A brief encounter with Peter Garrett

By Sarah Daniell

A brief encounter with Peter Garrett: The singer and politician.
Peter Garrett.
Peter Garrett.

You will be on stage at the Auckland Writers Festival with some luminaries of literature - does the thought of it intimidate you?

I'm taken by the imaginative and organisational skills that writers possess, and the high quality debris they leave in their wake, but I'm not really intimidated by anyone, other, of course, than my old mates the Topp Twins, who can wring a laugh out of just about anything.

The theme of your event is "Altered states". How do you cope with them?

I grew up loving the sea, so I just try and ride the wave.

Have you achieved more as a musician or as a politician?

I'm the wrong person to answer this question. More what? The modern zeitgeist deplores mainstream politics and belittles its small victories, and many musicians are elevated beyond anything that reasonably represents their talents or achieve-ments, and one is often left wondering what all the fuss was about.

Australian politics - is it as tough and venal as it looks from this side of the Tasman?

No. Fifteen seconds of invective, through the narrow prism of modern content, does not adequately convey the democratic spirit or work of Australian parliaments.

What should Australians care more about?

Life beyond consumerism.

Kevin Rudd is a word. What word is he?

I've said all I intend to about Mr Rudd.

What did music teach you about politics and vice versa?

They are two very different callings and share little. One is dream-weaving to feed the soul, the other is making sausages to feed stomachs.

Still, one answer might be to consider how important it is to persevere, regardless of what the critics and the crowd is saying at any particular moment.

How do you walk as you talk - environmentally?

The usual stuff; recycling, reuse, repair. Support those who are trying to make a difference. Decarbonise where possible, and advocate in the home, the street and the wider world for the gifts of nature to be respected and protected.

What's the most profound observation you've heard about the state of the planet from a kid?

What's the reason we are putting so much pollution into the sky?

What song do you wish you had written?

There are so many, depending on the time of day. I could put any number of the Finn brothers' songs in (as they are esteemed Kiwi songwriters), for example Poor Boy or People Are Like Suns, or Seal's Are We Gonna Survive, because I heard it today and it made me sing loud. P.J. Harvey's The Wheel, and Shipbuilding, recorded by Elvis Costello and written by Robert Wyatt are poignant songs of the futility of war and conflict that come to mind after watching the news.

If you were to start a band up now, what would you call it?

The Escape Hatch, it's what many people are looking for, but also a possible new century in balance.

Who or what can you never escape, no matter how hard you try?
Myself. Isn't that the same for everyone?


Peter Garrett is at the Auckland Writers Festival Gala Night on Thursday, May 12, 7pm; and on Saturday, May 14, Big Blue Sky.

- Canvas

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