Western Australia’s cult rocker Peter Bibby has long occupied an enviable space in Australian music: respected and admired by his peers, with a dedicated fanbase, while making music that’s, well, fucking weird. This year he’s released a sea shanty called ‘Oceans’ and a song inspired by a small town’s Wikipedia page (‘Whyalla’). He’s released two acclaimed albums to date — 2014’s Butcher/Hairstylist/Beautician and 2018’s Grand Champion — and his third Marge (at the time of writing) is out next week. We asked Monsieur Bibby some questions and of course his answers, like his music, straddled the line between sincere, thoughtful, thought-provoking and bloody LOL.
What have you been up to this year, both in and out of lockdown?
This year I have become addicted to running; probably the healthiest addiction I’ve ever had. Besides that I’ve been making some things out of wood, furniture and chopping boards, etc., playing music with my friends, and working at the bar. Lockdown was a nice break from responsibilities and a good chance to focus on my health and some things I rarely get the opportunity to do.
How does it feel to be releasing new music with the difficulties around live shows and touring at the moment?
It’s been a bit frustrating, cancelling tours, re-planning video shoots due to social distancing regulations, etc. etc. It’s been an interesting challenge. On the bright side everyone seems incredibly hungry for new music, probably because a lot of people are still bored shitless in lockdown.
Your recent single ‘Oceans’ started out as “a sea shanty-esque poem scrawled on a bit of paper, about going mad on the ocean.” What inspired you to write about going mad on the ocean? Is it a fear of yours?
I was drunk and thinking about pirates. Thinking about seafaring times long before technology became what it is today, how difficult it would have been for those people, the blessings, the curses, the life and the death and everything leading up to that.
I read that you wrote ‘Whyalla’ after a friend asked you to write a track for an Australian road trip compilation. Why did you pick the city of Whyalla specifically, and what about the place is so interesting to you?
It’s an interesting and unique town but to be honest, I settled on Whyalla because of the name. It’s a bit more catchy than say ‘Bong Bong’ or ‘Sausage Gully’, for example. Having spent a few days in Whyalla a few of the visual aspects were quite striking to me — for example the steelworks factory, and the fact the town is surrounded by old mine fields is pretty wild. After doing some research about the place I found more and more fun facts and had more than enough juice to write the song.
‘Whyalla’ has been described as both a “curse” and a “love letter” to life in rural Australia. What does ‘Whyalla’ — the place and its history — represent to you?
A breeding ground for true heroes. The hub of Australian Steelworks.
Could you tell us about how your bandmate Dirty Dave’s grandma ‘Marge’ came to be on your album [also called Marge!]’s artwork?
Dave has been taking photos of dear Margaret enjoying cigarettes for a while now. We all felt that the wise old-timer ripping a duzza was a good visual representation of the music we had created. Marge just turned 94 years old — pretty good innings.
What can people expect from Marge? And how do you hope people will respond to it?
People can expect 11 musical songs of varying quality. I hope people have an unhealthy enthusiasm towards it and are driven completely mad by their unfathomable love for every single moment captured on the record.
You’ve been described as a “troubadour”, a “maverick”, a “rule-breaker” and all sorts of other amazing words that suggest your approach to music and your career is very unique. Are there any particular idea/ls or goals that govern your approach to music, your career, and life?
You’ve got to be the guy you need to be to have the time you want to have. Honesty, sincerity, and a sense of humour are a few things that drive me. ‘Don’t be a dickhead’ is another one.
What would you like to see more of in the Australian music industry?
More government recognition of the legitimacy of the various professions within the industry and more support in times of crisis. More laksa.
Are there any Australian acts or other kinds of artists that are inspiring for you right now?
Everyone who has held it together through these weird times, job well done gang. I’ve also been really enjoying Otis Hope Carey’s paintings.
I’d love to write Billy Madison 2 with Adam Sandler.
What’s next for you?
Probably eat a bit of breakfast, go for a run later… Next year we’ll hopefully be able to tour the record, that’ll be nice!