Muso just your av­er­age Joe

Layne Whit­burn catches up with Aus­tralian mu­sic leg­end Joe Camilleri as The Black Sor­rows are set to rock the Sun­shine Coast

Life & Style Weekend - - READ -

FORTY-EIGHT al­bums later, Joe Camilleri still doesn’t think he makes a great rock star.

Be­ing in­ducted into the ARIA Hall of Fame, fronting two of Aus­tralia’s most suc­cess­ful bands – Jo Jo Zep and The Fal­cons and now The Black Sor­rows – pro­duc­ing mul­ti­ple plat­inum and gold records and even hav­ing a doc­u­men­tary – Joe Camilleri: Aus­tralia’s Mal­tese Fal­con – is phys­i­cal proof of a suc­cess­ful ca­reer.

How­ever, when I chat­ted to the mu­si­cal leg­end about his colour­ful 53-year ca­reer, he was more in­ter­ested in hear­ing about my Christ­mas and New Year.

That is what makes Camilleri a rock star. His hum­ble at­ti­tude and abil­ity to con­nect with the ev­ery­day folk af­ter more than half a cen­tury in the spot­light is sim­ply re­fresh­ing.

“I am a very ap­proach­able per­son. I think it’s a good trait to have, but it’s not a great trait for pop stars or rock stars,” he said.

“Rock stars have got to be mys­te­ri­ous, I just don’t have the gear for it.”

What Camilleri does have, how­ever, are the skills, ex­pe­ri­ence and per­son­al­ity to put on a rock­ing show.

The Black Sor­rows will do just that at The Shed at Aussie World on Jan­uary 15 as a part of their lat­est al­bum and tour, Faith­ful Satel­lite.

Hav­ing toured around Aus­tralia and the world with Jo Jo Zep and The Fal­cons and The Black Sor­rows, Camilleri said the Aussie pub scene is right up his ally.

“I’m a big fan of the sticky car­pet and no air with every­body right up in your grill,” he laughed.

Jokes aside, it doesn’t mat­ter how big or small the stage, Camilleri said The Black Sor­rows sim­ply “come to play”.

“It’s not much of a motto, but it’s true. Noth­ing will please me more than play­ing mu­sic and hav­ing fun with peo­ple. See­ing peo­ple danc­ing, laugh­ing and chat­ting to them af­ter the show, that is what I love and what I am meant to do.”

This was al­most taken away from him 20 years ago when Camilleri de­vel­oped a ran­dom fear of fly­ing.

Camilleri could only fly un­der cer­tain cir­cum­stances. He had to have Val­ium, wa­ter, chew­ing gum, be on an aisle seat and have some­one to talk to. Some­times he would be seated and ready for take-off be­fore anx­i­ety brewed a dark cloud of claus­tro­pho­bia caus­ing him to get off the plane and drive back home.

“There was a time when it was re­ally bad and I just couldn’t get on a plane. I would have to catch a train to Perth, Syd­ney, Ade­laide or Brisbane to per­form or I would drive,” he said.

“This feel­ing would come over me even in a tun­nel. So there were a lot of things af­fect­ing my life just from feel­ing this. I had to change ev­ery­thing, my whole way of life.

“I thought it could ei­ther get worse or I could fight it. So I did.”

Camilleri said he tried ev­ery­thing from hyp­nother­apy, natur­opa­thy and went to phy­col­o­gists but it was his son Har­lan who saved him.

“We were on a flight to Brisbane and Har­lan got sick. Some­how that trig­gered some­thing in me. I needed to help him, so the fo­cus was off me,” he ex­plained.

“Slowly I got to a point where I could get onto a plane and not have to sit on an aisle seat. I taught my­self to deal with the un­com­fort­able­ness.”

Camilleri said he is still not 100% cured.

“I was in a pic­ture theatre the other night and it was in­cred­i­bly un­com­fort­able. It was full and I was sit­ting at the back and I wanted to get out, but I just kept say­ing to my­self, ‘Just stay an­other five min­utes. There is the exit, it is okay. You can go any­time’. My girl­friend felt my head and said, ‘Gosh, you’re hot.’ But I felt I had to get through it,” he said.

While mu­sic is a fan­tas­tic tool for re­lax­ation, at the height of his anx­i­ety, Camilleri said he had to run off stage dur­ing a few gigs.

“I ac­tu­ally did that about two or three times. But once I learnt I can only be the best I can be and try re­ally hard, just keep work­ing at it to be bet­ter, all these things sub­sided to a de­gree,” he said.

“He’s like an old friend who comes into me. But he is just in the back­ground. Some­times he might pop up to say hello, but I say, ‘I con­trol you, you don’t con­trol me.’ I’m still work­ing on it. Some­times I can’t take the elevator and I still don’t like fly­ing.”

If there is one thing to take the dis­com­fort off his mind, it’s writ­ing and play­ing mu­sic.

“All I ever wanted was to play mu­sic be­cause I love it. I would live it, breathe it, eat it,” he said.

“What I’ve re­alised is I’ve ended up with what I started with. I love danc­ing to mu­sic, danc­ing in the kitchen with my girl­friend lis­ten­ing to mu­sic. I love writ­ing songs. I love the idea that there is a place in the world for me.

“We’d all love to be A-1 on the juke­box and A-1 on the charts, be­cause that’s what gets your mu­sic heard by more peo­ple. But then you’ve got to deal with all the fame and things that come with it.

“It is eas­ier when you have a big record, and I’ve had those and I re­ally ap­pre­ci­ate it. All those songs have value to me but I am not one to look to the past.”

Camilleri is not one to lis­ten back on him­self ei­ther.

“I loved our last record, End­less Sleep. I don’t play it but I loved mak­ing it. It’s a great col­lec­tion of songs, but I’m off to the next thing,” he said.

Camilleri hasn’t even watched the 2011 doc­u­men­tary, Joe Camilleri: Aus­tralia’s Mal­tese Fal­con.

“A friend of mine made it. I co-op­er­ated for him but I can’t

I find the fu­ture the most ex­cit­ing. What can I do un­der this ban­ner of The Black Sor­rows and the peo­ple I love to play with? What mu­sic can I cre­ate in the fu­ture?

cope with the pain of just watch­ing my­self,” he said.

Claim­ing he has “a face for ra­dio,” the hum­ble Camilleri said he is sim­ply in love with mu­sic and puts all his heart and soul into his work.

While win­ning ARIA awards and top­ping charts are all great achieve­ments, Camilleri said these mo­ments all fade into the back­ground as he is al­ways plan­ning the next move.

“I find the fu­ture the most ex­cit­ing. What can I do un­der this ban­ner of The Black Sor­rows and the peo­ple I love to play with? What mu­sic can I cre­ate in the fu­ture?” he said.

The mu­sic leg­end turns 67 in May this year but there’s no sign of Camilleri hang­ing up the mic any­time soon.

“I want to per­form but give you more. I want peo­ple to know I’m not a band from the yes­ter­year. I am al­ways evolv­ing, al­ways try­ing to be what I have tried to do for my en­tire life and do it the best I can.”


The Black Sor­rows: Joe Camilleri on vo­cals, gui­tar, sax and harp, John McAll on key­boards and vo­cals, Claude Car­ranza on gui­tar and vo­cals, Mark Gray on bass and vo­cals and An­gus Bur­chall on drums. SEE FOR YOUR­SELF: The Black Sor­rows play The Shed at...

Camilleri said he lives, breathes and eats mu­sic.

The Black Sor­rows per­form at The Shed on Jan­uary 15.

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