Guest cover designer: Lyndon Pike interview by Renae Mason

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As Lyndon Pike recalls his formative years it’s clear that music and everything that goes along with it – the fashion, the pop aesthetics, the enticing underground scenes – have shaped his life in memorable ways. Fans of Sydney’ FBI radio may know Lyndon as the man behind the now retired ‘Vertigo’ show or have seen him spinning records around town over the years. These days he’ busy in his day job as a graphic designer and getting to know what kinds of tunes his newborn baby Miles is down with.

It’s hard to imagine a time when computers weren’ omnipresent in everyday life, but cast a delicate thought back to an era when the television was a humble box in the corner and hours were whiled away watching the naive and wondrous cartoons that came out of it. In those days the summers stretched on, each day was truly a new dawn and kids were free from the parental cotton wool wrap that cloaks most tightly today. Lyndon recalls that childhood life vividly.

“I grew up in two distinct environments. From the age of four to 12, I lived in Kiama on the New South Wales south coast and my memories of this time are very care free, filled with unsupervised adventures, riding my bike all around the place and walking across the road to spend time at Jones’s Beach amongst the nature of the rock pools. My senses were turned on at the time by the fun of the ’70s pop culture explosion, with TV shows and the related merchandise flooding my mind. Harry Butler’ In The Wild, Jaws, Star Wars, The Wonderful World Of Disney, Smokey The Bear, The Thunderbirds, H.R. Puffinstuff, Casper The Friendly Ghost, Darryl & Ozzie and the Saturday Super Funshow with Marty & Emu on a weekend. Hanna-Barbera cartoons were a favourite of mine, particularly “Wacky Races’ (I even had the board game). It was a great time for kids, as the animation and art direction of all these shows were a by-product of the ’60s counter culture, and so the imagery was wildly colourful and imaginative.”

Of course, Lyndon’ earliest memories of precious possessions comprise music-related paraphenalia, including a uniquely kitsch record player. “When I was about five or six, my parents gave me a portable Flintstones record player that was molded in the shape of a boulder with a bone for a handle. It featured Fred and Barney jiving away on the top beside a small speaker. I had a small collection of seven inch singles that I would play downstairs in the rumpus room (essential to any ’70s home).” This humble beginning was to spurn a lifetime of obsessive music collecting, with Lyndon’ eclectic tastes now spanning nearly every genre imaginable.

“In my mind, music was the ultimate and I spent time in class during primary school drawing the four faces of Kiss who became my first big music obsession. Following a brief flirtation with the pop group Racey, but the less said about that the better. The first album I purchased with my own money was the self-titled album by Kiss from a record bar located at the Warilla Grove shopping centre. Even as a kid, I felt it important to return to the very roots of a band’ career and collect somewhat chronologically so I could map the progression of their sound. Not having any older siblings, I would usually discover the songs I liked via TV and radio.

“I remember liking the Queen song ‘Crazy Little Thing Called Love’ so much that I would sit with my finger on the pause button on my radio/cassette player and wait until it came on, committing it to tape over and over until I had filled an entire 45 minute side with the one song. I would then listen to it over and over and over again. No, it’s not normal, but it’s how I was at the age of eight.”

“The second phase of my musical environment began in my teenage years when my family moved to Camden in Sydney’ southwest. We moved into a house in Camden South and my neighbour across the road, Richard, had two older brothers who had a great collection of music. In particular, his oldest brother David was instrumental in turning me on to punk and 2-Tone ska. A style I would embrace in a big way, worshipping The Specials in particular, as well as The Selecter, Madness, The Beat and all those fantastically exciting UK bands that had made such an impact overseas and whose influence was felt all the way over here by the underground music community. My high school years were spent drawing black and white chequers on everything. Wearing Fred Perrys and flat top haircuts, much to the disgust of the flanelette and ugg boot brigade who were the nemesis of my small group of friends dedicated to the influence of UK fashion and music. Of course, looking back, we had it all wrong when compared to the streetwise city mods and rudies who had more of a community and a handle on the sub culture. I distinctly remember being ridiculed on the steps of Town Hall where everyone would hang on a Saturday morning, for my very uncool pleated pants that I was wearing with some borrowed Doc Martin cherry red boots, but I was learning.”

“During this time, I was also listening to a wide variety of sounds from small Australian independent bands. The ’80s was a decade when a musician could survive quite well on the dole, and give full attention to his or her art, thus creating a very fertile time in Australian live and recorded music. I would take regular Saturday morning trips into the city and explore Ashwoods, The Record Plant, Phantom, Metropolis, Lawson’s and Red Eye, discovering all sorts of wonderful artefacts which I would take home and get so much pleasure from. I was also interested in reggae, ’60s pop, rock and roll and electronic sounds such as New Order. I was like a kid in a candy store, with so much to choose from. This was long before ebay and the like, so there was so much great music on offer, especially if you put in the time and got down and dirty, scouring the lower racks in amongst the grime and dust for that undiscovered treasure.”

All of this foraging paid off for both Lyndon and the punters at his regular gigs. As a somewhat permanent fixture on the evolving party scene he’ witnessed entire sub-cultures crash and burn only to be resurrected again when the whims of fashion dictate that retro is somehow the next big thing, again. Lyndon jokes, “Yes, the scene did evolve over time, but then so did I, namely by getting older.”

“I have to say that I still feel very privileged to have been present at the start of rave culture in Australia, it was such a vibrant, innocent, hedonistic and carefree time. It lasted a for a good few years in its nascent state. It was a pretty small scene back then, run predominantly by visiting ex-pat Brits and savvy Aussie artist collectives and DJs. Most people knew each other, at least by sight, as it was a core group that would attend the parties and the emerging club nights. The most memorable parties for me were the ones that took you away from your daily existence and transported you to somewhere magical, surrounded by very like-minded souls. That sounds a bit like hippy dippy bullshit, and it probably is, and without wanting to sound elitist, you knew you were part of something that was truly underground and not known to the general public. Of course, that didn’ last long and before you knew it techno music was finding its way on to TV commercials, and everyone in pop music was jumping on board courtesy of the club remix of their latest single. The scene changed as I did, and there came a time when we parted ways, but it was a lot of fun.”

When asked if any one night stands out against all the others, Lyndon recalls the craziness of that one time… “It was a party held in Newcastle way out in the sand dunes several mates and I had been asked to DJ at. We drove up late evening and arrived to a rather cold Newcastle night in the middle of nowhere. We left our cars at a small parking area in the bush and then proceeded in the dark to navigate our way to the party, which wasn’ particularly close by. Most of us were carrying a full crate of records over soft sand for what seemed like an eternity – now there’ a way to get fit. Finally we arrived at our destination, and the sight was wonderful to behold. Standing atop the lip of a natural amphitheatre, looking down upon a gigantic Indian tee pee with several smaller tents and the decks set up in the middle, we knew this was worth the walk.

“Not due to play until later in the proceedings we ran about the dunes, sat and listened to the music and had a great time for an hour or so. However, out of nowhere a breeze picked up and a voluminous bank of black cloud was fast approaching. Suddenly, it was chaos. A howling wind and sheets of rain began heaping upon us in a matter of minutes and there was a mad scurry to get everything under cover – all the gear and 60 or more people. We managed to spread a giant tarpaulin over ourselves and this is where we stayed in the dark and in the rain for several hours. Once the rain had passed and we emerged it was obvious that the event was a total washout and that we had no choice but to gather our belongings, including the crates of vinyl, and trudge our way back to the cars, which is where we slept, or tried to, until morning when we promptly drove all the way back to Sydney. All that for an hour of fun!”

Finding less time to DJ now could actually be a blessing in disguise as it forces Lyndon (or Lance Link, his current DJ moniker) to choose gigs wisely. “Now I choose events that are unique or going to be entertaining for me, such as a recent photography exhibition opening night, a live experimental evening with Andrew Pekler and Marcus Schmikler from Germany and an upcoming ’60s soul and mod night that will really satisfy my current pop obsession. I think after DJing for so long, it’s important to challenge yourself and not just go through the motions of playing the same old venues and club scenarios.”

His regular slot as host of “Vertigo’ on Sydney’ FBI radio was similarly an opportunity to kick back and enjoy his collection without being compromised by unsanitary surrounds. “I absolutely loved doing Vertigo. It was three years of fun on a Sunday evening that allowed me to share my love of music with others. Way more satisfying for me at this age than playing in a pub or club with a shithouse sound system. I tried to present a show with no musical prejudice, the only rule being that every tune played had to be something I truly believed in. I figured, if I did that it would come across on the air and I like to think I achieved that.”

Looking back on the success of the show, there are occasions when Lyndon misses his time in studio. But a new, exciting era of fatherhood calls, which means one thing at least: more mixes! This time, the music is for his son Miles. If you’re at loss for what to play when the kids are around, Lyndon has some hot tips: “Melody is key. Reggae is good. Indie pop, swingin’ jazz and anything with a lot of percussion, drums and catchy choruses. You’ll learn over time that your kid knows what he or she likes, and children will let you know that your music doesn’ agree with them on any given day.”

The shift in focus that Miles’ arrival has brought is also feeding into Lyndon’ other creative pursuits. When he’ not busy with his day job as a graphic designer for an advertising firm he’ working on illustration projects for friends and family. Designing creations especially for Miles comes naturally. “It suits my drawing style, which has always had a cartoon-like quality to it, and it’s something I’d like to take into a commercial arena in the future.”

It appears certain that even if Miles doesn’ choose to follow his father down a visual design path, he will grow to have a discerning knowledge of music. Or maybe he’ll even share what appears to be almost every kid’ childhood dream. You know the one where you’re in the crowd at a concert and, as Lyndon explains it, “the band would announce that the lead guitarist was sick and could anyone possibly come up and play in his place? Of course, that person would be me and I’d have a spare plectrum in my pocket for exactly that occasion. I shredded big time, naturally.”

Renae Mason

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