In an alternative reality where musical respect and critical acclaim would translate into record sales, Tim Rogers would be a millionaire. Since 1993 You Am I have been at the forefront of Australian rock, with a list of classic songs, numerous awards and handful of really great records. Now, in the You Am I off-season, he tours around the country with another batch of musicians, The Temperance Union, in support of their/his new album, 'Spit Polish.'

Rogers is an affably charming man, and that comes across from his first word about how it feels to be a solo artist. "Lonely," he responds, with a slightly sad lilt in his voice. "I don't know, it's just making music with people you like, really, and it's been kind of fun doing it myself."

He says that playing with another group is something to do to pass the time. "Well, it's just that physically and mentally, for your relationships with the guys, you have to take time off and I don't do needlework or anything, and one of the great things about You Am I is that when you've finished playing with them, you kind of want to do more of it. I think we enthuse each other, so when we have a bit of time off Rusty goes and does his label, Andy manages the band, Davey's got The Pictures and I go off with The Union. There are just times during the year when you physically can't get it together with the band for various reasons, and I want to go off and make other records and play with other people."



I comment that there is a little more of a country twang on this record than anything by You Am I. "Well, a little bit, I don't think as much as the last record. I think it's more that you put a couple of acoustic guitars in there and it does sound like country," he chuckles. "I'm just trying to let the lyrics sit on top a little more, I think I wrote some that I'm happy with and that I'm connected to, so I'm just keeping the music quite simple underneath it.

"Country's this thing - I mean, there's so much amazing country out there, and so much horrible country, I guess like rock'n'roll or r'n'b or anything. I guess that in country often the lyrics are the main attraction of the song."

He pauses, considering. "Rusty and I are big fans of a couple of specific country artists, but I guess when You Am I get together we like to make a bit of a racket. I'm not sure but I guess it's just what song you're writing: I don't set out to write a bunch of country songs, but it's just the situation I'm in, mentally and physically, as to what comes out. I guess because my voice is very nasal and very thin, maybe that's what makes it sound country. I thought this record was a bit dirtier, a bit grubbier, but who knows? I'm in the middle of it!"

The songs on 'Spit Polish' are quite personal, which is part of Rogers' unique style. "Well I figure it's the only thing I've got that's authentic or different," he says, downplaying his talent ever so slightly. "Just whatever experience I've had, there's nothing else that's original about me. At times it's a little embarrassing, a little anxiety inducing, but I at least want to..."

So what can the punters expect from a Tim Rogers and the Temperance Union gig? "I just try and give whatever I've got, I really haven't got any theatrical scope, so if people are into what I'm doing, I'll do it until they shut the bar down. When people stop turning up I'll start wearing masks and kabuki uniforms and start chopping heads, I don't know."

On a different topic, I ponder how he must be feeling about You Am I being the support band to none other than The Who later this year. "It's fun, it'll be a great fun thing to do, we've played a lot of weird shows, big shows, we're just going to have a ball. Why not? We're there just to warm up the crowd, then you sit back and enjoy it. It's the sort of thing you tell your uncles and aunties."

There's no rabid excitation in his voice - does this mean he's lost the over-enthused little boy within? "Oh, are you kidding? No way! It's difficult to enunciate to people what it does mean to you. I see things and hear things that blow me away every day, and meeting people like Steve Earle, you know, I'm a twelve-year-old girl about that, but I kind of share that with the guys in the band, I don't shout it from the rooftops. I kind of like to keep that special with us, it's all we've got, really!"

Ben Revi
Photo: Julie Richards