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.

Filtering by Tag: Melbourne music

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: 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: 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: 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.