A seat on the couch next to Mad Max offered no solace. His thick Eastern European accent rendered polite discourse impossible and each conversation starter stalled, petering out into a series of shrugs, "pardons?" and exaggerated gestures of non-comprehension. Though afforded every opportunity to vacate the place next to me, he stuck around with the kind of stubborn Slavic stoicism his countrymen had only latterly applied in the fight to remove communism's suffocating yoke. At length I got up and moved, offering nothing in the way of explanation for my departure.
Post-record depression had settled on me like sod into freshly dug grave. Not 2 hours earlier there had been nary a sign of it as the final mix of our record passed without incident into the particular series of 1's and zeros that would heretofore constitute its unique sonic footprint. Champagne glasses clinked as we celebrated the end of another project, a warm blanket of self-satisfaction protection against even the coldest of imprecations. Not even as we toasted to a success we knew to be more elusive than Osama Bin Laden in the mountains of Tora Bora did we acknowledge Reality's terrier nipping at our heels. Yes, in time the record would come to die the same commercial and critical death suffered by its predecessors, to limp crippled through it's 3 month life span before quietly excusing itself from polite company to expire with dignity in the dusty corner of a forgotten warehouse. That gloomy inevitability, however, lay at least six months in the future: tonight was about the moment.
We had no sooner tucked our latest creation safely into bed than we were out the door of the studio. We hastened Ted from the building with the alacrity of minders escorting a damp and breathless Elvis to the waiting limo. He was due behind a mixing desk at the Corner hotel by 11.30. The ears that once rendered our live sound a shimmering incandescence are now in demand by the countless imitators, charlatans and musical mountebanks that have followed in our wake. As the timeless forces of nature turn the composts of great antediluvian forests into oil, so does Ted take the vegetable refuse littering our nation's stages and fashion it into a combustible fuel that drives the music industry. Deposited on the curb of Swan st., he was quickly lost in the voluminous crowd billowing away from the front door of the hotel.
From Richmond we maintained a tight racing line down Hoddle st towards Thornbury. At journey's end was a fancy dress party with an Australian Icon theme that desperately needed our celebrity presence. The unfamiliar roads of the northern suburbs threatened to disorient and strand our expedition but careful use of the sextant and a sailor's knowledge of the night sky prevailed. Pulling quietly into a side street, we located the party venue. I extinguished the lights, killed the engine and alighted.
Naturally the first temptation had been to arrive dressed as ourselves - nothing if not Australian icons. What this approach offered by way of minimal costuming, however, it took back in a certain level of immodest posturing and we shelved it. In its place each of us had a hastily arranged costume idea, selected primarily for the facility of its application. Doctor in old cricket whites, joke shop moustache and improbable wig was Dennis Lillee - though in imitation less Madam Tussaud than the Paul Hogan Show. With the addition of some King Gee shorts, work boots and a baby doll, Doug became Steve Irwin, a bitingly topical satire that instantly polarised the gathering. I opted for a suit jacket and tie without pants, a mocking portrait of Malcolm Fraser, trouser-less in Memphis. This arcane reference to the minutiae of political history, proved singularly unfathomable to all who enquired.
Inside, facsimiles of iconic Australiana mingled and engaged, working seriously hard at having a good time. Once the initial adrenaline of arrival had subsided, however, I found myself unable to settle. The problem was with the sound system. Where one might have expected a cheap home stereo, stood a high quality DJ rig that rendered every record played on it sonically superior to ours. This was a reality check on which I had not bargained. As I studied the twin turntables, professional mixing desk and compact but powerful speakers, they seemed to mock my ambition. "Here is the history of popular music", they grinned capriciously. "And it all sounds better than you".
By the time Hall and Oates' 'I Can't Go For That' slid effortlessly onto the rubber mat of the record player I was making pronounced movements with my wrist and waxing rhetorically about the vicissitudes of time. "A la recherché du temps perdu", I reflected, craning my neck to see who had marked my striking command of French literary history. It was a disinterested audience and I followed this rather high-flown reference with the decidedly more earthy: "Goodbye".
Thankfully, after 7 albums I can recognise the symptoms of post-record depression and self-administer the appropriate remedy. Of all the palliative measures applicable, the most important is to ignore the temptation to bring a CD home and start listening to it. With the memory of your new album issuing forth through the $30,000 speakers back at the recording studio, the first listen at home on the 3 in one stereo in the shagpile acoustics of your lounge room is inevitably discouraging. With the same doomed inevitability as a dieting woman asking if her bum looks big in an old dress, you proceed to send the recording on a whistlestop tour past the cornerstones of home audio - the car stereo, a brother's old ghetto blaster, your mate's Walkman - until the damning sonic evidence stacks up like a cow pat behind a heifer's hind legs - it's shit.
Before Christmas, such self-indulgent introspection was missing like a lost file on a fragmented hard drive. We prepared to assay once more the making of an album with the fevered zeal of the born again. Thanks in part to a 2-week TAFE course - "Learn How To Skim the World's Great Religion's For Positive Aphorisms " - we entered the studio on an elevated metaphysical plane. We were focussed tighter than the Hubble telescope.
The Fauves' serial commercial failures, however, had finally woken our financial auditors from a troubled sleep. They entered a tropical hospice of the mind, cast like malarial colonists into a restless, febrile torment of semi-consciousness. Through the tortured delirium they weakly pressed chapped and quivering lips to the ear of a record company emissary with the vital order. "Cut their budget".
Not that this was of any concern to four psyches recently rebuilt with evangelical optimism. "That which hasn't dumped us has consented via the agency of a binding contract to release our records" was a motto we revisited many times throughout the uncertain months. Our straightened circumstances allowed for a mere four days in a professional studio. Recording the bulk of 13 new songs under this level of calendric restraint would be an acute test. Nevertheless, we had confidence in our ability to reach this demanding new set of productivity quotas.
Singing was to be undertaken at Ted's redoubt in the jungles of East St. Kilda where the Feng Shui of his first floor flat was deemed to be at its most felicitous. One reverb in particular - obtained when a well-directed basso profundo reflected from a carefully arranged collection of empty beer cans and $2 submarine novels - was reckoned crucial for the ongoing success of the project.
Rather than proving a hindrance, the exigencies of time fitted neatly with the deregulated ethic of our approach. Our arsenal of keyboards, languishing in a state of dusty disrepair, never even made it in to the boot of the car. Our arsenal of guitars, exhibiting a similar degree of disrepair but largely free of dust, were once more called to the front line to resume active service. Drums played drill sergeant while the bass returned from 2 years rec leave, unkempt and penniless.
For 4 days we worked with rare diligence, often restricting mealtimes to a mere 2-hour degustation at the local bistro. Television viewing was carefully rationed, while phone calls to the outside world were monitored, censored and capped at a 60-minute limit. Little of this discipline would have been possible without the benevolent dictatorship of our sunshine leader Kim Jong Ted, brought back from exile in the Sudan as recording engineer. He was magnificent, lashing himself to the recording console like a captain to the mast of a besieged ship, refusing to countenance the untethering of the lifeboats. Through both tempest and doldrums he navigated, pausing only when the first mate bought his half hourly cigarette, which, thanks to council bylaws, he was obliged to smoke outside on the footpath.
We broke for Christmas, spending the season lost in quiet contemplation and pious solicitude. With much for which to be thankful and no small amount of sin for which to atone, we kept our festive celebrations suitably muted. Gifts, normally eschewed as poisoned tokens of evil consumerism, were tolerated so long as they remained within the appropriate parameters. From Doug I received a small plaster relief of a re-imagined Nativity scene, transplanted from the manger in Bethlehem to a stage at Madison Square Garden. Doctor got me a Motley Crue hair shirt while from Ted I received nothing. This led to an uncomfortable scene, Ted awkwardly unwrapping my gift to him while apologising profusely for his oversight. Though secretly rather hurt, I maintained a sanguine exterior, protesting that it was the thought that counted. When he replied that he hadn't actually even thought of me I cried briefly before leaving the room to compose myself. Despite this distasteful scene he declared himself satisfied with the miniature medieval transi tomb I had procured for him. On the upper level of the small ceramic reproduction the worldly Ted lay cross-armed in beatific repose while beneath, a prophecy of his worm-riddled corporeal remains stood as a stark reminder of our terrifying mortality.
Before returning to finish mixing the record we re-directed our focus towards home renovation. Late last year Adam made the heartrending decision to leave his long term domicile in the flat across the landing from Ted for the broader acreage of a free standing house and yard. The caribou was heading south, leaving the summer feeding grounds of the arctic tundra for the breeding pastures of suburban South Frankston. Living not 5 minutes drive from Doctor would in time come to hone Doug's tennis game back to the Olympian heights of its youthful apogee on the en tout cas at Yamala. A position just off the commuter's corridor from Moorooduc to the city offered the prospect of a lifetime's chauffeuring to the city in the backseat of my XF Falcon. And, not five minutes up the road, sat the Baden Powell cricket oval.
I mention Baden Powell oval only by way of highlighting the coincidental role it plays in the history of our band. At different times Doug, Doctor and I all played cricket there, though without ever meeting. It was a portent of the convergent mindset that subsequently saw us become Australia's most successful rock band.
As an under 12 my left arm chinamen proved unplayable on Baden Powell's sticky malthoid wicket and I harvested 28 scalps in my debut season. With an average of just over 6 runs per wicket I was a run away winner of the bowling trophy. It was an early lesson that success must be savoured, for life's broad horizons invariably narrow and I spent the following decade and a half playing without distinction. Not until my final year at Mt. Eliza when an improbable series of not outs artificially inflated my average to an unrealistic 91, did I again raise a trophy triumphantly aloft at presentation night.
Doctor, always a vastly superior sportsman to myself, also transferred to the green and gold livery of the Mt. Eliza C.C after an early season at Baden Powell. It was there that I made my earliest acquaintance with the new kid from Eltham, though our first encounters were hardly auspicious. Indeed I set my bows squarely against him after I overheard a conversation in which he told a rival wrist spinner that he believed him the superior bowler. Little could I have known as I sat alone and brooding at an adjacent table in the clubrooms that my cocksure nemesis would in time come to worship me like a living god.
Doug's cricket career remains inscrutable for a lack of eyewitness accounts has left the historical record reliant solely on his overly self-deprecating personal recollections. Suffice it to say that his star burnt brightly but briefly, twinkling over a first season that included practical experience in four of the major disciplines - bowling, batting, fielding and wicket keeping - before imploding during a second which was heavily biased towards experience in the 5th - acting as 12th man.
Shortly before Doug emptied his bank account for settlement, we donned paint-spattered clothes and formed a renovation team to rival any of the oafish aggregations currently despoiling our TV guides. Not having much pedigree as a home handyman, I couldn't find any paint-spattered clothes and instead smeared some old water colours over a slightly aged pair of jeans in an effort to mask my inexperience. The ruse worked brilliantly and I was handed a tin of paint and a roller which I moved with simian enthusiasm up and down the wall in awkward imitation of the others. Predictably the novelty of physical labour quickly waned and I began running a mental checklist for any old ailments that I could summon forth as grounds for a medical discharge. At length I concocted a spurious knee condition that I acted out with melodramatic flourish. Lunch arrived and I spent the break courting sympathy from my surprisingly credulous companions. The post-prandial period consisted largely of playing cricket in the backyard with Doctor's kids.
By now news of Doug's arrival had broken and a steady stream of tour operators ferried ogling tourists past in mini vans. Despite our fields having lain fallow for some many months, our renown has never been higher. Already this year I alone have fielded 3 major incidents of fan recognition, an unnerving recurrence that has me thinking seriously about the pressing need for greater security.
After seeing the Strokes perform back in January I was leaving the auditorium when, across the hubbub of excited chatter, I clearly heard someone say: "There's Coxy from the Fauves! " Bolting as though started by gunfire, I ran blindly seeking the refuge of my car. All around me anonymous faces merged into a great chiaroscuro of indifference. Never pausing lest an autograph book force its way into my field of vision, I eventually reached the sanctuary of my vehicle. The encounter, however, left me deeply shaken. Over the subsequent days I withdrew inwardly, suffering what my physician gravely diagnosed as the onset of post-traumatic stress disorder. Only through extended counselling and my family's unwavering patience was I finally able to put the incident behind me.
Shortly after emerging from my cocoon of seclusion I was confronted again, this time with Doug who played his Brady to my Reagan, shielding me from the full impact of the shots. On the evening of the renovation, we made our way onto the licensed premises of a well known liquor retailer from where Adam planned to purchase several bottles of premium wine as a gesture of thanks for our day's exertions. Browsing amiably through the French Cote Du Rhones, the Italian Chiantis and a selection of quirky Spanish vintages bearing rustic wicker covers we remained profoundly oblivious to the trouble waiting.
Approaching the checkout we were immediately assailed by the zealous ministrations of the self-confessed fan working behind the register. He detailed at great length the depths of his ardour and, though our exchange remained at all times extremely cordial, I knew from bitter experience that at any moment this aficionado could snap like a rogue lion in a circus. Maintaining eye contact at all times, we backed slowly away from the counter. It was important to maintain a calm exterior and I kept the slavering beast distracted with a rambling, unfocussed response to his dull line of enquiry. Not until we stood flushed and heaving on the street outside could we again relax.
Only weeks later Doug and I were again involved in a similar encounter. This time an unplanned visit to a Frankston service station turned nasty. Of course by now we should have been prepared but, as a celebrity who is often the target of unwanted attention, I refuse to be forced to live like a recluse, holed up in isolation behind the razor wire walls of my high security compound.
Making towards the register with some chocolates and a packet of cigarette papers - purchased in case one of the friends waiting back at Doctor's place should cultivate a smoking habit in our absence - we stood in disbelief while the attendant's informal greeting turned quickly into a full scale display of open adoration. As fellow customers began to queue impatiently behind us, our fawning host waxed obsequiously about the debt Australian music owed to our talent. There was nothing new in this line of argument - it was a view we'd expressed amongst ourselves on many previous occasions - but unless we could find this buffoon employment with one of the major dailies, his ingratiating rhetoric was of no use to us. Doug in particular was unequivocal about the need to extricate ourselves from the situation post haste. This urgency, however, seemed primarily motivated by a pique borne from the fact that our servile admirer seemed steadfastly unable to remember his name.
While the governments of the Western world pursue their avowed war on terror in a futile attempt to catch quicksilver sliding over a wet tile floor, celebrity goes unprotected. The three encounters detailed above represent but a fraction of the insidious brand of terror that I have had to endure over the course of my 15 years at the forefront of popular entertainment. The public must understand their place. It is in orderly queues snaking contentedly from the entrances to our gigs; grazing with bovine stolidity through CD racks in search of our albums and waiting patiently on hold with telephone receivers to request a Fauves song on radio. Only via this organised, arms length engagement with our fans will both parties benefit. Remember: we decide who gets to meet us and the circumstances in which they come.
Of course, things are ever as bad as I paint them and the shining future that awaits those of us who deserve it is never any further away than an unexpected number one song. To quote the title of my independent house release - the first European dance floor hit ever sung in Latin - Forsan et Haec Olim Meminisse Iuvabit . Perhaps it will be a pleasure to remember even these things some day.