Man at Work

Colin Hay

By David Hennessy

Many would remember him as the lead singer of Men At Work, the platinum selling Australian band that topped worldwide charts in the 80s with anthems like Down Under, Overkill,” and Who Can It Be Now? The album, Business as Usual saw them win a Grammy Award. The band was defunct by 1986 which is when Colin started working solo. Since then, Colin has produced eleven solo albums and considers his latest, 2011’s Gathering Mercury to be his best so far. Colin will be touring the UK from April 30 and he told The Irish World he was looking forward to it: “Absolutely, the last time I was there was in 2009, I think. It’s always good to go back home. It’s all going to be good. The tour’s going well over here (America) at the moment. I was just in Australia for five weeks and that was good so I’m having a good time at the moment.”

Born in Scotland, Hay moved to Australia at the age of 14 and this was where he launched his career with his Men at Work band mates. Now based in LA, the loss of his father brought an “unavoidable emotional contingent” to the writing of his most recent record. Did he feel his father’s presence during the recording process? “I did, I did very much. You can never really tell, I can’t tell whether it’s something you conjure up in your brain or whether that presence is a real thing. It feels real. I was working on this record. It didn’t really matter whether I was trying to write songs about that particular situation or not but it was ever present because it was such a big thing to happen in your life.

I had never really known any personal tragedy like that before so you’re in the studio and you’re working away and his presence in his absence. I did feel there was another dimension to the atmosphere when I was down there and it was also in a way a selfish thing for me because it was a way I could bring him back to life because I thought about, not so much the fact that he was gone but, his life and those decisions that he made that affected us all like the biggest one: Deciding to go to Australia which was a huge thing to do at the time but it was a brilliant thing to do. It had huge consequences. He worked really hard, he really just wanted to create something for the family that was an exciting life and that’s what he did.”

Would he still feel his departed parent’s presence when performing these songs? “Absolutely, it’s weird because he was onstage but he gave it up when he was young and since he’s gone, I feel like he travels with me and he’s onstage with me. Again, whether that’s something that you conjure up in your brain, I don’t really know but it feels real to me.”

Men At Work still have very loyal fans with their songs still getting played on the radio and Colin is proud of his place in pop history: “The band lasted, I think, four years and went the way of many bands. I’ve never stopped playing some songs whenever I play live. I’ve never had any complaints: People come along and see you because they want to hear a song, whatever songs, songs from back then and songs they heard last week. It all works.”

For the full interview, see the April 20 edition of The Irish World.

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