Monday, 14 July 2014

#43. Hey Jade – 21st Century Ox

Dion Barker: bass
Harry Fahey: drums
Matt Hewson: saxophone
Brendan Hoffmann: guitar, vocals
Matt Neal: vocals, guitar.

Lyrics by Matt Neal.
Music by Dion Barker, Harry Fahey, Matt Hewson, Brendan Hoffmann and Matt Neal.
Written late 2001.
Recorded at the Barker residence, October 2-10, 2003.
Recorded and mixed by Dave Wilson.

You can blame 80 Aces singer Jade McLaren for this one. Not only is it about him, but the style of the song was inspired by Fountains Of Wayne, which was a band Jade got me in to.

When we were doing a writing course at TAFE together in 1999-2000, we hung out constantly and Jade would often play Fountains Of Wayne’s self-titled debut, which is a killer album. I knew a couple of the songs (Radiation Vibe, Sink To The Bottom), but the whole record is really cool – it’s solid, smart guitar-pop. If the only Fountains Of Wayne song you know is Stacy’s Mom, you’re doing yourself a disservice. That is their worst song. Go and listen to their first album. Do it now. I’ll wait.

Here's track one to get you going.

Cool. Welcome back. I love the lyrics on that first album - a lot of the songs seem to be just simple little snapshots about regular, everyday people. I figured they must be real people because they were such neatly drawn yet almost mundane portraits of characters that seemed too innocuous to be fictitious – the Spanish ladies man who can do sign language (Joe Rey), the strange girl who moved to New York (Barbara H), the office worker who’s over it (Sick Day), the cool girl with the jerk boyfriend (Leave The Biker).

I also liked that they wrote songs with titles that were people’s names. Sure, The Beatles did that all the time (Michelle, Eleanor Rigby, Dear Prudence), but The Beatles were in a league of their own. The music of Fountains Of Wayne (and Ben Folds and his Five for that matter – they have so many songs named after people) seemed to be on a more reachable level. So I thought to myself, ‘I’m going to write a song about somebody, and name it after somebody’.

So I picked Jade, primarily for the Fountains Of Wayne connection. I was trying to sound a bit like them – musically it feels like a mixture of Leave The Biker and Sink To The Bottom – so it seemed fitting to write it about Jade. Also, I got to use a bad Beatles reference (much like the final piano chord in Leave The Biker) by calling it Hey Jade. Geddit?

That guy with the tape dispenser.

I think I achieved the mundane simplicity I was going for. It’s just about us going to class and shooting hoops in his backyard, as well as the fact that Jade loved to sing while driving and rarely got up before the crack of noon. Nothing terribly spectacular there.

This recording was a live demo my old band 21st Century Ox did during Dion’s Week Of Debauchery, where we set up a studio-load of gear in bassist Dion Barker’s lounge room while his folks were away. I reckon this take was done on one of the first two days of that week-long stint when we were just running through a bunch of songs to test out the recording gear, get a feel for the set-up, and get some kind of recording of some songs we’d never laid down before.

Dion, prior to debauchery, with a 21st Century Ox poster.

As a result the playing is a bit sloppy early on, but finds its feet by the end. I like the tasty sax that only comes in right at the end and the grungy rhythms of the chorus. The “ahh-ahh” pre-outro is pretty cool too, even if I do say so myself.

This song was largely forgotten by the members of Ox until it was unearthed by drummer Harry Fahey, who found it in a forgotten box of forgotten recordings.

Here’s Dion:
“I'd forgotten how awesome that song was! How come that never made it to number one in the charts? It was (added to the set-list) very late in the Ox years and I do remember struggling a bit with the changes, although that was probably true for a lot of the songs! It was a really fun song to play though when we nailed it.”

But the last words should undoubtedly go to the man himself.

The man himself.

“Back when music was still wizardry to me, Doc came up to me and asked me to have a listen to a song he'd written about me,” Jade recalled.

“So I sat waiting for the punchline but he was serious. I can’t remember where we listened to it but I liked it and was humbled that someone could make a song about me last for longer than 30 seconds. I can see what he was going for - trying to get all those little catchy things I liked at the time in one song. My favourite line is ‘hey Jade you live hand grenade’ – I gotta use that again somewhere.”


Hey Jade
You sleep all day and when you get out of bed the nights on its way
Hey Jade
Come out and play we found a new ball and there’s a game under

Hope this is the kind of song you like
Listen to it when you’re up all night
Hope this is the kind of song you’ll sing
At the top of your voice when you’re in your car

Hey Jade
You live hand grenade, a victory dance for every shot that you’ve made
Hey Jade
What have you written today, get ready for class or else we’re gonna be late

Saturday, 21 June 2014

#42. Hackysack – 21st Century Ox

Dion Barker: bass
Harry Fahey: drums
Matt Hewson: saxophone
Brendan Hoffmann: guitar
Matt Neal: vocals, guitar, keyboard

Lyrics by Matt Neal.
Music by Dion Barker, Harry Fahey, Matt Hewson, Brendan Hoffmann and Matt Neal.
Written 2000.
Recorded at Motherlode Studios, Warrnambool, 2002.
Produced and mixed by Harry Fahey and Tony Peel.
Additional recording and mixing by Brendan Hoffmann and Matt Neal at Hoffa’s, July 14, 2014.

Two things that remind me of my erstwhile band 21st Century Ox are hackysacks and Mr Bungle, and this song is the place where these things kinda meet.
Firstly, the hackysacks.
In breaks at rehearsal, before gigs, after gigs, at parties, wherever and whenever, we would usually be kicking around a hackysack. It was the closest thing to "exercise" that we did.
We were mad for it - so much so that we invented a sport called Hacketball which was a loose (yet awesome) combination of hackysack, cricket and baseball. People still talk about Hacketball in hushed, awed tones. Despite this, the IOC is yet to award it Olympic status.

Hacketball in action. PIC: James Colquhoun.

This song was our ode to the art of hackysack. I wrote the guts of the music and the words and took it to the band, who knocked it into shape. Lyrically, it’s nothing special but at the time I was working on the songwriting principle that you could write songs about anything at all, no matter how silly, and ultimately it could become a metaphor for something. Thus, the idea of hackysack – a non-competitive “sport” that can’t work without teamwork and sharing – became a hippy-ish plea to humanity for peace, love, and understanding: “No teams, just friends, we’re all the same”. This was like my Imagine, man… but shitter.

It's like the hackysack is the world, man... no, wait....

Here’s Ox bassist Dion Barker:

“Much like the activity of the same name, Hackysack is a fun, punchy and uplifting way to spend several minutes,” Dion said of the song.

“I don't particularly remember how the song came about but I do recall playing it through and Hoffa adding that awesome guitar riff that went on to become an awesome guitar-and-sax riff, with the rest of us dropping back in over the top... it just fit perfectly! I have a feeling that the whole song just fell together easily, as did a lot of Ox songs.”

That riff in the breakdown section is indeed the work of guitarist Brendan Hoffmann, and it became the coolest part of the song.

Hoffa steps up to the pitcher's mound in a hacketball game. PIC: James Colquhoun.

“My memory of Hackysack is that it was mostly a song written by Nealy, but when we jammed on it, it really came to life,” Hoffa said.

“The ripping riff in the middle was my idea – (I) just heard a swamp, pluck, hoe-down thing and my fingers just seemed to fall into place.

“(It was) one of our best live songs I think. I remember many a great gig with the crowd dancing or moshing their arses off to this.”

Drummer Harry Fahey said he doesn’t “ever remember the crowd response at the sudden end being as big as it deserved” and admitted the tempo was hard to nail (although I think that was my fault mostly – see live version posted below).

“(But) I loved playing the verses of Hackysack for the open/close hi-hat-snare syncopation - fun and bouncy,” Harry said.

Harry relaxes after a hard game of hacketball. PIC: James Colquhoun.

Time for a hackysack/Ox-related anecdote:

Ox once had the honour of supporting Something For Kate (one of my favourite bands) and someone had told us they were mad for hackysack too (I’m not sure who and I have no idea how such a conversation came up). So after we'd played and loaded out we headed to the green room to see if SFK wanted to kick the hack around with us. Our way was barred at the entrance to the green room by someone from their entourage who said we weren't allowed in because SFK were in the middle of a band meeting. Sure enough, they were huddled together in the centre of the room, arms around each other like a pre-game basketball team.

We explained to the entourage member that we just wanted to see if SFK wanted to come out and kick the hack around before the gig because we loved hackysack and we'd heard SFK did too.
The guy just looked at us weirdly, said he'd pass it on and told us to bugger off. So we stayed outside and began to play hackysack, hoping they'd see us through the window and come bounding out full of enthusiasm, keen to "hack in".

They never did.

Feeling slighted, we ate all their green room sandwiches in retaliation. True story.

Anyway, on to Mr Bungle (who Ox drummer Harry Fahey met but sadly didn't get to play hackysack with either).

It probably doesn't show in our music, but Bungle were a huge influence on Ox. We listened to their albums all the time and were endlessly impressed by their musicianship, genre-hopping and anything-goes musical attitude.

While California is my favourite Bungle album, I loved the weird circus-metal of their self-titled debut. It was something I was partially trying to emulate on the song Hackysack, which is only really evident in the sax line of the studio version but can be heard in the intro (0:30-):38) of this live version recorded the long-gone Cellar in Warrnambool.

The finished song ended up being far poppier and grungier than Bungle, which helped it become one the closest things we had to a fan favourite (along with Sweet Sweet Coffee). Dion recalls discussion of doing a film clip, which makes me think we discussed making it a single.

The intro on the studio version comes from another of Ox's favourite bands and biggest influences - Tool. We had always intended to record a keyboard intro to the song that captured the circus-y vibe of the Bungle song Quote Unquote (see above), but which was reminiscent of Tool's Intermission in the album Aenima (which was actually the song Jimmy played in muzak style).

We never got around to doing it at the time in 2002 and it was one of the puzzle pieces that was missing which left our second album The Last Sane Man On Earth remained unfinished.

That was until a couple of weeks ago when Ox guitarist Brendan Hoffmann and myself got together and finally recorded that long forgotten intro. We were pretty stoked with the end result. Others weren’t.

“To be honest, I don't think much of the recently recorded intro,” Dion said.

“But if that's the sound we were aiming for, then you've nailed it perfectly!”

Thanks, D.


Come play the game it’s always fun
One for all and all for one
Hack in, join in, enjoy the game
No teams, just friends, we’re all the same

Come and play with the hackysack
Come and play

To find us follow the laughing sound
And watch the hack go around and around
Hack in, join in, enjoy the game
No teams, just friends, we’re all the same

Peace and love and harmony

Wednesday, 4 June 2014

#41. Guitarzan – The 80 Aces

Jarrod Hawker: drums.
Matt Hewson: bass.
Jade McLaren: vocals.
Matt Neal: guitar.

Chanting by Jackson McLaren, Kyle McLaren, Tim Emanuelle and Marcus Hall.

Lyrics by Jade McLaren & Matt Neal.
Music by Jarrod Hawker, Matt Hewson, Jade McLaren & Matt Neal.
Written late 2006-early 2007.
Recorded at Noise Studios in mid-2007.
Produced and mixed by Marcus Jennings.
Released on The 80 Aces EP.

Alan Brough, he of Spicks & Specks and ABC Radio fame, once called this "one of the greatest names for a track I have heard in a long time". Credit for this goes to 80 Aces singer Jade McLaren, who penned the majority of this song and came up with the clever titular portmanteau.

Unfortunately, as with most good ideas, it had been done before. Here's a song called Guitarzan (although it’s spelt Gitarzan for some weird reason) recorded back in 1969 by novelty song specialist Ray Stevens (probably best known for The Streak).

We didn't know this song existed until well after we'd recorded and released our Guitarzan. The two songs couldn't be more different, plus I'm fairly certain Stevens' song isn't about our good friend Jackson McLaren like ours is. I can't be 100 per cent on that, but I'm fairly certain.

Jade's starting point for the song was watching young Jackson cut his teeth playing with The Roaring 40s (a band which also featured Jade's younger brother and future 80 Aces bassist Kyle – Jackson is no relation to these McLaren’s, by the way). We were bemused, impressed and intrigued by the dichotomy of Jackson back then - at rest he was a quiet, polite and calm teen, but put a guitar in his hands or place him on stage and he became a wild man; a raucous, unbridled soul beyond his years who could howl up a storm and stomp a rocker with the best of them.

Jackson, Kyle and Marcus aka The Roaring 40s.

Here’s Jade:

Guitarzan started as a word play idea I had at the time. I thought the word Guitarzan was interesting but was struggling to find a way to use it, then I thought about writing it about a guitarist and the most impressive guitarist that I knew personally at the time was Jackson McLaren.”

Jeez, thanks dude.

I kid. Jackson was better.

“If anyone was lucky enough to witness Jackson McLaren fronting The Roaring 40s, you'd most likely agree he was impressive. A 14-year-old kid who played the guitar upside-down and left-handed and moved around on stage like Chuck Berry… I thought he was great.

“I was also interested in the way Jackson, as a relatively softly spoken, shy kinda guy, would get a guitar in his hands and perform like he was a beast. I’d never written a song about someone I’d known before and thought it would be a fun challenge.”

Jackson in action aka Action Jackson.

Jade came to me with the melodies fully formed and it was my job to put chords to them. First I had to convince Jade to switch the verse and the chorus - he had the 'Hey kid" part as the chorus and the climbing falsetto section as the verse. Eventually he agreed I was right and we carried on.

As is usually our way, we did the song over two sessions, leaving the hard part of writing the second verse til later (I know there aren't many words, but we tended to take our time). Once that was in the bag, we took the song to the rest of the band - drummer Jarrod Hawker and bassist Matt Hewson.

“It came to me pretty fully formed except for the bass line,” Hewy said.

“Even then it was obvious what I had to play. It was one of those tunes that required resisting the urge to get fancy or overplay, which I think I almost succeeded at. It was punchy; a very energetic song. It was always fun to play for that reason, and because it was easy for Hawk and I to lock in and just drive it.”

Me, Hawk, Hewy and Jade.

Hawk recalls attempting some Tool-esque beat before giving up and acquiescing to mine and Jade's suggestion to play something "jungle".

“I always liked it,” Hawk recalled.

“It came together quickly and was a good set opener. I felt it had a good pulse, and the guitar rhythm sat well with me.”

Lyrically, I think it captures the essence of Jackson and the “beast” he became on stage, as well as hinting in the chorus that Jade and I felt he was destined for great things. Jackson actually sings on the song too - the chanting in the outro features himself, fellow Roaring 40s Kyle McLaren and Marcus Hall, and our good friend and one-time Greens candidate for Wannon Tim Emanuelle.

Yep, this guy.


Hey kid, you’re the man, Guitarzan

Leap off your branch and swing
On vines made of guitar strings

When you’re on the ground you wish you were howling at the moon
But you’re not, you’re stuck here with the rest of us baboons

Your hair, undergrowth, you wild thing
Cut loose, primal, and plugged in

Monday, 19 May 2014

#40. Guatemalan Rock & Roll – The Extreme Sprinklers

Jade McLaren: vocals, whistling
Matt Neal: keyboards, vocals, guitar

Words and music by Jade McLaren and Matt Neal.
Recorded and written May 31, 2003 in Studio Studyo, Warrnambool.
Produced by Matt Neal and Jade McLaren.

The musical relationship between myself and Extreme Sprinklers/80 Aces singer Jade McLaren began at 4.30am on May 31, way back in 2003. It’s weird to be able to pinpoint such a thing so precisely, I know, but it’s also probably weirder to have something happen at 4.30 in the morning that isn’t forgettable, regrettable or just generally a bad idea. Guatemalan Rock & Roll is none of those things. It may seem strange when you hear the track, but this is one of my favourite songs that will appear or has appeared on this blog.

The story behind this song, for what it’s worth, goes like this: Jade McLaren was back in Warrnambool to catch up with some old mates, and we’d been hanging out a friend’s place for a while before heading back to my joint for some steady drinking and because Jade needed somewhere to crash.

After a few hours of talking shit, we decided we should record a song. Didn’t matter that it was 4.30am in the morning, didn’t matter that people were trying to sleep elsewhere in the house, didn’t matter that we’d never written or recorded a song together before. Fuck it.

Fuckin' rebels. 
(Pic by Angela Milne, circa 2004)

In the minds of Jade and I, this song is kind of momentous, though it may seem like a pile of weirdness to you. This bizarre little number is the beginning of a musical partnership that has lasted 11 years, and as such, it holds a special place in our hearts. It kickstarted The Extreme Sprinklers, which would eventually become The 80 Aces.

The recording was done as quietly as possible so as not to wake the sleepers in the house, which is why it comprises mostly keyboards and quiet singing. The noisy guitar was added the next day, but the rest of the song was completed by 6.30am.

Apparently the song was almost called Descent Of The Clowns 
(or rather Decent Of The Clowns as it says here)

“I remember how excited I was to actually be making a song as it was my first time writing a song with anyone,” Jade recalled.

“I was amazed at how the recording technology worked and how we could change and manipulate what we sounded like in strange and weird ways. The song itself is pretty much a tech demo of us playing around on various instruments and effects.

“I make no excuses for what I am about to say and that is this; ‘I love this song’. I’m as proud of it today as I was 11 years ago when we made it. Not because it’s a good song but because of what we achieved on our first ever go at writing together and how cool some of the effects and that sound.

“We eventually released it to some of our fans (we used to have fans), and they were so freaked out by the song that some swore never to listen to it again,” Jade laughed.

Not sure why that was.

One thing I like about Guatemalan Rock & Roll is that it doesn’t sound like anything else I can think of. We both freely admit that we were trying to emulate our heroes Ween, and generally speaking it’s reminiscent of Ween in the sense that it’s weird and sung in funny voices and has an “anything goes” attitude to it, but it doesn’t sound much like a particular Ween song. It just has a general Ween vibe.

This is about the closest thing I can find:

I still like Guatemalan Rock & Roll 11 years on. It’s the kind of song you make when you don’t give a fuck and you don’t really know what you’re doing, and I miss doing that.


Elevators scare me so,
What’s below me? I don’t know
Sinking down into a hole
Falling gently in slow-mo

What’s below him? He don’t know
Elevators scare him so
Sinking down bellisimo
Guatemalan rock ‘n’ roll

Feel the movement in my bones
Technicolour rainbow tones
Push the button, down we go
Maybe I should sing down low

Guatemalan rock ‘n’ roll

Sunday, 6 April 2014

#39. Girl From The Future – The 80 Aces

Jarrod Hawker – drums
Jade McLaren – vocals
Kyle McLaren – bass
Matt Neal – guitar

Lyrics by Jade McLaren and Matt Neal.
Music by Jarrod Hawker, Jade McLaren, Kyle McLaren and Matt Neal.
Written early 2011.
Recorded December ’11-January ’12 at Motherlode Studios, Warrnambool.
Produced, arranged and mixed by Steven Schram.
Engineered by Tony Peel.
Released on the Dollars EP.

When it came time to record our Dollars EP (buy it here!) – our "push at the big time" EP – we acquired the services of producer/mixer Steven Schram. He wasn’t cheap (he’s even more expensive these days seeing as how he’s just done the new Paul Kelly album) but he was worth it – not because we made the big time, but because we learnt an incredible amount from him.

This song is a nice example of the simple things a good producer will do if you let them fiddle with your songs. Compare the above arrangement to the demo below, which was just smashed out live in rough fashion among 17 other songs we demoed that day.

Demo recorded and mixed by Tony Peel at Motherlode Studios, May 28, 2011.

Schramy’s adjustments were simple – get rid of the pre-chorus bit which slows the song down (and sounds like Limp Bizkit, he reckoned), halve the intro, keep the groove steady, chuck a bit of tambourine in the chorus, add a few splashes of secondary guitar, tweak the build-up in the last verse, and BAM, Bob’s your auntie’s live-in lover. Also, he made it sound fat (or 'phat', depending on which school you went to).

When we told people we’d brought in a producer who was changing our songs, they were a little taken aback. Why would you let someone do that? The answer was that it made the songs better. Schramy knew what he was doing, more so than we did. Having an outside pair of ears take over is not necessarily a bad thing - at least not when it's someone as good as Steven Schram.

It was predominantly his work on Ground Components' An Eye For A Brow, A Tooth For A Pick 
that made me and Jade suggest Schramy to the other guys for the Dollars EP.

As usual when compiling this blog, I asked the other guys in the band what they had to say about the song. Drummer Jarrod Hawker’s input was typically inspiring.

“I like it, despite the fact it's a blatant rip-off of Runaway by Bon Jovi,” he said.

I had to find that song on YouTube to see what the fuck Hawk was talking about. But there it is - the first two chords of the verses of Runaway … well, that’s pretty much the entirety of Girl From The Future right there. Damn.

Jarrod then went on to point out that: “Runaway is, in many scholars’ opinions, the greatest song of all time. Ever.”.

“But seriously, the premise (of Girl From The Future) is cool and the four-bar, single phrase chorus line ("That's what happens...") is a particular highlight.”

Hawk in action, channeling his inner Bon Jovi while demoing 
Girl From The Future in 2011 at Motherlode Studios. PIC: Dannii Hale.

That line – “That’s what happens when you fall in love with a girl from the future” – was the song’s original full title, but APRA wouldn’t let me use that many letters in a song name so I had to shorten it to Girl From The Future. Damn.

That line was also the beginning of everything for this song. I read it in Grant Morrison’s awesomely weird comic series The Invisibles and instantly thought, “I have to put that line in a song”. It practically dictated its own melody and guitar line. When 80 Aces vocalist Jade McLaren and I sat down to write the tune, we pretty much had that bit sorted within five seconds of starting.

You should read The Invisibles. It's mental.

As well as coming with its own melody, the line instantly opened up a world of lyrical possibilities. It was partly a throwaway gag for a hook, but it made me think about what problems you would have if you fell in love with a girl from the future, which then made me realise that those problems would probably be the same problems most relationships have. With all that as a starting point, it made the song one of the easiest to write.

“Doc came to me with just one line, asking if it could be a song title,” Jade recalled.

“At first I was kinda puzzled until he explained the idea. I thought it definitely had merit so we began working on it sitting in his carport with a few beers.

“My favourite section of is the line, ‘with both hands on the clock you cannot speed up time’. It’s very indicative of the lyrics we write. We think we’re being clever and tricksy with our witty lines but I don’t think anybody has ever picked up on it so it’s (probably) a waste of time.”

On the left our my suggested words and phrases for the song, on the right the resulting lyrics.

Bassist Kyle Mclaren called it one of his favourites, labelling it “a great blend of rock with witty pop (and a) great chorus”.

“I loved the stabby verse bass and vocal together also,” he said.

What Kyle is neglecting to mention is the song is pretty much two chords (A minor and G for those of you playing along at home). I guess it goes to show what you can do with just two chords. Plus, if we’d added more, it probably would’ve ended up sounding like a total rip-off of Bon Jovi’s Runaway….

At least we had some band shots to suit our Bon Jovi sound. PIC: Gareth Colliton.


She gets up too early, you go to bed too late
She says time is short, you say there’s time to waste
But you’re always coming back with the right thing to say
Unfortunately it’s always on the next day

You can’t remember things that haven’t happened yet
You can’t correct what hasn’t gone wrong yet
You can’t finish things that haven’t begun yet
But that’s what happens when you fall in love with a girl from the future

You say all the things that she already knew
You live in the past, she lives in déjà vu
But with both hands on the clock you cannot speed up time
She’s two steps in front, you’re 20 steps behind

You say she’s post-modern, she says you’re out of date
Nostalgia isn’t what it used to be anyway

Sunday, 30 March 2014

#38. The Generoxity EP

This week’s blog is not about just one song – it’s about a little EP that serves as a minor memento from Warrnambool’s musical history.

At some point in early 2001, my band 21st Century Ox neared completion of our debut album What Am I Going To Do With All These Portaloos?. During discussions about a release gig, someone in the band – we’re not sure who – hit upon the idea of having a joint launch with two other Warrnambool bands who were also nearing completion of their latest recordings.

Those acts were metal band Negative Hold and grunge group Ritalin. We’d played plenty of gigs with those guys before and were all good friends, so it made sense to launch our stuff together. Negative Hold were working on the P.M.U. EP, and, if memory serves me correctly, Ritalin were preparing to launch a cassette album (which was apparently still a thing in those days).

Negative Hold in action.

To make it something a bit different from a regular launch gig, someone in Ox (I’d like to take credit for it but it probably wasn’t me) struck upon the idea to make a free CD to giveaway on the night. It would feature each of the three bands covering a song by each of the other bands.

On April 2, 2001, me and my Ox bandmates headed around to the house where Adam and Chris from Negative Hold lived and we discussed the idea with Adam, Chris, and Lee Ronald from Ritalin. Everyone agreed it was great idea, and so we parted ways with the plan to record two songs each and put them together on a CD for the launch gig.

Negative Hold live on stage in Koroit, 2001. 
(Apologies for the shitty "photo of a photo" quality.)

The end result is the Generoxity EP, which we gave to everyone who turned up on the night of the all-ages launch at Warrnambool’s Temperance Hall sometime later in 2001 (July or August, I think). I’ll bet there are a few people out there with copies now propping up wonky table legs or serving as beer coasters.

So here is the Negative Hold original that 21st Century Ox covered:

Backfire – Negative Hold

Dean Berger: guitars
Adam B. Metal: vocals
Tim Meyer: drums
Chris Wombwell: bass

Written, produced and mixed by Negative Hold. Recorded at home in 2000.
Released on 3 Track EP in 2000.

What a killer track. They recorded that 3 Track EP for $25 at home. Awesome.
And here’s our version:

Backfire – 21st Century Ox

Dion Barker: bass
Harry Fahey: drums
Brendan Hoffmann: guitar, vocals
Matt Neal: guitar, vocals

Written by Negative Hold.
Produced and mixed by Harry Fahey at Harry’s Practice, Crossley, on May 28-31, 2001.

Thirteen years on, I think we all agree on what the coolest part of the Generoxity EP was:

“The real interesting part was seeing how others covered your material, doing something very different with it than you would have thought,” Dean Berger from Negative Hold said recently.

Ox bassist Dion Barker agreed. “It was great to be able to put the Ox twist to a couple of other local favourites,” he said. “It was even better hearing Negative Hold's version of one of ours!” 

Obviously we changed a couple of things in the Ox version of Backfire, the main one being turning that awesome grinding opening riff into an easier-to-play, grungier alt-rock riff that suited our style and owed a debt to Smashing Pumpkins’ Quiet. We threw in a drum breakdown and slightly different outro, and rather then me yelling “Yeah!” or something when the drums kicked in, we thought it would be funny for me to yell “Hold!”. I think we thought the Hold boys would get a kick out of that.

Negative Hold returned the favour with a cover of Juliet & Her Romeo. Here’s the original:

Juliet & Her Romeo – 21st Century Ox

Dion Barker: bass
Harry Fahey: drums
Brendan Hoffmann: sax, vocals
Matt Neal: guitar

Written by 21st Century Ox.
Recorded at Motherlode Studios, Warrnambool in 2000.
Produced and mixed by Tony Peel.
Released on What Am I Going To Do With All These Portaloos? in 2001.

And here’s the rather awesome cover:

Juliet & Her Romeo – Negative Hold

Dean Berger: guitars
Adam B. Metal: vocals
Tim Meyer: drums
Chris Wombwell: bass

Written by 21st Century Ox.
Produced and mixed by Negative Hold. Recorded at home in 2001.

“I don't remember why we picked our Ox song,” Dean Berger said.

“Maybe (it was) because it was so different to what we had been playing and writing. I enjoyed doing it as we didn't have to think about writing a song - just spraying our Negative Hold jizz all over it, which I think we did.

“I thought Adam did a great job on it. And as always recording it was a fun experience, especially because it got all the muso's together working on something completely different.”

Here's the awesome shit that Adam B Metal is up to these days.

As Dion Barker said, it was very cool hearing someone do stuff to one of your songs. We were pretty blown away by Negative Hold’s version, especially the way they’d messed with the chords and melodies to make it more Hold-like.

Ox guitarist/vocalist Brendan Hoffmann said he was impressed by the cover of Juliet & Her Romeo, as well as the concept of the EP as a whole.

“(The EP) was a great idea and we gave away shitloads of them. It was agood gesture, and good to have everybody collaborating.”

Harry and Hoffa during Ox's Generoxity recording session.

The third and final track on the Generoxity EP (the name is a bad mash-up of letters in the band names) was 21st Century Ox’s cover of the Ritalin song Lust. Sadly, I don’t have a copy of the original anywhere – only the cover we recorded in the same session as our cover of Backfire.

Lust – 21st Century Ox

Dion Barker: bass
Harry Fahey: drums
Brendan Hoffmann: guitar, vocals
Matt Neal: guitar, vocals

Written by Lee Ronald.
Produced and mixed by Harry Fahey at Harry’s Practice, Crossley, on May 28-31, 2001.

The only downside to the project was that Ritalin didn’t contribute any covers. Frontman Lee Ronald (RIP) may have been a rad guitarist and an awesome dude but his time management skills weren’t the best. I’m pretty sure they didn’t even have their cassette album ready for release at the gig. That was very Lee. Ritalin did rock at the launch though – that I remember clearly.

(l-r) Nathan Pye, Lee Ronald, and Brendan Hoffmann 
at the 3WAY FM Studios circa 2001-2002

I’m so glad we got to record one of Lee’s songs and played so many gigs with him and Ritalin (and later on The Extreme Sprinklers played a few shows with his next band The Circle K). Lee may be gone and we all still miss him, but his recordings are still out there and so he lives on - in our memories and in his music. When I listen to Ox’s shitty recording of Lust (it sounds slightly less shitty in headphones, trust me) it makes me smile and I think of Lee and that is a good thing.

RIP Lee. Gone too soon.

So after covering each others’ songs, the only thing left to do was launch our damned recordings. Here’s Dion:

“The original plan was to do the underage launch and then another one down the track at a licensed venue... I don't think we ever got to that one,” he said.

“I'm not sure which one of us geniuses came up with the idea, but it was awesome working together with everyone on the CD and subsequent show at the Temperance Hall.

“It was a good crowd. They were lined up out the front beforehand and it was a bit of a crush to get in! I do remember confiscating a fair bit of alcohol off the little tackers, too. Security were watching me like a hawk (so I had to) dispose of it all down the drain. There were tears, trust me.”

For the final word, here’s Ox drummer Harry Fahey:

“To be brutally honest, Doc, I have no recollection of any of this happening at all.”

Ah, the memories….

Monday, 10 March 2014

#37. Fives

Matt Neal: programming.
Written, produced, recorded and mixed by Matt Neal at ???? in 2007 or maybe earlier.

One evening, about 10 years ago, I heard an interview with a musician on Triple J and he was talking about how most dance/electro music was in 4/4 timing and how he’d deliberately set out to write a dance/electro song that wasn’t in 4/4 timing.

The end result was a really cool song. At this point in time, I can’t figure out what song it was. I had a feeling it was a song by Ross McLennan, formerly of Snout, perhaps from his album Songs From The Brittle Building. I contacted Ross through Facebook to see if he could figure what song it was I’d heard.

It's not this song, but Symphobia is awesome nonetheless.

He was nice enough to respond and said it sounded like something he would say, but was unsure of the song. Maybe it was We’re The Devil’s Own, he suggested, before thanking me for being “a bit obsessive and interested in music” and encouraging me to buy the album on eBay.

I still don’t know if this is the song cos I can’t find it anywhere. Oh well. The point is that interview made me think about trying to write something dancey in a time signature other than 4/4.

Fives is the result (so-called because it’s in 5/4). It was also inspired by a song 21st Century Ox drummer Harry Fahey did called Sevens (which was in 7/4), which was a very cool track he whipped up and we whacked on What Am I Going To Do With All These Portaloos? as one of the four secret tracks.

This album cover and title still makes me smile.

I don’t remember much else about Fives, but I do know that it has one of the coolest drum loops I’ve ever programmed. Pretty sure you can’t dance to it though. I think that means I failed. Also the song should be about a minute shorter. Onwards and upwards.