Why is music important?
What a question! A famous quote says it all: “Writing about music is like dancing about architecture”. It is quite hard to articulate and put down on paper! But i guess when I start thinking about it, there are some standout reasons for me.
Music has a special ability to reach out to people and create a world where nothing else matters. In a world full of tangible objects and gadgets that can provide superficial and short term gratification, music sifts through this and takes you to another place entirely. Of course there is music with defined causes – political undertone and what have you, and this is a great way sending a message (Bob Marley, Rage Against The Machine), but i think the real importance of music is about freedom of expression and mutual escapism. Watching a concert, or just listening to music at home or in the car, it creates a scene for you and takes you away from what otherwise might be the daily grind, monotony or whatever you want to call it. It can provide the soundtrack to your life. People may experience this scene or soundtrack differently, but they still seem united in why they’re listening to it. I think the same goes for the people making the music, as well as the listener.
The escapism of music relates directly to freedom of expression. Not everyone has the freedom to express their true self in the job they are in, but music gives you a platform to express yourself however you want! I think this expression from a musician can be a very raw, revealing and powerful thing, and can in turn make you, as an audience member feel perhaps vulnerable on one side of the scale, or on the other side, safe. Music can also be evocative, like a scent. But you can touch it or see it. This is the power of music, and there is music out there for everyone!
Growing up what music did you listen to?
I grew up listening to lots of different music. I am the youngest, with an older brother and sister so i always listened to what they were playing because it was cool to me! The usual suspects like Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, Cat Stevens, The Police, Dire Straits, Cold Chisel, Ice House, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Soundgarden, Metallica etc. Mum would play Liberace, Billy Joel, Bett Midler, Les Miserables. Dad would play John Williams (the guitarist), Vivaldi and anything that Mark Knopfler did, like Cal or Local Hero. There were 5 sound systems in the house, nearly one for every room, so often there would be 3 or 4 pieces of music playing at any one time! All this music gave me a great base for learning the drums, which i started doing when i was 10 year old.
It wasn’t until high school that i started listening to jazz, and this was around the time that i started playing in the school big band. But like most teenagers in the mid 90’s, i was often listening to, and playing drums to anything that came out of California or Seattle! But of course i was eventually exposed to whole other worlds of music once i met the guys in The Cat Empire, which was fantastic!
When did you start your band? What inspired you to make music together?
The Cat Empire started back in 2001. We were all teenagers and very keen to play our instruments. Just coming out of High School, i felt like there was this freedom to do whatever i wanted, and playing music with the other guys was just so exhilarating. The fact that we all had different musical upbringings and experiences in our respective schools meant that we all had inspiration to draw on and energy to show each other, and audiences, what we liked to play. The very stage that you share with your fellow musicians is inspirational, especially when you are just starting up. Not knowing exactly what’s going to happen at a gig keeps you on your toes, and i think this has always been a big part of what we do as a band. This links to the audience as well. An audience can stir you to play in different ways. If they’re energised, you can feed off that energy and use it. If the audience is much more passive, like perhaps their sitting down, then we might play quieter, or pull out songs that have more subtleties. To this day, i know for myself that the mood of the audience and of the other guys on stage can really shape how i play.