MU­SIC TASTES BET­TER

HE’S A HOUSE­HOLD NAME THANKS TO HIS PAS­SION FOR FOOD. BUT, AS MATT PRE­STON RE­VEALS TO STEL­LAR, IT’S NOT HIS FIRST LOVE

Sunday Herald Sun - Stellar - - Contents - Words by PA­TRICK CAR­LYON

Matt Pre­ston has trav­elled the world feast­ing on the finest del­i­ca­cies, but none of that com­pares to the joy he gets from mu­sic.

When mu­si­cian Paul Kelly was liv­ing in an apart­ment block in Syd­ney’s Kings Cross not long ago, some of his big­gest hits, such as “To Her Door” and “From St Kilda To Kings Cross”, were be­ing strummed in one of the neigh­bour­ing rooms.

One morn­ing, Kelly ran into Matt Pre­ston in the foyer. Pre­ston, who “noo­dles” on the gui­tar, was liv­ing in the com­plex dur­ing the film­ing of Masterchef Aus­tralia. Pre­ston bowed to Kelly with a kind of rev­er­ence that Bruce Spring­steen com­mands across the western world and stum­bled for an open­ing gam­bit.

“I said, ‘What are you do­ing here?”’ re­calls Pre­ston. “He said, ‘I live here...’ And I re­alised the poor f*cker had been sit­ting at home lis­ten­ing to some bas­tard mur­der­ing his songs.” That “bas­tard’s” af­fair with mu­sic traces back to his up­bring­ing in the World’s End, a dis­trict of Chelsea, Lon­don. Pre­ston’s grand­mother took him to the opera and the bal­let, which also dou­bled as days

off school.

Other mu­si­cal in­flu­ences burn brighter. Pre­ston was raised in a well of late-1970s punk and new-wave rock. Davy Jones drank at his lo­cal pub.

Pre­ston was in sev­eral bands, in­clud­ing The Vol­canic Rab­bits, which boasted a catchier name than sound. Pre­ston ad­mits that his hopes to “take over the world and have a hit sin­gle” were short-lived. One prob­lem was his voice – he ar­gues it is rather good, ex­cept when there’s an au­di­ence.

Back then, he was just an­other “snot-nosed kid”. He and his mates DJ’D at small clubs. “I fear it was just an ex­cuse to play mu­sic we liked and crack on to girls,” he says. “There­fore, as a 17-year-old, it was an ideal thing to do. That didn’t go any­where ei­ther.”

Yet a life­long yearn­ing was born. It goes deeper than Pre­ston’s bet­ter known ap­pre­ci­a­tion of food. The sweep of mu­sic in his life, he ar­gue ar­gues, swings wider than his ex­pe­ri­ences ofo fine din­ing. It might be that first Saints sin­gle that Pre­ston re­calls hear­ing.he Or that Tay­lor Swift con­cert not long ago.

Mu­sic, he says, moves him in ways that food does not. “Food’s great,gr but a con­cert where ev­ery­one’s up at the same time, and if there’s 100 of you,you 5000 of you, or 25,000 of you, there’s some­thing very elat­ing about that in a wayw you’ll never get at a restau­rant,” he says. “That mo­ment when the hit sin­gle comes on and ev­ery­one starts danc­ing.danc­ing Or you walk in and the band comes on and the place is bounc­ing and the ba bar staff are bounc­ing and the only peo­ple who are still are the se­cu­rity guards. There’s a great sort of poignancy about it.”

Food jour­nal­ism did not fall Pre­ston’s way un­til he was 30. It was an ac­ci­den­tal pro­gres­sion, as he de­scribes most of the sig­nif­i­cant steps in his life, an­other “Cin­derella mo­ment” after he moved to Aus­tralia in 1993. What links them all is Pre­ston’s eru­dite ease. He can talk across any­thing from Ned Kelly (a “true anti-hero”) to the Ir­ish aris­to­crats who blew his fam­ily for­tune.

Wad­ing through eight or nine cour­ses of Mel­bourne’s finer French modern din­ing at Ôter, Pre­ston’s un­guarded en­thu­si­asm swells for the restau­rant’s sig­na­ture dish, the “dis­grace­fully de­li­cious” veal-head ter­rine. TV celebrity re­mains alien to him, eight years after its un­likely as­sault. He didn’t change overnight, he ar­gues: the world did. Hap­pily, this new world in­dulges his fond­ness for mu­sic.

He re­leased a com­pi­la­tion CD in 2009. “Wouldn’t it be funny…” he said to his man­ager, who du­ti­fully rang Sony Mu­sic Aus­tralia. Pre­ston has an anec­dote for ev­ery one of the 38 tracks – like the time he ar­rived home late from a New Year’s Eve night out to watch The Church’s “Un­der The Milky Way” on the UK’S equiv­a­lent to Rage. The song still now trig­gers mem­o­ries of oth­er­wise cast aside no­tions about form­ing an­other band.

At 53, TV star­dom puts Pre­ston closer to the ful­fil­ment of mu­si­cal pur­suits.

He’s been Cupid, hang­ing on a wire above the stage at the Syd­ney En­ter­tain­ment Cen­tre for the Nick­elodeon Kids’ Choice Awards, where he (briefly) con­quered his fear of heights. He’s also proud of singing on the BBC’S Have I Got News For You – again not for the act, but for the “big smile” that masked his sense of fool­ish­ness.

He loves The Sound Of Mu­sic, and ven­tures he’d make a “bloody good Mother Su­pe­rior”, fa­cial hair and all, “Aunty Jack-style”. Mean­while, his Rocky Hor­ror Show as­pi­ra­tions seem a nat­u­ral fit. He wants to be the Charles Gray-styled nar­ra­tor. Not only would Pre­ston bring his own cra­vats, but he is long trained in “sit­ting around and talk­ing a lot”.

Pre­ston grew up on the Ra­mones, The Stran­glers, The Clash and Ul­travox, at a time when rock mu­sic re­jected the sys­tem. As the head of mar­ket­ing for a mag­a­zine in Lon­don, he oc­ca­sion­ally in­ter­viewed mu­si­cians and re­calls a trip to Glas­gow and a sit down with Scot­tish rock band Del Amitri. It was the sort of jaunt that sated what still, decades later, im­presses as a wan­der­ing mind. Pre­ston is wiser now, con­tent to marvel and ob­serve.

He lis­tens to Triple J in the car. He strums the gui­tar at home, ac­com­pa­ny­ing daugh­ter Sadie on the cello. At wed­dings, he di­vides the dancers into young’uns and oldies.

“There’s that great mo­ment when you re­alise you’re no longer in that young grade; you’re in that old grade,” he says. “You know when you’re watch­ing Dirty Danc­ing and you iden­tify with ei­ther the Pa­trick Swayze char­ac­ter [Johnny Cas­tle] or with Baby? Sud­denly, you will be iden­ti­fy­ing with the dad: ‘I know what he means. I agree with him.’’’

Pre­ston has em­braced his own evo­lu­tion. As he has ma­tured, so have his mu­si­cal as­pi­ra­tions: “Next time The Rolling Stones tour and they need an el­derly gentleman to join them, maybe they can take me in­stead of Mick Tay­lor.”

“Food’s great, but a con­cert is very elat­ing in a way you’ll never get at a restau­rant”

SOUL FOOD (clock­wise from left) Matt Pre­ston (at right) jam­ming with friends in 1989; rock­ing the cra­vat/waist­coat/ jacket combo in 1980; “Me, fail­ing to per­fect my moody look.”

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