Recordings from me and SPJ, Darling Downs and ScienceTest
This year I embarked on the foolhardy enterprise of recording 3 separate albums …simultaneously!
The one I began first goes under the working title ‘ScienceTest but this will change – Leanne, the other half of this project, hates that for a name!
This thing came about when I got asked to play a show with the Jim Jones Revue in Sydney and I figured if I got Leanne Cowie (last Scientists Drummer) to come along and play drums and we just did Scientists material it would be a good thing. The Scientists came in in 2 distinct periods – late 70s and 80s, the former being a kind of pop/punk thing and the latter being dark, primitive and somewhat experimental. Leanne’s playing experience is uncorrupted by anything outside of these 2 entities and since the bands implosion in the late 80s she has been a school teacher.
As a 2 piece Leanne and I were able to thrash our way through both repertoires and pummel it into something homogenous, and if I do say so, quite rocking.
It didn’t take long for us to get offered gigs and it seemed like a good idea to come up with some new material for this entity. Over the subsequent decades I’ve had loads of material that I thought would’ve been a good fit for the Scientists. Ideas that would stretch the bands identity as our new material always did. I am absolutely convinced, however, that to give any of this material to a reformed Scientists would equal throwing it all down the toilet. Lets face it, however good they may or may not be, who gives a toss about Birdman’s ‘Zeno Beach’ or the latter day New York Dolls albums. No one ever wants to know about a reformed bands new material.
Armed with an album’s worth of new material Leanne and I played some gigs down here in Melbourne round Easter , went into Sound Park Studio and tracked the guitar and drums. Finding time and the extra money to track the vocals has proved to be a challenge but I’ve just finished as I write this. Overseeing this whole venture has been my Precious Jules partner in crime, Mike Stranges. This has enabled the rare luxury of going into a studio and only concerning myself with my own playing and not anyone else’s. It also affords me the chance of some objectivity. Mike’s definitely got this project sussed as a producer and Idge (the recording engineer) definitely inspired Leanne and I with enough confidence for us not to be concerned about anything other that being in the moment. That’s rare enough in life let alone in a recording studio. I will say no more about this baby other than I would not let it out there unless I thought it was “farkin’ awesome!”.
Ron and I began writing songs for a Darling Downs album back in February. As usual the songs flowed easily and we smugly congratulated ourselves for being so bloody…… fantastic!…………..Then we thought , “hang on, maybe we should actually work on our songs after they ‘appear’’’ . I would go around to Ron’s place of a Monday and the two of us would go through the initial recordings of each song. We’d try to decipher the free associations and random phrases that issued forth from Ron’s subconscious to make the filling for his gorgeous melodies. We’d try various words or phrases looking for the most interesting, loaded and emotive possibilities. We both threw stuff in there but Ron had to sing it so his criteria had final veto. It was an opportunity, though, for me to push him out of his comfort zone and he responded by taking some of it on board. I got a fair bit through. Listening back to the mixes we heard the lyrics one after the other for the first time. We were both holding back tears throughout. It was once said (ok, by us I’ll give you) that our songs could reduce grown men to tears. That was before we had lyrics! We’d challenge the most hardened thug not to be reduced to a blubbering mess listening to us with actual lyrics.
Ron would say of this album that we’ve moved away from the Appalachias in the 1940s to Greenwich Village in the 1960s and I agree . There is a whole lot more Simon and Garfunkel here than before.
There’s also a little bit more instrumentation in places. A couple of songs have bass and there’s the odd keyboard and percussion device. One track, ‘Saved’ , features a whole band comprising Ron and I on vocals and banjo respectively plus Mike Stranges on drums and Julitha Ryan on piano. We also multi layered the backing vocals and I added some extra Carol King style (In my dreams you say) piano on the bridges and choruses. This song certainly moves the parameters of the D.D.s sound. As with scienceTest this album was tracked at Sound Park by Idge , who really knows how to ‘get the sound onto the tape’ . He’s great at setting up recording situations that enable the spontaneity of the artist. Inspirations are shy and furtive creatures and its essential to be able to quickly and effectively steer them in the right direction before they just flit off back into the ether.
We got those little creatures onto the tape and its nearly all mixed.
The project that was started last is the one that will be finished and released first. This is the album I recorded with Spencer P Jones. We did a series of shows together at the start of the year and then got booked onto the Hoodoo Guru’s ‘Dig it Up’ Festival. We really didn’t get the opportunity to do much rehearsal so everything we did was pretty much adlibbed . Our set list came from us throwing songs at one another at our first gig and seeing what the other did. Spencer, for instance began playing the Gun Club’s, ‘Cool Drink of Water’, which I know better as ‘Gasolene’ by Howlin’ Wolf. I didn’t have a clue what the lyrics were so I had to make some up on the spot.
I mentioned in an interview that we’d like to do an album. Adrian Akkerman from Incubator Studio read this and contacted me. Spencer and I went and checked him out, found that he had all the right things and in all the right places . We booked ourselves in.
Adrian has been totally accommodating to pretty much every whim and pretty much equipped for it as well.
We took Mike Stranges in to do drums and didn’t bother with a bass player. All three of us ended up playing the bass at one stage or another.
I’d write my lyrics while Spencer was tracking and he’d do the same while I was tracking. Somehow our day to day lives didn’t give us the opportunity to be prepared for this recording and consequently what’s gone down is the real deal. We had nowhere to hide. I can truly say that this is an honest recording of a couple of Rock and Roll musos in their mid fifties. It’s a consequence of their lives lived! Its brought it home to me that one can never really be prepared so one should just be in the moment and do ones best.
On this record you’ll hear things that you won’t on other records. Spencer P Jones rapping on a Kanye West Song for one!
I’ve just put 2 songs into production for a ‘plain wrap’ run of 150 x 7” vinyl singles for promo and what’s left for sale. That should be happening mid January. Spencer and I will launch that and its digital release on Friday February 14th at the Tote. That’s the weekend of the Beasts of Bourbon reunion show at ATP festival in case you were wondering.
Aside from recording stuff, this year I reacquainted myself with management. That has in turn led to me starting a You tube channel, a fan page on Facebook and this website. From these sites I’ve sold a bunch of LPs and downloads. This has all taken a bit of time to get going and I’m still chipping away, but there’ll be a lot more of my stuff available soon. One of the first things available in the New Year will be an albums worth of Cheap Nasties tracks that have never been available anywhere. I’ll also get some more SALMON logo T-shirts made at some point and have those available plus a whole lot more when I get a second.
So to summarise, I’ve recorded 3 albums, got management, a website and an FB fan page. My personal life over the last couple of years has been fairly chaotic and all encompassing (and thats enough detail about that!) so I’m looking at my career and wondering how and when it all happened! I’m glad it has though!