Solo tour releases hard pop
Being bashed by thugs while driving a taxi has dramatically affected Blackie, singer/guitarist of The Hard Ons. But he told The Scene that it hasn't stopped him from embarking on a solo acoustic tour, shortly to hit Lismore.
"I was on stage the other day and I shut my eyes to hit a high note - and nearly fell off my stool," he said from Sydney. "I've suffered from vertigo and dizziness after the blow to the head - it's no fun being a victim of crime."
Although the attack necessitated cancelling a tour for the Hard Ons, possibly Australia's loudest international touring outfit, it's opened up new artistic doors for Blackie. He's recorded a solo album, No Dangerous Goods in Tunnel and booked a tour timed to finish just before the next Hard Ons tour of Japan.
A benefit in Sydney raised thousands to help him get the album out. But this is not a benefit tour. Blackie's album is lyrically tough and musically elegant, in a similar melodic vein to a Dinosaur Jnr record.
Blackie has previously dismissed his solo work as simple pop music, but is careful to add that there's nothing wrong with that.
"Pop is a really broad term, but I love the power of melody and how a tune can transport you somewhere. Being a kid and hearing The Beatles the first time is a really big event.
"Which is a different thing to hearing Black Sabbath, or Cannibal Corpse."
Blackie's predilection for fast and furious electric guitars has defined a certain production standard.
"I'm not usually a big fan of acoustic music," he said. "I can't help thinking it would sound better with a band. Some of my songs I like to keep sweet and sparse, but I'm also digging strings and flourishes that make the songs complete."
As fans could guess from his intense live performances, Blackie is serious about his art.
"The bottom line is I'm always chasing a certain energy, something that lets me know I'm on the right track. Recording this album was a real joy."
His songwriting process involves blind obedience to the muse.
"I don't like conscious thought in my art, the more you think about stuff the more tainted it is."
Despite this, he was shocked to see that the brutal assault he'd suffered had emerged, more or less intact, in a song.
"Sometimes you look back and you can see that you've written about certain events.
"So the first song I could see was about me being housebound by the attack. I'm an insomniac anyway, but now I've been unable to drive and I potter around home in the cold and the dark like a prisoner."
It's one thing recording the songs, but Blackie has found that performing without a roaring rock band can be a daunting task.
"It took me a while to warm up to it. I noticed how shitty I am on guitar, you can hear every mistake and weakness in my voice. But having said that I really, really dig it and now I'm confident enough that I'm getting a real gig buzz."
As soon as the tour is over it'll be business as usual for the Hard Ons.
"I only just got the okay this week to fly again, which is a relief with Japan and Europe coming up. And I've found that doing this acoustic stuff helps with my playing in the band as well."
Blackie plays the SCU Uni Bar on Friday, August 10. Supports are The Somethin Somethins and Kwinton James. Tickets are $10 at the door, from 7 pm.