Saturday, 30 January 2016

#69. Lose Control - The 80 Aces


Gus Franklin - percussion, effects, additional guitar
Jarrod Hawker - drums, percussion
Jade McLaren - vocals
Kyle McLaren - bass, backing vocals
Matt Neal - guitar, backing vocals
Steven Schram - bongos

Lyrics by Jade McLaren and Matt Neal.
Music by Jarrod Hawker, Jade McLaren, Kyle McLaren, and Matt Neal.
Recorded at Motherlode Studios and The Hai Bin, Warrnambool, August 19-31, 2013.
Produced by Gus Franklin.
Mixed by Steven Schram.
Additional engineering by Tony Peel.

Released on the album Tales Of Great Adventure.



In case you don't Spotify or it doesn't work:


THE ORIGIN

The song started life around the time Jarrod Hawker joined the band on drums (late 2006, according to the archives). Matt Hewson was still playing bass with us at that stage. Singer Jade McLaren brought the idea in, which was just the chorus guitar riff and bass riff serving as both a verse and a chorus. Hawk “impregnated the song with the riff/middle section but Hewy gave birth to it”, according to Hawk (whatever that means).

I like the middle section, but I wasn’t feeling the rest of it. It felt like a poor man’s Take Me Out at that stage. It lacked dynamic - it was basically the same thing the whole way through until it got to the middle section. I don’t think the song ever made it out of the rehearsal shed at that stage.

Me, Hawk, Hewy, and Jade in the rehearsal shed. Picture: Dylan Buzolich.

THE RE-WRITE

Jade is nothing if not relentless, as he proved with Bandwagon. Much like how he thought that song would be a hit, he wouldn’t let this song (then called The Dancing Song) go. So when it came time to write some tunes to fill out The 80 Aces album Tales Of Great Adventure, Jade had this at the top of the list of tracks to work on.

The second attempt at writing this song happened in a semi-renovated mansion called Narrapumelap near Wickliffe in December 2012. Jade, Hawk, bass player Kyle McLaren, myself, and our good buddy Chris Hedges decamped to this mansion to write and demo some new tunes.

This is Narrapumelap. Seriously.

We came back with four or five songs. Among them was Attack Of The Killer Butterflies (which was already written by that stage and just needed to be demoed), Space Junk (written and recorded there), and The Dancing Song V2.0 aka Lose Control.


Seriously, this place is fucking rad. The weekend we spent there
was one of my favourite times with The 80 Aces.

What the song had been missing was a verse section. Jade was pretty set on the chorus and the rest of us dug the middle riff, so it was up to Kyle and I to find some funky groove to get it all started. At the time, I was on a bit of an INXS kick (pun intended) so my opening guitar riff is an attempt to get something like Need You Tonight, New Sensation, What You Need, or Original Sin. Maybe a combination of all four. I’d also seen Nile Rodgers & Chic play at Golden Plains earlier that year so there’s a bit of that in the opening guitar lines, with the crossover being Rodgers played on INXS’ Original Sin (but you all knew that, right?).


Here’s the demo from that session. Note the lack of guitar solo/production trickery:

Recorded at Narrapumelap by Chris Hedges.
Mixed by Chris Hedges.




Also note that this was one of our first times playing the damned thing.

THE PRE-PRODUCTION

Gus Franklin is a musical genius, in my opinion. He can play any instrument you throw at him, plus he’s got great ears and mad production skills. We played in a band together called Ted Dancin’ when we were in high school - Gus had already won a triple j Unearthed competition with his band Gramps by that stage, so we all knew he was destined for greatness. He went on to play in The Smallgoods and Architecture In Helsinki. Greatness, I tells ya.



Anyways, we knew we wanted Gus to produce Tales Of Great Adventure - if nothing else, we thought it would be cool to hang out with him for two weeks while we made a record. And we knew he’d make the album better than it ought to be (which he did).

In the lead-up to recording Tales Of Great Adventure (available now on iTunes), we sent a big digital pile of steaming hot demos to Gus. Gus replied with some helpful (and brutally honest) notes.

Here are the notes he wrote for Lose Control (which was one of the songs he didn’t hate):

- i love disco

- very good vibe… would you want the drums to be that spacey all the time?

- we could go all Daft Punk - "Random Access Memories," on this?

- sounds like The Police in the verses and i like that.

The Daft Punk thing struck a chord with me. Get Lucky was the feel good hit of the year and it happened to feature Nile Rodgers. So we were on the same wavelength there. We agreed we should try to get that real Nile sound in the guitars.


Here’s Gus:

“I decided early on in the process of making the album that Lose Control was the best potential single. Therefore we worked it hardest. I had it in my head that if the song was good enough, it might surpass triple j and fly onto Triple M somehow. This level of delusion is how I roll day to day. Some may say I'm a dreamer… etc, etc.”

THE RECORDING

We spent five days week recording at Tony Peel’s Motherlode Studios in Warrnambool - I think we smashed out the drum and bass tracks for the 10 songs (we’d already recorded Magic Shoes) in two or three days and spent the remainder of the time there recording guitar parts.




Day three of recording begins!
Posted by The 80 Aces on Tuesday, August 20, 2013


The guitar sessions for the album took about four or five days all up though. We relocated to The Hai Bin - our rehearsal space - to finish off the guitars. Kyle, Jade and Hawk would pop their heads in, see me and Gus were still going through guitar tracks, and promptly bugger off again. We spent more days on recording guitars for the album than anything else, which was awesome.



Day 4: Doc steps up to the plate. Gus checks his Rock Emails.
Posted by The 80 Aces on Wednesday, August 21, 2013


“The guitar sessions with Nealy were a lot of fun,” recalled Gus, adding that the “big riff in the middle section” of Lose Control was particularly fun to work on.




Here's a sneak peek ;\
Posted by The 80 Aces on Thursday, August 29, 2013


In the remaining three or four days of recording time, we raced through the vocals and then got stuck into the bells and whistles, such as recording the massive drum fill that leads into the choruses of Lose Control:





Day 9: All the drums!
Posted by The 80 Aces on Friday, August 30, 2013




THE LYRICS

This song had no lyrics right up until Jade recorded his vocals. We’d played it live heaps, but Jade had pretty much made word-like sounds each time, never bothering to write any real words. When we got around to recording the vocals at The Hai Bin, Jade and I sat down with Gus to put together some lyrics. Initially, I wrote down what I thought Jade had been singing all this time (I thought there were words already, to be honest), and then Gus directed us.

The song checklist.

“I asked Jade and Matt to re-write the lyrics to be really dumb and easy to get,” Gus explained.

“Basically I asked them to sell out. I remember the writing session and some groaning at how the lyrics were getting really cheeseball.”

I guess we figured if we were gonna write a big dumb pop hit, we may as well make the words seem like they were from a big dumb pop hit.

THE PRODUCTION


Aside from a few of Jade’s vocal sessions, I sat through the whole recording process with Gus. He said my job was to make sure he didn’t get too fixated on one thing or get bogged down in trying to mix stuff too much while recording. Basically, I’d lie there on the couch, usually with a beer, and listen to Gus go through the same five seconds of a song again and again for half an hour before I’d say “Gus - time to move on, mate”. It worked well.

"Gus - time to move on, mate."
"Doc, can you just fuck off a little bit?"

But the whole time, I was trying to learn stuff, which is the best bit about working with producers. From Peely to Steven Schram, from Gus to Joe Gardner, I’ve learnt something from each of them while making various recordings over the year.

Gus worked his arse off on Tales Of Great Adventure. It was basically an impossible task - we were never going to be able to make our magnum opus in just two weeks. But he fucking nearly did it. He worked 14-hour days and by the end of the final day he was nearly broken but the record was almost finished.

A little while later, I went up to Melbourne and stayed at Gus’ place so he could finish off a few arrangement things. He had done a bit of mixing and the songs were taking shape. In particular, he spent a lot of time of Lose Control.

Over to you, Gus:

“We were going all Max Martin/Daft Punk on this to try and make it sound like Get Lucky/current-pop-hits basically. It was the style of the time. I blame the current climate of pop music for the production on Lose Control. It’s not my fault, yer honour. I remember spending ages on the chorus hook - “la la la-la”. Pretty sure Matt Neal has heard that loop a billion times. I have too, but it’s my fault so I can’t really be upset about it. It’s still not very good, that hook, but we were worked as hard as we could with the skills that I had at the time to try and make it as good as possible. By the way, I played some sneaky guitar at the end. The really high one that comes in to finish the song. It’s pretty shit.

“I think what also should be noted in the summary of the making of this song is the pretty stupid pop trick-hooks - the swoops and pings that I decided would be good to put in the track at the last minute. I’m not ashamed of them, but they’re shit. But I think they make the song better, if that makes any sense.”

"Hawk, can I mic up your dip?"


THE MIX


Steven Schram produced, mixed and arranged the Dollars EP, which turned out pretty awesome, so we thought it might be good to get him to mix a track off Tales Of Great Adventure. Schramy was super-nice about it and offered to mix the whole record at a cut rate, but we couldn’t afford it, which was a shame. We had enough money for him to mix one song (at a cut rate) and that was it. In October of 2013, we sent him Lose Control - he was just about to head into the studio to record Paul Kelly’s Merri Soul Sessions but made time to mix our single. What a swell guy.

The first mix he sent back got rid of the Nile Rodgers guitar sound. I jumped on the phone and explained how that was the one thing we really wanted to keep sonically speaking. He thought for a second before saying very wryly, “How very 2013 of you”, but he did what we asked.

I also asked him what the hell he did to make the chorus so ballsy. He explained that there are THREE bass guitars in the chorus, each with different tones and levels of distortion on them. Whoa.

It’s worth noting (and Gus reminded me of this) that Schramy added some bongos to the song. They kick in around 2m33s and are there in the last chorus too. It’s a great touch and something we wouldn’t have thought to do. He’s a freakin’ genius.

THE FILM CLIP


Damn, that’s a good film clip. I had absolutely nothing to do with it, so I think I can say it wholeheartedly and with a fair amount of objectivity. Jade McLaren did a bloody good job with that video. He had some help from James McAnulty (who filmed the clip for I Am Trying To Read Your Mind) to shoot it, but it was pretty much all Jade. He painstakingly edited that damned puppet head into every single frame, having previously danced around Warrnambool like a goon with a green hood over his head and Jim Hensoned the shit out of that puppet in front of a green screen.

Hawk and I share similar sentiments regarding the song itself (more on that in a minute), but we also agree on the clip.

“I was pretty bloody impressed with Jade’s effort on the video,” he said. “(My) hat came off briefly.”

Jade said it’s the hardest he’s ever worked on something. Given it took six months to make, I’m not surprised.




So apparently we're back ladies and gents.And to celebrate our second coming we would like to invite you to join us on New Year's Eve at The Loft to get a sneak peek at our upcoming album "Tales of Great Adventure". Single release and film clip to come sometime in the new year. Hope to see you soon. xox
Posted by The 80 Aces on Saturday, December 27, 2014


THE AFTERMATH

Gus did an amazing job with the song, Schramy’s mix is rad, and Jade’s film clip is awesome.

As for the song, well, it’s probably my least favourite 80 Aces tune. In hindsight, it was an attempt to find a middle ground among us all. Jade wanted to write pop bangers (he now listens to K-pop and nothing else) while the rest of us wanted to rock and groove. We were hoping to create a worthy successor to Magic Shoes, but it didn’t work because it wasn’t as good. There are good bits to the song, don’t get me wrong, but as a whole I reckon it sounds like a bunch of guys with very little pop nous trying to write a pop song. It’s trying really hard, and in the end, it’s a bit try-hard.

Hawk described it as “poo” but admits it’s “poo that sticks in your head”.

Jade said he’s proud of the song, particularly because it doesn’t sound like anything ever recorded in Warrnambool by a Warrnambool band before. He got that right.

It's definitely one of the better songs recorded 
in an abandoned Chinese restaurant using a vocal booth 
made out of an old poker table. Picture: Gus Franklin.

And here’s a final word from Gus:

“I actually reckon the song’s really good. It’s basically ahead of its time - it’s the Can’t Feel My Face of 2013.”

I think he might be joking.

Lyrics:

It’s too late
We’re gonna blow up
No escape
We set the fire
Escalate
It’s gonna burn us
All through the night

You make me wanna wanna lose control

See you sway
And get beside you
Just a taste
I’ve got to try
Bump and grind
We cannot fight it
All through the night

Saturday, 9 January 2016

#68. Like Wine – The Extreme Sprinklers



Harry Fahey – drums
Matt Hewson – bass, backing vocals
Jade McLaren – vocals
Matt Neal – guitar, backing vocals

Lyrics by Jade McLaren and Matt Neal.
Music by Harry Fahey, Matt Hewson, Jade McLaren and Matt Neal.
Written in 2005.
Recorded on February 24, 2006, at Motherlode Studio, Warrnambool.
Produced, mixed and engineered by Gus Franklin and Tony Peel.



Every songwriter eventually writes a song about getting old. The trick is to not write that song for as long as possible. This is because the second you write it, you’re doomed to think of yourself as a naive unappreciative fool in only a few years time.

Me and my songwriting partner Jade McLaren managed to wait until we were the ripe old age of 25 before we penned this ode to feeling like life had started to pass us by. To be fair though, it was Jade’s idea. And to be doubly fair, and I’d already penned a similarly themed song when I was 23 (the aforementioned Nobody Buys Videos Anymore).

Definitely not old in 2005. Picture: Warrnambool Standard

Perhaps having already been down this path and, ironically, having gained wisdom with the passage of time meant I had a very different perspective on this song to Jade. If I remember correctly, Jade’s angle was something like “I went to the Gal and I felt really old”. My angle was “getting old can be a good thing… like how wine gets better with age”.

I’m not sure if the two perspectives match up, but that’s the gist of this song. Jade was responsible for the melodies and most of the verse lyrics I think. I just remember trying to match chords to his vocals and coming up with the outro, which was my attempt at replicating the “I got soul but I’m not a soldier” crescendo of All These Things That I’ve Done by The Killers. That song (and the album Hot Fuss) came out around the time we wrote this and I was blown away - it's an amazing track from an amazing album.


As for the rest of the song… I have no idea what it sounds like or what were trying to sound like. At the time, we were outgrowing our genre-hopping inclinations and transitioning into a rock band and this song was very much an attempt to hit the rock button. I don’t think it really worked though - Harry Fahey does an amazing job on the drums to keep it all together, while Matt Hewson’s fingers are working overtime on the bass, but the whole thing is a bit too stop-start and lacking in groove.

Harry slightly disagrees:

“Just having a listen now and loving it. Great work everyone on tying together some really rockin’ verse patterns without destroying the groove of the tune.”

Here we are rocking the old TAFE caf a few months before writing this song (I think).

Hewy is also a fan of the song:

“I'd completely forgotten about this tune, but it was one of my favourites. Listening back, it was probably one of the only legitimately good rock tunes we came up with. The lines were cool, the vocals were loose but appropriate, and the change up with harmonies was a fun singalong.”

Personally I think we had plenty of better rock tunes, such as Identigirl, Ice-Cream Headaches and Karma Comes Around. But that’s just me.

Pic: Dylan Buzolich

The recording was done during a demoing session where we roped in our good pals Gus Franklin and Tony Peel to twiddle the dials while we played live in the studio. It was a fun session.

Anyway, now that I’m 35, I’m going to go away and write a song about getting old…..



Lyrics

What happened to you?
It’s like you’re see-through
Thrown out of the loop
It’s time to face the truth
New faces, no names
Less laugh lines in the frame
This is the new age
Too old to act this way

I feel like wine
Drink to my health
The passing of time
Increases my wealth

The shelf life of youth
Race past and show your proof
Didn’t you get the news
Back away you’ve been excused

I am the wine
Drink to my health

Tuesday, 24 November 2015

#67. Late Video Blues – The Extreme Sprinklers


Harry Fahey: drums
Matt Hewson: bass
Jade McLaren: vocals
Matt Neal: guitar

Lyrics by Jade McLaren and Matt Neal
Music by Harry Fahey, Matt Hewson, Jade McLaren and Matt Neal.
Written 2004.
Recorded at The Shed, Warrnambool in April, 2006.
Produced, engineered and mixed by Harry Fahey.



Songwriting tip #67: Be careful writing songs about technology.

Nothing makes a song date quicker than mentioning technology - especially anything related to computers or the internet. I remember my long-time songwriting partner Jade McLaren wanting to write a song about MySpace back in the mid-’00s. Thankfully, I stood my ground and it never happened.

"My my my MySpace!"
Picture: Damian White

But with this song, for some reason, we deliberately picked an already dated technology. I’m not sure why. We could have used ‘DVDs’ in place of the word ‘video’. It even has the right number of syllables. But it didn’t have the same ring to it. There was just something about videos. I’d already written a song in my previous band 21st Century Ox called Nobody Buys Videos Anymore. Maybe it’s just me, but there’s a certain crappy romanticism to videos - having to rewind them, going to a video store, dubbing them onto a blank tape. It’s probably something to do with lame nostalgia. Which I’m a fan of. Hence this blog.

Anyway, Jade and I deliberately wrote an out-of-date song about videos, and to be honest, I think it’s the funniest song we ever wrote. Jamaica and Lappers may have gotten more attention, but I think Late Video Blues is the most humourous set of lyrics we penned. Plus Jade’s vocal over-selling of the song - such passion! - just makes it even funnier.

You won't believe how many photos I have of Jade doing this.
Picture: Damian White

We were always going to write a blues. We were cycling through as many genres as we could at the time - rap-rock, reggae, country, post-punk, hip-hop, just to name a few - so we were bound to do a blues, especially because the blues is so fucking easy. I kinda hate it because it’s so easy. It’s three chords and a select number of grooves. I like it when people mess with the blues and subvert it, because otherwise it’s just the easiest musical genre in the world. Which is why I kinda hate it - it’s too easy. I mean, I can’t solo for shit, but the rest of it’s easy.

That's enough embarrassing photos of Jade - here's an embarrassing one of me.
Playing with your shirt off is the ultimate sign of a wanker.

We definitely didn’t bother subverting the genre musically - this is just a regular old 16-bar blues in G, if I recall correctly. We did try to subvert it lyrically though. It’s not a new trick, but we wanted to find something deliberately banal as a subject for a blues song - something mundane that then escalates to the point of insanity. That’s always funny. By my recollection, it was based on a true story. Jade’s girlfriend at the time was always reminding him to take DVDs back to the video store. I seem to recall a point in time when Jade was unable to borrow from any video store in town because he had amassed a huge debt at every single one of them. That was our inspiration. We started with the usual “I woke up this morning” bullshit blues cliché and tried to make it sound like we building towards something important, and then made the whole thing about late videos and video store fines.

We wrote this really quickly, pretty much just spilling the whole thing out, in order, line by line. Jade came up with “Asking me about Weekend At Bernies”, and I didn’t miss a beat coming up with the next line: “And Beverly Hills Cop II”. It was great fun to write - just real simple, dumb fun. We were writing a song a week at this point in time, mostly because it’s easy when the songs are simple and dumb and you don’t give a fuck.

Pictured: Eddie Murphy not giving a fuck in Beverly Hills Cop II.

The above recording was laid down just for the sake of it and to ensure we had a recording of this song before it disappeared into the ether, as so many songs do. That’s one piece of advice I’d share - record a version of every song you write. When they don’t get played, songs tend to disappear (unless you have a photographic memory) and that’s always a shame. No matter how dumb or inane or embarrassing the song might be in the future, every song is attached to memories and ideas and moments. For me, this one is a reminder of writing fun, stupid songs for the hell of it, back when it was easy because we didn’t care that much. And it’s a reminder of the nights hanging out in the shed, jamming with Jade and Matt Hewson and Harry Fahey. Those were good times, and we played well together.

And damn we were a handsome band.
Picture: Glen Watson

Below is an earlier version of the song (the riff here is how it was originally written before I got bored with it) smashed out a party at the house of a top bloke called Ross Carlson. 21st Century Ox did a couple of Rosco’s parties up in Melbourne in the early 2000s and The Extreme Sprinklers got invited to do one too some time in either late ‘04 or early-mid 2005. They remain to this day the best parties I’ve ever played at. The people there loved the music, they looked after you really well, and they loved it the most when you played your own originals.

A guitarist named Chris Matthews jumped up and joined us on this track. At the time he was playing with a band called The Box Cutters, who I think we did a gig with at some point and who we met through our sound guy Dave Wilson. I haven’t seen him since the night of this recording, but he’s still around making music. Top bloke, and a handy musician. This isn’t the best example of his talents because we were all seriously loaded during this set. Completely fuck-eyed and off-head. Ah, the (lack of) memories.

Live in 2005 version

Harry Fahey: drums
Matt Hewson: bass
Jade McLaren: vocals
Matt Neal: guitar
Chris Matthews: slide guitar

Recorded live at Rosco’s house in Melbourne, summer ‘04/’05?
Produced and mixed live by Dave Wilson.


Lyrics

I woke up this morning with my hair in my face
I decided not to brush it before I came over to your place
Cos I’ve been thinking about you girl and that thing you said;
“Take those videos back to the store and pay off all your late debts.”

I know the guy from the store has been calling saying those movies are overdue
Asking me about Weekend At Bernie’s and Beverly Hills Cop II
I’ve had them almost a decade - my fine could buy a small car
I said I’d take them back on Tuesday…
... and those stupid fuckers believed me

I didn’t take back those videos - I ain’t done with them yet
I just got to dub them on a blank cassette
If they ever want those videos they’ll have to pry them from my cold motherfucking dead hand

Wednesday, 28 October 2015

#66. Last Song - 21st Century Ox

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

Music by Dion Barker, Harry Fahey, Matt Hewson, Brendan Hoffmann and Matt Neal. 
Written and recorded at the Barker residence, October 2-10, 2003. 
Produced by 21st Century Ox. 
Recorded and mixed live by Dave Wilson.



As mentioned in previous blogs, 21st Century Ox spent the first week of October 2003 supposedly recording songs to finish off our unreleased album but mostly we spent the time getting fucked-up and not finishing off our unreleased album. I think we almost finished three songs, plus we recorded a few live versions of things. Then there was plenty of jamming and drinking and playing FIFA on the Playstation. But on the whole it wasn’t as productive as I’d hoped.


To be fair, we were all to blame.
Picture: Dannii Hale.

I was obviously oblivious to the fact the band was slowly reaching the end of its useful life. I was still keen to try and push 21st Century Ox along and maybe get some new material happening. Everyone still seemed interested in music, but no one seemed really dedicated to working. But I pushed on, trying to drive some level of enthusiasm and achievement. I guess that made me the Paul of this Let It Be-style scenario.


While digging through some of the jam sessions that were recorded during “Dion’s Week Of Debauchery” I found this little artifact - evidence of my attempts to keep the band creating. It was just four chords that I brought in, but it turned out to be Ox’s final attempt at writing a song together. Since Matt Hewson had joined the band some time during 2001 we’d loved the fact we had two sax players in the group, and occasionally wrote material with the aim of Brendan Hoffmann putting down his guitar and picking up the sax to jam along with Hewy. The Axolotl is the best example (there was also a now-lost tune in 5/4 called The Psychiatrist, which was partially a poor man's rip-off of Take Five) but this little unformed nugget of a song was another attempt at the double sax attack.


This is the second and final take of what I have called Last Song. We’re just feeling our way through the changes and seeing what happens, but it’s kinda fitting as a final track for Ox. It’s slightly weird but kinda nice and sweet, with a hint of sadness. When I look back on the band’s four-year burst, that’s pretty much how I view it. 

PS. That’s Jade McLaren at the end saying it “needs more triangle”.

PPS. This is a really short blog so I’m going to throw in a bonus track - 21st Century Ox's cover of Norwegian Wood, which always sounded to us trying to be A Perfect Circle (on their first album) while trying to cover The Beatles. Sorry about the sound quality - this was mixed on the run by our good pal Dave Wilson, who was concentrating on the live sound, not the recording.


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

Written by Lennon/McCartney.
Recorded at the Henty Hotel, Portland, in November 2002.
Recorded and mixed live by Dave Wilson.


Friday, 9 October 2015

#65. Lappers – The Extreme Sprinklers


Jade McLaren: vocals, programming
Matt Neal: programming, vocals, guitar

Music and lyrics by Jade McLaren and Matt Neal.

Recorded April 2, 2004 at Studio Studyo, Warrnambool.
Produced by Matt Neal and Jade McLaren.
Mixed by Harry Fahey.
Released on the Jamaica EP.



I’ve never thought of this as a real song. It’s a joke. Jamaica feels like a real song, despite it also being a bit jokey, but this one was just full-blown novelty in my mind.

The 80 Aces drummer Jarrod Hawker disagreed. Despite this song predating him joining the band (and the band’s name change from The Extreme Sprinklers) by about two years, he was convinced this song should have been part of our live set.

“I love it,” he said. “I wanted to play it ... which is why we never played it.”

Actually, we did play it. Once. At The Loft. I can’t remember why. But it confirmed everything I’d thought about the song. Namely that a) it wouldn’t work live and b) that it never felt like a real song. So, sorry Hawk, but I definitely tried to shut you down on the Let’s Play Lappers campaign.


Who could say 'no' to this guy? He's so rock.

And while I regard it as unfit for live consumption and more like a three-minute joke than a real song, I have to agree that Lappers is, in its own special way, kinda cool (or “super cool” as Extreme Sprinklers/80 Aces bassist Matt Hewson described it). The credit (or possibly blame) for it goes largely to Sprinklers vocalist Jade McLaren.

At the time of creating this very Warrnambool-white-people piece of hip hop, The Extreme Sprinklers was just Jade and myself. It was primarily a recording project. We were just writing for the sake of it and having fun learning how to record things. In those early days we would just write a song and record it pretty much straight away. Or just record it as we wrote it. Or write it as we recorded it. Either way, there was no filter and no rules and no band to consider and no “target market”. 

Lappers started with Jade getting my ex-wife to let him into my studio while I was at work so he mess around with some beats. 


This man should not be trusted in a studio by himself.

“I was working on it before you came home and when you came in and heard it, you thought I’d gone bonkers,” Jade said. “I remember you going ‘what the hell is this weird hip hop thing?’.”

If I recall correctly (which is highly unlikely) Jade had kinda pieced together a fair bit of the beat. It was nothing like wed done before, and yeah, I was probably wondering what the fuck was going on. Listening to some NWA recently, I heard a bit of a similarity to the start of Gangsta Gangsta, but I’ve got no idea if it’s what Jade was aiming for. But hey - if you’re gonna rip from someone, it may as well be Dre. 



Jade also already had his two vocal sections worked out - the “all the girls in the back” bit and the “you know he’s a fuckwit” bit. We wrote the rap together, laughing constantly, cracking ourselves up. “We’re doing it in front of cops, I get her first and you get slops” - that made us laugh.

I then (very badly) rapped it and we dropped the pitch on it to make it sound more like the dude from Jurassic 5 who raps real low (Chali 2na is his name apparently). His voice is boss. I added some guitar licks (the main guitar lick was called ‘The Arabian Chicken Lick’ because I declared it sounded like a Middle Eastern chook apparently) and we piled a bunch of badly sampled vinyl scratches and sound effects on to it (largely nicked from Grand Theft Auto I think).



My hip hop knowledge was fairly limited at the time but I can honestly say they biggest influence for me while doing this was Missy Elliot. The Arabian Chicken Lick was a reference to Get Ur Freak On, while the bit where we reversed the rap was a reference to Work It.



For those who don’t get what it’s all about, the whole thing is a Warrnambool in-joke. Lappers are douchebags who drive their cars up and down the main street at night for lack of anything better to do with their lives. It’s an insanely common pastime in Warrnambool. In fact, Jade and I stuck a microphone out the window of Jade’s apartment to capture the sound of someone lapping, preferably with their “shit music turned up to the max”, to add to the song. As if proving the point of the song, it took us no time at all to capture the required audio - that’s the bit at the end where a guy hoons past with L’il Bow Wow blaring out of his tricked-out Commodore (probably).

But back to Hawk. Why the hell did he want to play this jokey fake song live?

“I think it had great local relevance, it had comedy value, I actually also thought that the vocal rhythm of the ‘rap’ was quite good and I really liked the (original recording) so I thought that we could do a good live ‘band’ version,” he said. “It just so happens that when we did jam it live something about the groove struck a chord with me and I liked it.”


It must have struck a chord with Harry Fahey and Matt Hewson, who helped Jade and I bring The Extreme Sprinklers to life as a live band in that latter half of 2004. I’m not entirely sure why, but this recording ended up on the Jamaica EP, confirming the fact that we were trying to rival Ween in the weird eclectic stakes in those early days. Harry did some tasty mixing on it too, just to tidy the whole thing up.

Lyrics:

All the girls in the back have been lickin’ his sack
Oh no he be trippin’ he’s been smokin’ crack
He’s got little blue lights to make eyes attract
And he’s got his shit music turned up to the max

Got a sweet ride, blue lights, see if I can maximise
bitch-pulling power every hour when I hit the night
My doof-doof could flatten a city block
I get the bitches then you watch my vehicle rock
Can’t stop, get on top, we’re doing it in front of cops
I get her first and you get slops

One time for my wiggas

You know he’s fuckwit
An IQ to match his gears
He wants her to suck it
But he hasn’t had a lady friend in years



Wednesday, 30 September 2015

#64. Kick Out The Housemates – The 80 Aces


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

Lyrics by Matt Neal.
Music by Jarrod Hawker, Jade McLaren, Kyle McLaren & Matt Neal.
Written 2010.
Recorded at Motherlode Studios, Warrnambool, May 28, 2011.
Produced and mixed by Tony Peel.


Change is scary. When The Extreme Sprinklers’ drummer Harry Fahey told us in late 2006 (quite abruptly and just as we were about to start rehearsing) he was leaving the band, I was terrified. Harry was the only drummer I’d played with over the preceding seven years – a length of time that bridged two bands, dozens of songs, and hundreds of gigs. We’d developed one of those unspoken musical connections and had become best mates. Our birthdays are on consecutive days, which meant joint birthday parties every year. Not playing in a band with him seemed like a weird and frightening proposition.

Pictured: Something not weird and frightening. Picture: Glen Watson

The remaining Sprinklers – Jade McLaren, Matt Hewson and myself, soon to be renamed The 80 Aces – began the daunting task of looking for a new drummer. We had a stack of cover gigs already on the books, as well as quite a few original shows, and we needed someone who could learn about 50 covers and 20 originals. Harry agreed to play on ‘til we found a new drummer but we didn’t want to stretch the transition out, for all our sakes.

Jon Emry, who in my eyes was the best drummer in Warrnambool at that time, came and had a jam with us in our rehearsal shed behind the old La Porchetta restaurant (now Reunion) but you could tell he was too busy and not totally interested. It ended up being a cool jam though because we ended up drinking beer and playing Ween covers.

I'm just gonna leave this here and mention that me and Jade were at this gig and it was the greatest motherfucking thing ever:


I think it was Hewy who suggested Jarrod Hawker. I knew of Hawk, but didn’t really know him. We’d probably crossed paths somewhere on the scene and his reputation for being a great rock drummer preceded him. He turned out to be the perfect pick for The Extreme Sprinklers, who were about to be renamed The 80 Aces. Harry was the ideal backbeat to the first half of my musical career, and Hawk has been the perfect percussionist for the second half.

Hawk joining the Aces not only sparked the name change (which was voted on over a drunken poker game in a smoky room following a gig at Hamilton’s Cally Hotel) but it began a beautiful musical relationship and a solid gold friendship. Through The 80 Aces and on into Doctor & The Apologies (new EP out now!) with the occasional Gutsy As!! diversion in there, it’s a partnership that’s been going for nine years. 

"Doc, you're guitar's not plugged in." Picture: Leesa Donkers

I mention all this because this song Kick Out The Housemates is a good example of what I like about working with Hawk. When I asked him recently about this song, he just replied that his drumming was “very loose”, which is totally ignoring the fact that the drum patterns are really cool and kinda weird, and that Hawk played a massive part in arranging the track – I basically brought in the chords and words but Hawk really drove the arrangement. The final 30 seconds in particular were his idea, inspired by a Supergroove song I believe. There’s a bit at 2m47s where it all straightens out in a good way and we both agreed it should have done that more often in the song, but this was probably one of the first (and last) times we played this track. More playing would have probably locked that shit in.

Supergroove. Fuck yeah:


I’d written this, incidentally, about the place where Hawk was living at the time. He was sharing a house with three other dudes (one of whom was Jade) in Merrivale, and the place was a regular hangout and after-party spot. There were also three or four girlfriends at any one time who were also calling that sharehouse "home" and it occurred to me that the almost-constant parties, poker games and songwriting sessions going on in the house would have made it pretty hard for any of the guys and their partners to do something as simple as hang out on the couch and watch a movie together (or “Netflix and chill”, if you will).

"All right - I'm chipped up, now get the fuck out of my house." Picture: Matt Neal

This realisation didn’t stop me going around there getting hammered four or five times a week, but it did inspire me to pen this song. It never got much of an airing in the band unfortunately, which is a shame because I love the way Hawk’s beat, Kyle’s bass line and my guitar rhythms marry up in the verse and how it gets loud and grungey and screamy in the chorus. Jade put the kibosh on it though, saying it was murder on his voice, but realistically I don’t think it really married up with his vision for what The 80 Aces should sound like. Shame - I thought it rocked, and with a little bit of polishing would have come up alright. Sure, it was kinda like bad RHCP mashed up with bad Foo Fighters or something, but I thought it was cool. Not my best effort lyrically, but cool nonetheless.

I wish we hadn't decided to take band photos 
when we were all in such a nonchalant mood.
Picture: Gareth Colliton

This demo was made with the able assistance of Tony Peel at Motherlode Studios. We went in there for a day in May, 2011, to lay down a version of every song we hadn’t recorded yet in preparation for the Dollars EP, which we recorded in December that year. This “Demo For Dollars” session saw us smash out live takes of 16 songs in one day, giving us recordings of song that otherwise would have been forgotten (such as Elevator) and plenty of extra fodder for my blog.

Hawk during the Demo For Dollars session. Picture: Dannii Hale

Lyrics:

This place stifles
It’s full of people
No room in this crowded house for kisses
I’m here, you too, and so many more people cramping, squeezing, suffocating the pleasing

Kick out the housemates
Get the motherfuckers out of the way

All this public
No privacy just static
Grasping, wishing, a bodily friction


Friday, 11 September 2015

#63. Karma Comes Around – The Extreme Sprinklers

Harry Fahey: drums
Matt Hewson: bass, vocals
Jade McLaren: vocals
Matt Neal: guitar, vocals

Lyrics by Jade McLaren and Matt Neal
Music by Harry Fahey, Matt Hewson, Jade McLaren and Matt Neal.
Written summer of ’05-‘06.
Recorded at The Shed, Warrnambool in April, 2006.
Produced, engineered and mixed by Harry Fahey.



By the start of 2006, The Extreme Sprinklers were on a roll. We were playing just about every weekend, there were some great support gigs (67 Special, The Exploders, Regurgitator, The Vasco Era), our own headline shows, plus plenty of cover gigs to help us pay the rent on the rehearsal shed we shared. Singer Jade McLaren and I were writing more songs than we knew what to do with, the band was building up a strong local following, and the after-parties were plentiful.

And we looked fabulous. Picture: Glen Watson

Sometimes I had to forego the after-party and be the designated driver, purely because I drove a stationwagon. So did The Extreme Sprinklers’ drummer, Harry Fahey. That meant that when we packed up following a gig, the kit and the bass rig went in his car, and the PA system and my gear went in my gear, and we were the poor sober bastards who had to drive drunken Jade or drunken bassist Matt Hewson home.

Pictured: Drunken Jade and Hewy.

After once such gig (at the Seanchai I think), I drove home and pulled up out the front of my house. It was about 3am and it had been a long night of entertaining drunk punters while having to stay sober myself (which makes long covers gigs even longer). I really couldn’t be fucked loading all the gear out of the car and into the house as usual, so instead I just loaded my gear inside and left the PA in the back of the wagon. You can probably guess where this is heading.

When I awoke the next morning, the car was still there but the PA was gone. I rang the cops, who came out and dusted the wagon for prints. They pointed out there didn’t appear to be any forced entry, which most likely meant I’d left the car unlocked. Idiot. I knew a lot of the cops at the time because I was on the police rounds at The Standard and spent a lot of my spare time drinking with cops and lawyers, so they didn’t give me too much of a hard time about leaving the car unlocked.

Not pictured: Cops and lawyers.

“Don’t worry,” the detectives said, “we think we know who has your PA, but we’ll put the word out at the music stores just in case they try to sell it. We’ll keep you posted.”

I rang the rest of the band and broke the bad news. I can’t remember if I mentioned the bit about possibly leaving the car unlocked, but it didn’t matter – either way, we had lost our PA, which we’d worked our arses off to buy. We figured we’d never see it again and starting working out how many gigs we needed to play to buy a new one and how much it was going to cost to hire another one in the meantime.

"Ok everyone, we're just going to pass Doc's hat around...."

Amazingly, within a couple of days, the cops recovered our PA. A couple of knobs had been busted off the head, and the back had been taken off one of the speakers so it could be wired up to a stereo apparently, but otherwise it was in full working order. Great work, Warrnambool police.

That incident sparked this song. If Jade had gotten his way, it would have been a song about going out and inflicting violent retribution on the thieves. I threw a mild tantrum and said I wouldn’t be a part of a song that promoted violence as I didn’t believe that was an appropriate response to such an incident. The tantrum must have worked, as Jade agreed to my approach of passive resistance. I’m not religious at all, but I like the Buddhist notion of karma, and Jade eventually agreed it was a better angle for turning the PA theft into a song. We were angry at the thieves and Jade genuinely wanted to go out and inflict violence upon them, but I was content to let the universe have its revenge (which is both the last line of the song and the title of another song I had written prior to this one – it will be in a later blog).

Artwork: Jade McLaren

The chorus – “You can’t stop us, you can only slow us down” – is Jade’s lyric, I’m pretty sure. It sounds like his sense of bravado anyway, and reflects his more assertive and defiant mindset about the theft. But the rest of the words were a real team effort.

There’s one line in this song I particularly like (and I honestly don’t know who came up with it). It’s the phrase “like a panic in your skeleton”. I really love that – it’s so weirdly evocative of that deep down feeling something is wrong. It sounds like a Thom Yorke lyric. Jade obviously liked it too – I found a file recently that he’d put together compiling all the Extreme Sprinklers lyrics and it was titled “A Panic In Your Skeleton – The Complete Extreme Sprinklers Songbook”.

Artwork: Jade McLaren

This recording, made during band practice one night in 2006, is a good example of Harry, bassist Matt Hewson and myself clicking together. It's a little rough (especially my falsetto at the start) and Jade forgets a few lines (full correct lyrics below), but otherwise this rehearsal recording is pretty cool. Everyone is on song (or at least “close enough for jazz” as they say in the classics). I always loved the middle section of this song – it gave Harry and Hewy a chance to go nuts and I got to make feedback and noise rather than solo, which played to all our strengths to be honest.

Rehearsing in the shed. Picture: Glen Watson

The intro, I realised belatedly, sounds a little bit too close to the Coldplay song God Put A Smile Upon Your Face but I’m not sure what the rest of it sounds like. I dig it though. It's rocking and each bit feels interesting. When Harry left the band not long after this recording, this was one of the many songs that fell by the wayside, probably because it was hard to dance too or some similar bullshit.


Lyrics

Karma comes around to make some waves while ships are safe and sound. Now our precious spice, our livelihood which grew from good advice, is paying dividends. We can score so much more again. Stealing through the night... something’s coming. Things are running right....

A wave of karma, like a panic in your skeleton

You can’t stop us, you can only slow us down

Stealing through the night, son of a snake - you can’t take the light, like a nuisance leech, siphon blood where it is hard to reach. You won’t drag us down to where you’re from - hiding underground. Karma come around and salt the leech that tries to breach our sound.

A wave of karma, like a panic in your skeleton

You can’t stop us, you can only slow us down

Slow down

Stealing through the night comes the breeze and it sees it right. Karma comes again - the universe will have its revenge.