A voice as commanding and important as Ezekiel Ox’s has a way of tuning out all the other insignificant noise around you, whether it’s out on the streets or playing in a packed live venue. “Put me on stage and I’m unstoppable!” His confidence is not arrogance, Ox is simply devoted to his art and convictions, and when both intertwine there are only two options – join him or get out of the way.
“I try to be as compelling as I can. When an artist and an audience work together both are transformed. That’s a real responsibility – something I work very hard at – and it’s something that I can almost guarantee at my shows.”
Ox is no stranger to being front and centre – he was the lifeblood of underground heroes Full Scale, Mammal and The Nerve, and still fronts Melbourne two-piece Over-Reactor – though to many, Ox stands the strongest when he stands alone.
“I wrote, recorded and mixed it all myself,” Ox says of his 2014 solo EP Raw Styles. “I wanted to prove to myself that I could do it. At the time of writing it I was doing a lot of self reflection so I set that as a goal.
“Raw Styles is a statement of intent and it was lovely to work on it with no one on my shoulder telling me, ‘Maybe that’s a little bit too political’ or ‘That’s a bit too radical’, because I’ve always had that problem in bands before – sometimes people don’t quite get it.
“What I wanted to focus on as a parent to my son Griffin, and as a community member both local and global, is that we leave a legacy and history behind.
“Let’s not forget that once upon a time women didn’t have the vote, so what did they do? They fought for it and they got it. LGBTI people didn’t have marriage rights (though we’re still fighting for them in this country) so they fought for them and they got them. Indigenous people didn’t have the same rights so they set up the Aboriginal tent embassy and they fought for them. We’re still waiting to get there, but we have success stories.”
Ox explores these themes in Raw Styles on tracks like ‘The Past, Present and Future’ and ‘Policeman’. Now it’s your chance to see and hear Ox’s compelling message when he rolls into town as part of his On the Record tour.
Come prepared to be moved and challenged, but also thoroughly entertained. “Depending on curfew and crowd participation, anything can happen and probably will. I like to freestyle – I think the best artists do it live and they do it extremely well. I’m happy to put myself in that category after 16 years of touring and over 1000 gigs.
“Touring excites me. The Raw Styles EP is a great way to get around the country and I look forward to making a solo album next year.” Look out for that, but in the meantime Ezekiel Ox offers this food for thought: “I’m an optimist – I see the victories no matter how small. I believe we can win and overthrow oppression. There are strategies that we’ve seen throughout history and new ones being developed all the time that will not only show us that we can win, but that we will!”
When&Where: Grace Darling Bandroom, Melbourne – November 14, Bridge Hotel, Castlemaine – November 15 & Beavs Bar, Geelong – November 20.
By Natalie Rogers