BY TRAVIS GREEN AND SAM DIGNAND
In this conversation at the NFSA in October 2019, Powderfinger lead vocalist Bernard Fanning and music producer Nick DiDia talk with NFSA Creative Producer Sam Dignand about the making of the band’s iconic album Internationalist:
More than 10 years after they announced their split, Powderfinger are getting back together for one night only in the name of charity.
The band will broadcast One Night Lonely, a live-streamed concert raising money and awareness for mental health charity Beyond Blue and music industry charity Support Act.
The concert will stream on Powderfinger’s YouTube channel from 7pm AEST on Saturday May 23 and is sure to include a medley of their biggest hits!
Celebrating the 20th anniversary of the Internationalist album in 2018, Powderfinger released the short documentary There's No Escape: The Story of Powderfinger's Internationalist on their YouTube channel.
Considered at the time the band’s most adventurous work, Internationalist was critically acclaimed and won Album of the Year and Best Rock Album at the 1999 ARIA Awards. It debuted at the top of the charts, sold over 35,000 copies in its first week and eventually reached five times platinum.
Working with US music producer Nick DiDia for the first time, the band recorded the album in one month. Critic Ian Shedden (The Weekend Australian) hailed the album’s first single, ‘The Day You Come’, as ‘one of the best Australian rock songs of the decade’.
In 2018, Internationalist was voted number one on the ABC-Double J list of the 50 Best Australian Albums of the 90s.
Formed in 1989 in Brisbane, Powderfinger grew from a small rock band performing cover versions of other artists' songs into one of Australia’s iconic bands. The band’s original line-up was John Collins (bass guitar), Ian Haug (guitar and vocals) and Steven Bishop (drums). Bernard Fanning (lead vocals) joined the band after meeting Collins and Haug at university, and in late 1990 Jon Coghill replaced Bishop on drums, with Darren Middleton joining the band in 1992 on guitar and backing vocals.
In 1994 the band released their debut album Parables for Wooden Ears but it received limited airplay. Supporting the album’s release, the band toured heavily. They performed their first Big Day Out in 1994, followed by gigs at Livid and Homebake, and toured as the support act to Pantera.
The band’s second album, Double Allergic (1996), offered a change from the heaviness of their first. Featuring hit singles ‘Pick You Up’, ‘D.A.F.’ and ‘Take Me In’, the success of Double Allergic lifted the band to the forefront of Australia’s music scene.
The band followed the success of Internationalist with another No. 1 album, Odyssey Number Five (2000). The hit single ‘These Days’, which was written for Gregor Jordan’s film Two Hands (1999) starring Heath Ledger, won the Triple J Hottest 100 on Australia Day 2000. Powderfinger won Album of the Year, Highest Selling Album, Best Rock Album, Best Group and Single of the Year (‘My Happieness’) at the 2001 ARIA Awards.
Continuing their success, Powderfinger released Vulture Street in July 2003, which added to their ARIA Awards triumphs with Album of the Year, Best Rock Album and Best Group. A three-year hiatus for side projects followed the release of the 2004 compilation Fingerprints: The Best of Powderfinger 1994-2000. Their sixth and seventh albums, Dream Days at the Hotel Existence (2007) and Golden Rule (2009), extended Powderfinger's streak of consecutive debuting No. 1 albums to five. But the band had already decided that Golden Rule would be their last album, and they followed it with the Sunsets Farewell Tour, which saw them perform to over 300,000 fans across Australia.
Powderfinger's song 'These Days' (1999), was among the recordings selected for the Sounds of Australia in 2018:
Nick DiDia is an American-born music producer, engineer and mixer currently living in Australia. He started in the music industry in 1985 in Philadelphia, working with Bon Jovi, and later Pearl Jam and Rage Against The Machine. In 2001 he received his first Grammy Award as engineer on Bruce Springsteen’s The Rising.
Starting with Powderfinger on Internationalist, he built a relationship with them that would last the rest of the band’s career. After relocating to Australia in 2010, he continued to engineer albums for Bruce Springsteen and Pearl Jam, as well as produce albums for Kasey Chambers. Didia and Bernard Fanning have also opened a recording studio together, where they record Fanning’s solo work, amongst other artists.