Interview: A Chat with Jack Ladder

Thursday, April 26, 2018

May the fourth: if you’re a nerd-nerd it means something about Star Wars or some shit (I dunno, I’ve only seen ‘Episode 1’ and didn’t care for it – I don’t get the whole hoo-ha TBH) but if you’re a music-nerd then this year the date signifies the release of Jack Ladder & The Dreamlanders’ fifth album - Blue Poles.  Jack Ladder (né Tim Rogers) has climbed his way through many different sounds since his first album and has come a long way to (dream) land at this point with his observational yet darkly poetic music.  This is arguably his best album yet and we had the chance of catching up with him this week ahead of its release on May 4.


Hey Kate, it’s Tim.

Hey, how are you?

I’m good, how are you doing?

I’m not too bad!  Congrats on finishing your fifth album!  That’s a massive achievement!

Yeah, it feels good.  It feels good.  I mean it’s been in the can for a little while now.  So it’s nice that it’s just coming out. 

Well, you’re currently in this kind of limbo – between stage 1 of finishing the album and putting it solely and squarely in the hands of critics and stage 2 where it finally gets to the fans and people that you really want to hear it.  Is it a weird time for you?  Nerve-wracking maybe?

I think it would’ve been, had I had time to sit around and worry about it but I decided last year that instead of just waiting for it to come out I would just go on tour and basically be on tour for like a year.  And so I really haven’t had time to think about people critiquing it (laughs).

Awesome!

In so many ways I have no interest (laughs).

Nice!  Well, the best way to divert yourself from the anxiety, I guess, is just complete distraction.

Yeah! Complete, immersive distraction.

You’re also set to tour again with The Killers while they’re down here!  Are you a fan of theirs? 

Yeah, I guess.  I don’t know their stuff that well.  I remember playing at indie-rock discos, circa 2005 – ‘Mr. Brightside’.  Or maybe it was earlier than that.  It was probably 2003, 2004 - and I haven’t really kept up with their work so much but I’ve heard the new record through Alex [Cameron] and it sounds pretty cool.

Yeah man, they’ve definitely brought the fire back.  How does that get set up then?  Do you compete with other artists or bands or do, like, The Killers’ management seek you out?  How does that work?

Um, well, I guess Alex Cameron - who I’ve been touring with – he’s very close with Brandon [Flowers] and he’s been opening around the world for The Killers and so Alex retweeted my song ‘White Flag’ and Brandon saw that and he checked it out and he was like, “What the hell are you doing man, keeping this stuff from me?  Can we get this guy on the tour as well?”; and I said, “Yes, you can get me on the tour as well.  ‘Cause I’ll be playing with Alex anyway.”

That’s a massive pat on the back for ya!

Yeah!  I mean, it does feel quite bizarre to have someone who has such a high star power be able to hear your song so readily and get involved.  It’s beautiful that he can use his [platform] to do something like that. 

Yeah for sure!  As far as your brand-spankin' new album Blue Poles goes, I feel as though you’ve become more comfortable with your voice; especially when compared with Not Worth Waiting For or Love Is Gone.  Have you noticed this yourself?

Well, I guess [with] those records, I was like, in my early twenties and had no idea what I was doing.  I just decided I would start writing songs and I kind of fobbed my way through that.   And I can’t really listen to those first couple of records, but from the last three, I feel like I’ve built more of something that’s decent. 

How much thought goes into working out the chronological order of your songs?  Do you hope that people listen from start to finish or are you not fazed by people clicking ‘shuffle’?

The control freak inside of me, shudders at the idea of ‘shuffle’. But people are gonna do what they’re gonna do.  I mean I write the records in a way that makes sense to me and so they’re all their own conclusive statements and I think it should be listened to from start to finish if you can stomach it; but like, you know, I’m not gonna tell someone what to do. 

I’ve often thought about the way we consume music now, as opposed to vinyl records where it was a lot harder to, sort of, ‘shuffle’.  I think artists do obviously put the effort into creating something from start to finish.

Well yeah, in that way I would say that I’m an album artist.  And I think there’s not that many people that do that so much anymore - where the focus is on making a very specific body of work.  There is a lot of thought and detail and bizarre (laughs) self-reflection that goes into doing that.  You know, I do it for that, but people are going to hear it any way they can, and I’m all for that as well.

Your song ‘Dates’ has some interesting thoughts within it...

Yep.

You go from talking about needing a date or something to look forward to - which is super relatable - as is eating sushi and souvlaki when you’d prefer a roast chicken.  But then you casually mention that we need more hangings, public stonings and crucifixions.  Dude?  Whatcha doin' there?

Ah… (laughs).  That song to me is like someone that works in an office and lives in a studio apartment, has no friends and is like, slowly unravelling.  Or rapidly unravelling. And there is a lot of violence inside like, sad/angry people and unfulfilled acts of violence.  And you know, a lot of that’s just sort of what people get up to online anyway.  I don’t see people watching crucifixions necessarily online but I think that people do like to crucify people or you know, there is an ill will or a malevolent kind of meanness that people like to unleash on other people just to get their kicks or to simply pass the time. 

Definitely.  Actually, now that you’ve said that, people do actually go from commenting casually on a sushi or souvlaki post and next minute they’re (figuratively) publicly stoning someone for something they’ve said or done.

Yeah, that’s kind of what’s happening in the world (laughs).  And it is only a fraction away from blowing out your birthday candles.  The capabilities that we have in our minds, sort of evil thoughts know no bounds really. 

Fair enough (laughs).  Well kind of a contrast, but ‘Blue Mirror’ kind of sounds to me like something out of an old Disney movie soundtrack. 

(Laughs) Oh yeah?

Is it about someone in particular?  Was it ‘Susan’ perhaps, once she was finished dancing?

(Laughs) Maybe there is a love in the record reaching out between different lives, I guess.  And I think there is a kind of spirituality to the record that goes beyond one lifetime.  Um.  I’m not sure if it’s specifically Susan but I wouldn’t say it’s about one person.  Most songs are composites.  You know I could say it’s about one person but I’d be lying.  I’d say just about 90% of all songs are composites.  I don’t know why I made that figure up (laughs).  Human minds have a great ability to lie.  It’s incredible, stuff that we just come up with when put under pressure/when asked a question. 


(Laughs).  Nice disclosure there.
Yeah.
You seem to cringe when people bring up Nick Cave or make that comparison, seemingly because they are a bit of a shallow or lazy comparison; when really, you can’t even be compared with yourself given the shifts in musical landscapes that you’ve made since album one.  Have you had a laugh over a beer with Nick Cave about it at all?
No, I’ve never actually met Nick.  We have some mutual friends.  I think he’s aware of my music, I’m not sure whether he thinks it sounds like him.  I don’t have a problem with the ‘Nick Cave’ thing (laughs) anymore.  I think I was really upset at a certain point because I didn’t really understand that it was purely an industry’s form of marketing.  And I just took myself, like, pretty seriously and I felt like I… you know, everyone wants to be their own person.  I think it was also at the time, Nick Cave was sort of suffering a cultural sort of…er… fallout, or something.  Like a lot of people at that time didn’t think that Nick Cave was cool anymore. 
Oh okay?  He was the Nickelback..
(Laughs) Yeah, well I think at least in Australia there was a lot of like, too-tooing of him at the time around that time in the change in like 2010-2011 but I think now that he’s had a sort of critical comeback – when people say ‘Nick Cave’ they certainly don’t mean the thing that they meant when they said it ten years ago.  I think that’s funny as an artist, you know, when people can say, “You sound like this person”, who’s also completely fluid and changing all the time.  So nothing ever really means anything, and so you could say that someone sounds like Bob Dylan but like, they sound like Bob Dylan in the 60’s?  Or they sound like Bob Dylan the 80’s?  Like, I don’t know.  Everyone’s fluid and everyone’s changing and people could say stuff but it doesn’t stick and it doesn’t necessarily mean anything other than a categorisation and it’s a type of language people use to direct listeners to say, “Hey, you like that?  You might like [this].”  That’s all I get from it.
In your clip for ‘White Flag’, you’re doing several activities in Indonesia such as eating a banana in front of a fruit stall and getting a pedicure.  Now the people in the shots with you, like old mate at the banana stand – he’s not an actor is he?

He’s definitely not an actor but he did have a beautiful stage… or… a beautiful screen presence.  If I was gonna cast someone in a film, I would want that guy in my film.


You guys kind of shared a funny little moment where you’re both kind of smiling to each other at the situation, while you were between lyrics.  It just looked like such a pure moment haha.

There [were] a lot of beautiful moments that happened and I think he was just happy – it had been raining for like a week and I think banana sales had been pretty low and I think I was buying a lot of bananas that day and he was just really happy to have a customer.

Youtube screenshot from the film clip 'White Flag' by Jack Ladder and The Dreamlanders.  See full video above.

(Laughs).

He was also just [thinking] we were insane.

(Laughs).  Well I was going to ask, does the whole acting thing come easily to you or do you find it awkward?  Like with your track ‘Her Hands’ and that video…

Oh (laughs). Yeah it’s pretty awkward.  For some reason I’m a complete sucker for punishment and I feel like it’s always gonna be easy for some reason and then someone puts a camera in your face and you’re like, “Oh god, what the hell do I do?”.


(Laughs) It’s so unnatural.

Yeah and you know I guess the only thing I’ve learnt to do is to try and be a bit more natural and I felt like the ‘White Flag’ video was probably the first or at least, like, the least cringy video I’ve done because I’ve just kind of stopped caring a bit. 

(Laughs) I wouldn’t say any of them are cringy but yeah that one’s, sort of, got a few more, real moments like that one with old mate banana stand. 

Yeah well, I guess it’s less cinematic.  Like ‘Cold Feet’ and all those other videos are very like… cinema… kind of moments, where you understand the pressure of what it actually means to be an actor and what you have to bring; whereas the ‘White Flag’ video is just like, goofing around/having fun.  And that’s probably where I think I’m more comfortable (laughs).  Eating bananas (laughs).


QUICK SIX:

1) You mentioned in ‘Can’t Stay’ that you bark at the dog.  Do you actually have a dog, that you have barked at?  I mean, I have a dog and I bark at him sometimes just for shits and giggles.

I don’t have a dog, personally, but at the time, I was looking after a dog and I did... yeah I was losing it.

(Laughs) Are you glad I didn’t ask you about the dog in your song, ‘I Love Your Mind’?

Ah (laughs) yeah.  That’s a funny one.

2) Given your height, do you ever feel guilty at gigs standing in front of people like me, at 5 foot 2?












I would never stand in front of you.

Oh, that’s nice of you.

I always make a point to stand next to a pole or against the back wall.

You could be forgiven though if you did, because you’ve got the back-flip of aeroplanes being shit for you, which kind of evens it out.

That’s true.  I did push right up the front at a Lemon Twigs show in the Netherlands last year and I was given a lot of hell…

3) Kirin J Callinan is now quite a star in his own right if you ask anyone other than Jimmy Fallon – would you guys ever consider doing a double tour – maybe Kirin J Callinan and The Dreamlanders could open for Jack Ladder and The Dreamlanders?

Oh yeah I’d love that. 

Put it to him I reckon.

Yeah.

4) Have you ever been midway through a set, and had to pee really badly?

No.

Well that’s convenient.

Something about the adrenaline of the show doesn’t let you do that.  And I normally make a lot of effort to empty my bladder before the show.  Like [sometimes it’s] just a column of air.

5) You have 2 seconds to answer this next question, ok?  How many 'O’s in the word Woolloomooloo?

Oh God, like 5?

There’s actually 8.

OK.

Well now you know. 

6) The last one is more of a personal request or even a dare – maybe?  I know you’re a fan of many a genre and I’m not sure whether this includes gangster rap - but there’s a song called ‘Regulate’ by Nate Dogg and Warren G from like the early 90’s.  Are you familiar with it at all?

Yes

There is a line in the song where Nate Dogg sings really, really low and I’m wondering if you can try to go that low?  I feel like, if anyone has a shot, you do. 



What’s the line that he sings in it?

So basically, if you could sing the words “the next stop is the Eastside Motel” but in the word ‘motel’, you’ve just gotta drag it out and go as low in your register as you can.  So I’ll play it for you and then I can have a shit-house attempt if it would make you feel better and you can try to beat my rendition.  If you’re keen?

Maybe I’ll get it together and I’ll do it at a show or something.

Oh you reckon?  That would be amazing if you could.

I did have that CD, I haven’t listened to it for a while but yeah I’m a big fan of gangster rap.  My first concert was Ice Cube and Cypress Hill at 'The Hordern' [Pavilion].

Really?  That’s massive.

Yeah.

Well thank you so much for your time this morning.

It’s been nice to talk to ya.  I’ll see ya later.  

Make sure you check out Blue Poles on the 4th May and then you can catch his gigs at the places below (and you may even get a little Nate Dogg cover if you do):

With The Killers and Alex Cameron:
27th April - Brisbane Entertainment Centre, Brisbane 
28thApril - QUDOS Bank Arena, Sydney 
1st May - Perth Arena, Perth 
4th May - Hisense Arena, Melbourne 
5th May - Hisense Arena, Melbourne
6th May - Hisense Arena, Melbourne
8th May - Adelaide Entertainment Centre, Adelaide
Tickets here (if not already sold out).

Or on his Blue Poles Australian Tour: 
18th May - Corner Hotel, Melbourne (Link)
19th May - Brightside, Brisbane QLD (Link)
25th May - The Factory Theatre, Sydney NSW (Link)

Written by Kate Carnell (@Kate_Carnell)

You can find Jack Ladder online below:

GIG GUIDE