Interview: Jane Gazzo Talks Australian Women In Music Awards + Her Amazing Career In The Music Industry

Interview by Shannon-Lee Sloane – The Colourful Writer

When I was a teen I was in love with a show called Recovery. I loved it because it was all about music, showcased both local and international bands and was hosted by the coolest kids around, Dylan Lewis, Leigh Whannell and Jane Gazzo. There are a few women who inspired me to do what I do. Women who inspired me to want to work in the music industry. I watched Jane interview bands like Silverchair, Grinspoon, Ben Folds Five and so many more and I thought ‘I wan’t to do that!’. Fast forward past my years of having fun, then settling to have kids and here I am. Doing what I always wanted to do. This afternoon I got to chat to Jane and it was an absolute honor. Jane Gazzo is a music journalist, a television presenter, a radio host, a DJ, was in a punk band, is now also a music lecturer and once was Courtney Love‘s personal assistant! Is there anything in the world of music she hasn’t done!? Oh and she’s just been nominated for the Music Journalist Award at the Australian Women in Music Awards

You’ve just been nominated for the Music Journalist Award at the Australian Women in Music Awards – that’s a wonderful and really special achievement! Congratulations! How does it feel to have been nominated?

“Thank you. It’s surreal, I think is a really good word to describe it. Because there is only three nominees and I just think the other two…like I am such a fan of Jules (Jules Le Fevre) and she knows it. I just adore her work. And the other nominee (Ange McCormack) she is on triple j and I have only just recently started listening to her probably about three months before the announcement. I was aware of her and I was like ‘oh that’s that chick from triple j!’ so yeah, it is very surreal! *laughs*”

How do you feel about the AWMA as a whole? It’s really wonderful to see women recognized and appreciated in the music world (and there’s so many of us!) would you agree?

“I think it is really important. I think it is REALLY important that we have this celebration and that we honour our own and that we I don’t know, I guess we validate each other and we give each other a leg up and I think this is the perfect platform for that. I wish they were around when I was starting out, you know what I mean?

It’s funny, it has probably taken me, to this point in my career where I’ve truly felt in a great space where I have probably connected with women more so now than I ever have at any other time. I don’t know if that’s a shift in focus socially or psychologically; where women are really supporting other women. But you know, I’ve had this conversation with a lot of successful women not in the music industry and many of them tell me that when they were starting out at the same time as me, in different industries, it was dog eat dog. It was every woman for themselves and I can definitely relate to that. I certainly felt that when I was starting out broadcasting in the 90’s. There were very few women lending a hand, lending support but it was just what the times dictated. You really had to prove yourself and a lot of record company women tell me the same. All the women back in the 80’s and 90’s were competing with men, and some of them even admitted to me that they had to act like men in order to be accepted and a lot of that didn’t involve camaraderie with other females.

My greatest joy at this point in my career, I am on the board for a music organization called The Push, here in Victoria. It’s a pathways music industry placement, Government organization in you like. It puts on events for youth and it’s a pathway into the music industry for youth. I am on the board and my greatest joy from doing that and also being at this point in my career is actually just giving back to young women and being a mentor now and that’s where I get my greatest satisfaction and I have mentored a couple of young women that I have met through The Push and through mentoring programs and just fellow broadcasters, you know young broadcasters that come to me for advice and that’s the greatest joy I get.”

Who are some women in the music world who inspired you when you were younger? And some who inspire you now?

“I was very inspired by Annie Nightingale, a broadcaster with the BBC, she was one of the radio ones for women broadcasters back in the 80’s I think it was. I always heard about Annie Nightingale in the same breath as John Peel and I loved John Peel and I thought ok, there’s a woman doing it! And then there was people like Suzanne Dowling on Rock Arena, I just thought she was effortlessly cool hosting a music television show on ABC. You know even people, surprisingly, like Jana Wendt. They were just, even though it was current affairs and news, you know, she just had so much respect and she always seemed to take no nonsense and suffer no fools. I think as a young girl growing up in Australia, I was really impressed by that.”

You’ve been working in the music industry over the years as a television presenter, radio host, a DJ, music journalist and as a vocalist in a punk band! And I am sure there’s more to add to that list! You’ve done a bit of everything…

“*laughs* I can now add lecturer to that! I have just started lecturing music industry basics at tertiary facility here in Melbourne called Collarts. I have just added lecturer to that list! *laughs*”

I shall just add that to this amazing long list of things you’ve done and do in the music world! I want to hear about all the things you’ve done, I wish we had more time to chat about it all. I’d love to talk about where I first heard of you – on Recovery! What was it like hosting Recovery with Dylan and Leigh and the gang? Can you tell me some of your fondest and/or funniest memories from your Recovery days?

“I have so many fond and joyous memories. … I think the thing that stays with me, now that we look back some 20 years later, is the lifelong friends I’ve made form the show. I mean, yes there’s memories that stick out like interviewing Ben Folds Five when they were dressed in drag. Like all three of them sat down for their interview dressed as women and I can tell you, pink was definitely not Ben Folds colour *laughs* He was in a pink skirt and a pink blouse, like he looked like he had just stepped out of a retirement home. You know, there are things like that that make me giggle. Then there are moments that all the fans want to talk about like the Greenday episode or the John Spencer episode or when Jarvis Cocker from Pulp hosted, and I think of those really fondly and I have a good giggle to myself. But I also marvel at the fact that Dylan and I are still best mates now. You know that show opened so many doors for me on a personal level. I made lifelong friends with bands that came on that show that I am still friends with today, including a lot of international bands that I still count as really great mates. Also, it really sometimes overwhelms me that I was part of something that was so loved by so many Australian music fans.”

Absolutely! Recovery was iconic! It meant so much to so many, especially people from my generation, we loved it and we look back on it with fond memories of getting up early on a weekend to tune in and watch it. I mean a lot of us think ‘why is Recovery not still around? Or at least something like it!?’ It was something that was really special, and it was something that the music world needed at the time that it was around, but like bring it back!…

“Well Shannon, all I am going to say is – Watch this space!”

Oh my gosh! Ok, my face is hurting from smiling. That has thrown me a bit, haha! … Prior to that you worked on radio and wrote for Dolly magazine as Calamity Jane and your radio show was under that name too? Can you tell me about the early days and how things started there? Do you still get that as a nickname?

“Well it’s funny, I started my radio career at 3RRR as Calamity Jane and I did the show ‘Calamity With Jane’ and that’s where I was discovered by triple j.  But triple j were very quick to say ‘oh you know, we think it’s a little bit silly, the name, we think you should go by your real name.’  I had started writing for Beat Magazine, which was a street press paper here in Melbourne while I was on air as Calamity Jane on 3RRR and I interviewed bands under the name Calamity Jane. So, there’s still a lot of people that remember that here in Melbourne anyway.”

You fronted a punk band, Rubher in the 90’s as well! What was it like being a punk rocker and how was the reunion show you did with The Mavis’s in 2018? (How great are The Mavis’s by the way!? I still have their CD)

“Again, lifelong friends, you know, their career started when mine did. I remember playing their first 7 inch vinyl on my 3RRR show and then you know I went to triple j and they released their first few albums and it’s kind of like we have grown in our respective careers together. Becky and I are still good mates and we still get confused for each other. I still get people coming up to me and going ‘are you the chick from The Mavis’s?’ which is quite funny. I loved being in a band when I was 17 or 18 or however old I was, there’s some great videos on YouTube *laughs* I just marvel at how young and how ballsy I was! *laughs*”

You’ve interviewed a long list of amazing bands and artists over the years, I am sure it would be near impossible to pick a…

“Oh PLEASE don’t ask me for my favourite! *laughs*”

Ok, I won’t! haha, I was going to ask, not your favourite but what’s one of the first memories that comes to mind? One of the most memorable moments?

“Oh, that’s way easier to answer! *laughs* Ok, so my first concert ever was Culture Club in1984 on their ‘Colouring In Australia’ Tour. When I was at 3RRR and I was very new to broadcasting and interviewing bands, an opportunity came up to interview Boy George when I was about 17.”

Oh wow, you were a big fan!…

“I was a massive fan, I have still got scrapbooks full of Culture Club pictures. I was obsessive. So somehow this opportunity came to interview Boy George when he was on a DJ tour sometime in the early 90’s/. I remember going to the hotel with my trusty tape recorder and sitting down and he was just lovely. I felt 8 years old again. I remember the record company rep left us alone, and we were suddenly alone in this room and I really wanted to get a photo with him. Everyone had left us: his minders, his PR people, the record company rep.. I had this  Panamax camera – very early 90’s technology. So, it’s not like taking selfies now where you can see what you look like. So, I actually had to hold the camera back and pray basically. The photo did turned out, luckily. But I have a double chin because of the way I am holding the camera. It’s a really fond memory because I just remember thinking ‘Wow!’

They say you should never meet your childhood heroes, but I did, and Boy George was absolutely wonderful and it was like a touch paper for me, I just thought this is what I want to do!”

So that was the confirmation, I guess? You always knew that you wanted to work in the music industry, I recall reading somewhere something you said along the line of ‘music is one of the only things that makes sense to me’ or something like that?

“*laughs* It’s the only place I feel I belong. I was always the misfit at school, the outcast, I certainly never belonged or fit in. To a certain extent I was singled out for that difference, I look back on it now and it was probably a mild form of bullying. I went to a girls school for a while, so that opened my eyes. But once you join the music industry, you realise that there are people like you, you know? Because they are fellow music fans, and you go ‘OK! I have found my people!’

Absolutely! I am based in Brisbane and we are focused as a local music website (though we cover more than just local) and the music family we have here is just amazing. The Brisbane music scene is incredible and it’s just thriving at the moment, full of so much talent and so many great creative musical people…

“I know Shannon! There is something in the water in Brisbane I reckon. I think BIGSOUND have had a really big impact in Brisbane over the last 10 years, it’s now in it’s 11th year isn’t it? I was at Triple M last year and I tell you, every Brisbane band that sent in their songs, I was just blown away by. I was like ‘there is definitely something going on there’.”

Speaking of talented bands and artists that are around now and focusing on the AWMA, who are some of your favourite up and coming female musicians and artists?

Amy Taylor from Amyl and the Sniffers, Nat from Press Club, I love Angie McMahon, Camp Cope, Cable Ties, they are off the top of my head. Also, I love what Emily Wurramara is doing. I love P-Unique.”

You lived in England for quite a few years and I read that at some point while you were living there, you got to work with Courtney Love! One of my biggest idols and certainly a woman who rocks! What was it like working with Courtney?

“Again, all I can say is surreal. You know of how I ended up working for her was through a friend of a friend. I had just landed in London and a friend knew I was looking for work and I actually met Courtney at some music industry type event and my friend said, ‘This is Jane, she is looking for work at the moment’ and this is how great Courtney’s mind works, she said well ‘I have got a job for her’ she said ‘I am going to be in London after Cannes Film Festival and I’ll need a PA.’ I had never been a PA in my life and after jumping into the deep end with Courtney Love I dare say I will never do it again. But it was too much of a great opportunity to not take it. That is what I found when I was living in London, was how many possibilities and the opportunities I found, so you just have to grab them!”

Jane is just one of the amazing, talented and inspiring women nominated for this years AWMA. The Australian Women in Music Awards is being held at the Brisbane Powerhouse on October 8 and 9. For more details click HERE.

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