James Vincent McMorrow: “It definitely took me by surprise in the most wonderful way possible”

james vincent mcmorrow

JAMES Vincent McMorrow’s music is tailor-made to fill big spaces, metaphorically and literally. Luckily for him – and us – an upcoming show at QPAC and two nights at the Sydney Opera House will allow it to do just that.

“I want [the show] to be something that’s not just song, gap, song, gap,” he says. “I want it to be something that flows and gets bigger as the set goes along. We’ve got this really expansive lighting rig that we’re bringing; it’s kind of the fifth person on-stage. Hopefully we’ll bring a booming big set.”

The 31 year-old Irishman is no stranger to Australia, having been here as recently as five months ago, but he admits the sudden demand for tickets caught him off guard, in a good way.

“I don’t really pay attention to what’s going on in particular countries unless I’m there,” he says. “We were [in Australia] in January and the reaction was brilliant. When we talked about doing these shows, the idea was to do them way later, then all of a sudden I was told things are really good here. About a week after they put them on sale, I got a call saying that the Sydney Opera House was sold out and they were adding second dates. It definitely took me by surprise in the most wonderful way possible. I mean, I’m pretty ambitious and I want to play places like that, but I didn’t expect it to happen this quickly in somewhere as far away as Australia. But then, you can’t predict everything; sometimes things just work. We just finished the US tour, and it was very much big venue to small venue to big venue, depending on which city we were in. I don’t feel any different if we go from 1600 people one night to 600 people the following; I still feel the same. Obviously Sydney Opera House is a special place; it’s like the Royal Albert Hall or Carnegie Hall or somewhere like that. There’s a resonance that goes beyond it being just another show, perhaps. I’ve looked at all the other Australian venues and they are all stunning and look amazing, so I won’t think about them any differently, and they’re all equally important.”

Released in January, Post Tropical is McMorrow’s second album, and sees his sound moving further away from his folk roots in a more soulful direction.

“This record was made for people to live with for a while,” he says. “I didn’t expect it to give itself away to people incredibly quickly. It’s been interesting going from territory to territory and seeing people’s reactions. The first record did very well in Europe, and when we played shows there we could see people starting to wrap their heads around the new sounds and new ideas. By the end of the shows we could really see people understanding it. When we went to the US, people were really into it intensely, and we could hear people singing every word. It was very soon for that for me; with the first record I spent two years working away before people really heard anything. The response to the new record was really quite compelling and drove me onwards to play the songs better and better every night. The response has been how I hoped. I never expect it; I just hope for it when I do these things.”

The first single is ‘Cavalier’, which McMorrow explains is the most accurate representation of what Post Tropical has to offer.

“I chose it because I thought it was the best song on the record, in the sense of letting people know what’s coming,” he says. “I wanted it to be a song that draws a line in the sand, or plants my flag in the ground or whatever you want to call it. It’s a definitive sound; there could have been songs that show where the last record was and where the next one is going, before we deliver something like ‘Cavalier’ further down the line, but I didn’t want to do that. I think people are smart, and I’m not in the business of trying to convince people; you either like it or you don’t, and that’s totally fine. With ‘Cavalier’, I thought people will hear it and either be in or be out. If they hear it and understand what I’m doing and what I’m going for, musically and stylistically, then they’ll like it. I don’t want to waste people’s time putting out songs that might be a little bit like something they might’ve heard before, then when they go to the record it’s different.”


Michael Franti: “It’s about tenacity, courage and creating harmony in your life”

michael franti

MUSICIAN, poet, humanitarian, Bono fan; these are just some of the strings to Michael Franti’s bow.

The multi-talented Californian and his band will make a return to Bluesfest next month, as well as playing a sideshow at The Tivoli. “It’s our first time to Australia in three years, and we’re super excited to come back,” he says. “This is actually our twentieth year playing music together; we started in ’94. It kind of crept up on us; one day around Christmas I was sitting around with Carl [Young, bass] and I said ‘Carl, when did we start?’ We realised it was August ’94. We feel more excited about playing music than we ever have, and it’s just really great to be in a band with these guys. We never decide what we’re going to play until about 15 minutes before we go on-stage; we always mix it up every night. There are some songs people want to hear, so we try to play those, and we’ll go through the catalogue and revisit songs we haven’t played in a while. Sometimes we’ll play cover songs and sometimes loud party music that will get people up and jumping around at a festival. We love the festival setting and we’re looking forward to coming back.”

The upcoming gigs will give Australian fans the first chance to hear songs from Spearhead’s 2013 album All People live, as well as getting an advance on tunes that will appear on the as yet untitled follow-up.

“The songs were all written while we were touring and we’ve tried them out in front of audiences, so they’ve all be road-tested, so to speak,” Franti says. “It’s great when you can write a song in the morning, play it to fans in the afternoon and get their response to it. This record is a mix of acoustic music, political songs, roots and maybe more love songs than I’ve ever put on a record. We always have new songs ready for a record, and as soon as I finish writing them I like to play them; so there are a few new songs we might pull out. It’ll probably be another year before we release another record, but we’ve already been in the studio writing this stuff. The last two records had about a two year gap in between, but I don’t think it will be that long this time.”

Known for his political and humanitarian stances, Franti has changed his approach somewhat in recent times.

“My original band put out our first record in 1987,” he says. “I think a lot of us who have been involved in doing political work and political song-writing for a long time don’t know if any of the songs we ever wrote really made a difference to the world, and it’s easy to get frustrated. Right now I’m working on a documentary film about people I’ve met who have really inspired me and made me see the world and the work I do in a different way. Instead of trying to put out the whole world that’s on fire with this little water pistol that I have, I’ve learned how to use the water pistol to sprinkle the flowers in my own back yard and have a bigger impact. Lately, I’ve been writing about that more than specific political things; it’s about tenacity, courage and creating harmony in your life.”

Franti got his first major break when a certain rock quartet with a similar approach to political and social issues took his band on tour in 1992.

“It was really amazing,” he says. “We had a minor hit at the time and U2 saw the video for it, and they invited us to come out on the road. We went from being a little band playing in punk rock and hip-hop clubs and driving around in a tiny white van, to playing Yankee Stadium and all these massive venues. I was a fan of U2’s music at the time but I wasn’t that familiar with the guys in the band, and I remember the first week Bono came up to me and says [adopts Irish accent] ‘can I have a quiet word wit’ ya? There’s this one thing I need to talk to ya about’. I was worried and thought we were getting kicked off the tour, but he said ‘you know my guitar player? His name is The Edge, not Ed’. I had been saying things like ‘yo Ed, nice guitar solo! Yo Ed, nice hat! Yo Ed, you coming to the party later?’ I guess The Edge had gone to Bono and asked him to have a word. We’ve toured with tons of bands, and they’re right up there among our top experiences in terms of being treated well by the headliner. They always made sure we had enough time and space to set up our gear and sound check, and they always hung out with us. Whether we wanted to talk about music, religion or business things, Bono was always really amenable to having a conversation about anything; it was a really good experience for us.”


Joss Stone: “I’d like to investigate music that was born in Australia”

Joss Stone

SHE MAY HAVE worked with Mick Jagger, Ringo Starr and Jeff Beck, but Joss Stone will be on the hunt for new Australian talent when she tours here next month.

“I’m trying to find people to collaborate with when I’m there,” she says. “I’d like to investigate music that was born in Australia. It’s nice to be exposed to other things; things that aren’t influenced by America or the UK. Maybe I’ll have a little sneak around Byron Bay and see what’s about. I really enjoyed Byron last time; it was more earthy, which I liked. We were only in Australia for a week, but that was my favourite spot. I’m definitely excited to be going back there; hopefully we’ll get more time.”

The 26 year-old English soul singer and her ten-piece band will be part of a mammoth Bluesfest line-up, as well as doing a run of shows with multiple Grammy Award-winner India.Arie.

“Expect a very good band playing what is hopefully very good music,” she says. “I love my musicians; I hold them in very high esteem. I’ve been working with them for a very long time and I just love playing with them. We have a really nice time on-stage; we just ‘soul out’ a bit and try to play a bit of music from each album. So far I have six [albums], and we like to play the songs people know as well as a few new ones. The double bill [with Arie] was just one of those things. Obviously, the second they asked me I was like ‘yes please’; I love her. When I was about 14 or 15 the song ‘Video’ came out and I got her album, and I would play the songs with the tape or CD in reverse, so I could try to learn the way she sang and her little ad-libs. I could never do it; I’m terrible with ad-libs as I’m not really that type of singer, but I would listen to her over and over. I think some days she’ll start the set and I’ll finish it and vice versa, and hopefully if we feel the vibe we’ll sing together, if I’m lucky. I know her songs, but I don’t know if she knows mine!”

Stone’s last release, 2012’s The Soul Sessions Vol. 2, was a collection of 11 soul covers, but her upcoming – as yet untitled – record promises to be more eclectic.

“It’s a little bit different this time,” she says. “A little bit more hip-hop and reggae. There are a couple of tracks on there which are just classic soul, but it’s so hard to talk about right now as we haven’t even finished the percussion yet, so I don’t know what it’s going to turn out like. In all honesty, I could turn round and go ‘oh I fucking hate this, let’s just cut it again’. I’m trying to keep that safety, you know what I mean? New influences come in naturally when I’m beginning writing, then I latch on to whatever that newness is and make that choice to continue in this path; it’s a conscious decision from that point. I’ve got thirty songs, but I’m going to see. I’ve just done two weeks in the studio, and I’ll have to listen back and see which ones I like. Normally an album doesn’t go longer than fourteen to seventeen tracks. I never really like to play a full show where I just play new songs to a group of people who haven’t got the album. Putting in new songs can be cool, but until everybody gets the album, it can be a bit of a bummer to go to a show when you don’t know any of the songs. When the record is out I’ll play them all, but when the Australian tour comes around I’ll just play a couple. I’ll rehearse my band; by now they know all the songs, but we’ll rehearse and learn a couple of the new ones, so when we get to the stage I can kind of call it, you know? I know what’s going to happen in general, but I don’t know what the audience is going to be like until I meet them. In fact, they are the eleventh member of my band. That’s the fun of it.”

Stone was a part of short-lived supergroup SuperHeavy in 2011 with Jagger, Dave Stewart, A.R. Rahman and Damian Marley, and has performed with big-hitters like James Brown, Rod Stewart and Melissa Etheridge, but one musician inspired her more than the rest.

“Jeff Beck; I’m in awe of him and the way he plays,” she says. “When he’s talking to you he’s just a normal guy, but when he plays it’s entirely different; it’s like ‘wow’. If we’re playing on the same day [at Bluesfest] we might even do a little song together. He’s amazing.”


Alex Cameron of Bad//Dreems: “We’re about to sign with a record label”

bad dreems

ADELAIDE indie-rockers Bad//Dreems are set to have a pretty big year.

“We’re about to sign with a record label,” says guitarist Alex Cameron. “I can’t say who it is, but we’ll announce the signing probably in the next couple of weeks, and the next release is a seven-inch called ‘Dumb Ideas’, which comes out at the start of April. That’s the first step towards an album that we’ll probably record later this year and release towards the end of the year or next year. There might be an EP in between.”

The quartet’s debut EP Badlands earned rave reviews and helped the band find their sound. This time, they’ve enlisted help from an experienced source.

“We’ve always got heaps of songs,” Cameron says. “We had fifteen demos for this seven-inch that we whittled down to get these two. One of the ways to do that is to demo a lot of songs and pick the best. The last EP was a collection of songs that spanned from when we started in 2012 through to just before we recorded it in January 2013. You can probably see an evolution in the songs; the first song we wrote was ‘Chills’ and the last was ‘Hoping For’, and I think that ‘Hoping For’ was the song that we think crystallised our vision into something that was around the mark of what we were going for. The difference may be that we’ve recorded with a new producer; Mark Opitz. He’s a pretty famous Australian producer; he worked with a lot of Australian bands of the ’80s. He originally worked with Vanda and Young doing a couple of AC/DC albums, then the first album he did himself was The Angels’ second album, which sold about 300,000 copies, and he worked with The Models, Hoodoo Guru and INXS. We thought it was a left-field idea to record with him, and we didn’t even know if he was still recording, but we got in contact and he really liked our stuff. I wouldn’t say the bands he recorded in the ’80s are particular inspirations of ours, but it was more of the way he captured what were good live guitar bands, and also the fact that he’s a very song-based producer and good at helping to bring out a band’s sound. Also, he’s good at sifting through songs and turning them into the best pop songs possible. He was given a lot of credit for the massive albums bands like INXS had, as he was able to pick out songs that had potential and take them to the next level. We were happy with the EP recording, but this time we were able to capture more of the live energy of the band. First and foremost our songs are based around playing them live; we don’t want to record with overdubs and there aren’t extra instruments in there padding out the sound. The EP didn’t quite have the same energy, but this time we’ve got that a lot better. I think the drum track for the single was the first take. We set up all our stuff in the room, gave it a run through and [Opitz] was like ‘Okay, that’s the drums done’.”

Triple J have been big supporters of the band, but radio airplay isn’t a make-or-break factor says Cameron.

“Triple J support didn’t happen overnight for us,” he says. “’Hoping For’ was the fifth single we put out. Having said that, Triple J have been supportive of all our things from the start; whether it was on Unearthed or Home & Hosed. There are two approaches that we wanted to avoid. One of those was caring too much about whether Triple J was going to play our songs or not, and pinning all our hopes on that. Triple J support is great, but if you pin all your hopes on it and it doesn’t happen you can be left high and dry, when there are plenty of other avenues to get your music out there. The second approach that some bands take is to be anti-Triple J and don’t want to put their stuff on Unearthed or associated with it. We just make the best songs we can and if Triple J support it so be it, but we’ve got other irons in the fire, and keep pushing ourselves to keep playing live and doing different things. The other thing I’d say is that the band started off not trying to ape any particular genre or make a new sound, but just trying to make really good songs. There are certain touchstones and elements that we reference, but our goal is to write songs that can be appreciated by everyone from the man on the street, to the music critic, to the hipster if you will, to the guitar shop guy. Some of my song-writing idols, from Dylan, Springsteen, Paul Westerberg, Kurt Cobain and Robert Smith; they wrote songs that are appreciated by everyone. That’s our goal as songwriters, and while we’re a long way off achieving that level, if you aim for that other things will follow. We just worry about the song-writing and the rest will take care of itself.”

Upcoming slots at Bleach* Festival and supporting The Scientists will give Queensland fans a chance to catch the band in their natural setting.

“Half the set consists of new songs now,” Cameron says. “We play most of the EP and plenty of new material. The shows are rock ‘n’ roll shows; we don’t go in for smoke machines or giant fans up there. We just really enjoy playing live, especially at the moment. It’s interesting when we play now because people actually know the words to the songs, which is pretty moving and inspiring. Bleach* Festival will be awesome; we’re big fans of Violent Soho. Supporting The Scientists will be one of the highlights of our career so far; we could pretty much pull up stumps and be satisfied. They’re idols of ours, and that might one of the few times I’ll be nervous playing in front of them, not that they’ll even be watching probably. I’m sure their fans will be pretty discerning too, so we’ll certainly want to be on our game.”


Katie Noonan: “A lot of the themes are of sisterhood, solidarity and looking after each other”

katie noonan

WHAT DO YOU GET when you cross a renowned Brisbane singer-songwriter, a contemporary circus group and a slice of lesser-known Australian history?

The answer is ‘Love-Song-Circus’; a show featuring the voice and music of Katie Noonan, the acrobatics of Brisbane’s Circa and a new way of looking at sometimes uncomfortable aspects of our past.

“I was inspired by an exhibition called ‘Love Tokens’ at the National Museum,” Noonan says. “It’s a collection of coins which have beautiful messages on them; inscriptions that convicts would write for the family they were forced to leave behind. The romanticism of that imagery really captured my imagination and I decided I wanted to find out more about these people. As a woman and a mother, I wanted to find out about the stories of the women; stories which have been explored by precious few people. I started a long journey of research into these women’s lives and came up with a song cycle of sixteen pieces that formed the basis of this body of work called Fierce Hearts, which became ‘Love-Song-Circus’ in collaboration with Circa as an ode to these incredible women. It was very different and challenging, but also very rewarding.”

Originally, I wanted to try to find the love letters of the women; to explore their love, lust and longings, and put their words to music. Unfortunately literacy was a gift bestowed generally upon the wealthy and generally men, so many women – particularly convicts – were illiterate. That made me rethink everything. I read lots of books, PHD reports and prison records, then wrote a series of poems which became lyrics to the songs, from the point of view of the women. In doing that, I wanted to make sure everything was factually correct, and I went on trips to get a sense of the physical world they would have seen; places like Tasmania where the bulk of the women went, and around Sydney. A lot of these stories are quite sad, but many of the women overcame adversity and became very strong. They were the original boat people, but they were forced to come here. England and Ireland at the time had incredible poverty and desperation which led to women stealing the loaf of bread, which is the quintessential convict tale. Rather than getting a helping hand they were sent to a place that was so alien to them.”

Joining forces with circus group Circa brought a new aspect to the telling of the stories.

“When I think of modern examples of strong women, I often think of physical theatre and the circus,” Noonan says. “Obviously, contemporary dance and ballet portray the strength of women in a really different way, whereas in circus you have these incredibly strong women in a physical sense. I really admire Circa’s work; I think they take circus work to a different place than most; it’s certainly not from a cabaret or burlesque point of view in any way. The directors come at it from a theatre background and there’s a sense of narrative and drama, and they add a really interesting element to these stories. A lot of the themes are of sisterhood, solidarity and looking after each other, and they are reflected beautifully by the bodies of the women in Circa. It feels like a really lovely combination and has been a successful relationship.”

Performing ‘Love-Song-Circus’ at a series of hometown gigs is just the start of a busy year for Noonan.

“I’m doing lots of writing and working with the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra,” she says. “I’m also writing my next record with my band The Captains, but these songs are my main focus as the album is coming out. We’re opening in Brisbane, then a week at Adelaide Fringe, then Sydney. I’d like to get it to Perth, but my big dream is to bring it to Tasmania, where most of these women were based. In fact, I’d love to do it at the Cascades Female Factory on the earth on which they worked.”


Beth Hart: “Who wants to deal with being a recovering drug addict?”

beth hart

BETH HART is a singer-songwriter, storyteller and survivor all rolled into one.

Hand-picked to play Byron Bay Bluesfest after director Peter Noble saw her earn multiple standing ovations supporting Stephen Stills, the Californian will help the festival mark its 25th year.

“We put on an eclectic show,” she says. “It has blues, jazz, soul, rock ‘n’ roll and some singer-songwriter stuff. I’ll usually play a couple of songs from all my past records and then focus on the last two or three. There’ll be lots of energy and hopefully it’ll be a good time. I do a different show every night anyway, so it’s fun to play with it at a festival. I’ll watch the audience a little bit and kind of get a feel for what the vibe is or what kind of festival it is. Then we’ll work up a set before we go out and hope it works. It really drives some of my band members crazy when I change things around halfway through, but it’s important to be in tune with what’s going on, put on a good show and give people what they want. If I get the feeling they’re wanting something a bit harder or more aggressive I’ll change the set and throw something else out.”

As she speaks candidly about her past battles with the addictions that sent her spiralling out of control and saw her spend a stint in jail, Hart remains pleasingly upbeat.

“It’s a one day at a time thing,” she says. “Thanks to being involved with people that have come before me and have gotten sober I’ve had a lot of help. It’s been a little over thirteen years since I took drugs, thank God. I still have my little slip-ups here and there with alcohol but I’m healthy and married to a wonderful man, and I thank God I still get to make music and I’m still really excited about it. In the last couple of years I’ve gone in some different directions as a writer and that’s been really challenging in a good way. When I was on drugs it had got so bad that I wasn’t able to leave the house. When I was going through early recovery I had agoraphobia, so it was definitely a rough recovery, but I think that’s what’s kept me from ever going back. I would never survive it again. Is there a part of me that wishes it never happened? Sure. Who wants to deal with being a recovering drug addict; it never really goes away, but I think of it as a real gift and I mean that. It’s an opportunity to share something and they are the points in my life when I lean on people I love and my ego gets smashed. It’s like ‘holy crap, what am I going to do?’ It changed me and it still does, but the changes I’ve found are things like the ability to care for other people who are struggling instead of judging. It’s been a blessing.”

Since becoming sober, Hart’s resumé boasts a series of A-list collaborations with Slash, Jeff Beck and Buddy Guy, and two albums with guitarist Joe Bonamassa.

“It just kind of clicks with Joe,” she says. “He and I really get off on similar genres of music. We both feel very passionately about the music, and when it comes to the songs that we chose for the Don’t Explain and Seesaw records we were both so invested in trying to bring something that was honest. I love him for that; he has such integrity and total commitment. I think he’s such a great artist; just fucking fantastic.”

Another positive aspect of having a sober and rehabilitated Beth Hart back in business is the prolific nature of her musical output.

“I’m making a new record in August with Rob Mathes,” she says. “I should be making another record with Joe Bonamassa a little bit after that, while simultaneously writing the following record after that as well, as it’s going to be with Kevin Shirley instead of Rob Mathes. So I’ll be doing lots and lots of writing in the upcoming months, which I love, so I’m having a good time and it’s flowing. There’s nothing worse than trying to write and being in one of those stalemates where I can’t move or come up with a thought; that’s always terrifying. I’m having a good time with that right now. I’m going to be touring, making a record, and then back to touring in the fall. That’s how I make my living; lots of time on the road. Last year I got a bit run down, so I took off with my instruments into the mountains where there was no TV or anything like that. Getting away from everything and everybody was really helpful for me. I’d never really rejuvenated like that before.”

Despite mixing it with big names in North America, it’s in New Zealand where Hart has had her biggest chart success to date, hitting the top spot in 1999 with single ‘LA Song (Out Of This Town)’. Her explanation for her success there?

“Oh God, I would be the last person to ask that,” she says. “I have no idea; I’m just happy when we can connect in some way.”


Cut Chemist of Jurassic 5: “We’re not just phoning it in”

cut chemist

WITH WOUNDS HEALED and lessons learned, Jurassic 5 are back and better than ever, explains DJ Cut Chemist (Lucas MacFadden).

“[Getting back together] was super-easy and amazing,” he says. “It was like no time had passed. The magic we had on stage ten years ago never went away. We got an offer from Coachella, who were interested in getting Jurassic 5 back together and having us perform. I think it was the perfect timing as everybody had done their own solo things and were ready to come back together and do something. The fact that they asked us at that time was kind of perfect timing for everybody, and everybody was up for it.”

The alternative hip-hop group formed in California in 1993, but split in 2007 amid rumours of the dreaded “musical differences”.

“They just didn’t get along at that time,” says Cut Chemist. “I left in 2004, and I read it somewhere in an interview and I was heartbroken. I had my own solo career during the split; I had a deal with Warner Brothers at the time, and put an album out through them. I toured a lot for the Hard Sell album with DJ Shadow in 2008, and in 2009 I worked on a project called Sound Of The Police, which came out in 2010. After that we started talking about the reunion, which then happened in 2013. It’s been a year now and it’s been great; one hundred percent. People can’t be cynical about it because we’ve done so many different shows, not just big festivals. I think there was some talk in the beginning about us just doing it for this or that reason, but we’re doing it because we love it and when you see our show you can tell that we’re not just phoning it in.”

With a diverse group of members featuring five rappers and two DJs vying for creative input, it would be easy to suggest that the reunion will be a short-term one. Not so, says Cut Chemist.

“I think any past disagreements became irrelevant,” he says. “It had just been so long, and people doing their own thing outside the group gave them the perspective of what they can do on their own and what they bring to the group. I think the split reinforced everybody’s idea of themselves and it’s given us a more professional approach this time around. We’ll be taking it year by year, you know? As long we have a project and work to do this year we’re good. Last year was the reunion, and this year it’s to expand the brand and get it back up and running, and continue re-establishing ourselves. Next year it could be anything, and I couldn’t say right now, but we’re not just going to go dark again. J5 is a strong brand and we want to keep it going for the rest of our lives, and any way we need to do that we’ll do it; whether it’s touring here and there, putting out product, videos and documentaries or whatever. It’s something we don’t want to die.”

The group may have an EP and four albums worth of material to play live, but new tracks can be expected in the coming months.

“We got something coming out,” says Cut Chemist. “We have a single that may or may not be ready by the time we get out there, but it will be some time this year. We don’t know about anything bigger yet. Right now we’re just trying to take baby steps towards locking our show down and our touring down, then we’ll work on putting out some music and see how that goes. Not only has our music changed in terms of technology [since 2007], but in the way people buy music too. We come from a day and an age when people bought the product in a case, but in the age of free downloads and singles content we’re trying to figure out how we can adjust, and that’s what this year is going to be about.”

Australian fans can catch Jurassic 5 in March during a five-date tour; something Cut Chemist is looking forward to.

“Australia has always been one of the best places to tour, no matter if it was Jurassic 5, with DJ Shadow or myself,” he says. “I’m just looking forward to being out there and digging the shows, because I think people are going to go crazy over the show; it’s going to be nuts. I just can’t wait to see the support and excitement we get from the Australian audiences, because you guys get wild. Expect a very entertaining show that encompasses a lot of the elements of hip-hop; DJ-ing, creativity onstage, and all the different things coming together. We’ll be bringing in a lot of new sounds; we’re not stuck in the time when we were making music before; DJ Nu-Mark and I try to mix it up a little bit. Anyone who has seen Jurassic 5 in the past won’t be disappointed.”


Stephen K. Amos: “I’m going to tell you what I want”


AUSTRALIA can’t get enough of Stephen K. Amos, but there’s one thing he wants to clear up.

“I met an Australian outside a show in London a few days ago,” he says. “And he just went ‘Oh my God, I didn’t know you lived in England!’ Of course I live in England! When I’m in Australia I tend to do a lot of television shows in a short space of time, and they get shown throughout the year, so people assume I actually live in Australia and everything is live.”

While television appearances will likely feature, a new stand-up show is the main reason for the Londoner’s visit this time around. “My new show is full of belly laughs and I like to throw a couple of things out into the audience to get their reactions,” he says.

“If anything happens in the audience or the venue and it’s funny or worthwhile I’ll run with it. The show is tentatively entitled ‘What Does The K Stand For?’ and it will basically answer all the questions that people ask me. I get asked the same sort of things that anyone would get asked; if someone has a funny name, looks a different way, is from a different place, or has different religious points of view and beliefs. I also get asked if I’m in a relationship, so I’ll be talking about break-ups and make-ups. I’ll also be looking at mortality, as I’ve done some calculations and worked out that I’m halfway through my life already.”

While generally known for his black humour and observational comedy, Amos’ new material is of a more personal nature than anything he’s performed before. “I was dumped rather grandly a couple of years ago. I didn’t see it coming at all, and I was given those ‘it’s stopped being fun’ and ‘it’s not you, it’s me’ lines. I thought it was all bullshit and crap, and I’m sure a lot of other people have been through that as well. We’ve all had relationships and know what it’s like to be loved and fall out of love. One of the questions I ask is, ‘is it better to be the dumper or the dumpee?’ I never seek permission from any of the people I talk about on stage. It’s up to me; if I was involved, that makes it my story.”

When asked if he has any regrets about switching from a potential career in law to one in comedy, the 43-year-old answers strongly. “Comedy is the one job in the world I can think of where you can say exactly what you want. There are no set regulations or compliance laws.

“With being a lawyer, the chances are you’ll be defending someone you know to be guilty or cross-examining someone you know to be innocent. It always makes me laugh when I see people’s Twitter accounts and they have ‘these views are my own’ on there. Oh, really? You had to put that there? Do we not all have a personal life any more? You’ll never see me saying anything like that. If I go to my bank manager to ask about a loan or something, they’ll tell me what the bank wants them to tell me. If you come see my show, I’m not going to tell you what you might think I’m going to tell you, I’m going to tell you what I want.”

Despite not actually living here, Amos keeps an eye out for anything topical he can add to his Australian shows, while avoiding other aspects of tour life. “I did shows last year in Australia, just at the moment when the battle for leadership between Rudd and Gillard was happening. That was such good fun as it was so ridiculous. I still can’t believe Julia Gillard was challenged for her leadership and they took it to a vote; only in Australia could this happen.

“When I’m doing festivals overseas a lot of comedians tend to hang out together. Bearing in mind that doing a festival means you’re away from home and loved ones, so the only people you know well are the people you’ve worked with for a number of years. The one thing we don’t do, which would be very annoying, is to sit around trying to out-joke each other. That would be unbearable. I’m currently on tour in the UK now, and finishing in February. I’m doing another radio series at the same time, and putting the final pieces together for the tour in Australia. After that, it’s back to the UK for another show, then a tour of America.”

Stephen K. Amos has the following Australian shows:

Feb 12-16, 18-20 – Adelaide Fringe at The Governor Hindmarsh
Feb 26-28, Mar 1-2, 4-10 – Brisbane Comedy Festival at the Powerhouse Theatre
Mar 12-16 – Adelaide Fringe at The Arts Theatre
Mar 17 – Adelaide Fringe at The Governor Hindmarsh
Mar 23 – Geelong Performing Arts Centre
Mar 24 – Frankston Arts Centre
Mar 28-30, April 1-6, 8-13, 15-21 – Melbourne International Comedy Festival Athenaeum Theatre
May 9-11 – Sydney Comedy Festival at Enmore Theatre
May 16-18 – Perth Comedy Festival at Astor Main Space

Stella Mozgawa of Warpaint: “We’re still learning from our mistakes”

stella mozgawa

PLAYING new songs live for the first time never gets any easier, explains Warpaint drummer Stella Mozgawa.

“We played our first show in New York two nights ago and it was pretty nerve-wracking,” she says. “There were definitely a few band members ready to throw up at the drop of a hat. There’s always anxiety, but we survived, and we’re still learning from our mistakes, so this time around we know how much preparation goes into executing something like that.”

Warpaint’s excellent new self-titled album – only the Los Angeles quartet’s second since their 2004 formation – sees the band’s sound evolving in unexpected ways.

“It’s a little bit different to our last record,” says Mozgawa. “We weren’t really a fully functioning live band when we recorded before. We spent about two-and-a-half years promoting that record and performing live, and finding out the type of band that we actually were, just naturally throughout that process. I think during the whole process of touring the last album and then working out what we would want to do for the next one we realised that we wanted more space in our music.”

“I feel that the first record has a lot of excitement in it, but it’s a lot of teenage excitement and it’s not very measured. When we wrote the new songs they kind of went somewhere else, and we wanted to maintain the focus, but it’s hard to say what they’re like stylistically, as every song is a bit different. The album is just the most natural expression of who we are as a band at this very moment. It’s been called minimalist, and that was intentional I guess; to do things a bit differently, but I don’t think there was necessarily a strong, overriding theme of minimalism. That’s just what we found worked at the time, but we are still a band very conscious of not being over-produced and still having that natural element. Minimalism certainly has a lot to do with how we operate. We recorded it in Echo Park, Los Angeles, at a studio called Fivestar, and we mixed the majority at Assault and Battery in London, which is our producer’s home studio.”

Despite the clear vision the band had for the album, they found that one final ingredient was missing. Enter English producer Nigel Godrich, sometimes referred to as the “sixth member” of Radiohead.

“I think we got to a point towards the end of the mixing process with two songs – ‘Love Is To Die’ and ‘Feeling Alright’ – where we really needed some kind of objectivity, as we had been living with the album for many, many months,” says Mozgawa. “We needed someone who could see it from another angle, and we were really lucky to have Nigel available to us to do that. He’s really much more of an artist than a producer, and he made a real difference to those two songs.”

Not satisfied with simply releasing an album and embarking on a world tour at the same time, an upcoming documentary will accompany the album, which Mozgawa says will show the band in a new light.

“There are little pieces of it being released systematically over the next few months. It will tie in to the different elements; from the single release onwards. Eventually it will be a fully-formed piece. It’s being done by Chris Cunningham, who doesn’t do things in an obvious way, ever. It’s going to be more of an art-form that a conventional documentary; quite personal and something a little bit different.”

As part of their world tour, the band will make the trip to Australia to vie for audience attention as part of a stellar indie-rock Laneway Festival line-up, among the likes of Lorde, Haim, Kurt Vile and The Jezabels.

“We played Laneway three years ago and came back in July of that year as well, and we’re a different band in many ways,” she says. “We’ll be playing new songs as well as old, and hopefully people will have heard the new album before we come.”


Mark Hosking of Karnivool: “It was a nice cap on what has been a very busy year”


THEIR LATEST ALBUM might have won them an ARIA, but don’t expect Karnivool to go changing to try to please us, says guitarist Mark Hosking.

“I certainly didn’t expect it to happen with this band, you know?” he says. “We were nominated for a couple, I think, and hard rock is such a weird area. We don’t even really define ourselves as hard rock, and it’s hard to say what we even are. The new album is quite challenging, but we don’t make apologies for that as it’s part of what we do. I think all awards need to be taken with a little bit of humble pie, but it’s a nice accomplishment. You never know how these things are going to go, so it was a nice cap on what has been a very busy year.”

More than four years in the making, the Perth quintet’s third full-length record sees the band once again pushing the boundaries of rock music.

Asymmetry is a continuation of the journey that this band is on,” Hosking says. “We’ve always said we’re never going to do the same album twice. With this one we really had a chance to try a few things we’ve never tried before. The process of taking a long time to write music, turning every stone over and making sure we always find something we can use to our advantage is just the next phase of how we’re trying to be creative with this band. If we had our way we’d do an album every year, but we just know that’s not physically possible with the kind of stuff we’re doing. We do need time to breathe, and to be honest there are a couple of songs on the album that have come together in weeks, and others that have taken six to seven months. We’re happy because if we wanted to change it we could, but we seem to keep falling back to this period of time which tends to be around three to four years, when it feels like it’s cooked, if you know what I mean.”

Australian fans won’t have to wait long to see the band, with a national tour locked in for January.

“We definitely back our live show,” he says. “It’s something we feel is strong and we love to do it. There’s always trepidation about how new songs will be received; some people are going to like them and some people aren’t. On the live front, some people hear the more challenging songs and it clicks, or they get it more when they hear it live. We know that live, we have a better chance of getting our music across to people and they can better understand what you’re trying to do.”

Despite the ARIA win and plenty of recognition at home and abroad, Hosking is clear that the band won’t be resting on it’s laurels.

“We’ve just had a discussion about what’s happening in 2014,” he says. “It’s all a bit of a balancing act as we all have other things going on in our lives now and we’re no spring chickens any more. In saying that, we’ve made a big commitment to tour, tour, tour this album hard. We’ll be doing at least another run around Australia. There are some festivals overseas, more European action, and hopefully we’ll be getting to the States, as we’ve promised so many people we will. Around that, we’ll be trying to get these new ideas out of our heads and starting to form the next album.”


Record review: The Rusty Datsuns – Riverbank (2013 LP)

This long-awaited debut album from The Rusty Datsuns has roots in the 2011 floods, when the Brisbane trio played tunes to keep their spirits up as the rising water lapped at the door of their Queenslander. Deeply rooted in traditional bluegrass and folk, but with a delicately jaunty modern vibe, Riverbank is a homely and engaging collection of songs put together by members of local acts Bessy-Lou, These Dirty Bones and Chocolate Strings. The circumstances of the band’s formation is telling in tracks like galloping instrumental ‘Let It Rain’ and the excellent title track, and the vocal harmonies on ‘Pastis’ and
playful piano tinkling on ‘Porcelain’ are more than impressive, while closer ‘Billy Bob’ injects a dose of stomp into proceedings. The overall positive approach to song-writing gives the album a warm and welcoming feel, making this the type of stuff best enjoyed with a dark oak ale in your hand and a piece of straw hanging from your grinning mouth.

Interview: The Orb


Legendary ambient house godfathers The Orb are celebrating their 25th year in the business with the release of a brand new reggae-infused album and tour.

More Tales From The Orbservatory is your twelfth studio album. How does it sound compared to your previous work?

Warmer, fatter, more 23rd century and less 20th century; an Orb take on the future sounds of dub.

What was working with Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry on your last two albums like?

It was a real pleasure to work with the genius that is ‘Scratch’. The Upsetter was full of rhythm and sound. He was a constant source of vocal heaven. We completed 17 tracks in 3 days and that is a world record for The Orb. 

How did the collaboration with Perry come about?

From my DJ connection with Lee. I had played on the same line-up in various countries around the world: Mexico, Finland and the UK. 

Did you work with anybody else on the album?

We used a track from earlier sessions we had been working on in a side project called ‘Mad Orb’ and placed Lee’s vocals over the top. 

How aware were you of the fact you were inventing a new genre of music when you first started making ambient house?

We needed to get a name before the press labelled us something horrible. So we invented our own name and gave it to our music so people would remember us by that title. I have to say that was the idea; we never thought it would take off as well as it did!

What are your overriding memories of the early ‘90s, when ‘U.F.Orb’ reached number one in the UK?

Glastonbury headlining on the NME stage and recording in Jamaica . 

What would it take for an album in that style to get that high in the charts today? Do you think it’s possible?

No comment. No one actually buys music. Interesting thought. Will football end up free one day? 

Where did the fascination with alien and space sounds in your music come from?

As a child, I grew up as the Americans landed on the moon (I was 9). The Russian space program was also of interest with my air fix kit.

How has your approach to making music changed since The Orb first started?

It’s faster, fatter, warmer, more thought out and matted out in a true Swiss/ Scottish style . 

You’ve worked with some big names, like David Gilmour. Who would be your ideal artist to make a track with?

Teebs or Kutmah.

What can fans expect from your upcoming world tour?

Old tracks played in a new style for the first time in ages. ‘Toxygene’ and ‘Slug Dub’ are but two. Let it be a surprise, but I doubt it. People want to know these days what they’re paying for in advance, but I promise you, this is the best sound we have ever had. So come along and be impressed. 

Has the importance of playing live shows increased or decreased in the last 20 years?

Increased twentyfold. 

The Orb Headline Rainbow Serpent, Lexton Victoria, January 24-27. http://www.rainbowserpent.net

Director Jon S. Baird: “I didn’t want to be a slave to the tapeworm, you know?”

filth director

JON S. BAIRD’S decision to write and direct a film based on an Irvine Welsh novel could be called a crazy brave move.

Based on the Trainspotting author’s book of the same name, Filth tells the dark and twisted story of crooked Edinburgh cop Bruce Roberton’s bid to secure promotion amid his descent into drug-ravaged, sexually-depraved madness.

“I was introduced to Irvine through a mutual friend at the book launch for Crime, the follow-up to Filth,” he says. “We were both pretty drunk at the time and the first thing I said to him was I think Filth is his best book, it was the first one I read and I’d love to do it, just as an off-hand comment. That was back in 2008. Someone else had the rights at the time, and I think there had four previous attempts to do it, all of which didn’t work for one reason or another. The first thing we said was that at its heart it should be a very dark comedy. The book is funny, but also so dark that we needed to give the film some sort of empathy with Bruce and we started that with comedy.”

The film stars X-Men’s James McAvoy in the lead role alongside Imogen Poots, Jamie Bell and Jim Broadbent.

“It was weird because before we cast James, he was probably the last person we thought was going to be Bruce,” Baird says. “We’d looked at his other roles and we thought he didn’t seem right. Then when we met him he just blew us away, he’s such a clever and edgy guy. Irvine has gone on record to say that of every character he has created that have been translated onto the screen, James’s portrayal of Bruce is the most like what he had in his mind, and there’s some pretty big company to keep there. That says it all really, if Irvine is saying that about you.”

Finding the middle ground between the literal filth of the book and that which is suitable for a film audience was an added challenge for the Scottish director.

“I didn’t want to be a slave to the tapeworm, you know?” he says. “I wanted to include it, because it’s such a big part of the book, but it was never a stress or anything like that. We decided quickly that we’re going to personify the tapeworm, we’re going to take the doctor from the book who is looking after Bruce’s physical ailments and involve him in more of a psychological decline. His conscience in the book is the tapeworm, and we added that to the doctor to make a psychiatrist. Irvine gives you the best characters and dialogue in the world, but he doesn’t give you the clearest of narratives, which was a challenge. If the book was sanitised too much I’d have been absolutely murdered, and if it was a literal translation nobody would have gone to see it. The litmus test was Irvine himself. He was the first person I showed it to, and thankfully he liked it, and that gave me confidence to go on. Obviously when you’re making the film, there’s a whole new challenge to bring it off the page.”

“The scene that James thought the hardest to shoot was the one with the young girl in the bedroom, but I wanted to give him as much reassurance that it wasn’t going to come across as harsh as it felt on the day. There’s always an element with Bruce that the joke is on him, and that scene could have been a hell of a lot darker. My favourite is the scene where Bruce and Amanda are on the staircase; the part where they’re arguing to-and-fro, and then they get to the bottom and there’s a big explosion of emotion and insanity. We could tell on the day we shot that by the crew’s reactions that this was a good scene.”

Working with Irvine Welsh has had some side benefits for a director relatively new to the business.

“Throughout the process we’ve became very good pals,” he says. “In the next few days we’re going off to Japan to do some of the press over there, and it doesn’t feel like a work trip at all; more like a boys’ holiday together. He’s became such a good mentor, for want of a better word. He’s 55 going on 15, and is such a sweet, self-effacing guy and very unlike what people think he’s going to be, myself included. He’s just a really solid human being, and I don’t know where all his stuff comes from to be honest. He gave a lot of emotional support throughout the process, but wasn’t massively involved – apart from writing the book obviously!”


Record review: Old Man Luedecke – Tender Is The Night (2013, LP)

This fifth album from Chris ‘Old Man’ Luedecke is rooted firmly in the traditional folk and country genres the Juno Award-winning Canadian singer-songwriter and banjo player has made his trademark. Recorded in four days in Nashville, Tender Is The Night sees Luedecke packing literary references ranging from Herman Melville to F. Scott Fitzgerald and the New Testament into thirteen songs, while switching moods between jauntily upbeat (as on ‘Tortoise and the Hare’) and the melancholia of the title track. Grammy-winner Tim O’Brien not only produces but adds tasteful mandolin and violin touches throughout, allowing Luedecke to explore new musical and lyrical territory. “I’m angry and bathed in fire,” he sings on ‘Long Suffering Jesus’, but when harsh words are accompanied with such playful banjo lines it’s hard to react to these songs with anything but a tapping foot and a smile. Forget Mumford; this is banjo music the way it should be.

Interview: Old Man Luedecke

old man lued

At 37, Chris ‘Old Man’ Luedecke isn’t exactly old. He is, however, a Juno Award-winning singer, songwriter and banjo player from Nova Scotia who will tour Australia throughout November in support of Jordie Lane.

At what age did you start playing music, and how did you settle on the banjo as your instrument of choice?

Pretty early. My parents had me in a program called Kinder Musik in Toronto at four or so. We played glockenspiels and sang nursery rhymes. I played and loved the clarinet and piano through grade school and high school. I gave up music, I thought, when I did a lit degree but I was playing banjo and writing songs two months after graduation. I don’t remember singing until I met my wife. We had an early date where we drove a borrowed ’60s Chevy pick-up on the Top Of The World highway to Alaska from Dawson City one night and I sang her every song I knew.

What can Australian fans expect from an Old Man Luedecke show in 2013?

Great stories and tunes. Thumping foot and rhythm with sparkling banjo, catchy melodies and thought-provoking lyrics.

Recording your new album Tender Is The Night took just four days in Nashville. How intentional was that?

I’ve always worked pretty quickly in the studio because I tend to arrive with finished songs that I can already play myself. Nashville wasn’t much different, but the cats were really heavy and I was able to get comfortable quickly. I really like the live sound of my records. They’re not over-thought, they just sound like people making music with my tunes.

Your songs reveal your fondness for language and literature. What literary influences went into this album?

Well, off the top of my head there’s Melville, Tom Paine, the Bible, Aesop’s Fables, John Prine, Robert Service, Walt Whitman, Ginsberg…