Here's some progress on the record label - going on the theory that it can be done as a collective / co-op thing - help each other out w/ promo, contacts & logistics - but keep finances separate. Let the thing organically grow?
Rather than having a website / label which is purely dedicated to my own egotistical ranting & skewed perspective on the world, let it open out into a group thing? Gain more critical mass, as ascension band experiment proved - there's an evolution album on the way.
But pretty cool of Fran to agree, ya?
Mike's planning to fly over to Perth on 10th of June, buy a car off a
friend and drive back to Melbourne with a few friends through the
desert. So that could be a replacement for an Alice Springs trip?
There's also Nigel turning up for a few days at the start of June to
play a gig with the Black Seeds (Wellington dub band - for some reason
reggae is much bigger in NZ than over here so the audience will
probably be half kiwis).
I'm kind of leaning towards going back to Wellington after that, so I
can have more time to properly organise an Ascension Band show/tour
and also be absolutely sure I pass shorthand. Melbourne is supposed
to be just as cold & miserable as Wellington over winter (it's north
of Wellington but south of Auckland). And I'd rather get some kind of
meaningful job than shift boxes around.
I'm thinking I'll go back to NZ for the summer and then maybe come
back here again for a month or so next autumn - get a bit more warm
weather and pick apples or something, maybe see Tasmania, and then
head on to Korea or wherever. I'll know to avoid the sales jobs
It's about time I got over this amnesia about writing and started
again. I started writing a song at the Nick Cave concert just before
it started, something about living among cockroaches and getting fat,
so that'll be good if I can actually finish it. I've been washing my
face with soap in the mornings so that seems to be clearing my skin
Fran's playing at an open-mic night tomorrow. I should go along and
book myself in for the next one - I'm overdue for a live performance.
It's not like I lack material - I just need to transfer some songs to
banjo, or even just borrow a guitar. I've also been thinking about
getting my saxophone fixed ($200 repair job, just since I seem to be
spending a lot on music gear this year) when I go back to Wellington.
I think electric banjo and electric sax (sax with a guitar pickup
shoved down the bell - track 5 on Loose Autumn Moans) would be good
additions to Ascension Band.
Oh yeah and I saw the new Star Wars... Surprisingly I found it not merely good but great - movie of the year material. From a hack like George Lucas, who would have thought?
I went in with fairly low expectations - though I had quite enjoyed Attack of the Clones - and was pleasantly surprised by how sugar-free the whole thing was. The scrolling intro at the beginning starts off with the word 'War!' - all the convoluted political stuff about trade councils or whatever in the previous films has just been a setup for this. There are backstabbings, allies turning on each other, women & children and surrendering soldiers getting killed - and the fight scenes are much more violent than before. The structure of the film was a tragedy in the classical sense, which is pretty rare in Hollywood.
And not only do we finally get a good Star Wars movie, the new series of Doctor Who is 'fantastic'! The Hitchhiker's Guide movie wasn't bad either. Good year for sf!
Nick Cave gig was alright, not mindblowing - the songs sounded pretty much like the albums as the Bad Seeds aren't really 'allowed' to improvise on stage - they're maybe more of a studio group if anything. They've got Warren Ellis from the Dirty Three on violin - which was kind of like keeping a lion in the zoo. It's unfair to criticise them for not doing something they weren't trying to do though - the Bad Seeds are more of a concept than anything (as opposed to a band which comes from a chemistry between specific individuals); their sole purpose is to provide the most appropriate backing for Nick Cave's songs. But I couldn't help but notice that Nick didn't introduce the band individually - they were just "the Bad Seeds" and "our talented gospel singers".
Having said that, they're great at what they do. Abbatoir Blues is a seriously good album, and having followed the double album up with a triple, B-sides & Rarities, Nick's obviously on a roll. But replicating the album on stage doesn't quite work for me - that was the problem I had with seeing Radiohead live in 1998 (plus the fact that Radiohead played at deafening volume and the people were packed in like hot sweaty sardines). I prefer Bob Dylan's approach, where the songs played live sound nothing like the songs on the albums.
Nick's one comment to the audience was "It's great to be at the Melbourne Festival Hall - when I was young I used to see some great bands here: the Moody Blues, Procol Harum, Yes, Manfred Mann... who would have thought?" Obviously taking the piss but in quite a multi-layered way.
After that I had to get up at 5.30am and go to work, shifting office equipment. It was mostly boxes and files rather than furniture - you'd have to work a lot harder for $15/hr in NZ. There was a coffee machine that kept me going. Also, being up on the 39th floor I got my first look at Melbourne from up high. The business district looks a lot bigger than it does from the ground, and the suburbs go as far as the eye can see. Four million people is the same as the whole population of NZ.
After an 11-hour shift I biked home in time to see the first new episode of Doctor Who on Saturday.
It's bloody brilliant.
I suppose I could be a pushover, but on the other hand I was pretty underwhelmed by the 1996 attempt at restarting it (in an American setting, with Paul McGann from Withnail & I as the Doctor). Christopher Eccleston grins his head off, kind of like Tom Baker but in his own way - he's obviously playing against his usual grim northern-realist roles (nice exchange: 'you sound like you're from the north'; Doctor replies, 'lots of planets have a north'). I'm a bit sad that he's quit the show after only one season, so there'll have to be a 10th Doctor next year. On the other hand, the major difference from the original series seems to be that the new show is much faster paced. It's totally contemporary, good special effects for once, well written, not bogged down in back-story from the original series, and best of all it's very much British rather than American sf. So for the first time in years, since TV Nation and Frontline were both on, I'm going to be a regular tv watcher.
Then Sunday I had another long day shifting office stuff. I was running purely on caffeine. Hopefully, with two and a half days work last week I made enough money to cover my costs. So I managed to halt the decline. But it was just casual work and so now on Monday I'm staring at the void again. Hopefully there's more work - if I can get to the point where I've got more rather than less money in the bank each week I'll be doing alright...
I'm going to be pretty wasted this weekend - Nick Cave concert
tonight, followed by getting up at 5.30am Saturday, shifting furniture
for ten hours, going round to Mike's place to hopefully jam (and watch
the first new episode of Doctor Who!), then Curseovdialect (great
Aussie hiphop crew whose album I bought a couple of weeks ago) gig
Saturday night, then 5.30am start and ten hour heavy labouring shift
again on Sunday.
Tomorrow I will have been in Australia two months (and I'm a couple of grand poorer for it).
I'm not sure that I'm in good shape at the moment. It's time to move out of this flat, mainly because I can't afford $100pw rent but also partly because there are cockroaches. The new flat is in Coburg, the next suburb north. I'm not at my photogenic best since that zit next to my eye has been stubbornly not going away and I've also got an ugly one next to my mouth and smaller ones between my eyebrows. I haven't had them this bad in years - maybe it's some problem other than acne?
I do believe your body reflects what's going on in your life. At least I'm not getting hair falling out from stress this time. Might be lack of sunshine or exercise, or most likely I've had too many of those cheap wafer biscuits with fake cream that you get here (my diet = good healthy meals + surplus sugary crap). The price of kiwifruit is down so I should eat those instead - still an irritating lack of feijoas in the shops here, and it's getting late in the season now. I'll just have to ask my family to save me some bottled ones from Megan's trees.
Australians not having figured out that feijoas are a delicious & tangy fruit (though they are supposedly grown here) is one example of NZ's cultural superiority. Others include the smog over Melbourne - and the air just doesn't smell as good here - and the way Australians love their marijuana but always spoil it by mixing in tobacco, which just makes me dizzy and gives me sore lungs the next day. Not that I've been smoking recently. Pot weakens the immune system and it's bothering me a bit the thought that if I come down sick, going to the doctor would wipe me out financially. Winter's approaching so I have to be careful.
I'm in a precarious position but hopefully I hit rock bottom and am
now starting to claw my way back up - a bit of work this week is a
good sign. I underestimated the difficulty of finding work, so just
quitting Origin rather than formally notifying them and doing more
jobhunting while I was still there was a mistake on my part.
Anyway, off to Nick Cave gig in an hour or so - will try and grab some sleep beforehand...
My big break arrived - I've got to get up at 5am tomorrow to go out to Port Melbourne and shift furniture for two days! Things are looking up!
Seriously though, my bank balance has dipped below $500, and at some point I have to buy a ticket home out of that. I've collected a few dozen 'Dear Applicant - we have received an overwhelming response to this vacancy blah blah blah' emails, and so a couple of days manual labour - with an hour-long commute each way - looks like a significant breakthrough.
I've also been getting emails from the Department of Internal Affairs back in NZ - I applied for an admin assistant job that was going, just as a backup option, and they've offered to put me forward for two other positions as well, including one as a ministerial media secretary.
Going back to Wellington wouldn't be all that bad, especially not if I had a decent job waiting for me. The main difference it would make to my musical endeavours would be that I'd have people like Nigel, Warwick and Damian to jam with instead of Fran and Mike! And there's my electric guitar waiting, with the wah pedal I bought for the Fringe... Have to trade off maybe advancing my career in Wellington against the experience of being in a new country. On the other hand Melbourne's not THAT different from home, I haven't actually come very far. If nothing else I've learned a) don't trust sales people and b) don't trust temp agencies. Not sure who I actually can trust then?
On the other hand the NZ jobs might come to nothing, and Australian jobs in general are better paid than NZ ones - IF I can somehow get one. My goals are to get money together to make a CD and then travel further next year, so probably doesn't make a difference which city I'm in - whichever one I can save most in would be best.
Limited Express (Has Gone?) were great - very uplifting Japanese rock with plenty of jumping around on stage. I missed them in Wellington because I was sick of 'the scene' and was avoiding Elisa in particular - so I probably enjoyed them more here than I would have there anyway, so that's a happy ending.
I got an email back from Elisa, who's trying to find her feet in London. Nice to be able to actually communicate with her again - a few thousand miles distance probably improves relations. She says London's not such a friendly place, and this is coming from someone who's naturally sociable. If Melbourne's hard enough to settle into (the people are friendly on an individual level, it's just the impersonality of job applications that sucks), I'm not sure if I can even be bothered with London. My precarious finances would be cleaned out in a couple of days probably.
Anyway, I've spent today on the internet doing my own stuff - have to go put in a couple of hours jobhunting for next week before everything closes...
How's this for more black comedy? Select Appointments, the clerical temp agency I signed up with a fortnight ago & who've been completely useless so far, finally came up with some work! It's for tomorrow, for which I'm already booked. Bloody typical.
[update of the update]
Select Appointments phoned again, with another job for tomorrow - typing/formatting a document for the Department of Sustainability & the Environment. Since that's the kind of organisation I want to work for, and it's a 20-minute rather than a 60-minute commute, I took it. It's only for a day though, and will I have blown my chances with the labouring work? I phoned to say I could do Friday but not Thursday - but will they accept that or just drop me? Stay tuned...
[update of the update of the update]
I had my morning's work typing up a report - nothing too challenging. The subject looked interesting as it was about salinity, which is a big issue for the world, with irrigation increasing the salt content of soils. I didn't learn a lot about the subject though - the report was more a debrief from a focus group meeting they'd had, and was all about communications strategy. The annoying thing was that I was told there was another job after that - but then it fell through, so I was sent home after 4 1/2 hours work.
I have missed out on the furniture shifting tomorrow, but luckily the other agency (for backpackers) got my message in time yesterday so weren't angry. I've got two days furniture shifting in town instead - on Saturday and Sunday (6.45am starts again), which could rule out jamming with Mike & Fran and therefore sucks. But my funds are getting down to the wire and so beggars can't be choosers...
Good news and bad news. Good news is that my Dad's report from the hospital was better than it could have been - he's still in for some uncomfortable surgery, but if there aren't any rogue cells then he could get away without radiation therapy.
Bad news is that jobhunting the last couple of weeks hasn't gone too well. There was a bit of black comedy relief when yesterday I got offered another door to door sales job selling broadband - supposedly easy work as it's a free (govt subsidised) service that people would have no reason to refuse. But then the punchline was that this morning the job fell through. Bloody sales people - can't trust them at all.
I've joined three temp agencies so far and have a fourth to visit this afternoon. I got good marks on my tests - scored in the company's 80th percentile for Word, 95th for Excel and 80th for Powerpoint, and my typing speed was 59wpm. I thought I could do better than that though and went back to resit the test - got 64wpm. And I sorted out my tax file number finally (took a visit in person to the tax office), my references came through OK and everything's all good. Just a deafening silence with actual work offers though.
Other than that I've been faithfully sending off job applications, checking the noticeboards, looking on the net etc. There is a steady trickle of letters coming back to me, saying 'Dear Applicant - we have received an overwhelming response to this vacancy blah blah blah'.
It's getting frustrating.
Since I shelled out $72 for a Nick Cave ticket I'll stay around for the gig next Friday, but if there's no work by then I'm seriously considering cutting my losses and getting on a plane back to Wellington. That would be a shame though, and what if I got stuck there for another six years? It could do my head in for good.
In other news I caught up with Fran Mountfort (talented Wellington cellist) who's now relocated here after touring Europe with mr sterile. Good to have another friend here. She seemed interested in my idea of starting a record label. Since my big goal in life is to get my music out to a wider audience, and it's an uphill battle going it alone, how about we get a few of us to join forces? Me, Fran, Damian, Nigel from the Chandeliers, Simon O'Rorke etc? Ascension Band was a good group experience anyway, seemed to have its own momentum. Still have to work out the details but surely it's a good idea in principle?
[Update: Fri 13th]
There are 'now hiring' signs in the windows of the neighbourhood McDonalds and KFC. Obviously a cosmic joke at my expense. How low would I be willing to go to avoid getting on a plane back home? Y'know, Wellington's not that bad really...
I got my ticket for Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds on the 20th. Seems appropriate to come to Australia and see him in his home town (OK so he’s from Wangaratta which is north of here, but Melbourne is the major city of Victoria). There was talk in the newspapers of naming a street after him.
Nick Cave always strikes me as someone who’s set out consciously to create an archetypal identity for himself – his songs are always very calculated and refined. He describes himself nowadays as someone who gets up in the morning, puts on a suit, goes to the office and writes songs from 9 to 5. His albums are consistently good rather than great, though he definitely has his moments of greatness (‘The Mercy Seat’, ‘New Morning’, ‘Stagger Lee’, ‘Darker with the Day’). He does have a much higher strike rate than most long-term rock artists though; I don’t think he’s made a totally bad album yet (Bob Dylan, Neil Young and Lou Reed have done some abysmal crap), and let’s not forget that the Birthday Party were one of the all-time great bands.
I’d still rate Fugazi at Victoria University in 1997 as the greatest gig I’ve seen, though by this point that’s maybe an unassailable memory; I may have got to the point of remembering the remembering of it rather than the thing itself. And maybe my age was a factor; I might be less impressionable now. Still high on my wish-list to see though: The Fall, Tom Waits, John Zorn, The Dirty Three, the Boredoms, Fushitsusha, and the improvised music greats Derek Bailey and Cecil Taylor (both in their mid-70s, so gives a sense of urgency for me to get over to Europe, where they’re more likely to play, before they die). Albums are one thing but seeing a live performance is where you really understand & appreciate an artist.
It occurs to me that I never did get around to writing about seeing Sonic Youth and the Dead C on my trip to Auckland mid last year. It was the second time I’d seen Sonic Youth, the first was 1998. The two gigs were quite different – in 1998 they did a lot more stretched out jamming, while in 2004 it was a fairly straight pop/rock set (by their standards). I had been hoping they’d do some of the Goodbye 20th Century stuff they’d been challenging/alienating audiences across Europe with a year or two before, but instead they’d gone through that phase and were into playing songs off the new Sonic Nurse album. Not their best album but the important thing is that they played a good gig. I could tell right from the start when Lee Ranaldo walked on stage with his nose deep in a book until he got to his guitar – that was stylish. The first song had a deep, warm enveloping dub-like groove. Thurston Moore jumped around a lot more than 1998, Steve Shelley had actually lost weight, and Kim Gordon danced and played trumpet. They seemed to be having a good time playing, which automatically translates to the music and the audience.
As for the Dead C, they made a lot more sense on stage than on the albums. The albums have some interesting sonic textures but the problem is the leaden overall vibe, dreary and depressed sounding. And I like the guitars but Robbie Yeats’ drumming is just unlistenable. But on stage he’s a great drummer, propelling the whole thing autistically forward. Chris Knox was there and told me the Dead C are his favourite comedy band. I could see what he meant – as well as their sound they dressed all in grey and moved slowly. The only colour on stage was a bowl of fruit sitting on top of one of the amps. Bruce Russell’s stooped, potbellied, utterly deadpan, don’t-give-a-shit appearance was hilarious. And Michael Morley’s anti-singing like a stroke victim was the next step beyond Mark E. Smith. The way they only get around to playing gigs in their home country NZ once every five years or so becomes part of the joke.
I spent some time in Dunedin in October 2004 and got to jam with Clayton Noone and some of his bandmates. The whole Dunedin aesthetic was totally different from the Wellington ‘Happy' scene. I could have fit in quite happily, and was definitely tempted to move there for a while (though I did return to Wellington to do the Fringe Festival show, which was a good decision in retrospect). In Wellington the ‘out’ players tend to be professional musicians with jazz degrees and high-quality instruments; in Dunedin they have cheapshit guitars with strings missing, big ancient amps and things are held together with gaffer tape.
Not sure what all this means for me in Melbourne, 2005. By switching from guitar to banjo I’ve obviously got a whole new set of cultural signifiers to play with (no I can’t play the theme from Deliverance). I’ll need to get a pickup to play electric, and I’ll probably try and somehow combine it with my dictaphone and laptop. The only thing missing is that I haven’t written a song in ages. I’ve developed some kind of amnesia around that. Maybe like Nick Cave I need to treat it as a job…
Thursday, 28 April 2005
Dream this morning about preparing to board a large wooden sailing ship, to travel to Europe with a couple of hundred other New Zealanders. The journey was to take two months. I was (needless to say) running late with my packing. At one point as the ship was just leaving an older man came along with my pack, but as he was about to jump on board with it he had a heart attack and fell into the water, dropping my pack which sank. I had to get help for him and jump in after it. At some point Jeff Henderson told me “if this is a drink then you’re the mixer, just tagging along. OK you’re not doing any harm but we’re the beer and you’re something non-alcoholic”. I also remember seeing a cheesy Maori comedian from TV, looking like a serious warrior. And due to the confined quarters, there were rooms that could be hired for an hour for the boys & girls to hook up in.
Sunday, 1 May 2005
Had a pretty relaxed weekend. The Saturday Age newspaper has the big jobs section but browsing it didn’t reveal anything inspiring. I signed up with a temp agency, so hopefully they can find me some work – could be office stuff from here on. I should go back to NZ in time for my Dad’s birthday on August 25th since he’ll probably have had chemo treatment and be in need of cheering up by then. So it’s possibly too late to be finding a long-term job anyway. Temp work would also help with the plan Mike & I are forming of going on the train through the desert up to Darwin for the winter – it might even be worth staying a few weeks if there's temp work there.
I had a bike ride today and went for a look around CERES, the sustainable community / environment park. They have organic gardens, solar powered buildings etc. Could be worth putting in a few volunteer hours there.
This evening I went and saw the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy film – better than I’d been expecting. OK so they cut a lot of the plot and dialogue out, but those jokes were over 25 years old anyway and nearly everyone in the audience would have known them already. It did strike me that part of the value of a new film adaptation is seeing how different actors can play with the emphasis and timing of the dialogue – like seeing Shakespeare performed. The Hitchhiker’s Guide was part of my upbringing, I can still quote large chunks of it from memory. So with the movie I appreciated some of the new material and especially the visual gags. And giving it more of a happy ending than the books didn’t feel too out of place. Or maybe I’m getting soft in my old age.
I also heard a rumour that Nick Cave is playing here in a couple of weeks. Now that should be worth seeing.
Also, for what it’s worth I’ve been feeling good recently. Getting out of Wellington has been helpful, but there’s also so much stuff I want to do back there in the second half of the year:
1) Pass shorthand and collect my journalism diploma
2) Help my Dad make his video documentary about our family history (since he's retiring from work now so will have time, and it seems important to get close to him while I still have the chance)
3) Ascension Band show in the Jazz Festival, ideally followed by NZ tour
4) Somehow scrape together money for travels further afield next year
At the moment my employment status is SNAFU but other than that I think (don’t say it too loud or it’ll break) for once maybe I’m happy…
Responses to job applications so far: a couple of automated replies to 'Dear Applicant' saying that they've had so many responses blah blah blah, one phone call from a guy who obviously thought I'd be good for the job but unfortunately it's on a govt-subsidised training scheme for which I'm too old to qualify, and the agency I joined haven't come up with anything. Oh well - ten applications today's obviously not enough. Have to do twenty tomorrow...