Rhys Muldoon schools us on Canberra underground music

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Rhys Muldoon on The Lighthouse Keepers, The Young Doctors and more.

For his third Artist In Residence program this month, Spiderbait’s Kram is taking us to Perth, Adelaide, Hobart and Canberra and the scenes that made them such exciting music cities in the 90s.

One of his guests, alongside luminaries like Tim Rogers, Abbe May and Kevin Mitchell, is actor Rhys Muldoon.

Wherever we could find a power point we’d just set up and do a gig.

Rhys Muldoon

The star of Play School, House Husbands, Rake and about 4,500 other awesome shows also made a children’s record with a little help from Kram a couple of years ago.

But he neglected to inform his creative partner of one interesting fact about his past.

“I should point out that I was actually in bands before I was an actor, in Canberra,” he reveals, to Kram’s great shock.

"The first band was called The Degenerates, and The Car Killers was the second band. The Car Killers was a much better title for a band. 

"We used to play really strange gigs, like at pinball parlous and in underpasses.

"We played at a shop; just found a power point and we’d plug in and play. Wherever we could find a power point we’d just set up and do a gig.”

It’s no surprise then that Muldoon has some pretty fond memories of the Canberran music scene of the time, then.

“The Uni Bar was the mecca. The absolute mecca,” he remembers, counting local punks The Young Doctors as a favourite band of the time.  

“The Young Doctors went through a number of name changes,” he says. “They were the Young Docteurs, and Yang Doctors. They’re still going, which is quite amazing.

“They had this incredible track, called ‘Man in a Box’ which was an absolute super hit. And they were absolute leaders in the punk world in Canberra.”

But there were plenty of other quality acts as well.

“There was bands like Quintrex Box, Hell Yes… there was all different types.

“Another band, called Club of Rome, were absolutely fantastic, they did this kind of cowbilly punk kind of vibe. There were so many different bands.”

A lot of those bands could pretty loosely be put into two different categories, Muldoon says.

“There were bands that were influenced by Radio Birdman, that were very much Hell Yes, and the Eastern Dark and in that sort of area,” he says.

“Then there were lots of really interesting, Go-Betweensy bands, one of which is The Lighthouse Keepers. They are sort of kind of a Canberra band, because most of their members are from Canberra. While they’re known for playing at the Strawberry Hills in Sydney a lot, I always think of them as a Canberra band.”

The power of The Lighthouse Keepers was their ability to fit into a scene of bands that didn’t really sound very much like them.

 

While the song Muldoon chose isn’t from the 90s (it was released in 1984) he says its power was felt at all sorts of shows the band played.

“The song is called ‘The Ocean Liner’ and it’s a very beautiful gentle song,” he says. “If you can picture this right in the middle of really hardcore punk going on around it, it gives it an extra sort of frisson.”

Hear Kram’s whole chat with Rhys Muldoon, as well as chats with Tim Rogers, Abbe May and Kevin Mitchell, on his third episode of Artist In Residence

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