'Rank Amateurs In The Dirty World Of Rock'N'Roll': Jabba Farewells Channel [V] On Its Final Day

26 February 2016 | 12:13 pm | Jabba

'I made a fateful decision to partake in that joint and had barely exhaled when my producer announced that Nick Cave was “ready for his interview"...'

Jabba with Marilyn Manson, Sydney Big Day Out, 1999. All pics via Jabba

Jabba with Marilyn Manson, Sydney Big Day Out, 1999. All pics via Jabba

In the wake of the demise of Channel [V] this week, I've reflected on the ten years I spent doing arguably one of the best jobs on the planet. Not that I did the best job necessarily, rather it was the greatest job to have.

Bluffing my way on air Australia’s first 24/7 music channel, Red, I assured my employers I was quite experienced in the media industry.

I’d been on radio for a year – on 2SER FM between midnight and 2am playing LPs backwards under the influence of various substances, and had "DJ'ed clubs" – namely taken my solitary Sony CD discman to the Victoria Park Bowling Club to spin Kyuss choons in between bands.

In the blink of an eye I was on the telly and showing everyone I knew copies of my work on VHS tape, because in 1995, NOBODY had cable.

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Red morphed into Channel [V] and my quest to become my generation's "Molly meets Norman Gunston" began.

Jabba with Molly Meldrum at the launch of Channel [V]

The early days of interview subjects were an awkward mix of up and coming boy bands like Let Loose, to skate/thrash/punk stalwarts Suicidal Tendencies.

As the new kid on the block I had nothing to lose and everything to gain and we accepted any and all opportunities to interview an act.

From throwing a TV set out a five story window with the Electric Hippies, to infiltrating the one and only Alternative Nation concert at Sydney’s Eastern Creek where the Tea Party were introduced to me as Ween, and my maverick producer Paul Fenech was chased from the raceway by security when he was spotted in the moshpit filming Faith No More or Nine Inch Nails, with the band stopping their performance to single him out. My, how times have changed.

The station’s arrival on the small screen coincided with the explosion of music festivals in Australia and we were at them all. From Summersault to Rumba, Offshore to Splendour, Metal for the Brain to Homebake, we took our cameras onstage, side of stage, backstage and into the dressing rooms of the planet’s hottest acts.

Hanging out with Coldplay's Chris Martin - BDO, Auckland - 2001

With Ween at Livid, Brisbane - 1997

The Cruel Sea on 'The Joint' - 1999

Channel [V] became synonymous with music festivals in this country and while my memory of many of these long hot summer days may be foggy, some are crystal clear.

Hands down the most painful, and probably compelling to watch, was the showdown between Australia’s Prince of Darkness – Mr Nick Cave, and little old me at the Perth Big Day Out.

It was January 1996 and we were travelling with the bands, capturing the festival, very much on the periphery, as the channel was in its infancy and nobody had really heard of us.

I never got to interview Rage Against The Machine – "The guys don’t do press on show days" we were told by their management/label at the time. Also, "The guys don’t do press on their days off".

Oooookay then.

Desperate to watch The Prodigy at the Melbourne Big Day Out following a day of interviews in the baking sun, I attracted a police pursuit as I sped back to the showgrounds after a quick bong session with various Aussie artists. I drove our rental car straight into the backstage parking area with a cop car in tow and asked the officer to "Hurry up mate, they’re playing Voodoo People" as he wrote me a ticket.

As the tour wore on we chatted with every band that would give us the time of day, including The Jesus Lizard and Elastica and things seemed to be going OK. Until I asked Perry Farrell "the drugs question" at the Adelaide Big Day Out, which made for some awkward encounters when I later attempted entry to the late night after-party back at the Adelaide Hilton through my mate Hugh, who did lights for Silverchair. Supposedly my asking Perry about drugs had acted as a trigger and he fell off whatever wagon he was on at the time. Sorry dude!

Despite failing to win over the international acts, the local roster was for the most part far more friendly to the idea of "being on the telly".

It was through tours like this as well as years covering Homebake, Livid etc, that I bonded with my heroes Magic Dirt (RIP Dean), Custard, Shihad, Spiderbait and "The Gurge".

Bromancing with Jimmy Pop of The Bloodhound Gang at Livid, Brisbane — 1997

Interviewing Korn at BDO, Sydney - 1999

With Polly Harvey at BDO, Auckland - 2001

Tumbleweed were also on the 1996 Big Day Out tour and I had been to just about every Sydney gig they played, bought everything they released, usually autographed at Waterfront Records and owned an extensive collection of Tumbleweed T-Shirts, including one I hand-made with the slogan "Why Don’t They All Get Stoned".

As a huge fan, the opportunity to smoke a joint with the legendary stoner band backstage at the Perth show was the stuff stoner dreams are made of.

The only problem? We still had not interviewed Nick Cave, and he was in a foul mood having arrived to discover his dressing room decorated by local art students with headless dolls, nooses and a life sized coffin, all of which he promptly threw out his door with a great deal of swearing.

With the prospects for an interview virtually nil, I made a fateful decision to partake in that joint with my Wollongong idols and had barely exhaled when my producer announced that Nick Cave was "ready for his interview with the Big Day Out documentary crew" – a bullshit statement she had invented to convince him to talk to us on camera (FYI, there WAS a doco crew on that tour, it just wasn't us...).

I’d never been much of a fan of Nick Cave, so before we’d even started I was at a disadvantage. One of the most interesting and talented artists this country has ever produced was making himself available to answer anything I could throw at him.

Being stoned, I had that awful mix of being intimidated, yet not giving a flying fuck, and from what I can remember, the interview went something like this.

JD: "Joining us now backstage at the Big Day Out is Mr Nick Cave, how are you going?"

NC: "I'm good."

JD: "You live near the ‘Big Jesus’ in Rio, is that right?"

NC: "Well, no, but I did live in Sao Paolo for a few years…"

JD: "So do you like big things?"

NC: "Well...(thinks)...I suppose the Big Pie is alright…but in general…no. Look, are you going to ask me any big questions? I don’t mean questions about big things, but about important things?"

JD: "Well, that’s all we have time for, Nick Cave, thank you very much."


He may have also asked me if I thought I was Norman Gunston, to which I recall replying "Who’s he?"

I've Googled half-heartedly for that interview online because I think it is simultaneously the worst, and possibly best moment of my career.

It seems to represent everything that Channel [V] became known for through part fact, part mythology.

We were simultaneously edgy and dangerous, yet also naïve & innocent, by the people and for the people, rank amateurs in the dirty world of rock'n'roll doing our best to keep up with our heroes.

The Channel [V] crew at BDO, Sydney - 1999. (L-R: Jabba, Trish McGrath, Ben Richardson, mystery man at back, Georgina Harrop, Leah McCleod)

Wearing a Hard-Ons t-shirt and a Pabst Blue Ribbon hat. Because, why not?

As the channel grew we started hosting our own live events firstly at our purpose built VHQ studios in Sydney where thousands turned out to see Foo Fighters, Pink and um...Craig David?

We took the show on the road with the Channel [V] Music Bus and that’s really the pinnacle of our achievements for me. "Recovery" on wheels delivering anarchy, rebellion, rock'n'roll, minor celebrities and sponsors messages direct to the kids out in the towns and suburbs who were starved for culture.

To all the bands that did give us the time of day – Thank you.

To all the viewers who bothered to watch – Thank you.

To all the viewers who connected with our shows either in the flesh or by calling, faxing, SMSing or emailing to let us know somebody was watching – Thank you.

To all the sponsors who spent money to make our activities possible – Thank you.

For all the blood, sweat and tears shed by the legions of good people who worked behind the scenes and on camera to make Channel [V] a force to be reckoned with – Rock on you legends!