Become a Christian during a religious based youth camp when Matt, our twenty-something cabin leader suggests he prays for us and asks for God to enter our hearts. It seems fair enough.
Discover some old 70’s porn mags in my Uncle’s collection of things at Nan & Pop’s. While looking at the pictures is okay, one day I read one of the erotic stories. The descriptions of sex disturb me for weeks, and I develop the kiddie version of depression. (see: The Birds & The Bees)
Drift away from my primary school friends and manage to dwell on the fringes of the cool group. Being a wise-cracking nerd with coke-bottle glasses gives me loads of novelty value. Girls are not attracted to novelty value. Learn to be self-conscious.
Finish my time in the Burnie Surf Club. In my senior year I am voted club captain.
After wearing too much hair gel and sitting next to Elvis Connelly on the school bus, Grade ten Matthew Rolls says the immortal words: “Hey look, there’s Elvis and the Fonz,” earning me the Tasmanian nickname that will stay with me the rest of my life. I spell it ‘Phonze,’ to break away from the traditional Happy Days character.
Start wearing contact lenses.
First hear ‘Here’s Johnny‘ by Hocus Pocus. When everyone else is listening to ‘Dookie’ by Green Day, I become obsessed with the trashy hardcore techno of the time like Tokyo Ghetto Pussy and ‘Forever Young’ by Interactive. Whenever ‘Here’s Johnny’ comes on at a school social, everyone turns to me accusingly.
Write my first serious and comedy songs. ‘I Will Never Leave You’ is a six minute ballad about a father going away to war. ‘Home And Away Song’ is a one minute ditty satirising the recent events on Home and Away. I play the song at the school talent quest, along with ‘Don’t’ with my best mate Josh Earl, which we steal off a Lano and Woodley performance I see on the Today Show. We win the audience vote but get no prizes from the judges.
Record first ever tape of my music Justin’s Guitar Songs. It is a mixture of originals and covers including ‘Way Out West’ and ‘Day In The Life Of A School Kid.’ It is recorded sitting on the toilet, with my walkman mircophone blu-takked to an indoor clothesline. (see: Bedroom Records)
Write a letter to my cousin Carly I’ve never met. Her Father, my Uncle and Godfather, had a falling out with my Nan & Pop, so although she lives in the same town, we haven’t seen each other since we were children. She writes back, beginning a fruitful friendship.
Have my first proper kiss with a girl, Chantel, on a Christian camp. We bump teeth.
Take up regular 6am swimming training at the Burnie Swimming Club, though I don’t compete in meets and none of the private school kids ever talk to me. I win all my races at the school swimming carnival, but miss out on the record for the fifty metre freestyle by .1 of a second as Josh teases me about my bathers and I miss the start. Later, a grade nine girl says: “when you were up on the blocks, we could see your penis.” I go on to be the Division B Inter-High swimming champion in my age group.
Become Vice-President of the SRC.
Girls finally notice me. I manage a string of flings, including Natalie, a friend of Carly’s. It means we get to hang out in person after a year of writing letters.
Get first job at KFC, frying chicken and cleaning ovens out the back. It’s hot, greasy, demanding work. I make $4.70 an hour.
Record first proper collection of songs Ad-Liberation. Includes ‘End Of The World’ and ‘Thought She Loved Me,’ a ballad about breaking up with a girl, even though I’d never had a proper girlfriend – I just figure that’s what you write songs about.
Have first ever drug experience, smoking a joint with my best friend Billy. I freak out, think I am going to die and get driven to hospital by his Mum. She is not impressed. My heart continues to beat irregularly for most of the year. Our friendship doesn’t really survive.
Perform again in the high school talent contest. We do a bunch of sketches I steal off a local uni revue, as well as a parody of ‘Gangsta’s Paradise,’ called ‘Parklands Paradise.’ Again, we win the audience vote but the judges award goes to two girls dancing to ‘Cotton Eye Joe.’
Begin first vaguely proper relationship. It ends a week later because the girl cheats on me. She apologises by sticking the lyrics to Roxette’s ‘It Must Have Been Love’ to my locker.
Write short film script Infinity for English writing project. It’s about a D.J. who claims if you plug speaker wires directly into your ear, while high on a certain drug, you can ‘become’ the song you’re listening to. It’s a reflection of the intensity with which I trip out while listening to techno songs in my bedroom. ‘Infinity’ by Guru Josh is still a huge influence, particularly the arpeggiated synth breakdown. (see: Treble Treble #1 – Popcorn & Infinity)
Take up smoking after having eight Peter Jackson super-mild’s in a row with Danny Flight behind the Parklands High School gym.
Enrol in The Writing School, a creative writing correspondence course I find in That’s Life magazine.
Finish up High School. The end of year party is at Jamie Upson’s house. I am hugging my male friends, pashing Jennifer Leeson, swinging on a clothesline, sculling Hahn Ice to TISM’s ‘He’ll Never Be (An Old Man River)’ from the Triple J’s Hottest 100 with the ice cream on it.
Begin first major relationship, via letter, with Erin, a girl one grade below me whom I’ve had a crush on all year.
Get to Hellyer College. Become extremely intimidated by all the Year 12’s and end up lurking at the TAFE cafeteria eating chips and gravy with close male friends.
Record second collection of songs on cassette, Rhetorical Verses.
Perform in the College musical Godspell. I am a member of the chorus, and also part of the warm up entertainment as people walk in. I write one of the first songs for future album Birthmark called ‘Gospel’ about how God “wouldn’t leave you in the lurch” or “fall asleep in church.”
Lose virginity, in a hotel room, after a Silverchair concert, in Hobart.
Find out from Billy that the joint he’d been given a year ago had been laced with L.S.D.
In relative secrecy from my friends, I continue to pursue Christianity. I pray every night and attend church with my Mum most Sundays, a new experience for both of us.
Hit year 12. Get confident.
Become president of the SRC. My most successful campaign pitch is a poster with a piece of toast stuck to it that reads: “This is a piece of toast. Vote for Phonze.”
Find a new gang of crazy arty friends.
Through my new best friend Lix, a melodramatic girl who ranks her friends from one to ten, I begin my involvement with ‘Youth Insearch Australia’ an organisation that holds camps to help teenagers deal with issues in their lives.
Turn 18 – despite my Mum’s requests not to, I stage an unauthorised party at Hiclare Hall which 200 people turn up to and trash to the value of $300. Hold a benefit in school cafeteria, raise $80. (see: My Disastrous 18th)
Begin playing music regularly at school concerts. Write comedy songs ‘Vee-Dub,’ ‘The Environment Song,’ ‘Disco Chicken’ and a very on the money parody of Denis Leary’s ‘Asshole’ called ‘I’m an Aussie,’ which I swear would have done well if released at the time.
Break up with Erin in our 19th month. I do the breaking. I begin a long distance relationship almost straight away with Jade, a Youth Insearch leader from Deloraine.
Discover op shopping after wandering into a second hand store and finding a chocolate brown ‘New Breed’ press stud shirt. (see: Little Op Shop Of Horrors)
Mum starts receiving regular visits from travelling Mormons. I sit in on the lessons. While I find them friendly, I can’t get over how pushy they are about being baptised in their church.
Have second major drug experience, and my first ever bong. I can’t remember much about but apparently I spend the night talking to people out of my bum and sticking clothes pegs to my face. Conclude that maybe drugs aren’t for me.
Write short story ‘Noisy Skin’ for my Writers Workshop major piece, about a boy who goes to school naked for no apparent reason and has charges pressed against him by a girl who takes offence. He is befriended by the school counselor, a former hippie, who encourages his actions.
Write ‘Smells Like Hellyer Spirit’ which becomes the unofficial Year twelve leavers anthem.
Win school prize for creative writing and theatre performance subject award.
Decide to do BA in Professional Writing at the University of Canberra after picking up a pamphlet in the career advisor’s room. I apply without even bothering to check if it’s offered at any other unis. Canberra seems fine as my Uncle Ken lives nearby in Michaelago. Up until that point I’d been firmly set on the concept of staying in Burnie and training to be a cadet journalist at The Advocate. My theatre teacher, Amanda Mureste, talks me out of it.
Record my first CD, Birthmark, in Marcus Wynwood’s bedroom in Penguin in the January holidays. It is a mix of comedy and serious songs, ranging from ‘Disco Chicken’ to ‘Down By The Sea’ written after a bad day with Mum. It features dodgy singing but some eclectic uses of backings and harmonies. It includes a mock tribute for my hypothetical school band ‘Community Scooter’ where I refer to myself as “the genius, the enigma, the John Lennon.”
Continue to go out with Jade, but she withdraws because she knows I’m going away. This upsets me and causes us to have a messy break-up.
With one week until I leave for Canberra, I meet Jacci Holness at a party and start going out with her. We can’t get over the fact we have the same initials (JMH), are both Gemini’s and both go for Carlton. Jade is furious and refuses to speak to me. As an explanation of how much I loved her, I post her a detailed diary of our relationship that I was planning to give her on our one year anniversary. She burns it.
Move to Canberra.
Move into University Ressies, the largest in Australia. Befriend Tammy Nicholson, Adam Forbes, Matt Kelly and the gang through Three Dice, the student theatre company. The society runs Theatresports compeitions, plays and alcohol based theatre camps at Bateman’s Bay.
Audition for my first play Psycho Beach Party. I’m given the role of gay surfer Provoloney, and told I have to pash Matt on stage. It feels like I’m really at Uni. I don’t tell Mum.
Star in second semester play Baby With The Bathwater as ‘Daisy,’ a bisexual boy who’s been brought up as a girl his whole life.
Form the band Urban Turban with Adam and Matt. We play our first gig at 9am the morning after an all-night dance party. The limited audience are hung over, crotchety and throw rubbish at us. At the end of one song Matt says, very slowly and very precisely: “Fuck you all.”
Adam and I win the Uni ressies talent night Ressies Revue with ‘I’m an Aussie’ and a new song ‘Spankees Lunch.’ For our efforts we win a mystery flight to Brisbane. As we have never been there before we wander about aimlessly before deciding to go watch the latest James Bond film at the cinemas.
After maintaining a relationship where we only see each other 17% of the time, Jacci and I break up. I almost immediately start going out with Margi, a girl involved in Three Dice two years older than me. I am turning into a serial monogamist.
Toby, the president of Three Dice, persuades me that I shouldn’t call myself Phonze because it isn’t very cool. Based on a 3am rendition of ‘Spankees Lunch’ he gives me the nickname “Spankees.”
Make a vow not to get my hair cut for a year.
Margi comes to visit me in Burnie – my Canberra and Tasmanian worlds combining for the first time. We have some fun in Cradle Mountain, but there are some dodgy moments including taking her to a Burnie pub where a man with no ears accosts us, and choosing to go and drink with my school buddies at my old primary school, leaving her at home.
As soon as I get back to Canberra she breaks up with me. It’s all the more awkward as I’m due to stay at her place as Ressies hasn’t opened up yet. Toby knows the reasons why, but doesn’t tell me. This is the beginning of his power over me.
After being best friends for a year, Tammy and I kiss. We start going out.
Continue my pursuit of Christianity by making contact with the youthful Catholic priests on campus. They pressure me about my sexual involvement with Tammy.
Start writing for the University magazine Curio. The editor is exasperated that “no one round here gives a shit”.
Via Youth Insearch, I attend a three-day workshop of popular American motivational coach, Tony Robbins. This includes a session where I walk on hot coals. (It does hurt.) While I find a lot of good in the workshops, I am amazed that Tony doesn’t turn up on the third day and instead gets his helpers to run the sessions.
Star in Skin, a comedy about the porn industry written by Toby. I play Jack Hammer, a pornstar who ends up being gay. I start to wonder if I’m being typecast. In the play the actors are asked to simulate sex scenes, wear strap ons, and watch porn on the theatre camp. Many of us, me included, are not very comfortable with this. We are made to feel silly for complaining and I end up keeping quiet, much to my personal detriment.
Jack Hammer has a secret identity as an Aussie bogan. I take the role so seriously that I have my long blondish hair, not trimmed for a full year, cut into a mullet. I return home to Tasmania with this mullet. One night I am out in a Burnie pub wearing a West Indies cricket shirt. I still get called poof.
The Uni film society makes a short film based on my story Noisy Skin which I wrote in Year 12. It’s about a boy who goes to school naked. I play the lead. Tammy brings her parents on set one day. I am standing in a carpark wearing speedos and a Carlton scarf.
Move out of Uni ressies into a sharehouse dubbed ‘The TAJ’ (our initials) with Tammy and Adam. We take great delight recording a hit phone message: “This is no mirage, you have called the TAJ, so please leave a mess-age.”
Adam and I start the ‘Harmonica Lewinski’s Muso’s Club’ on campus, as a way to create our own folk gigs. We end up spending all the club money on sausages and haircuts.
For one of my Literary Studies presentations on Australian Literature I take along a tape deck and play a synth version of the ‘War Of The Worlds’ theme while performing an interpretive dance. After a minute I press stop and read my essay as if nothing has happened. No one ever mentions the dance.
Complete my leadership training with Youth Insearch. At the graduation I am MC, which I find incredibly difficult in my increasingly troubled state. (see: The Hardest Thing I’ve Ever Had To Do)
Enter the ACT campus band competition with Urban Turban and The Harmonica Lewinski’s, so we can separate our serious and comedy songs. The Harmonica Lewinski’s make it into the ACT finals. One of the judges writes: “Guitar playing seemed to be out of time, but couldn’t tell if this was on purpose as some kind of musical protest.” It isn’t.
Adam and I win ‘Ressies Revue’ again, with a self-indulgent forty minute comedy blowout we knock up the night before. Set includes ‘Home Brand Man,’ an acoustic rendition of ‘Rockafella Skank,’ Adam’s song ‘Rainbow Honey Eater,’ and me taping the 500+ audience saying an answering machine greeting for me to use on my ressies phone.
Three Dice don’t have a second semester play, so instead Toby creates Theatre Jam. It’s serious theatresports, where we improvise short plays that last up to twenty minutes. Some of them are very good. Despite reeling from Skin, I’m under the spell of Toby’s charisma. Everyone else involved is older than me, and tease me for being such a convincing mental cripple.
Spend a lot of time down by Lake Ginninderra, marveling at the sunlight diamonds on water, writing in my journal, trying to regain control over my life.
Record two debut albums for both bands in three days at my Uncle Ken’s studio in Michaelago. Highlights include ‘I’m The One Who Loves You (I’m The One That Needs You)’ which is written while we wait for Ken’s computer to work. While Songs By The Bushfirecaptures the spontaneous, madcap energy of the Harmonica’s, there are mixed feelings about the rushed nature of Meet…Urban Turban.
Attend lectures given by deadpan writers who tell us that only 1% of us will ever make a living from our art.
Win ABC radio’s Heywire competition for Canberra, with a three minute radio documentary done in the style of a Triple J ‘J-file’ about how Urban Turban struggled to find a scene because Canberra Uni students are all about raves and doof.
Secretly, I spend most of the year feeling very depressed.
Walk the overland track, a five day bushwalk from Lake St. Clair to Cradle Mountain with my Nan, aged 75. (My Nan, not me). This includes a near-death experience, after getting caught on a precarious rock face on Barn’s Bluff.
Return home to Canberra. Attend a five day national Heywire camp, which includes an all expenses paid trip to….(drumroll)… Canberra.
Start writing for local streetpress BMA. I repair Curio‘s lagging relationship with record companies and score stacks of free CD’s.
Read A Heartbreaking Work Of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers. It’s the best book I’ve ever read and has a profound influence on my writing. His philosophy is “more is more” when it comes to sharing, comparing it to “making electricity from dirt.”
After having a complete fallout in confidence, I go out to my Uncle Ken’s farm, and write what will become my column. I call it Being Justin Heazlewood, inspired by the Spike Jonze movie. It is an autobiographical conversation about myself to myself. It’s published in Curio.
Become co-president of Three Dice.
Urban Turban play at Indyfest, Canberra’s showcase of indie bands. A girl in the audience describes the set as “nice.”
Enter Triple J’s Raw Comedy – I make it into the ACT finals, but find it all a bit mucky. I am beaten by a guy telling stoner jokes.
The Harmonica Lewinski’s rerecord ‘Spankees Lunch’ at a studio in Wollongong. We continue to do sporadic gigs at the Pot Belly and Shooters. Late in the year, almost a year after recording them, we launch the two albums at the University of Canberra bar with a “CD Lunch.” This wordplay joke backfires, as even though it’s advertised as 6pm, most of the punters turn up at lunch time. Urban Turban play their first and last gig at key Canberra establishment Tilley’s. Matt pays out the now deceased David Branson who performs a very strange poem about eating his own face.
After growing unrest, Urban Turban disbands.
Best Tassie friend Lix is concerned that the nickname Phonze isn’t surviving on the mainland. She takes it personally that I’m calling myself something else.
As a 21st present to myself, with the help of Uncle Ken, I make The Conception Album, a collection of about 30 little musical snippets and demos I’ve recorded on my walkman over the last three years. The collection includes the riffs for future songs ‘I’m So Over Girls’, ‘Weird Dream’ and ‘Folkstar.’
Continue my pursuit of Christianity. I find myself growing increasingly alienated from the fun sexy world broadcast around me. I can’t watch Secret Life Of Us.
Perform first paid solo comedy gig supporting Rash Rider and Pommy Johnson in the UC Bar. It goes well.
For my major writing project, I pen a feature length play, Cyclone Beryl, a comedy about the Australian Music Industry. I write the first draft out on Ken’s farm.
September 11 happens. Ken doesn’t have a TV so I listen to it all on the radio, which is haunting.
Graduate University, receiving a High Distinction for my play.
Come to terms with not having school on after eighteen years.
Start working at the Canberra Labor Club. As I am the only employee with mid-length hair and glasses, I pick up the nicknames: “Shaggy”, “Shags”, “Shagadelic”, “Shagster”, “Harry Potter”, “Austin Powers”, “The guy from Oasis”, “The guy from Weezer”, “The guy from The Lovin’ Spoonful”, “The guy from The Seekers”, “The guy out of Pulp”, “Keith Richards”, “John Lennon”, “George Harrison” and “The security guard in A Clockwork Orange.”
Begin training with Lifeline to be a telephone counsellor.
After attending a Christian camp and feeling tired of sitting on the fence, I vow to fully commit by becoming celibate. This doesn’t do wonders for my sex life.
The Harmonica’s enter Raw Comedy with ‘I’m an Aussie.’ We are well received but get nowhere. Around this time ‘Bloke’ is released by Chris Franklin, and I feel an opportunity has slipped by.
After being asked to present at the Heywire Youth Forum, I write ‘Radio Edit Of My Soul,’ with the express notion that Triple J’s Morning Show will do a live broadcast the next day, be in the audience, like it, and want me to play it live on air.
After nearly leaving, I double back and ask producer Vicki Kerrigan if there’s any way I can be further involved. She suggests hooking up with Jim Trail and recording some stuff. I do. Vicki describes my songwriting as “Bedroom Philosophy.” Francis Leach plays my songs every Tuesday morning, paying me $70 per song.
Have the ecstatic sensation that a career as an artist is possible.
Realising that my guitar has a terrible pickup, I take it to a music store to be replaced. The salesman says “you could spend $400 on a new pickup, or you could buy this.” He hands me a Maton guitar. It’s love at first strum. All my songs sound 250% better. I settle on a Maton 325C.
The first song I write on the new guitar is ‘Kelly The Deli Girl.’ I dub the guitar “Kelly.”
Record the first batch of songs, including ‘Dr Karl’ a parody of Aqua’s ‘Dr Jones’ sending up the fact Dr Karl changes his mind on-air a lot. At the time he seems touched but Tammy later hears him refer to it as “that awful Dr Karl song.”
After hearing ‘My Nan Really Likes Radiohead,’ Gaby Brown starts replaying them on Saturday mornings, paying me $30 per song.
Become songwriting obsessed. I am often found lurking near the poker machines at work, writing lyrics on the back of a Keno ticket. During this period I write ‘Happy Cow,’ ‘Golden Gaytime.’ ‘Generation ABC,’ ‘Jesus On Big Brother’ and ‘Folkstar.’
More and more people hear me on the radio. I find myself playing down their compliments and acting sheepish.
Film two pilot episodes for The Bedroom Philosopher Show for ABC’s Fly TV in Sydney. It is a combination of film clips for my songs and sketches. It includes me trying to be a model for Chadwick’s agency in Sydney, and going to a bowls club to record their reaction to Radiohead. I am incredibly chuffed and think this might be the big break I’ve always dreamt of. I’m worried about telling Matt because he’ll be jealous.
Begin writing humorous opinion column Struth Be Told for Canberra streetpress – a progression of Being Justin Heazlewood.
Receive my first fan letter. An email asking about ‘Jesus On Big Brother.’ I re-read it several times, amazed that a stranger would write to me. After years of standing awkwardly in the kitchen, people are turning up to my party.
Begin the routine of writing a blog style diary on my laptop. I write 2000 words every few days. This coincides with an increased distance between Tammy and I.
There is growing tension between Adam and I also. Due to contention over its consistency, the Urban Turban album is deleted. This is relatively easy as it has never been released. I take my songs and turn it into a lightly distributed solo album.
After two and a half years Tammy and I break-up. It’s vaguely mutual yet ambiguous.
The Harmonica Lewinski’s break-up. We play our last gig at the Pot Belly in late June.
Do strange, solo guest spot at Ressies Revue as ‘Urban Turban.’
Move out of the TAJ, under a hail of stress, resentment and curtain linings that our landlord says we have to wash and iron. Adam and I don’t speak for three months. It’s the first proper fight I’ve had with a friend.
Move into another house in the same street. I live with two girls. One of them is a brat – either watching her Midori sponsored Schoolies video or pretending to dry-reach because I’ve left a banana in the cupboard.
In August, play my first live shows as The Bedroom Philosopher, performing at the Street Theatre, The Lighthouse and the Phoenix Bar. I decide to wear my Nan’s 1970’s blue ski-suit. It makes me feel protected and fits in with the ‘blooperhero’ concept. I’m panicked, bumbling, nervous and awkward. It seems convenient to make this my character.
Record ‘Ian Thorpe Was Bored,’ the last song for my Morning Show segment. They are going on holidays, and I can sense the wind-down of my own song writing blitz. I have written and aired twenty-five new songs in a six month period.
Do first gig in Sydney, MCing a CD Launch. The crowd seems to like me but the bands seem to hate me. I meet the girl I will eventually move to Sydney for.
After deciding to move to Sydney, I experience an anxiety dream where a black shape is flying along the road outside Nan & Pop’s house. It has a frightened man’s voice and keeps saying “I’m scared I want my Mummy.” It flies through the window towards my face and I catch it. I wake up with a shadowy imprint in one eye. I rush to the ophthalmologist. He says I’ve suffered a retinal hemorrhage. One of my blood vessels has tried to push through my retina, like weeds grow through cracks in the footpath. I’m terrified, but it heals quickly and leaves only a small but permanent point of damage in my vision.
Controversially, I go out with the girl, ten years my elder. I say goodbye to Canberra and move to Sydney.
Go on the dole.
Discover that the girl I am in love with lives in a cockroach infested inner city office space, directly next to her father’s office. whose secretary is her jealous ex boyfriend.
Move in with my ten year old cousin’s family in Blacktown, alongside three generations of women (her Mother and Grandmother). The grandma doesn’t let me watch The Simpsons or use the phone after nine.
Discover the girl I moved to Sydney for is neurotic, unbalanced and unconvinced I love her because I’m “young and naive.'” For the first time in my life I have my entire existence and belief system questioned to the core. I am desperate to prove myself.
After finding a mysterious $600 in my bank from the ABC, with no explanation and with key encouragement from Matt – two days before the deadline – I enter my debut show Living On The Edge…Of My Bed in the Melbourne International Comedy Festival.
After borrowing $1000 off Nan and Pop, I produce 500 copies of the Bedroom Philosopher album of the same name. Nan & Pop Records is born. The album is a modest, unmastered affair, featuring twenty tracks from my Triple J segment. Having already decided on a tracklist, at the last minute I get my girlfriend to pick them, so that whoever plays the CD will find that the track listing is different to the album listing. We think this is funny. Friends and radio DJ’s do not.
To promote my Melbourne show, I set the world record for continuous performance of John Farnham’s ‘You’re The Voice’ outside Flinders Street Station. I plan to go for twelve hours but after nine hours friends convince me ‘that’s enough.’ While my voice holds up, my wrist develops RSI from strumming. I appear as the odd spot on Channel Seven news that night. They say I am promoting the comedy festival and don’t mention my show.
Perform nine shows at The Butterfly Club. I am nervous as hell, in a small room, performing two-bit material in my Nan’s ski suit. Each night I end up crawling off stage drenched and confused.
Under Matt’s advice, I stop shampooing my hair, deciding that the shampoo and conditioner routine is a scam. I’m sick of my hair being too fluffy to manage every second day. My hair soon adapts, learning to ‘self oil.’
Perform two sets at the National Folk Festival in Canberra. During one impassioned version of ‘Disco Chicken’ I roll on my guitar lead so that it pushes through the wood of my guitar. I borrow Soursob Bob’s guitar and almost do the same thing with his. My stage ethos is that songs and comedy aren’t enough, I need to be a madman clown as well.
Discover Tug Dumbly and Bennito Di Fonzo’s regular poetry/music night Bardflys. It’s my saving grace in Sydney. (see: Bardflys: A Sketch)
Move house, and live with the girl that will inspire the song ‘Megan the Vegan.’ I’m told I can’t eat meat in the house.
Tammy and I remain terrific friends. The Sydney girl is extremely jealous and threatened by this.
Complete my first and last two weeks of full-time work, at a call centre as a Vodaphone consultant. I’m on ‘Team Schumacher.’
After nine months I break up with the Sydney girl. It is the most emotionally damaging relationship of my life. After remaining friends for a while I discover she still has my email password auto-saved on her laptop and has been reading my mail.
In both my personal and professional life, I consider myself to be in a rut.
Play my first gig at a comedy venue, the ‘Mic in Hand’ in Glebe. Until this point I have considered myself a musician who happens to be funny, rather than the other way round. I do a ten minute support slot before Wil Anderson. I play ‘My Nan Really Likes Radiohead’ first up. People go crazy. It’s the best reaction I’ve ever had to my stuff. During a version of ‘Here’s Johnny’ the microphone stand droops down. I go with it and end up on my knees singing into the mic – the place erupts. It is a sublime moment.
A potential manager Chris Macdonald approaches me after the show saying he likes my stuff. My confidence is restored.
After being driven to near-madness by the extreme exploits and clickiness of the ‘Megan the Vegan’ house, I move to Sydenham, living with Jim, a sixty year old retired Canadian school teacher and a Vietnamese Uni student. The house is directly next to a train line and underneath a flight path. One day there is a plane and train going by at the same time and the phone rings and I scream.
Find myself unable to create a follow up segment on Triple J, but do some work experience with the Morning Show. I produce four segments combining voxpops, music and poetry called The Heart Of The Bollocks. It doesn’t make a huge impact and it feels as though the Triple J door has closed.
Create a fortnightly Ezine ‘LapTopping.’ It embodies my desire to keep in touch with as many people as I can.
Hold a CD Launch in Canberra. To promote it, I set the world record for continuous performance of Daryl Braithwaite’s ‘The Horses’ while riding on a horse carousel, on Melbourne Cup day (Thirty minutes). I want to go longer but the owner of ride reckons “that’s enough.”
A year after filming the pilot for The Bedroom Philosopher Show, Fly TV is axed. Only two film clips make it to air. I am sent the two un-aired videos in the mail. It’s only about a quarter of what I filmed with them. While I am sitting on my bed staring at them, I receive a one-off anonymous text from a Struth Be Told reader telling me to keep it up.
Chris agrees to manage me. It’s heartening to finally have someone in my corner. He is a dock I can tether my little boat to.
Decide to leave Sydney.
Perform a spot at the Falls Festival in Marion Bay, Tasmania, alongside best mate Josh Earl, who is now also doing musical comedy.
Perform at the Hobart Comedy Festival. I do 10-45 minute spots over 16 nights. (The 45 minute spot is supposed to be 15). The Hobart audiences are warm and supportive and my confidence soars.
Fall nutso in love with Janita, a vague and cryptic fellow comedian. Spend the best part of the year being embroiled in her abstract tundra.
Perform at the Hobart Comedy Gala, supporting the likes of Lano and Woodley in front of 1600 people. I get to tell Frank Woodley how Josh and I used to rip off Lano & Woodley. He is interested.
To promote the festival I set the world record for ‘Boon Rapping’ (Reading David Boon’s autobiography in a hip-hop style.) I set the record at 12.5 minutes. I want to go for longer but the Comedy Festival promoter reckons “that’ enough.”
Write throwaway song ‘I’m So Post Modern.’ It’s a lyrical exercise in being as random as possibly. First perform it to Josh, Janita and her brother Joe in Launceston. It gets the first of many laughs.
After a couple of years of passionate suggestions from friends, I move to Melbourne.
Move into a terrific share house in Clifton Hill with four others and a troubled cat named Squirty.
Participate in three shows for the Big Laugh Comedy Festival in Parramatta.
With a lot of help from Chris, I put my second show In Bed With My Doona in the Melbourne Comedy Festival. It is a runaway success. (It runs away with a lot of our money.) During this phase I am donning short green pyjamas, and often make the joke that I look like Harry Potter working at a gay Irish Macdonalds in the 1970’s. I also spend a lot of time talking to Kerry The Metaphysical Drummer. The show gets some good reviews, and one Saturday night I have a killer opening, but manage to blow it half way through. I keep trying to pull off semi-improvised, schizophrenic conversations with myself, but my skills aren’t developed enough to keep the vibe afloat. This night is full of important industry types including the head of Token and an Age reviewer. I vow never to know when important people are in the audience.
To promote the show, I perform another publicity stunt. This time it’s a ‘bed-in’ protest, as I say I’m being deported back to Tasmania for not having the right passport. I lie down on a mattress outside town hall. Conveniently, Triple J breakfast are doing a live broadcast anyway, so there’s a lot of girls running around in their pyjamas and it appears as though they could have come out for me. The ‘difficult fourth stunt’ confuses all and amuses few.
After a moment of insanity my attempts to trim the back of my hair ends up with me completely shaving the back of my head, but leaving my fringe as normal. I accidentally give myself a trendy Melbourne undercut ahead of its time. (see: Artist Loses His Head But Not His Style)
After a couple of years of being published, I join the editorial committee of national youth literary magazine Voiceworks.
My Uncle Nigel dies after being hit by a train in Lithgow on the 24th of April. It is my first experience of death.
Josh Earl and I form a comedy bloopergroup ‘The Renegades of Folk’ specialising in folk covers of electronic songs.
Record debut studio album In Bed With My Doona with my Uncle Ken Heazlewood in Emu Plains, NSW between July and October. The entire recording, mixing and mastering process takes 140 hours, about 70 of these are spent on ‘Folkstar.’ The album is my life’s work.
Embark on my first ever tour, taking in Melbourne, Canberra, Albury, Woolongong, Sydney and Perth.
Become the Victorian State Coordinator of the Australian Songwriter’s Association, somehow.
Am shortlisted for a Moosehead award. The Melbourne Comedy Festival’s grant for innovative and fresh show ideas. The potential show is called The Bedroom Philosopher’s Super Fun Happy Sleepover Camp of Yay!
At a time when I am about to produce 500 copies of my album, I win Plover Idol a take-off of Australian idol at the This is Not Art Festival in Newcastle. The prize is $1000 of CD reproduction. During the set, I play ‘Megan The Vegan’ and Megan’s ex boyfriend is one of the judges. He is interested. During the song I mention Systems Corrupt, an underground posse of which Megan is a member. Many members are in the audience and go wild at being mentioned. I end my set with an unhinged acoustic version of Aphex Twin’s ‘Come To Daddy’ complete with primary school singalong verses erupting into primal screaming. For my encore, I stand on a table in the middle of the room and play ‘Everybody’s Got The Same Insecurities As You.’ On my walk back to to the stage some indie-goth girls start tugging at my pants, so I lie on my back and scream “Tear me apart! I hate myself!” It’s a personal victory. (see: Bedroom Philosopher Gig Round-Up)
After sleeping with a fan, she writes about it on her blog within twelve hours. I find it the next day and am weirded out. I ask her to take it down, for fear that my Mum might see it. She is unimpressed. (see: A Story No Blogger Should Miss)
Launch In Bed With My Doona at Stagetime, a comedy room run by Charlie Pickering. He is very supportive of my album and takes it into Triple J for me.
First unofficial album single ‘I’m So Post Modern’ is placed on light rotation on Triple J. It is particularly popular on Super Requests. As the song is written in Wingdings, some DJ’s can’t find it on the album. Also, the ‘Play me! Play Me! Play Me!’ written on the spine makes them think the album is called that. Once again my playful subversion of the medium inadvertently sabotages commercial success.
My poetic alter-super-ego Super Poet makes his debut at a Melbourne poetry gig.
Finish the year with a set at the Falls Festival, playing after Butterfingers to 2000 people. A young girl approaches me and offers to have my baby. My response is: “What’s your bloodtype?” Later, I spy Sarah Blasko and awkwardly give her my album. (see: The Blasko Zone)
Sitting at home late one night I start writing a song that goes “Hello! My name is Wow Wow. I am here to tell you some stories.” I write the whole song while pissing myself. The voice is a combination of my cave man voice with a dialect inspired by an alternate personality that the Sydney girl had. To me, Wow Wow is a little caveman trying to understand the world.
Perform at the Hobart Comedy Festival. This year I am asked to perform In Bed With My Doona. They even have a racing car bed on stage for me, on loan. During Folkstar I jump on it and break it. Wow Wow proves to be a big hit, getting lots of laughs.
Perform in Laughapoolooza at the Kaleide theatre – a prototype musical comedy gala that my manager Chris has devised. I come up with the name. It’s one of the early gigs for Tim Minchin, who performs in shorts. He’s inspired by Josh who dresses fashionably. Chris begins courting me with the former manager of T.I.S.M. whom I’m very intimidated by.
Participate in the Big Laugh Comedy Festival, playing five shows with Nick Sun and Sam Bowring.
During a late night spot at the Seymour Centre, I flip out. Dismayed that the audience aren’t into me, I put down my guitar and rip off my shirt. I start screaming that I’d die for musical comedy. I turn around and pick up a huge metallic abstract sculpture behind me. I scream “Fuck art, it’s all about comedy,” lugging the artwork and trying to put it in a little metal bin. After being helped up I am informed that the artwork has a price tag of $25, 000. The venue manager is later heard saying “yes, but why did he pick it up?” Chris asks his Dad if he got it on tape but he replies: “No-one would want to see that.”
Perform third Melbourne Comedy Festival show Pyjamarama. It’s a ramshackle little show, which showcases the ‘unhinged’ Bedroom Philosopher period. It features Alf singing ‘Creep’ (me hiding behind an Alf doll on my guitar) as well as live hit ‘I’m So Over Girls’ and me rapping ‘Folkstar’ to a backing while destroying the stage. While there is good initial buzz, it doesn’t turn into strong numbers. I once again manage to do my worst show infront of an Age reviewer. A reviewer from Chortle, a UK comedy website, gives me the best review of my life, stating that I am the “Jarvis Cocker of stand-up.” Backstage at Laughapoolooza I meet John Safran, whom I’m a huge fan of. We bond over our mutual dislike of the new Simpsons. John describes me as “The most awkward comedian in the festival.”
Perform in all six ‘Laughapoolooza’s’ during the festival, including one filmed for a DVD release. It is not a pleasant experience. I’m terribly nervous, and break a string and knock the microphone over during ‘McRock.’ I go overtime and am vilified backstage. It is one of my lowest performance moments. Despite more on stage confidence, I am finding the comedy ‘industry’ increasingly intimidating, and continually fall silent around peers. My ‘networking’ involves me lurking near Rove and scrunching my flyers.
After the Comedy Festival awards night I perform ‘Anarchy In The UK’ for the Scared Weird Little Guys Superband. At the end, it seems like a good idea to take all my clothes off. The performance appears in the special features of an upcoming Scardies DVD. I write to their manager, the same one Chris has been courting me with, requesting for my ‘special features’ to be pixelated. They aren’t.
Chris informs me that while he has tried to sell me to TV, the industry considers me too “reckless and unpredictable.” These words cut deep.
Secure national distribution for In Bed With My Doona through MGM.
‘I’m So Post Modern’ is in the top five most requested songs on Super Requests, during two days in April, and two days in June. It is still being regularly requested six months after its radio debut.
‘I’m So Post Modern’ is featured on Triple J Super Request compilation Dog’s Breakfast, alongside the Yeah Yeah Yeah’s, Marilyn Manson and such novelty favourites as King Missile’s ‘Detachable Penis’ and Dana Lyon’s ‘Cow’s With Guns.’
Go on a date with Paris Wells. She saw Pyjamarama and kept emailing me asking about my Alf doll. We kiss briefly but then she has to go to a party.
In July, I begin some preliminary writing for a new sketch show being planned for Channel 10 called The Ronnie Johns Half Hour. The show is based on a uni revue stage show created by Chris. This is the first time I’ve ever written a sketch, but I quickly get the hang of it.
During a gig in Hobart, I meet the most beautiful girl I’ve ever seen, Anna. We have some nice conversations, but she is in a relationship.
Am asked to open for long time musical comedy heroes Tripod on a fourteen day regional tour of W.A. This includes Broome, Port Hedland down to Kalgoorlie. It is about the best two weeks of my life. At a party one night I snort what is probably speed for the only time in my life. It doesn’t do much except make me wet the bed. (see: Tripod Tour Diary)
In October, I temporarily move to Sydney to write for Ronnie Johns Half Hour. I live in Alexandria with a friend of a friend and his three dogs. I have never lived with dogs before, nor particularly liked them. This time round, I don’t hate Sydney nearly as much. It’s the first time I’ve been able to live off my creativity. I am paid well but save no money. I find writing for television more disillusioning than I had imagined. Although many of my sketches get through and I am well praised, I’m a little miffed that I’m not asked to perform. I appear on one episode, busking ‘I’m So Post Modern.’
Go out with Erica, a wacky, hell-cute performer. It doesn’t last long. At dinner she tells me I could be a lot further along in my career, that I wear glasses to hold onto a high school idea of myself and that we should break up. She still owes me $150.
Try my hand as the warm up guy at the Ronnie Johns live nights. This involves walking out in a cold, sterile television studio and geeing up a crowd of young, middle class wogans. On top of being funny, I must also wear an ear piece and constantly be aware of what the director is saying. I am challenged. During one stint of handing out merchandise to the crowd I hit a lady in the face with an Australian Idol notebook. On top of this, the regular warm up guy sits in the audience watching me. After three goes the director decides “that’s enough.”
Perform at the Falls Festival for the third year in a row. This year I am up against Sarah Blasko. A good crowd turns out to witness me. At one point I stop, listen to Sarah on the big stage for a while and scream “Damn it Sarah – you know I love you, but there’s no need to rub it in!” For the third year in a row I spend my Falls Festival time wandering around in a depressive stupor. (see: New Years Grieve)
‘I’m So Post Modern’ is voted #72 in Triple J’s Hottest 100. With no money and no ideas I enlist the help of Ronnie Johns performer Dan Ilic and make a film clip for it. It’s a lo-fi animated karaoke affair, it’s climax made up of a montage of photos sent to me by LapTopping subscribers. The song is chosen to appear on the Hottest 100 DVD.
In forums and conversations, people are often focussed on whether the song is post-modern or not. The seriousness with which it is analysed bemuses me, as it was just meant to be silly.
Finish work on a new remix of ‘Folkstar’ entitled ‘Folkstar (Pooglet 78″ Mix).’ It includes altered lyrics and resung vocals, delivered in more of a Beastie Boys style. The new remix is added to the latest batch of Doona albums.
Deliver an address at University of Canberra’s commencement ceremony. My advice includes consider lectures like gigs you’ve already bought tickets for, as when you work it out each one costs about $50.
Go on JJJ’s Like A Version segment. I perform one original, which is a version of ‘I’m So Post Modern‘ with twenty-six new lines, and a chorus. For my cover, I take Matt’s advice and write an acoustic megamix of thirty songs from the Hottest 100. It proves hugely popular on radio for a while and at gigs. I consider releasing it, but the copyright implications are tremendous.
My love life is a tangle of flings. I am seeing girls in Sydney and Melbourne without telling either. A friend later says the word on the street is I “pretend to be lonely and awkward to get booty.” (see: Beware The Indie Sleaze)
Life in Sydney starts to feel quite lonely. On one Sunday afternoon when I can’t find anyone to hang out with I sit on my front porch and write ‘Circus Bear.’ It marks the end of Bedroom Philosopher innocence and the beginning of my serious phase.
Wind up Sydney operations in March and return to Melbourne. Ronnie Johns has rated fairly well during the year and a second season appears likely. The Chopper character is particularly popular.
The Renegades of Folk perform their debut show in the Melbourne Comedy Festival. Audiences love it but all our friends and peers seem to hate it. We also find it strangely impossible to get reviewed.
First meet future band mate and close friend Andy Hazel, who bounds up to me after a show.
After some match making from Sam Simmons, I fall deeply in love with Anna, the girl I’d met the year previous. We go out, both figuring we were out of each other’s league.
During an outdoor performance in the Comedy Festival, I am disturbed by the presence of a man in a purple Comedy Channel Star suit. I make up a song with the chorus: “Let’s all push over the Comedy Channel star.” Suddenly two young punks run from nowhere and crash tackle him to the ground. The actor inside eventually presses charges against me for inciting violence. (see: Bedroom Philosopher or Bedroom Terrorist?)
Finish work on yet another upgrade of ‘Folkstar.’ this time, adding the genius double bass exploits of John Maddox. This version ‘Folkstar (Pooglet With Strings Mix)’ is deemed the official second single from In Bed With My Doona and is sent out backed with a remix by Pomomofo. A limited edition maxi-single is produced, featuring other remixes of ‘Folkstar’ and ‘I’m So Post Modern,’ plus some live recordings from a drunken session in Albury for a forthcoming national tour.
Organise my first proper national tour, playing Melbourne, Hobart, Canberra, Sydney, Newcastle and Brisbane. I play music venues, with mainly straight musical supports. While an enormous job to orchestrate, it is an unprecedented joy to perform, with especially healthy turnouts in my home bases of Melbourne, Canberra and Hobart. (see: Nationalish Tour Diary)
Change management. As Chris’ commitments with Ronnie Johns grow, I decide to start working with a friend Saskia, after a 2am discussion over a chicken schnitzel sandwich at famed Melbourne establishment Golden Towers.
‘Folkstar’, while never gaining the popularity of ‘I’m So Post Modern’ gets a fair work out on Triple J, mainly on Super Requests.
Ronnie Johns is commissioned for a second series. In conjunction with this, I am offered the lead role in Nick Coyle’s brilliant The October Sapphire to be performed at the New York Fringe Festival. As I can’t afford the trip to NY, I decline. To my joy, and benefit of my relationship, Ronnie Johns allows me to write from Melbourne.
In September I begin work on a new album Brown & Orange. I again work with my Uncle Ken in Emu Plains. This album aspires to be a more ambitious affair, and Magical Mystery Tour comments are bandied about.
Support comedy icon Flacco for three shows in Melbourne.
Beat publish my story about meeting Sarah Blasko. Her publicist contacts me and sends a copy of her second album. She states: “we don’t normally encourage stalking but we think you’re pretty funny.”
Perform a two week season in the Melbourne Fringe Festival with the show Living on the edge…of my bed. It’s a combination of new and old material, which is moderately successful. I am perturbed after industry bookers state they enjoyed my show but wouldn’t book it as it was a “gig show” not a “show show.” I also experience anxiety about whether recent songs like ‘The Happiest Boy‘ are funny enough for a comedy audience.
Saskia puts me in touch with musician Martin “Moose” Lubran, who agrees to act as producer, engineer and collaborator. Marty has a strong music and comedy background, having written music for Working Dog. In November, I wind up work with Ken and begin the more sonically intensive side with Marty. This includes the use of session musician playing drums, violin, trumpet, piano, slide, banjo and sitar.
Forget I’m making a comedy album.
After being days away from the Melbourne Comedy Festival deadline, I have a realisation that I don’t want to perform in comedy rooms anymore, but would rather focus on music venues.
Andy Hazel continues to text me wanting to jam. I’m not confident about playing with other musicians and have been acting distant. I finally agree after realising that “jam” doesn’t have to mean improvising on blues riffs, but simply Andy playing bass on my songs. We talk about the concept of a band.
On Christmas Eve, back in Tasmania, I drunkenly ‘don’t fend off straight away’ an old friend who makes a move. Anna makes the trip over on boxing day and I tell her about it.
My Pop falls ill, making it a very stressful Christmas period.
One of my childhood cats Misty must be put down due to liver failure. Anna is by my side, making the whole trip utterly mournful. We make it through together.
Perform for the fourth time in a row at The Falls Festival. This year I am given a proper 20 minute comedy bracket, playing alongside Charlie Pickering at Hobart and Lorne. I inadvertently start a verbal war between Tim Rogers and Charlie Pickering when a brief impression of Tim Rogers is mis-reported as being Charlie’s work. Tim proceeds to offer an on-stage warning to Charlie, who then spends most of his Lorne set bagging Tim out.
Anna and I end the year drinking warm champagne and watching Wolfmother. Take stock of life and realise, for the first time, I am in a particularly joyous and cherished position.
Continue work on Brown & Orange. The album doesn’t have a specific timeline, and so I’m given a lot of space to explore my artistic whims. I’m at my happiest when in the studio.
Perform three shows in the Adelaide Fringe Festival in February. They are my first since putting myself in the music category. I am still quite nervous about what the reaction will be. I find banter the hardest to gauge. The shows go well, and the new songs such as ‘Party In My Head’ seem to work.
Centrelink pins me with its worst requirement yet. Three weeks of daily intensive job search training at Preston. I find it enormously demoralising. We are asked to say five words that describe us. Mine are: Desperate, broke, nervous, determined & resourceful.
After five years I stop writing my column Struth Be Told for Canberra streetpress BMA. I am so frustrated financially that I politely demand to start getting paid and shop the column around nationally.
Decide that I need to gather a backing band to recreate the new material on stage. After a call out I select new friend and fellow Tasmanian Andy “Nature Boy” Hazel (studying Naturopathy) on bass and first year VCA student Hugh “Mad Dog” Rabinovici (says Mad Dog! a lot) on percussion. We begin a rigorous weekly rehearsal schedule. I find the boys an absolute pleasure to work with. It’s a relief as I’m still quite insecure about my ability to musically mix well with the other children.
Play our first gig at the Espy in St Kilda. It goes quite well. A medium but appreciative audience seem to like us. Unlike the support band, who do not. One of them swears at me for touching water that was in his rider. It seems to say “welcome to music.”
Pop passes away in May. It is heartbreaking to see him in his final moments, paralysed. (see: Wearing Pop’s Clothes)
Anna and I celebrate one year together. We are like two peas in a sensitive, witty, loving pod.
Play a solo residency at Wesley Anne. I am still struggling to find my feet in a musical environment. I have no trouble playing the songs, but tend to overanalyse how much humour I should be expressing.
Turn 27. It feels like a big age.
Hit the first of several ‘Saturn Returns’ mental walls. The internal arguments about what The Bedroom Philosopher should be unsettles other parts of my personality. I find myself sweeping an angry comb through all elements of my life such as my friends. My Facebook inventory plummets.
Perform solo gig at the Stagedoor Cafe in Burnie. It is my first gig in Burnie since I played ‘Pooljam’ at the Burnie Olympic Pool in 1998. My Nan, Mum and Uncle Ken are present, along with some joyously rowdy old high school mates, creating a special atmosphere.
Perform second gig with the band at The Tote. This is highly attended by all my friends, and big acts like The Basics share the stage. I hate my performance and feel under prepared.
After hassling the editor for a while, I have my first column published in national magazine Frankie. I have been admiring their work for a while and it feels like an important victory for my writing.
Perform with the band at The Annandale in Sydney. It’s a huge crowd but we are mixed like a rock band, and no-one can really hear the words. I am genuinely bamboozled about whether I’m doing the right thing. Some fans down the front request ‘Megan The Vegan’ but I refuse, and later wonder if I’ve lost the plot. A friend suggests I could play electric guitar in some songs. Based on this survey I rush out and buy one as soon as I get back to Melbourne. A Mess & Noise reviewer dismisses us as being “enmeshed in gimmickry.”
While in Sydney I share a joint with good friend Leigh Rigozzi. We listen to Ween and I can’t remember laughing so hard. It’s my best ever drug experience.
Quit smoking. This is the biggest attempt in a few years. I vow to the heavens and all before me that no longer will my health and singing voice fall pray to this vile, pathetic, pointless vice.
Play a residency with the band at The Empress. I am still far from comfortable on stage, and am struggling to make sense of the electric. I continue to be berated for not playing ‘Megan The Vegan.’ There are many who dig the band and new material as well. New song ‘Medium Ted’ goes particularly well.
’The Happiest Boy,’ the first single from Brown & Orange is released in October. This seems fitting as it’s a song I’d reluctantly scratch from my comedy sets for not being funny enough. The film clip for it is astoundingly good. My friend David Blumenstein AKA Nakedfella has worked on it on and off for nine months. It is well received, although the song receives a scathing review in Brisbane street press for not being as funny as ‘I’m So Post Modern.’
Radio don’t really touch the song. It isn’t surprising as it clocks in at 4:36. Marty had a lot of trouble mixing the song as I didn’t play to a click track. This fact means many of the songs from the album don’t have enough groove.
Frankie regularly publish my columns. I get my first piece in Triple J’s magazine JMag.
Support 80’s iconic children’s performer Peter Combe on a ten show renaissance tour in music venues. The crowds are huge and enthused. I find the gigs a breeze to play and build my set around my many songs featuring nostalgia and pop culture references. (see: Peter Combe Tour Diary)
Continue fierce internal battles about my new direction, and countless email conversations with my manager. I feel like a leaf in the ocean, constantly swayed by different opinions about what I should do. (see: Infrequently Asked Questions)
My oldest childhood cat, Blossum, passes away at the grand age of twenty.
After some negotiations I resume writing Struth Be Told for BMA.
The process of recording Brown & Orange deteriorates. A lot of time is spent attempting to record songs that aren’t working out, such as ‘Acronymphomaniac.’ In a panic about time, I decide to drop them. Mixing begins on the demanding second single, ‘Wow Wow’s Song’ which features over forty tracks.
Embark on national tour for ‘The Happiest Boy.’ Overall it is an unpleasant experience. Numbers are well down from the previous tour. I am disorientated by the set up of music rooms, and develop a pet-hate of Dance Floor Gap – the sensation of playing to a black void because everyone is lurking up the back. (see: The Happiest Boy Tour Report)
Frustrated about money, I take on a bar job. It’s my first proper job in two years.
After submitting short comedy pieces to The Big Issue, they start publishing me in their Ointment section.
The second single ‘Wow Wow’s Song (La La La)’ is taken to Hothouse studio to give it the polish it needs. I am not allowed into the final mixes and can only monitor its development by emails. I find this process incredibly stressful and feel as though I’ve lost control of the album.
Begin counselling for the first time in years (ss in, being counselled) after having a sense of losing my way. I want to protect myself and my relationship.
Anna breaks her ankle while running for a tram in vintage shoes.
Support Tripod on their Christmas tour of Perth, Adelaide and Melbourne. I am elated yet bemused to find myself confident and successful in front of a comedy crowd. I acknowledge my addiction to laughter and natural abilities as a comedian. It’s a joy hang out with Tripod again and they lend valuable ears to my thoughts on music and comedy. In the program in Adelaide I am billed as ‘Jason Heaslewood.’
Return home to Tasmania for a holiday only to find my Nan violently ill with gastro.
Anna comes over and we have a lovely New Year’s Eve in my home town of Burnie. It’s the first time in years I haven’t been playing at Falls Festival and I’m relieved. The sight of a pretty girl in a 50’s dress on crutches and a boy with mid-length hair, retro shirt and glasses are too much for the townsfolk. We are stared into submission and hide out in a beer garden watching the fireworks. In an up and down year riddled with frustration and personal bitterness, I look forward to the metaphorical slate being wiped clean, and vow to focus on the positives in my life.
After Centrelink cuts off my payment, a Hobart trip with Anna turns sour.
Work on Brown & Orange ceases. I grow heavily anxious about its completion. A radio-edit for ‘Wow Wow’s Song’ is knocked up, and the single is set to be released in February.
Add Michael “Flute Magee” O’Connor to the band. He is an amazing flute player I once saw at a friend’s gig. I dub the new trio The Awkwardstra.
Play Melbourne Big Day Out for the second year in a row. We’re tucked off in a weird side tent but punters react well to the new songs.
The business partner of the man who created the Golden Gayime emails me to say he heard the song on Triple J and would like a copy. He tells me the story of how the ice cream was created – the biscuit factory next door kept throwing out bags of broken biscuits, so a method was created to blow them onto ice cream. Genius.
Perform with The Awkwardstra at the Perth International Arts Festival. They fly us there, put us up and give us lavish backstage platters. It’s the best I’ve ever been treated for a gig. We go appropriately hard on the last night, winding up in the hotel pool and drinking red wine in the sauna. (see: Festival Tour Diary)
Frankie credit me as a senior writer.
My long-time hobby of collecting vintage 70’s ties goes into hyper-drive. I discover E-Bay and spend many an idle moment bidding on ties. My collection balloons to one hundred and fifty and is featured in the Frankie collectors page.
Decide that the next single ‘Wow Wow’s Song’ must have a film clip and embark on an epic journey to get it made. I employ a small crew of people to help realise my extravagant concept. We shoot it in February at a green screen studio. While work on the album has reached a tense stalemate, it feels good to move ahead on something.
My share house gets an N64 with Mario Kart. It takes me back to my first year uni days and I spend an awful lot of time playing it. Between that and E-Bay my ability to focus depletes. (see: Welcome To Mario Kart)
Develop permanent tinnitus after seeing Ween perform a marathon three hour set at the Forum. It’s most disappointing as my Mum has warned me about loud rock bands most of my life. (see: Fucking Tinnitus)
Perform a string of poorly attended gigs in Melbourne. It’s a sore come-down after the heights of Perth, and with the second single delayed I am confounded about how to maintain momentum.
Start working casually for the first time in years, pulling beers at Trades Hall, a bar frequented by comedians. It feels like a fall from grace to be on the other side.
Perform solo at Melbourne Comedy Festival supporting Tripod at the Forum. Also perform in several other comedy variety nights, but find the crowd reactions disappointing. I wonder if I’ll ever be happy where I am.
After a lot of planning, I play a set of my serious songs under the name Windsor Flare. It feels important to finally give these songs, some I’ve been carrying around for ten years, their own space.
My mood reaches an all-time low on the most inappropriate of day, my second year anniversary with Anna. The next day I ask a G.P. to prescribe me anti-depressants. (see: Ranty-Depressants)
Mysteriously, I am given no more shifts at my bar job. I begin working at a boutique vintage store in Fitzroy. I figure just standing around looking cool will be enough. It isn’t. Retail + Bard = Retarded. Being fired from two one day a week jobs doesn’t aid my confidence. Continue my Centrelink hoop jumping.
Brown & Orange deteriorates badly. I literally rescue my album by going to the studio with a hard drive. I take the incomplete tracks to new producer Chris Scallan at Soft Centre Studios in Northcote. Mixing begins almost immediately with intent to finish it within a month. It is an incredible relief. The drama that has unfolded has taken a serious toll on my career. Andy is a tremendous support through all of this.
Work on the ‘Wow Wow’s Song’ video stalls for several months. The designer working on the rendering runs out of time. I feel doomed.
Turn 28. In an attempt to celebrate my wonderful friends I make them all a Mix CD.
Part ways with my manager. Decide to make a clean start with the album and clip. This is difficult as I owe a lot of money. Close friends bail me out with loans.
Begin working with percussionist Jamie “Hitz Rodriguez” Power, who is introduced by Andy. I also add sitar and electric guitar to the band via Gordon “Gordo” Blake who I meet at a bar. They are valuable additions to The Awkwardstra and I get a sense of us gelling.
Anna and I have the first of several break-ups. We are in love and at a loss. I am bewildered by the notion that love isn’t enough to keep two people together.
Decide to go off the anti-depressants. I can’t cry during my own break-up.
Move house. After four years in the same place I opt to live with an ex-Voiceworks friend and two others. It’s Change O’clock.
Ban myself from E-Bay, and put a serious limit on my boutique tie shopping after I buy forty in one go. My collection pushes three hundred (three hundred too many) and brings me joy and ridicule. (see: Collectors ’70’s ties.’)
Do everything in my power to shop around the album. I approach every label and management I can think of over several months. No-one is terribly interested.
Begin appearing regularly on my friend’s RRR show Aural Text. Community radio is huge in Melbourne and I am keen to be involved.
Finally release ‘Wow Wow’s Song (La La La)’ to radio and book a single launch tour.
Almost pick up the support spot for the Adam Green tour. To my amazement, his management contacts me from New York, but the promoter goes with someone else.
While on the tram Andy and I come up with the concept for Songs From The 86 Tram.
With the help of Melbourne comedy booker Janet McLeod, I score an $8000 grant from the Melbourne City Council for my Melbourne Comedy Festival Show pitch Songs From The 86 Tram. It is my first grant success and a super-nova of gold amidst the shit-storm.
After a long struggle to finish the clip I locate the brilliant Leigh Ryan who works on the animation sequences. We spend many hours working on it, but it soon becomes evident that everything will come together.
Debut ‘Wow Wow’s Song’ on Triple J. Friend Sam Simmons interviews me. He encourages me to do the monster voice, although once I start he bags me saying it’s ‘the Cookie Monsters cousin.’ He reports that “half at the station love it, half hate it.” It’s a popular sentiment of the track. Clem Bastow of Inpress writes: “Complete genius or utterly terrifying… I’m leaning towards the former.”
Embark on ‘Wow Wow’s Song’ tour, spread out over a couple of months. Crowd numbers are down, although I have a somewhat better time than the previous sojourn. During a side-comedy gig in Sydney I randomly meet the head of Australian YouTube. (see: ‘Wow Wow’s Song’ Single Launch Tour Diary)
After Kelly the guitar starts creaking I take her to a guitar tech. He is horrified to find most of her internal framework coming unglued. The years of onstage battery have taken their toll. He performs $450 worth of repairs.
While in Adelaide I tee up an interview with the inventor of the Golden Gaytime, John Milton. I go to his house and sit by his poolside deck while he chain smokes and drinks Pepsi Max. He is an eloquent larrikin who speaks matter of factly about ice-cream production in the late 60’s. He says the Golden Gaytime wasn’t a big deal at the time. “It was just another ice-cream on another stick.” (see: Storytime)
Anna and I can’t leave each other alone, taking an enormous toll on us both. I am a part-time mind changer acting on corruptible impulses.
After growing unrest with the lack of sound proofing of my tiny room, I decide to move house again. Fortunately, I find a place straight away, coincidentally the same share house that Tammy lived in for two years. By this stage I am able to do nothing but laugh at how dramatic the year is turning out.
Have some powerful music epiphanies: The Kinks Village Green Preservation Society, J.J. Cale Troubadour and Boards Of Canada. The latter’s album The Campfire Headphase is the most welcoming frequency I can find. This coincides with the third somehow disappointing release from Beck in a row, placing our relationship at a low.
After nine months the ‘Wow Wow’s Song‘ video is completed. I upload it to YouTube and let the head guy know about it. Overnight he makes it the featured Australian video. Over a week it scores 20, 000 views. As radio have failed to pick it up, this is priceless exposure. I am bemused by the general public’s reaction to the song. What was mainly meant to be funny is described either as “frightening”, “not my favourite song” and “my four year old loves you.”
After a successful single launch, I pitch the idea of a December residency to my favourite Melbourne venue, The Northcote Social Club. They go for it. The residency is a hit, with happy crowds and solid sets. It’s a magnificent way to finish the year.
Am asked to fill in for my friend’s RRR show during summer. I am encouraged to create my own comedy program, banding together a crew of co-horts in cahoots Damien Lawlor, Josh Earl, Matt Kelly and Eva Johansen.
Decide I’ll be too busy to go home for Christmas and plan to have my first orphans Christmas in Melbourne with friends. It feels like a right of passage.
Nan experiences heart failure and is flown to Royal Hobart Hospital to have a pace-maker put in. I hope it is not related to my Christmas decision. She makes a full recovery.
Anna and I make our break-up final. I am incredulous and deeply upset.
MGM offer to release Brown & Orange in February. This time they offer to press up copies of the record. It’s my first record deal.
Vow to absorb all that has happened and learn something from it. Have never looked forward to a new year so much. I’ve totalled this one.
Don’t have one.
Pick up guitar.
Am given an opportunity to do a summer-fill show on Melbourne community radio Triple R. I conceive a show called Lime Champions, a combination of sketches and music. During the first ten minutes the station manager sticks his head in the studio and is impressed that we’re performing the sketches live. He says we are the most organised summer fill he’s seen.
Begin a new relationship, which feels fresh and healing. The universe appears to have answered my calls to make things a bit more positive around here.
Spend the sordidly hot Melbourne summer by writing Songs From The 86 Tram. It’s the first time I’ve sat down at my desk for five hours a day, guitar in hand, trying to write new material. It feels good.
Write ‘Northcote (So Hungover).’ It’s based on a sketch I wrote for Ronnie Johns Half Hour called ‘Underground.’ Initially, I try and keep the double handed conversation, before rolling the two voices into one character talking on the phone.
Brown & Orange is released through MGM.
Perform a gig at the Thin Green Line Festival. The five-piece Awkwardstra are gelling well. After the set, heaps of people come up to buy the new album, which is inspiring.
Purchase a new bed for the first time. Mum helps out with the money dished out by the Prime Minister. After years of mattresses on the floor, it’s a big fluffy dream.
Lime Champions are given their own regular spot, Monday nights at 7pm. The previously two hour show is streamlined into an hour with the intention of filling up most of that time with our own material. I make a difficult decision and ask Matt to leave the team, as I don’t think everyone is gelling. It puts a huge dent in our friendship.
From my grant money, I am able to work with a publicist for the first time. She secures me a full page feature in the The Age.
Launch Brown & Orange at the Corner Hotel with Tripod and The Suitcase Royale. I bust my gut setting up the stage to look like a 70’s lounge room. The show is long and a little scattered, but a triumph nonetheless.
Perform Songs From The 86 Tram at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival. It’s a resounding success, gathering critical acclaim and full houses.
Mum visits me in Melbourne for the first time. She’s in good spirits and away from the history of home we have some of our most quality time.
On the eve of the sixteenth show I am riding home with a backpack full of groceries, with no lights, when I slam my bike into a car door. This occurs near the 86 tram line. I break my humerus. The people in the car are off duty policeman and very helpful. I am forced to cancel the rest of the season. It is devastating but also relieving, I have been pushing myself like crazy for the past two months. The news creates a groundswell of support for myself and the show, as well as a tastily ironic press release. (see: Storytime)
Win the Director’s Choice award for outstanding show. It’s a welcome piece of industry recognition.
My summer relationship ends, leaving me once again alone and bewildered by love.
Begin the glum life of a share house cripple. I get by as much as I can, writing and editing sketches with one hand. The downtime allows me to eat a lot of drumsticks and watch a lot of Gossip Girl, my new secret shame. I also revisit my favourite childhood show The Mysterious Cities Of Gold which has dated rather well.
Become acquainted with one of my comedy heroes Tony Martin, after he writes to tell me how much he liked 86 Tram. I begin contributing to his online publication Scrivener’s Fancy.
To my delight Brown & Orange receives mostly positive reviews. I am especially pleased with the musical comparisons. I can’t help but get the impression Wow Wow doesn’t have a lot of friends.
Participate in Melbourne Comedy Festival roadshow. I almost cancel due to my arm, but decide to stick it out and enlist friend Oliver Clark to play guitar on certain songs. It’s a difficult transition, not knowing what to do with my hands and battling country crowds, but I hold my own. After developing mild food poisoning my mood degenerates and I find the tour grueling. (see: Roadshow Tour Diary)
Move house for the third time in twelve months. Living with five others has not proven to be the most peaceful experience. Decide to live with a friend and one other housemate in Westgarth, with intent to chill out and recalibrate my artistic mainframe.
My room is directly next to a train passenger crossing with a piercing alarm that goes off every ten minutes from six in the morning until twelve at night.
Continue physio for my arm. It’s healing well but is sore much of the time.
My moods and sleep cycles are still swinging all about the place. I maintain counselling which I find to be excellent.
Become more and more health conscious. I find I am eating more vegetarian food and leaning away from alcohol. What used to be laughed off as hangovers now leaves me depressed (see: Alcohol Is Pure Sex). I also discover yoga and start enjoying lattes.
Become Melbourne cliché.
Lime Champions goes from strength to strength. We have a medium following and Tony Martin makes a splash by coming on our subscriber week show and dropping Gary Sizzle.
Short story about my experience performing in the University play Skin is published in Your Mother Would Be Proud, a collection of horror stories from the entertainment industry.
Land the role of John Safran’s re-enactment in his new series Race Relations. John claims I got the role because in my audition I said I knew a Jewish prayer from a sample in a Beck song. For two weeks I live the dream of being a full-time actor. It’s glorious. I have to dye my hair blonde, and decide I could also play Andy Warhol. Among my scenes I have to pash two girls and pretend to blow my brains out. It’s refreshing to draw on my old acting days.
Roll out the Brown & Orange National Tour with The Awkwardstra and Josh Earl coming along for the ride. It’s a lot of work but mostly fun. The sets with the band are among my best ever and I relish the support.
Finish up tour playing solo in Adelaide and Perth. Get the biggest crowds of the tour and a sense of being back on track and putting the difficult second album behind me.
Write article on my meeting with the Golden Gaytime inventor. I pitch it to Frankie, who are happy to publish it until the editor contacts Streets for a photo. They deny all knowledge of the man I’ve interviewed. I then check on Wikipedia to see someone else is credited for inventing the ice-cream. I am baffled. I intend to investigate the story further. (see: Storytime)
Begin work on the Songs From The 86 Tram album with Chris Scallan, who helped me finish Brown & Orange. This album will be a tighter, sharper affair with click tracks and pre-production and a fully rehearsed band ready to roll.
While driving me to the airport my flatmate tells me he’s started seeing Anna.
Play my first gigs in Alice Springs and Darwin. Perform my worst gig of all time at a restaurant bar in Darwin. The crowd aren’t into it and twenty minutes in I am gonged off stage by the owner, wielding an actual dinner gong. Later, the venue owner tells Darwin’s NT News that I made fun of “bums and blackfellas.”
Am best man for Josh Earl’s wedding. My speech goes down a treat, though I’m reminded what a lame state my love life is in. (see: Love)
Perform a reprise of Songs From The 86 Tram at Melbourne Fringe Festival. For a completely independent venture with little publicity I make seven and a half thousand dollars – enough money to fund my album.
At the after party I meet Sabrina, a plucky, pun-popping dreamster whom I fall in love with. It feels like good timing and life becomes a lot more fun.
Finish up the 86 Tram album. What began as a side project to have something to sell at Fringe has turned into my best work to date by far. It’s sent to New York to be mastered by Greg Calbi of Sterling Studios who has worked with everyone from David Bowie to MGMT.
Perform for two weeks at Sydney’s Comedy Store. I use it as a challenge to my comedy chops, which I haven’t tested in a while. It’s a tricky learning curve, but towards the end I’m riffing on subjects sans guitar and making up rants on the spot. It reignites my passion and confidence for stand-up, though one night I nearly get my head kicked off by a punter. (see: The Bedroom Philosopher @ The Sydney Comedy Store)
John Safran’s Race Relations goes to air. While the show receives mixed reviews, people seem happy with my work. My Nan tunes in for the first time to see me blowing my brains out in a fantasy sequence.
Begin to sense that I’m doing too much. On one day in November I go straight from working on the album to doing Lime Champions, then performing a gig at night. I find it increasingly difficult to keep my comedic ball in the air.
My living situation deteriorates. There is a train crossing alarm which makes me anxious every eight minutes, a new-age dominatrix practicing loud vocal calisthenics each morning and of course my flatmate, still going out with Anna. It’s official – I know how to pick sharehouses.
Perform a Tuesday residency at the Toff In Town, mirroring the Northcote Social Club residency of the previous year. This time round isn’t as cruisy, with lesser crowds and more temperamental performances from me. I’m burnt out. Full-time self managing has maxed my mojo. The final show is the best, with Harry Angus supporting as we perform to a crowd of 200.
After an utterly magical, whirlwind month, Sabrina goes to New York to do shows for three months. I’m keen to go with her but can’t afford it. We decide to stay together and I swim with joy.
Dash off to Burnie to spend the quietest Christmas and New Year’s in history – playing Yahtzee with friends. I’m deliriously proud of the year and feeling quietly content. (For me.)
After staying home for a bit too long, I become oversensitive and defensive. Continuing my love/hate relationship with Facebook, and recent feelings of overexposure, I cull my Facebook friends from 480 to 80. (see: Family Ain’t A Holiday, Straight version & Funny version)
The ‘Tram Inspector’ single gets good reviews but not much airplay. It is single of the week in Inpress.
Move house – my fifth share house in two years. I live with friends, a great couple from the band Go-Go Sapien and their incontinent cat White Man.
After burning out late last year, I decide to make wholesale changes. I announce that I won’t be doing Lime Champions any longer, nor my columns for The Big Issue or BMA. At the same time I get in touch with a music acquaintance, Anthea, and she begins managing me.
Win Best Cabaret Production for Songs From The 86 Tram at the Melbourne Green Room awards. I miss the awards ceremony due to a bout of bronchitis and a 39 degree temperature.
Dye hair back to brown. This coincides with friends telling me the blonde “looked pretty shit.”
Decide to reprise 86 Tram at Melbourne Comedy Festival. I’m unable to secure a season in Adelaide Fringe, despite it being an award winning show. I am told the bookers are still hesitant as they “don’t know which Justin they’re going to get.” My industry bitterness festers.
Yarra Trams sponsor my reprise of Songs From The 86 Tram in the Melbourne Comedy Festival. They provide $24, 000 worth of posers, I mean posters on trams.
Triple J start playing ‘Northcote (So Hungover)’. During April it is the most requested song on Super Requests on five occasions.
Am approached for the first time by a label. Shock Records don’t front any cash, but release the album in April.
Songs From The 86 Tram encore season is a raging success. I sell all but 30 tickets in my venue and put on two extra shows in a 200 seater. Crowd vibe is excellent. One night, after getting into a taxi after the show someone yells out “hypocrite.”
My house situation hits an awkward mark after White Man wees on my Mum. He attacks during the night while she’s sleeping on a mattress on the floor. After a series of bad share house experiences, I am developing a resentment for Other People’s Cats.
Northcote reaches #12 in the independent singles chart and is on high rotation on JJJ. For the first time in my life I have the sense of career success and things working out.
It’s terrifying. I march straight to my counsellor. He says “you speak of this success as if you’re embarrassed.” He suggests my life is racing ahead and I am experiencing speed wobbles.
Frankie offer me a free full page ad. I book myself a single tour in four hours. A week after Comedy Festival I set off with Josh Earl in tow. It’s a fair success with Hobart’s Alley Cat gig proving the best. I sell out the Vanguard in Sydney but find the Sydney Comedy Festival crowd a bit cold. Josh spends much of the trip tweeting about the fact I eat tuna on public transport and fly into rages at the airport. Sabrina surprises me in Hobart my catching a flight for just one night. It’s an incredibly romantic gesture, slightly dampened when she locks me out of my hostel room at 6am, when leaving for the airport.
Clear about $20k from the Comedy Festival run. I am horrified at how quickly this is dispersed, between paying for my album and pending film clip. I soon get the impression that the bigger you are, the more is costs to keep yourself there.
Melbourne public transport body Metlink approach me to make a viral video as my Northcote character. I write a parody of Northcote called ‘Hurstbridge (So Sober).’ I film it two days before the real Northcote clip.
Work with Craig Melville on the ‘Northcote (So Hungover)‘ video. It’s an ambitious project with eight different locations. We work from 7am until midnight for two full days. Sadly, Hitz Rodriguez and Mad Dog Rabinovici are absent, but Josh Earl steps in on bass. I’m amazed to get Tim Rogers and Kram to be special guests, just by asking them. It’s the most professional production I’ve undertaken, with a full staff donating their time. The results are sublime.
Turn 30. I hold a One Colour party, where everyone has to dress in one colour. The night features me giving out my second group mix CD, games of Twister and a sozzled speech at 12pm. John Safran makes an appearance and tells me the news about Collectors host Andy Muirhead, which I can’t believe he’s not making up.
The Metlink parody video ‘Hurstbridge (So Sober)’ is released before the Northcote video, which baffles many. Northcote is finally released and starts to go viral.
Break up with Sabrina after hitting various emotional roadblocks. Spend a week performing in Hobart Comedy Festival. It’s a dark time.
Decide against Edinburgh Fringe, the holy grail which comics have been convincing me to do for years. Decide to build on the momentum of ‘Northcote’ and launch an album tour. We work with a booking agent for the first time. He books a mammoth 21 date tour taking in many regional towns, in the hope of scoring a ‘Triple J Presents.’
One of my fave bands, The Boat People, are special guests on many of the dates.
Spend August and September on the national tour. It’s ginormous, a lot of hard work and a fair bit of fun. We sell out Hobart, Brisbane and Melbourne but there are a lot of duds in between. I cut out sugar, smoking and drinking and enjoy the power of natural energy on stage. Band morale is good, but Hitz Rodriguez has a hard time. He is due to be married and moving to Byron in a month and the tour is poor timing. Despite selling out our hometown gig, the Saturday night Northcote Social Club show is incredibly rowdy, and I learn to detest the music venue system of playing at 11pm to drunk, distracted audiences. (see: Songs From The 86 Tram Tour Diary)
Sabrina takes me back. I vow to personal gods not to fuck it up again.
Kelly the guitar takes ill while on tour. I take her to a guitar tech who suggests getting a new guitar. He performs $400 worth of repairs, barely keeping her alive.
‘Northcote (So Hungover)’ becomes a bona fide hit, scoring 150, 000 views on YouTube and high rotation on Channel V. It’s nice to be known for something other than ‘I’m So Post Modern.’ For a song that was supposed to be making fun of the music industry, people become hipster obsessed and want to know if I am one.
As part of a new initiative called Melbourne Music, I am booked to perform on the 86 tram. They also put me on the cover of Beat, dressed as a tram inspector. I make two attempts to get through the entire album. The second time I have a surreal encounter with the living embodiment of the bloke from the Trishine song, Buddy. (see: Buddy & Me)
After five previous attempts, I score a Vic Rocks grant to makeover my website and produce another music video. I’m truly on a roll. This news is balanced with financial concerns about the National Tour. It looks like we’ve lost about $10k on it. Despite having heavy airplay and a band like The Boat People, we didn’t get the numbers we needed across the board. Screw you Ballarat. It’s a hard pill to swallow.
ABC’s Collectors interview me about my 70’s tie collection.
Perform some comedy dates in Adelaide. I’m starting to think about next year’s Comedy Festival show and want to feature more of my stand-up. The gigs are a challenge but give me some heart. After one show two girls ask matter of factly if I want to have a threesome. I decline!
Quit smoking, more or less, once and for all. (Pretty much).
Realise I have become something of a workaholic. Now that I have an iphone I seem to check my email twenty times a day. Decide I really need a holiday.
Leave Australia for the first time, spending three weeks in New York with Sabrina who has puppeteer work. It’s pretty damn good. I see shows by Jonathon Richman (Josh’s hero), Ariel Pink, and DJ Shadow.
Upon returning, I farewell Awkwardstra member Hitz Rodriguez, who is moving onto wedded bliss in Byron Bay. I will lose a friend, band mate and yoga teacher.
Shoot an episode of Spicks & Specks. A show I’ve waited years to appear on. Marcia Hines and I – together at last! I try to appear relaxed when not answering questions, and get a few gags in there. I only answer one question, identifying ‘Warewolves of London.’
The Northcote video wins a heap of awards, including The Australian Director’s Guild and The Australian Cinematographers Society.
Shock Records announce that they’ve gone broke. They have subsequently lost all royalties for 86 Tram and the ‘Northcote’ single, of which 3000 units were sold. I conclude that the music industry is shit.
Rehearse for the annual December residency at the Northcote Social Club. The theme this year is ‘End Of Financial Year in December’ – a cryptic reversal of Christmas in July where we dress as summer accountant. (Post-it note lay’s and cocktail fruits on receipt spikes.) It’s a brilliant run. New band songs start to sizzle including ‘Leaving My Hairdresser’ and ‘Handshake Hug’.
Support Dan Kelly at Federation Square. He says he thought ‘Northcote’ might have been aimed at him.
Collectors ask me to write and present a segment about modern day op shops.
Am on a tram when John Safran sends me a text saying “check out the Goth girl across from you.” I do, but am puzzled when I can’t find John on the tram anywhere. The girl sitting next to the goth girl is a friend of John’s who’d texted him to say she’d spied me on the tram.
Spend Christmas with Sabrina’s family in Sydney in at attempt to get to know them better. We’ve had an uber-rocky, on-again off-again year, mainly thanks to me – but thankfully love has the last laugh.
Head to Woodford Folk Festival for the first time, in a whirlwind run of summer festivals including both legs of Falls and Southbound in Perth. Woodford rains for three days straight, making camping a trial. The shows themselves are positive. It’s a ridiculous schedule, in which I must get up at 4am to make a 7am flight for a 2pm performance at Lorne. (see: Summer Festivals Diary)
Enjoy a brilliant set at Marion Bay Falls in which the whole crowd sing along with “Riding around on the 86.” Each day I’m coming to terms with what a blinding success this year has been. I have to keep reminding myself to enjoy it. On New Years Eve I am completely exhausted and asleep by 12:15am. A fitting end to a big year.
Find myself on a charter jet at 9am sitting next to Washington. Fly to Perth for Soundwave Festival. After my ride from the airport leaves without me I bunk with members of Middle East. I’m despondent that I’m not even on the poster despite having more JJJ play than half the acts. Encounter UK oddity Beardyman who digs my stuff.
My Summer Festivals diary is published on Mess & Noise. It wins over the acid-bloggers, one saying I’m the “Gen-Y commentator it’s okay to like.” I pitch a music column called Treble Treble. I’m enjoying writing more and more.
Begin pole dancing rehearsals for the upcoming Tram Inspector video. It’s a great challenge and exercise, but I have trouble with my recently broken shoulder.
Play a flood benefit gig at the Hi-Fi bar. I am heckled into oblivion by 360’s underage fans. At a charity gig I’m donating my time for, it’s the worst crowd response I’ve ever received. I punish the crowd by playing new song ‘Mattress Protector.’
After yet more internal-attacks, I break up with Sabrina.
Amanda Palmer emails to say she loves ‘Northcote (So Hungover)’ and tweets that I am her “new hero.” She will come to my Adelaide Fringe show. It’s my first international celebrity fan.
Perform new show Wit-Bix at Adelaide Fringe. I am in a ramshackle, dusty building and do not have much fun. Sabrina is also performing in the same venue, making matters much worse. My show goes above-averagely. I experiment with more stand-up and less songs. I also include some challenging stand-up about Aboriginals and middle-class guilt. It divides the crowd. The closest thing I have to a groupie is a man chatting me up.
Meet Amanda Palmer. She’s a strong, spirited presence. I watch in awe as she attracts people wherever she goes.
On the final night of a morose Fringe, Sabrina and I get back together. Our comets collide and fuse. We decide the best thing for our relationship will be to move in together.
Perform on Melbourne Comedy Festival Gala for the first time. I want to play ‘Trishine’ but the idea is rejected. I perform ‘Musical Clearance Sale.’ My set on the night is solid but sleep deprived. When it goes to air I’m dismayed to find four jokes sliced out of it.
Perform on Adam Hills Gordon St Tonight. I am asked to choose a classic Australian song to cover from a list. After opting out of ‘They Took The Children Away’ I go with ‘Calypso’ by Spiderbait.
Begin using my $13K of Vic Rocks funding to develop a new website and make a music video for ‘Tram Inspector.’ I budget for pyrotechnics.
After reading a dismissive review of Wit-Bix, I have a dream where I am flying along while people throw eggs up at me. Eventually I land on a house and try to throw eggs back but no-one is there. The backlash I’ve waited years for has arrived.
Perform Wit-Bix at Trades Hall in Melbourne. I enlist the Awkwardstra, despite them only performing two songs. Numbers are great but reactions are mixed. My song satirising stand-up seems to tank every night and comes across more mean-spirited than intended, but everyone loves my cat in the litter tray. There are a lot of new fans coming to on the back of Northcote. I probably should play it, but don’t. (see: Wit-Bix Psychological Analysis)
After many delays, we shoot the ‘Tram Inspector‘ video on a Sunday, three quarters through the Wit-Bix season. The timing is terrible. After sleeping in a hotel in the city I only manage four hours sleep. The video has been logistically more challenging than ‘Northcote,’ with a set featuring a working strippers pole built from scratch. We shoot for eight hours until 7pm and I then dash off to perform my sixth show in a row.
My Spicks & Specks episode goes to air. It’s a good comedy box to tick. I don’t get many comments from friends, who I assume have given up on me.
Frankie publish a piece about my relationship with Indigenous Australians. I wrote the piece over a year ago, but it has been on the back burner for some time. Consensus is it’s better than my stand-up attempt. The letters of response are highly mixed. White people from Alice Springs are offended by it while Indigenous folks seem chuffed. (see: black/white)
Sabrina and I survive living together. She starts singing with me on my serious songs. We go under the name Catboy.
Read Freedom by Jonothan Franzen. He’s my favourite writer since Dave Eggers.
Josh Earl has his first son, Oliver. The thirties hit home.
Get the figures back from Melbourne Comedy Festival. I sold an impressive 2500 tickets and grossed $33K, but am dismazed (amazed and dismayed) to see most of it go towards paying people/things back, including last years tour. In combination with the royalties I lost through Shock, it leaves a rather bad taste.
Record and release ‘Leaving My Hairdresser.’ It’s the first song under the name ‘The Bedroom Philosopher & His Awkwardstra.’ Despite being a live favourite it does little. Most critics point out it’s not as funny as Northcote. Start to become paranoid that no-one will dig my songs unless they’re flat out comedy.
Record another segment for Collectors about Online Shopping.
Start planning a new album. It will be called ‘Man’ and have a loose theme of modern masculinity.
Stage a fundraiser gig at Thornbury Theatre. What starts as a vague theme of a High School Assembly soon turns into a super show. After working on it for two months, I curate a variety night in which I play several characters joined by a rock eisteddfod routine from Bron Batten and a school band in Sex On Toast. Tripod, John Safran and the DC3 are all special guests. Sabrina and I recreate Lionel Ritchie’s ‘Hello‘ video, with me playing the blind girl and Sabrina playing the creepy teacher.
Guest host with John Safran on Triple J Breakfast.
Stage the High School Assembly. It’s a whopping success, aided by a publicity trifecta in an Age article, Triple R Breakfast and Triple J breakfast. There’s an amazing sense of spirit, nostalgia and community in the room. Towards the end the crowd are throwing paper planes at the band. Afterwards, someone leaves a box for me containing nothing but a pair of mens underpants with a lipstick mark and a phone number.
Take part in the Freeza mentoring program. I am paired up with a young musician to impart my advice. I find I have rather a lot to impart.
Find first hate group on Facebook. “Bedroom Philosopher. What a dick.” Has 20 members. After some investigating I find it is by the mentally unstable ex-girlfriend of one of my mates.
Become increasingly anxious about social networking and the invisible eyes of the Internet community judging me. Success continues to be much harder to grasp than failure.
Buy a new guitar. Kelly is ten years old and is officially worse for wear. After guitar shopping I fall in love with a 2011 Martin DCPA1. I name it Elvis. I use the money from the Thornbury Theatre fundraiser. It was meant to fund the next album, but this goal feels further and further away.
Embark on a single tour. I decide to be my own support act, performing my serious songs under the name Catboy. I go in a disguise of no glasses and a moustache. It’s incredibly confusing for the audience. The BP set is mostly older stuff, including In Bed With My Doona numbers including a revised Folkstar with a Gaga-esque doona mu-mu and pillow papal hat. The tour isn’t a pleasant one and soon burns me out. My Melbourne show comes after little sleep and has me at my craziest for years. Across the shows there are many wild outbursts, made up rants and removal of clothing.
Perform in Hobart at the Republic. On a cold Friday with hardly any payers, I hit the stage at 11pm with a drunk woman heckling. I explode, at one point letting the mic smack to the ground in a complete absence of care for the audience. I make security kick the woman out. Her son walks over and bottles me. In this case he places a bottle on the stage with a note in it. On the back of a ticket for The Beards is written: YOURE A SELF-ABSORBENT POST-MODERN CUNT. A part of The Bedroom Philosopher dies.
While in Brisbane I give an interview to the Conversation Hour with Richard Fidler. He’s a swell man who knows musical comedy and really digs my stuff.
Someone on YouTube writes: “WHY CAN’T YOU BE MORE POPULAR so I can find illegal youtube videos of your songs… Not that I don’t wish you to succeed.”
Support DC3 at the Corner. It’s one of my better sets, despite the new guitar’s complex sound system angering the sound guy. I am bewildered. How can a $4000 guitar sound shit?
Quit alcohol once and for all. Hangovers pollute my stream of consciousness to a level I can no longer afford.
Plans for the new album crumble after I don’t get an Australia Council Grant. My heart is set on recording at Sing Sing with Chris Scallan at the helm, but the realities are far too expensive. The single tour hasn’t pulled in enough money, so I delay the album until after next year’s Comedy Festival. It’s the second time the album has been placed on hold and I worry about losing momentum. Nature Boy Hazel becomes particularly restless.
Take a holiday. Sabrina has work in New York, so I gad over for three weeks. On a whim, it turns out Amanda Palmer won’t be staying in her penthouse apartment in Park Slope during that time, so we crash there. For a boy from Burnie it is surreal and sublime. Highlights include witnessing Occupy Wall St first hand and seeing Iron & Wine with a 20 piece band (the band are onstage, not with me.) The holiday soon turns into a working one as (for some reason) I decide to make a video for a ’12 Days Of Christmas’ parody single. Emails ensue.
Become a full blown workaholic. Checking email first thing in the morning, fifteen times during the day and last thing at night. My life slips into its highest gear and accelerates beyond measure. I am an achievement machine, relentlessly transferring from one project to another.
Record ’12 Days Of Christmas’ parody with Chris Scallan. I decide to add some other songs and make it an EP. It feels good to be recording something again.
Shoot video for ‘12 Days Of Christmas‘ with Carlo Zeccola. The brief is Late Show’s ‘Pissweak World’ meets David Lynch. The ambitious clip contains hundreds of props, handled by a professional props maker from ABC3. Amusingly, Bonds bring out an artsy version of the song sung by Jack Ladder. (see: The Bedroom Philosopher VS Jack Ladder)
Unlike my previous two videos, Rage don’t make it Indie Of The Week due to its PG rating. (Caused by a scene of me dressed as Santa pointing a gun at women.) It receives little coverage. The first Facebook comment is: “you have too much time on your hands.” It seems a fitting statement in a year of post-Northcote decline and Bedroom Philosopher fatigue.
Start work on my first book. It will be a collation of tour diaries. The idea comes after writing 12, 000 words for the Songs From The 86 Tram tour diary. I team up with local designer / publisher Stuart Geddes who owns a Risograph. I have a great time crafting it and wonder if I shouldn’t concentrate on writing full-time.
Perform Tuesday residency at the Northcote Social Club. It’s a fantastic run, with Oliver Clark jumping on board as Jazz Santa and Sabrina wooing the ladies as Ethnic Elf. I line up a string of local choirs as the support acts.
After 150 hours of debate, in the dark of night, I come crawling to Twitter.
Spend Christmas at home. Check out the Wynyard Christmas Parade which features a woman dressed as a golliwog. Sabrina joins me and we cap off a victorious year.
Perform at Amanda Palmer & Neil Gaiman’s Trash Masquerade ball. After a colossal schedule, I have little in the tank. It’s a wild night and my set goes fine. Sabrina and I are dressed as white trash clowns and perform a rousing rendition of Seal’s ‘Crazy.’ Meeting Neil Gaiman is a thrill and he says he enjoyed my book. While he is performing, two American dudes behind me are talking loudly about which Neil Gaiman book is their favourite. I turn around and snap at them “you’re talking over the real Neil Gaiman!” They say they “don’t appreciate the attitude.” I want to go home.
Support The Dresden Dolls on a five date national tour. After a year of playing to fifty nervous people, it’s outstanding to play to 1000 goths and steampunks in sold out theatres. The Sydney show at the Enmore is filmed by Moshcam and streamed around the globe. I manage to do a good show. In Melbourne I play with the band at a packed out Forum Theatre. I rise to occasion and get a rise out of the audience. Gordo is ill with nerves. Adelaide are very drunk and rowdy and Amanda is presented with two creepy dolls of herself. My goth material does not go down well in Perth. I’m reminded how much I dislike hawking merch after the show. The tour is a key booster shot of confidence. It’s invigorating to bask in Amanda Palmer’s insatiable energy and self-belief. She is a generous rockstar, introducing me each night and providing backing vocals. Meanwhile, I hear that on the Arctic Monkeys tour, they haven’t said hello to their supports.
Release The Bedroom Philosopher Diaries. It’s a hands on affair, literally. We collate it by hand. I consider it a ‘training book’ and post it out to all publishers and local bookstores, keen to build my profile as an author. Neil Gaiman, who read Amanda Palmer’s copy, offers me a quote. Even Megan Washington says “that dude is funny.” A Tasmanian comedian describes it as “sad” and a fan says she enjoyed it but wishes I was “happy more often.” The book is well received, although some find the blue ink hard to read.
Launch book at Trades Hall. I’m keen to subvert the usual book launch fare and do everything other than just read from my book. I put together a bumper program, with interpretive erotic dancing, a choir reciting poetry and a half hour conversation with myself while eerily painted as the Ultimate Warrior, (my favourite WWF wrestler.) The night goes well and I sell 35 books. Martin from Affirm Press says I should have sold more and suggests it’s because I put on ‘too much of a show.’
Remind self never to try.
Continue to prepare for a ten show run of High School Assembly at the Forum Theatre for Melbourne Comedy Festival.
Write new song Recycling – a cheesy 80’s educational rap song which will be performed in the High School Assembly. I spend hours on the net researching correct recycling techniques so I can make the rap as accurate and educational as possible.
Record Recycling with SPOD in Sydney. I’ve wanted to work with him for a long time, admiring his work producing Richard In Your Mind’s last album.
Choreograph my own dance sequence to ‘Recycling’, enlisting a cast of ten dancers to participate. We screenprint Tshirts, refashion a recycling bin into a talking character and design a Lady GaGaesque toilet roll dress for the recycling ‘queen.’
The audience don’t like it because it’s not funny enough.
Perform ten shows of The Bedroom Philosopher’s High School Assembly at the Forum Theatre in Melbourne Comedy Festival. Having had such a successful test run last year, I’m betting everything on this being a Keating!-esque hit. I’ve spent six months pouring hours and dollars into this unwieldy mammoth of a production. There is a cast of twenty and I have to hire a stage manager. I am producing my own independent musical, without insurance. Surely nothing can go wrong. The jewel of my artistic indulgence is recording an EP for one of the characters Luke Warm, who appears in the show only once. I print up 100 copies of his EP ‘Dad Come Back.’
Despite a publicist, the show receives virtually no press. The cruel irony is the one-off show in 2011 picked up an Age feature, JJJ and RRR breakfast spots, and so this year all three decline, saying they’ve just had me on. I am left to sell 4000 seats on the back of a music blog interview.
While I’m chuffed to make the super-show I wanted, onstage things are not as fun as they could be. Unlike the Thornbury Theatre version from the previous year, which played to a warm music crowd, the suburban comedy audience feel cold in the big space. It’s a completely different feeling which takes several shows to get the hang of. The Age gives it four stars while the Herald Sun give it two. I am dismayed when the audience are let out the side doors of the Forum, meaning they don’t walk past the merch stand. I have spent $2000 having signature hoodies made up. I sell $1000 worth of merch only to find we are being charged $1000 by the venue to sell merch. I feel unsupported by the venue and disheartened by comedy audiences and the scene in general.
An opportunity comes up to record with SPOD. He is house sitting for two weeks in a space with a studio. I drop everything, throw some songs together and record a forthcoming album. It’s a complete joy. SPOD is a bigger Beck fan than me and has a specific knowledge of the sound I’m going for. Our mission statement is to make the Australian Odelay. It’s the first time I’ve collaborated with a producer on songwriting. For some tracks, I have only lyrics and a melody, leaving SPOD to play his Moog and whip up a percussive frenzy. Having been obsessed with synths my whole life, I am like a kid in a toy shop, allowed to play with the authentic article. It’s too expensive to fly The Awkwardstra up, so I enlist my pals and favourite band Richard In Your Mind as the session musicians. We leave the album as twelve rough mixes, with intention to finish it off after I am paid out by Comedy Festival.
Receive financial (nervous) breakdown from Comedy Festival. We sold 1200 tickets, (1100 less than last year) and considering the astronomical venue hire ($17000 for ten shows), it turns out I’ve lost several thousand dollars. To my horror I realise that I can’t pay the cast as promised, nor do I have enough money to finish my album, or pay my debts, or live.
Remind self never to try.
Experience Personal Financial Crisis. I have two maxed credit cards, two outstanding loans from friends, an outstanding Tour Diary balance and no income whatsoever.
Part ways with my manager Anthea. It is an amicable decision. Despite excellent and good-hearted efforts, The Bedroom Philosopher has become too stressful an operation for both of us.
Assessing my money woes, I throw a bunch of gigs together, fully aware that I haven’t been enjoying playing live lately. I book a residency at the Wesley Anne in May and an Ebook tour of the East Coast in September.
Meet with Affirm Press who are keen to put out the Ebook of The Bedroom Philosopher Diaries. Martin asks me if I have any ideas for another book. On the spot, I decide someone should write about what it’s like to be an artist in Australia. He agrees.
Put wheels in motion to secure my first book deal. I have the sense that I’ve been trying to steer the ship of my life away from live performing and towards writing for some time. I must prove to Affirm that I have what it takes to complete a whole book. This involves a lot of trial and error.
After two months of back and forth, I put together a chapter outline and three test chapters that Affirm are satisfied with.
Sign my first book deal. It will be a self-help meets a confessional. My own story interspersed with interviews with other artists.
Perform a residency at the Wesley Anne in Melbourne. As Nature Boy Hazel is overseas, I strip the band back so that new member Donny Maracas is on bass, with Mad Dog Rabinovici on drums. The three piece feels much more manageable and suits the ‘tougher’ sound of the new album. Crowds are healthy with two of the shows going off. The first show is a dour affair, with my vulnerable state sinking under pressure. A fan messages me to say she came away from the gig feeling sad. I really shouldn’t be outside the house.
Go on mission to find a manager. I want someone experienced who can focus on the overall direction of my career. After ‘testing my brand’ with the few agencies who will meet me, I conclude that I’m not worth that much. “Have you tried the UK?” is one response. “You sound really down. I just want to give you a hug,” is another.
A music manager explains publishing to me. He says it’s not uncommon to approach Mushroom, who may offer $20, 000 for your publishing rights. I have a meeting with Mushroom who like the new album. This feels like the golden ticket out of my financial woes.
Pour myself into my book. Embark on an epic mission to interview over fifty artists. It’s a good exercise to reach out to other artists and find out what’s been happening with them. It’s cathartic to remind myself that everyone is struggling in their own way (while assuming I’m kicking arse.) I have the feeling of rising from the wreckage of The Bedroom Philosopher and piecing myself together through writing – an emotional audit, if you will.
After being completely overwhelmed by interviews, I put a call out for volunteers to help transcribe them. To my amazement, over twenty people offer their services, some typing up two or three. It’s a touching moment and a reminder of the wonderful fans I have.
Embark on East Coast tour of Australia. Forced to be my own manager, I do all the publicity for it, scoring the cover of MX in Sydney and a Courier Mail feature in Brisbane. It’s a good feeling to know I can still take care of business. The beauty of the three piece Awkwardstra is we can all fit in one car. The tour is hit and miss, with some unnecessary stopovers in Gold Coat and Wollongong. Canberra and Katoomba are highlights and I’m reminded that Brisbane is my biggest following outside Melbourne. Sydney is a pain in the arse as usual – expensive venue, indifferent audience who claim they can’t hear the lyrics over the band. I have the distinct sense of pushing shit up a hill. After doing the sums it’s no surprise that the tour doesn’t quite break even. The main point of it was to make money.
Spend the months from October through December writing the first draft of my book. After a ten year round trip, for the first time in my life I am a full-time writer. It feels right.
Slip into a set routine where I do exactly the same thing everyday. Write, yoga, lunch, write, run, dinner, worry about my unfinished album.
See two of my musical heroes, Beck and Radiohead, within a week. This is the first time I’ve seen either of them live. For Beck, I am front and centre at Harvest. I’m so nervous I get Sabrina to make sure my hair is okay. Beck performs a perfunctory set, and I love the sound. Radiohead blow everything out of the park.
The forthcoming album is put on hold, indefinitely. I don’t have the money to finish it. I consider a Pozible campaign, but am wary to taking on too much. The Bedroom Philosopher has been going flat out since 2009 and it seems like the right time to disappear for a while.
Spend Christmas Day home alone, writing. After a meltdown year, I feel like I’m living on the edge of my new self. It’s exciting.
Spend New Years Eve home alone. I stare out at the fireworks in the distance from my window. I sense a glimmer of hope.
Get the notes back from the 82, 000 words of my first draft. They aren’t great. The bottom line is while there’s some great material, there isn’t enough narrative or purpose to hang it on. I am dismayed, but determined.
Perform at Port Fairy Folk Festival. It’s a very well organised festival with curious middle-aged audiences who insist on sitting in camping chairs and discouraging dancing “in front of the stage.” These are my first gigs without my glasses and I’m a little nervous. Highlight includes getting a witches hat and putting it on a teenage boys head and declaring him the “prince funk wizard of dance.” The band performs a cover of Beck’s ‘Loser’ with Rusty from Scared Weird Little Guys.
Dare Sabrina into doing a Melbourne Comedy Festival Show. It is my first time directing, and I work intensely with Sabrina on the show ‘Body Poet.’ Our excellent working relationship develops, though it is a challenge for me to dedicate myself to two projects.
Spend January – April working on the second draft. It’s just me, the computer and the F$#%ng buzzsaw guy next door.
The manuscript is handballed to a new editor. This means I will receive more intense, one on one treatment. For someone who has always been their own boss, this is an entirely new process for me.
The new editor delivers 17 pages of notes for my second draft. I read them on a Saturday night, by myself, in a beanbag while our awful neighbour plays a Black Sabbath DVD incredibly loudly. My book, in which I’ve poured my soul into, has been effectively ripped to shreds. It hurts.
Win The Wheeler Centre’s ‘Hot Desk Fellowship.’ It means I can go into the Wheeler Centre to write my third draft. I am excited about having a sense of ‘going to work’ each day and leaving the buzzsaws and deadshits of my Thornbury apartment.
Grow increasingly despondent with social media. I develop a syndrome of thinking of a gag, stewing over it, posting it, imagining people judging it, feeling anxious, checking the likes, assuming it’s bombed and deleting it.
Am contacted by the programmer of Woodford Folk Festival. She saw me at Port Fairy and is a big fan. I am elated to know that I’ve still got some pull. While I’m not intending to perform at Woodford until I finish my album, I’m able to use the contact to get Sabrina a gig. I realise from my years of self-managing I have become a decent agent, with real connections.
Embark on the third draft. I realise how invaluable it is to effectively have my own handbook (my editor’s notes) to finish a creative project. Being my first book, I am still intimidated and follow most of her suggestions word for word.
In my spare time, I continue to tear myself in half about the direction of my next album. I am unsure whether to release it as BP or under my own name – or whether to remove some of the ‘less comedy’ songs as per a recent manager’s advice. After emailing her again it seems as though the window is closed. I am relieved. It didn’t feel like the right match, and I am not prepared to go back into comedy, for now.
In June, I am commissioned to make two station ID’s for ABC2. The idea is that they give me a budget and I go off and make two music videos independently with my own crew. I elect to work with SPOD.
Appear on Adam Hills Tonight. Initially, I try to pitch my band and two new songs from the album, but they are both rejected for not being funny enough. I roll with new song ‘Nothing I Do Is Right‘ which was half-written as far back as 2005 and abandoned. I resurrect it mostly to play at my school gigs, but find it is now my new funniest song. It is a comedy song style which I no longer do. The TV spot goes very well.
Perform at the Students of Sustainability conference in a freezing tent in Launceston. I work up a parody of ‘Gangsta’s Paradise’ called ‘Hipsters Paradise.’ It is 16 years since I entered my high school talent contest with a parody of the same song called ‘Parklands Paradise.’
Continue to do gigs in schools through an agency. To my surprise, I do very well at a Catholic all girls school. I bring along a plastic ‘banana saver’ and at the Q&A at the end, am asked about it. “They’re great,” I reply. “They’re fifty cents at K-Mart, although sometimes the banana doesn’t fit properly and you have to bend it back.” I realise what I’ve said and as the room erupts in giggles, I drop a George Costanza style “I’m out!”
Attend my first writers festival in Byron Bay. I’d heard that writers are treated much better than musicians and comedians and the story checks out. I am put up in a lovely beach vista apartment with my own Brookfarm muesli rider. I appear on a couple of panels, doing battle for airtime with battle- feminists and playing to an audience of middle aged women. To the strains of Dave Graney, I improvise my own pole dance routine. I enjoy the taste of being a writer.
“Assist” the Greens party at their arts policy launch in Melbourne. I perform ‘I Don’t Know What I’m Doing With My Life’ along with interpretive dance and reveal of ‘Go Art‘ painted on my chest. I am touched when Christine Milne quotes the lyrics about Nan saying ‘you’ve chosen a hard path in life’ in her speech. It appears on the ABC news, though they pair my interpretive dance with footage of a banner falling on Christine during her speech, painting the affair in less favourable light. While the footage is perfect ‘social media bait’ I am in self-promotional shut down.
Fill in for Charlie Pickering at ‘Write Around The Murray Festival’ in Albury. I am on the bill with Poh Ling Yeow (Poh’s Kitchen). We hit it off.
Perform a set as part of Melbourne Writers Festival. I am interviewed on-stage by Dave Graney. It’s a surreal pairing which works well.
September marks a three-car pile up of stress. I am writing my third draft, while directing Sabrina in a Melbourne Fringe run of her new show and filming my station ID’s in Sydney. On one particular day I am forced to deal with last minute television contract wrangling, without a manager. It pushes me over the edge. I write in my diary “I can feel the stress physically manifesting itself in my stomach.”
The ABC2 station ID shoot goes well. We knock both videos over in a day, and are allowed to shoot in the ABC green screen studios, which is a huge help. Keeping with tradition, I manage only three hours sleep the night before, while staying in a hotel. (The exact same thing happened for the Tram Inspector shoot). I figure this will suit my withdrawn sad vibe on ‘Difficult Second Channel’ and unhinged weirdo mode on ‘ABC2 Rap.’
In a defining moment of my overworked emotional state and long-time unrest with The Bedroom Philosopher and live performances, I have my ultimate meltdown gig at the Wesley Anne. I am headlining their 10th birthday anniversary, performing solo to some rowdy drunks and wide eyed hipsters. I do not have the energy or will to fight with the distractions, and go into ‘proto-rockstar-aggressor’ mode. This backfires, and I come across as bitter. After an abortive version of ‘Tram Inspector,’ which ends with my standing on one leg and crashing into the drumkit, the sound-guy cuts my mic. I am effectively kicked out of my hometown venue, at a gig I am headlining. It is surreal.
Hand in the third draft in October. It gets the royal thumbs up. It seems I’ve finally nailed it. After toying with ‘Don’t Give Up Your Dream Job’ we settle on the title ‘Funemployed.’
Experience intense stomach pains. I go to the local GP, she prods around and says she has no idea what it is and sends me off again. I begin to notice my stomach changing. I often feel bloated after eating food and am able to eat less.
Become increasingly depressed in my apartment. From the neighbour next door with his loud gaming speakers and penchant for Evanescence, to the new girls downstairs who have decided to start practicing for their minimalist rock band, to the street noise from the pizza place next door to the metal ambience of the industrial cutzone outside my window, it is a sonic onslaught which I am not able to deal with. I have the dispiriting notion of having no sense of inner peace.
Centrelink ramp up their campaign. I am now required to go in once a week and pretend to look for work. I emotionally survive by taking along my digital recorder and recording my experiences. I plan to use them on my next release, to accompany the book.
My debts are out of control. I’m effectively paying off two credit cards, plus two personal loans off the income of Centrelink and the odd gig. It is a constant, underlying stress from which I cannot escape.
After a consistent twelve months, Sabrina and I start to unravel. We are a workaholic power art couple with amazing communication but no space.
We move to Sydney to live in her Dad’s granny flat, rent free. I am ready for a break from Melbourne and have a sense of being in a rut, and of being too comfortable (or self conscious).
Have a send off at Trades Hall. Sabrina and I rock up early and dance to Beck’s Mutations on vinyl. It’s my highlight of the night and probably the year. For a man who has becomes increasingly neurotic about whether he is liked or not, it’s heartening to see a loving brigade turn-out.
Pack up our things, say g’bye to mates and move to Sydney. (Eighteen boxes of god knows what – and that was just what we take to the opshop.) Items we must part with include ‘Grills’ – our stuffed toy gorilla daughter. In one haunting incident, we return to the op shop with more goods only to find ‘Grills’ glaring at us from atop a pile of junk.
Sydney is sunny and lovely, as it happens. It’s good for my stress levels.
Spend the first two weeks renovating the unit. We are allowed to choose the paint colours, and opt for yellow, turquoise, pink and sky blue. I’ve never house-painted before and it’s an excellent antidote to staring at my own words all year.
Notice how freaking expensive Sydney is. Most organic foods are $5 more, for no apparent reason. I realise it’s a case of ‘rent tax.’ Even the local swimming pool is $6.70 with no concession, and 40 cents for the shower – a system I hadn’t seen in place since 1995. (By contrast, Fitzroy pools are $2.50 concession, free shower.)
My stomach condition worsens. I have all the symptoms of a stomach ulcer, and now experience a sharp pain in my lower left abdomen after eating. My Sydney doctor gets straight onto it, with a series of tests and scans. I take a stomach-acid blocker called Nexium to ease the discomfort. It seems as though I have lost 5kg, which concerns everyone. The doctor makes the tactful remark “If you were older I would have said it was cancer.”
MC Canberra’s battle of the bands at the Royal Theatre. I play to 200 bemused teenagers in a venue built for 20, 000. After doing my ‘mouth over the mic’ trick in ‘Nothing I Do Is Right’ I am chastised by the sound dinosaur for violating the venue’s hygiene policy. “I’m a comedian!” I bark at him. He sprays Glen 20 in my direction and walks off.
Begin management talks with Peter Bayliss, an old colleague from my Canberra days. He has always been supportive of my career and is keen to manage me. I am keen to be managed.
Realise that handing in a book means handing it in about ten different times. I am in a perpetual state of fine tuning. My endless rabbit hole of interview subjects continues, and Sam Simmons marks my final interview in late November (roughly the 120th interview since I began). I enjoy the editing process immensely, and the book continues to be the one thing that my heart is truly in.
Realise the bad thing about moving is I’ve lost my local café, hairdresser and counsellor. During this stressful time, I’m unable to organise seeing a new one. I pour my anxieties into my diary and a daily routine of meditation and exercise. I am accepting that my ulcer has been caused by stress and may have caused permanent damage. It’s a huge wakeup call.
Put in an application for ABC’s Fresh Blood initiative. I will team up with friend Nikos Andronicos, who I wrote with on Ronnie Johns Half Hour. I adapt a sketch from Lime Champions called ‘Crazy Bastards.’ It’s a parody of Mad Men set in mid 80’s Australia. It’s an idea so good that just telling people about it usually has them pissing themselves. It’s a frenetic period, as I write the application and make ‘final, Final (final)’ book updates right up until Dec 20, when I’m due to go home to Tassie.
Fly home for Christmas. I am in a stressed, weakened, agitated state. It’s not an ideal time to be around two uptight women I’m very related to.
Return home to Sydney on New Years Eve at 8pm. Conrad from Richard In Your Mind invites me to a house party. I haven’t been to one in years, and am glad for the escape. Despite my dodgy stomach, I slam down some beers and Frangelico and have a damn good time. Sydney kids feel welcoming and less cliquey than Melbourne. It’s at Joe from Belles Will Ring’s house, and when I meet him I am able to pull out a quote he said from an interview I read about their career being like an old wooden roller coaster. He is in awe at my ‘Rain Man’ esque abilities. “That interview was special because roller coasters mean a lot to us,” he tells me. I’m proud to make such a unique connection with another artist. My intense year of research has put me in good stead. It has been a roller coaster of a year. It has been a tough year. I have a feeling next year will be better. Lighter. More fun?