Posted September 5, 2003

Tim Hemensley 1972-2003:
Some Final Words

Your reactions to Ashley Thomson's tribute to ex-Bored!/GOD/Powder Monkeys member Tim Hemensley in August 2003 were many and heartfelt. A selection is reproduced below, but first here's a final wrap-up from fan and friend Simon Li. The photo is courtesy of Clinton Rooney.

One night in late 1994 on Melbourne community radio station 3RRR, I heard someone on the radio singing about how they were "sick and tired of being reassured" and had thought "about what we done..." That was none other than Tim Hemensley, fronting what would be his last band The Powder Monkeys, singing "Straight Until Morning".

People who know him will recall that he began playing music, while still in hid childhood in the band Royal Flush, with some young schoolmates including Roman Tucker (whom would continue on to Quagmire, The Silver Surfers/The Martians and Rocket Science) in the early 80s in Melbourne.

From Royal Flush, Tim would continue the pursuit of playing high energy rock'n' roll, bristling with down and dirty punk rock attitude, most notably with bands such as Morbid Dread, The Sick Things, GOD, Bored!, The Sunset Strip, The Virgins and of course The Powder Monkeys (he even spent time and recorded with Pete Wells from Rose Tattoo in The Pete Wells Band, when Pete lived in Melbourne in the '90s).

Along the way the bands he was apart of would share stages with the likes of Wayne Kramer, The Dictators, The Nomads, Dead Moon, The Hellacopters, The Cult, Rollins Band, Izzy Stradlin and the Juju Hounds, Radio Birdman, The New Christs, X, The Lime Spiders, The Celibate Rifles, The Chosen Few, silverchair and countless others.

Not to mention going a long way to giving the likes of Melbourne's Red Shift, Hellenic Zeal/The Zeal, The Naked Eye, The Casanovas, The Yes-Men and others their start or restart to their careers.

How many other Melbourne and/or Australian rock-n-rollers could claim either to have shared stages or discovered/re-discovered some or all of the previously mentioned bands?

How many could also claim to have shared a venue with live wrestling, but Tim and The Powder Monkeys did in 1996 at St Kilda's, Prince of Wales Hotel at the first "Rock-n-Roll Wrestling" at the POW?

I doubt half of my record collection, (filled with the likes of MC5, The Stooges, New York Dolls, The Ramones, The Dictators, The Hellacopters, The New Bomb Turks, Radio Birdman, The Saints, Bored!, etc.) or half of the gigs I have seen, I would not have or have seen had it not been for Tim.

Of course, some of the most memorable rock-n-roll moments I can recall involving would have to include his onstage vomiting during gigs, getting along to the Greyhound Hotel in St Kilda during Sunday night karaoke and watching him get up and sing David Lee Roth's "Just a Gigolo", or joining other bands to sing with them i.e. joining The Onyas for his own epitaph "The Day they Buried Hemensley", or joining and/or helping the now defunct Red Shift for The Dictators "Baby Let's Twist", Dead Moon's "Walking on my Grave" and The Imperial Dogs "The Bad and the Beautiful" or joining The Deniz Tek Group for The Stooges "I Got a Right".

For those who can recall 1996, it was one of those strange years for Tim and The Powder Monkeys. They began the year with memorable gigs such as the first "Rock-n-Roll Wrestling", weeks later supporting Radio Birdman and Wayne Kramer on Australia Day (and whilst playing the last song of their set that night, The Stooges' "Cock in my Pocket", they had the curtains shut on them. The curtains were then ripped to shreds by fans who wanted to see them finish that song). They played the Melbourne leg of The Big Day Out festival, released "Time Wounds all Heels", toured Australia with US legends Dead Moon, secured a US record deal with Rick Rubin's Def American Records and watched that record deal and a subsequent US and European tour come to nothing as that deal and the tours fell apart as their "manager" ran away with all their money, leaving them broke and feeling like the some of the hardest done by in town.

Few are/were as passionate about what they doing, despite their own better judgement and trends in underground music, when he rocked others shoegazed. His music was energetic, intense and gut wrenchingly tough.

As soon as you hear 'In the Doldrums' from "Time Wounds all Heels" you know his songs are timeless and were not just written for today.

Few broke as many strings on his bass guitar or lent equipment as much as Tim did, but for audiences we were glad he did, since he always played like his life depended on it, as he sang songs which told of hard times and a hard life lived in the margins, but also lived on his own terms.

The last time I say Tim in Sydney (where I sadly left Melbourne to go to) was on Saturday May 19th, 2001 fronting The Powder Monkeys for Oz Rock Festival 2, where he and The Powder Monkeys were joined by Roll Cage, The Aampirellas, The Mystaken, The Thermals, Muscle Car and others.

To close that evening Tim and Powder Monkeys guitarist John Nolan were joined by Dave Thomas and Justin 'Buzz' Monday for a reunion of the almighty 1990 lineup of Geelong band Bored! which toured Europe (which was where Tim would later tour with The Powder Monkeys in the late 90s).

Bored! had reunited in Melbourne in late 2000 and played one incredbile gig (despite the rumoured lack of preparation).

The next day The Powder Monkeys joined Sydney's Asteroid B612 for one of the last instore gigs at the now defunct Whammo Records. When that weekend finished it seemed Tim was still keen as ever convert the rest of the world to The Powder Monkeys punk rock-n-roll cause.

Then in early 2002, I caught up Tim again when he played drums for The Virgins (whom were returning to the stage after many a year).

In between these times his long time mate John Nolan survived a devastating heart attack and Melbourne rock-n-roll had lost Guy Lucas, Sean Greenaway (Tim's old bandmate from GOD) and Mick Weber and The Powder Monkeys were probably the last of his concerns.

In late 2002, The Powder Monkeys would return to support both The Dictators and Dead Moon, which were to be Tim's last gigs ever.

Then a few weeks back in late July '03, I thought about Tim and The Powder Monkeys and thought they were likely to call it a day soon, given both John Nolan and his recovery from devastating heart attack devastating heart attack and the independent music scene forsaking the elder statesmen of "Garage Rock" such as The Powder Monkeys, Asteroid B612, The Onyas, etc., for young, "hip" up-and-coming bands such as The Vines, Jet, The Casanovas (whom I first saw supporting The Powder Monkeys when they were not even on the bill for that gig), The Datsuns, The D4, The White Stripes, The Strokes and The Hives.

The next day I was contacted by ex-Grown Up Wrong! and Dogmeat Records boss Dave Laing via email that Tim has sadly passed away (of an apparent overdose), days after he joined ex-GOD bandmate Joel Silbersher and his band Hoss for Roky Eriksson’s "Don’t Slander Me" at St Kilda’s Esplanade Hotel.

At the time of his passing some had suggested that I pay tribute to Tim since they thought I knew something about him and I guess I did (after all, he put me up for the night on New Years Eve 1996).

I was lucky enough to know him from 1995 until his passing but I’d give anything to still know him and it’s difficult to try and pay tribute to him now.

To Tim,

I’ll miss you mate; you gave us all plenty of great times and some of the best rock-n-roll ever. I know you’re gone now, but you’ll never be forgotten. - Simon Li


Now some I-94 Bar patron reactions...

My most memorable Powder Monkey gig was in Launceston Tasmania at the Trades Hotel in 1998 just prior to them killing Europe. (They toured Tassie three or four times, by the way). The pub was packed with a record crowd with punters ripped on high quality bath tub crank, high octane pot and dirty tap beer eager for some dirty rock 'n' roll. Mustang, the local boys who were at this stage a four-piece rock 'n' roll demon, supported and were in fine pissed-up form. They played a killer gig. But before the Powder Monkeys hit the stage the fucken Onyas stepped in. They were also in town and asked the boys if they could play 3 songs first, to which the Powder Monkeys agreed. Well the Onyas just went off...Tasmania had not seen this shit before and blew its load instantly. I was standing next to John Nolan who started cursing saying: "How in the fuck are we gonna top that!" and: "What a mistake letting those guys go on before us". The Powder Monkeys were thrown down a challenge and it was time to see what side of the line they stood! Well the boys stormed the stage and from the opening chords of the wall-of-sound classic, "Guess I Am Falling in Love" (Velvets), those ultimate bastards, the Powder Monkeys, staked their own claim - and no-one was upstaging these cats tonight. They played all the faves, plus fantastic newies like "Beast with 2 Backs". They ripped our hands away from mummy's apron strings with classics like" 2000 Sins" and "Before I Turn Sleazy" and fucking dumped us on Grey Street, St Kilda. No other band has graced these shores with more honesty and passion then that mighty, fucken three-piece and I doubt if there ever will... To Tim Hemensley, Tassie is a lot better place from knowing you brother .. You didn't have to shake it like you did, but you did and I Thank You!!!! - Clinton Rooney

We (Adam West from Washington, D.C.) were invited to tour with the Hellacopters on their "Where the Action Is" tour of Scandinavia in 1999, so, of course, my buddy Dave Champion and hopped a plane and landed in Stockholm to respect the rock. The first gig was at Stengade 30 in Copenhagen, Denmark, and I remember how excited Dave and I were when we saw Tim, John, and TJ finally walk into the club at soundcheck. I think we were more excited to finally see the Powder Monkeys live than anything else! Anyway, to say that band blew me away beyond belief is an understatement. I offered to do a 7" single on my Fandango label that night! We spent the next six days with these guys and each show got better and better. Tim was a musical genius. He knew that less is always more and delivered it like hardly anyone I've ever seen in all my years going to rock-n-roll shows. When I found out Tim had passed away, I pulled out "Smashed on a Knee" and listened to "I Stand Bare" three times in a row. I can't believe that someone could so perfectly translate their life into music and lyrics like Tim did. I miss ya, man. - Jake Starr

I ran a search on the album "Eat Your Head" and found your site. Fuck, well firstly, my band at the time End Result played at the Prince of Wales gig with Royal Flush. I can remember Tim and his mum. Clearly they were top kids, Tim and Roman, and their contribution to the album, "Eat Your Head", was great, especialy the sleeve notes (which I don't know were reproduced for the CD re-issue. (If you want these, I will get them to you. I designed the label and cover and contributed two songs and have not got a copy of the CD pressing). Having been listening to GOD and Powder Monkeys, I had no idea it was the same Tim in these bands. Just to close, I really admire your dedication to produce this site. Best wishes
- Andrew McMurray
(former member of End Result)

It is just so weird how something happens and it's like you get a sharp jab in the side, like you dozed off at school and the teacher has pegged you with a duster, telling you to wake up. Hearing of the sad lost cast my mind back aways. I was in a band called Hoot McKloot from Adelaide. Our first interstate tour was to Melbourne to support GOD and we played with them somewhere in Brunswick, on Bridge Street. I had not known too much of GOD at that stage, knew they were young, knew they were good. We rolled up for sound check in the late arvo, I think we arrived just as GOD were finishing theirs. You know how you don't really get a good sense of perspective until you are really up close to something, like seeing Ayers Rock in a photo then having to go climb it. Anyway that was GOD, I couldn't believe how young they were, they were wee. The parents were there, at least what I thought should have been their parents, and they were absolutely hammering. Next thing they were finished and were heading off. The thing that struck me though was how cheeky they all were, boy cheeky, not-a-care-in-the-world cheeky. I guess they kinda got up my nose, they weren't exactly welcoming and they brushed past. Anyway that's what I remember. Perhaps there was one cheekier than the others and I guess that was Tim. We played that night and got off stage. GOD started and I was left standing next to the stage with my mouth open, how could those kids sound so tight, so rock, so loud, so much guitar. But they did and I have to admit they blew us off stage. But that was what they were, youthful exuberance and all and one very cheeky bass player. - Geoff Hutton

About six years ago the Powder Monkeys did a gig at The Star Hotel in my home town, Newcastle. As always, Tim and the band put on a killer show and gave it 100 percent. After the gig me and a couple of mates got talking with Tim and John. We decided to rustle up some booze and headed back to my mate's pad to spin some records. It's all a bit hazy but my memories of the night include; debating the merits of Burroughs vs Bukowski (Tim was for Burroughs) and Tim grooving around the room with a walking stick to The Rolling Stones "Out of Our Heads". To be honest, at the time I was a bit in awe of hanging out with Tim (being a long time fan of GOD, Bored and the Powder Monkeys) but he was a really cool, down to earth dude. Needless to say, I was crushed when I heard that he'd kicked on. Without a doubt he was one of the most passionate, intense and arrogant (in a good/funny way) rock'n'roll performers that I've ever come across. Best wishes to all his mates and family. - Chris Hunter