BMA Magazine Date Published: Monday, 17 November 14   |   Author: Justin Hook

Man's Best Friend

Behind all the quirky song titles, hammy stage antics, fake names and mugging for the camera, Mental as Anything were a top shelf pop band. They sailed through the daggy ‘80s unscathed, on a string of songs that refuse to show their age. Right in the middle of all the chaos that was the Mentals were the O’Doherty brothers, Chris and Pete. The former, also known as Reg Mombasa, gave the world Mambo. The latter gave us Berserk Warriors. On that alone both should be expecting Sainthood anytime soon.

But after a couple of decades in the Mentals, the pair needed an outlet where their imagination could run wilder. They found it in DOG TRUMPET, a side project that is now their main band. Their most recent album, Medicated Spirits, was one of the best of 2013. 

The album, a double, is unanchored by any specific genre but instead of being chaotic it sounds like a couple of veteran songwriters writing to their strengths. Which just happens to be reality, as Pete explains. “I really wanted to make a solid double album in the vein of Exile On Main Street or Sticky Fingers where every song is a real corker. Well, it’s our attempt anyway.”

As always, there’s a sense of effortlessness. The O’Doherty brothers have an uncanny knack for making hook-laden songs sound easy, but the reality is – it’s not. “We work pretty hard at it,” says Pete. “You never stop having the challenge of trying to write a good song. If it was as easy as it seems, you’d pump them out one after another. They come in bursts. You just got keep at it.”  

And like most musician brothers, there’s an unspoken rapport between them, something that is strengthened by Dog Trumpet being pretty much a project run out of Pete’s front room. “We record it all it home so it’s more tightly controlled with the two of us,” Pete says. “My brother is totally untechnical and doesn’t have a clue what’s going on so I can pull the wool over his eyes. You know, push him around a bit and record how I want it.”

For all the fun he had with the Mentals (“It was a great amazing time but it spins along quite quickly and you don’t realise what’s happening when you’re in it”) Pete is far more relaxed with the new set up that allows them to take their time. “We have total freedom to make it exactly the music we want to make, he says. “We don’t need to ask permission form anyone so there’s no compromise.”

“You’re doing for exactly the same reason as you do it when you’re 15 years old, for the sheer joy of it and because you want to do it,” says Pete. “Not because of any kind of industry or market force or any of that bullshit.” The results speak for themselves.

Catch Dog Trumpet with special guest Bernie Hayes at the RUC Turner (Turner Bowls Club) on November 21. Tickets $15-$25 via

BMA Magazine

Every now and then a song will stop you dead in your tracks; Shiny Armour, squirrelled away towards the end of Dog Trumpet’s sixth release, is one of those songs. A simple chord progression backed with weeping slide guitar gives way to a slow waltz. It’s the story of a man returning from distant battles only to find his girl couldn’t wait, and went off with someone else. There’s nothing too tricky going on, it’s just a brilliantly composed pop song with delicate, yearning melodies of loneliness that slip away far too soon.

Dog Trumpet started as a low-key side project for brothers Reg Mombassa (Chris O’Doherty) and Pete O’Doherty in 1990 when their main band – Mental as Anything – went on a short hiatus. A decade later, they’d both left the Mentals and the side project was now the main band. Both have enormously successful artist day jobs, so Dog Trumpet albums arrive unhurried and unburdened by any need to prove anything. As such, Medicated Spirits sounds like it could have been released any time over the last 30 years, and even though it skips all over the genre map, it is a rarity – a complete sounding double album with no filler.

Part of it is simple mechanics; the album is bookended by a pair of lush instrumentals. It starts

joyously with Elizabethan which sounds like Richard Thompson slowing down just a tiny bit and forgoing the complicated chords. Over an hour later it closes with Aqualine, a tumbling slide guitarinfusedprog-pop nugget. Though not exactly an exclamation mark, there’s an air of satisfied conclusion about it, knowing full well the circle has been completed.

Of course, if you choose to pick and choose album tracks, you might notice Medicated Spirits resembles a cult radio station playing vaguely familiar but totally unknown gems. There’s languid scuzzed-up summer pop (Speed of Light), light and fresh bucolic psych (Moon and Star), off-kilter folk (Tell Me), and light country (Telegraph Pole, With Good Reason). Oddly, the only song that really sounds explicitly like their previous band – the chugging Camel Rock – was written and sung by Bernie Hayes. The common denominator throughout it all, regardless of overt musical styling, is that every track brims with classic power pop melodies and offbeat tweaks. Then there’s Reg Mombassa’s elegiac slide playing, which can rattle between the heartbreaking – as above, Shiny Armour – and driving blues (Penal Colony). Without a doubt, one of the most underrated guitarists in the country.

Lyrically, the O’Doherty brothers aren’t exactly strangers to quirk. But don’t make the mistake that many have before of assuming that clever puns and cunning rhymes aren’t masking anything deeper, that it’s just funny imagery. Even an overtly politically themed songs like With Good Reason, full of modern anxieties (war, climate change, imperialism) can sound like a breezy Saturday afternoon amble.

Medicated Spirits is eclectic, but often that word is proxy for occasional good ideas buried amongst barely refined demos and a scattershot approach to songwriting that is jarring. But this

sort of eclecticism is a pair of seasoned songwriters fashioning a bunch of songs cut from the same cloth, that still manage to sound completely different. It’s also an album of confident relaxation, stretching out with friends (Amanda Brown, Iain Shedden, Bernie Hayes) and family (Declan O’Doherty) but not wasting anyone’s time. Amazingly, in 2013 Dog Trumpet has released an industry-defying double album of fully realised and outrageously catchy songs, that stakes a

serious claim for the year’s best. It couldn’t happen to a nicer bunch of musicians.


Dog Trumpet heading to SXSW

We're excited to announce that Dog Trumpet have been invited to play SXSW in Austin in March. We'll then head to Canada to promote the album. Combine this with our nomination for The Amp 'Album of the Year' and 2014 is shaping up to be a great year. Thanks for your continued support - Reg & Pete

Medicated Spirits nominated for AMP Australian Album of the Year !

Narooma News
Dog Trumpet returning to Narooma Bermagui
DOG TRUMPET: Reg Mombassa and Peter O’Doherty and their band Dog Trumpet are returning to the road to play songs from their highly acclaimed double album Medicated Spirits.

REG Mombassa and Peter O’Doherty and their band Dog Trumpet are
returning to the road to play songs from their highly acclaimed double
album Medicated Spirits.

The boys will play a gig at both the Quarterdeck restaurant in Narooma
and at the Murrah Hall south of Bermagui.

These will be special events with the band returning from tours in New Zealand and USA.

They’re off again to do some more music festivals and touring in the USA so catch them whilst you can.

Hear tracks from the new album and favourites from the Dog Trumpet song book.

They are both former members of iconic Aria award winning and Hall of Fame band Mental As Anything.

Their contributions to the Mentals include songs such as Berserk Warriors, Egypt, Brain Brain, Apocalypso, Surf and Mull and Sex and Fun, Close Again and Psychedelic Peace Lamp.!

Medicated Spirits features the songs ‘What Falls Away’, 'Speed of Light', ‘With Good Reason' and 'Made in the World', the album is full of wit, surprise and warmth, continuing their sonic alchemy of psychedelic folk, country and abstract blues driven by Reg's distinctive slide guitar and Peter's melodic acoustic guitar and mandolin.!

They have graced stages in Australia and internationally entertaining audiences with their imaginative and poetic songs.

In 2014 Dog Trumpet will touring internationally including SXSW in Austin Texas, Canada and New Zealand.

Catch them on the “Medicated Spirits” Tour 2014 – find out more at

Local gigs:

Nov 22 - Murrah Hall - Bermagui - tickets at door

Nov 23 - Quarterdeck - Narooma - phone for bookings; 4476 2723

Peter O’Doherty Paints Melbourne For The Street Exhibition by PAUL CASHMERE on AUGUST 3, 2014

Dog Trumpet at SXSW
Underground Bee
A blog by Robert Loerzel
The Australian rock band Dog Trumpet has been together since 1990, and its two key members — brothers Peter O’Doherty and Reg Mombassa (aka Chris O’Doherty) — have been playing even longer than that. They were members of another Australian band, Mental as Anything, which formed in Sydney in 1976. And yet, somehow Dog Trumpet had escaped my attention until now. And the band had never played in the U.S. until a visit to Austin, Texas, last week for South By Southwest.

I saw Dog Trumpet play a gig at B.D. Riley’s on the third day of SXSW, and the group’s songs immediately hooked me. Something about the way the brothers sing reminds me of the Faces, especially Ronnie Lane’s songs. They also came across as talented musicians who know how to play guitar solos in the classic rock style. And if I had any doubt, how could I not like a band with a song about the Kinks?

I liked Dog Trumpet enough that I decided to buy a copy of the band’s double CD from 2013, Medicated Spirits, and sure enough, it sounds terrific. Now, I’ll have to dig deeper into the Dog Trumpet discography. And hope that these guys decide to visit our shores again sometime soon.


Dog Trumpet Confirmed For SXSW


Dog Trumpet are heading to SXSW and they could very well be the Aussie act to watch out for.

Dog Trumpet, featuring Reg Mombassa and Peter O’Doherty, are one of Australia’s most unique bands.

Internationally, Pete and Reg were known in their previous life in Mental As Anything. In 1985 their song ‘Live It Up’ reached number 3 in the UK. ‘You’re So Strong’ peaked at no. 21 on the US dance chart in 1985 and ‘Too Many Times’ was also a top 40 hit for the Mentals in Canada in 1981.

Mental As Anything also contributed to the soundtrack of the iconic Australian movie ‘Crocodile Dundee’. The movie featured ‘Live It Up’ and the made for the movie track ‘Sloppy Crocodile’.

Pete and Reg created Dog Trumpet originally as a side-project to Mental As Anything and it became the full-time gig after the brothers left Mental As Anything in 2000.

Both Peter and Reg are two of Australia’s contemporary artists. Reg’s work can be viewed at the National Gallery of Australia and the Art Gallery of New South Wales. Elton John is a purchaser of his paintings. Peter and his wife Susan are prolific artists. He has had many entries in the Archibald Prize.

Dog Trumpet have released six albums. The most recent album ‘Medicated Spirits’ was released in August, 2013.

Dog Trumpet’s addition to SXSW brings the tally of Australian artists who have accepted their invitations to the Austin music conference to 42.

SXSW Music will be held in Austin, Texas from March 10-16, 2014.

Dog Trumpet

Before leaving for their performances at SXSW in Austin Texas, Reg Mombassa and his brother Peter O’Doherty’s band Dog Trumpet, will be playing shows in February and March 2014 to celebrate the AMP nomination for album of the year for Medicated Spirits. 


They are both former members of iconic Aria award winning and Hall of Fame band Mental As Anything. Their contributions to the Mentals include songs such as Berserk Warriors, Egypt, Brain Brain, Apocalypso, Surf and Mull and Sex and Fun, Close Again and Psychedelic Peace Lamp.! 


Medicated Spirits features the songs 'Speed of Light', 'Made in the World' and ' Ray Davies and the Kinks', the album is full of wit, surprise and warmth, continuing their sonic alchemy of psychedelic folk, country and abstract blues driven by Reg's distinctive slide guitar and Peter's melodic acoustic guitar and mandolin.! 


They have graced stages in Australia and internationally entertaining audiences with their

imaginative and poetic songs. In 2014 Dog Trumpet will touring internationally including SXSW in Austin Texas, Canada and New Zealand.! 

Catch them on the “Medicated Spirits” Tour 2014.


FEB 21 - TURNER BOWLING CLUB - Turner  A.C.T.  Tickets; Try Booking

FEB 22 - COBARGO FOLK FESTIVAL - Cobargo N.S.W. Tickets; Carbargo Folk Festival

FEB 23 - QUARTERDECK - Narooma N.S.W. Phone for Bookings; 02-4476-2723

MAR 7  - PORT FAIRY FOLK FESTIVAL - Port Fairy VIC  Tickets; Port Fairy

MAR 8  - PORT FAIRY FOLK FESTIVAL - Port Fairy VIC  Tickets; Port Fairy

MAR 10 - SXSW Austin Texas USA  - Tickets; SXSW Tickets

MAR 11 - SXSW Austin Texas USA  - Tickets; SXSW Tickets 

MAR 12 - SXSW Austin Texas USA  - Tickets; SXSW Tickets

MAR 13 - SXSW Austin Texas USA  - Tickets; SXSW Tickets

MAR 14 - SXSW Austin Texas USA  - Tickets; SXSW Tickets

MAR 15 - SXSW Austin Texas USA  - Tickets; SXSW Tickets

MAR 16 - SXSW Austin Texas USA  - Tickets; SXSW Tickets


Release Final Longlist Additional Artists



AMP, The $30,000 Australian Music Prize,  The Coopers Amp has finalised its long-list today with ten albums deemed good enough to be in the running.

Gossling,Pete & Reg’s Dog Trumpet, Sara Storer and World’s End Press are four of the acts added to the list.

The Australian Music Prize ‘Shortlist’ will be announced at a free event on January 26 at Melbourne’s Sidney Myer Music Bowl.

Hermitude will headline the free event and the final shortlist of nine albums will be revealed..

The winner of the 9th annual Australian Music Prize will be announced in March, 2014.

The Australian Music Prize Longlist Additions

‘You Go Your Way, I’ll Go Mine’ by Ainslie Wills
‘Medicated Spirits’ by Dog Trumpet
‘Harvest Of Gold’ by Gossling
‘Open Season’ by High Highs
‘The Cloud Appreciation Society’ by Melanie Horsnell
‘The Loving Gaze’ by Montero
‘Lovegrass’ by Sara Storer
‘Malabar’ by Songs
‘Rookie’ by The Trouble With Templeton
‘World’s End Press’ by World’s End Press

Watch the Noise11 interview with Dog Trumpet

Sydney NYE Creative Ambassador – Reg Mombassa

Hello Sydney.

It was a great honour to be named as the Creative Ambassador for 2013 Sydney New Years Eve, where the theme for this year’s celebration is Shine.

I was immediately impressed by the beauty of the harbour and its environs when I sailed through the heads on a sunny morning in 1969 and Sydney has been my home since that time. The eye struck me as a suitable logo for the Shine theme as the individual soul and personality of the human shines through the eye like some organic laser beam. It also relates to the harbour
setting as the eye is a watery harbour nestled in the superstructure of the face, a blue or brown eye pond surrounded by ridgelines, gullies and promontories of flesh and bone. The eye image is continued through the banners and backdrops for the various parties along with a forest of gum trunks, native animals and depictions of iconic Sydney buildings. The Sydney NYE party is an opportunity for people from all walks of life to enjoy the company of their fellow citizens as they celebrate the coming year in the heart of their beautiful city, a city that

is dressed up to the nines and miraculously free of vehicles for the duration of the occasion.

I will be working with some of Australia’s finest creative talents over the coming months to bring to life and decorate a unique and joyous evening at the close of the year. I invite everyone to join the celebrations and observe our city shining as never before.

Reg Mombassa




DOG Trumpet, the collaboration between musician/artistbrothers Reg Mombassa and Peter O’Doherty, is back with a new

double album, Medicated Spirits, and Mombassa reckons it’s the best record they have ever made. But he doesn’t want you to take his word for it. “There’s a lot of nonsense written about music,’’ Mombassa (Chris O’Doherty) said. “Some acts get talked up to a ridiculous degree. And humans are kind of herd animals — if someone says something is good, other people will believe it’s good without really thinking about it. I tend to get a bit sceptical about some of those aspects of the music business.’’ Released in August, Medicated Spirits was recorded and mixed by Peter O’Doherty at his Big Brain Studio in Sydney over the past three years. It is the sixth album Dog Trumpet has released over the past 22 years, following on from Two Heads One Brain (1991), Suitcase (1996), Dog Trumpet (2002), Antisocial Tendencies (2007) and the critically acclaimed and deeply personal River of Flowers (2010). Mombassa, a renowned visual artist, famous for his idiosyncratic graphics for clothing label Mambo in the 1990s, is hoping that Medicated Spirits will help Dog Trumpet find the wider audience that critics agree their music deserves. “This album is the fi rst time we’ve had a more mainstream record company, and we’ve got a new

manager,’’ he said. “The albums we’ve released in the past have been well received and got good reviews, but we haven’t

managed to get them to the wider public, so we’re making a bit more of an eff ort this time. “You can’t just expect people to

come to you. There’s a lot of good things out in the world, and to get people to actually have a look you’ve got to make more of a protracted effort to get it to them. “We’ve always wanted to make [Dog Trumpet] a priority, in terms of people listening to it, but now we’re making more of an eff ort to play live more. Maybe one of the reasons why people have sort of overlooked us

is that they think it’s just a hobby. But it’s not a hobby — we do actually spend quite a lot of time doing it, as well as doing art.’’

The O’Doherty brothers have split their time between art and music since their teenage years, with Chris forming iconic Australian band Mental As Anything in 1976 and then recruiting Peter to join the following year. Hits such as If You Leave Me Can I Come Too?, Too Many Times, Live It Up and He’s Just No Good For You flowed throughout the ‘80s, before the O’Dohertys started Dog Trumpet — named after one of Mombassa’s most popular Mambo characters — as a side-project in 1991. They eventually left the Mentals in 1999 to concentrate on Dog Trumpet and their parallel art careers, and have worked together happily ever since. “I’m six years older than Peter, so when we were kids I teased him and he always told Mum that he was going to give me a good hiding when he got big enough. But he never actually did,’’ Mombassa said. “We get on quite well actually. We seem to work things out without having any dramatic fl are-ups or punch-ups or anything like that.

“I know some creative brothersdo have bitter fi ghts, like the two brothers in The Kinks for instance, I don’t think they get on very well. Or the Gallaghers from Oasis, they have a pretty contentious relationship. So we’re pretty fortunate in that sense.’’

And Australian culture is fortunate to have received such important contributions from the O’Dohertys over the past 35-odd years. Whether he is eventually remembered more for his music or his art, Mombassa is just pleased to have made an impact.

“Some of the nice things people say, you’ve got to take with a grain of salt,’’ he said. “Basically I’m just happy that people appreciate what I do. “If you’re an artist or musician, it’s a really diffi cult thing to earn a living at. You do it because you want to do it, but you also want other people to appreciate it. So the fact that people do, I’m really happy about. It’s certainly surprising at times, that people might be studying me at school or whatever. “The artists and musicians that influenced me were so interesting and gave me inspiration. If other people can get that from my work, I’m really grateful for that.’’ With Bernie Hayes on bass and Iain Shedden on drums, Dog Trumpet play three shows in Tasmania this weekend to launch Medicated Spirits.

They play at Fresh in Launceston tomorrow night, and then at the Republic Bar in North Hobart from 10pm on Saturday. Tickets to each show are $20 (plus booking fee) presale from, or $25 at the door. They then perform at

MONA from 1pm on Sunday, either on the lawns or in The Void, depending on the weather (normal museum entry fees apply).

CLOSE FRATERNITY: Reg Mombassa, left, and Peter O’Doherty.


The world according to Reg

Date August 30, 2013

Barry Divola

He's known for the Mentals, Mambo, and his funereal attire, but now Reg Mombassa has taken on an unlikely new role – the wry non-party guy is creative ambassador for Sydney's 2013 New Year's Eve celebrations. By Barry Divola.

"Being a skinny, anxious nerd who liked art, I felt a bit out of place at times" … artist Reg Mombassa on life as a lad in New Zealand. Photo: Gary Heery

If you want to see where he's from, walk into the kitchen of his rambling terrace house in Glebe and look at the wall behind the tiled table. There it is - a painting of a 1950s fibro house in Papakura, in the south of Auckland.

"My father built that house," says Reg Mombassa. "I've painted pictures of a lot of houses he built. I painted that one when I was 22 or 23. That was in my first show. I sold it for about $350 and bought it back for $12,000 a few years ago. I should have kept it. I ripped myself off badly."

Those seven short sentences tell you a hell of a lot about the man who was born Chris O'Doherty 62 years ago. His connection to family. His celebration of the ordinary. His self-deprecating humour and dry wit.


    •    Mombassa, who adopted his pseudonym "by combining a truck driver's first name with an exotic last name", is best known in Australia as the lead guitarist in Mental As Anything from 1976 to 2000, as a designer for the Mambo clothing label, and as an artist in his own right. His pictures have been bought by Patrick White, Elton John and Ewan McGregor, but he's proud that his art is also bought by "sailors and plumbers and people with normal jobs". Some of his Mambo designs were converted into giant inflatables for the closing ceremony of the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games and viewed by an estimated 2.4 billion people, "although they vetoed the Beer Monster because some of the volunteers were offended by the tap penis with frothy beer coming out of it".

His latest venture into the mainstream is as creative ambassador for Sydney's New Year's Eve celebrations. It's a strange fit for a man who admits he's not a party person, he's not gregarious, and if he's not actually playing a gig with Dog Trumpet, the band he formed with younger brother Peter in 1990, he's usually at home on the last night of the year.

"It's a slightly daunting obligation because people have expectations. I mean, Kylie [Minogue] did it last year and obviously I'm not Kylie. I don't dance and sing as nicely as her. She's an international figurehead and I'm not that well-known."

When Mombassa met Fortunato Foti, the seventh-generation pyrotechnician who has directed the city's New Year's Eve display for more than a decade, he asked him, "Can we do any grey or brown fireworks?"

It's going to be an interesting night.

"That's my recording set-up over there," he says, pointing to something that sits on a small amplifier next to a silver Dobro guitar.

It looks like an answering machine from the early 1980s. It also looks like it was recently dug up from a rubbish tip. He presses play and a slow, sinewy, walking blues emerges from the tinny speaker.

"I like things to be simple and to stay the same," he says after hitting the stop button. "Martina [his wife and assistant] does most of the technical stuff [including his Facebook page]. I can't even use a computer. I can look at emails but I don't know how to send one. I can barely operate a mobile phone. Last night I was trying to watch a TV show that had been recorded. I was trying to fast forward through the ads, but then I couldn't make the show play again. Martina was out, so I couldn't watch it. I'm a completely useless fool when it comes to technology."

I assume you don't do Twitter?

"I actually just started doing Twitter."

Really? "Yeah. But I only manage about one tweet a week. I know you're meant to do it 50 times a day and tweet about what you just had for dinner, but that seems like tedious nonsense to me."

What have you tweeted lately?

"This morning I said, 'Shame to see Julia Gillard go. Women should rule. Men are violent idiots.' I'm sure I'll get a few good responses."

He's got a scarecrow body and an Easter Island statue face. He's all angles. Sharp nose, hangdog expression, stringy grey hair. Apart from his white shirt, he's all in black - boots, jeans, V-neck jumper, suit jacket, beanie.

The man who has created garish, funny, rude, clever designs for Mambo since 1986 does not generally wear his own work.

"It's not my style. I tend to wear grey and black. I like to blend in with the concrete and asphalt. I don't want to stand out too much. Some of the designs I've done would attract a lot of negative attention and I don't want that. If other people are brave enough to do it, then I admire them."

He speaks quietly without much variation in intonation, whether he's being serious or wryly funny. He still carries gently flattened Kiwi vowels in his accent, although he has lived in Australia since 1969. He says he's not really into doing interviews. Then he speaks for six hours.

"Mum and Dad met when they were both psych nurses in a mental hospital in New Zealand," he says. I wonder for a moment if Mombassa is almost proud of the fact that's how his parents got together, as if it explains a bit more about who he is, the first-born son of a man and a woman who met in a place full of mad people.

He thought he knew his father. Irish. War veteran. Self-contained. Drinker. He had artistic talent and won an art scholarship as a teenager, but due to his own father dying suddenly in his 40s, he had to find work, so instead became a carpenter and built houses. He died in 2000. A few years later, Reg got the call from the Red Cross. His father had secrets.

It turns out he'd married before he met Mombassa's mother, just before he went to war. He'd only known the woman for a couple of weeks. Then he went away, serving in North Africa, Italy and the Mediterranean. Apparently, he had an affair with a nurse during the war and tried to get out of the marriage, but the wife wouldn't have anything to do with that. She had a baby and then he said he was going overseas to work. He never returned.

"Valerie, our half-sister, was trying to track us down. When Mum realised she was on to us, she was very upset and said Dad was tried for bigamy, but it was proved that he was away at the war and the woman must have had an affair and the baby wasn't his. But when we looked into it, Valerie looks a lot like Dad.

"Valerie reckons he went to prison, but we can't find any record of that. My brother Peter met her and I've spoken to her on the phone. She's a nice woman in her mid-60s. She's a court reporter in Toronto. I've said that if she gets to Australia she should come and stay.

"There was always a bit of tension between Dad and Mum, I guess over the bigamy thing. We never knew what it was back then. He was a very quiet man."

It seems like Mombassa would be a prime candidate for Who Do You Think You Are?, the SBS television show in which well-known Australians trace their family tree. "I probably would be. I've never been approached to do it, but then again, all that emotional stuff I find sort of disturbing."

Then he suggests we go upstairs to see his studio. On the way he points out some of the many paintings that cover the walls and are stacked three or four deep along the skirting boards - not just his own work, but pictures by artist friends and family members. He's generous with his praise of others and says, "I know lots of artists and musicians my age who are more talented and more hard-working than I am, but they didn't get those lucky breaks I had."

"This is my exercise for the day," he says over his shoulder, as he climbs the steep ladder up to the attic. We emerge into a roof space illuminated by two skylights. Sketchbooks are stacked on the floor. Trays of charcoal and coloured pencils litter a desk. Against the back wall is a row of books on a wide array of subjects - Van Gogh, UFOs, monasteries of the world, Celtic design, John Constable, The World Guide To Beer, surf culture.

"When I'm coming up with ideas for Mambo, I'll get books on tribal art or dogs or earth-moving equipment or musclemen and mix the ideas up like free association. It's a bit of a surrealist method of coming up with dopey ideas and ridiculous images."

Mombassa uses the word "dopey" a few times to describe himself and what he does. Yet he is undoubtedly a popular artist who has successfully straddled the worlds of gallery shows and commercial work. Is it Kiwi reserve?

"The whole thing of not big-noting yourself is more pronounced in New Zealand, I guess. Maybe it's the frontier mentality. Being a skinny, anxious nerd who liked art, I felt a bit out of place at times in New Zealand. It was a very robust, rugby-playing, street-fighting culture. I didn't quite fit into that."

The ashes of his mother (who died in 2007), his black cat and his dog sit in urns on a table in the middle of the room. His father's ashes are interred in a memorial at Bronte, but he'd like to get them out and put them here, too, as "he should be on the table with all the others".

The O'Dohertys are not big on ceremony when it comes to death. "My mother insisted on having no funeral. She stopped going to her friends' funerals because she said they were gloomy affairs."

He doesn't even point out the two shiny, pointy ARIA awards on the table - one for his cover artwork for the Mentals' 1995 album Liar Liar Pants On Fire, the other for the band's induction into the ARIA Hall of Fame four years ago. When I mention them, he picks one up and considers it. "They're heavy, dangerous things. You could stab someone to death with one of these."

A tour of Sydney with Mombassa is not something that would sit well in a Fodor's guide to the city. As he steers his Toyota Prius ("a sissy car, but Martina made us get it and I suppose it's eco-friendly") through the streets - not at old-age-pensioner speed, but at an unhurried pace - we pass Darling Harbour. "I liked it when it was a railway shunting yard," he says. "I've never been keen on what it's become."

He finds beauty in factories, roads, electricity sub-stations and telegraph poles and wires, all of which regularly turn up in his art. A song he wrote for Medicated Spirits, the latest Dog Trumpet album, is called Telegraph Pole: "Telegraph pole is the tree of man/Singing in the wind/Cathedral spires of wood and wire/Shining in the rain." Alongside his obsession with drawing and painting suburban houses of the 1950s and 1960s, he calls what he does "the aristocracy of the normal".

He points out the window as we pass the corner of Crown and Oxford Streets in Darlinghurst. "That's where I was punched to the ground by a big sharpie in 1971," he says. "I don't think he liked my long hair. I'd been at an art opening and he punched me and then started kicking me. Luckily I had my work boots on so I could use them to fend him off. I ended up running away with a bleeding lip. Running away is always the best weapon."

Although Mombassa has lived in the same house in Glebe since 1986, where he and Martina brought up three children, Darcy (33, a graphic designer and hip-hop musician), Claudia (29, a comedian) and Lucy (26, a painter), every few minutes we seem to pass a place in which he used to reside - a Newtown house where bikie neighbours stole his guitar and TV; a place in Paddington where he lived in a half-room divided by a wardrobe; a Surry Hills terrace he and Martina left after one too many rat sightings.

It also seems that every single pub we see is one where he has played, including the Unicorn Hotel in Paddington, where the Mentals had their first residency in 1977, using the pool table as a stage.

We arrive in East Sydney and he decides to have lunch on the upstairs balcony at cheap-and-cheerful Stanley Street stalwart Bill & Toni's. "I like Bill & Toni's and the Malaya and the Balkan because they haven't changed in years," he says, between mouthfuls of pan-fried chicken. "The menus are virtually the same as they were 30 years ago. I don't like change much. By the way, you've got a bit of glitter on your forehead. You must have picked it up from my studio."

Really? Should I keep it there?

"Yeah. It looks good. Don't worry about it."

He visits the men's room and on the way out is approached by a middle-aged bloke who recognises him and says, "I just wanted to say thanks for all the great music."

"Thanks for listening," Mombassa replies. He occasionally gets stopped in the street, but he adds that "it's rare enough to be quite nice when it happens".

We walk around the corner to Watters Gallery, where Mombassa's latest exhibition is closing the following day. It's called Hallucinatory Anthropomorphism: Semi-Abstract Paraphysical Manifestations Of The Collective Unconscious.

Mombassa's art was first shown here in 1975 in a group exhibition with fellow art students - the man who doesn't like change has stuck with the gallery ever since. There are more than 100 pictures on display, ranging in price from $400 for a limited-edition etching called Tree Ghost to $15,000 for a large oil painting entitled Australian Jesus Reading To A Maggot Infested Business Horse By The Light Of A Potato. With one day to go, three-quarters of the art is sold.

Also on display are some of the works that will be used in the New Year's Eve celebrations, decorating banners and the sides of buses and projected onto the pylons of the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the sails of the Opera House. The theme for 2013 is Shine, and Mombassa has used an "all-seeing eye" as the central image.

"I can't tell you what's going to be on the Harbour Bridge. You'll find out at midnight. If I tell you, ASIO will arrest me and I'll go to prison because it's a very important state secret." After walking around the gallery together, we retrieve the car and drive back to Glebe.

"That's where I go for all my treatments," he says, as we stop at the traffic lights outside a Royal Prince Alfred Hospital building in Camperdown. "I had a colonoscopy in there recently. I had a few polypy things cut out. Had a skin cancer cut out there a couple of months ago, too. My liver's not too good, either, but the body's holding together.

"If you get to this age and you're still alive you're laughing, really."

When you do finally go, will you not want a funeral, like your mum?

"I don't particularly want one. Straight into the dumpster for me." He thinks for a moment and reconsiders. "Although I wouldn't mind being blasted out of a cannon."

"You're dumb f... of the day," says Martina when we walk back into the house.

Mombassa doesn't seem taken aback by this comment at all. "There's been a big reaction to your Julia Gillard tweet from this morning and that's what some of them are calling you," she explains.

Something happens to Reg Mombassa's face. His hollowed cheeks rise, lines deepen at his temples, his eyes widen. Reg Mombassa is smiling.


"Sydney is a great city. It looks attractive and you've got icons like the bridge and the Opera House, which I've drawn a lot. I find The Rocks architecturally interesting and I like the Botanical Gardens and Mrs Macquarie's Chair, too. I've been going to the Art Gallery of NSW since I first came to Australia in 1969."

"I like them because of their structure, their shape and the fact that they're like people, with their limbs. I go up to [gallery director] Frank Watters' place near Mudgee once a year and I tend to draw the same trees every time. They're like friends. You recognise them and you've seen them grow over the years."

"I loved comics as a kid. Walt Disney, Phantom, Superman, Batman, Dell Comics, war comics. I loved sword-and-sandal epics, too. We'd go and see them at the pictures on a Saturday afternoon in Papakura, and then walk out into the drab grey of suburban early '60s New Zealand. It was pretty intoxicating."

"Roads are great to draw. I do lots of pictures of the F3. I think it's one of the best sculptures in the world, carved through all that sandstone with all that hilly country around it. I also like industrial infrastructure. I like power stations and factories. In terms of ecology they're not great things, but visually they interest me."

Impressionists and surrealists
"I taught myself to paint mainly by copying impressionist pictures. Monet, Sisley, Cézanne, Pissarro. My colour scheme is probably still loosely impressionistic because of that time. I was also into the surrealists. I was doing Bacon- and Bosch- and Goya-inspired things. I thought [cartoonist] Robert Crumb was a fantastic artist even though he was an underground artist. I also liked Duchamp and all that Dada, wacky stuff."

"I just think they're a great animal. Dogs are more needy and demanding, but cats are very self-contained. Maybe I identify with them."



 How I unwind: Reg Mombassa
ADAM FULTON August 18, 2013 Sydney Sun Herald

He's reached lofty creative heights but Reg Mombassa remains supremely down to earth. The prolific talent - real name, Chris O'Doherty - has been a mainstay in Australian music since co-founding Mental As Anything in the mid-'70s and also become a widely recognised artist through his mind-spinning designs for Mambo, as well as his fine art. He and his brother Peter O'Doherty formed the band Dog Trumpet more than 20 years ago and continue their whimsical and musically insightfulapproach on their sixth LP, Medicated Spirits. It's a double album. As Mombassa, who lives in Glebe, has remarked: ''They're a rarity these days, so it's a collector's item already.''

On Medicated Spirits, Peter and I most wanted to …

Make an interesting and varied album. Peter's old-school approach to production delivers songs uncluttered by multiple overdubs.
Taking what I've called an ''uncommercial'' approach and releasing a double album appealed to us because …
In an age of single-track digital downloads, entire albums are Bronze Age antiquities and double albums are palaeolithic bone scrapings.
If there is any central theme to the album, it is …
An unrelenting variety of tone, key, style, theme and tempo.
My secret for surviving almost 40 years in music is …
Don't expect to succeed with every recording or live performance and take any excessive praise with a grain of salt.
Away from art and music, my abiding interests are …
Mainly hunting and cage fighting, occasionally social history and popular science.
My relationship with technology is …
Like a donkey attempting to do up a shoelace.
On screen, I always enjoy …
History and music shows, and semi-abstract comedy shows like The Mighty Boosh, Sarah Silverman, The League of Gentlemen and The Flight of the Conchords.
My nom de plume Reg Mombassa came about in the Mentals when we created pseudonyms for each other. I've found having two names in life to be …
Somewhat confusing, but allowing the relative anonymity that a low hedge might provide to a straw house.
The music I am listening to most is …
The wind-powered scratching of a twig on the kitchen window, and Duquesne Whistle by Bob Dylan.
A little-known talent I have is …
Riding an Irish bicycle while wearing my clown shoes.
The similarities in my approach to art and music are …
In both disciplines I am trying to express my inner and outer responses to the world in a manner that is reasonably comprehensible to others.
Something I haven't done yet but really want to is …
Shrink to the size of an atom so I can see what it looks like in the quantum world.
I get wound up when …
People inflict gratuitous or ideologically inspired violence on their fellow humans.
I like to unwind by …
Vigorously rotating my spool in an anti-clockwise direction.
Dog Trumpet's Medicated Spirits is out now, see They launch the album at the Vanguard, Newtown, on August 23.

Sharon and Neil Finn of Pajama Club
Sharon Finn Goes Mental With Dog Trumpet
by PAUL CASHMERE on JULY 11, 2013
Sharon Finn of Pajama Club and wife of Neil has laid down some vocals for the next Dog Trumpet album.

Dog Trumpet is Peter O’Doherty and Reg Mombassa, formerly of Mental As Anything.

Peter Green at reports that Sharon will be heard of the upcoming Dog Trumpet double album ‘Medicated Spirits’ singing vocals on one of the tracks on disc two.

Sharon made her band debut when she and Neil released their ‘Pajama Club’ album in 2011. They also toured the record live.

‘Medicated Spirits’ will be the 6th album from Dog Trumpet and first since ‘River of Flowers’ in 2010.

Musicians back in the frame for charity gig
June 21, 2013

Art driven by great Australian songs is being celebrated with a star-studded performance, writes Peter Vincent.

Musically inspired: Iva Davies, Reg Mombassa, Jenny Morris and Pete O'Doherty
Art of Music, the world-first charity project which has raised more than a million dollars for music therapy programs from the auction of music-inspired paintings by some of Australia's best artists, has been expanded to include a star-studded charity concert.

The inaugural concert, Art of Music Live, is at the Opera House on Monday night and Iva Davies, Ian Moss, Tim Finn, Katie Noonan, Suze DeMarchi, Josh Pyke and Dragon will be among the 11 performers to tackle 19 iconic Australian songs.

Each of those songs was the starting point for artists including Ben Quilty, Nicholas Harding, Reg Mombassa, Wendy Sharpe and Michael Leunig.

Proceeds from ticket sales for the concert ($220 a head) also go to the auction's long-time recipient, Nordoff-Robbins Music Therapy, which uses improvised live music to build relationships between its therapists and their clients, who are often physically or intellectually disabled.

The first Art of Music auction was held in 2006 and has been repeated every two years at the Art Gallery of NSW. The highest price paid for a painting yet was $65,000 for Garry Shead's Shadows Fall, based on the Brewster Brothers' song. Last year, Ben Quilty's Largs Pier Hotel, based on the Jimmy Barnes song, sold for $45,000.
All painters and musicians donate their work to the project.

Art of Music creative director Jenny Morris started the project ''because I love art and I love music and I thought put them together and make some money for a good cause''.

She came up with the idea for the concert because all the attention to date has been on the artworks, but it was time to put some focus back on the songs.

The concert will be repeated and is likely to be held every two years (in the off-years for the auctions), at the Opera House. It may also be toured interstate.
''People in the art and music world are so philanthropic,'' Morris says. ''I think painters tend to have a very deep connection with music and musicians very often have that same connection with visual arts. The two [mediums] are organically connected.''

Reg Mombassa, who sings at the concert on Monday and has also painted three works for the auction over the years (including Dirty Creature, based on the Split Enz song, which sold for $18,000 last year), says making a painting from a song ''is an interesting way of arriving at a picture''.
''It certainly gives you some sort of direction and that can make it a bit easier to start because you know what you have to do.''
Mombassa also had his own show open this week at Watters Gallery in Darlinghurst.

Mombassa gets new year's eve creative job
Date June 6, 2013
Andrew Taylor
Arts reporter

Artist and musician Reg Mombassa with some of his artworks.           

Kylie Minogue had Sydney embracing last New Year's Eve, while 2011 was a time to dream, thanks to industrial designer Marc Newson.
But Sydney could be celebrating this year's New Year's Eve with a DogTrumpet or Australian Jesus, with the announcement on Thursday that artist and musician Reg Mombassa will be the City of Sydney's NYE13's creative ambassador.

This year's theme will be "shine".A former guitarist for the band Mental as Anything and visual artist, Mombassa is best known for his designs for fashion label Mambo, including his iconic dog image.

The 61-year-old Mombassa, whose real name is Christopher O'Doherty, was a founding member of Mental as Anything, which was inducted into the ARIA Hall of Fame in 2009. He left the band in 2000 to focus on the band Dog Trumpet, which he began with his brother Peter O'Doherty.
The New Zealand-born Mombassa is also an acclaimed artist who has been a finalist in the Archibald, Sulman and Dobell prizes.
A new show, Hallucinatory Anthropomorphism … Semi-Abstract Paraphysical Manifestations of the Collective Unconscious, includes work created for this year's New Year's Eve event and will open at Watters Gallery in East Sydney on June 19.

His design work for Mambo includes an image of the Sydney Harbour Bridge with the slogan "Blood Sweat and Beer" beneath it.
A number of characters designed for Mambo were turned into large inflatable characters for the closing ceremony of the 2000 Sydney Olympics.

At home with ... Reg Mombassa
Date April 8, 2012
Rachel Browne
Social Affairs Reporter    

The artist produces his suburban studies from a distinctly urban setting. 

Mental images ... an attic studio provides space for Reg Mombassa's mementoes as well as the creation of his colourful artworks. Photo: James Brickwood
Reg Mombassa likes to work in his studio with his mother watching over his shoulder. The fact that she has been dead for a few years doesn't worry him. Before Norman Bates-esque images spring to mind, it's important to note that Mombassa's mother, Gertrude, is contained in one of those brick-sized plastic boxes used to store ashes following cremation.

I rarely draw houses like the one I live in. They don't interest me terribly much. 
Keeping Gertrude company, in a ceramic urn, are the ashes of Mombassa's late cat, a jet-black beast who passed on at the venerable age of 18. Sitting close by is a peaked cap that belonged to a late uncle.

Artist and musician Reg Mombassa is known for his quirky, idiosyncratic style. 

''It's my table of dead people,'' Mombassa says, laughing. He adds that he might retrieve his late father's ashes from their resting place in Bronte to complement the collection.
In the meantime, he still has plenty of mementoes of his father, Jim, an Irish-born builder whose fibro houses have inspired many of Mombassa's best-known artworks. A model of one such house, created by Jim, sits in the corner of Mombassa's studio.

Jim and English-born nurse Gertrude moved to New Zealand after World War II, settling in Auckland, where Mombassa was born as Christopher O'Doherty in 1951. His brother Peter, also an artist and musician, followed six years later.

There is also an older half-sister, Valerie, the product of Jim's first marriage, a matter that hadn't quite been resolved when Jim went on to marry Gertrude.

''My father was a bigamist - it was a skeleton in the family closet,'' Mombassa says.

Ashes in the studio? Skeletons in closets? There is clearly a lot more to Mombassa than meets the eye. And speaking of eyes, he discovered he was colour-blind only a few years ago, which may explain some of the distinctive hues in his artwork.

That said, his home in the inner-west suburb of Glebe is more or less exactly what you would expect.
It's a rambling old home brimming with art, books and music, as well as the detritus of domestic life (folded laundry, unopened letters and old copies of The Sydney Morning Herald stacked up by the kitchen table).

Mombassa and his wife, Martina, bought the home 24 years ago when they and their three children had outgrown a flat in Coogee.
''It was pretty rundown when we bought it,'' he says.
''It used to be a boarding house, so it was relatively cheap.''

His three adult children - Claudia, a comedian; Darcy, a hip-hop artist; and Lucy, a painter - have all flown the family nest, so these days it's just Mombassa, Martina, their ageing Maltese cross, Mitzy, and part rag-doll cat, Puss.

It's a very urban location for someone inspired by suburbia and natural landscapes.
''Yes, a few people have made that comment,'' he says. ''I rarely draw houses like the one I live in. They don't interest me terribly much.
''The houses I like to draw are based on the ones I lived in as a kid or that type of house you see in suburban Australia.''
One such painting, a 1974 work, House at Beach Road with Kirk's Bush, takes pride of place on his kitchen wall.
''I sold that for $350 and bought it back for $12,000 - I ripped myself off,'' he says.

Mombassa's artwork, instantly recognisable thanks to numerous album covers and a long-standing association with the Mambo fashion label, has become highly collectable over the years. Writer Patrick White was an early patron, but Elton John and Ewan McGregor have also bought his work.
He produces all his work from a light-filled studio built into the attic space of his home, accessed from a paint-spattered pull-down ladder, which, he proudly notes, he's never slipped down.

Along with the family and feline reliquary, there are other prized possessions. Two ARIA awards - a 1996 one for best cover art for Mental as Anything's Liar, Liar Pants on Fire and a 2009 statuette from when the Mentals were inducted into the hall of fame - stand next to Mrs O'Doherty's ashes.

Of course, the studio also contains the tools of his trade: paints, plastic tubes of glitter, cans of fixative, masking tape, photos, paper and canvases. Trays of pencils balance precariously on top of hardcover art books and two large works are in progress, giving the space the air of an artist in his garret.
''Everything I need is here,'' he says. ''It is like a nest. Or the top of a wardrobe if you're a cat.''

He can spend up to 12 hours up here, painting or writing poetry. Sometimes he likes to work in silence but a small CD player provides aural distraction when required.
The discs piled next to the CD player reflect his generation (Bob Dylan and Ronnie Lane) as well as his musical connections (King Tide, whose lead singer Tony Hughes is his brother-in-law).

There is also the latest album from Dog Trumpet, the band Mombassa formed with his brother Peter. The brothers, who formed the band in 1991, are working on their sixth and double album "Medicated Spirits"

Interestingly, when Mombassa writes music he moves to the kitchen table downstairs, where two guitars, an amplifier and a cassette recorder (''I hate technology'') sit nearby.
''The tape recorder is good enough for ideas,'' he says.

''We do all the proper recording at my brother's place; he's got a room set up at his place in Coogee, so we can do that there.''
Mombassa started drawing as soon as he could hold a pencil but didn't pick up a guitar until he was 15. He played in bands when the O'Doherty clan moved to Sydney in 1969, eventually meeting the art students who were to form Mental as Anything while studying at the National Art School in East Sydney in the mid-1970s.

Thanks to a string of hits with Mental as Anything in the late 1970s and 1980s, Mombassa became better known for his music than painting, but he left the band in 2000 to give more time to his visual work.

The Mambo website sums up Mombassa like this: ''Musician, painter, writer, poet, humanist, sage, dispenser of arcane wisdom, buggerer of sacred cows and much loved national treasure.''

It makes you wonder what he lists as his occupation when filling out a census form.
''I don't think of myself as a musician or an artist,'' he says.
''It's all art. It's just different ways of expressing it. I enjoy writing poetry, too. I wouldn't like to choose one over the other.''

So he's not harbouring a secret ambition to become a tax accountant?
''Oh, no. I don't think I was ever going to have a nine-to-five job.''

Art Pair Just A Little Bit Mental
HERALD SUN - AUGUST 19, 2011 3:57PM

Mental as Anything brothers Peter and Chris O'Doherty with their Melbourne exhibition Double Vision. 

AFTER a lifetime making music together, Mental As Anything brothers Chris and Peter O'Doherty are putting on their first joint art exhibition.
They've always been a pair with two creative day jobs - music and art - but this is the first time they're making both together.

In the lead-up to releasing their sixth album with second band Dog Trumpet, the Sydney duo came to Melbourne this week to launch their art exhibition Double Vision.
A collection of 17 works is on show at the Australian Print Workshop Gallery in Fitzroy, where they made the pieces from scratch in just eight days.

"We're both really happy with it," Chris (aka Reg Mombassa) says.

"They're amazingly good printers at the workshop. It's got a lot to do with that and the guys who worked with us as well."