Life on the road. This is reality.
So this track is by me, Phil Bostwick (or P Hill Harmony the rapping enigma) and Jol Mulholland - the idea was, I had to co-write, record and mix a hot track in an hour with Phil. Basically to give C4 some funny content and in turn, promote my record at the time Straight Answer Machine. Obviously it was a stupid idea (mine of course) and almost completely impossible. Despite Phil feeling that I perhaps was a bit bossy and he didn’t get to contribute as much as would have liked, I think the track turned out great and Phils rapping at the climax of the tune is the best part.
It was a few years ago now, I should have put the track up on myspace or something then but never got around to it. If I could have spent another hour on it I would edit out some of my vocal grunts, but Jol is a fantastic engineer and somehow the sound of the thing is actually pretty bloody good. As for the songwriting well, I had an hour ok? What did you expect ‘Sad Eyed Lady of The Lowlands’ or some shit?
Just signed up for Souncloud (a few years late I know). It seems a great forum for dumping pieces of music that you like but don’t know what to do with. Here is a piece I recently made for a museum installation, which came a little TOO ambient and little too Eno if I am honest.
I like though, it soothes my mind grapes.
Recently The Phoenix Foundation won the NZ Music Award for ‘best producer’. We have won this before (for Happy Ending) but they only put Lee’s name on it that time so it was pretty nice to have a Tui with the band name on it. Buffalo was the first record that we didn’t brand a co-production with Lee Prebble, he still worked his ass off on the record but essentially Luke Buda, Conrad Wedde and myself built the frame work of the album in our band hq before taking it to his studio so that he could polish it up.
That’s all much of a muchness, but winning the award made me think about what the word ‘producer’ means, and wether that is actually what I do for a job. I am forever struggling to come up with a word to put under ‘occupation’ on immigration cards; composer? musician? lay about? I realise now that perhaps I am a producer and maybe I have been so for about 8 years.
I think the role of the producer is like being a translator between the four main elements of recording- THE SONG, THE PERFORMANCE, THE ARRANGEMENT and THE RECORDING, then topping it off by making tea and keeping the vibe nice. I love this synergy and most recently took on this role producing Eva Prowse, if we go back to 2001 however, I was struggling to write songs that weren’t awful, my solo recordings were a shambles and I very much needed the help of the two guys that I still work with almost non stop (and it could be argued I still need their help).
‘This Charming Van’ was recorded just before Richie, Will and Tim joined the band, it was essentially the song that got the band back together about four months after TPF mark 1 fell apart. I played Luke the song, he mapped out a drum machine part. I played some bass, Luke played some slide. We threw some ‘found audio’ ’70s religious talk back radio in the back of the mix. Will came in, played some percussion (and in doing so joined the band!). Luke was building the arrangement piece by piece, he had the methodical approach that I wouldn’t fully grasp for awhile yet. The track was almost done but lacked something. Conrad wandered into the little studio* and was rather easily coerced into the fun, added a lovely piano line and the track was done. Luke gave the tune a bit of a mix, I made a swirly cover in photoshop, we burnt it to a couple of CDs and didn’t even think about mastering it. I found this CDR on the shelves at Radio Active the other day and my nostalgia gland exploded. This was a relic of great importance to the history of the band, a memento of the two days in which we went from not existing as a band anymore to suddenly making the sort of music we had been wanting to make, almost by accident.
I still think it is a lovely sounding tune and its a fairly clear line in the sand; everything I did before this point was some sort of training, everything since (TPF or solo) has been real. Which is not to say that TPF didn’t have some good moments in our mk 1 guise, I loved playing with Tui and Noel - they are awesome musicians and great dudes. Nor do I think I doubt that I have had my share of failures since that point. Its just that from that point on I didn’t feel completely lost in the recording process. ‘This Charming Van’ would be followed by ‘The Drinker’ (which involved our first ratty attempts at tape transfer). ‘The Drinker’ was followed by working with Lee and from that point on a small group of people listened to our music. Hoorah!
I’m so grateful that I have had Luke to show me how synths work, Conrad to spark my interest in toy keyboards, Lee to make reverbs less mysterious and MORE mysterious at the same time. Over the years I have probably become the most techy nerd in the band, I don’t know how this happened but its too boring to write about. I love recording music, more so even than playing live. I think it is perhaps my job. I hope I don’t get fired!
*This studio was shared by myself, Conrad, Luke Buda, Luke Savage (who made the This Charming Van video on a budget of $200) Puck Murphy and Emlyn Hughes. This drafty old church on Frederic St was a wonderful place for us young fellows to learn how to record songs, make videos and build websites. Emlyn captured much of our activity on this flash tastic side WKDS. The WKDS was so ahead of its time that it won loads of web awards, got massive amounts of traffic (like half a million hits a month) and This Charming Van was downloaded from its flashy chambers over 50,000 over its first year. Wha!?
Ok, so this blog started with the ambitious idea that I was going to seriously research the New Zealand Meat industry and find the most ethical suppliers. Un-surprisingly I did no such thing and just ended up writing about my records. So no I have set myself the easier task of writing about anything at all that I feel like writing about. To start with - a list of things I like at the moment;
1. Jessica and Ralph (and the rest of my family).
2. Food. I love food. Eating it is ok. Reading and talking about it is even better.
3. Brian Eno. Everything he did between 1972 and 1982. Amazing.
4. Dogs. Dogs are even better than Brian Eno.
5. Vinyl. I don’t even have to listen to it. I just have to own it.
For the last year, my vinyl has been scattered about the house in various plastic what nots. This has caused my wife no end of discontent. Not only the clutter, but also the troubles one must go to in order to find and play a specific record. One might call it a nightmare, if one was inclined to such hyperbole.
Well today the power went out across Wellington, leaving me computer free and with no excuse but to do something positive about the house. 5 minutes later my living room looked like this;
A fever had taken hold. I’d been here before. I started seeing anthropomorphic qualities in my records. I wanted to re-arrange the alphabet so I could put Johnny Cash in-between Dylan and Cat Power like this;
When I knew he must live between The Byrds and J.J. Cale. Not insulting I know, but somehow less comfy.
Then I started finding the covers of some albums upsetting. Like when you see an old friend who is clearly in need of a hug and perhaps a bit of friendly rehab.
After listening to Good Morning Spider twice, I got really concerned about where to put Morrissey. Clearly he wouldn’t enjoy being bracketed with The Smiths, but thats where I would expect to find him. Finally I decided to put him in his correct place, alphabetically speaking. That way he’d deeply upset Van Morrison by acting a bit gay.
Some records had covers that seemed to overshadow anything in their vicinity. The power of iconography takes no prisoners in the eye wars of planet records.
At the end of it all, I had decided on a separate naughty box for classical, 50s novelty (Martin Denny, Lawrence Welk etc…I actually love this stuff), sound fx records and comedy. I have so much old jazz (much of it too fuzzy to listen to) that I kept a crate of that separate to my shelves. Other than my favourite Alice Coltrane and Miles Davis albums that I need easy access to! I also kept my hip-hop, electro, classic R’n’B comps and 7”s in a crate. That way I can just grab that to take to parties and people will think I’m well street. I have some seriously boring 90s trip hop crud that I will probably never listen to again. But I just can’t get rid of it.
Finally I made a crate of shame. Things I would throw out it if I wasn’t such a hoarder. Here is a selection of what I know I will never listen to EVER again, so must go live in the attic. My apologies to Suzanne Vega, I think your cool. I just don’t think I’ll listen to your album any time soon. Or anytime ever (actually, maybe I’ll listen to it now, Luca is pretty good song).
I realised a few things about myself during this process. On vinyl, I have only The Shitty Beatles, nice Beatles re-issues may be my next big vinyl purchase. Then I can throw away all my scratched compilations like The Beatles ‘Love Songs’ (I also have very scratchy mouldy Byrds, Dylan and Stones, in my collection classic = old and fucked). I also own 6 Roberta Flack records. Now, I love First Take, amazing record, but how did I end up with more Roberta Flack albums than Bob Dylan albums? I must have been going through a phase.
I also remembered how much I love these things. Records are visceral tangible things. If I ‘owned’ them in digital form Blood, Sweat & Tears would have been deleted from my iPod to make way for Strong Bad years ago. In ‘black plastic magic music frisbee’ form however I find it hard, nay impossible, to rid myself of the post Al Kooper ‘jazz fusion’ meh-sterpiece. Other records, like Belle & Sebastion ‘Tigermilk’ - Harmonia Musik Von Harmonia - Nick Drake ‘Pink Moon’ - Marvin Gaye ‘What’s Going On’ are more than cherished treasures. They are points on a map that one could link up with string to draw of picture of my ridiculous analogy.
Ah, records, you drive me crazy. (time spent moving records around; about 4 hours)
Today Jessica planted carrots and beetroot. Which will of course be great. But today I am rather more excited by the first sign of ripening on our ‘black krim’ heirloom toms.
And we have a mighty crop of Romas, some of which are already tasting rather good.
Richie (he of drum whacking in The Phoenix Foundation) gave us some seeding potatoes. I have no idea what variety they were, but when the leaves all fell off I managed to dig up a couple of kilos of the tiniest pots I have ever seen. What they lacked in size they made up for in roasty crispyness and were quite delicious.
Okay so I have been a vegetarian tourist at various times in my life. I have also gone through extended periods of meat consumption reduction behaviours. You know the story; ‘I am poor, meat is a bit wrong, I will eat tomato pasta everyday for three weeks, then I will spend thirty bucks on lamb rack.”
It seems that what ever I read about evil modern farming or damage to the environment I always come back to eating large servings of delicious cooked animals. Why would I do this? I love animals. I grew up with pet dogs, cats, ‘mexican walking fish’, rats, the occasional farm animal - sheep, cows and umm pigs.
We ate our pig runty. He was a cute baby pig, rejected by his mother. We raised him by hand, he was lovely. But then he grew to be 150 kilos or so and ran away to eat the Big Tex on state highway one. He seriously broke into a restaurant and ate their entire pantry. The owners were very understanding and allowed us to give them the pig in compensation. But there was so much meat, we got to keep and eat half of him. As an 8 year old I did not mind eating my pet, not at all.
Ned & Runty as teenagers.
For christmas my wife gave me a copy of Eating Animals by the rather good Jonathan Safran Foer. His book is a very compelling argument against eating animals. We all know why we shouldn’t eat factory farmed animals, but he puts it into a deeper sense of realism than many of us carnivores like to deal with. The book is a bitch. I found myself unable to sleep after certain chapters. And so the question I guess I am posed with at the moment is how do I go on being a flavour questing omnivore deluxe when I have such a deep reaction to the cold hard facts of where our meat comes from?
Well I don’t have an answer for that yet. In fact I cooked a rather fantastic Coté de Boeuf (thats pretenchyfrench for roast sirloin/ribeye… in fact I might do a whole blog on cuts of beef and my confusion over which is what) for dinner tonight. But my initial reaction is to at the very least stop buying any meat product from supermarkets. Try and find meat brands that go some way to explaining the origins of their products. Purchase only SPCA approved pig and chicken associated products. Spend more time in my garden. That sort of thing.
Chicken is gonna be the hardest thing to purchase wisely. In fact for now chicken is off the menu. I have emailed just about every free range chicken brand in NZ with a list of questions. The answers, while honest and forthcoming, are not necessarily reassuring. Anyway, I’ll post more info on my quest to find an acceptable ‘broiler’. For now its just a simple case of stomach full of meat, head full of worry!
A few things helping me get through this crises are;
- Rapunzel vege stock cubes
- the Island Bay butcher
- Mark Bittmans chocolate brownies
Recently I have fixed our gate. I fixed the dryer. With the help of some friends I fixed a tape delay. I fixed a laptop (then I dropped the laptop and broke it again).
Today I fixed a lock on our back door, and followed that up by fixing a nice meal with some tasty potatos from the garden.
Now I am hoping the wife will fix me a hot drink.