What's Happenin'
Spellbound - Vol III Iss I
© June 1996


The continuing saga of the Berlin tour took us across the Tasman to New Zealand. There the dancers, players, and musicians found a beautiful theatre in which to perform and an enthusiastic audience to perform for. Curiously, the Kiwis couldn't wait for Iva to blow into town on his angel wings. Therefore, the press we received out of New Zealand dealt mainly with The Berlin Tapes, Iva, Graeme, and the meaning behind the stage production. These are some highlights of the thoughts and comments printed for all to read.

The Northern Advocate - 7 February 1996: Mike Dinsdale quotes Iva as saying, "On any one night in the same audience you can have people who have never listened to Lou Reed or the Psychedelic Furs sitting next to people who have never been to a ballet before and that's exciting.

"It's helping to break down prejudices and barriers that may otherwise have existed between these people. Music can create barriers but this shows that music can also be used to overcome those barriers."

The Press, Christchurch - 19 January 1996, by Keith Nunes: The self proclaimed Jekyll and Hyde of Australasian rock music, Iva Davies of Icehouse, has exposed another face of his prodigious talent. The classically trained pop singer-songwriter is behind one of the most successful contemporary dance shows in Sydney Opera House history and its soundtrack album of rock song covers, both of which are drawing critical acclaim.

Sunday News - 21 January 1996, by Anne Hogan: When Murphy asked the name, Davies and collaborator Max Lambert looked at the list of songs, and it was obvious it was "Berlin." Although Davies has been to the German city several times he says he's "not at one" with Berlin.

"My passport looks fantastic. Unfortunately I haven't seen anything in 15 years except for hotels and airports. I haven't spent much time there at all but the interesting thing about the name and one reason why I chose it, is it's evocative. Even for people who haven't been there, it's a name that means something."

New Zealand Herald - 24 January 1996: Graham Reid quotes Iva - "I scrupulously avoided classics, other than Bowie's 'Heroes.' They should be left alone. The irony is when Flowers started we had to do songs as faithful to the original as we could. Here I had to do exactly the opposite." - and later in the article - "I've always resisted attempts to reboot Boxes because it was written for a particular stage - but for some peculiar reason it had an immense and odd impact in The States and on a purely rock'n'roll Icehouse tour I'd run into DJs in the backwoods of America who knew of Boxes and didn't have a clue about Icehouse."

Waikato Times - 30 January 1996, by Stefan Herrick: Despite functioning on just four hours sleep and a dozen cups of coffee, Davies willingly speaks of his passion for ballet and the creative process behind it. He pauses often to apologise for raving. Berlin, he says, is built from the music up - a diverse cast of characters out of place and out of time, thrown together by catastrophe. His role is an overviewer and his songs are a commentary of what's going on.

His work has been receiving commentary of its own. Told recently he was Australia's answer to Eno, Davies took it as a compliment. "The expectation now is that I'm likely to do something odd," he says. "That doesn't worry me. I tend to just follow my nose really... it's instinctive rather than calculated."

Sunday Star-Times - 14 January 1996, by Richard Jinman: [Iva] says the song's lyrics ["All Tomorrow's Parties"] are just one example of the "black wit" running through most of his selections. "To me, the sound of [Velvet Underground's] Nico intoning this dilemma about what to wear to a party is a great satirical piece," he says. "These are the things that make me laugh... perhaps that says something about my personality."

Murphy attributes the success of his work with Davies to a mutual desire to "take original forms and warp them.

"I'm fascinated by Iva's voice," he says. "When I heard 'Loving The Alien' I thought, why would you start singing a song so high when it only gets higher? It's because he can."

The final note to Berlin's appearance in Auckland was The Berlin Tapes' brief stay in the New Zealand charts. It came in at #47 and then faded out...

Berlin then went back to its native soil and had seasons in Canberra and Melbourne. So sayeth the press:

Herald Sun - 2 March 1996, by Hilary Crampton: A sudden opening grabs the audience's attention, hurling it into a murky, dark pit of shadowy, scurrying figures whose costuming hints at archetypal characters. Image is heaped upon image with reference to many different eras and areas, but the most dominant by far is World War II.

Throughout the work, singer-composer Iva Davies acts as a sort of master puppeteer, provoking action.

Sunday Herald - 3 March 1996, by Bob Crimeen: The desire of Graeme Murphy to create new, innovative, exciting dance-drama, a quest that has produced the treasurable and trivial, last year saw him turn to reunified Berlin for inspiration.

The resultant Berlin, a variously savage, sexy, tender, tragic, comedic work seamlessly blending dance with song, is his finest original creation in years.

Add to it Iva Davies' singing and Max Lambert's piano and anyone even remotely fascinated with the Murphy phenomenon should see Berlin.

We were a bit amused that the photo accompanying an article about the "Murphy phenomenon" was one of Iva. Perhaps Mr. Crimeen was quietly acknowledging the true "phenomenal" draw of Berlin.

The last bit of journalistic bombastics comes from (gasp) America! From the sun-dappled shores of Santa Monica, CA, comes the Lefsetz Letter. Bob Lefsetz, a music analyst, sends his newsletter out bi-weekly to those record execs, managers, and music company paraphernalia who need their music (among other things) analyzed. In his April 10, 1996 newsletter, the eight pages were full of words praising The Berlin Tapes. Let's just sample a few:

When I pushed play, I realized I had the wrong CD. This wasn't Tori Amos.

And I have this mood thing. That you've got to eat what your heart tells you in order to be satisfied. That you've got to play the music you want to, to be satisfied.

I'd only be satisfied with Tori. But now this other CD was playing. And this conflicted with another theory. Unless something is terrible, grating, to go with it.

And by process of elimination, I realized this was the Iva Davies/Icehouse CD. (Iva Davies is Icehouse. He is the band.) Didn't grate. Was kind of okay.

And then I hit a track. Track 3. It was brilliant...

...It wasn't about anything other than the music. I didn't care that it was an independent CD. That it would never win a Grammy. That most people didn't know who Icehouse was, never mind this record. BECAUSE LISTENING TO THIS ALBUM WAS LIFE ITSELF!...

...The first track I put on endless repeat was the last one. A cover of David Bowie's "Heroes."

David Bowie's version wasn't heroic enough. The vocal was gruff. Almost shouted.

Iva Davies' version sounded like the soundtrack to Braveheart. Viewing a battle from afar. Surveying the green British landscape against the gray sky. Iva's version is majestic. The original had impact. Iva's version has magic...

...I take this CD out of the jewel box and put it in the drawer. I push 8 and then single play and repeat. I hear this cello. Then some percussion. And then another cello playing the melody. And more strings. Who knows, maybe synthesized, but they're so rich. They take me away.

And about forty five seconds into it, when the mood has been fully set, Iva opens his voice. He sings the words at the top of the very first page ["Let There Be Love"]. It's like there's an orchestra in my chest. My arms raise like Richard Dreyfuss' at the end of Mr. Holland's Opus. I'm conducting a whole orchestra. I'm completely in the mood. I've been taken away. AND ISN'T THIS WHAT IT'S ALL ABOUT!!

I called Kevin [Sutter, who supplied Bob with a copy of The Berlin Tapes] the very next morning (well, afternoon, I'm never up in the morning). He elaborated. He said it was a coffee table CD. Something you could put on the stereo, leave the jewel box on the coffee table and people would hear the music, say "What's this?", and pick up the jewel box.

He's absolutely right.

But that's not how I see it. I see it as something solitary. Alone. Just me. Just you. Alone in our listening spaces at home. (This is a quiet record. This is not a car record.) This is the essence of the listening experience. This is a phenomenal record. If you're a big punk fan, you may not like it. If I sat you down in front of the stereo, it might not reach you.

But if you went on summer vacation and were sitting on the front porch alone after dark and listening to this album you'd say life was worth living. That there's hope. That there's great records yet to be made.

As soon as you got home you'd immediately call me just like I called Kevin and testify just how incredible this album is.

As a footnote to this, Mr. Lefsetz reviewed Simple Minds' Glittering Prize (from his unique point of view) in his late March newsletter, and said...

I was playing "Let There Be Love," but it wasn't as good as Iva Davies' version.

And that is what the world press put down in black and white about Berlin and its Tapes.


The last release to come from Diva was the ABCDs. "Complicated Game" was not released as a single but Shock (a.k.a. Sneaky) Records got their mitts on some and covertly doled them out from their trenchcoats. Thus, fans were able to purchase the CD that would be a single from various importers around the globe. As for future releases from the Diva... consult the stars, read your tea leaves, and get out those voodoo dolls with long, curly brown hair.

Live Performances

Berlin finished its run in Melbourne on March 9th. The Sydney Dance Company plan to take Berlin further on to Adelaide in September. Tickets have already gone on sale for these shows. However, Iva and Icehouse's involvement has not been confirmed. Negotiations are still under way and as soon as we hear the final outcome we will let everyone know.

Radio and Television

The Berlin Tapes brushed into the NZ charts at #47. However, it seems that once the show left Auckland, the album left the Top 50! Then, lo and behold, a miracle happened. A star appeared in the North and in the city of Seattle, birthing/stomping ground of grunge, "Heroes" emerged on the radio charts! Climbing as high as #3, the land of Nirvana was suddenly captivated by something a bit finer than what they were used to.

New Zealand television was given brief moments of Iva and Co., coupled with the sound of Kiwi fans slamming tapes into their VCRs and frantically punching buttons. Not much more was reported to have been seen on the tiny silver screen.

The Boys

Paul Wheeler: Things are still in the planning stages for the next step in the Shock Poets' agenda and Paul is waiting for that to all fall into place. There is also the possibility of Paul going to the U.S. for Max Sharam's tour.

Paul has been playing percussion on a few commercial jingles being worked out by David Chapman. He is also practicing on his drums to keep himself in top form. Wheels is very keen to work in the U.S. again and to start his next fresh project.

Stephen Morgan: Steve is back into full swing with his second career as a professional Aussie Rules football fan! His favorite side, the Essendon Bombers, are near the top of the ladder and are most assuredly aided by Steve's attendance at their games.

His primary career has been quite busy, as well. He was part of the band that took the stage in Auckland and he says the city is becoming quite "cosmopolitan." He enjoyed playing in Berlin very much and thought Iva and Max did a wonderful job with production.

In February, Steve began a ten week season as part of the band for "The New Rocky Horror Show." He was in the production with such Aussie TV stars as Marcus Graham (where have we heard that name spinning around before...), Kim Wilson, and Red Symons. The producer of the show was Nigel Triffit, who designed some of the stage sets for the Man Of Colours Tour. The show spent seven weeks in Brisbane and three weeks in Newcastle, with the entire season being sold out. Steve discovered the beautiful beaches in Newcastle and also made use of some of the local health facilities.

Steve and his wife, Caroline, went to David Copperfield's show on opening night in Sydney. He says the show was "incredible," and the after show party was pretty good, too!

His plans for June look to take Steve to Perth for a short stint with "Rocky Horror." After that he'll be heavily involved with "Smokey Joe's Café," an American Broadway production coming to Australia. Starting in July, the show will debut in Brisbane for a four week run and then go on to Melbourne for 10 to 14 weeks. That should keep him busy until the end of the year.

Paul Gildea: Paul was the guitarist for Berlin in both Canberra and Melbourne. He loved working both seasons and also the experience of working with the Sydney Dance Company. After Berlin finished its run, Paul and Iva flew off to Fiji for a holiday. The boys did some snorkeling, swimming, and caught a four foot barracuda (or so they both say...). Iva credits Paul with the catch whereas he got... "nothing." Iva says Paul is now a legend in the islands with his guitar playing!

Paul has just finished working in a duo with Peter Miller, as well as completing work on an episode of the Aussie drama "Blue Healers" with country singer Lee Kernaghan. Paul's other career, as father to one Oliver Gildea, also keeps him busy! Upon concluding Paul's report on his latest goings-on, Oliver asked to please say that he likes Batman!

David Chapman: David's main source of income, Zig Zag Lane Studios, seems to be going along quite well and is keeping him busy churning out ads and incidental music for various TV shows. However, David informs us that he has formed a band with Derek (drummer and Zig Zag partner) and two other "spunky" guys. They've dubbed themselves The Ferocious Brothers and reputedly do rather strange things with songs such as "The Girl From Ipanema" and "Hunk Of Burning Love." This metal/classical/soul band can be seen at wedding receptions and bar mitzvah's near you... not sold in any store, void where prohibited.

Iva Davies: In our last issue, we said Iva had been likened to an angel, a god-like presence, etc. Now we can liken him to a man who wants to move on to new things. However, when asked about Berlin's Auckland, Canberra, and Melbourne seasons, he is ready with his responses. He told us that Auckland was "fantastic. Beautiful theatre." Iva missed Max's involvement in Canberra but said it was a very successful season. Melbourne was "good fun" and he enjoyed working with Paul Gildea and Andy Cichon. Iva said there seemed to be millions of receptions in Melbourne. He was glad to come home in the end. Again, negotiations for the Adelaide/Perth seasons are ongoing and we will pass on the details as soon as possible.

The exciting news is that one of the most major moves afoot in the Icehouse camp is a concerted effort to reestablish Icehouse distribution in the U.S.!! Iva, Laurie Dunn, and Kevin Sutter (an excellent PR man located in Seattle) are the working trio at the fore. We are awaiting further details as to who the lucky record company is who will get their hands on this goldmine! As soon as details become available, we shall pass the good news on!

Iva just recently revamped his studio with an all new recording system. It's a Macintosh product called Pro Tool that enables Iva to record direct to the hard drive of his computer. The best thing about this new "toy" is Iva's penchant to consider new toys new "blood," and that gives him the inspiration to create!

Some of the possible upcoming projects that Iva mentioned could be very exciting for all involved! There has been some talk of Iva producing the Australian cast album for "Little Shop Of Horrors." David Atkins (the man responsible for "Hot Shoe Shuffle") has bought the rights to the show and Max Lambert looks to be involved as well. Max may also be working with Iva on a set of exercise CDs for infants. Iva and Max would provide the music that the happy babies would be moving to!

On top of these projects, Iva gave a moment to listen to a CD Keith Welsh gave him. It was the CD from the American band called Garbage and Iva thought it was good. Combine hearing some good music with new toys... he says he's "almost curious" to start writing new songs!

His project with Cradle Space (??) was finished off before his trip to Fiji and has been left in the expert hands of Keith Welsh. Keith will be shopping the album around to various labels and can use interest expressed by Triple J as a selling point.

Simon Leadley's album is still an unknown entity but we will keep following up on it!

The Ghostwriters' new CD does indeed feature Iva Davies on oboe and, as we go to print, will be released on July 22nd. Called Second Skin, it will be available for purchase on the Internet at Ausmusic.

There is an album in the works which Iva terms "an oddities collection." This sounds like it is partially the album we hoped the ABCDs was going to be. Iva has found various things to include on this album including the single version of "Dusty Pages"!! PLEASE SEE YOUR HOUSEWORK FOR IVA'S REQUEST CONCERNING THIS PROJECT!!! Get those sent in ASAP so that Iva may view your suggestions. He is looking for songs, mixes, B-sides, and rarities that are reasonably available to take their place on this album.

Iva's holiday in Fiji was very good and he enjoyed his stay there with Paul Gildea. He quickly got his house and boat in order and proceeded to have a break from it all. Iva taught Paul to play rummy and by the second night, Iva says "he was beating me all over the place!"

Iva also found time to have lunch with author Colleen McCullough. Max and Colleen are working on a project together and Max was able to arrange the lunch date, complete with an autographed set of Colleen's Man Of Rome series.

The bout with vertigo that Iva had abated somewhat but did not go away entirely. After many tests the doctors have concluded that Iva has "an ear problem" affecting his balance. This is most likely due to his many years playing near loud amps. However, his hearing is not affected.

Iva's Easter was great, full of family and egg hunts. Brynn had a wonderful time and discovered the Easter Bunny had left a bit of his tail stuck in the door!

So the fans of Icehouse must begin (yet again) another period of waiting to see what the Diva behind the curtain creates for us!

...and that's what's happenin'!