A mate’s passion

Tim Baxter is holding three concert lunches in honour of his best mate. CHRIS PEDLER writes.

TIM Baxter and his best mate Damian Chinn were inseparable. And they had a passion for the same things – friends, food and music.

When Damian took his own life late last year it took everyone who knew him by surprise.

Tim describes Damian as one of the most exciting and colourful men he knew.

Together they saw Nirvana the only time the band played in Australia and both had a passion for alternative music that not everybody had heard.

“It was alternative at the time. Damian grew up in Bendigo with me,” Tim said.

“We went to Golden Square High together and started working in the hospitality industry together.

“We were two peas in a pod and we were die-hard music fans when it was sort of unattainable, you couldn’t just Google information or go to a record store, you had to write to fan clubs.”

During the 1990s Tim and Damian worked at Gaslight Records in Melbourne where their interest and passion for music grew even more.

“The store used to have live in-store events every week and we met most of our heroes. We used to go to every gig,” Tim said.

“Damian was 6 foot 4 and 120 kilos so he would get us backstage at every gig by saying we were with the band. I’m pretty sure he invented that saying.

“(Backstage) I would be small and nervous but Damian would share a drink with the band because he was that sort of charismatic guy who would connect with people.

“Unfortunately those sorts of people tend to live a rock and roll style of life. He enjoyed that and I went the other way but our friendship never changed.”

Looking back now is hard for Tim because the warning signs are a bit more obvious.

“He was obviously suffering depression and I never saw it,” Tim said.

“He really loved the safety and security of a normal life and couldn’t find it.”

To honour Damian’s memory Tim is hosting three “concert lunches” to celebrate life.

The intimate shows are in April, July and October and will feature Van and Cal Walker (April), Davey Lane of You Am I (July) and Chris Russell’s Chicken Walk (October).

Set in the restaurant atmosphere of The Dispensary Enoteca (which Tim owns), there are only 25 tickets available for each show.

“I just wanted to do something nice for Damian. Something intimate and special that he would have loved,” Tim said.

“We did one last year with Charles Jenkins and Damian came back to mine after. It was the last time I saw him, three weeks later I got the phone call.”

The intimate setting is a throw back to Tim and Damian’s days at jazz clubs and venues that hosted dinner and a show.

“I remember the first time I went to one at Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club in London. The whole night was so intimate and sophisticated.”

Tim only asked three artists to perform. All of them knew Damian and none of them needed convincing to help celebrate his life.

“As soon as told them why I was doing it, they said yes. They are three acts that loved him,” Tim said.

“I don’t want days to be negative or depressing. I want people to realise how lucky they are, life is short.”

But while Tim is determined to make the day a celebration, he is also trying to raise some awareness and money for suicide prevention.

“I don’t want to put a downer on the day, it should be a celebration of life but it should raise some form of awareness,” he said.

“He committed suicide, I don’t understand why but I want to try and help other people.

 “When I saw Damian (for the last time) he was playing with my kids.

“I sent him a text the next day and didn’t get a response. It wasn’t unusual and I didn’t think about it.

“I sent him another two weeks later, didn’t get a response and didn’t think about it. And then I got a phone call from the police a week later.

“These days are for celebration but also making sure (people) see the warning signs of depression and be slightly more aware of our friends who might be going through tough times, so we don’t have to get that phone call.”

If you or someone you know needs help phone Lifeline on 13 11 14 or beyondblue on 1300 224 636.

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