Pioneering Australian Aboriginal group No Fixed Address were formed by Bart Willoughby (drums/vocals/didgeridoo) and Chris Jones (guitar/vocals) in Adelaide in 1978. After undergoing numerous line-up changes, NFA now numbers three - Willoughby and Jones plus Nicky Moffat (bass/ vocals). Since their beginnings, No Fixed Address set out on the road to establish themselves as a touring band like any other, but the road’s been a rough one.
As documented in the award-winning film Wrong Side of the Road, NFA suffered an inhuman amount of hardships, not least of all because they were black. But what shone through most clearly was their music - a powerful, politically-
charged reggae-rock hybrid. A soundtrack album of Wrong Side of the Road featured at least one classic NFA cut, "We Have Survived.”
Continuing to work live incessantly - variously supporting such tourists as the Clash, Peter Tosh and Ian Dury - in 1982 NFA released the mini-album, From My Eyes, a more mature statement which boasted the classic title-track, a reworking of "We Have Survived," and four more excellent cuts, including "I Can't Stand And Look:”
We've been here from the beginning of time but
You don't want to know that
Because you are on my land
How many times must you stand and look?
To get you to realise about the truth
I can't stand and look
So I sing in my music with all my heart
All I ask is a piece of peace for us
Because all I know is that we were here and we
Were proud so we shall not be moved
For this here land is my only home.
In 1984 No Fixed Address ventured overseas to England, earning encouraging response for their live appearances. At present they are regrouping in Australia, but they will return to Europe, and are "hoping to perform in Paris later this year. We are hoping (if funding is granted) to work in conjunction with the many alternative groups in Europe that promote land rights for indigenous people and anti-nuclear groups. The European community knows little of the Aboriginal people of Australia and it's about time they were told."
“We've been playing in Australia for five years and we're still literally unheard of,” says Bart Willoughby. "Black groups can't get anywhere because the market is set up in a way that only commercial groups and heavy metal are given the big push. And if I tell you that black people weren't even allowed to leave the country until 1970, you can see what we're up against.
"Australia is one of the most racist societies in the world. Their attitude is fucked. They just want to keep their Aussie-Paul Hogan type of image, sit by the bar and call 'g'day, mate'. But we've got our our image and they're starting to realise it too.
"It's been proved that Aborigines lived here three ice ages ago, which is roughly 40,000 years ago. But still they fight down truth and history. Today the Aborigine population has been greatly diminished because millions of us were wiped out since the arrival of the colonists. According to official figures 36% of the prison population are Aborigines. The mining companies come in with drink and cars, the black miner gets drunk, steals a car and ends up in jail. That's how it goes.
"Alcohol is the biggest weapon white Australia's got. The Aborigines get drunk, gets locked up and before he knows it his land, his possessions are gone.
"There's a lot of people living in the cities, all cramped up and wondering what's going on. But the countryside is really beautiful, it's good to live out there. The bush has got life, it's where everything happens. You can fish, hunt, make a fire, let your mind go round. That's the life I want to live, but I made a vow to come out and make a stand.
"We're trying to get international recognition, to bring our case to the world. The songs are about how we've been treated - or rather mistreated - and how we still are. The struggle for our land. We're here for our music and our Aboriginality, the politics are inseparable, that's what started it off.
"As a trio we are very tight. We played a show with Linton Kwesi Johnson, and he acknowledged the fact that we've mixed together so many different kinds of musics. He called it a musical fusion. I've always called it rock-reggae - but I think he got it just right. What we call it in Australia is blackfella music.
"Personally, my chief influences are Bob Marley and Jimmy Cliff songs like “The Harder They Come.” We played two dates with Peter Tosh and his Word, Sound & Power when they toured Australia in 1983, but it's funny, we didn't quite know how to communicate with each other - there was a certain amount of contact lacking but it was good experience for both of us.
"Bob Marley is our inspiration. He spoke up for his people, those who had been taken from Africa. We want to speak up for our people.
"Our words and music are very clear and catchy, and it's changed a lot of people's thinking in Australia, because they didn't know what was happening either. It's nothing new to us, but hopefully it's new to them, and they'll come and ask us questions and remember."