Electronic Composer Ollie Olsen On Max Q, Writing Rooms for a Memory and Releasing The Final Taipan Tiger Girls Album.

Renowned Australian electronic and avant-garde artist Olsen started as most aspiring musicians do – playing in post-punk bands in Melbourne during the 1970s.

But it wasn’t until he formed the electronic project MAX Q with INXS front man Michael Hutchence in the 80s, that he became the focus of mainstream media.

The MAX Q album of the same name achieved a Top 20 album placement in 1989.  Olsen is also behind some of the most memorable Australian songs we’ve come to know from this time period, including Rooms For The Memory. That song was popularised by Hutchence, and featured in the cult Australian movie Dogs in Space directed by Richard Lowenstein.

Olsen wrote the song in 1978, but it took the INXS front man to steer it into the Top 10 nationally in 1987.

Since then Olsen has created music, collaborated with others and found his niche in electronica; more recently in the drone scene where he formed a band Taipan Tiger Girls in 2014. They band performed at Melbourne Music Week in 2017, and that live recording has been released as the band’s third and final release all in the name of a good cause.

Olsen was sadly diagnosed with Multiple System Atrophy – a form of Parkinson’s – and a degenerative condition which is terminal. In an effort to raise funds and help with his battle, proceeds from the sale of vinyl and digital release will go toward the Australian music icon.

The experimental drone project of Taipan Tiger Girls features Olsen on synthesisers, Mat Watson on drums and Lisa MacKinney on guitar. It’s a coming together of minds and a musical appreciation for sonic atmosphere only drone improvisation can truly deliver.

The Write Drop spoke to Ollie, Lisa and Mat who reflect on how they met and where it all began.

HOW DID YOU MEET OLLIE OLSEN

Lisa: We met in the late 1980s at Collector’s Corner, where we both worked for a time along with Frank Brunetti (who I began dating in 1990). I didn’t have a comprehensive understanding of Ollie’s backstory, but Max Q was happening and he was kind of famous! Frank and I became massive NO fans, and went to see them at every opportunity. Then I had my first guitar lessons from Michael Sheridan, so it all grew from this time. Frank and Ollie were (and remain) very good friends.

Mat: I met Ollie in early 2006 through a mutual friend Chris Rainier. We recorded a live album of improvised works for electronics, drums and lap steel called The Mechanical Eye. That project set a template for a lot of what was to follow, and seeded a long lasting and beautiful friendship – personally and musically.

WHY DID STARTING TAIPAN TIGER GIRLS APPEAL

Lisa: I have this very clear memory of Ollie saying in about 2011, “I’ve got this idea for a band, it’s going to be called Taipan Tiger Girls and it’s going to be you and me and Mat!” I didn’t meet Mat until I was in the studio playing on the first Taipan Tiger Girls record in 2014 (I’d been living overseas and then interstate); I’d been back in Melbourne for about a fortnight when I got the call. So, it was always going to happen. It was perfect for me because although I love and have written extensively about pop music, I have no real interest in or aptitude for playing it anymore. The thrill of improvising was the greatest thing; that people loved it was truly magical. As far as drone, it’s absolutely central to my musical practice. I played in one of Rhys Chatham’s 100 electric guitar orchestras in 1993 (massive drones for 70 minutes) and it completely rewired my head, I never got over it.

Mat: The appeal was simply Ollie asking me to play. We had a synergy. It was quite natural and I learnt a lot when we played together, especially in those early days. Ollie’s album Emptiness (1999) had been hugely influential. The big question was how to approach my drum set if I was to play along to that album. Ollie taught me to sit still and let a moment unfold, over time. Simple ideas like this had a profound influence on me and ultimately on how I approached my drumming for TTG as we evolved.

FAVOURITE LIVE MUSIC MEMORY

Lisa: Jeff Buckley at the Lounge in 1995. They were all so young and intense, extraordinary musicianship and transcendent songs.

Mat: Laneway Festival 2009. Not sure anyone would be able to shut down Lonsdale Street for StereoLab again! Brunswick Street Festival in the 1990S. I loved everything about Fitzroy and its music community in that time.

FAVOURITE PLACES IN MELBOURNE

Lisa: Napier Hotel, Fitzroy. Marvellous building, food, staff and atmosphere. Mario’s is another that remain virtually unchanged from when I first began darkening their doors decades ago. I find it a great comfort that these institutions have survived amidst virtually unchecked corporate development.

DRINK OF CHOICE

Lisa: My great love is interesting French and Italian white varietals: Muscadet, Grillo, Pinot Blanc, Arneis. I’m always excited to try some obscure grape I’ve never heard of.

Mat: White Russian with Oat Milk on a Wednesday night. House spiced rum from Atticus Finch on a Saturday. A sparkling or white wine any other night of the week.

The write drop chats to OLLIE OLSEN

WHAT ERA OF MELBOURNE WOULD YOU LIKE TO TRANSPORT BACK TO

The 90’s. Because I was having a lot of fun and the music was really progressive.

COLLABORATIONS – WHAT DID YOU LOVE ABOUT IT.

I lived with The Birthday Party in the 80s, but creatively we didn’t work together unfortunately.  I am still friends with Mick Harvey and will be catching up with Phill Calvert soon. I worked with Richard Lowenstein in this time and I respect him.  What stood out creatively were his suggestions with mine going back and forth for the Dogs In Space the Soundtrack. Working on Dogs In Space had a good influence on me both creatively and personally.

WHAT INSPIRED THE SONG ROOMS FOR THE MEMORY?

Rooms For The Memory was actually written in 1978 and was a Whirlywhirld song. We used a couple of Whirlywhirld songs in Dogs In Space, Win/Lose being the second. The song came from me waiting in a hospital and seeing memorial plaques on the wall for people who had donated to the hospital, that’s where I got the idea for the song. Michael did a great job with it. Adalita’s [Magic Dirt] recent version is very special and features some of my friends including Mat (Watson) from TTG.

ARTISTS WHO INSPIRED YOU

Scott Walker, Genesis P. Orridge, John Cage and Stockhausen.

AdalitaMick Harvey and Andrew Duffield (Models) have reworked the classic song Rooms for a Memory in a stunning tribute, recorded at Melbourne’s Sing Sing Studios in January this year. Renowned producer Nick Launay, who mixed both this version and the original, also took part, whilst filmmaker Richard Lowenstein filmed the entire day for the video release. Lowenstein directed the original ‘Rooms’ video and has interspersed old footage of Hutchence and Olsen into the modern day.

LISTEN HERE

https://ffm.to/roomsforthememoryradio

 

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