You Am I frontman Tim Rogers has delivered the soundtrack of the year with Dirty Deeds, and he spoke with FILMINK’s Erin Free about putting it all together

Tim Rogers’ soundtrack for David Caesar’s slashing suburban crime flick Idiot Box is one of the best to come down the local highway, but when the singer/songwriter copped a similar offer to score Caesar’s last film Mullet, You Am I’s Dress Me Slowly album had to come first, and an opportunity was unfortunately missed. But with the soundtrack to Caesar’s new film Dirty Deeds - about crime, the mafia and poker machines in late sixties Sydney - Rogers has taken the soundtrack concept supernova. As without doubt one of the finest and most respected performers in the country, Rogers has hooked up a crack squad of artists - Tex Perkins, Powderfinger’s Bernard Fanning, Grinspoon, Lisa Miller and Aussie belter Billy Thorpe - to heat up the movie’s musical vibe.

Tim Rogers and You Am I were always on David Caesar’s mind for the film, and they were there pretty much from scratch. “We came on board at the script stage,” Rogers says on the phone from Melbourne. “A couple of months later they started the shoot, and we were still sort of deliberating. We were making the new You Am I record and we realised, ‘oh shit, we’ve gotta do this now’. So I was pretty much doing the two records concurrently. It was a pretty hefty thing to jump into. But you know, it’s the way we’ve done things in the past. Everyone seems to handle it - everyone’s still kinda living.”

For Rogers, putting the tunes together meant springing some new ideas, as well as dipping into his song bag to track some still unused ones. “There were ideas that came up after I got the script. But there’s also always things hanging around that I’ve got in a book somewhere. There’s stuff that I can lift. But the song ‘Trouble’, for instance, was written expressly for the film. The songs might not have been directly correlating with the film; usually it was more the flavour of the song, which was very difficult explaining to David! You know, rather than saying ‘ok, here’s a song that deals directly with poker machines’, which is kinda one of the essential elements of the film. This was the feeling I got: kind of blind faith. David usually just kind of nodded. But we’ve got one of those relationships where we just trust each other.”

Though the music is absolutely essential to the dazzling bigger picture that is Dirty Deeds, director David Caesar was fairly hands-off when it came to the soundtrack. “David came in and listened to things pretty early on,” Rogers explains. “I think it was more when we were doing our album Deliverance that David was in there. We’d talk about stuff rather than him being in the studio, and I’d think ‘wow, that’s the man who’s not talking to me’! It was more phone-style conversations - and I’d send him tapes from Melbourne. He’s kind of loose like that, which really helps. I mean, it’s his film, and he’s got every right to approach it in whatever way he likes.”

One of the soundtrack’s hottest concepts is having You Am I work it as a “house band” to some of the country’s most thundering vocalists, like Fanning, Perkins and Thorpe. Despite Rogers’ own grittily beautiful voice and frontman’s swagger, he really dug being more in the background. “I absolutely loved it. More than you could ever know. We’d always wanted the band to do that. I felt we’d be a great backing band for a singer. And with this particular style of song, I just felt that the band could do it better than anyone else. I could think more about the songs a little more objectively, maybe concentrate a little more on guitar, playing pretty basic stuff, so maybe I’m more thinking about the rhythm and pace of a tune - more about things that you could maybe put in the production basket.”

After making his mark on screen with a small role in Jane Campion’s Holy Smoke, Tim Rogers is back in widescreen in Dirty Deeds, though this time he’s brought You Am I with him for a cameo as a night club band in the film. “We’re just a band in the corner while the people dance away in front of us,” Rogers laughs. “We’re there to do a job. And I think we did that situation pretty well, with the ‘band for hire’ - we kind of dig that. Just letting us kinda do our thing - y’know, just make sure the trailer’s full of booze and you’ll be right. Just make sure we’ve got what we need.”