illustration by Tony Mahony
A fantastic interview with Dave Graney on ABC Radio National by Sarah Kanowski, recorded in Brisbane. Stream it or download it here
The great thing about @davegraney 's writing is not just the humour (constant) or the encyclopaedic knowledge of music (that's a given) - it's his withering assessments of human vanity. #workshy is outstanding & full of insights into how we put together a life @AffirmPress
My previous memoir “1001 Australian Nights” was more dreamy and abstract. About the half awake dream that it was in my first band, the Moodists and how we imagined each other and also getting my tone and voice. It had two parts; coming into the world and then speaking as a part of the world. Two voices - innocence and experience.
Workshy has more personal detail about growing up in Mount Gambier, my individual and social identities and influences and my love of playing football as a kid and generally goofing about and doing my best to avoid work as best as I could. Also, the actual options that were open to me. Then I had to deal with the world and after a while I found I had dug into a weird kind of a groove.
Also, truth #1- “there’s no retiring in this business….” . (thanks Billy Miller)
In so many ways, musicians have been the canaries in the coal mine of much of modern life. We got to the brutal face of the modern scene where everybody is a “freelancer” first. Now everybody has to “manage the brand”. But we’ve always been depicted as hapless chancers and fantasists who avoided “the real world”. Hey, now people talk loosely and carelessly of “the gig economy”. Talk to a musician if you want to know what the future holds! We’ve been there for a while.
The cover art is by Tony Mahony, who has done almost all our cd and album covers and videos since1992.
I worked with Janet Austin on the editing and she did an amazingly thorough and creative job. She really gave it some air where needed and got it singing. Then the team at Affirm did their final stylistic edits and proofs. Thanks to everybody!
"Meandering humanity and honest music never follow guidelines. Neither does Dave Graney. Society didn't get fussy and uptight after he was born, it got fussy and uptight after it made being born Dave Graney illegal. The antidote: read this and remember what's real; better still, read it at work. This is a book that should come in a brown paper bag."
“Dave Graney is a genuine hipster bohemian street intellectual. A committed rock'n'roll theoretician and a contrarian outsider of he first order.
This second memoir is as entertaining, funny and well written as his previous book '1000 Australian Nights". He has a terse and semi-abstract approach to writing about the absurd reality of being a non-mainstream musical artist in Australia and Europe, and also of the succession of dispiriting and occasionally quite tolerable day jobs he has had.
The book is liberally spattered with hilarious observations of the art and culture of the recent past and many amusing personal anecdotes. There are also some arcane metaphysical ruminations on the technical minutiae of writing recording and performing his excellent songs.
Dave is the unchallengeable King of Australian rock memoirists. Buy this book now!”
When I wrote 1001 Australian Nights I was trying to talk about the tone I had in my songwriting and where I snatched it from. It was pretty abstract and dreamy. I mainly concentrated on the period of my music that got most public exposure in Australia, the early to late 90s with Dave Graney 'n' the Coral Snakes. The albums that were released on Id/Universal.
For Workshy I felt more free to write about the period before this, in the Moodists and in the first version of Dave Graney and the Coral Snakes which began around 1987 in London.
All this period was pretty much unknown in Australia. We happened here in the 90s as a pretty new act in many ways, we weren't carrying any baggage from our previous lives and didn't really drag it out for anybody. But all the energy and imagery I was carrying and all the unfinished business Clare Moore and I just had to put right came from that period. My vocabulary and language and aesthetics all came from that period in the UK. Lots of temporary jobs and lots or reading and listening to music that was all up in me when we were playing out in the fields and pubs in 90s Australia.
I had an agenda. I was on a kind of mission. Very free and ranging about but disciplined. Though in the clip below, filmed for SBS in early 1993 I remember being pretty hungover. (I gave up drinking for most of that year and into 1995/6.
The Moodists had distinct periods too and I wanted to write about the years after Chris Walsh left (1985) and when David MCClymont joined on bass and we also met Malcolm Ross. Both had been in the Postcard records band Orange Juice whom I had been listening to years before in Melbourne. I had loved their single "Simply thrilled Honey" as well as Malcolms band Josef K's amazing "Sorry For Laughing". There was also the brilliant "Candyskin" by the Fire Engines. I got to know all these people. Heroes.
(WORKSHY was also edited by Janet Austin who was a presence in the early Melbourne post punk scene as well as a fellow traveller with the Birthday Party and friends to London and with whom we shared a house in 80s London and who now co-habits with David McClymont in outer Melbourne).
That later period of the Moodists was a great time for taking in and learning a lot about songs and songwriting and arranging. Other peoples histories and mythologies. We were all being stewed in London. It was a furnace that burnt people up.
In WORKSHY I , of course, write about the 90s years in Australia as well. I thought it would be good to get down what it was like to come from so deep in the underworld to be working with a large record company (I loved it) and also suddenly thinking of being played on radio and also how many people worked in the business then. So many record shops and driving around to visit them with the PR people. (And how they were always all female). The excitement of being in a combine like that. How important it was to have just ONE person in there on your side.
Then I wanted to write about the period after that, when we continued to produce albums every year (and still do) but in a much less pressurized atmosphere. So we had to bring our own weather.
In the beginning of the book it says , "...in 2007 it all bloomed..."
There was, of course, also the internet. Which in many ways stopped time......
Music writer and lifer Stuart Coupe
"It's a fine, fine read and I think I enjoyed it more than his previous 1001 Australian Nights (and I enjoyed that a lot) ... This is birth-till now memoir with cameos from lots of people I know - he's nice to virtually all of them, gently blunt (if you can be gently blunt) about a few and doesn't mention a couple I thought he would. It works well as a juxtaposition of the world of the working songwriter and musician intertwined with tales of the day-to-day other work that these people often find themselves doing to sustain the dreams'n'reality of the former. And Graney has done more than his fair share of clock on, clock off day jobs. At one point he lists all the books he read in the years 1986, 1987 and 1988. This I found fascinating as I read about 93 % of the same books in the same years. ... In what is a crowded year for Australian song and dance people writing their memoirs this is right up there amongst the best."
A great review of WORKSHY here.
"Just finished Dave Graney's concept autobiography WORKSHY and hereby proclaim this book REQUIRED READING for anyone interested in Australian music specifically or the craft/trade/vocation in general".
Georgio "the dove" Valentino
"Just finished Workshy - I enjoyed it the most of your three books - only started reading it yesterday morning! The last 50-100 pages are the most compelling. Great work."
Also available - memoir from 2011
Also available - from 1997. Book of all Dave Graney and the Coral Snakes era lyrics with wonderfulcolour images and artwork by Tony Mahony.