The Devil Won’t Take Charity - Kim Volkman (self published)
It’s been said that everybody does have a book in them, but in most cases that's where it should stay. Melbourne musician Kim Volkman begs to differ.
Now, he’s not exactly a household name so you could well ask what business Volkman has writing an autobiography. If you do I’ll not-so-respectfully point out that Justin Bieber has five (allegedly) self-penned books against his name on Amazon right now.
It helps that Volkman has led an interesting musical life. Guitarist with Ian Rilen and the Love Addicts - one of the most underrated, raw and real bands to appear on Australian stages in the last 30 years - he’s also had three stints filling his late ex-band leader’s bass spot in X.
Volkman’s played with many lesser-known bands - including his own very good Whiskey Priests. Unlike Justin Bieber, he’s never had notable success. That’s probably a good thing in Kim’s case - on his own admission, it might have killed him.
“The Devil Won’t Take Charity” (it’s a lyric from one of his songs) is one of the most honest books you’ll read. It’s direct without flash or fake pretence - just like the way Kim plays guitar.
Volkman says you’re only seeing the tip of the iceberg and that may well be the case, but what’s on display is enthralling and confronting at the same time.
Kim Volkman’s childhood was scarred by abuse, he’s had a couple of runs of smack addiction. He’s been a functioning alcoholic, ridden out a number of car crash relationships and, of course, has lived, eaten and breathed rock and roll.
Music’s been both his salvation and his downfall, at times. Even being a “rock star” in a relatively small pool (that would be Melbourne) brings pressures to live up to the name. If catharsis is character building, Kim Volkman is one of Australia’s most resilient characters.
The story’s delivered with no fancy literary devices. Volkman tackles his own life chronologically and yes, the owner of a hyperactive mind does find love, a measure of peace and comfort in his own skin by the end. But what a bumpy, sometimes hilarious ride he navigates along the way.
A few of the people mentioned and yarns recounted I know very well. I have to pick up Kim and say that Ian Rilen’s drunken, self-inflicted exit from a high-paying spell as an Ian Moss sideman was in rural Victoria at a venue where the overly-generous publican was a fine wine devotee. At least that was the way Ian told me. And Rilen’s bruising encounter with a spurned girlfriend who caught him in the act - that one involved a baseball bat.
Regrets? There are a few. Kim’s in his 50s and understandably takes issue with the lack of support musicians (and not just those in their dotage) receive in today’s digital world. I’ve always thought that it was the abundance of good bands, rather than a shortage of venues, that created the music scene dynamic in Melbourne, but Volkman says it’s the other way round.
Continiuing with the theme of disarming honesty, there's a chapter where Kim also says exactly what he thinks of a few Melbourne musical notables.
“The Devil Won’t Take Charity” has a few rough grammatical edges and the photos are annoyingly of postage stamp proportions, but ask yourself how often you get to read a fair dinkum story of a local musician who’s still alive and worth hearing from? Nice foreword by my mate Patrick Emery, too.