Mick Thomas

REAL DEAL

Generations of Aussies have grown up with the blue-collar folk rock of Mick Thomas and Weddings, Parties, Anything.  For a lot of us or a certain vintage, the songs from The Big Don’t Argue still provide a soundtrack to our lives, ramshackle growings up and reluctant journeys into adulthood.  We still go to the gigs and, when Thomas announced the end of The Weddoes in 2012, it was like we’d had a part of us lopped off.  Thomas and his music have been part of the Aussie furniture for as long as many of us can recall.  His stories and music defined a generation.

So, know this, when you go to see Mick Thomas play his songs live, you know you’ll get all of him, every time.  He’s the real deal.

Thankfully, Thomas kept on writing and playing music post the 2012 demise of Weddings, Parties, Anything and, with new album, Coldwater DFU, and his band The Roving Commission, he’s returning to WA, playing, among other venues, Fairbridge Festival.

Western Australia seems to have been a happy hunting ground for Thomas throughout his career, an observation he was happy to confirm and embellish.

“We have enough success there to warrant us hopping on the plane and getting over there on a regular basis.  It’s been really good to us over the years, which is probably down to the fact that we were the right band at the right time, over the late 80s and early 90s, when we started breaking nationally quite big, Western Australia just seemed to really embrace the sort of band we were.  We had major commercial success in Western Australia that we didn’t have in a lot of other states.  So, it became our second home and we’ve fostered that over the years.”

Part of Thomas’ appeal in the west is probably related to his ability to tell stories through songs, the sorts of stories that have a beginning, middle and end and evoke images of the sorts of people and landscapes that are an important part of our sense of self over on the far side of the continent.

“It’s (being recognised as a story teller) something that I’m totally comfortable with.  It is a term that people toss around a lot, ‘story teller.’  I kind of think that I deserve it more than some other people.  People just say it a real lot and sometimes when I hear it said about other people, I think, there’s no sense of chronology or story unwinding.  I think it’s a funny term that people use. It’s a term that people apply to me a lot, but I think I’ve earned it with a number of songs over the years

“The album we’ve just got out now (Coldwater DFU), I’ve so staunchly stuck to some of those things, it feels almost weird that I haven’t moved on to some other form of doing it.  But, to me, it’s just what you do.  I don’t know why I feel like I should be experimenting with something else, or doing something different, but this album just feels like a return to some of those very similar themes.  I feel like we were reaffirming something that we’ve stuck to.”

Asked whether sticking to what he knows and does best reflects a type of authenticity that threads through his song writing career. Thomas replied, “Authenticity in itself seems like a funny thing to strive for, but if you think those principles and what you’re saying are really strong and worthwhile, I guess authenticity is something that is created.  But, that’s not really for me to judge.  All I can say is I’ve stuck pretty strongly to that ideal of singing in a certain accent.  That’s something that’s really occurred to us this time around in Memphis.  The first time we were there, we made the most broad sounding Australian record we could make and it’s funny that, 30 years later, we seem to have done the same thing.”

The Big Don’t Argue was recorded in Memphis in 1988 and Thomas’ current album, Coldwater DFU was recorded in Memphis last year.

“Memphis has a cultural dialect of its own, which is something you can fit over a lot of different things.  Which is why we all go there to work.  Memphis is smaller than Perth, yet it’s got this amazing amount of studios and people you can work with and people come from all over the world to work there.  No one there has ever been slightly suggestive that we would ever water down culturally what we do.  It was a real affirmation to get back there and find out that Memphis was really pumping because that cultural distinction is still there.

“It’s not like we didn’t try anything new.  There’s horns on the new record, which is something new for us.  They’re really proud that Memphis is this place where people can find really strong expression of their individuality.”

Thomas’ belief in the new record is strong, and he noted that the band is currently “playing half a dozen songs a night from the new album, that we’re so proud of.  And they hold their own for exactly the same reason that songs from The Big Don’t Argue do from 30 years ago, because they’re direct and they have a sort of cultural currency to them.  That’s a great position to find yourself in and you have to not take that for granted.

“We’re pretty bolshie about that stuff, wanting to be who we are and what we are.”

Thomas is an artist very much in touch with the trajectory of his career.  Throughout our conversation he referred to the various stages and degrees of success he’d experienced.  But not with regret or longing for past glories.  Thomas is an artist who has a strong recognition of his place in the Aussie music landscape and is comfortable with where he’s at.  If he were capable of blowing his own trumpet, he’d tell you with, with the current album, he’s writing and playing as well as he ever has and that experiences makes him infinitely better now as a performer than at any other stage in his career.  That he won’t say this doesn’t make it any less true, it’s just that Tomas nuances it a bit differently.

“The greatest privilege of my career is that I’ve been able to see myself as a national act in Australia, and I’ve just clung to that with a fierceness.”

He’s also at peace with his lot as an artist, saying, “There’s only one thing worse than having some songs you have to play every night of your life, and that’s not having some songs you have to play every night of your life.”

So, know this, when you go to see Mick Thomas play his songs live, you know you’ll get all of him, every time.  He’s the real deal.

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