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‘You Wanted to Do Well When He Was in the Room’: DMA’S on the Impact of Michael Gudinski and Mushroom

Rolling Stone AU/NZ caught up with Johnny Took ahead of the band’s appearance at Mushroom 50 Live this weekend


Kalpesh Lathigra

On Sunday night, some of Australia’s finest artists will come together to honour this country’s most iconic music company.

Taking place at Melbourne’s Rod Laver Arena, Mushroom 50 Live is the final moment in a massive year commemorating the Mushroom Group’s landmark 50th anniversary.

20 artists from across multiple generations will perform 50 songs for 50 years at Melbourne’s Rod Laver Arena on Sunday, including favourites from the packed Mushroom catalogue such as “Working Class Man”, “Holy Grail”, “Sweet Disposition”, “Riptide”, and “Hoops”.

Paul Kelly, Missy Higgins, Ian Moss, and Diesel are some of the legends taking part, while there’s plenty of new favourites in the form of Amy Shark, Dan Sultan, and Gordi on the lineup.

DMA’S, one of the band’s most synonymous with Mushroom and the late, great Michael Gudinski, are also on the bill. Ahead of their performance this weekend, Rolling Stone AU/NZ caught up with Johnny Took – still elated from DMA’S winning their first-ever ARIA Award last week (for Best Group, no less) – to discuss Michael’s major role in supporting their career, the legacy of Mushroom, and more.

Rolling Stone AU/NZ: What does Mushroom mean to you?

Johnny Took: Ever since we started releasing music as DMA’S it’s been through the Mushroom Group and that connection that we had, particularly with Michael who used to come down to our early gigs.

I remember he used to come down to our early gigs at Howler, telling us that we were going to play arenas around the world, and sure enough when we played our first arena shows in the UK he was like, ‘I told you so and now we’re going to do it in Australia too.’

He believed we were going to get that ARIA and it was one of the reasons why we dedicated the ARIA to him. Mushroom Group has been such an important part of our career. But then you think about the last fifty years and how many different artists that Mushroom has supported, to help create those same treasured moments like we’ve had – that’s what makes Mushroom special.

What was your first impression of Michael?

It’s funny when you hear so much about someone before you meet them. It’s a really strange thing, because they kind of have this myth-like aura around their name. He [Michael] was just one of those larger-than-life people that was instantly inspiring. You wanted to do well when he was in the room, and he wanted you to do well.

What drew you to Mushroom in the early days?

It was definitely Johann Ponniah. Johann heard all our early demos, and he had a vision for the band. Once again, he asked us what kind of band we wanted to be, and we articulated that we had big dreams. He supported us the whole way through, all the way up to our fourth album and winning the ARIA last week.

What does it mean for you and the band to be playing at Mushroom 50 Live? 

I’m pretty excited, I’ve got some of my childhood idols on the lineup. I was a big Cold Chisel fan, so Jimmy Barnes is playing, Ian Moss is playing, to be able to share the stage with some of your childhood idols is pretty special. I think it’s going to be a really historical night for everyone to be able to take a moment and appreciate how much great work has been done.


Credit: Reuben Bastienne-Lewis

What are some of the things you like about your favourite Mushroom songs?

Good songwriting, good honest songwriting. To be honest, I do love bands like Underworld and Chemical Brothers that are more electronic-based, but I think at my core I go back to my roots of growing up listening to elements of country and folk music, which is why I’m a big fan of Julia Jacklin. I also put my wife Hayley Mary on that list. She’s just one of those great voices of Australian music and a great songwriter – she inspires me every day.

Who were your early inspirations?

My biggest one was probably Wilco and then Oasis and Bloc Party, stuff like that – I just liked their attitude. I also didn’t understand how big they were. I kinda felt it was just mates from school who were listening to these British bands. We were just teenagers, so we didn’t understand how big Britpop was. I thought they were just our bands, because no other kids in our year were listening to them.

And what was that moment like when won your first ARIA last week?

We were kinda shocked, but also super proud that we got to have that moment for the label, for Johann, for our manager Leon [Rogovoy], and for us as a band and our families. There were crying wives at the table who were super proud, and I know our parents were feeling the same at home. It was a really beautiful moment.

Mushroom 50 Live

Presented by ALWAYS LIVE, Telstra, MG Live & Frontier Touring

More information available via mushroom50.com

Sunday, November 26th
Rod Laver Arena, Melbourne, VIC


Amy Shark | Birds of Tokyo | Bliss N’ Eso | Christine Anu
Dan Sultan | Deborah Conway & Willy Zygier | Diesel
DMA’S | Fred Loneragan (Machinations) | Frente
Gordi | Hunters & Collectors | Ian Moss | Jimmy Barnes
Kate Ceberano | Merci, Mercy | Missy Higgins
Paul Kelly | Ross Wilson | The Rubens
The Temper Trap | The Teskey Brothers | Vika & Linda