Lorne’s John Waller is one of the Surf Coast’s renaissance men of music, seemingly doing almost everything involved with music all at once. He plays in several bands, is constantly writing, recording and performing music, and he teaches music at Lorne-Aireys Inlet P12 College.
The amount of CDs and records played in his house by his family while he was growing up was the spark that began his love of music. He learned guitar at an early age and music has since become the major thing in his life.
“Music is everything at this point,” John says. “It’s my job. I teach music, and I love that, and every other hour I’m writing music, recording music, playing music, rehearsing music, doing publicity for music: it pretty much consumes my life at the moment. On weekends I usually spend most of the time inside a dark room either mucking around with recordings or rehearsing. It’s definitely a driving force in everything I do.”
John currently has three bands on the go. He has played with indie group Second Hand Heart for about seven years, who are about to release their first album, Tides.
“They write really, really interesting indie-folk-rock music,” he says. “It’s kind of unexpected, some of the stuff, but it just seems to really capture the imagination of everyone in the group. We sort of just go in this direction and before we know it we’ve arrived somewhere we didn’t think we would. And it sounds good, we think.”
He also plays with Rat & Co, a predominantly Melbourne-based group who are about to release their second album, Binary. John describes their sound as “ambient, electronic acoustic music”. And he plays with Brother James, a ’90s rock-style band featuring a number of musicians from the Surf Coast. They are also currently working on an album due for release this year. He says he tries to be economical with what he plays in each of the bands so as to add only what the music needs.
“Generally I do lead guitar in all the bands,” he says. “I think what I bring is an extra voice, and it doesn’t have to be a loud voice. I just try and make sure that whatever’s said means something to the music. And I try and teach my [students] that. It’s not about how much or how little you play, it’s what you say. What are you trying to tell me through your instrument?”
His life has now come full circle. Having grown up and attended school in Lorne, he now teaches music there, something he never considered when he was younger. But now he’s there, he’s throwing himself into the role and is really enjoying working with the kids and fostering an interest in music.
“The biggest thing I see at the moment, for the bands, is teamwork and kids being in different social groups. Seeing that develop and seeing the friendships develop, that’s really, really rewarding. Before they’ve even stepped on the stage or done anything, to see them build those positive relationships that they might not have otherwise [is great].”
With so many different projects happening at once, he says it can sometimes be overwhelming. But he has no plans to give any of them up any time soon.
“All I really care about is making music that people enjoy. If I can continue to do that, I’ll be happy. I think that’s all that matters.”
Written by Daniel Waight