THURSDAY, 29 AUGUST 2019
SUBJECTS: DJ performance; David Bowie; Australian music industry; Sydney music venues; Record Store Day; importance of community radio; work-life balance.
HOST: Phoning in today to wish Happy Birthday to FBi, is the Leader of the Opposition and the Australian Labor Party, Anthony Albanese. Hello, Albo.
ANTHONY ALBANESE, LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY: G’day. Happy Birthday.
HOST: Thank you so much for calling us up.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: My pleasure.
HOST: Some people might know you better by DJ Albo, but I would actually be a bit concerned if that is the case.
ALBANESE: So would I, I think. If you’re looking for that on the ballot paper which might be a bit difficult to find; but it was a great event down there at Carriageworks. I had good fun. I was assisted to DJ by Peewee Ferris, who is of course a legend.
HOST: Of course one of the Ferris brothers is also here at FBi.
ALBANESE: Well, they are everywhere, the Ferris brothers. They’re like the Farriss brothers.
HOST: Tell us about the day.
ALBANESE: Well, it was good fun. We did a big event down there. There were bands and there were dance spots and I deejayed in-between bands. So, I did three little mini-sets of four or five songs each time. It was the day after, or maybe two days after, the news about David Bowie’s death. So that was a big deal. And it was a just a fun event which raised money for FBi, a very good cause indeed.
HOST: So did you try and sneak on as much Bowie as possible, is what you’re trying to say?
ALBANESE: No. No, I only did one. But I played from memory mainly Australian songs. It’s still up on my Spotify list. So, the FBi set – one, set two and set three – are still up there; available for anyone who wants to look and see what I played. I think I played the Preatures, I played Nick Cave I think and some mainly Australian sort-of indie type music.
HOST: Why is that important? Playing Australian music and supporting Australian artists?
ALBANESE: It’s why FBi is important. Because Australian music, one: it’s damn fine music and it has quite a, I think, a unique sound has developed over the years to Australian music. So, if it wasn’t any good then the rest of it wouldn’t work. But the fact is, it is. And it’s about creating Australian jobs, supporting Australian culture.
I’m a big supporter of Australian live music. I’m old enough to remember when the Australian live music scene – you could pick up one of the local papers have a look for who was playing and have your choice – I grew up around the Inner West of you know 10 bands playing at places like the Annandale and a whole lot of pubs. Sonya’s at Leichhardt, as well as a whole lot of venues around the city – the Bald Faced Stag and the Bridge Hotel at Rozelle, tonnes of venues. And it was a really vibrant scene you could just drop into – the Sando at Newtown was a great venue – and that was really good for just building that sense of community as well. And the birth of stations like FBi and to 2SER and others that were around at the time, are all really important that we support Australian music and Australian culture – the Australian art scene. We punch way above our weight right across the arts and culture, whether it be film or plays, writers, ballet, opera, as well as rock and roll. And we should celebrate that and we should nurture it.
HOST: Anthony, I want to touch more on that, but my mind is kind of stuck on the fact that you did a back-to-back set with Peewee Ferris and I know Pee Wee Farris is very privy to some 90s dance music, some 90s trance music. Did he slip any of that in, in your set together?
ALBANESE: No, no, no. I was in control of what we were doing on the decks at that time. So, they were definitely mine. One of the things that I have resisted from the very enthusiastic younger staff that have worked with me over recent years, when I’ve done a few DJ events for charity, is them slipping their songs in. Because I think it’s got to be authentic. So if you hear me play stuff it will tend to be much more biased towards the 90s more so than the more recent times. But I always do play some contemporary music as well. It’s one of the great things about FBi, is that you can turn on your radio and you can listen to the latest sounds and listen to bands – even bands that might not have a commercial release out – you can hear what’s emerging and that’s a fantastic thing.
HOST: So, how do you find most of your music? I know that you are an ambassador for Record Store Day. What are some of your favourite record stores in your electorate?
ALBANESE: RPM Records is just down the road in Marrickville Road from my electorate office. And that has a full range, including a pretty extensive back catalogue. But I’ve always been a fan of Red Eye Records, Just near the Queen Victoria building there in York Street, in Sydney. It’s not in my electorate but it is an amazing record store. And I did, the last DJ gig I did was for the Community Cup Launch, which was at Cottonmouth Records which is of course in Enmore Road there, and I’ve got a t-shirt of theirs that I wear which says: ‘vinyl, beer and whisky’. What more could you want out of life?
HOST: Oh my God, right? There is a store you should check out in Newtown called Network Connection Records. That’s one of my favourites. But I wanted to ask you about what you were listening to when you were 16?
ALBANESE: I was listening to – well it is a little bit depressing in part, the fact that there’s been in recent times some 40th anniversaries of, for example, the release of Unknown Pleasures by Joy Division. And it’s amazing that that was 40 years ago. So I was listening to the emerging, or what became known as, I mean some of it – I don’t think Joy Division was really punk but it was known as a sort of punk scene. So, here in Australia you had of course the Saints and a whole lot of fantastic bands here. But in the UK in particular, I was a huge fan of The Clash and the Dam and the Buzzcocks and The – I’ve still got the first, well, the only real Sex Pistols album that came, had it at that time, on vinyl. And it was just such an exciting sound and it influenced people who were around Australia. And it’s interesting that a lot of the Australian music scene was a little bit ahead of, it’s 40 years since ‘I’m Stranded’ by the Saints, a little band out of Brisbane. It just shows that Australia has always punched above our weight.
HOST: While we’re getting nostalgic, what kind of memories do you have of FBi?
ALBANESE: Well the big memory I have of FBi is coming there and announcing the funding for the new transmitter that was made and FBi was really struggling and the capacity of which we were in Government, it was in the scheme of things not a large government grant. But it’s one that made a real difference to keeping the station on air and that’s one of the things we were able to do when we were in Government. That’s the difference between being in Government and being in an Opposition. In Opposition you can have good intentions, but in Government you can have good outcomes. That’s why I’m determined to make sure that we win next time around.
HOST: Why was FBi getting a new transmitter important? Why is keeping community radio on air important?
ALBANESE: Because they engage with the community and it’s something that builds community. You talk about what’s going on in the local area. You promote local musicians like how I talked about The Preatures before; I mean they’re a bunch of people from Newtown. It’s really important that civil society be given support by the Government and that we’re able to communicate it in a way that particularly brings young people together. That information, the sort of programs that you run, aren’t just about music. They’re about assisting people to get through life in what can be a difficult time for young people. And you know, it appeals very broadly as well. And of course so many people who are working on FBi now or who have gone on to work at ABC or commercial radio, they get their start and get their skills by volunteering there at FBi whether it’s presenters, producers, technicians, engineers. It’s very important community radio, the role that it plays in our society. Whether it be stations like FBi, or I also think that the ethnic stations like Italian radio and Greek radio play a really important role and stations that target a particular audience. Like JOY FM in Melbourne plays a really important role as a courier radio station in Sydney and Melbourne that are both important for getting information out and building that sense of belonging for Indigenous Australians as well. So I’m a big fan of community radio. I think it is very important and governments should nurture it and celebrate it and it’s fantastic that you’re celebrating a birthday today.
HOST: Thank you so much. And I have one more question for you. You have a pretty serious job as far as they go. However you clearly have some other things going on that aren’t too serious. You’ve got the Albo beer collab and you like to spin records. So you seem to have a bit of a balance. I want to ask you why is this balance important between serious business and creative outlets and why is that important for a city like Sydney?
ALBANESE: It is absolutely critical. One of the things that gets me through, I’ve got a turntable now in my office in Canberra, and it’s important to be able to tune out and music is one way that I can do that. Particularly going to see live music or live theatre, it is a fantastic way of broadening your horizons and just engaging and being involved. In recent times I’ve done a range of festivals and have had discussions like I did at Splendour this year. That was a forum about politics, a Q and A session with Emma Alberici, but it was a chance to go around and talk with people. I think if you are just locked in a room and just looking at the news and all of that, then it will distort your existence after a period of time. I genuinely like sport. I like music. And I try to make sure that I keep that balance. I play tennis on the weekend at Marrickville Lawns in the Sydney competition. That’s really good to pursue tennis as a sport where you have to concentrate on basically hitting a little ball across the net between lines. So you can’t think about what the latest issue is that you have to deal with. And I just think that balance is important in in life. I participated in the Community Cup that FBi were involved with a couple of weeks ago. You just get to meet different people as well. And that’s important.
HOST: That’s one of the reasons why I think FBi is important for a bunch of different people. It’s all about coming together. It sounded like that one of the reasons why you enjoy these things is being with other people.
ALBANESE: Absolutely. I’m surprised some people do get involved in politics, only a minority who don’t seem to like other people. I really enjoy interaction and it’s a good thing and I’ve met some fantastic people at FBi that I wouldn’t have interacted with or wouldn’t just run into. A few years ago I did quite a long profile there at the time my biography came out with a guy called Serge. I didn’t even know until afterwards it was Serge Negus. I know George Negus. I know his dad, who is one of Australia’s most famous journalists ever, but I didn’t even know. It didn’t matter. We just talked to each other and it was a really good interview. I’m not sure if Serge is still there or what he’s doing these days, but he’s a very impressive young man.
HOST: That’s really nice to hear some throwback FBi volunteers in this message as well. I’ve also got some nice messages coming through celebrating the birthday with you and I wanted to ask you one more thing before you go. I need a DJ Albo selection to end this with. What is a track that you enjoyed at the age of 16?
ALBANESE: Well something that I played at the FBi gig that I referred to, the 10th birthday celebration. I’ll pick that, which is Rebel Rebel by Bowie.
HOST: Very appropriate track.
ALBANESE: Absolutely. Particularly for a 16 year old, they should be rebelling.
HOST: Yes. Well thank you so much for the kind Happy Birthday, Anthony Albanese.
ALBANESE: It has been a pleasure to be with you and have a great day.