Don Walker Has Catfish Cookin' - By Mike Gribble

 

He’s not a great singer - arguably not even a good one - but former Cold Chisel songwriter and keyboard player Don Walker is enjoying the ride as he maps out his own frontier for his band, Catfish. The swampy, country-tinged R & B band this year will launch the follow-up to Catfish and Ruby, an eagerly awaited offering in the wake of Walker’s cameo role in Tex, Don and Charlie.

Having remarried in January, Walker is on the road supporting American Gothic rocker Andy Prieboy. He’s dishing up Catfish delights such as Three Blackbirds, the 18-minute sea shanty slated to make its debut on the new album. While Catfish is Walker’s vehicle for new song ideas, it remains tempered with his love of urban earthiness.

"It’s me singing," says Walker. "And we’ve got a band comprising double bass (Paul Burton), drums (Paul de Marco), harmonica (Dave Blight), pedal steel (Garrett Costigan) and guitar (Kid Groove, who is rumored to be Ian Moss).

"It’s more Catfish than Tex, Don and Charlie — although people who are into Tex, Don and Charlie wouldn’t be disappointed. It’s less of a concert show and probably a little more raucous than Tex, Don and Charlie.

"We’re covering mainly the new stuff. We have a new album recorded that is not out yet and won’t be until mid-year. It’s called, tentatively, We’re All Gonna Die, after one of the songs."

According to Chisel guitarist Ian Moss, Walker was almost kicked out of the band early in its career for not coming up with adequate material. But he’s still at it and the songs have never ceased.

"I was writing a lot up until 12 months ago and then I recorded this Catfish album in July," says Walker. "This album was a very inspiring little exercise. We did a few days’ rehearsal in my house, then recorded the whole thing live in about three days.

"We recorded a lot of stuff. And the good thing about doing that is you can come out with a fairly focused album."

In the lead-up to the ensuing album, Walker also was involved in choosing and producing recovered Cold Chisel material from the late ‘70s for the Warner Music album Teenage Love.

"It was sort of like uncovering old diaries," says Walker.

"That album was really a labor of love for everybody because so much stuff came to light that we’d forgotten about.

"A good half of that album was written and recorded before we were a recording band and certainly a good many years before we were popular." Almost a quarter of the album was written about drinking. "There’s probably a lot of sex and drugs in there as well," quips Walker.

Don Walker’ "It’s going to become apparent after a few years whether you’re any good or net".

"It’s a reflection of being that age at that time, or that age at any time.

"Anybody who was around at the time knows fundamentally we were a pretty feral rock band. It’s been a long time since we were out there playing live and all people hear about Cold Chisel is the big, sleepy hits on radio.

"There are probably a few generations who’ve come along thinking that’s what the band was like but really that’s just a reflection of the fairly small commercial end of things."

Except for the final years of Cold Chisel, Walker says he’s always felt comfortable on his musical path to selfexpression.

"Except for a certain period around the last couple of years of Cold Chisel, where it all got out of control," he says.

"I’ve always felt like that and Catfish album sales have reflected that feeling over the years.

"Well, I’m not totally comfortable with it. You can always listen to stuff and wish it was better. I wish I was a better singer but (my voice) is better than it used to be.

"In the end, it was just something I wanted to do, so that’s what I’m doing.

"I never took vocal training because I thought it would sort itself out or it wouldn’t. I find the best thing is just jumping up on stage and doing it.

"Kids always start off with the right idea, which is just to do what makes sense, and you do it really good and it’s going to become apparent after a few years whether you’re any good or not.

"But to try to second-guess yourself or do somebody else’s music or trying to work it out logically from a commercial sense always leads to defeat.

"If you just follow your nose and do what you think is good stuff, well, ah ... you could win.

"You may not win but you’ll lose with dignity."

1995 The Guide (Advertiser) (April 27th)

 

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