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Stephen Cummings

by Robert Dunstan

from Rip It Up magazine, 2001

A twice-published novelist, Melbourne-based singer songwriter Stephen Cummings has just released his 10th solo album, the much-praised Skeleton Key, and is now on tour with guitarist extraordinaire Shane OèMara (of Rebecca's Empire and Paul Kelly's band) to promote it.

We recently spoke over the telephone and began by asking Stephen about his signing to W Minc, the small boutique Melbourne-based record label run by former Moodist Steve Miller and 'Evil' Graham Lee (of The Triffids) which re-issued his last album, Spiritual Bum.

"Itès good to be with a company who are totally passionate about music," he said. "And Skeleton Key was one of the easiest albums I've ever made. We just did it during the week and had the weekends off."

Following a stint with country-ish rockabilly band The Pelaco Brothers (with Joe Camilleri) in the early-70s, Stephen came to fame with internationally successful new-wave pop band The Sports during the latter part of that decade and also during much of the '80s. The band released a series of successful albums, some recorded in the UK, before disbanding following the release of Sondra.

Stephen then embarked on a solo career that began with the disco-flavoured Senso, but hit a high point with the release of the highly acclaimed acoustic Lovetown album. He has since worked with Steve Kilbey (of The Church), Charlie Marshall and also with Bill McDonald on the Four Hours Of Sleep project and appeared on various soundtrack albums. He has also recorded his song Fell From A Great Height as a duet with US singer songwriter Toni Childs.

His latest affair, Skeleton Key, recorded at Shane O'Mara's Yikesville Studio and Joe Camilleri's Woodstock Studio, has been scoring some great reviews with the Weekend Australian rating it very highly. Included on the album is Love Is Mighty Close To You which Jimmy Little has also covered for his new album, resonate.

"I wrote the song with Jimmy in mind," Stephen revealed, "but didn't know whether it was eventually going to be on his album or not. But I liked the song so much I decided to record it myself. Vika and Linda have also recorded it as well."

Stephen will be venturing to town with guitarist Shane OèMara.

"It's working well," he said. "We've already done shows in Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane and because Shane's such a great player, it's very powerful. With Shane, you don't just get him - it's his guitar and 20 or so pedals."

Stephen came to town last year to appear as a supreme court judge in the locally-made, yet-to-be-released film Dope, to which he also contributed some songs to the soundtrack.

"That comes out in February," Stephen revealed. "The guy who did it, Jay Harkness, is a bit of a fan of mine, but as well as four songs from me, there's also some hip hop from some South Australian guys. Neil Finn also has a song in it and a Sydney DJ has also done a remix of It's A Man's Man's World.

"And the film was fun to make," he laughed, "although I was in Adelaide for about 10 days for the film but end up on screen for about 30 seconds."

The audience can expect some older favourites when Stephen and Shane perform.

"It'll be a real mixture of everything,õ the singer said. "I'll cover all of my career so there'll be some revamped versions of older songs as well as songs from Skeleton Key."

Stephen Cummings and Shane O'Mara play the Governor Hindmarsh on Fri Nov 9. Stephen Cummings' latest album, Skeleton Key, is out now through W Minc (distributed by MGM) and he has a fine website at <> Warning: Don't go to <> as you'll end up at the world's biggest on-line phone dating service.

© Rip It Up - reprinted with permission

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