Tag Archives: inspiration

Crucial albums #3: Faith No More’s The Real Thing

31 May Faith No More's The Real Thing

Inspired by that facebook game where you list 10 important albums, I realised that many of my favourite albums are not the ones that shaped my music or songwriting directly.

I want to explore the albums that changed how I thought about my practice as a singer and songwriter, and that are direct influences on Mitropa, the Wasp Summer album I’m currently making.

Number 3 must be Faith No More’s eclectic hard rock masterpiece ‘The Real Thing’.

 

1990, Year 10, and the final year of the acceptably ugly school uniform. Fashion inspirations: Stevie Nicks, Chrissy Amphlett, Wendy James, Permanent Vacation-era Steve Tyler checking out new band night at the Whisky a Go Go.

Faith No More’s The Real Thing quite literally changed my life. Before this album came out, my two big musical loves were INXS and Guns ‘n’ Roses, who, around that time, inspired me to fashion a primitive vapouriser from a coke can and fill it with Mum’s best Ceylon in order to experiment with the ‘smoking tea’ they spoke of in their cover of Aerosmith’s mighty Mama Kin. No buzz. But I digress.

I think I may have Shane N. to thank for my first tape of this album. At least, I associate it with going Trick or Treating with him around Highland Park, a newish housing estate, and coming home to my Dad telling me he kept a little black book of all my misdemeanours and had spies all over Nerang who would tell him if I got up to mischief. Mum assures me that was just Dad’s sense of humour.

The second single off this record, Epic, went round our school like a particularly explosive dose of salts. I have a vivid memory of discussing the video in awe with Brett N. one Monday morning outside the science block. We’d obviously all seen it on Rage over the weekend. They’d never play it on our local radio station. Until it spent 18 weeks on the charts, Australia giving them their first international #1.

But it wasn’t Epic that really blew my mind. Like pop kids who discovered The Smiths or The Cure, this took all my love of hard rock and added weirdness, eclecticism and intelligence. I desperately wanted to be in a band, and eventually my mate Craig Rickard invited me to create ‘Decadence’, our glam-rock covers band.

I loved the pop-triple-punch opening of From Out of Nowhere, Epic and Falling To Pieces, but the later three song run of The Real Thing, Underwater Love and The Morning After, and especially the title track itself, changed for me what was possible with music. It gave me the idea that songs could have power, texture, mystery and space.

The music is precise, brutal and, yes, spacious. There are repeating lyrical threads through the album that are philosophical, questioning and complex, not merely hedonistic. There’s also a huge whack of absurdist humour.

I had my first taste of cool as a school authority on this album. Two popular girls came around to ask if i could dub them copies. I had an old pink Sanyo deck that dubbed in real-time, and as we listened to the piano ending to Epic, they were visibly disturbed at the weirdly classical turn the album was taking. “What is this shit?” they asked. “It’s excellent. Do you want it or not?”

Patton’s vocals go from roaring and stentorian to seductive, almost pleading. I have never forgotten his harmony sixths, and the way he sings “you leave me writhing on the floor” definitely “makes me feeeeeeeeel this way”…

And they finished the album with the consumately creepy lounge-pervert swing ballad End of The World. It was my Enlightenment.

Check out my crucial album #1: Cocteau Twins ‘Heaven or Las Vegas’
Check out my crucial album #2: Talk Talk’s Laughing Stock

Crucial albums #2: Talk Talk’s Laughing Stock

12 May Crucial album #2: Talk Talk's Laughing Stock

Inspired by that facebook game where you list 10 important albums, I realised that many of my favourite albums are not the ones that shaped my music or songwriting directly.

I want to explore the albums that changed how I thought about my practice as a singer and songwriter, and that are direct influences on Mitropa, the Wasp Summer album I’m currently making.

Number 2 must be Talk Talk’s avant-jazz-rock masterpiece ‘Laughing Stock’.

Talk Talk’s final album Laughing Stock is an entirely appropriate album to come after the Cocteau Twins. Another record that nails the balance between melodic beauty and noise, sung in glossolalia and with the most amazing sense of space.

The track Ascension Day is actually super important to the writing that went towards the next Wasp Summer album, and I have Chris Chapple to thank for the introduction. I can still see the scene, bathed in beeswax-yellow light, in his old St. Kilda living room as The Mime Set gathered for a rehearsal/writing session for our second album.

It may have been the same night I cried behind the door as we ran an early version of Honey O, and Andrew gently asked if I wanted my lyrics to be that nakedly honest. Yes, I do. Always.

That’s the thing about this album. It’s achingly truthful. I can make out words here an there, but even through abstractly-sung text, the emotional through-line of this album is pure and true.

Even though the album was painstakingly assembled collage-style from over 7 months of improvised recordings, this album is honest and brutal and true.

Released on the Verve jazz label, it’s more akin to jazz than the glossy, clever pop they made before, but also lays the foundation for post rock, a territory, along with dream pop, that I spent a good part of my 20s travelling.

To make music where “The record was “only complete” when the band’s Mark Hollis felt each guest musician had “expressed their character and refined their contribution to the purest, most truthful essence,” is the dream, isn’t it?

Check out my crucial album #1: Cocteau Twins ‘Heaven or Las Vegas’

Crucial albums #1: Cocteau Twins ‘Heaven or Las Vegas’

21 Apr The Cocteau Twins' Heaven or Las Vegas

Inspired by that facebook game where you list 10 important albums, I realised that many of my favourite albums are not the ones that shaped my music or songwriting directly.

I want to explore the albums that changed how I thought about my practice as a singer and songwriter, and that are direct influences on Mitropa, the Wasp Summer album I’m currently making.

Number 1 must be the Cocteau Twins masterpiece ‘Heaven or Las Vegas’.

Oh, this album, beginning to end, blows my mind. In 1994, I escaped an increasingly dangerous relationship and was relieved to move into a sharehouse in Lismore with 4 other women, located above a veterinary surgery. Collectively and consciously, we explored ritual paganism, argued theology with the Mormons that came each week to save us, and smoked more weed than was strictly necessary. I saw some weird shit.

I started off living behind a makeshift curtain in the kitchen until a room became available. Then I moved into the least psychedelically-wallpapered of the rooms, affectionately known as the Triffid Room.

A lot of music that is important to me (Pink Floyd, PJ Harvey, the Clouds) came out of this room and this year, as did my first attempts at songwriting. Rachel the Cone Queen stole this record from her sister, but it lived for the entire year in my room where I attempted to rationalise its immense harmony while drifting off into its etheric spheres.

This album remains an act of divinity to me. The Cocteaus’ perfect pop moment. The post-punk textures they had been developing all the way along, Liz Fraser’s astonishing vocal style, the pulsing bass and drum machines, liquified into a weird, dreamy and pleasurable set of songs that blew open my expectations of what I could do, what the human voice could do, what guitars could sound like.

It was the precursor chemical to so much of the music that made my music sound the way it does. At least, most of what I did with The Mime Set and Wasp Summer was me aiming for this kind of freedom.

Upon reflection, Annie Lennox and Liz Fraser are largely responsible for the beautiful oddness of my sense of harmony.

 

Under The Influence

28 Apr

Apart from buying us drinks, music is the best way to know musicians, so here are some albums that are important to us as musicians and people.

To make it easy to share, we’ve posted these lists on YouTube and Spotify. If you’d prefer these lists in another format, or on another service, just leave us a message below, and we’ll try to arrange it.

Simon and I each have a story about an album that was crucial to us starting our first bands.

Simon’s Influences
YouTube Playlist
Spotify Playlist
I met a friend of mine and started a band because I was the only person in the area with a Black Flag LP. I can remember our first gig when we were just 15; the local gang grabbed the lead singer and told him ‘If you guys suck, we’re gunna punch the shit out of ya!’ We knew three songs. We played them three times. Nobody seemed to mind. We didn’t get beaten up. The kids at that party were throwing flagstones at the cops as we loaded out into my Mum’s car. At the next gig, someone turned up the RHCP’s ‘BloodSugarSexMagic’ record to try and drown us out. Then they started throwing stones at us.

The guitar player, Paul Dempsey, went on to found (successful Australian rock band) Something For Kate. People don’t throw stones at him anymore. Except me. I chuck a good sized rock at that lanky motherfucker every chance I get. Just to remind him of his roots and that good rock and roll never comes easy.

Samantha’s Influences
Youtube Playlist
Spotify Playlist
The albums that made me want to be in a band were Transvision Vamp’s Pop Art and Faith No More’s The Real Thing. At my school, there were two types of popular girl: surfer’s girlfriends and rough netballers. Two of the latter knocked on my door one afternoon. I was worried. “We heard you got that Faith No More album.” “Er… The Real Thing. Yes.” I was confused.

“Make us a copy?” one said, handing me a blank cassette. Before this, being a music nerd had only won me insults and my circle of metalhead friends. I could do this and might not get beaten up either. I’d been into the band for a year, but then in mid-1990, ‘Epic’ was number 1 in Australia. As I only had a simple cassette deck, we listened to the whole album as I dubbed it, with me pointing out the cool bits. “What’s this classical shit?” Weirdly, they’d never noticed the piano outro at the end of ‘Epic’. They nearly left. “Nah,” I corrected, “It’s where the goldfish is dying at the end of the video.” “Oh, alright,” they said, and stayed patiently until their cassette was finished.

If you sign up for our newsletter, Simon and I will tell you about our first attempts at songwriting. Sign up for the newsletter here: http://eepurl.com/rO3db

Bis gleich,
Samantha and Simon
Wasp Summer

Chrissy Amphlett

22 Apr

Vale Chrissy Amphlett. I was 7, maybe 8, when I first saw you on the tele. I was pretty newly arrived in Australia and without any new heroes to help me through the bullying and difference of newly suburban Nerang, a highway town they’d started carving out of agistment acreage and farms in the 70’s.

Classic Chrissy Amphlett by Tony Mott

Classic Chrissy Amphlett by Tony Mott

I was sitting cross-legged on the floor like you would in the Pleasure and Pain video, engrossed in my essential weekly show Countdown. I’m pretty sure it was Boys In Town. I remember then putting Boys In Town on the jukebox at a pub near my school where my Dad was playing pool. At the time, I wasn’t aware of the context but, as I grew into my body and my teens, that song became my Suburban Girl’s Escape Manual, “I was just a red brassiere/to all the boys in town/put this bus in top gear/get me out of here…” Aussie girls were tough, sassy. I would be tough and sassy too.

I was in immediate thrall to your toughness, your wildness. You thrilled me. I was glued to the TV or the radio every time you were on. It took me a little more maturity to see your equal and brave vulnerability. You were so tough because you laid your whole self on the line – defiantly, provocatively – Are you man enough to handle me? Please be man enough to handle me.

You had the onstage stance of a school brawler: squared off, sharp elbows, crouching and ready – a female John Wayne cowboy in a sailor suit, flat shoes and suspenders. Rather than your spectacular writhing on the industrial grid flooring in Pleasure and Pain, I was struck by your quick, ugly, angular arm gestures and wide, confronting eyes. You, Chrissy, pointing and sarcastic, “Ha! Oh please don’t ask me how I been getting on.” It took me years to understand you were singing, “how I been getting off” – a world of difference. Your sarcastic ‘Ha!” was also in Hey Little Boy, the last Divinyls song I really liked. “Ha! Well! I’m talking to YOU!

Chrissy Amphlett at Australian Made by Bob King

Chrissy Amphlett at Australian Made by Bob King

In 1986, a bunch of cowboy promoters staged Australian Made, an all-Australian music festival I was too young to go to. But I wore out the video watching, well, Michael Hutchence – who wouldn’t… and you, Chrissy. Breaking the fourth wall. Getting off the stage and wobbling precariously on the camera track behind the crowd barrier. Sitting open-legged on the lip of the stage. Yelling, “Where are all the boys?”. Sitting next to Hutchence saying, “I just do my thing, Troy. Whatever happens, you know, the moment takes over.” I wanted to be you so badly. I practiced being you with a broomstick mic stand and hairbrush microphone. I wasn’t a tough girl, but I was a mouthy girl, a quietly provocative girl, a girl with a strutting walk – liquid on the inside and solid brass on the outside. I wanted to be you so badly, I got into singing.

Your gasping, sucking breathing in songs, your hiccuping yodels and growled, fried notes were so against the normal rules of recorded singing and so important to the intensity of your sound, and mine. I got into my first band at 15 and, with you as my patron saint, finally began to enjoy myself and confuse my fellow students at lunchtime gigs. Strangely, I don’t remember us doing Divinyls songs. They were such a tight band with such classy, rippling lead lines, a killer pop singles band, that we couldn’t touch those sounds, but I was never really looking at Mark McEntee.

Your conversational tone with the audience during Temperamental, your cowboy walk from the hips, your pointing and simply owning the stage as if this argument was in your comfortable kitchen at home. Your red hair. Your open mouth. I absorbed all of this from you.

I saw you once in the toilets at the Athanaeum Theatre in Melbourne during a Tex, Don and Charlie concert. I sat in the cubicle bracing myself to say hello, thank you for your inspiration. As I emerged, another woman beat me to it, catching her eyes in the mirror (she couldn’t look directly) and offering you, “You inspired me and my girlfriends to be tough and strong. Thank you.” She’d said what I would have said and you just kind of looked at her and drawled, “Yeeeaaaaahhhhhhhh.” No big-sisterly smile and wink, nothing. I slunk out without a word, appalled but exhilarated to have been in your presence. Praise or bile, like Dean Martin, you seemed truly not to give a fuck.

I turn 38 next month, Chrissy. You were only 14 years older than me. I’m so happy you went peacefully in your sleep after your body was ravaged by both cancer and MS. In interviews, you seemed to take a lot of wisdom and strength even from two solid body blows like that – a brawler ’til the end. I’ve now strapped on an electric guitar and, vocally and musically, I’m aiming for the mix of cool, vulnerability, wry humour and balls that you taught me, Chrissy. You were my first musical hero. What you offered us shaped me on stage and helped give me a place and an identity as an immigrant to Australia. Thank you.

Love,
Sam