Robert George "Rob" Hirst (born in 1955) is an Australian musician from Camden, New South Wales. He is a founding member of rock band Midnight Oil on drums, percussion and backing vocals from the 1970s until the band's break up in 2002. He also wrote a book, Willie's Bar & Grill, recounting the experiences on the tour Midnight Oil embarked on shortly after the 11 September terrorist attacks in 2001.
The Midnight Oil Years (1976-2002):
In the early 1970s, schoolboys Rob Hirst and close friends Jim Moginie and Andrew "Bear" James played their first public performance in a school hall in Sydney's leafy northern suburbs under the name Schwampy Moose playing mainly Beatles covers. By 1976 the band had changed their name to Farm and Hirst, now a student at University of Sydney (BA/LLB), placed an advertisement in The Sydney Morning Herald for a singer to join the trio. The new line up of Peter Garrett (lead vocals), Hirst (drums and vocals), Moginie (guitar, keyboards, backing vocals), and James (bass guitar) was joined soon after by Martin Rotsey on guitar and their manager and sixth member Gary Morris. The band changed their name to Midnight Oil.
With a blistering intensity to their live performances, the band's early music was a unique brand of surf, punk. However by the early 1980s the key songwriters in the band, Hirst, Moginie, and Garrett, had become increasingly interested in the political issues of the day. This hugely influenced their song writing and soon spilled over into their live performances as the dynamic and outspoken Garrett used the stage as a platform for the band's views on issues including Aboriginal rights, nuclear disarmament and social justice.
In 1979, James left to be replaced by Peter Gifford. In 1987, after touring the outback and recording the band's best known album Diesel and Dust, Gifford suffered ill health and resigned. New bass player Bones Hillman (formerly of New Zealand band The Swingers) brought a new vocal dimension to the band. Midnight Oil continued to record and tour internationally for a further 15 years, chalking up a final tally of fourteen albums and two extended plays before lead singer Garrett quit the group in December 2002, taking up a career in politics.
Side projects and post-Midnight Oil:
In the mid-1990s, while Midnight Oil were taking a break, Hirst joined up with guitarist Andrew Dickson and Hoodoo Gurus bass guitarist Rick Grossman to form a side project, Ghostwriters. So far, the band has released four albums, Ghostwriters (Virgin Records, 1991), Second Skin (Mercury Records, 1996), Fibromoon (self-released, 2000), and Political Animal (SonyBMG Australia, 2007).
Other musical projects:
In 2000, Hirst joined The Backsliders, an Australian Blues group formed in 1986 whose members included founding member Dom Turner. The line-up with Hirst have released three albums, Hanoi (2002), Live (2005) and Left Field Holler (2007) as well as a DVD, Live at the Basement (2003).
Turner and Hirst formed another band in 2002, The Angry Tradesmen, with the idea of taking the guitar, drum music of North Mississippi and blending it with drum, bass music of the 1990s and experimental post-punk rock. Their album Beat the House was released in 2008 and featured studio performances by Midnight Oil's Martin Rotsey. Hirst and Rotsey also play on the track "All Around the world" on Jim Moginie's 2006 solo album Alas Folkloric.
Other musical collaborations have included working with Australia's Olympic athletes on a record commissioned by SOCOG for the Sydney 2000 Olympics and although unrelated, a collaboration with former Olympic athlete Paul Greene. Hirst and Greene have released an album In the Stealth of Summer and a DVD, Hirst & Greene Live at the Basement.
In 2010, Rob Hirst announced that he and two other former members of Midnight Oil, Moginie and Rotsey, had teamed up with Violent Femmes bass player Brian Ritchie to form a new surf rock band, The Break. Their debut album Church of the Open Sky was released on 16 April 2010 on the independent label Bombora, distributed by MGM. A tour of Australia followed.