Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Brisbane Music Scene: From Punter To Performer, Part 5: Wrap up

Well it's been over a month since my last update, and I think this whole topic is getting a bit stale now, so I'll try to wrap it up here so I can move on to more stories...

In my last blog post, I promised to talk more about Headkase's journey, the release of our full length album, and the reception it received both in Australia and overseas. 

I also said I'd talk about the ska/swing band I joined in 2010 called "Rad Rockets Are GO!"

OK, so let's do this!

Headkase kept playing everywhere around Brisbane - Good gigs, bad gigs. Breaking crowd number records in some venues, playing to an almost empty room in others. 

We spent about 4 years working on our full length album, "The Worm County Circus", which could've been released as a smaller EP back when we were riding a huge "possibly the next big thing out of Brisbane" wave in around 2003. 

But that ship sailed. Several things got in the way. People didn't agree on certain aspects. Bad decisions were made on our part. Opportunities were lost. There are lot of things we would've done differently if we had the chance to turn back the clock. But we worked with the position we were in, and finally finished and independently released a full length album in 2009. 

No record labels were interested in releasing it, but we did manage to arrange a worldwide distribution deal with a company called "CD Baby" who got the album onto all the internet music download sites like iTunes, Napster, Rhapsody, Amazon and a host of others.

We received mostly positive reviews for the album, especially from overseas:

"This six piece are re-defining a circus metal genre"

"The Worm County Circus is an album that every music fan on earth should own – simply amazing for a debut"

"One of the most interesting albums of this year"

"A unique combination of heavy groove metal with plenty of influences taken from Mr. Bungle's evil side"

The closest thing to a negative review was just a comment in Brisbane's Rave Magazine, which we chose to accept as a compliment:

"The Worm County Circus sounds like a kid at a fete, jacked up on fairy floss, confused and excited by all the bright lights around them"

We did an Australian tour in 2010, which was a bit of fun. Decent crowds in Adelaide, Melbourne and Newcastle, and of course in Brisbane... Next to nobody on the Gold Coast, and, sadly Sydney too, the very place we thought we'd be playing the biggest show, considering we had hundreds of requests over the years from Sydney fans practically begging us to play there. It happened to be the night of a massive storm down there at the time, so I'd like to think that was what deterred people from attending. But still disappointing all the same. There are a lot of similar bands in Sydney, doing the wacky theatrical stage shows and genre blending music, so we thought we'd fit right in. 

A fan and friend of the band, Sammi, a saxophone player, had seen Headkase performing a show in 2006 at the Hard Rock Cafe on the Gold Coast. By 2010, she'd made a name for herself as part of the horn section of a ska band called "Foghorn Leghorn". After a few lineup changes, that band evolved into "Rad Rockets Are GO!" and Sammi asked me to join them on keyboard. They had started working some swing/big band music into their repertoire, and initially only wanted me to be guest on a cover version of Big Bad Voodoo Daddies' "Mr. Pinstripe Suit", but we all hit it off in the rehearsal room, and I became a proper member of the band. 

Straight after the Headkase tour, the rest of 2010 was all about Rad Rockets Are GO! for me. From about June until Christmas, we played frequently, sometimes twice a week! After every show, someone would invite us to play another show. We were a hit! And it was looking like things were going to get better and better! 

We discussed the recording of a CD, doing a photoshoot and producing merch. But then things fell apart. Some members had other aspects in their life they felt they needed to put first. I guess it all seemed to be happening too fast, and they weren't up to that kind of commitment. During the struggle to replace the members who departed, things got a bit heated within the band. Sammi was the last to leave.

January 2011 saw the huge Headkase 10 year Anniversary show I mentioned in Part 1, where we were able to experience the kind of professional rock concert we'd all dreamed about. Here's some footage demonstrating the amazing, massive crowd we performed to at the Hi-Fi:

Meanwhile, Rad Rockets spent about 7 months of the year searching for new members, and trying to rehearse without a full lineup. Several drummers put their hand up, then cancelled at the last minute. A new bass player came along, but was very unimpressed with the lack of energy in the band, and the infrequent rehearsals. In 2010, when we had all 8 members, we rehearsed weekly, and played weekly too! But it was different and depressing without the full sound that made us a hit in the local scene. 

A couple of sax players and a clarinet player had expressed interest in joining the band too, but never showed up to rehearsals. We did eventually get a drummer who was very keen to rehearse and learn all the parts, and we rehearsed with him a few times before deciding we needed to take some time off. People were between jobs, one member (a sound engineer) was touring the world with various festivals and concerts. It was near impossible to get back into the swing of things at that point, which was around July 2011. So we're hoping to pick things up later down the track. 

At around Easter time, through some new contacts I'd made on Twitter, I joined the Impro Mafia Theatre Company, playing music for their weekly shows starring their less experienced performers. A very different kind of gig for me, being used to having a band to work off rather than being the sole musician a troupe of actors have to rely on. But it's been an interesting experience, and I feel I've improved quite a bit throughout the year. I'm a big fan of TV shows "Whose Line Is It Anyway?" and "Thank God You're Here", which are similarly themed to what these nights are all about. Actors improvising their way through various games, sketches and songs. 

Meanwhile, Dylan (the bass player from Headkase) and I started getting together every Sunday to write and record some new music. We eventually thought we'd have a go at writing dance music. Cheesy top 40 pop-dance music! The kind of music the kids like! The kind of music that might make us some money! Money that could then perhaps fund more challenging, interesting material again. But we thought it could be an opportunity to continue striving for that goal to quit "normal" jobs and be able to live off music. 

Todd (my brother, Headkase drummer, and drummer in many other bands) had moved to Canada to pursue that dream. He's making a lot of good contacts over there, and seems to be getting close! 

We've had a lot of fun trying out new sounds and effects (including Autotune for vocals), seeing what the famous pop and dance artists are doing and trying to emulate that ourselves. But our twist is, we're taking all the common lyrical themes of pop music (sleaze, arrogance, drinking, dancing, and taking ownership of 'the club' and 'the night' and 'the floor', etc.) and making them literal. That is, we're writing songs about actually owning the property rights to a particular evening, turning a building into a club and actually owning it. We're writing about "dancing forever" in a literal sense. Someone dancing in a club and refusing to leave when it's closing time and security staff are trying to remove them. So this has been a lot of fun. 

We even had Sammi (the sax player I mentioned before - fan/friend of Headkase, ex-member of Rad Rockets Are GO!) sing some lead vocals on a song recently. We plan to have her back to sing more!

We chose to go under the name of "Sound Distiller" for this project. Watch this space - https://www.facebook.com/pages/Sound-Distiller/229556637098714 - We've been posting up various demos and tidbits. We hope to dominate the pop charts soon enough! Wish us luck! 

Sound Distiller are off to a good start, gaining some attention through 612 ABC radio Brisbane by making a techno remix out of a political campaign theme song. I jokingly tweeted about Campbell Newman's song sounding a bit like the next 'rave anthem', so Breakfast announcer Spencer Howson thought it would be fun to create a story about us turning the song into a rave anthem, and getting a nightclub DJ to slip it into the playlist. 

That three month project can be summed up in a fantastic little story, which was aired in October 2011. The story can be heard at this link - Press the play button within: http://blogs.abc.net.au/queensland/2011/10/dance-mix-of-campbell-newman-campaign-song.html?site=brisbane&program=612_breakfast

Yes friends... That was my 5 part story on how I went from attending local gigs and looking up to the artists on stage, to becoming a part of many aspects of the live music scene around Queensland and indeed other parts of Australia too. But mostly Queensland.

Here's the Triple J Unearthed page for Headkase. Listen to a fun song called "Cocaine and Caffeine". A perfect example of the wacky genre-blending sound we became known for:

Thank you and goodnight!