On stage, Midnight Oil’s lead singer Peter Garrett cuts an imposing figure. Bald, six foot four, bestowed with an intense stare, he’s prone to flailing his limbs with wild abandon while singing passionately about politics, the environment, racism, militarism, and nuclear disarmament. In conversation, he’s thoughtful, articulate, and just as passionate. He has strong opinions on everything from climate change to legacy bands that go out and play the same 15 songs over and over, night after night.
Jack Lawrence-Brown is a bit stressed. It’s mid January. In less than two weeks White Lies hit the road for four months. They’re playing 55 dates across Europe and North America. They’re marking the 10th anniversary of their debut album. Oh, and they’re launching a new LP.
“This is always one of the toughest parts,” the drummer admits, looking ahead to the release of ‘Five’ on 1 February. “It’s all done, you’ve had it done for a little while, and you’re just drip-feeding songs to people, constantly checking the internet to see what they’re making of it all.
‘Never forget where you came from,’ Louis Armstrong once told Hugh Masekela.
He never has.
Hugh remembers growing up in the KwaGuqa township outside Witbank, where women ran alongside the coal trains with tin cups to collect the nuggets that fell from the cars. He remembers playing soccer with a worn tennis ball in the gravel street, occasionally losing a big toenail when he kicked a concealed rock.
But most of all he remembers the music.
Simon Le Bon vividly remembers Duran Duran’s last visit to South Africa in 1993.
“We arrived on the day that Chris Hani was shot in his own driveway so it was quite dramatic and very sad,” he says on the line from London. “There was a lot going on. I remember there were big protests and marches all through the streets of Cape Town when we were down there.
“It’s nearly 20 bloody years ago?” laughs a surprised Nick Seymour when I remind him that Crowded House last visited South Africa in 1993.
“I haven’t been there since, so I’m expecting some changes,” reasons the affable bass player on the line from his home in Ireland. “Last time I was in Cape Town I did hook up with some of the locals and went surfing, so when I get back there I’m definitely going to want to get a wave or two. One of the things is being able to say you’ve surfed in South Africa when talking to South Africans here in Ireland or Australia. And one of the benefits of touring is being able to surf internationally.”