About Simon Bonney
Australian singer and songwriter Simon Bonney is possessed of a deep, sonorous baritone instrument that suggests its place in a lineage from Johnny Cash and Jim Morrison to fellow Australian Nick Cave. It is at once urgent and mournful, pastoral and prophetic. During the 1980s and early '90s, Bonney was the lead singer of Crime & the City Solution (that featured several ex-members of the Birthday Party), and an important figure on Australia's -- and later Berlin's -- post-punk scenes. The band appeared in Wim Wenders' film Wings of Desire in a live club performance that revealed Bonney to be a snake-like presence on-stage, in constant movement, framing the dark gothic blues of Crime. By the time the band reached its nadir for the first time (before re-forming in the 21st century) Bonney stood stock still on-stage, a dark angel delivering tales of reckoning, loss, and apocalypse in front of Crime's sonic maelstrom. After the band split, he moved to Los Angeles' Silverlake neighborhood, and delivered a pair of haunted, Americana-infused solo albums that resonated deeply with critics, but ultimately ended up deleted when his label was absorbed into Universal. Bonney disappeared from music for a lengthy period to support his growing family with musical and life partner, violinist/vocalist, and composer Bronwyn Adams. They lived all over the globe before re-emerging with a new version of Crime on the album American Twilight in 2013.
Bonney was born in Tasmania but grew up in Sydney. In 1977, as a runaway, he supplied lead vocals for the Sydney-based the Particles before leaving to found the original version of post-punk outfit Crime & the City Solution. The group relocated to Melbourne, then to London before splitting in 1979.
In 1984 he formed another version of Crime & the City Solution in London with music director Mick Harvey on drums and keyboards, guitarist/vocalist Rowland S. Howard (both ex-Birthday Party), and Howard's younger brother, Harry on bass. In June 1985 the group's debut four-track EP, The Dangling Man, was released by Mute Records in the U.K. and Possum Records in Australia. A six-track EP, Just South of Heaven, followed in September. After it was issued, drummer Epic Soundtracks (ex-Swell Maps) joined, freeing Harvey to concentrate on keyboards and guitar. Adams joined on violin and backing vocals before the band moved to Berlin. In 1986 this lineup cut the C&CS debut album Room of Lights, co-produced by the band, Flood, and Tony Cohen. The following year, Adams, Bonney, and Harvey recruited Chrislo Haas (ex-D.A.F., Liaisons Dangereuses) on synths, guitarist Alexander Hacke (Einstürzende Neubauten), and bassist Thomas Stern. After a compilation reissue of Room of Lights was released internationally, the Berlin edition of Crime cut the widely celebrated Shine in 1988, The Bride Ship in 1989, and Paradise Discotheque in 1990, each more ambitious and apocalyptic than the last. While the first two albums were widely acclaimed by critics, they sold only intermittently, and Crime split after a gig in Chicago in 1991.
Bonney and Adams moved to Los Angeles. There Bonney met guitarist J.D. Foster, who introduced him to classic country music and the Americana sounds of Townes Van Zandt, Guy Clark, and others.
Bonney began writing songs in that vein and was soon traveling in a duo with Foster. His rootsier, less gothic-angst-infused sound resulted in his debut solo long-player, the Gareth Jones-produced Forever on Mute. Deeply influenced by the mythology of the American West, and the musical traditions of California and Texas, Bonney and Adams worked with a host of American indie musicians from Foster and Carla Bozulich to Sally Norvell and Jon Dee Graham. While touring, he met ex-Volebeats' and Outrageous Cherry guitarist Matthew Smith in Ann Arbor and joined the band, initially as a bassist. (Smith later assisted Bonney and Hacke in re-forming Crime.) In 1994, Bonney released Everyman, an album that registered universally positive reviews. Recorded in Austin at Willie Nelson's Pedernales Studio and in Los Angeles, it featured a wealth of talent in its lineup including Jerry Jeff Walker's drummer Freddy Krc, Chuck Prophet, David Halley, the Texacali Horns, and more.
A small version of Bonney's band toured the U.S. and Europe with him in support throughout 1995. In May of 1996, Mute issued the non-charting single "Don't Walk Away from Love."
In late 1996, Bonney traveled to suburban Detroit's Tempermill Studios to work with producer Dave Feeny on his third album.
Smith helped him to assemble a band of local luminaries including Larry Ray (Outrageous Cherry), Troy Gregory (the Dirtbombs, Swans, Killing Joke, Spiritualized), and fellow Australian and Dirty Three drummer Jim White. All but Ray were among the musicians who eventually joined the cast of the re-formed Crime & the City Solution almost two decades later. Given the merger between Mute's U.S. label and Universal, the album, titled Pale Blue Eyes, was never completed. Bonney, now the father of two children, left the business in order to support his family. Still living in Silverlake, he drove a truck for a time, then worked in the film industry as a grip. Between 1996 and 2002, he worked on 14 feature films, including Night Caller and Allison Anders' Sugar Town (where he also had an onscreen cameo), Agnieszka Holland's The Third Miracle, and Rabbit Proof Fence, by Phillip Noyce. He returned to Australia, attended film school, and began directing his own picture, Sadness, completed in 2012.
Bonney also studied public administration. During his absence from music he began another career managing aid programs for non-profits and NGO's around the world. His travels took the family to Papua, New Guinea, Bangladesh, the Marshall Islands, and finally to Thailand.
In 2011, Bonney and Hacke resurrected Crime & the City Solution with Smith, Gregory, and White, along with Adams, Danielle Di Picciotto, and David Eugene Edwards (Wovenhand, 16 Horsepower). They recorded American Twilight in Detroit, which was released to acclaim in 2013; the band toured Europe, the U.S., and Australia. Bonney resumed his day job for another couple of years before taking a sabbatical and working on a compilation from his two solo albums and six unreleased masters from Pale Blue Eyes, plus a cover of Scott Walker's "Duchess." Released as Past, Present, Future in the spring of 2019, it was followed by European and American tours. ~ Thom Jurek