuckwit. Root! come with a country tinge. It’s TISM via Tamworth, the kind of cowboy stomp that fits any song about an idiot. Songs like I Hang Out With The Guys From Jet’s Uncle and I Still Call Australia ‘Ho’, about the American vernacular seeping its way into the Australian suburban one, state pretty clearly where Root! are at.
It doesn’t take long at all to drain the wine and let the conversation roll around to comedy. Root had a dream once, the kind of dream every Australian comedian either welcomes or dreads: ‘I actually wrote a song about this dream, where the grim reaper had come and reached up and pushed me through a door where ended up on the set of Thank God You’re Here’.
He has a few favourites as well. Comedians that at one stage or another have found radio fame and failure. I ask him about a former Triple M drive host who has, on occasion introduced the Root! show.
‘Tony Martin is a jewel in the fecal-infested world of competitive comedy. You know if think rock is bad, comedy is worse. He is head and shoulders above everyone else in that particular field and yet he’s also a nice guy. And that’s fabulous. He doesn’t have to do any of that other shit. He honestly, genuinely, was very supportive. I had to talk a lot about my personal issues, he helped me through that. The whole thing about appearing in public for the first time as a forty-year old. He helped. Judith Lucy is also quite funny. She’s got that sort of weary, carping tone that I have been accused of having. I’ve never met her. I imagine it’d be very difficult to have conversation with her without thinking she wasn’t taking the piss.’
I’m curious about a song the band have called I Want To Be Tex Perkins and what Root’s own relationship to the Sex God of Oz Rock may or may not be.
‘I don’t actually, literally want to be Tex Perkins. It’s just that I have to put a lot of work in, you know. I have to spend half an hour trying to drag in as many Oscar Wilde-type lines as I can, and even then there’s some doubt as to whether the girl will take me home. She’ll probably opt for the Tex Perkins guy on the way out, the sort of “door-grab” — when you’re so pissed that on your way out you’ll go (Root makes drunken lunging motion) “Yeah, fuck, you’ll do”. I’m the victim of the door-grab. I’m the mid field player who does all the hard running you know backward and forward runs all the bursts up the wing does this fabulous triple pirouette, crosses the ball and Tex just taps in it in’.
Root will often request in his rider two bookish girls to meet him after the performance so that he can then charm with his flighty Tolstoy quotes. But he grows pensive when reminded of his rough, almost hopeless formative years in Melbourne’s rough eastern suburbs. ‘I grew up in Springvale. I’m a terrible pretender. I don’t belong in this world. This world of literary quotes. I have to hoodwink people into thinking I’m vaguely literate’.
If it wasn’t for the wry smirk edging its way up his face he could almost be one of those tragic literary characters. The necessity to portray the Australian fuckwit looms large through Root’s (in his previous and current incarnations) songs; a tireless, rollicking, funny-as-hell ride through the fearful outer suburbs of our cities.
ROOT! play at
The Spielgeltent Nov 5, Opera House