The Sickle Of Life: Interview(s) With Sveta

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Image courtesy of Sveta Lyublyu Knokyablokov

In July 2019 during the Darwin Fringe, I met a vibrant, funny, and larger than life character named Sveta* who was presenting her show ‘The Sickle Of Life’ as part of the Fringe lineup.

The next day, I met a pleasant, outgoing, chatty festival volunteer named Lana.

It took a good few minutes on that second meeting to realise that the performer and the volly were one in the same person. That’s a good as any recommendation for the skills of an actor as you could hope for.

The chance to see ‘The Sickle Of Life’ passed me by due to conflicting festival obligations, and as you’ll read below, it mostly passed others by due to circumstances beyond Lana’s and the audience’s control.

Not even the former Soviet Union’s security services could fix the problem.

But the show is coming to The Venue at Fannie Bay on Friday 6 December, and will hopefully return to the Darwin Fringe in 2020.

On a mercifully mild November Sunday morning, I met up with Sveta and Lana at The Fannie Bay Coolspot for a cup of coffee and a chat.

Or chats.

* See the bottom of this document for a very important security advice about this website.

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Image courtesy of Sveta Lyublyu Knokyablokov

Bill Quinn: I hope this interview goes OK, because the only Russian language I know I’ve learnt from Billy Joel: Live In Moscow and The Hunt For Red October. So I trust your English is better than my Russian.

Sveta Lyublyu Knokyablokov: Well, I’ve been learning English, so hopefully you can understand my accent.

BQ: When did you come to Australia and what brought you here?

SLK: I’ve only come recently because I have been in the search for love, and I know my true love is waiting for me. I’ve been looking for him all around Australia… well, maybe it last six months.

And I started in Adelaide, and then I went to the Brisvegas, then I went to the Gold Coast, and I’m searching for this man that I met in Moscow – that’s part of my story – and apparently, he is waiting for me here in Dariwnd.

That’s why I’m here.

BQ: Aha! Now are you talking [about looking for love] generally, or is there a specific person?

SLK: Specific man!

BQ: Ah, see I thought that the problem was you’d run out of men to find in Russia and had come here looking for love.

SLK: Oh, nyet, nyet, nyet. I am saving my treasure chest for special gem.

And you see, I am the last hope for virgin [pronounced ‘wirgin’] bride in Knokyablokov family. It’s getting a bit of a worry for the family, but I am saving myself for the right man, and that’s why I am here because I met him, and I’m here to find him.

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Image courtesy of Sveta Lyublyu Knokyablokov

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Darwin Muso Series – Bella Maree

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Image courtesy of Bella Maree

Darwin Muso Series – Bella Maree

Having almost finished the initial batch of interviews following the Passport To Airlie heat in September, Bella Maree answered my callout for other musos to step up and have a chat, emailling to say, ‘What About Me?’

(She didn’t literally use those words, but since she was recently on a lineup with Shannon Noll, it seemed like a bit of wordplay too good to resist.)

Bella Maree has been in Darwin for less than a year, but she’s already a regular on the scene, bringing her mix of originals and covers to the eyes and ears of Darwin’s welcoming audiences.

On a hot but breezy Friday morning, we sat outside at the Nightcliff Foreshore Restaurant and Cafe by the Arafura Sea and chatted over coffee, as Bella Maree unfolded quite the amazing tale of a pretty full life for someone so young.

Bill Quinn: So, Bella Maree, you’re not originally from Darwin?

Bella Maree: No. Before coming to Darwin, I was in Coffs Harbour for a couple of months. And before that, I was between Byron Bay and the Gold Coast for a couple of years.

But before that I was in Thailand for three years, so there’s not really one place that I’m from. I’ve moved around my whole life.

BQ: You’re a global citizen!

BM: Yeah!

BQ: So when did the interest in music start?

BM: My brother Keanu is two years older than me. When I was about eight or nine, and he was ten or eleven, he started learning guitar and singing at school, and he’d come home and show me what he’d learnt.

And basically, that’s how it went: everything he’d learn two years ahead of me, he’d come home and teach me. So, that’s what got me in to music to start with. We started singing together and we had a duo: Strange Angels.

BQ: And bands at school? Did you get together with others there?

BM: When I was younger, yeah. In primary school, I was in a school rock band, and in high school – Grade 8 – me and my brother did a bunch of performances together for the school.

But then in Grade 9, I went into home schooling, and then just towards the end of Year 9, my brother, my parents and I moved to Thailand when I was 14.

BQ: Wow, so how did that go, getting into music and then moving to another culture?

BM: It was… life-changing!

Because I was still doing this home-schooling thing, and I was doing music theory, learning all that kind of stuff, and BOOM! We’re in Thailand, a totally different culture and language, etiquette and everything.

So it was a big learning experience, a life-changing thing.

We continued to do singing when we got there, when we first got to Chaing Mai. We were there for six months and my brother and I sang in restaurants there, and had a bunch of Thai and Burmese friends. We learnt languages from our friends.

Then we moved down south, moved to the islands, and that’s where I got into some bands. My brother moved away to Bangkok, and we were still on the island. Koh Samui was where I was mostly, singing in bands.

So the band members consisted of guys from Europe, America, all different places. Older dudes, and they taught me so much. They showed me all those older songs, older eras, older music. It just really taught me the old school way, and how to lead a band.

I had a lot of experience with them, and a lot of cool shows with them too.

[Tape pauses for the arrival of Bella Maree’s chai latte. And we continue..]

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Image courtesy of Bella Maree

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Darwin Muso Series – Summit

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Image courtesy of Summit

Darwin heavy metal band Summit have had a very busy 2019, and it’s about to get even busier as they prepare to head on the road to tour down the east coast of Australia in November.

With the release of a new single in the very near future, the time is ripe for the band to take their music to a wider audience, one that’s already been building off the back of a strong online streaming and Youtube presence.

Having met several band members at a MusicNT meet and greet in August, it was great to catch up with drummer Tom Heffernan and find out a bit more detail about the band’s activities.

Bill Quinn: You’re the new boy in the band, but you’re the spokesperson today. How much can you tell us about the background of Summit?

Tom Heffernan: The boys have been going since 2017. I worked for a couple of them on a major project up here and that’s how we met. I followed them around, watching their shows. They have a lot of talent, and it’s definitely up my alley.

They jumped on to the scene pretty quickly and left a pretty big footprint on the place. I just love their music.

Wes [Beck] is the leader of the band, and he organised it from the go. He was out of the scene for a long time before this band started. Greeny [Matt Greenaway] was over here working from Sydney way, New South Wales, and the two brothers [Jordan and James Atwill] are born and bred in Darwin.

I’m not sure how they got together, who spoke to who. I know Wes and Greeny worked together; that’s how they got together.

BQ: Coming from a number of backgrounds, it’s a Darwin band – but you’ve had a fair bit of interest from outside, even overseas. 

TH: Yeah, we’ve had a lot of success with online stuff so far. The EP was brilliant, the first EP [Echoes Of Aberration]. (Obviously, I had nothing to do with that one.) That’s one of the best EPs I’ve seen from a first-time effort.

And the interest has really escalated from that point on.

There was a bit of a hole with a change of line-up for the boys, but we’re full steam ahead now.

BQ: And you mentioned your online presence – that’s the way you get your music out when you’re isolated like in Darwin. What’s that like? I’ve got to say I’m not a fan of the online streaming services because you don’t get much out of it in dollars and cents. But I notice that you get a lot of plays on Spotify; is that helping?

TH: Oh, it definitely helps get the music out. That and Youtube. Without it, I’d say it would be a lot harder. There’s not a lot of revenue in it, as you said, but that’s the way of the world today.

But the exposure’s nothing like it used to be. To see a band back in the day, or to hear a band, you had to go and see them or buy a CD. [Online streaming] is handy, but there’s no money in it.

But it’s great for the exposure side of things being in an isolated area like Darwin.

We haven’t ventured too far out of the territory, maybe not at all. So big things coming for us soon.

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Darwin Muso Series: Danger Den

Darwin Muso Series is a string of an indeterminate number of mini to medium to mega interviews with Darwin-based musicians and performing artists. Starting in September 2019, and we’ll see how many we can cover over the next weeks/months/years.

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Danger Den

The Darwin Railway Club played host to the Darwin regional final of the Passport To Airlie competition in mid-September 2019.

Airlie Beach Festival of Music is held in November, however, in the lead-up, the organisers stage what is arguably* Australia’s biggest battle of the bands competition.

* If anyone wants to claim a bigger battle of the bands competition in Australia, kindly fill in the 36 page nomination form on the website and send to Overheard Productions with a non-refundable $200 admin fee.

Danger Den describe themselves as a pop rock group, though their sound definitely leans towards the heavier side. Danger Den are emerging artists in Darwin’s very diverse original music scene, but they’re already finding some traction and interest from live audiences, playing their own blend of punk and rock music.

I didn’t manage to catch up with Danger Den on the night at the Rails, but sometime later, I met up with vocalist Jeremy Uyloan to learn more about the band.

Bill Quinn: Tell me a little bit about the Danger Den story.

Jeremy Uyloan: Basically, me and my friend Donald – BigD; he’s the big guy with the man bun, the lead guitarist – we’ve been playing music since middle school. I’m 21 now, and he’s 22.

And we stopped around graduation, and we decided to either go to uni or work. But really that didn’t last long!

BQ: What, the uni or the work?

JU: Both, actually. Donald wanted to do IT, and I got into full time work. And I stepped down because I didn’t like it. Donald got a job and left studies.

So we formed Danger Den in early 2018. We were looking for drummers, so we looked at the Darwin Music Scene page [on Facebook]. That’s where we found Neil [Wright]; we were looking for any punk drummers out there, and Neil put his hand up.

We were a three-piece for a while, but then we eventually got our fourth member – our newest member who joined us is Callan [Power]. He also plays in the band Temperamental, who also competed at Passport To Airlie.

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Image by Adnan Reza

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Darwin Muso Series: Ward Hancock Trio

Darwin Muso Series is a string of an indeterminate number of mini to medium to mega interviews with Darwin-based musicians and performing artists. Starting in September 2019, and we’ll see how many we can cover over the next weeks/months/years.

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Image courtesy of Ward Hancock Music

Ward Hancock Trio

The Darwin Railway Club played host to the Darwin regional final of the Passport To Airlie competition in mid-September 2019.

Airlie Beach Festival of Music is held in November, however, in the lead-up, the organisers stage what is arguably* Australia’s biggest battle of the bands competition.

* It’s big. Like really big. Huge. You might think it’s a long way from the Darwin Bus Interchange to Six Tanks – and it gets further on Friday and Saturday nights – but that’s just peanuts compared to how vast the scope of the Airlie Beach Festival of Music’s Passport To Airlie competition is. (With apologies to Douglas Adams, but I’m starting to scratch around for enough gags to see out this bracket of interviews.)

Ward Hancock is an emerging artist from the Northern Territory, though his young years belie the amount of musical runs on the board he’s already chalked up. His style and repertoire have a strong basis in reggae, but zip around to visit blues, dub, and rock.  A home-grown Darwinian, Ward along with his trio won first place in the Passport To Airlie competition, and they’ll be off east in November to represent the Top End on the Whitsunday Coast.

I thought I might miss my chance to speak with Ward after the event, but I managed to reef him away for a few minutes right at the end of the night, and he reflected on his musical background and the competition win.

Bill Quinn: In 80 000 words or less, what’s the Ward Hancock story?

Ward Hancock: I found guitar when I was about 12, because I wouldn’t stop playing an old ukulele that my parents had. No, at first it was drums – drums were the first thing, then I gravitated on to guitar because it was a bit cheaper and a bit quieter.

My thing was I always wrote songs, I always like writing songs more than learning songs. I started singing in about Grade Seven or Eight, because noone else would sing.

The first couple of years, people told me not to sing! Fair enough; it didn’t sound too great. I’ve heard recordings; it’s not pretty, but…

BQ: You’ve got to start somewhere.

WH: Exactly! I just evolved into a singer. I was always a guitarist, but evolved into a singer. Always a songwriter.

There’s a lot of great opportunities living up here. I think one of my first bigger gigs was at the Noonamah Tavern. My earliest memories were of big, tough guys drinking in the beer garden. Bikies, you know? I had no idea, but I had some great experiences with that; I kind of cut my teeth on that.

I had great mentors like [Darwin music legend] JK, and Michael Henshaw – who did sound tonight – he’s a great supporter of music as we were growing up. Mickey at the Happy Yess, and countless other Darwin locals.

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Darwin Muso Series: Crystal Robins

Darwin Muso Series is a string of an indeterminate number of mini to medium to mega interviews with Darwin-based musicians and performing artists. Starting in September 2019, and we’ll see how many we can cover over the next weeks/months/years.

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Image courtesy of Crystal Robins

Crystal Robins

The Darwin Railway Club played host to the Darwin regional final of the Passport To Airlie competition in mid-September 2019.

Airlie Beach Festival of Music is held in November, however, in the lead-up, the organisers stage what is arguably* Australia’s biggest battle of the bands competition.

* If you laid out all the competitors from 13 regional heats from Darwin to Adelaide end to end… they’d likely be very annoyed and would probably resent the dry-cleaning bill.

Crystal Robins is a very popular multi-instrumentalist, singer and songwriter, and a regular fixture at events and venues around Darwin. Crystal’s strong passion for music and the performing arts saw her play in a variety of jazz, rock and folk-punk bands in Sydney, but she now makes Darwin her home.

I had a brief chat with Crystal after she performed the penultimate set in the Passport To Airlie heat.

Bill Quinn: So, tell me the Crystal story!

Crystal Robins: Wow! I have to turn my brain on again!

I’ve been playing music for as long as I can remember. I grew up in Sydney, I played in quite a few bands there. I studied music at uni…

BQ: Where was uni?

CR: The Australian Institute of Music. I studied jazz and contemporary music there, playing flute.

But I’ve always loved playing guitar, and writing songs and singing.

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Darwin Muso Series: Emma Rowe

Darwin Muso Series is a string of an indeterminate number of mini to medium to mega interviews with Darwin-based musicians and performing artists. Starting in September 2019, and we’ll see how many we can cover over the next weeks/months/years.

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Image courtesy of Emma Rowe Music

Emma Rowe

The Darwin Railway Club played host to the Darwin regional final of the Passport To Airlie competition in mid-September 2019.

Airlie Beach Festival of Music is held in November, however, in the lead-up, the organisers stage what is arguably* Australia’s biggest battle of the bands competition.

* Try saying, ‘Heats in Darwin, Cairns, Townsville, Mackay, Sunshine Coast, Brisbane, Gold Coast, Nimbin, Newcastle, Sydney, Illawarra, Melbourne and Adelaide’ ten times fast.

Emma Rowe grew up here in tropical Darwin and went from being a “sad teenager” with a cheap guitar to developing a unique talent for crafting quirky contemporary rock songs that combine lust, hope, frustration and joy in a surprisingly complicated but completely relatable style. Emma is a regular on the Darwin music scene as a headliner and support for touring artists.

After her set in the Passport to Airlie competition, Emma joined me in the beer garden to have a chat.

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Emma Rowe performing in Passport To Airlie – Darwin at Darwin Railway Club

Bill Quinn: Tell us the Emma Rowe story!

Emma Rowe: Oh god, that’s a big question.

Basically, I guess it started when I was a sad teenager, and my mum noticed. And she brought home this cheap guitar from Cash Converters, and was like, ‘Here! Put your sadness into this!’

And it worked!

BQ: Was that here in Darwin?

ER: Yeah, I grew up here. Technically not born here, but I moved here when I was really young.

BQ: So many people I’ve spoken to have come here from other places. What was it like growing up with music in Darwin?

ER: I loved it. I really loved growing up here. It’s really communal and that’s really reflective in the music scene.

That’s what I love about the music scene here. We all know and love each other, we’re all really supportive, and I love that feeling: I love feeling supported by my scene.

BQ: I’m glad you said that because I’ve only been here for less than six months, and I actually wrote this down tonight. I’m picking up on a really big, supportive vibe amongst musicians, so it’s something that’s very important here.

ER: Oh yeah, for sure, it’s everywhere, and it’s wonderful. And I think that actually goes for the whole NT as well. We know all the musos in Alice Springs and in Katherine, and we’re all just really connected and really communal. It’s lovely.

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Image courtesy of Emma Rowe Music

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