Darren Middleton on guitar with Powderfinger in January 2010 at Big Day Out, Melbourne.
|Born||4 October 1971|
|Origin||Brisbane, Queensland, Australia|
Darren Middleton (born 4 October 1971) is best known as lead guitarist and songwriter for alternative rock band Powderfinger. He was also lead singer/songwriter for Drag, currently touring his solo album "Translations"
Middleton began guitar in high school, influenced by Twisted Sister and AC/DC, and began playing in clubs around his hometown of Brisbane as part of his first band, Sonic Tapestry. He went on to form another band, Pirate, with high school friends, and met Powderfinger at a Pirate show. He was invited to join the band, and did so. Middleton took part in all of Powderfinger's recordings, at the same time writing and releasing an EP and studio album with Drag.
After Powderfinger’s dissolution in 2010, Middleton released his first solo LP, “Translations” in November 2013, featuring many guests such as Nic Cester (Jet), Bernard Fanning (Powderfinger), Pete Murray, Paul Dempsey (Something for Kate), Clare Bowditch and Amy Findlay (Stonefield).
Middleton was inspired to learn guitar by Twisted Sister and AC/DC, noting the first songs he wanted to learn could have been "I Wanna Rock" and "We're Not Gonna Take It", or any song by AC/DC. He did not take guitar lessons, and instead taught himself the instrument. Middleton formed a band named Sonic Tapestry with high school friends, and played around Brisbane's "biker-fest circuit". The band's first show was at the Atcherley Hotel, on Wednesday's "Heavy Metal Night", however the band, unaware of the genre, played "80s glam metal stuff".
Middleton first encountered Powderfinger when it consisted of Bernard Fanning, Ian Haug, John Collins, and Jon Coghill. At the time, Middleton had been playing with Sonic Tapestry, and another band named Pirate. After seeing his band perform, Powderfinger invited Middleton to join them, and he accepted. Middleton described Powderfinger's early days as highly influenced by other popular heavy metal bands at the time, especially Pantera. Despite the band's members all having come from casual projects, the band's meetings were highly serious, according to Middleton, although he admitted they were "confused" in exactly what they wanted to do. Powderfinger generally performed covers of The Rolling Stones, The Doors, Led Zeppelin, and Steppenwolf, as well as Neil Young in their early days, in similar clubs to those in which Middleton had first played.
Powderfinger released two early EPs and a debut album, without success, and considered separating, with Middleton contemplating a return to University. However, after Fanning wrote "Pick You Up", the band's mainstream breakthrough, they decided to stick together. From this point on, the band considered themselves to be making "real money".
In 2001, on a tour in the United States, Powderfinger played with Coldplay, in what Middleton described as a highlight. The band also played on the Late Show with David Letterman to promote Odyssey Number Five. After Coldplay cut short the tour, Powderfinger ended up playing numerous US shows themselves, before returning to Australia to play Splendour in the Grass. Middleton's partner gave birth to the couple's first daughter in September 2001. Middleton summarised the year with the comment "This year has been a bit of a blur".
While touring with Powderfinger, Middleton also wrote his own works, occasionally fine tuning them in hotels where the band was staying. These would go on to be the songs he sang for Drag. Middleton formed Drag with drummer and Powderfinger engineer Mark McElligott, Brisbane bass guitarist Sean Hartman, and long-time friend Matt Murphy. Drag released an EP, Gas Food Lodging, on 26 October 2003 through Dew Process. The band followed this up with several gigs in Brisbane; a tour down the East Coast of Australia was canceled when Middleton caught the flu. After completing work on Gas Food Lodging, Powderfinger reunited and went on to record Vulture Street.
Drag reunited in 2005 to produce their debut studio album, The Way Out, which was released on 10 July 2005. In recording the album, Drag spent three weeks at Byron Bay in March 2005, collaborating with each other and producer David Nicholas. The album earned Drag some positive reception; Rave magazine wrote that "Darren Middleton's creative genius absolutely beguiled me with some extremely mature compositions", and David Nicholas won an ARIA Award for his role as producer. The album was also nominated for "Engineer of the Year". Following The Way Out, Drag toured around Australia, playing with UK band Athlete. This culminated with the bands playing at Splendour in the Grass, where it was noted that Middleton needed "to work on his stage presence". Following the tour, Powderfinger reunited, and Dream Days at the Hotel Existence was released in 2007.
Solo Work (2012-2013)
After Powderfinger called it quits in 2010, Middleton started working on his first solo LP, “Translations”. The album was released in November 2013, featuring many guests such as Nic Cester (Jet), Bernard Fanning (Powderfinger), Pete Murray, Paul Dempsey (Something for Kate), Clare Bowditch and Amy Findlay (Stonefield).
Musical style and influences
Middleton rarely takes a singer or songwriter's role for Powderfinger, generally delegating those tasks to Bernard Fanning. However, the song "Over My Head" from Internationalist had Middleton performing vocals. This came about when Middleton did a recording of himself singing the song before Fanning had the chance to do so. Previously, Middleton had written the lyrics to "JC", which was sung by Fanning. However, Middleton sung JC several times throughout the 2007 Upstairs at the Downstairs tour. Despite Middleton's minimal songwriting, he has been praised for it by his band mates; Jon Coghill told a 1999 interview that "Darren (Middleton) and Bernie (Fanning) are extremely good at writing songs." Middleton agrees with this analysis; telling Undercover's Paul Cashmere in 2003 that "We are about writing good music." He commented that the band used their position at the top of the Australian industry to comment and give people ideas to think about, rather than "trying to say people should take it as gospel". Middleton has criticised the "boy band" phenomena, pointing out that "A lot of them can sing well, but they have people writing all their lyrics for them."
Middleton has cited numerous Australian bands, including AC/DC, Crowded House, and Midnight Oil, as ongoing influences in his music, as well as international artists including Neil Young, Led Zeppelin, and Ben Harper. "I went through a bad eighties stage. Bad glam bands. Twisted Sister. Some really bad punk", Middleton comments on the time in which he learned the guitar. Middleton has used a Les Paul guitar, and was praised by Alphonse Leong of Drop-D, described as playing it "as well as any of the seminal axe-noodlers of the hippie era".
Awards and nominations
|Year||Recipient / Nominated work||Award||Result|
|2004||Powderfinger – Bernard Fanning, Jon Coghill, Ian Haug, Middleton, John Collins||Songwriter of the Year||Won|
|"On My Mind" – Bernard Fanning, Middleton, John Collins, Ian Haug, Jon Coghill||Most Performed Australian Work||Nominated|
|2008||"Lost and Running" – Jon Coghill, John Collins, Bernard Fanning, Ian Haug, Middleton||Song of the Year||Nominated|
|Most Played Australian Work||Nominated|
- Parables for Wooden Ears (1994)
- Double Allergic (1996)
- Internationalist (1998)
- Odyssey Number Five (2000)
- Vulture Street (2003)
- Dream Days at the Hotel Existence (2007)
- Golden Rule (2009)
- Translations (2013)
- Samantha Clode (January 2000). "Forever Young". JUICE.
- "Darren says...". Powderfinger Central. Retrieved 2008-02-26.
- Simon Wooldridge (March 1997). "Out Of The Blue". JUICE.
- Noel Mengel (16 November 1999). "Budding Internationalists". The Courier Mail.
- "Band History". Powderfinger Central. Retrieved 2008-02-27.
- Rod Collins (11 October 2001). "Interview with Darren from Forte Magazine". Forte.
- Dino Scatena (2004). "Ten Years in the Spotlight". Australian Musician. Archived from the original on 6 October 2007. Retrieved 2008-03-12.
- Kelsey Munro (November 2001). "Internationalists". JUICE.
- Gavin Sawford (12 July 2001). "Powder To The People". RM Rave.
- Gavin Sawford (12 July 2001). "Powder to the People". RM Rave.
- "Interviews :: Getting the lowdown from Brisbane's Drag". Australian Music Online. 1 August 2005. Archived from the original on 8 September 2007. Retrieved 2008-02-28.
- "Drag - Releases". Dew Process. Archived from the original on 20 October 2007. Retrieved 2008-02-29.
- "Band History". Hindley Site. Retrieved 2008-02-29.
- "Drag scores great reviews". Dew Process. 6 April 2006. Archived from the original on 22 October 2007. Retrieved 2008-02-29.
- "Winners by artist: Drag". Australian Record Industry Association. Retrieved 2008-02-29.[dead link]
- "Drag racing to the top". The Northern Rivers Echo. Retrieved 2008-03-12.
- Nick Milligan. "How I lost my Splendour virginity". Splendour in the Grass. Archived from the original on 6 December 2007. Retrieved 2008-03-12.
- Jo Piazza (25 May 2001). "Powderfinger breathes new life into American alternative music". 34th Street. Retrieved 2008-03-10.
- Samantha Clode (December 1998). "Fish Tales". JUICE.
- Tracey Grimson (January 1997). "Powderfinger - Break the Barrier". Rolling Stone.
- Pascuzzi, Carmine (1999). "Primed for P2K Tour".
- Paul Cashmere. "Powderfinger Interview". Undercover. Archived from the original on 2007-12-12. Retrieved 2008-03-04.
- Alphonse Leong (3 October 1997). "Invaders from Oz". Drop-D.
- "APRA History". Australasian Performing Right Association (APRA). Retrieved 2 September 2010.
- "2004 Winners - APRA Music Awards". Australasian Performing Right Association (APRA). Retrieved 2 September 2010.
- "Nominations 2004". Australasian Performing Right Association (APRA). Retrieved 2 September 2010.
- "Nominations for Song of the Year - 2008". Australasian Performing Right Association (APRA). Retrieved 2 September 2010.
- "Most Played Australian Work - 2009". Australasian Performing Right Association (APRA). Retrieved 2 September 2010.