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Christine Lan Joined: 9th December 2010
Last seen: 9th October 2012

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Gareth Liddiard

It was 40 degrees, mid-afternoon at the Big Day Out. A crowd had gathered to watch Gareth Liddiard in the shade of the Hot Produce tent. Having released his debut solo album, Strange Tourist, a few months prior to this year’s BDO, Liddiard played a few tracks from the album, including Blondin’ Makes An Omelette, Highplains Mailman and its title track.


The crowd listened intently to Liddiard’s compelling tales of tightrope walkers, suicidal salarymen, outsiders and suburban radicals. Although it wasn’t the ideal venue for a solo set, Liddiard drew a captivated crowd. The singer-songwriter/musician’s only complaint was that he was performing at the same time as Die Antwoord (“the only band that I wanted to see”). He’d already seen Iggy Pop and The Stooges twice in London last year.


For passionate music lovers, it’s particularly rewarding to see musicians such as Liddiard placing as much emphasis on literary profundity. “It’s not profound for profound’s sake,” Liddiard muses. “It’s more potency – it’s not a pretentious thing; it’s just the sort of shit that’s pissing me off more than some venal nothing.”


Like all good writers, Liddiard must go through some hair-pulling turmoil during his writing process. “The writing process is just a process of being alive. Strange Tourist took eight weeks to bang all the songs together, but the 18 months before that was when it really got written,” Liddiard relates. “It’s weird because like everything else, I don’t write anything down; they stick in my memory and it gets written about, ultimately. It’s a natural thing – I just do it all the time. I filter creative things through what I do and what I am, which is just vested in music a bit more than most people.”


An artist who shares Liddiard’s love of lengthy compositions is Joanna Newsom. Newsom has mentioned that being forced to memorise long poems in her school years has helped her memorise epic songs. Does Liddiard have similar training? “Just repetition, really,” he ascertains. “I get most of that out of making shit up in the first place, going over and over and over stuff. I don’t know how actors do it in a theatre – that blows my mind. They’re remembering a bunch of shit that doesn’t rhyme and they didn’t write it, either.”


At his Northcote Social Club and Thornbury Theatre shows last year, there was a powerful dynamic between the unnerving gravity of Liddiard’s performance and the relaxed air of his amusing between-song banter. How liberating is that contrasting dynamic for him? “You’ve got to entertain people,” states Liddiard. “With Dan [Kelly] and my records, a quarter of the songs are appallingly sad and fragile, and in between the songs we’ll crack sort of dad jokes – they’re bad but endearing.


As Liddiard continues to derive inspiration from copious sources and an ingrained love of the bizarre, which individuals or events are currently confounding and intriguing him the most? “Julian Assange, obviously – he seems like a complete twat! I’ve been reading tonnes of different stuff ... Werner Herzoy – every time I learn something from Werner Herzoy, something comes up and it’s always ... ‘wow, this guy’s amazing’. He writes stuff that’s unbelievably good and obviously films stuff and documentaries, and then I found out the other day that he directed a whole bunch of operas too, like 20 operas or something, which is insane. He’s a dynamo.”


Kurt Vonnegut – I keep coming back to him... he’s so likeable and so ennobling, you know; he’s got a good sense of humour; the way he gets you to swallow a bitter pill makes you smile. Maria Callas and all those good singers like Ella Fitzgerald – she’s amazing but when you listen to Maria Callas, you’re like ‘how the fuck does that come from a human being?’”

 

 

GARETH LIDDIARD will be joined by Dan Kelly when he performs at the East Brunswick Club this Thursday April 7 and Friday April 8. Tickets are $25 and available from eastbrunswickclub.com.