Jon Toogood is a songwriter and musician.
Jon is the lead singer and guitarist in a band named Shihad. Formed in Wellington, New Zealand, the band are well-known among Australians following the success of their breakthrough album, The General Electric, in 1999. Jon and his bandmates have been based in Melbourne since around that time, and have released a string of great albums. The most recent was FVEY, released in 2014, a hard rock record with a political agenda, which we discuss in some detail in this episode.
I first met Jon Toogood in 2011, when I interviewed him for a Mess+Noise ‘Storytellers’ feature about two of my favourite Shihad songs, ‘Home Again’ and ‘Deb’s Night Out’. I also interviewed him about drug use for my book Talking Smack in 2013, when Shihad were touring Australia while supporting Black Sabbath.
He’s an energetic conversationalist and mad music fan above all else, which should become apparent pretty quickly. Our conversation touches on the concept of justice, which featured prominently in Jon’s writing for FVEY; how his marriage to a Sudanese woman changed his perspective and led to him undertaking charity work; his early interest in reading horror novels, which led to writing his first song for Shihad; the fine line between confidence and arrogance in musicians, and how he has learned to deal with negative reviews of his music.
This interview took place in Brisbane in early June, when Shihad was performing three shows in south-east Queensland. I’d seen the band perform a couple of nights earlier, at the Hamilton Hotel, where they were in incredible form. They’re simply one of the best live rock bands I’ve ever seen, and I decided long ago to never pass up an opportunity to see them live. Jon and I spoke on a Sunday afternoon in an inner-city hotel room that he was sharing with guitarist Phil Knight; you’ll hear Phil arrive partway through the recording and try to quietly creep past with a box of freshly bought Fruit Loops.
Jon Toogood is a songwriter and musician who has been at the helm of Shihad since 1988. A New Zealand rock institution that has consistently delivered churning riffs and soaring melodies over nine studio albums and eight EPs, Shihad have a reputation as a ferocious live act that's been hard-earned after more than 1,500 shows. Their two decade-plus career was recognised at the 2010 New Zealand Music Awards, where they were ushered into the New Zealand Music Hall of Fame; they were also recently awarded with 'Most Singles in the NZ Charts by a NZ Artist' (25) and 'Most #1 Albums by a NZ Artist' (5) by Recorded Music NZ. Jon also fronts The Adults, an extra-curricular project starring some of his favourite New Zealand artists, including Julia Deans (Fur Patrol), Shayne Carter (Dimmer, Straitjacket Fits) and Ladi 6. Jon took up guitar aged seven, but back then soccer and cricket were his still first love. A talented batsman, he captained the Wellington Representative cricket team, but at 15 he traded his bat and cricket whites for a guitar and black jeans and never looked back. Jon’s career highlights include playing in front of 60,000-strong crowds and Shihad's gold albums, but says nothing beats the rush of knowing when he’s written a song that works.
Show notes and links to Jon's music discussed in this episode: http://penmanshippodcast.com/episode-7-jon-toogood/
Jon Toogood on Twitter: @JonToogood
Penmanship on Twitter: @PenmanshipAU
Everett True is a freelance music critic and author.
Born in England, True was involved with several key British music magazines throughout the 1990s and 2000s, including NME, Melody Maker and Plan B. He moved to Brisbane in 2008 and immediately made a name for himself by deriding popular bands such as Silverchair, The Vines and Savage Garden as “musical abominations” in a memorable article for The Guardian.
At the time, these comments caused significant waves among the Australian music writing fraternity. As an arrogant, opinionated young writer myself, it took some time for me to see past True’s brash, abrasive style of writing and view him as a real person with real feelings. Over the years, we became friends and colleagues, supporting each others’ work as freelancers and forming an unlikely bond.
Besides his work as a prominent music critic, True is an accomplished author, having written books on Nirvana, Ramones and The White Stripes. More recently, while living in Brisbane, he has been a PhD student at Queensland University of Technology, and when I met him at his home in the western suburb of The Gap in early June he had just submitted his PhD thesis. You’ll hear his children running around and playing nearby, as we talk about how he failed English in high school, the Blondie song that first endeared him to pop music, the origins of his pen names, his tumultuous relationship with alcohol, and the time when he pushed Kurt Cobain in a wheelchair in front of tens of thousands of people at Reading Festival in 1992.
Everett True is a former editor of Melody Maker, VOX, Careless Talk Costs Lives and Plan B in the U.K. He has written for more rock publications than most people can name. He is the author of several books on rock music featuring Nirvana, Ramones, The White Stripes and others, and was a key writer covering the rise of Nirvana and the Seattle scene in the early 1990s. Nick Cave described one of his live performances as "more entertaining than Nina Simone," while Karen O from the Yeah Yeah Yeahs called him "the coolest man in England." The Gossip's members say he's the most important music critic of their generation.
Show notes and links to Everett's writing discussed in this episode: http://penmanshippodcast.com/episode-6-everett-true/
Everett True on Twitter: @EverettTrue
Penmanship on Twitter: @PenmanshipAU
Lizzie Loel is a restaurant critic at Qweekend and freelance writer.
As a regular reader of Qweekend, I’ve been intrigued by Lizzie’s reviews in the last couple of years she’s been in the role. Her writing is sharp and evocative, but what has interested me most is that her ratings are on a scale of 20, and she rarely awards a score higher than 15. This has created the perception in my mind, and in the minds of others, that she’s a tough marker – a critic who’s hard to please.
We talk about this perception at some length in our conversation, which also touches on Lizzie’s upbringing on a sheep and cattle station in western Queensland; her experience as an apprentice chef in Brisbane and Paris; and the difficulties associated with perfecting the art of making an Indian curry; how she developed her palate and food vocabulary; how she got into restaurant criticism, and her unique method of writing reviews without taking notes; and the type of reader she keeps in mind when reviewing restaurants for Qweekend.
This interview was recorded at Lizzie’s home in Paddington, Brisbane, on a Friday morning in June, at her dining room table. Her obsession with all things food was evident through the fresh ingredients on the table beside us, as well as the countless cookbooks and food magazines in her living room. You’ll even hear her cat making its presence known at a couple of points in our conversation.
Lizzie Loel lives to eat and eats to live. As a chef-turned-restaurant critic she has seen all angles of the restaurant industry from the good, the bad and the utterly delectable. Widely travelled and with more than fifteen years' experience as a restaurant critic, Lizzie knows a thing or two about eating out. Her life prior to this was all about food as well: she ran the popular A Moveable Feast for six years and then went on to establish The Grape Catering Company, both of which won multiple awards over several years. During the 'critic' years, Lizzie moonlighted as a caterer-of-sorts, producing mountains of food daily for her constantly hungry three young sons and their ever-expanding entourage. She stopped reviewing when the boys left school, jumping back into the industry but early in 2013 she returned to The Courier-Mail's reviewing for the prestigious Qweekend magazine.
Show notes and links to Lizzie's writing discussed in this episode: http://penmanshippodcast.com/episode-5-lizzie-loel/
Lizzie Loel on Twitter: @LizzieLoel
Penmanship on Twitter: @PenmanshipAU