Interview: Steve Parkin

Steve Parkin
Interview by Dylan McArdle




Photo of Steve, also by Dylan.

This weekend is RTRfm’s 30th anniversary and to celebrate they’ve managed to get 10 Perth bands to re-form for one night only in what is set to be a killer show. One of the bands on the lineup is Autopilot and their former lead singer Steve Parkin took some time to us about his time in the band and his ongoing career as a solo artist.

So…Autopilot are reforming to play at the RTRfm 30th Anniversary gig. How did that all come about?
RTR Asked Me. I Hesitated. Then saw Circus Murders Were on the bill, so said yes!

It’s been a while (since Autopilot last played) hasn’t it? What is it – 5 or 6 years now?
Yep.

Will playing together again bring back some memories?
Um…maybe. I live with Hugh now, so see him all the time anyway. Jayde is in Africa or Japan, or somewhere, So we got a fill-in drummer (Hobbsy)

What made you guys call it a day? Was it a tough decision?
We lost momentum. Personal Issues. Yeah, It was hard, But Ultimately a good choice for all three of us.

You said recently (in relation to The Bank Holidays debut album)
“you have made the album I wish Autopilot had made”.

Do you have any other regrets from your time in Autopilot?
I wish wed’ waited three to start ripping off The Beatles. We were a bit early. Jet Vines, Sleepys could have told us!

What happened to the material that never got released as part Autopilot’s 3rd CD? Are they shelved forever or will they make it in some form on to one of your solo releases in the future?
They are in a box. In a warehouse. In a nondescript western town. Next to a certain…ark..?

Of all the songs you’ve written, which is your favourite and why?
Pure Gold Baby. Coz I still like it after ten years!

I heard the song “Haemophiliac” on an advert for Honda North once. How exactly does that song entice me to buy a Honda?
Um..coz…They’ll bleed you dry?

I know Hugh (Jennings) has played with you in the Bob Evans band and The Foreign Films as well as in End of Fashion. What happened to drummer Jayde after the band split up?
Parts Unknown

Speaking of the Bob Evans band, how was/is working with Kevin Mitchell? Does playing in someone else’s band compare to being in your own?
It was a challenge because I’m easy on myself
I had to be disciplined a bit. Kev is awesome. He is a great guy. A great songwriter, and (contrary to his earlier press) a fucking awesome singer! I had a top time with Lil Kevvy Mitchell.

I guess you could call yourself a veteran of Perth music scene. What do you think of the scene right now? Do you think it’s better now than it was, say, 6 or 7 years ago?
It’s certainly got more attitude, and it’s younger. Like, really young (Flairz, Mink Mussel Creek etc) Seem you gotta have a record deal before high school now!

Are there any Perth bands you wish were still around?
Ikey Mo, Ammonia, Bluetile Lounge, OH Man, Heaps. Pink Fluffy Bunnies. Left Nut!

You’ve played in a lot of different venues over the years – is there a venue that you enjoy playing at the most? Is there anywhere you don’t like playing?
Perth Concert Hall. Hands down. All time favourite . Won’t name the worst. They know who they are.

Tell me some of the things you use as inspiration during your song writing process.
Vodka. Mary Jane. “Stress” Pills. Punching Bag. Egg Whisk..

Who is Sandy and where is Sandytown?
Listening to the album backwards to find out!

Eskimo Joe credit you for your help on “London Bombs” – is there a story behind that?
Yeah I did all the work. They sat back and sipped french champagne and received backrubs from supermodels while I slogged my goddamn guts out. Wankers.

Are you jealous/envious that they (Eskimo Joe) have achieved more success Australia wide that you’ve managed to so far?
Well, considering they just signed me to my first proper record deal and I’m now gonna spend all their hard- earned money…um..no..

You work at Mills Records; have you ever recommended “Sandytown” to a customer who didn’t know who you were?
Are you nuts? Of course I bloody have.

You also done some TV commercial appearances, haven’t you? Didn’t I see you on adverts for Western QBE and Curtin Business School?
Shut up. What about my scene with Toni Collette in Japanese Story? That was much cooler.

It’s been a few years now since you released your solo debut album “Sandytown”. Is a follow up in the works? When is that due for release?
We’re halfway through it. Should be out next year. It’s a guitar pop odyssey. Timberlake meets flock of Seagulls.

Do you think it’ll ever be cool to do the Beatles in Perth again?
Ask Bank Holidays and Luke Steele!

RTRfm’s 30th Anniversary show is this Saturday at the Hyde Park.
For more info see RTR’s website – http://www.rtrfm.com.au/events/74

Interview: Sons Of Rico

Alex ‘Boff’ MacRae (Sons Of Rico)
Interview by Leo Abbs

It’s been three years since Alex MacRae last got to experience a CD launch. It was at the Amplifier and it was for the launch of his band’s Bus #56 debut disc. In 2007, it finally has come time for his band to release their second CD, their first under the name ‘Sons Of Rico’ complete with a line up change.

Perth Sounds emailed some questions one Saturday Morning to Alex and got a very quick and very enthusiastic response.

So why have you changed the band name to Sons Of Rico?
Bus#56 was initially intended to be just a temporary name but got stuck after a few shows and even more so after a demo EP. We were never happy with it and felt that now with a new CD and a new member; the time is right to make a full transformation.

How has the second EP progressed from the first?
The first one was a ‘cut all corners’ kind of project. Everything was tracked in a bedroom and mixed and mastered very very cheaply. This time round we employed the likes of Shaun O’Callaghan for some tracking and all mixing, as well as paying to use another studio for the rest of the tracking. Also the songs are generally more developed and refined than the first batch.

How does it affect the band, having members in touring bands such as Birds Of Tokyo?
Well, if birds are on tour, then we can’t play any shows! Hehe. But we’re a pretty organised band. If we know in advance that someone isn’t going to be around for a few weeks, we can still be writing new material or rehearsing in preparation for the next show.

Is there any particular styles that you would like to try in a song, that you haven’t already done?
I think for now we’ll try and establish ourselves as a kick ass rock band before we start getting too crazy with other styles. It might be confusing for would-be fans if they’re not so sure what style this band is. When we have a bit more material out there we may look to experiment more with different styles.

What is your favourite song on the EP and why?
For me it’s definitely Orange Skies. I like the melody and flow of the song. I’ve heard it so many times yet I’m still not bored of it. Also, I enjoy Ignite because it’s totally badass and has a million guitar solos.

Do you write at home by yourself or in a jam?
For this EP I wrote the material by myself at home and refined it in the jam room and studio. It was the best thing for everyone to get things happening while the other guys were busy. Having said that, the next release will be more of a band effort.

What do you find useful on the Internet as far as being a local Perth band?
Is the correct answer Perthsounds.com? J But seriously, MySpace is the most powerful tool for any band in this day and age. There are many useful tools on the internet that can help us, but MySpace is by far the most powerful at the moment.

Most exciting thing to happen to the band this year?
The whole new package!
New lineup/ new name/ new CD!

The CD launch next week is something we’ve looked forward to all year, so hopefully that’ll be a highlight for us too. Cheers!

CD Launch Details:
Saturday 17th November
Rosemount
Sons Of Rico ‘Orange Skies’ CD Launch
(formerly called Bus #56)
w/ Good Little Fox and The Vice Chancellors
www.myspace.com/sonsofrico

Interview: Nathan Gaunt

Nathan Gaunt
Interview by Leo Abbs



Nathan Gaunt is launching his latest album ‘Halcyon Dazed’ on Saturday 3rd November at the Railway Hotel. What is different about this album is that it is an internet only album – available for download on Gaunt’s website at http://www.nathangaunt.com.au .

The album is called ‘Halcyon Dazed’ and it came about because Gaunt revisited a bunch of his favourite albums from 1997 and 1998, which inspired him to write songs for a record, with sounds from that era in mind.

‘I had written some music for a fashion show in New York, and around this time I was writing a very beats-based soundtrack for the models on the catwalk. I went back and listened to a lot of my Massive Attack and Portishead records for a bit of research, and in doing so, I started listening to a lot of music that was coming out in 97 and 98.’

‘I hit upon this idea, that, that was when I first started playing music, and listening to music seriously. So, I pulled out all the records that I bought in the year and a half’s time and listened to them for about a month, two months, while I was travelling. I got into this real kind of nostalgic trip, because they were my Halcyon days of my music listening life, and so these eleven songs were born out of that.’

This period was also around the time Gaunt started playing live and when he started really getting serious about music, both as a musician and as a listener. So instead of doing the usual, greatest hits approach, he has revisited an era where it all started.

Not only did he take a different approach with the music, but also with the way it was released. The idea to make it an internet only album came after starting a download service on his website last year. Considering it was a success, Gaunt decided he would record an album and only release it through the net.

‘Upon doing this show in New York, I decided to do one for just those who were involved in the website, people who came by and checked, for people on our mailing list. Literally within an hour of finishing mastering this album, I uploaded it up onto the website and people started downloading it, and that’s when I thought, ‘this could work’.’

As for how the idea is going, Gaunt said:

‘It’s been up for 4 months, and we’ve nearly sold a thousand copies. We’ve done no press, no promo, it’s literally from just traffic.’

If there was one deviation from the theme of 1997/98, it was something that Gaunt always likes to do on his albums. It’s to pursue what he has always loved about Led Zeppelin – their ethnic rock influences. Which he did on this album, on the track ‘Kali Underground’. Zeppelin being a bigger influence on Gaunt, than Jeff Buckley, who he has been compared to in the past.

‘It’s just one of those things, the minute I open my mouth I’m going to get comparisons.’ Gaunt said on the Buckley comparisons.

‘From a technical point of view, my vibrato is almost identical. On this album, I’ve actually tried to tone back the vibrato, and just sing very straight and change the tone of my voice.’

‘When people look back on the amount of work that I’ve done, they’ll see that ‘s a completely irrelevant no-brainer comment. The only similarities are that occasionally I sound like him and occasionally I do ballads. It’s hard to escape, but I never saw him play with an Indian Orchestra on a 12 string guitar, tuned to sitar tuning, for 4 ½ minutes with the record button.’

In the end, the amount of work Gaunt has released and the diversity of it, will leave him to be remembered as an a unique artist in his own right. With his eight album ‘Halcyon Dazed’, he has proved it again, trying new ideas that he hasn’t touched on before.

‘I always take the long road with music and that is no one will fully understand what you’ve done, until you’re gone. It’s a sad truth, and once you reconcile it as an artist, if you really believe in the work (that) you’ve done, it becomes irrelevant what people call you. You know what you’ve done. I’ve put out eight albums and each one is completely different.’

Launch Details
Saturday 3rd November
Railway Hotel, North Fremantle
w/ support from Myles Vincent, The Chemist and Good Little Fox

To download the album go to:
www.nathangaunt.com.au

Interview: Michael Fletcher

Michael Fletcher
Interview by Leo Abbs

Michael Fletcher (known to most as Fletch) is a Sound Engineer, who mainly focuses on live work. Currently based in London, he has worked a number of venues in Perth, including a in house stint at Mojos and been the isound guy for a number of Perth bands including Snowman, Fourth Floor Collapse and Spencer Tracy. He also recorded the debut album for Burgers Of Beef.

Fletch won the 2006 wami award for Best LIve Sound Engineer.

Why did you become a sound guy?

It was all a big mistake actually. I was enrolled to do geophysics after travelling for a bit in my early 20s, and my drama teacher girlfriend convinced me to audition for the sound production&design course at WAAPA. I don’t think she wanted to be going out with a physics student. We broke up before I started 1st year anyway…

How long have you been an audio engineer?
I started mixing bands for money in 1997, which was my 1st year at WAAPA. Before that I used to play guitar with mates and set up their PA systems in dodgy country pub gigs.

Do you do any training to get into this profession?
3 years at the WA Academy of Performing Arts. It was a tough slog. They only accepted students a year, and out of the 10 in my year 6 dropped out, 1 left after 2nd yr for fulltime work, and 3 of us graduated. We would have lectures 8am to 6pm, then book studio time all night, because these were the days before home studios were affordable, and computers were
mainly too shit to run decent software.

I had a Pentium 133 with 32 meg of ram and a 1.2GB hard drive I think. Mmmmm Windows 95…

What aspects of the job do you mainly do – live work or recording? Are there any preferences to what you like?
I seem to have ended up being mainly a live sound engineer, although I originally wanted to be a studio engineer. Life in the live world is a lot more active and interesting, and I’ve had some sweet experiences travelling all over Australia with bands. I enjoy the travel a lot – it’s
great to always be seeing new things and meeting new people (who mainly tend to be in the music industry, I have to admit). I do a bit of recording too – a bunch of demos for young bands and also live recordings of concerts.

What are you currently doing as a sound engineer?
I’m currently living in London, where I moved in 2006. I spent the UK summer working on music festivals all over England, with bands like Echo and the Bunnymen, Joe Jackson, Supergrass and so on. I’m also working in TV here, because it pays absolutely shitloads 🙂

You have been an in house mixer at a few venues – what’s it like working
the hours compared to say a 9 -5 job?
I really enjoy having my mornings to myself, but I also work in TV, which means early starts. A lot of my time in Perth was spent working 8am – 5am at ABC or Ch9, then 6pm – 1 or 2am in music venues on Thursday to Saturday nights. Weekends killed me!

Having said that, I couldn’t do a 9-5 office job for a living again. I am too used to having my days to do with as I please.

The one real downer is that you get out of touch with your social life. Friends stopped asking me if I was free for parties or camping trips or whatever, because they knew I was generally working on weekends. You tend to make friends with others in the music industry and socialise in those kinds of circles.

Are there any other ways in which you are involved in the music industry, besides being a sound guy?
I’ve done a lot of work with WAM, particularly early on in the school concert incursions program. I’ve also managed a few bands over the years, and I’m a fairly average guitarist. I tour managed some of the bands I mixed, on national Australian tours, which was hard work but heaps of fun.

Are there any great rock’n’roll stories you can tell about working with bands?
Lots. How much time do you have? 🙂 I’m not gonna kiss & tell though.

There are some things that happen on the road which should definitely stay
on the road.

What kinda of bands do you enjoy mixing?
Are there any tips you can give bands out there about playing live, in regard to getting a good sound?

Indie pop and rock are my faves, although I’ve done everything from folk and jazz to metal and DJs like Carl Cox and Paul Oakenfold. I like something with punchy discrete drums and bass down in the bottom end, and great melodies and vocals. A sense of humour goes a long way too.

Interview: Institut Polaire

Erik (Institut Polaire)
Interview by Leo Abbs

You have a new cd about to come out. What are your feelings now it’s ready for release?
We are definitely excited and relieved to finally have a product out there! It took a while but it happened when the time felt right and I think it’s a good way to sort of sum up the first few years of our being a band.

We do have a lot of new material, some of which we considered putting on the EP, but it kinda feels like a new chapter in the songwriting and we decided to save that for a cohesive LP release which we are starting to work on as we speak.

The disc is called ‘The Fauna and The Flora’. Why did you call it that?
Well most of the EP deals with issues of how ridiculous the current state of the world is and mixing that with themes of isolation and impermanence. It’s actually a line taken from 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea by Jules Verne. I suppose it kinda represents things blending too closely together these days, like church/state, religion/spirituality, good/evil etc.

How was the recording process?
It was definitely a learning process. With 7 people in the band we soon realised that things had to be well prepared before you step foot in the booth or you would waste a lot of time and money. It was great working with Rob Grant @ Poons Head as I think he grasped straight away what we were after and wasn’t afraid to lend helpful advice.

What is the lead track on the disc and what are the lyrics about?
The lead track numerically is Kentucky Society Drought. I’d say it’s bit of a call to arms saying “If anyone else feels the world is currently as ridiculous as I view it to be, let’s get together and let people know how we feel. Everyone take a step back and realise we are just monkeys with a few extra brain cells. No more, no less. Why should lives be sacrificed for the purpose of politics and extremism?”
I suppose it’s a bit of an non-hippy protest song.

How did Institut Polaire form and why did you go for so many members?
Dave and I formed the band with Ash Blakeney back in late 2003. So we started as a 3 piece by necessity really and we really had to pull a lot back in the early days. But the songs have always been created and envisioned with full arrangements in mind and we always intended to have the current numbers. It just took us a while to find the right people. God help us if we should ever have the cash to access full orchestras.

Are there any plans to tour after the launch?
Well we’ve done two national tours this year already (with Camera Obscura and The Clientele). And unfortunately it costs a ridiculous amount of money to get a large band from WA to over east. So whilst we’d love to get over and do some more shows to promote the EP, it might make more sense for us financially to hold off as we are relocating to Melbourne in the New Year to finish off the LP. I guess we’ll see how things go.

What are your 3 Favourite highlights of Institut Polaire?
Hmm. For me personally I suppose playing Big Day Out on a gorgeous sunny day, filming our clip in Sydney in early August (hopefully out any week), and having Camera Obscura join us on stage for a song at Becks Verandah.

What are five bands that describe Institut Polaire’s musical influences?
Well, that’s a toughy to answer for the band as we all have different tastes. But for me personally as a songwriter..

1) Velvet Underground
2) The Smiths
3) Lee Hazlewood
4) Scott Walker
5) Brian Wilson
6) Serge Gainsbourg

Sorry that’s six but two hard to narrow to five.

Launch Details:
Sunday 30 Sep (Long Weekend) at the Rosemount Hotel.
It’s a 6-10 show due to early licensing.

Lineup is…
Nat Carson (of Bank Holidays)
Faith in Plastics
New Rules For Boats
Institut Polaire (w/ special guest appearances)

www.myspace.com/institutpolaire

Interview: Blackmilk

Tim Sherry (Blackmilk)
Interview by Leo Abbs


You have a new cd about to come out. What are your feelings now it ready for release?
We’re all just really glad to finally be getting out to the masses, its been a while coming ya know.


The disc is called ‘The Walrus and The Wine’. Why did you call it that?

Apparently if a walrus drinks wine it becomes sexually attracted to penguins.. weird hey

How was the recording process?
Monumental, we spent a few months slowly piecing the EP together with a lad called Smokey, there are some very fond memories of time spent locked in the studio with nothing but wine, inspiration and George Harrison looking, watching over things.

Are there any plans to tour after the launch?
We have a Southwest show next weekend (15th) in Bunbury with The Howlin
Novocaines. That will be a riot, planning some eastern states shows for
early next year. Then Glastonbury naturally.

What is the lead track on the disc and what are the lyrics about?

The lead track on the e.p is called “hummingbird”.. Most of my lyrics are
fictional and rely heavily on metaphors to convey a message. If you listen
to the song its pretty easy to figure out that the general theme of the
lyrics are one of rejection… god I’m lonely.

What is your favourite part of being in a band?
sex and drugs……. playing live is pretty fun too i guess.

What are five bands that describe Blackmilk’s musical influences?

Here’s six:
The beatles, Nirvana, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Radiohead, The Flaming Lips and Stevie Wonder. Amy Winehouse is amazing too ain’t she?

Favourite bands from Perth?
Abbe May and The Rockin’ Pneumonia, Streetlight, The Panics, Harlequin League, The City Watch, The Preytells.

Launch Details:
Saturday 8th September
Amplifier Bar
with:
Abbe may and The Rockin Pneumonia
Harlequin League
The Preytells
The Howlin’ Novocaines

$10 at the door

Interview: Harlequin League

Seb Astone (Harlequin League)
Interview by Leo Abbs


Perth Sounds caught up with Seb Astone from Next Big Thing winners, Harlequin League, a few days after their victory to find out what they thought about their NBT win, the competition and what lies ahead for the band. When asked what it was like to win the NBT Final, Seb said:

‘It was kind of surprising based on the quality of the other acts that played the other night. We’re a really self-critical band. We tend to be very hard on ourselves with performances. We didn’t really like our chances at the end of the night. We weren’t even really expecting to place.’

The Next Big Thing not only provides fantastic prizes, but is also great exposure for the winning band. Seb seemed to think both were as important as each other.

‘I suppose they are as important as each other, really like the prizes are fantastic, like we’ve had an EP recorded for a couple of months now due to financial restraints, we haven’t been able to release it. So I suppose the double edge of it is, we’ve now got the financial ability to release it, we can get the CDs printed etc, but we’ve also got the ability to promote it really well because of the exposure.’

Seb believes it’s not just about winning the competition.

‘A good way to look at it really, it is a competition, but it’s a really good showcase opportunity as well.’

He mentioned that The HowlinNovocaines, The Kids, The Chemist and The Wilderness as bands that impressed him during the competition.

‘That’s the good thing about the whole competition, there’s always a band or two every year, you’ve never heard of, who come out of total obscurity.’

‘I think up until this point, and in the future too, the Next Big Thing is probably the most prominent showcase for new bands in Perth’.

When it came to the way the competition was judged, Seb believed there was one particular category which was important.

‘I think it’s good that they put an emphasis on originality. Bands know they have to do something different, or if you aren’t doing anything original, you have to do something that’s been done before really well.’

While Harlequin League has only been around since the beginning of 2007, They are far from new to the music scene.

‘I was in a band called Camden Stray for a while, which did a few gigs around the place. Our drummer, he’s never been in a band before, (keyboardist) Ben plays keys in another band, The Vice Chancellors.’

They’ve only been gigging for a short while, they’ve already had opportunities many bands don’t get, such as as triple J airplay.

‘We were lucky enough they downloaded one of our songs of the unearthed website, and that got a spin for a couple of weeks, which was pretty good. We’re not too fussed about that at the moment that’s something to aim for in the future.’

While it says on their biography that they’ve toured over east, the story is a little different to what you may expect.

‘We went over at the start of the year, but that was actually my old band Camden Stray, went over to do a few gigs. That’s actually how we (Harlequin League) had our first gig. In Melbourne (laughs). Me and James had been jamming with the drummer from Camden Stray.’

‘We were playing a set pretty similar to what we are playing now, but a band pulled out of one of the gigs, a gig at The Espy in St Kilda. They were looking for a band to jump in, so we put our hands up and we said we’d do a set.’

‘That was the first time we’d played live and the response was really really good. So we thought, alright maybe we should put a bit more effort into this to see where it goes. ‘

‘When we got back, we had another couple of rehearsals and then went in and did the recordings and we’ve had a little bit of interest from that.’

And they are set to go back for more touring soon, mainly due to the triple j unearthed airplay.

‘We had a bit of interest from industry people – I don’t want to blow it up too much. The reason why we are going over is so some people can see us play and stuff like that. Hopefully, something comes out of that.’

As for similarities between the two bands that lead vocalist, James Rogers plays in (The Fault and Harlequin League) it seems the most obvious according to Seb, is the way the songs are written.

‘James isn’t the sole songwriter in the band, so there’s going to be differences there, as there’s different people writing the songs. The Fault is more of a free-form band, they jam quite a lot, they move a lot to what they’ve done before, but we tend to structure a song, and be very focused on song structure.

‘Me and James will sit down with acoustics and write a song, and then take it to the band and put our dynamics on it. That’s what we think is the best way.’

‘We think if a song can survive in acoustic form, then it’s going to be really good.’

Visit Harlequin League on myspace: http://www.myspace.com/harlequinleague
For mroe info on Next Big Thing Competition visit: http://www.nextbigthing.net.au