Midnight Oil

[Powderworks] Madison Show Review

dbrunner@execpc.com dbrunner@execpc.com
Fri, 12 Jul 2002 15:33:05 -0500 (CDT)

This is a review that appeared on Madison.com

Midnight Oil lightens up (a little)
By Natasha Kassulke

Midnight Oil lead singer Peter Garrett realizes that the band is known
as much for its political activism as for its music.

But he says Midnight Oil has lightened its image over the past several
years, and band members are having more fun than ever on and off the
stage in the United States.

"G'day," Garrett says in a thick Australian accent, speaking from his
hotel room at the Pfister in Milwaukee before the group's recent
Summerfest show.

Although he's spent the Fourth of July in the middle of America,
Garrett says he's not interested in the fireworks.

"We've seen our fair share of fireworks in Sydney over the last
several years," he says. "They are a fine visual treat. But I wouldn't
travel for them."

Garrett is more impressed that the Pfister beds are plenty long.

"I like the beds because I can stretch," says the 6-foot-5 Garrett.
"This bed is old and solid. Just like my surfboard."

He's a striking frontman  tall, bald and outspoken.

It's been four years since Americans have heard from the band, and
Garrett says their new tour sees them playing a mix of old songs like
"Beds Are Burning" plus material from their recently released
"Capricornia" CD.

"As you play into a tour, you either become dry and fossilized or you
meld it and let it breathe and go in all sorts of different
directions, and that's what we're trying to do," Garrett says.

To make the new CD, the band spent time in the Australian bush and
built songs around the epic novel "Capricornia," which is named after
the hostile, tropical northern reaches of Australia. Garrett says the
album is about discerning the deeper rhythms in life and making sense
of it.

The songs remain lyrically passionate and consciousness-raising.
Garrett contends that the band has existed for as long as it has due
to a conviction that the noise it makes and the way it is communicated
to an audience has meaning.

"Sometimes it seems that television has inoculated us against the
places that music can take us to," he says. "I think that we still
hold on to the belief that music is something that sweeps you up and
lifts you up and takes you off to somewhere all together."

But the new music also is meant to be accessible to the mainstream.

"An idea called pop sort of inserted itself as well," he says.

The songs were recorded primitively by today's standards, but Garrett
likes the results.

"You can record with a lot of technology or you can do it almost like
newborn babies without the wrinkles," he says.

Garrett says that historically the band has always had complete
freedom to play what they want but that hasn't always translated into
radio play.

He calls radio producers the new Rush Limbaughs.

"They are perfectly happy to play highly profane material, but they
don't want to play anything that gets to the heart of politics. For
them politics is more threatening."

Midnight Oil's last CD, "Rhythmic Wonderland," had a strong anti-
racism theme. But Garrett says it got little more than college radio
play in America.

"For us that's interesting, because we are a mainstream band at home,"
he says. "But you've just got to tour those albums and get in front of

He sees the frontman as a conductor between the audience and the

"We have no image," he says. "It's kind of chunky and rough around the
edges, a little bit like bites of Australia."

Midnight Oil is a sidebar career for the group. Each has other jobs at

Garrett, who has a law degree, says he is taking a break from
politics. He ran for a seat on the Australian Senate on the Nuclear
Disarmament ticket in the early 1980s and lost by a slim margin.

"I'm pretty fully committed at this time," Garrett says. Besides
playing in Midnight Oil, he is president of the Australian
Conservation Foundation. He formerly was on the board of Greenpeace.

He also recently tried his hand at classical music with the help of
the Australian Chamber Orchestra. Last spring he toured with the
orchestra and provided narration for their program.

These days, when Yanks think of Down Under, they think of the
Crocodile Hunter.

"Midnight Oil is far more realistic than the Crocodile Hunter ever
was, though," Garrett says. "We won't be pretending. What you'll see
is real."

Garrett says he's missed the diverse audience in the U.S.

"Everyone hasn't got the same haircut, which is nice," he says. "And
one of the things about touring the United States is that whichever
town or city you go to, there will be some music going on and it's
really diverse."

He rarely wears a disguise in public  though he may don a hat and a
pair of "sunnys." He says he doesn't live in an ivory tower.

"Sometimes people think I'm a racer, sometimes they think I'm a
swimmer, and sometimes they think I'm a singer," he says. "As long as
they don't call me a Republican, I'm happy."

>From Rhythm, Thursday 7/11/02
2002 Madison Newspapers, Inc. All rights reserved