Midnight Oil bassist and vocalist Wayne Stevens – better known as Bones Hillman – has died at the age of 62 after a battle with cancer. The news was confirmed via the Australian band’s social media accounts on Sunday (November 8).
“We’re grieving the loss of our brother Bones Hillman, who has passed away at his home in Milwaukee today after a cancer battle,” reads a statement from the band.
“He was the bassist with the beautiful voice, the band member with the wicked sense of humour, and our brilliant musical comrade.”
We’re grieving the loss of our brother Bones Hillman, who has passed away at his home in Milwaukee today after a cancer battle. He was the bassist with the beautiful voice, the band member with the wicked sense of humour, and our brilliant musical comrade. pic.twitter.com/qP5EJqZowL
— Midnight Oil (@midnightoilband) November 8, 2020
“We will deeply miss our dear friend and companion and we send our sincerest sympathies to [his wife] Denise, who has been a tower of strength for him,” the band added.
Seminal 90s Australian band Jebediah also shared a tribute to Hillman, explaining how he helped shape the recording experience of Jebediah’s debut album ‘Slightly Odway’.
“Bones was the one who would always stop by for a game and a chat and a hang out,” the band said of Hillman, who was present at the same studio working on Midnight Oil’s ‘Redneck Wonderland’.
“Being barely out of our teens and recording our first album, this was a pretty cool turn of events. I think he was just genuinely curious and friendly enough to want to shoot some pool with these funny looking kids and hang out with us a bit but he was also demonstrating, in his own subtle way the fine art of being a mature musician in a massive band and all the while just keeping it low key and classy. We were still an impressionable bunch back then and these experiences meant so much more to us than someone like Bones could ever know.”
We are deeply saddened to hear the news today of the passing of Bones Hillman from Midnight Oil and send our loving…
Russell Crowe also paid his respects on social media, writing “What a grand chap he was.”
R.I.P Bones Hillman.
— Russell Crowe (@russellcrowe) November 8, 2020
Canadian folk-rock icon and actor Alan Doyle shared his own tribute to Hillman. Hillman had previously collaborated with both Doyle and Crowe.
Ah Bones. Rock on. RIP. pic.twitter.com/Vvg3oAgODe
— Alan Doyle (@alanthomasdoyle) November 8, 2020
Born in Auckland in 1958, Stevens played in numerous New Zealand acts such as Masochists, Suburban Reptiles and the Swingers. In 1987, Stevens was sharing a house in Melbourne with Neil and Sharon Finn, playing in a local band and working as a house painter by day.
Midnight Oil drummer Rob Hirst sought Stevens out, informing him they were looking for a new bassist to replace Peter Gifford, and inviting him up to Sydney to rehearse.
Stevens would go on to play bass and contribute vocals to every studio album the band released from 1990’s ‘Blue Sky Mining’ up to ‘The Makarrata Project’, which arrived just last month. He also toured extensively with the group, performing thousands of live shows.
In addition to his work with Midnight Oil, Hillman worked as a session musician and collaborated with numerous other artists, such as New Zealand singer-songwriter Dave Dobbyn for the latter’s 2005 album ‘Available Light’.
Following Midnight Oil’s hiatus in 2002, Hillman briefly returned to New Zealand before, in 2007, moving to the United States with his family. He participated in the band’s reunion and subsequent tour in 2017.
In August, Midnight Oil returned with ‘Gadigal Land’, their first single in 18 years. ‘The Makarrata Project’, the album it featured on, arrived late October, featuring collaborations with the likes of Jessica Mauboy, Alice Skye, Dan Sultan, Tasman Keith, Kev Carmody and more.