We fly through the night – which works pretty good, just the one movie, a couple pages of my book and then sleep, mostly sleep. Osc is out for most of the flight, which is great. I could have probably tried a bit harder to read more – isn’t that always the way – but when we land in Sydney from San Fran and it’s about 7.00am I’m feeling about as okay as can be.
It’s cold. And bucketing down. And I have nothing resembling winter clothes. I’m in sandals and shorts. I don’t even have a hoodie.
We cab into town and spend most of the day unwinding/acclimatising – Sydney isn’t much of a destination; it’s like an extended part of home. We know it well. Loads of friends and some family there and lots of visits over the years. We’re here to break the jetlag. We’re here to see family. We’re here because I’ve got a couple of work-related things to do, a half-week at the end of a nearly month-long holiday.
A couple of single malts signals a very early night – and then I’m up every couple of hours, unsure of the time. Eventually I wake – for good – around 5.00am and hit the book big time. I’ve got a lot of reading to get in, to finish up this bio before meeting the man. I’d taken the Norman Meehan biography of Mike Nock on holiday with me, and then promptly ignored it for any other book all around America. Also worrying that I didn’t read enough, or often enough…
My niece wakes me up by hovering over me with a taxidermy-chick, she says by way of explanation, “look at this Uncle Simon, it used to be a real live bird but it got dead!”
Now it’s time to hit down into this book – get it down. Because soon I’m off to meet the man…
It’s an easy-read and pretty good and certainly useful and I get through it on a rainy Thursday morning.
Then it’s into the Uber and off to the suburb where Mike Nock lives. I cold-called him – well emailed him – a couple of months back. Told him I was a fan, and that I’d be in town – would he be up for a chat for my podcast? A long shot but not that long. He wrote straight back telling me he was in. And I straight away started thinking about how this was the most important interview I’d ever do – I just didn’t want to fuck it up.
I turn up at the door – nock! nock! (haha – sorry!) – and Mike answers. He looks at me in jandals, shorts and a Blue Man Group T-shirt and says, “What do you think this fucking is? A day at the beach?”
We walk through his lounge – which spills over with keyboards, a piano and electronics (“I’ll be adding more”, he beams) and we sit at the kitchen table.
“So, what’s your story man?” Nock is interviewing me. “What’s your deal, what’s up, why are you here man and where have you been and what are you about?” Mike Nock couldn’t be more jazz if he tried.
We chat for half an hour or so before I tell him that we’re losing all the good stuff and need to turn on the tape. I get out the machine, strap on the headphones and we carry back on. And it’s to stowing away to Australia as a teenager, and being self-taught at the piano, immersing himself to cope with the pain and loss of his father dying…from there he’s off to Europe and then America. He plays with Yusef Lateef and Sonny Stitt and all sorts of legends and then forms a fusion group called The Fourth Way. Rumour has it they upstaged Miles Davis. Nock confirms the rumour. And on we chat for 90 minutes or so until he stops the interview by offering me soup. I accept. And we share more stories, off tape, over bowls of minestrone.
I’m beaming as I listen to someone else’s podcast on the train – thinking that I’ve caught some audio-documentary gold for mine. Hoping, anyway.
We celebrate with a metre-long pizza at the local Italian place up the road. It’s carried out on a huge board that hovers above the table, perched high on display buckets. We grab at it, tear at the corners and drag as many of the toppings back to our plates…it’s like ripping off bits of a giant food-blanket. It provides some warmth.
So too does the nightcap once back around the corner. In fact we all fall asleep one-by-one on the couches. But not quite as early as the night previous. And a little bit more of a sleep in…
Then we’re off to catch up with my buddy Stuart Coupe. I caught a whole conversation with him on tape, for the podcast, on my last visit to Australia. So this is just a friendly catch-up, we chat about his new book he’s working on, listen to some music, have a coffee, enjoy the view from the new apartment and catch up on books, movies, music – it’s a Breakfast of Champions-type conversation.
My good pal Sam is there too. He had worked at the FBI radio station doing a show after Stuart years ago so it’s their first time properly meeting but there’s some familiarity.
After a couple of hours we head off to catch a movie. Sam and I have this thing of almost always seeing a film in Sydney. I’m an inside guy most of the time anyway. I don’t need scenery. And it’s shitty weather today.
Also – regarding something to review – later that night we see King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard at the Metro Theatre. Stuart Coupe had tipped us off to get in early and get the good seats up in the mezzanine – and we do. And it’s fucking great. Old Man Seats rule!
Good – good! – gig. Victorian group ORB opens with their Sabbath-y stoner-rock and it’s superb. And then the Gizzards just splatter-paint their way through a relentless set, and I’ve never seen a mosh-pit like this! Good thing we have the bird’s-eye-view too. Safe from our distance.
Bump into an old school chum in the crowd. It’s good to see him. Was not expecting that.
Retire straight after the show. Knackered. Holiday close to closing, sleep has been something that’s just happened when it happens. Need to bank a bit more on this last night.
Saturday morning I have a belated birthday gift – a music voucher for Sydney’s Title – a great shop which, to be blunt, is overpriced – sometimes in the extreme. But voucher means free money! So I buy up some singles for DJing and some old favourites and a few nice (rare-ish) finds. I buy records by Herbie Hancock and Bob James and Emmylou Harris and Was (Not Was) – random! – and Chick Corea and The Haden Triplets and so on…and the guy behind the counter has three goes at telling me he likes my taste.
A feed down the road at a place called The Clock. And then home to pack bags. And fly out from Sydney at night.
Enough time at the airport to think back beyond the whirlwind of the last three days and we start flashing back to three weeks earlier…particularly since our holiday started, in a sense, with three hours to kill at the Sydney airport on the way over. We bookend the trip by going to the same airport-bar for a drink before boarding.
One easy plane-movie and a few more pages. A cat-nap and then home. It’s freezing. Time to let the holiday go. The cold never bothered me anyway…Wellington feels – instantly – like home. Because of course it is. I can’t wait to plug my computer back in. Creature of habit. Everything was as we found it and will continue now after we’ve left it. We cleverly had the bathroom rebuilt while we were away so stepping back into the house brings with it some excitement, the kind you might not usually find when returning to the routine after being abroad.
Thanks to the family and friends in America and Australia that made time for us, gave us beds, driving instructions, meals, time of day and/or night and that’ll be it, holiday-wise, for us for roughly 12 years I should think.
To read Tour Diary # 1 – The Streets of San Francisco click here
To read Tour Diary # 2 – A Great Day To Turn 40, No Poo at The Zoo…click here
To read Tour Diary # 3 – Past The Mission – I Don’t Believe I Went Too Far…click here
To read Tour Diary # 4 – We Hardly Even Seattle But I Like It click here
To read Tour Diary # 5 – Vegas Baby Vegas click here
To read Tour Diary # 6 – L.A. For Just A Day or Two and Disneyland For Life click here
To read Tour Diary # 7 – Oakland Stroke click here