Charles Jenkins and his Blue Winter Ball

It's the middle of winter, and what better way than to keep warm than to head out on a chilly Saturday night with a bunch of mates for a Ball. A Ball at the Corner Hotel... Charles Jenkins, a Melbourne institution is gearing up for his second annual Blue Winter Ball at Melbourne's Corner Hotel and Robert Carbone had a quick chat with Charles about this year's event.


Greetings Charles. I just want to say, that you have a stellar lineup for this year's Charles Jenkins & The Zhivagos Second Winter Ball. It looks fantastic. Tell me all about it?


Well it's been a typically ramshackle way to get everyone involved. There were people who I asked to do last years and who couldn't as they were out of town, namely Ash Naylor, Suzannah Espie, Jeff Lang, Angie Hart, so I made sure I got them this year.


Nick Barker (The Wreckery & Nick Barker & The Reptiles) I'd been in touch with lately about a few things, so it was great to get him onboard. Rob Craw (Huxton Creepers) is an old mate so I'm please to be dragging him onto the stage and Stephen Cummings (The Sports, has had a successful solo career and now also becoming known as a writer) and Kat Spazzy and Davey Lane and Georgia Fields, you know I think they're all so talented in their own individual ways. Then of course Rebecca Barnard and Rob Snarski of The Blackeyed Susans, that band are a masterclass of performance and songwriting. It is going to be great to have him singing this year. And of course Ron Peno, we can't have a Winter Ball without Ron!


Tell me about the charity you are supporting this year?


Last year, the Winter Ball was a showcase by Dust Devil Music (Charles' record label) to promote the latest recording, "The Blue Atlas" CD. I wanted to get a charity affiliated last year but it just didn't happen in time. The proceeds from this year's Winter Ball will go to the VicRelief Foodbank's Warm Up Winter Appeal. I know someone from that charity, so it just took one phone call to get them onboard. My long term ambition is to make this an annual event for that and other charities. I am first and foremost a songwriter, so naturally being the shy and retiring type I'm a little uneasy about seeing my name plastered all over town, so hopefully, maybe in the future it will just become "The Winter Ball" without my name attached.


There is reason why I highlighted The Winter Ball as one of my best gigs of 2009. It stood out because I was witnessing the whole community spirit on that stage. It was so enthralling to see these great respected musicians enjoying themselves. You were playing songs by these other artists on that stage and they in turn were reinterpreting your songs from "The Blue Atlas". It just showed such a great mutual appreciation of each other's musical talent. We also had some fantastic covers of Bob Dylan and that one particular tune, that people think was written by Elvis Costello but is really a Nick Lowe song, "(What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love, and Understanding". What aural delights would we expect to witness this year at The Second Winter Ball? Any chance of some, let's say…Alex Chilton?


It's all really loose and there was really no set parameters on the songs that have become a part of the setlist. Basically it was "do one of yours and then an interpretation of someone else's song, perhaps"! Certain artists have suggested doing certain songs because they are just their favourites. A song may have been selected because it has a winter feel to it. Alex Chilton? How did you know? This year we will be performing a Big Star song, as well as a song by the Replacements.


If I was a betting man, I put a million bucks on a particular Replacement song. As Paul Westerberg did write a song called "Alex Chilton". What is the plan of sonic attack for the night?


We'd love to see people frock up to The Winter Ball and get out of the cold and warm up to the action on stage. The Corner Hotel looked a treat last year with winter decorations and we will be doing the same again this year. The door opens at The Corner at 8:30pm. We want people to get there early on the night. There will be two long sets with an intermission. Ron Peno's RSVP will play on the smaller stage to start with then our first set, RSVP will play again then the second half on the main stage will hopefully be our completely nuts rock n roll set.


That's sounds really exciting, Charles. I can't wait to witness the night's events. So what is happening on the recording front?


We're one day away from completely mixing the latest Charles Jenkins and The Zhivagos album. It was recorded in March and we've been adding the final touches to it over the last few months.


Will we be hearing some sneak peaks of some of the new tunes at The Second Winter Ball?


We will be playing at least one new song. The band itself was a real influence in the songwriting actually for this record, knowing that a band can really kick a song along, and make the dynamic range so much more, was very inspiring for me. We recorded the album over a period of eight days at an ex-sheep homestead near the South Australian border. It was such a picturesque environment that I think inspired us all. I can't wait to get back there in the future and do it again.


When will the new CD be out?


We are planning on a late September 2010 release so i daresayThe Zhivagos will be performing an album launch around that same time.


Charles Jenkins & The Zhivagos Second Annual Winter Ball will be on this Saturday at The Corner Hotel in Richmond. Get their early to avoid disappointment. Doors open at 8:30pm and the music will start shortly afterwards. Put on your best threads and glam it up at The Winter Ball and shake off those cold wintery blues.

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