Who can it be now?
COLIN Hay ( pictured) may have sold 15 million albums worldwide with Men At Work, but he has no problem starting again. It’s strange to hear a man who wrote some of the most successful Australian musical exports talk about his period of obscurity.
‘‘ After Men At Work, for the better part of a decade I was stumbling around being unfocused,’’ Hay says.
‘‘ It was pre-internet. I really had to try to find my audiences by going out on tour. Men At Work ( inset) really didn’t build a foundational audience. We came in as a pop band with enormous radio success; once that goes away and the band breaks up, the audience tends to go away with it.
‘‘ When you start out doing those tours, you start again [ and] you tend not to attract a very big number of people. I’d play to 100 people or sometimes less. It’s only in the past few years there’s close to 1000 people at the shows. It’s taken about 15 years to get to that point, but it’s going in the right direction.’’
Signed as a solo act after Men at Work split in 1985, Hay was dropped by Columbia in 1990. He moved to the US and started his own label Lazy Eye.
‘‘ I was just making records, trying to release them myself rather inefficiently because I didn’t have the infrastructure,’’ he says. ‘‘ I was trying to figure out how to stay in the game.’’
Eight years ago he hooked up with Nashville label Compass Records and is now working hard to promote his latest release Gathering Mercury.
Hay had another ally – Scrubs star Zach Braff. Hay performed songs on the TV show, as well as on the soundtrack to Braff’s movie Garden State. Braff also directed the video for Hay’s latest single Send Somebody.
Meanwhile, the legal fight over Men At Work’s greatest hit, Down Under, continues. Publishing company Larrikin Music successfully claimed a melody in it came from the children’s song Kookaburra Sits In The Old Gum Tree.
Lawyers for Larrikin are talking with EMI publishing, which owns Down Under, about a financial settlement.
‘‘ The more I think about it and the longer it’s gone on, the more ridiculous it is,’’ Hay says.
‘‘ It’s not so much they [ Larrikin] won, it’s just they lost less. It’s a hollow
I was just trying to figure out how to stay in
victory at best. Everyone ended up losing.
‘‘ What they’re going to get back financially, the costs far outweigh that on both sides. Larrikin first wanted 60 per cent of Down Under, which is ludicrous.
‘‘ I was sued, I had to defend myself. It went on for three years. They ended up with 5 per cent, the lowest amount they can get by law. That’s five bars out of 100, an extremely generous percentage.’’
While the royalties from the song have been frozen, Hay still performs it.
‘‘ I love the song, I co-wrote it, the song has a completely different meaning to me. It pre-dates Men At Work and that flute line. I have a very personal relationship to the song which I’ll have until I’m not around any more. Whatever happens legally, nothing can affect that relationship,’’ he says.