People and Places
IN CONVERSATION – FEBRUARY 2020 – Dempsey continues his song for Kate

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Something For Kate’s lead singer, songwriter and guitarist Paul Dempsey left the Mornington Peninsula as soon as he completed Year 12 at Padua College. With his sights set on being a working musician and hanging out with like-minded creatives, Dempsey and his Mornington Peninsula mate Clint Hyndman formed Something for Kate in 1994. Stephanie Ashworth joined them in 1998 and the rest is Melbourne alternative rock music history. The new Something For Kate album will be released this year through EMI Music.

How do you survive in the music industry without going bananas?By being completely stubborn, selfish and single-minded about the ‘music’ part and pretty easy-going about the whole ‘industry’ part. I prioritise the things that I can exercise some control over and I don’t worry too much about things that are beyond my control.

What’s the secret to sounding fresh after years of playing together in SFK?It’s been great that for the past decade or so we’ve all had other things going on outside of SFK. I’ve made a couple of solo albums, produced records and toured with different musicians. Clint has also made records and toured with other artists as well as owning a couple of bars. Steph never stops taking photographs and immersing herself in design.

Where do the songs come from?The music part is easy. We’ve always got too many musical ideas floating around that we can’t get around to finishing because I take so long with the lyric-writing. It doesn’t come easy. I used to think writer’s block was a thing. Now I just write through it. Most of what I write is absolute crap but you don’t get to the good stuff by not writing. When I’m done I burn all my notebooks and only the stuff that made the final edit survives.

Do you have any standout musical influences?I grew up listening to a lot of American underground punk bands like Fugazi, Sonic Youth and Black Flag. Those three bands in particular took a really non-traditional approach to the usual rock band set-up of two guitars, bass and drums and they really shaped my whole concept of how songs could be constructed. 

From the Punters Club to supporting David Bowie. Please explain.Well, a lot of things happened in the eight years between those events. We were thrilled to be invited to join Bowie on the Reality Tour in 2004. It was truly a dream come true. David and his entire band and crew were really friendly and so generous with their time. It was an amazing experience that we will never forget and we still have some great friendships from that tour.

What was your first solo gig, and were you nervous?If I remember correctly it was at the Public Bar in North Melbourne on a weeknight and I was extremely nervous. Being alone onstage with only a guitar is very different to being up there with a band and a massive wall of sound to hide behind.

Favourite place to go on the Peninsula as a kid? Plato’s records in Frankston. I think it’s called Plato’s Pop Culture now but back then it was just a record store. I’d take the bus there almost every week from Mornington and search through the racks to discover some obscure new band from the other side of the world. I love getting to Fishermans Beach or Safety Beach for a swim now.

What do you listen to when there’s no one else around?The silence.

How has becoming a father changed your creative process?I don’t think it’s changed the kinds of ideas I pursue, but it has definitely changed the time I have available to pursue them. I take a much more scheduled approach to writing now but I’m enjoying that discipline.

And finally, if you had to choose, which would it be: lose the guitar or lose the voice?The guitar is freedom and escapism and a portal to another dimension. You can go anywhere and be anything with a guitar. You can fake it. Singing is completely personal and very physical. You sing with your whole body and you can’t fake it. I guess I’d lose the guitar?

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