To tell the story of Harry Manx would take several lifetimes, and hopefully a progression of life-form hierarchies over those lives to tell the story, because the story is so mesmerising and complex that we would not be very present and in the moment of most of those lives, and that could put the telling of the tale at risk as we would not be making gradual and continuous improvement as…
Harry Manx has already begun his 2016 Australian tour which will take him from Sydney down to Victoria (where he is on stage tonight, Friday 23 September in Frankston) then around to Queensland, South Australia, Perth and up to Broome and Darwin, ending in the beautiful, lovely, gorgeous, I-may-be-a-little-hereditarily-biased New South Wales locales of Katoomba.
Ah, Katoomba. If there’s a more intimate, special venue than Clarendon Guest House, I want it stuffed, mounted, and hung above my fireplace – or I at least want an invite to your venue if it can go close to kicking the Clarendon into a cocked hat. Or any poultry millinery for that matter.
So it’s a very eclectic path Harry treads, and look, I’d draw you a picture if I had a free hand, but imagine a much-twisted paper clip that’s been sitting on your desk all day on a slow Friday when you’ve been watching the clock since 9:36am – now you’re in the ballpark.
OR picture a moose that somehow wandered into your yard, found your sippin’ liquor in the shed, and is now making a bedraggled, loquacious, and somewhat winding stagger back to the forest by a circuitous route, two-thirds of it sideways.
Interview with Craig Coombes of Naked Tuesday dot me
This is an interview I did with Craig Coombes in 2013 at his home in Melbourne for a book I’ve been very slowly putting together on grief.
I’ll include the background of the interview and the book at the end, but since that conclusion will no doubt waffle on for quite a bit (much like the author), let’s dispense with that for now and first get to the subject matter and the man himself.
Craig Coombes received a terminal diagnosis of throat cancer in 2012. Instead of feeling sorry for himself and hiding away from the world, Craig chose a fairly unconventional way of expressing himself and what he was going through.
It’s an approach that’s resonated with thousands of others around the world via social media, and literally millions through his television appearances.
And happily, Craig is witnessing this as he continues to defy the medicos, batting on way past the initial prognosis of his existence.
I started by asking Craig where he was up to at that point, in August 2013.
It started with a diagnosis of laryngitis (as you can tell with this wonderful voice of mine!) Through not improving, and tests, tests, tests, it became, “Sorry, cancer”.
You hear that word, it does change your life completely.
The old thing is that ‘Cancer is a word, not a sentence’. Did they give you hope?
That day they pretty much said it’s a tumour on my vocal chord. And thyroid cancer.
So we’ll do the operation, you’ll have some treatment, and everything will be fine.
Ann Vriend is always a popular visitor to Australia at about this time every year.
The contrasts between frozen Alberta, Canada and sizzling Australia are rarely more stark than in January/February. So Ann can hopefully leave the tissues and cough syrup behind, and look forward to sandy beaches, dazzling coral reefs, and the inside of a string of popular Australian venues on her ‘For The People In The Mean Time’ tour.
On an afternoon when frying eggs on the pavement in rural Queensland was definitely an option, Bill Quinn spoke with Ann from her sick bed in Edmonton, as she was putting the final touches on her tour, and readying to hop on a plane the following week.
It was a baking hot day in Queensland’s Sunshine Coast hinterland, and the only place to get a half-decent phone signal was from the front deck at Maleny Hotel, battling the sound spill from rumbling trucks and other traffic on the main road through town.
*** Audio file will be removed be the end of March 2020 ***
*** Audio file will be removed be the end of March 2020 ***
Not too many summers go by in Australia these days without a tour by Canadian singer-songwriter-keyboardian Ann Vriend.
2014 continues that rich tradition.
Ann has already started this year’s tour on the Gold Coast and she’s heading south to Victoria, Tasmania and New South Wales before winding things up in Brisbane later this month.
In between dips in the pool on a Saturday afternoon (and no doubt a stack of photos on social media back home to envious and shivering Albertans), Ann talked to Bill Quinn about this year’s Australian tour.
Bill Quinn: Ann, from memory this is your ninth tour of Australia. Does it get easier, or harder or different?
Ann Vriend: I definitely think it’s getting easier. I have more and more people coming on board to help me out, and the fan base is slowly growing. And also different because I’m getting more and more used to being here!
Every tour I have different shows and different itineraries, so it doesn’t get boring.
Ann Vriend (Canada) is a very regular and very welcome visitor to Australia and this week she’s touched down in Sydney to kick off a month of shows that will take her south to Tasmania and north to Queensland — with appropriate stops along the way.
Ann’s first shows are in Sydney at The Basement where she’s received some great support from David Hand and Newport Consulting; the tour opener was fairly bursting with staff thereof.
In between set-list writing, sound-checking and dress-up* for the show, Ann took some time out to talk with me about weather, Aus-stray-lee-an pronunciation, more weather and suburb names. And music.
* When Ann came back in for the show, I dead-set wondered who was this elegant woman who looked like she was off to the races. And why was she waving at me from across the room?
I’m blaming it on jet lag.
*** Audio file will be removed at end February 2020 ***
Bill Quinn: When we have people who tour here from overseas, we have some who come here once and then we never see them again. And then we have others who tour here and they keep coming back, and back, and back again.
As a pundit and a punter, I’m totally OK with that. I’m sitting here with one who keeps doing that, and we’re very happy for that: Ann Vriend from Canada, hello and welcome?
Ann Vriend: Helloooo, and thanks for having me.
BQ: So, this would be something like trip number six, or something like that?
AV: No, it’s… well, I have to do math… but it would be eight, because my first was 2005 and I’ve come every year.
BQ: Every single year?
AV: Yeah. In your summer – that’s not by accident!
BQ: I tend to talk about weather, but what have you left behind you in Edmonton?
AV: Just before I left, we got about a foot of snow in one night. By the time it’s March, I’m a little bit over snow. So, if you go to my Facebook page, you can see the ‘before I left’ snow pictures, and the ‘after I left’ view of Sydney Harbour with palm trees.
BQ: So for the next few weeks, there’s going to be lots of pictures you’re sending back home in strapless numbers…
AV: Oh, I already posted a picture at the beach, like “Ha ha! I might not be rich, but there’s some perks to my job!”
Thank you SO much to the truly wonderful Gareth Huw Evans of Timber and Steel — he’s a credit to Australian music and to effective business and being a good bloke.
Similarly, Heidi Braithwaite from Riot House Publicity has been a model of timely responses and good-humoured help.
And to everyone who’s given the interview a nudge, a like, a re-post or a share: you rock my world and you know who you are. (And I know where you live!)
To go back a ways regarding interviews: in 2008, I spoke in halting, nervous tones down the line with Jim Paterson of The Borderers on my very first solo radio show on Artsound FM, while I tried very hard to work out which buttons to press and which faders to slide.
Jim didn’t realise it at the time, but his simple query in an email created something of a monster (in every sense of the word), and my four years with Artsound were typified by studios over-flowing with guests, musos, family, friends, PR people, mums and dads, and some golden live moments. I think pets is the only….. no, we had some of those too, including my melon collie in later years.
I look forward to many more interviews and live moments elsewhere in the cosmos. I recorded one at this very dining table about 8.5 hours ago and that will be coming to you soon.
For now, Billy Bragg has been by far my biggest — and longest for a non-performance — interview to date. (Myf Warhurst had the gold for a good run, but she’s sitting so very pretty — sigh! — in silver medal place now. Why did I shave that beard off? What was I thinking?! Why am I saying this out loud?)
Transcribing the BB interview took the better part of a working day, albeit with lots and lots and too much of online-y distractions along the way.
I’m an un-ashamed Billy Bragg fan, and he’s my favourite performer of any genre in the world.
As much for his soul and his passion and his politics and his unrelenting drive as for his art. If you could bottle the resonances, you’d outsell coke. And coal. And natural gas.
I hesitated like you can’t know before going down the route of making that personal connection with him about my brother during the interview, but I was ultimately so glad I did. Like a song I partially inspired, written by my good friends Craig and Simone Dawson, I have a little personal dare with myself where I take a deep breath, count 1, 2, 3 and dive in.
I was sat there in the studios of 2XX, having effectively paid/donated a tick under $500 of my own money to a crowd-sourcing project for the privilege. That was a thing of pure socialism. At the time I had roughly five grand in the bank and thought, some of this cash could do more that just gather dust.
If I had known then that less than seven days later I would fall even further down the rabbit hole for two weeks, I might not have been as effusive and altruistic!
Meh. As I fully believe, and as I overheard a new colleague say in as many words today:
“It’s only money — you can always get more.”
So, there I was in Studio 2 or 3:
in a radio studio I’d never used before,
one arm across my body holding mic three which I’d dragged across the desk,
twisted half-way back towards the console to read a few scratchy notes I’d made for myself on screen,
one eye on my watch as we were going to be cut off at 20 minutes and I hadn’t been able to add nineteen to whatever time we’d started — there was too much going on.
And out of all that I had nothing but faith (because I do keep faith) in my ability to somehow make it all happen in an interview that in many ways had been two years or more in the making.
And when I hung up from the interview and had let out a gurgling scream of something to the universe, in the next heartbeat I was on the phone to my brother Greg’s widow to do a quick de-brief. I’d told a few choice and a few badly chosen people what was going on, but ultimately it was Ainslea’s secret.
Anyone who saw me later that night at the Canberra Musicians Club Old Timey gig might have mistaken me for a ten year old boy who’d just gotten the cream, to mix a human-feline metaphor.
Sadly, and this has been a pattern, some elements in the music world and the yarts have again inferred some sort of ego-stroke or self-aggrandisement for Billy Quinn out of all of this.
And to those people, I say two things:
1. It’s not me, it’s you. No, really, this time, it’s you.
3. Press ‘play’.
Me? I’m looking for that next big thing, “exploding over our heads”. ♪♪♪♪♪