Q&A

You Am I singer/guitarist Tim Rogers tells WILLIAM BOWE it's all about rock'n' roll

It seems rock is ``back'' again. How does that feel for you after all this time?
Oh, next month it'll be something else. There's good rock and there's shocking; there's two per cent good and 98 per cent woeful. Russ (Hopkinson, You Am I drummer) came up with a good quote, that rock 'n' roll is for people who are into medieval jousting. Maybe it's become like jazz, which I'm absolutely fine about. I don't want everyone to have a deep knowledge of the Stones or be into Johnny Thunders or to adore Chuck Berry. I want it to be like a secret society.

People are saying maybe You Am I didn't time it properly and if you'd come along 10 years later you might be getting hyped right now.
It seems the predominant thing now is to have some sort of styling, so even if our timing had been better, we're not that stylised. You know, we have a few extra sideburns here and pretty dodgy haircuts, but the songs are stamped all over by what my personality is. They're not D4 (NZ rockers) songs, what we write are great celebratory rock 'n' roll songs.

The production on your new album, Deliverance, sounds a bit less polished than Dress Me Slowly. Is that because you spent three years laboriously recording the last one?
No, it was probably just the nature of the songs and the way we recorded them. On Dress Me Slowly we were pretty interested in what was going on in the studio and wanting to utilise it, and this time it was very much, no, we just want to play the songs and get drinkin'. We wanted the whole ramshackle spirit of the record to come through rather than the songs and any great chord changes or any great melodic ideas. Which I think is what the band was supposed to be. If there's any charm to the band it's that we're a little
loose.

Surely there's some charm to the band. . .
I think there's immense charm to the band, but that's because I know those guys very well and I find them extremely charming people, and I guess I like that to be represented because I like rock bands. . . (laughs).

You Am I seemed a bit less rock 'n' roll purist when you started. You were almost seen as part of the grunge thing. . .
Getting sidled with the music that was going on at the time was pretty bemusing to us. We never felt quite "in''. When Hourly Daily came out and we started to get front covers of magazines, that was all right, but
Tumbleweed were always infinitely cooler than we were, and more popular. Which was great, I understand that. Then Regurgitator were infinitely cooler and better than us, and there was always Magic Dirt, Spiderbait, all these other bands that always seemed to be one cooler, one bigger.

They all seemed to be more closely linked to youth culture than you were.
Yeah, that was definitely the case because we always did seem to have the music tastes of 50-year-olds. But we always had the feeling that any time we turn up to a gig, there's a possibility people haven't seen us before and we're going to turn them on, blow them away, that whole thing. It's the only motivation really, like the first time I saw the Hard-Ons, the first time I saw Massappeal, were significant, amazing times in my life that changed the way I thought completely.

Is it still possible for you to get that sort of reaction these days?
Sure. I still run into people at shows who say things about the band that knock me sideways, things like "I didn't think bands like you still existed'' (laughs). Or people are used to seeing bands with backing tapes,
then they see something that's a bit rawer but has tunes and people going out like their life depended on it. And it's not going to change a lot of people, apart from the feeling that it gives us, but it is possible it's
going to turn somebody on.

Today you might read about The Vines saying they had a similar epiphany over You Am I to the one you had over the Hard-Ons or Massappeal.
Oh yeah, they're sweethearts, they're great. And I have a little bit of a worry, I hope they enjoy it. It's very easy to lose what you're doing it for, but I don't think they will. I think Patrick (Matthews) and Craig (Nicholls) together are a really great double as people. It was a thing I noticed really early on, that the friendship between those two is really good and dynamic and strong. And I just hope it all works out. I don't like seeing things implode.

The media seem pretty keen to paint them as rock 'n' roll maniacs.
Yeah, that's a little dangerous. The constant attention to Craig's mental state I worry about, just as an observer, but no big drama. He has to go through it and he'll handle it fine. He has some good people around him and I just hope he gets the chance to step off the treadmill for a while and
make the next record.

Are you glad that never happened to you?
Yeah. If the band had become a bit more popular and had a wider platform, there would have been problems, for sure. Now it would be fine, which is ironic because it's not going to happen (laughs).