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STIUTK on you
Gotye's songs grab their inspiration from fences, breakups and Indian call centres
There's nothing about Wouter 'Wally' De Backer that screams star. He's reed thin with a scraggy hairstyle and a beard that hides most of his face. But it's the eyes that give him away. It's the same pair of eyes that stare out of the video, Somebody that I used to know.
Watched by more than 370 million people around the world, STIUTK turned Wally into the sensation now known as Gotye. It took the Belgian-Australian singer-songwriter from playing in empty bars to headlining music festivals, a non-stop two-year world tour and three Grammy nominations, including one for record of the year. Wally may still drive the same Ford Focus and live in the same house with the same girlfriend, but now the 32-yearold is a star who, on February 10, will attend his first ever Grammy ceremony.
Shared by millions on social networks and sung at every karaoke bar around the world, Gotye's life has come to be defined by the quintessential breakup song. "I don't mind, " he smiles. "I think of it as a challenge sometimes. I think there are portions of maybe every audience we play to who don't know much of the other music other than this single, but I do get a sense that the majority of the audience does know more than just the song, or if they don't, then they seem to enjoy other parts of the show."
In Delhi for the Oz Fest finale, Gotye and his band - Michael Iveson (drums), Tim Shiel (keys), Ben Shapiro (guitars) and Lucas Taranto (bass) - played to a young audience at blueFROG who was more than familiar with his body of work.
Gotye, who began his music career with an Australian band Downstares, released his debut album as a solo artist, Boardface, in 2003. Like Drawing Blood was released in 2007 and Making Mirrors took another four years to see the light of day. Always feted as an exciting musician in Australia, it was STIUTK that introduced him to the rest of the world and helped Making Mirrors top the charts in Australia and reach the top ten in several other countries.
Gotye moves with the assurance of a man who knows people pay to watch him. Layers of sounds and samples score his music, and amazingly, he and his band are able to replicate tracks live exactly as they sound on the album. Even when the computer crashed on Wednesday night - apparently the first for them on a world tour - just before Gotye was about to sing Seven hours with a backseat driver, he dealt with it like a seasoned performer.
Has he always been comfortable in front of large crowds? "I think I have got better on stage, " says the singer who moved to Australia in 1982. "One of the things that I've learned over the past two years is that you do have to find the right people to work with. So I would really credit some of the fantastic crew on monitors and front-of-house sound that have allowed those improvements to happen in terms of stage craft. But also it's just been experience and getting more comfortable in my own skin on stage. "
The 18-song long setlist was a treat for both Gotye's fans and casual listeners who hadn't heard anything apart from STIUTK. There were hit songs like Eyes wide open, State of the art, Hearts a mess, Easy way out and also little known gems such as Dig your own hole, Feel better and Thanks for your time, which incidentally, is inspired by India's call centres. "You know I've thought about doing a Bollywood-style version of Thanks for your time, but I'm not sure it would come out the right way. It would need an Indian call-centre accent, " he laughs.
Sampling sounds is something Gotye does with a passion. He reintroduced the xylophone into the musical lexicon when he used it on STIUTK. On Eyes wide open, he recorded the main bass line on a fence. "I was with my old band called The Basics - and Winton is home to this phenomenal thing called the Winton Musical Fence, " he explains. "It's a large fence made out of metal strings stretched between posts, and you can pluck it and play it with all sorts of different materials. It makes these amazing bass sounds so I sampled some bits there in 2008 and they made it into the single. "
His trip around the world has added new instruments and sound effects, including a chicken shriek to his repertoire. "I've been indulging in a bit of ebay... what's the word... desire quenching. I bought the EX42 Yamaha organ I was looking for. Just recently, I was in Japan and I bought a bunch of new instruments. My personal favourite is a large shrieking rubber chicken. "
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