Makers of Melbourne

Welcome to Makers Of Melbourne – the ‘go to’ guide for our technically integrated age.

Makers Of Melbourne has been created to consume and assimilate Melbourne culture. We're male focussed, but not male specific, sorting through the dross to weed out the creative stars, standout events and stylish folk that make this city unique. 

MOM aims to embrace all facets of what makes this city a creative hub. Our aim is to inform without condescending – to keep you abreast of what’s going on without regurgitating Press Releases & to seek out this city’s sub cultures to give our readers the inside scoop on what’s REALLY happening with the people who make Melbourne Melbourne.

Interview: Masahiro Onishi

Anyone who knows Melbourne coffee Don, Salvatore Malatesta, understands that the guy gets around. The fact that Makers missed him by a day at Switch Coffee in Meguro, Tokyo? Not as strange as it sounds. 

He dropped by for the same reason anyone with an interest in coffee does when passing through the Japanese capital – to experience the brew pulled by barista Masahiro Onishi, a dedicated lover of the bean and a one-time South Melbourne local.

Masahiro: “Some of the best coffee is in South Melbourne – I loved Deadman Espresso and St Ali."

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His testing ground was noteworthy: landing in Melbourne a few years back, the Japanese-native’s keen coffee interest and light touch at the machine earned him the barista job at highly regarded The Premises cafe in Kensington.

It was from this space that was drawn much of the inspiration and drive that’s since been realised in his first solo venture, Switch, the name so chosen for its ability to cross linguistic boundaries (it means the same in both Japanese and English). Certainly nine months in and his identification of a yet-to-be serviced niche in the local hospitality market – Japan isn’t known for its coffee – is bearing fruit.

There’s the kudos donated by visits from top coffee brass like Malatesta, of course, but more than that there is the enthusiasm local regulars are exhibiting for his unique approach: everything in this space works cohesively together, from the elegant and inviting aesthetic to the focus on global beans and the café’s fashionably practical uniform – those Mackey aprons commonly stocked and worn in (you guessed it) Premises.

Makers finishes up the last of a longed for latte and snaps a few extra shots before hitting the streets. Masahiro walks us to the door and it’s the shoes that catch our eye – the beautiful oiled leather boot from French brand Paraboot that speaks as much about the café and the man as the coffee: simple, smart, casual and in excellent taste. 

Switch Coffee

1-17-23 Meguro

Meguro-ku, Tokyo, Japan 1530063 

Story & images by: Samantha Hogan

Interview: Bertie Blackman

Bertie Blackman’s latest single, Run For Your Life lifted off of her forthcoming fifth album, The Dash is truly three and half minutes of pop bliss, or as the artist herself describes it, “it’s music to have a good time to…music to feel your heartbeat to.”

With The Dash due for release this spring, Makers thought that now would be the perfect opportunity to arrange an interview and photo shoot with the inspiring performer. 

Blackman’s soon to be released album has been written and recorded in small studios in Melbourne, as well as Sydney and Central NSW. Bertie tells Makers that the time spent working in different locations around Australia helped to keep the sound of her new material “really fresh, open and exciting. ” 

We meet Bertie Blackman on a crisp Tuesday afternoon at the Happy Palace restaurant on Bourke Street, the retro interiors the perfect backdrop for the clean lines of local fashion label, Kloke, Bertie’s designers of choice for the shoot.

 With hair and makeup underway in the far corner of the open plan restaurant, a divine assortment of clothing and footwear set up neatly, and the excitable murmur of kitchen staff preparing for night service, the first floor restaurant is a hive of activity. The energy is upbeat, echoing the feelings that inspired the new album with its strong pop-inspired vibe. 

Bertie: “I think that the veil between pop and lots of different types of music is becoming less and less defined as modern culture closes in the gaps. Everything is attainable and that’s exiting for music.”

Run For Your Life opens with a strong ‘80s inspired synth, bringing to mind a feeling of freedom and, as the tempo grows, the liberation of feet pounding on pavement. It’s the first hint that The Dash will be quite the departure from Blackman’s last album, the more introspective 2012 release Pope Innocent X.

Bertie: “I’m always darting from one world to another. And wanting to nod at one of my favourite eras in music meant that I had to open out the production sound into big hooks and big vocals.”

It’s time for a quick costume change, and it’s evident that Bertie is loving Kloke’s stylings: the brand already has strong ties to the local music industry, dressing Chet Faker and contributing to the recent Architecture in Helsinki pop up store in Melbourne Central. We ask the singer if that musical connection inspired her decision to want to work with the label.

Bertie: “It wasn’t actually, I’ve always just dug their clothing. I love their mix of clean crisp lines and big loud patterns. I’m personally into classic cut clothing. These guys do this so well, classic cuts with a twist… super cool.”

It’s a well-chosen comment, and one that could also be used to describe the singer herself – classic with a twist and super cool. We think that about sums her up nicely.

Shot on location at Happy Palace restaurant

Clothing by Kloke

Hair & Makeup by Marlene Olsson 

Shoes by Victorine & Ms Blackman's own

Photography by Kirsty Umback

Interview: Tim Kill

“I will do extra things at my own cost for my own satisfaction. I just love it. Guitar making has never been about the money for me.”    -       Tim Kill

Tim Kill remembers with perfect recall the day INXS guitarist Garry Beers came calling. The kid from Frankston who had directed his focus from the age of 16 toward making guitars was wandering around Bunnings when the phone rang. Garry wanted a guitar. And he wanted Tim to make it.

Tim: “It was just bizarre. He [Garry] wanted to catch up and it was all just super cash. From being in such an iconic Australian rock band he was just a real down to Earth guy. Same with guys like Colin Hay – he’d just come around to the workshop and start swearing like a trooper.”

When Makers recounted the experience of chatting with Tim earlier this week, an old time friend of the now 35-year-old specialist custom guitar maker emphasised the importance of conveying the talented artist’s eccentricity – as it turns out, there’s really no other way to frame him.

Substantial red beard aside, Tim’s quirks owe nothing to the physical. Instead, his left-of-centre characteristics are almost entirely attributable to the passion and dedication he has maintained for almost 15 years – a rare quality in today’s world – relentlessly pursuing expression and voice through creation of stunning instruments designed to each produce a particular unique sound.

His talent is one that was less directed then simply uncovered and then honed over years of practice: having bought a book on guitar making as a guitar-playing 16-year-old, Tim’s furniture-restorer grandfather helped to fashion his first instrument, an experience that set Tim on the road he is still driven to travel.

Tim: “In Australia there is no real way toward an apprenticeship or anything like that, so I learned the hard way. My grandfather let me pinch his tools and I just kept making and making and played in bands, which helped me to get feedback from other people around the sound.”

There was an apprenticeship of sorts with renowned Australian luthiers, James and Merv Cargill (for whom he still works part-time restoring, building and repairing classical stringed instruments), but the slow reveal of his talent owes much to Tim’s focussed practice of the art form.

It’s a dedication that has brought him to the attention of all the right people. If Garry Beers was the first rock musician to come calling, he certainly wasn’t alone in appreciating Tim’s soulful touch. In fact Tim’s client list reads like a role call of both current and past Aussie rock icons – from the aforementioned Colin Hay of Men At Work fame, to relative newcomer Xavier Rudd, the Living End, and the crew from the John Butler Trio.

But one gets the feeling it’s the man as much as the music with which they all identify. Tim has a way about him. He’s a down to Earth guy with a serious bullshit detector. An artist who follows his passions with no posturing or pretending. A craftsman, in the truest sense of the word. All are aspects of his personality that come through strongly when Tim speaks of his work.

Tim: “I’m a custom-based maker so I don’t really run a production line of staff. I have a couple of standard models but I always go out of my way to go a bit extra – I try to pride myself on the fact there are no two guitars out there that are the same. I will do extra things at my own cost for my own satisfaction. As far as time and money goes, I’ve never put a stopwatch to [making] one…because it distracts me from how I started. I just love it, but it was never about the money for me. It’s nice to have it for food on the table, but I don’t chase after it.”

And I guess that’s it – his eccentricity and his appeal neatly rolled in to a sentence. Someone who does it for the love. It’s a rare energy and one – as human beings – that we’re all drawn to.

Certainly it helps to explain why his new hobby, the restoration of vintage motorcycles, is fast becoming a second income stream, even if Tim himself is doing everything he can to preserve it as a personal passion: when the rest of us lock on to that person following the beat of his creative heart, then we all want a piece of it.

But for Tim it’s not the unspoken adulation that matters, but the trust this brings from those that seek him out: confident in his talent, they let the artist take the lead. For Tim as a maker, this is where much of the pleasure derides.

Not that it doesn’t sometimes go wrong.

Tim: “I did this job for a guy over in WA. He was a guitarist, had a share house with Diesel and Jimmy Barnes when they were teenagers and had all these wild stories to tell. Anyway, I did a sunburst and thought it was really beautiful and I sent him some pictures. He rings me up to say, ‘I don’t want to hurt your feelings or anything, but I just don’t like it’.”

Tim laughs when he tells the story and it’s had not to admire his lack of hubris. Hoisted by his own artistic petard. So what’d you do, Makers asks?

Tim: “I made it again.”

You can hear the shrug in his voice, matched with the hint of a smile.  And there it is again. Easy. Honest. Light. Characteristics we’d all be happy to have more of.


Interview: Sebastian Costello, Bad Frankie

“There are distillers who brew excellent product in Melbourne, and I want to show it off to the world.”

-       Sebastian Costello

It is common to become intoxicated by the discovery of food and drink tested and tasted within the cultural and geographic bounds of its origin: pintxos and white sherry in the cobblestone back streets of San Sebastian, panzanella salad in some Tuscan trattoria, or a dosa straight off the cart in the laneways of Chennai.

Perhaps what’s slightly less common is bartender Sebastian Costello’s reaction to his own journey of culinary discovery. Excited by the experience of drinking his way through bourbon in Nashville and tequila in Tequila, Sebastian took up the gauntlet these two regions remain unaware was ever thrown.

Sebastian: “We came back and I thought to myself, ‘we’ve got whiskies from Tasmania, gins from the Yarra Valley and the Margaret River – let’s do this, let’s show Australian spirits to the world.”

The end result is Bad Frankie, an off-Smith Street bar showcasing more than 150 spirits representing 40 of the 50-or-so boutique distilleries currently operating within our border.

It’s a quirky concept. Australian-only spirits, beers and wines matched with what Sebastian imagines as our national snack – the humble jaffle.

As concepts go, it is undoubtedly one that could come off as gimmicky in the hands of a business owner with less honest intent and more commercial drive.  Instead, the space (with the help of interior designer Sally Holbrook) evokes all the colloquial warmth Aussies have for the idea of the small town watering hole.

Sebastian: “When you’re in Tequila the Jose Cuervo distillery is right there on the corner, and you’re eating tacos because that’s what you eat and it’s awesome because you’re there – no one’s trying to sell it. They don’t have to. This is what they do.”

The key to the realisation of the Bad Frankie vision is in Sebastian’s absorption of that notion. There is no hard sell, here, instead just a real knowledge about the birth of Australia’s boutique distillery industry and its importance in our modern food history.

Certainly he relates the dates and happenings as if he had lived them. Of Van Diemen’s Land Governor John Franklin’s outlawing of small-scale pot stills in the 1800s that saw the death of the boutique distillery industry in Tasmania and eventually – when the law was passed in to Federation law in 1901 – across Australia. Of the 1992 overturning of the archaic law upon the efforts of Tasmanian Bill Lark, founder of Lark Distillery.

As of the offering, he’s not afraid to be a little parochial in the tastiest possible way. Like the inside joke that is the jaffle lamington, and a cocktail list that reimagines the Sunday roast as a strangely tasty Old Fashioned championing Gun Alley whisky.

Sebastian: “The response to what we’re doing is really great. Everybody loves it. Everyone’s worried about their carbon footprints and people are keen to taste product we can trace to just around the corner. We wanted to give them that opportunity."

141 Greeves St, Fitzroy VIC 3065

Telephone 03 9078 3866

Interview: Clare Bowditch

Clare Bowditch was so believable in her portrayal of musician Rosanna Harding on the hit channel 10 drama, Offspring, that she was nominated in the best new female talent category at the 2012 Logie Awards. In retrospect, the emotional performance wasn’t such a stretch for the performer, who has long held a reputation for wearing her heart on her sleeve with her somewhat auto biographical lyrics, encompassing seven albums and numerous tours both here in Australia and internationally.

While it is the subject of her latest tour, Winter Secrets, that has allowed Makers the opportunity to sit down with the inspiring creative between stints recording inside “an ABC Tardis”, we’ll happily confess that it is her juggling of several careers while somehow appearing to live a relatively balanced life (albeit one that involves wearing the hats of singer, songwriter, actress, public speaker, mother, wife and entrepreneurial powerhouse) that had us really intrigued. 

Clare Bowditch on stage

Clare Bowditch on stage

Clare appears to have achieved both professional and personal accolades without sacrificing her private life or living under the constant spotlight of public scrutiny.

 The musician won the Best Female ARIA Award in 2006, has had Top Ten albums, been named Rolling Stone Woman of the Year for her contributions to Culture, YEN Young Woman of the Year, and toured all over with the likes of Leonard Cohen, who famously “proposed” to her backstage. All of this while raising three children with her husband and recording partner, Marty Brown.

It’s very rare to find a performer who is happy to share their knowledge of the ins and outs of the Australian music industry while also giving insight as to how to live a profitable yet creatively satisfying life.

 These subjects were just two of the driving forces that lead Clare to create her online mentoring program, Big Hearted Business, in 2013.  

 “Like all multi-passionate people,” the bubbly performer explains during our mid week chat, “I’ve been trying to find a place of dynamic equilibrium, which means that I can actually take care of myself while taking on my various creative pursuits, my family, my business and so on.”

Displaying a level of self-disclosure that has become increasingly rare in our age of overly hyped, mass media celebrity, she continues.

Clare: “When I saw people that were good at it [managing their careers] I started picking up on things and had the urge to pass it [the knowledge] on - I could see the usefulness, the joy the connectivity that comes from understanding creativity.”  

Since founding the program (made possible with a successful crowd funding campaign), Clare has helped produce a series of conferences and online “inspiration bombs” designed to teach creative people about business, and business people about creativity.

Clare Bowditch and Adalita performing together on the 2014  ‘Winter Secrets’ tour. Photo by   Andrew Vukosav

Clare Bowditch and Adalita performing together on the 2014  ‘Winter Secrets’ tour. Photo by Andrew Vukosav

Clare: “We work with people who get that you can have a successful business and still contribute to the community, culture and social enterprise. “

Although the performer is the first to admit that finding balance is still a constant struggle, and one of the factors that inspired her to start Big Hearted Business, she is also fostering creativity through her annual Winter Secrets tour, giving one local musician in each state the unique opportunity to perform during the concert and be in the running to win a $1000 cash prize.

 Clare: “I was the person in the audience for so many years who sat there and thought, ‘I know I’ve got something to give creatively’, but I didn’t think it would be possible to make a living from it. In the meantime I was writing songs and hoping that I would have the chance to perform them in front of people one day: for me, Winter Secrets, is about giving someone who has the guts and the talent the chance to just see what it feels like to be up there.”

Earlier this year Clare Bowditch posted an update on her Facebook page explaining that she didn’t think it would be possible to run Winter Secrets in 2014.

While this was disappointing news to fans, it’s fair to say that Clare was left feeling the most disheartened of all. She explains to Makers that her busy schedule and the launch into an “album phase” were contributing factors in her decision to cancel the tour that had been running annually since 2010. 

Clare Bowditch performs at the Palais Theatre, St Kilda.

Clare Bowditch performs at the Palais Theatre, St Kilda.

Clare: “We were thinking of launching back into an album phase now, but I thought, no, I’m going to [tour] even if it was a smaller than what we’d usually do. I needed to get out on the road and actually see the people that I’ll be writing the album for, before I get the gumption to go ahead and write it. A lot of what I write about is formed by the conversations I have with the strangers who are my audience.”

 Clare: “After [Winter Secrets] I’ll be finishing writing an album and I think we’re going to record next year. I’ll be dabbling in writing while continuing with Big Hearted Business, and next year I’ll hopefully record, release and tour. But we’ll see how we go.”

After wondering aloud how the performer manages to successfully keep all of her balls in the air, Clare can’t help but confide, “I have to tell you something funny. I was listening to a few of the new demos the other day and almost all of the songs had the word ‘tired’ in them. That was one of the themes that I was picking up on but it definitely won’t be an album about being tired. I’ll have to find something else."

See Clare Bowditch and special guest Adalita perform  Winter Secrets this Thursday 17th July at Sooki Lounge, Belgrave or catch them at The Corner Hotel, Richmond on Fri 18th July

Interview: Benoit Gouez, Moët & Chandon Chef de Cave

“When it comes to sparkling wine and Champagne I think we speak of different categories and, honestly, I think the sparkling wine producers of the world should better define and assert their own style.”

 -       Benoit Gouez

So maybe you always knew that even a great sparkling would not match up to a classic Champagne. Just in case you had any doubts, the head winemaker at historic French Champagne house Moët & Chandon, Benoit Gouez, is happy to relieve you of the notion.

In Melbourne for a one-night only stop to bring attention to the latest release Moët & Chandon Grand Vintage 2006, Benoit was the main attraction at an extravagant Champagne dinner hosted at No. 8 by John Lawson. But as interesting as the tastes of vintage Moët were (dating as far back as a rich and golden glass of 1985), more arresting was a pre-dinner chat with one of the world’s most influential tastemakers.

Unapologetic about Champagne’s superiority in the battle of the bubbles, Benoit had some stern advice for both national and international producers of sparkling wine.

Benoit: “I think that, for sparkling wine producers in the world, they should better define and assert their own style rather than trying to copy something that is already established. I have always found that a more interesting approach.”

The elegant Frenchman points to the success of Australian shiraz as an example of a French grape – syrah – that has been rebranded by wine makers in terms of its taste profile. By doing so, explains Benoit, the Australian market has distinguished itself from the classic Rhone style and successfully established its own lucrative market.

Opinions on sparkling aside, a conversation with Moët’s Chef de Cave was interesting for the insights provided as to his own role at the head of one of the world’s most recognisable maisons. When the international Champagne drinking community knows well the classic Moët style, how much allowance does he have as a winemaker when it comes time to create vintage?

Chef John Lawson with   Benoit Gouez

Chef John Lawson with Benoit Gouez

Benoit: “The Moët Imperial is what I describe as the concept of non-vintage, it’s that concept of constancy – we know what we have to achieve and we do it every year, therefore it involves a more technical process. The Grand Vintage, for me, is the opposite of the non-vintage approach. It’s total freestyle and there is room to explore the different facets of the style according to what I think of the harvest. It’s a much more personal approach, with no obligation to the grapes other than to make the best representation. And if I’m not satisfied, there is no obligation to produce it.”

His minder calls time and Makers descends the stairs to dinner as Benoit conducts a final brief while the flutes are poured. We spend the evening drinking his genius and come to much the same conclusion as he had earlier decreed – when it comes to truly great Champagne, there really is no award for second best.

Interview: Oscar Lake

While the concept of what is considered good or bad sartorial taste comes down to personal choice and personality, it’s hard to deny the appeal of a man in a well-cut suit. It’s even harder to deny the appeal of a personally tailored suit, especially when it’s being offered as an affordable clothing option by Oscar Lake, a man who, at the ripe old age of 30, is proud to call himself Australia’s youngest tailor.

Oscar Lake photographed by Sam Wong

Oscar Lake photographed by Sam Wong

“I’m not aware of anyone else my age that is in this line of work,” Oscar begins as he sits down with Makers over a glass of whiskey at the Oscar Hunt showrooms, where the youthful blonde has held the position of head tailor for the past 12 months.

It’s easy for Makers to see the parallel between the tailor and his employers. The retail operation has its own humble beginnings; the once itinerant fashion brand was born out of temporary showrooms in both the Cullen and Olsen hotels before finding itself a more permanent home in the Melbourne CBD, while Oscar studied fashion design at Box Hill and was working in womenswear before making the decision to plunge into a more traditional trade.

“I thought that bespoke tailoring would be the most difficult thing I could do,” he says with a chuckle, “so I decided to learn how to do it.”

The young tailor spent the first five years after graduation working in Armadale before joining the ranks at Oscar Hunt. The way he tells it, the decision to move in to made-to-measure seemed like a no brainer.

The new Oscar Hunt showroom in Melbourne's Hardware Lane

The new Oscar Hunt showroom in Melbourne's Hardware Lane

Oscar: “I felt like the move to made-to-measure would be a smart one as the bespoke community here in Australia is decreasing in size. (Mine) was a decision to try and work with a business that is at the head of the new frontier of suiting, where service is still the most important aspect. We can produce something that is as close to bespoke and handmade but with less cost and more efficiency, but retaining the same amount of style and quality.”

It’s an important distinction to make: few and far between are men with the money – or even the desire – to opt for truly bespoke suiting. As American author, Meg Lukens-Noonan came to explore in her awarded book, The Coat Route, this most traditional of all tailoring schools is a dying art.

Made-to-measure offers the next best thing: where bespoke involves hand making a pattern for each individual, made-to-measure finds its niche in creating individualised alterations from a pre-made pattern. It takes a keen eye to distinguish between the two.

Tailors like Oscar, while not preserving the skill of bespoke, are at least helping to keep the dream alive by drawing new clientele in to the realm of tailoring with an option that finds itself occupying the high ground somewhere between off-the-rack and a true bespoke service.

Photograph by Sam Wong

Photograph by Sam Wong

Oscar: “We’re able to tailor for men with unusual body types and help them find clothing that they wouldn’t generally be able to find somewhere else. We’re selling a luxury product, meaning that our clients expectations are very high and they expect a good quality finished product.”

Oscar Hunt’s new CBD quarters tell the tale of a successfully growing business and – for Oscar, at least – the reason behind the rising appeal of a service that embraces both tradition and the day-to-day financial realities of the working classes is clear.

Oscar: “If you’re looking at a man across the room in pretty much any suit, regardless of how expensive the fabric is or how much they’ve paid for it, it all comes down to the fit. And if it fits well, a man will feel more confident.”

Oscar Hunt showroom  - 3/43 Hardware Lane

Oscar Hunt showroom  - 3/43 Hardware Lane

Interview: JP Klipspringer

JP Klipspringer is the new recording project of Melbourne songwriter and The Zanes front man, Jack Poulson. Produced by Simon Lam (I’lls, KLO) and mastered by Andrei Eremin (Chet Faker, Brightly), Klipspringer’s lush and arresting tunes take influence from artists as varied as Elliott Smith and Primal Scream, drawing comparisons to The XX and James Blake.

 Klipspringer’s debut EP, Drip Dry, is a stunning first offering from this new act: lead single, Bury Me, has been enjoying airplay on Triple J, Melbourne’s 3RRR and other community radio stations across the country.

It’s a miserable Monday night when Makers finally gets a chance to catch up with Poulson, one of our favourite new artists on the Melbourne music scene, phoning in on his long walk home with a cheery opener.

Jack: “I’m walking, so if I sound puffed it’s not because I’m chasing anyone. I’m probably not as fit as I should be."

The artist débuted Drip Dry at the Toff in town last May to some very positive reviews and his four-track album is currently available for download on iTunes. I can't help but mention that Makers was bummed to miss the gig last month.

Jack: “Oh that sucks. It was really a lot of fun. I was having nightmares earlier on in the week of the launch, but it turned out great. There was a packed room, the support acts were fantastic and I think everyone enjoyed it. We certainly enjoyed it: I’ve played plenty of shows with my other band, The Zanes, but this was our first show as a band as a solo project.”

Releasing their debut album in late 2012, The Zanes took an indefinite hiatus at the beginning of this year when drummer Paul Ryan made the decision to temporarily relocate to London. In a way the move made it easier for Jack to focus on his solo work and (taking his name from a character in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s, The Great Gatsby) JP Klipspringer was born.

Jack: “There was always a plan to focus on the solo stuff this year...  it just took a bit longer to kick into action that I expected. I’d started recording songs for this EP a long time ago: Bring you Home and Bury Me were recorded almost a year ago, now. The other two tracks were recorded a bit more recently. I’m trying to do this properly and take it slow and make sure I get the songs right, instead of just bursting out onto the scene with any old thing.”

The passion and dedication to his music is evident in Jack’s tone as he explains the origins of his solo work.

Jack: “As a singer, you’ve got to learn from your previous bands and I’ve learnt to take my time, make the songs right, and put some effort into releasing an EP. I’m looking forward to recording the next round of stuff in August. I’ve already started writing and I’ve got a few songs that I’m choosing between. There are six or seven tracks that I want to put on the next EP [likely to be released later this year] and maybe I’ll release another single before that.”

With plans to travel to both America and the United Kingdom before that happens, it sounds like the musician is juggling a very busy schedule: he talks of combining travel with putting on a few shows on America’s East Coast, perhaps recording there before tripping over to London to visit former band mate, Paul Ryan.

It’s a full diary but Makers of Melbourne has no doubt that Klipspringer will be able to handle the pressure. Before we end the conversation I make sure to thank the singer for his time and leave him to continue the long journey home.

Jack: “Thank you very much, this has been a lovely chat on a cold Monday night, it’s taken my mind off my wet shoes. I think I have a hole in my sole.”

Makers: “Ah. That’s the glamorous life of an up-and-coming musician.”

Jack: “Oh yes, walking through wet parks with holey shoes. This is the life.”

I hear him laugh before he hangs up the phone.

Interview: Phillip Adams

“I like that edge.  I may be getting closer to that edge with each work I create.”

- Phillip Adams


Phillip Adams is a complex man upon which to get a grasp. Not an understanding of his drive, per say. That particular characteristic resonates as clearly as his otherworldly choreography. Indeed, the acclaimed dancer and choreographer, founder and director of ground breaking dance and performance company, BalletLab, and visual and performance artist is dedicated to artistic expression in a way few allow themselves to be.

It is his intent that leads to questions as one struggles to place the two parts of the man: on the one hand is the gorgeously welcoming host and conversationalist pouring tea from a delicate pot to serve up alongside morning tea of scones; on the other, the artist who demands what can appear to be a Machiavellian sense of control over his audience.

Find the evidence in a summation of his provocative works:

 And All Things Return To Nature Tomorrow, a work staged at the Melbourne Theatre Company following two years of research on cults, required the audience to remove their clothes in a recreated science lab and “be naked” with the artist for an hour as they shed themselves to become “abducted” by an environment and “transported” to another planet.

The rethinking of his childhood involving hypnotism of part of an audience for his theatre work, THUMB, reconnected participants to lost memories of their past while taking them through experiences of scale inspired by the mythology of stories like Tom Thumb, Jack and the Beanstalk and James and the Giant Peach.

Aviary image courtesy of BalletLab

Aviary image courtesy of BalletLab

In all of this he is very much presents as the puppeteer holding the strings.

 Phillip: “I think there is a slight manipulator in me – a provocation. Allowing people to have this jolt of experience as opposed to the seated structural viewer. I love that engagement when you push through the fourth wall and, without that, the artwork cannot exist. It has to activate you and it has to activate it.”

The ‘it’ of which Phillip speaks is the central core of the creative embryo. At this time in his career – having already achieved so much as a dancer and choreographer on the international stage – Phillip’s deep dive in to the visual arts has essentially become a kind of self-conducted psychoanalysis.

The theory is not one that he disputes.

Phillip: “There is a sense of anxiety around all of my work… that feeling that something may go wrong. I like that edge. I may be getting closer to that edge with every work I create.


The “Hitchcock-ian” element – Phillip’s own term – is in the artist’s desire to drag his audience down in to the depths of self he is determined to explore.

It is a one-in, all-in approach that begins to make sense as one understands the method in the madness – that his drive to reimagine his past could fall in to the category of self-indulgent nostalgia without the presence of an audience invested enough to aid in igniting the work’s reimagination.

After all, the demanding tenant of true art is that it offer new insight. Without that, it is less a creative expression than an insipid repainting of moments in which life’s significance has already long passed.

Phillip: “There are so many layers to my work and sometimes it’s hard to find where it all fits. You just have to allow it and love it or hate it. There is no definition of queer culture, but this feels as decidedly queer behaviour patterning – meaning, ‘an odd set of rules and strange and other unorthodox practices’. If my audience can’t engage and experience it then the work doesn’t live in the present.”

The interview comes to a close and Phillip rises from his chair to move his still impressively beautiful dancer’s physique for our camera’s gaze. In his well-cut suit against the backdrop of his Dr Ernest Fooks-designed house, he is the perfect reimagining of the boy that grew up in the pre-fabricated, post-war architecture house in the wilds of Papua New Guinea.

He, the idea. And us, the witness to land the perception of his created reality.

Phillip: “Obviously there is a deep desire for the ritual in everything that I do. I’ve become not what I was and, at 50, this has become Act II. The works are an avenue to explore, to understand how I play the second part of my life out.

Interview: James Young

“I’ve always been lucky. In advertising we would get paid a fortune to map a vision and a strategy for a business, none of which I’ve ever done for myself. My attitude has always been, be positive and let it fall in your lap. That’s always worked for me. Surround yourself with positive people and energy and wait for the phone to ring.” - James Young

There's something very reassuring about being in the company of James Young, co-owner and public face of Melbourne rock institution, Cherry Bar. It could be the years spent in advertising, the constant repetition of my name while we’re chatting, making me feel more like a trusted friend than an interviewer. But I'd like to say that it's the bravado and confidence that rock music brings – and the man has rock ‘n’ roll running through his veins.

It's a Thursday night, just after 9pm, and Cherry is empty save a few staff members, a techie setting up sound equipment on the small stage and a couple of barflies who look like they've decided to get an early start on the weekend. I wander in and take a seat at the non-service end of the bar. It’s so dark that, for a moment, I worry that I won’t recognise the man that I’ve come to speak to.

 James: “It’s unfortunate that you can operate a bar for fourteen years without a solitary noise complaint and then a new residential building moves in and, instantaneously, under the current laws, we’re too noisy for them.”

Young and I are sitting on a cushioned bench in the smaller back room of Cherry discussing noise restrictions. This room has no doubt seen a fair share of mischief over the years. But tonight it’s staff only and, ironically, we’ve managed to interrupt a barman enjoying the peace and quiet of an early break with his head stuck in a Stephen King novel.

 James: “The issue of live music venues being threatened by new residential developments is the biggest issue in music globally at the moment.”

 James speaks, absentmindedly pausing to adjust the large AC/DC ring he wears proudly: in retrospect my fear of not recognising the proprietor seems foolish as I take in his jewellery, leopard print suit and white cowboy hat.

Our bar tender friend departs for quieter ground with a wave goodbye as he continues.

 James: “Everyone’s worried about it because with physical CD sales dead, playing live is the new revenue for bands, their performance and selling merch and all the rest of it. And it’s also their university; playing live is how bands hone their craft.”

 Noise restrictions are something this man knows a lot about and, with the recent closure of the Palace Theatre and a new residential apartment block currently under development less than 20 meters away from Cherry’s front doors, it’s a subject very close to his heart.

 James: “My business partner ‘Lazy Pete’ is really worried about it and I’ve met so many well meaning, passionate music lovers in Melbourne who are all worried about the future of Cherry, too. Actually, they’re more worried about the bar than I am.  I’m quite a positive and optimistic person and I believe that every year presents new challenges in your life. You’ve just got to suck it up and deal with it. This is just another thing that we’re going to have to deal with."

 “I book over 1,100 local acts a year for Cherry, we’re open seven nights a week, have live music seven nights a week and I’m knocking back around 2000 bands a year. There’re just thousands upon thousands of bands in Melbourne and what they want more than anything else is the opportunity to play in front of people. They want more venues where they can play and, as I like to say, over my dead body will Cherry Bar be closed. We might have to make some modifications but Cherry will be here and I will fight for the death to protect our late licence. To be a world-class city these days you’ve got to be a twenty-four hour city.”

James is passionate about the contribution live music makes to a cityscape, citing the appeal of destinations where music can be heard on city streets at all hours. He’s also quick to point out the obvious contradiction in selling the appeal of an apartment based on the culture of the site while then endangering that very culture by virtue of drastically altering the scope of the bar’s current operations. As it is, it looks likely Cherry Bar will no longer be able to operate with its current 5am license.

 James: “The people who are about to move into these apartment blocks bought them based on promotional materials that said ‘join the culture of AC/DC Lane’. I think one of the beautiful things about this bar is standing out the front with the doors open and the music bleeding into the laneway; while you’re smoking or talking to friends, picking up or just enjoying the night air. I think it’s a beautiful thing to have that music coming out and it will be unfortunate if we incubate that sound and close the double entrance so that everything is contained within. International guests and tourists don’t want to come down and just take a photograph of a street sign to say that they’ve been to AC/DC Lane; they want to experience it. And that experience is music and live rock ‘n’ roll.”

 The door to the backroom opens with a squeak and suddenly we’re joined by a cameraman and sound recordist, here to film James Young for his regular ‘Cherry TV’ slot, broadcast weekly on the popular Cherry Bar Facebook page.

 Before he leaves me to start filming I ask a question about social media and its impact on the bar.

James: “You can write media releases for Cherry Bar and distribute them nationally, but I made the discovery that all I really need to do is post it on the Cherry Bar Facebook. These days online content gets picked up by the mainstream media, who are trawling the internet for interesting stories. All we’re trying to do is say, ‘come here for a drink if you think this way, because this is where live music-lovers hang out’. If you’re following our feed and enjoying it, then maybe you belong and are part of the Cherry family." So far it seems to be working.

Interview: Jeffrey Phillips

"When it’s not for work, it’s all by hand – all ink and nibs. That’s what made me fall in love with drawing and that’s why I can still do it.”

-       Jeffrey Phillips

It really is incredibly difficult to walk away from an introduction to Jeffrey Phillips. Makers first bumps in to him at the Festival of Steve, note book and fountain pen in hand, hired to work this crowd as a live illustrator – a little side line business the “reformed financial advisor” squeezes in during time not spent working on his commercial illustration jobs.

He’s a great guy with whom to strike up a conversation. Jeffrey is open, gently humorous and inquisitive. Much like the drawings that, on this particular Saturday evening, fill his notebook: caricature-style portraits in black ink that capture completely aesthetics and character. The drape of a young designer’s scarf and its wearer’s serious intent; the poker-faced trio at a green felt card table; the bearded suave ‘tude of a couple of the Oscar Hunt boys dressed to impress.

Jeffrey: “I’ve always been a doodler. I would spend my evenings drawing and learning how to use different pens and fill up sketchbooks with, in hindsight, just horrible, horrible stuff. People would say, ‘Man, it’s too late to do something different now, isn’t it, yeah it is’.”

It explains much of the energy surrounding the man that Jeffrey, without fuss or fanfare, went ahead and did it anyway.

Jeffrey: “Someone said, ‘I’ve got someone who’s doing a short film and needs some story boards’, and I said, ‘What are story boards?’ and then one thing led to another and work just picked up from there.”

Speaking with the artist is a lot like this. Nothing harried. No stress. He’s intelligent but not pretentious, observant though not judgemental. Rare qualities. It's as if he’s somehow identified the portal to his own slipstream and just stepped right in.

Perhaps it’s being so in tune with his own creativity that enables Jeffrey to garner such insights in to his studies. He is quick, challenging himself to spend no more than a glance before sketching from memory with his beloved fountain pens – an ease of use he found growing up as a boy in Mumbai where this instrument was standard issue in the schools he attended until moving to Perth, age 14.

And while his insights are acute, his gaze is forgiving.

Jeffrey: “You can get quite a lot of personality from drawing, unlike a photograph which just depicts that still scene. If someone is really loud and flamboyant, you can express that a lot better, exaggerating an action or a piece of clothing. If they have a big nose you can make them have a really big nose. If they are tall, you can make them loom over. It is opportunity to embellish and bring out aspects of character in a scene."

Analysis aside, his live illustrations are, Jeffrey explains, an opportunity to continue bettering his craft. The digital focus of most all commercial illustration means these forays with pen and ink serve as a constant series of mini tutorials.

Jeffrey: “I’ve always done it as a way of practicing my skills, trying to get better at getting as much information in a snapshot and then just being able to draw without too much thought or planning. I can draw you even if you’ve wondered off.”

The morning marches on and his shared warehouse studio space begins to buzz with the arrival of fellow artists and creatives – these people with whom he has come to share a space.

It’s an enviable scene: light-filled, the room’s interior pulled together by someone with an eye for warmth and character, from the copper wire fairy lights to the arresting over-sized bird sculpture. Someone paints in the corner while a writer sits down in a corner to peck at her keyboard.

Jeffrey sees Makers of Melbourne to the door and the joy and pleasure of his company follows, even as his last words fall out in to the light of day.

Jeffrey: “It’s a very interesting dynamic to get paid for something you would do anyway.”

Interview: Paul Cox

“The real things in life are to be kind and to be creative. Everything else, forget it.”

-       Paul Cox

Film maker Paul Cox in his Albert Park office

Film maker Paul Cox in his Albert Park office

There is an innate contradiction apparent in the world of Paul Cox, the man who – over the past 40 years – has become one of Australia’s most distinguished international filmmakers. It is a contradiction inherent in the former sentence:

“…one of Australia’s most distinguished international filmmakers…”

 Note the reverse italics.

Makers sits with him during the gloom of a late autumn day in the Albert Park office that has long served as his professional, and only slightly more recently, personal home. Across the road, children play in a schoolyard and mums with prams walk by, take away coffee cups in hand. The small gate to his front path is discreet and goes unnoticed.

The second great tell.

For a man who has received both distribution and critical claim across Europe alongside a host of international retrospectives celebrating his extensive ouvre of humanist films (including celebrations of his work at the Telluride, Istanbul and Calcutta film festivals), mainstream Australian awareness around his importance is pitifully lacking.

A travesty when one considers the airplay given to any D-grade celebrity willing to parade themselves before commercial television cameras for the most asinine of reasons. 

Still from Paul Cox film 'Exile' 1994 - Winner of AFI Award for Best Cinematography & nominee for the Golden Bear award for best film at Berlin Film Festival

Still from Paul Cox film 'Exile' 1994 - Winner of AFI Award for Best Cinematography & nominee for the Golden Bear award for best film at Berlin Film Festival

One gets the feeling it is a travesty that has very much contributed to Paul’s current view of the world that – at times – resonates with a sense of frustrated despair.

Paul: “There are so many people out there who spend their energy on creative bullshit – on things like fashion and what they wear and displaying themselves in that way. I have been making my films for many, many years and they have never hit the jackpot in Australia because they are very European and I have always looked at the world in a global sense. I was probably the first person that made a love story between an Australian woman and a wog, a Greek man (Kostas 1979) and people were wary of that – all the funding came from outside of Australia. Here I don’t really exist. I have the odd fan, of course, but since my transplantation I really couldn’t give a fuck anymore. It doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter at all.”

The transplant of which he speaks is the replacement of his cancerous liver (“on Christmas Day, it’s a bit pathetic”), the need for which brought him within days of facing death and has since become the central tenant of his latest film, currently undergoing its final edit. (He is, in fact, drawn out of the editing room the day we visit.)

It has been fictionalised, of course, and its themes broadened, though Paul today does not give too much away other than to say some filming takes place in India (“the earlier years I spent in Indonesia and India were where I grew up”) and – that if more people were conscious of the gift of transplant – many lives could be saved.

In some way it appears as if this could be the film that brings Paul’s lifetime of observance of the internal geography of human spirit and emotion – most often viewed through the behaviours of flawed characters – closer to home.

Not that there hasn’t been other instances of autobiographical influence in his films. My First Wife (1984) is very loosely inspired by Paul’s own marriage breakdown, while the magnified gaze placed on mortality, love, emotional and social corruption and life’s meaning throughout all his films – not to mention his total intolerance for mindless violence on the screen – is deeply informed by a childhood spent stepping over rubble and dead and dying bodies in the Netherlands following his birth in 1940 in to a Europe overtaken by World War II.

But underneath all the shortened patience for the cultural stupidity of modern life (Kardashians anyone?) rests a deep love for people and creative expression – for the possibility inherent in us all as seen in the eyes of a small child before social conditioning and expectation takes hold.

He is the ultimate humanist in that he fully understands mankind’s foibles – our current irrational obsession with celebrity and fame – but continues to love us all anyway: it is there, in his push to keep facing us with ourselves through his films, like a patient father who will (despite our ignorance and faults) forge on ahead, lantern of awareness held high, that he might show us a different way.

Paul: “I take life quite seriously. I think it is a serious matter. When people say, ‘enjoy what you do’, when people ask you to be happy… I think happiness is for fools. How can you be happy when there is so much unjustness? What is needed is a degree of contentment to do your work and be satisfied with what you have. To not want – that is essential.  And to be able to give.” 

Interview: Matt Bebe, Mornington Peninsula Brewery

“We use the right malt and the right hops and ensure time in the tank. We do the best for the beer that we can, to ensure the best taste that we can.”

-       Matt Bebe

Mad business ideas and 3am drinking sessions are surely something of an Australian tradition. How often those ideas get off the ground in the cold, aching light of a morning-after? Well, at least once, if founder of the Mornington Peninsula Brewery’s Matt Bebe is any indication.

In the midst of Good Beer Week, Makers catches up with Matt on his home turf at Mornington Peninsula Brewery’s (MPB) headquarters in Mornington.

We sit in his office, an entirely unglamorous space that is befitting in some ways of the brewery’s location – forget the verdant green fields of nearby Red Hill, MPB makes its home in an industrial estate tucked behind a busy main road.

There is good reason for this: the MPB is a proper, working craft brewery with all the deliveries, heft, packaging requirements and machinery this entails. Not only are the various in-house labels conceptualised by in-house head brewer, Andrew Gow, they are also brewed on site behind the bar in the brew house that takes up the rear of the allotment.

As for those madcap beginnings…

Matt: “My next door neighbour and I are both mad Hawthorn supporters so when they won grand final in 2008 we hooked up while I was looking for someone to drink with. In the wee hours of the morning we came up with the idea that the Mornington Peninsula needed another brewery. The next day he went to Glenferrie to celebrate with the Hawks and I stayed home and wrote up a business plan.”

Six years later and the MPB has made its mark on both the national and international beer scenes: its Imperial Stout and Brown Ale received gold medals at the International Beer Awards last year, with plenty of other accolades along the way.

Having just ticked over 300,000 litres of production, MPB is only the second craft brewery in Australia to have its own canning line and has only this week hosted an event with the chief brewer from Stillwater Brewery, known as one of America’s best. A coup for any Aussie craft operation.

Matt: “We just have a real passion for beer. I was in Italy recently and it was amazing to see how they used different products in different ways – in Sicily a brewer blended a locally available red wine with a dark beer and it allowed that cherry flavour to really come out. That’s where the artisan side of beer is heading and where we are also interested in taking it. It’s a more creative approach.

Lunch approaches and we call time on our chat, but not before Matt gives me a little guided tour of the brewery and bar (“the place is packed on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights”) and explains how the taking on of a second industrial site will leave more room for the currently modest outdoor beer garden.

He leaves me with a mixed six-pack of his brews, including the beautifully bitter Indian Pale Ale, an English-style brown ale with chewy chocolate and toffee notes, and a very savoury Witbier made with coriander, cumin and orange peel.

Matt: “A lot of the challenge of craft brewing is in convincing people who are so used to drinking a major beer to try something different. For instance we do a collaboration with Common Folk coffee roasters around the corner to do a coffee-infused beer to understand that coffee and beer can match. The reality of beer is that it is a beverage with much broader appeal than is commonly understood.”

So beer instead of a latte for breakfast? I know at least a couple of blokes who would drink to that.

Interview: Rone

“I do become conscious of what I paint and what people expect me to paint. It’s good and bad: you become a slave to your style but there is also an ownership of a style that I’m proud of – that idea of sticking to you guns.”

                                  - Rone

Rone in his new Collingwood studio

Rone in his new Collingwood studio

There is a moment in Rone's new Collingwood studio that catches both the artist himself and Makers a little by surprise. Seated by a window as our photographer takes aim, the scene is interrupted by a voice from the street. “Can I take your photo,” comes the request. Rone nods in good humour and throws up a peace sign. The contented street snapper wanders off, but not before thanking him by name.

“That guy knew my name,” Rone says with a grin, shaking his head a little. “It’s weird when it happens, and it’s happening more and more. It’s especially strange when it happens in other countries: I get recognised in Miami a lot, and in London because I’ve been doing a lot of promo for the exhibition.”

London 2013

London 2013

Perhaps Rone shouldn’t be surprised.

More than 10 years after his beginnings experimenting with graffiti stencil art, the 30-something artist has become a fixture on the international street art scene courtesy of the stunning female faces that have captured the imaginations of all who view them.

Seductive, soft and in stunning contrast to the masculinity of the concrete spaces upon which they are painted, his choice of subject proved eye-catching for its very feminine energy.

Rone: “The idea behind the women was that everything in street art and graffiti was very macho at that time. You’d have a screaming face, or a really sexy girl or an angry looking Frankenstein guy. To have this calming beauty was different to all of that. It’s not shouting and it wasn’t over-awing, but I was painting in this overwhelming size so the piece still had presence. And, being posters, they would fall apart and decay but they still held their beauty. I love that juxtaposition, I loved how they looked on the street.”

Paris 2011

Paris 2011

Clearly he wasn’t the only one. In the past few years Rone's success is such that he has been able to give up his graphic design day job and become a full time artist: one who has in the past few months held a solo exhibition at London’s Stolen Space Gallery, as well as painting a multi storey wall (by commission) in Berlin as part of a project with Strychnin Gallery.

Just a few weeks ago he stopped traffic in the CBD, moving in a cherry picker to allow completion on a project for Rue & Co’s newly opened shipping container dining precinct at the Paris end of Collins Street.

It is the kind of success that has allowed him (along with his Everfresh crew of likeminded Melbourne artists) to occupy a bigger and better warehouse studio space off Collingwood’s increasingly gentrified Smith Street.

That is, when he is in town at all: international invitations to various events and festivals call thick and fast. Makers catch him just before he jets off again, this time to Taiwan for Pow Wow.

Rone: “I didn’t see myself here. Go back 10 years and the only successful street art graffiti artist, the biggest thing they were doing, was a tee shirt brand. Just to be purely living off the artwork – it was impossible. I had never intended to do it. I never studied art. I studied graphic art and I was pretty happy making my income there. This was something I always did for fun and now, 10 years later one took over the other…”

Not that Rone sees his success as merely a happy accident. He has immense appreciation for the street art movement, admitting to finding something exciting in seeing people operate outside the “flow of things”, in working out their own way to creative success beyond the traditional routes of art school and under studies.

He also knows well the trials of being seen and heard in what is fast becoming one of the biggest art movements in recent times.

Rone: “With graffiti you can start right now. You don’t need any training. And while that doesn’t mean you’re good, in that sense the numbers of people playing the game means it’s quite hard to get your name out there.”

Perhaps it’s for this reason – his visibility in a field of wannabes – that one finds it impossible not to appreciate his genuine sense of gratitude. There is the grin that stretches ear to ear, of course, but – more than that – this incredible feeling of enthusiasm and glee that he exudes for the place he currently finds himself.

Certainly one gets the strong sense that, somewhere along the way, Rone has fully made the transition to legitimate artist: he is unapologetic about his preference to paint canvas for private commissions and no longer works illegally.

Berlin 2013

Berlin 2013

There is also the due diligence being given to the evolution of his style, something the painter is conscious of contemplating as he moves in to the next phase of his career. Not to mention his awareness around balancing the offers of international travel against time that must be spent creating in the Melbourne studio.

Rone: “It’s surreal. This month I had to think about whether I was going to go to Taiwan or go to San Miguel, Mexico, because I need time to paint because that’s how I make my money. So these are my problems now – my ridiculously good problems. It’s a life I couldn’t have imagined having five years ago.”

Interview: Nkechi Anele, Saskwatch

Nkechi Anele fronts Saskwatch at the Palais Theatre, May 2013

Nkechi Anele fronts Saskwatch at the Palais Theatre, May 2013

Phone interviews are always a strange affair. It doesn't matter how much you prepare in advance, you never know what's going to happen on the other end of the line. Or what’s going to happen with your phone line.

It’s 1pm on a Wednesday afternoon and Makers is desperately trying to get a hold of Nkechi Anele, front woman of Melbourne band Saskwatch. Our PR supplied calling card has failed, and when we do finally get in contact with the diminutive singer our phone reception is faint and tinny.

After a couple of minutes struggling to hear each other I decide to hang up, with the promise and hope that when I call back our reception will be crystal clear.

I dial a complicated set of numbers but once again the call rings out.

About a minute later, Nketchi phones me direct. “It’s so much easier this way,” she states understandably after I apologise profusely for the shoddy phone line.

It’s nice to hear that after five years of recording and touring both nationally and internationally, success hasn’t gone to the singer’s head. The 9-piece indie-soul outfit have had a hectic schedule since the release of their second album ‘Nose Dive’ a little over a month ago and so far this year have found themselves playing a string of festival shows including WOMADelaide, Panama Festival and Bluesfest Byron Bay. They’ve also just finished up a support slot on British singer John Newman’s debut Australian tour, and were recently announced on the lineup for this year’s Splendor in the Grass. Not to mention that the band will be headlining their own national tour in June and July; travelling through regional Victoria, the ACT, Adelaide, Sydney and Perth before wrapping it all up with a homecoming gig at Richmond’s Corner Hotel on the 5th of July. 

Saskwatch perform at the Australian Independent Music Awards in October, 2013

Saskwatch perform at the Australian Independent Music Awards in October, 2013

Saskwatch started out as a bunch of University students busking outside of Flinders Street Station “It was a quick way to earn money to go out and party,” Anele explains while discussing the heritage of the group.  It was only after PBS radio announcer Vince Peach waked past the band that things started to get more serious. The DJ asked the buskers to perform live on his show and later invited them to take up residency at his soul night at Cherry Bar.  “That’s when I joined the band,” she continues “and we ended up playing at Cherry for two and a half years before moving into festivals.”

 Nkechi: “This is the second band that I’ve sung in, the first was more electro and Saskwatch actually supported us when we launched our single. There were a couple of nights that the former singer of the group wasn’t available to play and the boys asked me to fill in, then I was asked to join the band full-time.”

Things continued in an upward trajectory after those auspicious beginnings, “We were performing at Cherry bar and the night began to pick up to the point where it was selling out every time we played. There was always a queue and each week people were being turned from the door. From there we found a manager who helped us get on the lineup for Golden Plains, that was the big kick off for us.”

Saskwatch perform at the Heart of St Kilda Concert at the Palais Theatre, May 2013

Saskwatch perform at the Heart of St Kilda Concert at the Palais Theatre, May 2013

I recall seeing the band play a scorching set at the 2013 Sacred Heart Mission’s Heart of St Kilda concert. It was the first time that Makers of Melbourne had experienced a Saskwatch performance and we were blown away by their efforts on stage that night at the Palais theatre. I tell Nkechi that from my outsider’s point of view, the band seemed to go from playing the charity concert to suddenly being everywhere. (Laughter) “From the outside I guess it does seem like that. A lot of people think that we’ve only been around for about a year and a half when really we’re up to our fifth year of playing together.  I don’t know how to explain it, but there was an interesting period of time when my face was on every poster that my friends saw around town. I’d be getting text messages everyday saying “you’re on the radio” or “I just saw your face at the tram stop.”  

 I mention that the bands sophomore album ‘Nose Dive’ has a darker feel to it than their first release, the 2012 album ‘Leave it all Behind’.  “It was a little nerve wracking making the second album because at the time of releasing our first record the soul scene was huge here in Melbourne. We were trying to keep our writing up to that original standard of music, while moving away from that soul movement. We didn’t want to fall into the trap of being a novelty soul band that could only play themed nights. It sounds so exclusive, and creatively being a soul band is quite limiting. As much as the scene had helped us, it felt like it was time to move away and establish ourselves as a more serious band in our own right. The second album was written as a reaction to personal experience.”

 She continues “Our first album felt like a party album and I think that’s because we established ourselves in a bar where it was like a party every week. Now we’ve grown up and have moved away from that university lifestyle, we’ve started taking on responsibilities. Moving through life there are some dark sides to relationships and reality and I think we’ve all reached the stage where we are happy explore that. The culture that we find ourselves in as a band reflects our creative output.” 

Interview: Rob Adams, Urban Designer

The city is its own fragile eco system and, like all eco systems, is damaged – or dies – usually because of a lack of understanding about what nurtures it.”

                                                                                         - Rob Adams

When Rob Adams relates the city of Melbourne to “a fragile eco-system”, be clear in the understanding that this is a well-thought sentence owing nothing to hyperbole. As our city’s chief urban designer for the past 30 years (and counting), Rob is well acquainted with the intricate interplays of space, design, utilities and movement that turn a collection of concrete and asphalt in to an environment capable of sustaining creative life.

It’s not too much to say that he, along with his team, has nurtured Melbourne back to life with such success that – for most of the city’s current inhabitants – it appears there has never not been a time when ours was the epicentre of food, fashion and festivals.

Rob: "Most people think laneways have always had coffee shops in them, but if you’re looking at side walk cafes there were probably only two in the central city in 1985 compared to about 450 in 2014.  It’s the cumulative effect over 30 years of just slowly improving what are signatures of Melbourne. A lot of the works that we do are tiny interventions – we’ve taken out 30 hectares of asphalt in the city by building bigger side walks, turned roundabouts in to green space and widened median strips to make playgrounds – people don’t notice, but we do them hundreds of times a year and then, in time, you get the result.”

Outdoor cafes in the CDB - growth in numbers between 1983-2004

Outdoor cafes in the CDB - growth in numbers between 1983-2004

But like any paternal figure, Rob knows the truth of his charge’s history: the growing pains resulting in challenges that – almost paradoxically – have led Melbourne to becoming the lauded landscape it is today.

It started in the ‘80s, when a groundswell of opposition rose against the destruction of ‘Marvellous Melbourne.’  Combine this with an exodus of retail from the CBD as everyone moved to suburban shopping centres, and a council that was too broke to enact grand schemes – underground trams, and big structures built atop the historic Queen Vic Market – and the stage was set for a man of particular vision to restore the landscape much as a trained art conservateur might restore a Da Vinci: with a sure and subtle touch. 

Rob: “It starts with a political movement more than anything, so I was fortunate enough to arrive here at a time when the politicians had come in to change Melbourne. Their vision was very simple – they wanted the centre of Melbourne to become a 24-hour city, but they wanted it to look and feel like Melbourne. Nobody wanted Dallas.”

Without the cash to splash, moderations had to make the most of the landscape that was already there. Sure, the reinvigoration of the famed laneways were a large part of it, but so, too, was the reconnection of the city to the Yarra, the expansion of green space and – key to it all – the bringing back of human life in to the frame of the city’s daily function. 

Birrarung Marr - the first new park near Melbourne's CBD in over a century

Birrarung Marr - the first new park near Melbourne's CBD in over a century

It’s a sure fire equation for success when enacted sympathetically: much of the difference between central London and central Paris – Haussmanian planning aside – is the presence of living residents in every street of the French capital city. That kind of pedestrian interaction that brings normality and continual movement.

Rob: “On the back of the collapse of the economy in the late ‘80s we came up with a project to turn commercial buildings in to residential – it succeeded in taking a whole lot of existing buildings and putting them in to multiple ownership. Ironically, the one thing that will now save the city from over development are these same small scale buildings – the Hero and the Majorca buildings – that will be difficult to develop because of the fact of having to get all these different owners to agree to sale at the same moment.”

The last is a comment forthcoming, not as a result of paranoia, but in response to recent planning decisions that Rob (and others in the know) fear are already on the way to upsetting Melbourne’s fragile balance.

Because despite their concrete spines, cities are fluid. As such, both changes and challenges are continual. Rob talks of the damage that is being wreaked by the current allowance permitting developers to build to up to 56 times the site area, something he says no other city in the world permits.

(Translated, this means a structure with full site coverage can rise up to 56 storeys, or with half site coverage, On a double site, a tower could reach 112 floors high.)

In some ways it could be said that the very success of Rob’s work has turned against him: so accustomed have we all become to the beauty and usability of our city, that it appears we may have forgotten how delicate a balance it is to maintain. That a city we feel has always been thus took no less than 30 years of thoughtful planning to construct.

Rob: “The city is its own fragile eco system, and like all eco systems it will die usually because of a lack of understanding about what nurtures it: too much fish out of the ocean, too many trees taken down. Right now I have never seen the take out of the city as huge as it is without having anything being put back.”

It is difficult not to feel panicked by Rob’s point of view. Certainly he himself feels deeply the change of focus, knowing Melbourne as well as he does.

And perhaps this, in the end, is what makes an audience with Rob so revelatory. While as residents we love to talk up the city’s creative heart, its Euro vibe and thinking-person’s tag, Rob is capable of pinpointing the programs and decisions that contribute to what goes in to creating what is essentially an ephemeral feeling.

The arts and events strategies that serves to broaden our cultural horizons while contributing financially to the city’s needs (“the return for the dollar is $1 given to $11 back for the arts; for road projects you are lucky to get $1 back”), the secret, “funny” spaces, carefully planned for, that make Melbourne a city for exploration in the model of its European cousins.

The State Library on Swanston Street during the White Night Festival

The State Library on Swanston Street during the White Night Festival

Rob: “Look at the difference between our newer areas Southbank and Docklands and the CBD: people like to walk through Melbourne, go inside and find a bar, and then someone directs them down a dog leg lane with rubbish bins in it to the next stopping point. They feel they are discovering a place for the first time. Kill all the opportunities for secrets and turn them in to a single product, and you kill the dream.”

For Rob, the death of that dream – his dream – would be a tragedy.

Rob: “I think Melbourne’s a cerebral city. This is a city where people get pleasure out of coming together, having conversations, talking about creative ideas and developing those creative ideas. And the future is in asking the question – how do we hang on to these things?” 

Interview: Ben Cooper

“I want to represent a good life. And there is a good life. It’s not easy; there are no silver platters. But the good life is there if you work your arse off and do the right things.”

                                                    -    Benjamin Cooper

Life is good for chef Benjamin Cooper. It’s there in his stride. In his easy smile and freely given bear hugs. No doubt today he is on a high: Makers meets him before the bustle of 80 Collins Street, tonight serving as the venue for the opening party to end all opening parties as Rue & Co. kicks off – the CBD shipping container dining precinct joining Jimmy Grant’s George Calombaris, St Ali’s Salvatore Malatesta and Chris Lucas’ yet-to-be-unveiled newbie, Kong BBQ.

 Until now associated with the kitchen that made him something of a Melbourne celebrity, Chin Chin, Benjamin has taken a step up in to the big league with a recent promotion to group executive chef managing the kitchens of Lucas’ star-studded restaurant stable: the effervescent Chin Chin, neon-lit Baby and the highly anticipated newcomer, Kong BBQ.

 It’s undoubtedly a surreal space to occupy. In a city where chefs are king and food a religion, to serves as the jewel in the crown of The Lucas Group is to breathe rarefied air: the place where talent, financial resource and good organisation coalesce to create a culinary perfect storm – with Benjamin right at its centre.

 Benjamin: “Life’s beautiful. I have three amazing kids, the best wife in the world and now I get to work with a boss that goes, ‘You’re good at your job, you’re doing really well, and here’s your next challenge.’ But it’s more than luck. There’s a fairly deep story to it.”

 By his own admission Benjamin was a wayward kid whose first head chef pulled him up by his bootstraps, helping him through depression and misdirection in part brought on by the death of his mother as he entered in to his twenties. And pull him up she did: from Melbourne he went to slogging it out in London with the godfather of Thai cuisine, David Thompson (among others), eventually returning to Melbourne to head up a host of big-name restaurants – from Ezard and Ginger Boy, to Longrain.

 If life was a fairy tale this would have been Benjamin’s happy every after. But circumstances have a way of helping us to learn our lessons.

Benjamin: “I got to the point with a wife and two kids where life was pretty full on. My wife’s mother passed away and it was too much to deal with. The industry and the backstabbing and the egos, it was all too much for me. I needed to get out and change my job in order to stay in love with my food.”

 In love with my food. His words are a caress. If ever a man’s mistress was his work, then Benjamin certainly finds succour in the act of cooking for others. He speaks of his chopping board as a “security blanket”. Certainly not uncommon sentiment from those that make cooking their living. Perhaps, then, what’s different with Benjamin is the humility with which he approaches his craft. It was a shedding of ego that could only occur at the point of near breakdown.

Approached by Sal Malateste post Longrain, Benjamin jumped at the opportunity to find a new direction only to find himself in a strange new landscape: gone was the bustle of a high profile kitchen, in its place came a position making sandwiches at a Monash University’s Clayton campus cafe. But what would have been, for others, an inglorious fall was for Benjamin the beginnings of opportunity.

Benjamin: “I remember driving to work one day thinking, ‘this is stupid, you’re a chef, what are you standing here making sandwiches for – you’ve got to turn the car around and stick it’. I did turn the car around, got 1 kilometre down the road and then there was this other voice. Only this one said, ‘you’ve got a wife and two kids and you’ve got a boss who’s prepared to pay you. Pull your head out of your arse, go back to work, earn money and make people happy’. If I was going to make sandwiches, they were going to be the best sandwiches anyone had ever made.”

And they were. Within a week of Benjamin’s psychological comeback the café had doubled business. Within a month it was quadrupled. It was, he freely admits, his defining point.

There have been others: namely, cooking his exquisite Thai-centric food for an audience of four (“a demoralising experience”) during an experimental period at South Melbourne’s St Ali doing dinners. Never one to suck lemons, Benjamin used his energy to make lemonade from experiences that could have derailed a lesser spirit.

The universe repaid him. Lucas came calling and the offer was Chin Chin. The rest is history: one smashing restaurant success, an awarded cookbook and a promotion later, Benjamin has scaled his culinary Everest. Twenty years of slog encapsulated in a sentence. Of course what this neat summation misses is the contribution the man made to the making of his own success. It was about more than simple productivity; his journey is reflective of a life philosophy that values honesty, love and discipline. It is how he runs his kitchens, and how he runs his life.

Our coffee cups at Cumulus are empty and Benjamin’s phone is running hot. Story told, he dishes briefly to Makers on the brand new barbecue he has helped to build and the 15-month quest to make the perfect kimchi, both projects centred around opening for Kong BBQ, scheduled to being trade end May. He is excited about the prospect of spending three weeks cooking and seasoning his new fire-fuelled monster, and even more eager to introduce Melbourne to the type of Asian barbecue food he spends weekends preparing for family and friends at his leafy Warrandyte home. If Chin Chin is like bringing people in to his loungeroom, then Kong BBQ is all about the experience of his backyard.

Benjamin: “For me the rewards have come from being wise enough and mature enough to recognise the opportunity in every situation. It’s not your boss’s job to make you happy, it’s your job to make your boss happy, and if you can achieve that, the happiness comes back. I go out of my way to make my boss happy, I go out of my way to make our guests happy, I go out of my way to make the people I work with happy, and go out of my way to make my family happy. That is what brings love in to my life.”

Interview: James Nolen

“Film is everything now in dictating people’s subconscious attitudes to style and fashion.”

-       James Nolen

As the film programmer for the Australian Centre of the Moving Image (ACMI), James Nolen views film as far more than a release in to fantasy: for him, it reads as a barometer of society’s cultural landscape, particularly as it relates to notions of style.

From the influence of The Breakfast Club in defining ‘80s style to Val Kilmer’s telling of Jim Morrison’s life in The Doors, that was the spark to ignite the leather jeans trend of the early ‘90s, the ability of film costume to exert influence on what we wear – and how – has only grown more powerful.

James: “The latest Hunger Games film is an interesting example: that one film was going to do more for that whole luxe sports industry than anything else. Costume designer Trish Somerville was looking for some contemporary high performance sportswear for the training sequence in Catching Fire and came across the label Lucas Hugh from the UK. Trish commissioned not only women's but menswear from Lucus Hugh, which was a first for the company. With the huge global success of this film, you can imagine what influence it will have on the major sportswear brands and some of the fast fashion retailers who are also expanding into sportswear, most notably, Uniqlo”

The Great Gatsby, too, has done more than its fair share to float further the gentleman’s outfitter revival that’s captured the imaginations of so many men across the city.

James: “Fashion in film completely filters down to street level, especially with Gatsby’s take on men’s fashion; those beautiful derby shoes and lovely textured socks that were a feature of the ensemble. You do see that filtering through even to mainstream at places like Top Man.”

But the film and shoe buff’s own personal style heralds from a different source: the queen of English punk rock fashion, Vivienne Westwood. She is, he believes, one of the few men’s shoe designers willing to take radical style risks in order to realise her vision.

James: “She is willing to make ugly shoes that then become beautiful in two years time. I don’t think she cares if they work, as long as they work for her.”

It is a perfect match: James is nothing if not adventurous in his choices, from today’s silver custom-made Rocco shoes to the Melbourne-made red brogues produced by a local Greek shoemaker under the Pantheon label. 

James admits he pushes the boundaries, noting the regular comments received on some of his more striking pairs. But then what are shoes, he notes, if not a vehicle for self-expression?

James Nolen, ACMI film programmer.

Interview: Julia deVille

“I don’t really look outward for inspiration – I have enough that comes from within."

 Julia deVille

It’s been a long 10-months for Julia deVille. Makers meets her after a few false starts, earlier arrangements derailed by a week-long illness arriving as the result of exhaustion: the artist has spent the better part of a year working 12- to 13-hour days in order to keep up with a demanding schedule as her star continues to rise.

Certainly it appears that the woman whose inspiration rises from Victorian-era ideals of life, death and nature – art works realised through her dual passions of taxidermy and jewellery – has created a rich niche for herself in an art world enamoured of her confronting visions. 

And they are confronting. Having opened the door to her Collingwood warehouse studio, Julia leads us through the diaspora of beauty and death that is her working space: look to the right and take in her striking rings and necklaces replete with Gothic motifs; look to the left and your gaze may fall upon three taxidermied puppies curled up on porcelain salad plates.

That Julia sees no philosophical clash between her animal loving, vegan nature and her taxidermied works speaks clearly to the artist’s unique view of the world.

Julia: “My grandmother gave me her fox fur stole when I was five or six, one of those styles with the head and you would wrap it and hold the tail in its mouth. I loved it. I used to dress up in it and I felt like it was still alive because it had all its features. So as soon as I worked out taxidermy was something you could do, I wanted to learn how to do it.  And then I’ve always just been a massive animal lover – I became a vegetarian when I was nine and I’m now vegan – so, for me, taxidermy was a way of celebrating animals and being around them when you are growing up in a city. As a child I was always interested in death, so for me it seems entirely normal and not at all macabre.”

These words are spoken as she sits, surrounded by vases of dead roses dried to preserve their skeletal beauty, the glint of her Victorian-era inspired silver rings catching the light.

She acknowledges that, initially at least, her work was often viewed through a lens of shock. Like the mouse brooch created from a taxidermied rodent whose eyes were replaced with diamonds and its tail a cord of silver – for Julia the ideal marriage as she undertook both a jewellery design course and a mentorship working alongside a retired Melbourne taxidermist.

Julia: “When I first started blending taxidermy and jewellery it was considered plain crazy, but then I’ve always been a bit different. Since then a lot more people have started to work in taxidermy and a lot of big art collectors are collecting it so it means I get to now do what I love and live off it.”

Certainly it is recognised among the Melbourne arts community that Julia is one of the more successful contemporary artists operating within a city teeming with talented creatives: a recent installation found its showing as part of the NGV’s Melbourne Now exhibition extended, while her current showing as part of the Adelaide Biennial, PHANTASMAGORIA, has generated critical acclaim. Not that the idea of acclaim appears to influence her degree of commitment.

Julia: “Recognition is not the driving force for me. The driving force is the creative process and the problem solving and making something that you really love. Anything else that comes is just a bonus.”

And the “bonuses” keep on coming: though confessing to “lone wolf” status (“I prefer my own company”) the artist now works alongside three assistants required to help her meet demand on a jewellery business that now spans the globe: along with growing demand in Australia and New Zealand, Julia’s pieces have found resonance as far away as Texas, Russia and Romania.

There is a rare, upcoming collaboration with painter and tattooist Leslie Rice (twice winner of the Doug Moran Portrait prize) for a joint show at Sophie Gannon Gallery scheduled for September, not to mention a still-born foal stored in one of her many freezers that will take centre stage for an installation planned for exhibit in 2015.

Of course, for Julia, it all comes back to following her passions, however dark they may seem to a world looking through the eccentric prism of her gaze.

Julia: “I would still be doing it as a hobby even if I couldn’t sell it. It’s always just been for the love of it.”

Interview: Client Liaison

(L-R) Monte Morgan & Harvey Miller photographed in the Phillips Shirts office, Little Lonsdale street

(L-R) Monte Morgan & Harvey Miller photographed in the Phillips Shirts office, Little Lonsdale street

Phillips Shirts is a hive of activity. The unassuming clothing factory (one of the last remaining in Melbourne) is buzzing with the sound of sewing machines and general chitchat as machinists and designers carry out their work in the large open planned warehouse. It’s a rainy Wednesday afternoon and Makers has been invited to meet and shoot one of its favourite new bands in the factory space, the electro duo Harvey Miller and Monte Morgan of Client Liaison.

Purveyors of turn-of-the-Nineties business class Australiana, Client Liaison has quickly built up a name for itself on the local music scene. The band has released three singles and one B-side (the sublime, That’s Desire), toured nationally in 2013 and snagged a coveted spot as part of this years St Jerome’s Laneway Festival lineup. We meet the stylish duo in the factory’s general office where the unassuming lads are busy admiring the original décor and retro furnishings (a match for their shared aesthetic) when we start our interview. 

Friends since childhood, Monte and Harvey began recording music together in 2008.

 Harvey: “I was making beats and Monte was doing vocals. He was the most immediate and obvious person to turn to when I needed help. We started doing stuff together and we’re really happy with the outcome.”

Client Liaison started playing house parties in 2009 and the boys happily admit that the early days were a struggle as they learnt their way around the recording studio.

Monte: “At first it was a long slow process. Harvey would bring a beat to me and I’d sing over it. A few months later he’d come back to me with the same song but it would be completely transformed so I’d have to lay my vocals again.”

Harvey: “At the start it would take years to complete one song because we were learning as we went. During that whole period we weren’t really worried about the fact that we weren’t putting anything out, Monte was improving his voice, I was improving my techniques as a producer. We were learning. Those years were unproductive in the sense that there was no output but they were hyper productive in other ways. Some of the songs we’re releasing now were created during that period. They were always good, but it was a very slow process. You can only do one thing at a time when you’re creating everything from scratch.”

Musically the pair bonded over a mutual love of vintage Australia and a deep sense of patriotism.

Monte: “I write medleys about beer, Christopher Skase, Les Patterson and Alan Bond. Themes like the cosmopolitan male, Australian masculinity and those jet setting vibes are all important to us. Harvey’s also been at art school for the past couple of years and has been developing those philosophies in his personal work. We’ve found a way of fusing everything together.”

Retro Australiana is more than a passing fad for these two; it’s a way of life.

Monte: “We look to that era (the late 1980s) firstly because it was when we were born. Socially in Australia we were on morale high. The country was drunk with it’s own power and everyone was so proud to be Australian. That’s the attitude we champion and people tend to forget, or they can’t see the difference between nationalism and patriotism. We’re very patriotic.”

Harvey: “The music is first and foremost but we’d never neglect developing a narrative. We call it the Client Liaison sentiment: those traditional ideologies.

It’s the sound of the 80s that really stands out to us. We listen to music from that era and love the sophisticated, synthesized sound that was born out of disco. When we’re making music we can’t not put attention into the theatre and narrative of our performance, that’s the fun part for us.”

These themes are evident in the way both Monte and Harvey present themselves, from their haircuts through to wardrobe and accessories. It’s impossible not to see the glee on their faces as they rummage through Phillips’ extensive collection of vintage menswear. By the time we’re ready to pack up and leave both singer and producer have a large collection of clothing to purchase.

Makers leave the duo to haggle prices with the accommodating staff, exchanging goodbyes and a promise to come and see the pair when they play the Northcote Social Club later this month. We know they’ll sound great – and can’t wait to see what they’ll be wearing.

Client Liaison plays Portsea Beach Club Sunday, April 20 and the Northcote Social Club on Friday, April 25 and Sunday, April 27.