Grapeshot Chats with Tom Ballard

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Tom playing W.A.N.G. pranks at a LAW lecture

Tom Ballard chats with Nick O’Sullivan from Grapeshot about being at O-week, Triple J and what’s happening to live Aussie music.

Tom, how have you enjoyed your O-Week experience?

Woo! O-Week! Yeah! Tits and drinking and uh… all that kind of stuff. We’ve had a great time. The W.A.N.G club took very good care of us. I dressed up in a hot dog suit and walked in on a lecture and they all hated me and that’s pretty much it really.

What lecture did you go in?

It was Jurisprudence on Legal Remedies, one of the classics. I did law for six weeks, so I followed most of it. I went in there dressed as a hot dog and I was supposed to ask “Is this WANG101?” The lecturer would say, “No it isn’t”. I left and then apparently he burned me by saying even Legal Remedies is more exciting than that. It’s humiliating you know? I’ve been on television, I’ve won awards for my comedy and I’ve sunk to this low. It is a slap in the face and I’m questioning my life and my career at this moment.

Did you have good experiences when you had your O-week from studying?

I can’t remember it much. I think we went on a camp and I was really intimidated. I’m really bad at drinking and skulling. I like alcohol, but I like a nice wine. I like to take my time. I just can’t skull or anything like that. There was something Eyes Wide Shut about it. You walk into a room and there’s all these people sitting in a room passing around… well, replace the sex with beer. No, I really did enjoy uni, but I was just busy with other stuff going and I always felt like I could come back to it.

With news about the Annandale Hotel, where do you see the music scene going? How does the Australian public get behind the revival of the music scene?

It’s tricky, because there’s this combination of “back in the old days”, when Australian music was at its peak, you would have the smaller venues getting so much more business. Now you have the situation where big artists have to tour in order to make a living because so much music is pirated or selling records just isn’t what it used to be. So, you have this kind of weird combination of people not turning up to local gigs so much, but these huge acts [are] touring a lot more. I think people know this stuff is at risk, so you have movements like SLAM – Save Live Australian Music – starting up and you have a lot more people getting behind their local, same thing with The Tote in Melbourne. I think that culture is still there and really healthy, but the finances of running music venues are changing as well. There are pressures coming from all different angles. Triple J does a lot of getting behind that stuff, and I think that not a lot of other radio stations, commercial radio stations certainly, don’t have an interest in promoting live gigs that they’re not presenting and that’s something I’m proud of when it comes to Triple J.

Do you think that universities will now be a breeding ground for local bands in place of local pubs?

I hope so. I think there are lots of gigs people play at, like the Roundhouse at UNSW, and there are lots of people playing at O-weeks too. There used to be a “Golden Era of Comedy” at unis. There’d be free luncheon gigs and they were big, but I don’t know what happened to them. I’m not sure why they went away. It’s perfect – the uni crowd is obviously huge for live music and seeing new stuff.

Triple J is always faced with this issue of resources. One of our major jobs it to try and provide and push and support stuff in places that don’t usually get it. Unis can always do with more stuff going on, but they do pretty well, especially in metropolitan area. It’s the whole idea behind ‘One Night Stand’ and regional gigs, supporting that live music in places that don’t normally get it all the time.

[These gigs] are in their 6th or 7th year now. We had the AWOL concerts before that, which was a bit before our time. They were huge as well. It’s just 100% in line with what Triple J is about. Radio ratings are taken in regional areas, incredibly, so we never get an idea of how many people are listening out there. For me, growing up in country Victoria, Triple J was a huge gateway to listening to alternative stuff and getting challenged by stuff. If you weren’t into the local footy team or shagging shelias, then you’d listen to Triple J a lot. It was really important to me. It just makes a lot of sense to go to these places and bring these massive bands that don’t get to tour there. Festivals like Groovin the Moo you’re getting that a lot more. Triple J is really proud of supporting that because you get great lineups. They Might Be Giants would never play in Bendigo normally, so it’s really cool and something that we’re really aware of and trying to get out to more regional areas. We’re going to Lismore on [Tom & Alex’s O-Week Tour] and Alex [Dyson] is going to Bendigo to unis. Going out to those places and seeing people turning out and reminding you how much Triple J means to those people is a really big buzz.

What are the bands to watch this year?

If you haven’t seen Flume live yet – that’s a must see, and everyone knows Flume now. I really love Rainy Day Women, from Perth, they’re really cool. People like Jackie Onassis I like, who is playing a gig here [at Macquarie during O-Week]. Hhymn , as an international act, I really love [them]. I think the debut album is going to be good, so I’m quite looking forward to that.

So Tom, you’re about to go to the Athletics Carnival, you are slightly disadvantaged (after recently injuring his ankle while on tour)…

I can do anything!

Well you are handicapable. So what is going to be your super power in the upcoming Athletics Carnival, what are you going to do to win?

The wheelchair is going to be a major factor and I’m going to be wearing a hot dog suit in a mascot race. If we start to lose, we’ll just be rough and stuff.

Tom unfortunately lost the mascot race for W.A.N.G Club. Grapeshot’s Smiling Chef coming in first, second place went to the Dark Ages Society and Third to Grapeshot again, with our resident scientist taking the Bronze. Check out the photos on Facebook.

(from left to right) Rob as the W.A.N.G hotdog, Brendon a.k.a. The Smiling Chef, John as Rupert Murdoch – the purple dragon, Sarah as our resident scientist, Steph as our Grapeshot nerd and our shieldsman from the Dark Ages Society.
PHOTO: Rosie Cruz