Or How I Learnt To Stop Worrying And Love Procrastination

Monday, April 30, 2007

Where Have All The Billy Braggs Gone?

I have been writing a lot. I know. It’s an experiment.

Who are your heroes?

I know who mine are. Like most people, I have many, not just one. You see those people on the street who have just one sometimes. You can tell they want to be Keith Richards, or Liam Gallagher, or Woody Allen.

But I have many. How could I not? I’m just a big sponge for culture anyway. So many influences come rushing my way.

Just think for a second of how many people you’ve ever met in your life. Then add people you’ve read about, or seen. Then add fictional characters from movies, books and all. Must be thousands. Tens of thousands. Maybe hundreds of thousands. How many names do you know? Friends, family, famous and fictional. How can it not rub off on you? How can you not have a million heroes.

But there’s one type of hero for me that I keep returning to. A bunch of guys with familiar character traits that make me think, and think often – I want to be like that.

Bruce Springsteen. Elvis Costello. Joe Strummer. Billy Bragg. Lloyd Cole. Paul Westerberg. More I can’t think of right now.

(Funnily enough, all men who were at their prime in the 80s as people)

It’s got nothing to do with the music, but them as people. There’s a mix of strength, of rocking, of doing, mixed with passion and emotion, and quite a bit of smarts. All those men you can imagine rolling up their sleeves and changing a car tire. All those men you can imagine have had their fair share of dark moments in love. And all those men are well read and are articulate.

And it’s the mix that’s most important of all. Of Tough, Romance and Intelligence. Obviously there are those who lean highly to one of the three. Steven Segal is all brawn, rock, and physicality. He can fix your shed, but not much else. Romance taken to the extreme and you get the flowery poets. No one likes them. And all intellect is another cartoon – Steven Hawking?

When you mix it up a little it gets more interesting (for me). Romance and Intellect gets you into Niles from Frasier territory. It’s a character I love to pieces, but useless more than not. Romance and Tough, you get Rocky Balboa. Emotional, and can only bash at things to express his emotion. He would attack marble with a mallet. Intellect and Tough? You get Henry Rollins. I hope than man gets into politics. Personally, I need a bit of heart.

And it seems each has a detractor. The indie nerd eschews toughness. The Silent Types eschew emotion. The jock eschews intelligence.

So I go on about this for a very good reason. I feel like that kind of guy is lost. Or at least it’s been a while since I met one. Especially in greater culture. Where are the artful, emotional and strong role models? The man who understands the world, who can feel for the world, and can change the world?

We need another Billy Bragg. We need someone who can play and sing and spit with every muscle behind him, can write a sad song about girl he once loved, and use a line as intelligent and witty as ‘I put you on the pedestal, they put you on the pill.”

Where have all the Billy Braggs gone?


Sunday, April 29, 2007

I am an island...

I don't usually do these sorts of things. But this was funny and I think, worth keeping.

What Kind of Music are You?

You are Rock!You are articulate, likeable and popular. You have a taste for living large and you don't often look behind you to see the damage you leave in your wake. You can influence lots of people very easily, you just need to determine which issues you feel are most important. Also, watch out, many people you call your friends might just be flakes along for the ride. Try to figure out who really cares about you and who you really care about in return.
Take this quiz!

Quizilla |

| Make A Quiz | More Quizzes | Grab Code


I think what I like best is this quiz also dispenses life advice. How to cope with being the music you are, and to enjoy a full life regardless of your condition.


Friday, April 27, 2007

What are you running from?

When I first started meeting people who have been traveling for like 18 months, at first I was judgmental.

What are you running from? That's what I wanted to ask these people.

One of the many, many great things I've learnt from Bob Ellis is the idea of a witness. Someone who is your closest friend for a short time. Friend is not even the right word. The word IS witness, someone who can testify who you are for a certain time and a certain place. And that's it. On the road for 18 months, sometimes more, how would you know anyone other than witnesses?

What are you running from?

Has something hurt you in your life? Was your old life so bad? Did you run the routine life into the ground? Do you just love the unknown?

Here's the thing that changed my mind about it. With maybe less than a half a dozen exceptions, it seems I don't have much more than witnesses myself. And in most cases, the people who knew me best, who knew me intensely, for a night or a couple of years, they are not with me.

So maybe if you ever meet one of these people, somewhere, and ask them about me, they can tell you who I was, back in a time and place. But I'm not the person they know, and they aren't the person I know.

I came across a photo today of someone I used to know. For a year or two, we knew eachother better than any other human beings known us. I think she's married now, and I'm not even sure. She got sick a while back, and I don't know with what. She doesn't know where I am, I doubt.

And I have to say, the memory hurt. I'm not unhappy to be faraway from that. And part of me, a big part, just wanted to run. For god sakes, stick me in a forest somewhere in remote South America. Or Holly Golightly in the desert with strangers. Hide me in a hostel in a European city, one that is the same as hundreds like it. I don't want to think about it. I don't want to deal with it. No connections. Just witnesses.

And I'll tell you just enough about me so you don't have to think about me again. And no more.

In a world where you basically can't be a hermit anymore, I think the best alternative is to pass through people's lives at such awesome speed that you leave no trace. You don't have to be the Invisible Man, when you can be the Flash.

What are YOU running from?


Thursday, April 26, 2007

Famous People I've Seen On the Streets Since I Left Home

The new irregular series

Who: Mischa Barton (twice). You know, the skinny one from the O.C.
Where: Once in a restaurant in Madrid, and six months later at a Shins gig in London where we stood next to eachother.

She is actually quite stunning. But I find it interesting how many girls say this too. The ones who were with me when I saw her have all commented. She is also very tall, and I think possibly the most famous person on this list.

Who: The dude who died at the end of the first Lord of the Rings, in that really long drawn out scene.
Where: Just at the pub, on his own. Having a pint. No trace of over acting at all. He looks a bit like my mate Simon.

Who: J Mascis of Dinosaur Jr fame.
Where: Near Denmark Street in Soho, the guitar capital of London. I was very much going to go up and say hi and say how I liked his music...until two kids beat me to it. So I walked on, as if I was meaning to walk past the whole time.

Who: Mike Skinner of the Streets
Where: PC World, Kensington. I was too distracted with my broken laptop to see what he was doing.

Who: The dude who gets picked on in fat fighters, that recurring sketch in Little Britain
Where: Virgin Megastore, Oxford St. I didn't see what he bought. Maybe Little Britain on DVD.

Who: The entire cast of the IT Crowd
Where: a little cafe between work and home. I love that show. It was very exciting actually. I noticed one of them first, then the others. I don't know about you, but I'd like to imagine that people in TV shows are all friends. To see that they are was great.

I'm sure there's more but, you just don't get this type of celeb watching in Sydney.

More when I remember...


Monday, April 23, 2007

The Shins in Monmartre

So things come together

My favourite band at the moment, my favourite place in the world.

I have no idea how this came about, but wow, for me, what a clip.

I know exactly where they are. And those two songs, gone For Good and Turn On Me are two of my favourite songs of theres (plus Alone Again Or!).

Just lovely and coincidence ridden. It's like it walked straight out of my fantasy.


Saturday, April 21, 2007

At least that's what you said

There's a webcast of the Wilco Sydney show on right now.

All I can think is I'm listening to some of my best friends in the world laughing.

I miss you all


Thursday, April 19, 2007

I don't want to die at Euro Disney

I don't know what to write about Paris this time.

It was the most amazing, inspirational couple of days. And I don't even know how to share it. From the people I met, the places I saw, the silly things I did...it was all amazing.

Caught up with old friends, recreated Richard Linklater's Before Sunset, found the hotel used in Charade...and trying not to let the Da Vinci Code ruin it for me.

I didn't want it to end. My French is getting better. The food was out of this world. And the weather! 28 glorious degrees, beautiful women everywhere. Sleeping on the grass, crepes avec jambon et fromage, 1 euro wine...

But it was more than that. It was just refreshing, I had enough time to just wander and think about stuff. Finally hit on something to collect in my travels. Those big old fashioned travel stickers you see on old suitcases, but they will be for my guitar. Anyway, I just wanted to bookend this trip with another post.

Suffice to say it was alright. Suffice to say it wasn't bad.

Me at the Louvre


Saturday, April 14, 2007

Paris again...


I'm back in Paris.

I'm jaywalking like I own these streets.

Gare du Nord is my albtross. It's the only place in recent memory where I felt so unsafe, uncomfortable and undone.

Today I walked through it without a hesitant step. I would have kicked any black cats that would have thought about crossing my path.

It is the hottest I've been anywhere since I left Australia. I cannot remember the last time I well and truly sweated!

Today there were hundreds of people on the steps of the Sacre Coeur, just sunbaking.

I know it's a cliche for someone like me to love Paris but I do. I even love the mess on the streets. It's like the living room of the locals. You leave a bit of a mess because it is yours.

I have a couple of more days here. I am thinking of joining the pretty young things on the grass and just daydreaming my hours away on the Parisian sun.

Oh and French women, who looked beautiful in summer... Well when they pull out their lighter tops for winter...oh my. I'm not sure what will make me faint first, the heat or the cleavege.

I'm stumbling home and all I can think is I have to get residency in London, so I can live in Paris.


Friday, April 13, 2007

Heavens to Betsy now we're late twentys...

I know I hark on about it, but growing old has been on my mind a lot.

Something Craig and I have discussed often is that we would get better with age. The early twenties didn't fit me right. Maybe it doesn't fit many people right. I found my own niche, had fun, hard tough times, struggled with what this blue and green ball was all about...but it didn't really feel like I was a part of things. i think they call that 'Indie'.

One of my life's greatest heroes, Tim Rogers of You Am I, told me once that he never wanted to be younger, always older. I feel the same. When he sings about watching old men in pubs and the respect and sadness of age really hits me.

I've also been listening to Tim's first, brilliant solo album What Rhymes With Cars And Girls, a lot. It's a very mature work for Tim, and written and released at a time when he had broken up from the major relationship of his twenties, and just past his first flush of success. It's reflective, funny, and sad about growing old, all those drugs he didn't take anymore, but he doesn't want to go back either.

I am, however, really loving the twenties, which is what I wanted to write about anyway. Is it me, or does it feel like this is our time? Sure you get the odd exception where young-uns like the Arctic Monkeys still set the scene. But it seems like our culture's youthful voice isn't actually that youthful at all.

There are many reasons for this. We are staying in school longer for one. Society is so fragmented it's harder to start a scene. Or maybe, I'm just older now, and very few 19 year olds have much to say to me. But it does seem like we a target market of our own. You look at things like Word magazine, movies like Little Miss Sunshine. We, the Bourgeois children of Woody Allen.

A friend of mine made a movie. I saw it last night and it was fantastic. Another friend of mine made a fantastic album, of richness and depth and actually sold a truckload of it too. Another is a leading scientist in his field. I've been meeting matte painters, novelists, actors...all of us in our early twenties, here in London, living it up.

Things are going really well right now, and I feel like I'm taking the biggest gulps from the cup of life I ever have. And as much as I'm happy and how I feel like this time in my life is a really important one, I look at my friends, I see them sitting around my living room, at the pub, us out in the streets of London, and I think - this is their time too. It's a strange feeling, and someone needs to give it a name.

I love all the songs on What Rhymes With Cars and Girls - but one of my current faves is the duet with Sally Datsey of Tiddas, a song called Up-A-Ways, about travelling. The line is

Those wandering dues sound oh so good in a tune
But you need some place to waffle all that mud off your boots.

Danny Yau

ps. Paris, AGAIN, this weekend.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Sleeping Lessons

I am sleepless again, so I thought I’d write something. Quick note: life is good and I’ll tell you all about it later. Right now, something else I’ve been meaning to write about.

The Shins are going to go down as my favourite band of the 00s.

It’s heartening and inspiring that, after all these years, I only just saw the greatest gig of my life. And that the next one around the corner may even be better.

I’ve seen the Shins a handful of times. And, they have been one of the worst live bands I have ever seen. To turn around and say they are now one of the best…well, that’s one big almighty turn around.

I love how a band can bookmark a life.

My first encounter with the Shins was through a band called Beachwood Sparks. In a lot of ways, the Shins stole their thunder. Out of nowhere, that dated grunge label SubPop had signed a pretty cool band. And then they signed this other one, one that people told me sounded like Love (the 60s band). Weird little indie album cover. You know, I didn’t even buy it. Someone sent it too me, when I was working at a community radio station.

The album is called Oh! Inverted World. I listened to it and liked parts of it. But it wasn’t as good as Beachwood Sparks…

Hanna really loved the first song, ‘Caring Is Creepy’. And it’s pretty good. I remember Craig and me at some girl we just met’s house, at around 2am on a random night, her trying to find some demo of some guy she used to go out (he wrote a song about her) And we were listening to something, and Craig and I discussing the Shins, and him quoting some lines I’ve never noticed before…

Lucked out, found my favourite records
Waiting for me at the Birmingham Mall.
The songs that I heard, the occasional book
Are all the fun I ever took.

I don’t think I ever heard lines that summed up my upbringing and teenage life so well before. The record still didn’t really hit me though. Yeah, it was VAGUELY Love-esque, but there was one more part of the puzzle I didn’t have to unlock that first album.

I don’t even know who it was now but some guest host on Rage introduced ‘New Slang’. And they just said that this clip was amazing, and how it referenced some 80s album covers. And did it ever. Oh my. Let It Be. New Day Rising. Double Nickels On A Dime. And other more random ones. Faithfully recreated in this silly little film clip with the saddest melody. By then the record was pretty old but yeah, I was all ears for the next one.

And for Chutes Too Narrow again, after a slow start, it won me over. And by won me over, I mean bowled me over completely. It was my early 20s album. To it’s raw and angry-ish sounds I felt my highest and my lowest.

But it was the songs itself. It towers over other albums that soundtracked that part of my life. The mystery of the lyrics, the weird chord changes and rhythms. That terrible/wonderful mix. The wisdom. The images. And the great record cover - so much better than the first.

It’s album for the early to mid twenties. It’s when life gets a bit more complicated, and you need a voice to reflect that. As the relationships in my life got more grown up, the more Chutes Too Narrow spoke to me.

The songs of love – ‘Gone For Good’, ‘Kissing the Lipless’, etc, just struck a chord so much more than say, the love songs of Oasis did for me 7 years earlier. There was a smartness to them, but also a maturity. Something that I call a gentleman-ness, that you can find in the music of Ray Charles. When Ray sings a heartbreaking ballad, you know he’s being a gentleman about it, and not being a whiny singer-songwriter.

But it was ‘Mine’s Not A High Horse’, a brilliant pop song about arguments and close-mindedness that really struck me. In ‘So Says I’, Mercer regretfully chronicles our own violent natures. For an optimistic kid moved out of home and living in the melting pot of cultures that is Newtown NSW and the indie rock scene, those songs meant a lot.

I remember pretty much killing that record. My girlfriend at the time used to listen to it all the time, and we would one-up eachother with the details we could find in it. She explained to me the line;

Just a glimpse of ankle and I
React like it’s 1805

It’s about perving on girls. We think. Anyway, we listened to that record as we drove through NSW that Christmas. Later, I got the record for a friend who knew all I knew about music and more. He later said it was his favourite album ever. And as much as I’m loving the new one, I think it’s my favourite too.

But like I said, it’s amazing that when you think you have all your favourite things worked out, a record and a band can come along and top your personal chart. I have been listening to the Shins every day.

The new record is fantastic, obviously. The lyrics are amazing. The production is very different, but hardly commercial radio fodder. Early highlights are’ Turn On Me’, which sounds like Roy Orbison, and ‘Girl Sailor’. That 50s backbeat is used in a number of tracks and apparently a big influence on this record. And the single ‘Phantom Limb’ – geez, what a song. If you’ve never heard of this band and decided to make your way all the way through my rambling and down to here, I suggest you seek out this track.

All I know is that it’s already the soundtrack to this part of my life. I think of my through those songs now. I’ve been sitting with Charlie Brown and working out the chords. And I’m in love with a band completely again. I’m starstruck. I’m 14. I want to join the fanclub. I want to play the record to all my friends.

I hope they get another record out before the decade ends. And when I look back at those ten years, the memories will sing with the voice of James Mercer.

Danny Yau