Tim Rogers

Without doubt, You Am I is one of the most respected bands in the country - a respect that is built equally on the band's ferocious reputation on stage, but also on the songwriting ability of Tim Rogers. On the eve of You Am I's release of their latest album, Dress Me Slowly, Tim Rogers spoke with Australian Guitar.

How were the Big Day Out shows?
Pretty Good. I think we definitely prefer playing indoors. A little while ago I made a (not very solid) decision to not play festivals. It seems you have to believe in 'big music' to do those things, and I don't think we really suit that sort of thing. But we have a long association with the Big Day Out, so it was a pleasure to do it this year.

I felt a bit sorry for you guys, being sandwiched between Sunk Loto and Mudvayne, who are both so different to You Am I.
Oh no, you see, I like that. We're never going to get on bills that are totally thematically linked anyway. A couple of years ago we played with a death metal band from Costa Rica in Boston and that was great. Hopefully if a band is good you can see past the style and get some encouragement from it, no matter what form of music it i.
Years ago, when we were just starting out we would often play with bands that were a lot heavier than us, and we would get distracted by that, but these days we enjoy playing so much that we are able to just stick to what we do.

You guys seem to have a lot more emphasis on melody than a lot of bands around at the moment.
I don't think about it a whole lot, but back in '90 - '92, when we were just starting, a lot of the bands that we played with were essentially funk-metal. Everyone in town was so influenced by Faith No More and the Chili Peppers and singers were doing the faux rapping style on vocals. And so much of guitar music today seems to be an extension of that, except maybe it's a little heavier. But I still think there is room for melodic guitar pop, although it's not going to sell truckloads at this particular moment in time, or it's not the thing to do. Which is all the more reason to go ahead and do it I suppose.

Do you still get the same kick out of playing that you did in the early days?
I think more actually. Mainly because we appreciate it a little more these days. Before, it was all exciting and we were always looking ahead of where we actually were at the time. But at the moment we want to enjoy the gigs and get get more out of it other than just throwing yourself around in a lot of sweat. We know each other a bit better now and we know that we all need to do it.

You look really comfortable as a 4-piece band now.
Yeah, it definitely feels strong now, but that's because it's had the time to get that way. I often say to people that Dave is a You Am I person, he's of similar temperament and social malfunction to the rest of the band. And that's despite the age difference, which is quite pronounced. We really couldn't have hoped to get anyone more suited to the band than Dave.

How do you Dave go about sorting out who plays the different guitar parts in the songs?
I guess I like to leave a lot of space in the songs for Dave to do his thing, because I'm such a huge fan of his playing. I don't chart anything out for him, it's more like we talk about the song and try and reference it to another band. Kind of like, 'well, here on this song I was thinking about a Creedence Clearwater kind of "choogling" style', and he will go away and come back with a variation on that theme. Basically I play all the lazy stuff - I leave all the tricky stuff up to him!

He's a similar guitar player to you isn't he?
Yeah, he feels the music. He throws himself into the playing. In fact sometimes I don't realise just how fortunate I am to have him in the band, because I'm such a fan of that kind of playing. The guitar is a tool and hopefully it can assist you in dragging out whatever music is inside you. We both play for the physicality of playing. I know how I feel when I hear a Telecaster through a Fender Tonemaster just hitting an open chord, and I know that Dave responds to those feelings as well.

You seem to be just playing your Teles live now, not your Crockers.
Well the problem with the Crockers is that I love them too much. I really like Piers (Crocker) as a person and as a guitar player, and we were doing these tours where the guitars were getting beaten around a bit too much, and I didn't like bringing them back to Piers with bits out of them and all that sort of thing. Piers is always saying 'Don't worry about it Tim, they're there to be played', but i'm quite reverential about them. The Teles are just a big plank of wood and they're so durable and haven't got quite the pristine sound that Piers' guitars have. They're (Teles) are a workhorse guitar and there's just something about them when you hit them. It's a jarring sound, it's a clang, but there's an odd roundness about it at the same time. It's like being hit a gloved fist, and I like that about Teles. And they look so darn good!

They're the ultimate rock 'n roll guitar.
Yeah, that's a point that's obviously not lost upon us! (Laughs) People just look good with one slung across the shoulder.

Is there a particular Tele that you're most fond of?
Yeah, It's one I got off Fender a few years ago. Just a reissue thing. When I buy a guitar, I'll get something and I'll make it work for me down the track - I don't expect them to be perfect from the word go. And I think this guitar is just starting to hit its straps now, in pulling a good rhythm sound out of it, or at least what I think is good for the band.

How did you hook up with Piers Crocker?
I used to live right near him in Annandale in Sydney, and I remember him shaking his head every time I brought a guitar in for him to repair. He had a blonde Crockenbaker hanging on the wall for a while, and one day I asked him if he would consider selling it. He replied that he had been waiting for someone to ask him that for ages! He used to be quite coy about what he was making at the time, although I'm not sure whether he's still that way. And it turned out to be exactly what I wanted, in fact the sound of a couple of our records was shaped around the sound of that particular guitar.

A versatile guitar?
Not so much. It's just something that you could plug straight into a Fender amp and get a great sound without any mucking around. Kind of like the Pretty Things, or Steve Cropper or mid Sixties Stones.

Have you always used Fender amps?
No, only when I've been able to afford them. We were in Arizona one time... actually it was Lee Ranaldo from Sonic Youth that put me on to Tonemasters in particular. I was playing whatever I could get my hands on up until then, and when we were doing our second record, Lee said, look I've got this Tonemaster you should try. He lent it to me for a couple of months, and I loved it so much that when I got back home I scraped up enough pennies to get one of my own. It was such a pristine and powerful amp. There were no buttons to push, it was all knobs for volume and tweaking the sound that you wanted. I was very into just putting the guitar straight into the amp, maybe with a bit of boost pedal if anything. But that's the sound that still affects me and makes me want to play. Maybe one dayit won't and then I'll change to something else, but up until now it's served me well.

Do you still enjoy playing as much as you used to?
Very much. I find that my rhythm guitar goes lower and lower in the mix as we go on, which is fine with me. I like just chugging away in the background. But if you're going to have a second guitar player in the band you've got to work it and use it for a purpose, and not just chuck out the same thing together. I think we're just starting to work really well together with the two guitar thing.

The latest album has been a while in the making hasn't it.
Yeah, well that was not the way it was meant to be at all. We've kind of been attached at the hip with a label in the States, and they're very keen to hear the singles. We started recording in New Jersey, and then in Sydney a couple of times, and we've been really happy with what we've come up with. And the people at the US label have heard the results and said, 'we love the record, but can you give us a single'. And that's been going on for three years, which has been quite hellish in a way. As you can probably guess we really don't like hearing that sort of thing, we like to think that we know how to make records and we're all really proud of what the band does. So it's kind of frustrating to hear from people stuff like go and start again, or write something else. I can see their point I guess, but we know the sort of band that we are and we know we're not going to sell a million records, so can you please leave us alone.
But while all this has been going on we've had a very friendly respectful relationship with the label that we're signed to here in Australia, which is BMG, and it finally seems to have sorted itself out. We've essentially stuck to our guns, and everyone seems to have realised that we are who we are. We've been asked to 'dumb down' in order to get played on the radio (like a lot of bands are) and we really weren't prepared to do that.