doubt, You Am I is one of the most respected bands in the
country - a respect that is built equally on the band's
ferocious reputation on stage, but also on the songwriting
ability of Tim Rogers. On the eve of You Am I's release
of their latest album, Dress Me Slowly, Tim Rogers spoke
with Australian Guitar.
How were the Big Day Out shows?
Pretty Good. I think we definitely prefer playing indoors.
A little while ago I made a (not very solid) decision to
not play festivals. It seems you have to believe in 'big
music' to do those things, and I don't think we really suit
that sort of thing. But we have a long association with
the Big Day Out, so it was a pleasure to do it this year.
I felt a bit sorry for you guys,
being sandwiched between Sunk Loto and Mudvayne, who are
both so different to You Am I.
Oh no, you see, I like that. We're never going to get on
bills that are totally thematically linked anyway. A couple
of years ago we played with a death metal band from Costa
Rica in Boston and that was great. Hopefully if a band is
good you can see past the style and get some encouragement
from it, no matter what form of music it i.
Years ago, when we were just starting out we would often
play with bands that were a lot heavier than us, and we
would get distracted by that, but these days we enjoy playing
so much that we are able to just stick to what we do.
You guys seem to have a lot more
emphasis on melody than a lot of bands around at the moment.
I don't think about it a whole lot, but back in '90 - '92,
when we were just starting, a lot of the bands that we played
with were essentially funk-metal. Everyone in town was so
influenced by Faith No More and the Chili Peppers and singers
were doing the faux rapping style on vocals. And so much
of guitar music today seems to be an extension of that,
except maybe it's a little heavier. But I still think there
is room for melodic guitar pop, although it's not going
to sell truckloads at this particular moment in time, or
it's not the thing to do. Which is all the more reason to
go ahead and do it I suppose.
Do you still get the same kick
out of playing that you did in the early days?
I think more actually. Mainly because we appreciate it a
little more these days. Before, it was all exciting and
we were always looking ahead of where we actually were at
the time. But at the moment we want to enjoy the gigs and
get get more out of it other than just throwing yourself
around in a lot of sweat. We know each other a bit better
now and we know that we all need to do it.
You look really comfortable as
a 4-piece band now.
Yeah, it definitely feels strong now, but that's because
it's had the time to get that way. I often say to people
that Dave is a You Am I person, he's of similar temperament
and social malfunction to the rest of the band. And that's
despite the age difference, which is quite pronounced. We
really couldn't have hoped to get anyone more suited to
the band than Dave.
How do you Dave go about sorting
out who plays the different guitar parts in the songs?
I guess I like to leave a lot of space in the songs for
Dave to do his thing, because I'm such a huge fan of his
playing. I don't chart anything out for him, it's more like
we talk about the song and try and reference it to another
band. Kind of like, 'well, here on this song I was thinking
about a Creedence Clearwater kind of "choogling"
style', and he will go away and come back with a variation
on that theme. Basically I play all the lazy stuff - I leave
all the tricky stuff up to him!
He's a similar guitar player to
you isn't he?
Yeah, he feels the music. He throws himself into the playing.
In fact sometimes I don't realise just how fortunate I am
to have him in the band, because I'm such a fan of that
kind of playing. The guitar is a tool and hopefully it can
assist you in dragging out whatever music is inside you.
We both play for the physicality of playing. I know how
I feel when I hear a Telecaster through a Fender Tonemaster
just hitting an open chord, and I know that Dave responds
to those feelings as well.
You seem to be just playing your
Teles live now, not your Crockers.
Well the problem with the Crockers is that I love them too
much. I really like Piers (Crocker) as a person and as a
guitar player, and we were doing these tours where the guitars
were getting beaten around a bit too much, and I didn't
like bringing them back to Piers with bits out of them and
all that sort of thing. Piers is always saying 'Don't worry
about it Tim, they're there to be played', but i'm quite
reverential about them. The Teles are just a big plank of
wood and they're so durable and haven't got quite the pristine
sound that Piers' guitars have. They're (Teles) are a workhorse
guitar and there's just something about them when you hit
them. It's a jarring sound, it's a clang, but there's an
odd roundness about it at the same time. It's like being
hit a gloved fist, and I like that about Teles. And they
look so darn good!
They're the ultimate rock 'n roll
Yeah, that's a point that's obviously not lost upon us!
(Laughs) People just look good with one slung across the
Is there a particular Tele that
you're most fond of?
Yeah, It's one I got off Fender a few years ago. Just a
reissue thing. When I buy a guitar, I'll get something and
I'll make it work for me down the track - I don't expect
them to be perfect from the word go. And I think this guitar
is just starting to hit its straps now, in pulling a good
rhythm sound out of it, or at least what I think is good
for the band.
How did you hook up with Piers
I used to live right near him in Annandale in Sydney, and
I remember him shaking his head every time I brought a guitar
in for him to repair. He had a blonde Crockenbaker hanging
on the wall for a while, and one day I asked him if he would
consider selling it. He replied that he had been waiting
for someone to ask him that for ages! He used to be quite
coy about what he was making at the time, although I'm not
sure whether he's still that way. And it turned out to be
exactly what I wanted, in fact the sound of a couple of
our records was shaped around the sound of that particular
A versatile guitar?
Not so much. It's just something that you could plug straight
into a Fender amp and get a great sound without any mucking
around. Kind of like the Pretty Things, or Steve Cropper
or mid Sixties Stones.
Have you always used Fender amps?
No, only when I've been able to afford them. We were in
Arizona one time... actually it was Lee Ranaldo from Sonic
Youth that put me on to Tonemasters in particular. I was
playing whatever I could get my hands on up until then,
and when we were doing our second record, Lee said, look
I've got this Tonemaster you should try. He lent it to me
for a couple of months, and I loved it so much that when
I got back home I scraped up enough pennies to get one of
my own. It was such a pristine and powerful amp. There were
no buttons to push, it was all knobs for volume and tweaking
the sound that you wanted. I was very into just putting
the guitar straight into the amp, maybe with a bit of boost
pedal if anything. But that's the sound that still affects
me and makes me want to play. Maybe one dayit won't and
then I'll change to something else, but up until now it's
served me well.
Do you still enjoy playing as
much as you used to?
Very much. I find that my rhythm guitar goes lower and lower
in the mix as we go on, which is fine with me. I like just
chugging away in the background. But if you're going to
have a second guitar player in the band you've got to work
it and use it for a purpose, and not just chuck out the
same thing together. I think we're just starting to work
really well together with the two guitar thing.
The latest album has been a while
in the making hasn't it.
Yeah, well that was not the way it was meant to be at all.
We've kind of been attached at the hip with a label in the
States, and they're very keen to hear the singles. We started
recording in New Jersey, and then in Sydney a couple of
times, and we've been really happy with what we've come
up with. And the people at the US label have heard the results
and said, 'we love the record, but can you give us a single'.
And that's been going on for three years, which has been
quite hellish in a way. As you can probably guess we really
don't like hearing that sort of thing, we like to think
that we know how to make records and we're all really proud
of what the band does. So it's kind of frustrating to hear
from people stuff like go and start again, or write something
else. I can see their point I guess, but we know the sort
of band that we are and we know we're not going to sell
a million records, so can you please leave us alone.
But while all this has been going on we've had a very friendly
respectful relationship with the label that we're signed
to here in Australia, which is BMG, and it finally seems
to have sorted itself out. We've essentially stuck to our
guns, and everyone seems to have realised that we are who
we are. We've been asked to 'dumb down' in order to get
played on the radio (like a lot of bands are) and we really
weren't prepared to do that.