Ice House – Iva Davies

WHITE HEAT: 30 HITS.  In recent years, ICEHOUSE has played Homebake, Enmore Theatre and intimate pub concerts that echo the band’s beginnings, but will now be touring the country to celebrate their newest achievement. We caught up with Iva to explore the band’s extraordinary past and what lies in his future. Firstly, congratulations on WHITE HEAT going platinum. Yeah, it’s highly unexpected. I was actually very nervous about it the whole idea that after 30 odd years of whether anyone would be interested or not. When you started out, did you ever picture the success you’d experience? Actually I was a great sceptic right from the outset. You know, the band started out as a cover band and I’d never been in an electric band. It was my very first experience playing with an electric guitar and a group of musicians and my very first experience of ever going into a pub – believe it or not – was the first time we played in a pub. It was a great laugh and great fun, with all the exuberance of youth that you have. In our early twenties we were playing on a Friday and Saturday night and of course we got a bit of a following and were playing every night of the week. Even after a long period of time (I guess we’re talking a year and a half) we were still not making any real money and had no prospect of making any money. In fact, I tried desperately to audition for a brand new course at the Conservatorium of Music which would have finished the band because it was a very intensive course over 14 months and was the very first piano tuner’s course in Australia and I guess luckily, in hindsight, I failed the audition and didn’t get in. That would have been the end of the band there and then had I got in because I was really convinced this wasn’t a real job and we wouldn’t get anywhere. So no, I didn’t have any inkling that it would go the way that it did – none whatsoever. Icehouse (previously Flowers) began in the pub rock scene during the 80s, could you tell me a little about that? It was, you can imagine a period where in all the capitals on any given night of the week (this is not just weekends), there would be in Sydney alone a choice of 50 bands to go and see, and most of them very, very good with very, very competent crews with great sound systems – it was extraordinary really. I guess the sort of light-bulb moment for me that we didn’t really appreciate what was going on in Australia was the very first night when we arrived in London for our very first international tour, we’re talking a period where our first album had already come out in Australia and New Zealand which had been a huge debut success – the highest selling debut of any Australian band at that point. We were off to conquer the world and we arrived in London and immediately got hold of the New Musical Express (NME), which was the kind of newspaper of choice in Britain, desperate to go out and see a band. Of course, in our heads a great portion of the world’s great music had come from England (certainly a lot of it) and people who had been influential to us – the whole of the punk movement for example – for which we were the tail end of – and we were absolutely gobsmacked that there were no pubs to go and see bands in. Of course, English pubs are completely different than Australian pubs, they’re tiny little places that can’t accommodate a band and so with the exception of a very few clubs, there was nowhere to go and we were completely shocked. We thought, “hang on a minute, if this was Sydney, if this was Melbourne, if this was Brisbane, if this was Adelaide – we’d be absolutely spoiled for choice of bands to go and see.” And so it wasn’t really until that moment that I recognised that Australia was actually quite exceptional during that period in terms of the amount of music that was going on and the quality of music. In the last couple of years you’ve played everything from Homebake to Enmore Theatre to smaller venues – do you prefer the larger crowds or more intimate pub gigs reminiscent of where you first began? They both have their own merit. There’s absolutely no question that it’s incredibly exciting when you have a crowd of 20,000 people, all of whom are on your side and excited and participating and singing along and dancing – it’s quite incredible really when you have that number of people. But the kind of connection with the stage is quite a different one for example, to you know, having a tiny little club with people right there at your feet within touching distance of you and the sort of engagement that you have with those environments, so they’re quite different. In a sense, the small crowds because of their proximity are more intimidating, it’s quite strange because when you get to my age and can’t see the back row very well of 20,000 people, then to a certain extent the back row are a long way away and you’re really kind of projecting and hoping that someone’s catching what you’re projecting rather than actually being able to see the direct result. So those front rows of a very small club are right there with you and there’s no doubt about it, it’s a very intimate engagement. There’s no doubting Icehouse is seen as an Aussie rock icon – do you have any icons of your own? I just have great respect for that period of Australian music and a lot of the bands that came out of that period. They worked.. we all worked incredibly hard and ultimately only a few bands managed to transfer their success in Australia to an international level. I guess it’s probably another fact that’s not really recognised, that almost all of them tried but many of them failed so even a band as iconic as Cold Chisel really never got any substantial success outside of Australia even though they went over and they worked in France especially, I recall, I think Cold Chisel were particularly focused on [that market]. But we had a sort of friendly rivalry within Australia that evaporated completely when it came to all of our efforts to gain success overseas. I tell a story, I remember being on tour in America and we were on a tour bus crossing the vast expanse of America overnight going to the next city to do the next show and our American bus driver shouted down the hallway to those of us who were still awake “I’m just talking to the driver of INXS’s bus and they’re heading in the opposite direction!” It was a very interesting exchange because there we both were, a long way from home in this big place trying to get a foot-hole and get some kind of success. I had a similar experience in London where I was walking down a little street where my record company was which was a little cul-de-sac off Oxford Street, so it was a fairly obscure little place, and coming in the opposite direction was a very, very tall young man wearing a hat. As he got closer I recognised him as Peter Garrett from Midnight Oil and there we exchanged pleasantries even though we were a rival band who had a rival spot at a very famous northern beaches pub in Sydney that we both were residents of. Midnight Oil played one weekend, we played the following weekend and so on. But on the other side of the world we recognised that we were almost like astronauts who had gone to a place a long way away, sort of in a peculiar way representing this great undiscovered treasure trove of Australian music and as I say, very few Australian bands made any impression overseas but we all shared that same common goal. Any plans for the future? Well actually I have kind of scattered plans, I always have. I tend not to make long term plans because quite often they fell out of the blue and I went through a period of almost 15 years when one strangely unexpected project after another kept popping up. I was invited to create the music for Millenium for example, and that took me nearly a year. With a very big project, that came out of an involvement with the Olympic Games and then further on it occurred that Peter Weir, a very famous Australian music director, was watching the broadcast of that Millennium music and commissioned me to put together the soundtrack to a very big budget Hollywood movie called Master and Commander that he was working on at the time. These projects sort of kept bumping in to each other out of the blue and they kept me occupied for a very long time, as a result of which I don’t really have a vast forward-planning strategy because I know that something will turn up. I’ve only just got back into the technology of writing and in fact as recently as last week, I’ve been working with Michael Paynter (who is one of the members of the band), a very young man, but he’s also of that generation of fearless computer users who have absolutely no respect for technology whatsoever, so he’ll absolutely thrash whatever is put in front of him. And I happen to have just invested in a brand new upgrade of ProTools – the absolute core of music producers – and so we just spent a week together working on some music here, not necessarily for him or for me, but just really for the sake of getting back into technology and seeing how we got on at it, famously, I must say. That may continue as well but we have one tiny challenge which is that he’s in Melbourne and I’m in Sydney so of course it involves him coming up and staying and getting emerged in work. It’s not a bad way to do it, In fact, it’s rather reminiscent of the way I used to work with Bob Kretschmer, our lead guitarist. A number of albums including Man of Colours, he used to come up to focus on work ethic. It’s quite a tricky thing to discipline yourself to work in that way so it’s greatly rewarding. I said to Michael when we played back at the end of the week, “well, thank you for coming up and thank you for reminding me of that feeling of having produced something that didn’t exist a week ago”, it’s quite an interesting experience. For the unforgettable experience of seeing Iva and ICEHOUSE live, tickets are now available for the September 21 show of the Platinum Tour at the Gold Coast Twin Towns.]]>

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