Described as “Australia’s best loved band” by rock journo Dino Scatena, Powderfinger were bonafide superstars of the Australian rock side. In terms of fame, success, and respect, they were rivalled only by eventual tour mates Silverchair.
But following the completion of what would become their last album, 2009’s Golden Rule, the Brisbane five-piece called it a day. According to a statement from frontman Bernard Fanning, “we have said all that we want to say as a musical group”.
Powderfinger performed their final show at the River Stage in Brisbane on 13th November 2010 in front of screaming 10,000 fans. Six years on from their last performance and 22 years on from their debut album, where are the members of one of Australia’s biggest bands now?
Well, Bernard Fanning isn’t hard to find. The frontman launched his solo career whilst Powderfinger were still active, releasing his debut solo album, Tea & Sympathy, in 2005. The album was propelled to the top of the ARIA Albums Chart by mega-single ‘Wish You Well’.
Fanning followed up Tea & Sympathy with Departures in 2013, his first album as a solo artist since Powderfinger was disbanded. Whilst it didn’t meet the success of his solo debut, it still managed to enter the ARIA Albums chart at number one.
According to a recent interview with triple j, Fanning has completed his third solo album, which he speculated will be out “July I think, or August – ’round about the middle of the year”. According to Fanning, the album will feature a more “back to basics” approach to songwriting.
Lead guitarist Darren Middleton is likewise working on his own solo career. He released his first solo album, Translations, following the dissolution of Powderfinger in 2013. The album featured cameos from Fanning, Jet’s Nic Cester, Pete Murray, Paul Dempsey, and others.
In fact, one of Middleton’s recent solo gigs set the stage for a (partial) Powderfinger reunion. As Tone Deaf reported in November last year, four fifths of the band — Bernard Fanning, Darren Middleton, Ian Haug, and John Collins — shared the stage together for the first time since 2010.
While the performance naturally received a rapturous reception from the crowd, there was no word from any band members about a full reformation and despite rumours to the contrary, no Powderfinger songs were performed, just an extended version of Neil Young’s ‘Like A Hurricane’.
Middleton’s fellow guitarist Ian Haug kept busy with extracurricular activities all throughout Powderfinger’s career, starting projects such as Far Out Corporation with Grant McLennan and The Predators, with bandmate John Collins and original Powderfinger member Steven Bishop on drums and vocals.
More recently, Haug joined Australian rock legends The Church following the departure of guitarist Marty Willson-Piper. He recorded one album with the iconic group in the early parts of 2014, Further/Deeper, which was released the same year and followed by a tour.
Drummer Jon Coghill, meanwhile, has perhaps the most surprising post-Powderfinger career of any member. Burnt out on touring the world, Cogill instead opted to finish his degree, going on to study a mixture of politics and law at Queensland’s Griffith University.
Coghill eventually found employment as a journalist for the ABC. A multiplatform reporter based in the Sunshine Coast, Coghill doesn’t just stick to music and entertainment news, covering everything from highway blackspots and the crisis in the Australian education system.
Lastly, there’s bassist John Collins, who has moved behind the scenes of the rock world as the owner of Brisbane venue The Triffid. Following Powderfinger’s dissolution, Collins spent 18 months transforming an old World War II US aircraft hangar into a beloved Brisbane nightspot.
“It’s a risk for me in terms of credibility for one. I’ve got some other partners and if it doesn’t work I think they’ll remember me,” Collins told the ABC. “I’ve sunk a fair bit of money into it as well, but I’ve got some partners so that minimises the risk as well for me.”
Luckily, The Triffid continues to operate as one of Brisbane’s favourite live music venues, regularly hosting local and international acts, and making Collins another member of Powderfinger who’s found success following the end of “Australia’s best loved band”.