BLACK AIR – A Sapper’s Song

FeaturedBLACK AIR – A Sapper’s Song

It’s a theme that we all too commonly see in movies – the returned solider, traumatised by what they’ve seen (and done) whilst at war, struggling to come to terms with adapting to being back at home, or even just civilisation in general.

It’s made some Hollywood studios a lot of money, but the reality of the problem is more stark and real than any film. In Australia returned servicemembers from tours of Afghanistan suffer in plain sight from PTSD, often turning to drugs and alcohol to numb the pain of the aftermath, which while occasionally diluted, never goes away.

“It’s something that needs to be talked about,” says lyricist Jon Roberts, who has penned A Sapper’s Song, about the plight of returned soldiers.

“It’s not in the news cycle, Afghanistan is over and nobody’s talking about it but the guys who’ve come back and the people left behind are… fucked.”

Roberts wrote the lyrics to A Sapper’s Song following conversations with a young workmate. “I was on a plant shutdown and shared off-site accommodation with the crew tearing the kit down. Good bunch so we’d have a few beers most nights. I’ve got 20 years on the eldest and am telling tales of a misspent youth in South East Asia. One’s about an ex-medic in the US 101st Airborne who I met in Burma. First action in Vietnam he’s in a village after it had been “pacified” patching up a local woman when his sergeant comes up, puts a gun in her face and shoots her head off. He freaks but the sergeant shouts him down and says they’re all killers blah blah…The medic was seriously wounded in one of the Hill battles. I met him not long after Saigon fell and he seemed alright but I questioned how anyone could live with that.

“Josh, the young bloke, had his own story. He’d started drinking and taking whatever in his early teens but had always just managed to keep it together and keep working. At the end of 2019 it caught up and he was unravelling fast but, by some miracle, his folks got him into rehab.”  

The facility was in NSW and was counselling about a dozen people, a number of whom were active servicemen who had done multiple tours in Afghanistan. Josh realised very quickly that they were all suffering PTSD.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder has been described as a normal response to a completely abnormal situation. A 2019 report co-authored by Orygen and Phoenix Australia states that:

‘… while young men and women make up only a quarter of full-time serving personnel in the ADF, they have the highest rate of mental ill-health among their colleagues, including conditions such as panic attacks, alcohol-use disorders and depression.
‘Ex-serving male personnel aged 18–24 have a suicide rate twice as high as other Australian men of the same age’.

The military recognise this and have psychologists in the field for debriefing and free phones so soldiers can call home at any time. But, as Roberts says, “It’s hard because it’s their job. Soldiers see and sometimes do things in war that they don’t want to think about so they’re not going talk about them. In the field there are mates to lean on but home can be very alone.”

Accommodation at the facility was in shared rooms and Josh ended up with The Sapper. In group counselling Josh heard his story, told in the song, and saw him fighting with the memories early most mornings.

‘..the scene re-runs every night

And I wake in fright

It’s stained

On my brain’

– A Sapper’s Song

Halfway through his treatment, Josh was rushed to hospital with a twisted bowel. It was the week the first Australian cases of Covid-19 were reported and having been in a public hospital he wasn’t allowed to return to the safe haven of the rehab facility.

That was the last he saw of The Sapper. Roberts says, “The shutdown was in early 2020 and Josh was in great nick when I met him. He said that hearing their stories and seeing the shit the Afghan vets went through changed his life. He’s a coiled spring so I hope he is still straight. And I hope The Sapper and his mates are out of the army and doing okay. I don’t think there’s anywhere else to go for a lot of these guys.”

Roberts has written lyrics and occasionally complete songs for decades. “Never done much with them, although the Balding Men video with Dick Haynes ( nearly got us a contract and the RooBeeDooAh album of kid songs I wrote with Brett Townsend actually did okay commercially. Still great little songs (type in RooBeeDooAh on YouTube) – sort of an antidote for the Wiggles.

“The disastrous abandonment of Afghanistan in mid-2021 bought back the sapper’s story. Apart from the bit about locking up refugees at the end of the last verse, it’s the sapper’s story as Josh told it. I wanted to say something about treatment of refugees because this government keeping people whose “crime” was to seek a better life isolated and muzzled for years brings great shame on this country.

I’m blessed with a family band. Step-son Sam Air is an incredibly talented multi-instrumentalist who’s co-written, arranged and played on just about everything I’ve done for the last 20 years. His brother Ben has a huge voice and has provided lead vocals on most of the songs”    

Ben Air was teaching in the Pilbara so Roberts asked Pete Black, the son of one of his oldest friends, to join the project.

“Pete’s got a great voice for dark songs. He was really helpful with the lyrics, as was my daughter who spent 15 years in the air force. Pete also added a line of music to Sam’s tune and it worked well.”

The name of the band, Black Air, doesn’t require too much of a stretch of the imagination.

“We wrote the song round the table at home and it appears that the chorus is really catchy because pretty soon half the street was singing it.”

 ‘What You See is what you get

Another burned-out Afghan vet

With nothing left but regret

What you seen is what you get’

– A Sapper’s Song

Hard hitting lyrics and a catchy tune make this a song worth listening to.

As such, A Sappers Song by Black Air is now available on Spotify and most other streaming services.

ERROL H TOUT Of Time And Space

Errol H Tout in his “modest but tidy studio”

Acclaimed West Australian guitar virtuoso Errol H Tout has released his new album, Dancing About Architecture, a labour of love recorded over a period of three years.

And he knows what he’s dancing about. Tout was Head of the Department of Architecture & Interior Architecture at Curtin University of Technology until 2008, then was more latterly a Senior Lecturer and Chair of the Science and Technology Stream. Then again, he’s also a graduate of King Crimson icon Robert Fripp’s Guitar Craft school.

For the one-time career architect and long-time musician, many things lie within the name of the new LP. Variously attributed to the likes of Frank Zappa, Elvis Costello and comedian Martin Mull, Tout dug further for this, the perfect album title.

“The first quote that I’ve been able to track down from 1931 in the New York Times,” Tout explains. “It was a journalist who actually said it in the context of writing and music being two different artforms and you shouldn’t try doing both at the same time. So writing about music was as stupid as dancing about architecture.

“Laurie Anderson used it too, I think,” he adds. “It’s been used and abused! For me, it just made a lot of sense. Once upon a time, being an architect and now I’m being a musician. So it fits well.”

Similarly, while music and architecture may be regarded as two different disciplines, architectural concepts play into the way Tout thinks about music…

“Very much so,” Tout says. “There’s a perception as you move through something. The perception of space is that you see it as you move through it. The perception of sound is that sound moves past you. So things move though each other and there’s should be a level of being able to discuss clearly about how it actually does it.

“You certainly have to do that in Architecture school. So architecture is about moving through space, and music is about moving through time.”

Dancing About Architecture follows up 2013’s The Post-Tumour Humour album and 2017’s Luminous. These three albums have been written, recorded, and released during Errol’s 10-year battle with cancer and are testament to the drive, creativity, and good humour of the man amidst that challenge. The new LP has been on the go since 2018, between surgeries and various hospital visits.

“I did it a very long time ago, some of it was done three years ago. There’s definitely one song on there that’s about me squaring up to the C-Bomb, a song called Seconds And Moments.”

The song features a rare vocal by Tout, complemented by an unexpected collaborator. “I sampled Bruce Lee talking about how he deals with an opponent in a martial arts competition,” he explains. “And it kind of made sense with what I was doing. So I took the sample and popped it in. I then wrote away and asked permission to use it, but they never wrote back so I assume it’s okay. So there’s one piece about the C-Bomb, the rest are about all sorts of different things.”

All sorts, indeed. Backed by a dynamic music video directed by Tout’s son Sam (who also contributes keyboards and bass to the album) The Black Dance recalls the alternative nightlife experiences of Tout’s musical past, when he was an emergent post-punk guitarist in the ‘80s.  

“There used to be a nightclub in Perth called The Red Parrot,” he recalls, “and in this den of iniquity people used to wear black and they had a certain way of dancing. This reminds me of that. It’s kind of a Cabaret Voltaire kind of vibe, but with guitars. It’s a really old piece and I feel it sounds fantastic in this version that we’ve recorded.”

Album opener Spiders sonically evokes the arachnid onslaught that terrified Tout’s wife in their kitchen. “So I made something that has these little things that scatter and run across the stereo picture,” he says. “It also fulfils my objective of trying to make bright, cheerful, and sometimes witty guitar music without sounding like a complete tosser. So it’s a funny little thing about spiders that get bigger and nastier as the piece goes on. It’s got a real groove to it that I really like.”

Slice Me Up Baby, meanwhile, “is a really old piece about my first visit to hospital to have various things cut out of my body. There were so many people in the theatre and so many bits of gear. I thought, ‘is that all for me? Well, slice me up baby!’ It’s about trying to get on top of things and not let things get on top of you.

“It’s really hard to find a sample of someone cutting a piece of liver, because it doesn’t make much noise. I had to compromise and use bits of timber being cut and chopped around!”

Dancing About Architecture also sees the return on the inimitable rhythm section of Roy Martinez (bass) and Ric Eastman (drums) whose tracks were recorded in an impressive two-day session at Lee Buddle’s Crank Recording Studio (the rest of the album was captured in Tout’s own “modest but tidy studio”). Fellow guitarist, Mike Gorman, a player who complements Tout’s playing in a very niche manner, is also back. They come and go from places that many haven’t been before.

“Mike brings all sorts of stuff with him,” Tout says. “He’s done courses with Robert Fripp and all kinds of stuff as well, more than I have done. That’s how we connected. He kind of came over for a cup of tea and stayed ever since. He brings a lot to the table, there’s ideas that I had – on Secret Agent Theme and Surf Action – that Mike could execute better than I could.

“So it’s really nice working with another guitarist because we’re kind of on the same page. I worked with lots of other guitar players and thought differently to them, but the fact that we’ve both been to Guitar Craft courses keeps us on the same page.”

Tout states that he had 45-50 pieces from which to choose from for a place on the album. Given that it’s predominantly instrumental music, the 14 tracks chosen made their presence felt due to an interesting set of selection criteria.

“The selection criteria was that you should be able to sing most of the pieces,” Tout explains. “Which was a good kind of benchmark. Some of the pieces are really catchy, and I was really trying to do that. There’s other ways that guitarists do things, and they all have their merits, but I was after something that sticks and maybe has a little bit of humour and wit.

“It’s an area that I like to inhabit, and I don’t know an awful lot of people who would have done stuff like that. It’s slightly outside of the rock mainstream, but still with a fair bit of energy and fun in there as well.”

Dancing About Architecture is available on vinyl for the first four months of its release and will thereafter be accessible on all major streaming platforms. With his eye already on his next release, Tout is well pleased with how his latest chapter has turned out.

“It’s a part of a continuum of one’s life work,” he considers. “It’s another chapter, and there’s lots more to come. I kind of like that – doing stuff and moving on, then moving on and moving on. Doing something better and different and in other ways than before… but it’s nice working with these same people because they’re just so bloody good!”

Errol H Tout launches Dancing About Architecture at Ellington Jazz Club on Tuesday, September 7.



(First published on Facebook – July 3, 2021)

I’ve spent the last fortnight staying in a room upstairs at The Local Hotel on South Terrace, South Fremantle. I’ve been in the throes of moving house, and as a new place fell through just before my exit date, my dear friends at The Local sorted a room for me to stay at in the interim.

I practically live there already. I’ve hosted a weekly talk/performance event on Thursdays off-and-on (mostly on, 28 shows to date) since last October; regularly find a spot to write on my laptop there, and constantly enjoy drinks with folks from the wondrous Freo musical scene. I dearly love the creative community around South Freo, and The Local Hotel is both a heart and hub for this.

In the last week it’s been oh-so-quiet everywhere along South Terrace due to lockdown. While my first week staying at my favourite pub was incredibly social, the second lot-of-seven-days has been a contemplative experience, to say the least.

Week-2 has seen lockdown and the realities that hit a venue such as this. The constant murmur of bubble and squeaks and beats and basslines from DJ sets squirreling from downstairs-to-up; the tales and riffs from local musical heroes, the laughter of fond friends and even the hints of early romance in the front bar have made way for radio silence. It’s all rain and wind outside and faraway footsteps within. THE LOCAL HOTEL HAS BEEN CLOSED.

At times I’ve felt as though I’m the only person in the whole pub. There are other people staying here, but no-one is doing anything or going out. I only hear people and never see them. It’s like they’re ghosts. Which means I am also a ghost. In a Ghost Hotel.

I endeavour to be Casper (The Friendly Ghost, if you recall). It helps a bit as early in Week-2 I develop minor cold symptoms, resulting in a refreshing day trip to Fiona Stanley Hospital.

Turns out she’s not even related to Paul Stanley. Even so, I’m open to being thoroughly doused and dubbed then directed to go home and self-isolate. In a closed pub, during a lockdown. Quiet stuff. My test result comes back within 12 hours and is reassuringly negative. Such a mild experience compared to the scenarios of so many.

But I’m left with this playground. This lovely/lonesome Local Hotel which has been so good to me. So I take a mid-morning to take a walk-around (masked, mind) to capture the quiet, closed moments. It will open its arms and doors to its charming, salt-of-the-earth staff and clientele, but for this moment and all the moments (and the new memories, and the old ghosts), it literally has become my favourite haunt. And I love it now more than ever.

Pandemic or not. Support your Local. Whatever it’s called, wherever it may be.

(Vax, also).


Pic: Dan Howls and Julia Weller perform in Tania Hennah’s backyard

Local music ultra-fan, Tania Hennah, brings live music on home with iso gigs in her backyard.

While venues and artists alike have turned online to stream in the COVID-19 era, music fan Tania Hennah opened up her own backyard to live performances once the Level 2 Restrictions played out, hosting live gigs at her Padbury home to small audiences of friends and fellow aficionados.

Word goes out via her Facebook page and a small door fee is charged, which goes directly to the artists.

“I actually got on the front foot with this as soon as restrictions were set at 10 people,” she says. “On the day of the 10 peeps announcement I contacted four artists and asked if they’d be interested in a live backyard, socially-distanced gig at mine, as soon as the restrictions were lifted to allow 20 people. I had all respond positively by the end of the day and lined up for the next our Saturdays as soon as the Government made the call.”

Last Saturday, Dan Howls with Julia Weller kicked off proceedings in just the kind of fashion that Hennah knew they would.

“It was amazing,” she says, happily. “It’s been so long since we’ve been able to see and hear live music and have a beer together. The weather was a balmy 26 degrees, so perfect too, to kick back on the lawn and chill and enjoy local live talent. We even danced too! Dan and Julia delivered as always and had people in the palm of their hands.”

It’s all a step in the right direction, but it’s not a first for Hennah, who is no stranger to hosting gigs in her home in the pre-iso past. She especially loves the Fremantle music scene and has never subscribed to the North/South divide.

“Myself and my friends have such a love of local, live and original music and want to support our artists,” she says. “And I have the room. So, it’s no-brainer really. It’s a relaxed environment, my neighbours are awesome and happy for me to do them. Plus much of our local talent, and speccy venues, are in Freo, but I live in Padbury, so very selfishly it’s also perfect for me because I don’t have to drive or uber and can party on!”

Hennah originally hails from Guernsey, an island in the English Channel that lies off the coast of Normandy. She felt deeply connected to music at an early age for reasons that reflect the experience of local music fandom here in Perth.

“Guernsey, although only a small island – 45 ml square, and 62,000 people – has quite a lot in common with Perth, really. They are both very isolated places, Guernsey being just off the coast of Northern France and a long way from the UK. This made it very difficult for UK and international bands to play there, logistically and financially.

Tania in Guernsey

Tania at Castle Cornet, Guernsey

“So it’s much like Perth’s relationship with the Eastern States, especially going back a few years. We couldn’t get those bigger artists to the Island, or to WA, so Guernsey, although small, pretty much had to create its own local, live music scene, performing at small local venues. And damn we had, and still have, so much talent there. I think Perth had to do the same thing, create its own live music scene as it has been, in many ways ignored by the East Coast due to logistics.”

Hennah is as passionate a live music fan as this writer has ever met. Why has that passion never waned, when for so many people it often does?

“The calibre of the music, I guess,” she notes. “When you hear a new track by a favourite artist or discover a new band that you just dig… I just have to see them! As for so many people, music takes me to another place, and being part of the gig is so much more authentic to me.  I think also that I’m lucky to be very healthy, get by on six hours sleep a night, and I’m not a fan of growing up!”

Hennah’s plans for the rest of iso – and beyond – revolve around her continued obsession with live music. There’s more to come from her backyard and more to look forward to when the world hits upon a new normal.

Jack Davies is gigging in the backyard on Saturday (May 30) evening. Can’t wait for that. How can someone that young be so talented?  Not only musically, but lyrically too. The guy’s a genius!

“Then for the third show on Saturday, June 6, we have Joe Corbin. He isn’t local to Australia, but he’s local from my home of Guernsey, so that counts! A soul, blues, folk singer/songwriter, who should’ve been travelling over East by now, but he also got iso’ed in Fremantle. For the fourth show (June 13) it’s another of my favourite Freo artists. Lincoln McKinnon, with James Elliot doing some percussion. Very excited for that, too. It’s a good thing, I think, that these amazing Freo musos get some ‘Northern Exposure’ too.

“After iso, me and the ‘gig fam’ – a bunch of mates who equally love our live music – will be back supporting the scene wherever we can, and usually will be found dancing at the front of the stage or at the bar. A positive from all the ‘Rona stuff, is that there will be new music to hear too, written in isolation.  And. We. Can’t. Frigging. Wait.

“And on a side note, if you have the room, and want to support our artists in this financially crippling time for them, organise a bunch of guests/mates to come over and request they make a donation to the artist. Everyone can BYO drinks, nibbles and rugs… too easy!”


VISA LAS VIRUS Advice For Temporary Visa Holders

VISA LAS VIRUS Advice For Temporary Visa Holders

As the population of Australia awakens each morning to new and often confusing updates about the coronavirus, permanent residents are clearly wondering what’s ahead. What hasn’t yet been widely broadcast or considered, however, is the impact that the virus may have on the 2.2 million temporary residents currently living here.

 While panic seems to continue in Australian supermarkets, both the Department of Home Affairs and the Immigration Department are operating on a business-as-usual basis. Each department expects Temporary Visa Holders to maintain a lawful status. For those with a visa that is soon to expire, it is important to address the situation so that their status in this country remains lawful.

“Australian visas don’t have the facility to be extended, so you need to apply for another visa,” says Jessica Edis, Principal Lawyer of Perth-based specialist migration law practice, Putt Legal.

“What you need to do is plan ahead and look at what your visa options are. It may be that the only option you have is to apply for a visitor visa to allow you to stay on. If that’s the case that’s fine, you’ll get a bridging visa to cover you in the interim, but whatever you do, don’t let your visa expire.”

Temporary Visa Holders should also bear in mind that even if an application is refused, the potential remains for reviews of onshore applications. This will enable the applicant to remain in Australia with a maintained legal status as their application is reviewed. The important thing is to source the right advice and be prepared.

“Once your visa has expired it makes life very difficult for you,” Edis says. “Even the Migration Act says that you might end up in a detention centre. Just make sure you get advice well before your expiry date.”

Concerns have also arisen for those holding a Travel Pass, otherwise known as a Bridging Visa Class B. This pass is made available to people who are waiting in Australia for a visa to be processed, but for some reason have had a need to travel offshore.

“They have a finite travel period,” Edis notes, “so you may find that you’re stuck offshore after that travel period expires. The Immigration Department has indicated that if you’re in that position then you will be able to apply for a visitor visa to come back. They’re well aware that there may be individuals who are stranded in that situation. So as long as you apply for a visitor visa and explain the circumstances, I feel comfortable that the Department will let you back in.”

With the number of foreign students on Temporary Visas in the Australian tertiary system, there is also a lot of concern within that sector in regard to the possibility of lockdowns. If universities and schools are shut will student visas be affected by a lockdown?

“In this respect I understand that the Immigration Department is working together with the education institutions,” Edis explains. “They haven’t advised of any new policy yet, but I expect there to be a great deal of flexibility.

“I don’t anticipate that there will be any cancellation action taken because you end up in breach of your student visa conditions. I think that the department is likely to publish new policy, to cover students who are affected by the coronavirus situation.”

With the increased demand on supermarket retail at this time, many overseas students who are employed in the industry may be offered additional hours. The worry here is that extra working hours may be in breach of their temporary visa.

“My understanding is that it’s very clearly confined to students who are already working for the large supermarkets, so that would be Coles and Woolworths,” Edis says.

“I understand that some supermarkets will be able to apply to the Immigration Department for their employees to have their hours extended, but at this stage it really is only if you have an existing employment contract with a large supermarket. However, I would suggest that you check directly with your employer rather than making the assumption that you could start to work over the hours that you’re normally allowed to.”

From students to those on working holiday visas, the uncertainty reigns. This is especially so for the many European travellers intending to work while in Australia who are unsure if their applications will go on hold or if the Government will refuse them.

“I don’t anticipate the applications being refused,” says Edis, “but I do anticipate that obviously you won’t be able to travel at a time that suits you. You’ll have to wait for the travel ban to be lifted.

“Working holiday visas have a generous entry date on them, so from the date of grant you actually have 12 months to enter Australia and the period in which you are allowed to be in Australia is 12 months from that first arrival.  If you’ve just recently been granted a Working Holiday Visa, you’ll have plenty of time to come to Australia when the coronavirus situation has been resolved.”

While being specifically tested for coronavirus is one thing, the possibility of it becoming part of a regular health examination has become a concern for those simply undertaking one in accordance with their visa conditions.

“I think there’s two things to be aware of if you have a health examination booked in for your visa,” Edis states. “Firstly, if you are feeling unwell, I suggest that you simply reschedule it.

“Secondly, there isn’t any suggestion that they are testing for coronavirus, but even if it turns out that you may have it, it is a temporary condition and the examination is intended for permanent and long-term medical conditions that can significantly increase costs on the public health system.

“So I don’t think the corona virus will affect any health examinations, but as I said, if you’re not feeling well then certainly reschedule the examination until that time when you feel a bit better.”

For Temporary Visa Holders who would like to find out more, or who may have specific questions about their legal status in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak, Jessica Edis will be part of a Facebook Live Q&A Session with Immigration Lawyer & Registered Migration Agent, Amanda Valenti, on March 18 and 20 as part of an Online Summit presented by Putt Legal.

For Emem Udo, Senior Visa Coordinator for EasyMigrate, an Australian migration and citizen service, the Online Summit comes as welcome news. “I’m glad professionals are making the effort to address the situation of temporary visa holders during this time of uncertainty,” she says. “Australian citizens and permanent residents do not understand the struggle.

“If you were born in Australia as a citizen or permanent resident it is almost impossible to understand how unsettling the visa process is. The visa process is already very destabilising and stressful. Often times temporary visa holders are waiting for months or even years for a decision before they can fully start to make future plans and many visa holders are already restricted by their visa conditions.

“With the added panic and uncertainty surrounding the implications of COVID-19, it’s important for there to be a forum for temporary visa holders to share their concerns and get advice.”

A diversity of topics will be covered including visa cancellation, fears about deportation if this occurs, status while awaiting a return home, travel restrictions, immigration health checks, government response and much more.

“If you have any questions that come to mind now, please submit them before the live stream and that way we can include them and make sure that they’re covered.

“Please understand that information continues to be rolled out and we are communicating directly with the Immigration Department. So, with any of your queries that come in beforehand we will try and submit them directly to the department, so we can answer them for you.”

Access to the COVID-19 Online Expert Webinar & Q+A Session is only $27. Register now and submit your questions at

MATTY T WALL Speaking Volumes

MATTY T WALL Speaking Volumes

With a well-deserved summer break behind him, Matty T Wall is all set to return to the stage for the new decade, more motivated than ever.

This is in no small part due to the worldwide acclaim that was brought upon Transpacific Blues Vol. 1, the collaborative album that saw Wall duetting with blues guitar greats such as Kid Ramos, Walter Trout, Eric Gales, Kirk Fletcher and fellow West Australian, Dave Hole. The album was released internationally via Memphis label Select-O-Hits and by Only Blues Music in Australia.

Transpacific Blues Vol. 1 was met with rave reviews around the world, hitting the Living Blues chart in the US and making the grade in none other than Joe Bonamassa’s ‘Cutting Edge Blues – Best Of 2019’ Spotify playlist. The great man of blues guitar handpicked Wall’s run through Hi Heel Sneakers with Eric Gales. For Wall, it’s a great shot in the arm.

“When you’re playing guitar with one of the best in the world, Eric Gales, he does a solo that blows you away then you go and do your best on that track,” Wall says. “Then it comes out and you listen to it and you hear that you have kept up with it… it does give you confidence in your own ability, definitely.”

While the various guitar duets have captured the attention of all sorts of blues fans around the world, Wall is pleased to note that his own take on the classic Stormy Monday has travelled the miles especially well.

Stormy Monday has really grabbed people’s attention,” he enthuses, “which is really cool because they’re saying it’s not just the guitar but also the singing, and that gives me a lot of confidence as well. I kept it in a similar style to Eva Cassidy’s version and being able to sing it with good chops is something I’ve been working on, so I gain a lot of confidence when people appreciate that.”

It seems that the whole Transpacific Blues Vol. 1 experience has given Wall a new template to work with. After every release an artist has to go back to the drawing board but in his case it’s a whole new drawing board…

“It is,” he concurs. “It’s a side-project that I want to pursue, definitely.  I don’t know if anybody’s done this too much in the past here in Australia before, working periodically with guest artists from the US on blues covers albums. It’s quite a fun adventure and I want to keep doing it, for sure.”

Indeed it’s a side-project that doesn’t distract from Wall’s original music career, or dare we say, his brand. It’s an outlet that signposts his love of blues music for all to see and hear.

“I wanted my fans to know that I love the blues and this is me playing the blues, so they know where my roots are and what I want to play,” he explains. “I mostly play my originals, but I always throw in blues covers at a gig. People see that at live gigs but I wanted to share that with fans around the world who don’t get to see gigs.

“The funny thing is when you’re in the studio recording an original album, you think more compositionally, I really try to structure everything to make the songs work. I don’t structure all the solos, there’s probably 20 per cent of them that I do, but when it comes to jamming on blues songs I feel very free. It’s a lot of fun.”

Matty T Wall.2

So where to from here? How does Wall take a life-affirming and career boosting experience onward to his next album of original material?

“They are two different things,” he states. “I am working on originals for the next album, they’re probably going to have a little bit more of a blues flavour than a rock flavour. Doing those songs helped me in that direction.”

Wall is looking at potentially releasing a live album or EP this year – it’s already been recorded, but just needs mixing. He’ll also be recording an original LP for release in 2021, by which time he’ll be working on Transpacific Blues Vol. 2, with some big-name collaborators already pencilled in.

As for where he is at the moment, Wall played his first show of 2020 at The Basso on Sunday, March 15, and will perform at the Perth Blues Club sharing the bill with Michael Damani of the Original Chicago Blues All Stars.

The momentum is strong and positive, with Wall recently building a recording studio in his home. More than ever, he can keep the creative home fires burning.

“I can record albums for as long as I want,” he laughs. “I can do another 10 or 20 albums, I’ve just got to write the songs! There’s a lot of promise coming, I just don’t know what that looks like at the moment.

“This year for me is all about having fun,” he concludes, “that’s what I want to do. Whatever that means is how it’ll come out and I’ll enjoy that ride.”


Photo: Addison Axe of Axe Girl, Women’s Fest Freo 2020 headliners. Pic: Marnie Richardson @ Three Gates Media

Julia Weller exudes both confidence and an infectious positivity. Many Freo music community folks will know her not only as a friendly neighbourhood barkeep at Mojos, but as a personification of that venue’s open and equal charm.

That’s not all, however, Weller is also a musician and an activist for gender equality. She is the organiser of Women’s Fest Freo, which returns this weekend to Clancy’s Fish Pub after debuting in 2019 with great success.

“Last year was a crazy whirlwind, and exceeded my wildest expectations,” Weller says. “I was – like this year too – amazed by how many people jumped on board for gender equality. Every day leading up to the event last year I had more new ideas and just did them all. It taught me to ask for more help and made me realise I’ve got a really nice community to lean on. I basically went through the roof when I found out how much the event raised for UN Women Australia, with over $6,500 we were one of their biggest individually organised events of the year, whilst having a huge party!

“With so much local female lead talent playing and Abbe May headlining last year, all of the people helping out and donating to the festival, we had a colourful, safe and amazingly fun event. I could never have done it without the help of everyone involved.”

While ongoing steps towards equality in the music industry still need to be made, Weller feels that progress continues.

“Looking at the average line up of gigs nowadays, I can definitely see people are starting to think more about making gigs more diverse,” she states.

“Playing music in the Dan Howls Band and working at Mojos I definitely feel like women have stepped it right up and have been motivated to follow through in whatever way they uniquely choose to express themselves; and that is being celebrated more and more.”

Along with her own work Weller feels buoyed by the efforts of WA artists strongly flying the flag for gender equality.

“There is of course our very own Lucy Peach, Perth’s all ‘round legend feminist within her own right; informing the masses about the power of the period with her fantastic TED Talk and writing beautiful, empowering music,” she notes.

“Another person that comes to mind is Perth talent Stella Donnelly, for being such an outspoken and inspiring women in the music scene. I really appreciate her powerful songs about real things that happen and in my opinion, encouraging everybody to open up the conversation and make a change. That’s really inspiring.”

Julia Yemaya

Julia Weller performing at Mojos. Pic: Tashi Hall

Weller was born and raised in Holland and upon turning 18 felt compelled to head to our shores upon meeting some exuberant Australians at dinner. A few months later she landed in Sydney “and went north, from there on I slowly made my way across, living in the rainforest and the Kimberley along the way.

“When I came to Freo it was my first reintroduction to a ‘city’ – I had been living out of a swag for about two years. I started busking and made my way for a good couple of months before having to get a job. From there onward I started to integrate into the Freo community more and more, working at the Freo markets, coming back every summer, the bubble had started to take shape.

“Then I started playing music with Dan Howls and working at Mojos and I really started to be a part of the music industry. It gave me the confidence of pulling something like this off, something I probably wouldn’t have dared even in my hometown. That’s why I love Freo!”

Mojos has offered Weller a front seat to the music scene, from grass roots to touring icons. She likes what she sees.

“I’ve seen amazing gigs at Mojos of any gender,” she notes, “and I feel like diversity is definitely being promoted and encouraged. Also it’s a zero-tolerance venue, which is actually really amazing. Anyone who feels uncomfortable can come up to the bar, and the issue will be taken seriously and dealt with.”

Women’s Fest Freo features 11 female-led acts – Lois Olney Freaya (solo) Tanya Ransom, Joan & The Giants, Freddie Mai (Bass Lemon), Smol Fish, Bexx, Hannah Smillie (Psychotic Reactions), Grace Armstrong, Lucy Peach and headliners, Axe Girl.

“I love how the main thing connecting these bands is the celebration of women,” Weller says. “We’ve got loads of different genres on the same line-up which promotes diversity in itself. From 60’s inspired garage to jazz, feminist folk/pop to soulful blues/country to indie pop, we’ll go on a musical journey!”

Women’s Fest Freo will also feature a pay-as-you-like second-hand clothing stall, glitter, good cheer and, well, beer. Weller reinforces the fact that the event is a safe space for free expression.

“Absolutely everybody is invited,” she says. I hope people feel comfortable and encouraged to express, dance and dress how they like, celebrating diversity and bring these vibes along to other events too.”

Women’s Fest Freo takes places at Clancy’s Fish Pub Fremantle this Saturday, March 7, from 6pm. Pre-sale tickets are $25.50 (including booking fee) available here or $30 on the door. All proceeds go to UN Women, the biggest gender equality advocate worldwide.

More details on Women’s Fest Freo –



In November of 2019, the Original Chicago Blues All Stars blazed a trail through WA, taking their audiences back to the core of the genre. Led by Willie Dixon’s son Freddie, the band also showcased the fine guitar work of 25 year-old Michael Damani, who made such a huge impact that he is returning for his own WA tour in February-March.

“My time in Western Australia was an amazing, eye-opening experience,” says Damani. “When we left for the tour, I made it a goal to make some good connections that would enable me to return as soon as possible. I love traveling and I love playing music, so it’s a win-win.”

Playing with the Original Chicago Blues All-Stars has been an education that has complemented Damani’s own creative energy and thirst for playing guitar onstage.

“It’s clued me in on a lot of wisdom that would’ve taken me a lifetime to discover on my own,” he notes. “That being said, I’ve also learned a lot from my peers. I play in a group with modern R&B soul singer/songwriter Wyatt Waddell. Our shows are super high energy, we blend a lot of funk with neo-soul vibes. Plus I get a chance to take a lot of bluesy, Hendrix-style solos with the group which I really enjoy.”

Damani is set to release his debut solo album, MiTOak, later this year.  It’s both an exploration and invocation of a life lived well in music, with all the ups and downs that the blues conveys so well.

MiTOak is me,” he explains. “It’s what my friends used to call me back in the day, I guess they thought pretty highly of me. But the more I thought about it the more I realised that it really is me. MiTOak is the spirit of a strong oak tree that withstands the harshest storms to become fully mature.

“Whenever things don’t go as planned I always stay focused on my growth as an individual, and I’ve written an album of music that illustrates this concept. It’s an adventure of land and sea, and I have plans for my next adventure as well.”

Accompanying Damani on this WA tour will be Chicagoan multi-instrumentalist Jordan Dingle on bass and Tyler Ray, of local blues torchbearers Old Blood on drums.

“Jordan is my friend from Chicago,” says Damani, “he’s an amazing multi-instrumentalist and bandleader in his own right. He performs under the name Black Finn, and I’m very excited to have him on board. Tyler, I met from my previous tour in WA with the Original Chicago Blues All-Stars. When our drummer took ill, Tyler stepped up to the plate and knocked it out of the park. It definitely wouldn’t have been the same with a different drummer, and I’m very fortunate to have him with me once again.

“Myself I’ll be delivering messages with some heart and soul guitar, not to mention much needed oxygen… gonna flex the golden pipes.

“With us you can expect the blues straight from the bottom of the deep blue sea, as well as many other bright, vibrant colours and feelings,” Damani says. “One thing I’ve learned about Australians, you guys are good folk, and I know that there will be lots of good energy exchange on stage and off.”


Thursday 27th Feb, The Duke of George, $30 Ticket Sales –

Friday 28th Feb, Caves House, Yallingup

Saturday 29th Feb & Sunday 1st March, Nannup Festival

Sunday 1st March, Clancy’s Fish Pub, Dunsborough

Wednesday 4th March, Indian Ocean Hotel w/ Dan Howls Duo & Ezra Tide, $15 Ticket Sales

Friday 6th March, Southerlies Tavern, Port Denison

Saturday 7th March, Geraldton Hotel w/ special Late Night Show at Vibe Nightclub

Sunday 8th March, Geraldton Hotel w/ Moon Dog

Wed 11th March, Indian Ocean Hotel w/ Luke Dux & The Atomic Lunch Box & The Durongs, $15 Ticket Sales

Friday 13th March, The Prince of Wales, Bunbury

Saturday 14th March, Settlers Tavern

Sunday 15th March, Settlers Tavern

Tuesday 17th March, The Perth Blues Club w/ Hot Biscuit Band, $20 Ticket Sales


The Fremantle Sound

Hidden Treasures – Fremantle Winter Music Series has been announced for 2016, happening from Friday, July 16, until Friday, July 29.  BOB GORDON was recently called upon to ponder some of Freo’s musical past for the recent From History To Future Talks held at Mojos. Here’s a transcript…

THE PREMISE – ‘The trends of music emerging from Fremantle over the years and what a national publication (X-Press/ defines or expects the “Freo Sound” to sound like and how that has changed over the years’.

I’ll start with an apology. Upon delving into something like this, once you start thinking and talking to people about it and collecting names, places and people to mention, the more you collect the more you realise that there will be a shitload of names left out.

So this is by no means definitive – if you feel like mentioning someone at the end who has not been noted in this talk, please sing their name out, always!

In the last few days leading up to this I picked the minds of around 20 people I knew – musicians or people involved in music, some from Freo, some not, about Fremantle, its music and its bands.

Quite often, one simple question arose – what qualifies as a Freo band?

Is it a case of being born or bred? Do you have to live off South Terrace or just practice in it? Does loading the gear into the station wagon and driving down Stirling Highway and playing gigs in the Shire help with your geographical and cultural status?

Sometimes when these friends were on a roll with their thoughts they’d literally  stop… ‘wait, were The Triffids a Freo band?’ ‘Were The Boys a Freo band?’ ‘The Stems?’ ‘Were Little Birdy a Freo band?’

In the ’90s, there was a band called Circus Murders (Roly Skender, Matt Cheetham, Joe Scholz, Chris Horan) who were considered your classic example of a Fremantle band except for one thing –

They were from West Perth. Not only that, but West Street, West Perth – where they rehearsed and wrote. They released a CD titled West St 1-5 to commemorate.

In asking people their thoughts – some of which I’ll quote from – out of all the eras and phases of time one band’s name came up all the time as a great example of a Fremantle band and that was…

Cinema Prague.

Joe Kapiteyn (Infected , The Devil Rides Out)

“One of my first local shows was at the Stoned Crow and that had a big impact on me – Was Cinema Prague and Inquisition. Were Cinema Prague a “Freo” band? I don’t have much in the way of Freo music stories as most of my personal music career has been more focused around the inner city and northern suburbs. Not much of an audience for heavy music in Freo.”

Possibly another debate right there, depending what your definition of heavy is. Like Fremantle, Cinema Prague were diversity itself. They didn’t have one sound, they had many – jazz, rock, punk, speed metal, pop, funk, blues, reggae, hip hop. None of it token or ornamental, it all flowed.

A very handy trio – George Kailis, Tim Lowe and Rex Horan.

Not only lead guitar, but lead bass and lead drums. When necessary, of course. They used to be compared all the time to Frank Zappa. Which is quite a complement for a couple  of guys who were at the time in their early 20s. But I recall Rex found that comparison quite frustrating and somewhat lazy – I think, oddly enough, because it was limiting – it reduced a band that was doing deep and wide things into a two-word description, even if those two words were ‘Frank’ and ‘Zappa’.

So there was no Cinema Prague ‘sound’. And I would propose that there is no such thing as a ‘Fremantle sound’.

I think that the people who propose that there are scenes or sounds in a certain region, aren’t from that locality.

Think of Seattle and grunge – in a reportage sense, it’s widely thought this term was first used by the UK critic, Everett True. It’s an example of someone from far afield telling other outsiders what it’s like ‘over there’.

The doom, gloom, desperation and inspiration of an entire community gets dumbed down into one word. And only a handful of bands, at most, ‘benefit’ from it at all.

I used to hate it when every few years people would say ‘Perth could become the new Seattle’. Hell no! Not with that drug problem.

Similarly ‘The Liverpool of the South’ – To a wider world Merseyside simply means The Beatles and Gerry & The Pacemakers.

In the ’90s there certainly was a proliferation of funk music being played at places like the Harbourside – but it was a prevailing wind, not the dominant scene.

There were heavy periods of blues music spearheaded by the Zar brothers, Steve Tallis, Jim Fisher and many others. There was also the power pop/paisley revolution of The Go Starts, The Stems and DM3.

Soon enough in the late ’90s there was a lot of electronic music being played at places like Phillimores by bands such as Proton and also a band called Rhibosome who were on a path that Koi Child are consolidating in this modern era.

And in amongst that you have the likes of the Kill Devil Hills – now what scene do they fit in? Their Own – I would suggest. Much like The Triffids.

The Fremantle scene constitutes ‘Hippies with sandals’ – now people have referred to that one for decades.

ANONYMOUS – “I have a northsider’s perception of Fremantle music over the years as a largely regressive mish-mash of reggae/funk/folk which usually involves some members of the band being barefoot on stage…… with dreadies. Soon as they came on RTR you could tell they were from Freo. Eskimo Joe were clearly not in that category but were a proudly Freo band who I found refreshingly different to that simplistic appraisal. I’m not being very helpful am I? But the calibre of people like Jim Fisher, Lucky Oceans, Dave Brewer, Reg Zar and the like have ensured world-class musicianship can be found at your local bowlo or corner bar, what a treat. These guys are unassuming craftsmen, local treasures.”

Pretty helpful, as it turns out. There are great characters in the history of the Fremantle music community such as those just mentioned. And others such as The Boy From Bicton – Dave Warner, Phil Stevens, Lee Sappho, John Reid, Kevin Parker, Jodie Regan, John Butler, Danielle Caruana, Kim Salmon, Felicity Groom, Dom Mariani, Andrew Ryan…

They don’t lead by ego, but by their actions.

And there’s many great foot soldiers…

Paul McCarthy (The Jackals, The Wishers, solo artist)

” …first one that springs to mind for me personally is Touchstone …a three-piece folk rock band featuring Paul Noonan on bass (he went on to play with Dave Warner) Scott Wise (he went on to be a gifted instrument maker) and Eric Kowalski ( was probably the most talented of the lot played violin and guitar….disappeared of my radar) they were quiet big in the late ’70s ….inspired me to play music…….other more obvious bands that come to mind are Dave Warner (the boy from Bicton) The Triffids, Kim Salmon, Kill Devil Hillls, Stems, John Butler, Eskimo Joe and Tame Impala…must be heaps more but that’s what immediately comes to mind for me.

 “And the musos go from one thing to another ignoring the genres. .Paul Noonan, bass player of Touchstone, became known as a folk muso… then never played that style again. Lots of musos flipping from one style to another… but the community they play with remains fairly constant… more constant that the sound, anyway.”

To me, Fremantle is not a sound or a scene. Scenes come and go, but as Paul McCarthy noted, it’s about community.

An Eternal Community

That was something that I, as someone who lived mostly around Subi, Shenton Park, North Perth and Leederville over the years loved about coming to Fremantle for gigs.

I always loved making ‘the trek’ – the bands and the people around them – the communicativeness and the open hearts and minds.

For years ‘Perth’ bands found it very hard to encourage and applaud when other – rival? – bands achieved something, or moved a step closer to a notion of ‘success’. These days it’s far more apparent because there’s a much more mature and confident musical state of mind across the board.

To my mind, in the Fremantle community that always existed. That open-minded and open-heartedness that I just mentioned. It’s just a different vibe when you come to Freo and you feel it when you live there.

Tom Fisher (Tom Fisher & The Layabouts, Booker – Clancy’s Fremantle)

“When I was a teen, you’d go to these Freo parties, and it would be like $5 with a couple of kegs pouring (if you were there early enough). I was always worried they olde hosts wouldn’t let us in. I remember Rod (Aravena, End of Fashion) hosting some corkers. Remember seeing Freud’s Pillow (early Eskimo Joe seeds). Cinema Prague were great. I loved a punk band called White Trash and got them to play my 18th birthday at the Seaview. The folk scene with bands like Press Gang etc was pretty large around the Fly By Night. The fact that the Zydecats Sunday session was so huge here could only have probably happened in Freo, I feel. The right culture.”

In 1983 Australia II won the America’s Cup and pretty soon after that came the initial gentrification of Fremantle.

George Wesley (Worked at many Fremantle live venues and long-time champion of/in the Freo music community)

“You know, in pre-America’s Cup days, when Freo was an old port town and people actually used to speak more Italian than English, there were traditional musos everywhere. You would sit at Papa Luigi’s and listen to a piano-accordion. My uncle used to play at the footy club every Friday eve sundowner; he played folk tunes on his violin accompanied by ‘Les’, whose big claim to fame was that he wrote the Aeroplane Jelly jingle. When I was really little there was lots of cultural music everywhere. Freo isn’t like that anymore.”

True, however Freo’s rich history as a multi-ethnic, harbourside city has given it a richness in culture that makes it special to this day. KULCHA was a mainstay for multi-cultural music. As has been the Fly By Night Club – a multi-genre paradise – and more power to those keeping that dream alive.

Mathhew de la Hunty (Tall Tales & True, The Lazy Horses)

“My early experience was from 1976-77 when Martyn Casey and I first started playing live. We weren’t even of age but we did a couple of coffee shop acoustic shows and played with our first band at the Orient Hotel in 1977. (We lived south of the river). There were colourful hippies mixed with some pretty hard-drinking, hard living visiting seamen (Not military, tattooed rough nuts) who were plentiful around town. A fight broke out on the dance floor, blood everywhere. I got propositioned by a short old man in his bowling whites who wanted to tell me all about his penis. Rock and Roll! What a start. When we started as the Nobodies – our first original band in 1980. We played at The Stoned Crow many times. Lots of hippies and no beer! Cider and wine. The emergence of post punk/new wave seemed to mainly come from the northside. Mutant Mule studio was in North Fremantle. Originally built by the Clarion Records guy, Martin Clarke, it was the home to early recordings of many bands of the new breed of early ’80s bands, Nobodies, Silent Type (later Never Never), And An A, to name a few. It was run by Tim Lambert and Evan Smith who moved from a mobile 8-track studio they used to record Dave Warner gigs live, to the permanent 16-track on location for about three years. Last I saw it was a carpet warehouse So whilst cover bands, boogie bands, R&B bands continued to play in beer barns there was a sense that a new thing was happening and the (now) Mojo’s and Mutant Mule Studio just down the road were two hubs of activity in the early ’80s.

“There’s been lots of talent lurking around the back streets of Freo across the decade -, Jill and Alsy, Roddy Radalj, Martyn Casey, and more recent locals.”

 I guess what national magazines or journalists expect the ‘Freo Sound’ to be is based on what is dominating attention spans at any given time. So if I was over east I probably might say the Fremantle Sound is like Koi Child. Or Tame Impala.

But look at Kevin Parker’s influence on music around the globe these past few years. If his work is influencing people as disparate as Mark Ronson, The Flaming Lips and Rihanna – then is the sound of the world’s music the ‘Fremantle Sound’?

I’d prefer to think of it as the eternal community  – artistic, open and giving. Something to embrace, because it will embrace you. As it has done to me.

Someone should write a book about it.

Check out for the full July rundown…