Ollie Olsen

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Ollie Olsen
Birth nameIan Christopher Olsen
Also known as
  • Ollie Olsen
  • Ollie Jngbert Christian Olsen
Born1958 (age 65–66)
Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
  • Musician
  • composer
  • sound designer
Years active1977–2019, 2020-present

Ollie Olsen is an Australian multi-instrumentalist, composer and sound designer. He has performed, recorded and produced rock, electronic and experimental music since the mid-1970s. His post punk groups included Whirlywirld (1978–80), Orchestra of Skin and Bone (1984–86) and No (1987–89). Olsen joined with Michael Hutchence (of INXS) to form a short-term band, Max Q, which issued an album in 1989. He co-founded the alternative electronic music record label Psy-Harmonics with Andrew Till in 1993. In 2014 he formed Taipan Tiger Girls.


Ollie Jngbert Christian Olsen (born Ian Christopher Olsen) was born in 1958 in Melbourne.[1] He grew up with a sibling in suburban Blackburn and when he was 11 years-old the family spent four months in Norway in mid-1969.[2][3]

Olsen developed an interest in electronic music as a teenager in the mid-1970s, studying with Felix Werder.[4] Olsen has issued a range of work from experimental to film and television soundtracks, pop and dance music, installation projects and has established record labels.[1] According to Australian musicologist, Ian McFarlane, he is "recognised as one of the key figures in the Australian post-punk electronic movement of the late 1970s. Ever the experimentalist, Olsen's eclectic career in avant rock has taken him from the Reals, one of the original Melbourne punk combos of the late 1970s, through to the acid-house/techno/trance outfit Third Eye. He was also the driving force behind the Psy-Harmonics label."[1]

Melbourne in the 70s and 80s[edit]

In the late 1970s Olsen formed two punk, post-punk bands, as leader and vocalist, as well as being a key figure in the Melbourne little band scene.[3] His punk bands included the Reals and the Young Charlatans.[5] Aside from Olsen on guitar, the Reals' line-up was Peter Cave on drums, Gary Gray on lead vocals and Chris Walsh on bass guitar.[1] At the end of 1977 he formed the Young Charlatans with Janine Hall on bass guitar, Rowland S. Howard on guitar (ex-Obsessions) and Jeffrey Wegener on drums (ex-Saints).[1] Australian music journalist, Clinton Walker, described this band as having "inner-city 'supergroup' status from the outset and helped pioneer post-punk rock in Australia."[1]

Howard had written his iconic song "Shivers" while with the Young Charlatans, it was later recorded and released by a group Howard joined soon afterwards, The Boys Next Door.[1] Young Charlatans recorded the first (and second) version of 'Shivers' as part of their unreleased demos, which were made by Bruce Milne for a future single on his Au Go Go Records label.[6]

The Young Charlatans broke up in May 1978 and Olsen, on lead vocals, synthesiser, clarinet and saxophone, formed Whirlywirld, with Andrew Duffield on synthesiser, John Murphy on drums (ex-the News), Dean Richards on guitar and Simon Smith on synthesiser.[1] Their debut self-titled three-track extended play was released in June 1979 via Missing Link Records.[1] Olsen wrote two tracks and co-wrote the third with Murphy.[7] The group issued a second self-titled EP in February 1980.[1] The first 500 copies also included a bonus single, "Sextronics", but Whirlywirld disbanded before it appeared.[1][8]

Olsen and Murphy relocated to the United Kingdom in early 1980 on the recommendation of Iggy Pop.[8] The Canberra Times' Jonathan Green reported that "The Ig was impressed with the band's first ep when out here last year."[8] The duo formed the Beast Apparel, which later became Hugo Klang, and released a single, "Grand Life for Fools and Idiots", in 1982.[1] Olsen returned to Australia in the following year and continued Hugo Klang[9] with Alan Bamford, Tom Hoy and Laughton Ellery, before this group split up in 1983.[citation needed]

In 1984 Olsen on vocals and guitar, Marie Hoy on keyboards and vocals and Murphy as drummer formed "an avant-garde outfit", Orchestra of Skin and Bone.[1] Marie Hoy had been an instigator of the Melbourne 'little bands' scene, as a member of Too Fat to Fit Through the Door and others.[citation needed] Other musicians associated with Orchestra of Skin and Bone included David Hoy on cello, Tom Hoy on saxophone, Lochie Kirkwood on vocals and saxophone, Dugald McKenzie on vocals and harmonica, James Rogers on trumpet and Peter Scully on guitar. They issued a self-titled album in 1986 and disbanded soon afterwards.[1] The following year, Ollie formed No, with Olsen on keyboards, vocals, drum machine and sampler, Marie Hoy on keyboards, vocals, samples alongside Kevin McMahon on bass guitar and Michael Sheridan on guitar in 1987.[1]

Dogs in Space to Max Q[edit]

Film director Richard Lowenstein asked Olsen to appear in and work as music director for his feature film, Dogs in Space (December 1986). Olsen supervised the reforming of acts from the late 1970s little band scene and produced music recordings for the soundtrack. He re-recorded material by Whirlywirld including two singles, "Win/Lose" (April 1987) as a solo effort, and "Rooms for the Memory" (February) by the film's star, Michael Hutchence (of INXS).[1] The film also featured Marie Hoy singing "Shivers". In a 2009 interview, following the restoration of the original film for a DVD release, Lowenstein told Trevor Block:

But Whirlywirld were always the ones for me. I mean, their music is in the movie itself, over the end credits. And the great thing about Ollie [Olsen], and one of the reasons I asked him to do so much in the movie, is that his songs have always had a feel to them, a kind of mood that fitted in with what we were doing. You'd die to make a video for some of his songs, he uses so many great images, and the rhythms he uses are amazing as well.[10]

In 1989 Olsen and Hutchence collaborated on a musical project, Max Q, co-producing a self-titled album combining electronic music with orchestra, bass, guitar and backing vocals. The Max Q band included Arne Hanna (guitar), Bill McDonald (bass), John Murphy (drums, percussion), Michael Sheridan (guitar) and Gus Till (keyboards).[11][12] After recording Olsen and Hutchence travelled to New York City to mix the tracks with DJ, Todd Terry.[13]

Max Q is featured in the 2019 film Mystify by Richard Lowenstein.[14]

1990s onwards[edit]

Olsen returned to Australia and turned his attentions to trance music, co-founding Australian electronic music label, Psy-Harmonics,[15] with Gus Till's brother, Andrew Till, and recording under the name Third Eye. From the 1990s onwards, he has worked increasingly in sound design and score for film and score for television.[16]

Olsen has lectured on and taught electronic music at various universities and symposia, and has also performed with a wide variety of international artists.[citation needed]

As of 2006, Olsen was working on a number of recording projects – mostly electro-acoustic pieces – with artists from Australia, Japan and South Africa, for performance and release in 2006. Olsen's musical output that year consisted of the release of the album, I Am The Server (13 February 2006), through the Greek record label, Creative Space, and the release of an electro-acoustic album, entitled Simulated. I Am The Server was composed, recorded and engineered by Olsen, with additional music from Bill McDonald and Peter Luscombe; the album was mastered by Simon Pool at LGM studios and the album artwork was produced by Maro Kassoti. Simulated was composed, performed and engineered by Olsen, between 1999 and 2006, mastered by Simon Pool at LGM studios, in January 2006, and the album artwork was, again, produced by Maro Kassoti.[17][18]

In January 2019, Olsen announced his retirement from music via Facebook.[19] In May 2020, Olsen announces publicly online on making a return to music and the release of the Whirlywirld Complete Discography 1978-80 LP on HoZac Records due out in June, 2020.[20][3]

In 2020 Olsen was diagnosed with multiple system atrophy (MSA).[21][22] In January 2023 music journalist Jane Gazzo, singer Adalita and producer Nick Launay re-recorded Olsen's 1978 composition "Rooms for the Memory" – originally a top 20 solo single for Hutchence in 1986 and also used in the associated film Dogs in Space.[22][23] Olsen's MSA was announced in June 2023 and the new rendition featuring Mick Harvey, Andrew Duffield and Mat Watson (Taipan Tiger Girls) is due for release in July with proceeds in support of his ongoing medical expenses.[22] According to Greg Phillips of Australian Musician, Olsen's condition "continues to deteriorate as there is currently no known cure."[21]

List of past bands[edit]


  • The Reals (1977): guitar
  • The Young Charlatans (1977–78)
  • Whirlywirld (1978–80): lead vocals, synthesiser, saxophone
  • The Beast Apparel / Hugo Klang (1981–83)
  • Lion Feed
  • Orchestra of Skin and Bone (1984–86): vocals, guitar
  • NO (1987–89): keyboards, vocals, sampler
  • Max Q (1989–90)
  • Third Eye
  • The Visitors
  • Shaolin Wooden Men
  • Psyko Disko
  • Antediluvian Rocking Horse
  • I Am The Server
  • Primitive Ghost
  • Taipan Tiger Girls
  • Spectral Electron Chromas
  • Kitty Chrome
  • Vanish from this state of Whatever

Collaborations and projects[edit]

  • Nominated for Best Original Music Score for the movie Head On at the Australian Film Institute Awards (AFI Awards,1998) [25][26]
  • "Regenerative Generative Generative" psychedelic (re)constructions (real-time interactive sound and image) and translations of sound into visual responses. The culmination of a series of interactive and generative compositions explored over the past two decades by Andrew Garton, Ollie Olsen and John Power. Australian Centre for Contemporary Art, Melbourne, 2000 This is Not Art Festival, Newcastle, NSW, 2000[27]
  • "From Drift to Derive" Multi-screen video, 5.1 generative sound by Andrew Garton and Ollie Olsen Australian Centre for the Moving Image, Melbourne, 2003 Small Black Box, Institute for Modern Art, Brisbane, Australia, 2003[27]
  • Composed score for "The Loved Ones" 2009[28]
  • Composed score for "Birthday" 2009[29]
  • Released debut album with Taipan Tiger Girls - 2015[30]

Psy-Harmonics record label[edit]

In 1993 Olsen formed Psy-Harmonics, an independent record label, with Andrew Till, which specialised in electronic music.[1]


  • McFarlane, Ian (1999). "Whammo Homepage". Encyclopedia of Australian Rock and Pop. St Leonards, NSW: Allen & Unwin. ISBN 1-86508-072-1. Archived from the original on 5 April 2004. Retrieved 4 February 2017. Note: Archived [on-line] copy has limited functionality.
  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r McFarlane, Ian (31 March 2017). "Encyclopedia entry for 'Ian "Ollie" Olsen'". The Encyclopedia of Australian Rock and Pop. Jenkins, Jeff (Foreword) (2nd ed.). Gisborne, VIC: Third Stone Press (published 2017). pp. 355–356. ISBN 978-0-9953856-0-3. Norwegian-descended Melbourne-born musician Ian 'Ollie' Olsen (b. 1958) is recognised...
  2. ^ Olsen Family returned to Australia in August 1969:
  3. ^ a b c "Ollie Olsen (on Whirlywirld): "It was a fun time."". Cyclic Defrost. 8 July 2020. Retrieved 11 July 2020.
  4. ^ "Artist: Ollie Olsen Stories and Highlights". Long Way to the Top. Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC). 2001. Archived from the original on 25 August 2004. Retrieved 6 February 2017.
  5. ^ "Rowland S. Howard & Ollie Olsen – Interview on Music Around Us (1977)". Music Around Us. YouTube. Retrieved 24 July 2012.[dead YouTube link]
  6. ^ David, Nichols (11 October 2016). Dig: Australian Rock and Pop Music, 1960-85. Verse Chorus Press. pp. Pg: 423 "The Early To Mid Eighties". ISBN 978-1891241260.
  7. ^ Whirlywirld (2002), The complete studio works, Missing Link Records, retrieved 5 February 2017
  8. ^ a b c Green, Jonathan (16 January 1980). "Timespan". The Canberra Times. Vol. 54, no. 16, 183. p. 12. Retrieved 5 February 2017 – via National Library of Australia.
  9. ^ "Unearthing The Early Electronic Sounds Of Max Q's Ollie Olsen". I Like Your Old Stuff. Retrieved 13 July 2020.
  10. ^ Block, Trevor (31 July 2009). "Richard Lowenstein". Mess+Noise. Junkee Media. Retrieved 9 September 2012.
  11. ^ Hutchence, Tina. "Max Q". Michael Hutchence. Retrieved 5 August 2012 – via Tina Hutchence.
  12. ^ Holmgren, Magnus; Shaw, Julian. "Max Q". Australian Rock Database. Archived from the original on 31 December 2003. Retrieved 31 March 2021.
  13. ^ Dan, Jones. "The Max Q Story". michaelhutchence.org. Archived from the original on 28 April 2015. Retrieved 6 February 2017 – via Kelland Hutchence Collection.
  14. ^ "Mystify Michaell Hutchence". Facebook.
  15. ^ "Ollie Olsen". Discogs. Retrieved 24 July 2012.
  16. ^ "Ollie Olsen on ASO - Australia's audio and visual heritage online". aso.gov.au. Retrieved 13 July 2020.
  17. ^ "Audio Archive > Community Audio > i AM the Server". Internet Archive – community audio. Internet Archive. 2006. Retrieved 24 January 2013.
  18. ^ "Audio Archive > Community Audio > Simulated". Internet Archive – community audio. Internet Archive. 2006. Retrieved 24 January 2013.
  19. ^ "Ollie Olsen announces his retirement from music". noise11. 11 January 2019. Retrieved 11 January 2019.
  20. ^ "Ollie Olsen making music, Whirlywirld reissue 2020". Facebook. Archived from the original on 26 February 2022.
  21. ^ a b Greg, Phillips (15 June 2023). "Adalita, Mick Harvey & Andrew Duffield Cover Dogs in Space Classic to Raise Funds for Ollie Olsen". Australian Musician. Archived from the original on 24 June 2023. Retrieved 24 June 2023.
  22. ^ a b c staff writer (16 June 2023). "Adalita, Mick Harvey and Andrew Duffield Reimagine Michael Hutchence's Classic 'Rooms for the Memory'". Beat Magazine. Archived from the original on 18 June 2023. Retrieved 24 June 2023.
  23. ^ Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970–1992. St Ives, NSW: Australian Chart Book. ISBN 0-646-11917-6.
  24. ^ Olsen, Ollie. "Ollie Olsen". SoundCloud. SoundCloud Ltd. Retrieved 24 July 2012.
  25. ^ "Australian Television: 1998 AFI Awards". www.australiantelevision.net. Retrieved 17 October 2020.
  26. ^ "AFI | AACTA | Winners & Nominees | 1990-1999 | 1998". Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts (AACTA). Archived from the original on 4 January 2015. Retrieved 17 October 2020.
  27. ^ a b https://www.andrewgarton.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/AndrewGarton_Select-Works_2018.pdf [bare URL PDF]
  28. ^ The Loved Ones (2009) - IMDb, retrieved 15 April 2021
  29. ^ Birthday (2009) - IMDb, retrieved 15 April 2021
  30. ^ "1, by Taipan Tiger Girls".

External links[edit]