Ollie Olsen (on Whirlywirld): “It was a fun time.”

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Whirlywirld was an Australian Post-Punk band led by Ollie Olsen (Reals, Young Charlatans, Orchestra Of Skin And Bone, Max Q) and the first of his musical collaborations with drummer John Murphy (Dumb and The Ugly). Whirylwirld formed in 1978 and were an integral part of the Little Bands scene in Melbourne, hosting numerous bands on their terrace in North Fitzroy. They were also an early incarnation of synth punk in Melbourne, thanks to Olsen and Murphy’s desire to move beyond the guitar. Active for two years, their reasonably fluid lineup featured Andrew Duffield (The Models) and Simon Smith on keyboards and Dean Richards (Equal Local) on guitar, though later also Phillip Jackson on synthesizer, Arnie Hanna on guitar, and Greg Sun on bass. Whilst they would only play fourteen live shows, they did release two self titled EP’s on Missing Link records, which have been compiled by Melbourne’s Sorcerer Records and Chicago label HoZac Records who have just released The Complete Studio Works 1978​-​80.

With the re release of music he made some 40 odd years ago Olsen was kind enough strain the memory banks and reflect on his Whirlywirld experience.

Cyclic Defrost: What’s it like that labels are interested in re releasing music that you put out in 1979?
Ollie Olsen: It’s incredible that Hozac records in Chicago wanted to release it. I never thought it would get a release in the USA. Crazy stuff, but really cool.

Cyclic Defrost: What do you hear when you listen back to the music of Whirlywirld today?
Ollie Olsen: I hear my young self trying to make interesting music with limited resources, I used to get a bit embarrassed but I don’t now.

Cyclic Defrost: How did the name come about?
Ollie Olsen: I really don’t recall how the name came about… I was born in Melbourne and grew up here and Norway, travelled a lot I think because of that and John Murphy and I having a strong intention to leave here was a part of the reason for the name.

Cyclic Defrost: Do you remember what you were thinking at the time you formed the band? I think at the time you were in The Young Charlatans?
Ollie Olsen: I was really frustrated in the Young Charlatans, I studied electronic music in 1975 and my head was always there.

Cyclic Defrost: What were you singing about? What were your thoughts about vocals in music at the time? I really like your phrasing.
Ollie Olsen: I was really influenced by Scott Walker, Peter Hamill and David Bowie vocally…Scott Walker taught me a heap about phrasing.

Cyclic Defrost: What’s your memory of the way the music was received at the time?
Ollie Olsen: When the first EP was released it was very well received and played a lot on community radio of the time.

Cyclic Defrost: Can you talk a little bit about what was happening around you at the time? I understand that you were based in North Fitzroy near the Primitive Calculators? Can you talk a little bit about your relationship to the Little Bands scene and what it was like for you?
Ollie Olsen: We lived next door to the Primitive Calculators and lots of our friends had ideas for bands.. so the “little band” idea formed from that. I was in Too Fat to Fit through the door and the Alan Bamford Musical Experience. It was a fun time and it grew quite big I hear, but John and I headed to London.

Cyclic Defrost: It seemed like a pretty chaotic time with multiple members and the band only around for a short time. Why did the band eventually go their separate ways?
Ollie Olsen: Mostly it came down to the fact that members did not want to go overseas, that is why the first version split up.

Cyclic Defrost: In 1984 you re recorded Win/Lose for the Dogs in Space soundtrack, and I understand you were very involved in the music that appeared in that film. What made you re record the music of Whirlywind? Why not just use the original piece?
Ollie Olsen: The original piece was used over the end credits, the director wanted me to do a “live” version for a scene in the film.

Cyclic Defrost: What was it about synthesizers that attracted you initially? What keeps you interested?
Ollie Olsen: As I said earlier, in 1975 I studied electronic music…it’s always fascinated me and continues to do so.

Cyclic Defrost: I understand you stepped away from music recently but you have now returned. What caused you to step away and now come back?
Ollie Olsen: I “retired” for a year as I went through a really bad time with a band break up … I’m really getting a whole new lease on my musical life now. In a funny sort of way lock down suits me.

Cyclic Defrost: What are you working on currently?
Ollie Olsen: All kinds if things. I’ve started a new Bandcamp called Ollie Olsen Verlag which has some old catalogue but will soon have lots of new stuff.

Cyclic Defrost: What music have you enjoyed lately?
Ollie Olsen: Wardruna, Stockhausen , Xenakis, Zola Jesus, Drab Majesty, Merzbow… I don’t know, I like all kinds of things really from really “difficult” music to pop. I just love Music.

You can find Whirlywirld’s The Complete Studio Works 1978​-​80 here from Sorcerer Records in Australia and here from Hozac records in the US.

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Bob is the features editor of Cyclic Defrost. He is also evil. You should not trust the opinions of evil people.