Warning: this article contains names, images and voices of deceased Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
We spoke with Gavin Campbell and Robert Goodge, two of the remixers behind the Filthy Lucre Remix of 'Treaty' (1991) by Yothu Yindi. Read more about the story behind 'Treaty' and its chart success.
Nick Henderson, NFSA: How did you first come across, or become aware of this particular song, ‘Treaty’?
Gavin Campbell: One day, in the office at Mushroom I spotted a photograph of an Aboriginal ceremony on someone’s desk, and it had a Mushroom logo on it. When you’ve got a publicity shot with a record company logo on it, that’s an artist! I had a bit of a fascination with the Dreamtime, I thought it was dark and mysterious.
I had my own light bulb moment. I grabbed the photo, and I went into the other office where the head of A&R, Simon Bayertz, was and I said, ‘What about these guys? Who are they? Can we listen to something for a Razor remix?’. And he said, ‘Well, the thing is, two albums have been made, and not yet recouped on what it cost to produce them’, and that Mushroom wouldn’t want me to remix this band. And that is what he said to me, and he was spot on: the walls went up.
And so, I may as well say it now, I snuck the tapes out of the building. Nobody, no permission, no nothing, but there were two people in the building that I told: Simon, and Janine Kerr, who worked in the office. I think she was in business affairs… the head lawyer. Simon Young and Janine had a good relationship, so I felt safe in letting her know too and that I wasn’t really thieving.
Nick: What was it like when you pulled the song off the multitrack?
Gavin: We all decided we wanted that chant in ‘Treaty’. It was magic; the singing that Dr Yunupingu did was extraordinary, so we had that in mind to use for a dance track. That’s why we needed the multitrack, because we wanted to separate that chant. But we also used some of his pop vocal, as I call it, which we treated heavily with effects in the studio to sound like it was coming through a megaphone at a rally, because we had to include at least some of the protest element.
Nick: How was the remix received by Mushroom and Yothu Yindi?
Gavin: Pauly, Robert and I, we kind of had a crisis of confidence. We froze once it was finished, so we didn’t play it to anyone for a while. Then that Christmas, Michael Gudinski had a party at his new mansion in Toorak, and he invited Festival and Mushroom staff from around the whole of Australia and brought them all to Melbourne. It was a big thing.
I got ‘Treaty’ and put it on a cassette intending to play it to people at the party when they were all drunk [laughter]. Timing is everything, I thought. So, I’m there and I noticed that Molly Meldrum and Gudinski were talking, and that Gudinski had this wall full of amplifiers and knobs and things which sent the music throughout the entire complex, and there was a cassette in there playing. So I whispered into Molly’s ear, ‘Guess what I’ve got in my pocket?’ I told him exactly what it was, and said ‘Look I am a little bit frightened, would you please put it on for me, Molly, and turn up the volume?’ And so he did. He just stopped Michael’s cassette and put it on.
Molly knew what he was doing, and he played it really loud. And I kid you not, the party slowly stopped. The party stopped. And especially the MDS people, the Mushroom dance people, they all came straight in and everybody milled around. And I had it twice [on the cassette] – it repeated – so it just came on twice. And by the time it finished the second time, people were just looking at me and smiling.
Robert: Yothu Yindi loved it.
Nick: How did the remixes for the 25th anniversary of ‘Treaty’ in 2016 come about?
Gavin: I always thought to myself, ‘I am going to remix ‘Treaty’ again one day, when the timing is right’. So, in 2015 and 2016, I talked to Mushroom and Alan James, the band’s manager, and my manager Erin Jameson, about this project. It's got some of the biggest names in Australian music remixing. We wanted Aboriginal rappers too, so I guess you could say Razor Recordings is curating a remix package, around seven or eight across many genres, including a straight update of the Filthy Lucre Remix. This project illustrates the timeless and worldly qualities of this song… that the sound of ceremony can go across hip hop, techno, house and more.
The original version of this article was published in 2016. The text was updated in 2023.
Main image: musicians Robert Goodge (left) and Gavin Campbell (right).