Letter From Brazzaville

Hi my name is Paul Kinshabe and I’m a very important part of The Fauves’ organisation. Allow me to tell you a little bit about myself.

About 5 years ago the guys realised that managing their burgeoning success in equatorial Africa from thousands of miles away in Australia was becoming impossible. As one of the very few Western bands to have made commercial inroads into this region, they were keen to capitalise on their promising start. To this end they made a decision to greatly expand their operations, opening up a series of branch offices in various African nations. This is where I came in. With my intimate knowledge of the African alternative music scene, I offered the band on the ground experience in the highly specialised requirements of negotiating a foreign artist through the delicate minefield of local custom and business practice. I met with the guys at the Big Day Out in early 2001 in Melbourne and we hit it off right away. I left for home 3 days later as the proud new owner of the title, Chief Liaison Officer for Fauves Operations in Sub Saharan Africa.

We set up a base in Kampala, Uganda, a city that had been a long time stronghold of Fauves support. From there we expanded operations into neighbouring Tanzania and Kenya, dramatically increasing market share and being largely responsible for an unprecedented profitability in the band’s offshore operations. When the guys recently announced a record half yearly profit for the 6 months to December 2005 it was the African division that garnered most of the credit.

Early this year I left my second in command to take charge of the office in Kampala and moved to Brazzaville, the capital of the Congo. Not the Democratic Republic of Congo our larger and more famous neighbour but Congo, a 342,000 square kilometre tropical wonderland stretching more than 1000 km in from the Atlantic Coast to the border with the Central African Republic. Two mighty rivers, the Congo and the Ubangi, provide a commercially navigable highway along virtually our entire eastern frontier allowing unfettered access to markets hitherto unknown to rock music.

Anyway, enough about me. I was asked if I would mind contributing to thefauves.com, an important plank of the band’s ongoing global publicity operations. Naturally I was more than happy to come on board, even if only to share just a small amount of my unique experiences promoting The Fauves in a country that remains largely ignorant of their work. Rest assured they won’t be unknown here for much longer. In the meantime, please enjoy my ’Letter from Brazzaville’!

DATELINE 29.10.06

The guys charged me with locating a giant screen TV so they could watch a live coverage of the ARIAs. This was no mean feat in a country where many people don’t even have access to such basics as running water, telephones and electricity. In the end I was able to source one from an aide at the French embassy who didn’t need it back until Saturday night when State run television was airing a documentary celebrating the benefits of nuclear testing in the Pacific. Calling in a few old favours, I managed to cadge an emergency generator from the maternity ward at the Brazzaville Municipal Hospital.

I have to tell you, the boys were pretty nervous. I had organised a live satellite feed so that they could accept their awards in real time during the show. The afternoon was spent refining speeches and rehearsing lines. They carefully practiced an acapella version of Advance Australia Fair planned as a spontaneous reaction to winning the ARIA for best band. Unfortunately, the evening was a bit of a let down. It turned out that the guys hadn’t actually been nominated a communication breakdown for which I assumed all responsibility. I was sure when I overheard Coxy talking to Bernard Fanning’s answering machine that he’d mentioned the band was nominated for: "At least 4 or 5 to tell you the truth I don’t take much notice of that sort of thing. How can you give awards for rock bands? Who measures greatness in art? Anyway, call me back if you get this message. I’d love you to give some thought to that duo idea. Bye mate. Call me. Leave a message if I’m not there, I’ll call you right back. Ok. Bye matey. Stay well. 041 567 980 43. reverse the charges if you like though I know you’re pretty loaded and would probably consider it an insult. Did I give you my number ?"

Shortly before the show’s big finale, a huge thunderstorm hit Brazzaville, knocking out power to most of the city. Fortunately we had the back up generator although we had to turn the volume up to overcome an unseemly disturbance coming from some of the kids in the hospital next door.

DATELINE 30.10.06

Some nasty hangovers this morning. Neither were they overly impressed down at the embassy when I returned their TV. The screen seemed to have been inadvertently kicked in and one of the diplomatic corps wanted to blame the guys. I stood up for them unflinchingly it’s just not the kind of thing they would do. At least not after last year’s show when Doctor got his foot stuck in the cathode tube of the giant screen at the Plantation Owner’s Arms and had to be helped out by the fire brigade with the Jaws of Life. I’ve seen them shoot out a screen with semi automatic weapons for a joke after a few drinks but kicking? no way. They’ve stolen 4 wheel drive army jeeps from the local barracks and driven them through the front window of electrical goods shops accidentally smashing a few TV screens along the way but I have total confidence in the fact that they would never knowingly kick one in. Yes, they have buried the heads of unappreciative fans through a row of screens set up as a backdrop on stage, but not so much as a sandshoe went near any of them. Still, the French would not be placated and refused to let me off the compound until I had reimbursed them. For some stupid reason I tried to claim the fee as part of my monthly expenses and fully deserved the lawsuit the guys served on me.

DATELINE 1.11.06

Once the ARIAs were over, the guys’ focus switched to the upcoming CRIAs (Congolese Recording Industry Awards) where they were nominated in a record 23 categories. We managed to get temporary citizenship for them from a photocopying shop just off the Place de la Revolution so they would be eligible. These awards are a big deal in a country where rock music is only just getting a foothold. To this end it was a little problematic finding enough entrants to fill some of the categories. The weeks leading up to the show have been a frantic search around local rehearsal studios looking for contestants. We set the awards up as a response to the lack of any meaningful Congolese equivalent to the Australian version, and it is thus very important that there be at least some local representation that the cameras can briefly alight on before the guys get up on stage to accept each award. This inaugural show is going to be a beauty. The boys are playing the opening number and sharing hosting duties with Bono*

*Not the U2 singer but Bono the bonobo (a small chimpanzee like animal, homo sapiens closest animal relative) who co hosts an afternoon children’s show over here and lent some guest backing screeches to several songs on the Fauves’ last album)

DATELINE 4.11.06

What a triumph! The boys opened the show with Dogs are the Best People (12 inch remix) and dedicated the evening to Nelson Mandela, Ghandi, Aung San Suu Kyi and Keith Urban all of whom had their people send form letters apologising for their absence. Mandela was busy, Ghandi is dead and Suu Kyi is under house arrest but the guys were pretty disappointed with Urban’s no show, especially after they sent him and Nicole that case of whisky as a wedding gift. Anyway, the evening just got better from there. The guys won a swag of awards everything from Best Australian Band Based in Brazzaville to Best Australian Male Performer Resident in Brazzaville For Less Than 6 Months (a nail biting 4 way tie between Coxy, Doctor, Doug and Ted). Immediately following their stunning success there were some petty allegations of vote buying all of which had no basis in fact. An unidentified source claimed to have seen Ted in an alley paying someone off with a wad of bills. It’s amazing how these rumours start. Certainly Ted does not deny being in the alley, but he was buying heroin at the time. Makes some of the self appointed ’media commentators’ who get on the guys’ backs from time to time look pretty damn stupid.

Sadly, the evening got a little out of hand with the announcement of the winner in the Urban Roots category, the Impfondo Rebels. After a great build up, during which Doctor created incredible suspense by excusing himself for a toilet break just after saying " and the winner is ", it turned out that the winners were actually an armed militia group. They stormed the stage in balaclavas and military fatigues, killing several other nominees in their category and holing up in the media room, refusing to do interviews. Some of these young bands need to take a lesson in class from the masters, The Fauves, who stayed calm throughout the crisis and even offered to look after the award on the winners’ behalf.

The show got back on track when the guys rose to accept their Lifetime Achievement Award, becoming the first inductees to the People’s Republic of Congo Hall of Fame. It was so touching when they accepted their trophy from a small refugee boy who had needed both arms amputated after a crate of awards fell on him during rehearsal. Ted and Doctor hoisted him high on their shoulders, letting him balance the statuette briefly on his head before he dropped it and was passed back to his mother. It only surfaced later that the young fellow was a Muslim, leaving the guys with no option but to call a number of terrorist hotlines set up in accordance with the heightened security surrounding the event.

The next award was for Best Newcomer won by the B’aath Party Boys Kevin Borich’s new cover band with Dave Gleeson from the Screaming Jets out front. This was a bit of a sore point for the guys who felt that they should have been able to enter this category. Sure, they have been going for a long time, but this was the CRIAs first year so everyone was in effect a newcomer. Doug gave a pretty pointed speech to that effect when on stage to accept the award for best Australian Right handed drummer.

After such a great night, there was bound to be a let down and it came when Powderfinger won the final award album of the year. The Fauves had a stack of albums up for the award, due to a technicality that they worked on with the organisers at a pre event summit only weeks before the show. This loophole allowed Greatest Hits Albums to be broken down into the constituent records from which their songs were drawn, leaving the Fauves with eight entries in the category. Although initially there seemed to be no record of Powderfinger ever having released an album in the Congo, it later turned out that someone had bought a copy over the net enough to get them over the line in a tight race. It was a bitter pill, made especially difficult to swallow because the boys had flown in their great friend Ben Lee specially to present the award.

In a sad postscript to the evening, Lee’s light plane crashed shortly after take off from Brazzaville International airport bound for New York, killing all on board. The guys immediately wrote a tribute song and posted it on the Internet but had to withdraw it almost immediately when it was discovered that people were downloading it for free. Contrary to the accounts of several eyewitnesses who reported seeing survivors, Coxy, who was one of the first people on the scene, reported that Lee was a confirmed victim. Grim faced and reading from a prepared statement, he offered his thoughts to the media pack that quickly assembled near the runway from which Ben’s fateful flight had departed.

"Today the Congolese music scene lost a valued friend but you may rest assured that he died doing what he loved most appearing at celebrity events. I know for a fact that this is how he would have wanted it, the end was quick and he suffered only several minutes of acute pain. Ben told me with his last breath that he knew his music was a fraud and wanted me to apologise to everyone on his behalf".

For some bizarre reason the coroner returned an open verdict at the inquiry into his death, claiming that it "Couldn’t be stated beyond reasonable doubt that the impact of the crash was the sole contributor to the injuries of the deceased. In particular, the presence of several unexplained knife wounds to the chest area, throws doubt over the cause of death". The guys are playing a benefit show for Lee from which they hope to raise enough money to bury the much lamented singer’s body deeper than the statutory 6 foot requirement.

DATELINE: TUESDAY 11 SEPTEMBER

Coxy approached me today with a great new idea. He wants to me to help put together the Andrew Cox Foundation, a charity fund after the fashion other similar celebrity organisations already in existence. How generous is this guy?! The giving never seems to stop and he reckons there will be at least 6 to 7% of the capital left after administrative expenses. It hardly needs saying that the genius frontman will be far too busy to get involved with the day to day running of the fund but he was good enough to give me the number of his tax accountant.

DATELINE: WEDNESDAY 12 SEPTEMBER

Copped a mild rebuke from the guys this morning not that I didn’t deserve it mind you! Album sales have been slower than projected and responsibility necessarily falls on my desk. An Australian independent rock album was always going to be a hard sell in a country where few people can afford to own CD players. "What about their iPods?" Doug asked. "Why don’t they just download the album from iTunes? We still get a cut from that don’t we?" He went on to make the interesting point that Fauve is a French word and, in a country where French is the official language, I had neglected to fully utilise that asset as a marketing tool, in his words, ‘going forward’. "What’s the GNP per capita of this joint?" Doug continued one rainy afternoon recently as we waited for soundcheck in Ponte Noire. "About $US680", I replied. "It is a poor country. Many people live off subsistence agricul ." "You’re damn right it’s a poor country", Doug interrupted. "A pretty poor country that can’t understand the value of a $15 Fauves album. I mean we’re selling them for $25 back home! How much more of a discount do they want?" He sat back down in his chair. The only sounds were the equatorial rain hammering on the corrugated iron roof of the dressing room and Ted making out with a young Bantu girl he had haggled for in a laneway earlier in the day. "My God these people are savages", Doug resumed, frustrated. "Can’t they see that buying ‘Nervous Flashlights’ still leaves them with fully $660 for the rest of the year?"

DATELINE: FRIDAY 14 SEPTEMBER

The guys are getting a bit sick of the local food. People here are generous and will offer whatever they have even if means going hungry themselves but let’s face it, the Fauves deserve the best. "Goddamn cassava and yams again", Doctor complained before Thursday’s show in Impfondo after our hosts delivered the evening meal. "Hey boy", he yelled at the servant backing apologetically out of the room. "Get over here. What is the meaning of this starchy mess?" The waiter seemed embarrassed and motioned that he would try to source something else. Presently there came a series of squawks from the yard outside. Shortly thereafter the man reappeared with 4 chickens and began preparing a small fire upon which to cook them. Sensing trouble I tried to shepherd the unwitting local out of the room but it was too late. "We’re fucking vegetarians", Doctor and Coxy screamed in unison, rounding on the unfortunate aide de camp. Coxy began dismantling the chicken and hurling parts of the greasy carcass around the room. "See the chicken fly, see the chicken fly", he chanted, growing increasingly agitated as he tore at the barely cooked flesh. Eventually he calmed down a bit after Ted injected him with some elephant tranquilliser. Tomorrow we are having a funeral for the 4 chickens. Coxy has written a moving eulogy and he and Doctor are going to play acoustic at the service. The guys are thinking of recording it as a pre Christmas stocking filler release.

DATELINE: SUNDAY 16TH SEPTEMBER

We had Pascal Lissouba and a bunch of his cronies try to come backstage after tonight’s show. After being ousted from government in the civil war of ’97, Lissouba has been nothing but trouble. Security tried to stop them but it seems that Lissouba had picked up an Access All Areas pass from somewhere. Surprisingly, the guys appeared happy to see him, gathering round the deposed leader as though he was an old friend. Apparently he has organised to take them riding tomorrow because I heard Doug say something about a horse. They seemed strangely listless onstage tonight and seemed to have lost all interest in the trail ride when I asked if they wanted me to book a wake up call.

DATELINE: MONDAY 17TH SEPTEMBER

Met some of the guys for breakfast to find them in various states of distress. News down the wire from home was not good it seems a great friend of theirs had passed away over night. Even worse, it looked as though the sound track they were writing for his next show probably wouldn’t go ahead. "He was one of the best", Doctor explained as he ordered his usual breakfast of poached cassava on boiled yam. "You have crocodiles here in Congo?" I explained that we did. "Really", Doctor continued. "You’ve got an Australia Zoo franchise here too?" I told Doctor that the Congo was one of the mightiest rivers in the world and that crocodiles were manifest in every reach of its immense length. "Oh, well you’d know Steve Irwin then". I had to confess the name was unfamiliar to me. "Steve fucking Irwin, you idiot", Doctor berated. I knew I had not done my research properly and began to apologise before he interrupted. "Major disrespect dude. Man, no one knew how to torment a croc like that bugger’. He fished a photo out of his wallet. "Have a look at that". A gregarious looking man in khaki shorts gave a thumbs up while posing with his head inside the gaping maw of an estuarine crocodile. Doctor stared at the photo a while longer, lost in reverie. "The good die young", he whispered after a while. "The good also die middle aged. They can die any time but many of them die young". I saw a tear well in the corner of his eye. "You guys must have been very close", I said after a time. Who? Me and Steve?" "Er yes". "Nah, didn’t know him mate. But he was an Aussie icon kind of like us only not quite as talented. Aussie values mate. You Congolese wouldn’t understand anything about that. You kill yourselves with civil war, famine, AIDS, malaria. You guys have a choice. Stop fighting; eat some food; wear a condom; take some quinine. Steve never had that chance. All he ever did was torment a few animals. Entertained millions. And for that he was taken. No fucking quinine invented that I know can protect against a fucking Stingray through the guts". I wasn’t quite sure how to respond. "Guess he’ll never get to hear that soundtrack we were writing now", said Ted, joining the others at breakfast with a young Sangha girl he had met by the roadside on the way to the café. "You never bothered to learn your fucking bass parts for it anyway you fucking fuck" screamed Coxy, the elephant tranquilliser wearing off. They set to with fisticuffs, spilling into the dusty road outside. I rose and made to go and separate them. "Let ‘em go", Doug counselled, a restraining hand on my shoulder. "Emotions are raw. Coxy was very close to Steve". "I should ring the airline and organise a flight back for the funeral". "Nah, he’ll be right mate. Steve was an entertainer. He would have understood that the show must go on. Besides, Coxy didn’t actually know him" "Oh really?" I was surprised. He seemed so upset. "Nah, didn’t know him from shit. Tried to get backstage at one of his crocodile tormenting extravaganzas once but there was a mix up with the guest list and security stopped him. He just always felt very close to him. Both frontmen you see. The likes of us could never understand the pressures that those guys deal with. Coxy was now on his knees, lost in a spiritual trance. A guttural moan issued from deep in his chest and he began rocking back and forth, slapping open palms onto his bare forehead. We sat around in awe, transfixed at this incredible moment, embryonic creativity at close range. It seemed that he had started speaking in tongues. "Hey Paul", he broke off suddenly. "Can you tape this in case I come up with some shit we can use later?"

DATELINE: THURSDAY 18 MAY

New album instore today! It’s been as busy a time as I can remember. The boys haven’t had time to actually record any new stuff it’s been a crazy 10 years so they’re repackaging some of their most popular songs into a brand new compilation. The lads are expecting Greatest hits the King Leopold II of Belgium Special Selection to debut high on the charts. Guess who has to make it happen! Bribery and graft are not unknown in this country and the boys are well known for their insistence on adopting the cultural proclivities of whichever country they happen to be in. The CD is being released in special rubber packaging partly for cost reasons but mainly as a tribute to Leopold himself, a guy who did much to open up this hitherto backward region to the realities of global commerce.

DATELINE: WEDNESDAY 17 MAY

The boys arrived today pretty jetlagged but in typically giving style they insisted on meeting the girls before checking in at the hotel. I suggested that perhaps the contestants could meet them there and they leapt at the idea. "That’s the kind of thinking they pay me for" apparently. Have to admit I felt pretty chuffed when I dropped the ladies off and the guys crowded round me high fiving and intimating that a raise may be on the agenda. Just think of it, my first raise in 13 years! Not that I’m complaining they’ve always really looked after me. I’m on $1.50 a day plus commissions after the sale of 5 million albums in the greater Congo basin area. Some of the girls are very young so I’m really glad they’ll have the band’s steadying influence to help them through. Ted offered to take a couple of the shyest ones under his wing. They jumped at the chance; so much so that I had to break into his room and prise them out from under his wing next morning to make sure they got to school on time. He’s really good like that though. His wing is available to pretty much anyone who wants it.

DATELINE: MONDAY 15 MAY

I’ll let you in on a secret. When I first came to work for the Fauves I thought they’d probably be a bit arrogant, maybe even a little precious. Not that they wouldn’t have had a right to of course; coping with talent on their scale is a serious business. Well it didn’t take long for me to have that notion quelled. A more compassionate, down to earth bunch of guys you could not find anywhere. Only a year after the tsunami tore a swathe through the countries bordering the Indian Ocean, their publicity agent Beth was on the phone. The guys, ever concerned about those less fortunate than themselves, wanted to do a benefit, here in Congo, to help the victims. I can’t tell you how much of a heel I felt having to let them down by informing them that the Indian Ocean was on the other side of Africa! Still the guys would not be dissuaded. They had a new album coming out and were determined to help some people less fortunate than themselves. They charged yours truly with the job of coming up with a worthy cause, and I, in my own humble way was more than happy to oblige. As one of the poorest nations on earth, Congo has no shortage of heartbreaking social and economic ills so I drew up a short list of worthy charities for the boys to choose from: children’s orphanages, AIDS foundations; housing projects that sort of thing. Apparently none of my suggestions quite fitted the bill after all the guys are very busy and Sub Saharan Africa’s problems are pretty intractable. In the wash up they are coming over in 2 weeks to do a gig to help raise money to send a Miss Congo to the next Miss Universe Pageant! It’s a really worthwhile project and the guys are being really generous with their time even insisting that they meet each of the contestants personally. Moreover, they have taken an active role in personally selecting the outfits, all the while maintaining a keen eye on cultural sensitivities. As a matter of fact a huge box of Brazilian style bikini bottoms arrived this morning. My next job will be getting on to someone in Customs: the tops seem to have gone missing. All shoulders to the wheel !

DATELINE: MONDAY 8 MAY

Saw the boys off at the airport today with an extra heavy heart. After a hastily convened meeting in bathrobes outside Coxy’s room at 4am we decided it was best that my wife accompany the guys home to help take the burden off the overworked staff back in Australia. With only 178 people on the payroll back there they are really short staffed and we all came to the agreement that she would probably be of more use working as Coxy’s Personal Assistant than here in the Congo cooling her heels. It’s not as if I’m not going to see her anyway, as the band have promised to fly me over in 6 years for their 20th birthday celebrations. Now that sounds like a big one! In the meantime I need a bath and a good night’s sleep. Over and out for now!

DATELINE: SUNDAY 7 MAY

Headaches all round! Last night was the final show of the tour and, in keeping with tradition; the boys really turned it on. Things got a little tense pre show in the backstage compound when the rider arrived minus some of the band’s specific requirements. A heated debate ensued with the local promoter threatening to blow Doctor’s brains out with a small handgun and several of his goons roughing up one of Doug’s consorts. I really despair at this kind of thing as it undoes a lot of the hard work we have put in at this end to get Western bands over here. The promoter called the guys a bunch of greedy, bloodsucking, imperialist racists or words to that effect and produced some statistics to show that the Congo’s annual GDP was less than the band’s mini bar bill back at the hotel. That’s just sophistry as far as I’m concerned. The guys have been incredibly giving and patient on this tour, often performing at venues without spa, sauna, massage and 5 star restaurant facilities or 24 hour helicopter access all for fees only marginally above those charged by contemporaries like U2. I could hardly have blamed the guys if they had cancelled the show after suffering through this kind of treatment. As it was they gave the crowd the greatest 18 minute rock set I’ve ever had the privilege of witnessing.

DATELINE: SATURDAY 6 MAY

Was awoken early this morning with a call from a hotel staff member claiming to have found ’drug paraphernalia’ in one of the rooms. The petty functionary seemed really worked up as he melodramatically described a cache of hypodermic syringes, burnt spoons and traces of ’an unidentified white powder’. Sometimes the most outwardly sinister scenarios have the simplest answers! Apparently a couple of weeks on an African diet have taken a heavy toll on everyone’s pancreatic systems and they have all become diabetic. I really wish people would check the facts before jumping to rash conclusions. I managed to mollify the hostile manager with some copies of the new album and 50,000 dollars in unmarked bills.

DATELINE: FRIDAY 5 MAY

Late start today after the boys were involved in judging the annual Miss People’s Republic of Congo competition last night. Everyone kicked on afterwards to ZONEOUT Brazzaville’s hottest nightclub where we had set up a special roped off VIP area for the band. In these situations there are always going to be more people who want to attend than we have places for. The guys really wanted some breathing space after their hectic week so we kept the guest list really tight pretty much just the Miss Congo contestants and a couple of Sports Illustrated models in town on a photo shoot. I’m constantly amazed at how down to earth these guys are. They were buying the girls free drinks, showing them how to play pool and offering to put them up back at their hotel. I was especially grateful to Coxy who gave up his evening to chaperone my wife while I caught up on some bookkeeping.

DATELINE: THURSDAY 4 MAY

Fewer than 50,000 people own television sets in this country so a talk show run that the guys had planned was shelved. We organised a series of small and intimate acoustic performances instead: all in all a great success. The Congolese people have really responded to the boys’ warm personalities and easygoing manner and these low key concerts have proved a perfect showcase. We had a little trouble in Pointe Noire today when the crowd got a bit enthusiastic and started trying to breach the razor wire barriers we had erected in front of the stage. It can be difficult getting the locals to understand that the guys are very tired and not really up to meeting anyone. In lieu of an actual face to face with the band we had printed up some framed photos with stamped on facsimiles of the band’s autographs that sold really well. Of course we have to be careful and are only able to except hard currency, preferably American dollars, so a few kids who had only CFA francs went away disappointed. The guys were philosophical and felt excited that they had been able to teach the children a really valuable lesson.

DATELINE: WEDNESDAY 3 MAY

The guys swung back into Congo after a couple of night’s relaxation in neighbouring Gabon and walked straight into a firestorm of controversy. Apparently Reuters were carrying a story about the meet and greet cocktail party thrown by the Australian ambassador the other night at which the band and several members of the Congolese government, including President Denis Sassou Nguesso, were in attendance. According to the story running in several major dailies, one of the guys was seen in the grounds of the ambassadorial residence entertaining Sassou Nguesso’s teenage daughter. I mean come on! The age of consent is a notoriously hazy concept in this part of the world and extremely difficult to prosecute. The President’s daughter is obviously a major fan of the band and I have it on reliable information that their activities went no further than a little light bondage. Sure there were some minor issues of cultural sensitivity involved but you have to wonder whether some people have anything better to do with their lives.

DATELINE: TUESDAY 2 MAY

A Chief Liaison Officer of Fauves’ Operations in Sub Saharan Africa’s job is never done! Some of the press got hold of a rumour regarding a small incident on a boat cruise the guys took on Saturday and really blew it out of proportion. I spent the whole morning hosing it down and reassuring the foreign affairs department that threatening to sever diplomatic relations with Australia was a gross overreaction. The alleged infraction was a simple case of misunderstanding. The lads were keen to do some sight seeing so I organised a boat trip up the Congo for them and a few local dignitaries. Anyway, boys will be boys and after a couple too many glasses of the local firewater things got a little rowdy. Doug and Ted are real Joseph Conrad fans and they decided on an impromptu re enactment of the Kurtz death scene just as we pulled up alongside a small riverside village. The face paint was nothing more than a light hearted joke and the accents were so obviously a humorous parody that it was amazing anyone took offence. The chief of the local tribe was one of those who didn’t see the funny side, however, and it took no small amount of convincing him to release his vice like grip on Ted’s badly damaged windpipe. Naturally enough the band was pretty hot under the collar over their shoddy treatment at the hands of the ungrateful natives and went on a brief rampage to avenge their damaged honour. Apparently some religious icons were smashed in the ensuing fracas and a female member of the community was verbally abused. After an undisclosed financial settlement the village elders agreed that they were in the wrong and happily signed a prepared statement to this effect in which they offered the band an unconditional apology.

DATELINE: MONDAY 1 MAY

Wow what a weekend! The guys just wrapped up their first series of shows in Congo and I am beat! Boy do they know how to party!! It’s been five days of non stop activity exhausting but heaps of fun. Most of the band members are really friendly and seem genuinely interested in the country and its people. I had a great conversation with Doctor about Cobalt mining after the show the other night. He seemed really well briefed and asked a lot of detailed questions about local regulations, the statutory rights of the indigenous population and the legal validity of Congolese environmental laws. He has a small logging concession in one of the tropical rainforests about halfway up the Ubangi and really feels that now might be the time to expand operations. I said I’d speak to a couple of people and he said yes, please do.

DATELINE 20 APRIL

The guys take Anzac Day really seriously and, being so far from home, the 25th of April is always extra special. They had the great idea of celebrating Australia’s defacto national day with a concert to raise money for the Andrew Cox Foundation. It was also a chance to spread a few Australian values to some starving kids in need of a good role model. Where Aussies have a proud history of invading other lands, the Congolese have largely been passive onlookers as the white man, justifiably frustrated at centuries of inactivity, was at last forced to come in and take control of the country’s under utilised natural resources. The fellows made it my job to find a veteran of the Gallipoli campaign whom they could get on stage to help sing some back ups. It was a tough job finding a 1915 digger living in the greater Brazzaville area so I had the idea of showing Breaker Morant on a large screen behind them as they played. This apparently wasn’t good enough and I was sent to the only video rental store in Brazzaville with the order to "Get Gallipoli and if they haven’t got that then Crocodile Dundee". Unfortunately neither of these quintessential Australian movies was in stock. At the last minute Normie Rowe’s management called and, after some brief haggling to increase the amount he was offering to pay us, the grizzled old rocker/Vietnam vet was on the next flight to join the guys on stage.

DATELINE 22 APRIL

The last concert the guys held here was on Australia Day back in January and, to be honest, there were a few problems. Firstly, Doug had the idea of getting everyone in the crowd to wear green and gold face paint as a way of getting into the spirit of things. The locals proved a little hesitant so the boys decided to kick things along a bit and organised two large water cannon to shoot the paint directly at the audience. Sadly, the pressure of the large bore weapons was a bit too high and many of the small kiddies who had congregated around the stage were knocked off their feet and sent scudding many metres backwards through a large mud pit. This lead to a bit of a fracas, which ended with 25 people dead and scores more injured. Fortunately, we had a pre recorded message of good will from Australian Prime Minister John Howard to help calm the confusion. Mr Howard reminded the assembled guests that Australia is the greatest country on earth and urged them to remember the hardships borne by ordinary hardworking Australian families. There was a definite decrease in the death rate amongst the rioting locals while the PM’s speech ran. He reminded them that they were, in effect, guests on Australian soil and as such needed to respect his country’s culture, history, and shared values. He was also clear in stating that the concert grounds were well outside of Australia’s migration zone and that, unfortunately, his country would not be in a position to provide refugee status to anyone seeking asylum. While the footage ran, a team of white South African mercenaries hired to provide security helped sort out the confusion. These guys were all ex policemen from the Johannesburg precinct and quickly restored order while keeping further deaths to a minimum. The band, to its credit, was visibly upset by this unforeseen tragedy and sought solace in the arms of a small legal team assembled backstage. While in no way accepting responsibility for the tragic events, the guys were good enough to offer one of their air conditioned trailers for use as a temporary morgue.

DATELINE 26 APRIL

The Anzac day concert went off fantastically well. We opened the show with a minute"s silence, after which Doctor played the Last Post on electric guitar truly spine tingling once he remembered to put his capo on the right fret. Doug then launched into a performance piece in which he ate Turkish bread while drumming along to a tape of Waltzing Matilda as a way of reconciling old enmities. Then in the set piece of the day Coxy and Normie Rowe dueted on I was Only 19. Emotions were raw as the two Vietnam vets pulled in close around the same mike to sing. Coxy quickly pointed out to Normie that his mike was over the other side of the stage. Once the confusion was cleared up Coxy belted out the lyrics with his customary gusto. Some people in the crowd complained that Normie’s voice was a little hard to hear and it seems he may have accidentally unplugged his mike with his walking stick. Unfortunately crowd numbers were a little down on those of the Australia Day event. Apparently the 25th of April is also Swaziland’s National flag day and the do gooders down at the Swazi legation had organised a concert of their own, mischievously making it free so as to directly compete with the $98 AUD ticket price at our show. It was a shame because the guys had deliberately tried to keep prices down this year, pegging any increases to rises in the Zimbabwean CPI.

The boys put in one of their patented five hour sets* before coming back for an encore. Just as they were about to return to the stage we heard a horrible screaming coming from the dressing rooms. It was Ted and Normie Rowe, locked together in vicious combat. "You wouldn’t know ‘cos you weren’t fucking there!" Normie screamed as Ted sought to gain one of his patented pressure holds on the beleaguered veteran’s windpipe. Rowe was blue in the face and fading fast when we finally managed to loosen Ted’s vice like grip on the angry faded star’s chicken neck. It is always sad to see someone who can’t let go even worse when jealousy of the new generation boils over into physical violence. Apparently Rowe had questioned the veracity of Coxy’s military record an outrageous slander against a true patriot who would never refuse the call of his country in its hour of need. Ted, always ready to defend the honour of the only man he has ever truly loved, leapt to Coxy’s defence vowing to: "Smash Rowe’s head all the way back to Saigon". We had Normie sedated and put in restraints whereupon each of the guys had a bit of a go at teaching him a lesson before extracting a signed confession stating that he had made up the allegations about Coxy not serving in Nam. Later that night the guys challenged Rowe to a friendly game of paintball. The Fauves quickly chose to be the Australian Defence Force while Normie was left to play the Viet Cong. He suffered from a lack of manoeuvrability in his wheelchair and got a nice little touch up as payback for his earlier indiscretion. *Original band members may not be on stage for entire duration of show

DATELINE 27 APRIL

The fellas put on a family day by way of thanking everyone who had helped out on the amazing Anzac Day show. We barbequed some Mountain Gorilla and everyone had a good feed before joining in a scratch cricket match organised to foster reconciliation. Just as the first ball was about to be bowled who should show up as an interested spectator? Shane Warne! He was quickly drafted onto the Fauves team and, after Doctor bowled an unchanged opening spell of 25 overs, took over from the River end. Shane is a great ambassador of the game and was keen to introduce the locals to the mysterious art of leg spin bowling. He started rolling his arm over to a few Congolese kids. Howzat!!! He soon had five for not many and was holding the ball aloft to acknowledge the generous applause of the crowd. Unfortunately one of his victims, a young boy with polio, was not fully versed in the rules and failed to immediately depart the crease upon being given out. Warney and the guys quickly set about providing him with directions, telling the young lad to "fuck off back to the pavilion" and gesturing demonstratively in its general direction. The guys came up with some really funny sledges when the boy came out to bat in the second innings, Doug at one stage asking if his withered arm was a result of "too much jerking off". Everyone fell about laughing and the kid, who plainly couldn’t read Warney’s flipper, was caught plumb LBW second ball. It was a long trudge back to the pavilion with the opposition’s laughter ringing in his ears. Warney promptly declared that the kid was now his "Bunny" before he and the guys decamped for a local nightspot to drink bourbon and sing Under The Southern Cross.