Mi-Sex are back, yes that’s right, they’re back! In support of their upcoming tour that kicks off in November, May The Rock Be With You chatted with Murray Burns, Mi-Sex keyboard player about the upcoming shows and of course that hit single, Computer Games!
Tour press release: Mi-Sex emerged from New Zealand in 1977 as a collection of creative souls and forged a collaborative talent that broke the 80’s new sound. Powerful live performances and hit song’s like But You Don’t Care, Graffiti Crimes and the hit single Computer Games very quickly established them on the touring circuit as a power to be reckoned with. “Compu-PU-pu-PU-pu-PU Computer Games”! If that chorus isn’t familiar to you, then you didn’t live through the early 80’s. This international hit single preceded the glut of similar sounding British chart entrants by a year or more, and became one of the most defining pop-rock songs of the Australasian music-scape. It rocketed to #1 on the Australian charts during November ’79 and hit the top five in New Zealand. By April 1980 Computer Games had charted in more than 20 countries, and had peaked inside the top ten in Canada, France, Austria, Italy, West Germany and South Africa.
It took lead singer, Steve Gilpin’s unfortunate death in January 1992 to force Mi-Sex underground for 20 years.
20 years on, and one simple acceptance of an invitation by Steve Balbi, to front Mi-Sex at a private party, and an outdoor event, “The Christchurch Quake Relief Concert” and they had their confirmation, this was the right chemistry, this would again ignite their passion for “live performances” as Mi-Sex! Steve Balbi brings an element of surprise and experience to the band. In 2011 he played the principal lead role on the Zeppelin & Bowie shows. Steve has fronted bands such as the ‘Electric Hippies’ and ‘Move Trees’ and of course the bass player in the great Aussie rock band Noiseworks.
MI-SEX appeals to a kind of sophisticated punk waiting to bust out and kick and kiss things.. I am honoured to be a part of this momentous return.” Steve Balbi
“To see the power that Steve gave our music after only one rehearsal and the effect it played on the crowd made me realize we could be a band again.” Don Martin
The Blue Day Tour kicks off in Western Australia and heads around the country on an 11 date tour. You can check out the full list of tour dates below!
Hey Murray, thanks for taking the time to do this interview, so, Mi-Sex are back, with Steve Balbi on lead vocals! So after 20 or more years, what was the catalyst that led to Steve fronting the band?
To be honest, we had not really any intention of coming back at playing again. When Steve passed away 20 years ago, we just never thought it would be a possibility of it happening. Don Martin had a going away party at the place he had been working and the boss said to him: “what would you like as a going away present” and he said: “I would love my old band to play at the party”. So we all knew Steve pretty well and he had heard about what was going to happen and Don and Steve’s agent approached Steve and asked if he would sing at the party. He did and we just had an absolute ball. So it came out of just having a bit of fun and Steve said look if you want to go out and play again, I’m there, count me in! So a year later we did one more gig at a Christchurch Benefit concert in Melbourne which was a pretty small affair, but run with great intentions. So we also did that with Steve and that really cemented the concept of playing together. So we are going to do this little tour and see if there is an audience out there for our songs again.
You mentioned there that you guys knew Steve Balbi, so had you had much association with Steve previously?
Yes absolutely with Noiseworks and Mi Sex. Funnily enough Jon Stevens and Steve Gilpin were really great friends from New Zealand so we were always around each other a lot. It feels really comfortable and kind of right you know. Steve Gilpin would be looking down on Steve Balbi and saying, go for it!
Have you observed much of a fan reaction to Steve Balbi coming in on vocals?
That’s an interesting question. I really think we’ve got a lot of work to do from the ground up to reignite the interest and passion people have for the band. It was the mid 80’s when we stopped touring, so we’ve got a lot of work to build that interest in the band again. If we have a lot of fun on this tour and get some crowds along, it will all self perpetuate you know.
You guys have played a couple of shows already with Steve, how did it feel those first few times with him up on stage?
Look, honestly it really felt like it was only about 2 years since we had last done it. I would also say the songs have a bit more groove in the music today as well. When we recorded the songs back in the 80’s, it was all very frantic and everyone was probably playing their songs five beats faster than they really needed too. When people come and see us, I think people will even enjoy the songs more, they feel more comfortable today.
Where are you guys at when it comes to choosing a setlist, has that proven a difficult process?
It’s certainly been interesting! There were songs we dropped in the 80’s basically because we got bored with them you know. We all sat around with Steve and we have to do songs that Steve is comfortable singing as well. I was surprised with the songs that made the setlist, some of the album tracks that got chosen. We are starting rehearsals in Sydney in about 10 days time and I can’t wait to play some of these songs again.
Computer Games charted in what, over 20 countries, have you got any idea about the legacy of the band overseas, do you have any idea of how strong that is in 2011?
Yes there certainly is and a lot of that is on Steve Gilpin’s memorial site. Steve had a great presence and when we toured places like America, he really connected with a lot of people.
Computer Games – what do you remember about writing that song and would you ever have expected it to have the status it still does some 30 or so years later, not to mention the almost prophetic nature of the lyrics!
It’s s funny one! I was responsible for a good part of the music in that song and Kevin Stanton wrote the lyrics. At the time I kind of got what Kevin was writing about but as time has gone on, I’ve been pushing Kevin’s lyrics to people, as it’s incredibly fortuitous. He was talking about the matrix grid and there was no matrix grid back then, he talks about the message coming through the tube and he’s talking about email and there was no email or Internet for 15 or 20 years after that song. When we wrote that, there was no home computers! We went and shot the film clip at some Government Institute and the computers then were these huge things using steaming tape. Kevin was really into something when he wrote those lyrics, he really was.
Over the years, I know you have maintained involvement in the music industry, what specifically has kept you busy?
Well Colin Bayley and I from the band, we kind of fell into a series called Beyond 2000 and started writing music for that in the mid 80’s. From there we went onto lots more documentaries and then dramas like the E-Street series and All Saints on Channel 7. So we kind of slipped into this dark world of recording studios. I have now kind of moved away from that, I moved to Byron Bay and set up a studio here focussing pretty much on recording young bands now. I’m actually having the time of my life at the moment, reliving what I did, through their eyes. And now I am going out to do it all again haha!
So are you working mostly with local bands in the Byron Bay area?
I’ve been working with a Melbourne band called Hotel on Mayfair that are going to come and support us on a few of the shows. There’s an amazing crew of young kids up here in the Shire and an abundance of talented young artists, so yes, I have trended to stay pretty local at the moment.
Working with these younger artists in 2011, how do you compare the industry these days to when you were starting off with Mi-Sex?
Well I think it’s so easy for bands to form and record music these days. You were lucky in the 80’s to even get into a recording studio and make broadcast quality recordings. Most people these days really aren’t interested in buying CD’s and listening to 10 songs. I am recording 3 albums at the moment and a part of me is going why I am a recording these albums, people might listen to just 2 or 3 of these songs. It really is a challenging time for artists. I make sure the artists I work with have potential and enthusiasm to play live. There is a great live scene in Australia and that’s where the bands create an audience and sell products. I think we are in a real transition with music right now and I don’t think anyone can really predict where it’s going to go.
I have to ask about your experience touring overseas and supporting the likes of Cheap Trick, Iggy do you have a favourite tour memory?
I actually really loved playing with Iggy Pop. He was convinced that Steve Gilpin was a far better singer than he was and he would come into our dressing room after his shows and after he has urinated on the audience haha, and in a real humble manner would be saying, this guy is a real singer, I am just a crap singer! We weren’t a punk band but playing to a crowd of punks, it was pretty crazy!
Well thanks for your time today Murray and best of luck with the tour!
From: New Zealand/Australia
Band members (2011) – Don Martin Bass, Murray Burns Keyboards, Paul Dunningham Drums, Colin Bayley Guitar, Steve Balbi Lead Vocals, Luke Cuerden Guitar
Tickets are on sale now and will sell fast.
Thursday November 3 – Fly By Night Club WA
Friday November 4 – Charles Hotel WA
Saturday November 5 – The Boulevard Tavern Joondalup WA
Friday November 11 – Norwood Hotel – SA
Friday November 18 – Doncaster Shoppingtown Hotel VIC
Saturday November 19 – Chelsea Heights Hotel
Friday November 25 – Dapto Leagues Club NSW
Saturday November 26 – Rooty Hill RSL NSW
Friday December 2 – The Basement NSW
Saturday December 3 – Caves Beach Resort NSW