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Baptism of Uzi

Nice to see that Stray Current by Baptism of Uzi is getting a good airing on Triple J (and Triple R)
It’s the lead track off an EP I mixed for them…out next month I think. The other tracks are fine specimens too.

What a lovely snare sound!

In other news…Fire! Santa Rosa, Fire! are finally making Codebreaker available for download via iTunes. It’s on Spotify too.

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Those punctuation crazy Adeladians “Fire! Santa Rosa, Fire!” have let loose the wonderful new track “Codebreaker.” It’s already been picked up by a very keen Triple J- added to their full rotation playlist. Yay. We tracked it at Melbourne’s Soundpark studios with a few extra parpy bits added by Eagle and The Worm’s horn section.
Check it out here.

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New Releases…

Exciting stuff going down…

Big Scary released their debut album “Vacation” and the country’s gone nuts for it. Triple J made it their feature album and added the track ‘Gladiator’ to their playlist. Tom and Jo showcase their comedic acting talents in the video.

Fire! Santa Rosa, Fire! released the single “Panther Shrine”- it’s grouse. I’m looking forward to recording the follow up very soon.

So that’s two of my babies in the current Triple J playlist…woohoo. (I’m more of a Triple R man myself, but don’t tell anyone)

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Big Sound 2011

I’m very excited to be on a few panels at this year’s Big Sound music conference at Brisbane. I was there last year as a punter and have to say it was a great few days.

The topics I’ve been asked to mouth off about are “The Song Is God” and “Making Records For The World”.

As a Militant Atheist I was slightly concerned when I first heard the title “The Song Is God”…

I guess the “Song” shares many qualities with this so-called God I’ve heard about. Both are mysterious, mean different things to different people. And many wise men have lost themselves searching for them. Though I’m not sure too many wars have been fought in the name of “Song” (Mods and Rockers, Brighton 1964 may disagree.)

What makes a great song? To be honest if there was a simple answer, life would be dull. I’m happy to admit there is NO formula. I’m a keen student of Bill Drummond and Jimmy Cauty’s book “The Manual- How To Have A Number One Hit Single”, in which they propose a step-by-step formula of how to construct a sure-fire number one. It is an entertaining and humorous read though of course it’s flawed- there are no GOLDEN RULES. The rules are constantly being re-written and what works today, will not work tomorrow. And that’s what makes music continually exciting.

My job as a producer is to ensure the song is served to the best of its potential.

With a great song, this task is easy. You can give a great song a million different treatments and the song remains a winner. Equally with a dog of a song, you will never succeed. Polishing the proverbial…etc etc.

For me, it’s those songs that lie in the middle that deserve my time. Tweaking a song that starts out with limited potential by making arrangement changes, edits and other production ideas and ending up with an improved record.

“Making Records For The World” implies that one should tailor ones songs for international success. I may play the devils advocate on this one and suggest that aiming for overseas success is a mistake- in fact aiming for any success is a mistake. The effort should be make the band as good as possible. Success will follow. It’s a small world these days- good shit gets noticed. A huge amount of money is spunked on prematurely sending a band overseas.

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Melbourne….

I’m heading back to London/Wales for a wee trip home very soon- I’m missing it quite a bit at the mo. I thought I should put together a list of  5 things I will miss about Melbourne.

1.Cycling.

I’ve taken to two-wheeled transport of late. I’d love to say it’s for green reasons- price of petrol, zero pollutant, fitness etc but lets be honest. It’s the best way to get back from the pub. I’ve absolutely never been one for driving under the influence but Melbourne’s cycle lanes, fairly empty streets and over-priced taxis all point to the modern penny farthing as the finest mode of transport.

2. Indie Schmindie Gigs.

This goes hand in hand with cycling. Jump on the bike and end up in a small venue somewhere in the near North (Northcote/Brunswick/Fitzroy etc) in a venue full of maybe 20 cross-legged indie kids. The entertainment is perhaps a touring international singer/songwriter who is sleeping on the promoter’s coach. Very Melbourne.

3.Fruity beer.

Fat Yak, Little Creatures, Mountain Goat etc.

4.Not having a TV.

I’ve lived for the last 6 months without a TV cos, lets face it, Australian TV is utter cunt. (Thankfully VPN means I can get BBC iPlayer and Spotify on my laptop…)

5.Coffee.

A terrible cliché but true. Melburnians make a decent beany brew. I’m looking forward to a proper cup of tea though (another cliché- well done me.)

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Possibly the strangest thing that as ever happened (or will ever happen) to me in the recording studio, happened last week. I was sitting at the console, when “water” started dripping from the ceiling onto the desk- I was in Brisbane recording a splendid band called Big Scary. We were enjoying the Queensland climate, though there had been some heavy Autumn showers that day, so I immediately thought- Jeepers, the roof is leaking…and the desk is getting wet- I should protect it by throwing myself between the torrent and this precious equipment…

Hmmm….it was soon pointed out that, in fact it was not raining outside, and the “rain” was indeed YELLOW.

A possum was pissing on me.

Yes…A POSSUM was PISSING on me…in the studio…at the mixing desk.

I am quite certain I will never say this sentence again, but I thought I should share it with you as a form of psychotherapy.

A family of friendly, if somewhat bladder-happy marsupials were living in the loft-space directly above the recording console and the inadequate ceiling tiles proved scant protection from their golden showers.

The Possum Patrol (a funny little chap like a cross between Saxondale and Steve Irwin) was called and within 12 hours of committing the crime, the culprit was banged up behind bars (lured by the scent of a Royal Gala.)

I feel quite bad that the poor little fellow had to spend a night in the cage but Australian law insists that seized possums are released within 30 meters of their capture- so perhaps the next engineer to work at Airlock studios will have a similar tale. *

(*Actually- all holes in the roof were fixed and made possum proof. It’s an excellent studio- don’t let this yarn deter you.)

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Myspace is dead to me.

I’ve decided I’m not going to bother with it anymore. I’ll happily admit there was a time when I was addicted to it, but like a smug ex-smoker I feel disgusted at the slightest whiff of it these days.

My main gripe is its crappy pound-store appearance. It looks vile- it somehow manages to be both plain and corporate whilst displaying a disorganised spew of disparate buttons, banners, and animated nonsense. It’s like the body of a tattoo addict who’s gone way too far- one step away from the spider-web face.

As a music producer, it’s always been my first port of call when checking out a new recommendation- and it was truly revolutionary. The hours I would waste fishing for fresh blood, expanding my friend-list, updating my blogs etc… It sucked my soul for a good few years but it felt pretty special. It makes me wonder what else I will fall out of love with. Does everything we hold dear eventually lose its appeal? Will I wake up one day and decide I don’t like curry anymore? Or Quincy? Or God forbid, beer?

We all saw it coming didn’t we…

The moment Murdoch’s name was linked to it, we should have bailed out then. How could someone responsible for Sky News really understand this community? The answer was- they obviously didn’t. In it for a quick buck and the kudos they quickly realised the only way to monetise it is was by plastering animated ads (for shit I’m never going to buy). And don’t even get me started on the spam….

So good-bye my old friend. I’m not going to delete my pages (I have 3…) I’ll just let them lie dormant- rotting, as the nettles and weeds grow through the cracks, the rats move in and tramps use it for a khazi. Maybe I’ll pop by in a few years to see how the old neighbourhood looks, but for now, I’m leaving town….

So where to now for decent music communities on the interweb? Let me know…

Soundcloud? Yeah, good for sharing files but not really the all-round razamatazz –‘arent my band great.’ showcase thing that Myspace once was.

Bandcamp’s not bad but it feels a bit like an internet start-up company run by a couple of students…

Then there’s this little website called Facebook that sounds like it might be going places. It’s taken over every other aspect of society – why should music be any different?  Now I just need to decide if giving my private information to the CIA is any better than Murdoch….mwah, we’re all doomed.

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The Melbourne Summer

The Melbourne Summer …..I was promised eternal sunshine, an umbrella-free existence, a diet of barbecues and endless ice-cream….hmmm. I think I was sold a dud.

So it’s January, I’m here on a drizzly grey day, waiting for a break in the downpour. I’ve been here for 11 months now, and despite my bitching about the bleedin’ weather, it’s a splendid place to be. With a new year there comes all the obvious stuff; resolutions (I’m off the grog ‘til Australia Day); looking backward; looking forward; re-assessing; plotting and planning. It feels like 2011 is going to be a good one. Last year was a bit weird- very transitional- too much change, but now it’s all getting settled and nicely falling into place.

Looking back to 2010 for a mo. My end of year Top 5 albums is not particularly ground-breaking…And it’s not like anyone needs to read another list in their lives so if your life is too short for another nobody’s opinions, please leave now….go on, read a book or something, I really don’t mind………….are you still here?

Ok- My favourite albums were all by old(ish) bands. No debuts. And I’ve not strayed too far away from a lot of the other lists out there. Does that make me un-original? Or in-tune with the masses? Or are these just the best records? Anyway….

  • Number 1 – Arcade Fire :The Suburbs (after the average Neon Bible and seeing them do a lame Brixton Academy show, I really went off them. But this sucked me right back in).
  • Number 2 – Belle & Sebastian : Write About Love (again, I love them but their previous 3 albums left me cold. They’re back yay! And here in March).
  • Number 3 – Foals : Total Life Forever (despite having worked on their first couple of singles, I reckon I only listened to their first album a handful of times,  it was a let-down, a real under-achievement but this baby is another level altogether. Finally Yannis is focussing on vocals and melody. I think they are a band that will keep getting better- til their heads explode…)
  • Number 4 – LCD Soundsystem: This Is Happening (not their finest moment but pretty close. Their final album? Maybe?)
  • Number 5 –  Holy Fuck: Latin (or as 6Music like to call them, Holy F. A friend pointed out, if that’s the case, what does the M in Boney M stand for? I’d love to think they were really called Boney Minge). So there you go.


Other news….The end of January finally sees the release of the 3rd Go! Team record ‘Rolling Blackouts’ – some good reviews coming through already. It was one of the last things I worked on in the UK. There’s a preview teaser video here

Also Norwich sweet-hearts ‘Bearsuit’ have scheduled a release date (14th March) for their new album (Phantom Forest on Fortuna Pop Records). The first couple of singles ‘Please Don’t Take Him Back’ and ‘A Train Wreck’ have been getting plenty of attention from BBC’s 6music and Radio 1- they bloody deserve it. Top people.

Ok, the sun is coming out, I’m off to buy a brolly…..

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ps. Anyone seen the new Cornetto advert on TV? I’m not normally one for product placement but I produced the music for it. Johnny Rock and The Limits – ‘Give You What You Need’ – now where’s my endless ice-cream?

pps. I didn’t even mention the cricket.

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So I feel like I should review last week’s Splendour In The Grass experience. Hey- it’s social media….everyone’s a music journalist/rock critic these days….

The first thing that hit me when we got there was how chilled and relaxed the whole affair was. It is Australia after all.

The second thing that hit me was how anal and uptight the whole affair was. It is Australia after all.

Confused? Me too. The whole (dare I use the word) vibe was (dare I use the word) chilled … but jeez, what’s with the nazi-no-alcohol thing for fucks sake? We are (mostly) all adults here and can handle our grog. To go through the drama of buying “vouchers” and queuing up for our overpriced 3.5% piss was pretty lame. That’s where my criticism ends…

All other aspects of the festival were pretty much spot on. The line up was top-shelf. And I’m very happy with my decision to hire a campervan rather than do the tent thing…

Like most festivals I seem to go to, a lot of the pre-event bands I get excited about and write down on my ‘must see’ list (Foals/Midlake/Grizzly Bear/Broken Social Scene), are never a reality when I get there. (It was the same at last year’s Green Man). My excuses for not seeing them this time are:
  1. Clashing timings (seeing Hot Chip/missing Midlake- wrong decision apparently),
  2. Quickly popping back to the campsite ”it won’t take long, honest”. (missing Grizzly Bear)
  3. Or most annoyingly- being stuck in traffic on the motorway and arriving too late (missing Foals by minutes grrrr). Obviously i was particularly disappointed to miss them but at least I’d seen them play a stormer earlier in the week at The HiFi in Melbourne.

So what did I see? LCD Soundsystem….oh yes. What a marvellous, cynical, exhausted, twisted genius James Murphy is. He’s going to knock it on the head after this tour and bury LCD for good. You could tell he was over it- and it made for a great show. He really didn’t want to tell us again that Daft fucking Punk had been playing at his house- cos we knew that. The new album stuff sounded inspired. The percussion and synth extravaganzas blew me away….He’s not losing his edge but I totally respect he wants to finish before he does.

On Saturday I was determined not to miss The John Steel Singers – I only came across them very recently…they’re from Brisbane I think, so maybe the large crowd they had were cos they were local boys but I have to say I really loved it. They finished with what seemed like a 25 minute version of the finely named ‘Rainbow Kraut’, which could easily have gone on for another 25 minutes. Definitely the best ‘new’ thing I discovered.

Now I’m going to add to the already hideous amount of column inches written about the next thing I saw. I’ve not been able to pick up a paper or read a review about Splendour without everyone gushing about how great this set was….??? I thought it was utter balls. Florence + her machine. Smoke and mirrors- where’s the tunes? Padding out non-songs with wailing and tippy-toe flouncy dancing. If I had an annoying older sister, she would be her. Toyah Wilcox meets….Toyah Wilcox. She doesn’t have a great voice…she has a strong voice. She can belt it out. She can scream. But she plainly has NO songs. The crowd got over excited when she sang that lame Radio 2 cover. No love from me, sorry.

The Strokes impressed me more than I thought they would…I suspected they might try and play a load of new stuff but no, they went for an all out greatest hits set (i.e. Is This It) all killer, no filler, slagged off the crowd and fucked off into the night- perfect. Casablancas’ spoilt-brat off-the-cuff comments made me love them even more. Probably haven’t listened to the record for 8 years, and probably wont again soon but the live thing more than made up the 3rd rate Ali Pali show in London (around the time of their 2nd album). I’m so indie. Ha.

On Sunday I ended up seeing a few things I really woudn’t have bothered with if I hadn’t been wandering by, (that’s the nature of festivals I guess).

Ash….what were they doing playing mid-afternoon to a few hundred people on the amphitheatre stage? It was kind of embarrassing. I’ve never really been a fan but surely as a band who’ve sold 8million records they’d expect to be playing to a few more people…seeings as they’d flown half way round the world.

Saw 10 minutes of The Vines (yes they’re still around). Lead singer looking kind of like late-era Marc Bolan these days.

Heard ‘Boy and Bear’ from outside the tent, sitting on the hill and they sounded sweet in a Neil Young kind of way…..absorbed Laura Marling and Magic Numbers from the same spot. Yeah alright.

Back on the main stage, I thought I might need to secure my place for the Pixies so got there early and sat through Mumford and Sons- oh boy the crowd totally loved them. I think Australian crowds tend to love that Irish folky fiddle thing…it’s sort of in the blood- the yeee-haaa foot stompers got them do-si-do-ing their partners…kind of like the Pogues without the vice. I think the audience had shot their loads by the time Pixies came on. Now you know me…I love the Pixies…but….

They weren’t that good. They had periods of greatness but there was too much of the bad-era Pixies in there. The set wasn’t really aimed at a festival crowd. This might be cos they’ve been touring the Doolittle album to death and felt like they should do a “new” set. But there was far too much emphasis on the later albums. And they started with some lesser known B-sides….fine for a Pixies fans show, but this was a festival thing. The youngsters who didn’t really know them just fucked off and the crowd was pretty thin by the end. Made me kind of sad. Still love them though.

Despite some luke warm reviews here it was actually an amazing festival. The location was stunning. The crowd were polite and sensible. (maybe cos they were torturously sober) and a mid-winter festival that is t-shirt weather is the envy of the world. The weak US dollar meant the international contingent was dominant so the line-up was really impressive. I just wish I’d got my shit together to see them all….

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Splendour in The Grass

So I’m very very excited to be going to Splendour In The Grass festival next week….Thanks Dew Process….There’s obviously loads of top-shelf international stuff playing -Pixies/Strokes/LCD/Foals/Hot Chip/Midlake/Grizzly Bear but I need to know about the Oz stuff. Who’s good? What should I see? John Steel Singers get me moist. And Jinja Safari have got something going on. But who else? Let me know…..

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