Icehouse - 30 years of white heat

IVA Davies agreed that revisiting his songs 30 years after their creation was like turning the pages of an old family photo album: mostly you smiled at the fond memories, but sometimes a haircut or shirt reminded you of how times had changed.

Davies’s band Icehouse is back on the road for a series of live gigs, and back in the charts with Icehouse – 30th Anniversary Edition, and a greatest hits CD and DVD boxed set in pre-production for release later this month.

‘‘I’ve been going over that material literally in the last two days,’’ Davies said.

‘‘As we speak, the DVD master is being produced and I had to go through all of the tracks. I hadn’t taken in a lot of those songs for a very long time.’’

Davies said it was a strange experience, and the songs still stood up nicely.

‘‘But what’s always arguable is whether the technology of the time got in the way of keeping things timeless, or whether the songs are tagged to the period in which they were made.

‘‘To some degree you can hear the technology in some of the songs, and those have perhaps dated.’’

But in music, as with haircuts and shirts, if you wait long enough, everything old becomes new again.

‘‘On the other hand, I’m experiencing something very odd indeed,’’ Davies continued, ‘‘and that is seeing a very young generation of bands like Cut Copy and The Aston Shuffle who are revisiting a lot of those technologies and revisiting a lot of those sounds.’’

Icehouse began playing as Flowers, in 1977, and were at first loud and proud to be pub rockers.

In 1981, the band changed its name to Icehouse, and quickly developed new-wave and synth-pop sounds.

But it was an aversion to ABBA and all things disco which initially gave Flowers their hard edge.

‘‘We happened into what I believe was an incredibly productive period in Australian rock music,’’ Davies said.

The Aussie pub rock scene being established by the likes of AC/DC, Cold Chisel and The Angels was vindicated by the punk movement coming out of England.

‘‘What the punk movement did was give a whole generation of 20-year-olds a new licence to get back into hard rock. And bear in mind that when I was going through high school, and later on with ABBA, the disco phenomenon was huge. And a whole lot of us didn’t want to have anything to do with that.’’

But the technology of the day was another matter. Davies, a classically trained musician, could immediately see the potential in the new-fangled instruments.

‘‘Synthesiser technology just exploded at the end of the 1970s. It seemed that every five minutes some potentially amazing gadget was being invented.

‘‘Today I can listen to some of our recordings and pin them to a technology that was brand new.’’

Davies wrote the song Icehouse, for example, the day the band bought one such piece of technology.

‘‘We picked up this string synthesiser, which was a new invention called the Solina String Ensemble. I took it home with my funny little tape recorder and stayed up all night fooling with it.

‘‘By the morning, the song Icehouse was completely written and finished – almost completely as you hear it now.’’

On August 26, the band will release White Heat: 30 Hits, bringing together every single the band released anywhere in the world.

The three-disc set will comprise two CDs of songs in the chronological order of their release, and a DVD featuring 32 film clips, some of which have never previously been available in any form.

The set will include songs such as Great Southern Land, We Can Get Together, Walls, Hey Little Girl, Crazy and Electric Blue.

But this is no nostalgic flash in the pan.

Davies said that given the success of the anniversary edition of the Icehouse album (it reached No.14 on the ARIA charts this year – 30 years after its original release) more anniversary albums were likely.

He also has a wealth of unreleased live recordings in storage.

There is even some talk of writing and recording new Icehouse material.

‘‘It’s a possibility. There are a lot of threads that are knitting themselves towards that destiny,’’ Davies said.

For much of the past 15 years, Davies has been creating music on computers and samplers.

Among his notable musical projects in that time have been writing the score for the ballet Berlin for Sydney Dance Company in 1995; writing and arranging a 25-minute orchestral version of Great Southern Land which was played on the steps of the Sydney Opera House in the countdown to the millennium; writing the score for director Peter Weir’s movie Master and Commander, and music for the Sydney Olympics and 15th Asian Games.

Davies said performing live, and renewing contact with Flowers co-founder and guitar collector Keith Welsh, for the album releases, had changed things.

‘‘What that has produced is a climate in which he is re-engaging me with what was originally my main instrument, the guitar.

‘‘And part of getting back and reconnecting with the guitar will probably produce new songs. I think all of the threads are inextricably linked.’’

Icehouse will perform at Belmont 16 Foot Sailing Club on September 28. Tickets on 49450888. Icehouse will play their debut album Flowers in full at Homebake on December 3 at Sydney’s Domain. Tickets on sale Monday.

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