Here is the tribute to Baterz written by Canberra musician Fred Smith, as it appeared in The Canberra Times on August 9, 2002:

Unconventional genius of music and comedy

BARNABY WARD, known to musicians as "Baterz", died on July 22 at the age of 33 in Adelaide.

He was something of a hero to those of us growing up in Canberra in the late '80s and '90s. He was not just a musician. Educated in Canberra, he became from an early age an avid Lego aficionado, and boasted the largest collection in the southern hemisphere. He was also a serious games player, and organised reality games in Adelaide attended by hundreds.

For those unfamiliar with Baterz the performer, the first thing to be said is that he was very funny, although he was not a comedian in the conventional sense of the word, nor conventional in any sense at all.

He was a songwriter. Many of his songs were written from the world view of the innocent idiot scraping his knees on the bitumen of life. In this regard, anyone who grew up in Canberra, or anyone who grew at all, could find something to relate to in the man and his songs.

Kids loved him. I remember at the National Folk Festival in 2001 the hordes of young people who followed him from gig to gig, singing along to every word. He had a combination of unbridled honesty and irreverence that kids are so quick to perceive.

Life was never easy for him. He was born with a severe form of haemophilia. He grew up in and out of wheelchairs and hospitals, and permanently damaged one leg at an early age. He walked with a limp.

In the face of these constraints, he developed an extraordinary intellectual and imaginary life. Former band mate Kirsty Stegwazi recalls that he created whole "imaginary empires" in his mind, and new language called "Lurzdei", which he managed to spread informally throughout the ACT school system.

He was an amazing cartoonist and his web site (now archived at is a thing to behold.

In his mid-teens he contracted HIV from blood products. From then on he knew he did not have long. There was a crisp but gentle atmosphere about him that said, "Let us not talk falsely now, the hour is getting late."

Baterz gained a kind of cult-figure status here and in Adelaide with a band called The Bedridden. They played comic punk acoustic material. He began playing solo when the Bedridden members went their separate ways.

He was a wild guitarist. He had a commanding stage presence founded in the quiet courage of a man looking himself, and his audience, in the eye.

Lyrics reeled out of his gob like automatic fire. He delivered his songs with a nasal and slightly grating voice, but in fact he could sing quite beautifully. I recall one night at the Merry Muse in Canberra being quite moved by what was the most beautiful rendition of the Gillette commercial song I have ever heard.

Tchaikovsky once said that music is a way of reconciling ourselves with life, and I heard someone on ABC radio the other day say that "at the heart of humour is self-awareness". Herein lies the genius of Baterz's art: the many gentle ways he found to mock the delusions of glamour pumped into our heads by the media; to mock the egotism that so often keeps us from knowing ourselves and each other.

His body of work reflected his courage to paint life as he saw it. His ballads offered lessons in humility - the humility we need to accept the simple joys that make life OK. To me, that was the profound thing about Baterz.

Throughout his short life, Baterz took no comfort in convention and his songs and humour reflect his struggle to accept his feelings of alienation.

In his later years he found grace and a sense of place in the world in the company of his girlfriend, road buddy and manager, Jesse.

He is survived by his parents, Martin and Robin Ward, his sister Juliet, and his partner, Jesse Billing.


Barnaby Charles Ward, born July 3, 1969; died July 22, 2002

Scratch! Media home