Bernard Fanning on memory, and why you can stop speculating about a Powderfinger reunion

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Bernard Fanning on memory, and why you can stop speculating about a Powderfinger reunion

Bernard Fanning wants you to know that Powderfinger are definitely not getting back together. Not for a new album, reunion tour, or anything.

The rumour mills went into overdrive when three of Fanning’s former bandmates joined him on-stage during his set at Splendour in the Grass this year. For Fanning the experience was worth it. “[It was] much more fun than I would’ve thought it would be, and that was mainly because when those guys came on-stage, the place went berserk.”

But not even that kind of reception from fans could tempt them to reunite. “Doing that is completely different to making a record, or going on tour and also restarting something that we put to bed seven years ago,” he says.

Fanning has been very busy of late, releasing two albums within the space of nine months. The second of these, Brutal Dawn was released in May. “[It explores] the way we look at memories, and how you set them in your mind, and then that’s what they are and that’s what happened in your mind, whereas if you really go back and really investigate all that stuff around memory it’s not necessarily what that little one-pager is in your memory, the one that has the nice photo and suits your version of events.”

One of those memories is that of Powderfinger’s first encounter with the music industry in the USA, which acted as inspiration for Fanning’s single America (Glamour & Prestige).

Fanning says it was good to go back and think about it. “It was so different to what we’d been accustomed to in Australia and how it was so rank in so many ways, and we just couldn’t really get comfortable with it.

“The well-worn cliché part of that is a doubled-edged sword. It’s saying all the glamour and prestige in America is a well-worn cliché, but so is America bashing,” he says.

Fanning is also proud he managed to get the word ‘spiv’ into a song. “I patted myself on the back because I think it’s incredibly underused,” he says.

While Fanning and his band The Black Fins usually perform in theatres, this time he has let his fans decide. “I was hoping that that would be the answer that we would get from fans, that they wanted us to go play in pubs and part of the reason for that is they’re just a bunch of dirty booze hounds,” he says.

Playing smaller venues means playing more shows, which Fanning says wasn’t a great economic decision, but will allow the band to perform at their best. “It takes a little while to really hit your stride. It’s not like it’s bad when you start or anything, but you get this invisible language that happens between a band when you’ve done stuff over and over that you can’t really describe or explain or you can’t practice for,” he says.

Supporting them on tour will be a raft of local female talent including Oh Pep!, Maddy Jane, and Tia Gostelow. For Fanning, this was a conscious, but by no means tokenistic, effort. “I think when it comes to the music industry I don’t think there’s a heavy-enough emphasis on trying to encourage and make opportunities available to more women. I think that’s completely lacking,” he says.

“I’m not gonna do it purely out of principle. If they weren’t talented artists whose music I didn’t like or respect, I wouldn’t put them on the show, you know, just because they have breasts. That’s tokenism at its worst.

“I think it’s good if old codgers like me try to create opportunities for young people and don’t just tread all the same lines.”

No stranger to touring, Fanning’s favourite places to play are smaller towns that he can get to in a couple of hours drive. “For me now, going to places that I haven’t played in I find is really fun,” he says.

One of those places is Queenscliff Music Festival, which he will headline in November. “All the powers that be have told me that it’s a really good festival. I love that part of the world, anyway; it’s awesome,” Fanning says.

“Good to get out of dreary Melbourne.”

When & Where: The Croxton on October 26 & 27 and Queenscliff Music Festival – November 24-26.

Release: Brutal Dawn is out now.

Written by Amy Hall