When Ian Moss started writing and recording his 1989 debut solo album 'Matchbook', the main thing on his mind was setting himself apart from perhaps Australia's most iconic and deeply treasured rock bands – Cold Chisel.
“Firstly, I was keen to establish an Ian Moss identity,” he explains. “I still wanted to adhere to strong melodies, basically still be a pop artist, but be able to encase my pop songs into blues-based songs, and maybe go down a slightly funkier road than Cold Chisel ever did.
“I don't know whether I achieved that or not, but that was the rough plan, just to put my own stamp on things and show that Ian Moss had his own sound and was a very strong member of Cold Chisel, but also an individual.”
Three decades later and 'Matchbook' remains not only a defining moment in Ian's career, but also a vital instalment in Australian music culture that embodies the national rock sound of the time.
“With Chris Lord-Alge on the album engineering and mixing, I think it's made a pretty good impression everywhere,” Ian says in a near-fatal case of understatement.
“I listen to it every now and then, just chuck it on to see how the songs are ageing and I think they're ageing really well. Even the sounds of the album; it's definitely an '80s album with the big, strong snare drums and reverb and stuff like that, but that stuff comes 'round and that's current. Just great memories really.”
The album's best-known song would have to be the infectious 'Tucker's Daughter', which still gets regular radio airplay and continues to be a sing-along favourite, whether it be at Ian's shows, open-mic nights at the pub or just sitting in the traffic with the windows down and the radio blaring.
For the longevity the album has been able to achieve, Ian gives the lion's share of credit to Chisel bandmate, not to mention lauded songwriter, Don Walker. Six of 'Matchbook's' ten tracks were written by Don, with three written as a collaboration between he and Ian.
The only song on the record Don didn't contribute to was fourth single 'Mr Rain', which was written by Ian with Sally and Jon Tiven. “Don Walker did contribute a lot to the album,” Ian says.
“That was Don's thing and still is Don's thing, is he won't let you record anything or have a song of his until he's happy with the very last syllable.
"I've had Don play a song that he's working on, as he puts it, and I'd go, 'man that's fantastic, can't wait to do it' and he goes 'nah, nah, nah it's not right yet – there's a syllable in the second word of the third line of the second verse that I'm not happy with the way it flows' and you go 'oh, god that's overly pedantic',” he laughs.
“He tops it off to perfection. That kind of vigilance, that pedantry – that's what it's all about, having songs that are going to be popular not just today and tomorrow but forever, and not only popular but ageless, and that's what I feel like I've got with all ten songs on the 'Matchbook' album.”
It's no secret that life in Cold Chisel wasn't exactly easy for any of its members, with deteriorating personal relationships and substance-abuse issues marring much of their early days as a band; a volatile situation that culminated in 1983 with their disbandment.
Ian admits that at the time, it was something of a relief to be away from the turbulence of Cold Chisel and left to his own devices. “At the time it was,” he concedes.
“It was a pretty sad and ugly, depressing affair, so there was a certain part of me that was going 'well, if this is the way it's going to be, I'm going to do my own thing' and thought silly, naïve things like 'and I'll show these guys how it's really done’,” he adds with a laugh.
“The reality was, we were a real family, like brothers – we'd been together from a really early age, relatively. You got your independence and you're able to do your own thing but it's a lonelier road I suppose, because you're a solo act and you suddenly realise that those guys were – and I should say 'are' because we're still doing stuff together – a great support and it's great to have other shoulders to lean on and other minds to bounce things off.”
To celebrate the 30th anniversary of 'Matchbook', Ian takes to the road accompanied by a four-piece band on a six-week national tour. Having been in solo acoustic mode of late, Ian says he's keen to hear how the songs sound again with the backing of a band.
“Some of [the songs] I always do in my solo acoustic show but it's been a while since I've got them up and running with a band playing them, and I'm so looking forward to that,” he says.
“Some of these songs, they haven't been played by a full, five-piece band or more for a long time, so [I'm] really excited and looking forward to doing that... I aim to be as true to the album as possible and make sure it is that good-old walk down memory lane.”
Ian Moss 2019 Tour DatesFri 1 Nov - Enmore Theatre (Sydney)
Fri 8 Nov - Anita's Theatre (Wollongong)
Fri 15 Nov - Thebarton Theatre (Adelaide)
Sat 16 Nov - Palais Theatre (Melbourne)
Fri 22 Nov - Canberra Theatre
Sat 23 Nov - City Hall (Newcastle)
Fri 29 Nov - The Tivoli Theatre (Brisbane)
Sat 7 Dec - Crown Theatre (Perth)