AS GOOD AS IT GETS

After spending over ten years peeling out some of the best rock music ever made, YOU AM I now have a greatest hits collection ready for release. “We’ve put a lot of love and a lot of thought into this compilation,” TIM ROGERS tells ERIN FREE about the snappily titled The Cream & The Crock.

Tim Rogers is in a bad way. His voice is hoarse and his nose is running like a busted tap. “Just general bad health,” he laughs. But with Rogers’ schedule lately, it’s no wonder he’s a bit under the weather. You Am I have just hit Australia again after a whirlwind tour through the UK and Europe, first with local rock sensations The Vines, and then with the ever iconoclastic Evan Dando.

“He has a very eccentric crew around him, and he’s very enigmatic,” Rogers says of Dando, who later actually poached You Am I guitarist Davey Laney for his recent string of often shambolic Australian shows. “He’s blisteringly intelligent, and he has a very varied group of people around him. I personally don’t know how he keeps it together with those kinds of people around. I get a little…not overawed, but they’re very ‘internationale’, and I don’t really have a lot in common with them. But it’s very titillating being a spectator.”

The tour with Dando saw Rogers and his band mates hooking up with the likes of Keith Richards’ old flame Anita Pallenberg among others, while sharing a stage with the white-hot Vines held its own challenges. “There were a lot of young kids there, and they probably looked at us like we were their uncles or something. You know – ‘drunken old Uncle Harry at the Christmas party.’ No one threw a punch at me though, which was good. It was probably the best tour the band’s done actually. We played some nice little half hour shows that were full of piss and vinegar and fire and brimstone, and then we finished off with a show of our own, which was a great way to finish it.”

Rogers is now back in Australia preparing to record a follow up to his acclaimed debut solo album What Rhymes With Cars & Girls, which will see him working principally with Paul Kelly sideman Shane O’Meara, alongside a roster of Melbourne musos, and maybe even some of his mates from You Am I.
Right now for the band, however, the matter at hand is their new greatest hits collection The Cream & The Crock. Constantly bloodied – but never bowed – by all manner of financial and logistical nightmares, You Am I have always been a tough, uncompromising outfit driven by a keen sense of honesty and self-belief. It’s no surprise then to hear that their best-of collection was not something forced on them by their record company.

“We get on really well with the people at BMG,” Rogers says with obvious affection. “We wanted to bring the idea of a best-of to them before they got all nervous about it and had to ask us for it. We probably would have liked it to be a bit more sprawling, but we thought people who might not be totally into the band would be interested, so we decided to do the first disc as a singles collection. Then we decided to play around a bit more with the second one.”

Initial pressings of the collection will feature two discs: the first is a bristling, hard-rumbling tour through the snappy, enervating and often strikingly beautiful singles that have made the band one of the most
acclaimed in the land, while the second is a tumble of album tracks, with three newly released tunes (“What They Do At Night”, “Mr. Kermode & The Million Matches” and a Rogers-vocal demo of “Trouble”, which Powderfinger’s Bernard Fanning performed on the Dirty Deeds soundtrack) thrown in for good measure. The original intention for the second disc, however, was a little more ambitious.

“Typical You Am I decision-making involves getting together with the intention of talking very seriously about things, but then after a few minutes, we start talking about something else…worldly issues or gossipy
issues. There wasn’t that much thought put into it. We even considered going to the website and asking people to vote for what they wanted on there. But in the end we just decided to put stuff on there that we liked. The original track listing for Disc 2 was a lot fruitier: B-sides and lots of covers. But, you know, Pete Townshend doesn’t need any more money, so we’ll forget about that! So we decided to put on some album tracks that we have an affection for and that people have an affection for. All of the songs on there have a little story to them.”

The Cream & The Crock, however, is not the only You Am I collection hot off the presses. In England, the band have been signed to Transcopic (the record company set up by Blur’s Graham Coxon), who have just put out a nifty little disc called ‘No, After You Sir’…An Introduction To You Am I. “It was a very
warming experience,” Rogers says of hooking up with Coxon. “Especially after working with Warners and RCA overseas. We thought we had a really good relationship with them, but we were just like little playthings that they didn’t know what to do with. But with Transcopic, it was very practical – we were out there putting up posters around town. It was beautiful, and that’s the way it should be done. It was funny watching Graham putting up the posters though.”

Fans that have been digging You Am I for over ten years will know that there ’s a big, healthy slab of unreleased material, demos and B-sides that make up a kind of “shadow history” of the band. Unfortunately, that looks like the way it will stay, with dreams of box sets and the like quickly turning
to dust. “If we were a bit more popular in terms of record sales, that might be something that could happen,” Rogers says. “But at this stage, I don’t think anyone would put it out; it’s an expensive process to go through, and I don’t think anyone would back us up to do it. If we had an audience worldwide, and if there were lots of people that would buy it, we’d love to do it. It’s a real ego-stroking thing to do, and it would be interesting and really exciting, but I think we’ll have to wait until one of us dies!”

Though the greatest hits compilation stirred up a bit of reminiscence on Tim ’s part, it’s definitely not a full-stop on what continues to be a consistently fascinating career, pumped full of some of the best music you’
ll ever hear. “I don’t know where we’re really at,” Rogers says casually. “It’s like it’s always been – we just kind of float around in the ether. We get together when we feel like it and we still get very excitable about
things. But there are definitely no conclusions. I’m definitely thinking about the next You Am I record. I’ve always got about twenty or thirty songs on the trot – a verse here and a chorus there – and it’s just a matter of working out which ones I want to take to the band and finish.”