Mick Thomas

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Mick Thomas


Mick Thomas is a positive guy, with a lot to be proud of. But even he must have been disappointed with another failed attempt by his beloved St Kilda to secure the club’s first premiership since 1966.

Mick Thomas is a positive guy, with a lot to be proud of. But even he must have been disappointed with another failed attempt by his beloved St Kilda to secure the club’s first premiership since 1966. “I’ve been to every grand final that St Kilda’s been in after 1966,” Thomas replies. “The build up to the game is incredible – I get to the stage where I can’t read anymore about it. To get to the end of that first [drawn] game was excruciating. It was like witnessing a boxing match that goes the full fifteen rounds. We all kind of felt it boded well for us, and then there was just bitter disappointment. I’m an adult, I’ve achieved a lot – travel, family, buying a house, but it seems that there’s this one thing we don’t get to do,” Thomas reasons philosophically.

Thankfully Thomas has other pursuits to take his mind off St Kilda’s fifth successive grand final loss. Indeed, he recently toured China for the third time. “I’ve played in Beijing a few times, but it’s always been through the embassy,” Thomas explains. “This time the tour was organised through a guy who runs a bar in Guangzhou. I really wanted to see that part of China – it’s the engine room of manufacturing.” The change within China since Thomas’s first visit ten years ago is considerable. “Yeah, it’s changed massively,” he admits. “The first factory was built around 1982. This time around you could see it was undergoing amazing changes.” Fortunately for Thomas, the Chinese government did not have obvious interest in him, or his music. “In China it’s reasonably easy to go under the radar – maybe even more lax than here!” Thomas laughs.

With summer rapidly approaching, Thomas has turned his eye toward the summer regional festival circuit, including a spot at the inaugural Music at The Healesville Track event alongside Shane Howard (Goanna), Jeff Lang and the Coodabeen Champion’s Greg Champion. He points out that regional festivals are an important ingredient in his performing schedule. “These days there are lots of festivals in little towns,” Thomas muses. “Playing these types of shows is important for people like me. There are lots of people who’ve moved out of town to the country, so there’s usually a pretty good crowd.”

Having been raised in regional Victoria himself, Thomas is well-positioned to comment on the political, social and economic dimensions of the contemporary regional landscape. “I don’t think there has been a politician since Gough Whitlam who’s thought that decentralisation is important,” Thomas notes. “It’s really important that these areas have resources put into them. It’s only been very recently that that there has been more people living in cities than the country. There should be larger regional centres.”

Thomas laments the tendency of many bands to restrict their touring schedule to the east coast Brisbane-Sydney-Melbourne axis. “That’s not really a tour,” he nods. “It would be better for artists if there were bigger regional centres.” Thomas compares the local situation with that of Europe, where touring bands will regularly play in small country towns. “It’s going to take a politician to realise that these centres need to be built up. When we go to Germany we play every night of the week in these little towns that are described as ‘near Hamburg’ or similar. That’s where we should be going in Australia,” Thomas argues.

While he’s not one for gratuitous nostalgia, Thomas was recently coaxed into playing a couple of Weddings, Parties, Anything shows, including a gig in Sydney when the band played their debut album Scorn Of The Women in its entirety. “That show came about after a Sydney promoter rang me up and asked me if the Weddoes could play a show up there,” Thomas recalls. “I was at great pains to say that there was not going to be a Weddings reunion. We already had the grand final show lined up in Melbourne, so I said we could do it around then.”

Despite initial misgivings, the Sydney show was “fantastic”. “A lot of people in the room had their heyday at the same time,” he laughs. Thomas looks back on the Scorn Of The Women album with fondness, and a tinge of embarrassment. “It’s not just the songs, but the way I sang,” he admits. “With Scorn Of The Women it was a really ambitious thing. I’m really aware of a lot of stuff on there that I wouldn’t do now. We were really fearless back when we made that record.”

Thomas puts the ‘ambitious’ nature of the record down to the band’s youthful enthusiasm. “It’s a hotch-potch, but we had the feeling that we were the anointed ones. Sonically, the record is a bit of a mess,” he grins.

Turning his gaze from the past to the future, and Thomas has embraced the digital era, setting up his own on-line distribution service, offering subscription to a digital record club that enables subscribers access to various unreleased recordings. “I first had the idea after I’d made the decision to shut down Croxton Records,” Thomas says. “The only place bands sell CDs is at gigs, so it was a case of ‘how do I reach people?’” Thomas observed other artists setting up their on-line distribution service and decided to establish his own service. “It hasn’t been a road to riches, but it hasn’t been a dud, either,” he points out. “It’s not that far off being financially viable. Who knows how things are going to pan out with the internet – it’s all changing really quickly.”

Thomas notes that the internet remains plagued with myths and misconceptions, especially for musicians. “The Arctic Monkeys were always going to be the Arctic Monkeys, and the same with Lily Allen – she was always going to be a star,” Thomas argues. “The internet is just another form of advertising. You still have to be known. The internet is a tool to get your music out there, but I’m wary of the zealots.”

In the immediate future Thomas is looking to write and record the songs for his next record, plus a couple of other parallel projects. “There’s a theatre thing I’m doing with my brother that’s just had money put behind it, so that’ll rear its head” he muses. Importantly, though, after so many years of traversing the country and throwing himself into various projects, Thomas also counts himself fortunate to have become one of the few professional independent musicians in Australia. “I really like it that I’m a professional musician,” he says with his usual likeable, yet humble, countenance.

MICK THOMAS & THE SURE THING headline the inaugural community festival, MUSIC AT THE HEALESVILLE TRACK 2010 at The Healesville Amateur Racing Club, with 12 hours of continuous music on three stages from midday to midnight, on Saturday November 20. It also features Jeff Lang, Shane Howard, The Bushwackers, Damian Howard and The Ploughboys, Greg Champion, Peter Denahy, Steve Eales, Tinpan Orange, Bonnie Anderson, Ewan Cloonan and much more. MICH THOMAS & THE SURE THING also play the QUEENSCLIF MUSIC FESTIVAL in Queenscliff over November 27 and 28, alogn with Colin Hay, Little Red, Sally Seltmann, Washington, Gareth Liddiard, The Vasco Era, Mary Gauthier, Katie Noonan & The Captains and heaps more. Tickets and info from qmf.net.au. They also play their usual Xmas shows, this time at The Corner Hotel on December 18 and The Northcote Social Club on December 24 – tickets and info from The Corner box office, 9427 91898, northcotesocialclub.com or cornerhotel.comcornerhotel.com.