The other night, we saw Perth-born actor Terry Serio get slaughtered then sawed into pieces on Nine’s crim-fest, Underbelly. A night later, he’d resurrected, to launch his new CD, Terry Serio’s Ministry Of Truth: Who’s To Cry, Terry Serio’s at Sydney’s Camelot Lounge.
And in between, he’s been writing, directing, and chatting on radio about theatre. Just a typical, varied week in the life of one of Australia’s most accomplished entertainers. Terry, whose former WA band, The Elks, propelled him to national fame back in the late 70s, chats to The Starfish:
Terrence, never a dull moment in your life.
No. I’ve played every kind of thug and crim and crook and politician, and everything in between.
When did you leave Perth?
Back in 1981. It was time to go somewhere else. The band had reached the ceiling in Perth and there was no manhole. We headed “over east”. When the band broke up my uni tutor said, “you know, you could probably be an actor, if you wanted to.” So off I went.
You ended up in Sydney – what then?
I’d been there a few times before, touring with The Elks, so I already knew people. I moved into a place with Martin Plaza from Mental As Anything. I mentioned I was keen to get into acting, and someone gave me a list of numbers to call. I went to a phone box and called the first number on the list.
Who were you calling?
A casting agent. I told them I was an actor and I’d heard they were about to make a film and I was interested. The woman asked me about my experience. I told her I’d been in a band, The Elks. “The Elks?” said the woman. In the background, the secretary started screaming. Luckily, she was a fan. “You’d better come in and see us then,” said the woman. Soon, I had the lead role in film Running On Empty. I was terrified, but it all worked out. That remains one of my career highlights; it became a cult film.
Playing Johnny O’Keefe in the movie Shout! And playing John Howard in Keating, The Musical, for which I won a Helpmann Award. It was great fun playing Howard. It’s all in the lip action.
Do acting and music compliment each other?
Very much so. They are both such important parts of my life; and sometimes they come together in one performance. I sang in the Running On Empty soundtrack. And I played a guitar in Sam Shepherd play Fool For Love. In between acting, I regularly get together with a bunch of musos and we perform in Terry Serio’s Ministry Of Truth at Sydney pubs and clubs, usually about once a week.
Tell us about your new CD.
It’s six songs I wrote. Gun is a response to the outrageous suicide statistics of men in rural Australia. The number of men taking their own hand with a gun is monumental, but nobody ever talks about it. Chrome is about a narcotic meltdown in the back of the car. Dust Remains, is based on a love poem I rediscovered recently, a letter I’d penned to a girl who dumped me when I was 17. I found it in a drawer when I was moving house and turned it into a song.
I perform with a great bunch of musos, including Perth brothers Peter and John Kaldor; and my regular cohorts, John Schofield (guitar, mandolin, piano accordion and vocals) and Jason Burac (drums). Also Kathryn Brownhill on violin, and Chris Rollans on guitar, keyboards and vocals.
When are you touring Perth?
Some time soon, hopefully.
What do you enjoy doing when you come back here?
I love sitting somewhere near the beach in Cottesloe like Barchetta or The Blue Duck, or the OBH over the road, watching the sun set over the ocean. And I like to drop in and see artist Ben Juniper, a friend of mine, and look at some art. I also try to see as many local bands as I can at Mojos or somewhere like that.
What else are you up to in Sydney at the moment?
I recently completed a film, a psychological thriller called Isolate, which will be airing at Cinefest Oz Busselton this weekend. And I’m about to start work on a new film.
Where can we buy your CD?
At iTunes, cdbaby.com or Dada Records in Perth.
Does your voice get better with age?
Everything gets better. I’m older, wiser, and free of drugs and alcohol, which is a great thing.
Isolate can be seen from August 22 to 26. For details visit: http://www.cinefestoz.com/about/