Icehouse, 40 years ago

April 30, 2024
2 mins read

It’s not often you get to interview Iva Davies (Icehouse) and Jo Camilleri (Jo Jo Zep) at the same time. GARY STEEL did way back in 1984.

It’s encore time. The presentation is immense: big sound bright lights. Top-flight session musos doing their best to project dynamics into the Show Buildings; a venue more suited to a slaughterhouse than the pop concert ritual.

Iva Davies is small and pale and alone. His chair is in a deserted Town House bar. It’s that old dog the interview routine. I ask the questions, and he trots out answers as well rehearsed as the show he will perform tonight.

I tell him he’s unusual. He hasn’t had to pay his dues.

“It’s been like growing up in public, actually,” says Davies. “Right at the beginning… not really having a great deal of expertise meant that I had a lot of pressure put on me. You know… having to learn how to write songs, which is all I’ve been doing the whole time. Having to work out what I wanted out of the situation when, all of a sudden, all of the avenues were open to you. Having to make a few fairly fascist decisions about what your future is going to be and what you want to do. At certain points I’ve always been questioning the value of pure mercenary success, because it hasn’t felt right.”

His current touring Icehouse are playing dates in Europe and Australia, then Davies will join ex-Yellow Magic Orhcestra drummer Yukihiro Takahashi in October, to play on his new album and tour with his temporary supergroup.

“Every year he collects all these people from all over the world. They play on his album, then go and do it on a tour. I don’t know exactly what I’m doing yet… backing vocals, oboe, rhythm guitar, two-finger keyboards and stuff.”

Davies accepted Takahashi’s offer because he’s never had the chance to be in someone else’s band. In fact, it’s the same reason ex-Jo Jo Zep and the Falcons leader Jo Camilleri is playing sax and doing backing vocals temporarily in Icehouse.

Jo Camilerri’s band Jo Jo Zep & The Falcons

Camilleri is fast-talking and profuse. In fact, he won’t shut up. He’s a bit of a sorry story, really. Criticially-acclaimed as a tunesmith and bandleader, he has never found equitable commercial success.

Jo Jo Zep is on hold while his current projects percolate. Number one infatuation is his zydeco-based band The Black Sorrows, which have an album and a clip shown recently on RWP. Number two is his record label Spirit, which will release music without hype.

The record was done in two days and is all cover versions of classic oldies. The clip cost $350.

“Mary Costello rang me up a few nights ago,” says Camilleri. “Elvis picked the record up on the last tour, and apparently he’s a fan of mine. He did this big rap about the record on TV, then he gave it to his wife. She said it was an essential record, and she’d made tapes for all her friends.”

As for Jo Jo Zep, Camilleri is cynical. With records, he likes to get it down quickly to capture the feeling. “I can’t go back to any of my records and really listen to them. Most of the songs lost their identity.

“The Falcons could have kept going and kept making money and by some accident hit on a big hit. But it just wasn’t worth the aggravation. You’d walk offstage and you’re feeling like shit on a stick. You wouldn’t enjoy it.

Another shit job in another shit city in Australia. Going this way I’m a happy chappy.”


+ Originally published in TOM magazine in 1984.

Steel has been penning his pungent prose for 40 years for publications too numerous to mention, most of them consigned to the annals of history. He is Witchdoctor's Editor-In-Chief/Music and Film Editor. He has strong opinions and remains unrepentant. Steel's full bio can be found here

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