Archive for the ‘Musician’ Category
Originally published in the print version of X-Press Magazine.
To Sur, With Love
Upon Ayr is Australian-born musician Fletcher’s first solo album after years with Bluebottle Kiss, his own band The Devoted Few and a couple of years playing in the backing band for his good friend Sarah Blasko. Signed in the UK to Mike Batt’s Dramatico label, Fletcher speaks to SABIAN WILDE for it’s Australian release.
In Jack Kerouac’s novel Big Sur, the writer is in seclusion in the majestic forests of Big Sur, seeking isolation and time to reflect after the madness following On The Road‘s publication. For Fletcher, the book had a special resonance as he wrote his album, alone amid the forest of people that is London.
“Big Sur is such an intense novel and it really spoke to me,” Fletcher says. “I felt I understood it because it really makes you question what you’re doing; what friends and family mean. A big thing for me on this album is, ‘what is home?’.
“London is amazing if you have contacts, but otherwise it’s just a cold, dark place. I mean, obviously it’s cold, but their music industry can be very cold too, stand-offish,” he says.
“They just don’t have much time for anyone — especially if you’re an Australian singer. It doesn’t matter how big you are back home — they’re like, ‘We’ve got seven of you’.”
Upon Ayr was written and recorded as part of a demoing process, started using using stolen time and facilities in a university dorm that his friend had kept a keycard for after completing his studies.
“There were a couple of hairy moments of sneaking around, hiding from security guards,” Fletcher laughs, “but in retrospect, they probably wouldn’t have cared or known as long as we had the keycard. It was just a funny way of starting to make this record.
“A lot of what you hear on the album is from those three or four nights — just relaxed, first-take vibes. The album as a whole just came about over a year as I kept building on those demos before making a ‘proper’ album.
“I toured with Paul Kelly last year and he kind of blew my mind when he told me he never demos. He writes the song on a piece of paper, takes it into the studio and records the song. He doesn’t go through the act of demoing, which makes sense now, but blew my mind at the time. My brother always demoed before recording, so that’s just how I thought it was done,” he laughs ruefully.
“I always loved my original demos more than the finished products, just a little bit,” he admits. “I didn’t think of Upon Ayr as recording a record so much as just making demos until Sarah Blasko told me, ‘This is totally fine. This is done’.”
In addition to playing in her band, Fletcher says Blasko is one of his best friends, and that the two of them communicated regularly while writing their albums; he in London, she in the UK seaside city of Brighton.
“It’s a cold, dark place there as well,” he laughs. “It’s hardly a beach, it’s horrible, and it has the saddest seagulls anywhere. But it was good to get Sarah in for my record, in particular on this duet called The Simple Life.
“We both moved over to the UK about three years ago and it was kind of a tumultuous time for both of us. You spend a lot of time either touring or head down writing and then you look up and wonder, ‘What am I doing with my life?’
“She was in Brighton and I was in London, so there were a lot of texts back and forth where we were both wondering… Maybe I should just become a teacher? Surely it would be nice to have a simple life? A house? Kids? Suburbs?
“I think artists throughout the ages have both loved and loathed that situation, which is kind of how I played it in the song, casting Sarah and I as a sort of suburban Bonnie and Clyde. I was really glad I was able to sing it with her on this record.”
Fletcher admits that his circle of musical friends and the social aspects of touring provide a form of friends and family, “but only to a point”.
Here, Fletcher moves to another literary giant, author of You Can’t Go Home Again (1940), Thomas Wolfe – not to be confused with Tom Wolfe (Bonfire of the Vanities, Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test).
“There’s a song called Open Up which is influenced by You Can’t Go Home Again,” Fletcher says. I really felt like I was becoming the book’s main character, Eugene Gant, who was essentially Wolfe. Especially when I come back to Australia and realise people are moving on with their lives. Things happen in your absence and it’s not the same.
“The death of relationships always freaks me out,” he considers. “Friends of mine had been dating for twenty years and then one day, the guy wakes up and says he feels like he’s sleeping next to a stranger. That sounds like a horror movie to me.”
True to it’s story-telling form, Upon Ayr features a song titled Strangers Sleeping in the Same Bed.
“The death throes of relationships, even though we all go through it and we all come out the other end; when you’re in it you can’t believe it’s happening, you feel like you’re on another planet. But there’s a great feeling when you realise you can never really run out of love.
“It’s a very romantic notion to think that your heart has been broken into pieces, but I think there’s an inextinguishable light, that never goes out — until obviously you die,” he laughs. “But even when you’re heartbroken, [love] doesn’t run out. It’s not a battery, and that’s kind of nice, I suppose.”
At this point, we return to the loving/loathing of deceptively simple concepts such as the heart and home. Fletcher agrees that artists sort of add to this contradiction by writing songs of isolation and loneliness that inexplicably comfort the listener, reminding them that loneliness is itself a shared part of the human experience.
“That’s definitely how I feel, but it’s hard to explain to your mum or your sister who think that you’re going crazy and want to kill yourself,” he laughs. “Leonard Cohen has some of the most deeply troubling and depressing themes, but obviously, we love it. That is some hardcore shit.
“Robert Smith is always ‘woe is me’ and black eyeliner and shit, and I loved that too… I always used to tell people I was the only ginger goth in Bondi. Then I realised that even goths hate gingers,” he laughs warmly.
And there it is again; that recognition that even in the home he sometimes longs for, he began as an outsider.
“It’s a mystery to us… the simple life,” he says happily. “Something that pulls us towards it even though we feel we can never have it. London could be my Big Sur. Kerouac was mostly homesick for alcohol and parties, missing all the things that were killing him, so I guess you can be homesick for different things and different reasons, but it feels the same.”
My biological father wanted to name me James Marshall, as in James ‘Jimi’ Marshall Hendrix, and that dude was amazing… Like… He’d be standing next to a mountain, then chop it down with the side of his hand.
Sadly, my father left the hospital before the nurse came around with the paperwork, and for that one moment we were alike in that we both got ripped off. It was just a couple of months after he left the hospital that he left my mother. Talk about sore losers.
Strangely, albeit less impressively, I was later given my mother’s maiden name, O’Donovan, which I later repurposed as my middle name, Donovan. Coincidentally, the next time I met my father (aged 8), he was singing Donovan’s ‘Mellow Yellow’.
Not do be outdone on drug-taking excess, Donovan was also responsible for a rugged terrain ditty with the following lyric: First there is a mountain, then there is no mountain, then there is…
Now, while this is decidedly much less powerful a statement than Jimi’s, in retrospect one can hypothesize that Donovan’s willingness to accept and acknowledge ghat his drug-addled consciousness was less able to make sense of the real world may have been his saving grace… Hendrix’s certainty that he was unstoppable turned out to not only be incorrect, but place him continuously in danger’s path without protection.
Strike up another win for The Uncertainty Principle as a fundament of scientific understanding and application in the real world, offset by Art’s tremendous loss of a unique artist, musician and singer, sadly out-lived by a hippie that frequently can’t find his way home, but still wants to write albums about it.
“That’s Un-Australian,” you hear it all the time
But it bothers me our nationhood is so often defined
By the things that it is not
Instead of all the traits we’ve got…
Is it standing by your mate
When he’s in a fight
That he started with no provocation
With a brown man looking for an Aussie education…
Or just Vegemite
Which is owned by a US corporation
That went messing with our icon
For the iPod generation
And to sell more cheese (or cheese based products)
Once a livestock thief
Took shelter by a dirty creek
And killed himself when the police arrived…
Yes, we like to break the law
And never be accountable
We might say ‘sorry’, but it might take some time…
You might think my national pride
Is lacking in a way you can easily define
But when you call me Un-Australian
What you are really saying
Is that it’s Un-Australian
To a country where our dignity
Is inclusive and guaranteed
I won’t mind, I’ll be the first to fly the flag
When it is that time
I take responsibility
For working toward that reality
That’s what I’d like to leave behind…
No song this week while a few issues get sorted out… so enjoy this blast from the past.
The Final Hoo-Ha
Kiss My WAMi 2002
By Sabian Wilde
“I guess it’d have started for us in around ’98. We kind of had this habit of releasing our CDs in late July, just before the Kiss My WAMis start, so we seemed to ride the WAMi wave each year – except we’ve blown it for the last two years,” says Temperley, laughing.
Given the success that the Joe have enjoyed in the intervening years, Temperley has a different perspective on the WAMis, one that is surprisingly positive. “I don’t know that it means as much to us as it does over east,” he said.
“You go over there and people are like, ‘Wow! You’ve won a WAMi!’ and you’re like, ‘It’s a chocolate cake, dude.’ Over here it’s like, ‘Cool, it’s the WAMis, let’s get drunk and check out some gigs.’ I think it’s good that people get excited about it, but it’s really more of a national interest type of thing, it gives them a good reason to come over and check it out,” he says.
“The fact that we’re so isolated and bands like us and Jebediah have stayed in WA, and you’ve got bands like Halogen, Cartman and The Fergusons as your really big up-and-comers, WA has created a scene that you can’t find anywhere else. No-one else has a scene – there’s no ‘New South Wales scene’, no ‘Victorian scene’.”
The strength and diversity of the ‘WA scene’ will certainly be represented in full force for the Closing Party even, where Eskimo Joe will be joined by Lash, Effigy, Sodastream, ASG, Purrvert and newcomers Josivac for a night that promised to one one hell of a musical experience — and of course, a lot of chocolate cake.
“They’re pretty hardcore chocolate cakes,” says Temperley. “You can only really eat one cake among a couple of people, so there’s always one cake that ends up going mouldy if you’re one of those lucky bands that wins more than a couple of awards. We won three one year, and my brother (Trilby Temperley, ARG) accepted the cake for us and we never even saw it. He used to be really skinny – he’s huge now.”
Many of the nominees in the categories have already been recognised by their inclusion of the Kiss My WAMi compilation, a comprehensive industry ‘sampler’ sent to radio stations across the nation, highlighting our local talent. The impact of this sampler is often underrated here in Perth, because most of the good work it does is interstate.
“That first CD on the new WAMi compilation is awesome,” says Temperley. “It’s the best WAMi CD I’ve ever heard. The Halogen song is unbelievable and the Sleepy Jackson song is really good and our song on it is…kind of crap…I joke, I joke!”
Needless to say, the sampler often acts as an introduction card for many acts who later on release their own albums and find that interstate radio stations are more than happy to pick up their work. This can easily be seen by the success of both out independents and major label acts, both recognised by the album and EP categories of the WAMi awards. Just as important is the fact that although there are major label entries in these categories, it’s by no means a guarantee to win.
“I know,” agrees Temperley. “It’s interesting, but I’d say it’s just the first time we’ve had major label releases to put in that category. I mean, Jebediah used to be the only one, but the thing is that you have people like Halogen and Cartman, who aren’t signed to a major label but are doing equally as good in terms of getting radio airplay. I would count that as being just as important, because in the end it really comes down to radio.”
So, as you can see, there are many forms of success and recognition, whether it be cake, compilation or gig – the Kiss My WAMis just make it bigger, better and more fun. Temperley couldn’t agree more, “It’ll be awesome to play the final show – a hoo-ha!”
Right click on the icon on the left to download the audio, courtesy of RTRFM.
This song is the result of an internal conflict about the way MJ’s death has been received around the world… and in particular, this strange phenomenon whereby people have claimed that it is ‘too soon’ to make jokes at the man’s expense.
My gut feeling is that he was a lot funnier when he was alive. The tragedy is that a wellspring of weird — the stuff upon which some comedy careers have been very healthily sustained (think Eddy Murphy in ‘Raw’) has run dry…
On to the song…
There’s nothing very funny about Michael Jackson’s death,
It’s not like he was wrestling monkeys
In his oxygen tent
When Captain Hook let loose a broadside
From atop the highest ride in Neverland
And put an end to Pop’s own Peter Pan
It’s just a heart attack — and there’s nothing very funny about that.
I am saddened by reactions
To the death of Michael Jackson
All the jokes and hype flying around the ‘net
But the part of it that I did not expect
Is the people who say it’s too soon
To laugh before the final tune
As his family puts his body down to rest…
I suggest… [I Want You Back].
Thanks to Sarah Church for giving me the following….
I think she got the frown just right….
Trying a new format…. Right click on the icon on the left to download the audio, courtesy of RTRFM.
You get more from the audio… it’s not always funny, but it is always recorded at 7.15am, Tuesday mornings… and that’s a weird time.
In this instalment (a day late, a buck short), thoughts on exploding tables, Today Tonight, cockfighting and the importance of good nasal hygeine.
Thanks also for your enquiries about last night’s stand-up gig… I had fun and learnt more about what to do next time…
LYRICS TO THIS WEEK’S SONG BIT
Somewhere, there’s a swine
Who gave a human the flu
Next thing, pigs might fly
Now the virus is airborne too…
We’re all gonna die
Says the lady who reads the news
Better not get it,
The Avian Swine Flu…
Last night’s gig went swimmingly… very happy to be amongst it again.
For the record, my setlist was as follows:
Autopilot: What You’ve Got Pt. I & II
Red Jezebel: Find Our Way Back Home
Fourth Floor Collapse: Primary School
Highlights (of the rest of the evening) include my first chance to see a young singer/songwriter called Timothy Nelson, appearing around the traps with The Infidels. What a great voice, and some neat chops on keys and guitar.
Jake Snell went even more retro than me, with Header, Ammonia and Flanders — luckily, I had decided not to play Anky Fremp — how embarrassment would that have been… would have been worse than me turning up in the same outfit as Abbe May.
Also noteworthy, Ms May — one of the only people who didn’t appear to have pneumonia (rocking or otherwise), according to my guestlist — played a cover of Eskimo Joe’s Liar that inspired a strange reaction from the audience… finger-snaps are percussive, yet these seemed imbued with sarcasm as expressive as the lady’s voice.
Apparently there’s a desk recording that will be available in the near future…
In the meantime, here’s a desk recording of my RTRFM appearance yesterday on Breakfast With Barr, covering Halogen.
Clumsy’s an odd looking word, really when you look at it. Is there a word for ‘visual onomatopœia’?
CLUMSY CLUMSY CLUMSY.
And of course, rescpect to Tania, who has been keeping the flag flying at the Hydey up to this sad point.
Eternal thanks also to Hayley Beth for giving me the spot (get up and fight, kiddo) and to Nick Taylor, for loaning a guitar worth more than my life and far beyond my ability to play with any sense of justice.
Thanks also to Steve and Hugh, who turned up too late to hear me murder their song. Sweet kids.
Well, let me just say: Bob gave rock’n’roll to ya…