Where are you currently based?
I have recently moved back to Hobart but still work frequently out of Melbourne. Both feel like homes to me.
Please tell us about your new album Turn and ReTurn, what inspired the songwriting, lyrically and musically?
The new album Turn & ReTurn has been percolating for many years now. Musically it draws on my ten years in the dance band Shooglenifty, our frequent trips to world music festivals where I came across other dance based traditional musics but particularly those from the eastern Mediterranean. I was interested in how these musics could be set in the sort of creative approaches to what a rock and roll band could sound like that occurred between the late 60’s and mid 70’s. Lyrically I had ideas that were written out as verse with no defined rhythm, and then “fitted” to existing music The lyric phrasing was altered to make sense within the music.
Where and when did you record?
I began recording the core band tracks in April and May 2015 at Sing Sing in Cremorne, and completed tracking production by early 2016 in Melbourne. The album had a long time percolating as I was producing a number of other albums alongside it at the same time. I sent off completed tracks for mixing to Scotland with Calum Malcolm in June 2016.
How have you decided to release the album?
I am releasing the album on cd and digitally through MGM though I have plans for a vinyl release if the album does well enough.
Did you collaborate with anybody? If so who?
I wrote and arranged all the music and lyrics for the album but I would say that Eamon (Trumpet and BV’s) and Kate (Guitar and BV’s) were incredibly useful sounding boards for the ideas as they developed.
What instruments and programs did you use to record?
The album was written for mandolin, trumpet, 2 acoustic guitars, drums and dbl bass. I have used Pro Tools since 1996 and run PT 12 in my own studio.
What led to you writing and recording Turn & ReTurn?
In 2010 I recorded a suite of compositions in Greece – Ten Titles with the Eumelia Ensemble. I wrote those pieces to explore the possibilities for arranging multiple melodic parts across instruments with a finite tonal range – 2 mandolins and 2 violins. The music was too complex to consider touring it without extensive rehearsal but the idea of complimentary melody worked well so I began imagining a band that was groove based rather than composition based. One night walking home in Edinburgh I had a vision of such a band playing a gig fronted by a mandolin and trumpet. I could see the effect that the music was having on the audience and knew that the dual melodic idea was the foundation of groove based improvisation in the band – and THAT was the key to the sound. I spent 5 years trying to articulate that gig musically and this is the music I cam up with.
Can you tell us how you decided on the Album title?
Making the album has coincided with my return from Scotland to Australia. Being a classics and history student I am particularly interested in the repetition and cycles of human behaviour in history. I like the idea that if you keep turning, you return to your original position.
How did you first start playing music and what inspired you to keep playing up until the present?
I was sent to violin lessons when I was 13 and soon after began playing in classical ensembles – string orchestras and the Tasmanian Youth Orchestra. I loved both the experience of playing in a massed ensemble and the music that was written for them. I taught myself guitar at 14 and did piano lessons from 15. Music has always been an interest but in my late teens I got very interested in the micro level and intellectual of music – what is it about certain intervals that generate certain emotions? Joining Shooglenifty and touring with them for 10 years further developed this into pursuing the idea of the most effective way of imparting an emotional experience to an audience – whether they are in a live gig or listening to a recording. Composition, arrangement and production for me all try to answer that.
You have returned to Australia after a stint overseas, where were you predominantly staying whilst overseas? How do you find it being back in Australia now?
I was based in Edinburgh and wee towns around it for the ten years I lived overseas. Being home after so long is utterly wonderful and I appreciate things I doubt I would have, had I not gone, but I do miss a lot of the good friends I made over there.
You have been producing a number of other bands, how did you start in production?
I have been interested in recording for a long time – since high school. I spent many hours in late night recording sessions in my high school’s music department messing about with mic placement and selection and learning the ins and outs of pro tools. We made three studio albums when I was with the Shoogles and on each one I played more and more of a role in the engineering and production of the tracks. I produced 4 albums for other ensembles I was on during that time also and then got my first actual production job for a pal of mine in Scotland, Kevin MacLeod. When I returned home I made a few albums for friends and things have snowballed from there.
What do you most enjoy and what do you find most challenging with the production process?
I love hearing new material. I love hearing a song develop from demos to a finished article and particularly love hearing someone deliver a shatteringly good performance in a take. Getting those performances is the most challenging thing because I think there is still the idea that a studio is a scary place and a microphone is a gun pointed at you. Production is as much about managing the apprehension of the performers as it is about using trendy gear.
Please tell us about your collection of stellar band members:
Asking the members of the The Circuit to come on board was a bit of a vanity really… Shannon Birchall is a world class bass player who I have known of for a long time and become friends with in another band the Rambling Roses. Both Shannon and Rory MacDougall play in the Roses and they are as solid a rhythm section as you could ask for. Kate Burke and Jem Dunlop were two of the first people I met when I used to come across from Tasmania to play gigs in Victoria as a teenager. Great guitarists and really great friends. Eamon and I have been playing music off and on for a long time now as well and he has been on my radar for years beyond that. We used to cross paths at summer festivals in Europe and I have had a number of crazy plans in the works with him about interesting ways that the trumpet and mandolin could combine sonically.
Who are you listening to at the moment?
I always have a bunch of stuff on the go for listening. Currently have on repeat: the new Beck album, Winterland 73 and May 77 from the Grateful Dead, Rabbit Songs by HEM and Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan in Concert.
What do you have planned for 2018?
I’m house building in Tasmania! Musically though, I’ve a solo tour planned for the US in late Sept and in the meantime got to get the Circuit out and playing. There’s a bunch of records to be made for folks as well over the next few months including a duo record with Kate Burke and producing a record for Ruth Hazleton who I’ve worked with a lot in the past.
Favourite food and place to hangout?
16) I’m newly off wheat and loving the cornflour soft shell taco craze… Favourite place to hangout is May’s Beach in Lauderdale – we’re building above it.