What is your first or earliest memories regarding writing?
My father was a big band musician, a big band leader in that era. As a child I would always watch my father performing on stage. I realised that there wasn’t just music but there were lyrics being sung and there was onstage banter as well. The hosts and MC’s I found were able to use language in a really interesting way.
I’m sure I wondered about where these words came from and I became an ardent reader at a young age. I slowly started to think about ideas as I moved into my teenage years, and then around the age of 12 or 13, I heard the (Australian) band Midnight Oil. And I heard lyrics which really connected with me but also connected me to an outer world. And that wasn’t much different to the world I lived in.
I started to read Australian writers, and I read Kerouac, and that became intertwined with music. That process lead me to writing words and lyrics and making that the thing I did, that became my thing. I always wanted to write and make some sort of mark with words.
Did you get supported at home and at school?
I was supported at home. My father was involved with the entertainment industry. I grew up in Bondi, which was, at that time, a rough and tumble working class area. And because my father was a well known figure, my brother and I were given permission, licence even, even though we were footballers and surfers, to be artistic. There was never any push-back against having an artistic pursuit or sensibility.
I played football and the footballers were my best mates, I was a surfer as well, I was in the surf club, and I was in the thrall of this sporting world. But I was also connected to the arts, my father was involved in Australian New Wave cinema, so I straddled both worlds. My dad was Bob Gibson and he had the Bob Gibson Orchestra.
Is there a point at which you start performing live?
I finished school in the mid-80’s and I was influenced by the Australian music scene particularly, as I said, Midnight Oil, and I played in bands around Bondi or at 21st parties, things like that. I played bass or saxophone.
I started writing lyrics for various bands I was in. Now, I’m not a singer so at that point I was always writing for other voices. And slowly you start to gravitate towards people with more ambition, and you see bands like The Hummingbirds start to do well. That influences you. Along with playing in bands I also started to perform spoken word at venues around Sydney.
Are you able to develop your skills in spoken word?
In the mid 90’s I was at a rehearsal and I asked the guitar player to play a riff and I did a spoken word piece over the top of it. That was a band called Modern Giant and I started to realise then that spoken word over music could actually work, I thought it was a really valid way of expressing my thoughts and I kept working on that way of expressing myself. Eventually that lead to the formation of the band The Aerial Maps.
Was there any academic element to all this progression?
I worked as a journalist on Sydney newspapers. I did my cadetship at News Limited, I worked on the Daily Telegraph and the Sunday Telegraph. I really did my training alongside, what used to be described as, hard-bitten journalists. And that shaped a sense of how to report, how to deliver a story. That has definitely carried through to my writing now; in fact it is an important part of what I do.