YOU AM I

They have had four number 1 albums but You Am I's Tim Rogers modestly says "we don't sell many records"

You Am I haven't developed into one of Australia's greatest live acts by accident. They did it the good old fashion way ... by hard work. As you will discover, there was never any grand plan for the strategy that would take You Am I along their career path.

This is a band that has worked on various levels and taken each challenge as it has been presented. It may have started out as just a bit of fun with some mates but now for Tim Rogers, You Am I are ready to backtrack some areas of their career they didn't quite get right first time around.

Paul Cashmere: Let's start with the background of You Am I and where the initial support came from. Who helped you initially?

Tim Rogers: The other guys in bands I was trying to get together, definitely. The family were tolerant because it is not such a bad thing to be doing. It was about finding like minded souls in school and banging up in the oval. Early on with You Am I and the bands I played in it was really a "you and I against the world" kind of thing. It was just the other guys that you are banging out music with that you confide in and share things with. Then it was just other bands. With You Am I, the only way we got any gigs at all was through other bands that we would play with. We'd see someone we'd like or despise and we'd be offered shows (often for their own amusement) because they felt some sort of kinship.

PC: Networking is the way to go?

TR: We are actually terrible at it. You Am I started in the north western suburbs of Sydney in Baulkham Hills. Nick Tischler our bass player, he and I started the band with my brother Jaimme. Nick was a great talker and very charming and got us shows with bands like The Hellmen, Box Jesuit, The Hardons, Asylum ... those harder rock bands. We were a bit poncy but we managed to get gigs with them. We never made demos. Actually the only demos You Am I ever made got stolen from Nick's house. They were just on a little 4-track. He and my brother Jaimme used to go and see a million shows a year and get talking to people at shows at the time. It was real basic kind of stuff. It was just beer talk and "my bands not half bad, how about giving us a show". It was a time when there were five band bills and we could sneak on at 7pm at The Evening Star.

PC: Does that happen in reverse now? Do you get the young bands coming to you asking if they can be on your bill?

TR: Yeah sure and that's okay if it works out great. But there aren't those big bills anymore. There are only two or three bands now. It's a similar thing going with Davey's band The Pictures at the moment. They get shows because people in other bands want the band to play with them because they are enthusiastic. It is not that their manager or someone has taken upon themselves to take on the band and grease up to somebody. It is because they did a lot of shows to nobody and word got around.

PC: Tell us about your early equipment.

TR: Stuff used to break, it was crappy gear, whatever we could get. I remember in 1994, we were doing Big Day Out, and our manager Kate said "look, okay this is getting serious. We have been blowing out too many
shows. There is too much wrecked gear. I am going to give you all a couple of grand to go and buy gear". It was money that the band had generated through touring. It was great. Andy and I just looked at each other and went out and bought decent amps and a guitar. It was brilliant. It happened just by the band accumulating 200 bucks here, 150 bucks there and touring very frugally that we generated enough money to buy equipment. Early on it was disastrous.

PC: When did it go from being the hobby to being the career for You Am I?

TR: It worked in a strange way. I was working in a pizza shop and then a record store in Castle Hill in Sydney. The bands started getting shows and I got fired from my pizza job just as the band started getting more shows. Then I had a part time job in a record store. It worked quite well that my work was decreasing as the band was getting more shows. Just getting your first APRA cheque shows you are getting there. I still have my first APRA cheque from 1992 framed up. You are getting money for tours. Kate Stewart, our first manager would give us all 5 bucks a day, then 10 bucks a day and then it got up to 20 bucks a day. Back then it was fun but now we have some nice beer money and money for getting a nice feed each day. It is just as much fun. The band got more successfully so gradually that we just took everything in its stride.

PC: Are you involved in your own contracts?

TR: I have a bit of a problem. I used to study law and I had a pretty spectacular nervous breakdown while studying. Now every time I see a contract I just weep. I feel my insides coagulating. We have a look over
them, we talk about the broad brush strokes. We have a lawyer and an accountant who we barely pay unfortunately because he does a lot of good work for us. I speak to my wife as well. She is smarter than I am. Dave talks to his girlfriend about his business. We try and talk to as many people as possible. But get advice because signing for big advances and things is very tempting.

PC: When did you get your first manager?

TR: It was really early when Kate Stewart came in. Nick Tischler had been looking after us. Then Andy Kent joined and Kate started managing us very soon after that. It was about 1991. We were just playing first on bills of four or five bands in Sydney. Kate saw us and really threw her neck out. Shehad no grand plans. She didn't want to shoot for the top. She just really liked the band. We became really good friends and just wanted to get shows and have fun. It was really very innocent. It was only when the band started touring overseas and having to do more business with record companies Kate was starting to back out and said "this isn't why I am in it". The bands expectations went up and she didn't want to follow that through.

PC: Now one of your members Andy Kent is involved in your management.

TR: He sure is. We just couldn't be prouder of him. We could sit around and rack 'em up and wait for the next call to come through saying "hey you have to be here" but we just thought the band has missed out on opportunities that we shouldn't have, particularly overseas. We didn't have aggressive enough people. Everyone was looking for the really big thing when really we should have done things on a much smaller level that would have satisfied us more. We should have been playing with bands that we wanted to play with or
playing in festivals that we wanted to play on rather than being with the labels overseas and them wanting us to be on MTV straight away. Go and tour up and down The States for 6 months with a bunch of garage bands. That is where the heart lies. Andy now does that because he is one of us, not one of them.

PC: Has he put together the upcoming American tour?

TR: Pretty much, because he knows what bands have to go through. He has been in this band for the last 12 years of his life. He knows how to tour and make it possible for a rock band. If you haven't been in a rock band I would see it as near impossible to put together a decent tour.

PC: Finally outside of You Am I, you did the soundtrack for the movie Dirty Deeds.

TR: The most interesting thing was how professional everyone was. There were vastly different people on that record. Everyone came in wanting to make a great record and that was their priority. Everyone wanted to have a bit of a laugh and make a good record. It was an extraordinarily good experience.

PC: Was there less pressure working on the soundtrack than a You Am I record?

TR: No, more pressure because they were other peoples songs. I wanted to record them well and do a good job on them. The bands that were on there were on there for a reason. I wanted them to sound great because I love the band. I felt more pressure. The You Am I records are quite indulgent. The only pressure is the pressure we put on ourselves. When you are doing other peoples songs you are an employee.

PC: On Dirty Deeds you collaborated with a lot of your contemporaries like Tex Perkins from Cruel Sea, Bernard Fanning from Powderfinger or Phil Jamieson from Grinspoon. But you also worked with Billy Thorpe who has been around since the early 60s. Did he have a few stories?

TR: (puts on a Thorpie voice) "Hello Tim, how are ya. My lord I have to tell you about this slapper I was with in '72". Billy is an exceptional person. He is an enigma. I just initially wanted his blessing originally to go ahead with it. He and Lobby Lloyd were the ones I contacted at the start and they were just so enthusiastic from the word go. Any of those guys who I meet and they are not prats is what I enjoy. Meeting Mike Rudd (Spectrum) and him coming in and blowing harp and telling stories. Harry Vanda, meeting him. They still have a fire in their gut. Then they see a band like us and maybe see a bit of themselves. Anyone who has been playing music for a while as a lifestyle choice has the real feeling in their gut for it. It is just really an encouraging thing. I don't want to do anything else and if I can do it until I die I will consider myself a really lucky person.

PC: Do you still recall the day you got that first You Am I record in your hand?

TR: Oh yeah, oh yeah. It was just brilliant. I was all excited as hell. Andy and I used to live around the corner from each other in Chippendale in Sydney when our first record came out. We went around to the Annandale Hotel and had a big party about it which pretty much just involved the two of us.

PC: What is the difference between that first record and the latest one Deliverance?

TR: Back then we didn't know how to get the sounds that we wanted. I knew the records I loved but I didn't know how to write to get those sounds. Now we are closer to it, particularly with Davey playing. I always wanted to be in a two guitar band. It is just knowing what we want now and it is just so much more satisfying.

PC: If you could re-record the first album with the last album in mind what would change?

TR: It would be interesting. We'd do it a friggen lot better I could tell you. In recent tours we have done we played one of the songs off the first record acoustic. It gave it a bit more of that rollicking kind of feel.

PC: It's quite a setlist you have to put together these days.

TR: Andy sent though a list of all the songs we had recorded recently and it was a massive list. I have a lot to play with. Over the next few weeks overseas we are playing a whole lot of short shows. What do we do? We might as well just get up and play a whole lot of Chuck Berry covers and try and cut down those songs. We could open up with "No Particular Place To Go" then play "Sweet Little Rock 'n' Roller", it would be perfect.