entering the digital music age

I bought a mp3 player the other day. It’s not an ipod – but an iriver (a different brand). To me it felt like an end of an era. It says on the manual that It can fit 12,000 songs which is quite mind boggling.

This is quite quick for me to get onto this technology business with music. In comparison I didnt get a cd player until 1993, and for years after that I still used a tape walkman.How convenient this new device is very exciting but also scary in how spoilt we are. It’s truly Amazing what you can do with technology.

Of course there’s the concern that I will abandon my cds and only listen to mp3s. After all my entire collection can fit on the mp3 player – I dont’ have to change discs. There’s also the concern that music will disappear from cd shops after all cd sales are down. I hope not – there’s something special about buying a new release and taking it home and putting it in the cd player. I think I’ll still do that – but this mp3 player come Jukebox is another step in my musical life. I will tell you what though I’m finding that I am listening to a lot music than before and am more inspired to play music.

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Next Big Thing Heat 1 @ Swan Basement

Next Big Thing Heat One
Review by Leo Abbs

The Skirts were first a young band, in fact they were the only underage band in the next big thing competition. While they had plenty of energy and were proficient with their instruments (one punter mentioned the drummer had plenty of promise), I found them to suffer from youthful predictability. Their punk sound is what you would expect from bands of that age. As for a band of that style to write a song about hating hippies, it’s quite a cliché.

The beauty about band competitions is the variety of styles. Where else on a local bill would you get to see an acoustic band follow a punk band? Khin Mynt played a short set of soft acoustic with a personal touch. Joined by a double bass and keyboards it was one of the most enjoyable sets of the evening. He was then followed by another act, Not Even Slightly who played a set best described as Emo Rock and the singers voice at times reminded of placebo.

The Freudian Slips appeared to be the one to beat tonight with some well written songs that according to one punter sound like radiohead and the stone roses. There was something about this group where you can see them increasing in popularity.

Vital Statistix had the most interesting frontman tonight which gave the band something but wasn’t so backed up by his band. With some work these guys could be an interesting live act.

The last band of the night was The Imps who featured a former member of Fourth Floor Collapse on drums. Their sound was pop/rock with a comical edge to the lyrics. One of the best acts on the night, they were only let down by a new keyboardist who didn’t add anything to the sound – something which could hold them back in the future.

First place: The Freudian Slips
Second Place: The Imps

Bob Gordon Interview

Bob Gordon
Interviewed by Leo Abbs

How did you get involved in music journalism?

I’ve always been engulfed by music, back from when I was a little kid. With three older sisters I was exposed to lots of records from an early age and I never grew out of it. I played a little back in the day when I left school and worked in a bank for a while.

Then I returned to uni and did an Arts course majoring in Media Studies. While I was in the middle of that I started doing CD and gig reviews for X-Press (1991). I had spent so many years reading rock magazines and seeing bands it just seemed to follow logic that I would end up writing in/for them.

I ended up working at X-Press full-time from 1993-2001, including being the Editor from 1998. In High School I’d end up listening to records late at night instead of studying. That’s not an advisable homework ethic but ironically, that seemed to work in my favour in the long run.

You were editor of Xpress for quite a while, what have you been doing since then?

I left X-Press in early 2001 as it was time for a new direction in life. I decided to become a freelance journalist to expand my writing while still being able to retain a focus on music and the arts. It’s been more diverse than I ever actually expected in many ways. In terms
of writing I’ve become a columnist (Wired) and regular contributor for The West Australian, continued as a contributor for Rolling Stone, written Feature Articles for Q Magazine, the CMJ New Music Report and lots of magazines and newspapers of various types over east and
overseas.

When you’re a freelancer, the cheque is always `in the mail’. As a result, I’ve had to supplement my writing income by taking on other work that has fortunately complemented what I do. That has included working in a record shop for a while (Urban Records in Leederville), lecturing in Feature Writing for Curtin Uni’s Journalism Course (they wouldn’t even take me as a student 14 years previous) and the Spin Exhibition.

I’ve also jumped the other side of the counter in publicity/PR and have done stints at the Perth International Arts Festival and the West Australian Symphony Orchestra, as well as
publicity for events such as the Botanic Blues Roots & Soul Festival, plus this year’s Rock-It and Mandurah Mainbreak festivals.

Recently I have also been handling management and publicity of Jeff Martin (The Tea Party), who has family ties in Perth and is working towards a solo release and production work from here. That is on hold at the moment due to band commitments overseas, but will strike up again.

I was also the Chairperson of the State Govt’s Contemporary Music Taskforce from 2001-02. The longer you hang around the more things you seem to get involved in.

You were involved with the SPIN exhibition at the WA Museum what was that exhibition about and what was your involvement?

Spin came about as part of the funding and the direction of the Contemporary Music Taskforce. I feel it was an important thing to document local music history in a bold way and doing so in the WA Museum (plus touring it) was a great way to present that to not only the usual interested parties, but the mainstream as well. The sub-heading of the exhibition was `WA Music From Underground To On The Air’ and we tried to do that as well as possible looking from 1970 onwards.

I was the co-curator – my experience in local music writing and the contacts I have within allowed me to write a text to tell something of a story via around 100 interviews and the collection of artifacts, audio, video and ephemera. I worked with a Museum curator who helped translate/transpose these things into how a Museum Exhibition should present these things.

I think the designers at the Museum also did a great job with Spin. I’m not actively involved in it now, but I understand it still has some travelling to do. I’d love it if when that was all over it could be updated and found a permanent home somewhere in Perth.

I saw you play in a Beatles Tribute night a few years ago singing for the Three orange whips. Have you ever played in a band besides that?

I played in an original band with a bunch of mates called No Particular Hairstyle in the late ’80s at venues such as the Fitzgerald, the Old Melbourne, Limbo’s etc. I left all that behind when I started writing about other people playing music, but I believe it helped me as a music writer. Hanging around and being friends with so many musicians over the years sometimes led to moments when I’d get onstage or even do whole sets on one-off nights (like the one you saw).

There is no other way I could have gotten the chance to perform alongside people from Eskimo Joe, The Whips, Cinema Prague, Allegiance, Circus Murders, Red Jezebel, Team Jedi, Greenroom, End Of Fashion, Crawlspace and more. Not the way I play (!)

I have a just-for-laughs project that runs on and off called KISStake. It’s a light-hearted KISS tribute (hence the name) that we dig out every six months or so. It’s done for the love of it and for the fun and has been done with people who have all otherwise played in original bands. In other words, this is pure escapism for all involved.

I think we’ve done it 5-6 times (with the same amount of line-ups) in the last two years. I play `Paul Stanley’ – I scream, jump, do windmills and smash a guitar at the end. Hey, it’s an outlet. Kiss have been my weakness since I was a teenager.

Are there any music heroes you interviewed?

As far as my musical heroes go, most of them. From members of Kiss (bloody Kiss!), to Michael Stipe, Beck, Jeff Buckley, Anthony Kiedis, Tim Rogers, Henry Rollins, Robert Smith, Trent Reznor, Billy Bragg, Shirley Manson, Kim Gordon. In 14 years of interviewing people the numbers add up. However, as much as it’s interesting to talk to famous people, I learnt a lot about music, my home and myself by interviewing musicians from WA. I don’t kid myself that a job like mine makes much of a contribution to society, but if any part of it does, it’s in the areas where I can support local music.

> Anybody you would like to interview?

Lots. There’s always new people coming up and older people that I’m just finding out about that would be great. I’ve met members of the Stones and U2 but have not interviewed them. I’ve never interviewed Nick Cave. I was once lined up to do a phone interview with Hunter S. Thompson that was meant to be rescheduled. I think we can now safely say that one’s not gonna happen.

Who has been your favourite Perth bands over the years?

There’s been lots – The Stems, Favourite Game, Mustang!, Cinema Prague,
Ammonia, Valvolux, Spank, The Feends, Turnstyle, Three Orange Whips,
Eskimo Joe, Jebediah, Capital City, The Panics, Snowman, Schvendes,
Kill Devil Hills, El Horizonte, The Bank Holidays.

Sometimes I think I’ve forgotten more than I remember. Most times I’ve forgotten more
than I know.

Karnivool Cd Review

Karnivool – ‘Themata
Reviewed by Leo Abbs

Finally they got the bloody thing out. I must say I’m glad its released. It is tops.

Why is it good you ask? Firstly the singer’s voice is awesome and the songs are catchy. The sound is Tool-influenced but that isn’t the only band mixed into the sound. Besides there are dozen of bands in Perth trying to be like Tool (just look at members wanted in Xpress) and they don’t get close to the vool.

The latest single ‘Shutterspeed’is a corker. IT’s been all over Triple J and was top of the Net 50 for weeks and weeks. This song is surrounded by great tunes – Themata, Fear of the Sky and previous single ‘Lifelike’ There’s even a heartfelt ballad called ‘Sewn and Silent’.

Unfortunately it’s not perfect – there’s a stupid silent track and the last track is only half a song hence the ‘part 1’ title. As for the instrumental, well, I don’t mind Meshuggah style riffs but without Ian Kenny’s singing over the top it tends to get boring.

Though that’s taking away from what is a fine debut. Karnivool deserve to only get bigger with this release. And I already know they will. This is first class. May they fly to stardom.

New Band Focus – Ura

Band Name: Ura

Band Members: Dan – Vocals/Guitar, Nick – Keys/Vocals, Bram – Drums/Vocals, Clayton – Samples/Synth, Ash – Bass

Influences: Pink Floyd, Radiohead, Massive Attack, Portishead, Mr Bungle.

Style: Ambient pop/rock.

Where does the name come from: An area in Japan named Dan-no-ura (Dan? No.. Ura. Geddit?) close to the setting of a famous Japanese story of a blind Biwa player called Hoichi.

Upcoming gigs: 17th June – Odessey Nightclub, Bunbury, 24th June – Swan Basement

Website: http://uramusic.com

MP3s: http://uramusic.com/media.html

Contact Details: management@uramusic.com

Live Review: Syzygy’s Final Show

Syzygy – Final Show
Newport
Sunday 5th June 2005
Review by Leo Abbs

It’s always sad to hear of bands announcing their final show. Disappointing maybe, but it allows one last gig, a celebration of what they set out to achieve – to write music that they loved and were passionate about.

How much they enjoyed their music was clearly evident tonight when looking at the stage while Syzygy played. Grinning, nodding along to the music, at times head banging to their beloved tunes that would be best described as progressive metal in the mould of Dream Theater. With Metallica, faith No more and virtuoso guitarists Satriani and Vai also showing influence.

Despite popularity in the metal scene – the band struggled to gain recognition of the rest of Perth. I can remember a review of a band competition final, which said:

Syzygy sounded loud and painful – so I went outside’.

Bad review for the boys – but the irony is Syzygy outlasted the street press, Hype, that the review came from.

Tonight, despite being the 2nd of the final shows for the weekend for the group, there was a decent turnout easily equal that of touring bands. It was also a nice gesture for the band to make it a gold coin donation and the cds were only 5 dollars with entry so I picked up a copy.

The four core members all had cut their long hair over the past few years . Tonight there was a fill in player on bass – Jon, (or Bass Bastard to the people who visit internet message boards) many years younger than the rest – who more than just played his part, he was brilliant.

While the band were amazing musicians perhaps the only drawback was at times the music lacked melody that a singer would have provided. Not to say they need a singer but the guitars could have provided a stronger melodic presence – in the way Satriani/Vai hold an instrumental together

My favourite part of Syzygy has always been the keyboards and tonight Mili on Keys, was playing his instrument with it tilted 90 degrees towards the ground – what inspires him to play it like that I’m not sure but boy he knows what he’s doing. The highlight were his solo parts particularly the piano sounds.

As the night drew a close there were two things to do. For Damo to play a drum solo that left many crowd members amazed. Leaving after the show I heard one punter ranting to Damien about how he was one of the best drummers he’d seen and he’d seen the greats – mentioning names such as Ginger Baker.

And the last thing was to play one last tune. An emotional moment for their supporters . There were thank you’s and cds thrown to the crowd and then a few last band photos. No world domination for this band, but sheer musical brillance and a fine turnout tonight should leave Syzygy feeling very proud of their accomplishments.

WAMI 05 Compilation Review

WAMI 05 CD
Review by Leo Abbs

Every year I look forward to the WAMI compilation CD in anticipation of which bands will be on it. Whether they be my favourite local groups or WA artists that I’ve yet to discover or bands who surprise me by having a great song on there.

This year there were 4 CDs – split into periods of the weekend. The first CD is entitled Friday Nights and basically covers the ‘indie/rock’ side of things. Standouts include Eskimo Joe with their hit ‘From The Sea’, The Fuzz, A track from Jebediah’s fourth album and two bands which are all the hype this year – Snowman and The Panda Band.

CD 2 covers the heavier side of things with Karnivool ‘Shutterspeed’ a standout – which became a triple J staple not long after its release. There’s also lots of interesting styles on there . CD 3 leans to the electronic side of things with Micadelic with their hip hop and Thread doing a catchy indie/electro crossover two of the better tracks.

The final disc ‘Sunday Afternoon’ covers the Blues/roots/country side of things which is having a popular run at the moment – highlights include Dave Mann Collective’s latest single ‘Who You Are’ (contender for best track on the compilation?) the lovable Kill Devil Hills, Pete Stone and the upcoming release from josivac.