Martin at Hemingway's favourite Hotel, the Ambos Mundos in Havana
Martin at the Hotel Ambos Mundos in Havana, Cuba

Martin is a mate that I’ve known for…I can’t remember how long – but apparently we first met one night in the summer of 1981 – 82.

After a long period out of Australia living in Timor Leste, southern Africa, central America and western Europe Martin now lives in Geelong and works at Deakin Uni as a lecturer in law. We share lots of things in life including a healthy disregard for cant and bullshit and a love of wine, women and music – not always in that order.

Martin has the bad back that I should have from too many years of carrying black boxes around.

Martin being back in Geelong reminds me of the last time we were there together – it was sometime in the summer of 1981-82 and we were doing a gig with The Laughing Clowns (he) and The Birthday Party (me) at the Eureka Hotel.

It was a great show only partly ruined by the boofheadedness of the pub management.

The Eureka was a great little gig that had recently changed management – the previous promoter had been one of those all-too-rare great local guys who had a real love of music and respect for the punters that came to see the bands at his pub and put their good money in his pocket. Unknown to me the new promoter was some buffoon who thought more of the money in his pocket rather than the goodwill he’d inherited.

This fool had been giving me, and just about everyone else, the shits all night by coming up to me at the front of house mixing desk and yelling in my ear to TURN IT DOWN!! – ITS TOO LOOOUUUDD!!!.

Yeah – The Birthday Party – too loud?

That sort of carry-on used to happen all too often in those days – pubs had these stupid 3 stage (yellow, orange, red) volume meters and you were not supposed to run into the red zone for too long.

My usual response to idiots yelling at me to TURN IT DOWN!! was to drop all of the front of house sound mixer faders back to zero and when 500 punters would turn around to see what had gone wrong and why the roar that had filled the room one minute had so suddenly vanished I would point to the fool next to me – then turn it back up to the same volume and ask him if that was better – invariably they said yes…

At the end of what was a pretty good gig The Birthday Party came back on stage to do an encore. This fool of a promoter went down to the front of the stage and told them to stop.

The band ignored him and certain elements of the crowd, understandably, took offence at this and proceeded to trash the place – with just a little encouragement from some members of the band…this went on for a few minutes until some semblance of order was restored and the punters shuffled off into the night and the band went upstairs for a well-earned drink.

When the time came for the promoter to cough with the cash – a measly $1,500 as I recall – he objected in the strongest possible terms – firstly he didn’t want to pay at all, saying that the band had breached its contract (by playing too long?!) and that the band had encouraged the punters in what he called a riot.

I like to think that I developed what limited diplomatic and negotiation skills I have from my years in rock & roll – it was a necessary part of the skill set when you have to deal with idiots like this guy – let alone the musicians, managers, other road crew and all the other dysfunctional characters that hang around bands. Later I realised that this same skill set would work well in another industry so I, and Martin, went and studied for 4 years and turned ourselves into lawyers.

In fact there are quite a few ex-road crew that I can think of that went on to do law…you can’t get away with yelling “GET OUT OF MY FUCKING WAY/OFF THE STAGE/DON’T TOUCH THAT OR I’LL KILL YOU/FUCK OFF” to your clients, other lawyers or a judge…but the sentiments are often the same.

Anyway, with a bit of time, reason, fulsome flattery and subtle arm-twisting we got our $1,500 – less $10 to pay for an ad we had to put in the local paper apologising to the promoter and the pub for the disgraceful display the band had caused, damage to his reputation etc etc.

I can’t remember the wording of the ad, but I recall having a good laugh later because we put a bit of effort into it. I’ll send someone off to a library one day soon to track down a copy of the Geelong Advertiser for sometime in mid-January 1982 just to see if it was as funny as we thought at the time.

Anyway, this is a long way to get to 10 questions for Martin. A few weeks ago (at the same feed and drink session at the wonderful Claypots in St Kilda, Melbourne that Paul Kelly’s 10 questions came from) I flung a few questions at Martin.

Q – Cats, dogs or any other animal?

A – Possibly another animal – but, err, cats.

Q – Why?

A – ’cause they’re not dogs…

Q – Most treasured possession?

A – My cycling videos. Paris – Roubaix, Vuelta a Espana, Giro d’Italia – especially 2007, Alexander Vinocourov versus Alejandro Valverde.

Q – When did you last break the law? And how?

A – No comment!! (laughs)

Q – What is your Desert Island Disc?

A – Very difficult – but it might be Old & New Dreams by Old & New Dreams – Charlie Haden, Don Cherry, Ed Blackwell & Dewey Redman – a great tribute to Ornette Coleman.

Q – What do you sing in the shower?

A – I’m like Paul – I don’t sing!

Q – In the bath?

A – No I put my head under the water and listen to the world…

Q – First record you ever bought, where and how much?

A – It was in a record shop in Civic in Canberra. Slade Alive by Slade. I thought it was $4.99 but maybe cheaper. It’s got a great ballad – “Darling Be Home Soon“, originally by John Sebastian.

Q – Tell me something you’ve never told anyone else before.

A – But I tell you that all the time, Bob…

Q – Tell me something else you haven’t told me.

A – No!! (laughs).

Q – Who would you like to be in a band with?

A – Paul Kelly, Bob Gosford & Jeffrey Wegener

Q – Where do we go when we are dead?

A – This is really hard…because we go somewhere. We are all sort of connected. I don’t know – I’ll have to consult Spinoza.

Q – What are you reading – Fiction?

A – Elizabeth Costello by J M Coetzee.

Q – Non-fiction?

A – Letter to the Romans by St Paul & a book on doping in sport called Mortal Engines: The Science of Performance and the Dehumanization of Sport by John M. Hoberman.