Home' Rhythms Magazine : 2016 Jul-Aug Contents Rhythms 35
FRom DUSk ‘TIL DAwN
while Bernard fanning’s new album stems from a
feeling of unease, it blooms as one of the songwriter’s
strongest releases. He talks to samuel J. fell.
It’s a monday afternoon. Late autumn and sunny. It’s
crystal clear and the air is sharp, cool in the shade
courtesy of a light breeze, but warm in the sun,
brightening the scene; makes the grass seem greener and
the surrounding shrubs livelier despite the fact there’s
been no rain for a month or so.
Bernard Fanning sits on a day bed, leaning against the
wall of his small studio, up on a hill above Byron Bay.
You can see it down below, spread along the coastline
in among the trees against the water’s edge. out in the
bay itself is Julian Rocks. It’s so clear you can see the
whitewater breaking around their base. The lighthouse
sits atop Cape Byron, slightly to the south, the sunlight
glinting off its tall, white walls, standing guard over the
most easterly point in Australia.
Fanning sits taking it all in. It is, as I’d mentioned to him
when I’d first arrived, a view you’d not get sick of. He
agrees and during the couple of hours we spend sitting
out here, we both periodically gaze out over it all. It’s
calming. Serene. Seems to me to be a perfect place to put
together a record.
Fanning, in light blue jeans and black jacket, hair hanging
down to his shoulders, flipping across his face, grey
stubble, pale skin, is in good spirits. He smiles a lot and
his laugh rings out across the green, sloping garden,
occasionally startling lorikeets playing in the trees
hanging over the driveway to the side. I’m always wary
prior to speaking to prominent rock stars, well aware they
could be completely consumed by an inflated sense of
self-importance, nothing more than preening posers.
But Bernard Fanning’s not like that. Sure, he’s a
prominent rock star, he fronted one of the most iconic
Australian bands of all time in Powderfinger. His solo
debut, Tea & Sympathy, was incredibly successful, five-
times platinum. But he’s just a guy with a wife and kids,
sitting here having a chat about music, about the state
of the world, life in general. Just shooting the breeze like
any of us.
Inside the studio, producer Nick DiDia is tinkering.
occasionally, music drifts out from the open door
around the corner, soundtracking certain parts of our
conversation. “It’s shit, isn’t it,” Fanning says at one point
as he looks out across the Pacific. He laughs again. I do
too as I follow his gaze. “Yeah,” I say. “Terrible.”
Bernard Fanning’s new album, his third solo effort, is
Civil Dusk. It’s the first in a two-part series, the next being
Brutal Dawn, slated for release sometime next year. Civil
Dusk was written in part in kingscliff, a small coastal
village a little further north, and partly in madrid, Spain,
where his wife is from. It was all recorded here, aside from
the demos, in this little space on top of a hill overlooking
“The term ‘civil dusk’ actually comes from ‘civil twilight’
which is a photography term,” he tells me. “It’s when the
sun has gone down beneath the horizon. Scientifically, I
think it’s when the sun is six degrees below the horizon.
But pretty much everything is still visible, but not in
direct light. And it looks different. So that idea, that
He trails off at the end of that sentence and switches
focus to the term brutal dawn, which we both agree is
the perfect name for an album by a Norwegian death
metal band, but the sentiment is clear. Civil Dusk is about
things not being quite as they seem, or quite as you
remember them, and they’re about to change. Perhaps to
be revealed once more, in a different light later on, under
a brutal dawn.
I ask him if, he’s a worrier, if he’s prone to anxiety. “oh
yeah, totally, I’m a real worrier,” he says candidly. The
reason I ask this is because in the bio that accompanies
the new record he’s quoted as saying, “Each day, I wake
with a feeling of unease.” It’s a line which ties in with the
idea behind the record, the civil dusk preceding a brutal
“Yeah, doesn’t everyone?” he asks with a laugh when
I read that quote back to him. “It sounds a little too
depressing. it’s unease, it’s not full-blown anxiety. It’s
more like, I’ve got shit to do, lots to do. As an artist and a
human being. Firstly, as a dad, the basic stuff of making
breakfast, getting school lunches ready, you know.
making sure everyone’s got two shoes on when they
“[But] it’s a combination of everything. when I’m writing,
I don’t sleep very much. I wake up a lot of times at night,
and often with the last idea I had before I went to bed
kinda ringing in my head. And it’s pretty annoying, and
pretty annoying for my wife. It’s hard to shake when you
have an idea that you haven’t abandoned yet, that you
haven’t managed to go, ‘I’m not gonna keep going’.
“And what I mean by that, that’s a completed song as well.
It’s not like, ‘That song’s finished’, it’s ‘I’m not working
on that anymore’. Because inevitably, a few months later,
you’re gonna find holes in that idea and go, ‘Fuck, I wish
I’d done that’.”
I venture that this is the lot of the artist, that no matter
what you do, you’ll never really be satisfied. or at least
you’ll think you’re satisfied, only to realise a little while
later that you no longer are. “Yeah, that’s exactly right.
You have this momentary satisfaction,” he says. “Anyway,
the anxiety thing, I don’t want to play that up too much
... it’s more because I usually get up first in the house, at
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