Ollie Olsen

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Ollie Olsen
Birth nameIan Christian Olsen
OriginMelbourne, Victoria, Australia
InstrumentsSynthesiser, guitar, vocals, saxophone
Years active1977–2019
Associated acts

Jngbert Christian "Ian '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, Psy-Harmonics, with Andrew Till, as an alternative electronic music record label. In 2014 he formed Taipan Tiger Girls.


Ian "Ollie" Olsen was born in Norway and grew up in Melbourne.[1] He developed an interest in electronic music as a teenager in the mid-1970s, studying with Felix Werder.[2] 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 innovative 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. His punk bands included the Reals and the Young Charlatans.[3] 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] They did not release any material. Howard had written his iconic song "Shivers" which they performed: it was later recorded by a group Howard joined soon afterwards, The Boys Next Door.[1]

The Young Charlatans broke up in May 1978 and Olsen, on lead vocals, synthesiser 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.[4] 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][5]

Olsen and Murphy relocated to the United Kingdom in early 1980 on the recommendation of Iggy Pop.[5] The Canberra Times' Jonathan Green reported that "The Ig was impressed with the band's first ep when out here last year."[5] 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 with Alan Bamford, Tom Hoy and Laughton Ellery, before this group split up in 1983.

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. 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, the same core members formed No, with Olsen on keyboards, vocals and sampler, Marie Hoy on keyboards, vocals, samples and Murphy on drums and percussion 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.[6]

In 1989 Olsen and Hutchence collaborated on a musical project, Max Q, producing a self-titled album combining electronic music with political paranoia.[7] The Max Q band included Murphy, Michael Sheridan, and keyboardist Gus Till.[8] After recording Olsen and Hutchence travelled New York City to mix the tracks with DJ, Todd Terry.[7]

1990s onwards[edit]

Olsen returned to Australia and turned his attentions to trance music, co-founding Australian electronic music label, Psy-Harmonics[9] with Gus Till's brother, Andrew Till, and recording under the name Third Eye. From the 1990s onwards, he has worked increasingly in film and sound design for television.[citation needed]

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.[10][11]

In January 2019, Olsen announced his retirement from music via Facebook.[12]

List of past bands[edit]


Collaborations and projects[edit]


  • 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 McFarlane, 'Ian "Ollie" Olsen' entry. Archived from the original on 19 April 2004. Retrieved 4 February 2017.
  2. ^ "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.
  3. ^ "Rowland S. Howard & Ollie Olsen – Interview on Music Around Us (1977)". Music Around Us. YouTube. Retrieved 24 July 2012.
  4. ^ Whirlywirld (2002), The complete studio works, Missing Link Records, retrieved 5 February 2017
  5. ^ a b c Green, Jonathan (16 January 1980). "Timespan". The Canberra Times. 54 (16, 183). p. 12. Retrieved 5 February 2017 – via National Library of Australia.
  6. ^ Block, Trevor (31 July 2009). "Richard Lowenstein". Mess+Noise. Junkee Media. Retrieved 9 September 2012.
  7. ^ a b Dan, Jones. "The Max Q Story". michaelhutchence.org. Archived from the original on 28 April 2015. Retrieved 6 February 2017 – via Kelland Hutchence Collection.
  8. ^ Hutchence, Tina. "Max Q". Michael Hutchence. Retrieved 5 August 2012 – via Tina Hutchence.
  9. ^ "Ollie Olsen". Discogs. Discogs. Retrieved 24 July 2012.
  10. ^ "Audio Archive > Community Audio > i AM the Server". Internet Archive – community audio. Internet Archive. 2006. Retrieved 24 January 2013.
  11. ^ "Audio Archive > Community Audio > Simulated". Internet Archive – community audio. Internet Archive. 2006. Retrieved 24 January 2013.
  12. ^ "Ollie Olsen announces his retirement from music". noise11. 11 January 2019. Retrieved 11 January 2019.
  13. ^ Olsen, Ollie. "Ollie Olsen". SoundCloud. SoundCloud Ltd. Retrieved 24 July 2012.
  14. ^ "MEJU".
  15. ^ "1, by Taipan Tiger Girls".

External links[edit]