Bands such as Icehouse, along with other groups such as Midnight Oil, The Angels, and AC/DC, are pioneers who have shaped the Australian rock industry into what it is today.
Icehouse formed in 1977, originally under the name Flowers, and was initially known as a pub rock band. The name Icehouse was adopted in 1981 when they achieved mainstream success playing new-wave and synth pop music. Icehouse took the world by storm through the 1980s, going through many rotations of its members, but Iva Davies has been the frontman of Icehouse since its beginning. In 2006 Icehouse was inducted into the Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA) Hall of Fame, and they are heralded as one of the most successful Australian bands of the eighties and nineties.
Iva Davies spoke with Glam Adelaide ahead of Icehouse‘s performance at the VAILO Adelaide 500 After Race Concert on Saturday, 25 November.
Music has always been a huge part of Iva’s life. He played the oboe in an orchestra long before he picked up the guitar and focused on rock music.
“The catalyst, I guess, was the way that my classical career ended when an instrument repairer completely wrecked my handmade French oboe and put me out of business overnight. I’d had a parallel interest in playing the guitar, but I’d never owned an electric guitar. So on my 21st birthday, I bought an electric guitar and a very loud 100 watt Marshall amp. At that point, because I had to resign from the orchestra that I was in, I had a couple of cleaning jobs, one of which was a squash court next door to where I lived. Of course, everybody overheard my attempts to master this electric guitar, and I went into work one day and one of the female middle aged managers told me I should meet her son as he was a bass player. Her son was Keith Welsh. So it was together with Keith that we founded a band for fun, just playing cover versions of songs. That was the beginning of it. That was when we were originally called Flowers, and we played pubs and clubs a lot. But on my part, there was never any burning ambition to make it a proper job. It all just happened.
“I wasn’t the least convinced that it could be made into a proper job at that point — it was great fun. But apparently we got a very large following which attracted quite high powered management, the group of managers who at the time managed the two biggest bands in Australia, Cold Chisel and The Angels. It was really through their encouragement that they pointed out the obvious reality, which was that somebody had to write songs. We were never going to get anywhere as a cover band. So that was when I started adding one song at a time, and over quite a long time those songs ended up being the first album.”
Icehouse has now been in the business for over forty years. Did Iva ever think the band would still be touring all these years later to sell-out crowds?
“No! Look, my absolute belief was based on a real historical fact, which is if you go back and look at almost every very successful band that’s ever existed, in relative terms, they were very short lived. Even a band as big as the Beatles, really, when you drill down into the reality of it and the cold, hard facts, they only really lasted a short number of years. So I guess my belief system was based on this kind of repeated pattern, which was bands either break up because they fall out, or they have just a very short lived career before people lose interest in them. And so that was really my mindset right from the beginning. I suppose you could describe me as a complete skeptic,”
2022 marked the 40th anniversary of what is probably Icehouse’s biggest hit, the legendary Australian anthem Great Southern Land. First released in 1982, Great Southern Land was written by Iva Davies when the band was overseas on their first tour and he was suffering terrible homesickness.
“We were heading off overseas on our very first international tour. The flight, I think it was heading straight across Australia towards Singapore or something like that. I remember staring out the window until we got across desert and spinifex grass and dry creek beds and things which didn’t hold my interest. I fell asleep and I slept for two hours, and when I woke up, I looked out the window and it was almost as if I was staring exactly the same thing. The light bulb went off then in my mind as to the sheer scale of Australia. That was the thing that I took away from that experience.
“The tour itself overseas was an absolute killer. In fact, it really broke up that original band and it was six months away and was incredibly hard work and I got incredibly homesick. I knew when I got back that the task was to write the second follow up album to what had been a very successful first album. And the very first song that I wrote was Great Southern Land. And so I guess it’s pretty easy to kind of join all those dots. And work out where the motivation came from. But it didn’t seem that way at the time. It just seemed an obvious thing to do, for whatever reason.”
We asked Iva what it is about performing that he still loves.
“I think there’s a certain unpredictability about it. And that’s interesting, because you’d think by now everything’s a well oiled machine and everything would be highly choreographed and anticipated. But I’ve been working with the same crew for 14 years consistently now, so this is not just a band, this is the entire crew. Everybody knows exactly what they’re doing and to a certain extent, they know what’s going to happen. Everybody’s given a set list at the beginning of the night. So the lighting designer and the front of house person and the monitor engineer, even the guitar techs know exactly what has to be done. But even in the light of all of that, there is still a certain unpredictability about what may or may not happen.”
Iva Davis and Icehouse will be performing this Saturday night as part of the VAILO Adelaide 500 After Race Concert.
“Every now and again we’ll boot up a song we haven’t played for years — in fact, the last two shows that we did, we’ve added a song that we haven’t played probably for nearly three years. But we will certainly be bringing all our greatest and biggest hits to this special Adelaide performance on Saturday night.”
Tickets and further details can be found here: https://adelaide500.com.au/concerts .
Full after-race line-up
Friday, November 24
CARL COX AND ERIC POWELL’S MOBILE DISCO with the House Divas –
Robin S (US), Melanie Williams (UK), and Saeeda Wright (MFC – US) – and special guest Christine Anu
Local artist – DJ SVVLO
Saturday, November 25
with special guests William Barton and The Brewster Brothers
The Screaming Jets
Australian Rock Collective including Talei Wolfgramm
Local Artists – Purée and Mum’s Favourite
Sunday, November 26
Sneaky Sound System
Local artist – Rob Edwards
Photo credit: supplied