On Books and Bar Tending: An Interview with Chris Hearn

Chris Hearn is not yet 30, but in his 29 years he’s toured Australia, the US and Europe as an experimental pop musician, he’s organised and managed countless music-focused events, and most recently, in 2012, he opened a unique bar and venue in the middle of Newcastle. He’s also a poet, writer and voracious  reader, and, perhaps most importantly, the loving father of a 5-year-old boy named Wolfgang.

Chris shares his poetry at the Word Hurl Anti-Slam.

“Very few people can make the music work for them past their early 20s,” he told me. “I’m not delusional about supporting myself and my family. I know I have to stay in one place. I’m growing up, and I’m okay with that.”

The Terrace Bar is located on 529 Hunter Street, and it serves as a great venue for all kinds of events, from music to poetry slams to ping pong championships. The bar is named after the upstairs balcony which is open until 10 p.m. Thursday- Sunday. Visit the upstairs level and you’ll find folks drinking cocktails and having conversations, while downstairs hosts a darker side, lit by candles and absent of windows. Here music is deliberately selected, featuring a range of eras and styles. DJs regularly come in to spin records. The ambiance is inimitable, dreary with a disco ball. The bar’s exterior is black.

The Terrace Bar’s interior.

Chris was inspired to open The Terrace after touring the US and Europe and experiencing many different places to drink. He wanted to build a bar in Newcastle which brought together a community of artists and musicians. The Terrace’s vibe was inspired by a combination of what appealed to him aesthetically and the fact that he had little/no money at the time of its opening. Stripping back the paint and plaster to bring out the different lives the building has had throughout the years, Chris worked within his limitations to maintain the buildings history and heritage.

 The cocktail headquarters

The Terrace’s bar tenders are all specifically trained in cocktail making. Most of them were also Chris’ friends before being hired, which, Chris acknowledged, isn’t always the best business decision.

Young Mitch Townsend is the Terrace’s barman of exception to this. Chris found Mitch drinking in an award-winning cocktail bar in Sydney, where they were both trying to steal tips off the bartender. When Chris learned Mitch lived in Newcastle and was working for an “inferior local bar”, Chris hired him on the spot.

“The Terrace is run by young people who give a shit, and it’s a good place to go if you like to enjoy the taste of what you’re drinking, rather than getting pissed (Australian slang for drunk),” Chris said.

He added that, unlike some establishments in Newcastle, you won’t get bashed (Aussie slang for punched) at the Terrace, and you might even meet someone you have something in common with.

While he’s not found the time to make music like he did before the bar opened, Chris is able to read and write at his pace, which he’s found quite rewarding.

Chris is sometimes a bit shy when you first meet him, but on the topic of literature, he’s immediately open and warm. He’s knowledgeable and insatiable when it comes to books.

Currently Chris is reading Deleuze and Gattari’s The Anti-Oedipus and it’s making his head hurt. Because his head hurts, he’s also reading Vonnegut’s The Sirens of Titan.

He’s reading The Pursuit of Happiness by Bertrand Russell as it’s “the closest thing to self-help I can stomach”.

“Every Autumn I read Apollinaire, that sounds really wanky, but I do,” he said.

If there’s one writer he encourages every person to read its Proust, particularly his In Search of Lost Time because “it’s everything. A lot of people are intimidated by Proust, but once you get into the flow of it, it’s quite easy to read. Proust out does all literature before and afterward. I think every serious reader should give it a go,” he said.

Chris made sure his son was exposed to good literature as soon as possible.

“I read him The Divine Comedy, The Iliad, The Odyssey, Keats, Herman Hesse and Knut Hamsun. I’d spend a couple of hours a day reading to him aloud; I wanted him to develop an understanding of language that he wouldn’t get from overhearing everyday people talking in everyday dialect,” he said.

Because Chris did this, when his son first began to talk, there was a “metrical quality to his nonsensical sentences”.

Chris and Wolfgang

Chris has written most of his life as well. He remembers winning a poetry contest in the 4th grade, and since then he’s continued writing, though only in the past year has he publicly shared words that weren’t set to music.

Chris has found ways to channel his creative music-making energy into writing and making cocktails. He gets as much satisfaction making cocktails for people as he does playing music or writing. Like music connoisseurs or book worms, no two thirsty people will have the same taste, and Chris won’t recommend one drink over another.“I like to talk to everyone who comes in before I make them a drink and get a gauge of their pallet and where they are in their day. Then I can usually make a drink for them,” he said.

If you’d like to hear Chris’ poetry, visit the Terrace during a Poetry Slam on the first Thursday of each month, and you might get lucky. If you’re craving a cocktail and an atmosphere that’s not-so- Newcastle, you just might have to visit The Terrace, ask Chris for a drink, and let him get to know you.

Chris shakes things up