Wednesday, June 29, 2011

13th October 1991 - Le Rox - The First Gig!

First gig! We had a meeting last Saturday to come up with a name. We didn't. So Andrew had to come up with a name in half an hour on the following Monday. He came up with "Lucid Ocean Curl". At first I thought he said "lurid", which pissed me right off! But "Lucid Ocean Curl" it was.

We got to LeRox at about sixish, and waited for The Violets to soundcheck. My immediate thought was that they were heaps better than us, and I got a bit panicky. We did the soundcheck, doing This Peaceful Place, Led and DLD (aka Darkest, Lightest Day) as I remember. I got down off the stage for DLD and was horrified about how shit it sounded. As we didn't have a mixer, we used the in-house guy who obviously didn't give a shit about what we sounded like.

So I went on a bit apprehensive, but the gig was cool.

Our setlist was:

This peaceful place
All one moment
Song for someone
Darkest, lightest day
Time spent

It went well. Probably this was due to the fact that the audience (all 50 or so) were so far away that it wasn't much different from a rehearsal. We played pretty tightly, and didn't really fuck up at all. Andrew gave some cool in between song raps, and overall it was pleasing. The response from people was pretty good, mostly of surprise that we came across so good and professional. Got completely and utterly pis sed afterwards and didn't really watch any of the other bands (Lifeform, The Violets, Neptune Lolly Shoppe, Pleasure principle). A good night in all....

Except for the fact we got ripped off. We were meant to get $100, plus 50c for every ticket that someone gave at the door with our name on it. As we had only got the passes in the week of the gig, we didn't have time to give them out to everyone we wanted. So Teresa (Wayne's partner) stood outside the door and gave them to people who she told to come, but didn't have time to give the passes too. When she got in, the doorbitch said we wouldn't make anything from the door and accused her of giving them out to anybody, which she wasn't. In the end, we got $117.5, i.e. 35 peoples worth, when I reckon we got more than that. We had to take out $25 for the mixer, and was meant to give $50 to the guy who did the lights. But we didn't. We thought we were only going to make $25, so we figured what was the point. But I decided that I might as well get what we were entitled to, and ended up with $97.50. The lighting guy is probably pissed off! We assumed Le Rox would pay him, but as it turned out, we were meant to pay him. So we've probably made our first enemy.....

Monday, June 27, 2011

15th September 1991

Our first rehearsal in a decent room! Rehearsed at Tony Nesci’s studio. He has a great PA and recording equipment. He played us Tease and Paradise Interchange (local Adelaide bands) demos he recorded there, and they sounded great. He told us how to set up and everything, which pissed us of because we’re quite capable of doing that ourselves! We played a few songs without even getting the levels right, and Tony said we were as good as The Mandelbrot Set (local Adelaide band that had just signed to Australian indie label RooArt). He also said we were a “proper” band that weren’t competing with each other. We were well chuffed! I recorded most of the rehearsal on my portable tape recorder and listened to it later – we sounded good, probably the best we ever have.

Got “TGP” (aka “Translucent green pyramids”, a reference to the appearance, color and shape of some E doing the rounds in Adelaide at the time!) kicked into shape (a comment I find somewhat surprising, since this was just an instrumental jam that we never seriously contemplated playing live). Did our other newbie, “Haunt”.  Took us a while to get it together but I think it’s probably our best song (an assessment I still agree with - atmospheric (dare I say haunting?) with a great dance groove). We did the set we plan to play at out first show at Le Rox (local Adelaide venue) in just under a month. The reason we’re doing it now is because Wayne will be away for a while before the show, so we’ll only have a few more rehearsals before the show. I’m happier with my guitar sound now.

Started two newbies, “Closet”, which is based around a bass riff. I don’t really think it will cut it (which turned out to be the case – as I’ve got no idea what I’m referring to here!) but….and a song using the old “Close” lyrics which Andrew wants to call “My spine” – but I’m trying to convince him to change it, as it recalls  a comedy sketch I heard recently that mentioned that “spine” is an anagram of “penis” in three different languages!

We talked about doing a demo. It will cost $300 to record over a weekend, and another $200 to digitally master. We plan to use the money we make from gigs to put towards it (how naïve was I - thinking we were going to make money!).

Sunday, June 26, 2011

August 1991

[Back to the diaries. Again, as a reminder, the diary entries are posted verbatim, except for grammatical corrections. Additional bracketed notes in italics have been added for clarification.] 
Our first proper performance at a 21st birthday party for a friend of Wayne’s. By “proper”, I mean we knew in advance we were going to do it more than a few hours in advance, unlike the Hamish arranged scenario (I have no idea what I'm referring to here!). I was heaps nervous. The setlist was

This peaceful place
Song for someone
Mystic Road
Darkest, Lightest day
All one moment
Time Spent

My overall impression was that we were going through the motions, as it sounded crappy. My right index finger was bleeding as it kept hitting the strings when I was picking (suffering for my art?!). We played “Close” and Mystic Road  (Manchester influenced nonsense) for the last time in this sort of format – we will only do them again if we do any acoustic shows. “Time Spent” (yet more Manchester influenced nonsense) got the biggest cheer, but it is basically just energy and no substance. “All one moment” wasn’t really finished, but we played it anyway. The other songs were basically OK. Most people I spoke to later said they liked it. It was OK, but the real good was that we actually got out and played. Bitchin!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The classic line up

I don't have any diary entries between the end of 1990 and August 1991, which is a shame because in some respects this was the most significant period for the band - the period during which the classic line-up emerged. For those not familiar with my sense of humor, I use the word classic with some sense of mirth!

The most pivotal event of this period was that we eventually found a drummer, and a great drummer at that, Mark. From memory, he was recommended to us by Tony, who appeared earlier in the story. Mark fitted into the band well, owing to his ability, enthusiasm and personality. And he was a massive Ride fan to boot! Later in the year, we went to Melbourne to see Ride on their Australian tour, which was the first time I heard Leave Them All Behind - a truly momentous occasion.

Mark should have provided the spark that enabled the band to prosper, but solving the drummer problem just unearthed another latent issue - bassist Hamish. Hamish originated from Melbourne, and had considerable experience in bands on the outskirts of the scene that spat out The Birthday Party - Hamish was particularly enamored with Tracy Pew, and the fuck you persona he emanated on stage. Although Hamish was a competent bassist, his presence was like a black cloud over the band. We felt that we were never going to be able to reach for the stars with Hamish around - something ineffable and intangible. So we made the tough decision to kick him out of the band he started. And it was left for me to do the deed - Andrew ran for the hills (literally, if I remember correctly!).

At the time I just saw it as something we needed to do. Thinking about it a few years later, I would still have done the same thing, but handled it a bit differently. After I joined the band, Hamish was short of cash, and needed to sell some of his possessions, including his prized reel-to-reel 4-track recorder. He eventually sold it to me since that meant it would "stay in the band". I now wish that I just gave him the fucking thing back when we kicked him out of the band......

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I was keen to get a second guitarist. And Mark just happened to have a guitarist friend, David, who was looking for a band. David came in and was like a breath of thresh air after Hamish. Since we didn't have a bassist we usually rehearsed acoustically, which meant we didn't need to hire a rehearsal room, and could consequently rehearse wherever and whenever we liked. In fact, I remember once rehearsing at the beach - which became our first (impromptu) public performance when a few people dropped in to listen! And the acoustic rehearsals influenced our songwriting - one of our best songs, This Peaceful Place (as featured on the Anthems for the Estranged demo) was written during this period.

Throughout this period we were on the lookout for another bassist. We eventually found Wayne, who had previously played in an early incarnation of Wintermind, who in our opinion were the best local Adelaide band by a looooooooong way. Wayne came in and kicked ass. In one of his first (if not the first) rehearsals, Wayne started playing a bass riff identical to one Hamish often used to play, for which I had a rough riff and Andrew had some lyrics. By the end of the rehearsal we had a cracking new song, Led, which evolved into one of our best songs. It was one of those serendipitous moments that convinces you that things are meant to be. But to misquote The Sundays, this is not where the story ends.....

After a few rehearsals with Wayne, David left. I was flabbergasted! This band was starting to happen - why would anyone want to leave? Was it my fault? Was it something I said? Or did? I was so immersed in the band that the concept that people had a life outside the band never occurred to me. But I guess that's the sort of intensity you need to make it! And I had it in spades at this point.

Although it didn't seem like it at the time, David's departure turned out to be (another) one of those serendipitous moments. We couldn't be bothered going through the torment of replacing another band member, so I was going to have to be the sole guitarist! In my opinion, this ended up bringing out the best in myself and the band.

Friday, June 17, 2011

In the beginning - 1990

And so we finally get to the diaries!

This post includes band specific entries from my personal diary. I subsequently started a band specific diary, which will be featured in subsequent posts.

The diary entries will be posted verbatim, except for grammatical corrections. Additional bracketed notes in italics have been added for clarification.

1st June 1990

Made up my mind to actually write out some ads (advertisements) to try and find people with similar musical tastes. I put these in Verandah and Andromeda (local record stores).

(The note said something along the lines of

Guitarist looking to form atmospheric alternative rock band. Influences include Jane's Addiction, Soundgarden, Led Zeppelin, REM and The Cure.

I remember George, the proprietor of Verandah music, commenting that I wouldn't receive any replies because the mix of influences was to diverse and eclectic! I could see his point, but he was wrong......)

12th June 1990

I am now in a band! The notes I put up received two replies. The first reply was from a band looking for a guitarist. Coincidentally, the chap who saw the add was about to put up an ad seeking a guitarist for an atmospheric band, and saw my ad for a guitarist wanting to form an atmospheric band! The second reply was from a guitarist wanting to do the same sorta stuff as I do. I'll follow it up, but I don't fancy playing in a two guitarist band (not sure what I was thinking here, given that I later spent the next 18 months trying to convince my bandmates to get a second guitarist?!)

I rehearsed with the band and it went alright. We did "Walk to the water" (U2) three or four times, and "Rejoice" (U2) up to the second chorus before saying fuck it! We then did one of their originals, and played around with a riff of mine. I am currently learning a Gene Loves Jezebel track, and "I wanna be adored" by The Stone Roses, which I quite like (I hadn't heard the Stone Roses before this, and they influenced alot of my playing and songwriting for the next year or so - especially rhythmically). The next practice is not for another two or three weeks.

(It was told later that the band had reservations about me in the beginning. I turned up to the first rehearsal wearing a grunge-approved checked shirt (remembering this was a few years before Nirvana broke big and popularised that look), marble wash denim jacket and jeans, and had a Marshall amp and a Kramer guitar, as favoured by the heavy metal fraternity (including Eddie Van Halen!). But they thought my guitar playing was interesting (as in "unusual", rather than "good") enough to justify continuing with me.

At this stage the band was Andrew (vocals), Hamish (bass) and Andrew (drums)).

Undated entry

(My diary entries trailed off towards the end of the year - I was actually starting to get a life - so less time for a diary! But I wrote a summary of the last few months of the year, containing the following entry:)

The band went OK for a few weeks but then I started to lose interest (it was a bit more "pop" than I wanted - I was more into grunge). So I rang up the guitarist (Tony) who called in response to my ad and said "I've got a band for you" (at least part of my reasoning here was that if Tony joined the band, there'd be less likelihood that I'd want rejoin, since they already had a guitarist. Weird, huh?) Tony lasted a few weeks but didn't work out (though he would re-enter the story later).

I then returned to the band, and after a few weeks of indecisiveness just thought "fuck it, let's give this band a go and see what happens". And as soon as I committed the drummer left! Since then we've had four drummers rehearsing with us. The first was a guy, Rob, who said he was in a thrash band and was looking for something different. First thing that went wrong was that the clowns who ran the rehearsal room turned up 90 minutes late. Then when the room opened and Rob brought his drums cases in, I spied GSD (my friend Phil's band) stickers on them. Bummer! I didn't fancy stealing my friend's drummer. Then we started playing...but he just didn't have what we needed. We didn't need to tell him so - he knew and so did we!

We then did half of a rehearsal with Maro (the guy who ran the rehearsal room) on drums, even though we knew he wouldn't be able to play with us permanently. He gave us a good kick up the arse, but again didn't have what we were looking for. But I realised was the importance of having a happening drum kit. Maro hit the skins and they sounded loud and powerful.

Drummer number three was Kim. He responded to an ad I put up in a music store. I went around to his place and we jammed for half an hour and both enjoyed it. So I invited him to a rehearsal. When he got to the rehearsal Hamish and Andrew saw his kit and gave me a spray (i.e. criticism). And the kit didn't sound too flash either! That day we did "Through my eyes" (our first original), "Fire" (U2), "Spanish Eyes" (U2) "Drive Blind" (Ride), and "Always" (our second original, a hippyish song that ripped off Primal Scream's "Loaded"). It was a good rehearsal. We rehearsed three more times with Kim. A friend of the guy who ran the rehearsal room, Craig, asked (indirectly) whether he could join the band. So we must haver sounded alright! Craig said he liked it too - "tasty, guys, tasty" (which became our mantra - we'd finish rehearsing a songs and someone would pipe up "tasty, guys!").

Then Kim smashed up his car! Although we were reasonably happy with his drumming, we weren't happy with his ideas (i.e. to be a cover band!). We had a regular booking for the rehearsal room that we couldn't cancel without a cancellation fee, so I suggested we take the opportunity to try out another drummer while Kim's car was off the road. We arranged a rehearsal with a guy Andrew found. I rang to told Kim that we wouldn't be rehearsing, but since he wasn't home I left a message with his dad. The only problem was that his dad is obviously an absolute fuckwit, because he didn't tell Kim! So we had two drummers turn up to our next rehearsal! Roy turned up first, and unloaded his nice new black Pearl Export kit. Then Kim walked in! We were mortified!! But to our surprise, Kim broke out into a grin and said "you hired me a kit?" After a few umms and ahhs, Kim realised what was happening, spat the dummy and left, never to be seen again. So our rehearsal with Roy got off to a bad start, and promptly got worse. We played "Solitary Child" (another original - a song I really liked but which for some reason we stopped playing soon after), and "Lift me up" (more hippy shit!), which Hamish, Andrew and I had come up with only three days earlier. But Roy wasn't up to it. Totally inadequate.

And that was the last time we rehearsed with a drummer for a loooooong while. We had some nibbles - drummers how said they'd call back but never did. Since then we've written "Mystic Child" (Manchester influenced nonsense) and "Away" (I can't remember this one now?!). We have two or three other embryonic songs, plus a few ideas I haven't played to the guys yet. So we should have 10 or so original songs by February, which is enough to start gigging - if we can find a drummer!

At least there's been some useful byproducts from this band biz, in respect to the bands I'm now listening too - Ride, Stone Roses, Magazine, Pixies, Charlatans, The Smiths etc, all bands my band-mates turned me on to.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

The Metal Years

Phil, Neville and I rehearsed sporadically throughout the years 1985 - 1988 - maybe 20 or so times. We used to rehearse either at my house or Neville's, subject to our parents being out of the house, the availability of transport (none of us drove at that stage), the availability of time (Phil and I had started University), and my amp being in working order - which was a rare occurrence!

We rehearsed a set of thrash metal standards by bands such as Metallica, Slayer, Anthrax, Exciter, Diamond head, Blitzkrieg, S.O.D. and the awesome Mercyful Fate! We were pretty ordinary in the beginning, but eventually grew competent enough to believe we were almost ready to unleash ourselves on the great unwashed masses. So we put out ads to recruit a vocalist and lead guitarist. We eventually found a lead guitarist, Dave, but he left after a few months. And then the band just fizzled out. It wasn't a conscious decision to end it - we just didn't get around to rehearsing any more! But when Phil formed a band Genital Skin Disorders (or GSD) with some Uni friends, it was officially over.

This period turned out to be a turning point in my life. My band had ended, I had some bad relationships, I was involved with a crowd of people I was rapidly growing apart from, and I was in the last year of an undergraduate degree that I was rapidly losing enthusiasm for. But worst of all, my guitar playing was going backwards. To console myself I bought a Marshall amp! Then Dave suggested I start tuition with his guitar teacher, Phil Bann, which turned out to be a good move. Not only did Phil sort out my technique, he got me playing stuff other than metal. Which was just as well as I was starting to get bored with metal. The Big four thrash metal bands (Metallica, Slayer, Anthrax and Megadeth) had all recorded their best work and had already started their inexorable decline. 

The first "non-metal" band I got into around this time was the Sex Pistols - which wasn't really a quantum leap. This was followed by the Beastie Boys, and specifically their Licensed to Ill album. But the album that totally blew my mind was Jane's Addition's Nothings Shocking. The playing, the diversity, the vision - it had everything. And on a night when I had nothing to do, I went to see U2's Rattle and Hum movie - and was hooked! I then quickly consumed the catalogs of U2, REM and The Cure, before discovering the wave of new bands emerging from Seattle (specifically Mudhoney and Soundgarden), as well as Sonic Youth.

I was feeling inspired. Time to find another band, and to do it properly this time......

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Who's to blame?

The only way to start these diaries is to explain how I ended up in a band in the first place.

Three parties stand accused of being partners in this crime against humanity:

1) My parents 

There was often music playing in our house when I was a kid. When I was seven years old my parents bought me a tape recorder, complete with a cassette on which my dad recorded of one of my mother's John Denver LPs! Fortunately I recognised wretched music at an early age, and John Denver was soon replaced with my first songwriting efforts. When I was nine years old my parents gave me a beat up old record player and a few of their old LPs, including the first few Stones LPs. My parents also bought me an acoustic guitar around this time. This guitar didn't survive long. The closest it came to being used for "musical" purposes was playing open chords while wailing the lyrics to Route 66 or Little Red Rooster! Undeterred, my parents bought me a nylon string acoustic guitar a few years later, which survives to this day - although at the time it only served the purpose of gathering dust.

2) The hottest band in the world, KISS!  

The first record I ever bought was (cringe!) Fernando by Abba, followed a few months later by Dancing Queen! The first song that really hooked me was I Don't Like Mondays by The Boomtown Rats. Apart from loving the song, I also loved the fact it was controversial, though I didn't understand why at the time. My feeling for Mondays was later surpassed when I heard The Fine Art of Surfacing, and in particular, Diamond Smiles. And when later I saw the video, it blew my god-damned pre-teen mind! So much so that it's still one of my favourite songs.

However, my love of The Boomtown Rats didn't last long - I thought their next single, Banana Republic was such a turgid piece of crap that I didn't listen to the band for many years. But it didn't matter, because by this time KISS had finally hit the big time in Australia, becoming my first real musical obsession. And when all the cool kids had discarded KISS and moved on to the latest fad, my passion for the band only increased - as did my desire to be outside the mainstream. And as KISS got heavier and the make-up came off, I started getting into similar bands, such as Deep Purple and Iron Maiden, until I was a fully fledged metal-head.

3) Phil Howlett

The main accomplices in my musical journey to this point were my brother Paul and my best friend Phil. At some point Phil and I decided to form a band, despite the fact we couldn't play any instruments! And this is where my parents re-enter the story - I asked them to buy me an electric guitar. And despite my lack of interests in my previous guitars, they bought me a cheap telecaster copy. At first I played the telecaster through my stereo. Later, after reading that the distorted guitar sound from The Kinks' You really got me was achieved by overdriving a small speaker, I commandeered a succession of such speakers, plugging them in through the headphone output of my stereo, and overdriving them to the end of their miserable existence. Later I found I could obtain a similar (albeit more flatulent sounding) effect by playing my guitar through my cassette player at maximum input level while it recording.

Inspired by my pitiful efforts, my dad decided the time had come to start fulfilling his latent musical ambitions. He bought himself an electric guitar, and promptly proceeded not to play it. So I ended up with a second guitar, which came in handy as it meant that Phil had something to play when he visited. The first song we learned to "play" was Heaven's on Fire by KISS. After playing this for a few weeks, Phil made the insightful suggestion that it might help if we tuned the guitars! My dad's guitar came with a guitar tuner, which we duly (mis)used to tune our guitars - only to end up tuned to D, possibly making us the world's first grunge band! And it was at least a year later that we realised that the rest of the world tuned to E!

Since I had staked my claim to the guitar, Phil got himself a bass and an amp. I duly purchased my first amp, which was actually a keyboard amp. An amp which I proceeded to blow up at least three times in the next few years, necessitating expensive repairs which I could barely afford.

And when my brother introduced us to a drummer in his grade at school, Neville, I was finally in a BAND!

Friday, June 3, 2011

Anthems for the Estranged (demo)

This demo was recorded and mixed over a weekend at Tony Nesci's home studio in Adelaide. Surprisingly, I didn't write up a diary entry about the recording, and I don't remember much of the details.

I remember that the recording went pretty smoothly, and that we got all songs down in 2 or 3 takes. This was helped by the fact we used to rehearse at the studio so felt pretty comfortable in the surroundings. We were also pretty well rehearsed. I also remember wearing the worst pants in the world to the sessions - grotesque royal blue surf pants that our bassist Wayne's partner Theresa used to refer to as disco pants! What the hell was I thinking? I also remember sitting out in the garden during a break and making a Daisy chain - jeez, what a hippy dipshit I was in those days!

The sounds is fantastic for a cheaply recorded demo. However, the sound clarity makes the limitations in Andrew's vocals all too obvious - we probably should have put him lower in the mix or drowned him out with reverb! IMHO our drummer Mark was the best indie drummer in Adelaide, and the drum sound showcases his abilities well. I was the sole guitarist in the band, and given that every other indie band had around two guitarists, I tended to overplay to compensate. I was also in the midst of my Ride-influenced guitar effects obsession, and this reduces the clarity of some of my playing.

The demo featured three of our best half dozen tracks. Our best track, Haunt, was recorded for an earlier demo, but all I have is the version I taped when it was first played on local radio station MMM (now 3D). I will post this sometime soon.

So onto the demo......

Flood is a six minute brooding atmospheric indie pop track. Mark's drums sound awesome. My guitar in the verses is far to busy - let's blame Johnny Marr! The spooky guitar effects in the middle worked well live but didn't cut it in the studio - no lights and dry ice there! As for the guitar solo, it was influenced by a certain heavy metal band from Birmingham, and IMHO works well in this context.

Autumn Color Haze is another atmospheric indie pop track, but this time at a faster clip. I think the guitar effects work well in this song, and Andrew's vocals work well. I never liked the key change towards the end of the song - I always felt it was jarring.

This Peaceful Place is pure indie pop. It was one of the first songs we wrote with this lineup, and was written on an acoustic guitar before my Ride influenced guitar effects obsession commenced. And try as I may, I couldn't work my guitar effects or a guitar solo into the song without detracting from it! So it stayed pretty much the same as it was when written.

Circle She Is was my least favourite song. But everyone else liked it so I just had to accept it. The worst aspect about the song is that it often got us compared with Ned's Atomic Dustbin, who in my opinion were the most turgid piece-of-crap band in the entire fucking universe. I took the attitude that even if I disliked the song, I might as well enjoy what I played in it. I also use to play it with a guitar sound on the verge of feedback, and got some great sounds live. That aspect isn't really captured in this version, unfortunately.

The demo never had an official title. I always liked that idea of having a song with the pretentious title Anthem for the Estranged, and since there's noone here to argue with me I'm gonna adapt that for use as the demo title!

Lucid Ocean - 1992 - Anthems for the Estranged (demo)

01. Flood
02. Autumn Color Haze
03. This Peaceful Place
04. Circle She Is