Flipped Interviews

This is a series of interviews with outstanding male performers from the music scene in Melbourne, Australia. This series is conducted in good faith (with a good sense of humour) to illustrate how gender affects how we, as musicians, are treated. The questions I am asking all of my interviewees are genuine questions which I, or other female musicians, have been asked in interviews (and occasionally, at performances), but with their genders (and related elements) reversed make them more relevant to my current interviewees.


Harry James Angus

October 2020

Well, unless you’ve been in a coma for the last 20 years, you’ve probably heard of the Cat Empire and have a pretty good idea of who Harry Angus is. If you’ve been in the right place at the right time, you may have also heard his new project Struggle with Glory. The songs are outrageously good and Harry carves it up live with his vocal prowess, lyrical trumpet playing and general good vibes on stage (and in person). He is currently based in northern NSW next to our picturesque east coast, and (unlike our Victorian colleagues) is currently playing gigs up there with his new duo.

Go and see him if you get the chance. 

TM: What do you love about being a male jazz musician? What do you not love as much?

I love that I’m allowed to get really drunk at a gig every now and then, and completely stuff it up, and know I’ll still get booked next time.

I love that I can arrive at a rehearsal without having learned any of the material and I’ll probably get away with it.

I love that other people shake my hand (or elbow bump as the case may be) and introduce themselves to me by name when I meet them professionally or after a show.

One negative aspect of being a male jazz musician is that sometimes people will hire you just to fulfil a “quota” of males that they think they need to have in the group (usually 100% is the quota). I think people should be hired based on talent and merit rather than on the basis of their sex, and it kind of sucks when you realise you’re only in the group because you’re a bro.

Why do you think there are so many males in the music industry?

Growing up I remember seeing a lot of males in bands, on the TV and in film clips and stuff, and thinking, “if they can do that, I can do that!” I was heavily influenced by a lot of awesome males. If you look at the Rolling Stone polls from when I was a teenager, there were consistently about 90 male artists listed in the “100 Greatest Artists of All Time” so I guess that kind of indicated to me on some level that I would be probably have a better chance in the industry as a male.

Why do you play so many instruments?

Haha I know right? I guess I’m just that kind of guy, you know, I was never into playing footy and all those typical guy things, I would rather sit inside and make up songs on the piano. I was always a real Momma’s boy.

So, how do you be a musician and a father?

Nobody has ever asked me that before! Sorry I don’t really understand the question. Luckily my wife Emily Lubitz has supported me to keep doing all the touring I was doing before we had kids. She is a musician too, but she doesn’t tour as much as she used to.

Favourite holiday destination and why?

Wilson’s Promontory. I just love the way you can immerse yourself in nature there, and walk through landscapes relatively untouched by western development.

What is it like to be a man playing brass?

I think it’s easier to know what to wear. We brass males have a strict standard-issue uniform of black shirt with lint on it, black pants with lint on them, and black Doc Martens or black ASICS-Gel sneakers. I think it’s harder for the women to know what to wear. Also, you’re supposed to drink a lot of beer which can be challenging at first but you get used to it.

Is there a player with a “signature sound” that you admire? Someone you idolized or enjoyed transcribing?

Louis Armstrong. For me the trumpet is such a joyous instrument and he plays it that way. He wrote the book really. Plus I like that his approach to soloing is so intertwined with melody and song, which was typical of the era but also appeals to me much more these days than the concept of the big, performative SOLO in capitals.

If you could get on stage with anyone it would be . . .

Right now: Freyja Hooper, the drummer I’m actually getting on stage with. We have been working on a duo project and it’s really getting interesting. I wouldn’t want to get on stage with anyone I hadn’t practised with. 

Tell me about what you’re working on at the moment.

OK, more about the duo project. Freyja plays drums, I play piano and sing. I also attempt to play trumpet and accompany myself on the piano. That’s still a bit of a gimmick but hopefully I can transcend the gimmicky stage eventually. Piano and drums is a great combo, a very full and detailed sound and a lot of questions to be asked and answered about how to make arrangements interesting and how to make it feel good. We were inspired by a video of Nina Simone live at Ronnie Scott’s with a piano/drummer duo.

You can find Harry’s album Struggle with Glory here:

https://harryjamesangus.com/strugglewithglory

Go check it out. It’s really great.

https://www.facebook.com/harryjamesangus

@harryjamesangus


James Bowers

October 2020

I’m stoked to have James Bowers as the first interviewee for the Flipped Series. James plays with a massive variety of kick-ass bands, including Sex on Toast and The Vaudeville Smash, as well as being my bandmate in Harriett Allcroft’s group. He has been introduced on stage as a wunderkind (or something like that, if memory serves … ummm … you had to be there), but this doesn’t do justice to the experience of seeing him perform live.

I absolutely recommend it.

He also recently recorded his first trio album in Japan, which should be out very soon…

TM: What’s it like being a man in the music industry?

On the whole, it’s been pretty good. Whilst I certainly do have my share of punters coming up to me after shows and expecting me to care about whatever topic they’ve decided we are now going to talk about, it’s probably better than the common alternative that women face of that same bloke giving me a full, unprompted critique of my personal appearance. So, I guess that’s good. It’s also pretty nice having crew/tech not just assume I have no idea what I’m doing. Yeah, overall it’s a decent experience.

Do you think there’s a problem with male representation in jazz?

Yeah, look. It sort of seems that way, hey?

Does your hair ever get in the way when you perform?

Currently, not at all because I’m not really performing at the moment. If I was, it still wouldn’t. I used to have a really stupid long fringe and whilst that definitely did get in my face while I was playing it never got in the way of anything apart from me not looking like a fool… It’s almost as though the people who ask these types of questions…. Look, never mind.

Is jazz relevant?

Yes and no. If you mean “Is music informed by Jazz music throughout the last century or so relevant to certain people?” Yeah, absolutely. If you mean “Is any kind of jazz music at all interesting or enjoyable to the majority of people?” Sadly, probably not. I say sadly not because I want people to like the things I like, I just think it speaks to a general ironing out of the kinks in a lot of art forms. Music used to be so much stranger and harder to grasp, or at least that sort of music was a little more in the mainstream.

If you were an animal, what would you be?

Great question…. I think I’d be a dog. No specific breed requirements but greyhounds always look like they understand some quite profound things about the world so it would be interesting to see if that’s true.

What’s the secret to a great relationship?

(there is no secret, just don’t be a shitcunt and be with someone you like)

How do you decide what to wear on stage?

So glad you asked. On the day of the gig I generally leaf through the worksheet or communications and work out how little I can modify my current outfit to comply with the requirements. If this looks terrible, I will continue modifying my outfit until it looks acceptable.
If I’m deciding what to wear I try to wear something that projects the kind of energy I want to be contributing to the music that night.

What inspires you?

When people do things that they are really proud of. When I have good ideas. Awesome artists. Dogs.

Tell me about what you’re working on at the moment.

I’m actually filling up my days with pretty full time work on an exciting new project, tentatively titled “not completely losing my mind and falling in to a deep depression during COVID”. It’s going ok.

I’ve got my debut trio album coming out hopefully January next year pending the ability to do a launch show, so give us a follow on the old socials to hear more about that:

facebook.com/keendude

instagram.com/keendude

keendude.com


The questions for these interviews are actual questions which female musicians have been asked, either in published interviews, or occasionally, in person.

To make these interviews work for male subjects, the questions have been flipped, but below you’ll find the source of the original questions, plus the online link (if there is one)


What do you love about being a female jazz musician? What do you not love as much?

Do you think we have a specific role or responsibility as female brass players? How do you incorporate that (or not) into your own life as a musician?

https://www.brasschicks.com/2017/12/28/interview-with-trumpeter-nadje-noordhuis/


Have you experienced sexism within the music industry and, if so, in what ways?

https://www.attaboi.online/post/andrea-keller


Do you think there’s a difference in terms of how men and women relate to improvisation? 

What do you think it will take for there to be equality within jazz?

Tell me the story behind a piece I wouldn’t know just by listening to it. 

https://www.musicandliterature.org/features/2018/7/8/an-interview-with-linda-may-han-oh


If you weren’t a musician, what would you be?

https://finearts-music.unimelb.edu.au/about-us/news/five-questions-for-andrea-keller,-lecturer-in-music-jazz-and-improvisation-piano


Why do you play so many instruments?

Is jazz relevant?

Where is your kid while you’re on tour?

What is it like to be a woman playing brass?

So, how do you be a musician and a mother?

Do you often get comments about what you should wear/your appearance on stage?

https://www.facebook.com/tamazapan.ballski/posts/1721362304695380?comment_id=1737095359788741&reply_comment_id=1737280356436908&notif_id=1602911463221545&notif_t=comment_mention&ref=notif


What’s it like being a woman in the music industry?

http://What’s it like being a woman in the music industry? https://lipmag.com/arts/interview-xani-kolac-the-twoks/


If you could get on stage with anyone it would be . . . (And you would play?)

The last CD or vinyl album you bought was . . . (And your most recent downloads include . . .)

https://www.elsewhere.co.nz/thefamouselsewherequestionnaire/9057/the-famous-elsewhere-jazz-questionnaire-tamara-murphy-of-spirograph-studies/


Does your hair ever get in the way when you perform?

[Anonymous source] Melbourne


What’s your approach to improvisation?

Where do you get your inspiration from?

https://downbeat.com/news/detail/the-restless-inventiveness-of-andrea-keller


What inspires you?

http://What inspires you? http://australianjazz.net/2019/12/tamara-murphy-spirograph-studies/


Why is the drums your favourite instrument? Female musicians are mostly vocalists and it is pretty rare to come across a female double bass player, drummer or trumpetist.

What did your parents think about it? Parents very fond of classical music think maybe more in terms of a piano as an adequate instrument for their daughter I would assume.

https://www.jazzhalo.be/interviews/eva-klesse-interview-with-the-drummer-from-leipzignew-york/


Is there a player with a “signature sound” that you admire? Someone you idolized or enjoyed transcribing?

https://londonjazznews.com/2017/03/08/interview-profile-shannon-barnett-trombonist-with-the-wdr-big-band-iwd2017/


You’re one of the still relatively few female bandleaders. What is your take on the role of women in jazz?

http://australianjazz.net/2017/02/roxy-coss-the-lack-of-female-representation-in-jazz-is-hurting-us-all/


Do you face any challenges as a woman in the jazz world?

https://lipmag.com/arts/ali-mcgregor-interview/


Esperanza, I just wanted to ask you too, how you feel sexism has impacted your career specifically as a bassist?

https://www.pbs.org/newshour/show/female-jazz-musicians-raise-their-voices-against-sexism


What are your top five favorite albums with female bandleaders?

https://www.jazz.org/blog/interview-tia-fuller-talks-beyonce-and-her-favorite-female-fronted-jazz-albums/


What advice would you give women who want to enter your side of the industry?

What do you think is the most pressing issue women in the music industry face in your region?

https://medium.com/women-in-music-org/interview-with-the-musician-rachel-eckroth-3904b1c747ed


If you could work with any other female artist, who would she be?

How do you use your music to embody feminism and empower other women?

https://www.kekemagazine.com/2019/01/24/an-interview-with-musician-sophie-strauss/


In your career have you experienced episodes of sexism, or where you felt you were disrespected because of your gender?

Music festivals around the world have come under fire recently for the lack of female artists on line-ups. What are your thoughts on the gender equality situation in today’s music industry, and how female artists are portrayed in the media?

http://www.womeninpop.com/news-home/2018/8/30/interview-olympia


How do you decide what to wear on stage?

https://graziadaily.co.uk/fashion/news/girli-interview-pink-obsession/

https://www.cosmopolitan.com/entertainment/celebs/news/a16262/celine-interview/