Artist On Artist: Darren Hayes Vs Client Liaison
As one half of Savage Garden, and in a subsequent solo career, DARREN HAYES* experienced a global level of success privy to few Australian artists. Rising dance-pop duo *CLIENT LIAISON have been making waves at home with their deadpan affinity for a bygone era of Australian pop culture – while their aesthetic throwback aims for a time just before Savage Garden’s ascendency, the two acts share a certain subversion and nostalgia. In this M+N exclusive interview, Darren, now based in LA pursuing acting and comedy, speaks with Client Liaison’s Monte Morgan and Harvey Miller via email.
Darren Hayes interviews Client Liaison
DARREN HAYES: How much of what you do is homage and inspiration of the past, and how much is a satire? I am a huge fan of your music and your visual style.
CLIENT LIAISON: Thanks Darren. Good question, they are firmly related! We use satire but in a round about way hoping to transcend it by eventually arriving at a place of homage instead of ridicule. In the case of our video clip for ‘End Of The Earth’, at first glance it appears that we’re taking aim at our national identity, satirically highlighting Australia’s cultural shortcomings yet it is strictly these shortcomings which we have grown to love and appreciate – with the obvious few exceptions, such as racism. Instead of fetishising the grandeur of a European history we hope that video clip may encourage us to take charge and have the courage to be proud of our nation’s identity rather then cringe at it.
That clip for ‘End Of The Earth’ literally transports me back to my youth in Queensland in the mid ’80s. What informs your take on that era – since you weren’t really living it. Why Queensland and that era of Australian pop culture?
Australia seemed drunk on its own morale back then, which was manifested from achievements such as the ’83 Americas Cup win. This offered our nation a sense of patriotism – not so be confused with its ugly counterpart nationalism. Some people tell us that the ’80s were terrible and we’re not arguing that social equality or economic living standards were necessarily better back then but rather that our nations willingness to be proud of itself was at a all time high. Then again on the point of living standards, we do like to remind people that housing was once affordable back then in the ’80s. We often sight the Sydney 2000 Olympics as the ‘last hurrah’ – the last time that as a nation we momentarily let go of our insecurities, let our hair down and said, “Hey, this is fun and we should be proud of it!”
Queensland itself is the perfect candidate to represent our land of extremes. A tropical paradise with endless beaches supporting our relaxed and lucky lifestyle, but it’s also a place of corruption, skin cancer, drought and desert. Christopher Skase’s Sheraton Mirage in Port Douglas and The Big Mango in Bowen, these are symbols of Australian pride and excess, something which we find fascinating.
Would you like it if we did this interview during Brisbane’s Expo 88? Which pavilion would you most like to visit?
Gosh, we’re sure it would have been a jam-packed day of affordable family-fun entertainment! Having done a little web based research on the event you definitely could have caught us the BP Australia Water Ski Spectacular. Even nowadays the water ski spectacular at Sea World on the Gold Coast only ever reaches a two tier ski formation.
What contemporary artist do you feel is your peer?
When we first heard about Flight Facilities we felt like we were doing similar things in different cities, us in Melbourne and them in Sydney, although they are many steps ahead of us. They make sophisticated dance music with the visuals playing an important role which we can relate to. Hugo and Jimmy took us under their wing last year and brought us along for their Down To Earth world tour which was amazing, they looked after us really well.
If you could erase something from your past – what would it be?
Harvey: I’d like to erase the memory from when i mistakenly wore casual clothes to school on a non casual clothes day. It was terribly embarrassing, the memory still presents itself like a sharp pain to the stomach.
Monte: My childhood was filled with so many embarrassing moments. The mere mention of casual clothes day takes me back to year two when I was so pumped to be wearing a fluoro two-piece outfit with furry smiley face on the front. However after I weed my pants I couldn’t discard the fluoro shorts and instead did the old “jumper round the front” trick which didn’t fool anyone.
Chicken or lamb?
Harvey: People say chicken is a cheap meat, I strongly disagree – chicken.
Monte: Dirty bird! No, I go for the mindful meat eating option, grass-fed and particularly Australian – lamb.
Honestly speaking – what level of success do you dream of? Can you point to a career and say ‘that one’?
We’re content with how things have been tracking so far. Rather than having a single breakthrough song our trajectory has progressed in small steps, which makes it easier to digest. We still consider ourselves to be small fry but happily acknowledge that we’ve made a decent little splash here in Australia. The most admirable component of success that appeals to us is longevity and creative development – artists like Prince or Madonna who have managed to transcend multiple decades come to mind. Even Australia bands such as Cut Copy who are now past the ten year mark remain a constant source of inspiration because they continue to develop their sound.
I love how mysterious you guys are. One of the downsides to fame is simply that its very nature requires the selling off of secrets. A bit like the ending of the novel Perfume one gets the sense that if you gave your audience what they really wanted there’d be nothing left. Do you consciously hold something back in reserve?
Precisely. From Tina Arena to Prince, our personal experiences with meeting our idols has left us underwhelmed and at times confused. Having just completed Tina Arena’s autobiography, I, Harvey, pounced at the opportunity to meet her, drunkenly interrupting her mid conversation to ask for a photo. I was immediately embarrassed and full of regret knowing that to her, I will forever be that unmemorable drunk who asked for a silly photo. Similarly in the mid 2000s, Monte spent much of his time following Prince’s live show around the world, and on more than one occasion danced along side him on stage. To go from the euphoric high of momentarily being on stage with your idol in front of thousands of people, to then having to return to the audience from which you came would be deflating. An achievement to say the least, Monte soon packed it up and returned to Australia to write his own narrative as a performer.
We like to respect the important elements of theatre in music such as the concept of not breaking the fourth Wall. To us there’s no point in destroying the mise-en-sc’ne you’ve created unless you think it will somehow get the audience closer to your intended mood.
Your feelings about the Australian accent?
Relaxed, dry and unaffected.
It feels like the music industry is on life support. It’s a vast contrast to the boom of the ’80s and ’90s. Do you feel like you’ve come in to the zeitgeist at the right time – or do you wish your rise had been in the past and more heady days of the music business?
We are rather content with the current state of the industry. The technology that we rely on has democratised the entire art form which without we wouldn’t have chanced upon. We’ve both played music our whole lives yet it was only when we realised we could easily record our own music that the hobby became a passion. Then again, we do lament the disappearance of the terribly expensive video clip. This is the one area of the industry in which the excess and waste was rightly justified.
Client Liaison interview Darren Hayes
CLIENT LIAISON: We’ve been thoroughly examining your clip ?I Want You? and have taken a particular interest in the ?fixed? guitar rig. Can you tell us a about the art direction of the clip? What were your thoughts when you first saw this contraption?
DARREN HAYES: The video was directed by Nigel Dick, an Englishman who at that time was most famous for doing those incredible Britney videos. His career was massive before however for having made so many iconic videos, for acts like Oasis, Guns N’ Roses. The art director’s name escapes me but it was probably our finest music video as a band. The contraption for the guitar and the contraption I sing in to were heavily influenced by the movie Brazil. I guess the imagery was playing on the reputation of pop music back then being a cold and mechanical machine. It was a theme we constantly pushed up against as we were songwriters and producers in an era of very manufactured pop.
Are there any unreleased Savage Garden songs or old demos floating around that may one day surface on a special release?
The beauty of the time as a band is that it was such a short period. We ended on a commercial high and our strike rate was never tarnished. That meant there were a lot of unfinished and not very well loved demos we chose never to finish. If they didn’t make it to the albums, 99.9% of the time it was because they simply weren’t good enough. There may be something old from the archives that turns up one day.
How do you feel about the current Australian music scene? Are there any particular sounds or styles that you think are ahead of the game?
I feel like all of our electronic music is constantly leading the edge. It’s true that most international pop records seem to break first in Australia then take over the world. I think our indie music – Gotye, yourselves, Avalanches, and more – is a great example of how a trend has emerged in Australia first. I think this is due to the isolated nature of the industry in Australia. Even mainstream radio was vastly ahead of the rest of the world in terms of the EDM movement. We’re all sick of it of course, but Australia can take credit, for example, for breaking Lady Gaga.
We sometimes find ourselves playing awkward corporate gigs and press engagements alike, what are some of the most awkward gigs or public appearances you’ve had to endure?
I loathe corporate gigs because it doesn’t matter how famous you are – you’re always treated like a wedding singer. The first and only corporate gig I ever did was for a huge telecommunications company once and let’s just say I haven’t done one since.
Please share with us one of your earliest childhood memories, it doesn’t have to be particularly interesting but something you’ve never told anyone before.
I remember the cold steel of the counter at the butcher’s shop near Trinder Park railway station in the ’70s. I was too young to speak, but I remember hating not being able to see ‘the man’ behind the counter. Sometimes my mother would lift me up. I remember the smell of meat and the friendly banter.
Assuming you’ve met him, whats Richard Wilkins like in person? We’re particularly fond of his work.
He’s a big teddy bear. He’s extremely tall and bulking. Almost like a very good looking Frankenstein.
Is there any part of the Australian coastline which you’re particularly fond of?
I adore northern New South Wales and, rather unsurprisingly, Byron Bay.
We’ve been enjoying your new comedy podcast with Tim Stanton, ‘The He Said He Said Show’. How did this come about and what other adventures have you been on recently?
I’ve studied sketch comedy improv at LA’s Groundlings Theatre secretly for the past two years. I’ve completely graduated their core track course which was a huge goal for me. Since then I’ve been acting and writing sketch comedy which is how I met Tim Stanton. He was a charming clown in the school lobby and we never took class together but became close through a mutual friend. He is now honestly one of my best ever friends. What you hear on the podcast is our genuine love of hanging out and making each other laugh.
Do many people – managers, friends, fans – attempt to lure you back to recording music?
Every second of every fucking day and I always say I gave 20 of the best years of my life and then I point to Kate Bush and say “so fuck off”.
We imagine that there would be quite a few not so obvious similarities between the work your focusing on now and that which you did in Savage Garden. What similarities, skills, relationships or tools have you carried over?
Being in a partnership. I haven’t trusted anyone creatively for so long because I was prematurely thrust in to a solo career way before I was expecting it. I put up a wall for many years and working with Tim reminds me of what it’s like to be genuinely excited by a creative equal. The downside to those intense partnerships is they can often be explosive. Mine with Tim, thankfully is not.