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The Crack Magazine

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Interview > Lindy Morrison

The award-winning Australian musician and activist Lindy Morrison was in Newcastle to record a new album with The Girl With The Replaceable Head (at Polestar Studios) – just the latest chapter of a distinguished career, which goes way back. In the late 1970s she hung out with actors and artists: experimenting, creating and marching. She also worked in the legal system, supporting indigenous people, and played in the all female punk band Zero. It was a period when police would routinely shut down gigs; the right to march was banned; and being gay was illegal. She joined The Go-Betweens with Robert Forster and Grant McLennan in 1980, with Amanda Brown joining later (McLennan died in 2006, aged 48). The band would go on to become the subject of Kriv Stenders’ much-feted documentary ‘Right Here’. After The Go- Betweens’ acrimonious split (and her relationship with Robert Forster ended) she formed Cleopatra Wong and went on to work with a whole host of musicians including Nick Cave, Nikki Sudden and, more recently, Alex The Astronaut, Robert Lloyd from The Nightingales, and Robert Snarski. She helped set up a Music Industry charity, and this year won a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Queensland Music Awards. In her acceptance speech she said: ‘It was always about the politics and it was always about the art.’

Now 71, she’s busier than ever. She’s warm, clever, very funny and speaks her mind: I could have listened to her stories for hours, but when asked about the possibility of writing her memoirs she says she hasn’t the time. She’s too busy playing and practising nearly every day. She greets me with a beaming smile and we settle down on the sofa by an open fire. She starts by telling me that she gets asked about The Go-Betweens all the time and it’s very boring and she doesn’t want to keep going over it:

I've done a lot in these two years in particular. I was concentrating on just playing the drums. I stopped touring because I had a child in 1991 when I was in Cleopatra Wong with Amanda Brown and she had a baby too and it was impossible to tour.

You’ve been really busy lately?

Since Covid I could see my mortality and this was my last run. I just thought: I’ve got to get it back.

You recently revisited some Go-Betweens songs with Amanda?

We played the album ‘Sixteen Lovers Lane’ with lots of different alternate singers at the most glorious state theatres in Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne. We asked Robert (Forster), but he didn’t want to do it. Rob Snarski did a song and that’s how I ended up playing in his band. We recorded a mini album called ‘Somebody Said That Somebody Said’. And I have a co-write with Rob titled, 'Since I slept with you, everybody wants to sleep with me'. You’ll know this! It’s a thing isn’t it? It’s true!

How did you come to play with The Girl With The Replaceable Head?

Taffy [Hughes – band member] had put online that he wanted a drummer that sounded like Lindy Morrison! I love Sylvia’s voice and Taffy is a great songwriter. Mick Sherman is a really busy bass player, most bass players are very minimal so to have someone carrying the beat is kind of nice as it gives you something to rest on.

Do you think you'll come and play over here with him?

Wow you've really got onto that quickly! It would be great to put on a show.

(Stewart Lee the comedian then walks in and gives Lindy a hug and says he'll see her later.)

I read Tracey Thorne’s book. I loved the part about your life in the 70s in Brisbane and all the alternative people you hung out with. It sounded like a really exciting time. You should write your own memoir.

Yeah, but I think it will take a few years and I haven’t got the time or the memory. And that’s what’s so fascinating being on social media constantly: people telling me stories about gigs.

So you're not going to write a book?

Not at the minute, no.

You write articles for newspapers…

I do, but that's slightly different. What’s wrong is I sometimes do a lot of name dropping.

That's fair enough.

Yeah, but probably too much.

But people like that.

Yeah, they like to connect to people.

I haven't noticed you doing any.

You haven’t known me long enough! I managed to get Stewart Lee to walk in at the right moment though!

You got a lot of flack for being a woman and a drummer. It was often about what you looked like rather than how you played. Do you think it’s still a bit unusual to see a woman on drums?

No I don’t. There are so many women instrumentalists now.

I won’t ask you about the falling out in The Go-Betweens...

I don’t talk about how we fell out anymore. We fell out terribly. And then we had a bridge named after us and that’s when Robert and I became friends again. We had to go to The Go-Betweens Bridge opening in Brisbane, and the two of us walked across the bridge together; that’s when we reunited and talked. It was really lovely and they invited Amanda as well and we finally got some recognition.

How do you think The Go-Betweens would have dealt with mainstream success?

I always said I was never interested in mainstream success; I knew we were alternate. I was happy in alternate. I don’t think there’s anything wrong in working in the field of alternate music.

What new music do you listen to?

I really love Alex and the Astronauts’ chatty clever lyrics and an artist called Stella Donnelly. A punk group called The Chats from Queensland are hilarious and I really like Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever from Melbourne. There’s so many great artists now.

The Girl With The Replaceable Head’s new album will be out later this year.