king of the hill

Tim Rogers might just be one of the finest songwriters Australia’s ever produced. But on the eve of the You Am I frontman’s second solo release, the 34-year-old isn’t having any of it.

“ A tribute record? Ha! Tell ’em they’re dreaming!” he cackles at the suggestion of an album to mark his influence on today’s crop of musicians. “A You Am I tribute album? God, grab me a fucking blade!”

Walking the streets of St Kilda, Rogers is in a fine (if a little sarcastic) mood. What’s he been up to lately?

“Smokin’ crack and selling property!” he chortles, before clarifying. “Nah, not really… just talking about myself a lot.”

Isn’t he sick of that after almost 15 years in the music business?

“At times yes, but mostly no because I’m just grateful I can talk about something I care about. I just wish I had something with a bit more worth to say.”

Ever the joker, Roger’s actually says much of worth in his songs. More often than not tales of drinking, rock’n’roll and the (other) loves of his life, his tunes paint a clear picture of a man always struggling to better himself, to overcome the odds and come out on top.

His new solo album, Spit Polish, is no different. Over 12 songs, Rogers deals with a variety of emotions including jealousy over ex-boyfriends (‘Some Fella’s Heartbreaker’), anger towards an A&R guy at the band’s ex major label (‘King Of The Hill’) and disdain for the government’s propensity to lie (‘Fiction’).

Recorded with The Temperance Union (a band Rogers threw together for the project), Rogers is more than pleased with the result. He just wishes there was a better story to tell…

“I just had a bunch of songs and knocked them together with people I really care about and respect,” Rogers says matter-of-factly. “That happened and now I’m looking forward to getting out on the road with them. It was very much written and recorded with the band in mind. Basically, we’re a pretty tight group of people who like being together and having fun together. That was the thought behind the whole thing.”

Spit Polish, and indeed Rogers’ first foray into solo work – 1999’s What Rhymes With Cars And Girls?, gives rise to the shaggy-haired singer’s more introspective songs. It also acts as a vehicle for Rogers’ love of country and western.

But while there’s none of the electric bombast of a You Am I record, it’s almost as rare to find a tune featuring just Tim and guitar. You see, after all these years Rogers still isn’t too comfortable with his gravely voice.

“Unfortunately I’m not,” Rogers sighs. “I mean, physically it can feel really good sometimes and that’s very addictive but at the end of the day it’s not my preferred voice. I’m just always wanting to be better at it – not in terms of pitching a million notes correctly, but more so I can better convey what I feel and what it sounds like in my head. Sadly there are physical limitations that get in the way.”

Voice aside, Rogers admits he’s finally reached the stage where he enjoys listening to the records he makes, “rather than just enjoying the artwork”. So can Rogers identify the secret to writing a memorable tune?

“Um… with You Am I it’s just this mixture of ponce and thuggery that I find attractive about the band,” he says. “But the greatest thing that’s ever happened to You Am I or Tim Rogers is we’ve never had a hit single or sold a lot of records. I’m always hearing things that are monumentally better than what I do and I imagine how good it would feel if I was able to write a song that good. That pushes me a lot to get better and not to write anything that’s throwaway… even if it’s a song about the joy of making rock’n’roll, I want to get better at expressing it.”

Funnily enough, there’s a whole generation of kids now in their mid-20s who feel exactly the same way about You Am I’s 1994 classic ‘Berlin Chair’.

“They can have ‘Berlin Chair’! I’ll give it to them for $25!” he laughs, before lowering his tone. “I’m aware people feel nostalgic about that song and I enjoy playing it and I enjoy singing it but it isn’t… shit, how am I going to say this? Let me just say that if I thought that was the best thing I could do then I’d throw myself off a bridge right now.

“That song does mean a lot to me still, but I think now I could express a song better. A lot of people think that’s the best we’ve ever done but to me it’s not. I know I can write better songs than ‘Berlin Chair’.”

And that’s what keeps Tim Rogers going; the endless quest to better himself and the songs he’s written before. That, and his gorgeous wife Rocio and their baby daughter Ruby. Oh, and you can add Gin & Tonic UDLs and chilli beef jerky to the list.

“Yep, that’s also been my diet today and it’s done the trick,” Rogers quips of the diet the Temperance Union reportedly lived off in the studio while recording Spit Polish.

But surely Rogers wants to set a better example of nutritional goodness for daughter Ruby?

“Okay, okay,” he concedes. “Realistically I am pretty conscious of what I put into my body. I want to have the energy to get through a show each day so I don’t pummel myself down too hard. And I don’t want to be plastered when I’m around Ruby. I guess like any parent, I want to be the best dad possible and you’re not going to be great if you’re drunk all the time.

“But when I’m away from my family I’m pretty anxious and I worry about them so I want to deaden that anxiety and I wipe myself out. I do kick the footy around occasionally and, even playing shows with You Am I and the Temperance Union, there’s a lot of physical activity and you sweat a lot of stuff out.”

NICK COPPACK