The One Man Tango?

Shel Rogerstein - Tim Rogers' reclusive collaborator or genius alter ego? You decide...

Tim Rogers met him on a train in southern France, or so the story goes.

“He’s the same age as me and lives an oddly similar life in Ohio,” Rogers explains. “The only difference is that, when I’m not doing gardening or dishwashing, I perform. He doesn’t.”

The man in question, of whom Rogers speaks fondly, is the enigmatic (alleged) musicologist and long-time song-writing partner Shel Rogerstein.

And yet somehow after years of collaboration, Rogerstein remains an unknown. In fact, Tim Rogers is the only person who seems to have even met him.

Rogers Sings Rogerstein is an eclectic assemblage of tunes 'co-written' by the pair, predominantly by mail, Rogers claims. “Two middle-aged men sending letters,” he says wryly. “We should have started a relationship.”

Unlike his elusive alter ego, Rogers can seem quite the socialite, but he describes himself as a solitary person. “I can on occasion be charming, but my charm wears out,” he says. “I even wear out people I love, so I tend to live and work alone. I’m not an outsider, I’ve just spent most of my life trying to calm my nerves and to slink about unnoticed.”

Tim Rogers? Trying not be noticed?

“I’ve been in a rock band,” he explains. “And people expect you to do the rock star thing; they kind of expect you to trash hotel rooms and fuck their girlfriend and snort rat poison. But I’m into Mexican balladry too.

“I get really excited by different forms of music, art and theatre, and when I experience it I wanna go make it too."

“I’m not a good spectator,” he concedes. “From music to making cups of tea, it’s the same temperament I’ve had since I was sixteen: I wanna be involved.”

Rogers was sixteen way back in 1985. Eight years later, You Am I released their debut album, Sound As Ever, and in the two decades since he has released close to twenty albums.

Considering most artists can go two to five years between records, Rogers is typically frank about his varied and frequent creative output.

“Here’s what I’ve found,” he blurts. “If you do something really successful, you go out on tour and you play the same songs until after a year you want to punch yourself in the dick."

“And in the grand scheme of things, I haven’t been successful at all,” he admits. “I’m not known for any great hit so it gives me opportunities to keep moving. I need work and people ask me to do creative things and I give it a go, out of interest. If I wasn’t making music I’d go out and start taking my drug career seriously or become a pro-baseball player or get a real job. I love trying different things.”

A recent example is Rogers’ discovery of tango. “I’ve been working in theatre these past few years and one of the crew shared this tango record with me,” he exclaims. “I told Shel about it and it turns out Shel is a tango dancer! Suddenly we’re talking about starting this international tango group…”

Excited, Rogers starts to speak quicker. “Oh, and I heard music from glass bowls in the theatre too…”

Exhibit B.

“And they were just beautiful and that got my mind wandering too: Hmm, glass bowls… I wonder…” Glass bowl players are not known for snorting rat poison nor are tango dancers known for trashing hotel rooms. Please adjust your perception of Tim Rogers accordingly.

His mind returns to Rogers Sings Rogerstein and the forthcoming tour. “The new album is quite baroque,” he says seriously. “It will be quite difficult to replicate onstage.”

So what can audiences expect?

“No idea!” he laughs. “I haven’t thought about it until now. I guess we’ll decide on the day.”

Rogers has never been one to over-practice. He describes You Am I rehearsals as a sequence of sandwiches, drinks and conversation, before finding themselves at the gig three days later, needing Rogers for the chord changes.

With a headful of memories, he becomes contemplative. “It’s a funny old life,” he muses, sounding less rock star-like and more like a glass bowl player than ever. “Don’t be a dick. Stay interested. Stay interesting. Write well, from your heart and not your brain…" he chuckles. “And keep your cheekbones sharp, boy!”

Tim Rogers performs, supported by the “fuckin’ beautiful nutbag of a country singer” Catherine Britt, at:

Lizottes, Newcastle, August 9
Lizottes, Kincumber, August 10
Lizottes, Dee Why, August 11
Lizottes, Newcastle, August 12
The Waratah Hotel, Hobart, August 15
Spurs Saloon, Devonport, August 16
Manhattan Wine Bar, Launceston, August 17
Old Museum, Brisbane, August 23
Great Northern, Byron Bay, August 24
Spotted Cow, Toowoomba, August 25
Milton Theatre, Milton, August 30
The Factory Theatre, Marrickville, August 31
The Abbey, Canberra, September 1
Railway Club, Darwin, September 5
Railway Club, Darwin, September 6
Spirit Bar & Lounge, Traralgon, September 13
Regal Theatre Ballroom, Northcote, September 14
The Governor Hindmarsh, Adelaide, September 20
Clancy’s Dunsborough, September 27
Fly By Night, Fremantle, September 28
Rosemount Hotel, Perth, September 29
Wave Rock, Weekender, Hyden, September 30
Bended Elbow, Geelong, October 5
Theatre Royal, Castlemaine, October 6
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