Icehouse Bring the Heat


One of Australia’s most iconic bands is performing a special Australia Day Eve concert in the scenic ambience of Red Hill Auditorium next year. It could only be Icehouse, the band that gave us ‘Great Southern Land’ and ‘Hey Little Girl’. Lead singer and all around music legend Iva Davies caught up with OUTinPerth to tell us all about it.

“We’ve been playing again for the last three years but we’ve actually been over to Western Australia quite a few times. Last time was in February, we played on Rottnest Island which was a real blast. Great fun.” he said.

“We’ll be bringing a few new bits and pieces to Perth this time. We’re actually breaking down some of the songs into a little acoustic set which will be interesting to and of course we have the incredibly talented Michael Paynter with us again, you may recall him on ‘The Voice’ last year and he’s an incredible talent, a great singer and an amazing guitarist, and keyboard player. It’s always great fun to have him because of course he has the annoying energy of youth with him.”

Ice House recently performed their extensive repertoire in quite a different way: as reggae numbers under the name Dub House. Davies’ explains the shows were a fun idea spawned from an experience he had touring Europe in the 80s:

“We were playing a series of big outdoor summer festivals in Germany. We were on the side of the stage watching Peter Tosh’s band. Peter Tosh was of course, the founder of Bob Marley’s The Wailers. He probably would’ve has 10 or 11 musicians and there was one guy up the back of the band, his job is to referred to in a reggae band as the ‘chucka’ man. He’s the guy that just does the offbeat guitar stuff that goes: ‘chucka, chucka, chucka’. He was probably completely stoned and having a very relaxed time and I turned to my bass player and I said ‘I want that guy’s job.’ And I told that story to somebody last year and they turned around to me and said ‘Why don’t you do it? Why don’t you become the “chucka” man in your own band, since you’ve always wanted to do that.”

Davies’ band members were enthusiastic about the idea and added some members to their ensemble, making it an eight piece band for two shows: one in Melbourne and one in Sydney. They performed their entire catalogue as reggae and released the resulting album.

“Every time I listen to reggae I just want to dance and smile, it’s such happy music. It was great fun and also a very interesting exercise to actually reinterpret those songs without all their traditional arrangement and elements and strip them back down to songs and try and make them work to reggae. I think they were very successful versions, it was very interesting.”

Davies says the band will play mostly traditional versions of their repertoire when they perform in Perth, but they’re not afraid of giving their material a fresh take. He says the band may play a couple of the Dub House interpretations on the night, as well as breaking some of their songs into an acoustic version.

Davies isn’t new to experimentation when it comes to music. He composed two ballet scores for the Sydney Dance Company, the first of which, in 1985, featured a brand new piece of technology: the sampler.

“The sampler as a piece of music technology is probably, apart from the actual technology of recording itself, the most groundbreaking, influential invention ever added to the technology of music. It’s a little known fact, it was an Australian invention and I had only just started working with this machine called the Fairlight. A great deal of that very first ballet score was as a result of experiment with that machinery and it was probably the first electronic contemporary ballet score in the world, quite by accident in a way, it just happened to be where I was up to at the moment and what I was using.

“It was great fun because as Graeme Murphy, the director of the Sydney Dance Company said ‘there are no rules’, and of course I’d been, for quite a few years been working with quite a strict format of four minute or less songs for which there are a lot of rules and so it was great fun just to be able to experiment with a completely blank canvas.”

Davies has had his fingers in many musical pies, and also composed the score for the film ‘Master and Commander’. He says the newest uncharted territory he’s decided to take on is writing songs for other artists. He’s been collaborating with young talent Michael Paynter in this venture as well.

“It’s an interesting exercise in itself because it’s sort of writing for a commission, and it’s something I haven’t done before, but it’s actually proved very successful and we’ll probably do a bit more of that because it’s an interesting exercise.”

After a 17 year break, Icehouse began performing together again three years ago. Davies says the experience has been illuminating.

“I think the real eye opener of the reinvention of the band after a seventeen year break that started about three years ago was that we have a whole other new generation of fans, which I didn’t expect at all. It kind of makes logical sense having thought about it in retrospect but because of the fact that the music technology has changed so much, the invention of portable devices and the power of the internet and so on, I’ve watched it happen to my own children and their friends. My daughter is 20 and at university and my son is doing his HSC this year, and they are masive fans, as are all their friends of an incredible variety of genres of music and time frames of music.

“My son’s favourite artist is Jimi Hendrix, who of course is out of the 60s. I think the fact that they are able to explore so much more easily than for example when I was 18, I had to save up and save up and save up to buy just a handful of LPs. I think by the time I was his age I only owned about three albums. And that was my entire collection of music, whereas he’s wandering around with tens of thousands of songs in his phone.”

“That’s been the most interesting thing for me, is the fact that even after all this amount of time we’re still getting new fans.”

Davies says the response to their comeback was a somewhat unexpected.

“It was always likely that we would have a certain number of people who would want to come and see us who had experienced the music first hand when they were in their youth.

“But to play a festival like Homebake, which we did a couple of years ago, and to play to 20,000 twenty year olds was quite extraordinary. Even more extraordinary about that was that they started singing, at the very first line of the very first song and they sang the entire set. Given that none of them were born when those songs were released, it’s quite extraordinary.”

Icehouse are performing at Red Hill Auditorium on January 25th 2015. Tickets available here.

Sophie Joske

Tags: , ,