My good pal Andrew Leavold’s new film Pub: The Movie, about the unofficial mayor of St.Kilda Fred Negro, has now been premiered in Melbourne and Sydney, and the screening I saw at the old Hoyts cinemas on George St in the city, as part of the Sydney Underground Film Festival, was a ton of fun. I appeared in Pub: The Movie, but I do not appear on "Pub: The T-shirt" that I’m pictured wearing above. That’s because if it’s true – and I think it is – that you haven’t made it in Melbourne music until you’ve appeared in Fred’s long-running comic strip Pub, the fact that I’m from Sydney might account for that. But then the fact also that I serve in the film as something of a devil’s advocate, most notably reading aloud a terrible review I gave to Fred’s band I Spit On Your Gravy in Rolling Stone in 1985 – and cracking myself up in doing so; I mean, did I just say that!? – might have something to do with it too. (I must be getting typecast, just incidentally, since I also just did such a devil's advocate interview for a forthcoming documentary about Michael Gudinski!) But then moral outrage is something Fred thrives on, and I’m all for it. Nearly forty years ago I thought I Spit On Your Gravy was musically a terrible band, and said so, but I soon learnt you had to be there, so to speak, and the pricking of pomposity and not just pomposity but hypocrisy and mediocrity, as Fred delights in doing, is an extremely worthwhile pursuit, and so I salute him and I salute Andrew Leavold.
Andrew is a very very good friend who is dedicated to the art and only the art, and I’m stoked for his sake and generally that after many years of pursuing this project on the smell of an oily rag, it’s finally come to fruition. When Coffin Ed was writing a piece on the film for the Sydney City Hub and asked me for a quote or two – and you can see the full final result here – I said: “Somewhere in between Robert Crumb and Ray Ahn – between San Francisco and Sydney – Melbourne’s Fred Negro is similarly a musician and artist whose comic strips on the St.Kilda scene, deliberately crude both metaphorically and literally, say more about it than all the seemingly interminable stream of books, films, and museum exhibitions about its apparent godhead Nick Cave ever could. Andrew Leavold’s new film about the man and his art – Pub: The Movie – is a magnificent, engrossing, even touching tribute:” That because if the film has a hurdle to surmount, it is that Fred is barely known of outside Melbourne. But as the sort of film it is, that tells the story of a mostly-disdained and terminally-irreverent outsider artist and his underground community, it has a universal appeal and should be seen and could be enjoyed by anyone with even a vague tolerance for the maginalised other. As for Leavold, we all just await with bated breath his next step. And as for me, well, meantime, since I have never appeared in Pub: The Comic Strip, I am working on an original cartoon of my own that I can only hope will meet with Fred’s unbridled scorn…