Tim Rogers In The Firing Line: ‘I’m pretty low-brow entertainment’

As part of a new series, DAVID SWAN puts You Am I frontman, solo artist and thespian Tim Rogers to the sword.

If ever there was a perfect first candidate for our new series of no-holds-barred interviews called “In The Firing Line” it’s Tim Rogers. Few do self-deprecation and candour better than the 42-year-old You Am I frontman, who was in a particularly jovial mood when FL caught up with him on the phone at his Melbourne home. While a little slow getting out of the blocks – he initially apologised for not being “in character” – Rogers really relished the straight-shooting questions, opening up about his theatre work (he recently wrote and starred in Blood Wedding at Melbourne’s Malthouse Theatre), You Am I’s legacy and his new solo album Rogers Sings Rogerstein. Out now through new AB C imprint Four Four, the album is a collaboration with Ohio native Shel Rogerstein, who may or may not exist.

Would a 24-year-old Tim Rogers do an AFL ad?

Far quicker than it would take the 42-year old to do it. Far quicker. Early on, when we were offered things, even though it was deemed the right thing to say no to any form of advertising, we thought that if is was something that we’d loved, we’d consider it closer. I do love playing footy, so there’s that, and I also said I’d do something for Weetbix. We did some assocations with Maker’s Mark Bourbon. There’s an air of consistency around there. And the 24-year-old Tim Rogers was also not as good looking. I think I’m actually growing into my face, so I’m more willing to use my noggin.

Did it pay well?

Let’s put it this way, it’s fuckin’ helped me at a very dire time. It’s an interesting question, I remember reading quite a while ago Henry Rollins did a commercial for GAP I think it was, and he quite methodically explained it. He got paid “this”, so it meant he could publish these books and put out these records, which I thought was really interesting.

So it’s a means to an end?

Yeah there’s that, and also I just take on work at this point without really thinking about it, because I’m frantic, the way my life’s set up, to cover things and to not go broke again. It’s an interesting question because 15 years ago when we got asked to do some advertising work it was like a three-day debate, and with this one, because it’s a guy who’s a personal friend of mine, I only have to deal with one guy during the whole campaign, and the film crew. So there was no question. And they’re just asking me to be an exaggerated version of myself, for something I play, even though it’s a corporation. I’m doing a lot of press around it, and I guess one thing that gets forgotten is that in the big advertising world and the corporation that the AFL is, at the heart of it, it’s a game. And it’s supposed to be fun. And I hope that by getting an ugly guy like me to do the advertising, rather than someone prettier, I see something funny about it. I see a humour about it.

What’s paying the bills these days: theatre or music?

Theatre doesn’t. It wouldn’t cover the way that my family’s set up at all. I’ve got to supplement it with doing gardening work and advertising work and playing music. I’m interested in theatre, and to start work at the age I am at the moment means that I don’t have to do a lot of auditions. I just get asked to do specific roles or write for it. I’ve got an audition tomorrow for a fuckin’ really really interesting film up in the Northern Territory, and I’m not competing with 40 other great looking kids. It’s probably a dozen craggy-looking ex-users. Laughs Once again, I find something humorous about that.

You’re a huge North Melbourne fan. Do you honestly think they can win a flag?

I start every season thinking we can, even when we got beaten by 115 points by Hawthorn, I was overseas at the time, seeing my baseball team get flogged as well, and I was speaking to a guy I was playing with that night at a club. He asked me about Australian football and I said, “Yeah, my team got flogged”, and he was wanting to query my depression and I said, “No, actually I think we’re going to win the flag!” I play in a rock band, I live in a life of delusion laughs. I’m not realistic about music, or about sport, at all. It’s an oval ball bouncing on the ground. I play in a rock band, I can’t be a realist.

Are you sick of talking about North Melbourne?

I don’t talk about them a lot. I talk to friends about it, but something changed for me. I moved down to Melbourne in 1998 and the year after, I went out with my best friend Nick Tischler – he and I started You Am I, and he’s a big football fan as well. We’re sitting in this great cafe in North Melbourne and old guys were sitting around talking disparagingly about 19, 20, 21 year olds saying, “They’re over, they’re over, they’re over.” And it was not long after that I was having a beautiful daughter myself, and I didn’t want to be one of those guys lambasting young men and young women for something they’re putting their lives into. I love talking about footy and I love playing it more than anything, but you can rant and rave and call someone fuckin’ useless and attack someone verbally because they follow a different team, but what does it accomplish?

The other night at the footy I was there with my partner, and my best friend who I’m travelling with at the moment in the band, and a guy turned to us and said, “Are you Tim Rogers?” I said, “Yeah, and you’re Ross Henshaw, 1975 and 1977 North Melbourne premiership player”, and he went, “Yeah!”, and he was there with his family. We ended up spending the night with them, hanging out and it was incredible. That’s what can happen with sport, it can be a conduit to other things. I like that you can be sitting next to someone of a different religious base, a different country next to you, and on the other side next to them, a meth cooker, you know?

Where do you keep your ARIAs?

There’s 13 of them at last count, I’ve got one at home, I think my daughter’s got maybe one or two at her house, and the band guys gave some to their parents, and there’s a few that have gone missing.

Any clues as to where they’ve got to?

No , no idea. After we won a bunch of them we’d have to go on tour pretty soon afterwards, and I move around a lot. I’ve been in a number of different houses and there’s not a trophy cabinet in any of them.

Do you still smoke?

Not at the moment. I haven’t had a smoke in about a year, but I feel it’s just around the corner.

Do you have any nostalgia at all for the ‘90s?

No. No! Why the fuck would I? I was there, I did that. I’m far more excited about anything currently, I’m enjoying more, I’ve read more, I’ve seen more. No nostalgia at all. A couple of good records … that I heard. Did some great travelling, but I travel better now, I was really sort of medicined up. I didn’t enjoy touring as much, we were doing some touring through Europe and the States and I enjoy doing those tours more now. I enjoy everything about touring and being in the band more now. I don’t think back on it anything less than fondly, but I’m so much happier at 42 than I was at 26.

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