Phil had already flown down to Sydney see us the weekend before to jam out a few things at Zen and we decided on tempos, feel etc and Hobson, Travis and myself were all heading up to Brisbane separately over the next day or two and get it all started. We booked a few days in the recording studio at Tym Guitars. Ben couldn’t make this trip, which was a huge bummer.
I packed up my little VW early on the Thursday morning and I planned to have a nice lonesome trip up to Brisbane by myself with a car full of my amps & guitars stacked to the rafters. ALDI shopping bags of various colours full of pedals crammed into every spare crevice, extra blankets & jackets to cram it all in so it wouldn’t all slide around. Finally I had that satisfying Tetris moment when the last few things went in and the doors all clicked shut, and I checked to make sure I had the phone charger cable that works. I got the phone/music device all ready & I said my goodbyes.
I pulled out of the driveway, turned into the next street to get me to the Pacific Highway, and…the gearbox went dead and the car stopped driving. I’m so glad I had it serviced just the week before, including 2 new tyres (sarcasm). It was so fancy. Not sure whether to laugh or cry, I had the mechanic come over and look at the car, followed by arranging a tow truck etc and going through various stages of grief and disappointment. I was even harbouring thoughts of chucking in the trip entirely before I arranged a rental car from Hertz at Gosford, with the alloy wheels, all the fancy Bluetooth things and that new car smell. I had a little extra legroom compared to my tiny crippled German car. It had a cool pearl white paint job so I could pretty much imagine myself as Kowalski in Vanishing Point – afterall he had a white car and drove for ages at high speeds too. (Also just quietly it also took me til somewhere between Wyong and Hexham before the Bluetooth music thing finally paired with my Bluetooth music player device thing).
I stopped for 10mins at Taree for some coffee and a stretch. I was playing our demos & the playlist of whatever other bands I have over and over all the way up through to Coffs Harbour, and I kept on driving and it was getting dark. ABC Radio is also a main staple for me these days, road trip or not.
I got to the whole Ballina/Lismore kind of area and by this stage I still didn’t want to stop and I was just anxious to get to Brisbane. I was running really low on fuel and by the time of night I came through, all those charming little country servos I saw were all closed (I must have counted 5 or maybe 6), but I was somehow able to limp along on what must have been fumes until one of those huge Shell/McDonald’s truckstop size places appeared – the ones that look like a small airport. It was somewhere on that stretch of walled concrete highways near the Gold Coast.
I paid for the petrol and I wandered dazed into a large food court arrangement with mops and buckets everywhere, and roller-shutters indicating all the half-decent looking food joints had closed. This left only the standard unholy trinity of Subway/KFC/Maccas to choose from. I was tempted to get a sandwich from the servo, but y’know, the ice cold egg/lettuce vibe, the plastic packaging, the servo prices etc. These junk food stores were all staffed but the workers were all out the back cleaning or yelling into headsets for drive thru. What was I doing here?..that’s right – rock trip. Recording. The life-sized figures of Colonel Sanders and Ronald McDonald were both in the large eating area, positioned in an endless glazed gaze. Holding it down.
So I had eaten, and I was on the road again, but heading in exactly the opposite direction to where I ought to have been going for about 5-6 minutes before it clicked. I was also more or less laughing at my own jokes again, so the mirth is a good sign.
Arrival at Phil & Bea’s in Paddington finally happened around 10pm on the Thursday night. They are wonderful hosts, and they had even stocked our little kitchenette thing with fruit and fresh bread and coffee. It’s good to be hanging in our brand new drummer’s home town.
Hobson had already arrived by plane a short time earlier, and tins of Hammer n’ Tongs beer (the most affordable beverage option, direct from Vietnam) were already accumulating around the legs of the funky old retro chairs on the lower level of Phil’s beautiful old timber Queenslander house. The deck looks out over the twinkling lights of Paddington and out to the city.
This was going to be a day of jamming , followed by a gig at the Bearded Lady. We ate toast & bananas and drank coffee etc and left Phil’s and headed to Tym Guitars. Imogen made us feel very much at home, including inside knowledge on where the really good local Banh Mi place is, but we only ever got as far as Ben’s Burgers next door or maybe the Oporto. In total I reckon we spent a similar amount of cash on food & beverages at Ben’s Burgers & the coffee place as we did on the recording – not sure if that means the recording is cheap or the food is pricey, but y’know.
Travis arrived from the airport in some Uber/taxi thing not long after we got to the Valley, and we all jammed most of that day at the rehearsal rooms out the back. Fortitude Valley is a busy place. We were kind of jamming with the view to play a show but also thinking about recording at any moment too, cos we had everything set up in the same rooms & with all the cables running down the hall or into the booth window thing.
We felt reasonably match-fit & we played a show in West End that night at the Bearded Lady with a bunch of bands for the pre-Sonic Masala Fest party. Everyone lent us amps & drums etc and we were treated to some pretty over the top greetings and local hospitality which was nice, and we caught up with a few friends we hadn’t seen in years.
After all the noisemaking was done we went back to Phil’s place and spent some more good times out on his balcony overlooking the city, again. We got to hang and talk like a real gang. Hobson sent Ben the usual SMS update along the lines of “mate it was the best show ever” etc (the ongoing gag whenever one of us misses something like a jam or a gig). Man, those twinkling lights. That view. I really like a nice high spot – and those fun-size cans of Hammer N’ Tongs were very cold and very smooth.
Saturday/Recording Day 1
Tim let us use pretty much anything in his shop to record with, so I rather bashfully took full advantage of a new shop-only prototype Tym boost made along the lines of the Tym Teenage Fanboost he makes and also a passive tone/filter/boost type thing made locally by Metta Audio Devices that I’d never seen before, and couldn’t live without. These are both amazing boosters that give that feeling of really being about to reach out and touch the sounds coming out. Does that make sense? A nice kind of a tangible starting point for everything else.
The old Vadis 60w head (it has a “Galaxie” brand sticker over the Vadis logo) is from the late 60s and these were made in Brookvale on Sydney’s Northern Beaches. It was the first ever tube amp I owned and I’m really getting into using it again. It’s all hand wired point-to-point inside like spaghetti, and it’s loosely based on a Fender Bassman type amp with the 2 circuits & the reverb and the vibrato, only with EL34 tubes instead of the usual Fender 6L6s. Stacking the boosts into this old amp & then feeding that into one of Tim’s vintage Vadis alnico cabs from the shop was beautiful. By this stage I wanted to make it as much of this Aussie-gear fest as I could, and most of us were eyeing off the freshly made Tym Masonite hollowbody guitar that was hanging in the shop too.
Matt Weatherall plays in the band Sacred Shrines with Phil (and also Bea), but you probably already knew that. Matt was running stuff for us with the recording and he set everything up and made everything sound great. We were kind of going for capturing those wild moments of early rehearsals with the songs. I brought up my 4-channel Neve 1272 preamp thing to add some extra flavour. We kept to just 4 songs for this bunch of stuff, and laid down most of the stuff for songs loosely titled From Tomorrow, I Don’t Think I Wanna Think About It Anymore, Stay Around Me and As The Moon Takes Me. These are some of the quicker pop tunes that we’ve tried a few times at shows lately, so no real self-indulgent noisy bits (yet!), just the basic tracks. Stay Around Me is a song that’s about 10 years old at least – it’s just a ProTools demo I totally forgot about for ages and we started playing it a few…oh, around 6-7 years ago now. Crazy how fast time slides by when you’re old like us.
Sunday/Recording Day 2
Matt & Dave (Hobson) spent a lot of time re-amping bass tracks at loud volume. It was shaking the building and there were a lot of mics set up. I did some scratch vocals and Travis and I did some little fancy bits and big feedback ones and weird noises and stuff to flesh out the songs a bit. We did about as much as we could tolerate on these same 4 songs, and eventually everything fizzed out on Sunday night and we all went our separate ways, arranging transport to get flights home etc & then leaving essentials like sunglasses and leads phone chargers behind in the process.
Many thanks to the kind folk from Garbage & The Flowers – one of them came all the way into the Valley to the studio to return my lucky guitar strap that I had lost at the Friday night show with them at the Bearded Lady. It’s my lucky 20+ year old hemp guitar strap with lots of cool badges on it. (Thank you!).
I stayed one more night at Phil’s and the two of us hung til around 2am, around about when the last of the Hammer N’ Tongs ran out. Phil’s great – I reckon you’d really like him.
The next morning everyone had left for work etc and I let myself out & I drove all the way back home to Wyoming in my rental Corolla in one straight run, and arrived just in time to say goodnight to the girls before bed.
Thank you again Brisbane. Everyone there has always been so kind and helpful in our little band’s quest for world domination and we have always had a great time. We’ll be back to do it all again in January.
Apologies in advance for the ramble. Hope you are enjoying the info so far.