Midnight Oil

[Powderworks] An Interview with Rob

Jane R bunge91@hotmail.com
Fri, 02 Aug 2002 15:50:14 +1000

I found the following interview with Rob on a Brisbane website. It contains 
some information we already know, but some we dont as well.


Midnight Oil – Fresh frontier

They might be a country mile from Slim Dusty's century-strong record of 
records, but perennial Aussie favourites Midnight Oil show no signs of 
abating with their 14th album, Capricornia.

"So far, so good," drummer Rob Hirst enthuses of the album. "People seem to 
like the melodic quality to the album, even using the dreaded three-letter 
word 'pop', which is not something we've really been known for in the past. 
But it's quite nice when pop meets Midnight Oil because there's the melodic 
thing, but hopefully the urgency as well."

Hirst puts Capricornia's melodic edge down to the choice of songs and the 
"desire to do lots of singing".

"There's a lot of background singing there with Bones [Hillman], myself and 
Jim [Moginie] chiming in at every occasion. It was written into the songs 
from birth, but certainly working with [producer] Warne Livesey again, he 
particularly likes that side of Midnight Oil as well - everyone singing. 
He's always encouraging us to do more singing, so perhaps that's the 
connection with Diesel & Dust and Blue Sky Mining, as we used Warne on both 
those albums and there's a lot of singing on both those albums."

Why did you decide to use Warne Livesey again?

"We knew we could work quickly with Warne with all the water under the 
bridge. We could get stuck in first day. Also, we trust his judgement and 
were really happy to hand that process over to him, as long as the band was 
entirely ready. By the time we went into Festival Studios, we'd demoed 
everything up so we could just throw the versions down without worrying 
about arrangements or whether 'this' was the right speed… We really knew the 
material well this time.

"With some time off, we'd have the luxury of doing about three sets of 
demos. It started with Jim and myself, at Jim's place, working up the songs 
we'd written and combining them and handing them on to the band. The band 
would respond to the ones they liked and then we'd go and play them live. We 
hadn't done that for quite a few years - the luxury of playing them live - 
and it becomes obvious which ones are working.

"By the time we went in [to the studio] in June/July, it was simply a case 
of getting the take. Some of the songs are first or second take, like 
'Mosquito March' and 'Under The Overpass' are first takes."

Midnight Oil's year of pre-production not only consisted of demo recordings 
and live tests, but an outback sabbatical.

"Before the Olympics, we went out to visit the communities in the desert 
once more and camped for a few days outside Papunga and met some people we'd 
met on the Diesel & Dust tour all those years ago, including Sammy Butcher, 
guitar player in the Warumpi Band.

"We did a show out there at Papunga and also one with NoKTuRNL at Alice 
Springs as well. We did a bit of thinking about things as well and Jim 
brought up this idea of loosely basing an album on Xavier Herbert's 1938 
novel Capricornia. He'd already written some at that point.

"[The trip] was also to talk over other stuff: the direction of the album 
and how we would put it down, our involvement in the Olympics was coming up 
at that time… we got a whole lot of things straight."

It was at Papunga that the Oils came up with the idea for their Olympics 
outfits emblazoned with 'sorry'.

"When we made that appearance at the Olympics, we still weren't sure really 
how it would be taken - only one or two people from the Olympics knew. We 
thought they might not show us or shut down that part of the show. As it 
turned out when we walked out, it was such a warm response; we knew 
immediately that there was a great feeling for the campaign for European 
Australians to reconcile with Aboriginal people in that way. With Yothu 
Yindi following immediately afterwards with 'Treaty', it seemed like the 
right context for that kind of comment."

Such sentiments are further explored throughout Capricornia as the Oils 
continue their proud tradition of informed social commentary, particularly 
on the likes of 'Too Much Sunshine'.

"The original theme," Hirst says of the song, "was a little bit like the 
theme for 'Best of Both Worlds', whereby we've got so much staring us in the 
face in this country, but we tend to be a bit heat-struck. With the 
exception of a couple of songs - 'Bedlam Bridge' comes to mind - most of our 
songs are entirely based on our backgrounds in Australia: where we've spent 
all our lives, despite the long tours.

"It has to come from here - it's the only place we can speak about with real 
authority. And even now you get the sense that this is a fresh frontier of 
ideas and potential, whereas you go to Europe, particularly, and they're 
ancient civilisations - you're not sure what comment you could make."

Fans with an itch to scratch may have to bide their time with the album 
before they get to hear it reproduced live.

"We did a bunch of shows around Sydney and Melbourne to premiere the album, 
but we'll have to wait to come to other states till later in the year," 
Hirst says of touring. "We've got to go to the States for a promo tour in 
mid-March and then another five weeks in May. We'll come around and do a 
decent Australian tour later in the year, but we'll have to see what happens 
in the US, Canada and Europe."

Capricornia is out on Columbia/Sony.


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