Chris Doheny – Geisha
What were you doing in the 1980s?
I was playing in a band full time (which means gigging maybe once a week and rehearsing five days a week). Going to bed at 3AM and sleeping in until midday. Doing it pretty hard on the dole living in a one-bedroom flat that cost $55 per week in rent!! That was in an inner suburb of Melbourne called Richmond. It was a pretty rough neighbourhood back in the early 80s. I would go and meet someone using public transport such as tram or train wearing my 80s finery and my hair would be gelled up to the sky! People would either stare in amazement or hurl abuse.
What are your strongest impressions of the 1980s?
Most of my memories of the 80s revolve around the fact that I was in a successful band and all the peripheral garbage that goes with that. I think that people in general were much more interested in music and band culture back then. I always joke with my friends that these days all the rock stars are athletes and not musicians and singers!
Definitely the music and fashion were fun and exciting and the feeling of innocence in a pre internet society.
Geisha’s first video, ‘Fool’s way’, 1985, directed by Karl Stienberg
What historical event of the 1980s has most resonance for you? Why?
The morning I woke up to see the Challenger space shuttle blow up in the sky was such a shock. The terrible loss of life from something we had come to take for granted as safe and mundane as space flight. All of a sudden the whole world stopped for a moment and we all seemed to be watching it. In a time before instant news reporting, the internet and mobile phones, we still all sat glued to the TV and reeled in horror.
What was an event/party/pub session/nightclub of the 80s that stands out?
There was so many! Generally venues didn’t seem to be open as late as they are now of course. But quite often after a show we might go and have a drink or a dance at nightclubs such as The Ritz in St Kilda. Also The Ivy in Melbourne City.
The Ritz was this sleazy strip bar where we could go and have a quiet drink without being bothered by fans. We also knew quite a lot of the “dancers”, so it was a very friendly atmosphere. There was also a famous nightclub in St Kilda called The Razor Club – we used to love going there after a gig and usually not emerging until broad daylight!
Any memories (fond or foul) of what you were wearing in the 1980s?
Oh yeah! Pointy-toed leather shoes, coats with padded shoulders. Baggy high waisted trousers with braces. Neon coloured singlets! Junk jewellery. bangles and earrings. Eyeliner and mascara (sometimes even eye shadow!).
What music/movies/TV engaged you in the 1980s (and did you takes sides on VHS versus Betamax), and now?
I didn’t watch TV soap only news and ‘Sale of the century’ with Tony Barber. But I loved the ‘Back to the future’ movies also ‘Raiders of the lost ark’ etc….
I actually owned a Beta recorder and I still think it was a better quality picture than VHS – too bad the world went VHS as the 80s wore on; it got harder and harder to get Beta movies!
What were you listening to?
I used to listen to albums by bands like The Fixx, INXS, Simple Minds, Japan, Angels, Flowers (Icehouse), David Bowie, Peter Gabriel.
What did you do for entertainment/leisure then and now?
I think everything I did for leisure back in those days was something that got me out of the house as opposed to now where we have everything we need at home. I was never a big computer game kind of guy. I did spend a lot of time home recording music in my studio.
What do you think are the main differences between the 80s and how the world and/or your life is today?
In the 80s there were no mobile phones no internet and no immediate news coverage. To be a successful musician/singer/writer you needed to go out and travel around the country/world and sing your heart out every night to empty rooms until you caught a break. I also think that fame and talent were interlinked.
Nowadays we have the cult of celebrity. You can talk to someone on the other side of the planet from your car or canoe. You can make a record and video in your bedroom and post it on youtube for global broadcast without leaving the house!
Personally, I’m still involved in music with Geisha. We’re currently signed to Oz label Diamond Dod Records and we’ve just released a new album, ‘Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow’.
What was a prized object you owned then (and do you still have it)?
My Kawai baby grand piano that I bought with my very first publishing cheque in 1985; it had been a personal goal of mine to own one from the age of ten.
Geisha’s 2010 video, ‘Mystery writer’, directed by Liam Firmagher
What event (personal or public) in the 1980s would you either revisit or undo if you could?
I had another personal goal when I was a kid which was to appear on ‘Countdown’ (music show in the 80s presented by Molly Meldrum).
By 1987 I had been on ‘Countdown’ more than a dozen times. I would love to relive the feeling of the first time that I got to appear on that iconic show!