Monthly Archives: February 2012

STOMPDOG album Songs For the Dead out now!

Hello readers!  I’m pretty excited just now.  I’ve been listening to the new Stompdog album since last night.  I’m on it!  So forgive my indulgence just for now.  (Keep a vigilant eye on it though.)  But right now it’s totally appropriate, because it’s possibly one of the best albums I’ve been involved in.

Now, I really, really should put up Stompdog on my bio, but I have been in a retrogade eMercury period recently.  I needed to work on some actual bonafide roots into some nourishing soil for a bit.  And look!  I gots a fruit!  This album!  I’ll post up the Stompdog bio in a few days.  (I pormise Louise!)  but in the meantime, here’s a brief introduction.

Stompdog is the work of Matthew McKenizie and Lousie Nicholas.  Matt writes most of the stuff so far, and he and Louise (on bass) arrange really great harmonies.  Peter O’Shea is a veteran fiddler savant from around these parts, and then there was me for a while on Banjo.  Unfortunately I got too busy to keep up with their rapidly expanding schedule, and was over-committed with another band that also has a release out this year.  But that can wait for a another blog! 

Nevertheless, I made the Album with them and I’m so glad I did. 

The album is definitely hill billy, with a strong Australiana feel all through it.  Matt’s originals are incredibly well written, with local scenery of Victoria prosaically framing stories of intense drama.  And they’re extremely well crafted too, with full harmonies and intelligent, soulful changes. 

But there’s also some proper good Aussie trad arrangemenst too.  Songs like lachlan Tigers and Ryebuck Shearer – complete with kicking bluegrass solos on banjo and fiddle.  if you ever wanted to hear proper trad Aussie songs, by proper trad Aussies presented in a homogenous and contemporary bluegrass way, this album should be in your reference library.

I’ve been lsitening to the album all morning.  I had to steal one off a friend because it’s so fresh I haven’t even got mine yet!  And it has this crazy charm to it.  It rollicks, and you think it’s Saturday arvo and you’re on the farm and there’s dogs and chickens and rolled-up jeans and rolled-up grass and cabbage moths and cockies sqawking in the distance.  the sun is shining and the weeds and veggies are bolting for the sky.  Then, without warning, the album just turns it’s head for a moment, it’s smile flickers for a second and suddenly you’re a long way from home, and it’s dark, and there could be something out there.

The album is like a billy cart ride.  You hurtle down the Dead Grommet Hill, and it even hits bumps and bounces into the air, as though the album is trying to steer the thing without crashing.  but then it has these moments when you get out of the cart and drag it up the next incline in contemplation.

I’m repeating myself now.

Anyway, check it out.  you can buy it online, or in stores, or if you have trouble with that email me here and I’ll sort it out for you.


The long time between drinks…

Hello readers. I hope you haven’t forgotten me! It has been a very long time since I blogged, and much overdue. but frankly, there isn’t that much inspiration in Australia to write. It’s pretty bleak.

To give you an idea about what you’ll face in my country if you try and play music, hear this anecdote –

While in the USA and doing lots of terrific gigs, I tried, with the help of a few supporters, to line up some gigs when i got back and do a bit of promotion. Unfortunately, the venues I had once had a great relationship with had changed bookers, and they simply wouldn’t reply to any emails I sent. So, I had to actually phone, from the USA, these venues and speak directly to their managers and once again attempt to by-pass their bookers. Unfortunately, they put me back into the hands of their bookers.

I had to ask Serge at the Edinbrough Castle what the deal was with their booker, as it had been 3 months of solid emailing with no response. But the reality is it’s been YEARS trying to deal with their various bookers.

I remember when the EC first opened, and the Black Swans of Trespass had a gig there. We held the record for a LONG time for attendance. The booker, Louise at the time, actually did the door. That means she sat there the whole gig, she saw how many people came in. Now at the end of the gig, when I asked her for another gig, she actually told me to drop in a demo and “we’ll see.”

I was very surprsied and confused by this. Nevertheless I did what she asked. I dropped in not one but several. I emailed her. I phoned her. I got completely ignored. That was the last gig i did at the EC under my own steam. I have played there many times since, always as a session or support.

But that’s the way Melbourne works.

So I had to reluctantly say goodbye to my relationship with the EC. The same sadly was true of the Wesley Anne. Once, we had a great relationship with the Booker there. We did great work for them. We pulled reasonable crowds and did MASSIVE ad campaigns. As soon as the new booker, Damien, came in,. we were snubbed. When we went around him and approached managemnet directly for a gig, we got double booked.

Just recently we were asked to support Andre Camilleri at the Wesley Anne. Since Damien had taken over, that was the first gig I had ever been to there that was not double booked. Prior to that, every gig there I had played as a support or session, or even just gone along to see, had been double booked except for one. The one that wasn’t double booked was an interstate touring band that had just been forgotten about. No listing, no info, no nothing. It never ceases to amaze me the level of professionalism demanded by these venues compared to the level that is reciprocated by the venues.

People wonder why I am reluctant to play in melbourne. Since then I have made terrific, professional relationships outside of Melbourne, and there is just no incentive to really go back there.

Compare the treatment we got from Adelaide’s Wheatsheaf! Ever since I first played there, about two years ago, we have had a mutual repsect for each other. The booker there is awesome, professional and very well organised. And as a result, the business thrives. Compare that to Wesley Anne and the EC. they don’t care so much about the music and rely on fairly expensive food to bring punters in. Yet, without music, the punters would go elsewhere. In fact the only reason these venues have any kind of reputation is from live music. But they treat the musicians like crap.

The Wheatsheaf booker, on the other hand, not only treats musicians with respect, the booker actually goes to the gigs! I have NEVER known this of any venue in Melbourne.

There’s a lot Melbourne can learn from Adelaide, if it would only stop looking down its nose.

Anyway, that’s one little gripe out of the way. Here’s another –

While in the USA we did a lot of internet promotion. We got really warm and positive feedback from the US and UK. What did we get from Australia? Two replies, both were abusive, along the lines of “Ah your band probably sucks anyway, that’s why you have to advertise.”

When some fans asked the two bogans to listen, they got abusive and threatened violence. Albeit in a pathetic way not to be taken seriosuly, but nevertheless, that’s what i was faced with. Knowing that my time in the US was drawing to a close, that it had been massivley succesful, that i was going home to a musical abyss. It felt awful.

However, not all is lost! There have been some developments in many bands I play with. And that has allowed me to focus on their work, and not to push my own. Which is a massive relief! In fact I feel like I can do more for someone else’s music than I ever could have for my own.

ZEPTEPI have been absoluetly exploding. Shows go from strength to strength, and there has not been a week go by when I haven’t gigged with them in some capacity. They are just about to release an acoustic album I am very excited about. (Phil the front man is listening to the finished masters as i type, and then they’ll be off to the printers.) We have built up a healthy circuit in regional Victoria and interstate. We may launch in Melbourne if we get a decent date, but i don’t think that gig will be the priority launch.

STOMPDOG have finished their album which is mighty fine too. I played all the banjo on it. However, as Zeptepi have been very busy, I have been relegated to understudy banjo. It was too hard for us to synchronise dates, and now they have their original guy back. We are still good friends though. The split was amicable! I recommend checking their CD out. Matt Mckenzie is a great soingwriter.

The BLACK SWANS OF TRESPASS has been resurrected in trio from and plays about once every 1-2 months.

And then I am doing the occasional solo gig here and there.

So once I adjusted to the way Australia is, things weren’t so bad. Currently my main focus is on Zeptepi. And there’s been a lot of work in that area.

I’ll try and blog more often, and keep the whinging if not to a minimum then at least make it somewhat entertaining!

There’s a few anouncements coming up too, regarding banjo classes run by myself at a local music school, and a curious tale about busking on the Surfcoast I’m sure you’ll find extremely Kafka-esque. But for now, let it be known, I’m alive, I’m busy. Things here are about as good as they can be.

Stay tuned!