“I was pretty pissed about that”
Between 2005 and 2008, local dance act Rogue Traders were on a hot streak, with six straight top 15 hits and the radio smash In Love Again. Fronted by singer/actress Natalie Bassingthwaighte during that period, the band was seemingly unstoppable. The podcast, A Journey Through Aussie Pop, talked recently to Bassingthwaighte and James Ash, who’d formed the group four years before Bassingthwaighte joined and had scored a prior top 10 hit with INXS revamp One Of My Kind in 2003.
The band's two core members discussed Bassingthwaighte joining Rogue Traders as frontperson while she was starring on Neighbours and how they successfully navigated away from any soap star-to-pop star backlash when they released their first single together, 2005’s Voodoo Child.
“Before I joined Neighbours, I was recording demos, and I really started to feel like I wanted to go down that route. Then Neighbours came up, and I said to my manager, ‘No way. I don’t want to be the, you know, singing actor on Neighbours.’ I wanted to be known as a singer for my own credentials – because I was good, not because of a show.
“But then the character ended up being so good, and I couldn’t help myself. And so after I got the Rogue Traders frontwoman role, we decided to kind of keep my image private so people wouldn’t know it was Izzy from Neighbours. We wanted the song to stand on its own two feet.”
After two albums, all those hits and a shift from the sample-led approach of songs like Voodoo Child and the My Sharona-inspired Watching You to completely self-penned tunes, Bassingthwaighte quit the band and embarked on a successful solo career. Her only album to date, 1000 Stars, reached #1 in 2009.
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Although it was not the only factor in her decision to leave, one incident crystallised what Bassingthwaighte needed to do.
“It was a bit of a moment,” she recalled on the podcast. “We had someone that was working for us that got us this really crazy gig doing Sexpo, and I was like, ‘No, no, no, I can’t be doing that.’ I think I was doing So You Think You Can Dance at the time, and I was also releasing a kids’ book, so I was in this other world as well, so I said no. Next thing I know, I’m flying to Melbourne, and it was the Sexpo gig, and I was pretty pissed about that.
“It was one of those things where I felt a little bit thrown under the bus, and it was somebody wanted to make some money, and none of us really got told about it. Next thing you know, we’re doing this gig. I felt like we were all kind of not gelling. Not individually, not as band members. It was just like the sound, we were just not on the same page.”
Despite that upset, Bassingthwaighte and Ash agreed that there was no big bust-up that led to the split.
“We’ve never had an argument ever,” Ash said. “When Nat left, I remember Kyle Sandilands ringing me up going, ‘Come on man, come on air with me and tell me what really happened.’ And I said, ‘Buddy, there’s no story. She goes with love.’”
Bassingthwaighte agreed: “It was like, ‘This is what has to happen.’ I feel that if things aren’t working, you have to walk away, even when it’s great. But it was amicable.”
While Bassingthwaighte went solo, Rogue Traders continued with new singer Mindi Jackson for a few years before calling time on the project amid “tense” relations with Sony Music that resulted in the continued delay of their fourth album Night Of The Living Drums. In the episode, Bassingthwaighte and Ash discussed the casual catch-up that led to the most successful line-up of the band reforming.
“We just started hanging out again,” Ash said, explaining that he and his wife, Melinda (also a previous collaborator for Rogue Traders), visited Bassingthwaighte and her husband, (Rogue Traders drummer) Cameron McGlinchey. “We had that lovely lunch and were chatting for hours, and it just sort of happened very organically.”
Their recent single, To The Disco, is a nod to their prior successes, and Rogue Traders are now performing regularly, with more new music planned. As well as reflecting on the band’s current status in the podcast episode, Bassingthwaighte and Ash talked about how Voodoo Child and its Elvis Costello sample came together, what it was like to co-write for 2007’s Better In The Dark album and finding their unique hybrid of dance and rock.
Listen to A Journey Through Aussie Pop here or on all major podcast platforms.