This is my most favourite shot of David — taken by a woman called Penny Bradfield who went on to be a famous Fairfax photojournalist and is too famous to respond to my email for comment for this blog! 🙂 It’s cool. Rock on Pen!
So this is PART 1 in case you missed it.
After all that education at the garage sale I wish I had grown up a little — but I was only slightly less of an absolute deadshit.
But as far as Custard was concerned I found myself perpetually tuned in their direction. I saw some shows and I beavered away in my bedroom working out all their songs on guitar— which would lead to something pretty full-on later (see part 3). I watched them on TV and studied what popped up in street press and the internet.
FAMILY TREE & RIC’S (again) & LIFE’S TURNING POINTS
And then there was a Rolling Stone story about them which outlined — in diagrammatic form* — their intimate and “incestuous” relationships with other bands in Brisbane all based upon Ian and Judy McCormack’s (David’s parents) practice room at 52 Bradley Street, Spring Hill.
(*And this little band-tree would inspire me later.)
I studied this map and decided to explore every other band on that well-meaning, but simplistic, 2D band-tree. I was already familiar with C.O.W. and Computor and the Melniks — but there were other bands like Biro and Small Fantasy and Cunningham and Warm Nights (Robert Forster’s band with David and Glenn and Bob Moore) who I needed to know. And when I sourced them out they were all profoundly awesome.
But lastly there was an amazing band called Miami centred around the wonderous voice of Maureen Hansen who you may remember from Part 1. And as well as David’s GF she also had cred cause she had sung on a bunch of songs on Custard’s first album. But Miami was even more awesome cause it was David on guitar, Paul on bass and Nick Naughton on drums. And before Custard could try to change my life, that Miami band did a fantastic job of doing it first.
A promo shot of Maureen
When 1997 rolled around I was on a brief sojourn in Melbourne visiting my mum but then I was suddenly back in Brisbane, staring down that inevitable return to studing in February. And with nothing better to do in that last gasp of my Uni holidays — I started making an “unauthorised” Custard webpage. And it was with the incredible help of my very first “internet friend” – CC Hua. And we are still mates today! We had initially bonded over our mutual love of making guitar tabs to indie rock songs by Australian bands and of course our decent taste in music — like Snout and Even and Automatic and You Am I and The Welcome Mat and Header and Sidewinder and Drop City et al.
Just quietly I still hold the record of having successfully tabbed YOU AM I’s “Cathy’s Clown” despite that precocious kid — who joined that band later and then decided to FIX stuff. Good on you, but yeah – whatever.
Although CC was quite a bit younger than me she basically lectured me in HTML and general awesomeness. She was very patient and despite my incredible deadshitness she persisted until I had mastered it enough to go at the webpage alone. CC went on to be in bands and be quite an upstanding rock n roll citizen and consistently puts me to shame. Kudos.
I had completely forgotten how we met — but through the magic of the internet (actually just emailing her) — I am reliably informed it was because Liesl had set up a Custard fanpage and I sent her an email saying I was thinking of setting one up too.
In those days the web was full of official pages loaded with their very “safe” and lawyered content — but there was very little user-generated bits on the web. And so you were forced to make your own— and somehow host it. Nowadays 95% of the web is punter-generated without much effort on the punter’s behalf – but back then it was almost the other way around. We went to great lengths to have our ideas and opinions published and it our efforts were kinda appreciated.
After a few exchanges of emails we then mutually decided, seeing as we were both going to a semi-secret Custard show at Ric’s, we might as well coordinate. She was chaperoned by her older brother’s best friend. It was a fantastic show — basically a test of all the new songs for the album that would be known as We Have The Technology. I am still convinced they butchered the song Sinatra Theory on the album compared to how it sounded that night.
Anyway, then there was our ‘second date’ – a Miami show at Ric’s. It was their debut CD launch and it was MASSIVE and we could barely see what was going on because in those days Ric’s had no stage and we just had to pretend we understood.
And after that show, Liesl and I then somehow became a thing in that very awkward way only I know how to do and managed to remain so for three years.
So Liesl had somehow randomly ended up sitting next to the sister of Paul Medew (Custard’s bassplayer) at TAFE before even realising the connection. And I seem to remember Liesl telling me there was a girl in her class with the surname “Medew” and we both wondered. But then the next thing I knew they were besties, mostly because Liesl and Karin shared a natural love of giggling incessantly at the back of class. Karin became a great friend and my most favourite piece of Custard memorabilia — a living, breathing one! She knew all the goss, she looked a bit like Paul, she had all of Paul’s CDs and she made sure her brother put us on the door at any Custard shows within driving distance of Brisbane. Karin and I even ended up living together for half a year while Liesl travelled OS.
But meanwhile I became utterly obsessed with forming a band of my own and as I’ve said before — the easiest way to conjure your own band from virtually nothing is to convince your girlfriend to play bass and bang! Insta-rock. But we were too poor to afford our own bass so Paul offered his old Fender Squire Precision. It looked HUGE on Lees but it did the trick and in the meantime I wrote really, really shitty songs. Here is one of them inspired by Liesl’s new job working at a library.
And that’s John Swingle from Biro and the Melniks and Small Fantasy on drums — and the backstory is here. Having John in the band made everything just so much more dumbfoundingly real. Having an absolute hero of ours, a songwriting genius and a fucking cool dude, agree to drum in your shitty, shitty band just doesn’t happen to deadshits like me (or “us” if Liesl will allow that).
The thoroughly amazing John Swingle (photo by Liesl).
After Uni finished I was now OFFICIALLY a deadshit — as far as the government was concerned. So yes — I was on the dole and I was lining up in that office to hand in my form once a fortnight (just like John’s DSS song) and I fucking, fucking hated it. And you know what? My dad made me sign up at Centrelink. It wasn’t “tough love” — he just wanted me to move out. And even with that cash in my pocket — more money than I had ever known — I wanted out. The whole system of unemployment benefits is designed to make you feel dirty and pathetic and they succeeded spectacularly.
A few weeks later my mum was visiting from Melbourne and she decided to call on some Uni mates of hers — Rob and Anne — and I tagged along. And at that dinner-party we all got talking and I suddenly started raving about Custard (as I was wont to do) and I played Rob some Custard songs (which he loved) and then I showed them my webpage which resulted in a very random late-night (perhaps drunken) job offer. I quickly accepted and turned up well ahead of time at their design studio on a Monday morning in North Quay. My job was doing very basic web stuff and though it was very, very “part-time” I instantly quit unemployment benefits (even though the very low income I was earning meant I could still claim some stuff from The Man).
And then I must have done OK because I was still there three years later and in a full-time role — but still getting paid minimum wage!
Initially I was there to do very basic internet programming but then my job got “expanded” so that I was now the receptionist — not exactly the career I had dreamed of after wasting (and paying for) 3 years at University. So I answered the phones and made coffee and greeted people who rang the doorbell. It was a bit belittling especially cause everyone there had such an ego but I was gratified by the fact in my spare time in between all that receptionist bullshit I gradually got familiar with the design software. I even did a few actual “jobs” for the company.
And then this dude Scott (who at the time worked for Mambo) on the Custard email forum (which was just a chain-letter that meant you always had new emails in your in-box) suggested we make a ‘zine. And so we conspired and put one together. I laid it out using all the gimmicks I had learnt from just kicking around the office and my very basic knowledge of Quark Xpress. I even managed the mindfuck of imposing it for laser-printing. On top of that I wrote a bunch of stories and went out and recorded some interviews that I transcribed for publication. Scott did all the cool design stuff like the cover and other graphics.
But perhaps the biggest help in that process was a character called “Sage Trip”. He was a comic genius and came on board for the second issue and together we wrote all the gags but it was often Sage telling me what to say and me just imitating him if I was writing my own stuff. More on that later.
To generate this 32 page tome I spent a few Sundays in a row secretly printing that shit at work. After I advertised it for sale at $2 a copy (of which 50c went on postage) I sold (or gave away) about 100 copies. I was amazed. That money came as a $2 coin stuck inside an envelope with sticky tape delivered to my home. About 20% of envelopes had the coin missing with a very precise cut in the envelope — no doubt the work of thieving postal workerz! For future zines I did a “double issue” so I could ethically charge a $5 note which was more easily concealed in an envelope.
In a big box, to this day, I have kept every single one of those letters that arrived in my post box. I felt appreciated and more so because the effort it takes for an individual to mail something is pretty much a dead art nowadays — and was in its death throes back then. Each and every letter I received was magical. Thank you to all of you who subscribed — in that very old-school fashion.
TV AND RADIO
And although people were telling me to make Cus-Zine digital — in other words: a PDF — I resisted. Even Ian McCormack suggested it (god bless him!). But I love bound paper and there was still a big bit of me that wanted to be old-school and resist all this evil change. I had no research to prove this — but I thought people treat a physical book in a different way — and thus get a bigger cultural and personal experience. At the same time I was all about conservation and “paperless offices”, but this zine was just so tiny and necessary and I insisted.
The next thing I knew one of the Directors I worked for (who had “industry connections”) suggested me for a segment for a kid’s show about technology. I accepted mostly because I was curious, but also because I thought it was perhaps an order.
And then a massive film-crew turned up at my house. There were at least a dozen of them and they were climbing over furniture and pulling out light-bulbs and shifting stuff like they were ordained. And the presenter was a very young girl called Shae Brewster who went on to bigger and greater things. But this was her very first gig and she was maybe 15 or 16 and acted every bit of her age. Just quietly she was rubbish and had a bit of a melt-down at one point when the director said something like, “Let’s just come over here and talk about this bit for a second”. She went nuts and said, “OMG! is this ‘THE TALK’. Oh god, ‘THE TALK’ ALREADY?” Etc.
A recent promo photo of her
And all these deadshits were in my house. I was horrified. I was also mic’d up and that made me all WTF? so I just played it ultra-SOBER in the interview — just being safe. I was half convinced they would make me out to be a freak and spend all their editing powers making me look like a nut-case. And so all my jokes were very deadpan, very subtle and thus rendered completely oblivious to that kid journalist attempting to connect with me. It was a disaster. A fucking, fucking atrocity.
They never aired that footage and although I felt bad cause I had a bit to do with its sabotage — I was very, very pleased with that.
And very soon after I realised I had not learnt my lesson and agreed to make a shockingly DEADSHIT live appearance on the national radio station — JJJ. It was an interview with Richard Kingsmill — for the J-FILE on Custard and for that horribly embarrassing story and much, much more — see part 3.
From Rolling Stone issue 527 October 1996