Catherine Roar, singer & bass guitarist for Melbourne frock rock 3 piece outfit The Muddy Spurs, interviews PENNY IKINGER and uncovers the dirt on her October 2006 European tour:
CR: 2006 was a pretty big year for you. How did the audiences in Spain respond to your music?
PI: Well, I’d like to think they enjoyed it. They didn’t leave or throw things at me. My band, Penny Ikinger inc. (avec Vinz/bass et Dimi Dero/ drums) sounded amazing.
We played as a 3 piece and the sound was raw and powerful. It rocked. I think the Spanish responded to this rock aspect, whereas with my album Electra I move in and out of rock music. I mixed up styles with this recording. It was my first tour of Spain so it’s a credit to Bang! Records (Basque Country) and my booking agent (and other helpers) that people came to my gigs. Someone must have done a lot of work behind the scenes on my behalf…
CR: How was it different to playing to audiences in your home base of Melbourne?
PI: Well, I got the feeling people were actually listening. I was very happy with the numbers and audience attendance. I thought it was a great result for a first tour.
CR: How did your music go down in France?
PI: I got lots of positive feedback in France. I was surprised at how well people responded to my strange brand of melancholy rock – they seemed to get the gist of my aesthetic. I loved hearing the compliments with those gorgeous French accents.
CR: What were the French punters like? Surly? Snooty? Surprisingly festy? Carn fess up…
PI: Well heeled for a start. I didn’t find them surly particularly but I found that the French people communicate using different parameters than we do as Australians and that was difficult for me to grasp at first. For a start they say exactly what they think. This could be interpreted as being snooty but it’s just the way they do things – it’s cultural rather than individual. Apparently that’s where he English word “frank” comes from – from the French (aka Franks) as they were known. That’s fine if they are paying you a compliment but not so good on the flipside.
CR: What do you dislike and like about touring?
Well, the lack of sleep is always a hard one. The other thing I find difficult is being around people all the time. I am someone who likes my space. I need it to replenish my energy and to center myself. So when I am on tour I try to keep very quiet during the day and conserve my energy and focus for the gig that evening. I was lucky that Vinz, Dimi and Antoine (our driver) were such fantastic people and we all got on well so there were so big arguments or anything to upset the equilibrium. Having said that I was travelling with a male entourage and I found that touring with French men has quite a different dynamic to touring with Australian men. I was confused at first and it took me a while to work out what was going on but then I realised that the differences again were cultural . What do I like about touring? The music, meeting people and placing yourself in the hands of Providence almost. For me as a solo artist who tours on their own and picks up bands, you are relying on so many people that you don’t know, all the time. You learn to trust the Universe. Am I sounding like a hippy?
CR: What was it like to be interviewed by Chrissy Amphlett?
I love Chrissy. She in so smart, talented, stylish…an icon! It was very generous of her to interview me and to share her perspectives on the “rock’n’roll journey” with me. She is a star and for good reason. She was so good at interviewing me she should have her own talk show I reckon. This interview was filmed by cinematographer Rachael Lucas as the basis for a rockumentary on my music. It is going to be shown at the St Kilda Film Festival, Melbourne in June 2007.
CR: What was it like to play with SALMON at the Big Day Out this year?
PI: It was fun being on a big stage with massive foldback. It is often difficult to hear ourself in SALMON what with 6 guitars but I didn’t have any problems that day.
CR: Why do you make music? What would you do if you couldn’t make music?
PI: You know sometimes I am not sure why I make music. Sometimes I wish I didn’t. But it’s an urge that won’t go away. I don’t think I’ve reached my full potential as a musician yet so I get the feeling that I am just going o keep going…I’m not sure what I would be doing without it. When I was at school I wanted to be an artist or a writer. I didn’t play music then so maybe I would have explored those creative outlets instead.
CR: You have your own solo project and you are in SALMON. Do you find it hard to multitask when it comes to playing music? Which project do you give precedence?
PI: Well I have to give my own stuff precedence because unless I keep the ball rolling it won’t roll. I am learning a lot out of SALMON as Kim has such a unique bent on music. So, in this respect I am happy to multi task if it means learning new things.
CR: What is your take on Myspace and cyber networking generally?
PI: Well cyber networking is fine and I certainly have been making some interesting ‘friends” on Myspace. I am not convinced about computers in general though. They don’t alleviate my workload in any way they just increase it because your options and your potential is so much greater now. But I have record companies in America and the Basque Country so it would be difficult to do my business without them. Although I was around in the days before faxes were ever invented and when I was in Wet Taxis (in the 1980’s) we were so broke we didn’t even have the phone on. We got gigs though and toured around. I don’t know how we did it???!!!
CR: Your latest song Impossible Love is impossibly good. Can you walk us through how you wrote it and what it is about?
PI: No I’m not going to tell you what it’s about. I might get myself into trouble. I recorded this song with Dave Graney (bass) and Clare Moore ( drums) at their studio where you’ve done some recording too with The Muddy Spurs, hey?. Clare and Dave did an amazing job with this song. Dave came up with the idea for that cool Bo Diddley beat. I had thought it was just another one of my soppy love gone wrong type numbers but they turned it into a pop classic that would make Phil Spector proud.
CR: When is your next solo album coming out and how will it differ from Electra?
PI: I don’t think the next album is going to sound anything like Electra. I am a different person now. Electra was born from trauma. I am not in the same situation now – my life has changed. The new songs are taking on more of what I would call a “pop” format whereas with Electra I was almost anti- pop, experimenting with different musical concepts, for instance. I was trying to put the music back into music so to speak – not contain the music but make it breath with long songs and solos and soundscapes that almost explode out of their confines. I was also thinking about certain polarites like beauty versus angst. Mixing up beautiful sounds like strings with aggressive sounds like fuzz guitar. It gives the album a resonance and a poetic depth I think. With the new album I want to explore this idea/ my idea of “Pop” music. Shorter songs, more up tempo, concise.
CR: Do you chiefly see yourself as an artist, a musician an entertainer or all of the above?
PI: I am everything. I am nothing.
CR: What’s your take on raunch culture? Liberating for women or disempowering?
PI: I’m not sure what raunch culture is. Am I behind the times?
CR: The first time I saw you perform was with Dave and Clare and the Lurid Yellow Mist at the Bakers Arms in Fitzroy about four years ago on a Wednesday night. I was up the front of the room and you announced through the mike that I was your percussion section because I was crunching loudly on my salt and vinegar chips. How do you handle really vexing and annoying punters at your shows?
PI: They same way I handled you…
“Cheers Penny!” “Thanks Catherine”.