Nick Barker has seen the Australian music industry spin, chase its tail, die, resurrect and do it all over again. Thirty-seven years later, he’s still here and no one is more surprised than him as he releases ‘Chinese Burn‘, from his upcoming album, Exoskeleton, set to release on September 22nd on Golden Robot Records.
His first solo album in 14 years, Barker delves into the intricate world of lost love and modern dating apps, to weave a compelling narrative that reflects the complexities of reconnection and the allure of small bars. As he puts it, ‘Chinese Burn’ is his musical “pina colada,” a cocktail of emotions that captures the essence of both vulnerability and resilience in the face of romance’s ever-evolving landscape.
With floaty melodies and an improvisational, from-the-hip style that gives the song a raw and intimate quality, Barker demonstrates his ability to tap into the emotional undercurrents of contemporary relationships, offering a compelling blend of storytelling and musical craftsmanship.
Barker left his suburban home at 17 and began his career as a bass player in Melbourne’s eclectic inner city post-punk scene, cutting his teeth in iconic venues like the Ballroom and the Prince of Wales with bands such as The Curse, Beach House and A Singing Dog (precursor to the infamous Lubricated Goat), and The Wreckery, with whom he played on five albums.
Come 1988, his new band Nick Barker And The Reptiles, began gaining label interest. They had their first break through with the Chris Bailey-produced single, ‘Another Me’, followed by four crazy years of booze-soaked pub rock. The Reptiles released two albums: Goin’ to Pieces in 1989, that included their hit cover version of Steve Harley’s ‘Make Me Smile’ and After the Show in 1991, recorded in Melbourne and Memphis, and produced by Joe Hardy (ZZ Top, Georgia Satellites, Steve Earle). Sadly, The Reptiles fell apart in 1993 after the release of Loose, an EP that gave an insight into the band’s true potential.
Releasing Happy Man, his first solo album, in 1994, its hit single ‘Time Bomb’, ended up at number 20 on Triple J’s Hottest 100 that year. Two years later, he followed up with the dark and gritty Damn Mermaids, then in 1998 he took a side step with his career landing a major role in the 1998 Australian movie, Amy, alongside Rachael Griffith and Ben Mendlesohn, also writing and recording five songs for the soundtrack.
Another four albums followed over the next ten years: Returned Service, a live solo record, and Backyard 6, both on Mick Thomas’s Croxton Records label; C-sides, an album of stripped down re-recordings of his favourite songs as part of Liberation’s Acoustic series; and Blackwater Blues in 2009, recorded live on a 16 track in Mick Thomas’s backyard studio.
His last two albums were released under The Heartache State name, with what was supposed to be a collective quickly becoming another vehicle for his song writing. 2014’s self-titled CD was released, then followed by Last of the Buffalo in 2016 on signing with Golden Robot Records, who plan to release his back catalogue on digital, vinyl and a box set.
A tireless songwriter and performer, Nick has toured the UK, Europe, North and South America and Asia. He’s written songs with the likes of Tim Rogers, Paul Kelly, Jimmy Barnes, Earl Slick, Mick Thomas and Felicity Urquhart and is excited about getting back into the studio with what he says is “a new direction and fistful of bloody good songs”.
You can check out the video for ‘Chinese Burn’ here at RAMzine, as you can earlier single ‘Where I Wanna Be’ featuring Felicity Urquhart, about which Barker noted: “‘Where I Wanna Be’ was written around Mick Thomas’ (Weddings Parties Anything) kitchen table. Mick, Felicity and I wrote it, but it didn’t end up getting used so I recorded it for my Backwater Blues album. Fliss graciously sang on it and the results speak for themselves, I reckon.”
You can pre-order Exoskeleton by clicking here.