The latest issue of Rolling Stone Australia (#795, February 2018) is out today, available via the usual stockists and our online store.
For our cover-story we sit down with Vance Joy, aka James Keogh, as the Melbourne singer-songwriter preps his second album, Nation of Two.
In this age of fame-hungry egotists, it’s possible that Keogh is the only musician in the world who’d describe such dream-come-true, life-changing events as “nice”, but then modesty seems to be his default setting. Polite and affable to a tee, he gives thoughtful and considered answers that are completely devoid of hype or self-aggrandisement. He’ll willingly divulge information that other artists would probably conceal for fear of being considered uncool — Exhibit A: he wrote his first proper song at the age of 20 with his mother, “a sweet little love song that was about going on a picnic” — and when he talks about the benefits of success he says he feels “a sense of satisfaction being able to be a grown up, taking care of my own financial situation, being able to contribute if we go on a family holiday.” Of the purchases he’s made with what one can only assume are significant royalties — a house? A sports car? — he reveals he bought a “Subaru Outback, which is a good car”.
The interview with Keogh leads our special 2018 Albums Preview, featuring exclusive interviews with The Living End, Camp Cope, The Presets, Courtney Barnett, Tash Sultana, Hellions, Briggs, DMA’S and 27 other Australian and New Zealand artists planning to release new albums this year.
First up in that massive list is Kimbra, set to release her third LP, Primal Heart, on January 19th.
The mercurial New Zealand expat found herself at the centre of her own glittering music biz galaxy at the time of her last record, 2014’s The Golden Echo. The Gotye thing, 2011’s blockbustin’ Vows debut and a sneaky pair of Grammies conspired to create a bona fide soul-funk epic teeming with guests from Daniel Johns to John Legend; Matt Bellamy to Thundercat.
“So much of my life turned upside down around that time that I wanted to make use of every opportunity and kind of delve into imagination,” she reflects. “So I guess it’s a natural turning point for me to want to try a new avenue and strip things back a little… but not too much. It’s certainly not a stripped back album in terms of sound. It’s more of an electronic experience, more physical and visceral.”
Far further afield, we also spend time with inventor Elon Musk, talking about his world-changing ambitions and unusual journey — so far.
According to musk’s best guess, our personalities might be 80 per cent nature and 20 per cent nurture. Whatever that ratio actually is, if you want to understand the future that Musk is building, it’s essential to understand the past that built him, including his fears of human extinction and being alone.
For the first eight or so years of his life, Musk lived with his mother, Maye, a dietitian and model, and his father, Errol, an engineer, in Pretoria, South Africa. He rarely saw either of them.
“I didn’t really have a primary nanny or anything,” Musk recalls. “I just had a housekeeper who was there to make sure I didn’t break anything. She wasn’t, like, watching me. I was off making explosives and reading books and building rockets and doing things that could have gotten me killed. I’m shocked that I have all my fingers. I was raised by books. Books, and then my parents.”
The issue also features our annual wrap-up of the best albums, movies, books, songs and TV from 2017, as well as interviews with Portugal. The Man, Eric Clapton, Bahamas, Noel Gallagher, Fall Out Boy, Timbaland, James Franco and tastemaking Apple Music presenter Zane Lowe, who runs us through the songs that have defined his life.
Alongside which, there’s also an update on the ongoing challenge of combating climate change.
If we don’t win very quickly on climate change, then we will never win. That’s the core truth about global warming. It’s what makes it different from every other problem our political systems have faced. I wrote the first book for a general audience about climate change in 1989 — back when one had to search for examples to help people understand what the “greenhouse effect” would feel like. We knew it was coming, but not how fast or how hard. And because no one wanted to overestimate — because scientists by their nature are conservative — each of the changes we’ve observed has taken us somewhat by surprise. The surreal keeps becoming the commonplace: For instance, after Hurricane Harvey set a record for American rainstorms, and Hurricane Irma set a record for sustained wind speeds, and Hurricane Maria knocked Puerto Rico back a quarter-century, something even weirder happened. Hurricane Ophelia formed much farther to the east than any hurricane on record, and proceeded to blow past Southern Europe (whipping up winds that fanned record forest fires in Portugal) before crashing into Ireland. Along the way, it produced an artefact for our age: The warning chart that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency issued shows Ophelia ending in a straight line at 60 degrees north latitude, because the computer program never imagined you’d see a hurricane up there. “When you set up a grid, you define boundaries of that grid,” a slightly red-faced NOAA programmer explained. “That’s a pretty unusual place to have a tropical cyclone.” The agency, he added, might have to “revisit” its mapping software.