Russell Baillie writes about movies for the Herald

A good supply of Air Supply

Love's been good to Aussie band Air Supply, who are still on the road after 40 years.
Original Supply: Russell Hitchcock and Graham Russell.
Original Supply: Russell Hitchcock and Graham Russell.

It takes all of 10 seconds into an interview with Air Supply's Russell Hitchcock before he mentions the L-word.

Asked what took the singer in the Australian band whose global 80s hits included Lost in Love, All Out of Love, The One That You Love, came to be living in Atlanta, he replies: "My girl. I moved here for love, man."

Yes, love has been very good to Air Supply - the musical partnership of frontman Hitchcock and songwriter-guitarist Graham Russell since they first met in 1975.

Their albums sold more than 20 million copies. Their singles more than 10 million. And while they haven't troubled the charts in English-speaking parts of the pop world since the late 80s, they've kept a high profile in Japan and Southeast Asia - where they remain karaoke favourites - and Latin America. The day after TimeOut chats to Hitchcock, Air Supply is due to fly out to Guatemala. They were one of the first Western groups invited to play in Cuba back in 2005.

After their tours of Australia and New Zealand, they head to China where they've got a multiple night run in Shanghai.

Hitchcock says he and Russell always wanted to head global after their early success in Australia, after meeting during a Sydney production of Jesus Christ Superstar.

"After our first couple of songs were really successful there, we wanted to go overseas and [the record company ] said 'you've got to stay in Australia. We can make you the biggest band in Australia' and we both naively said, 'We want to be the biggest band in the world. We don't want to be the biggest band in Australia.'

"So when we had a chance to come to the US in 1980 when Lost in Love was released we saw the opportunities to get our music to a lot of people."

The band were inducted into Australia's Aria hall of fame in 2013. But Hitchcock still sounds a little sore about how the band were regarded at home in their early days.

"I don't think we were ever cool there because we didn't play rock 'n' roll. We were labelled a ballad band or soft rock, which I detest. We certainly didn't play the game with the media and I think that affected us because we got a lot of bad press and reviews.

"But now I think that we've been around for 40 years and we have been successful at a very high level, that a lot of people that I speak to now go wow you guys are great'. And we are -- we're a great act. I am very proud of what we've done. I am very proud of the record sales we have achieved. I am very proud of being in the Hall of Fame in Australia.

"So after a certain amount of time, you realise you can't fight City Hall, you just do your thing and the fans are what makes a career, not one person's opinion."

Like any 40-year music veteran, Hitchcock has some stories. He remembers touring in Australia with New Zealand's own Dragon in their early days - he and Russell sang backing vocals on the big chorus of Dragon's early hit, This Time. Both bands shared expatriate New Zealand producer Peter Dawkins.

No, they didn't break out April Sun in Cuba when they played in Havana. But Hitchcock says they played to an estimated 175,000 people, then spent the next day holed up behind the boarded windows of their hotel as Hurricane Dennis rolled in.

But Air Supply's career itself hasn't exactly been stormy. Though there has been a bit of a flurry in recent years with dance remixes of Desert Sea Sky and I Want You becoming minor dance chart hits in the US.

They feature the groove-enhanced numbers in the live show they are bringing to New Zealand this week. On stage the two original members form part of a six-piece live outfit, some of whom are younger than the songs they are playing.

"We hired young guys to make us look better," laughs Hitchcock.

And live is where Hitchcock says the proof is that Air Supply aren't a soft rock outfit only doing ballads with love in the title.

"I think we are a rock 'n' roll band on a scale between Peter, Paul and Mary and Metallica. Somewhere in between. It's a rock 'n' roll show and nothing less than that."


What: Air Supply

When and where: Horncastle Arena, Christchurch, Thursday, June 2; Opera House, Wellington, June 3; Auckland Town Hall, June 4.

- NZ Herald

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