Max Savage on Melbourne: “Moribund Cultural Wasteland”

Max Savage told Radio Adelaide the Melbourne music scene is “quite cliquey” and hit out at an arts industry “structured towards an elite” in a fiery discussion with Breakfast presenter Angus Randall.

The country-folk musician explained why he moved back to Adelaide after spending an extended period of time living in Melbourne.

“When you live somewhere like Melbourne it’s a bit of a moribund cultural wasteland. There’s really very little artistically worth paying attention to going on there. It’s a town that tends to get caught up in short-term fads and crazes and that goes across its whole artistic spectrum.”

Savage spends a lot of time playing regional areas and writing on the road, with a spot on the Blenheim Music Festival in the Clare Valley over the weekend. Savage says music has moved on from the major hubs of Melbourne and Sydney.

“There’s lots of great stuff happening in Brisbane and in Newcastle and in Grafton and in Mount Gambier and all of these other places and Melbourne and Sydney, they’re not, they’re quite static, a lot of stuff that comes out of it is pretty uninteresting.”

“Cultural scenes shift and move on and we haven’t really got a throbbing cultural epicentre of music in Australia at the moment.”

Max likens the arts to any other industry, saying we can learn from the long-term government policies that support manufacturing and agriculture.

“You take our wine industry for example we didn’t just throw money at grape growers and expect to make good wine. We spent decades building global industry ties between people to make South Australia a state that has a great wine industry.”

“We do it with a mind to building a structured industry that can fund people and can put food on people’s tables and pay for houses and we don’t do that in the arts in Australia.”

He said the mindset must change across the nation before there can be a strong national cultural agenda.

“People look down on Australian hip-hop and people look down on folk music and we look up to symphony orchestras that don’t really compete on a global setting.”

“We’re pouring vast amounts of resources into these crabby old cultural institutions that are essentially not really representing Australians, and essentially producing stuff that is mediocre at best and at to what reason do we do that?”