Of all the highlighted dates on the Hallmark board room calendar, I’m not sure which one is the most preposterous. Christmas is a major contender: during the aptly named ‘silly season,’ nearly everyone (religious inclination notwithstanding) uses the two-thousand-year-old excuse of a baby’s birth in a barn in Bethlehem to gather with relatives they might have been avoiding and eat food until they lose consciousness. Easter is a crowd favourite for weirdest holiday: that baby – aka Good Guy Jesus – grows up, gets an A+ in “being a messiah,” then dies nailed to a crucifix so that the rest don’t have to suffer eternal damnation. And then he comes back as a zombie and flies away. So what do we do in his honour? Eat raisin buns, and make our children search the garden for chocolate eggs purportedly delivered by a large anthropomorphic rabbit.
Valentine’s day is also a doozy. A guilt trip for those in relationships; a saccharine-coated kick in the guts for the unhappily single; an unswattable mosquito for those who just don’t care. We know very little about St. Valentine, except that he was often seen with a rooster, a sword, or cripples, and he was the patron saint of Courtney Love, the plague, epilepsy, and beekeeping. BABY MY LOVE FOR YOU IS DEEP AS THE OCEAN. HAPPY CRIPPLED ROOSTER PLAGUE DAY.
But at least the strangeness of celebrating those occasions is assuaged by a cloud of mystery surrounding their exacting origins. For all I know Jesus really was a wine-making zombie Jew king, and he specifically demanded that we all eat pudding and custard on December 25. Mother’s day, on the other hand, cannot hide from its ridiculousness. We know how the story goes. “Dear Mum, you waited around for 9 months in nauseous agony while I grew inside your stomach, an actual human parasite punching your belly from the inside. Then I decided I’d had enough of that so you spent the most excruciating fourteen hours of your life trying to squeeze me out. After that, you let me drink milk out of your boobs all the time, wiped my butt, taught me how to be a mostly functioning human being and – just as I was old enough to stop requiring you to do everything – you put up with me being an adolescent wretch who was embarrassed to be seen with you in public. So here’s a card that I got from the post office, and some mass-produced chocolates. Fair trade?”
But of course, that’s cynicism. The fact is, most of our mums have done much more for us than we could ever hope to repay. And, we’re usually too distracted to even acknowledge that fact. So an official day to do so is a good start. It might not atone for inducing mum to eat blackboard chalk while preggers, but it’s something, which is good.
This Mother’s day my new alarm clock went off much earlier than my eyelids wanted it to, but it’s one of those old-fashioned alarm clocks with the twin bell and hammer system, so I kind of enjoy being woken up by its quaintness. Despite my attempt at a super early rise, by the time I met up with Mama Blue she’d already been up three hours or so – she almost always awakes with the crack of dawn. In those daybreak hours she usually reads books like some kind of book-reading machine, often polishing novels off in a single sitting. It’s insane, I’ve never known anyone to read so much or so fast. So I got her a book – the obvious and predictable choice – still, I felt I chose a pretty good one, the new Mark Haddon (she and I both love his previous books). I gave it to her along with a letter, and then I had to go have a mid-morning nap because I was still so doggone sleepy.
The rest of the day entailed a nuclear-family lunch comprised of breakfast food, and a dinner comprised of lunch food. I had to leave said dinner to go to Mojo’s and play an electronic set. I invited mum to come but she was content where she was and, besides, wasn’t so into that “industrial rubbish-truck noise stuff” I was doing lately. Fair enough. You do have to admire the patience and unconditional support of musicians’ mums. Presumably mothers nurture their children with at least a faint, quiet hope as to what they’ll do when they’re adults. Maybe they’ll restore people’s sight or be human rights lawyers or successful architects or groundbreaking ornithologists. Sometimes it just doesn’t work out that way though; sometimes your kids end up musicians. And, if you’re really unlucky, they end up playing original rock/pop, independent hip-hop or experimental music (the sorts of musical pursuits that almost definitely don’t make you any money). But still, these mothers continue to love and care for their musical progeny. I quizzed local soundscape designer, guitar alchemist and drone prince Craig McElhinney about his experience and how his mum felt about him pursuing mind-bending tunes. “The greatest gift my mum ever gave me,” says Craig, “was the assurance that no matter how loud, how dark, how weird my stuff got, she was always stoked that I had slightly abnormal ways of expressing myself.”
I wanted to chat to some more local soundmakers about maternal matters. Matt Acorn is a bouzouki and organ player and frenetic innovator. He recently curated the 2nd edition of ‘Human Xerox,’ a compilation that sees multitudes of local artists give unique renderings of a single Perth-grown track. The new double album, which features 24 versions of the Rabbit Island song ‘My Own Private,’ was launched on Saturday night (Mother’s Day Eve) at the Bakery. But Matty wasn’t the only one who was feeling worn out the following day. It seems that eager and curious quests run in the family.
“When I popped in at my folks for a cuppa on Sunday,” Matt recalls, “my mum was sore from chasing a cat around at a neighbour’s party the other night, diving onto the ground trying to capture it. My mum is from Bunbury and also outer space. She constantly reminds me to just be myself all of the time.”
I have never met Matt’s mum, but this all seems to make some kind of sense.
“I hope this doesn’t make her sound like a crazy,” he quickly adds. Not crazy, to be sure, but certainly pretty fun to hang out with.
Amber Fresh (the aforementioned Rabbit Island, and erstwhile CPN writer) delivered some of my favourite words about mothers this Mother’s day, words full of truth, humour and goodwill. “One thing I like to remind my mum about sometimes is that I came from out between her legs. I say to her “Hey mum, I came from out between your legs!” I think it helps me remember how amazing it is to have a mum and that we’re bonded forever. I’m lucky she’s nice. I have friends whose mums have taught them how to inject speed, instead of making them toasted cheese sandwiches… But it’s never too late to become a better mum. I’d like to have a baby. I’d make it toasties, once there’s no more milk.”
I found my own mum in her preferred armchair and prised her away from her novel long enough to ask her about motherhood.
“It’s a really weird thing,” she said, “looking at this person and thinking – how is it that they came from me? I mean, how did I produce THAT? Especially when they get big.” I think she means it in a good way. She assures me that she’s not distraught I turned out to be a musician.
“[Having kids that do music] keeps you young, you get to experience the local scene,” she muses. “I like James Teague, and…”
“Yeah. And who was that band, in Northbridge? Sugar… Sugarbabes?”
“Yeah, Sugarpuss, or Sugar Army… no, it was Sugarpuss.”
She mentions enjoying watching kids grow up, and the exciting prospect of grandchildren, to which I offer no comment.
I asked Peter Bibby for his thoughts, and as usual, he boiled it all down to a pithy shot of truth-juice. Pete is known as the raucous riff-and-roars man from aggressive freak-punk duo Frozen Ocean, but beneath the musical rambunctiousness lies a warm heart, particularly apparent when the topic of mums is raised.
“Without our Mums, Perth music wouldn’t exist,” Pete rightly asserts. “I think mums should be celebrated every day of the year, they are the true heroes.”