By Arne Sjostedt
With their album Blood Moon debuting at number 1 on the ARIA albums chart, and tickets selling fast for their Canberra show this month, it is a good time to be Cold Chisel. Australia definitely seems to have lost none of its love for this iconic rock band (and it’s likely it never will), and though he says these days touring life is more about “yoga and meditation than yoghurt and medication”, Jimmy Barnes has kept his drive and passion for getting out and letting the rock beast soar.
“We prepare for shows like this from the minute they’re announced,” says Barnes. “It’s about focus, it’s about fitness, it’s about rehearsals. Getting into the rehearsal room with a band like Cold Chisel, it takes a little while to wind the beast up. We get in there and although there’s sparks flying from the get go cause they’re just such a great band, it does take a little while for it to get into its stride and then once it does it really starts to develop a lot of power. But we’ll rehearse for two or three weeks to do a tour like this and that’s before going into production. And then you start doing it on a bigger stage so you sort of feel the enormity of distance you cover on stage. Simple things like that. You’ve gotta be fit, you’ve gotta be focused and you gotta be ready.”
And just like a blood moon, getting ready needs all the elements to line up before the magic happens. “A blood moon is a very rare thing and all the planets have got to align at the very right time, it happens every 5-6 years. It’s a bit like Cold Chisel when you think about it. All the elements and all the planets have to line-up and everything has to line-up for it to work properly. And Cold Chisel’s a bit like that. These days because of our own careers, and we all have lives and we’ve grown apart over so many years, everything has to be right for us to get in the room and say, ‘We’re ready to do this project’.”
It may take some organisation, but once there, it is out on stage that the band finds its raison d'être. “We’d want to be remembered for what we did live. It’s all about songs of course but we wrote songs so we could play more gigs live, we wrote songs so we could play longer live so we would have a longer life. We wrote songs so 10 years, 20 years later they’d still be relevant and we could still get out and play live. I think people if look at us and say, ‘Damn, Cold Chisel was the best live act I’ve ever seen.’ I tell you I’ve played with some great bands and I’ve seen a lot of great bands and there are nights when Cold Chisel fires up that I’ve never seen anybody like them.”
No doubt nor have the majority of the band’s fans, which is basically a hefty portion of our Chisel loving nation. “We played to so many people personally in this country, I think we’ve played for everybody at some point,” says Barnes.
Though it isn’t just Australia that has been shaped Cold Chisel. In an integral way, the band has very much shaped Jimmy Barnes.
“I joined my first band when I was about 12. I joined Cold Chisel when I was 16. I didn’t think about it that much at the time. I think like most teenagers I thought it would be good fun to get hammered and chase chicks you know but it wasn’t long after being in that band, I remember six months into the picture things all changed and it really did become us against the world. There was freedom and a sense of self singing in the band, that singing with this band gave me. I think being in a band is about finding yourself and once you find yourself you can connect with other people until you do that, you’re sort of putting on a mask and it’ll be short-lived I think one of the reasons Cold Chisel and my career has gone on for so long is the fact that when I get up there, I am who I am. I open up and I look for myself and people see that evolving in front of them and that’s how people connect with you.”
Not known for holding back on stage, this is an attitude Barnes advises any aspiring rocker to adopt, if they want to make it and stay at the top. “If you want to be in it for the long haul, you’re going to have to enjoy what you do. Don’t compromise, don’t do it for the wrong reasons. If you love what you do and you get up there every night and you give 100%...because you know what, if you’re faking it people know, if it’s bullshit they’re not going to buy it. Get up there show yourself, be prepared, be brave enough to be courageous enough to open up yourself and lay your heart on the line and then people connect with you. And if they don’t, you’re still successful because you enjoy what you’re doing anyway.”
Cold Chisel plays Stage 88 on January 30 with Paul Kelly and Magic Dirt. For more information visit www.ticketmaster.com.au