Incendiary interview Xavier Rudd

(I watch as he lights the joint several times, it burns and the smoke fills the room.  It smells lovely.  I just relax and breathe it in.  Then the tour manager comes in to make a sandwich, Xavier says to him he probably need some of this, and raises the smouldering leaves in this direction.  He says, “I’m not anxious today at all”.)

(I watch as he lights the joint several times, it burns and the smoke fills the room.  It smells lovely.  I just relax and breathe it in.  Then the tour manager comes in to make a sandwich, Xavier says to him he probably need some of this, and raises the smouldering leaves in this direction.  He says, “I’m not anxious today at all”.)



Incendiary interview Xavier Rudd

Backstage at the Melkweg 28th March, 2006


I felt compelled to sit down and meet with Xavier Rudd.  I contacted his management in Australia through the website a week prior to the gig and set up the interview.  Xavier Rudd was due to play Amsterdam last November, but he fell sick with the flu upon his arrival to Amsterdam the night before the gig.  Now, 4 months later he has returned… healthy and ready to play; moving from being booked and selling out the small room in the Paradiso to playing in The Max at the Melkweg.  I arrived for my interview and the tour manager Chris told me that he was off on another interview, a skateboarding interview.  How cool is that?  So I returned about an hour later and got some pre-show face time the very talented, very modest and very spiritual… Xavier Rudd.  After chatting with him for nearly an hour, I left the building in awe, in amazement of what just happened.  I grabbed my friend and we headed straight to Vondel Park to sit in the sun and around as much nature as we could.  It was beautiful.


IN: Do your wife and son ever come on tour with you?


XR:  Yeah, We travel a fair bit together, Europe is a new place and they are going to come on the next tour with is in June or July for the festivals.  We’ve got two boys now, Joaquin and Finojet.


IN: Great names, what kind of names are those?


XR: I don’t know (laughs). Joaquin is a Spanish name.  Marci, my wife is from Canada, from the eastern French part and they would saw Jaq-queen (French accent), but in Australia it is Jacque, Jako or Jake.  And Finojet… When he was in the belly, Marci started calling him Fino, when he was kicking around.  Her mom was like you should call this baby Jet, you know, since you’re jetting all around the world.  So we joined it… Finojet.  Fino was the name that just arrived to us, we don’t know how. It just came to Marci.  Jet was what he did.  Finojet Xavier Rudd.


IN: I heard that you carry keepsakes of the boys with you.  A sock, or something?


XR:  Oh yeah! (Smiles & blushes) Joaquin’s sock, yeah.  I don’t have it this tour.


IN: Do you have any lifestyle / dietary preferences?


XR: I am vegetarian and I like to go places where I can try and breathe the oxygen somewhere, maybe up high or on a beach.  Somewhere away from concrete, whenever I can.


IN: Do you have any absolute favourite places in the world?


XR: Australia, I have a pretty strong connection there.  That is probably my favorite energy to live amongst, spiritually but I am intrigued by everywhere.  I am lucky to travel that is the gift of life and the opportunity to connect with so many people and places and spirits, different spirits, you know, influences and journey and it influences the soul.


IN: Do you write while you’re on tour?


XR: It (inspiration) comes at different times.  Songs will come when they come, it might be on tour it might not be on tour. There is no telling when it’s going to come.  I guess I have a lot of inspirational situations.


IN:  And you see the inspiration in those situations, you seem really be open to it all.


XR: Yeah, I just get the opportunity to really connect with a lot of different people and because I’m doing that all the time, spiritually there is a lot going on.  All the spirits that travel with me are aware and it helps me change.  And all the places that I go, they are like “whoa!” meeting each other for the first time.  (Smiles)  It’s magic!  (Laughs)  The spirits out there as well as the ones in this world, and it’s all about how those spirits are moving around and watching over us.  The way that the spirits connect with humans somehow stimulates the joy buttons, the tingle.  I get that a lot.  So in terms of song-writing, sometimes is the hard to know where a particular release on energy, my experience and my journey through a song and sometimes they are a reflections of these amazing opportunities spiritually.  Sometimes it will be really isolated.


IN: Is it ever like… I should write a song, grab a guitar and write the song.


XR:  I never tried that actually.  I don’t think I could… I think it would be terrible.  That’s a mental song and what I do is not mental at all.  It would be disastrous if I was thinking about it, it would be horrid.  (LAUGHS)  I’d be like WHOA!


IN: How do you usually feel it, is it a beat, is it a melody?


XR:  It is more just an emotion.  It just shapes itself.  It’s pretty simple.  It just comes out.  It happens pretty quickly, it just comes together.  Sometimes I have to patch it up lyrically, I have to make the lyrics flow, blend them in.  Patch it up and make it all work in its place and say what I want to say in a short amount of time.


IN: I haven’t heard it yet, but I heard you wrote a tribute song about 9/11.


XR:  Yeah, it wasn’t so much a tribute song.  It’s called the 12th of September it’s a song about the following day.  I was in Canada, in North America and I was watching the American news and what I saw on the news was pretty rad, it was pretty graphic.  All the talk of war, and all that first day.  I was pretty spun out by it.  Kind of weird… thinking about my journey travelling all over the world and to North America, being sheltered growing up in southern Victoria in Australia.  I’m from a small surfing town.  Watching this shit go down and the next day I felt like everyone was in anticipation.  That’s what the songs about, the world waiting.  All of a sudden there was an attack and there was these people who were equally as toxic that were going to retaliate.  No one could really do anything about it.  It’s about the next day and that’s why I called it the 12th of September.


IN: I really need to listen to it then.  I was in NYC at the time living in Chelsea I just remembered especially the day after the extreme sense of feeling helpless, of wanting to help but being unable to.  All we could do was get together with friends and talk about it and just be together.

XR:  That must have been radical.  Wow.


(The sound tech enters and starts making a sandwich.  The break was much needed, as the intensity in the room was seriously thick.  I was overwhelmed with a lot of emotion from talking about 9/11 with Xavier Rudd, a lot of feelings that I had buried were returning, thinking about NY and what happened and why I left, remembering that the feeling of waking up crying in the mornings months before 9/11 and booking the tickets to move to Amsterdam 2 weeks before, the date of departure, January 11th 2002, exactly 6 months after what happen.)


IN: (Turns to sound tech) What are you making?


SOUNDTECH: A sandwich.


XR: (Laughs) We need a wok on tour with a bunch of veggies.  Do quick stir-fries.  Wok and like a… ohhhh maybe I’ll bring my camping stove on the Aussie tour.


SOUNDTECH: Sorry for the interruption. (leaves)


XR: That would be really good. We could make stir-fries!


IN:  Xavier Rudd and crew starting fires back stage.


XR:  I love to start fires.


IN: Where is the line drawn between musician and being a spokesperson to greater humanity?  Is it one and the same?


(In walks tour manager, Chris, his phone rings, Xavier gets up and unzips his suitcase.  He searches around inside the suitcase looking for something.)


XR:  Am I a spokes person for humanity?  That is kind of interesting.  (He pulls out what looks like a giant joint, a rolled up smudge thing)  I think that’s a real compliment!  As a human being…  Do you have a lighter?


IN: No actually.  Unfortunately.  (He gets up to look for the tour manager to ask him, he walks back into the room and sits down on the floor again across from me.)  


XR: I just sort of feel how I feel about things and music is my reflection.  I’ve done that since I was a kid and people have now started listening to my music.  It’s become a thing, but it is still the same thing, it is still my expression of my journey.  I’d do it anyway and for people to listen to it, that’s awesome!  (Smiles)  For people to be affected in a way that it might influence their own journey is a huge compliment for me.  I don’t know if what I’m saying is right or wrong for the next person’s journey.  Everybody is the best judge of his or her own journey, but if I help, then that’s a pretty big compliment. 


(Tour manager Chris walks back in with lighter, hands it to Xavier)


XR:  I don’t really see myself as a spokesperson for humanity, but I don’t know maybe I am.  I don’t know what my journey is, I am too young in this human form, fuck, and I don’t know that yet.  I don’t know why I am here or where I’m going to be in the spirit world when I pass over.  But for some reason I’ve been given this opportunity to express myself.


(He breaks off a piece of the roll and lights it on the floor.)


IN: What is this actually?  It’s not sage is it?


XR:  No, this is Blue Gum, it’s Eucalyptus and it is cleansing.  This has been around for 80,000 years and it cleanses and burns away bad spirits.


(I watch as he lights it several times, it burns and the smoke fills the room.  It smells lovely.  I just relax and breathe it in.  Then the tour manager comes in to make a sandwich, Xavier says to him he probably need some of this, and raises the smouldering leaves in this direction.  He says, “I’m not anxious today at all”.)


XR: You’ll want to take a lot of that in.


IN: (He holds it up to me, I breathe it in.)  It smells really nice.


XR: It feels really nice too, smell is just a reflection of how you are feeling and it’s cleaning you out.


IN: Do you think I need cleaning out?


XR:  I don’t know.  It is up for you to say.


(We sit together for several minutes with out saying a word.)


XR: Anyway, so, yeah, so where were we…


IN: I wondered if you felt that it is a responsibility for you and for other musicians who have the opportunity to speak in front of so many people… If you think it’s an obligation to also be a sort of spokesperson?


XR: I don’t know, I think an observation on that would be some people play from more of a mental space and other from more of a heart space.  There is communication through music that is important but I don’t think that communication could ever really be a responsibility.  When the spirit connects and the people open up to each other in a certain way… you can’t really say when the right time for that to happen is.  It might not be at a show.  It happens when it happens.  If you are open to the channels of communication, the spirits will connect. 


IN: What do you think about technology and computers and the Internet as a tool for spreading music and messages all over the world?  Is it enhancing communication, furthering communication or just desensitizing a community?


XR:  I think humans… (Long pause) I think the Internet is a really good thing for music.  In America, when I played over there, people use to record my shows and put them up on the internet and people would download them and all these people became aware of who I was because of that.  Then when I do what I do, which is travel around the world and play live, see tickets and get paid to play, there was just more people.  I think that was because of the Internet.  My show sold out.  I think it is a really good thing for spreading music.  But spiritually?  I don’t know…  Computers are a funny thing, like a progression of humans.  A progression towards the end.


IN: Towards the end?


XR: Yeah. 


IN: Yeah, I mean I’m using less and less of this (pointing to head) and more and more of this (gestures fingers typing on keyboard).  I forget things sometimes because I know I can always look it up.  It is like a back up brain.


XR:  You just need to spend some time in the bush.


IN: Yeah I think so too!  I want to!  (SMILES, laughs and blushes)


XR: You really should eh! (Smiles)  It’s calling you!  When you come you’ve got to connect with the aborigine people.  They’re amazing and very ancient.  You are really being called to Australia.  Yeah. (Nods head)  Oh Yeah. (Nods)


(I blush, look down and shake my head, in a way freaking out; he doesn’t even know the half of it, which started with my Dad’s obsession with Australia that began before I was born. His band The Strangeloves came out just after The Beatles when it was hot to be from elsewhere, so three Jewish boys from the Bronx made up a whole story about how they were sheep farmers from Australia.  Also the fact that I have an Australian born boyfriend and I work with about 4 Australians who I truly adore!  It is too much… and then… he says this…)


XR: YEAH!  I don’t mean to be kind of creepy, but YEAH!!!  Australia is calling you!


IN: Yeah, wow.


XR: You don’t even know why right?


IN: Whoa. No, I don’t even know.   My boyfriend is Australian, my boss is Australian I work with several Australians and my dad loves Australia.


XR:  You are really being drawn there.  You got any ancestors there?  Maybe Irish?


IN: No, I’m not Irish, more Russian and Eastern European.


XR:  Any Russian spirits that might have ended up in that place?  It is important that when you go there, when the time comes, that you connect with Aborigine people.  That’s where you’ll find your answers.  If you are conscious about that, it will happen.  You are being called there.


(Sound check has started… and we being to hear the song of the didgeridoo from below, you can feel the vibrations from the floor as we are almost directly over the stage.)


IN:  Lets talk about the Didgeridoo (I point down at the floor).  How do you say it?  Yurdaki?


XR:  Yirdaki. 


IN: what is important in the making of them?  How was it carved?


XR: They’re carved by termites.  There would be a tree next to termite mound and they eat from the centre of the tree out.  They are small trees and they die pretty quickly.  You cut the bark away and you tap on the trunk (knock, knock, knock!), and if it’s hollow inside you can hear it, and if it’s solid inside you can hear it.  If it’s solid you leave it and let it hollow out.  If it’s hollow, you cut it down.  Clean out the inside and play it.  They eat out the heart of the tree and leave the shell.  The termite tracks make the obscurity of the sound.  No two Yirdakis are the same.


The story of the Yirdaki is from the Yolngu people.  It comes from their country and it spread over time to different parts of the country.  Traditionally that is where it was from.  Yirdaki was the warrior hunter, he was hunting for DupDup, which is the Yolngu word for Kangaroo.  They go dup dup dup (he motions a kangaroos jumping style).  The DupDup would offer themselves to the people and so Yirdaki was out hunting the DupDup that day and they heard a noise and the kangaroo stood up and they both listened to the sound.  Yirdaki left the hunt to follow the sound, so the kangaroo became a spirit and Yirdaki found this log on the ground and he picked it up and started singing the story of what just happened that day through it.  You can still hear that story from up that way.  If you go up there, they can play that story for you.  The Yirdaki comes from that language and you can really hear it when you plan it.  Yirdaki, Mon Dup Dup.


IN: Wow that is beautiful, I didn’t know that.  It is such a mythical instrument.


XR:  Oh yeah, oldest recorded instrument in the world.  The Yirdaki.  The Yirdaki spirit.  And I am lucky because I play Yirdaki, A lot of people play didgeridoo.


Words: Zoe E. Gottehrer