Interview by Mandy Nolan
Tim Freedman is an enigma. Frontman of The Whitlams, a band that saw two of its members suicide in the early years, then went on to produce an ARIA-winning album No Aphrodisiac, Freedman is a cool customer. With a wry smile and a glass of red, Freedman is at his best tucked behind a piano in a smoky bar, singing love songs, and shooting the breeze. Seven caught up with Tim on the eve of his Mullum show at the Courthouse (less the smoke).
You’ve been at the forefront of the Australian music industry for nearly two decades; how have things changed in your opinion – for new and upcoming artists – compared to how it was for you?
It’s easier to record an album and harder to get a crowd…
It’s been said that The Whitlams drank like devils and sang like angels… is that just part of the show – straddling the light and dark?
That was the other guys… I’ve been moving towards the light for years.
At Mullum Music Festival you will be playing smoky piano-bar style at the Courthouse – all The Whitlams’ catalogue; how do you feel now as you approach songs from your past… do you still enjoy them – do they become new, or is there a little sadness sometimes that mingles with the nostalgia?
I pull out some oddities that failed in the studio – often they sound as good with just piano and vocal as the better-known ones.
Do you ever imagine the trajectory of The Whitlams if Stevie and Andy had both lived… what do you think?
We would have broken up around the time I got my first success in 1997. I think Stevie wanted to release a desk tape, and I wanted to go 60-track.
What do you think it was about The Whitlams’ sound that set it apart?
We were rootsy pop on JJJ in the 90s in a sea of Seattle grunge.
A sharp-shooting lyricist with a penchant for nailing a neat, slightly disarming phrase, Tim finished a few incomplete sentences.
Fitness is important but… more than two hours a week is obsessive.
The people I most admire are… my favourite waitresses.
The people I most despise are… the chefs that usually go out with them.
My greatest regret… was running the first lap too hard in the 800m, like a 40–1 in the Caulfield Cup.
I’m certainly pleased I… have only daughters.
Something I didn’t expect was… loving poofters quite so much.
The book I’m reading at the moment is… admonishing me from the bedside table, and is a little too ‘drawing room’ for me to name. Infinite Jest next week, of course.
I would describe my relationship with the piano as… abusive. She has beaten me, again and again and again.
When people ask me to sing There’s No Aphrodisiac… I ask ‘How much?’
My perfect audience… quiet, pissed, and secretly pleasuring herself.
Pleasure yourself with Freedman at the Courthouse in Mullumbimby on Friday and Saturday when he plays all those Whitlams hits, and a bit more. For tickets and lineup information: www.mullummusicfestival.com.