INTERVIEW: Arj Barker

Published in The Music (NSW, QLD, WA) and on theMusic.com.au, Oct – Nov 2016

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Comedy maestro Arj Barker reckons Flight Of The Conchords are more likely to make a movie than another TV series and hopes they read Daniel Cribb‘s feature containing hints that he’s available.

Australia’s adopted son, Arj Barker, is pretty much a fully-fledged citizen at this stage. He even has a voicemail greeting to prove it. “G’day, mate,” a robotic, ocker voice begins, “Leave a bloody message after the bloody tone, bloody drongo. Too easy.”

Barker’s quick to call back, on the road to a gig in regional NSW. He’s had a hectic schedule as of late, still touring Get In My Head, but the ideas rolling around inside Barker’s mind are beginning to shift. “I’m just trying to learn new skills; that’s where I draw the greatest joy from now,” Barker begins.

“I’ve always fantasised of being able to build stuff. Even though I had wood shop when I was a kid, I just screwed around and didn’t pay much attention; now as I get older I think how cool would it be to build a chair, or build some shelves.”

Although on the surface comedy and woodwork don’t seem to have much in common, they’re both about creating something.

“One of the things comedy taught me is how exciting it is to get into something I know nothing about, and to really try to learn it,” he explains. “I’m still learning [comedy] and it’s still challenging, but now I’m at a point where I want to branch out, just for hobbies, because otherwise, what do you do in life?”

A series of upcoming gigs dishing out The Classic saw Barker go through his past works to pick his favourite material, which was a good chance to reflect on other lessons that comedy has delivered. “I think [comedy] is important for people in general; it’s healthy for people to laugh,” he tells. “Sometimes I forget that’s the whole point. I sometimes think of it from my own perspective… sometimes I forget the main reason I’m there is the people are there; they’re laughing and having a good time. It’s a funny feeling to look out and see people laughing – it’s a happy moment.”

It’s easy to see why he might fall into that mindset from time to time, the prolific individual rarely slowing down. But back in June, he had a more easygoing run of shows around the US, reuniting with and supporting comedy superstars Flight Of The Conchords. “It’s one of the funniest things to work with those guys because the pressure’s not really on me… so I can soak it up, enjoy it and work on my jokes,” he says. “I don’t anticipate they’ll bring the TV show back,” Barker adds when the HBO hit series is mentioned.

“I believe at some point they’ll write a Flight Of The Conchords movie, because that’s the logical progression… I don’t know if it will necessarily be the same world they inhabited in the HBO series, so I can’t say for sure if I’ll be involved. I would love to be, and I hope they read this and take it as a subtle hint that I’m available.”

Barker’s next show is still a while off, but it sounds like his new outlook will push the boundaries of whatever material he produces next. “I’m starting to think about my next show after Organic and I’d like for that to be ready to go at the end of next year,” he reveals. “I can’t say any specific direction that I’m going in, but I’d like to push the envelope a little. I want to challenge myself and I also want to do something unique. Most artists do, but we’ll see if I’m able to.”

http://themusic.com.au/interviews/all/2016/10/25/arj-barker-daniel-cribb/

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INTERVIEW: Jimmy Eat World

Published in The Music (NSW, QLD, VIC) and on theMusic.com.au, Oct 2016

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Jimmy Eat World’s Jim Adkins: “Everything’s Fucked. That’s Okay.”

“Everything’s fucked. That’s okay.” Jimmy Eat World frontman Jim Adkins tells Daniel Cribb about the dark path to Integrity Blues.

The depth of Jimmy Eat World’s sound and lyrical content goes well beyond the early-2000s pop punk/emo boom they found themselves embroiled in, and it could be because of the intriguing nature in which frontman Jim Adkins processes what’s going on around him. “I’m just listening to police sirens, watching clouds go by,” Adkins begins in a calculated tone that suggests he’s trying to unravel the meaning of life.

The Arizona-native has shifted his mindset since the release of 2013’s Damage. “Damage covers the problem really well, let’s write about the solution,” he says on the initial stages of their new album; the sounds of which weren’t any easy path to get to. “When beginning to work on Integrity Blues, I found myself kinda stuck… I would instantly find myself shooting holes through everything, becoming instantly non-empathetic with the adversity in the song.”

Any time Adkins would hone in on a subject and try critique it through his own personal struggles, he would hit a roadblock and feel like the direction was “wasted energy” and the argument or issue wasn’t quite on point. “There’s this low-hanging fruit that you’re kind of quick to cite as the source of your troubles,” he explains. “But really, what’s behind that? If you dig a little bit deeper, a lot of it is your own making.

“A lot of it is your unwillingness to just accept reality. And that reality could be uncomfortable, because it means that you’d have to confront your ego somewhat, knocking down delusions to a degree. For whatever reason, our ego fights really hard to protect itself, and it keeps us from being comfortable and being at peace with ourselves.”

The term ‘ego’ is often thrown around when it comes to musicians, and it’s something that Adkins had to look more closely at in order to figure out the true direction ofIntegrity Blues. “That’s just fascinating to me, like what is that? What sort of evolutionary pulse is this inner voice telling you to work against your own betterment? And for what? To save pride? What is this, really? This inner voice would be tantrum behaviour, in order to get your way. Which, in reality, is making you like five times less attractive. From whatever kind of angle you may be pursuing. Like why is that? It’s just fascinating to me.”

It’s a method of songwriting that took him into a dark mindset from time-to-time, but ultimately gave him a better perspective on life and Jimmy Eat World. “If you’re looking for a reason that everything is lost, you’re gonna find it. If you’re looking at the place you’re in, it’s really just a greater opportunity for growth. You can look at these things as opportunities, or you can look at it like, ‘This is fucked,’ but really, that’s an option.

“Everything’s fucked. That’s okay. Sometimes it’s sort of healthy just to go there and really get into a negative place, and think, ‘What’s the most extreme version of this that could play out here; the most unrealistic end that this thinking can lead to,’ and it just kind of seems ridiculous to hang on to.”

http://themusic.com.au/interviews/all/2016/10/13/jimmy-eat-world-jim-adkins-daniel-cribb/

INTERVIEW: Bill Bailey

Published in The Music (NSW, VIC, QLD) and on theMusic.com.au, Oct – Nov 2016

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Bill Bailey’s Remarkable Guide To “Stuff That You Learn Along The Way”

Touring nonstop for the past 20 years, there’s one thing keeping British funnyman Bill Bailey sane as the world slowly unravels. He takes a break from juggling projects to chat with Daniel Cribb.

It’s a warm and muggy morning in London when Bill Bailey picks up the phone at his Glassbox Productions office, and while a hot cup of coffee might not sound like an enticing pick-me-up in such conditions, it’s necessary when you consider just how many projects he’s juggling.

“I’ve written a book on British birds,” a fittingly chirpy Bailey begins on his October Bill Bailey’s Remarkable Guide To British Birds release. “I’ve written a sitcom pilot for the BBC and they accepted it so we’re doing pre-production for that,” he quickly adds – but it doesn’t stop there. “And I’m curating a Museum Of Curiosity in a maritime museum in the north of England; just usual sort of things.”

Anyone who has seen Bailey in action during his 20 years as a touring comic will know his definition of ‘usual’ differs to the conventional means. His unique brand of humour was first introduced to many Australians in the early 2000s during his stint as Manny Bianco in UK hit Black Books and quiz show Never Mind The Buzzcocks, so the prospect of seeing Bailey back on TV with his own show is an exciting one.

“It’s based around a wildlife park, and I’m the aristocratic, slightly baffled curator and owner of the park. It’s set in the West of England,” he reveals. “It’s probably not a huge stretch for me. You have a lot of shenanigans with the animals; I think that’s a lot of the fun we’re going to have with it, a lot of the animals comment on all the humans in a slightly philosophical way so we’re just figuring out how to shoot that and it’s looking good.”

The theme of wildlife is front and centre, which is something the 52-year-old has been passionate about most of his life, stemming from trips to wildlife and bird reserves with his parents while growing up. Spending the past two decades taking his comedy to every corner of the planet, he’ll often spend his free time checking out the local scenery.

“It’s kind of reassuring – you realise, almost on another level, how interconnected the world is and how artificial the borders that we’ve imposed on ourselves are,” he explains. “When I was in Indonesia earlier this year, I was on a dive trip and I was looking out over a rocky shore at these little wailing birds, sandpipers, and these are the same birds that I see in my local reserve here in West London… you do get a sense of a wider view of the world.”

Wildlife is one of the constants Bailey has noticed during his travels, but he’s also noted some drastic changes. “The biggest change I think is development; I mean, we’re constantly encroaching on the natural world, that’s something I’ve noticed hugely. I’ve noticed an increase in population and the way that impacts on the environment in terms of building and traffic and people in general using resources, but some things don’t change, the politicians are still just as dodgy as ever,” he laughs.

Politicians (among others) took a beating during his last Aussie tour, Limboland, which fused music and more into one of the more engaging and diverse comedy sets going around. Bailey brings his new set Larks In Transit Down Under this time – almost a live, comedic memoir of sorts; a way for him to mark the impressive milestone that is 20 years of touring. “I think it’s quite important to do that along the way,” he says.

“It also struck me that when I first came to Australia I’d only just started doing stand-up – I mean, I’d probably been doing it maybe a year or less. I’d done comedy before in a double act and sketch comedy, I’d been an actor and a musician but just doing my own thing was a relatively new adventure and so the time playing in Australia really encompasses virtually my entire stand-up career.

“It’s partly a retrospective of all of that travel tales, stuff that you learn along the way, a bit of philosophy you’ve picked up, some stories and a lot of music. I’ve thought, ‘Okay, here’s a good point to collect a bunch of thoughts and stories and we’ll have music and lights and stick it in one show.’”

http://themusic.com.au/interviews/all/2016/10/13/bill-bailey-daniel-cribb/

INTERVIEW: Bayside

Published on theMusic.com.au, Oct 2016

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Life Happens In Seasons, Explains Bayside’s Anthony Raneri

US punk rockers Bayside may have produced a career-defining record in Vacancy, but it was an isolated, painful path for frontman Anthony Raneri, as Daniel Cribb discovers.

“It’s the last day of tour so I’m just doing some laundry,” Bayside frontman Anthony Raneri begins, crossing off chores – including Aussie tour promo – from his list. It’s a mundane task – the washing, hopefully not chatting with yours truly – and one that reminds fans that their favourite musicians are people just like them.

A lot of the time, the great art they produce comes at a price or is documenting an emotional time, and for Raneri, the two years since Cult dropped have been a rollercoaster to say the least. The vocalist found himself living out of a Tennessee motel, which is where he wrote the majority of the band’s new record, Vacancy. It’s also the same building featured on the album cover.

“I wasn’t trying to be clever or depressing, or inspiring or anything, really,” he explains. “I think the record for me was more of a journal than anything else. I wasn’t writing for the listener, I was just writing my inner monologue.

“I didn’t want it to be a break-up record; I wanted it to be about how I was feeling in the aftermath and what I was going through, and the guiding characteristic of it was isolation.”

As with any Bayside record, the riffs soar and infectious harmonies are tight, but at first glance – with the context in which it was written – it might comes across as somewhat of a depressing album, with song titles I’ve Been Dead All Day, Pretty Vacant, Enemy Lines and more, which is perhaps why they chose to round things out with It’s Not As Depressing As It Sounds. Seven albums in and Raneri is has noticed a pattern. “I guess the older I get as a person, regardless of being a musician or a writer, I realise that life happens in seasons,” he tells. “There are great seasons and bad seasons, but they all pass. I think when I wrote this album I was conscious of the fact that it was a bad season, but I was really aware of the fact that one day it would just be something that happened to me that I once thought about.”

With so many records, it’s surprising their upcoming Aussie tour will be their first headline stint around the country, previously only gracing festival stages. “We’re seven records in, so a half-hour festival set is like eight songs – hard to cover seven records in eight songs. We just play all our singles.”

And hits like Devotion And Desire, Don’t Call Me Peanut, and The Ghost Of St Valentine only scratch the surface of what the band have achieved since forming in 2000. “When we first started making records, we just wanted to be a band with longevity,” he says. “We wanted to be the band that people listened to in their teenage years into their adult years and were never embarrassed to still listen to us, and even turn their kids onto our band. And now that’s all coming true, it’s something we’re especially proud of.”

http://themusic.com.au/interviews/all/2016/10/10/bayside-anthony-raneri-daniel-cribb/