You could be forgiven – at least at first glance – for dismissing Xavier Rudd as a bit of a hippie novelty act. After all, he plays more instruments than most musicians have ever held, produces music that’s eclectic, heartfelt and lyrically focuses on topics like global warming, international cultural harmony and aboriginal politics. State even first heard of Mr. Rudd through the musical selection of a dread-headed compulsive hash smoker in the -enlightened’ Indian hippie Mecca of Hampi. The thing is, though, talking to Xavier gives an entirely different impression – the impression that he’s something far more.
State caught up with Xavier via a fuzzy phone line to his homeland down under literally seconds before he stepped on to stage (we could even here the roar of the crowd as he hung up), and the man who once won an award for the sexiest celebrity vegetarian (a fact that he both cringes and laughs at) is in fine form, laid back and open, dropping naturally into calling us -brother’, before opening up on a world that seems to damage his delicate soul. Living off the radar in a purpose built enviro-friendly home, Xavier tell gets a little emotional talking about how he sat on the deck of the Sea Shepherd boat -Ady Gill’ only days before its collision with a Japanese whaler,a few days ago. The collision knocked the entire bow off the environmentalists boat, though Xavier admits that events like this – sad as they are – are -part of my journey, and inevitably end up in my music. My music’s about what I feel’.
For all his environmental concerns, though, Xavier Rudd isn’t a man to preach. When we mention Bono’s take on the environment, he avoid commenting on the U2 man, arguing the -respects other people’s journeys’, and prefers to focus on his own output. -My journey is my journey, and if other people can take something from that and make something of it, than I take that as a great compliment’. As much as they preach from the same page, Bono and Rudd could not be much more different. While Bono lives it up and runs his multi-million business in tax exile, Rudd’s life is almost nomadic, and represents a far more real, heartfelt example of just how environmental issues could be tackled.
A penchant for traveling seems to fit naturally with his music, which he describes as -something I was born to do’, though the environmental cost of touring clearly weighs heavily on his mind. -If I can make a change, I do’ Xavier tells us, -I live completely off the grid when I’m at home, and when I’m on tour it’s planes, buses, lots of waste, no recycling’¦ it’s a pretty toxic industry. We’re probably one of the more minimal teams of people traveling, but the infrastructure for sustainability in the music industry hasn’t really been put in place. They just do the standard thing, it doesn’t really matter what you ask for, a lot of the time they don’t do it. Ideally I’d like to run the bus on bio diesel, I’d like clean water to be provided in a big container rather than bottles, we don’t need much on the rider’¦ things like that. A lot of the time you turn up and there’s all this packaged stuff. Europe’s pretty good, there are good initiatives to clean things up. America’s really bad.’
The tours might be a heart-wrenching pay off for Rudd, but it’s not all serious: -In Canada we had a crack addict bus driver, and he drove us the wrong way down the freeway into oncoming traffic. The cops came and shut down the highway, they had to suspend his license and we missed a show. That was pretty weird’.
Xavier’s just recorded his latest (and sixth) studio album, a collaboration with South African duo Izintaba, who provide a funky, multi-national sound on bass and drums, and feature on Xavier’s current tour. Entitled -Koonyum Sun’, Xavier describes his latest effort – still in the hands of his mix team – as -brighter and bouncier’, and -a combination of my life experience and my travel’. Being of aboriginal blood – he’s also known as -Shark’ – Rudd sees the inclusion of different cultures as an essential part of his musical outlook, and describes his latest collaboration as -special’. Izintaba are gratefully summarized as -spiritually heavy, well toned and real’¦ they’ve been through Apartheid, they’re amazing people, a real blessing. We’ve got a very very strong connection’.
It might be natural to assume that a musician with such an intense assortment of instrumentation – there are at least 18 different instruments that Rudd uses regularly – would struggle to reproduce his sound live, but having come from a predominantly live background, that simply isn’t the case. -Live is what I do’, Xavier argues, -when I record, I record live, so it’s thick and fat and that’s the most important thing to me. But it makes for an expensive freight bill’.
As published on State.ie, January 2010.