A Riff On Keef: The Human Myth – The Writing Process (AKA The Author Talking about Himself into Siri at 5am)


My pieces, for what it’s worth, are about finding the voice. Structurally they’re very simple, archetypal journeys that have been used in mythology and other storytelling for generations. The complexity is in the imagery, which grows out of voice. It all grows out of voice. Did I mention voice?

I create the character by discovering their voice, and then I let the character create the imagery for me, to write the song, tell the story. As Keef would say –

“It’s wrong in all the right ways, by far the laziest solution, very Jimmy Reed and all.”

A Riff On Keef: The Human Myth grew that way, like some wild sinsemilla weed in the back of my subconscious. In 2011 I read the autobiography ‘Life’, then with that voice fresh in my head I wrote a parody-synopsis of it, a piss-take, called One Day In The Life of Keef: The Human Riff. I then developed this into a 15-minute monologue that was eventually performed at a Griffringe showcase in 2012 (directed by Regina Botros and starring Andrew Henry). Sam Strong, then Artistic Director of Griffin, asked if I had a full-length version of it. I lied and said, Yes. Then I went home and wrote it (well, via the Kings Cross Hotel.) Then, after dramaturgical advice from several quarters, Lucinda Gleeson and I redrafted and redrafted and eventually successfully pitched it to Griffin Independent. Then you bought stacks of tickets and loved it (at least that’s the plan.)

I should mention that it’s the third in a trilogy of plays written by myself and directed by Lucinda. The first (written in much the same way) was The Chronic Ills of Robert Zimmerman, AKA Bob Dylan (A Lie). The next (adapted from a book by Damian Kringas) was Lenny Bruce: 13 Daze Un-Dug In Sydney 1962. A Riff On Keef: The Human Myth is the third. It has the shortest title. But what does it mean as a trilogy? You could say if Bob was God, and Lenny was Man, then Keef is the Devil. Or you could say Bob was poetry, Lenny was comedy, and finally Keef is music. Or you could just say they came out that way, like a baby with an extra limb, but back to this show.

There are things trainspotters will find missing, misconstrued, or just plain untrue. Good. You might say, Brian did this, or, Where is Mick Taylor? etc. Let me be clear, this is not a biography, this is not a telemovie, this is not the truth, this is mythology – the realm of subconscious imagery related to conscious fact, but not it. This is not so much ‘Walk The Line’ as it is ‘the Rutles’. This is the ‘feel’ of the truth, which you only get by fucking with it. It’s not rock solid, it rolls. It swings in the wind. But it is all based on something real, sort of… Did I mention voice? And feel…

To put it bluntly, this is not a biography of the Rolling Stones, or even Keith Richards, this is a mythical character – Keef. A fiction created by a combination of my subconscious and my readings on the real thing. It’s a riff on the idea of this ancient creature. A comic riff, a mythical riff, and hopefully a musical riff. Poetry is a form of music, and theatre was originally a form of epic poetry, of storytelling. Tall-story telling in this case, and the fine Australian tradition of taking the piss.

So Keef, the mythical Keef, wrote this story, not Benito Di Fonzo (whatever he is). I (Di Fonzo) don’t necessarily agree with the route he took, but you have to trust the song knows where it’s going, like a wino’s pony. Do you know about that? In the olden days, you could get as hammered as you liked on mead and fermented yak turds, then just stumble onto your pony and kip out – the pony knew the way home, and he or she was usually sober. The point being, please address all correspondence and complaints to ‘Keef’. Not that he’ll read it…

Experiencing these shows to their full potential is like the process of learning an instrument or art form – you learn all the rules, the facts, the accepted myths, and then you immediately ignore them, ideally forget them (in a conscious sense) completely. But you have to know the rules before you can try and forget them. Not that you need to know anything about Keef to enjoy this. That would be for ‘fans only’, and hence pointless. But if you do know, there’s things you’ll pick, and that will annoy you. Does that make sense? Probably not. Good.

Anyway, here’s a few things folks might want to listen to get an idea of Keef’s voice and feel outside of the more mainstream Rolling Stones setting.

Here’s Keef’s solo LPs – https://open.spotify.com/artist/08avsqaGIlK2x3i2Cu7rKH

Here are his band with Ronnie Wood, The First Barbarians https://open.spotify.com/album/2iRk2fmDtg8gUvowUxjc1u

and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H-IpB_SDC3U

later they reformed as The New Barbarians – https://open.spotify.com/artist/4fhMKdCS2MroK5nDwE5x0J

This is the group Keef produces and jams with in Jamaica, The Wingless Angels – https://open.spotify.com/artist/1MvVxXTg0OiFfB10exIbzh

And speaking of Keef in Jamaica, here he is with Toots & The Maytals –

It’s the B-side to his infamous first single, a cover of Chuck Berry’s Run Rudolph Run –https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KDMDMLF2j1A

Dig some Howlin’ Wolf while you’re at it – https://open.spotify.com/artist/0Wxy5Qka8BN9crcFkiAxSR

Actually, speaking of musical influences, which we attempt to echo in the show, here’s a playlist of songs covered by the Stones (some of which many think are Stones originals) – https://play.spotify.com/album/2z7qnFscqLydd8kZu6r4K6

Here’s hoping you enjoy the show/riff/gig, and thanks in advance for buying tickets for all your friends and relatives…