With an album that hit #2 on the ARIA charts as soon as it was released, over 200,000 followers on Facebook and tours across the USA, Canada, Europe, the UK, New Zealand and Australia, XAVIER RUDD would have to be one of our nation’s busiest soloists. Rudd took time out to chat with Pearl Davies about a few of his favourite subjects — the rights of indigenous Australians, environmental conservation, political exploitation and wilderness protection.
Oh, and music.
Seeing you play live, I've noticed that you are actually quite buggered after a song. You play slide guitar and didge (among other instruments) and keep a beat with your stomp box. How do you keep up with yourself? It’s kind of like dancing, I guess — all of my limbs are involved in movement. It’s a pretty natural expression.
In your music, you raise awareness and ask a lot of socially conscious questions about the rights of Aboriginal peoples, conserving the environment and political exploitation. Do you feel that these questions are finally being answered? Yes I do. I guess it’s more of a sending out of awareness; opening eyes to the imbalances. It’s great to see that people are wanting to see change. On your website you have streams of valuable information on what’s going on in the world from the conservation of wildlife, to international environmental interests to news on indigenous Australians.
Have you ever tried to involve other artists in this movement? No, not yet, we haven’t yet started to involve other artists but I’ve worked with artists such as Missy Higgins and John Butler on some other great causes. To create any kind of awareness anywhere and on any relative cause is great.
When you record, do you break it all down and play each part to be recorded or do you go hell for leather — surround yourself with mics and just go nuts? I like to record live. I’m pretty much a live artist. I do a lot of multi-track recording, doing my solo thing. I can’t really break it down because my whole body is moving [as one].
Is it still offensive for women to play the didgeridoo? Yeah, the yadaki is the traditional name for it. The name ‘didgeridoo’ actually came from white fellas. But yes, it’s still seen to be offensive [if it is] played by a woman. There are, however, women’s yadakis or didgeridoos, where there are woman spirits that have been painted on them.
A lot of artists collaborate with one another and have guest appearances with other musicians. On your new album, Spirit Bird, you too have guest appearances — your guests, however, are the birds, what sounds like a children’s choir and sounds from the Aboriginal culture. How did you come to record this?Well I found a guy in Queensland named David Stewart — he has dedicated his life to capturing the sounds of birds and animals, so I worked with him. The choir is around 260 kids from my son’s school up at Byron Bay. We recorded them in one take. The Aboriginal fellow is from around Hervey Bay. His name is Freddie Leone. He danced with me a bunch of times over the years — he’s great. I also had some Anishinaabe natives on the album — they are located near Niagara Falls.
Tell me about the track ‘Prosper’. Who is on it? He’s an old preacher man who was walking along the streets of New Orleans. He had a megaphone and I recorded him with my mobile phone. I felt he channeled the voices of the ancestors, you know? I had galahs in there as the politicians and cane toads for obvious reasons. This also leads into the next song ‘Bow Down’ which is very self-explanatory.
Did you get him to sign a release? No. I never actually saw him again. I hope he doesn't sue me (laughs). I never spoke to him but I think he’d be a pretty cool person to know.
The Spirit Bird tour — I will be honest here and say that with all the national and international artists I have ever spoken with, I haven’t seen such an exhausting and busy tour schedule. Are you ready? Well I've had a lot of time off and I’m ready to play. I’m staying fit and healthy and I just keep improving so I’m ready to pump it all out!