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Interview: JIMI HOCKING

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The Dockland Blues Music Festival is set to rock Melbourne music fans this weekend, with twenty bands across five stages and there is some great talent amongst the impressive line-up. And none more talented than guitarist Jimi Hocking who is headlining the event. Known as one of this country’s best and most versatile players, he is equally at home with the blues as he is playing rock with the very popular Screaming Jets. Jimi delivers both genres masterfully and if you haven’t yet had the opportunity to watch him perform, tomorrow’s Blues Music Festival will be well worth a visit.

“I’m looking forward to that,” says Jimi. “The cream of Melbourne blues is going to be there and international artists too. If you’re not familiar with the Melbourne blues scene, it’s a pretty good gig to come to because pretty much all the who’s who of the local scene will be there. People overseas are very aware of the Melbourne blues scene because it’s of such a high quality. We have a great society and a great community of people. There’s no rivalry, I can assure you of that. We just play because we love the music which means that there’s a great sense of comradery among people. It’s not a competition. It’s just like a thing that people do because they enjoy doing it. There is a real culture of creativity here.”

Jimi grew up with music and had the opportunity to play lots of different styles. “I loved rock ‘n’ roll,” he tells me. “And the roots of rock ‘n’ roll like Chuck Berry and those types of sixties rock acts and then beyond that I started to get interested in the blues that they talked about. My local hero was Kevin Borich. He’d come out to play and he’d do songs like ‘Little Red Rooster’ but I never realised that these songs were strongly connected to blues at that time. When I saw Stevie Ray, the penny dropped for me and I really got on the train then but there was no blues scene for a long time that was healthy enough to work in. There wasn’t even a blues festival yet in the eighties but by the end of that decade, they started to emerge and in the nineties, I decided that I wanted to do that. I remember Malcolm Young from AC/DC once said ‘If you can’t play the blues, you can’t play rock ‘n’ roll’ and I think that’s true.”

“My dad was a great musician and I was impressed by a lot of the players that he worked with,” he recalls.  “When I was growing up, there was no shortage of records to listen to and it was really eclectic. Initially I really loved the rock ‘n’ roll guys. In the seventies, as a kid, I was trying to be Angus Young. I was bouncing around the lounge room with a tennis racket trying to ape his movements and the way he played but when I got to my experimental teens – and I think we’ve all been there! – I discovered Frank Zappa from a guy who lived up the road who had a big record collection and a hifi. That was when I wanted to lift the bar. I didn’t want to play just rock ‘n’ roll then. I had this whole jazz thing going on which was completely unmarketable and ridiculous but when you’re seventeen or eighteen, you don’t really care about that stuff. So I sort of played this weird version of jazz meets rock for a minute there until I kind of straightened myself out and decided which way I was going to go.”

Born and bred in the Victorian capital, Jimi says that he did make a change at one point and moved to Sydney in 1993 when there was talk of Paul Rodgers coming to Australia. “He wanted to pick up a band and a lot of people were hot to do this,” he explains. “It was kind of an ‘under the table’ thing that somebody organised to find a guitar player for Paul Rodgers. So I went to Sydney to do it and of course he never came. So I just moved to Sydney and started doing some gigs of my own and that was when I joined Screaming Jets. When I first joined The Jets in 1993, it was going to be a temporary tour so I joined the band for that tour and I don’t think I laughed so much as those first three weeks with the band where we just had a good time and rocked out.” The guitarist had been recruited by the band to fill in for Richard Lara who wasn’t well. “And he just never came back, so I stayed in the band until the end of the nineties when I left to do my own thing but then a few years later I came back to the band so I was actually in the band twice.”

And now The Jets are gearing up for their 25th Anniversary Tour, kicking off this month. “We’re all a bit older now,” laughs Jimi “And I’m the senior member of the band but once we get into the Tarago and start the process, we’re all reduced to teenagers once again and the whole thing is like a beautiful Groundhog Day that we love to go back to.”

by Sharyn Hamey

 

Copyright © Sharyn Hamey 2014. All rights reserved

For full details of the Docklands Blues Music Festival, click here

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