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…..


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.


So with this next rant I risk Mark Chapman-esque ostricisation. I’m about to diss local deities with whom this city (Melbourne) is obsessed. To you and me that’s AC/DC. But here they’re only ever to be referred to as Acker Dacker.

Now I’m not totally against them, but this obsession is crazy. It’s borderline perversion. They have a street named after them! They always top the Triple M ‘greatest band ever’ polls and are treated better than Her Majesty, The Pope and Jesus H Christ. It’s “high treason” to say a bad word against them. (Tomorrow I’m enrolling in a Witness Protection Scheme, changing my name and getting facial reconstruction surgery. Might get my knockers done whilst I’m at it.)

Ok- they have (maybe) a couple of alright tunes. That one that goes der-ner-ner-ner-ner Rock’nroll-der-ner-ner…..
My main issue with them is that it all sounds the bleeding same. Distorted chug chug chug. Yelp. Yaheearr Macho Big Balls Bogan Rawk. And it’s influenced a few generation of bands who think it’s acceptable to mimic them.
Am I just a whingeing Pom who doesn’t get the nuances of this Oz pub-rock sound or is it in fact bollocks?

When Lord Angus Young was confronted with this exact question in a recent interview asking “So Angus don’t you feel that you may be ripping off the fans by making exactly the same album 15 times” he retorted “I’ll have to disagree with you there mate, it’s actually 16

Brian Johnson and Angus Young


If you have a winning formula should you stick to it? Or evolve?

Deportation beckons.

(ps hypocritically -my favourite band is Sonic Youth– so far they’ve made about 25 carbon-copy albums and I (mostly) love them all….)

(pps. AFL sucks too! Ha ha….)

(pps. Ignore this whole post please. I’ve just been on YouTube checking out the whole AC/DC back catalogue. What a great band. I should give up this blogging lark I’m a 2-faced liar.)

(ppps. AFL still sucks though…..)

So what is a producer?

So people often ask me…hey GP it must be great being a record producer….but what is it that you actually do?
Mmmm… a good question. What do I do?
I am part-therapist, part-surgeon, a head doctor and manipulator of the sonic scalpel.
A good producer is like a good teacher…he doesn’t shout at you or lecture, but finds out what makes you tick….and facilitates the learning experience….getting the pupil/artist to find his own answers….and is almost invisible in his work…yet mischievously pulling  the strings in the background. This is my aim. I’d be arrogant to say it always works but it’s my aim.
No two artists are the same and shouldn’t be treated so. People have different motivations. Some singers need to torture themselves before they hit their golden patch, others need to be treated gently. Some need constant re-assuring that “yes, you really are a wonderful person and yes, this is surely one of the greatest songs ever recorded….” Others are suspicious of praise. It’s my place to judge which way to go.
As well as all the psychology, there’s all the technical stuff, but proficiency with that should go without saying. Everyone can learn how to use Pro Tools, mix with Flying Faders or whatever.
I enjoy the mistakes. Unlearning what I know. Breaking the rules….breaking my own rules. Fucking things up. Distortion obviously. And making deliberately un-balanced mixes can sometimes be more exciting .. Hearing ”Woah that tambourine’s too loud and the vocal’s too quiet”….and having the balls to say “yes that’s true. But I like it. And I’m the producer.”

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….

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…..

Old photos

Just came across a bunch of old photos of me on Flickr.

Apple eaters

Some people eat apples. I mean most people eat apples but some people eat them every day. They’ll pack an apple with them and eat it as a daytime snack at work. Not me. I couldn’t do that. It’s not that i dont like an apple- an apple can be pretty tasty and there’s the obvious proverbially benefits. It’s the organisation and planning involved that I lack. Jeez, how hard can it be? Buy 7 apples at the supermarket- stick one in yr pocket when you slip out of the door at 7:45, glance at your watch at 11am, pull out piece of fruit, consume….not hard. But it’s never going to happen. I’ll grab a danish or something most days- set me back a few quid. An apple costs what? 20p? 80p I dunno? If you add it up over a year I could probably save…..um…hang on…well a lot probably. Not going to happen. I’d maybe do it for a week as a “new initiative”, like a fitness regime- my 2 visits to the gym, or my 3 jogs round the park, or like keeping a diary….or…a blog. I’d do it a few times then give up. Slip back into my old ways. So here you go. This is my apple moment. Make the most of it. Cos next week I’ll be back on the Danish.

So I haven’t seen Harold yet, or Rolf or Lizzie Birdsworth off of Prisoner Cell Block H….but I have been acclimatising to the Melbourne way of life. It’s all happening here. Melbourne is a proud and confident place at the mo. It’s hardly been touched by the financial meltdown (too much uranium in them there mines thank you very much)- and there’s still a Labour government here (how quaint).  The music scene seems in pretty good nick. Loads of live venues- though they recently had a huge street rally to complain about new strict liquor laws that are affecting small venues…20,000 people marched- can’t imagine that happening in London at the moment- even the 6 Music protest only managed a couple of thousand. The extent most people go to these days is ticking a box on a Facebook App.

Anyway- since I’ve moved here I’m now managed by the uber-lovely Catherine Haridy. I’ve been whoring myself around the record labels saying hi. Had an ace trip up to Sydney a few weeks ago meeting up with some top people and returned with a huge bag of cds i must trawl my way through- some exciting prospects are appearing through the mists.

I’m currently working with Yves Klein Blue from Brisbane. We’ve been at crusty old Sing Sing South to lay the backing tracks, then finished up at Sing Sing SSL room and my new gaff on Lygon Street.

And prior to that I was at Head Gap Studios in Preston with the total fucking legend Kim Deal. She was in town with Pixies doing their Dolittle thang. I’d just emailed her blagging some freebies for the show and to let her know I’m living here now and it turned out she has a new tune that she wants to do- and could I get a band together for her! So we gathered a bunch of trustworthy Melbourne old hands (including my mate Louis Richter) and we knocked out a George Jones style country-classic. Watch this space. A most enjoyable session- less of a headfuck than the last Breeders recording I did….

In 2009 I’ve worked with The Go! Team, Emmy The Great, Pete and The Pirates, Bearsuit, Piano Magic, The Amateurs, Showstar, Screaming Tea Party, Voluntary Butler Scheme and Sister.
….and recently had stuff out by The Breeders, Fucked Up, Tom Allalone and the 78s and Dutch Uncles to name a few…

…I’ve also been giving guest lectures to Music Tech colleges.

So this is my new BLOG style web page….if you want to see my old site go here