The phone gets about five or six rings before it’s answered. There’s a pause on the other end, before a groggy yet unmistakable voice comes through on the other end. “Hello?” it asks. You know it’s him, but you’ve got to be sure. “Hi, is that Tim?” Tim Rogers – acclaimed singer, songwriter, guitarist, playwright, actor, rockstar, bon vivant and the driving force behind You Am I – answers the question in the most Tim Rogers way possible: “Fuck, I hope so.”
Rogers is currently in the middle of a solo tour in support of his most recent release, the charming and quasi-conceptual An Actor Repairs. It won’t be long, however, before he’s ditching the acoustic guitar and strapping on the Crockenbacker as You Am I take to stages across Australia with fellow Aussie rock icons the Hoodoo Gurus, Jebediah and Adalita of Magic Dirt for the Fist Full Of Rock tour. Rogers is incredibly vocal of his love for the Hoodoo Gurus, counting them as both one of the band’s biggest influences and some of the band’s dearest friends.
The Gurus probably do it better than anyone out there… they went onstage and completely slaughtered us. We’re still learning from them.
“The Gurus probably do it better than anyone out there,” Rogers says. “They’ve always managed to maintain their sense of the absurd while still remaining an incredibly powerful rock & roll band. We played with them for the first time in years just a couple of weeks ago, and we were reminded of that again very quickly. The relationship is still the same too – as soon as the four of us met up with the four of them, we all paired off into corners and just went for it.” He simulates nattering away sarcastically using onomatopoeia – “Na-na-na-na-na-na-na-na-na-na” – in such a way that one envisions him making a mouth using his fingers and thumbs, opening and closing it incessantly in syncopation with the noises. “We just talked records for an hour or so, and then they went onstage and completely slaughtered us. We’re still learning from them.”
Rogers traces his connection to the band right back to the early days of You Am I, who formed in Sydney back in the late ’80s and cut their teeth playing around the various pubs and bars the city had to offer. Along with the aforementioned Hoodoo Gurus, Rogers also points to The Beasts of Bourbon as a significant band in You Am I’s early days – particular their vocalist, Tex Perkins, who would go on to be one of Rogers’ longtime friends and a musical collaborator on the project T’n’T. “It was all very naughty,” Rogers recalls.
That Beasts of Bourbon tour was… a real education in how to have so much fun and push yourself to the brink of life and death, but always make it to the show.
“That Beasts of Bourbon tour was particularly wild. It was a bit of an eye-opener – a real education in how to have so much fun and push yourself to the brink of life and death, but always make it to the show. They were very intense people, but they were so funny as well. We were almost treated like little nephews or something, getting shown the world with arms around us. It was the same with bands like Box the Jesuit and the Hard-Ons getting us on shows really early on. It was remarkable to us that there was no chest-out intimidation or any bullshit like that. The only time that we came across that was with bands that were on our level, who treated the whole thing like some sort of competition.”
By the mid-’90s, the band would hit an enviable streak of releasing classic after classic – 1995’s Hi Fi Way, 1996’s Hourly, Daily and 1998’s #4 Record, all of which would go Gold in Australia and top the album charts. “We did all the usual bullshit of a band on the rise,” Rogers says. “We looked out a window in Adelaide at this old synagogue, looking at the line of people around the block waiting to get in. We did the same thing in Brisbane – it’d be me and Rusty [Hopkinson, drummer] sitting there, smoking a bowl and counting heads. I won’t deny it – it was really exciting to us. Our manager at the time, Kate [Stewart], had us on $20 a day. She’d always remind us that we were having a good month, but we’d still have to go out there and put on good shows.”
With the roles changed and You Am I now a headlining act in their own right, the band would take it upon themselves to show the same kind of support that the Beasts and the Gurus had done to them. “We played a lot of shows with Snout, and a lot of shows with Even as well,” says Rogers. “We got to bring some bands out from the States, as well, like Man Or Astro-Man?. That was a big one for us – it was a band that we all loved. It was always a pleasure to play with Hoss, as well – anything that Joel [Silbersher] is a part of, I want to be a part of too.” It was around this time that the band would first encounter the acts that complete the Fist Full Of Rock lineup, too: evergreen Perth punks Jebediah and erstwhile Magic Dirt singer Adalita Srsen.
We left a pretty great first impression on Jebediah… [we] actually had a fist-fight in front of them the very first night that we met.
“We left a pretty great first impression on Jebediah,” Rogers says with a knowing laugh. “Andy [Kent, bassist] and I actually had a fist-fight in front of them the very first night that we met. Kevin [Mitchell, Jebediah frontman] has talked to me about it – I don’t remember all the details about the fight, but he assured me it was quite something. We were playing in Margaret River, and we asked them then and there to tour with us. They had something about them that was very American collegiate – they were this little gang of oiks, and I loved that mentality.”
As for Srsen, Rogers and co. met under less volatile circumstances. “It was 1993, and she was doing lights at the Barwon Club in Geelong,” says Rogers. “I believe she’d originally been hired just to do lights for Tumbleweed, but she agreed to do us as well. Just before we played, the toilets exploded at the venue – so as we were playing, we were playing under a couple of inches of dunny water. Adalita, God bless her, was in the same predicament – but she kept doing her job. I’ve been a mate of hers for almost 25 years now, and it’s very special to have a friendship that runs that deep. We only see each other a few times a year, but every time that we do it’s quite affectionate. We talk of records, romance, songwriting… the whole gamut.”
The toilets exploded at the venue, so we were playing under a couple of inches of dunny water. Adalita, God bless her, was in the same predicament – but she kept doing her job.
Rogers has made a lot of great friends through his decades of experience traversing the roads, highways, bars, pubs, clubs and theatres of both this country and several others. It’s something that he sees as being a truly unique bond. “Being on tour with someone is a fast-track to a very intimate friendship,” he says. “You see each other at your best and at your worst – and you accept that. We’re in this together. You can go into shorthand. You speak the same vernacular.”
Catch Tim and You Am I playing alongside a who’s-who of Aussie rock when they join the Hoodoo Gurus, Jebediah and Adalita at ‘A Fist Full Of Rock’, tickets on sale now.
A Fist Full Of Rock 2017 tour dates
Public tickets on sale:
Monday May 29, 10am AEST
Adelaide – Friday August 25, Thebarton Theatre (tickets)
Melbourne – Saturday August 26, Forum Theatre (tickets)
Sydney – Thursday August 31, Enmore Theatre (tickets)
Gold Coast – Friday September 1, Nightquarter (tickets)
Brisbane – Saturday September 2, Eaton Hills Hotel (tickets)