The Rock & Roll Writers' Festival returns to Brisbane on the weekend of April 1st and 2nd, bringing with it some of the world's best authors, songwriters and lyricists.
You Am I frontman Tim Rogers will be appearing as part of a pair of panels on the Saturday schedule: Then They Came For Me, which analyses how art responds to the challenges of freedom and The Male Monster From The Id, which examines the myths and stereotypes surrounding masculinity, as it relates to rock stars. More information on those discussions — and the weekend's full program — is available via the festival's official website.
We recently caught up with Rogers to discuss his own influences, here assembling a selection of his favourite authors and lyricists.
All words below by Tim Rogers.
"Jeffrey wrote a column called 'Low Life' in the British Spectator magazine from the mid-Seventies. I came to him via the Keith Waterhouse play Jeffrey Bernard is Unwell, though to be true, more because my hero Peter O'Toole played him in the original stage version. Though they've been described as “suicide notes in weekly instalments” I find his anecdotes from a life among the demi-monde of London's Soho district to be like the skin of fat on the top of a neglected stew. The suety gloop is the succulence and squander from a life fully lived. He can be boorish but never a bore. His tales from the gutter were often lit by the stars and gave more to me than a hundred grandiloquent social commentaries. The column is the perfect form for him. Heavy drinkers share a flaw with those with a heavy intellect – they often fail to realise when folks have stopped listening."
"Bark. Like everything wonderful in my life, I was given this book. Short fiction was only two or four Nabokovs, Dorothy Parker and Salinger's Nine Stories until these past years. Then Barry Hannah, Nam Le, George Saunders and Lorrie came over and I'll keep cooking as long as they stay. After each story in Bark I'd gasp as if being punched in the gut or a love walked through the door unexpectedly.
"Like other songwriters I adore, I have to take her lyrics in little instalments, then walk away, a little lighter, let the different scenes swim in my thoughts until normal weight is resumed. I'll sit with the image, the scene, listen to the song again and start the process... again. She pulls focus, then goes for the close-up in a way that has structure, but doesn't feel manipulative or laboured. This year as well the lyrics and delivery of Camp Cope's record flays me. Again to me I receive the songs cinematically. More Hal Hartley than Bruckheimer. The Lowlands from Canberra, too. A friend suggested that I was so drawn to these performers because I have a teenage daughter. I disagreed."
"He's been making records for 20 years and I didn't notice until I was in Fort Wayne, Indiana, and an old friend gave me two of his records, his book I Never Met a Story I Didn't Like and keys to a car to get me to Cleveland. Though I mistrusted his handsomeness, he writes songs that can be choke-on-a-chicken-bone funny and then cry-chicken-soup sad. Now his book is the best of 112 music books I've read, from the Eagles to Duke Ellington. Fuck it's funny, and even though I envy his Life Of Riley, I reckon there's a fair dose of hurt there too, he just keeps that in his back pocket and keeps the crowd giggling. Henry Rollins tells this story of meeting Hubert Selby Jr. and asking for advice. Hubert says “keep yer dick off the page” or somesuch. Pretty sure he wasn't referring directly to the fleshy pulp. Todd's a great storyteller. And still handsome as hell. So while I'll follow him to Hades, he can fuck right off."
"But Beautiful. Me talking about writing about jazz is like painting a gardening about dancing about Architecture in Helsinki. Geoff Dyer has the chutzpah to not settle for writing critically or scholarly pieces about giants of jazz but short fictions? Monk, Bud Powell, Mingus, Art Pepper, and in-between each piece there is a continuing narrative about Duke? You gotta read it to believe it. But have the records nearby. You're gonna need to hear them. How he can write about this overwhelmingly consuming music without shibboleth is mystifying to me. While you're at it, I'd get everything he's written. And get the records."