Author Interview with Jeff Apter, author of "Up From Down Under: How Australian Music Changed the World"

Jeff Apter, author of more than 15 music titles, agreed to speak to us about his latest book Up From Down Under.
This is what he had to say.

PP: Tell us about Up From Down Under: How Australian Music Changed the World.

JA:  It's a big (and hopefully) bold study of the many Australian entertainers who have made it to the top in American, featuring such stars as Peter Allen, Helen Reddy, Olivia Newton-John, the Bee Gees, Rick Springfield and Air Supply.  I also look at the downside of fame, and how some of these acts didn't live long enough to fully savour their success. What price a dream; that's the central theme of the book.

PP:  What does researching the music industry entail?  Loads of gigs, late nights and partying?  You can tell us, we won't tell anyone.....

JA:  If only!  Truth be told, it's like any other project with a strong research component:  lots of digging into archives, plenty of reading, listening and asking the right questions of the right people.  I'll leave the partying to the people I write about.  I'd need two livers if I wanted to keep up.

PP:  There really aren't that many books out there about the modern Australian music industry.  Why is that?

JA:  Good question.  Sometimes I wonder whether we truly appreciate the depth of talent we have and the amount of success Australians have achieved over the past 40 years.  Many people who've read this book have been surprised by how high my various subjects have climbed.  Grammys?  Really?  Hundreds of millions of records sold - are you sure?  Consider Up From Down Under a wake-up call - look what we've achieved!  Look how far we've come!

PP:  What is your favourite Australian music success story?

JA:  The Peter Allen story is pretty remarkable.  He was probably facing a life of playing old standards for holiday makers on the Gold Coast when, purely by chance, he met Judy Garland, who took to him like a long-lost son - and fixed him up with Liza Minelli, of course.  The ride that Peter then undertook - from Tenterfield to Rio and beyond - is truly staggering, and ultimately, tragic.  Not many people get to play New York's Radio City Music Hall, let along take to the stage astride a camel.  Only a superstar can do that.

PP:  You've worked with musicians writing autobiographies, like Kasey Chambers and Mark Evans of AC/DC.  Do you like collaborating in this manner?  And how does it work?

JA:  It's very different to the books I write along, but equally satisfying.  When I'm in co-writing (or ghostwriting) mode, I'm as much an editor as a writer.  "Tell me everything", I'll say to my subject, "and then let's pick the best stuff".  It's interesting how quickly you lock into a rhythm when you co-write; the words (and the stories) just flow.  The first question my subject usually asks is, "We have to come up with 80, 000 words?  Are you kidding?  I write three minute songs."  Then, six weeks later, we'll have half the book written and it suddenly doesn't seem so daunting.

PP:  Is there a musician who you would love the chance to write with?

JA:  I've written about, and interviewed, Daniel Johns (formerly of Silverchair) many times; I even wrote a Silverchair biography called A New Tomorrow.  But I'd really like the opportunity to co-write with him, a true collaboration.  I think he's a fascinating guy and a massive creative talent, with strong opinions.  So Daniel, if you're reading this.....

PP:  Are you working on anything new?

JA:  Indeed, I am.  Expect a new book on the Gibb brothers - the four Gibb brothers, including Andy - sometime in 2014.  Their story is another of those amazing rollercoaster rides that I'm constantly drawn to - huge highs, staggering lows and some painful tragedy.  I hope I can do their lives and careers justice.