TRYING TO ANSWER QUESTIONS IN MY SONGS
A CONVERSATION WITH SIMON BONNEY (CRIME AND THE CITY SOLUTION)
Simon Bonney is a genius. There is no argument to that statement. He is a bona fide genius and his music is some of the best of the past three decade, either solo or with Crime and the City Solution, a band he formed originally in his native Australia in 1977 when he was 16 years old. He has returned to the forefront with a new solo album, his first since 1995’s Everyman. The album is Past, Present, Future, and it is a compilation album with six new songs. I recently had the opportunity to speak with him about the release, and the time between albums.
“It has been a long time in the making,” he admits. “These songs date back from the 1990s. It is a compilation with six new songs. Every time we were to sign to a record label, the label would disappear. The last few years was not a good time to try release records. For many of musician friends, it is all they can do, music. For me, music is part of the things I am interested in. I reached a point where I needed a break. You could say I had ended up in some less than hospitable environments. So I went to London to Mute records and they were interested. I view this album as a new album, not a reissue.”
Bonney is not one who lives in the past and wants to revisit past glories. This new album, Past Present Future, seems like a logical way to break from the past while acknowledging his own musical history.
“For this new album, we put “Everyman” out as it was originally recorded, as a ten minute song. On the Everyman album, we broke it up, but it works really well as one long song.”
For Bonney, a lot of his songs come from his experience moving from Australia to America.
“A song like “Forever” comes from moving to America from Australia. A rebirth, looking for a place to live. Your perception sometimes can be more accurate than someone who has lived there all their whole life. You can see the difference from where you come from. Viewing America through Australian eyes. Now Australia and America are very similar in some ways and different in others. Chain stores, brand names, Apple stores, culturally Australian culture is impacted by immigration, much more multicultural. When I was young spaghetti was not something you ate in Australia. It was meat and three veg. Influenced by the British.
“We drove across America, to California. You get a sense of people getting anxious about their future, and globalization sped everything up 10,000 fold. I had out six month old baby and a pregnant wife, driving across America. And you see the loss of regionalism as large chains took over. Regional restaurants, good or bad, were pushed out for the Walmarts and main street collapsed. The challenge is going to be transitioning people into jobs of the future and how to deal with people we don’t have any jobs for.”
The new album and his acute assessment of social and political has lead Bonney to writing new material. Bonney focuses on the struggle of the average person.
“For the first time since the last Crime record, I feel I have something to say. As I have had time to step back in the last ten years. I have been in New Guinea, Thailand, , the Outback, Bangladesh. I have seen a lot of things, but I did not have the time to reflect. Processing everything. I am a big believer of that, the evolution of people. Are you the same person you were 20 years ago? For me it is constant renewal. If you had told the younger me I would move to Los Angeles with two children, I would say you were mad. But yes, I am working on a new album, slowly. It will come as it does.”
Bonney acknowledges that the music industry has changed a great deal since he first started, and in fact since he released his last album.
“It is a shame they got some things wrong. They approached Napster in the wrong way, But then the barn door was open. Now it is 20 or 30 years later and it is a shame. But at the same time, if you want to create music and get it out there, there are ways. I can use SoundCloud and send my music through the internet people have access to it. If I was on top of the charts these days I would be pretty bummed, number one with 140,000 in sales. It is difficult for people to be professional musicians. I have other interests, music is not do or die for me. If I can record in my home, post it and 150 people like it, that would give me joy.”
For Bonney this is almost his own version of therapy, my words, not his.
“When I write, it is mainly reflection. If something piques my interest, I will write. I am interested in the individual and the state and how that dynamic plays out. Micro relationships as well, family groups intrigue me. I am interested in the study of ethical decision making, when the issues come together. Trying to answer questions in my songs.”
Now with a new album out, will there be the inevitable tour to promote it?
“I am doing shows in a Long Beach record store and eight dates with Mark Lanegan. But no, no big tour. I am too old. I don’t want to sleep on people’s couches, or in the station wagon. Get paid enough to buy gas to get to the next gig. Call me bourgeois if you want, but I am not up for that.”
“My musical future, either I can make it work, or I can’t.”
Very pragmatic. I have no doubt that Mr. Bonney will make it work.