Xavier Rudd ain't like you and me. And not just because he's way hotter than us, Australian, got a sweet gig opening for Dave Matthews this summer and often plays guitar, stomp box and didgeridoo (which Rudd calls by its Aboriginal name, the yidaki) all at once.
No, Rudd's biggest not-like-you-and-me quality is that we don't say things like 'my music is a reflection of how I feel on my journey and I've always felt the way I feel.'
Rudd doesn't really understand that we've finished the Age of Jadedness and entered the Age of Irony-or maybe his journey has led him to a truly earnest place where he shuns snark and spurns sarcasm. Like Luke Wilson or Steve Nash, Rudd's the kinda guy who is cool without trying to be. To sum up, he's basically Bodhi in Point Break without the antisocial streak and all those glocks.
I mean, just listen to the guy:
'I've felt strongly about the spirits that move within me since I was a small child,' he says at 9 a.m. from his Australian home surrounded by the melodious laughter of his children. 'The indigenous spirit is strong in this land, and it's something that's been very prevalent in me since I was young, so I sing about it a lot.'
With all this hippie-dippy shit, you'd expect his music to sound like the worst the '60s had to offer. But somehow he never veers too far into sunshine-y Summer of Love wimpy stuff or dark, Lizard King idiocy.
His latest disc, the just-released White Moth, could be Jeff Buckley's Grace remade by Ben Harper. A lot of the credit has to go to co-producer David Ogilvie-an electronica producer and musician famous for mixing and remixing Bowie, Tool and Ministry-who gave the album a stripped-to-the-bone-and-left-to-bleach-in-the-desert feel. The whole thing is very unprocessed and raw.
But it's all Rudd when it comes to making the didgeridoo sound menacing. Virtuoso isn't really a word one would apply to a guy who plays sacred a instrument that's basically a big hollow stick, but Rudd's ability to make the thing sound like an angry, lonely dingo baying at the moon is pretty nuts.
'I can't remember when I first heard it, but I have a strong memory of always playing it,' he says. 'I remember playing it on the end of my mum's vacuum cleaner when I was really young. It's something that's always been with me, again.
'Eventually it became more of a meditation breathing thing to me,' he adds. 'I would take it and sit under a tree. But then there was a point when I began strapping it to a chair with tape and playing it at the same time as guitar.'
His talents on didgeridoo have won him fans among the indigenous people from whom the instrument originated.
'I've made connections with black fellas all over the country, and I was adopted into a family a few years ago that are direct decedents of Yidaki, the hunter that the instrument was named after 60,000 years ago,' he says. 'That was pretty powerful.'
Rudd has begun to return the gift with political anthems documenting the aboriginal peoples' struggle against the aggression of the Western world. The best one from White Moth, 'Land Rights,' tells the story of aborigines challenging bulldozers with spears to protect a sacred mountain that is part of their creation myth. It's some heavy stuff to be writing about. But after he was brought to the site and told the creation myth, Rudd spent the whole flight home scribbling lyrics on his boarding card.
As touched as he is by environmental causes and justice issues, Rudd remains as happy-go-lucky as a toddler blowing into a vacuum tube. And there's another difference between Rudd and us. While we still get pissed off by morning traffic, he's reached some pretty intense inner peace.
'Sometimes I feel like I'm an eagle in the sky looking down at how the world is,' he says. 'What happens is meant to happen. The way the world is going is part of one big cycle, and it's out of everyone's control. So I just sort of feel happy to be where I am.'
Xavier Rudd plays at House of Blues on June 26. Doors open at 8 p.m. $20. 619-299-BLUE.
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