Dave Dobbyn interview

Kiwi national treasure gives Time Out some fighting talk


You’ve played in Dubai before – what did you think of the city?
The last time I was in Dubai, four years ago, it was so hot. We had a lot of Kiwis in from Qatar, that was kind of fun. It was 35°C in the club – I nearly fainted. I felt like Woody Allen in the desert; I’m a pale little Irish man from New Zealand. It’s a crazy place, Dubai; it’s like a giant Las Vegas. All these buildings and malls, the landscape – I can’t describe it. Maybe it should always be that way. It’s a place of bizarre dreams, at least for engineers and architects and people with bundles of money.

You’re regarded as a national treasure in New Zealand. What’s it like having that kind of pressure on your shoulders?
I’ve always carved out my own path. If you listen to that, you stage yourself as obsolete. I’m not afraid to find new territories.

Our Kiwi colleague says your 1988 single, ‘Loyal’, should be the New Zealand national anthem.
Personally I just keep thinking about the next three minutes – you’re only as good as your next three minutes. I don’t buy into it, although occasionally it helps you to get a table at a restaurant. It’s just affection, and it goes both ways – if they want to embrace the music, that’s great, as long as it’s the music, not me. To me, writing music is like making furniture, building a really nice chair. A great song will always stick around, I’m an artisan, not an artist.

Ever wonder why you’re not better known outside of New Zealand?
That would be nice. It’s funny, I always take the long way around because it’s more interesting. If someone else comes along and makes a hit out of one of my songs offshore, that would be fine.

You’re playing in Dubai on the same night as Michael Bolton. What do you think of him?
There will be a lot of hair products at that one! I heard that when they were trying to record a vocal for his album, his phone kept ringing – it would be a commercial and he’d go and do that instead. They could never get the record done! I can’t stand that. Could I take him in a fight? I could blow him away with a guitar chord.

What about [English singer-songwriter] Taio Cruz?
Not having heard his music, I would guess it’s overproduced and full of auto-tune, and it’s all about girls and their behinds. [Laughs] I’m worried, deeply worried – I’m going to have to look at ticket sales. There’s no point in getting bitter and twisted, but I get sick and tired of hearing music that’s so shallow and slimy and produced and unimaginative and forgetful. It’s just product coming at you, but I’m not concerned about that.

So how will you square up to Taio’s smooth moves?
I’ve got a few moves these days – I think the choreography we’ve got to offer is subtle but tried and true. There’s an animal magnetism from subtlety, and I’m a master of it. If you like your men short and bald, I’m your guy.

Any chance of a reunion of your ’80s band, DD Smash?
It’s off the table. We got my first band, Th’Dudes, back together four years ago. It’s a fight with danger reforming bands and I haven’t really got time – as it is, I can’t get past playing the hits.

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