Posted August 11, 2003

Tim Hemensley: A Loud Life Lived Underground

Powder Monkeys, Bored! and GOD singer-bass player Tim Hemensley from Melbourne passed away suddenly on July 21. His passing may not have been entirely a surprise to those who knew about a life lived close to the edge, but it's nevertheless had a profound effect, even on those who only crossed paths briefly. Sydneysider ASHLEY THOMSON was someone who knew Tim not as well as some but better than many. The pictures and words are his.

I was shocked to hear about Tim’s death, first I heard of it was a phone call from the Barman, I kept ringing people to see if it was true, hoping it wasn't, geeze, it was hard to believe, I made a few calls around the country kinda hoping someone would say 'Oh no he’s just sick and will pull through', like Johnny Nolan did, but, no one said that.

I eventually rang John Nolan, he sounded very bummed out. Oh well, fuck, Tim Hemensley was dead, he was 31 years old, he had been playing rock 'n' roll in Melbourne pubs since he was 12, had dozens and dozens of releases around the planet, played gigs all over the planet, was known loved like a brother by other musicians and fans, respected internationally as well as here in Australia, now his number was up, the roulette wheel spun the skull and crossbones, time for his sprit to go . . . . . somewhere.

A person's life is not represented by the circumstances of their death, the high points of anyone's life - no one can take away, they stay with you through any other negative experience, Tim reached the highs of rock 'n' roll on his own terms, some people get the rock 'n' roll dream handed to them on a silver platter (fuckin' pussies) other have to work VERY hard to achieve half the same.

Tim’s rock n roll achievements were many, varied, powerful, and ground breaking to say the least, within The Powder Monkeys Tim, along with Johnny and Timmy Jack, pioneered a style of mixing Punk Rock and Rock 'n' Roll to perfection, and I don't say that lightly, so many bands in 2003 play punk rock 'n' roll that it’s almost a normal style of playing. The Powder Monkeys were one of the first, really ahead of their time. They inspired many other musicians - myself included. There are tons of bands I like, but only a rare few people that inspire me to play. That's what he gave out, selflessly, unconditionally and effortlessly.


Kick Off

Tim’s first band kicked off when he was aged 9, and were called Royal Flush. They played at the Prince Of Wales when Tim was 10. Photographs appeared in "The Truth" newspaper and The Prince Of Wales Hotel was almost closed. If you wanna look for them try to find “Eat Your Head”, a 2 x 12” comp released on No Masters Voice Records. Au Go Go released a CD.

Dave Thomas (BORED!/In Vivo) remembers:

"Tim's life and passion was music. He loved it and we loved him for it. I first saw him at a punk show about 15 or 16 years ago and he was about 13-years-old.

"He had a band called Royal Flush. He also had his own fanzine, he was at the gig with his proud mum Retta."

Tim certainly impressed people. Kelly Beirman (German Rock 'n' Roll DJ and major supporter of Underground Australian music) continues . .

"I only met Tim once in Mannheim, Germany when the powder monkeys did their 1999 European tour. He soon started to talk to me like we were mates for long time-in totally open-minded, passionate, intelligent, sensitive and most of all honest kind. Tim made it"

"It was real easy for me to feel like at home with my best r 'n' r buddy. I loved talkin' to this small guy. As soon as he was on stage he became a big r 'n' r animal. Never before in my life I've met, heard and saw such a great passionate r ' n' r guy. I'll never forget the hours I spend that night with Tim, john and Timmy jack. I already miss Tim - the little big r 'n' r warrior."

Believe In GOD?

Next up for Tim was GOD, from 1986-1989. They were Joel Silbersher - guitar, vocals Tim Hemensley - drums, bass, guitar, vocals Sean Greenway - guitar, bass, vocals Matthew Whittle - drums, bass, vocals. GOD were an incredibly influential band, getting recognition here and overseas, the members went on The Powders Monkeys, Hoss, The Yes Men, to name a few.

Dave Thomas -

"I got to know Tim a few years later when I saw him play in God. I was blown away. I had Bored! going and we all became good friends. We played quite a few shows together. All the four boys in God were incredible, all swapping instruments, singing and playing these amazing tunes.”


Getting BORED!

Dave Thomas -

"After GOD split up our bass player had left and we asked Tim to join, record an album and tour Europe. This was the end of '89. For the next year we played some of the most intense shows Bored! ever played. Tim was a huge part of that. Tim bought to the band his incredible presence, his wall of sound bass playing, his unbelievable voice and his in your face attitude. He was only a little guy but on stage he was a 100 foot monster!

"He was unstoppable. Tim had a lot of respect - but not for authority figures and, in particular, bouncers. They regularly copped one of his venomous outbursts he was famous for. One time in Adelaide he was paying out on the venue cause they said we were too loud and Tim said: 'We don't drink chocolate milk we play rock 'n' roll'. We all cracked up.

"Another time at Max's Petersham Inn in Sydney we had played a great show and Tim had been on fire he was on the ground exhausted backstage after a big weekend of shows. Pete Wells of Rose Tattoo comes back stage, stands over Tim and slaps his face, Tim opens his eyes shits himself. Pete tells him he's got a smart mouth and loves him. Tim gets up met one of his heroes and goes drinking with him. Tim later played in Pete's band.

"There were many great times. Europe was a blast, a six-week tour playing six nights a week. We all loved it. Tim was loved by everyone that saw us and they couldn't believe what a rock and roll animal he was. When we got back, we played one more show together this was the end of 1990. Tim left as planned and, with John, they later formed the magnificent Powder Monkeys."


The Powder Monkeys

Kelly Bierman -

"I became aware of Tim's rippin songs/vocals and bass playin in 1988 when i bought the "For Lovers Only" album from GOD. There was an often wicked/dark humour in his lyrics that I'd never heard like this from another Oz rock band before. His songs/style were a lot harder in Bored! and, later on, more to the point like in "Conquest". With the first Powder Monkeys album I understood that he sang bout his own experiences in life so real/brutal honest...he touched alot of my views/feelings in my very own personal record.

"When I finally met/saw them here in 1999 tim proved me right with every rocker live from stage and even more in our interview after the show. i loved his honesty songwise and the strong opinions that he had. he played a fuckin' hard bass and, at the same time, provided the most passionate r 'n' r vocals i've ever heard. Tim was a man who loved what he did and I loved him for that (and still do). Tim and the Powder Monkeys gave so much to me...

"I loved the Powder Monkeys' gutsy blend of damaged-blues-r 'n' r-metal-punk, from the first album "Smashed on a Knee". But the real meat for me came with this one gig I saw then. Tim was sweatin' his heart out on stage. He screamed out his songs, stories and admissions of a life outta control, on the edge with an unbelievable voice, from deep down of his soul. The whole Powder Monkeys gang came on like the well-oiled r 'n' r machine I've waited for such a long time, cranked up really high, the whole club was rockin'.

"I just was the happy Oz rock lover that I am - finally rockin' to the Powder Monkeys live on stage-totally overwhelmed by Tim's intense, exciting performance-his in-your-face attitude. I couldn't believe how unique and hard his bass playing was-how exciting and passionate his songs came from stage. I doubt that there'll ever be another r 'n' r guy that can replicate/top Tim's unique kind."

First time I saw the Powder Monkeys was when a band I was drumming in called the Panadolls supported them on the north side of Sydney. Man what a fucking blast, so perfect and pure. I was astounded. Needless to say, I hung around annoying them heaps after the gig. They were friendly down to earth and liked my band, and that made me feel pretty proud.

Dave Thomas -

"I always loved watching Tim play he was exciting and passionate, he wrote the best songs usually about himself, but not in a self appreciating way."

Kelly Bierman -

"The Powder Monkeys sound(ed) like a 100 percent Australian rock'n'roll band, but their pure r 'n 'r work ethic made them a totally unique band. Tim Hemensley's songs/bass and his unbelieveable style to set it all up; John's cranked-up, powerful gut-wrenching guitar licks and Timmy Jack's hard, to-the-point drums completed the of Australia's finest, balls-out r 'n 'r bands ever!"

Deniz Tek -

"I just saw him last month with Deep Reduction, hung out a bit. Tim was a great guy. In my opinion Powder Monkeys were the hardest rocking outfit I have ever seen in Australia...easily the equal of the MC5 in energy."

I believe Tim’s spirit was strong, stronger than his flesh, his spirit will distil into the Australian music underground conscience like the ghost of Tom Joad, he’ll be there watching some cracked trashy fuckers doing their first gig, he’LL be enjoying some mates play to 10 people, he’LL be sucking a beer and screaming in your ear, Tim’s life said it was OK to play rock n roll and not make a million dollars out of it, it was totally worthwhile to crank it up on a Saturday night, live for today mother fucker!!

Dave Thomas -

"Tim had a lot of humility. He had a wicked sense of humour. We reformed a couple of years ago for a show at the Corner Hotel. We had one rehearsal Tim didn't have a bass and we ran through the songs once. When we played it was just like old times - Tim was a natural he just rocked as he always did. It was a real pleasure to share a stage with him again.

"Tim was always everywhere. You would see him around he loved going to gigs he was really supportive of other bands. He knew so much about bands, movies art, books whatever. I enjoyed our conversations and valued his opinions. Tim wasn't perfect he had bad days just like the rest of us. Tim was a great man. Tim was real and spoke his mind. I miss him."

Kelly Bierman -

"When I met the Powder Monkeys in 1999 in Mannheim, Germany, John didn't had the methadone he needed and was in real bad shape. I had a plastic bag fulla grass with me so I gave it all to him to get him fit for the gig. After the show, he and Tim asked me to accompany them to the red light district to snap up some dope. I talked to some whores there but nothin came out of it so we took a cab and drove back to the club. John later told me that i impressed tim with that action plus my whole knowledge/love of australian r 'n' r. I accepted their drug thing and feared nothi'n. I just felt good that whole night. "

Richard (Aampirelas-Strutter) -

"I'm not scared to say that I fucking loved that cunt. I even loved just the 'idea' of him. Not to mention the songs he wrote. Motherfucking motherfucker. I get the feeling it was inevitable, but it was nice to think that maybe one day things'd be different.

"He had a fuck load of passion.....more than most people I've ever known.....his band/s....fuck, I dunno if I'd be doing what I do if it weren't for his inspiration. I feel really sad......and as if there wasn't already a tragic black cloud hanging over musicians of that era, from that part of the country. Shit! Fuck! Cunt!

"I spent a little bit of time with him just before he died. I thank fuck for that. I thank fuck for his music....which will haunt me forever......and I thank fuck for him. He was a funny little bugger and I miss him already. In my mind things will never be the same.

"I owe you a night out Tim and I won't forget."

I was pretty bummed out to hear the news, Timmy was an authentic rock n roller, from his first gig in a Melbourne pub at 12-years-old to the day he died, I loved the sheer gut honesty he got into his singing and playing performances; he could rip out a chorus and and jackhammer the bass simultaneously like the devil was right on his ass. What a motherfucker. He was the most charming likeable rouge; his essence was so energetic.

I ran a couple of tours for the Powder Monkeys through Sydney. (It cost me a fortune - but I loved the band). I cherish the times spent hanging out in the stationwagon, talking passionately about rock 'n' roll. Tim kinda shouted everything rather than spoke, such was his ferocity about what he loved.

You know they never complained once. The conditions were fucked. They had a good time, and so did I.