Midnight Oil

[Powderworks] Why I have high hopes for Hillman/Hirst/Moginie/Rotsey

Mike Blackwood mikeb@cs.mun.ca
Wed, 11 Dec 2002 12:25:55 -0330 (NST)

This article (originally transcribed by Krusty Fries) speaks volumes about 
why the remaining 4 oils should soldier on...


January 3, 1998 Good Weekend
Rob Hirst & Bones Hillman

Rob Hirst (on left), 42, has been Midnight Oil's drummer/songwriter
for 20 years. He is married with two children. Bones Hillman, 39, is a
New Zealander, formerly with the band The Swingers. He joined Midnight
Oil in 1987 as their bass player and vocalist.

Rob: I first met Bones when I picked him up at the airport about 10
years ago. I'd suggested Paul Hester for Neil Finn's new band [Crowded
House] and so Neil said,'Well, there's this Kiwi hanging around our
place cleaning the swimming pool and looking after the dog. I think he
needs a night iob.'

So Bones came up and, yeah, I sort of immediately felt I'd known this
person. He was a lanky, chain-smoking Kiwi and I got this feeling that
you get from a lot of Kiwis - slightly stateless, rootless.

The [job] brief was probably one-third bass player, one-third singer
and one-third all-round easy-going guy who you'd want on the bus
telling jokes and making what is essentially a serious band laugh.
Bones was all of this. He has the ability to meet strangers and within
seconds they just love him to death. I have never seen him make an
enemy with anyone. I have never heard him say anything bitter or
derogatory about anyone. He has an incredible ability to just shake it
off and see the big picture and get on with enjoving life.
There are two sides to Bones - the easy-going, friendly, day-time
Bones, and then there's the night-time Bones who we used to call
Terry. Terry is the guy with his trousers around his ankles in a
Finnish nightclub. Gyrating. Singing. He's still one of the most
remarkable vocalists in the country. [The songl One Country is
probably the closest that Midnight Oil has got to writing an
Australian national anthem but it's only when you hear Bones's vocals
at the end that it really sends that shiver down your spine. When
Bones goes up to a microphone he hits the note right-on every time,
365 days of the year, a beautifully formed, rounded note.

 When he's depressed, he doesn't become an ugly drunk or hostile to
anyone else. He just internalises it. I think in many respects he's
quite a traditional Anzac male. He married a gorgeous German caterer,
Alexandra, on one of our European tours. It was quite magnetic. She
arrived with the sauerkraut and the schnitzel. We were playing this
show in [Berlin] in the old stadium where Hitler would go and hear
Wagner being played and they had this elaborate entrance for the
Fuhrer and his goons to come in. That's the way the band came in that
night. It was extraordinary because I could hear the roar of the crowd
and suddenly I got this really cold feeling down my spine ... sort of
back to the Nuremberg rallies. That was the night I realised Bones and
Alexandra could become an item.
It's not an easy thing [holding a band together]. There's a lot of
demands on a nightly basis. When you do work, you work very long hours
and people get tired and sometimes overreact to things. And Bones just
sails through it all with a sense of humour, telling great jokes,
never taking anyone too seriously, endearing himself to anyone who
comes around him.

 I love the man dearly. He's just a gem. I can't imagine whether the
band would even be together if Bones hadn't joined because his sense
of humour and camaraderie have defused situations that might have
gotten out of control. 

[Laughingl Now he'll probably call me an arsehole.

Bones: I met Rob in 1979 in a motel in Wellington.  I heard this voice
and it was the first time I'd heard a real Australian accent.'This
place smells like a dead rat,' the voice said. It was Rob. Then in
1987, when I was living with Neil Finn and his family in Melbourne, I
came home and Neil said,'Midnight Oil rang up; they want a bass
player.' I said,'Sure, mate' and went out. I thought, 'Neil's full of
shit, big joke, ha ha.'
Then the next day Rob rang back and said,'Why didn't you return my

So I flew [to Sydney], maybe on three occasions. Rob would pick me up
at the airport and I would go and stay at his house. He didn't know me
from a bar of soap. I'm sitting in his house with his family. They
didn't know me, I didn't know them. But he was really open. Great
person, great family. I couldn't have been any luckier. Rob is The
Drummer. He's ferocious. Loud. Fast. I am sure there's a lot of other
good drummers but he is The Man. If you're going to be part of a
rhythm section and playing on stage I've got the best partner. Some
nights he can go off. He will play one song and it will be so fast
your little fingers are just trying to keep up ane he's just off on a
big energy lift. It's like he explodes around the drum kit.  There's
drumsticks flying through the air. And he puffs up well, doesn't he?
Those arms inflate and those veins get going ... I reckon the guy·'s
got like a recording studio built in his head. If you plugged a lead
into the guy's butt and just downloaded it, it would save thousands of
dollars and hours of time. He also writes great songs, which is
unusual for drummers. He's a talented man. And he's mad.
He has these moments where he lust goes off. Couple of drinks and
these stories start coming out and he'll just entertain the whole
room. Away he goes.
He speaks French and Japanese. He's the man to go out cuisining with.
And he's passionate. He's a historian. The things the guy knows. He
goes to some country and you'd be looking at something and he'll
say,'This happened in 1868 before the Boers did such and such.' And
it's like,'Wow, I was just looking at the colour of the wall.'
He's definitely [a close friend]. He's been receptive to a lot of my
worries and woes. He always rings me and lends a sympathetic ear. We
all go through f...ed things but he seems to be more together than me.
I just have unexpected, crazy shit happen.

With Rob you get all these guys who come along and watch him play and
go,'Wow, how do you do this?' And he doesn't turn them down. If
someone has a genuine inquiry he'll always respond to them. I'm just
amazed. After a
show, he'll be standing there for 45 minutes doing that. We're always
beeping the horn going 'Come on Rob, we're going back to the hotel'
and he's still signing things. Always putting out. It was the same
when he met me. He could have stuck me in a shitty motel in Bondi with
a cabcharge, like 'Figure it out yourself, son.'  But he didn't.  No,
he's a good man