What was the first song you learnt? WAVE OF MUTILATION by The Pixies. I didn’t have a bass yet but I figured out the bass line on acoustic guitar.

What’s your favourite memory of your early musical life? I got lessons at this place called Rock n Roll High School in Collingwood. They ran lessons for girls and young women and they supplied rehearsal rooms and instruments. It was a really great initiative. Kim Gordon had given them a BC Rich bass guitar of hers and I got to play it, that was pretty cool. It had stuff written on it - I might be misremembering, but I think Lou Reed had signed it. You got put in a band with other girls and learned songs together. One of our songs was Kool Thing, and I got to play it on Kim’s bass!

What made you want to play music in the first place? Listening to musicians like PJ Harvey, The Breeders, Kim Gordon, Kim Deal. There was a real sense in the early 90s that the world of rock music no longer belonged only to men. Even Kurt Cobain, whose band attracted all kinds of fans - rednecks as much as indie kids - made openly feminist statements. I wanted to be a part of that world. Also, I just really liked playing music.

How old were you when you started playing? I had piano lessons - I guess I started around 7. I hated all the theory and trying to read sheet music, but I liked just messing around, making up tunes. The formal lessons put me off and for a long time I didn’t play anything, until I decided to play bass when I was 17. I never learned to read music.

Who were your music heroes/idols back then? Who are they now? Sonic Youth, Nirvana, PJ Harvey. Dinosaur Jr. Smashing Pumpkins! I never liked Pearl Jam though … Also Neil Young, Bob Dylan, Gillian Welch, Smog. There was this band called Sandro from Melbourne in the late 90s that me and my Art of Fighting bandmates were obsessed with, also Crow from Sydney, their album Liloing had a massive influence on us - the sound, so dense and textured, and these dark, edgy melodies. Now, I still listen to Bob and Neil. Karen Dalton. Television, Blondie, Patti Smith. In the past few years I’ve listened to and loved Angel Olsen, Sufjan Stevens, War on Drugs, but I don’t think you are ever as heavily influenced by things again the way you are when you’re young. You can get inspired but I don’t think the impression is as deep. 

What was the name of your first band? It was the Rock n Roll High School Band - we were called Carol 5, because the singer was called Carol. I wonder where she is now?


Peggy Frew is a Melbourne-based author and the bass player from Art of Fighting.