From Rip It Up magazine © 1991


romantic artist figure?

"I still believe that I'm a serious writer, it's a dilemma that I've always had. Whenever I find myself thinking seriously about "art" I always give myself a good shake and a slap in the face because it's a bit presumptuous to regard oneself as a poet starving in a garret, although I certainly have starved in a garret. I always reduce myself to being a craftsman rather than an artist. Perhaps in my more optimistic moments that's not what I'd really believe about myself but I seem to constantly reduce myself down to that level of being a functional person rather than an inspired one. Over the years I've come across a lot of people who have incredible conviction that they are the next James Joyce and they really get up my nose, so it's just a matter of pride, I don't want to fall into that trap."

Finally, what of the future - can we look forward to another ten years of Icehouse?

"Well, I dunno. Whenever I've written a whole slab of songs I always feel like a complete vacuum, it takes an awful lot out of me. I spend a lot of time and I have to concentrate very hard. For a while I tried writing at home and found it absolutely impossible. For the last four albums or so I've had to go and live in the studio and sleep on a mattress until the song was finished because I found it hard to stop thinking about it once I was supposed to go home. After I finish I feel like not thinking about writing songs at all but usually after a while off I get the feeling I want to get back into it, so we may well continue for longer than ten years, I don't know. I don't know what shape or form that will take or whether the band will still be together but, having started to write, it does something for me now which is worthwhile and I'll always come back to it."

Iva Davis and Icehouse have been spending the last few months touring their new release, Code Blue, around Australia, the latest instalment in a ten year career that Iva Davis regards with pride, even if Icehouse could be considered the "bridesmaid" of the business next to mega-acts like INXS and Midnight Oil.

Code Blue is a bit of a departure for icehouse, being a concept album built around stories about characters from Australia's history, including Iva Davis' own Uncle Charlie, a World War II fighter pilot who was lost in action forty-five years ago. Code Blue is an unapologetic expression of lva Davis' deep rooted love for Australia, dedicated to "those many unrecognised heroes who have shaped Australia." Iva phoned RIU one evening after an Adelaide soundcheck to give us the lowdown.

History and a sense of patriotism are unusual themes for a rock album.

"Over the years I've been bailed up by people who have said 'what do you think of the responsibility of songwriters to change the world?' I'm not a great lobbyist of causes but I've felt the one writing strength I have is that I'm a good story teller and I felt that, rather than write a lot of fictional stories, it was an opportunity to tell true stories out of which I could demonstrate some issues. Not to take a stand or try to solve them or lobby any particular cause, but just perhaps to bring them out into the open a bit more."

Is this a sign of maturity?

"The one thing that has happened to me over the years is that I've become more and more protective of Australia. Having travelled in America and Europe I've been able

to see what can happen to people where they cease to value their environment. At best, Australia and New Zealand are in a position where they haven't yet done too many disastrous things, which makes me more protective of the place in general.

That came out in Great Southern Land. I guess I've gone one step further to write a whole album about those sorts of things. The only reason people abuse what they have is because they don't recognise it. A lot of Australians don't know about their own history and country, they don't use it and enjoy it so they don't suffer when they start seeing it being abused!'

You accentuate the positive, telling tales of lively, colourful eccentrics and rogues, although they didn't always come to a happy ending. You don't dwell on the aboriginal issue, for example.

"I wanted to do both. It was very difficult because I couldn't really write an album and suggest it was about Australians without including indigenous Australians as well, of course, but on the other hand I've never attempted to solve anybody's problems in my songs. Anybody could listen to these songs and know what my personal solutions on the subject are but I think it's important as a songwriter to really put the picture in front of people and make them think about it rather then tell them

what the answer is.
"There's obviously a representative song on the aboriginal situation, which is something I've had experience of so it's not an academic exercise. I've actually toured in towns where the fringe dwellers have all been drunkards and no matter how philosophic you want to get about the subject that is a reality. As you pointed out, I've taken a positive line in a lot of these songs but I wanted to write a couple of negative ones too. 'Big Fun' stirred up an awful lot of people in Australia because it was a bit too close to the bone, the Australian drinker is an institution and they didn't enjoy having it attacked."

How do you see yourself positioned next to other Aussie acts like INXS or Midnight Oil?

"Well, INXS are incredibly successful on a worldwide scale and I don't think we're in the same league and that's a reality. I tend to try and avoid comparisons in terms of the industry standards of appraising success and non success.

Because when it comes down to it it's not a simple matter of mathematics, who sold the greatest number of records, who had the biggest chart placings, who commands the biggest live fee. Then it becomes a bit of a horse race and I've never regarded myself as a horse. At the end of the day I think it really comes down to quality and as far as I'm concerned I'm just as proud of the quality of our material, especially being able to review ten years work, against bands like that. "I think we've often taken the less commercial route, probably to our own detriment, but at the end of the day I'm glad we did because the few times I've been tempted in the direction of Hollywood have been disasters. I'm glad that we've stuck with being a bit of a bridesmaid in some ways."

Were you unable to adapt to America?

"I'm not exactly sure how one becomes a success in America but certainly INXS and Midnight Oil work very hard at it and that's probably why. They spend a lot of time touring there and really

working on the American people but I've always had a personal problem with America. I find it very disorientating to be there, I don't enjoy it, I'm not a great fan of their culture and so the incentive is not there for me. If you're going to do it purely for success then as far as I'm concerned I'd rather go home. That may have been an unwise policy in terms of making millions of dollars but I'm not disappointed in that. I would rather do something properly, the way I like it, in spite of all.'

You've described yourself as a romantic. Do you find it romantic being on the road? A lot of famous rock stars hark back nostalgically to the days when it was just them, their guitar and the open road.

"I don't think I'm romantic, nor have I ever been, about being a rock and roll star. I think I'll always regard it as a fairly grimy profession, I think music is romantic, but the whole image of rock and roll stars is a bit of a comic book fantasy, these days anyway."

You don't see yourself as a