DIARY - 15 APRIL 2012 - 8 BALL AITKEN INTERVIEW
BALL AITKEN SNOOKERS MUSIC CITY
"In your drunken dusty town, they tried to put it over you/ something
inside you, stopped you from fighting back/ but now that you're a wiser
man, you won't suffer a fool/ you're playing for keeps, you won't cut
them any slack." - Cowboy Movie - 8 Ball Aitken.
It was like
a scene from a Cheech & Chong movie or a detective novel by singing
Texan crime novelist Kinky Friedman.
When world traveller 8 Ball Aitken shot his video for Cowboy Movie
in Nashville he created a mini-movie with a sting in the tail.
The song told a sardonic story about a far North Queenslander trying to
score a record deal for his Blue Heeler bird dog and a cockatoo.
Music City moguls slammed doors in the face of the trio as they tried
to seek an audience - from the major record and publishing companies and
Grand Ole Opry to the Lower Broadway cowboy bars.
But when the canine and cockatoo top the Billboard charts the same surly
gatekeeper is forced to eat humble pie - serving cocktails to 8 Ball and
a blonde beauty in his mansion pool.
The moral of the Biblical parable is one the Atherton Tablelands born
and latter day Tamworth troubadour lives out each day.
Chase your dreams all over the world and treat each swinging door as an
entrée - not an exit.
"I wanted to make a video that was like a mini-movie," 8 Ball
told Nu Country TV.
"I treat every video like that. It's three minutes to do something
and say something different and exciting. So many people go to Nashville
and make it. I thought how about trying to get a dog and a bird a record
deal in Music City - Nashville."
The video, directed by American Mike Sobie, also featured an animal wrangler
who played all the gatekeepers and waiter.
"The Australian cattle dog and cockatoo in the video belong to a
mate of mine in Nashville," 8 Ball explained.
"He's an animal wrangler who lived in Perth and W A when he was here.
He's a Native American named Doc. He really had it in for me in that clip.
He's the next-door neighbour of the mate of mine Mike who made the video.
He's a really good director. Doc barred me from all the music venues and
then has to serve the cocktails. That's after we go #1 in the Billboard
charts. It's quite a humorous clip but some people take it quite seriously."
ARE THE CIRCUS
"I thought it was easy to work with the carnies/ travel with the
gypsies, drink with the old boys/ it seemed so simple to walk on the tight
rope/ to fight with the boxers/ to play with the dealers." - We
Are The Circus - 8 Ball Aitken.
song, featured on 8 Ball's album Rebel With A Cause and recent
10 song DVD, is sibling of sorts to another satirical song We Are
The Circus also inspired by Nashville.
"Some folks, including my manager, said the Nashville scene is
like a circus," 8 Ball said.
"But we are the circus - the carnie workers - the musicians."
Aitken included the song on his fourth album The Tamworth Tapes after
he moved to our local country music HQ.
Aitken is now promoting his 15-song 5th album Alive In Tamworth
on a national tour before he returns to the U.S. and Europe next year.
8 Ball, second
eldest of 12 children raised near Mareeba, creates a distinct local flavour
to his highly videogenic songs set in his home state and way beyond.
His devastatingly accurate portrayal of steamy life in the swamps, cane
fields and rain forests of our far north is akin to Louisiana legend Tony
Joe White's tales about the Deep South.
But instead of White's gators dining out on Yankee grannies Aitken's crockabilly
music features crocodiles lurking for their supper - southern tourists.
Aitken hasn't seen the ABC series The Straits that dramatises life
in the Torres Strait and beyond so he can't compare characters that inspired
the TV show.
"I've never been to the Torres Strait," confessed the singer
who spends most of the year on the road in his homeland, Europe, Japan,
Fiji, Canada and the U.S.
But his songs, written long before The Straits incubation, reflect
life's characters up and down the coast and inland.
"The town I come from is called Mareeba," Aitken, now 30 says.
"There are massive wetlands right near it. It means meeting place
of the waters in local Aboriginal language. Five kilometres north of Mareeba
there's a lot of swamp land where native wildlife comes to breed and is
the source of my crockabilly music. I love mixing country with rock and
blues. It's exciting and fun."
road up here is rough and bumpy/ driving up to the cyclone country/ hanging
out where the wild wind blows/ I wonder if I'll ever see the sun no more."
- Cyclone Country - 8 Ball Aitken.
rooted in reality.
"I worked through a cyclone and wrote Cyclone Country after
that," 8 Ball revealed.
"I'll never forget it - the wildest weather I've ever seen. I was
walking in one direction and end up going in another because the rain
was coming down so fast it hurt. The trees were blown around. I was 17
working on banana plantations. I worked on 50 different farms picking
all kinds of stuff but mainly bananas and mangos. I used to get a paycheck
on Friday afternoon and go straight to the pub and party all weekend.
There's no money left when you go back to work on Monday. That's normal
life for a banana picker up there. I did it for four years."
But Aitken was rescued by a Koori elder from Townsville who advised him
to quit the booze and fags and follow his musical dream.
"He said to me '8 Ball I'll be really disappointed if I come back
next year and you are still drinking and smoking and wasting your talent,'"
"He said 'make sure you make something of your talent.' I headed
down to Melbourne and worked my way back up, hitch hiked for about six
months and ended up in Brisbane."
The rest is history - 8-Ball has travelled the world for a decade promoting
his distinctly Australian music on five albums and a DVD collection.
"I don't know but I've been told/ down by the banks there is buried
gold/ many people go down to try their luck/ but not as many ever come
back." - Black Swamp Creek - 8 Ball Aitken.
Black Swamp Creek - a story dating back to bush rangers during the
Gympie gold rush.
"It was told to me by a guy called Tony - an old Italian cane cutter
who cut cane by hand around Maryborough," Aitken recalled.
"I had just done a gig at a festival near there and was driving through.
I stopped to have a cup of tea and he told me the stories. I did some
more research and wrote the song. It's about a real life swamp in Queensland
where gold was stolen by bushrangers in the Gympie gold rush. The song
is also a metaphor for the greater world, but I am still inspired by the
wild conditions of the far north of Australia, and my days growing up
there in the bush."
Aitken song Rocky Road evokes steamy cane fields and vivid colours
of the north, as well as the quandary facing youngsters in regional Australia
- whether to stay or leave implications of that choice.
Riverside is based on true incident that's universal - in regional
Australia someone always gets left behind.
Outback Booty Call is another look at ways of north Queensland
with an international perspective.
It uses an American phrase to explore the nature of courting in the north.
came home for a midnight snack/ I heard him coming and I snuck out the
back/ he jumped the fence and I jumped it too/ he's a rogue pony."
- Rogue Pony - 8 Ball Aitken.
Rogue Pony about a pony he met out west of Brisbane at Blacksoil.
"It's also a metaphor for a couple of my mates who were out of control
on the weekends," 8 Ball added.
He also included Chocolate, Jack Daniels & LSD - a Haight Ashbury
spoof inspired by his partner Bird Jensen.
And Nobody Looks Ugly After Midnight is a nocturnal bar anthem
with similar sentiments to the Bobby Bare hit I've Never Been To Bed
With An Ugly Woman But Sure Woke Up With A Few.
Royal C Barron - now 66 and former duet partner-husband of Nashville star
Louise Mandrell from 1979-91 - wrote the latter song.
The singing DJ - born Daniel Shipley in Dallas - recorded a solo album
under the name of R.C. Bannon and four duet discs with Mandrell.
BALL BEHIND THE WHEEL
may be people on your journey who don't believe in you/ even some who
try and stop everything you do/ you don't have to pay them attention,
you don't have to wish them ill-will/ with your heart in heaven and your
hands on top of the wheel." - Hands On Top Of The Wheel - 8 Ball
has strong feelings for all his extended family - especially late
stepfather Cue Ball.
"Hands On Top Of The Wheel was written for my stepfather
- a truck driver with a bald head. He passed on a year and half ago,
we called him Cue Ball because he had a great baldhead. He loved country
music and was always a real positive kind of guy. Nothing ever got
him down. He was always driving through the outback in times of drought
It's a song about getting on with the job - keeping your heart in
the right place."
Aitken also has vivid memories of his adolesence and teen years.
"In this generation I'm the oldest son," Aitken revealed.
one older sister. All of the family play an instrument. I used to live
in a tobacco shed and used to jam there on weekends and night-time. Music
was what I really wanted to do. Mareeba lost its tobacco contract and
there was a lot of old sheds with nothing in them so we lived in them.
The cool part was you could make as much noise any time you like and noone
could hear to complain. We had all kinds of different instruments."
GUITARS - THE SOUL MAN
found an old guitar at the dump/ he strung it up with fishing line/ took
it out in the back shed/ he started drinking that old moonshine."
- Good Time Music - 8 Ball Aitken.
Music had it roots at Yackandandah in the Victorian high country.
"I've always had home made guitars," 8 Ball recalled.
"I had an old Japanese Strat I cut my teeth on but it got wrecked
in the floods. I found an almost identical one in Nashville 10 years later.
I got it second hand for a couple of hundred bucks. I've got a bunch of
home made guitars - one made out of an Arnotts biscuit tin.
Another made out of a number plate from Alabama with arse kicking southern
rock on the front of it. A mate of mine put them together in Victoria.
I often play a gig in Yackandandah. Shane Soell - soul man - puts them
together. I go out and hang out in his man cave after the gig. He's made
some real cool things - he makes money selling them.
I'm his guinea pig. He tries out some weird ideas on me."
The song is on the live album so 8 Ball uses a novel introduction.
"I have a guitar made out of armour that Ned Kelly wore on his head,"
the singer tells his audience.
"This bloke said 'when I die you can have it' - so I shot him."
a guitar man, travelling on the road/ in a guitar band, a long way from
home/ I'm a guitar man, travelling on the road/ in a guitar band and we've
got a long way to go." - Guitar Man - 8 Ball Aitken
treats the death of another mate far more seriously - he shaved his
beard of nine years to raise funds for the musician's family.
"I have raised $4,000 so far," Aitken said.
"A mate of mine I used to tour with died young - he left behind
a couple of teenage daughters. He was a musician, a guy I toured with
in Germany. Rainer Opiela was from a band called Seven Boots. After
being diagnosed with leukemia he was dead in a couple of weeks. He
was in his forties. I did my first shave for 9 years."
Aitken is touring nationally before heading back to the U.S next year.
"I'm going to U.S. for two and half months next year," Aitken
got my new visa - I'm fully booked here until December. I keep touring
as I put out an album every year. I make a living on the road. I work
solo and also often use a band at weekends. I did 56,000 kilometres last
year. That's not much for a Queenslander. I put the work ethic as a farmer
to music. It's not a big deal. I drive to most gigs but fly to Darwin
and might fly to Cairns. I drive a car because it's cheaper on fuel. I
just have old cars - two of them. The silliest thing I have seen with
musicians is a van with their name in it - saying 'steal me.' It costs
so much money to run. When you do a lot of miles you've got to be sure
your guitar is there when you get there"
THE ROAD AGAIN
wondered what happened to you, I'll probably never know/ it was just one
of those things, doesn't matter anymore/ I was hellbent on getting away,
but you were staying on the land/ and you're probably still there, with
the dirt and dust and the sand." - Riverside - 8 Ball Aitken
8 Ball returns to Europe he has a good exposure through the BBC.
"Billy Butler is a Mersey Beat DJ," 8 Ball said.
"The only one other Australian he interviewed was Slim Dusty."
And in Nashville the singer has another influential Billy he can call
"Last time I did a lot of interviews for college and Americana stations,"
"DJ Billy Block is a good mate of mine - told me he wants to play
drums in my touring band."
It's a far cry from when the Aitken family arrival from Scotland.
"My family came out from Scotland in the 1800s," 8 Ball revealed.
"They landed in Bowen and went to Townsville. They were among first
white settlers. They built the roads and they drank. Aitkenvale - a suburb
of Townsville - was named after our family. It was originally a cattle
station. Aitken Bridge, Aitken Street and Aitken everything up there is
named after the family."
8 Ball Aitken Discography - Phoenix Movement Records distributed by
BEHIND THE 8 BALL 2004
ODD BALL IN - 2006
REBEL WITH A CAUSE - 2008
TAMWORTH TAPES - Enrec Studio - 2011
ALIVE IN TAMWORTH - 2012
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