There’s an actor, an elderly actor. Over the years, he’s given himself to his craft, and in a way which perhaps one can explain, perhaps one can’t, it’s given itself back to him. It’s been his life, essentially, but now, as theatrical twilight descends and the curtain comes down on one last performance, it’s time to go.
The act of giving up something one loves forms the basis from which builds An Actor Repairs’, the new album from one of Australian music’s most loved raconteur’s, Tim Rogers. A wonderfully fractured piece of work, the album’s sonic blueprint doesn’t so much follow a stylistic path as it does the life of its protagonist, rich in light and shade, colour and darkness, change and inevitability, both expressed by the actor himself, and to him by friends, acquaintances, people passing in the night.
“The songs have been written and re-written over two years as an accompaniment to a performance piece I was attempting concerning the retirement from the stage of an elderly actor,” explains Rogers. “Ambition long given over to a journeyperson’s approach, the fear of leaving a life’s passion behind and the ghosts of romances born and played out within theatre walls, vie for attention on a long walk home from closing night.”
“There’s a phrase they say / You’ve been hit by the bug / I’d call it something much / Closer to love” Rogers sings on the album’s opener, ‘The Bug’. In this track he both sets the scene, and delivers the story’s verdict, finishing on the refrain, “This son of a bitch / It really gave me all, but / It’s time to go.”
“Well it’s one of my [stories], so it can’t be a happy one,” Rogers laughs. “But I don’t know [if it’s a happy story], and it’s not a complete story.” Beginning life, as he says, as a performance piece, Rogers teamed up with a cohort of musical friends – all of whom, as he stresses, he trusted implicitly – to begin the project’s metamorphosis from stage to album.
“The scripted elements of the piece gave way as I began working with Clio Renner, Melanie Robinson, Xani Kolac, Davey Lane, Brett Wolfendon and especially Shane O’Mara on the songs,” he muses. “They hinted at story and evoked emotions I couldn’t represent through words and scripted action, yet.
“For perhaps the first time I revisited songs I had lived with for many months and reworked them significantly. Working with musicians so dexterous and willful, more songs were written in a fever, throwing the script away to include songs of devotion and delusion, always with the actor shadowing and studying the action, unable to leave old habits.”
Best known as frontman for seminal Australian rock ‘n’ roll band You Am I, Tim Rogers’ creative net reaches far and wide. Musically, his many achievements include a slew of solo projects – fronting The Twin Set and The Temperance Union, as well as releasing a couple of one-man records in The Luxury Of Hysteria (2007) and Rogers Sings Rogerstein (2012) – as well as a number of collaborative projects with the likes of Tex Perkins (TNT, My Better Half, 2006); and The Bamboos (The Bamboos featuring Tim Rogers, The Rules Of Attraction, 2015).
Rogers is, much like the lead in An Actor Repairs’, a seasoned vet of both stage and screen, having appeared regularly on television shows Rockwiz, Rove Live, Talkin’ ‘Bout Your Generation, The Fat, The Micallef Programme and the ABC’s MDA. He’s been cast in various movie roles (Holy Smoke, Hunter Finkelstein, The Boy Castaways, and Tracks). He made his stage debut in 2009 with a part in Michael Kantour’s Woyzeck (with music by Nick Cave and Warren Ellis), followed by a co-write and production role in The Story Of Mary MacLane By Herself, and Federico Garcia Lorca’s Blood Wedding.
In this regard, Rogers is not dissimilar to the journeyman he brings to life via An Actor Repairs’ eleven songs. “Without a doubt,” he concurs. “I’m a good twenty years younger than [my] protagonist, but undoubtedly. I do lead a solitary life in a lot of ways, and I feel my days swanning around the cognoscenti is kind of over.”
This isn’t to say An Actor Repairs’ is likely to be Rogers’ swansong. For a start, the man’s memoir is slated for release later this year and even if he’s distancing himself from the cognoscenti, the music and the story are in his blood and it’s unlikely he’ll let this go.
In the meantime, we have a record which delves deep into human emotion via a set of songs which paint Rogers in a light perhaps not seen before – that of a man reflecting, considering, coming to terms with his own artistic mortality through the sphere of another, all of which will be laid bare on stage as Rogers and Co tour An Actor Repairs’ later this year.
“The shows for the tour will be in a number of different incarnations owing to schedules and concentration,” he confirms. “Some nights will be piano based, others less so. We’re attempting to play songs from more than twenty years of writing, the emphasis being reinterpretation.”