2019/11/28

Blues Balls

New Album is Out

I've been working on a blues album of sorts this year.
Partly inspired by a bunch of blues numbers from disparate artists, I wondered what the hell I'd sound like trying to do just the blues, and of course as it turns out, I can't just do the blues. This is the result of a year's dicking around with the blues instead of working on rock music.

For whatever it's worth, it's all new material - no old songs from some deep dark part of the 20th Century. Just letting loose with the vibe, so to speak.

Check it out:




2019/11/21

Zebras

Zebras

We always wanted to write something deeply romantic without it being just about love. A song that could convey the kind of universal, unquestioning love for all living things. Grand visions, grand aspirations, and in the most abstract way. At the same time, perhaps make it sound as grand as the ambitions, like a Bond movie theme song. And while I'm not abut to get up there and be Shirley Bassey or Tom Jones, the aspiration was to be grand in posture. A bit hard when you're just this ill-equipped teen in the burbs in a 3-piece band.

Most of the time when we played, we had big finishes. Like an eternal yearning for the most sublime climax, the finishes would be a reach for an orgasmic crescendo of sound, probably modelled on the last few bars of 'Wont Get Fooled Again'. So just for once we had this song that didn't end on a mounting sequence of ever bigger thumps on the open strings of the cranked guitars.

Of course, when you do things that are not to your natural inclinations, it tends to work against you putting it out to the world well. The song slowly faded from our early repertoire and ended up in the bottom drawer... until now.

I kind of like the soft denouement. I don't know if anybody really writes songs like this anymore.




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2019/11/15

Crane Song

Crane Song

It's hard enough writing a song about love. Writing about the first kiss is an impossibly delicate task. You have to temper it with a sense of distance and yet capture the overwhelming rush of hormones without being prosaic, nor overly poetic. Naturalism and hyperbole are both extremes you want to eschew as you sneak up on the topic. Sometimes the hunt takes years. Fortunately songs can afford to wait. It is utterly unlike the challenges of capturing that moment in front of the lens with actors standing in and having to direct them to the perfect moment on film.

If your song writing fraternity consists of Arts faculty graduate, the task gets even more self-conscious in an attempt to stamp out lines that betray your base instincts to the Freudian critic, while presenting the right kind of archetypes for the Jungian to find. Then you have to go and find the objective correlative - or so I've been told - that fits the mood and nuance perfectly and portray that as a kind of transference of meaning.
Yeah right.

At least, those were the kinds of obstacles we had to negotiate in order to write the somewhat abstract kinds of songs we used to write where by nobody understood what the hell it was about in the first listen. And maybe that was good way back when.

This is not that song.



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2019/11/13

Apocalypse in 4/4

Apocalypse in 4/4

There are days you wonder if we're actually seeing the end of civilisation. Maybe it already has ended. There's certainly not much civilised about the Trump Administration and the on-going LNP Coalition Government in Australia is totally of the end times. I never thought things would get this bad. Some things are beyond the imagination.

Unlike Genesis who thought the Apocalypse might play out in 9/8, we had the theory it would play out in a dumb 4/4. I think we were right to that extent if EDM and Hip Hop and Top 40 is anything to go by. Music doesn't get more sophisticated, it gets less sophisticated in order to appeal to ever more people and chances are that ever more is less literate than the previous generation because that's essentially how dumbing down of society goes, and really, how else do you explain the Trump Administration or the LNP Coalition Government in Australia without the concept of an extended period of dumbing down? Let's face it, were not waltzing to our dooms, we're marching.

We live in terrible times, really. May as well enjoy what you can while you can.




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2019/11/12

The End of Our Love

The End of Our Love

This one closes out the trilogy of love-gone-wrong songs.
We finally get to acceptance in the stages of grieving.

I was going to write a bit about grief and trauma and the need to heal and all that but you can probably get that elsewhere on the internet from people who are much better qualified. All I've got for you is a lousy song. You know how it is - it's hard to continually live up to our best intentions and that's why relationships fail.

Look, I'm sorry I couldn't really give you something meaningful to do with this song, apart from the fact that it's fiction. The dude in the song isn't me and these aren't my experiences, so there's that.

I tell you what gives me grief these days is not some old relationship breaking down or my friends having bust ups and divorces. It's actually how fucked our politicians have been at addressing climate change a.k.a Global Warming. I keep flip-flopping between disbelief that our leaders are so inept and lacking in spine and vision, and anger where I think they should all be lined up against a wall and  shot, for all their crimes against humanity. We can't seem to negotiate anything with these politicians while our country burns with historically bad bush fires.
The land is burning.
Just how the hell are we to accept our politicians and their so-called 'leadership'?




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2019/11/11

Meet Me Midway

Meet Me Midway

This is the second song in the trilogy of bad breakups. Of course, after the anger and denial comes the negotiation. God, where does one start? I used to think my breakup was terrible but really, it had nothing on the drama that befell some of my friends.

Quite coincidentally, I have three friends by the name of Darren, and all three have had divorces. One of the divorces was protracted and was a result of years of arguing and bickering. Another happened after years of trying to have a child and having failed. The hurt was too much and so was the backbiting and belittling that followed - expressions of sincere resentments. The third Darren broke up recently and as far as I can tell they split because they stopped even talking to one another in ay meaningful way.

And with each one there was this cloud of unhappy recrimination that hung over them and their ex like a personal rain cloud. I helped one of them move out of his house and vividly recall the rigmarole of getting the van and loading it up and driving it to the storage place for safekeeping while he looked for a place to move in. And the ex came around to make sure he didn't run off with the furniture she wanted to keep and the conversation was civil but devoid of compassion or empathy. They're the things you remember and think "yeah maybe I'll write a song about that."

Life can be underwhelming at times but the mistakes we make on the back of our relationships can truly suck. Like I said, I can write about those bits such better than about love.



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2019/11/10

Take Responsibility

Take Responsibility

This is part 1 in a trilogy of love-gone-wrong songs. As noted previously, I'm not great on love songs.  It takes a special talent to write love songs and sing them with a straight face and mean it. You have to be like Paul McCartney or something but try as I might, I don't really have the earnest-ness nor the un-ironic belief in love. They make a stage show out the Beatles' music and it's titled 'LOVE'. The Beatles wrote exhaustively about the condition of love and even told us that the love me takes equal to the love we make, and by golly I'm not even sure what that bit of rhetoric means in real life.

It's very strange when something moves you deeply and yet you don't relate to it. I've been listening to the 50th anniversary re-mix of 'Abbey Road' and I tell you, it's a very different world we live in today, and it's a different kind of cultural landscape we inhabit. A lot has happened since then to re-contextualise all those fab songs. It actually is really hard to "get back home" as Paul sings in 'Golden Slumbers'. And yet one basks in the glory of the testament to love that is 'Abbey Road'. It's great, even though I'm now convinced Paul McCartney might be insane based on the psychotic emotional detachment of  'Maxwell's Silver Hammer'.

I tend towards Frank Zappa who wrote broken hearts are for assholes ("yes yes!"), and  I feel far more equipped to exhaustively survey that emotional terrain than others simply because I am wired the way I am. I am also sensitive to the manner in which people talk about love but go in hard for self-serving platitudes or downright selfish acts. There's nothing like a break up to demonstrate how awful human beings can be, and for some reason I have an eye for it.  The various divorces and breakups that happened to the people around me have fed plenty of grist in to this mill. We are all capable of being such assholes when things go south - and in the end the grief you get is equal to the grief you give.

In the five stages of grief there's Denial and Anger as the early stages of responding to bad news.
This is the song that covers those bits. The overriding thesis will of course forever be "broken hearts are for assholes"

Are you an asshole too?



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2019/11/09

Surfin' Dog

Surfin' Dog

I know Jimi Hendrix said may you never hear surf music again but if you play guitar long enough, you poke your head into the rich world of surf guitar. That's just the way it goes. You run out of things to do in rock, and you go to the blue, go to jazz, go to Latin, or even go all African. Some, go to the mystical lands of surf guitar.

There are ins and outs to the surf tone and when you do get into it, there is a treasure trove of very cool guitar moves to be found in the surf lexicon. Of course, you kind of have to put away your Distortion pedals and learn to play clean and listen to the decay in the reverb. It's a very rewarding area if you're a guitar player.

So way back when we were kids, we went into doing a surf-tinged number without really understanding the rich history or the various schools of thought or the tonal considerations. We just wrote what we thought was a pastiche. This song isn't really a surf guitar track, it's just a collage of surf-y ideas and a shark movie thrown in. Maybe we had too much Jimi Hendrix running through our minds to do it properly and respectfully, and we were into irony because that's what a liberal arts education gives you. A taste for more irony than is proper in polite, conservative company.




2019/11/08

Cadillacs and Cowboy Songs

Cadillacs and Cowboy Songs


Just another song about longing. We wrote a lot of these back then. We longed for the whole world, in a way.

I'd like to pretend this is a personal kind of song but it's not. It's more of an in-joke about things that go on in a band and you accuse other members of the band for wanting to stray form the tried and true rock music you're working towards. It's a sham, really. My band mate wasn't wanting to go playing country music. He just really liked it, and I was the tone police saying "no."

So the longing is probably more about wanting to express yourself in the way you see fit. Sometimes being in a band is tough.




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2019/11/06

Call Me Up


Call Me Up

I wish I could write a straight up love song, but it's never really been my forte. I don't know why that is, given how many bloody love songs I've listened to along the way. I really ca't do a straight love song, I can only do a love gone wrong kind of song. It's probably because I just don't believe in the big, all consuming love any more and haven't done so for many years. I hold to Frank Zappa's adage, broken hearts are for assholes, and I can easily admit I'ma big asshole that way.

Still, from time to time you permit yourself into thinking you have love licked - and really, you don't -   but you think you do, and you write something that captures a feeling. You try to catch that butterfly and stick it in the jar of self analysis, and really end up killing the feeling like you do most things you catch and stick in jars.

I once liked this girl. I was ripe for that moment. As these things go, she wanted something else in life that was not me. So all I was left with was the fleeting moment of hope. And for once I managed to write parts of it down. I had it in my drawer for years and then accidentally threw it out when I did a big clean. I knuckled down and tried to remember the words and I couldn't. All I had was the faint recollection of a vague feeling I had years and years ago.

Hence the song here isn't really the song I wrote. It's more like a delicate facsimile of that song. You fall in love with people but it doesn't work out. That's one of the most common thing in the world. And yet it feels very different each and every time.



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2019/11/05

Freewheeling

Freewheeling

Way back when, in the olden days of the 1980s when they struck the deal to return Hong Kong to China, my friends and I got interested in the historic weird problem of Hong Kong. So we started to write a song about Hong Kong without understanding it. It's weird because so much of the city rests on the historic injustice of the Opium Wars and if you've ever read the history books about that, you're left wondering about the naked aggression of capitalism and colonialism as practised in the 19th century. The song it self sort of went nowhere because it was hard to play live and one Kong seemed a world away form the suburbs of Sydney.

Years went by and I got to have a first hand look at Hong Kong in 1996. I was there on contract for 5 weeks at the end of which I was made job offer to go permanent, but because the hand over was looming, they didn't want to give me the kind of juicy ex-pat deals, I declined. The other thing that worried me was the presence of the PRC (read, inland communist China) police officers and the utter gap in perception to do with what Hong Kong had become. The were there to reclaim the place as if all of its glory and wealth naturally belonged to China. It's not true - it was a sad little fishing village until the British came along. What Hong Kong had turned into was the magic fruit of capitalism and colonialism as practised since the 19th Century into the late 20th. Rightly or wrongly, the British who were 'leaving' could lay claim to Hong Kong as an achievement. None of it would have happened without the British.

So in 1996, I was meeting a lot of local people and telling them there was going to be a terrible upheaval and their way of life would lead to conflict with the expectations of their new PRC overlords. It might not happen that year or the next, but it will happen. The answer I got was, "as long as we're all making money, nothing will change. It will be business as usual."

And so it remained for many years after the handover. It was as if they really were Freewheeling down History.

As I watch the news today about the ongoing riots in Hong Kong, I have to say I'm feeling pretty vindicated. Leave things long enough, the reductio ad absurdum reveals itself; the contradictions inherent in the compromises will erupt as a force. The Hong Kong people of 1996 were way too optimistic about what it meant for Hong Kong to "go back to China". Frankly I thought it was deluded sentimentalism. You don't really get to go home in History. There's something historically necessary about the youth of Hong Kong rebelling against the prevailing rule of the PRC proxies.  I get it - it's real as it gets. It's like something straight out of the lyrics of 'Won't get Fooled Again' or 'Street Fighting Man'. It's no accident it's going on and maybe there are inevitable things in history.
Not that it helps them any for me to point this out.

As for the song itself, it harkens back to that moment in 1996 when amazing things seemed a lot more possible than they turned out to be.


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2019/11/04

Peaches

Peaches

This song came out of the ashes of my time at University of Sydney. It felt like my life was burning down at any rate.

I'd had a bad breakup - true misery like you see in the movies. I really had to leave town and head down to Canberra to meet up with some mates from high school. They were having some kind of festival at this residential college and somehow I landed there with a guitar and a handful of songs. It was quite the refreshing experience in trying to reset my headspace in the hope of continuing with my studies. At the end of the weekend, I felt quite alright.

Then when I got back and walked into the faculty I was greeted with the sight of my ex making out with a student we used to laugh at. And it hit me that I couldn't really continue being there, hating the course, AND hating on the ex's new life choices. Something had to give and what broke was me.

All said and done, I managed to get this song out of that experience. That was something good that you could take away.

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2019/07/16

Monstrous Gaussian Regression

Reverting To Type, Goes To Character



Here's the new album, released on 11 July 2019.

The songs on this album are straight out of the playlist for Satellite City way back when we were active. I found myself working in Chatswood of all places, and it seemed strange appropriate to revisit this material. Everything has changed in Chatswood, from the station to the general look of the place as well as demographic. For better or worse, the place is overrun with Chinese expats who bought up heavily in the real estate bubble.

Anyway, the changes prompted a bit of soul-searching as well as a look back and out of that process came these versions of these songs. I'm not trying to do all of my old catalog of songs, by the way. It just worked out that the project following on fromVega V Planet of the Empaths happened to be this retro number.

It's available through a whole host of digital outlets, but maybe it's best if you just went to Apple or Amazon or Spotify.

2019/02/28

Quick Shots - 28 Feb 2019

Ex-Cardinal George Fucking Pell, Pederast

I've not blogged anything serious in a long while and the main reason for that is I got burnt out by the stupidity of politics. There's only so much Tony Abbott and climate change denialism and rank class warfare one can take, beyond which came the presidency of Donald Trump. After all of that was the spectacle of various Royal Commissions that laid bare how morally bankrupt our society had become, when it came to making money and getting away with illicit crimes.

Yet, today of all days kind of moved me to blog this date in history. For today is the day Ex-Cardinal George Fucking Pell finds himself in prison for having molested choirboys in the 1990s, while he negotiated away the issue of the Catholic Church's culpability in protecting pederast priests. The irony is simply too much. And if that weren't enough, the Ex-Cardinal got himself excellent character references from two former Prime Minsters of this land.

I am not a wowser. If anything I hate wowsers, so I find myself pleasantly delighted that a man who was the arch-wowser of our times was found out to be exactly the sort of sinner he excoriated from his bully pulpit. The irony is simply too beautiful not to go without being remarked upon. As obvious it is - like the sun in broad day light, really, - this was one man who ought not to have - pardon the phrase - pontificated on the ills of homosexuality when he himself was sticking his penis into the mouths of boys. And I don't for even a single moment mean to suggest it would have somehow been better had he had stuck his dick into the mouths of girls, no, no, no!

And Pell (which is a contraction for Pederast in hell) still insists he is innocent and that he intends to appeal. His lawyer sought a lighter sentence on the grounds that it was a 'vanilla' kind of transgression. Clearly the good counsel has not heard the joke about fucking one goat. It doesn't matter that it only lasted six minutes long, you get judged on the act itself for a reason.

A Father Brennan sought to cast doubt on the judgment itself by suggesting it was impossible to get a penis out to stick it into the mouth of a choirboy from under a Cardinal's robes. It's quite funny because the defence amounts to the same as the idiotic joke wherein it is claimed rapes are impossible because men with trousers around their ankles cannot run after women with the skirts up. It is as if the Catholic Church fraternity have learnt absolutely nothing from the Royal Commission, or the trial and verdict of George Fucking Pell. Creating plausible deniability is hardly the way into the Kingdom of God, Father Brennan.

Two Arseholes in Search of (De-)Meaning

That brings me to the two idiots, the Dishonourable John Howard and Despicable Tony Abbott.

As for the two former Prime Minsters who provided character references, it suggests more about them than it endorses the character of George Fucking Pell. After all, how can they claim their opinions of the man are unchanged in spite of the verdict? Are they thumbing their noses at the court? Are they casting doubt on the system of justice that leans upon jurors? Are they oblivious to the cries of the victims of sexual abuse? Or are they simply dirty old white men circling the wagons around their fellow white man with a conservative weasel mind and a willingness to forgive the errant penis?
In short, have they no embarrassment that they are endorsing a man who shoved his penis down the maws of thirteen year old boys entrusted in his care?

And the answer is clearly not; not, one, bit.

Here's the thing about these men Abbott and Howard. They created the Australia that needed these Royal Commissions. The Royal Commission into banking and insurance had to be done because both of their governments underfunded ASIC and APRA, and came up with terms by which they couldn't go after the most egregious offenders. The Royal Commission in to child abuse by institutions came up because both men presided over governments that privatised out foster care to religious organs, and never looked too hard into the problems when they were Prime Minster. Even the current Royal Commission into Aged Care emerges from the cutting health care budgets and privatising out care for profiteers. The Royal Commission to come on Disability Patients will show the same issue - that successive governments have privatised care out to private profiteers without accountability, and this has resulted in terrible abuse of the most vulnerable.

In fact, these two men contributed greatly to the environment where the Royal Commission were needed because of their polarising politics. The continued cultural wars waged by these two men made it impossible to govern the country in any sensible way. This meant government oversight was limited, understanding dim, knowledge scanty, and mostly blind to abuses in all these areas. All of this was done in the name of fiscal responsibility and tight budgets with a surplus, damn the consequences. Well, the consequences have come home to roost, and none of these Royal Commissions have painted a positive picture of the Federal Government as run by the Coalition.

Really, these men ought to have their platforms taken away in the same way Kevin Spacey had his taken away. They have nothing positive to contribute in public life if what they want to do with their platform is to endorse George Fucking Pell's character.  In most parts of our society, you don't get to claim to have character once you've been convicted of pedophilia.

Even Ray Hadlee thought it was a bit much. And I think Ray Hadlee is a bit much - but that's another rant entirely.

The 121st Day In Sodom

The other ironic thing is that all these people wanted Pier Pasolini's 'Salo' banned. Howard, Abbott, Pell, and Hadlee. Fuck freedom of speech, let's just censor a film based on the Marquis de Sade's big opus, they said. Isn't power to control what other people se or watch corrosive? Probably more than the things they seek to ban.

If you've read '120 Days of Sodom', you would know that a Mayor, a banker, a judged and a bishop get together and create their own little sadistic sex slave haven, and a lot of times spent sexually abusing minors. It's a terrible book, really, except for one thing: it shows us the relationship between the ability of power to corrupt and the libido itself. De Sade wrote this stuff a good half century before Freud, and Co. really nailed his targets. So much so they had his book banned and had De Sade locked up in the Bastille.

It's especially funny to think upon this because if anybody was the highest priest of the land, it was George Fucking Pell, and he turned out to be exactly the kind of monster De Sade said he would be. John Howard is singularly without insight so he is too stupid to understand how it might have happened that his good friend George Fucking Pell turned out to be a monster. Tony Abbott, I suspect knows better, for I suspect Tony Abbott himself is psychosexually perverted by power, and that is why he has remained in Parliament. Being in Parliament being Tony Abbott the wrecker, fuels his libido. It helps him bang Peta Credlin better.

In any case, we now understand better who these men are, thanks to the Marquis de Sade. Don't ever tell me banning his works is a good idea.

How Can Catholics Stay Catholics In This Country After This?

Look, I always bag out religion because I think they're all suspect. That being said, I don't know how Catholics in this country can stay Catholics after a Cardinal has been found to have not only protected pedophile priests, minimised financial pay outs to victims of pedophile priests, and removed the church itself from being sued for damages by those it abused, but also personally abused choir boys in his care?

How can you be okay going back to this church and confessing in the booth to a bunch of people you can no longer trust? Logically, one would look for a personal connection to God that doesn't involve going through priests, and of course that's exactly how the Reformation began. That's just logic, though.

If I were in the Vatican looking at all this, I'd be more than little worried about where Catholicism can go in Australia after this. I guess bullshit is eternal, and I need not worry about the emotional well-being of Catholics, but it has to be said, going back to Church on Sunday would be misconstrued by the rest of society as tacitly supporting these arsehole priests who would protect pedophiles in their ranks.

I mean, are you really going to be okay with that? If so, how fucking low are you willing to go as a society? I'll tell you how low I'm willing to go. From now on, I'm not going to hesitate to ask any Catholic priest how many pedophiles they personally know about and whom they're protecting.

The World Is Stupider Than You Hope

I just want to note Donald Trump is in Hanoi talking to Kim Jong-Un in hopes of reaching a nuclear detente. It won't happen because they're too far apart. All the while Trump's former lawyer who flipped on him was bagging him out in Congress. If you thought that whole scenario wasn't crazy enough, India and Pakistan have started a shooting war without actually calling it a war. Imran Khan was on TV asking to meet the Indian Prime Minister. Who knows if that would work. It would be ironic if World War III started over Kashmir between India and Pakistan exactly while the more likely culprits in Donald Trump and Kim Jong-Un were busy trying to defuse the bomb they made.

That's how deeply in the clutches of stupidity we have ended. Way to go world!
Hey don't look at me. I didn't make it like this.

2019/02/01

Vega V - Planet of the Empaths

Got A New Bunch of Songs Out


Yes, it's that time again where I've released some more material.
This album is a collection of songs that used to be in the repertoire of my old old old band Vega V. These songs fell by the wayside as the band evolved and got different members and roles changed. These songs were always kind of fun to play, except they stopped fitting the concept of the band, and so they went into the bottom drawer where such songs go to sleep.
I guess I never gave up on these songs.

I think I read somewhere where Pete Townshend was talking about how he is attached to the songs from the earliest part of his oeuvre. It makes sense - the earliest songs are the songs where the most natural inclinations of the artist come out in the most natural way. It's the songs after no.100 that get very difficult for all parties, including the artist. The artist has to stretch harder contort harder, reach harder, in order to find new material that is satisfying that also has some kind of continuity - no matter how tenuous - to the material that came before. not to compare myself to titans like Pete Townshend or a God like J.S. Bach, but after a thousand and eighty odd bits of composed music, it's no wonder 'Art of the Fugue' is the most convoluted, baroque piece by Bach. Everybody else gets weirded out way before they get to 1080 bits of music.

Speaking for myself, after a mere measly three hundred or so, I decided to go back and re-explore my earliest bits of music. This is the stuff I was doing before I completely weirded myself out. These are the songs from long before I stopped making sense to myself; a time back when where I could spell out each chord and they would mesh, euphonious, into the next chord.

So, there they are, recorded and mixed with the help of 21st Century tech and knowhow, brought back to life like some dinosaur in Jurassic Park. You can squiz through the discography on the sidebar for track names, but better still, just head on over to Spotify or iTunes or Google Play where all digital releases go nowadays.

After all, every play counts.

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