In Conversation with Lindy Morrison

This Friday 14th July, Queensland Music Festival presents 16 Lovers Lane, paying homage to one of the greatest Australian albums of all time at Brisbane’s QPAC. The event features “recording artists Lindy Morrison (drums), Amanda Brown (violin, oboe, and vocals), and John Willsteed (bass), along with Dan Kelly, Danny Widdicombe, and Luke Daniel Peacock, completing the band line-up”. There’s also an incredible line-up of support artists who will be performing on the night, so click here for full details and ticket purchases!

Emma caught up with Lindy Morrison ahead of her performance to chat about Brisbane, building a career, activism, social work, and the importance of self-awareness.

L-R: Amanda Brown, Lindy Morrison, Katie Noonan, John Wilsteed (Image with permission from Agency North)

Emma Kate Lewis: Thank you so much for taking the time to chat to me ahead of your performance on Friday. How’s your week going so far? It must be really busy.

Lindy Morrison: We’re rehearsing every day from 10 until 6. Getting 15 songs together: 10 from the album and 5 others. So it’s very concentrated, and very focused. But I’ve been preparing since before Christmas, working on my drumming for 2 hours every second day to build up my strength.

EKL: You live in Sydney now, so how does it feel being back in Brisbane?

LM: It’s been fascinating really. I went out for dinner last night with some old school friends, which was fun. Some I haven’t seen for 30 or 40 years. I’ve seen family who still live here, which has been great. I’ve met great-nephews for the first time. Yeah, I’ve done a lot of things really. It’s been interesting.

The city’s changed so much. For me, I find the changes kind of strange. The buildings, the architectural changes, they’re so immense.

The Valley is nothing like I knew. I spent an incredible amount of time in the Valley as a punk rocker in the early days of The Go-Betweens. We lived on St Pauls Terrace. So a lot’s changed.

EKL: That was actually my next question for you! What do you think’s changed about Brisbane and the music scene, for better or worse or both?

LM: The music scene in my day was a political scene. It was a political movement; because we were standing up against a rancid, corrupt, Bjelke-Petersen government. It had a different meaning in those days. You don’t have the same raison d’etre for your artists here. But I can’t get over how many beautiful, young women artists are coming through. Like Sahara Beck, Amy Shark… So many great artists coming through. It’s really good to see it. It’s a great place for people to build up their careers, I think.

EKL: I’ve spoken with a few emerging female artists in Brisbane, and they all tell me of the difficulties they face within the industry today. Particularly the drummers! Considering that, what was it like for you at a time when the music scene was, as you’ve said, very much a political scene?

LM: What’s difficult being a woman playing drums initially is that it’s a sexist industry. Unconsciously, men will choose other men over women, because men like to be with men.

Certainly I was unusual, and I think I was lucky that I had brains because I was able to use my intellect, particularly in interviews, to discuss all of this.

In ’95 I wrote an educational book with a video that went with it called Australian Women in Rock and Pop Music that really looked at all of those issues, and I’ve talked about it for decades. I don’t talk about what it must be like for women today because I don’t know, but I know that for me it was difficult. But listen, I also played with the most wonderful men, I must say.

I was very fortunate that our subculture was made up of great men — you can choose who you play with.

But it doesn’t protect you from that moment when you arrive at a venue and people don’t realise you’re the drummer.

EKL: When you started, was there this idea that you had to prove yourself to those who weren’t your band members?

LM: I think you’re just judged more harshly because people are going to notice you. A big deal was made about the fact that, for 16 Lovers Lane the album, a couple of the tracks use a drum machine. A big deal was made about that, yet I know so many acts at the same time that exactly the same thing happened to, and yet nothing was said. I could name those acts. I know even of an act where the drummer was replaced, and nothing was said about that. I tell you what I think happened: a lot of people resented the fact that I got a lot of attention when my chops weren’t the best in the country. And there’s nothing you can do about that.

Of course I was going to get attention, because I was a woman on drums. So there’s a glass half full, glass half empty sort of thing. But also I got a lot of attention because it was such an interesting and unusual band.

Robert and Grant were such unusual people, and the music we were playing was so unusual. Y’know, I’m playing in a band where they wrote a song about Lee Remick, for god’s sake! Really, it was an unusual group at that time.

And as I’ve said before, I don’t want to sound like I’m being arrogant, but I had brains and I could handle myself in interviews. The world didn’t intimidate me. I was very well educated, I’d been in theatre, I was older than everybody else. I wasn’t overcome by the music industry.

Image via QMF

EKL: So I imagine that really helped you getting your music career started initially, of course, as well as while it grew and grew?

LM: I do think so, yeah. I also knew that practice was everything. That’s from coming out of theatre. I understood how I had to practice and rehearse, and I’ve still got that. But I’m never going to be a great drummer.

I can play well, I can support a song, but I’m the first one to talk about my limitations. And it’s ok! It doesn’t mean anything to say you’ve got limitations.

As long as you can do what you set out to do, which is to support a song.

EKL: Yeah, absolutely.

LM: Well, that was a rave!

Laughter

EKL: No, that’s brilliant, and so true! You’re right; I think it’s sometimes important to be honest about your limitations so that you can work to the best of your known abilities. Being self-aware in that respect.

LM: Yeah, you’ve got to have that insight. What you probably don’t know about me is that I did a social work degree at the University of Queensland, and that I spent two years working in the Aboriginal and Islander Legal Service.

EKL: I do know that, actually! My next question was about it.

LM: Oh my god! I’m so good I know what the questions are before they come!

Laughter

LM: Well, yes, that was pretty incredible and fairly intense, you can imagine. But it changed my life, and I really met the most extraordinary Indigenous people in this town. Not only in this town, but all over Queensland, and it was incredibly challenging. I left to go into theatre after a couple of years.

EKL: Popular Theatre Troupe?

LM: Yes, it was great. Real agit-prop theatre. A guy called Richard Fortheringham ran it. Also, I’ve been able to reuse my social work degree in my dotage.

Laughter

LM: By working for the music industry charity, Support Act. I work part-time for them. I help people apply, and work out what they need, and what the grant should be spent on.

EKL: I was going to ask you about being a community musician next.

LM: Being a community musician is different to being a social worker. It means you go into various communities, such as those with people who have disabilities. I worked with an intellectually disabled group of musicians, the same musicians for 25 years, called The Junction House Band. They’re really unique. And I’ve done residencies in Mount Isa and Rockhampton, Mackay, in South Australia and Western Australia…

In Mount Isa, I wrote with the Mount Isa people, and that’s where I met William Barton when he was a 13-year-old boy.

So yeah, I’ve been doing that, and it’s been really, really great. Great work. Incredible work.

EKL: It sounds like you’re very busy!

LM: I’m not so busy now. I’m older now, and definitely doing less. But that’s ok, because I’ve got more hours with  Support Act now. For many years it was just 3 hours a week, but now I’ve got more and it’s an incredible job. Working with musicians who get ill, because I know the lifestyle, and I know what happens to people.

EKL: I’m conscious of your time, so before we have to go I want to ask what Friday night means to you?

LM: The best thing about it is that I’m playing with my very best friend, Amanda Brown, again. Not that we haven’t played together over the years, but we’re terribly close and so to be playing with her again on the stage, and working with her for two weeks, is just wonderful. To be playing with John Willsteed. To be playing with the backing band: Dan Kelly, Danny Widdicombe and Luke Peacock, who are just beautiful men. To have chosen the singers and the Queensland singers. Meeting Zoe, Cub Sport’s bass player: she and Tim are doing a song. I’m going to meet Sahara Beck, Sam and Jen from Ball Park Music… We’ve got Steve Kilbey coming up. We’ve got Kirin J Callinan… Yes, there’s all that. But finally, I’m looking forward to getting to play those songs again. That’s what has the most meaning for me.

I never imagined that I’d get to play these songs again on a stage in Queensland, which are about Queensland, and about the band from Queensland. So I’m very touched.

EKL: It sounds as though it’s going to be absolutely wonderful. Ok, wrapping up, what do you like to do with your free time and how are you going to be spending it after the show? Particularly when you’ve been rehearsing since December!

LM: I’m going on holiday, actually. For a week, because I took a month’s leave from all my jobs so that I could do this job and I’ve got some time left. Amanda and I are playing with a guy in Sydney, Dave Mason, who used to have a band called The Reels. That’s still in development, so I’m looking forward to continuing to work on that. I don’t know, I really work a lot, and I’m one of those people who like to work. I do play bridge. Laughs. Competitive bridge!

Laughter

LM: That’s how I relax. As well as by watching excellent TV series, like The Handmaid’s Tale. Have you seen it yet?

EKL: I haven’t, but I’m very keen to. It’s one of my favourite books.

LM: You have to. I’ve already watched all 10 episodes. It’s unbelievable.

***

Purchase tickets to QMA’s 16 Lovers Lane HERE


Answers by Lindy Morrison, former drummer of The Go-Betweens

Questions, Edits, and Transcribing by Emma Kate Lewis

Featured Image via Queensland Music Festival

Image with permission from Agency North

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