Most of the songs on this ‘Pointing Rayguns At Pagans’ album were written to the instructions of, “we need another song next week. Don’t worry about it too much, it’s just a B-side.”
Now if I don’t have some album off-cast lying around I have to reply, “Ok, so now I’ll go off and try and write a shit song.”
That’s the thing you see, B-sides are often branded as second rate, sonic misfits. I feel bad for them. For me though I’m not usually one for having fully completed spares lying around staring up puppy-eyed begging to be given a home. The few ideas I have I generally bash around until I get something I’m happy with to use. So therefore most of the songs on Pointing Ray Guns at Pagans were written quickly.
I think that’s why I’m strangely fond of them. I never had to play them over and over until any affection I might have felt for them had worn off. And probably the judicious part of my brain that would normally send a bad rhyme or clunky phrase straight to hell was turned off. These are at least honest and instinctual.
Yes, listening back to them now I’d have changed so many things. It’s lucky I didn’t get the time.
During the few years after finishing Uni and living In Lismore I had no money. Once when I asked someone on a date I fretted that an expensive dinner or even a movie ticket was stretching it. I made her some soup and commented that this favorable weather we’re having was too good to waste. I suggested she might want to just walk around the town. We strolled past the crowded pubs as they were about to close, throught the alleys behind the shops and then climbed up onto the train bridge that spanned the Richmond river, careful not to meet the 11:50 XPT from Murwulimbah. All night we both had a strange feeling of being watched. I thought I kept seeing someone duck around corners as I’d turn to survey. Later in the early hours of the morning when we retraced our steps back to the house we kept finding little messages painted in broad strokes in blue paint. There were even arrows pointing to places we’d been. I realised the colour looked familiar. When I got home I checked the laundry and the tin of regular blue house paint we’d kept there was gone.
AND THE DAYS WERE JUST PACKED
Recorded in Athens GA, with some of the Elephant 6 locals, on a lot of interesting old equipment. But it’s the Atari 2600 in the lounge room I remember most. I hope you don’t feel ripped off that these songs available on the Hiccups EP for so long are included here. That EP is close to selling out and won’t be repressed. I wanted to keep them alive. A lot of the wonderful keyboard melodies are the work of Bree Van Reyk.
Was never happy with the original version. In fact if I ever knew the man himself would hear it I’d have put a lot more work into it. I’m so relieved he does seem really flattered though. This new version is heaps better sounding with more of a synth-pop bed recorded on a snow heavy day in an old pencil factory in Brooklyn.
Claudia Gonson from the Magnetic Fields came in to sing backups. I’d always cringed a bit at the line ‘I want adventure in my pocket’ as it doesn’t rhyme with ‘Wallach’ and seems really cheesy. When I told Claudia this she suggested calling Stephin Merritt, lyric doctor.
He spouted out a string of rhymes, “colic, frolic, vitriolic, metabolic, bucolic, Jackson Pollock, hmm….what about ‘He could slay them all with his left bollock?.'”
“not sure that’d work” I replied.
“what’s the original line?” he asked
When I told him the phone went quiet.
“Sometimes extended passages of instrumental music can be very pleasing” was his polite way of saying he thought it sucked too.
I tried for hours to think of something but kept coming back to the old line. In the end I left it be and something in me felt guilty I’d ever thought of changing it. You’ve gotta learn to love your awkward children too.
MY LIFE A BLUR
My greatest anxiety put to music. My parents fell in love at 18 and remain so. My name was written on my dads 21st birthday card. It worries me sometimes that I’m still unconnected and floating like a balloon with no string attached. Nothing in cement.
Recorded in Portland, at Type Foundry. We were sitting around waiting on a session drummer when the engineer Adam Selzer said well I might as well give it a go and proceeded to deliver one of my favorite drum takes I’ve been a party to.
Old 50s song I found and added a verse to. It’s the story of my life. If I’m in a new town and feel threatened or uneasy all I need to do is find a machine. Even knowing where one is that I can get to is comfort enough.
THE PERFECT DAY
Recorded on 4-track with the same backing vocalist from the original 80s version (by Fischer Z), Jennie Cruse. Whenever I play in her hometown of Brighton, UK we sing it live together. Last time she even dragged alone John Watts who wrote the song. He sat at the bar in a sharp black suit and bowler hat and I was so nervous I had to sing the song looking at the floor feeling underdressed.
YES, THERE IS A SLIGHT CHANCE HE MIGHT ACTUALLY FAIL
Another great drum track played by the engineer. Tomas Hakava was so obsessed with the Beatles that not only did he have in the studio an exact Ringo Starr Black Oyster Pearl Ludwig drum kit but also the Lark cigarette packet the Beatle kept on the snare to deaden the sound. Any other packet of cigarettes doesn’t sound right he told me.
Too long, too much reading of Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Christmas Murder Ballad. Not a popular genre.
My first official recording. I couldn’t find a band. Seriously, I asked every musician I met. The girl singing on this is Rebecca Yudale, a stranger who came to look for a room in this crappy house* where I lived in for a while in Newtown. She mentioned she’d sung a bit in the past and then politely declined the room. A week or so later she was sitting in the cheap Leichhardt recording studio singing with me. We even did a couple of shows together but I’ve since lost contact with her.
TWO DAYS IN A FOREIGN CITY
There’s only been one restaurant where the food and service was so bad I felt it would be a crime to exchange money for it. We were eating Mexican in central London. I guess we could’ve done the grownup thing and confronted the waiter. Instead she went to the bathroom and then shuffled out the door while the coat check had their back turned. I pretended I was on the phone and needed to be outside to hear properly. Once free we ran like hell. The note we left on the table said ‘Sorry, We just couldn’t bring ourselves to pay for this.’
VIDEO PARTY SLEEPOVER
Rebel Anthem for those who can’t get off the couch.
NOTES ON LEAVING
Another 4-track backed by members of M Wards band in return for accommodation in my house for a few days. There’s a line that implies that you can’t whistle and smile at the same time, a statement Mike Coykendall made while we were walking around Petersham. I’d like to clarify that you can in fact give the impression of a smile if your one of those who whistle through their teeth. It also makes you look like a maniac.
*seriously, this place was dump. And it’s still standing! I actually lived in a room outside past the laundry and it seemed to be the most structurally sound part of the house. Mind you, there was a considerable gap under my door so once when I came home from tour I found a stray cat had made a nest out of my blankets and was living on my bed. It tried to kill me.
Another day we walked in and noticed the four legs of the bed upstairs had fallen through the downstairs ceiling and were poking into our kitchen. A few weeks later we came home and our front door was gone. Some thieves (with the help of termites) had busted in and stolen a lot of electrical equipment, none of which worked. We were happy as it saved us dumping it ourselves.