All posts tagged the-big-issue

  • The Big Issue story: John Butler Trio, September 2010

    A story for The Big Issue #362: a profile of the Australian roots/rock act John Butler Trio ahead of their Australian tour throughout August and September 2010.

    Click the below image for a closer look, or read the article text underneath.

    John Butler Trio profile, 'Riding The Rails', by Andrew McMillen in The Big Issue #362

    John Butler Trio: Riding The Rails

    Over the past 15 years, John Butler has strummed and sung his way to his present status as one of Australia’s most recognisable musicians. But people’s perception of the 35-year-old, who was born in the US and moved to Australian when he was 10, can vary widely, as Butler is all too aware.

    “I think to some people I’m a blues artist. Some people think I’m a sensitive new age guy who writes songs about his children and his family. Some people think I’m somebody who’s lived in Australia for 24 years, and is Australian, and loves Australia but still has an American accent, he laughs. “I’m many things to many different people. I think some people hate me, some people love me and there’s probably a lot of people who don’t give a shit – and that’s probably a healthy thing.”

    “I’ve tried to let go of what I hope people see in me, because for quite a long time I felt misunderstood,” he says. “I have these ideas: I do care about peace and justice, the truth, my country and its land and culture. For that to be pigeonholed; for that multidimensional point of view to be put into a single point of view of a ‘tree-hugging hippie’ was frustrating, for a long time. I felt that a lot of these things are not fringe issues. They concern us all; they’re everyday people stuff.”

    Maturity has lent a new perspective to Butler’s interpretation of such misconceptions, though. “I’ve learned not to care so much about that misunderstanding,” he admits. “There’s bigger fish to fry. I’ve got two children who are amazing. I’ve got an amazing band. I have a fantastic, amazing wife. I need to worry about what they think about me more than how the general media is going to misconstrue me to make it more palatable to a reading audience.”

    The Big Issue caught up with Butler in the midst of an intensive European tour, which immediately followed a triumphant series of shows in the United States. The US highlight was the Trio’s first headline show at a capacity Red Rocks Amphitheatre in Colorado, a buzz that Butler likens to his skateboarding background.

    “When I used to skate really heavily – I still skate, but when I was riding and trying to get sponsors – I’d climb these eight-stair handrails and ollie, 50/50 grind on ‘em. I was thrilled by it, I wanted to do it, it excited me, and at the same time it scared the fuck out of me. I’d played Red Rocks seven or eight times before and always opened up for other people. To be headlining that show and playing to 8,500 people – the biggest audience we’ve ever had, anywhere in the world – it came like a huge fucking wave, a big wave that I dropped into and I was just trying to make sure I didn’t fall off. It was exhilarating, scary, exciting and daunting; all those things. It was like an eight-stair handrail.”

    With so much time spent overseas, how does Butler retain his connection to Australia? He replies: “I know this almost sounds like a Qantas ad or something,” he replies,”But wherever I go in this world, I’m taking the spirit of our country with me… It’s like when they see AC/DC or The Cat Empire, or whoever else: we’re all ambassadors for our culture. Every time we play, we’re like – in a slightly, kind of defiantly arrogant way, but with great respect – ‘This is how we fucking roll. This is recipe and this is how we cook. Come to our kitchen, and let’s get it on!’”

    The John Butler Trio song ‘One Way Road’ has been used recently on the One HD sports channel. How does Butler feel about being associated with TV advertisements? “I see these things as kind of like infiltration. I’m not really a sports fan, but I don’t have anything against sports.”

    He starts singing the song’s lyrics to himself – They come, they take / It’s never enough because they can’t relate / To the real world, thinking that the oyster is just for the pearl – before interrupting himself. “Oh, big lyrics! Of revolution and progression. For that to be on a mainstream TV station?” He laughs: “I’ve infiltrated these mofos! I don’t have a problem with it. In a way, I’m using their forum to spread a message that I think is important. I feel like, okay: the revolution will be televised!”

    But one thing should be made clear: Butler keeps control of which ads his music will appear in. “It doesn’t mean it’s a slippery slope to doing a BP ad, by any means!”

    by Andrew McMillen

    The John Butler Trio are touring Australia through late August until late September. For more details, visit

    Elsewhere: the full transcript of this conversation between John Butler and myself, which was published on The Vine.

    More John Butler Trio on MySpace. Music video for their song ‘Revolution‘ embedded below.

  • A Conversation With John Birmingham, Brisbane-based author, journalist and blogger

    John Birmingham; photograph by Vincent LongI met with Brisbane-based author, journalist and blogger John Birmingham in late June 2010, to discuss his newest book, After America, for a story in The Big Issue. You can read that story here.

    Full transcript of our conversation is below. It begins in the middle of discussing the book – which I’d only finished half an hour before we met – and ranges from discussing the characters and writing process to the merits of genre fiction, time management, and his social media usage.

    Beware: for those who haven’t read After America, there are spoilers.

    Andrew: I’m sure it was no coincidence that much of the descriptions [in the book] are quite cinematic. [note: John’s publisher, Pan Macmillan, also commissioned a teaser trailer for After America ahead of the book’s release]

    John: Yeah. I mean partly, yeah – I’d like it to be a movie. There are guys in the U.S. at the moment arguing with each other over the rights to do the previous series [Axis Of Time] as a movie, but this one would be so much easier to do. Partly because I’m writing it easier, but also the more I get into the thriller headspace… It’s a cinematic form of storytelling. It’s got lots of colour, lots of movement, you’ve got that whole Bruckheimer accelerated narrative thing going – every seven minutes something has to happen! Yeah, so I guess it’s not surprising that people start seeing it in terms of movies.

    One of the things I like doing when a book comes out, any book comes out like this, is I wait a couple of weeks and then I put a blog up and run a discussion on who everybody would cast in the various roles. It’s always interesting, because I have very strong ideas about who should be there. The problem is no one agrees with me.

    I must admit I haven’t read any of your other fiction work. This is the first one.

    That’s actually not a bad thing, because the books are all so are fucking different. It doesn’t strike me as an odd thing but it does put the zap on some peoples’ head that I’m writing something like Leviathan one year, and then I turn around and do Weapons Of Choice the next year. You’re not necessarily coming with a disadvantage for not having seen the other books.

    I found myself more drawn to Miguel and Sofia’s side of the story, instead of the military stuff.

    I really like Miguel’s character. I really liked his relationship with Sophia. It almost didn’t happen. In the first draft of the book, he’s alone. The deal with Miguel was to be almost a biblical burden that he had to carry, and his family… [spoilers]. In the first draft, his family wasn’t killed. They were just kicked off the farm and driven away. He decides he’s got to get to Kansas City to tell Kipper because he has this naïve faith in Kipper to save him.

    I wrote the entire book where he was just travelling with his two dogs; the dogs were basically to give him something to talk to, and emote to. But it just didn’t fucking work. We just kept asking ourselves, “why is this guy off on his own when his family are travelling on their own through the badlands that he himself says are fucking badlands?” And also it didn’t emotionally justify how fucked up he was in the story.

    So having sort of gone through it, we agreed in the end that the family had to die. But then of course to kill them all off, he was just going to ride down there and go out guns blazing, and so that’s why he has Sophia with him, to give him one last thing to live for.

    And as a storyline, I loved this Caitlin storyline. I love just inverting all of the old action thriller tropes; you know, how the two most dangerous characters in the book are both chicks. One is not pregnant, but breastfeeding, and just recovering from pregnancy.

    But I gotta say, writing the book, the most satisfying story to dwell on – and you do dwell on it, it’s so fucking long you live inside the story after a while – was the Miguel story. I’ve always liked cowboy movies, and again the nice thing about his was it’s a very traditional, a really fucking traditional cowboy story. It could be any of the Steve McQueen or John Wayne movies, you could easily lay that template over and it would match, millimetre perfect. It’s not because, of course, Miguel is a Mexican; it’s actually his ethnic background which gets him into trouble and kicks the story off.

    'After America' by Australian author John BirminghamYou really did heap it upon him though, even at the end. He didn’t get a break.

    No, he doesn’t. I’m not a religious person at all but I do like the idea of the story of Job where some poor average prick just gets pounded and pounded and pounded to see whether or not he’s going to break. That is Miguel’s role, to just see how much one person can take. In the third and final installation of the series, there will be the whole idea of biblical vengeance that I’m going to work through as well. I’m with you; as a storyline, it’s probably my fave, despite the fact that as a character, I think Caitlin’s my actual favourite.

    This was always going to be a three book series. I wonder if your feelings toward the arc of the series have changed as you’ve been writing it.

    Yeah, the first one for me worked just as a standalone book. I was very much aware and remained aware that a lot of people like the idea of a series. They like the idea of being able to go back in another book with the same characters. If they enjoyed the first one, they’ll enjoy the second one. They also hate fucking series because you have to wait a long time for the big questions to be resolved.

    I agree with them. I’m a huge fan of Peter F. Hamilton’s work: he writes these huge arcing space operas that just go on and on and on. I love them, I’m addicted to them, but it just drove me nuts to have to wait 18 months to two years between each of them.

    I wrote Without Warning so that you could read it, close it, and if you wanted to, you could walk away from it. It’s got a dénouement at the end where you obviously set up another story, but it didn’t have to go on. And I found After America really fucking difficult to kick off because I was really happy with the first book as a novel, as a book really. I haven’t written any others that I’ve been as happy as I was with that.

    Having written what, to me, was the perfect book – although others would disagree vehemently – I just thought “Fuck, how do I top that?” And I had about six months where I just sat around. I know what I have to do in this second book because I’d already plotted it out, but it was just really difficult firing up.

    And then when I finally did fire up, I broke my arm. I’d written the first draft and I was just about to sit down and edit that. That is actually where I did most of the work, in editing the first draft. I busted this arm in a training accident in Jujitsu and I had a plate inserted here [he shows me]. Although I was in plaster and then in a splint for only about seven or eight weeks, I didn’t get range of movement back in the arm for months. It threw everything out by about a year, which compounded the initial difficulties I had coming at this story because it was a perfect excuse not to engage with it. “Sorry, I have a broken arm – I’m not doing anything on this fucking book for a while now.”

    The funny thing is I reckon it was, in a sense, a left-handed gift. The enforced break allowed me to sit back and actually spend about two months in my Relaxo lounge chair thinking about the characters, thinking about the stories. When I could literally lay fingers on a keyboard, I came back much more charged up. Miguel was actually part of that because I had changed his story completely. I really liked the idea of working in a very old fashioned western narrative under the guise of what’s virtually a military techno thriller. It changed a lot. Doubtless, the third one will be the same.

    Did you do much storyboarding for this one?

    No. I knew there were certain things I wanted to do. I knew I wanted to have a cattle drive, which is afflicted by a giant flood. Originally it was just an image I had. I saw these guys driving a big herd of cattle through a dead city and a flood comes through. So again, it was a cinematic vision – how fucking cool would that be?

    When I was doing my very rough outline I just had this note, “Must have cattle drive and flood together. It will be awesome.” I also knew that, with Caitlin, I wanted her to parachute into New York at night with a battle going on. Again, I just thought that would be a great scene for her as a character, because the essence of Caitlin is isolation, and you don’t get any more isolated than freefalling through sub-freezing air into a dead city. So I knew that was coming, but in terms of structuring the entire narrative, as you do with a movie, I didn’t. I learned that lesson with Designated Targets; I did storyboard that out scene by scene.

    I could tell you before I’d written the first word what this chapter would be about and what that character would be doing in that scene, hundreds of pages before they were written. And although it was a really efficient way to turn a book out, I wrote that book much more quickly than the other books I’ve done. It was also incredibly frustrating because the thing about characters is once they take off, once a character comes alive, which takes about 30 or 40 pages, they start doing their own thing and talking and speaking their own dialog. You actually don’t need to think stuff up.

    Someone tweeted [at me] earlier today, they had a review copy and they said their favourite line in the book was on page 453, where Caitlin talks about the definition of disingenuous. I thought “What the fuck are you talking about?” I went and got the book, and it was really good. I had no memory of writing that at all because I really didn’t write it. That was just Caitlin speaking.

    What you lose with really rigid storyboarding is that spark where the characters just do what they want to do. So although I block out the story and I know where I effectively want people to go, I don’t do it in the minute detail that I had in the past.

    I follow you on Twitter, and I’ve subscribed to your blog [Cheeseburger Gothic] for a couple of years. I’m intrigued by how often you call upon your followers and your fanbase for motivation, for inspiration, for the little facts that crop up. I wonder; do you know of many other authors that are doing that? It seems really obvious.

    It works for me, but I’m a bit unusual because I worked in journalism for 10 years before I wrote Felafel, for instance. I like people. I love literary festivals. I love going on tour. I just love this [gestures between us]; sitting in these bizarre, shitty little cafes in back streets, talking to people who I’ve never fucking met. I love all that stuff. Twitter is almost the perfection of that way of dealing with people. So it works for me. Other people would just die of horror.

    I know publishers – all publishers, but mine in particular – are trying to get their authors to take up social media in the same way, for exactly the same reasons; to reach out and talk to their readership, to create bonds. They’re all coming at it from a commercial point of view: you create that bond and the next time you put a book out they run out and buy it. That is the core of their thinking; it’s quite cynical.

    Eliza Dushku

    And yet, I’ve got great friendships out of Twitter. As you can see from reading the blog – when I travel now, I say I’m going to be in Melbourne next week and they all sort of gather in one spot, and we go out drinking and we have a good time. So there is a real personal bonus to doing it.

    Other writers? I know Nancy Kress, who is an American sci-fi author, runs a blog. Peter Temple runs one, I think. Who else? There’s half a dozen or so, usually mid-list authors. If Stephen King or, God forbid, J.K. Rowling, was on Twitter, it simply wouldn’t work. You know exactly why it wouldn’t work.

    I follow Eliza Dushku [pictured right]; me and 100,000 people follow Eliza Dushku [on Twitter], and we’re all firing our little tweets off. She was in Sydney the other week, and I just said she was shopping and I sent this tweet off to her. I said “You’re shopping around QVB, you should go to Pendalino for lunch,” because I went the other day and it was beautiful. That would have been one of maybe 600 tweets that came in the previous minute. There is no fucking way that somebody like that can afford to pay any attention at all to what’s happening in the tweet stream.

    But for someone like me, who’s much more of a microcelebrity, it works really well. Having said that, most authors I know are social cripples, and they just would not have the wherewithal to pull it off.

    It’s funny that you made these realisations yourself because you are a people person, whereas the publishers are looking at it from a commercial perspective. I’m not sure that Twitter would work if you had to hit them with a stick, saying “You must do this.”

    No, a lot of [authors] don’t even like touring. I can think of some very big names who won’t sign books. If you’re getting that close to a reader, it’s such a horror to them that they just refuse to do it. It’s madness, but a lot of them are the same way.

    I wonder if you have any thoughts on the divide between literary fiction and popular fiction.

    I do. There was a very funny piece by Tony Martin on Scrivener’s Fancy. There was a panel discussion on Jennifer Byrne’s TV show with Matt Reilly, Di Morrissey, Bryce Courtney, and Lee Child, and the interviewer was asking this very question.

    Lee ChildLee Child [pictured left] is an interesting guy. He’s really fucking smart. But he writes thrillers. He’s not writing literature and I suspect that he decided he was going to play with this interview and so he just acted like a pompous git saying his books were every bit as good as literature. And anyway, Tony Martin wrote this fucking hilarious tear down of the interview. It’s totally worth going and Googling it up this afternoon, if only for your own benefit. Your life will improve having read it. [note: it’s here]

    He just pointed out there’s no way what Child’s does is literature, with this brutal demonstration. He took apart a couple of pages from one of Child’s books. I would never ever be so fucking foolish as to make that claim. I do entertainment. That’s it. Not completely low-brow, but upper middle-brow… not even that, lower middle-brow entertainment with a lot of explosions is what I do in the thrillers. And they’re great fun. They’re read by people who are not going to read literature and they’re read by people who like literature.

    But [the books] aren’t literature themselves. There’s not a lot of point trying to compare and contrast because it’s like trying to compare and contrast first person shooters with traditional theatre. They’re both mediums for telling stories but they do very different things in very different ways; both are enjoyable and they both have validity.

    One is not necessarily worth more than the other. They’re just very different things. I’ve had a lot of fun over the years making fun of literature, but I read it and at times I love it. I think the best writer working in Australia at the moment is Matthew Condon. Everything he’s written since The Pillow Fight has been absolutely fucking stunning, and it’s all ‘big L’ literature. Matt doesn’t do mere entertainment. He’s a really great fucking writer.

    But he doesn’t sell a lot of copies at Woolworths and Kmart, and I guess the thing that energises this debate is that people, particularly literary critics and some literary authors, get themselves really worked up because they perceive, quite rightly, that literary authors are working really hard to not get the rewards they deserve.

    And they do deserve the rewards, because they do work every bit as hard as the rest of us and their craft is honed to a much finer point than ours is. And yet they’re selling 1,500 and 2,000 copies of their books sometimes. Their writing is usually their second job. And their first job, if they’re lucky, is in something like journalism where it’s at least a related field. If not, some are in advertising, which is slowly losing their fucking soul from being sold day in and day out. It upsets people. There was a great review of After America in The Australian by their chief literary critic (Geordie Wilkinson) a couple of weeks ago who –

    I didn’t read the review, as I didn’t want to spoil the book.

    Well, you’ve read the book. Go read the review now. It’s fucking fascinating because this guy, he hates doing it but he admits the book is well written “for a thriller” – and you have to capitalise FOR A THRILLER. But he finds the politics of it, and the business of thrillers so fucking poisonous that it just fills him with hate.

    I emailed one of the eds at The Oz and said “Everyone thinks I hate that review. Could you just pass on the word to Geordie, that I actually really liked it.” I enjoyed reading it as a review, and as a piece of advertising for the book… it worked. But I did enjoy it. And then the reviewer sent me an email back and said “Thank you very much”. I can’t publish it because it’s private correspondence, but one thing I can reveal is that for most of the time he was reading that book, he was seething, absolutely seething because he thinks I’m writing beneath myself. Which in one sense, I guess you could say I am. In the other sense he’s talking through his fucking arse, because thrillers are really fucking difficult to get right.

    There are so many things that can go wrong and you do need to actually bring some skill and consideration for your audience to the business of putting them together.

    I read an article in The Australian that was written when Without Warning came out. At the time, you said that you feel your primary audience is “security guys, military, ex-military and gun bunnies”. Do you think that’s still true?

    'Dopeland' by Australian author John BirminghamI’m constantly surprised by my audience. Before I wrote thrillers I was surprised to discover I even had a geek audience. I was doing research for Dopeland [pictured right], where I travel around the country smoking dope and writing about it, and I ended up at a science fiction convention in Perth with these utter fucking freaks. And every one of them had read my books, every fucking one of them and most of them could quote slabs at me. It was a disturbing revelation, but a revelation nonetheless.

    I try not to make suppositions about people who read my books, and it’s a good thing because I’m constantly surprised. A lot of chicks read them. They’re certainly not in the majority and they’re not half of my readers, but they’re probably about 35-40% of the readership, and they’re not the sort of chick you’d necessarily expect to read the explodey thrillers.

    You do have strong female characters.

    Exactly. My publisher Kate explains it that way. She says, “You write great female characters.” My old agent, Annette, who was a fiery, fiery fucking woman, emailed me about an hour or so ago to curse me because she’s supposed to be putting together a festival up in Noosa or something and she hasn’t been able to get to it because she’s been stuck in After America. And the reason is she loves the female characters; they’re tough.

    I guess the sort of gun bunny thing comes from the fact that my blog regulars, there’s a preponderance of ex-military, ex-serving cops and security guys who hang out at Cheeseburger [Gothic, JB’s blog]. So they set the tone of the place. Having said that, they’re a fraction of the people who pull through. I have lots and lots of lurkers… like you. You don’t strike me as a gun bunny. But they’re happy just to drop in. And some of those guys are very fucking funny. Boylan is just a comedic genius. I will scan my own blog looking for a Paul Boylan comment because I know there’s always going to be a big payoff.

    I couldn’t tell you who reads them now. I know it’s 60% male, mostly over the ages of 18 which is reasonable enough. I don’t think they’re appropriate books for school kids. They’re incredibly violent. Beyond that, I couldn’t say. As an example, my friend, my blog buddy MonsterYuppie, who lives down the road here – he’s a monster yuppie. He owns his own medical technology company, he’s someone that flies all over the world first class, spends 200 days a year running it.

    When Without Warning came out, I actually ran into him on his way to the airport. I had a box of Warning on me and said, “Here, take this for your flight.” “Thanks,” he said. He popped on the flight and texted me later on. He was in first class. There were five businessmen in there and three of them were reading Without Warning. [laughs] I would never have imagined that.

    I’m interested to know how you balance fiction writing for this book with your regular journalistic work. I know you have two blogs [for Brisbane TimesBlunt Instrument, and The Geek].

    Sometimes I don’t. Sometimes I fuck up. Sometimes I take too much on and I fuck it up. Particularly with feature writing, because to do features properly, they’re hard work. And I get paid well for them, but I get paid much better for the books, and it’s always tempting to go where the money is and to just – because I’ve written so many features, it’s really tempting to me to just go “I’ll throw this together at the last moment.” Of course, you fucking can’t. So you know, I could point to half a dozen stories, cover stories for big magazines I’ve written that… they’re not shit, because I’ve had enough experience that I know how to put a feature together, but they could have been a lot fucking better than the published version, because I just wasn’t very good at juggling my time.

    I try and assign different parts of the work day and the work week to different things. Blogs for instance take nothing to write. I did a blog about ninjas last week. Twelve minutes, I think it took to write. Hugely popular.

    The thing with blogs, however, is the work is all at the backend. It’s in the comments, managing the comments. A lot of gallery journos, for instance: they’re not writing blogs, they’re still writing their own columns but they’ve been opened up for comments. Those guys never, ever reply. Probably a good idea, because unless you’re willing to get down to the same level as your nutty fucking blog followers, you’re on a hiding to nothing.

    I got hired as a blogger by Fairfax and I work as a blogger, which means I read every comment and I reply to as many to them as I can. That can chew up a lot of fucking time. I did one, which I knew was going to go off the other day, about the World Cup. I did it purely to piss off soccer fans. It’s one of my shameful joys in life. And it did; it went off. Like, 400 comments in an afternoon or something, and I’m fuckin’ sitting there reading every one. Which would have an ego cost if I didn’t have such a massive ego, because these guys just were fucking hammering me, from one end of the day to the other.

    That sort of thing can be really addictive and distracting because although it is work, I’m sort of doing my job, even though my contract at Fairfax doesn’t actually require me to do anything other than file cop, I’m compelled to. Also, I think blogs suck if you don’t get in there and engage. But it can be incredibly distracting. So once I’ve written the thing [a blog], I tend to have set times a day when I’ll go in to read comments and answer them, because otherwise I’ll sit there waiting for them to pop up, responding to each one.

    With books, I try and have one book that I’m working on full-time, which means it gets four hours a day, and then I’ll have another one which I’m bringing up to speed that gets maybe an hour or so a day. And then once that one is done, it gets shunted off into production and the other one comes up. It’s a very unromantic, production line way of putting out the words, but it means I can work as a writer.

    Australian author John Birmingham

    It also means you get the day-to-day interaction with people rather than being lost in your own mind.

    That’s exactly right. My friend Peter Robb, who I fucking haven’t spoken to in years – he wrote Midnight In Sicily, a great book, one of the great books of the 1990s. Peter is a funny dude. He loves the fine life, he loves a meal, he loves wine, and he likes going out to lunch with friends, but he is prone to locking himself away in his apartment for years at a time. He told me once that when he was writing his biography of Caravaggio, he went so long without human contact of any kind, that the first time he stepped outside of the apartment he had a moment of panic, that he had forgotten how to speak. It’s not good.

    I avoid that. [laughs] Facebook is my friend.

    Even if it’s typing, it’s still interaction.

    That’s right.

    I’ll leave it there. Thanks, John.

    After America is available now via Pan Macmillan. Follow John Birmingham on Twitter, and/or subscribe to his personal blog, Cheeseburger Gothic.

  • The Big Issue story: John Birmingham – ‘After America’, August 2010

    A story for The Big Issue #360 (3-16 August 2010), wherein I profiled Brisbane-based author and journalist John Birmingham and his new book, After America.

    Click the image below for a closer look at the scanned article, or read the text underneath.

    'Afterwords', a profile of John Birmingham and his book 'After America' for The Big Issue by Andrew McMillen


    The prolific, genre-hopping John Birmingham discusses some recent achievements, which include a new thriller, a martial-arts injury and way too much tweeting

    On March 14, 2003, the United States Of America went to hell – in John Birmingham’s mind, at least. His latest novel, After America, is the second part in a speculative fiction trilogy based in a USA subject to an enormous energy wave that decimated the majority of the country’s population.

    Two years ago, Birmingham wrote part one of the trilogy, Without Warning, as a potential stand-alone novel. “You could read it, close it, and if you wanted to, you could walk away from it,” he says. ”It’s got a dénouement at the end where you obviously set up another story, but it didn’t have to go on. And I found After America really fucking difficult to kick off because I was really happy with the first book as a novel; as a book.”

    “Having written what, to me, was the perfect book – although others would disagree vehemently – I just thought, “Fuck, how do I top that?” And I had about six months where I just sat around. I know what I have to do in this second book because I’d already plotted it out, but it was just really difficult firing up. And then when I finally did fire up, I broke my arm. I’d written the first draft and I was just about to sit down and edit that.” He shows me the plate inserted into his left arm, which was busted in a Jujuitsu training accident.

    “The funny thing is I reckon it was, in a sense, a left-handed gift. The enforced break allowed me to sit back and actually spend about two months in my lounge chair thinking about the characters, thinking about the stories. When I could literally lay fingers on a keyboard, I came back much more charged up.”

    This series of novels isn’t the author’s first dalliance in the thriller genre: his Axis Of Time series (released from 2004 to 2007) are alternate history adventures that begin in 2021, when a US-led task force off Indonesia is sent back to 1942.

    Axis Of Time seemed an abrupt about-face for someone best known for his grungy 1994 share-house memoir, He Died With A Felafel In His Hand and, more recently, as an essayist and non-fiction author.

    Before his breakthrough with Felafel, Birmingham was a freelance writer for Rolling Stone and Australian Penthouse magazines. Then, five years after his first book, came Leviathan, a comprehensive (if unauthorised) biography of Sydney – another stylistic right-turn. After that, Birmingham smoked his way through a hands-on exploration of Australia’s marijuana culture in Dopeland (2003). Now, judging by his book sales. readers are becoming comfortable with Birmingham’s incarnation as thriller writer.

    His latest book examines a nation in conflict through the eyes of several very different characters, including the President of the United States, a vengeance-seeking Mexican cowboy, a pair of heavily-armed smugglers and an adolescent fighting in the name of Allah. The book’s central locale is a crumbling New York City so beset upon by pirates, looters and conflict-hungry freedom fighters that the military is forced to reconsider whether it should remain standing.

    The result is a non-stop adrenaline rush threaded across multiple narratives. Birmingham – who became enamoured of thrillers after reading Matthew Reilly’s The Ice Station – doesn’t mince words when asked about the divide between popular fiction and literary fiction.

    “I do entertainment,” he says. “That’s it. Lower middle-brow entertainment with a lot of explosions. And they’re great fun. They’re read by people who are not going to read literature and they’re read by people who like literature. But [the books] aren’t literature themselves. There’s not much point in trying to compare and contrast, because it’s like trying to compare and contrast first person shooters with traditional theatre. They’re both mediums for telling stories but they do very different things in very different ways; both are enjoyable and they both have validity.”

    “One is not necessarily worth more than the other. The thing that energises this debate is literary critics getting themselves really worked up because they perceive, quite rightly, that literary authors are working really hard to not get the rewards they deserve. And they do deserve the rewards, because they do work every bit as hard as the rest of us. Their craft is honed to a much finer point than ours is.”

    Outside of his recent successes with fiction, Birmingham is a widely read online columnist for Fairfax and a prolific user of Twitter, where he has amassed more than 5,500 followers.

    “It works for me,” he says of the microblogging service, “But I’m a bit unusual because I worked in journalism for 10 years before I wrote Felafel. I like people. I love literary festivals. I love going on tour. I just love this. Sitting in these bizarre, shitty little cafes in back streets, talking to people I’ve never met. I love all that stuff. Twitter is almost the perfection of that way of dealing with people.”

    by Andrew McMillen

    After America is out now. Following John Birmingham on Twitter:

    Naturally, it was a blast to speak with one of my favourite writers for the first time. (It also helped that I’d finished reading an advance copy of After America half an hour before we met, so the story was fresh in my mind.)

  • The Big Issue story: ‘Changing Resolution’, May 2010

    A story for The Big Issue #355 about Brisbane-based publisher Interactive Publications and one of its young authors, Josh Donellan.

    Click the below image for a closer look, or read the article text underneath.

    The Big Issue story: 'Changing Resolution', featuring Interactive Publications and Josh Donellan

    Changing Resolution

    Brisbane-based publisher Interactive Publications has leapt aboard the digital revolution – to find a world wide web of opportunities stretching far beyond the printed page.

    David Reiter is well aware that his industry is in flux. The director of a Brisbane-based independent publishing company, Interactive Publications (IP), is referring to the book industry’s transition from print to electronic publishing – and with the Australian launch of the iPad imminent, discussion on this topic has reached fever pitch.

    Publishers’ attitudes are split between those praying that consumers’ love for the physical book will endure, and those embracing the electronic format as a more profitable, and arguably more environmentally friendly, medium. (Something covered at length in the cover story of our Ed#352, ‘Read All About It’.)

    David Reiter of Interactive PublicationsWhile still valuing conventional books, Reiter [pictured right] believes publishers need to embrace emerging digital technology. In his mind, the biggest problems facing Australian independent publishers are market access and international promotion. Yet, he argues, these concerns are largely side-stepped through digital media. “We’ve have been able to bypass some of the traditional channels – overseas agents, overseas distributors, selling rights to overseas publishers – by having a significant online presence.”

    Reiter estimates it will take just “six to eight years” for digital sales to catch up with those of traditional books – and that’s being conservative. Overseas, digital publications already comprise 15–20% of the market. “When you consider the volume of titles being published these days, it’s actually a phenomenal growth figure relative to print books,” Reiter says.

    His company’s first major digital title came out in 2000; digital sales now account for approximately 5–10% of their total. “That’s not a remarkably low amount, given what’s happening elsewhere,” Reiter says. “I think that even the major publishers are in that situation at this point.”

    IP also recently launched the Digital Publishing Centre, as a one-stop-shop for businesses, or individuals, interested in going digital. Manuscripts that are run through the centre are assessed and edited, then mastered for print-on-demand formats, as well as e-books.

    But Reiter acknowledges that e-readers remain a rare commodity in 2010 – and, despite the availability of the Kindle and the coming of the iPad, he is wary of the assumption that people will start buying e-books in vast quantities. “I still talk to younger people, in their twenties and thirties, who trot out the view that ‘I love my book, my regular book and I’m not too keen about reading on screen’.”

    And, Reiter says, publishers could be an even harder nut to crack than the readers. This, he argues, is “because many of the big publishers in Australia are tied to the apron strings of multinationals. Even if they wanted to change, they couldn’t, because they have to get approval from head-office overseas.”

    But, he continues, “It’s good news for us because we’ve been leading the pack; we’ve been able to put some distance between us and the mainstream publishers who still seem to be sitting in the corner, twiddling their thumbs while all of this is happening, wondering what they need to do.”

    Josh Donellan, author of A Beginner’s Guide to Dying in IndiaDespite their significant investment in digital media, IP haven’t abandoned the traditional format. One of the publisher’s most recent print edition books is A Beginner’s Guide to Dying in India. Reiter discovered its author, Josh Donellan [pictured left], after the Brisbane local entered IP Picks – the company’s annual national writing competition for unpublished manuscripts – in 2009. Donellan was given the nod for Best Fiction, which led to the offer of a publishing contract.

    A Beginner’s Guide opens with a bang: its protagonist, Levi, watches his house and all of his possessions going up in smoke. Earlier that morning, he’d been fired from his job. Racing to seek comfort from his fiancée, Levi discovers that she’s leaving the country to become a nun – and all this happens within the first six pages. Emotionally drained, Levi flies to India, where he’s greeted by his older brother, who’s in the midst of planning for his last-ever farewell party (read: funeral).

    The novel – which features a devilish sense of humour, well-formed characters and whip-smart pop culture references – has found a strong audience among young adults, almost selling out of its first print run. But the book is also one of IP’s strongest sellers in the digital realm. It is available for Kindle on And readers can buy a copy through ‘print on demand’ – which is the sort of technology that, for a young Australian author like D0nellan, offers exciting prospects for overseas sales. With this format a reader in, say, New York could order a freshly printed copy of Donellan’s book in just a few days – rather than waiting weeks and paying costly international delivery fees.

    The Big Issue, #355: Heroes and VillainsThat’s all well and good. But, as Donellan himself argues, in all this talk about print versus digital, the most fundamental element of book publishing seems to be missing. “I think there’s a danger that sometimes the focus on the packaging outweighs the matter itself,” says Donellan. “I think [digital publishing is] an important change, but it still really matters how good the material is.”

    by Andrew McMillen

    A Beginner’s Guide To Dying In India is available now – in print and digital formats.

    Learn more about Interactive Publications at, and click here to visit the homepage for Josh Donellan’s book, A Beginner’s Guide To Dying In India. I don’t read much fiction, but I enjoyed the hell out of this story and would recommend it to anyone.

  • A Conversation With Mikey Young, Eddy Current Suppression Ring guitarist

    Melbourne garage rock band Eddy Current Suppression RingEddy Current Suppression Ring are a Melbourne garage rock band. I spoke with their guitarist, Mikey Young [pictured right], for a story in The Big Issue (‘Keeping Current‘) that was published in late April 2010. Our conversation took place on March 17, ahead of a national tour in support of their third album, Rush To Relax. What follows is a transcript of our whole conversation.

    Andrew: Mikey, my first question is more of a statement than a question. It’s something that I’ve noticed. Eddy Current seem to be one of the best bands in Australia at deflecting any and all praise thrown your way.

    Mikey: Well I appreciate praise, but it makes me really uncomfortable. I’m glad people like us, for sure, but I’m very wary of not letting praise go to our heads or thinking about it much.

    So it’s not a matter of when you’re nominated for a new award or critical accolade, you don’t sit down together and go, “Right, what’s the best way to downplay this?”

    No, not at all. I’m usually the one doing the interviews and so it’s probably my reactions that appear [in the media]. I don’t want to come across… I’m sure that quietly in my head I’m stoked and we’re proud of ourselves, but we definitely don’t sit around and say “let’s downplay it”. And the opposite of that, we don’t sit around going “how good are we?!”, slapping ourselves on the back. Awards and stuff are funny anyway, they’re a strange concept. We try not to think about it, and just make some tunes.

    A broad question: why do you think people like your band?

    That’s another thing I’ve briefly thought about in the past and I realised the more I think about it, actually I don’t really want to think about it. I don’t really want to know why people… I don’t want to be conscious of that. I feel it might sort of affect how we make music. If I’m oblivious to it and we just do it, for ourselves, then I figure it will be easier on my head.

    I have thought about it, though. I think we’re a good live band, which helps. I think there is a fair simplicity to the music, and honesty in Brendan’s delivery and lyrics. I guess when things are really simple and honest upfront, then maybe they appeal to a larger range of people. I don’t know. I think to keep things pretty simple, then a lot of people can get into it. That’s not why we make simple music. I guess that’s just the way it turned out, but if I had to think about why people like us, hopefully it’s because we’re an okay band.

    Do you think a band’s talent is reflected in their number of fans or number of records sold?

    Are you asking whether popularity is representative of talent? Not always, I would think not. Seeing as I can barely listen to the radio these days, but that’s just my opinion. I just can’t stand a lot of popular music. That doesn’t really mean they’re talentless. I’m sure there is talent in making songs that I consider horrible to my ears; it just doesn’t work for me. I feel out of the loop when it comes to popular music at the moment. I’m probably not the best person to ask that question. Popularity and talent aren’t always on the same page.

    Reading your past interviews, I did notice that the recurring theme of refusing to self-promote…

    I have to stop doing all these interviews. I have all the same answers. [laughs]

    There’s a quote of yours that I like: “I think if you don’t shove yourself in peoples’ faces, they’ll end up liking you more in the long run.”

    I guess that was – maybe not from the start because we probably didn’t think that far ahead, but when we realised things were starting to have some sort of groundswell of popularity, that was something I was pretty aware of, just from being a music fan, reading magazines over the years, that if a band is shoved in your face publicity-wise; if they’re on the front cover and have ads everywhere and you can’t escape them, they don’t really feel like [they’re] yours. If you let someone go out and find it in their own time, it probably feels more special to them. It’s like they’ve made the groundwork, and it might feel more like their band rather than everybody’s band.

    The self-discovery aspect is always more interesting to indie music fans. Those kinds of artists don’t have a big marketing budget behind them, and it’s generally the fans and critics that propel them forward, instead of the band themselves.

    Hopefully it attracts people to your band that actually like your band for the right reasons; they like the music you do and that’s the reason they’re into your band, not for any other reason. It’s more enjoyable, rather than being told to like something.

    Reading those interviews, there are lots of mentions of ‘finding yourself in certain situations’, as if you’re indicating that your success is entirely accidental.

    It’s not entirely accidental. It’s definitely not the goal. We haven’t done anything to further our career. If we tour overseas, it’s not to ‘crack a market’ or anything like that, or if we put a record out at a certain time, or anything like that. The only thing that is on purpose in this band is the making of the records and playing of shows. I guess everything else is a by-product of that. Maybe accidental is the wrong word. There have been a lot of funny accidents, but we’ve had a ridiculously good run. I guess success has never been our goal. None of us are anti-success; if that happens, that’s awesome, but it’s all a by-product of what we want to do, which is to make the best records that we can.

    You’re heavily involved in the Melbourne indie scene with the label and your time at the vinyl pressing plant [Corduroy]. Surely you must have had some idea that the music you were making would appeal to people.

    Not really. I don’t work at the plant anymore. I’m not even involved in the label anymore. That’s only a recent development. I guess I’m involved now. When I started, I didn’t really know that many people within that scene. I knew a small group of people from the record plant, but when we had that first jam I really didn’t think that it would appeal to that many people at all. I knew we could probably press 200 7-inches and get away with it, and then our friends and family would probably buy enough of them to make our money back. Beyond that, I thought I’d have them sitting under my bed for a year, then I’ll get rid of them when we play a show, and that will be fine. That’s all we wanted to do, was usually play one show, just to show our friends, “Look what we’ve got.”

    I think after the first show I did realise people did really like this. I was sort of surprised and I could see that there were bands before that I felt didn’t really have anything special about them, and when I did play with this band I did feel like there was that special thing that I’ve been looking for in other bands. I noticed that other people noticed that too. There’s no way that I thought that many people would like us. I sort of think if I hear us on triple j or something, I think we stick out really weirdly and don’t sound like a real band or something. I’m actually slightly flummoxed that we’re as popular as we are.

    Is it uncomfortable feeling when you hear your songs on the radio?

    I don’t listen to the radio that much anymore so I don’t have to bother about it. It’s sort of nice; because I’m so heavily involved with the making of the music and the recording of the music, when I hear it accidentally on the radio or when I’m out somewhere in a shop, I can be a bit objective about it for a second. I can sort of go, “Actually, this is pretty good.” The only way I can hear it as an outsider for a brief second.

    Then you think, “Wait a second, I actually recorded and mixed that.”

    Yeah, it takes about three seconds before it processes that it’s actually me playing. In those three seconds, I can have this weird brief moment of “Ah, I like this” and sort of feel different about it.

    Melbourne garage rock band Eddy Current Suppression Ring. Photo by Ben LoveridgeI want to clarify your role within the band. You’re the guitarist, keyboardist, and you mix the albums?

    I record and mix them, yeah.

    Is the band still self-managed?

    Yes, for the first time – for our whole career I’ve just booked the shows and I guess managed the band, just out of accident. We got bigger, and someone needed to do it and I had more time on my hands, so I kept doing it. This coming album tour is the first time I’ve ever handed over any of the responsibility to an outsider; we’ve got a tour manager this time. It’s gotten to the stage where the shows, especially for the album launches, are quite big. I wanted to sit back for once and just enjoy myself and just play. Sometimes, on the bigger shows, I get a bit stressed out with the responsibility of it all, and I’m more waiting for the relief of it to be over, rather than enjoying the show. I thought I just want to go out there and relax for a tour, just let someone do all the other stuff, like booking flights and everything.

    Did you find it difficult to hand over the reins?

    Yeah. Well, it’s still happening. The tour’s about to start. I think I found it weird. In a way, it’s no less work. You’re still [included] in the same emails, there’s just a middleman now, but I do feel a distance from responsibility, like I don’t feel like, “God, it’s my fault if this tour goes wrong” or something like that. I feel like just a band member and I feel good about it. I think we have gone so far with it being totally insular and doing it all ourselves. I did feel pretty weird to sort finally let go of something. It’s been good so far.

    You might be aware that there’s a bit of a backlash about the last album, which tends to happen with almost any band who ‘outgrows their roots’.

    I read one or two reviews. I think it was a Tom Hawking review [on The Vine] and then a response to that review that someone alerted me to. To be honest, I think for a band in our position we’ve gotten amazingly far without really having a strong backlash. Even if there is a backlash on the new record, it’s sort of been pretty minute. You put out three records; someone is going to like your first record better than the new one. Plenty of people whose opinion I totally trust think this is our best record. I should just be happy that anyone likes any of our records; I don’t think the backlash is for any other reason despite the music. I don’t care. I don’t like some records. Is that all that the backlash is about? You’re probably more aware of it than I am.

    For example, there’s a topic on the Mess+Noise discussion boards called “Eddy Current Backlash” which was mostly about that Tom Hawking review. It currently has 178 responses.

    Okay. I’m probably just guilty of Googling my own band and reviews as anyone else. I do realise it’s not the healthiest of habits. [laughs]. I’m not taking it to heart anyway, but I don’t know; that’s fine. It wasn’t a bad review. It seemed pretty genuinely thought-out, smartly written and stuff. It’s just weird for me. People think more about our records than we actually do. That’s the only thing that’s weird to me: I don’t think we’re the type of band you need to dissect that much. “We wrote ten songs in the last year, and we recorded them. Here they are.” That’s sort of how much we think about it. It’s funny to see other people analyse it when there is – it’s like other people care about it more than we do.

    I read a quote about your live shows where you said the bigger the band gets, the harder it is to please everyone, and you probably took it to heart a bit at first and you’re trying to make sure everyone is having a good time.

    That could equally apply to the records we put out. There was a stage when the shows got a bit bigger and the people that were there at the start weren’t enjoying it as much as the crowds got a bit rowdier. They got pushed to the back and there were jerks there. It would really affect me to find out after the show that so-and-so had a bad time because some dude was being a wanker. Not that I really want to tolerate jerks at any of our shows, but I’ve also got to realise that I can’t control everything and have to do everything I can and then just play a show and enjoy it, rather than stress about every person in the audience. It is a bit harder to control a thousand people compared to fifty.

    Mess+Noise writer asked you in 2006 whether violence at a rock and roll show is ever justifiable. I’d like to put that question to you again, now that you’re quite a bit bigger than you were in 2006.

    I don’t think violence at shows is ever justifiable. I don’t think violence anywhere can be justified. I don’t see a place for it, for sure, and I definitely don’t see a place for it at our gigs. I’ve never really understood that kind of reaction to our kind of music. It seems to me sort of fairly good-time music in my head. Maybe I’m wrong.

    You mentioned in another interview that Eddy Current can offer support slots to bands that you really like, to help or to expose them to other people. Was this because other bands extended that same courtesy to you when you were starting out?

    Yeah definitely, and it’s just more from being a fan of records. For instance, those overseas bands that we’ve played with; I’m sure Thee Oh Sees would have done fine without us, but if we can do a couple of shows and 500 or 1,000 people seeing them that maybe hadn’t heard of them, you know, then that’s awesome. It’s good when overseas bands come out and you’re in a position where you can do that. It’s the same with local bands, friends’ bands, and stuff like that. You just want to play with bands you love and you want to expose. I guess people come to our shows, there are a lot of people now that maybe don’t go to smaller gigs and stuff like that. If we can just expose some good bands, then you feel like you’ve done a good deed.

    You’re paying forward what you felt in the past couple of years, when you were growing your fanbase.

    Totally, and also like all the bands I grew up watching when I was first turned 18, 19 – bands like The Exotics and The Breadmakers – to be able to now put them on shows in front of younger dudes who wouldn’t have seen them before. It’s repaying that favor to those bands that have entertained us a heap over the years.

    Melbourne garage rock band Eddy Current Suppression RingI want to ask you about the live music scene in Melbourne at the moment, because I saw that Eddy Current were involved with The Tote’s final show. Did you attend the SLAM rally?

    I didn’t, actually. I’m glad it went really well. I had a mixing session to help a dude finish a record that day. I thought of cancelling, but then I thought “what’s the point?”. I thought it would be more proactive to sit there and help someone finish making music than actually go protest about not being able to make music.

    I’m not trying to guilt trip you for not being there, you know.

    Not at all, I was just explaining. [laughs]

    Following The Tote’s closure, how do you feel about the live music scene in Melbourne? Do you think it’s healthier, or really struggling because of those liquor licensing laws?

    I always say the wrong answer to these kinds of questions. I don’t think I said the things that people wanted to hear when The Tote closed. But The Tote was great, The Tote was awesome to my band and it was a good place for years. In that time, I know a lot of venues have closed down, but a lot of venues are still open. It seems to me – I guess I’ve been in the city for 11 years or so – like Melbourne has more venues [now] than it did 10 years ago. There seems to be more bands.

    Shit’s gotta die off and get fresh again. I think good things will happen, and good things will continue to happen, and even though it seems sad now, it’s probably good in a way. Things might get stale and younger dudes will start new venues and we’ll all think of different ways of doing things. I think Melbourne is strong enough to survive with one less venue.

    To change topics entirely, I want to ask about the masks on the cover of Rush To Relax, even though probably every other music journalist you’ve spoken to has asked the same question.

    No-one has actually asked about the masks.

    What inspired you to use them?

    I don’t know. Nothing, really. I think we just had the idea for the film clip before we had the cover. We wanted the film clip to look a bit creepy. We just wanted a creepy-looking film clip and then we had the idea of shooting the cover on the same day because we didn’t want to hire a plane twice. Maybe we were just scared of our own faces on the covers, but there is no symbolic meaning behind the masks. They were cool, so we put them on.

    It’s the first release of yours where the band actually appear on the cover.

    I know, I think people were getting a bit sick of our other covers. [laughs]

    So the masks weren’t a matter of trying to protect your anonymity?

    Melbourne garage rock band Eddy Current Suppression Ring, from the cover of their 'Rush To Relax' albumNot really. We’re pretty conscious of never wanting to be the ‘four dudes in leather jackets down an alleyway’ type of band. It happened because of the film clip. We had an idea for the film clip and we didn’t really want to – we wanted a different look for the film clip. That shot [the album cover] just happened to be a shot from the day of the film clip. That’s all there is to the masks.

    How much attention to you guys pay to the band’s image?

    Not much. There’s not really much difference between the way we look or act on stage or in the band than how we do in normal life. I guess the only attention we’re paying is just giving accurate representation of ourselves. That’s about it.

    You actually hired a plane for the album shot and the video clip?


    Which company did you go with? Did they dig the concept of what you were doing?

    It was pretty hard to find a company that still does those old plane banners. I think it was a guy called Sky Surfers down in some town in country Victoria. I always used to like those banners as a kid and I always wanted one. Our album cost nothin’, and our friends film our videos, and I guess we won some money last year [the AMP] and I felt like we should show that we spent it on something. So we might as well get a stupid big plane. When it came flying over, while were waiting to film the clip, it was seriously the most exciting event. We were just jumping up and down going “yes!”

    “We’ve made it. We have a banner!”

    Totally, man! It was like “box ticked – I can retire now”.

    Do you still have the banner?

    Unfortunately, they just recycle the letters and you can’t keep the banner.


    It would have been excellent to put it up at the back of our gigs or something.

    It would. With each album you’ve kind of gone backwards. I read that Rush To Relax was recorded even cheaper and more quickly than the last one. Do you see a logical conclusion to this pattern? Will you end up recording an hour-long album in an hour?

    Mike Young of Melbourne garage rock band Eddy Current Suppression Ring. Photo by Sarah McEvoyI always thought about it but I think probably not. I can’t see how we can do it much more quickly and cheaper than this one. Definitely not any cheaper. Too much attention is paid to how long it takes for us to record albums. It’s not like we’re trying to prove a point. I have the recording gear so it doesn’t cost us anything. We’re comfortable with doing it that way, and that it sounds okay for what we’re trying to do. Unlike some bands maybe, who go into a recording session to write songs or something, we have 12 – 15 songs written and ready to go. It’s basically just setting up.

    The album is only 40 minutes of music, so I always thought if you can’t play the songs you’re trying to record well after three takes, you shouldn’t be recording it. We try a song a couple of times and hopefully it’s done. It doesn’t have to be perfect. Brendan always seems to be quirky and out of time, and there’s plenty of room for bum notes and stuff like that. I like that kind of thing about this kind of music. We’re not trying to achieve any kind of perfection. Six hours [to record an album] is plenty of time.

    On the other end of the spectrum, do you ever see yourselves being victims or locking yourselves in the studio for a week to really nail it out properly, with a big name producer and all that sort of music industry bullshit?

    I’m not against that kind of thing. I don’t think it suits our band. I just don’t think it would work. I’m pretty sure that this way is the correct way for this band. It’s not necessarily how I’d do it for any other band or any other band I’d record. I don’t think it’s definitely the way to do it, I just think that it works for this band.

    Having said that, I don’t walk out at the end of the day with a finished product. I still bring it home and mix it, and spend some time making it sound okay. There is other time beyond those 6 hours, but I just guess we have the luxury of having our own gear and I relatively know what I’m doing. I can just mix the record in my bedroom. It’s nice to be in the position where you don’t have to rely on producers and studios.

    Are you happy to keep doing that for the next few Eddy Current releases?

    Yeah, I think so. For a new song we just wrote, I’ve got a very different idea that I wouldn’t mind trying a different way. I think I’m happy with, if anything, I can see us doing it sort of rougher. Like, I think we can experiment with some 4-track cassette recordings rather than 8-track, and I think I’d really like the drum sound we’re getting on that, so if we do some more stuff I wouldn’t be surprised if we regress even further.

    That sounds like the ultimate way to make money: to be completely DIY indie, to release the album for nothing, and just to tour on the back of it and make money.

    I guess it’s a way of keeping costs down, that’s for sure.

    Eddy Current are credited with having a large impact on the Australian punk and garage revival scene. What are your thoughts on that?

    I think there have actually been a couple of bands that have sprung up since that I feel some sort of kinship with, but I think if it wasn’t us that did that, it would have been someone else. I think it was one of those things that were going to happen anyway. We just happened to get in first.

    I read that you’re fond of playing house parties and small gigs to ‘keep it real’ for the old fans.

    I think it’s mainly for our sanity. If we play the big shows in Perth all the time, we just go nuts. I guess just to do an occasional really small show and house party is just really to keep us sane and to remember that type of show and enjoy the show. I guess it keeps things as diverse as possible.

    The upcoming tour you’re playing mid-sized kind of venues. In Brisbane, you’re playing The Zoo.

    Which is pretty big for us. I think we’ve only played The Step Inn in Brisbane, so I guess The Zoo seems like the logical step up, up there.  Brisbane hasn’t got a lot of options.

    No, it really doesn’t. Between The Zoo, which is 450, I think the next step up is the Hi-Fi, which is 1,000+.

    I don’t think we’re ready to go to that, not in Brisbane anyway. I don’t think our following is that strong up there.

    I read a quote where you said you’ve done a good job with distancing yourself from the music biz. I saw that you turned down SXSW, which a lot of other Australian bands probably wouldn’t do. They’d probably view that as a massive opportunity.

    It was probably bad timing, but I’d just rather go over there and play a lot of shows and not really worry about that kind of stuff. I think SXSW is probably really enjoyable for a local because you get to see a lot of bands, but unless you’re going there for a reason and trying to become something, it’s probably not the best time to play a show. I’d rather wait until things die down and do a normal tour.

    Considering there are 1,500 or 1,800 bands playing in a week or something.

    Totally. It almost sounds like it’s working against its purpose.

    I’ve read that you’ve got quite a broad taste in music, Mikey. I want to know what inspired you to play guitar in that Eddy Current style.

    I don’t know; I’m sure it’s a bunch of things. Definitely my time at Corduroy [Records, a vinyl pressing plant], being surrounded by those type of bands and musicians and stuff, had an influence on the type of music I play and how I play. I spent three years listening to teenage garage records from the ‘60s or something, and I realised that that’s the sound of guitar I like and I’m going to try my best to rip it off.

    I have one last question. It’s about the Australian Music Prize. It’s gone from Eddy Current’s indie garage sound to the current winner, which is a major label-distributed album by a former Australian Idol contestant.

    This is a loaded question, isn’t it? [laughs]

    I just want to gauge your take on that.

    That’s fine. I think it’s definitely reactionary. I think it was pretty obvious the day after we won it that they were going to give it to a chick this year. I haven’t heard Lisa Mitchell’s records so I’m not in a position to say if it’s a good record or bad record. I think I heard one of the songs on the radio and quite liked it. I guess if they’re doing it for why I say they’re doing it, it shouldn’t really matter if it’s on a major or indie or if it’s an Australian Idol winner or not. If they honestly think it’s the best record then so be it.

    That’s a very diplomatic response.

    I’m so out of the loop that I probably haven’t heard any of the records on the damn thing anyway. I don’t think I’m really the best person qualified. I have no ill feeling towards that.

    That’s all I’ve got for you, Mikey.

    Hopefully there’s something there. I rambled.


    Check out Eddy Current Suppression Ring on MySpace, and view the video for ‘Rush To Relax’ below.

  • The Big Issue story: Henry Rollins, ‘Still Angry, Still Curious’, May 2010

    A story for The Big Issue #354. Click below image for a closer look, or read the story text underneath.

    Henry Rollins: Still Angry, Still Curious story in The Big Issue Australia by Andrew McMillen

    Henry Rollins: Still Angry, Still Curious

    Shooting the breeze with punk pioneer turned spoken-world celeb and broadcaster, Henry Rollins.

    Henry Rollins is a true Renaissance man. The 49-year old (born Henry Garfield in Washington, DC) has appeared in music (he fronted iconic hardcore punk act Black Flag, before establishing the Rollins Band), film (he’s appeared in Heat, Bad Boys II and The Alibi), television (he hosted The Henry Rollins Show for two seasons), radio (he hosts a live talk show on Californian station KCRW), and print (he blogs for Vanity Fair each week, and established his own publishing company, 2.13.61, named for his birthdate).

    Exhausted yet? Rollins is also known for campaigning on behalf of the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), and appearing in public speaking gigs before US troops stationed in Iraq. Rollins was in Australia in April and May for a spoken-word tour entitled Frequent Flyer. It was the 27th time he’d toured here

    Rollins took the time to share some of his acquired wisdom with The Big Issue.

    You’re a true multimedia figure, Henry. Which medium is most gratifying for you?

    The talking shows are perhaps the most fulfilling. I like being on the radio, it’s only two hours a week but it’s really fun and a much lower pressure than the other things that I do.

    Of your career so far, is there a single release, event or achievement that you’re most proud of?

    I am not a proud person, really… I have a sense of right and wrong and that’s about it. I don’t think anything I have released is particularly good. I will say that I give it my best shot every time.

    What’s your take on broad societal problems like homelessness and obesity?

    Homelessness is a hard issue to deal with because on its face it is sad and tough but there are a lot of different ways someone ends up that way, so the cure and preventative measures are complex, political and broad-ranging. Obesity, especially in children has as much to do with marketing, concepts of self-esteem and how technology has shaped how people live as it does anything else. Many sit still in front of a screen and and don’t always get out and move around. Also, the West is very well fed, relative to other places. I don’t know how sustainable that is or how healthy that is in the long term.

    Are you comfortable with the notion of celebrity?

    Sure, if people want to be famous, they should go ahead. It’s nothing I would waste my time with but for some, it’s what they want.

    Although you didn’t seek fame, you’ve found it, seemingly without compromising your values or your message. What advice do you have for those who wish to follow in your footsteps – that is, to be become known and respected, but without resorting to selling dog food or glad-handing politicians?

    I just do my work and am respectful as possible to those I meet. Not everyone’s going to dig you, so you have to deal with that but you can’t let it stop you. It’s not always easy. I work very hard and put myself through a lot to keep things happening.

    You’re known for speaking out in support of gay rights. What compelled you to do that?

    Because homophobia is ugly, hopelessly ignorant, and dangerous, and it’s about time that sane people stand in the face of it and say “no more”.

    You’re no stranger to using your profile to promote initiatives that you feel strongly about, like the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA). Did this activist streak emerge naturally, or do you hesitate before becoming involved with such projects?

    There’s no hesitation. IAVA helps veterans and I am honoured to be a part of it. I would like to think myself part of a solution rather than the problem.

    Why did you tour with the United Services Organisation to speak for troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, even though you were opposed to the US involvement in the war?

    Because soldiers don’t start wars. I have no argument with the military, just those who ordered them into the illegal war in Iraq.

    Do you have a particular approach for exploring cities you’ve never visited before?

    I walk down streets, alleys, slums, along rivers, in cemeteries and see what happens.

    When you’re recognised while travelling, do you find that people expect you to live up to your role as a performer?

    People are usually very cool to me. I am cool back. It’s fairly constant, but I am used to it.

    With each successive Australian tour, your popularity increases. Do you prepare differently for different-sized audiences?

    No. Every audience gets the best show I can do. They are all equally nerve-wracking.

    What do you get up to during your downtime between shows?

    Sleep, reading, answering letters, gym, writing.

    Finally – what motivates you?

    Anger, curiosity.

    By Andrew McMillen / Photograph by Maura Lanahan

    This was a pretty painless interview to source. I had the story pitch approved in late March ahead of his Australian tour, and set about attempting to contact Rollins by emailing the address listed on the website of his publishing company, 21.3.61.

    One minute later, Henry himself replied, saying that he’d be happy to conduct the interview via email. What a pleasant surprise.

  • The Big Issue story: ‘Keeping Current: Eddy Current Suppression Ring’, April 2010

    A story for The Big Issue #353 on Eddy Current Suppression Ring. Click the image below for full-size, readable version; story text is included underneath.

    The Big Issue story: 'Staying Current' on Eddy Current Suppression Ring by Andrew McMillen

    Keeping Current

    Six hours is plenty of time to record a full-length rock album from start to finish, claims Mikey Young from Melbourne band Eddy Current Suppression Ring. Did you hear that? That was the sound of professional recording engineers, meticulous sound technicians and veteran major label marketing managers gasping in horror.

    ECSR is beholden to no such middlemen. Instead, the band have cultivated a reputation as indie heroes, of sorts: their completely hands-on, DIY approach to all aspects of their career has resulted in a steady rise in the popularity of not only the band themselves, but of the lo-fi, old-school garage rock sound that they’ve played a large part in resurrecting for a new generation of Australian music fans. Young tells me that he spent three years listening to “teenage garage records from the ’60s” while working at Corduroy Records’ vinyl pressing plant, where he realised his fondness for the distinctive guitar tone that now characterises the band: warm and clean for the most part, though prone to occasional buzzing, abrasive bursts of energy.

    None of the above would hold much weight if the band didn’t have an audience. Who cares about an indie band doing everything themselves, for cheap? But the band do have an audience, and many do care. In a transition reminiscent of fellow Melburnians The Drones in recent years, Eddy Current Suppression Ring can lay claim to a rare confluence of events: they’re lauded by music critics, and they’re popular enough to dent the mainstream (their third album, Rush To Relax, debuted in mid-February at #20 on the ARIA album chart). But most importantly, they’ve managed to keep most of their fan base intact, despite their rising profile and the inevitable backlash that occurs when artists outgrow their roots.

    Though their lo-fi garage rock sound continues to attract more ears, the band’s production costs seem to be inversely proportional. The quartet were the recipients of the $30,000 Australian Music Prize (AMP) in March 2009 ahead of competition like The Presets, Cut Copy, and the aforementioned Drones. The album that won it for them, Primary Colours (2008), reportedly cost just $1,500 to make. Young – whose roles within the band include guitarist, keyboardist, studio recorder, mixer, and manager – claims Rush To Relax cost less and took even less time.

    Where does it end, then? The logical conclusion is that they’ll record the next release in one take. Curious, I put the idea to Young. “I always thought about it, but I think it’s unlikely. I can’t see how we can do it much more quickly or cheaper than [Rush To Relax]. Definitely not any cheaper!” However, he feels that too much attention is paid to the length of time it takes for the band to record albums. “It’s not like we’re trying to prove a point. I have the recording gear, so it doesn’t cost us anything. We’re comfortable with doing it that way, and it sounds okay for what we’re trying to do. Unlike some bands who go into a recording session to write songs, we tend to have 12 to 15 songs written and ready to go.”

    On record, ECSR aim to sound as close to their live performances as possible. Young elaborates: “I always thought if you can’t play the songs you’re trying to record well after three takes, you shouldn’t be recording it. We try a song a couple of times and hopefully it’s done. There’s plenty of room for bum notes and stuff like that. We’re not trying to achieve any kind of perfection.”

    Young believes idiosyncratic singer Brendan Huntley “always seems to be quirky and out of time,” which, alongside his simplistic, honest lyrics, may influence the band’s broad-reaching popularity.

    While keeping their career completely DIY might not quite result in the proverbial license to print money, self-recording their material is “a way of keeping costs down, that’s for sure,” says Young. What of the AMP cash they won 12 months ago, then? Besides securing their own recording space, Young laughs as he discusses the photograph that adorns the Rush To Relax album cover.

    It isn’t Photoshopped: they really hired the plane that appears in the sky, high above the band, who are wearing masks (“Maybe we were just scared of our own faces on the cover,” he adds, before stressing that there’s no symbolic meaning behind the masks). The cost of this venture seems at odds with their DIY approach, until you consider the importance the band place on their artistic integrity. After speaking with Young, I’m convinced that faking the shot wouldn’t have occurred to the band at all.

    “It was pretty hard to find a company that still does those old plane banners. I always used to like those banners as a kid and I always wanted one,” the guitarist says. “Our album cost nothin’, and our friends film our videos, and I guess we won some money last year,” – he laughs. “And I felt like we should show that we spent it on something. So we might as well get a stupid big plane.”

    It turned out to be one of those we’ve-made-it moments: “When it came flying over, it was seriously the most exciting event. We were just jumping up and down going ‘yes!’ It was like, box ticked, I can retire now!”

    by Andrew McMillen

    Video for the Rush To Relax title track embedded below.

  • A Conversation With Blair Hughes, Brisbane Sounds founder

    Blair Hughes, Brisbane Sounds founder. Photo by Elleni ToumpasI first met Blair Hughes when he began working the door at The Zoo, one of my favourite live music venues, sometime in 2008. We’ve since struck up a friendship around Brisbane Sounds, an annual compilation CD he started producing in 2007 to promote the city’s independent music scene.

    This year I helped Blair out by MCing the Brisbane Sounds 2010 media launch at The Zoo, and writing about the project in my first story for The Big Issue. What follows is the email interview I used as the basis for that story. [The first two photos are via Elleni Toumpas.]

    Andrew: As you see it, what’s your role among the Brisbane music scene?

    Blair: I view myself and the role which I have created with Brisbane Sounds as an educator or ambassador for Brisbane music. That obviously comes from my previous role working as a middle year’s school teacher and the fact that I’m very passionate about the Brisbane music scene and the diversity of genres and talent in Brisbane and want other people to hear that message. At another level I also see myself as an emerging music promoter that has created something important for Brisbane but knows that I still have a lot to learn in the music industry.

    Was starting Brisbane Sounds one of those ‘ no-one else is doing it, so I’ll give it a shot’-type situations?

    To an extent it was very much like that and it really just started out as a hobby. When I get behind an idea, I see it through to the end and I really had no idea at the start where this was going to lead. Brisbane music has been a part of my life since adolescence but I never imagined that I would end up becoming a promoter, let alone producing a compilation album.

    Brisbane Sounds started in October 2006 when I was finishing up a degree in Education and Behavioural Studies at UQ and I had decided to head off to England to commence the first year of my teaching career. I produced Brisbane Sounds 2007 as a way to showcase Brisbane music to new people on the road and had a little success throughout the year, but on a coach trip from Cambridge to London towards the end of 2007, I wrote inside the cover of the book “How to succeed in the music business” a few goals for the following year. Those goals were to find a job in a music venue in Australia, promote a gig, make a professional CD release with Brisbane Sounds, and work at a music venue in England. A week later back in Australia I got a job at The Zoo nightclub in Brisbane, put on the first Brisbane Sounds gig in February 2008, have since produced three professional releases in Brisbane sounds 2008-2010 and worked at the Hammersmith Apollo in London.

    How did your previous career in education help your work with this initiative?

    I have always wanted to work with young people and after high school, education was an obvious choice but I also did a degree in Behavioural Studies which was also useful for understanding human behaviour. In the future I would like to find a positive way that I can combine both Brisbane Sounds and working with at-risk young people to improve their lives.

    I was bullied every day throughout primary school and that made me want to become a teacher and never see the stuff that happened to me, happen to any of the students under my care. When I was transitioning from the school setting to the music setting, I found the transition quite easy to be honest as there were a lot of elements in the music industry that I found I was already skilled in from working with school students, such as planning, time and behaviour management.

    From my experience, the parallels between working with children and working with musicians are that they both need guidance and counselling from time to time, they need a leader or role model with the knowledge and expertise in their area to then guide them forward, they need a lot of help getting organised and management of their behaviour and they also need someone who will help them harness their creative and hungry minds.

    Blair Hughes speaking at the Brisbane Sounds 2010 media launch. Photo by Elleni ToumpasSixfthick, The Gin Club, Hungry Kids of Hungary, DZ and one to watch, The Honey Month.

    Of the 24 acts on this year’s compilation, which single band or artist would you recommend to the head of a major label?

    If I only had time to name one band from the Brisbane Sounds 2010 compilation, I would probably go with Hungry Kids of Hungary who have a good management team, have a sound that would work for both the US and the UK music scenes and have the work ethic to make it happen. Apart from that, they have a handsome lead singer and girls just love that and it brings them to the gigs!

    Is ‘getting signed’ at the top of the list of goals you’d like for Brisbane Sounds-associated acts to achieve? If it’s not, what is at the top?

    No certainly not, the idea of an artist getting ‘signed’ is probably more like second or third down the batting order because Brisbane Sounds is more about promoting the Brisbane music scene as a whole and creating a movement to draw awareness to the quality and diversity of artists in Brisbane. It’s not just about promoting the artists on the compilation as Brisbane Sounds is inclusive for every band in Brisbane. The main goal is to actively promote how good the Brisbane music scene is and that more people of all ages should be coming out to gigs, purchasing local music and really supporting the artists that are part of their own backyard. I just feel that in Australia, people view ‘local music’ as being substandard and unprofessional when in fact our country has thriving local music scenes with artists creating quality music.

    You’ve created this compilation to promote Brisbane music. Which is more important: the industry introduction aspect, where you’re trying to put the disc into the hands of labels, agents etc. Or is it aimed more at music fans, those who might find some new bands they love, and show all their friends?

    Overall, the compilation is about putting together an item which serves three purposes. The first being that it can be used as a marketing tool for the promotion of Brisbane, the second that it can get into the hands of A&R and radio reps and the third and best point is that anyone can purchase Brisbane Sounds 2010 and play it front to back because there is something there for everyone. The way I structure the Brisbane Sounds compilations enables me to tap into those three groups by producing a CD that has all of them in mind. For example, Brisbane Marketing have been right behind the project since last year and have been distributing copies to international delegates to Brisbane, I’ve had meetings with A&R reps from Sony and Live Nation in London and the CD has been selling well through independent record stores across Australia. Red Eye Records in Sydney even sold out of stock before Rockinghorse Records in Brisbane did!

    Are you able to comment on the factors that, in your mind, have contributed to Brisbane bands like Powderfinger, The Grates, Regurgitator, and more recently Yves Klein Blue and The John Steel Singers attracting attention from outside Queensland?

    Overall it’s that they have hard working management and creative marketing systems and teams in place. I also believe that if an artist is to be successful then they have to have something that people want and will go out of their way to get. Ultimately the music has to stand out and be above average, but at the end of the day, it is great management and hard working people which get those artists to higher levels in the music world. There are very passionate and intelligent people who are behind the artists you have mentioned.

    Brisbane Sounds 2010 posterHave you approached triple j with the compilation? What kind of response have you seen from them?

    Triple J has played the compilation which is great, but I’ve never had any direct contact or support from them as such. On the other hand, Brisbane independent radio station 4ZzZ has gone out of their way to support Brisbane Sounds. I hope that down the track Triple J becomes like the BBC in England where there are a few Triple J stations and perhaps a Triple J2 or something like that which has a main focus on local artists throughout Australia. In saying that I’m open to talks with the Jay’s so maybe Richard Kingsmill needs to give me a call.

    How did the partnership with Bandtag come about?

    I first heard about Bandtag through my boss at The Zoo in Brisbane. I was looking at creative and interesting ways to use new forms of technology to promote Brisbane Sounds and Bandtag was one of those exciting new opportunities. I contacted Erin who runs Bandtag on the Gold Coast and we struck up a partnership to take Bandtag to the QLD music conference Big Sound where we could promote both of our businesses at the same time. The benefits of Bandtag are that you can have the artist’s music tracks and artwork on a glossy card which has a code on the back that you enter into the Bandtag website. It means that for touring or going to conferences, it becomes a lot easier to carry and hand out then a CD. The ones which I have got for SXSW and Great Escape serve as a business card as well with my details on the back, artwork on the front and 15 tracks from the compilation embedded into the card.

    What are your plans to promote the compilation in Brisbane throughout 2010?

    There are many new elements that will form part of Brisbane Sounds over the next few months and leading into 2011. I’m organising a number of Brisbane Sounds spin-off gigs this year such as “Brisbane Sounds Presents….Hip-hop, Alt-Country, Rock, Indie” etc which will use artists from Brisbane Sounds 2010 as well as other Brisbane artists to create a night of that genre of music. I’ve set myself the goal of 20 gigs this year and I’m working hard to achieve that. I also now run a Brisbane Sounds stall at the West End markets focusing on what’s happening in the Brisbane music scene.

    I’m also looking at starting a management side to Brisbane Sounds and down the track I would also like to develop Brisbane Sounds into an outside festival.

    What about on a national level?

    At the national level I want to continue to network with people in the music industry and increase the profile of Brisbane Sounds across Australia. I want to form more business partnerships and solidify my place as a promoter and producer in Australia. I’d like to do some interstate tours or rural tours with Brisbane artists as well as apply for a few national grants such as the JB Seed because like anyone in the arts, I could use a bit of extra funding. I also set myself the goal of meeting and getting some advice from all seven music industry leaders from Christie Eliezer’s book “High Voltage Rock ‘N’ Roll: The Movers and Shakers in the Australian Rock Industry” in 2010.

    On an international level?

    The next few months are pretty crazy with international travel to music conferences in Austin, Texas and Brighton, England for South By South West (SXSW) and The Great Escape respectively. I’m focused on networking and meeting people who work in the music industry outside of Australia to be able to increase their knowledge and educate them more about Brisbane music. I always envisaged going to these conferences as a punter, but it’s very exciting and rewarding to be able to take my business to them.

    Brisbane Sounds 2010 album coverWho do you plan to meet while at these conferences, and why? What’s your networking plan of attack?

    I have two goals for the music conferences that I will attend this year. The first goal is that I plan to meet radio and A&R reps as well as music supervisors who place music in films and advertisements. I have already started making contact with some of these people for both SXSW and The Great Escape in order to have meetings while I’m in the US and England.

    The second goal is that I want to meet promoters, managers and artists to continue to get more skills and improve my professional development in the music industry. Overall, my plan of attack is to talk to everyone. I’m taking 500 of the Brisbane Sounds bandtags to these conferences and I’m going to try my hardest to meet music supervisors and promoters down to volunteers and local people. I’m very much the type of person who likes to talk and has the time to listen to anyone. You never know who you could be talking too and at these types of conferences that’s very exciting.

    Alright then, what’s your elevator pitch at those kind of events?

    G’day, I’m Blair and I work as a music promoter and cultural producer in Brisbane, Australia. I promote gigs involving Brisbane artists and produce the only annual compilation CD featuring a diverse selection of Brisbane bands called Brisbane Sounds the aim of which is to increase the visibility of the Brisbane music scene in Brisbane, Australia and across the globe.

    Cheers Blair. Visit for more information on the Brisbane Sounds compilations. Check out my related story for The Big Issue here.

  • The Big Issue story: ‘Sounds Of Our Town’, March 2010

    The Big Issue #350 coverHere’s my first story for The Big Issue, which is published fortnightly and distributed by a network of Australians experiencing homelessness and/or long-term unemployment. Half its $5 cover price goes into the pocket of vendors, who sell the magazine in capital cities across the country. Coincidentally, this is issue #350 of the magazine [pictured right], which has been published since June 1996.

    ‘Sounds Of Our Town’ is about an initiative called Brisbane Sounds, whose goal is to promote my city’s best independent music on the world stage. It was founded in 2007 by 25 year-old Blair Hughes, who is travelling to music conferences SXSW in Austin, Texas (this month) and The Great Escape in Bristol, England (in May) to promote a compilation CD of the best two dozen tracks chosen among 140+ submissions.

    I’m passionate about the Brisbane independent music scene, so it was a joy to describe Blair’s goals and ambitions to a national audience.  I look forward to many more stories for The Big Issue.

    Click the image below for a preview of the story.

    The Big Issue story, 'Sounds Of Our Town' in issue 350, by Andrew McMillen

    If you live in an Australian city, I urge you to buy a copy of The Big Issue from vendors on a fortnightly basis. It’s filled with compelling stories of real Australians. It’s fast becoming a favourite publication of mine, and it’s an honour to be involved.