Jim Moginie has never been to Banff before. “We came over these Rocky Mountains many times,” he says, “but they never let us off the bus.” For 25 years, Moginie was lead guitarist and one of the principal songwriters in Midnight Oil. Their late-1980s single, “Beds Are Burning” sent them into the music industry stratosphere, playing arenas and stadiums around the world. One of the most politically-outspoken groups on the planet, they disbanded when lead singer Peter Garrett became an Australian Labor Party MP.
Moginie was at The Banff Centre with the Australian Chamber Orchestra (ACO), part of a Music residency. The ACO played concerts all over Banff, from Cascade Shops to the Maclab Bistro, to a late night Club show that featured compositions by Nirvana and Nine Inch Nails, which is where a rock and roll guitar player comes in.
“I was honoured to be asked (to join ACO). We are a very subversive little orchestra. Playing Kurt Cobain or Trent Reznor creates a certain disorientation, which leads to tension. And that’s where it gets interesting. We work in a kind of magpie fashion, picking at different things,” says Moginie, and then with a laugh, “and it’s certainly improved my sight-reading.”
We finished our conversation talking about Midnight Oil’s part in the Clayoquot Sound protests (1993) which at the time was the largest act of civil disobedience in Canadian history. That summer Midnight Oil went into a Calgary studio with Daniel Lanois, Hothouse Flowers, and the Tragically Hip. Moginie remembers, “Dan [Lanois] gave me his guitar and amp, and when I set into my part [guitar solo] and I looked up at the booth I saw Dan with this absolutely huge smile on his face, and I thought yeah, that’s what a producer should do.”
All photos by Don Lee.