An Interview I've done for Deakin University
(11th April 2002)

« z » DEAKIN UNIVERSITY School of Contemporary Arts ACC 202 Industry, Culture and the Professions

Your the best prelude to a crescendo of the funniest home videos - drumroll ... crash bang . Hope you can help me out. Cheers Gregor.

DEAKIN UNIVERSITY School of Contemporary Arts ACC 202 Industry, Culture and the Professions

Unit Overview

The focus of this unit is the corporate, collective and social aspects of the arts industry and its institutions.

Assignment 1: Case study

According to a citation in Colin Mercer's 'What is culture (and why ask?)' (p.3), on the one hand culture means intellectual and artistic activity, and more broadly, on the other, it refers to a whole way of life, in its material and spiritual dimensions. This broader definition of culture embraces a diversity of activities ranging from sporting events, museums, gardens and heritage parks, to commercial entertainment such as cinema, radio and television, through to arts and crafts, folk music, festivals and the so-called high arts. Specifically, different people and different groups see the arts as constituting a range of creative activities that are defined by each person or group in particular contexts.

Your task in the first assignment is to come to an understanding of this diversity from the perspective of your own artistic interest and expertise.

I have kept tabs on what is happening in your neck of the woods and like what you're doing. I need to pick your brain·

This assignment is due on Monday the 15th April (a reply on the questionnaire before the weekend would be handy).




(1) How did you start off in your artistic practice?

Drumming wise: I started drumming after three horrible years with violin lessons .... mum took me to a Garry Glitter concert when I was 12 (of all things!!??), I saw the two drummers and that was it, I found my new instrument. That was thirty years ago.

Melbourne Muso TV show wise: Channel 31 had just started and I saw a need to focus on diferent music and music tips to young musicians who were getting a rough go at the time (1995); a lot of schools were being closed down by the Liberal government.

I often call the show a "Burke's Backyard" for musicians. After delivering a pilot episode, I recieved the go-ahead to make six shows and "see how it goes"; That was 169 episodes ago. The first 100 episodes were tips, interviews, and gig footage, show 101 onwards has been a dedicated drumtip show.

(2) What aspects of the culture you live in most influence your work?

Melbournes Musos is now a dedicated drum tip show meaning drum lessons on TV and being a teacher; yet by needing to keep the ideas fresh and the show going, I need to be constantly researching, practicing and scripting shows, so that also makes me a student of the craft. I think that any artist is constantly striving for improvement in their work.

So musical research, literature and perceiving certain needs in the community influence my work.

(3) What style/genre best describes your work, would you consider your art high or low art? Why?

My work is probably best described as Improvised Music and as a teacher, a description of that Music. In that context, I would hope that people see it as high art as it is a "prepared improvised performance" meaning both the drumset music and the "live to camera" description of what I play.

One could then assume that the music I play on Melbourne Musos is a cross between Jazz, 20th/21st Century Music, with influences as far ranging from world music to heavy rock.

(4) How do you work best, alone or in collaboration with others?

Although I have enjoyed many collaborations over the years, I work best alone.

(5) Of all the productions you have been involved in what was your favourite? Was the idea for the production inspired by an incentive for a grant or was it something you had sitting in the bottom of your draw?

My favorite "production" was the creation of the first Drumset Examination Syllabus in Australasia on behalf of the Australian and New Zealand and Cultural Arts (ANZCA), it is the first of its kind, and I am immensely proud of it.

This work was done on pretty much a voluntary basis as is most of my work. This syllabus came into existence because at the time almost every musical instrument was recognised with examinations either by the AMEB or ANZCA but NO DRUMS ... I came to see this as insulting to drummers everywhere. So I took a stand. ANZCA asked me to come up with something, so I did; it took me six months of research and writing and, as a gift, I received a thank you cheque for $200.

Everything I have ever done that anyone has remembered has pretty much come into existence by pure bloody mindedness and my own funds. I have been refused two grants and have no plans to apply for any in the near future.

I have International endorsements with four major drum corporations, which came about simply because I had a TV show in which I had a specific and dedicated audience; these corporations have never given financial assistance to Melbourne Musos, only various "deals" with equipment.

(6) Do you feel your discipline is proportionally well supported by the government or other funding bodies compared to other art disciplines?

For drummers, we are still generally recognised as people hanging around with musicians; we are also the butt of the stereotypical jokes that most government departments and art disciplines would see as a type of villification. That being said in describing the drummer's general working environment, the support from educational bodies, drum company endorsements etc. is improving slowly and I think it compares fairly well to other art disciplines.

(7) If you have managed to scam some money from a funding body, what approach did you take?

I don't know if I like the word "scam"; it implies that the reason for the grant is a fraud; which means one is trashing their own project.

That being said, my endorsements came from the fact that I had "prospects" ... meaning, a TV show, a Publishing contract with ANZCA, a Band that played difficult music (Zappa); the actual people who gave me the endorsements, I have known for a long time in the music industry and they knew that I wasn't a "fly-by-night" prospect just looking to get "free gear". They also knew I was a dedicated drummer/teacher who had been playing and practicing a long time.

I approached these people with a long range plan and vision of what was going to happen; this was in 1996 after Melbourne Musos had been on air for 8 months and the ANZCA drumset syllabus and first book was released; The Zappa Instrumentaale had also been gigging for a while and was drawing good crowds.

(8) If not successful, was the process a standard letter - a dead end brick wall or handy hints for next time? Did this inspire you to go out and fund the production yourself?

All of the above, however, through experience, I knew when I had something that THEY wanted. These people are often seen as "the enemy" by the stereotypical starving artist ... the haves vs. the have-not syndrome; in actual fact these people are usually ok people but have to be fairly ruthless in what is accepted as a ruthless industry; these music companies receive literally hundreds of demos, applications and letters from musicians everywhere.

In giving advice in how to make an approach for grants, sponsorship or endorsements, you have to introduce yourself to these people, you have to be excellent at what you do, you have to have a plan and a project that is feasible and sustaining. Everything I have just written means work and lots of it. The first question you will be asked by a drum company is "Do you already play our gear?" Companies demand some kind of loyalty, past and present.

I fund my projects myself because I am cursed by the fact that I like to play weird music. I have a definite idea and philosophy of what I want to do and I have built the facilities and circumstances in which to do it in.

(9) How influential are the people who put up the money on the final production?

By financing my own productions, I keep total control of the content of Melbourne Musos. I have intellectual copyright of that format. Channel 31 have control of the airtime and frequency of the show, they only ask to keep my show within 26 minutes, which is sometimes hard when I'm taping live to camera.

Channel 31 is a community station, and as such, my show is seen as a community educational program, seen by many people who cannot afford music lessons or were either a) unable to enter a tertiary music course, this being one of the main reasons the show exists; defusing the elitism rampant in a tertiary system with so few vacancies in a ruthless era of economic rationalism (oops, I got serious mum ...) or b) as an addendum to the course the student is taking.

It is within that forum that the actual drumset music I play is seen, listened to and generally accepted by viewers; if the format was anything else I doubt the show would have been on air as long as it has.

(10) What are your future plans?

More Melbourne Musos, proof-reading my next book release and upgrading some equipment for producing new CDs which I have started making available through my website. Oh, and keeping the fun in it. :P I've never done a segment for "Funniest Home Videos", but would like to .... some of the old Zappa Instrumentaale footage would make it I'm sure!

hope this helps all the best

chris .

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