With 2013 promising to be a great year for Australian music already, SLAM Day is set to be the one day on the calendar where our local talent can come together and show their stuff off in supporting live music and small gigs. The response SLAM Day garnering in 2012 was off the chain, as local music communities across the country joined forces in demonstrating to local government (and whoever would pay attention) that the desire for live music in venues was very much still alive and not a threat. Ahead of the 2013 proceedings, I spoke with one of the South Australian Ambassadors for SLAM, the lovely Taasha Coates of The Audreys fame to grab some opinions and general quips about where we're going wrong, what needs to change and how.
Thanks for the interview Taasha!
Now, we’re teed up to talk about SLAM Day 2013…
Yeah! I actually went to the first one in Melbourne as I was living there at the time.
What was that experience like?
Oh it was incredible; thousands of people and no one could believe the turn out. They had the Rockwiz band on the back of the truck playing AC/DC…what song was it? AC/DC had actually recorded the video for the song, driving down that street…what was that song?! It was one of their classics…anyway, it’ll come to me! [Laughs] It was incredible, it was such a great vibe and then we got to the steps of Parliament House. There were so many more people than they expected; not everyone could fit in and their PA wasn’t big enough and so not everyone could hear the speeches. Everyone was just really overwhelmed by how many people were there. I think the politicians were shocked and I think the venue owners were shocked because, of course, if you run a small venue and your capacity’s like, 70 people or something, you’re not really aware of the crowd’s support in a community for live music. It was fantastic.
Of course. Being based in Adelaide, where I think we struggle probably a fair bit more than the other capitals, at least recently; with Adelaide’s music scene undergoing many significant developments already this year, what is one of the things you’d like to see change or happen looking ahead to next year?
I think that this whole SLAM angle is really about policy and about liquor licensing; obviously, there are lots of things that be done to develop the live music scene. I honestly believe that’s really great. We have some fantastic venues in Adelaide; we have some great talent and we have supportive punters. I think it’s easy to get on a bit of a whinge binge about Adelaide because maybe some of the bigger acts leave us out and that sort of thing. I think that on a grassroots level, our scene is really healthy. The idea, that having live music in a venue then opens you up to alcohol-fuelled violence, security issues and all that sort of stuff, which is really narrow-minded thinking of some of the policy-makers, I think is what really needs to change. If those policy-makers can be aware that the live music community is actually a really creative, interesting and diverse community; we’re not all thugs!
I just did a gig last month at Elder Hall and it was really interesting, because they’ve never had contemporary music in that space before and they were apparently really nervous about it! I’m thinking, ‘What did they think we were going to do?’, throw a TV out the window? It’s really funny, this perception people have about live contemporary music.
As part of The Audreys, I would imagine that you’ve probably got some interesting insights into the inner workings of the music industry, both on a local South Australian level and on a wider national one too. In your experience, what seems to have affected the nurturing and supportive nature of the live music scene over the past few years negatively? Why is it so imperative that steps are taken now in revitalising and strengthening the scene and industry?
I think it’s just a matter of keeping abreast of these potential changes, because it’s very easy for policy-makers to sit around in a boardroom, discussing licensing laws without actually communicating with the community that it’s affecting. I think it’s about being visible and having an ongoing discussion and a place that those policy-makers can come and say, ‘Okay, what’s your opinion? You are the representatives of the live music industry, so can you tell us what you think about this.’ Because there’s a live music industry…it’s not like you can point to it, you know what I mean? It’s spread out and a bit vague, so I think it’s really important to have groups of people who are communicating between the punters and the policy-makers.
You know, we actually have it pretty good here in comparison to say, Sydney, where in order to have live music, you have to buy a particular license. It’s really expensive! I mean obviously, there are things we can improve and change, but we’re not in a really bad position. The thing that happened in Melbourne was that the Government decided that venues that had music were high risk for alcohol-fuelled violence and that if you had a live band, you had have two security guards on. It was just ridiculous so a lot of the rally was just about you know, live music doesn’t make people violent! Alcohol makes people violent!
Music generally makes people happy…
I know right, what the hell?! Where is this random association coming from? Of course, most of the violence that is happening is in the inner city venues with capacities of 400 or 500. It’s just this random association that people have made: ‘Oh you’re a pub in the inner suburbs that has a two-piece acoustic band on Thursday nights, that’s high risk for violence’! What?!
SLAM Day brought a huge response with it this year, not only at the rallies, but at the array of live gigs around the country. It must be a good feeling, as a musician, to know that there are still loads of passionate music lovers willing to celebrate live music in any capacity, not just in terms of massive tours.
Absolutely. I think it’s one of the great things that can come out of these kind of ideas and discussions and whatever; the idea that we do have a community, even though it’s kind of hard to get a sense of how big it is or where they are. It is there. It’s not like we’re the RSL and you can tell how many members there are; it’s a little bit hard to get a handle on, which is why I think they were so shocked at the number at the rally in Melbourne. What were the numbers like here last year? I was in Brisbane.
I can’t remember off the top of my head, there was a huge turnout though.
It’s great, isn’t it?
Yep and you know what pisses me off? A lot of these pollies would have gone out to see bands when they were younger! They totally would have! Adelaide, of course, had the most incredible and vibrant live music scene in the 70s.
Adelaide was buzzing with SLAM Day this year; not only was it on during the Fringe, but the FUSE Festival meant that everywhere you went for a certain period in that time of the year, you were bound to stumble across some form of band or performer! Now that FUSE isn’t going to be held in 2013, how much of a hindrance do you think that could potentially be to the amount of attention Adelaide will garner in relation to SLAM and live music in the rest of the country?
Yeah that time was great, wasn’t it? Look, I think that FUSE is just one part of the industry in Adelaide; I don’t think that means that people interstate won’t take Adelaide seriously as a place for new talent etc. I mean, the Fringe is the biggest arts festival in the southern hemisphere, which is really significant part of Adelaide as well, I think.
How beneficial do you think the Music Thinker in Residence consultations have been over November? Has bringing in an industry outsider (an international visitor, for that matter) been the move Adelaide industry has needed to do in order to make the right steps forward?
I think Adelaide has always suffered a bit from a sense of inferiority. If anything, these consultations have gotten the local community talking and I think one of the important aspects is that it’s brought together the music community to have these discussions.
Do The Audreys have any shows coming up that may coincide with the SLAM Day events?
We’ve got a Fringe show but our show might be in early March. We love the Fringe.
It’s such an awesome time to be in the city.
Yeah! It really is. I love Adelaide at that time, even when I wasn’t living here I always wanted to be back. I would always find an excuse to come back and be in Adelaide at that time.
That’s always nice to hear, especially coming from one of the city’s more successful exports…
Look, I mean, I love living back here; I left for personal reasons, end of a relationship and stuff like that. I ended up meeting my current partner in Melbourne and then we went and lived in Brisbane. Adelaide’s my home, but there was a time where I needed a bit of space from it. I think we all have those moments with our hometown; but I love being back and since I’ve been back I’ve been very involved in the local scene.
That’s great to hear! Thanks for your time today Taasha, it’s been good to get some opinions on everything that’s been going down.
I haven’t raved too much, have I? [Laughs]
Not at all, we’re on the same page on so many things, it was so easy to talk about the issues!
Awesome. It’s funny how nervous people get about talking about it too. I was at the MusicSA Christmas party and after the first couple of beers, people were like ‘Oh yeah’ but then people started letting loose and it was really fun. [Laughs]
Haha, I know what those nights are like! Thanks again Taasha and I’ll catch you about soon!
Absolutely my pleasure.
Visit www.slamrally.org to learn more about what will be happening around the country come February 23!
Photo courtesy of Bruce Heath - Bluesfest 2012