Ian "Marvin" Graye's Reviews > 1001 Australian Nights

1001 Australian Nights by Dave Graney
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Feb 26, 2011

it was amazing
bookshelves: muse-ik, cul-poli-phil-art, reviews, read-2011, reviews-5-stars
Read in August, 2011

Beat Surroundings

Dave Graney is the hippest, noirest, most delusional, fearless and hard-boiled musician on the planet.

He gobbles up the detritus of a century of pop and pulp culture and turns it into some weird shit that I can’t get enough of.

"1001 Australian Nights" collects short, easily digested snapshots of all of the phases of his career including the Moodists, the Coral Snakes, the White Buffaloes, the Dave Graney Show and the Lurid Yellow Mist.

He performs and writes with the precision and wit of his literary heroes, Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett.

His artistic vision, grit and timelessness should be recognised as at least the match of better-known Australian bands such as the Triffids, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, the Saints and the Go-Betweens.

More Clare

What should also be recognised is his relationship with his wife, drummer Clare Moore, who has played a vital role in shaping the music of his bands and preserving his sanity or whatever we should call his state of mind.

There would have been no Bogart without Bacall.

Radio Graye

This is an edited version of an “interview” I did with Dave Graney on the radio station of my mind.

As much as I love the man, my job was to stay out of the way as much as possible and let him riff in his own words (all of which derive from his book and not the radio station of my mind).

My apologies to Dave and his publisher if they take offence.

My apologies to you for the artifice.

Dave Graney on Air

DJ Ian: Thanks for coming on the show, Dave.

Dave Graney: Thanks for having me, though I don't feel like I've been had...yet.

DJ Ian: Ha ha, that's probably a good note to start on. It’s hard to tell whether you’re being serious or funny in your music. Were you like this when you were growing up? Maybe even a bit of a smart-arse?

Dave Graney: I’d cottoned on to the fact that there was an unease around serious matters in our scene. As a kid, I’d delighted in saying the wrong things, really dragging them out. I loved transgressions.

DJ Ian: So you liked taking the piss?

Dave Graney: Putting people on was an hilarious, giddy dead end. A wall. A cliff. Later, as a musician, I took this to be my attitude, my modal sense. Only I was actually in a scene that had grown real conservative and square.

DJ Ian: What was life like growing up for you?

Dave Graney: My mind was in knots as I tried to figure out how people lived as themselves, in all the different situations that life demanded. I was confused. Were you the same to people at work as at parties? I thought you should be. I thought that people were really themselves away from work or school and I didn’t want to be in any phoney situations. I wanted to have a grand, unifying, plangent self and I wanted it to be in action. In full effect. I got what I wanted, sometimes – buried deep inside a Music Life.

DJ Ian: How did living in Mt Gambier prepare you for a life in music?

Dave Graney: I always laughed when I read about rock musicians being dangerous or wild! All the posturing chumps who ever tried that on were nothing to the heroic, swaggering, the driving and boozing, the prodigious intake of smoke, pills and liquid we’d lived in Mt Gambier, South Australia…These private school pipsqueaks with their money from home! Ha! Nothing!

DJ Ian: You grew up in pool halls and pubs.

Dave Graney: I loved pool halls. They were full of aimless lairs who acted large and talked loud and wore great clothes…Guys playing Kelly pool and kidding each other all day while other people worked. It wasn’t like the football club where it was all about physical power and holding your grog like a bloke. These guys were all shifty. They all had these elaborate, mock gags they would throw out all day. “What are ya…” to anyone in the general vicinity. “Robbed”, as the other player missed a sitter of a shot…It was all a put-on. Shittin’ on the world.

DJ Ian: Still Mt Gambier couldn’t hold onto Dave Graney.

Dave Graney: I wanted desperately to get away from the past and into the lean, flat future that yawned enormously all around me, just so I could breathe a little easier. I had stuff on my mind. Big stuff. I was young and firing on all cylinders. My gaze was piercing and fearless. I could see for miles. The aperture wasn’t at all wide though. It was intensely narrow, in fact…I was unbalanced and out of focus. I was sniffing the wind, picking up the buzz of punk rock in the air. I wasn’t taking the highway to university. I was heading somewhere else, on the side roads.

DJ Ian: You sound like you were still pretty naïve when you first went to places like Melbourne and Sydney.

Dave Graney: As I sat in the lounge of that crash pad in Paddington and the people talked about the universe and existence itself out in the kitchen, I see myself as being unable to walk into other situations, other modes, other lives and sit down and engage with the forces of life as they ground on. I was aware of it too. I watched it all, including myself.

DJ Ian: You escaped and went on the road. Queensland, country New South Wales. What did you learn?

Dave Graney: Down at the bottom of New South Wales I stopped into the town of Eden and went to the pub. The people I saw were types I knew. Mad for it, drunken and stoned fishermen and working guys. Wild-haired surfers raging on beer and dope. Chicks in batik sarongs with flowing blonde locks and canvas shoulder bags…I was learning about timing…Time and space. Spatial awareness. How long you got? I had nothin’ but time. The space was something I never had to worry about. I had never had any. So I got to work on my timing.

DJ Ian: You got a band together when you first moved to St Kilda. How did you fit into that scene?

Dave Graney: We had no truck with the private-school-heroin-from-home scene that blew around us. That “Dogs in Space” crew. We had the funk. We were juice heads. Hardcore drinkers and players. We vibed on pre-rock’n’roll stuff. Hard-boiled crime writers and noir films being especially potent for me. They gave me a tone and a voice that I could tune into and approximate. I wanted to be hard-boiled. That way I could walk into the world.

DJ Ian: Who influenced you then?

Dave Graney: I loved music’s flamboyant, flaming and flashing ego-trippers like Alan Vega and Jerry Lee Lewis…

DJ Ian: Did you ever try to copy them?

Dave Graney: I couldn’t summon that kind of play myself. Not like that…Wisecracking and loose, that’s what I aspired to. Untouchable, unbreachable front. No one would ever get around it.

DJ Ian: And you brought these qualities to the music of the Moodists?

Dave Graney: We were going to happen. Bands have to be like that, they have to dive in. We dove into it all right. There was no detachment with us. We lived and breathed it. Incredibly creative at first, we wrote and played and dismissed and spun so much material it was dizzying.

DJ Ian: You sound like you discovered a new home or a family, being in a band?

Dave Graney: We each found ourselves within that spinning, uncontrolled, amorphic collective. Outside of it I faltered. Within it I grew a voice and some sense of self and balance that was new and strong. I had to forget a lot. Whereas things I couldn’t forget – the intense boredom of country life, the rank emptiness I knew to be so close to us all – I bought into it.

DJ Ian: You grew closer to your drummer, Clare Moore, during these times?

Dave Graney: We talked, and shared many attitudes. As we played song after song, over and over, we found ourselves staring easily at each other in the musty rehearsal rooms. Apparently I drank some cask wine out of her satin shoe one night at a party. Another night, in a familiar club, we kissed and went home together. We still do.

DJ Ian: And from there you went to London and lived in a squat recently vacated by the Go-Betweens?

Dave Graney: Two heroic boys, another fellow and a tall, feisty woman. They were back in Australia. There was a new act from Manchester all over the scene. They had a singer who wore jeans but threw gladioli about…

DJ Ian: Morrissey…

Dave Graney: Yes. The former tenants were certain this act had stolen all their licks…The Mancunians had already vaulted into the actual pop charts and left everybody else in the dust, arguing about the licks and the moves. It’s like that in show business. Victory goes to the strongest and only the strong survive.

DJ Ian: Show business?

Dave Graney: Show business, it’s a scrap for people’s attention.

DJ Ian: How did you find playing in the United States versus London?

Dave Graney: Our music, our style of performance, was much more at home in the States. We were for real…When we played in Europe my mind was full of all the dopey British war flicks and comic books I’d ever read. In America, my thoughts turned to all the crime books and pulp movies and, of course, the music.

DJ Ian: It wasn’t long before you got together a new band, the Coral Snakes. What sort of music were you creating around this time?

Dave Graney: Still dark, but since I’d learned how to shape the music, I’d gotten myself a voice that I could write for. I came out of the cave with some robes on.

DJ Ian: And then you got together the White Buffaloes and returned to London?

Dave Graney: The music was all Space Cowboy in nature. I was all hopped up on frontier juice…We thrilled to touring artists – and there were many – pulp thrillers, TV shows and movies. We identified. Must have been our upbringing and TV education. We had drunk in the best of Hollywood and all the post-war TV trash. It was our language. We were experts in it. We could tune into both Yankee and Teabag frequencies from three or four or more poles. From where we sat, People from Those Other Places had only their own caves from which to look out. We had copped it all.

DJ Ian: You got into the West Coast scene in a big way.

Dave Graney: I took a line from the Charlatans and Quicksilver Messenger Service and the general late 60s buckskin San Francisco move and ran with it as far as I could…I got excited by the way those original dandies from San Francisco seemed to open a portal between the 19th and 20th centuries. All the frontiers came back into focus.

DJ Ian: So it wasn’t just the music?

Dave Graney: The iconography of San Francisco psychedelia was heavy with Edwardian style. The clothes of the Charlatans and the ornate, decorative language of the old western buildings. Cowboys and Indians. Buffalo Bill and Sitting Bull. I started to branch out from reading pulp thrillers and writers of the 30s and 40s to seek out the pulp westerns many of the writers took a turn at to earn a dime…It was like wrestling I guess. If you tuned into it, you liked it. To outsiders, it was all schlock…I wanted to stand with all these characters as comrades and brothers. I wanted to make my own context.

DJ Ian: How did this fit into the rest of the music scene at the time?

Dave Graney: I really can’t remember what anybody else was doing on the wider scene. I never liked it, whatever it was, anyway.

DJ Ian: You were on your own trip?

Dave Graney: This dark, earthbound period, full of wild dreams of flight and escape, had given me a brace of even more fantastic illusions. All the show business of Custer and Hickok and co led me to great places. Places to think on and step into. My own eternal returning to Australia and then the Australias within that, country and city, artistic and brutal, gave me some weird notes to play around with.

DJ Ian: You compare yourself to Lenny Bruce.

Dave Graney: He once said that he was a bum and a loser as a showbiz comic because he could always make the band (who sat behind him, in the shadows) laugh, but not the people in the audience. He struck the notes the hipsters could hear but not the mugs, the punters.

DJ Ian: What about critics?

Dave Graney: I’ve never been one for the critics. I shit them.

DJ Ian: The Australian music industry gave you an ARIA award for Best Male Artist.

Dave Graney: King of Pop…The head of the ARIAs bitched the next day in the press about getting rid of the awards, because people like me were really “antiheroes”. Cool!

DJ Ian: You had a great band at the time.

Dave Graney: Clare and I had the plans and the codes. It really was like a fighting unit. Like Sgt Fury and his Howling Commandos. Those Yankee comic books always had some geezer in a kilt. Check. A handsome happy-go-lucky Tony Curtis type. Check. A strange, dusky, sparky. Check. A beautiful, yet tough and bruised female intelligence officer. Check. And a delusional, fearless lead singer. Thank you, comrades. We were invincible!

DJ Ian: And nice, different, unusual…

Dave Graney: A great songwriter in the 21st century is not a person with the gifts of melody or lyrics or a feel for the zeitgeist. It’s a person with the touch of the technology. The studio cats work the room. People can make any sort of sound into a hook. Even the most irritating and atonal squeak can be manipulated into an addictive shape…Rock’n’roll producers are pretty much turd polishers.

DJ Ian: I’d like to talk about your experience as an Australian rock’n’roll musician.

Dave Graney: To be American and play rock music is no real stretch. It’s all yours. The patois and the changes, they’re all natural. To be Australian and do it is to put on a mask. The accent and the modes. The British had this leap across the stage to make as well, but they also had their own music hall and folk traditions. For me, for us, it was a leap of shame in many ways. Especially in a game that saw the singer or actor as possessing some aspect of being “real”. Or “true”. Add to that the general self-effacing “she’ll be right” culture and it was a room full of problems. Australians loved their larrikins but shook their heads sadly as mug lairs came a cropper one after the other, trying just a bit too hard to jump out of their skin. Mug lairs were not cheered on, the crowd waited for them to be crushed. All Australian artists were, and are, mug lairs.

DJ Ian: Were you influenced by any other music?

Dave Graney: After punk rock, after we came in through the window and sat around, learning to play the guitar, we never really engaged with much else in the way of contemporary stuff for a long time…Because of the year zero vibe there was a lack of “roots”…The British went for roots by way of reggae and the Scottish reached for the Velvets and Creedence. On the Postcard label, the word was that Orange Juice were the first Velvets’ album and Josef K were “White Light/White Heat”. That was great shorthand. Massive, jumping codes.

DJ Ian: You were also heavily influenced by books and movies?

Dave Graney: At the same time, I’d started a lifelong habit of beachcombing old junk shops and second-hand bookshops. I never thought to look for anything in regular main street joints. I knew for the most part that the things I was looking for were not there. Writers, clothes and singers…I don’t know where my thing for pulp crime writers jumped up from. It must have been the search for some sort of artistic bedrock that involved reaching past that youth culture/hippie era to the late 40s, before all that greasy kid stuff took off. Jizz from an adult world is what I craved. The other school I went to was late-night TV. I was educated by all-night movies…From this, I started to look for the writers. Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett – the A list…James M Cain…

DJ Ian: What appealed to you about them?

Dave Graney: The drama of them all working for a living, pumping out the dime novels. And, especially, their experiences writing for the movies. They all seemed to be there at some point, getting drunk in a room and avoiding the typewriter…I had my head in this pulp world for a decade or more. I got my tone from those musty pages. The writers had the drama going on too. Those Black Mask boys were right there at the top of the charts in my world. Triple platinum! Sold out! Bad-ass brothers from other planets.

DJ Ian: What made you want to be a singer?

Dave Graney: I never wanted to be a civilian. I wanted to be a player. In the entertainment corps. Not in the infantry either, in the officer class. Lt Colonel, cavalry. I wanted the transitory, ephemeral moments. Walking onto a stage with people cheering you on, you feel so great and stupid. The songs and the words you pull from the chaos get a new life and come back at you with great new distortions. You feel ashamed to be so goofy…Of course, to be any sort of performer, you’ve got to be shameless…People might ask where is the shame in the applause and the cheers. The shame is the knowledge of what it took to get to that critical mass. That’s where all those burlesque licks come in. The mugging and the grabbing of the nuts. You’re in the mode of getting people’s eyes on you. And people’s eyes naturally wander.

DJ Ian: Well, on that note, I'll leave you with a track from 2005, "My Schtick Weighs a Ton". Thanks, Dave.

Dave Graney: Ah, good choice, Ian, "It's people, people got their schtick eyes on me."
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10/10/2017 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-28 of 28) (28 new)

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message 1: by Ian (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ian "Marvin" Graye Here is the review in the Age:

http://www.theage.com.au/entertainmen...


message 2: by Ian (last edited Aug 28, 2011 12:49AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ian "Marvin" Graye Dave speaks of the ephemerality of performance, being in a moment that won't last.

But at one of his shows at The Butterfly Club, he contrasted performance with creativity, at least creativity that resulted in a finished product like a CD or a book or a work of art.

Performance is ephemeral, but works of art could be eternal.

You could look and feel ephemeral, but create something eternal.

It's a concept that sits behind all art work, including the best literature, like "Ulysses" and "Lolita".

I wrote down Dave's exact words when I saw the gig, but unfortunately I have lost them somewhere.

They must have been intended to be ephemeral.

I have asked Dave what he said exactly, but he couldn't recall.

All he said was, "Yeah, it sounds like something I would say."

He might have been pulling my leg, though, his shows are word perfect, and I would swear he knew exactly what he said.

One day, I'm sure, I'll find out.

Then I'll make sure his actual words will be eternal.


message 3: by Ian (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ian "Marvin" Graye Now that I've finished the book, I've found a passage that juxtaposes "ephemeral" and "eternal", but it's not the same discussion I recall from the performance.

Anyway, this is the passage:

"I have decided I like rock music more than pop; it's more sophisticated. The discipline of pure pop is great but it ain't nothin' to crow about in general. It's just stuff that gets through somehow. I once saw a sign on a bookshop window attesting to the ephemeral nature of blockbusters and bestsellers as opposed to the eternal power of small prints and pamphlets. Those are the sheets that have blown the mind of generations, the hidden powers of obscurity and darkness."

I'm gonna keep looking, until I track this performance down, until I release my soul.


message 4: by Ian (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ian "Marvin" Graye Dave Graney 'n' the Coral Snakes - "I'm Gonna Release Your Soul"

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WJG6Lt...


message 5: by Ian (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ian "Marvin" Graye Dave Graney & The White Buffaloes - Robert Ford On The Stage (1989)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8zFzgJ...


message 6: by Ian (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ian "Marvin" Graye Bennet wrote: "Thanks I needed that, and wow. Could do without the creepy mustache, but wow."

I'm not sure which moustache you're talking about.

The one in the Robert Ford clip?

I like that one more than his current one:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f0JXYt...

Everybody used to have a moustache like that, now it's only racecourse spivs.


message 7: by Ian (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ian "Marvin" Graye Mariel, if you're watching, I put the Smiths bit in for you.


message 8: by Ian (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ian "Marvin" Graye Ha ha!

I'll stick with the spelling of the Handlebar Club:

http://www.handlebarclub.co.uk/index.php


message 9: by Magdelanye (new)

Magdelanye Ian wrote: "Now that I've finished the book, I've found a passage that juxtaposes "ephemeral" and "eternal",.."

In the spirit of reckless honesty, I am admitting that I haven't quite completed my reading of your review, but I started getting impatient to hear some of the music already and so Im glad I scrolled down and this is just to say thanks 1) for taking the time and effort of writing up all your reviews, and picking such interesting books. This seems like a great post-Ullysess romp and I had never even heard of this guy or these bands.
2) for a passage with ephemeral eternity
3) for Bennets comments
GR is acting up tonight or I would add more


message 10: by Ian (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ian "Marvin" Graye Thanks, M, I'm sorry if the interview got a bit boring or long-winded.
There were so many sections where I just wanted to say, "yes, yes, I know what you mean." I could have quoted the whole book, it was that appealing to me.


message 11: by Ian (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ian "Marvin" Graye M, a video from the Triffids that sometimes make me want to cry:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qUQyDf...


message 12: by Ian (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ian "Marvin" Graye My favourite Triffids song EVER!!!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aZSAqD...

No foreign pair of dark sunglasses..


message 14: by Ian (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ian "Marvin" Graye David McComb: I Want To Conquer You:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SoxGK_...


message 15: by Ian (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ian "Marvin" Graye The same song by Melanie Oxley with the Triffids:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ahDsjQ...


message 16: by Ian (last edited Aug 30, 2011 01:50AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ian "Marvin" Graye The Blackeyed Susans - Ocean Of You:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5L2PZT...

"I'm out of my depth in an ocean of you..."


message 17: by Ian (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ian "Marvin" Graye And from across the ditch:

The Mutton Birds - Anchor Me (UK version)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ULcX6S...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kPIhhq...


message 18: by Ian (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ian "Marvin" Graye Mutton Birds - Envy Of Angels - Ten Feet Tall

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Io8TMp...

I would rather be the envy of angels than ten feet tall...


message 20: by Velvetink (new) - added it

Velvetink Have to admit Dave's always been a snappy dresser.


message 21: by Magdelanye (last edited Aug 30, 2011 08:23AM) (new)

Magdelanye well Ian you have certaily livened up my morning. Glad you included link for Melanie and look what else I found, playing around,


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CJjrF1... and

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OgR_7m...

andI absolutely love Im gonna release your soul


message 22: by Ian (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ian "Marvin" Graye I had never heard of Rykarda Parasol before, but now I'm obsessed.

Here is another beautiful song about drinking:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LMnrFi...

The woman is Yukimi Nagnano of Little Dragon

It is my great regret that I didn't go and see the recent Gorillaz tour.


message 23: by Ian (last edited Aug 30, 2011 02:07PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars


message 24: by Magdelanye (new)

Magdelanye thanks for more links. I will check out when I an finished listening to the signal, the program I have mentioned maybe?
http://www.cbc.ca/radio2/thesignal/
I try to tune in most nights.

you may bless me for this.


message 25: by Ian (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ian "Marvin" Graye Enjoying the August 15 show now.


notgettingenough Wow, you've seen Dave at The Butterfly Club. Me too! I wonder if it was the same night!

I saw him do an amazing 'unplugged' at the West St Kilda RSL quite a bit earlier.

He fessed up to being obsessed with Perry Como at the time, but feeling like telling people was like telling them you were into internet porn, something you had to be stealthy about. He sang Seattle. Fantastic. Unfortunately the audience was full of 'Stuff White People Like' people, who talked right throught it, I guess they just wanted to be there so they could tell their Stuff White People Like friends they'd been there.


message 27: by Ian (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ian "Marvin" Graye I could probably work it out if you'd like to know.
Do you know when you went?
I had dinner with Dave on Thursday in Brisbane after his talk at the Gallery of Modern Art.
He gave me permission to quote the book in this review/interview.


message 28: by Ian (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ian "Marvin" Graye notgettingenough wrote: "the audience was full of 'Stuff White People Like' people"

I don't think they would get his schtick.

I love the way he is both street-wise and learned.

He has a huge intellectual curiosity that he is constantly feeding, then he feeds it back into his music so that we can feed ours.


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