Dave Warner has spent his career immersing himself in the arts: as a musician, novelist, writer, and performer. One of the key voices of the Australian punk movement in the 1970s, he continues to comment on suburban life in the lucky country today.
Dave’s career was defined by growing up in Perth: the searing heat, the gumtrees, backyard pools, weekend footy, Caroline Noble on the telly. The ebbs and flows of Western Australia are reflected in his art.
From the age of 12, Dave knew that he wanted to write books. “That was the first thing I wanted to do, was be a writer.” He devoured books in the shade of his backyard as a kid and crowded around American rock magazines with his mates as a teenager. But it wouldn’t be until later in life that he would publish his first novel; his love of music won out first.
Around the age of 16, Dave and his friends would get together every other week to play music. Dave did not have an instrument and his parents bought him a keyboard on the condition that he take formal lessons. It was the late 1960s, and Dave took influence from what he calls the “antirock” bands of the era – Country Joe and the Fish, The Fugs.
Dave was still playing punk in friends’ garages when he started a degree in psychology at The University of Western Australia a few years later. In 1973 he formed his first professional band, Pus, with original bassist Michael Feeney. Pus has been lauded as one of the first real underground punk bands in Australia. By the end of 1974, the band had a cult following who would “shout and dance on tables” in pubs across Perth.
In 1975, Dave finished up his degree and Pus decided to peacefully disband long before the worldwide punk movement really began. But Dave was not ready to give up on music yet, and he bought a one-way ticket to London, seeking fame and fortune. He spent 18 months in a flat in Brixton, writing song after song, creating demo tapes, and going to shows. He describes his time in London as one of the most creative periods of his life.
In 1977, Dave returned to Perth and formed his second band, Dave Warner’s From the Suburbs. It was during this period that Dave earned his highest level of commercial success as a musician, with songs like Suburban Boy and Convict Streak. The band was soon signed to Mushroom Records, and their first album, Mug’s Game, was certified gold in 1978. Dave and various line-ups of The Suburbs released three more albums, ending with This Is Your Planet.
That same year, the band decided to officially part ways. Dave sought other creative outlets, and his post-music career started with stand-up skits with friend and Suburbs guitarist Johnny Leopard. They also dabbled in screenwriting and theatre, and in 1985, Dave wrote and produced a musical called The Sixties and All That Pop. Later that year he wrote and performed in a full-scale musical at Perth’s Playhouse Theatre called Planet Pres.
In 1987, Perth’s suburban boy packed up and made the move to Sydney to pursue screenwriting. It was not an easy transition; to most, Dave was still a musician. It was during those early, tough years in Sydney that he began to write his debut novel, City of Light, which was published in 1995. It earned critical acclaim and won the Western Australian Premier’s Book Award for Best Fiction Work.
Television networks began to take notice and from the late 1990s until 2012, Dave worked full-time as a writer for a number of major Australian shows, including Sea Patrol, McLeod’s Daughters and Packed to the Rafters. In 2000, Dave’s first feature-length screenplay Cut was released, with three others to follow. He had a number of other books published, dabbling in crime, comedy, sport, music, and children’s books. Recent projects include the script for Never Tear Us Apart: The Untold Story of INXS, and the highly successful show The King and Me at Perth’s Fringe World Festival.
Dave’s first crime novel in 15 years, Before it Breaks, was released this year through Fremantle Press. He already has plans to work on a follow-up book, record some new songs and work on a screenplay or two in the coming years.
Dave lives in Sydney with his wife and three children, and is always thinking about his next project.