Hunger — both literally and metaphorically — is the driving force of all high achievers in life and part of the reason for the enduring success of Australian balladeers Russell Hitchcock and Graham Russell.
Better known as Air Supply, the duo arrived on the planet 33 years ago when their debut album Lost in Love scored a major hit in the US, selling more than two million copies and spawning the top 10 singles Lost In Love, All Out of Love and Every Woman in the World.
The following year their second album, The One That You Love, also made it to the top of the charts, only to be followed by another hit record the next year, Now And Forever.
In the space of three years Air Supply’s romance-infused songs were heard at weddings around the world as people were falling in love to songs of the sweetest and most enchanting variety.
More than three decades later, nothing has changed — love is still the driving force behind the Hitchcock and Russell juggernaut. And they’re the first to admit that they’re not the least embarrassed of being dubbed as romantics, as Hitchcock told tabloid! during a recent interview ahead of their appearance at the Emirates Golf Club.
Q: You guys make falling in love seem so surreal. Has that been your unique selling point all these years?
A: We’ve always been associated with romantic music and love songs and we’re not ashamed to admit that. We didn’t do it for any particular reason but that’s what came out of Graham’s mind and through his hand on to paper. So we’re okay of being identified with love songs. In fact, at the end of our shows I really emphasise the fact that, without being too corny or syrupy, that love is very important for us in the universe and it would make the world a better place if everybody realised that.
Q: How did it all begin, this love thing that you sing about so devotedly?
A: I suppose it all begins with the songs we’ve been lucky enough to have, Graham’s songs that have been the driving force behind Air Supply’s music. He writes beautiful songs and people have always connected with them. Since 2978 up until the present. I think that’s where it all starts and is the basis for our career.
Q: I have to admit that your voice, and Graham’s, still sound amazing after all these years. How do you stay in shape vocally?
A: Well it’s certainly a lot harder than it used to be. At this point in our careers we both try and get as much rest as we can and we remember to pace yourselves. I probably watch what I eat and I never smoked, so that’s a big help. Otherwise, there’s nothing specific.
Q: How does the Russell Hitchock-Graham Russell partnership work, is it anything like Lennon and McCartney, Simon and Garfunkel or Elton John and Bernie Taupin? How do you account for the synergy between yourselves?
A: I don’t participate in the writing. One of the reasons that we’ve lasted so long is we don’t compete with each other as far as song writing is concerned or who’s going to sing this or that. It’s pretty obvious and natural for us the way we’ve always put songs together. But, certainly as I said Graham is the chief songwriter and he knows what he wants to hear and I’m very happy to just sing the songs and be part of that puzzle.
Q: When you first heard Graham demo Lost In Love and All Out of Love, did you think that they would be the hits that they were?
A: Certainly with both those songs. The first time I heard Lost In Love I was in Adelaide and Graham played if for me on an acoustic guitar and sang it for me and I knew straightaway and I said to him this is going to be a big hit. And it was the same with All Out of Love. We’ve recorded 25 studio albums, which is 250 songs approximately. When you hear a song and it’s a hit, you know it’s a hit. It’s a no-brainer.
Q: What about the new album Mumbo Jumbo, which seems to be the most ambitious record you have ever made? Did you think it would become a hit. What went into the making of these new songs?
A: The longer you do this you know, and the older you get, hopefully you’re a bit more aware about life and the universe. The title track is just a song about a guy’s quest for the truth really and all the stuff that goes along. A lot of it was actually inspired by Las Vegas, with money and greed and bright lights and people being fooled into thinking there’s stuff out here something that they should be wanting to not follow.
Q: It’s a record that’s kind of different from your earlier work. Each song seems to stand up on its own.
A: I would certainly agree with that. It was recorded at a time when it was supposed to be recorded considering both Graham’s and my artistic psyche at the time, and I think it has a lot to say. I appreciate your opinion about it. You nailed it.
Q: What are your musical tastes these days, outside Air Supply?
A: I listen to stuff that I listened to as a kid, or teenager. I’m not really enamoured with a lot of the music that’s out there these days. In the last few years I was a big fan of Amy Winehouse, her voice and her music. I like Adele and I’m a big James Blunt fan. Not too much else really.
Q: What advice do you have to offer any new artist?
A: The things that I would try and pass onto anyone is obviously if you have the talent and material then you have made a beginning. But the perseverance is absolutely necessary. And surround yourself by good people in management, agents and lawyers. But you know it’s been a great ride for us. I have a 24-year-old daughter and she has a beautiful voice. When she was 16 she wanted to get into show-business and I said ‘please don’t, get a job, stay in school, do your thing and see what happens at the other end.’ I wouldn’t change anything as far my life is concerned I’ve had a wonderful career and I continue to do so, and to play great songs every night all over the world.
Q: What sort of emotions run through you on stage? Do you look at people in the crowd and even sing to them directly, so as to connect with them?
A: Oh yeah. I try to pick out people when I’m singing. In fact the other night we played a shot at Oklahoma and there was a little girl in the audience, she was maybe 10 or 12 and she had Down’s syndrome. We actually got her up on stage and to see the expression on face was amazing. The audience’s response to her was priceless. Those are the sort of thing you can’t buy, they happen infrequently, but it was a beautiful experience.
Q: What sort of experience was it like singing Now And Forever at Graham’s wedding? Not too many people get an opportunity like this, was it extra special.
A: First of all it’s a beautiful song and it was the right sentiment for the day and I was thrilled to be part of Graham’s marriage and to do that in a big church, with a great organ, it was a lovely experience to say the least.
Q: Simon & Garfunkel reportedly recorded The Boxer in a Church to get the special echo effects that they were looking for. Do you ever experiment with sound or effects on any of your songs?
A: Not really. We’ve had the chance to record in some wonderful studios around the world and in fact we recorded Without You, the Harry Nillson song, in Capitol Studios in Los Angeles where Frank Sinatra used to record most of his stuff. That was about the most spiritual experience that I’ve had. And I think The One That You Love and Without You we recorded in one take, usually you do it half a dozen times to get the best. But singing Without You was a phenomenal experience for me.
Q: Do you have a message for your fans in Dubai?
A: Obviously looking forward to coming back, it’s a beautiful city and we’ve always been treated with overwhelming warmth from everyone that comes for the show. We’re looking forward to just getting back and revisiting some memories and maybe even making some new friends.