About Elizaband

 

 

Elizaband is the new project from Rory Cooke, lead singer and guitarist from Australian band Gaslight Radio.

 

 

 

Conversation between R Cooke and A Jarvis. Preston, Melbourne, July 2011.

A: Can we talk about this? [Points to the unfinished cover of Firework Dogs.] It appears to be a picture of Joh Bjelke-Peterson holding a shotgun and some sort of bouquet is coming out of it.

R: It’s a dream, I suppose. I always liked the image of flowers in the barrel of the gun. I always thought that was a nice thing to do, you know? I took it from that, absurdly, I suppose. Joh Bjelke-Peterson is regarded by many as being a bad man.

A: To you?

R: Well, to my family he’s akin to the great fascists of the 20th Century, but I can step back from that. Queensland looks at Joh as—and he’ll always have his supporters in the country—but they look at his reign as this loose Wild West time that probably wasn’t very good for the development of Queensland as a place to live. He knocked down all the old sandstone buildings. His government were corrupt. It’s on the table, he nearly went to jail, but along came Luke...

A: He was that guy who deadlocked the jury when Joh was up before the court? Young National. Joh was in charge of a corrupt institution, he had obligations...

R: ...but it didn’t get to Caesar. Actually, I have a Luke Shaw story. Marty and I were busking at Broadbeach Mall. This was probably two years after the Luke Shaw thing happened, about ’92, ’93. And there was this guy waiting tables across the road from us and it was Luke Shaw. And he ran across and he gave us a dollar and said, you know, "Can you boys play Working Class Hero?"  Isn’t it funny the people who give you money?

A: You know, when I first looked at the cover art here, I immediately thought all this stuff was coming out of Joh’s gun.

R: I’m still fiddling with the detail of it—I like the colours, I might need to take a bit of the blue out of it—but I suppose the flowers might also be going out...

A: That’s the way the eye moves.

R: A lot of great culture came out of Queensland because of Joh Bjelke-Peterson. That’s one thing you’ve got to say.

A: That’s like Kennett and Geelong music.

R: For sure. So there’s always an upside to a downsize. And some good things came out of the Howard years too.  You can quote me on that.

A: Is the cover a political statement of some sort?

R: More than anything I just think the colours are nice. But I suppose you could describe it politically in the context of people leaving Queensland in the late ’70s because of Joh Bjelke-Peterson.  Those that could went to Sydney and Melbourne in the mid- to late-’70s, you know, those who thought they were living under a dictatorship and were lucky and free enough to be able to leave. My father and his brother were locked up a couple of times for protesting. Things like that used to happen in Queensland. And I suppose my parents needed a personal change as well. So we moved to Sydney in the late ’70s. I mean, the best bands back then moved away. My family were kind of like a band.

A: Did they hook up with other people from Brisbane?

R: Yeah, we had family down there... [Points to the cover.] Yeah, my mother’s in there. My brothers.

A: Is that Harper Lee?

R: Yeah, that’s her there. To Kill A Mockingbird changed my life, like it did for most kids who read that book, you know? There’s a purity about Harper Lee. There’s no moral ambiguity about her, almost. She wasn’t doing it for fame or anything like that, or vanity, or ego. She led a humble life. Quiet, private, a long way from these times...

A: What obligations do you have as a songwriter?

R: Christ, obligation usually makes me run a mile. I'm obliged to be truthful I suppose. Or as truthful as one can be. Songs mean a lot to people.

A: Is this what you set out to do with Firework Dogs?

R: Well, originally I wanted to write about a band that never left the Housing Commission estate that Marty and I grew up in. Clay Frontier is a song about that...

A: Is the album about homelessness?

R: Well, ‘home’ to me is that first 25 years I spent in Queensland, and that will always be home. But I can never go back. It's beautiful and I miss it, but there's pain there for me too. So, in that sense, homelessness, yeah.

I think my childhood was... privileged. I mean, my brothers and I saw some things that children should definitely not see, but that was our neighbourhood and that was our house. It seemed like this smoky, dangerous carnival at times. Chains of people would stay, one after the other, mostly folks my father would meet in the pub. Characters, both good and bad. He would always say, ‘If you need a place, then come and stay’. I was scared of a lot of those people who came through our house, but they taught me a lot about life I guess, and that's what I mean by privileged. I think it led me to writing through characters. Miranda Devine. The youngest Murdoch. My kid friend Charlie...

A: Do you have a name for it?

R: Yeah, it’s called Firework Dogs. You know, those that don't fit in, running into the night. It's overly romantic I suppose, in a S E Hinton sought of way. But I love S E Hinton. Shit, everyone should read her.