Backsliders, Rob Hirst and Dom Turner.
Backsliders, Rob Hirst and Dom Turner.

Backsliders burst into Byron Bay

NO PURISTS and nothing conventional. Backsliders are all about the blues, but there's no hard and fast rule about what they play. And that goes for both their sound and their equipment.

Rob Hirst, who has been drumming for the band since 2000, says one of the first things he noticed about Backsliders was the spontaneity.

"With Midnight Oil we would endlessly demo," Hirst says. "After a three-month process of writing and recording, the songs eventually came out as Midnight Oil songs at the other end. With Backsliders you might be writing the song in the studio and then recording it the same day."

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The beauty of playing with Dom Turner, who is an accomplished blues slide guitar player, is that he isn't a blues purist, says Hirst.

"We're always taking things in a different direction," Hirst says. "Dom has made several trips to Vietnam and he's always collecting different equipment, which is then played alongside the usual blues gear on stage."
Hirst describes his own gear as a "junk shop kit".

"The kit I use with Backsliders is a collection of bits and pieces I've grabbed from opportunity shops and junk shops," he says. "You can't be playing conventional drums with Backsliders because it would sound ... well, conventional."

Instead, Hirst says he uses an old marching drum in place of a kick, cymbals from Vietnam and a few other bits and pieces fresh off the press in Istanbul.

Playing with the band has been a "joyful constant" in his life since Midnight Oil split in 2001 with the sudden departure of Peter Garrett.

"I thought Midnight Oil were going to go forever," Hirst says. "We'd been together for 20 years already so I never thought it would end."

But joining Backsliders wasn't a result of the Oil's split. Turner worked on another project, Ghostwriter's second album, and the pair became friends.

As soon as one drummer left, Hirst slid right into the seat.They released Starvation Box last year to critical acclaim and a nod from the ARIAs with a nomination in the blues and roots category.

Backsliders formed more than 25 years ago and the fact they are always keeping the music fresh is why they've stayed together, says Hirst. He hasn't achieved all his goals either.

"Not for one minute do I think that I've done everything," Hirst says.

His main aim however isn't a specific box to tick. Instead he just wants to keep writing.

"Songwriting still intrigues me the most," he says. "There's an assumption among some that you're always looking back as a musician, but we're not stuck in any decade of music. We're always listening to new music and trying new things and writing is a part of that."

Backsliders play the Byron Bay Community Centre on Saturday. Tickets $38,


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