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Aussie music legend's rallying call

Posted: 11am 28 Jul 2020

Powderfinger’s Ian Haug says These Days … are a time to support musicians. He’s doing his bit at his Camp Mountain studio, Up in the Airlock.

Ian emerges from the studio, with a cloth and bucket in hand. He’s been cleaning ahead of a recording session later that morning and explains, it’s a necessary task in this new COVID-19 world.

The former Powderfinger guitarist and songwriter, who’s now with The Church, has been making music at this bush retreat, he also calls home, for more than 20 years.

It’s the place he can take a breath and nurture creativity which flows more freely in a studio flooded with natural light and surrounded by trees.

“It’s not a bleak, dark box somewhere in a basement. When you visualise a studio, that’s kinda what you visualise a lot of the time. People can immerse themselves in the bush,” Ian explains.

And they do. Ian’s been sharing his creative lair with other musicians for years, and during the COVID-19 shutdown started streaming gigs he called the Quarantine Sessions on Youtube.

How it happened

It was something he’d been wanting to do for a couple of years, but a desire to help fellow musos fast-tracked his plans.

“No-one was able to go and see gigs, so we thought we’ll do it here and people can at least have an avenue to perform and potentially make money,” Ian explains.

It’s also been a helpful creative outlet for Ian, who’s also felt the sting of the shutdown.

“I’ve had 80 shows this year of my own that I’ve had to cancel in different bands. It’s our primary source of income because you don’t make money from selling records anymore,” he says.

The Church had booked tours in Europe and America, which have been cancelled and their Australian tour is in doubt.

“I know lots of musicians, obviously, and there’s a wide spectrum of how they’re dealing with it. Some people have actually flourished in the forced shutdown … a lot of us are kind of ‘hermity’ anyway so, to be given a legitimate reason to stay at home and be creative is kind of encouraging in a way,” Ian says.

“(But) not being able to get out and perform is hard … performing is a big thing for a lot of people.”

Appeal to music lovers

His studio has been a sanctuary and the Up in the Airlock Quarantine Sessions have been a lifeline for musos and music lovers, but Ian’s disappointed it hasn’t translated into income for the artists who have donated their time and talent.

“We put a donate button on there … but in the four months, three people donated. Lots and lots of people have been watching it, but people just expect everything for free,” Ian explains.

“Unless you’re a charity or something like that, people, for some reason are not conditioned to pay directly to an artist which is crazy because if you go to a show you expect to buy a ticket.

“If everyone just donated $1, because 1000 people at least are watching these things every time, then the artist could get $1000.

“It starts at the top, but it’s also groups of friends. People have got to encourage it. People like seeing music and bands – this is not just during COVID, this is all of the time. Let’s just get rid of this mentality that stuff is free.”

Powderfinger goes viral

The band Ian is best known for – Powderfinger- thrilled fans when they reunited for an online show in May called One Night Lonely.

The virtual concert – in which all five bandmembers were separately recorded in their own studios – was a massive hit, raising more than $500,000 for charities Beyond Blue and Support Act.

“Obviously, it was only going to work if everyone was going to enjoy it because there were a few technical hurdles to get over. It’s not easy and you can’t do it live,” Ian explains.

“You can stream a single person performing live, but five people in different locations, you can’t. You’ve sort got to build it, but you play through live so it’s not like a recording where you go, ‘stop I’ve got to fix that mistake’. There’s none of that.”

Ian says while it wasn’t live, it had that feeling for him to a point.

“The weirdest thing I found was that it felt really good doing it. It was quite exciting, you’re into what you’re doing and you look up and there’s just no-one there. Normally at least you can look around to one of your band mates and get some reaction, but there was no one there except the camera man,” he says.

For that reason, online gigs are no threat to live music when the industry can finally crank it up again. But the response from fans was overwhelmingly positive. Their only complaint – it wasn’t long enough.

“I guess the overriding thing was ‘thanks for doing it and you guys should get back together as a band’,” he says.

“Never say never, but there’s no plans to do that at this stage. It felt good to be able to help but also not be all depressed about it. We just wanted to entertain … you see all these celebrities complaining about being in lockdown in their mansions.

“I’ve got more texts about it than anything I’ve ever had people text me about including my 50th which was just weeks before that.”

What now?

For the next six months, Ian’s focus will be on The Church’s new album which is at the halfway point.

“We’ve done all of the group recording. We did some of it in December and another session in January. Anything else that needs to be done I can do it and email my parts,” he explains.

And obviously the guys will be eager to share it with fans in a tour when live gigs return.

“If it’s in you, it’s just in you. You just need to do it,” Ian says.

To find out more about the studio, visit upintheairlock.com

Want to know how you can support businesses and the community? Head to our blog.

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