After weathering the embarrassment of “the tape” incident, and generally many other embarrassing things I must have done in their presence, I could still bask in the glory of the humble fame I got from the website and all the people who sent me cold, hard cash for a copy of the 4.66 zines I had produced. (4 official issues and two smaller sub-zines). At least that way I seemed cool to all those “lesser” Custard fans and could hold some pretence that I was important and had exclusive access and some skills in transforming that into print or the web.
I was incredibly assisted by a new best friend — a mysterious character called “Sage Trip”.
We got on famously and he had an incredible wit, an intelligence I could only pretend to keep up with and that devilish demeanour only the truly beautiful provocateurs possess. Alas, I was a bit too sober to appreciate it in perpetuity and maybe a year later, after I had been Best Man at his wedding, we had a bit of a falling out — very quietly and orderly — but then we just lost contact — until recently it should be said. Sorry Sage.
But I embraced this new world of pretend-fame. You could even call it “run-off-fame”. I wasn’t famous, but I was some conduit and believe it or not the stuff I put down was entertaining and I stand by it to this day.
Over at Mongoloid Dave’s excellent trovish website you can download all those zines — which I have lost, even the digital files.
So as part of our “run-off-fame” — this meant Liesl (my GF) and I were getting free entry to shows and some bonus merch and occasionally backstage access. But I suspect the only reason they let us back there was cause in those days we didn’t drink and we were the only hanger-ons that were guaranteed not to steal their rider.
We also got a preview of any upcoming albums — which arrived in the form of a dubbed nondescript cassette tape. At the time I was like, FUCKIN A, but now I realise it meant my bonding with those last two albums was a bit dulled by that process. My understanding of them as a unit — these brand new songs of my most favourite band ever — were as a jumble of recordings, just dumped in a messy pile on my ears. There weren’t even song titles. So when I possessed the album proper, with its (supposedly) thought-out track order, and all the excess fat trimmed-off, plus artwork and liner notes and lyrics — and not to mention the personal process of anticipation of the release date and physically going to a record store and buying it and rushing home to listen to it eagerly — all that was lost.
I guess you could say “no big deal” and “stop your stupid whining dickhead!” Ok, yes. I agree.
THE MOST EMBARRASSING THING I’VE EVER DONE IN MY LIFE (TRULY)
A publicity shot of Richard Kingsmill
This is the story of something so embarrassing it makes me physically shudder. And this is from someone who — on a plane flight — has projectile-vomited all over himself, and all over the aisle and the person next to him. That experience pales in comparison.
So I felt amazing with all that run-off fame and maybe I even got cocky enough to contact Triple J when I heard Richard Kingsmill was doing a “Custard J-File”. I am not exactly sure how it came about, but I do remember sending him my zines and soon enough I got an email asking my phone number so he could call me during the show. Stupidly I decided to hyper-prepare for the event. I rehearsed a very long and stupid story of how I got into Custard and when Kingsmill asked me a question that was vaguely related, I told that epic story like a robot. It was almost like I was doing my best impression of the Paranoid Android. It came from the heart, but was just idiotically detailed and you know what the worst thing was? I sounded like a twelve year old, and the dullest twelve year old imaginable. I don’t think I had listened to my own voice — the way it sounds IRL — for such a long time, and saying such deadshittedness. It was literally horrifying to listen to and I have not been able to listen to it again. Ever. I might still have the tape, but I have no desire to revisit it.
Anyway. Luckily I got a bit looser later in the interview and managed to tell some jokes but I doubt anyone noticed.
The other really, really shitty thing about that night was that Kingsmill did a quiz later and asked a question based on some “facts” published on my website their researcher had looked up a few weeks earlier, and which I had consequently discovered weren’t true — cause the band deliberately lied (they loved doin that) — and so when the contestant argued with Kingsmill that his answer was right — which it was — I was still hovering on the line and had to correct things. UGH. What a fucking disastrous farce.
One of the biggest deals that happened in this period was that Liesl went on a 6-month overseas trip.
It kinda broke me. But it broke me in a good way I think looking back on it. I was too scared to come with her. I had just randomly bought a house and needed to pay bills I really couldn’t afford. I was so pissed off and desperate to be faithful and wait-it-out I just retreated into this pathetic, empty world of solitude. Apart from work, I spent that 6 months just with myself. And because I pretended I had virtually no social skills I ended up knowing I was really, really alone. And that meant all my effort into the Custard stuff was virtually full-time work. It was a great distraction, but at the same time that period gave me the skills I needed to break outta that horrible shell.
PAUL’S JOB IN ROCK N ROLL (NO MORE)
By this stage I had been working a while in a graphic-design/website/production company. And because I was so obsessed with Custard I tended to try and convert anyone and everyone to the cause. And pretty much the only person I managed to convince happened to be my boss. And one day the company was looking for a web programmer and I knew that Paul Medew — Custard’s bassplayer — had some skills in this department. So I suggested him for the role and to my utter amazement, Paul was suddenly being interviewed, and then working part-time off-site, and then one day, he was working in the very same building at a desk just like mine, just a few metres away. It was like I had a piece of Custard at my work. It was bizarre and dizzying at the same time. How far this had all come in just three years.
But of course I grew to be quite nonchalant about it all and he gradually morphed from a rockstar into another (almost-everyday) co-worker — albeit a rather cooler one. Although, it must be said, Paul was always the most reliable, business-like and “9 to 5” of all the members of Custard. So it wasn’t such a huge leap for my brain.
This is the vertically-challenged Paul on a set of phonebooks — just for the photo. But the assholes printed the entire picture. Ugh.
Around this time I met Glenn’s son Wintah (pictured below) at a house party at Kangaroo Point in (I think) 2001. He was a 15 year old kid being bored at a grown-ups-party where the only excitement was the tiny set his dad did — playing drums in a living room — with David and Paul. I don’t know how we even got invited to this party, but it was a big deal. But because we were so shy we spent a big bunch of the evening just watching the band and talking to Wintah.
Then Wintah disappeared for ages — back to Dalby where he lived, and then uni — and the next thing I knew he had formed his own band. But the whole Little Lovers adventures is another story.
The story of my “Book” is a pretty epic one — one that almost got me beat up. So I will just introduce the beginnings here and save a few of the more crazy details for the next instalment.
So when Custard looked like breaking-up, I thought I should graduate from “zines” and start doing something grander and more “Adult”. So I started writing a book. Over the next few months I made it to over 40,000 words. I interviewed everyone I could.
By far the most interesting interview was with Shane Bruun (original Custard drummer) and James Straker (original Custard lead guitarist). We all met at Ric’s one evening and I brought my little cassette recorder, James brought his too — presumably so he could cross-reference in case I put words into his mouth. To a snotty-nosed-kid writing a bunch of bullshit that would never be published — this seemed highly FULL-ON and highly SERIOUS.
That’s James with the red hair. This picture is at a Melniks show. I ended up buying that guitar he is playing, and I still own it. It is the best guitar ever (well a japanese-made Jazzmaster) and even Tim from Tym’s Guitars agrees with me.