Tim Rogers interview

Tim meant a lot to me as a kid growing up in Dingley. Listening to record after record OF You Am I or his solo stuff, thinking to myself I hope one day I can be the wordsmith he is. He now means a lot to me today as well, not just his music but as a mate. Tim’s latest band the Draught Dodgers, with Jack Evan and Mick are along with Stiff Richards the best live act going around. Tim also is hosting the Rogerstine Lounge every Wednesday at the Basement in the ESPY, with Tim serving drinks playing records and picking the bands. Tim was kind enough to meet me twice for a few on record chats. The first in July 2019 at Surabaya Johnnies, where we were grossed in a conversation about Billy Childish.

Tim: I met him (Billy) about 1997 I was in England with the band, the Headcoats were playing in a pub in North London, I went with my manger Kate. There was 15 people and I think this is the weirdest thing ever there’s this band I adore and here’s 15 people. But it was a sound check. I had been playing for a long time but I was so excited I had special displacement, the Headcoatees played as well and it filled up. Our manager Kate spoke to Billy and she said there’s a geezer here from Australia that wants to meet you. So we went over and chatted, it was terrifying and wonderful. For my birthday in 2003 Andy organized one Billys bands to play before us in Sheps bush and I found out a few days before and I told Andy you’re kidding this is so thoughtful. I met him before hand and he was super great. He wanted to bring his little PA. And we offered ours and he said I don/t want that modern PA rubbish. Billy was super sweet to me. And he can be quite cutting. Your heroes can disappoint

Munster: That’s brilliant. I remember the time I was meant to interview Mark E Smith, and they had to give it to someone else. My mate buzzed saying that he didn’t call for three nights in a row, and im like that should be me he’s not calling.

Tim: is that negative capability, the John Keats poem, suggesting is there but not there.

Munster: Someone we both know, Leaping Larry L, I remember he was on Multi Story on RRR and he said his best advice on the show was to get Tim Rogers on.

Tim: Really? Larry’s a really good friend of mine, we really like each other but every time I walk away I’m like fuck I’m an idiot. Such a beautiful fists of opinion. He’s a great guy. He’s a big Aerosmith fan. I’m not sure where we met, because there were those Melbourne characters, Dave Laing from Dog Meat, Johnny Nolan, Tim, Joel and before moving down to Melbourne in 1998 I thought I really admire those guys, the Melbourne- Geelong people there the real people that keep the place going, in a few years I became good friends with Dave Laing got to know Joel well, really when you move to a town because you feel you want to be a part of it you know its moving for the right reason, because my family’s from Melbourne originally, just running into people and hanging out with friends and family and doing shows. It had it all.

Munster: kinda sums up why I moved here

Tim: where are you from originally?

Munster: Dingley

Tim:im sure it seems a big move at the time

Munster: best thing I ever did

Tim: just before You Am I started touring I was living at my mum’s old house in Castle Hill in North Western Sydney. Dropped out of law school and I was in my 20s. And it was good I was working in the pizza store then the record store then the local pub. Pretty glad the band started. You can have a wonderful existence without being in a bohemiavill that we live (laughs)

Munster: what’s that Jeffery Bernard line? I’ve met a better class of people in the gutter then I have in the drawing room.

Tim: I was trying to get a production of that up and running (the play Jeffrey Bernard is Unwell). I know nothing about getting theatre shows up but it’s a wonderful play. I got a script but as far as rights and with a show like that who would you cast? Maybe Barry Otto, maybe I can stick around for 20 years and I’ll play it.

Munster: so you travelled round a bit and finally thought Melbourne’s the place for me?

Tim: not settle down. You Am I’s been touring since 1990 I came to Melbourne off and on and anytime coming here was really fun and full of naughty people, the big thing was after shows people would say come back to our place. There were a lot of house parties. And I liked that, play a show stick around have some toast at 8am. We had a good crew in Sydney but Melbourne seemed cooler. Initially I was living in an apartment in Carlton with no windows. I thought about it years later. Round 99 I came to St Kilda and I’m really glad I made that decision.

Munster: being a Roos fan that was a good year to come down.

Tim: the 96 grand final we were playing two shows and You Am I had a run of shows in these big venues, the owner said Tim we know you’re a North fan we’ll set up a tv back stage. No one in the band gave a shit, so we did the arvo show which was an all-ages show, and the night show the front row was just people in Swans gear yelling shit at me 900 other people are enjoying the show I’m like I can’t win in can’t even enjoy this.

Munster: can I get you a drink

Tim: yeah just put it in the card

Matt exists to the bar

Tim: Matt is ordering drinks look at him go look at him go look at him order. Swerve confident announcing order more Matthew order more. Cooper green for yourself and a larger for Tim

Munster: Cheers

Tim: cheers

Munster: Draught Dodgers, how did that come about? Was it you approached Jack to start the band?

Tim: Mick and I play footy together, and he was wearing a 13th Floor Elevators shirt. He said well lets have some beer and listen to records. So we did that for a year and I found out he plays a bit of bass. So originally we were gonna do some 13 Floor Elevators covers. Mick knew Evan loves the elevators and does some in his solo shows. But I thought let’s get a lead singer and lets be a St Kilda band. We used to rehearse at Lost. Love Sefer. I thought who’s the greatest lead singer I’ve ever seen? Diamond Jack Davies. I got in contact with him. I enjoy being a singer but I have my limitations. Jacks amazing and writing songs with him, it’s a real insight into creative process. And writing with Mick, he’s my best mate and I love him he’s up for the ride and fun. And Evans incredibly musical; I play riffs and he’ll try different rhymes and we’ll talk harmony’s and Evs all over it, its so much fun. I was 47 when we started the band but it just feels like we’re teenagers in the garage again we get together drink beer and have fun.

Munster: that’s what rock n roll should be.

Tim: yeah well I think because Davey produced the Dodgers, I’m a little bit a wear because You Am I have been together for so long and it’s a very close relationship for better or worse and we effect each other. And the Dodgers have supported You Am I a few times, I don’t want to make it hey here’s my new friends. I think Rusty with his work with Daptone and booking clubs he’s, and Andy we’re all aware of that, we don’t want to be to obviously like this is what we used to be like

Munster: I read somewhere with You Am I Rusty is often your go to when it comes to writing songs and you work the songs around him.

Tim: well I don’t think I’ve been explicit like that. Song writers can be self-indulgent wankers. And Rusty is my hero, musically and culturally. He’s so savvy and smart, he’s got instinct so why wouldn’t I listen to him. But its real push and pull. I’ve accosted him of being to genre specific. I say I’m gonna do this and what do you think of this and he’ll mention another perform. Sometimes I say what about a Russell beat, and he and I are really impatient as well. But he’s like the brains and the brawn and I’m the flake, it’s an interesting relationship. It was mentioned to my partner at the time Rusty was joining the band and she said this is gonna be difficult as he’s your hero. Of course I said what could go wrong, and nothing has. But when I see him play with other people I get so jealous and excited.

Munster: Detours your book that came out recently, what was the idea behind that book, writing in your style and not a typical start to finish life story.

Tim: my story, the band story is interesting, but mine isn’t. I noticed the way people write about themselves, any musician writing about themselves, they got this shadow on their back. Defending their legacy as they should. I wanted to be more like Jeffery or David Sadaris, or Fred, rather than get the facts with a writers voice, thought I’d make it more interesting. I don’t get around much I thought I’d write some pros that where interesting. Solid system but it works

Interview picks up again in January 2020 at Misery Guts. We discuss NRBQ and Todd Snider saying we ave to make a pilgrim and see both live one day

Munster: considering you have a few different projects, when it comes to song writing do you write a song then figure out where its going or can you focus and set your mind, for example your writing for the Dodgers, your gonna write a Dodgers song?

Tim: no I have whatever band in mind with, the dodgers cause I just write the music, Evan in particular, as it is with Rusty with You Am I I don’t write a song and think which band I’ll throw it to because they are all different. Very democratized you got a dynamic as hard as flint. Dodgers are still working themselves out but the wonderful thing is about the dodgers I can bring in something, and I started something for the first 20 songs suggesting to Jack here’s how I think the melody goes and he’ll nod his head, looking handsome as he always does, then a few months later he asked can you not do that, and what he comes up with is something different to melody and timing that I would come up with, which is bloody exciting.  If you have acts that are similar and you’re the main songwriter I could imagine it would be hard.

Munster: I was out of work for a whole football season when I was 23 and one of the things that made me happy was seeing your show on Foxtel Live At Memo every week.

Tim: that was some of the most fun I ever had I wanted that to go on forever I was disappointed when the station folded. It was with the Rockwiz team everyone wanted to make it as good as possible, we came in under budget. Was disappointed when it was canned but you take it on the chin. It helped I was doing a lot of auditions for TV and its sad when you get knocked back but as time goes on you take it better and better. I had an auditions recently and got knocked back, was disappointed but not as much as when Memo got canned.

Munster: you’ve spent most your life as a working muso, has it been living the dream?

Tim: I think about that all the time. A few years ago I was doing landscaping gardening with my mate Christen who’s a wonderful boss. I had no knowledge about water culture but I like being physical. What I discovered then which I know now, is if you make music and involved in music sometimes it makes me miserable which I know sounds ungrateful but that’s what I’m like. If you need the coin you just go out and get a job, so i did a few bar courses. With the gardening you just think differently. I can easily sit at home and play records and read books, but its better for me I’m happier. Today I had a good sleep and stayed at home read some books, and I earned it because we did a good job last night. I think since I was a kid all I wanted to be was Sam Malone and he was a baseball player which is what I wanted to be.  You really do see the best in people and humanity and ots the only job aside from gardening where I can’t drink on the job. And the people at the Espy have been really good friends, and Sean who books it and Sam the kids who work there meeting a lot of people. I’m probably the oldest apprentice bartender there. so you work as a team. People say really stupid shit to you cutting people off is rather unpleasant. On Wednesday I have my own thing but its great the other nights talking to people, like these people here (the misery Guts) are the best at it they set a mood and such a joy to walk in here

Jules enters with a margarita, beautiful stuff

Tim: just a couple of barkeeps talking shop. Me and Rosie talk a lot about our professions. Hospitality music folks spend a lot of time together, similar hours. After hours these no small talk you get to the nitty gritty.

Munster: the twits, what was it like managing them?

Tim: (laughs) I did nothing. I do remember we talked about it with the utmost seriousness but I did nothing. Being a manager is the most thankless of tasks, but if it means you get to hang out with those twits its worth it.

Munster: that’s why I do Dino Bravo love seeing em live and there company

Tim: Mattie and Nat came to the lounge last week and I’ll never forget how beautiful Nat is, but I love how Mattie has teeth now and how giddily and how wonderful his smile is. Seeing it from the jump everything looks different their body language. You got to play it nice, fortunately assess what’s going on and if there’s a problem ad you’re nice and generous it calms down.

Munster: it’s not the thing they teach in RSA School.

Tim exits to bar, kindly gets me a Melbourne

Munster: draought doges interest

Tim: i play a lot of nights to three people here and overseas when You Am I where quite popular we were overseas the whole time when we were home and we would play to 20 people which was fine. Even though we had good years and gigs sometimes you’d play to no one. With the dodges in the early gigs we’d show up and Mick would say it’s a bit thin on the ground and I’m like come on man. The tour we just did of France with the dodges we did last year was the most fun we ever had. My daughter was with me, some might think because you have an 18 child of yours you might not have any fun but it was the most fun. The dodgers played to 20 people in this little tavern but everyone stayed and hung out with us. Maybe with You Am I or solo it wouldn’t happen but it does with the dodges. Because Evs Ev, Micks Mick and Jacks Jack. Compared to those guys I’m the miserable one. We did a two day tour of Adelaide almost took six months off me.

Munster: the banter is something I love when I see you live, does that come easy to you?

Tim: sometimes the desirable doesn’t’ lead to that. I try and be a bit obtuse with it but that’s to amuse myself and make the band laugh. Dave Graney’s a genius and Coxys a mega star, and when you’re playing to three people you gotta amuse yourself, I wish I figured that out earlier.  A lot of stuff that can be constitute as a bit confrontational you don’t know what to do particularly if people are messy or you misheard what people said, I can be a bit thick skinned. Jack is the best at it because he’s so generous and such a presence you don’t expect him to be that nice. When I first met him I thought what a singer and good looking kid, but his sensitivity and friendliness and loving nature caught be off sight with the dodges I levitate to mick and Jack.

Munster: with You Am I you play plenty of old stuff but plenty of the newer stuff are you someone that’s looking forward not back?

Tim: I was pretty negative with everything with making music really, or my place in it I saw people making really good stuff and I was trying to get out. I thought I’m 50 not happy and I thought I gotta think, they say when music stops being fun I’ll quit but they never do. But we’d so shows with You Am I and something perfect would happen a chorus would go great or Rusty would so something amazing or a new cover to do that kept me going. When Andy would ring up saying lets do this I’d kind of not interested. I was being really ungrateful, and it’s a wonderful thing to be a part of it. But when you’re miserable your miserable and you can’t help it. But I got a job and now You Am I are playing Saturday and I can’t wait.

Munster: it’s like golf you have that one good shot that keeps you coming back

Tim: that’s a good analogy that’s it. Some night after shit shows, there was a show we playing to 40 people and because You Am I’s big I felt silly but afterwards the four of us and a few people from the show sat on the steps of the RSL and I thought I wanna remember this tomorrow. It’s like that one good pool shot just smoking darts listening to people’s stories from the area.

Munster: Christmas night last year was one of the best nights I ever had hanging out with Jules Sean Nattie and Chrisi you and Tex playing in the ESPY basement, tell us what the great man means to you?

Tim: oh boy we a few years and we weren’t getting along and someone said what is it like with you two? You’re all over each other you’re like brothers and when you walk into a room everyone shuts up. We both have brothers so not sure I’d call it brothers. When we first met I was looking up to him and he treated me extremely kindly. Then we became better and better friends started doing silly thing together and had the best times because I think I’m difficult, and it’s very beautiful and deep. I value my friendship with him more than anything we do creatively. On Christmas night I was a bit embarrassed because Im a basic guitarist and I can’t play like Matt Walker does so I don’t know how to back him up. He’s the greatest singer I’ve heard and always happy to play behind him. We played in bar in Bryon and it was great the next day he sent me a message saying where are you I said at the bar, he said I’ll be there in two minutes. We spent two hours giggling. There’s some project we might do later in the year of course I’ll say yes but it my friendship that means everything to me.

Munster: like me and Fred I always love him doing posters for me and I love being on his site but its really just having a few beers with him and watching the footy I value the most. 

Tim: when Perko and I started making music, his words, when you walk in a bar people say fuck, when I walk in a bar people say fuck. The two of us together imagine what we can do. I thought that was really funny. But we do go out together and he’s a handsome dude and im like his gangly little brother and it creates a thing. Maybe for a project we should just walk into bars. And walk out. Do a dozen in a night.

Munster: with your Wednesdays at the ESPY what’s your mission statement?

Tim: what it started out as, I wanted a jukebox that would play 45s and make it a juke joint, not Americana it, just a jukebox where people can talk hang out and listen to some tunes. I wanted a bar that I wanted to hang out at. Drink yack and listen to records. That’s the aim.

Munster: so you’re not modelling yourself on Moe Sizlack

Tim: (laughs) I’m the anti Moe

Munster: well as long as I get to be Barney

Tim: I love that character. I wanted the owners to put enough trust to buy a jukebox. Waking up this morning I thought this was a good night’s work, the band sounded so good. And seeing all the smiling people and everyone in their people were talking to each other, I saw the Wolfgramm Sisters talking to other people. And I thought this is good. Then you get some people that order food and sit on soda water and wanna talk about records. Its great. When you do a show your on stage for an hour and you got seven hours to kill and then after you just wanna get out of there. This job your there for eight hours and see it all unfold. I hope all bartenders get that feeling. I’d like to think its our kind of people. That Christmas was fun.

Munster: so North Melbourne, how will you do this year, you and Saints will be the big movers for me

Tim: my personal prediction im gonna have a lot of fun watching them play. Last year I was in Freo with PP Arnold and in the lounge at the airport and the North team walked in and I turned to jelly. Benny Brown comes over and sits down has his fruit salad and hes an amazing human. Very elegant. On the plane and the way those young men, all talking to the hostess. You know there are fans like us that every year say where gonna win the granny, and there are people that say oh why say that you’re an idiot you not gonna do anything this year, and I think well why go for them then? Why bother investing the time

Munster: and if your gonna have a not great season you’ll at least see some kids being played.

Tim: yeah you’ll see some bad loses but you’ll see some great wins to. I mean if you can deal with that why follow sport? They talk of clubs having a better culture, I love all that shit. My dad was a player and a very good player and he stopped for reasons I don’t know, and then he became an umpire, and he was never a bragger. He loved the humour the beers and company. All the ra ra bullshit, anything that wasn’t funny or tough, that wasn’t part of our family’s love of football. And he was an Essendon fan, no one goes for North. It’s a typical north story no one goes for north. Do you go to game much?

Munster: try and go a few times, it’s hard getting me out of the pub with company like Fred and Pete and Jo. I took a bunch of mates to the member’s and we went straight to the bar as it just felt normal and the members loves us.

Tim: I have faith in Melbourne after that story. The crew I go with, I had a bit involved with the club and sit in boxes. The crew I go with their funny people and I love the tribalism. And with strangers at the footy you find out a lot about each other swapping war stories with people from the club you go for, and whoever you’re playing as well.

Munster: Hunter S Thompsons said it best a serious football fan is never alone.

Tim: apart from the guy that’s shouts out. If you’re gonna shout out you gotta be funny.

Munster: what’s your favourite Fall LP?

Tim: I tried to get Hit the North, when they approached me for ideas said you gotta use this song. Frenz Experiment. The sounds are the sounds of the time and I love that song so much. We played this club called Brownies the week after the infamous punch up, they said you know this band the Fall, and Rusty is a huge fan, he’s always scream pay your rates. He plays Fall records, Hex Enduction all the time. I think this is the year I’ll try and get hit the north as the North theme

Munster: you do that I’ll buy a membership.

Tim: I’ll buy you two memberships. Imagine. I think Mark E Smith reading the football results is gold

Munster: Well Tim I just wanted to say on record you meant a lot to me as a kid in Dingley listening to record after record, and I still do love listening to your work but Im also loving just getting to be mates so thanks for everything.

Tim: well lets be friends forever I mean why wouldn’t we be. Let’s get a couple of Margareta’s.

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