Man still at work: Colin Hay gets ‘Fierce’
Australian 80s mainstays Men At Work are quickly approaching the 40-year mark. Not counting a handful of reunions, they were only together for 16 of them and the band has released a grand total of three albums.
By comparison, their Scottish-born front man and principal songwriter Colin Hay just released “Fierce Mercy,” his 13th solo effort.
In addition to “Fierce Mercy,” this year also saw the release of Waiting For My Real Life, an all-encompassing documentary on Hay’s varied career.
Hay also has built his reputation as a performer over the years, appearing in films and on television, as well as showcasing his master storytelling skills at live shows.
PACIFIC recently spoke with the charismatic singer about it all.
PACIFIC: You worked again with Michael Georgiades on this new record.
COLIN HAY: I did. We’ve worked together on the last few records. I think we started on “American Sunshine.” And he’s mastered nearly all of them. I think there are just more songs (with him) on the “Fierce Mercy” record because he stopped working a day job and kept coming around to my house with ideas. And they were really good ideas. So we just worked on those instead of what I had.
Is it easier, or more difficult, to have a wife that is also a musician?
We’ve written a couple of songs together. And we’ll probably do more of that. But she’s very busy, my wife, doing many things. Michael Georgiades and I have an unspoken, simpatico thing going on. The chord structures and melodic ideas he brings speak to me. And most of them are pretty fully formed.
I’ve only met three people in my life where that’s happened. It’s a rare thing. (Singer and composer) Cecelia (Noël) and I do work well together. It’s just about making the time. And it’s a different process. But I don’t really write that many songs with other people anyway. Cecelia has great ideas. Sometimes, she’ll hear what I’m doing from upstairs and come down. It’s spontaneous. With Michael, it’s about two old guys sitting in a room bickering with one another and trying to wrestle the thing to the ground, you know?
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Tell me about the track “I’m Walking Here” with Deploi and Swift from the new album.
When Trayvon (Martin) was killed it was so horrendous. The guy who killed him was such a mad f----r. He got beat in a fight, got pissed off, and shot him. It was clear what happened. And it was horrendous. So I wrote that a while back when it happened and I was on tour. I started messing around with it at sound check, and I kept on thinking about that kid walking home - and many kids that are just walking home.
Trayvon is just so symbolic. And he’s symbolic of the impotence you feel knowing what is happening in so many parts of the world, just wondering why things don’t change. It’s so ridiculous. But I always had the idea of someone rhyming over it. And I don’t know about that world at all. I peek into it. I like the things I hear. I get inspired from it. But it’s not my world.
Cecelia had worked with Swift and Deploi. They were up at the house and I told them about my idea. They came downstairs and put that great stuff on it. Again, it was another thing that was spontaneous and not planned out, but it worked out really well. But you have to ask yourself a couple of questions about delving into a world that is, again, which is really not my world. But I asked myself those questions. And I answered it honestly. I know it’s coming from a few different places - frustration, compassion, and a whole lot more. It’s a plea of sorts. It’s such a violent world we live in.
It really is.
And it’s simply because of the fact that there are so many f-----g guns. I come from places where testosterone runs wild: Scotland and Australia. And I’m so glad that people didn’t have access to guns when I was growing up. If they had them, they would’ve used them. It’s crazy. Tough guys use whatever is at their disposal.
Tell me about the decision to get involved with the documentary.
It wasn’t a hard decision. But once I’d made it, I realized that I might not have thought it through. I really thought about it in a rather arm’s-length-type of way. I was thinking about the story, instead of thinking that it was about me. And I do think it’s an interesting story. It’s really about a lot of people who have brilliant moments and then think the rest of your life is going to be that way. But it’s not.
And then, what happens afterwards is many times the most interesting part of people’s lives. I thought that arc was interesting. But these days, people can find out whatever the f--k they want to about you anyway.
And at the end of the day, who cares? It doesn’t matter. There are 7 billion people wondering about. You’re not that important.
What’s next for you?
Well, whenever I make a record, I just kind of assume that it’s going to be my last. That’s it for me. I’m done. I’ve got nothing else. And some people might say that’s a good idea.
If you’re not a fan, you might think why keep making records? And there’s an argument for that. There are way too many records out there as it is. And there are certainly more than there used to be.
It’s hard to get noticed. But I don’t think about things like, “oh, well, I better start writing some new songs.” I just respond to the ideas that come in. And, in a way, I suppose I play a little game with myself. I pretend to my subconscious that it’s over. I’m done. I’m never going to write another song. I’ve already written too many and enough is enough.
Maybe it’s time to do a bit of gardening or something. Volunteer. Make myself useful. But if Michael calls and says he’s got something, or I come across something I recorded on my iPhone that’s intriguing, I just might be off and running again.
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