Who can it be now?

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - Music - CAMERON ADAMS

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

the game

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.

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