by Luke Voogt
His music is on the tip of every Australian’s tongue – now Diesel is coming back to Geelong with his newest eclectic bunch of songs.
A wild mix of music has long been a hallmark of Mark Lizotte, the man best known as Johnny Diesel, or just Diesel.
“I’m not into keeping things in neat little boxes with fences around them,” he told the Independent, ahead of his next Geelong gig.
His latest Sunset Suburbia EPs transcended the boundaries of musical genres, like his previous work, he explained.
“Some people say ‘don’t go over the line or you might confuse people’ – I’ve never subscribed to that.
“If it’s good music and the song’s really strong they’ll go where you take them.”
Diesel hits Gateway Hotel on February 21 to showcase the new EPs along with his classic tracks spanning a multi-platinum career.
He plans to combine the two EPs with yet more new songs and release an album in mid-2020.
“It’s a very guitar-heavy album, as a lot of my records are,” he said.
“I’ve always been a bit bummed when getting to the end of making a record and this, in a way, delays gratification; making two mini albums on the way to an LP.”
Johnny Diesel and The Injectors had just $93 between them when they stepped off a bus in Perth after crossing the Nullarbor more than 30 years ago.
They would go on to record classics like Man Alive and Cry in Shame, while in the early ’90s Diesel released his biggest solo hits Tip of My Tongue and Never Miss Your Water.
He has sold more than 800,000 records in Australia and won several awards.
“I still play the songs people love every time I get onstage because I’m still enjoying them and finding different ways to play them,” he said.
“God knows I couldn’t play them the same way over and over again – that’s a recipe for insanity.”
Over the past several years Diesel had gotten “side-tracked” by love projects such as his Americana cover album and collaborations with other artists
But last year he “cleared the decks” and prioritised his own music again for the EPs.
“Suburbia has always held a strange fascination for me,” he said.
“I remember designer cul de sacs strewn with shotgun shells in Chandler Arizona; little vignettes of skateboarding around closed service stations on weekends in Perth; some guy in the hot tub in his backyard where I’m riding my bike over the rail overpass in Sydney.
“I love going into where people live — the sights, the smells, the little repetitive things that make their world.
“It’s kind of a bittersweet thing but it’s the stuff of life and it has a way of making songs.”
Other songs in the EPs “shed memories”, like By the Scars, which recounts the years before he left home at age 15.
“You don’t go around thinking, ‘I’ve lost my innocence’,” the 53-year-old said.
“But you look back now and think, ‘wow, a lot happened that year!’ I’m at the age where I’ve lived a lot of life – the only constant is change.”
He looked forward to playing new songs for Geelong’s “receptive listening audience”.
“Gigs are really good for canvassing what something feels like,” he said.
“The Gateway’s been on my (yearly) schedule for quite a while.”
The music culture in Geelong was just as strong and passionate as up the freeway, Diesel said.
“I don’t feel like I’ve really left Melbourne.”