Category Archives: Features

Paolo Nutini: “Sometimes I let good things get me very high”

paolo nutini

It’s just gone lunchtime and Paolo Nutini isn’t having a great day.

“Sorry mate, the phone is making such a stupid noise right now. It’s this touchscreen phone thing they’ve got in the hotel – I just want to take my f**king hands to it, you know? It just won’t stop.”

Assurances that he can be heard perfectly and attempts to steer him towards the subject of music don’t deter the 27 year-old Scotsman from getting some choice complaints off his chest.

“I’m just in this hotel and it’s all so streamlined,” he says. “What I can’t stand are the taps and soap-dispensers. They should just have a handle that you turn to make the water come out, or a button you press to get soap. Now it’s all motion sensors; I’m standing in front of it like some sort of Jedi trying to wash my dirty hands, as if I have all day to stand here dancing with this f**king contraption.”

One subject that calms the multi-platinum-selling singer and songwriter down is Bluesfest, at which he will be performing in 2015, although it’s the memory of a previous festival experience that gets the conversation flowing most freely.

“The last time we played Bluesfest, I remember looking at the bill and seeing the name Rodriguez,” he says. “My friend had introduced me to his music when I was about 16 or 17, and I’ve always been fascinated by those two records of his. For years nobody knew anything about him; there was something otherworldly about him. People were wondering whether he was alive or not, and nobody could find out that information. I managed to meet the man himself that day. He was exactly what you would imagine, you know? Elegant, charming and everything I had hoped for. It was weird after that, because we got to know each other in a way; he came to our show in the States, I got to know his family and since then we’ve played on stage a couple of times together. One day I even got sent a little bit of footage of him singing my song ‘Last Request’, which is one of my prize possessions. Now, I play that song more the way he played it than I ever used to. I’m almost covering a cover of my own song. I’ve heard rumours of him making a new record; I just hope whoever is making it with him takes the right approach and makes it as good as it should be. I’m excited to hear what new music from him would be like.”

Nutini and his band will appear at the festival in April as part of a typically impressive line-up, which includes legendary funk godfather George Clinton.

“I love some of the mad sounds on the [Parliament/Funkadelic] records,” he says. “He’s a wild character and really individual. You don’t get a lot of George Clintons around in today’s music scene. The Black Keys are a great band; they seem to be smashing it wherever they go. And I believe there’ll be a bit of the Gypsy Kings as well. Alabama Shakes, Jurassic 5, Gary Clark Jr., Pokey LaFarge; it’s a pretty tasty bill. I’m just looking forward to getting on there playing, sampling the atmosphere and enjoying the fruits of the soil. I remember Byron Bay being a great smelling place [laughs].”

His latest album, Caustic Love, has earned rave reviews, but it only came about after over four years away from music; something Nutini offers several explanations for.

“Mainly because I’m f**king hopeless, that’s why,” he laughs. “Well, there’s an element of that, but sometimes I let good things get me very high and they can take me away somewhere. All of a sudden I can find that a few weeks have gone and that has had a knock-on effect when you’re working with other people as well – you can’t just pick up people and put them down. The other side of that is that I let negative things drag me down, you know? I can find myself wallowing; it’s something I’ve noticed about myself. Then I’ve just been liking the idea of working with my hands; I was getting a great sense of pleasure and achievement from days where maybe all I did was cook or plant a few things in the garden. I was picking up some wood and trying to do some carving. I was also travelling around places with no agenda; around Valencia and Barcelona then maybe to the Netherlands. I was re-tracing the footsteps of places I’d been on tour and not really seen much stuff, and I was writing all the time. I liked the fact that there was no schedule and no pressure. It’s nice to feel you’re not being challenged all the time. I think my body might’ve need a bit of life nutrition; I had to expand my mind a little bit.”


For mX

Alfie Granger-Howell of Dusky: “We tend to play quite eclectically”


Load up on Red Bull and bring your friends – English house duo Dusky will be playing some seriously lengthy sets on their Australian tour, says DJ Alfie Granger-Howell.

“We have already started our tour in the UK and Europe,” he says. “We’re doing extended sets; about four hours, which gives us the chance to play a lot of different music and new stuff.”

Formed in 2011, the duo rose quickly to play clubs and festivals internationally, including a recent appearance at Glastonbury.

“We hoped that it would kick off and turn into something big,” Granger-Howell says. “At the beginning we were both doing part-time work and other music work. It’s been a while now, but being able to just put our whole lives into Dusky has been pretty amazing, and not something that we really expected. It’s quite a short space of time, but the last three years have been a steady [rise] for us. At the same time, if we look back and think how much has changed for us, it does seem like a short space of time. We had some other music projects before – both producing and deejaying – but for Dusky, it does feel like it’s happened quickly.”

The upcoming Australian shows will give the duo – known for their eclectic tastes – a chance to air an abundance of new material.

“We’ve been playing a few new tracks in the set and people have been getting into the action, which is always good fun. We like to tailor our sets to the crowd’s reactions. Sometimes we’ll play something deeper, something more house or something more techno, depending on what the crowd is reacting to. Either way, we tend to play quite eclectically, so expect a few different styles and genres in the set.”

With an almost unbelievable six EPs already under their belts, expect a follow-up to 2012 debut album Stick By This to be released in the not-too-distant future, albeit after one more EP release.

“We just love the EP format,” Granger-Howell says. “We’ve always just had the music sitting there, so it makes sense to put them out, although we have a few tracks we keep just for our sets. We enjoy getting the music out there, seeing the reaction and letting people listen to it. We just enjoy doing it, and to me it doesn’t seem like a huge amount of music, but I guess when you really look at it, it is a lot. We are aiming to release another album at some point next year, which we have been working on. We began working on it alongside our future EP. It’s probably about halfway there now; we’ve got about six or seven tracks finished, so it’s well on the way.”

With such an eclectic range of music emanating from the mixing desks of two people, it’s certain that they won’t agree on everything, says Granger-Howell.

“We’ve got quite similar tastes but we both listen to stuff outside of dance music that we don’t necessarily share the love of. Looking at my musical background, I’ve been into a lot of classical music and jazz which I don’t think Nick has any affinity to. He listens to some electronica and old soul stuff; I wouldn’t say I hate them, but I wouldn’t listen to them.”




For mX

Lou Rhodes of Lamb: “The mind is a terrible editor”

lamb band

THERE was only one recipe for success when writing the latest Lamb album: keeping things organic.

The English electronic duo’s sixth album, Backspace Unwind, is the band’s second since their 2009 reformation, and singer-songwriter Lou Rhodes says it took her and Andy Barlow to get back to basics to make it happen.

“When we split in 2004, the whole thing was getting very confused,” she says. “I was dying to go off and do more acoustic-based stuff, to the extent that I was trying to pull Lamb in an acoustic direction. At the time, when we wrote Between Darkness and Wonder, we were writing with a full band as well. As a result, that album is quite confused as a Lamb album as it has all these elements pulling in different directions. When we split up, I wrote three solo albums then got back together in 2009 to do Lamb shows and subsequently write 5, [after which] we talked about what Lamb was and where it had gone wrong. The essence of Lamb is basically Andy’s electronica and my song-writing, and the kind of strange dialectic that they do with each other. So, writing a Lamb song is very much of a case of starting from really basic principles like a drum track from Andy or a few simple words from me. We always have to grow [songs] between us, and that’s what makes a Lamb song.”

Formed in 1996, the genre-defying duo may have found a new lease of life with Backspace Unwind, helped by their new, relaxed approached to song-writing and the ability to banish that doubt-instilling inner monologue.

“I was describing this to a journalist the other day,” Rhodes says. “It feels like from the very beginning of the process of writing this album that there was a flow that somehow set into place and we just ran with it. It just feels like that’s kind of continuing now that it’s released. The response has been amazing; people seem to really get the album and it’s really very, very positive. This is our sixth Lamb album, so at the very beginning I had this though in my head, ‘oh shit, what have I got left to write about?’ So I started playing around with free association ways of writing, so rather than thinking about what to write about, I almost got my mind out of the way and it became almost like a meditation. I’d kind of let the thoughts come through me, rather than from my mind, if you can imagine that. The mind is a terrible editor; it’s like ‘no, that’s shit’ or ‘no, that’s great’. It comments. If you do some meditation, you notice your mind kind of commenting on everything, and you’re just like ‘won’t you shut up a minute.’ That was my process with certain songs; ‘Shines Like This’ and ‘In Binary’, which are very much examples of that way of writing, where I just let it flow. As a result, the lyrics are quite abstract in a way.”

An invitation to perform with a Dutch orchestra found the duo more than a little out of their comfort zone.

“We were asked if we would like to play some shows with the Amsterdam Sinfonietta,” Rhodes says. “It’s a world-class orchestra, so how could we refuse? It was a real learning curve for us, as there was quite a communication barrier between our world and theirs. I mean, they are very much a classical setup with recognised boundaries and they like to play what’s on the page, and Lamb is just about the opposite of that – we play almost exactly what’s not on the page. Andy can a bit bolshy at times, so it was a very interesting dynamic, I’ll put it that way.”

A five-date February tour of Australia is locked in, and Rhodes is hoping to go down as well as they have done in these parts in the past.

“We always have an amazing time when we come and play there. We find Australian audiences incredibly open and enthusiastic. Australian music is generally very positive, and when we play live it’s important that we have that amazing connection with the crowd – we certainly seem to get that in Australia. There’s a lot of positivity in Australian people, maybe because it’s a relatively new country in the world; you’re not dragged down by history as much as many of us. We seem to have made a connection there and long may it survive.”


For Scenestr

Richard Cartwright of Richard In Your Mind: “If you want to have a spliff in the morning, you can”

richard in your mind

BLUE MOUNTAINS psychedelic/pop quintet Richard In Your Mind have returned with Ponderosa, their most accomplished album to date.

Band leader Richard Cartwright explains how it came together and why marching to the beat of your own drum is a good thing, ahead of their Sydney shows.

“People seem to get it,” he says. I think it’s kind of a weird album I guess, although that’s for other people to decide. There are songs on there that stick out like a sore thumb, but we decided we’d keep them on there anyway because that’s what we like and what we wanted to do, and it seems that other people are like ‘it’s great that you did that’ instead of ‘you really messed up the whole thing by doing that’. So, we’ve been pleasantly surprised that people get it, and that’s cool.”

A 14-track collection of psychedelic pop gems mixed and produced by regular cohort SPOD, Ponderosa features woozy instrumentals, waves of percussion and a few surprises.

“There’s one called ‘Good Morning’ and even a little of ‘My Volcano’; they’re kind of synthy and groovy,” Cartwright says. “’Good Morning’ especially has a pitch-shifted and distorted vocal. It’s kind of noisy. We wrote heaps more songs than we put on the album. We basically kind of just chose the best. In making the list, we played around a lot before deciding. There are still heaps of songs we really like that didn’t make it on, but we tried to balance the instrumental tracks in between the songy-songs to make sure people weren’t getting too lost in an instrumental before giving them another kind of stronger-feeling anchored to a proper song. In the long run, there’s an argument for not having too much coherence. I feel like there’s always more work to be done leading up to releasing it, but we’ve had it ready for a little while now, and now it’s not just in our heads, it’s in the world. We wanted to make sure we got it right. It took as long as it did, and once it was finished it was decided we were putting it out in five months, which seemed like ages, but time is on a slope and it goes fast and here we are now. It feels good.”

The singer explains how the off-kilter album found its title after a discussion about the Cartwright family on the American TV Western Bonanza.

“Well, I’m a Cartwright,” he says. “Not that I really grew up watching a lot of Bonanza, but my parents and people in the generation above did grow up with it would talk about Bonanza and start singing the tune to me. It was only recently when my mother came to visit and we were talking about Bonanza that she mentioned that the ranch was called Ponderosa out of the blue, and I thought it was a kick-arse name for something. The whole album is a diverse album; it goes to different places, but in a way this idea of home and trying to describe the different things that stand for a unified whole or the quest for home or something; it’s not specific but it’s a vibe.”

While the influences and variety of sounds on Ponderosa are as eclectic as they come, single ‘Hammered’ is a frolicking ray of sunny pop that pays tribute to daytime indulgence, although Cartwright admits it’s not necessarily about alcohol.

“It depends on what you’re getting hammered on, really,” he says. “With booze you should wait a little bit, until you’ve done something, but if you’ve got the day off, the sun is shining and you want to have a spliff in the morning, you can.”

When he’s not getting loaded in the daytime, Cartwright can probably be found collecting ingredients for dinner, as described on ‘Four Leaf Clover Salad’. But how many four leaf clovers constitute a salad?

“I think it’s the same rule as ‘a few’, so three,” he laughs. “Two is only a couple of four leaf clovers, so obviously you’ll want more, so I’d say three is enough for a little salad. My wife is really good at finding four leaf clovers – she finds them constantly, and the way you get luck is by eating them, or so she tells me. I was walking the dog one day and that concept occurred to me, as I think I did eat a few.”

Expect upcoming Richard In Your Mind shows along the east coast to be heavy with new material.

“To start with, it’s a small eastern tour; Melbourne, Canberra, Sydney, Newcastle, Byron Bay, Brisbane and stuff. Then, hopefully we’ll play a bunch more shows. We’ve played a couple of shows, mainly focussing on the new songs. We want to make sure a couple of the new songs are more up-to-scratch, but at the moment our set is probably 50 percent new stuff. We’ll try to get it up to about 75 percent new stuff, while keeping songs we’ve always enjoyed playing live as well.”


For The Brag

Jeff Martin of The Tea Party: “We’re making another record”

the tea party

THE TEA PARTY have had more than their fair share of break-ups and make-ups, but frontman Jeff Martin’s confidence in their new album and upcoming tour is higher than ever.

“It’s surreal, but we’re an achievement and an accomplishment,” he says. “I’m very proud of the three of us; that we overcame what seem now to be very petty differences, but at the time we thought to be much more than they were. The music won the battle and brought our friendship and this very important band back together. There are a lot of great rock bands out there, but there’s nothing like The Tea Party, and I think it’s good that we’re back. The mental framework of the band is better than ever, so here we are.”

The Canadian rock trio formed in 1990, but split in 2005 due to the dreaded ‘creative differences’, before reforming in 2011. Their new album The Ocean at the End is their first since 2004’s Seven Circles.

“It’s everything you want,” Martin says. “Everything that The Tea Party is capable of doing is on that record, and that’s a lot. That’s a lot of music on one record. It’s exactly what we need to be like now, you know? For ourselves and for our fans. Over the course of the years we were apart, promoters were calling our various agents with massive offers to get the band back together. The wounds were pretty deep for the three of us, then after seven years my agent called me and asked if I’d entertain the idea, and I was like ‘you know what? Yeah.’ Time had passed and I missed The Tea Party, and I missed Jeff [Burrows, drums] and Stuart [Chatwood, bass]. I was game, and if the other two were ready, so was I. And that was that. Musically, it was on fire immediately from the first rehearsal, although it was icy for the first few months as we tried to feel each other out, since we hadn’t spoken for seven years. That being said, I’ve known Jeff Burrows since I was five years old. Lots of bands say they’re like brothers or whatever, but this band truly is, as we’ve known each other that long. We just had to learn to trust and respect each other again; we’ve each grown with our own individual experiences and I think it’s now better than ever.”

Ontario-born Martin now lives in Perth, so it was an easy choice for the band to re-find their musical feet on Australian soil; the result being a 2012 live album entitled Live From Australia.

“The criteria that the three of us initially held in our minds was firstly, can we be that great rock band again and make that magic on-stage?” Martin says. “Yes, we ticked off that box with the reformation tour. Point two: can we rekindle that beautiful friendship that has to exist for us to continue? We ticked that box off. I had to also prove things to Jeff and Stuart, and also to myself – and we won’t go into it or anything – but towards the end of The Tea Party the ship lost its captain, you know? I sort of went off the rails, so I had to prove to myself, Jeff and Stuart that I could be the captain of the ship again. Then it was time to say we have to make music, but the one thing we did realise was if The Tea Party was going to come up with a new record, it has to stand up to anything we’ve done in the past; it’s got to be that good or else don’t do it at all. That’s why we took our time over a year and a half. We did four recording sessions, two writing sessions and we did them in tiny blocks of time, stepping away and coming back. It’s our statement now; it’s exactly where we’re at, so let’s go forth and conquer.”

An upcoming nine-date national tour will give fans a chance to reacquaint themselves with a band that has made Australia its honorary home in recent years.

“Australians have great taste,” Martin says. “Still to this day, there’s a great rock ‘n’ roll audience in Australia. Many of the great bands that came out of Australia had to prove themselves in the pubs; the INXSs, the Midnight Oils and all that stuff, right? They had to be a great live band to make rock ‘n’ roll fans go ‘yes’. I think that’s why Australian audiences have been so passionate about The Tea Party, because when we’re on we’re one of the best there is. Australians really appreciate the musicianship and passion that we put into it, you know? I want the band to be at its very best when we’re playing here and for it to be firing on all cylinders. It’s going to be a big campaign, about two-and-a-half years, but for music of the band, Australia is very much its home.”

When asked whether The Tea Party are back for the long haul, Martin once again answers with towering confidence.

“I’ll tell you this. I don’t know if it was an e-mail or text, but I got it from Stuart a couple of weeks ago saying he’s already booked pre-production in Vancouver for 2016. So apparently we’re making another record [laughs]. We’ll be touring Australia and making some great memories. Following that, we’ll do Canada, then take a couple of months off. After that, the world is calling. We’ve got Asia, South America, Europe; we’ve made a commitment to ourselves and this music, as well as the fans, and for us it’s the real deal. I’m looking forward to it.”




For mX

Ezekiel Walters of Woodlock: “We had a full-on punch-up when we were living in the caravan”


IT’S ALMOST certain you haven’t heard of them, but Yarrawonga trio Woodlock have a fanbase most bigger bands would die for.

Their last national tour sold out despite an advertising budget of only $150 and they’ve sold 15,000 copies of their debut EP, and singer/guitarist Ezekiel Walters puts it down to one thing – the power of busking.

“Busking is a really good way to get your music out,” he says. “I guess that’s how our fanbase got up pretty quickly. I think people like that we’re undiscovered as well. Because we haven’t had radio play, it makes it a bit more of a discovery when people find us and they really like us – they like the fact that we’re not well known. We’ve got quite a good Facebook following; it’s crazy.”

The folk/indie trio are currently touring their way up the east coast, but it was a chance meeting overseas that sparked the formation of the band.

“We’ve been a band for about two years,” Walters says. “It was me and my brother Zechariah – we played music together at school, and we met Bowen [Purcell, percussion] on a missions trip to Africa. We were there playing music to people, then we got back to our hometown Yarrawonga and we started playing at the local pub. We were enjoying it quite a bit, so we decided to all quit our jobs, buy a caravan and do a bit of a trip around Australia. We planned to go busking, fruit-picking and do a bit of pub work to pay for petrol and places to stay. It was great fun – in the end we didn’t do anything but busk, which was pretty cool. We managed to make enough money on the street to pay for the odd slurp and a place to stay. We met a lot of people and sometimes they let us stay at their house and stuff like that.”

They’re a band that have earned their spurs on the streets, so it’s in the live setting that Woodlock feel most at home.

“We’re used to a busking setup, so it’s me and my brother on acoustic guitars and our drummer plays buckets,” Walters says. “We’re also going to have an extra member travelling with us on this tour, so it’ll be a fuller sound. There’ll be a lot of epic drums – that’s what we’re trying to go for on this tour. We’re aiming to get a lot of people into the drums and get people really enjoying it. The good thing about busking is that you get really good at performing on the spot. We get a lot of random things happening to us when we’re on the street and it’s helped us talk to people. We used to be quite shy, but you can’t be like that when you busk because you have to relate to people. I think that’s why people like us – because we’re very relatable and we just want to play music.”

Being in a band with your brother doesn’t work for everyone, but it hasn’t been musical differences that have come between the Walters boys.

“It’s good and bad,” he laughs. “We’re pretty close, so there’s not much tension. But when there is tension, it gets pretty aggressive. We had a full-on punch-up when we were living in the caravan – it was over washing too. He hadn’t put away my washing and we got into a full-on fight. I won, and I’m the younger brother too, but I’m a bit bigger.”




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Jack Carty: “Esk is the best thing that I’ve done so far”

jack carty

FOR most musicians, a national tour means five or six dates taking in the obvious urban hotspots. Sydney folkie Jack Carty, however, is bringing his new tunes to a village near you on his upcoming 32-date tour.

“It’s really good to get out to regional shows,” he says. “There are audiences out there who are hungry for live music. It’s good to get outside the capitals and get to all the people who want to hear live music. I grew up in the country, and I remember when I was kid, if there was a band coming to town there would be a buzz, even if we didn’t know who they were. I love that about getting out to regional Australia. I’ve also played a lot of those places before, so it’s nice to go back and play for the people who’ve bought the records and became fans. It doesn’t really matter where I am; I just close my eyes and sing.”

The 27-year old is touring on the back of his new album Esk, which features a number of musical collaborators, including Josh Pyke on first single ‘The Joneses’.

“He and I toured together about two years ago,” Carty says. “We did a huge 27-date national tour together. Well, when I say he and I toured together, I really mean I supported him. We became friends and stayed in touch. When the time came to write and record this record, I gave him a call one day and asked if he’d be interested in working on it with me, and he just said yes. It really was that simple; he’s a super-down-to-earth guy. Then we ended up touring together again earlier this year, so I’ve spent a lot of time with him now, and he’s an amazing and nice guy. I then recorded ‘The Universe’ with Katie Noonan and the rest of it is a whole different bunch of collaborations. I worked on some songs with Casual Psychotic, who is the guy I made the EP with last year. The last album was quite personal and introspective, and I think that’s how I naturally write songs, so I wanted to collaborate more to see what would happen if I mixed in some outside influences.”

Having been quietly but assuredly building his fanbase with two albums and two EPs since 2010, Carty sees Esk as another stepping stone in his musical development.

“I think this is the best record I’ve ever made,” he says. “But I also think it’s not right to compare. Break Your Own Heart was a break-up album; it’s meant to be quiet and introspective and is the only record up to Esk that I feel completely proud of. Not that I think that it’s perfect, but it is what I meant it to be, if you know what I mean. But Esk is the best thing that I’ve done so far.”




For mX

Christopher Owens: “I’m going to wish I went to school for the rest of my life”

christopher owens

HE GREW UP in a travelling religious cult, writes songs about his ex-girlfriends and splits his time between fashion modelling and being a successful singer-songwriter.

With such an eventful past, is it any wonder that 35 year-old American Christopher Owens has named his latest solo album A New Testament?

“On my European press tour I’ve been having to explain the concept of the title,” he says. “For someone like me, it’s a real bonus to not just understand the lyrics, but the first language thing makes it easier to explain them. I don’t know what the word would be, but there’s baggage that comes with that phrase that they don’t fully get.”

The ex-Girls singer finds a large amount of his material being inspired by past relationships, which luckily doesn’t have a negative effect on his current one.

“I’ve sung about so many [ex-girlfriends],” he laughs. “I’ve written about girlfriends from a long time ago in a very reflective way. ‘Jamie Marie’ is a song about a girlfriend from a long time ago. If you look at the lyrics, maybe I say their name or I’m talking about them, for the most part I’m talking about how I feel. First of all, I don’t think they feel very invaded as I’m not giving much about them, and second of all, they’ve always been pretty nice songs. My songs about other people are generally nice, not nasty. Doing a whole album about my ex-girlfriend is something I could see being difficult for my current girlfriend, but the reason she is so great and why we’ve been together for as long as we have, is because she doesn’t get hung up on things like that. She knows I wrote that album before we had even met, and she knows this is what I do. She has the ability to see what’s going on and I think she’s okay.”

The Miami native’s latest release is his fifth in as many years – a trend he is keen to continue.

“I just like to record as much as possible,” he says. “Part of me would say I should be doing two a year, because I have the songs and the ideas already, but it’s good to take a little breath and pause, and make things stand the test of time in a way; give the songs a year or two to see if I still think they’re good after that. But I think at least one a year is a good year. It’s like a Woody Allen film or an Ingmar Bergman film, you know? There are a few people who can keep that pace, and if I can keep that pace, I think I’ll be doing well.”

With a heavily reflective mood to the album, will A New Testament bring a little peace to Owens?

“I’d say I’m doing better now, for sure,” he says. “I don’t want to get into things I could complain about, like my upbringing. I never went to school, for example. I’m going to wish I went to school for the rest of my life; I know that. I can count many things I’m very happy to have. This album is just out, and my mind is already on the next.”


For mX

Slash: “We ended up doing 17 tracks in six days”


In 2001, former Guns N’ Roses guitarist Slash collapsed at a soundcheck, woke up in hospital and was given between six days to six weeks to live.

A pivotal point in the hard-drinkin’, heavy-druggin’ Los Angeles native’s life, it marked a turning point that saw the legendary axeman get sober and eventually begin writing and releasing records of his own.

“I’ve gone through a lot of different stuff,” he says. “I was comfortable with a lot as far as when Guns N’ Roses was happening, but there’s been a lot of stuff I’ve had to go through to get to the point of where I’m at now on my own; it was very hard. Maybe there were periods there when I probably had question marks in brackets around whatever I was doing, but I never really stop and specifically think about stuff like that. I just like doing what I do. It seems insane to people that I don’t have a specific motivation now other than just liking music. I like playing live, I like writing, I like touring and everything that goes with it. Making records and going out in front of audiences; this is what I picked up a guitar for.”

World On Fire is Slash’s third solo album, and the second on which the 49 year-old has worked with Myles Kennedy and The Conspirators.

“It’s exciting; we finished it in May,” he says. “We’ve been doing this for five years now. It started off as nothing; I didn’t have any plans for this. It was just really a band that I’d put together to support my first solo record, but it turned out to be such a great bunch of guys that I decided to work with them to make the next record following that, which was Apocalyptic Love. Basically at that point it had already turned into a band and was one of those sort of magical combinations of people that I didn’t see coming, but turned out to be really great.”

Produced by Michael ‘Elvis’ Baskette, World On Fire is 17 tracks of typically Slash-esque hard rock, with plenty of big riffs and solos, and was recorded in double-quick time.

“Usually it’s one or two songs a day,” Slash says. “But with this record we ended up doing 17 tracks in six days. It was good. I write the stuff on the road, here and there, and then I work it up with Brent [Fitz, drums] and Todd [Kerns, bass] and start getting a real musical arrangement together. I then send it out to Myles so he can start getting some ideas. They’re with me the whole time on the road when most of these ideas come in the first place, so they’ve heard most of it before. We’ve jammed in soundchecks and dressing rooms or whatever, so most of the initial ideas they’ve heard. I grew up in a very rock and roll environment, musically, and guitar solos are a very important part of rock and roll songs. They’re just a really exciting part of a good rock song.”

An upcoming slot on the Soundwave 2015 bill will give Slash and co. a chance to play the new material to Australian audiences for the first time.

“I’m excited about it,” he says. “We did it in 2011 or 2012 – I can’t remember exactly. We did the tour and there was Slayer and a bunch of cool bands on the bill. It was a lot of fun, and was one of the coolest sort of moving tours that I’ve ever done. We are really looking forward to it. Everything [on the album] is basically all recorded live. We don’t write songs with the intention of them being live songs, but when we go in to record it, we just play the songs live so much it just comes out that way. Everything on the record more or less comes from a live setting, so it should all translate great live, you know? We’re on tour now with Aerosmith in the States and then we start a world tour in November. It’ll basically run all the way through next year.”

Despite Gene Simmons recently claiming rock music is dead, Slash is quick to come to its defence.

“I’ve been hearing that same exact quote since the seventies,” he says. “But anyway, I think rock music as a medium will never ever die or anything like that, but it’s going through a hard time. The way that the business has become is predominantly, if not a hundred percent, corporate at this point. When it comes to record companies and radio and all that kind of stuff, rock music doesn’t really have much of a place in it. But that’s what I love about what’s going on right now – there’s this really great underbelly of very genuine, spirited rock and roll happening. It’s starting to get that sense of rebellion back, which is really great. I think that’s important, and I think it should be ‘us against them’, you know? I sort of like the way that things are going and I don’t see rock being dead at all. I see it in Europe and a lot just recently in America. I can’t speak on behalf of Australia, but I do know certain bands over there who have that same attitude.”

With more than his fair share of hard-living and dark times behind him, and his new band line-up set in stone, the only question remains is whether one of rock’s great survivors is willing to drop the solo moniker and give his bandmates equal billing.

“I’m not going to,” he laughs. “Never.”


For Beat and The Brag

James Reyne: “Try to stay vaguely cool, if you can”

james reyne

FOR someone who is an ARIA Hall of Fame member, a holder of a Medal of the Order of Australia, and is often called an icon of Australian music, former Australian Crawl vocalist and songwriter James Reyne is a refreshingly laid-back character.

Perhaps it’s because he’s happy with what he’s achieved in music, or maybe he’s simply enjoying life and the freedom that being his own boss gives him. Either way, get ready to enjoy his charm and song-writing once again as he takes his acoustic show on a national tour, including a stop in Geelong on September 20th.

“The shows have been going really well so far,” he says. “It’s a cross-section of all the stuff I’ve been known for. There’s me playing acoustic guitar and singing, a guy called Brett Kingman playing acoustic guitar and singing, and his sister Tracy Kingman singing; so it’s three voices with two guitars. We usually do all the hits people would want to hear, but we can slot in the odd new one. We can bookend them; put two or three either side of the new ones [laughs]. I’m lucky that I have a good core of fans who keep up with the current stuff. I’m often surprised by the number of people that yell out for newer stuff and I think ‘oh wow, I didn’t think they’d know that one’. But we definitely do all the hit stuff, because we’d get lynched if we didn’t [laughs].”

With a near forty-year career in music behind him, Reyne is rarely taken by surprise. Then came a letter earlier this year letting him know he’d been chosen to receive an Order of Australia; something the 57 year-old doesn’t take lightly.

“I was chuffed that they thought I was worthy,” he says. “I’m very grateful and it was very kind. I don’t know how it works, how you get nominated or chosen, but I’ll take it, thanks [laughs]. First, they sent a letter saying I was being given it and to please not tell anyone before they announce it. I think I told my mum and made her swear to not tell a soul. She was more surprised than I was, but she might have been lying to me; she might have told some friends.”

With a number of classic Australian Crawl records and a slew of solo albums in his back catalogue, Reyne can afford to go at his own pace when thinking about new material.

“[Songwriting is] always a creative outlet for me, and as I get older the more I seem to enjoy doing it,” he says. “I’m self-funded and not under any pressure to put anything out, but every couple of years I get to a point where I think I might just record some stuff. I’m lucky that I have some great friends who are technicians, because I’m an idiot with technology. I’m hardly ever these days sitting around planning my next album; it’s more like ‘okay, I’ve got a bunch of songs, I might as well stick them down’”.

He may come across as a laid-back guy of the highest order, but Reyne and his band show no signs of slowing down in terms of putting in the hard yards on the road.

“We’re touring and doing shows with the band and then this acoustic run” he says. “Then we’ll be doing some festivals and outdoor things over summer – we’ve got gigs up until May or June, so we’re usually working about nine months to a year ahead. There are all sorts of other things I’m interested in and I keep my fingers in other little pies, but this is my job and it’s how I earn a living. I’m lucky that I do a job I enjoy. If I didn’t do this as a job I’d probably do it as a hobby, and I’m lucky that I have people who are interested enough in what I do. I can still play at places all over the country and people want to come and see what I do. But I hope I’m getting better, because I do practise my craft and we do it consistently. An [element of] so-called show business is learning when to say no, so you can stay vaguely fresh; not say yes to everything. ‘As much as I love you, it doesn’t suit me right now’; that’s a big lesson in show business, I reckon. Try to stay vaguely cool, if you can [laughs].”

When & Where:

Saturday 20 September Geelong | GPAC Drama Centre

For Forte

Celia Pavey: “The Voice was an amazing experience”

celia pavey

IT’S a long way from the sleepy town of Forbes, NSW (population 7000) to the stage of TV talent show The Voice, but it’s a psychological leap Celia Pavey has seemingly taken in her stride.

Having won over a national TV audience and judge Delta Goodrem, the 19 year-old folkie is now embarking on a national tour in support of her new EP, Bodies.

“I’m very excited and a little bit curious and nervous as to what people will think of it,” she says. “I feel very positive about it, and it was a very wonderful experience to be working on it. It’s good that it’s finally out there. I came off the show and I sort of knew who I was as an artist, but it was good to get down to writing the EP and realising what it was going to sound like and what the vibe was going to be. It did take a while, but good music does take a while and you’ve got to work hard to make it sound the way you want it to.”

Having some songs already part-written, the singer-songwriter has been able to count on some pretty solid collaborators to help finish them off.

“I did a bit of co-writing with Tim Hart [Boy & Bear] on a song called ‘Shadow’,” she says. “We had things in common in our friendship and things we had been through, so it just flowed really well, and the song is a beautiful track. It was lots of fun and it was great to work with him; he’s very down-to-earth and is very in touch with folk music, so he knows what my music is about. I also worked with Jake Stone of Bluejuice on ‘Bodies’, which is the main feature of the EP. Everyone I worked with had really open minds about the style of music and what the songs were about.”

Studying at the Australian Institute of Music before blind auditioning on The Voice meant that Pavey had musical talent on her side, but her naturally shy personality was a potential barrier to success on the show.

“I wasn’t thinking too much about it,” she says. “I usually like to take things as they come. The whole experience was really full-on to start with as I didn’t know what was going to happen. It was full-on, but it was an amazing experience to go through.”

Thankfully, her rendition of Simon & Garfunkel’s ‘Scarborough Fair/Canticle’ immediately won over judge Delta Goodrem, with whom Pavey teamed up.

“She’s incredible; such a wonderful person,” she says. “She has guided me and helped me overcome my fears of being on stage. She said to me I just have to be myself and know who I am as an artist, just perform and be myself. There’s always nerves, which are important as you need the adrenalin for the performance, but to be able to overcome the fear is important. It’s all about realising you’re up there because you want to be and you’re there for a reason.”

While she has found an audience and built a fanbase on the back of her appearance on The Voice, Pavey is ready to move on and be regarded as an artist in her own right.

“It’s more about finding myself as a folk artist and keeping myself down-to-earth,” she says. “Not just launching into the pop world because that’s what most artists feel like they should be doing to make a career or something. You’ve got to take it slow and wait for people to appreciate what you do as an artist. Television shows can be a little full-on. I’m not quite sure how to explain it as I’m still thinking about all that, but they can exploit artists. Sometimes it can be beneficial and other times not – it’s all a bit crazy. I think it’s definitely important to experience things in life that will help you in the long run. It really did help me positively, although there were some negative parts that I guess will help me positively in the future and help me grow. You just have to give things a go and see what happens.”

She may only be 19, but Pavey probably would rather have been born around 1950, such is her affinity to the hippy/folk movement of the late sixties; something will be evident by her song choices on her national tour.

“I’ve got four songs on the EP, but I’ve got a band and we perform for an hour,” she says. “I’ve brought some more originals into the set – some of which will be on the album coming up. We’ve got a couple of fun covers; ‘White Rabbit’ by Jefferson Airplane and some groovy sixties songs. I love Joni Mitchell, so I do a couple of her covers; I like to do ‘Big Yellow Taxi’ and ‘Woodstock’. They really take people on a journey; the music back then was just incredible.”

When & Where:

Thursday 11th September
Melbourne | The Toff in Town

Friday 12th September
Traralgon | Spirit Bar

Saturday 13th September
Ballarat | Karova Lounge

Sunday 14th September
Torquay | Torquay Hotel

For Forte

Andrew Lowe of One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest: “The mental illness side still applies today”

one flew over

LEGENDARY author Ken Kesey wrote the novel in 1962, and the 1975 film went on to win Oscars for best lead actor (Jack Nicholson in a career-defining role as protagonist Randle P. McMurphy), lead actress, picture, director and screenplay.

It therefore takes a brave bunch to take such illustrious material to the stage, and it’s New Zealand actor Andrew Lowe’s task to make the risk-taking, anti-authoritarian McMurphy come alive in Brisbane Arts Theatre’s latest production.

One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest was just too irresistible for me to pass up,” Lowe says. “The hard part is trying to get away from the film and putting your own ideas in. People have their own perception of how they think it will be played. I feel [the play] is very different to the film, but then the film was very different to the novel. In the novel, they’re very much normal people that have been deemed mentally unfit for society, whereas in the film I feel they really played up the mental illness part more; not caricatures, but getting into comedy. Ours is still in development, and we’re going down the entertainment route as well, but I think it’s got to be that way for an audience to be engaged by it.”

The story follows McMurphy as he is sent to a mental institution to await sentencing by a criminal court. At first he sees his new surroundings as a place in which to escape doing jail time, although he soon begins to revolt and rally his fellow patients against the overbearing and subtly cruel Nurse Ratched, and the two become locked in a battle of wills that only one can survive.

“I think the play has some great points in it,” Lowe says. “The mental illness side still applies today; the way we treat mental illness. In the film it’s about McMurphy rising up against Nurse Ratched and promoting individualism and each person’s own traits as unique and part of human nature, whereas Nurse Ratched tries to make them conform. It’s a powerful piece because we need to embrace people’s individual traits in society and understand who they are and to let them be who they want to be. I think these days we have pills for everything that are supposed to tackle and solve everything, and this play shows that that’s not the way to do things necessarily – McMurphy is a great advocate of that.”

Lowe, who got into acting in Australia after studying law and accounting for five years in his native New Zealand, has diverse industry experience and sees Brisbane Arts Theatre as a vital part of the theatre and arts scene in Brisbane.

“I’ve done about 20 short films and I was behind the scenes on Angelina Jolie’s Unbroken,” he says. “I was the lead actor’s stand-in. I spent four months working with [Jolie], and it was fantastic to see how it all comes together and what it takes. It was a great experience; I just want a part of it now [laughs]. I’ve just shot a Tropfest film too; it ends up as a tragedy and I decided to break the fourth wall a lot on that as well – that Malcolm In The Middle sort of thing. This is my fourth show at Brisbane Arts Theatre. I’ve done Picnic at Hanging Rock, Frankenstein and A New Way To Pay Old Debts. Someone told me it was the oldest theatre in Brisbane, and that just speaks for itself if you ask me. There’s obviously a lot of history there and a lot of the origins of theatre in Brisbane. Of course, it’s a community-based theatre, so it’s great as an outlet for people who just want to get up there and do it, have a go and have some fun.”


For Scenestr

Steve Kilbey of The Church: “You can’t take journalists on”

the church

“YOU can’t take journalists on, because they have the last word. Like, if I was to really piss you off now and be really arrogant, rude and horrible, you’re going to be the one writing ‘Kilbey’s a cunt, I wouldn’t go see his fucking band at BIGSOUND’”.

This is just a sample of the type of industry advice to expect from The Church frontman Steve Kilbey, who will appear at the BIGSOUND conference as a keynote speaker with his band. Not that he’s fully sure what his role will be as yet, as becomes clear when he is asked what he expects to be speaking about.

“I don’t fucking know,” he says. “People are going to be asking me questions, aren’t they? Isn’t that how it works? I know I’m on a panel with The Church, and we sit there and field questions from the audience, and then I’m going to be on a panel with my manager and field questions about managers and artists, then I’m going to play a thirty-minute gig. I’m supposed to give you some bullshit now, but really someone said ‘hey, do you want The Church to be at BIGSOUND?’ I didn’t even know what BIGSOUND was and I was like ‘I don’t know. Yeah, I guess so.’ Some people whose advice I trust said I should go and do this and it’d be good. Everyone is saying it’s really good; I don’t really know anything about it. I’m just kind of wandering in, hoping to make the best of whatever happens to be there.”

After some initial prickliness, the 59 year-old singer and bassist becomes increasingly garrulous, self-deprecating and funny over the course of a twenty-minute interview, as he talks about his time in the music business, the benefit of hindsight and a recent change to The Church’s line-up.

“I suppose people will ask about longevity and why Marty [Willson-Piper] left and why Ian Haug joined, what our new album is like and what are the perils and pitfalls one should avoid and all that,” he says. “These are the sort of things you could ask an old seasoned trooper who has been around the tracks a few times.”

[At this point Kilbey points out that he doesn’t think he should be asked questions that might crop up at BIGSOUND, but relents when it’s pointed out that an article is being written about him, thus a requirement exists for him to say something. The floodgates then open and don’t close for fifteen minutes. Better get comfortable.]

“Alright: perils and pitfalls for musicians,” he says. “The business itself is set up – [or was] in my day at least – to take advantage of the types who could play music and knew about writing songs and stuff, but when it came to percentages and deals and someone looking after your money and all that, you just signed the contract without reading it. Also, being too emotional with the other guys in the band; taking it all out on them. I wish I had thought a lot of the time before saying things.

“I suppose walking that fine line between being successful and doing what you should be doing yourself; trying to hit that sweet spot between doing what you want to do and being successful as well – it’s hard to get that balance right. You can easily fall off that fine line and find yourself doing what you want to do and nobody is listening to it, or you can have success and it’s not the success you want to have, and it’s only going to be short-lived as there’s nothing really holding it up. Unless you’re massively successful like The Eagles or something, who can do whatever they like, to have a long career you have to try to please yourself while looking out there to see if anyone else is being pleased as well. Not living completely in the vacuum, but not folding or throwing in your hand every time you get a bad review or go through a couple of years where everyone’s ignoring you and it seems like things have plateaued. It’s all about hanging in there doggedly.

“I’ve been writing my memoirs and there have been a couple of points in the road where we quite patently did the wrong thing. Pissing off a couple of very important journalists – one in England and one in South America – by being flippant and stupid and stuff; things like that can stop your career dead. [The English journalist we upset] was a guy called Steve Sutherland. In the beginning he was our champion. This often happens with journalists – they start off as cub reporters and they write gushing reviews about you, then a few years in when they’re cleaning out their wardrobe and having a bit of a purge, it’s like a right of passage for them to start going ‘oh, this band didn’t really turn out like I’d hoped’.

“Sutherland seemed to get his hands on every one of our records from then on and give them bad reviews. He gave an album called Heyday a bad review, and it didn’t deserve a bad review because it was a great record. He compared it unfavourably to a whole bunch of English bands like Big Country and stuff like that. We were going to have the front cover of Melody Maker and this guy turned up and I fucking gave him what for; I kind of almost physically threatened him. I thought it would work, that he would put us on the cover with some story about how Kilbey tore him apart, but what he did was nothing. There was no article. I remembered that when I was raving on to him he had this smug look on his face that said ‘you can say whatever you like, because now there’s not going to be an article’.

“If the guy had just turned up and I had pretended like I hadn’t read all these bad reviews, which I can still almost quote verbatim, we would have been on the front page of Melody Maker and he might have reanointed us. I stupidly thought I could take him on, and you can’t take journalists on, because they have the last word. Like, if I was to really piss you off now and be really arrogant, rude and horrible, you’re going to be the one writing ‘Kilbey’s a cunt, I wouldn’t go see his fucking band at BIGSOUND’. At the time, I thought they were battles I could win, before realising that they aren’t.

“At the start, I was just a naive idiot who could play bass guitar, sing a little bit and write songs, and suddenly I had all these other jobs like being a leader of men. I had three other guys in my group and had to keep them under control and I had to do interviews, meet people, and be this and be that. You put one foot wrong out there and it can be all over. I’ve been lucky to have got second and third chances; I blew it tons of times with my big mouth, drug addictions, indiscretions and hopeless gigs when I turned up ill-prepared. You have to keep your eye on the ball the whole time; I don’t think as many people get as lucky as me. A lot of it is luck or simply being in the right place at the right time, and there’s something about that factor that nobody can ever manipulate or anticipate. Where is the right time? Where is the right place? Every portal that is used to get into the music business; once it’s used, it’s normally gone.

“Take The Arctic Monkeys – they did it all on MySpace, and suddenly there’s a zillion bands on MySpace, but it’s too late, you know? There are ways to get in, but my story won’t be a story that anyone can emulate, because even if things hadn’t changed and the business is exactly the same, the way it happened for me won’t be the way it happens for anyone else. Just like the way it happened for Mick Jagger and Keith Richards wasn’t the way it happened for me, Iggy Izalea and blah, blah, blah. You’ve got to make your own luck, persevere and be resilient.

“[The music industry] is not a place for the faint-hearted and you can’t have too thin a skin, which is somewhat of a paradox for someone like me. To write all the songs I’ve written, I’ve had to be thin-skinned as [song-writing] requires a certain amount of vulnerability and thin-skinned-ness. Then, to read reviews where people are saying [your record is] the worst record they’ve ever heard, you have to be able to go ‘fuck you! I don’t believe you.’ You’ve got to be good at so many different things.

“In the beginning I was good at song-writing, not that good at playing bass, certainly not that good a singer, I was a lousy leader of men and I had everybody in the band upset. It’s a bit like being a father; I tried the strict approach and they hated me, and I tried the lenient approach and they walked all over me. That’s what being a band leader is like. When you’re like me, you’ve constantly got to be readjusting your course as you sail across the sea, moving from left to right, dodging whales and sharks and other boats, then when the wind is right you make the most of it. You’re always on your toes when you’re still relying on it to make a living.

While the by-now energetic Kilbey pauses for breath, the conversation is steered towards the future for The Church, and the band’s upcoming new album – their first since 2009.

“[Ian Haug] is an incredible, powerful guitarist,” he says. “He’s brought a lot of enthusiasm, happiness and a kind of willingness to work and make it succeed. I think he rejuvenated the other three guys; having someone whose relatively a spring chicken compared to me has helped. The first day I turned up to write a song with him I was very nervous because I had asked him into the band off my own bat; I didn’t even ask [the others]. When I turned up at Ian’s studio outside Brisbane we wrote a song within about five minutes had written the song that now closes the album. We immediately established a working pattern.

“I’m not sure how Powderfinger used to write songs, but Ian immediately fell into our way of writing, which is to fiddle around and then suddenly find something we like. He didn’t seem to have to learn the method; I’ve seen other people very confused by that method and want things already formed. When we made the album, he was just an endless source of material. It’s not like the three of us and him just hanging on there – Ian’s directly responsible for a lot of the songs. As you would expect for someone who was the guitarist in Australia’s biggest ever bands, Ian came loaded with assets and so far I can’t complain about one thing he’s done.

“I guess his status is now the other guitarist in The Church, until something changes, because it’s just a rock and roll band, and if he’s had enough or something goes wrong then so be it. Plus we’re all getting pretty old, so someone is probably going to drop off the perch and that’ll be the end of the whole thing.”


For Scenestr

Jamie MacColl of Bombay Bicycle Club: “The crowds tend to be quite aggressive”

bombay bicycle club

WITH four album releases in five years, English quartet Bombay Bicycle Club know the importance of finessing and expanding their sound.

It’s been this approach that’s seen them move from being simply another indie guitar band to something altogether more multi-faceted, explains guitarist Jamie MacColl.

“I think if we did what most other bands do we would have toured our first album for two or three years, and we did the opposite of that,” he says. “Strategically, it was probably the worst thing we could do, but it came off nonetheless, and I still don’t quite know how. When we released the [first] album we were 18 or 19, and we just kept getting bored easily and wanted to try new things, so we ended up making three albums in two years. That was just representative of the fact we were young and trying to figure out what we wanted the band to sound like. I think it was only towards the end of the third album when we finally came across a sound that we were comfortable with, and the latest album has explored that further. I think it’s what the band together, really. If we just kept making early-’90s influenced indie-rock, I don’t think it would have gone on as we would have just got bored. There are so many bands who I grew up listening to – particularly indie bands – who had very successful first albums and were then unable to move on from that and got trapped by the sound of their first album. Luckily, we’ve managed to escape that”.

The band’s latest release, So Long, See You Tomorrow, features a wider range of instrumentation than before, which was inspired by frontman Jack Steadman’s travels through India. Just don’t label it ‘world music’, says MacColl.

“I think ‘world music’ is a ridiculous term in itself,” he says. “[It’s] just very lazy journalism; especially when applied to our latest album. There are a couple of prominent Bollywood songs on the record, but those are needles in the haystack in terms of the overall picture of the record. For journalists, the fact that some of the album was written in India and there’s a connection with the name, it suddenly becomes the thing that they write about. That’s wrongly come to define the album, which is a shame, but it’s certainly not world music by any means. I think – aside from the band – it’s a bit offensive to anyone who makes music that isn’t influenced by traditional western pop and classical music.”

Whatever label is pinned on it, the band will bring their new material for an Australian airing, with three shows chalked up for September.

“At this point we’ve got four albums that are all quite different to one another and we tend to try to do a bit from each of them,” MacColl says. “So, our show is interesting because it’s kind of an hour and a half of songs that don’t necessarily fit together, but I often find bands that play songs that sound the same for an hour and a half are quite boring. With us, there’s plenty to keep you interested. I think the thing that always seem to strike people who haven’t seen us before, is they expect it to be quite chilled out, both the crowd and ourselves, but that’s basically the opposite of what happens. We are a very energetic live rock band; far more than you’d expect from listening to the records. Particularly in the UK and Europe, we have gigs where the crowds tend to be quite aggressive, which I find a bit inexplicable, but it happens.”

With over 100 shows already under their belts this year, the band are set to be on top form for their Australian jaunt, but bigger things lie ahead for MacColl and the band.

“[The rest of the year] is a continuation of what we’re doing now. After Australia we’ve got another month long American tour, then a bit of South America, Europe and the UK, and a final gig of the year at Earl’s Court in London, which will be our biggest ever headline show.”


For Scenestr

Carl Newman of The New Pornographers: “We’re a supergroup; that’s just the way it is”

new pornographers

WITH their new album Brill Bruisers, The New Pornographers are keen to celebrate their return after a four year absence, says frontman and songwriter Carl Newman.

“With this record, I just wanted to make a rock and roll record, or what I thought was a rock and roll record,” he says. “It was fun to do because it was the first record [on which] we ever used a vocoder and we’d never used arpeggiators very much; it was fun to try all those things. It happened that all the songs I was writing lent themselves to that kind of arrangement, so it all worked out. It’s scary and exciting to know that a lot of people are going to be hearing it, but I feel confident in it.”

Four years may seem like a long time between albums, but Newman hasn’t been idle.

“I put out a solo album in there, so that took up some time,” he says. “I also had a kid; I’ve got a two-and-a-half year-old son. Kids take up a lot of time, and time just flies, you know? Sometimes you don’t even notice that it’s been four years between albums. I knew my solo record should be a lot more subdued. I wanted it to be a lot more singer-songwriter; a lot more personal.”

The Canadian eight-piece – featuring Neko Case and Destroyer frontman Dan Bejar, among others – are often labelled a supergroup; something Newman doesn’t take too seriously.

“It’s definitely a bit of fun,” he says. “People called us a supergroup when we began, and we weren’t a supergroup. Now I look at us and I think ‘sure, we’re a supergroup’. Why not, you know? I don’t fight it; I’ve just accepted it. Now, I think if we’re a supergroup, we’re a supergroup; that’s just the way it is.”

With eight members involved in their own separate projects, Newman admits it can be hard to bring them all together come tour time, but the end result is worth it.

“It’s an endless hassle,” he says. “It always has been, but it’s just the way it is. There’s nothing we can do about it. Its the weird part of our band. It’s our greatest strength and our greatest weakness, you know? [Touring] is fun to come back to. When we played a few songs recently it made me think ‘wow, we’re a good band’. I forgot we’re a good band. We’ve done about four of the new songs live, and that’s been very cool. In this day and age you don’t want to play all of your songs too early because then they all end up on the Internet. The new songs feel like they belong in our set; they don’t feel weird. [They went down] well, which is always a good sign. Sometimes when you play new songs people are looking at each other like ‘when are they going to stop playing new songs and play the old songs?’. But I feel like they fit in very seamlessly.”

So, will Australia be featuring on the Pornographers’ tour schedule any time soon?

“We want to [visit] but it won’t be until next year,” he says. “We’ll have to figure it out. It’s hard; there’s not enough time in the world to play everywhere you want to play, but I think well definitely get there next year. We’ve always loved playing in Australia, so I’m looking forward to it. The most exciting thing that ever happened was the first time we played in Sydney in 2006, and Dave Faulkner from the Hoodoo Gurus was at our show in Sydney. We met him and I remember we were really excited because we were massive Hoodoo Gurus fans. That really jumped out as an exciting thing to have happen the first time we went to Australia – to have one of our favorite Australian musicians be there.”


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