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. www.dogtrumpet.net
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
by PAUL CASHMERE on DECEMBER 13, 2013
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
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.
BLOWING THEIR OWN TRUMPET
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.
WHAT INSPIRES REG MOBASSA?
"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."