Tuesday, 11 August 2009

Interview with Tim Minchin

Tim Minchin is an award winning Australian, singing, piano playing, comedian. After performing his show ‘So F**king Rock’ around the world, he’s back with a new tour called ‘Ready For This’. He’ll be offending and entertaining even more people with his songs on religion, sex, death and more. You may be wondering why we interviewed a comedian rather than a rock band like usual. The simple answers is that Tim; looks like a rock star, sings like a rock star, plays piano like a... rock star, and is eye wateringly hilarious! Any of his songs stand up to any ‘serious’ music out there and with his new tour lined up to start in September, Tim’s asking ‘Are You Ready For This?’

Are you looking forward to touring the UK again?

Yeah I am, very much actually. It’s been a little while and when I don’t perform for awhile I get the feeling that... it’s ridiculous, my job and that I don’t know how to do it. You sort of get disconnected from the person you are on stage so any length of time not being on stage I find really difficult. It’s been quite a while now so I'm desperate to just fucking get on with it. I really miss singing, I'm looking forward to singing again because my voice gets out of practise. For the ‘Ready for this’ tour we’re arking the show up a bit in terms of stupid lights and such which add a great deal to what I do. You could argue that I rely on it but I just really enjoy that pseudo-rock star nonsense, this tours a bit bigger than my previous one so we are gonna go a bit ape shit on that stuff.

Do you get the big tour bus now that you’re a rock star?

Haha we very briefly considered it, I think if I had a girlfriend or some girlfriends and my road manager was in my condition. We are taking full crew this time, it would almost be worth it, but my tour manager and I both have family so we try to get back to London every night we possibly can. I think I missed that stage, it’s kind of devastating although I never dreamed I’d get to that stage, and I think I’d fucking hate it as well, I think the idea of a whole load of people having fun every night after gigs would really annoy me. I like to get to sleep.

Why did you choose to live in London rather than Australia?

When I get asked that question in Australia it’s loaded with a slight accusation of desertion. London’s the capital of comedy in the world, and I got into comedy very late and I really thrust myself into it in 2005. I spent years in Australia having quite a fun career doing lots of different stuff; acting, composing and playing in different bands, but I was pretty poor and getting a little bit over the complete unpredictability of income and everything. So when I came to Edinburgh in 2005 I was having all these meetings with people saying fine here’s a DVD deal, ‘I'm a promoter and we’ll give you concerts’, ‘I'm an agent and want to represent you’ I said ‘Fuck, there’s my career’. But my wife has been my partner for years, since we were very young and she’s witnessed me banging my head against the industry doors for many years. So when one of the doors opened we didn’t hesitate at all really. Didn't even cross our minds that we were somehow deserting our cultural industry, we just went ‘fuck that’s where the work is, let’s go’.

You said ‘you wanted to get the comedy stuff off your chest before going back to serious music ‘ is that still the plan?

Yeah that was the plan. I’ve always written satirical or ironic songs compulsively. All these rock stars are generally middle class, that's why they can afford to be rock stars. And these people have the ability to turn that life into a poetical musical whinge. That ability to turn normal life into poetry is what's created the greatest artists ever. I seem to get half way to doing that before going ‘oh get your hand off it you idiot,’ and I start mocking myself. I was writing stuff for my band back in 2001 and it was pretty bad, just a demo album made in my lounge room, anyway that didn’t cut it. So I put all the comedy songs into more a cabaret style show. Then I’ll have these two careers in parallel rather than trying to make them all one. Then of course the comedy just completely overwhelmed everything else and it actually suits me hugely. From playing keyboards in bands in pubs to ten people, I’m now playing grand pianos to 1500 people and for me there’s no credibility lost in writing satirical music. My songs are still well constructed or, dare I say it, better constructed than a lot of pop music out there. I still get to sing about what I want and do what I fucking want.

You start very nervously in the live shows, why is this?

I'm having to re-examine that right now because that material from ‘So Fucking Rock’ I'm still using on tour because I wrote it just before I recorded that DVD. And suddenly now that ‘So Fucking Rock’ has been on tele there are 160,000 people that have seen that material so I need to change it. I’ve been doing a bit of writing, and I’ve always started very uncomfortably in all my shows long before ‘So Fucking Rock’. Generally I've always started with a big intro plus a song so that's it’s just quite an intense theatrical experience, then I tend to do a bit of vanity playing so everyone knows what we’re doing. I've always found it works to go from this intensely controlled theatrical opening to being completely uncomfortable and stumbling. The whole idea that I'm bad at starting is obviously just a choice, because it’s funny... I think. I don’t know whether ill come out and just be a bit more confident. I think for my character it’s very important that he stays a little bit nervous because what I do with the music is very high status at times, it’s very showy and preachy and big so it’s a good contrast in status. This disguise, acting like a rock star with the shirt open, comes back to going ‘anyway, I had this thought’ sort of thing rather than going ‘bah bah bah I'm the shit’.

Seeing you live undoubtedly adds to the experience, are there any more DVDs set to come out?

Well the show I'm touring now I just taped in Australia, I'm not sure if it’ll come out in the UK though. I have a huge problem with live comedy DVDs, I don’t watch them myself. Comedy is about the atmosphere, it’s about sitting in an audience where consciously or not everyone has committed to having a fun night. You can watch any comedy show in the world, the greatest comedians of all time, you could watch any comedian, anyone, and not laugh, you don’t have to laugh. Without the commitment to enjoy it you're not going to have a good time. It’s like watching a magic show, if it was in your lounge it’d be shit. Once stuff is on DVD I think it becomes much more an examination of the material at a distance that doesn’t work the same way. Having said that I think its brilliant that people can get souvenirs, it’s best if they see a live show first but either if they can’t see it live or they've been and want to remember it then they’re brilliant things to have.

You wrote a song about Phil Daoust (Guardian newspaper journalist) did he ever get back to you?

Haha no, poor Phil. I worry about Phil, I'm sure he doesn’t care. But, it was very important to me that I used his name, not because I wanted to hurt him but because it’s shocking. Even though people had never heard of him just the knowledge that it’s actually a person and I'm actually saying ‘I want to make his children watch him eat his own face meat’ is sort of funny. And the fact that I'm so angry to become murderous about a stupid review is quite funny, because it’s so pathetic. I thought about changing the name but it wouldn’t have worked. People have got to go away and go ‘god, he wrote about a real guy’. I don’t think he’s necessarily heard the song, he did comment on it. Someone told him when I first started performing it and he said ‘oh it’s nice to be remembered’ and all that sort of bullshit. It would be a pity if he was upset by it, I would understand and if he rang me up and said ‘you’ve had your revenge, can you stop playing that now’ I would. But it’s just part of my show now, and people find it very funny.

What kind of music do you normally listen to?

To be honest I don’t, which is terrible. About once a month I go ‘fuck, you must listen to more music’ and I fail. I listen to classical music in the car, jazz if I have people over. Every now and then with my iPod if I run out of science podcasts or nerdy podcasts, I either play some disco song to make me feel happy or just have a listen to something new. I spent the last two months writing a musical and if they’re not in my head I prefer it to be silent. I need to leave space because if I'm writing a children’s musical I don’t want too much punk in my head or whatever. I know that's really un-cool. I had to write that ‘what's on my iPod’ article and I just made it all up.

You can catch Tim Minchin around the UK between September and October, and if you can’t make it his DVD ‘So F**king Rock’ is available from HMV stores and at HMV Online.

Damon Fowler
Comfort in Sound

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