Monday, 21 October 2013

#26. Do Unto Others – 21st Century Ox

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

Lyrics by Matt Neal.
Music by Dion Barker, Harry Fahey, Matt Hewson, Brendan Hoffmann and Matt Neal.
Written early 2000.
Recorded at two house parties in Melbourne in June and November, 2002.
Music produced, engineered and mixed by Dave Wilson.
Video filmed, produced and edited by John Turner.

Look at those handsome young fellas go! This is 11 years ago, and we are playing at two different parties in Melbourne for some good friends of 21st Century Ox’s legendary sound guy Dave Wilson, with the footage spliced together by the talented John Turner. Usually this song is not played at speeds approaching 1000bpm, but we were full of vodka-induced energy on the nights of these performances.

Here’s a version from Dave’s rehearsal space (recorded and mixed by Dave – what a guy!), which features us playing at a slightly more respectable pace:

Do Unto Others was one of my favourite songs to play in 21st Century Ox. It was in almost every setlist. I used to love introducing it by saying, “This song is about the hypocrisy within religion”, and then launching into the opening riff.

At the time, I thought I was being so clever, so political, so deep, so controversial. Now I look back and think ... well ... to be honest I don’t know what to think. Is it too try-hard? Na├»ve? Derivative? Laughable? I really have no idea. But back then, I thought I was approaching “serious songwriter” territory. Now, I cringe a bit at the preachiness, but at least the words read okay on paper, and the sentiment remains worthwhile.

For all its atheistic simplicity, it was even simpler musically. I later realised that opening guitar riff I play is pretty much the riff to Silverchair’s Israel Son sped up. It's fair to say there was probably a lyrical influence too. There’s a bit of dynamic, but it’s essentially a one-riff song (and that riff is “generic angsty riff in dropped D tuning”).

What makes Do Unto Others cool from my perspective is fellow guitarist Brendan Hoffmann’s awesome grunge-funk riff, Matt Hewson’s crazy sax lines, and the solid rhythm section of drummer Harry Fahey and bassist Dion Barker. Meanwhile, I was out front, pontificating.

Like I said, I don’t know how I feel about this song now. It’s so angsty. It’s obviously me trying to turn 21st Century Ox into Rage Against The Machine, except it kind of turned out like Limp Celery Against The Machine.

Having said that, part of me is proud that I at least tried to write this kind of song. It was fun to play and a few people have told me over the years that this is their favourite Ox song.

On a side note, I think this song is part of the reason 21st Century Ox never released our second album. Knowing that people seemed to like the song, I seem to recall we had planned to record a studio version because the album wouldn’t have been complete without it, but we never got around to it because a) we ran out of money, b) we ran out of time in Motherlode Studios, c) when we set up to record at Dion’s house we wasted too much time getting wasted, and then d) the band broke up. Oops.


"This is the book," he points at the people saying, "and you’re the voice that screams against the things I’m praying.
"Slay all you heathens, slay all you infidels, and send you to your pagan hell."
He drops the book, it flutters open to a page; "do unto others", and all that other godly rage.
He says, "You will believe or you will die".

Watch what you hate.

There is a man, who says he hates all gays. Says it’s against god’s so godly ways.
Yet every night, he goes to watch a video – turns out to be a lesbian porno.
It could be your son; it could be your friend or daughter. It’s someone that you knew and now you hate them just because (their gay)?

Watch what you hate.

Thursday, 10 October 2013

#25. Do The Business – The Extreme Sprinklers

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

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

The Extreme Sprinklers (and The 80 Aces after that) loved playing poker. After every gig, we’d play poker. After rehearsal sometimes, we’d play poker. On nights when we weren’t playing gigs or rehearsing, we’d play poker. Basically, we played a fuckload of poker.

So it was inevitable we’d write a song about playing poker. I think this is the only one (I’ll stand corrected) and I’m pretty sure the lyrics come entirely from singer Jade McLaren’s pen. In fact, Jade reckons it’s about playing poker against our bass player Matt Hewson in particular. Those two used to play head-to-head a lot. It was serious.

As you can see.

To be honest, I don’t remember much about putting this together. Neither does drummer Harry Fahey. Jade must have come up with the melodies and words, and then me or Harry or Hewy must have come up with the chords. I don’t remember much else. It’s possible I wasn’t trying too hard. The chords certainly aren’t that difficult.

“I reckon this is one of those happy jams that fell into place,” Harry said. “I don’t remember working hard on co-ordinating players, just everyone doin’ shit that worked.”
Harry: doin' shit that works. 

The intro in this version thankfully only goes for about 10 seconds, but I have a version where it goes for over a minute. It used to be a spot where I could cut loose live and just improvise stuff, which was cool for me, less so for everyone else.

This version was recorded on a warm February day when we convinced Gus Franklin to come back to Warrnambool and oversee a demoing session at Motherlode Studio with Tony Peel. This was the first and the only take we did of Do The Business, and it was the first of 10 songs we did that day. I don’t exactly know why we got Gus down for that session – the recordings of that day were never released and we didn’t spend too much time on each song, just running through two or three takes of everything (except Do The Business for some reason – possibly because we enjoyed playing it and were on).

Here’s Jade:
“It was always so much fun to play because of the novelty of the megaphone. I think it's an OK song but I think we've done … better in other songs.

Here’s Harry:
“I really like the space in the verses, great track to chuck in a few tricks and frills on hats and stuff.”

Hewy was unavailable for comment.

I remember the recording day being productive (which was novel for us) and it was great working with Gus again, who I hadn’t made music with since the summer of ’98-’99 when we played six or seven gigs together in a band called Ted Dancin’. That band also featured Brendan Hoffmann of 21st Century Ox on guitar and Julian Gilchrist (who occasionally plays sax with Cut Copy) on bass. We were a fun but short-lived band and Gus and I both have fond (blurry) memories of it, so it was nice to work together again, seven years on. We think. Neither of us remembers much of this session but it seemed to go well, I think. Maybe.

Do The Business was written in late 2005 – I have no evidence of that but it’s a best guess. A few months after it was written, this song came out:

That’s Big Hair Revolution by The Exploders, who were a fucking rad band from Lake Bolac. The main dude, TJ Allender, it's a tops bloke. I love that song and their whole self-titled debut album. And in case you missed it (or didn’t bother listening), the verse riff of that song and Do The Business are reasonably similar, even in the same key. It might seem strange that two bands that played a few shows together and lived only an hour away from each other could come up with a similar riff without copying each other, but that’s what happened. I didn’t steal their riff and they didn’t steal ours. It’s just one of those things. I’m pretty sure there’s an older riff we’re both riffing on, although I’m not sure what it is. Weird.

Their song’s better anyway.


You’ve lost your chips again my friend
You have to buy back in
I’ve got an ace up my sleeve
You don’t got the cards to win

That’s just the way I do business,
That’s just the … the way

You cannot hide behind your shell
Rub your neck; do tell
You cannot bluff to save yourself
I know you too well

That’s just the way I do business,
That’s just the … the way

I’ll have it all,
my cards will fall,
your chance is small,
I’ll have it all,
you cannot stall,
my cards will fall,
you raise, I call … you won it all!

That’s not the way I do business
That’s not the … the way