Not only is Ian Moss one of the founding members, ace guitarist and vocalist with Aussie rock legends Cold Chisel, the ARIA winning singer songwriter has also released seven studio and two live albums since the band’s initial phase between 1973 and 1984. His latest work, LIVE is a 16-track live performance recorded at The Playhouse and Enmore Theatre in 2018, and is arguably a compilation of his most accomplished solo chapters with classics such as ‘Tucker’s Daughter’, ‘Telephone Booth’, ‘Broadway’ and a selection of his vocal and lyrical contributions to Cold Chisel tracks such as ‘Choir Girl’, ‘My Baby’, ‘Janelle’, ‘Bow River’ and ‘One Long Day’.
LIVE is an album that captures the essence of a stellar performance, transporting fans to the dreamy and enchanted world of the live show…
Known as one of Australia’s best guitarists, Mossy’s vocals on the live album entwine in perfect harmony with his dexterity as an axe man, showcasing his chops as a world-class vocalist. It’s as if his vocal cords have been encased in a time capsule, gaining strength by the decade since Cold Chisel’s debut single in the United States, ‘My Baby’ (with Moss as the lead vocalist). LIVE is an album that captures the essence of a stellar performance, transporting fans to the dreamy and enchanted world of the live show, an ironic treat in 2020. It is also a great introduction to Ian Moss and Cold Chisel for the next generation of music lovers.
One of the most intriguing story tellers in the music industry, the legendary Moss delivered a master class and personal insights to Around The Sound’s Sheldon Ang on things that really matter: music, the LIVE album, the cult-like inspiration behind ‘Tucker’s Daughter’ and the telephone booth found on some highway, followed by the poignant inside scoop on Cold Chisel and the diagnosis that led to their initial fallout. And of course, Barnsey is never far away from Mossy’s intriguing mind.
Did You Know: Tucker’s Daughter was initially meant to be about failed attempts in treaties and world peace, with the punchline, Build it up and tear it down? Read on to find out more.
Sheldon: It is quite surreal that you’ve been a solo artist for the last thirty years…and still with Cold Chisel, so you must be loving this.
Ian: Yes! Exactly, I will never forget I’m one of the lucky ones when people said that you’re fortunate to make a living out of something you love doing…there are people who are earning good living but not necessarily being their passion. I’ve been very fortunate.
Sheldon: You’ve released an album called LIVE – which is quite ironic given that we’re in a pandemic right now…feels that you’re teasing your fans.
Ian: (Chuckles) If I can’t get that out myself, I need to put up some representation out there…and I’m really happy with it…it’s a good representation, I think.
Sheldon: So, this album was recorded at the Playhouse and Enmore Theatre in 2018. Back then, were you planning for its release?
Ian: No, it doesn’t really look like that; you get busy and prepare for a tour and booking a band… working out what your sets gonna be…and what your gear is gonna be. And then, “I should record a couple of nights”, and then leave your management to organise someone to get along with a half a piece of a better gear. And if there’s some recording, it just happened to be in those two nights in a row, we just thought of just record it and see what you can do with it…hopefully it would turn something down the line rather than premediate the night, “right on gonna premeditate it and get a live album…” the prudent thing to do is record something and hopefully you want to release later on.
Sheldon: The reason why I’m asking, was it planned, is because the recording is pretty awesome. Was there any editing evolved?
Ian: I wanted to call it 100% Live. From Ian Moss Live to 100% Live, there was editing but certainly no overdubbing or anything like that – that’s for sure. It is 100% live but it is more about cutting bits out…there could be a bit of a jam or noodling, cut them out; tightening and winding it out. On the night you might get carried away like the crowd singing to the chorus on and on…and on…which works out on the night live…where you might get the crowd to sing along live… but on a live album, it might sound great on the eighth time, but not on the ninth…so let’s cut it down two times from the recording.
Sheldon: I guess what we hear on the album is what we get from Ian Moss?
Ian: Oh yes, absolutely, from that point it is. Were there any touch ups or redubs in the studio? Absolutely not. It is 100% live…recorded on a multitrack and mixed by Ted Howard from Sydney. Seventy percent of the album from Enmore in Newcastle and 30 percent from Playhouse in Canberra
Sheldon: So it’s not like track one to eight, and nine to sixteen from another gig?
Ian: No, is exactly the same from night to night. It’s quite often the case for bands when they tour, they work out the set – whether your tour is for twenty dates or two hundred dates. For tours as short as this – nine days – it makes sense to work out and stick to that from the word go. When I did Ian Moss’ Six String acoustic album, that was five gigs, every Wednesday night and we did the same set. I did the painful process of picking up the best version of each song, and that’s what you’re after really, which is your priority, to get the best version of each song no matter what it came from.
Sheldon: And why have you chosen these two performances to be part of the album release?
Ian: I’m not sure why…the decision to record at all was actually a last minute thing…about getting a set right, getting the gear right…making sure we get the right members, make sure we’re playing really well… it might have been the last minute like, ‘Hey why don’t you record it?’, and I’m like, ‘Shit yeah!’ And me leaving somebody to organise it. In the ideal world I’d’ve recorded the whole tour, and then still pick sixteen tracks, which I did. The actual set has 21. It’s also the case of getting someone who specialises in live recording. It had something to do with the PA company we were hiring, so it also happened that someone who specialised in live recording happened to be there on those nights.
The whole idea of recording the whole lot is to pick the best, which is a real hard work I’ve got to tell you. We did that with Cold Chisel on the Last Wave of Summer tour in 1998 that went for 28 nights, and the task that we had to go through, every song of every night, and after three gigs…shit it was very hard to stay focused. But I’m very happy with what I got.
Sheldon: There are a few Cold Chisel tracks like ‘Janelle’’, My Baby’ – which you wrote – ‘Choir Girl’ – I think you sing the bridge, ‘One Long Day’, ‘Bow River’, and then the solo songs, ‘Tucker’s Daughter’, ‘Telephone Booth’’, Out of Fire’, and more recently ‘Broadway; so do you consider these tracks to be the best of Ian Moss solo, as well as the best of Cold Chisel where you are involved, vocally and lyrically as a writer?
Ian: Yeah sure…there’s always the thinking where you’ll always try to find a balance where what you might consider to be a hit, as well as what you enjoy and songs that may not necessarily be a radio hit but popular song. But you want to meet every song count and when you play live, you want every song where people can sing along to and you want to eliminate more of your obscure tracks…and you want to make the best impression every time you perform, especially now, with so little gigs. I mean that should be the artist attitude anyway, to make this the best night since last night, and the best ever…so there’s some nights where you might slip up where you’re not in the mood. And you’re always aware that one bad gig can take ten gigs to repair the damage – reputationa wise.
Sheldon: And I think ‘My Baby’ was in a top 100 on the US Billboard if I’m not mistaken?
Ian: I don’t know, but I remember we had a deal…Cold Chisel had a record deal in the United States in 1980 right in the middle of the industry recession. Record companies were scrambling and splurging big advances and signing up every Tom, Dick and Harry throughout the 70’s and gambling that all will be hits – but found themselves spending way too much money, without realising all the money and marketing in the world weren’t going to make somebody a hit…so our time wasn’t really crash hot. We did get a deal, but record companies were reluctant to spend and promote bands that were new acts. So they chose ‘My Baby’ as the first single – which was an odd choice because it wasn’t a Barnsey vocal. And I agree with that (being an odd choice). I think Jim probably got his nose out of the joint. And it’s funny, the A&R of the record company…hats off to them for coming out with marketing ideas…and this was before CD’s so we’re talking about singles…they wanted to make the cover look like a nappy! So how successful that was – I do not know.
Sheldon: And ‘Tucker’s Daughter’ – your debut solo single – I believe it is about the farm hand, who was played by you…getting the attention of the farmer’s daughter but your character wasn’t showing much interest – for some reason… (Ian: chuckles)… but then you have the punchline, She wants to build me up, tear me down – which kinda contradicts your feeling of not showing interest.
Ian: Yeah, it is not based on any particular true story. I guess the idea of the song is that Tucker’s daughter likes to play the field a bit, and who has been fairly privileged and sort of have access to sort of workers at her disposal that she could have a fun with and move on to the next. That was the kind of idea of what kind of person Tucker’s daughter was (chuckles).
Sheldon: And I keep seeing Don Walker as the song writer – but I believe you wrote the majority?
Ian: Yes it’s funny – I wrote all of the music…completely written 100% of the music. I was living in L.A. at that time and trying to get lyrics happening. The original punchline was, Build it up and tear it down – where I had some idea of getting away from the boy-girl story, and get something hippie and write something about treaties and world peace – like why we have signed up these treaties and then break the agreements – and that was my angle…so it was actually, Build it up and tear it down, but that’s as far as I got (chuckles).
And this was before email, so we put out demos on cassette. So I rang up Don Walker who was living in Sydney, and I said, ‘Mate, I need some help with the lyrics here.’ He said, ‘If you can get me the music with all the melody and any words you’ve got – even if you make it up on the spot – but give me the melody and phrasing and put it on the cassette, and send it to me.’ But I didn’t have any lyrics. But I did mess the line which inspired Don Walker to come up this story about Tucker and the first line I had was a bit of fun, definitely had a word in that rhymes and with that, that began with ‘mother’, and there’s ‘mother…’, I’m sure you can guess the rest of it. ‘Hang me, mother’… so I got the cassette back to Don eventually; there was a bit of story, and we were running out of time. Not sure why it had been there for a while…we were running short of time, we didn’t want to rely on post, and this guy who was managing me at that time, raced out to LAX and approached the Qantas queue, asking people with this cassette in his hand if they don’t mind hand delivering it back to Sydney. Of course, there were reactions in the queue, (and in a screaming voice of Ian Moss) ‘I’m not taking that…it could be anything in that’. And Frank would completely disappear and leave the building, and come back to another part of the Qantas queue. Eventually he got someone, and it got to Don. And a week later he came back with a fantastic story line of ‘Tucker’s Daughter’. So to your initial question was yeah it was 50/50 right. And it was all my music. But it was 51% because the punchline is really mine.
Sheldon: Oh wow! And where was the video shot at?
Ian: Yeah video, down at Victoria. That was down in Geelong…pretty much between Melbourne and Geelong.
Sheldon: And ‘Telephone Booth’ is about enjoying the fruits of a carefree life?
Ian: Yeah pretty much…it’s about someone who is a little off and confused. And that’s a literally a Don Walker song. And that was written not that long after Cold Chisel first ended, and everyone was completely depressed and pretty down about that, and didn’t know what to do next. And Don Walker went for a big long drive after he bought a car and headed north, because he’s a Queenslander anyway, and got to Eyre where he was born, and went all the way right up to the Northern Territory, down to the west coast, and while he’s driving he was writing about that song. It is about finding your own head space…and finding themselves again…going for a long drive and sorting themselves out.
Sheldon: Hey if you don’t mind going back to history back to four decades – what was it like being in Cold Chisel back then in the 70s and 80s, and how do you compare to it now?
Ian: Yeah it’s all good. Now, I guess, we made it in Australia. We made the big time. And that’s great. And when we performed, there was the guarantee it’d be a big crowd. There’s a lot of fond memories of getting there, if you will. In the beginning when were a cover band, most get it and then we tried to slip some originals and trying to convince people…there was the ‘Oh play something we know,’ and building that up and then we wrote (some originals) and played those songs and watching people really liked them, and watched the crowd just grow and grow and grow as we went around the country. Those were the fun years. But there was always that, I wish I can start again knowing what I know now.
Sheldon: And you were quite upset about Cold Chisel breaking up for the first-time in 1984?
Ian: Oh yes. It was like a second family, like in a relationship and all coming to an end, and we were sad about that. Just couldn’t seem to reconcile. We couldn’t seem to have a conversation about anything with each other and walk away peacefully. It was like a bad relationship; always arguing about anything or everything. It was also scary. Because when most bands split up – that’s it – it is all over. We had no idea the band’s popularity was going up and going through the roof…and didn’t occur to us that, thinking, ‘Shit what the hell I’m going to do? I don’t a have a trade, I don’t have a skill, don’t have a degree.’ It’s terrifying
Sheldon: And I understand that the band broke up – as you said, due to lots of arguments, but despite you guys are a freaking awesome band, you guys were frustrated that Cold Chisel did not make it huge outside of Australia. Is the why Cold Chisel broke up as well?
Ian: (Long pause) I don’t know. Not extensively…geez I don’t know. We might take overseas and still be broken up. Who knows? I don’t think it has much to do with it. Of course, it is all in the past. The band could have and should have and probably, I think every possibly, gone to the United States and stayed there when we did rather than going back home and thinking we’d go back for second chance. And If somebody had said, ‘If you go home and never come back,’ and convinced us, I think everyone would had second thoughts about finishing that tour and (instead of) going home to Australia.
Sheldon: Wow…and is it true that you guys turned down five million dollars to play in every major capital city in Australia or is that an urban legend?
Ian: (Chuckles) A bit of a…a bit of that one.
Sheldon: So, it seems that you and Jimmy are great mates?
Ian: Yeah we’re good…he’s so inspiring, he works so hard writing book and doing his performance every day. He’s amazing, and it was a great vibe to meet up a few weeks ago in Newcastle in a small intuitive affair, and few tickets on line. I love it. I’m sure he’s happy.
You can listen to LIVE here