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Powderfinger performing "These Days" on the Across the Great Divide tour in September 2007, in Sydney, Australia.
Background information
Origin Brisbane, Australia
Genres Rock, indie rock, alternative rock
Years active 1989–present
Labels Polydor, Universal Music
Associated acts Drag
Far Out Corporation
The Predators
Bernard Fanning
Darren Middleton
Ian Haug
John Collins
Jon Coghill
Former members
Steven Bishop

Powderfinger is an Australian rock band. The band formed in Brisbane in 1989, and since 1992 their line-up has consisted of vocalist Bernard Fanning, guitarists Darren Middleton and Ian Haug, bassist John Collins, and drummer Jon Coghill.[1]

Powderfinger became a commercial success with their third studio album Internationalist in 1998. Since then they have released several hit singles and award-winning works earning them a total of fifteen ARIA Awards.[2] Numerous Powderfinger albums have reached multiple-platinum status, as well as top 5 rankings in the weekly Australian music charts.[3] Odyssey Number Five, Powderfinger's most successful album to date, earned over eight platinum certifications and ARIA Awards in five different categories.[4]

After the release of their first DVD These Days: Live in Concert and a "best of" release, Powderfinger announced a hiatus in 2005. The announcement of a two month-long nationwide tour with Silverchair entitled Across the Great Divide followed the release of their sixth studio album, Dream Days at the Hotel Existence in June 2007.

Across their sixteen year career, Powderfinger has been actively involved in philanthropic causes. In 2005, Powderfinger performed at a WaveAid concert in Sydney, to help raise funds for areas affected by the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake. Another performance at the Sydney Opera House in October 2007 raised funds for breast cancer victims and their families. The aim of their recent Across the Great Divide tour was to promote the efforts of Reconciliation Australia, and to promote awareness of the gap in life expectancy between Indigenous and non-Indigenous children.[5]



Formation and early releases (1989–1993)

Powderfinger was formed in 1989 by vocalist and guitarist Ian Haug, bassist John Collins and drummer Steven Bishop,[6] who took their band's name from the Neil Young song "Powderfinger".[7][8] Before the band's formation, the members had all played in other Brisbane-based outfits.[9] The band later sought an extra guitarist, Bernard Fanning, who Haug had met in a university class.[10] Fanning took over the role of lead vocals from Haug, and at the same time Jon Coghill joined the band, replacing Bishop after a "mutual leaving."[11] Powderfinger's final line-up change came with the addition of guitarist Darren Middleton into the band.[7] The group consisting of Fanning, Collins, Haug, Middleton and Coghill has remained as such since 1992.[12]

Middleton (left) and Coghill prepare to sign a contract with Polydor

Powderfinger initially performed cover versions of other artists' songs, but gradually developed into writing and performing their own material.[7] Playing a heavy metal show in Newcastle in 1990, Powderfinger was booed off the stage.[13] In 1992, the group self-funded a recording of their early works and released them as a self-titled extended play, more commonly known as the Blue EP.[6] The EP became successful and the group was signed by Polydor Records.[12] Upon its release in 1993, Transfusion reached the #1 spot on the Alternative ARIA Charts,[14] replacing Nirvana's "Heart-Shaped Box".[15] The group recorded their first music video for the EP's lead track "Reap What You Sow". It was directed by David Barker, who went on to direct the next seven videos for the group.[16]

Early albums (1994–98)

Powderfinger released their debut studio album Parables for Wooden Ears under Polydor on 18 July 1994. The album, which Fanning describes as the band's "dark days," received limited radio coverage.[15] Following the release, the band toured heavily appearing at the Livid and Homebake music festivals,[17] including an appearance at one of Australia's largest music festivals, Big Day Out, in 1994.[18] Three singles were released from the album – "Tail", "Grave Concern", and "Save Your Skin". Following the album's release, and lukewarm reception, the group recorded and released another EP entitled Mr Kneebone in 1995.

The band released the highly successful Double Allergic on 2 September 1996. This, their second album, reached double platinum status in Australia.[19] Four singles were released from the album – "Pick You Up", "D.A.F.", "Living Type" and "Take Me In". "Take Me In" was released as a video-single featuring several other music videos by the group. Double Allergic debuted at #7 on the Australian charts and remained in the top 20 for seven weeks.[20] A reviewer for FasterLouder, a music review web site, commented that "when Double Allergic was released in 1996, it showed the band were here for the long haul to become arguably one of the best of the decade."[21]

Critical acclaim and chart success (1998–2003)

In September 1998, Powderfinger released Internationalist, their third studio album. It propelled Powderfinger to a prominent position on the Australian music scene, reaching #1 and later spending 100 weeks on the ARIA Albums Chart.[22] The album, which sold over 280,000 copies and went over five times platinum domestically,[23] reached European audiences for the first time.[24] Internationalist was the first Powderfinger album to win the ARIA Music Awards. In 1999, it won "Album of the Year", "Best Rock Album" and "Best Cover Art", and "The Day You Come" won "Single of the Year".[25] "Passenger", which was among the singles released from Internationalist, was also nominated for three other ARIA Awards in 2000.[26]

The band received much praise and criticism for their political views on several tracks on Internationalist. In an interview with Benedict Watts, guitarist Ian Haug said that the political messages in "The Day You Come" were not something they were just preaching about, but rather were something they saw as a responsibility.[27]

Powderfinger's fourth studio album, Odyssey Number Five, was released in September 2000, shortly after they were asked to write songs for the soundtracks of two films; Two Hands and Mission: Impossible II. The song "These Days" was written for Two Hands[28] and "My Kind of Scene" was written for Mission: Impossible II.[29] Odyssey Number Five was Powderfinger's most successful album to-date, selling 560,000 copies.[4] "My Kind of Scene" was also released as a single from the album, as were "My Happiness", "Like a Dog", "The Metre", and "Waiting for the Sun".[30] Odyssey Number Five won "Album of the Year", "Highest Selling Album", "Best Rock Album", "Best Cover Art", and "Best Group" at the ARIA Awards in 2001.[31] "My Happiness" was also awarded "Single of the Year",[32] and other songs were nominated for ARIA Awards in various other categories.[33]

Many songs from this era of Powderfinger were ranked on Triple J's Hottest 100 list. "These Days", "Already Gone", "Good-Day Ray", and "Passenger" were ranked in 1999,[34] and "My Happiness" and "My Kind of Scene" in 2000.[35]

In 2009 "These Days" was voted number 21 and "My Happiness" number 27 in Triple J Hottest 100 of all time, ranking them as the second and fourth highest Australian songs in the countdown after the Hilltop Hoods' "Nosebleed Section".

Rock resurgence (2003–05)

John Collins, shown above in January 2005, is one of the original founding members of Powderfinger.

Vulture Street was released on 4 July 2003. The album, recorded in January and February 2003, was named after a street in Woolloongabba, Queensland, which was the location of the band's first recording room. The album was described by critics as "a rawer, louder, but by no means unrefined, album", and that it featured guitarists Middleton and Haug dominating in a way they had not since their 1994 debut.[36] Simon Evans of described the band as having "opted for a visceral live feel, adding a real punch to songs".[37]

"(Baby I've Got You) On My Mind", "Since You've Been Gone", "Love Your Way", and "Sunsets" from Vulture Street were released as singles. Like earlier Powderfinger albums, Vulture Street won several ARIA Awards. It won "Album of the Year", "Best Group", "Best Rock Album" and "Best Cover Art" in 2003.[33] Several songs on the album were also nominated for awards in 2003 and 2004.

These Days: Live in Concert was the first live release by Powderfinger. Both the CD and DVD versions were released in late-2004. One single,"Stumblin'" a song which originally appeared on Vulture Street as a normal track, was also released from the album. Powderfinger released a "best of" album entitled Fingerprints: The Best of Powderfinger, 1994-2000 a few weeks later. It included many of the band's singles to-date as well as non-singles "Thrilloilogy" and "Belter" and a re-release of "These Days". "These Days", although never officially released as a single, was ranked at #1 on the Triple J Hottest 100 poll of 1999.[34] The album also included two new songs; "Bless My Soul" and "Process This", although only "Bless My Soul" was released as a single.

Following the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake, Powderfinger appeared at the WaveAid fund raising concert in Sydney, to raise funds for aid organisations working in the disaster affected areas.[38] Fanning sang for The Wrights when they performed "Evie" at the concert and released a studio version of the song as a single, with the proceeds from the sale also going to tsunami relief efforts.[39]

Era of side projects (2005–07)

Powderfinger had a period of hiatus after the release of Fingerprints: The Best of Powderfinger in 2005. During that time, several band members pursued other musical projects. Darren Middleton and Ian Haug both had children during this time and Fanning married his girlfriend Andrea.[40]

Middleton and his side project Drag released their debut album, a follow-up to their 2002 EP Gas Food Lodging.[41] The album, titled The Way Out, was released on 10 July 2005.[42] Shortly after this, guitarist Ian Haug and bassist John Collins formed the group The Predators with Powderfinger's former drummer, Steven Bishop, on drums and lead vocals. The group released a six-track EP, Pick Up the Pace, in 2005 and performed a short tour around Australia.[43]

Bernard Fanning released his solo album, Tea & Sympathy, in October 2005,[44] reaching the top of the Australian charts and earning Fanning numerous ARIA Music Awards,[45] including the coveted award for "Album of the Year".[46] The lead single from album, "Wish You Well", was ranked at #1 on the Triple J Hottest 100 poll in 2005.[47]

Return from hiatus (2007–present)

Powderfinger's sixth studio album, Dream Days at the Hotel Existence was released on 2 June 2007. Debuting at #1 on the ARIA Albums Chart,[48] it broke the Australian digital sales record, with over 3000 copies sold online.[49] Reviewers, however, did not rate it as highly as its predecessor, Vulture Street, with Cameron Adams of the Herald Sun HiT describing it as "consistent."[50] Bernard Zuel, who reviewed Vulture Street in 2003, described Dream Days at the Hotel Existence as "Powderfinger's first dull album", but the band as "the biggest rock band in the country."[51]

On 12 June, 2007, Powderfinger and Australian rock group Silverchair announced a nine-week tour titled Across the Great Divide tour, an effort to promote reconciliation with Indigenous Australians. The tour appeared in all state capital cities and fourteen regional centres across Australia, and included four performances in New Zealand.[5] The first single from the album, "Lost and Running", was released on 12 May, 2007, and reached #5 on the ARIA Singles Chart on 21 May, 2007.[52] A second single, "I Don't Remember", was released on 4 August, 2007. A song from the album, "Black Tears", was amended following concerns that it could prejudice a trial over the 2004 Palm Island death in custody case. Bernard Fanning said in a statement that an alternative version of the song would now be featured on the album as a result of the claims.[53]

Dream Days at the Hotel Existence was the recipient of the ARIA Award for "Best Cover Art" in 2007.[54] It was nominated for "Album of the Year", "Best Rock Album" and "Best Group", while "Lost and Running" received nominations for "Single of the Year" and "Best Video".[55] The album failed to win any of the awards it was nominations for, losing to Silverchair, who won all five awards they were nominated for.[56] The awards were announced at the Acer Arena in Sydney on 28 October, and Powderfinger performed their single "Lost and Running".[57]

On 18 August 2007, Powderfinger performed a concert in Karratha, Western Australia, to thousands of fans as part of Triple J's AWOL Series.[58] The band were accompanied by performances from Australian bands The Grates and Muph N Plutonic and other local acts.[59] While in Karratha, Fanning and Coghill visited Gumala Mirnuwarni, a local school in Roebourne that encourages children to stay in school.[60] On 27 September 2008, Powderfinger performed "(Baby I've Got You) On My Mind" and AC/DC's "Long Way to the Top" at the AFL Grand Final.[61]

On 4 December 2008, the band announced on their official website that they are currently writing material for their 7th studio album, which is predicted to be released at the end of 2009.

Their song "Drifting Further Away" features on the fifth season Grey's Anatomy episode 'Stairway to Heaven', which aired on 21 January 2009.

On 16 June 2009, the following announcement was made on MySpace: "Saddle up 'Finger fans, it's the news you've been waiting for! This coming Monday 22 June Powderfinger are returning to the studio! Taking the helms for this album will again be Nick DiDia, responsible for Internationalist, Odyssey Number 5 and Vulture St! After recording their last album Dream Days at the Hotel Existence in LA, the band are looking forward to recording the new album in Australia. While we don't have a release date as yet, you can expect to see the new album out at the end of 2009". On Thursday 10th of September they announced that new album will be called Golden Rule and is set to be released on 13 November 2009.

In July 2009, Bernard Fanning spoke to Triple J radio to confirm the band as the 2009 Homebake Festival headline act, which sees the band return to the festival after a 10 year absence. He also suggested that the new album may include cameo performances from other Australian musicians. The album was recorded in Byron Bay on the New South Wales north coast. The band announced in early September that the title of their upcoming seventh album is Golden Rule, which was released on 13 November 2009. The album's first single was released to radio on 25 September 2009, and is titled "All of the Dreamers".[62][63]

Golden Rule debuted at number 1 on the ARIA albums chart making Powderfinger the second Australian artist to have 5 albums go to number 1, the first being Silverchair.

Musical style

In an interview with Paul Cashmere after the release of Vulture Street, guitarist Darren Middleton stated that a couple of songs they had written "were just too Odyssey Number Five based," and that the first track, "Rockin' Rocks", was "probably the start of where we were heading" with the album.[64] Cashmere stated in the interview that the album was "the toughest [he has] heard Powderfinger sound".[64]

Bernard Zuel of The Sydney Morning Herald reviewed both of Powderfinger's more recent albums. Describing Vulture Street as "a rawer, louder" album in comparison to Odyssey Number Five, Zuel highlighted Fanning's "talent as a lyricist" and stated that it featured guitarists Haug and Middleton "dominating in a way they haven't since their 1994 debut."[36] Zuel stated that there is a "real energy here that has some connections to early Powderfinger," and described "On My Mind" as having "AC/DC meatiness", and "Love Your Way" as "acoustic tumbling into weaving Zeppelin lines."[36]

In his review of Dream Days at the Hotel Existence, Zuel described it as "[having] high-gloss and muscular framework," and stated that that was what "American radio considers serious rock."[51]

Compared with the relatively lean, agile sound they've perfected up to now, this is Powderfinger as the footballer who in the off-season spends his time in the gym and emerges buff and beefy. The problem is he has bulk but has traded in his nimbleness.
Bernard Zuel, The Sydney Morning Herald, 1 June 2007.[51]

Clayton Bolger of Allmusic stated in his review of Dream Days at the Hotel Existence that Powderfinger "largely revisit the sound of their Internationalist album, leaving behind much of the glam and swagger of 2003's Vulture Street."[65] He commented on Fanning's "commanding and distinctive vocals," the "twin-guitar attack" of Middleton and Haug, Collins' "innovative basslines," and the "powerhouse drum work" of Coghill.[65]


The Across the Great Divide tour was an attempt to promote Reconciliation Australia's efforts in the Indigenous community.

In their time as a band, Powderfinger have been active in supporting causes or opposing actions taken in charitable, philanthropic, disaster, and political circumstances.

In 1996, Crowded House decided to break up, and organised a farewell concert as a charity event for the Sydney Children's Hospital, to be held on 24 November 1996.[66] They approached Powderfinger and Australian acts Custard and You Am I to contribute by appearing in the concert to be held on the steps of the Sydney Opera House.[67] The concert, which was recorded and later released as a live album titled Farewell to the World, was believed to be the largest Australian live concert, with estimates of between 100,000 and 250,000 people in attendance.[68][69]

In the wake of the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake, also known as the Boxing Day Tsunami, Powderfinger performed at the WaveAid fund-raising concert in Sydney in January 2005.[38] The disaster killed more than 225,000 people from 11 countries in the area.[70] The total profit from the funds raised from ticket sales and donations was A$2,300,000.[71]

The song "Black Tears" from the album Dream Days at the Hotel Existence featured the lyric An island watchhouse bed, a black man's lying dead[72] which sparked fears that it might prejudice the trial of the former Senior Sergeant Chris Hurley over the 2004 Palm Island death in custody case.[73] The band claimed that the lyrics were primarily based on the climbing of Uluru by tourists despite requests from the Indigenous people of the area to not do so.[74] The original version of the song was retracted from the album, and replaced with an alternate version with the criticised material removed.[75]

The legal team for Hurley, who was charged with manslaughter over the death of Mulrunji in 2004, referred the song to the Attorney-General of Queensland, Kerry Shine, in their attempt at altering the track.[76] Lawyer Glen Cranny stated that "the content and proposed timing of the song's release raises some serious concerns regarding Mr Hurley's trial."[73] Powderfinger's band manager, Paul Piticco, stated that Fanning had confirmed that the song was related to the case. However, he added that the lyric in question could refer to "a watchhouse in The Bahamas or something."[76]

In June 2007, Powderfinger announced a nationwide tour featuring Australian rock band Silverchair titled the Across the Great Divide tour.[5] The tour was an attempt to promote the efforts of Reconciliation Australia, a foundation helping to improve the welfare of the Indigenous people of Australia and to "show [that] both bands are behind the idea of reconciliation."[77] Reconciliation Australia aims to promote awareness of the 17-year difference in life expectancy between the Indigenous and non-Indigenous children of Australia.[78]

The Across the Great Divide tour, which included 34 concerts in 26 towns across Australia, lasted over two months with an estimated 220,000 people in attendance.[79] Powderfinger and Silverchair announced the release of a limited edition tour DVD, featuring two Melbourne concerts and a 90-minute documentary following both bands during each concert.[80] The DVD was released on 1 December 2007,[81] and shared its release date with that of the third single from Dream Days at the Hotel Existence, "Nobody Sees".[82]

In October 2007, during Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Powderfinger performed at a concert on the steps of the Sydney Opera House.[83] The concert was for invitees only – only breast cancer patients and survivors and their families were eligible to attend.[84] Powderfinger performed alongside Silverchair, Missy Higgins, and other artists to an audience of 700.[85] The concert was filmed and later broadcast as a MAX Session on Foxtel channel MAX on 3 November.[86]

Musicians have a guilty conscience in general about their lives being quite good and tend to be aware of social issues.
–Bernard Fanning, 1 November 2007.[87]


Powderfinger performing on the Across the Great Divide tour in September 2007. Left to right: Middleton, Fanning, Collins, Haug.

Powderfinger consists of five members: vocalist, guitarist, keyboardist and harmonicist Bernard Fanning, bass guitarist John Collins, guitarist and backing vocalist Ian Haug, guitarist, keyboardist and backing vocalist Darren Middleton, and drummer and percussionist Jon Coghill. This has remained the lineup of the band since 1992. Steven Bishop had been the group's drummer before this, but had left wanting to focus on his studies.[1] The band often refers to one another with partial pseudonyms. Most notably John Collins and Jon Coghill, presumably to avoid confusion, are referred to as JC and Cogsy respectively.[64]

Powderfinger have collaborated with few artists, but have had pianist Benmont Tench play on Dream Days at the Hotel Existence.[88] For their second album, Double Allergic, the group enlisted producer Tim Whitten. Powderfinger approached American expatriate Nick DiDia as their producer for Internationalist, and recorded with him at Sing Sing Studios in Melbourne.[89] DiDia also produced the following two albums. In 2007 Rob Schnapf, producer for Beck, was asked to produce their sixth studio album in Los Angeles.[90]

Powderfinger's first music video for the song "Reap What You Sow" in 1993 was directed by David Barker, an award-winning director.[91] Film companies who directed other videos of the group include Fifty Fifty Films,[92] and Head Pictures.[93]


Awards and accolades

Powderfinger is highly successful in the Australian recording industry, being a recipient of the industry's flagship awards, the ARIA Music Awards, fifteen times.[94] "These Days" and "My Happiness" were ranked #1 on the Triple J Hottest 100 list in 1999 and 2000 respectively,[34][35] and 21 other Powderfinger tracks have ranked on the list in other years.[95]

See also


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