There is something incredibly poetic about the songs of Don Walker, although if you said that to him he’d probably grunt in disapproval. Walker is the closest thing we have to Tom Waits – not because he tries to emulate that signature sound, because he’s got one of his very own, a twisted, smoke-infused lament of loss or love, unapologetic and unselfconscious. You have to admire a bloke who works with a band called The Suave Fucks. The Echo is possibly the only newspaper that will publish the band name without asterisks. That’s the joy of being independent! Walker shows a healthy disdain for the music establishment, but at the same time has maintained his rock ’n’ roll ‘fuck you’. Refreshing in an industry that purports ‘to be successful you need to suck up’. Not Walker. Walker runs his own race. And if it were a race, I guess he’d be walking behind, smoking.
I’ve been reading Walker’s memoir Shots, an extraordinary vignette of music-making that reads more like a cinematic shot list – a reminder of just how much, and what exactly, Walker notices.
In his three solo releases – We’re All Gunna Die (1994), Cutting Back (2006) and his 2013 release Hully Gully, we get a closer look at the lyrical genius of Walker, who was described by Richard Clapton as ‘the most Australian writer there has ever been. Don just digs being a sort of Beat poet, who goes around observing, especially around the streets of Kings Cross. He soaks it up like a sponge and articulates it so well. Quite frankly I think he’s getter than the rest of us.’
Walker does not use his music as emotional show-and-tell. This is no vicarious personal-life peep show. Walker prefers to tell stories about experiences.
Walker’s measured approach is laced with humour. He’s a man who seriously doesn’t take himself too seriously.
‘I enjoy playing with words and talking with people who are articulate and funny in a brief way – and it’s the humour that is very important. All the people who I admire who play music, there is humour in it, and the people I don’t admire are generally humourless people – there are plenty of them around – but there are plenty of humorous people, someone like Iggy Pop – he’s not part of my musical history, but I admire him. You can tell immediately he’s a pretty funny guy and if you had a drink with him it wouldn’t be a wasted hour.’
So what has Walker learnt from his long career as a songwriter?
‘Maybe the first step is to ditch all ideas of being taken seriously and only then you might be able to write something that deserves to be taken seriously. Maybe I just made that up and maybe it’s as bullshit as it sounds.’
So who are the Suave Fucks?
This is the band he is bringing on the 2015 tour: Michael Vidale bass, Hamish Stuart drums, Garrett Costigan pedal steel, Roy Payne and Glen Hannah on guitars and The Don on keys and lead vocals.
‘Glenn Hannah is a session player in the country area, he is also a record producer and a sensational guitar player and also one of the best pool players I have ever seen. Roy Payne is on baritone guitar; based in Newcastle these days, he’s played in western swing and rockabilly bands for a long, long time,
Garrett Costigan on pedal steel, from Mooney Ponds, plays with Tex, Don and Charlie, The Working Class Ringos, and anyone who needs the best pedal steel around.
Mike Vidale plays in all sorts of country and western swing bands. Also a record producer, he engineered a lot of stuff that Slim Dusty did over the years.
Drumming is Hamish Stuart – came out of a long collaboration with Jackie Orsasky. I can’t remember the first time we met, would have been Cold Chisel days. He is now the drummer around the place.’
DON WALKER + Band
Supported by Jimmy Dowling
Club Mullum (Ex-Services Club)
Saturday 5 Sept, 7.30pm. Presale tickets $33 + bf: Mullum Show: www.trybooking.com/141183.Tickets at the door $35.