Gareth Liddiard is the founding member of The Drones. Widely considered among one of the best contemporary Australian songwriters, his is a welcome voice of disdain in a political and social landscape that fails to impress. Writing songs about how we live, who we are and what we’ve become, Liddiard let loose with The Echo…
So why do you think our political landscape is so fucked at the moment?
It’s complicated, but one reason is that 11 years of John Howard bred a bunch of young nationalists, I think. Ten-year-olds all over Australia were exposed to some pretty dopey bigotry on TV and naturally just assumed it was normal. A few years later they’re all at the Big Day Out wrapped in flags and covered in Aussie swazzies.
Have we evolved that much in the last 20 years, do you think?
People don’t evolve morally or emotionally.
That’s a myth born of hubris born of people constantly being told they’re not animals and above nature just so they feel okay buying shit from people who rape the earth. Technology evolves because of population growth and collective memory and the passing of time without any major civilisation-smashing cataclysms. Then people such as Steve Jobs misconstrue technological advances for moral ones just so they can sell you shit. But if people improve they only improve in places/countries that are comfortable. So in a way people are only nice when they don’t need to be bad. But that’s okay. People aren’t deliberately born people.
You can’t hold it against them.
What about as a musician… is it hard to keep your beliefs and actions aligned?
Not really, not for me. I’m not really capable of selling out. Even if I wanted to be MOR I couldn’t do it. I’d still sound like a psycho. And I don’t separate music from other aspects of my life. That’s just me, though.
It’s all just a matter of being nice and treating people and animals in the way you’d like to be treated, whether you’re in my band or No Direction or working in a carwash. I don’t think being an ‘artist’ who only makes ‘art’ needs to be compulsory.
If Robbie Williams is a genuinely good guy then it doesn’t matter if he makes shit music. Who cares. Wagner made some of the best music in history but he was a massive prick.
What are the albums that you turn to after a shit day?
Depends on what you mean by shit day. If I’m feeling a bit anxious and jittery a bit of Melvins or Slayer or Einsturzende Neubauten will realign my polarity. Seems to work. Hendrix or Jonathan Richman always cheer me up. If it was the worst day of your life you’d need a Shostakovich string quartet, I think.
There are a lot of heavy composers but when it comes to grief and real pain his music is just incomparably profound.
Or Rihanna. Her last album was sick.
Do you regret much when it comes to music?
Have you had to make many compromises along the way?
Yeah, I look back and about 30 per cent of the music I’ve made is shit. But I would never point it all out to anyone because they might actually like it. I wouldn’t say shit’s suffered through compromise, though. Probably the opposite.
I’m always trying new things out and taking big risks and taking leaps of faith that don’t necessarily work out so well. But you have to do that to get the good stuff so I don’t regret it. Them’s the breaks.
Gareth Liddiard is at Mullum Music Festival , 17–20 November.
For tickets and program info go to mullummusicfestival.com.