January 25, 2006

aftermaths

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New album, 'After Maths & Sciences', the one recorded in Australia, is finished - email me for a copy. I made a few breakthroughs, with the banjo, field recordings and techno elements, bigger & bolder packaging than before, new moniker - and also reasserting my own compositional/creative side after spending the last couple of years on collaborative projects. I've still got amnesia about how to write songs, but figured I'd shift the focus from my own angsty little self to the outside world.

It's even got elements of journalism - dictaphones are designed for journalists not musicians. It's got Aussie voices, sounds, wildlife etc, and Fran Mountfort plays cello on it. The last track is made by recording cicadas (different sound from the NZ ones, lower pitched, and the Aussies pronounce them cic-ah-das rather than cic-eh-das) and progressively slowing them down to reveal the multilayered rhythms etc and doing some stereo rotations. I did another piece where I'm scratching with a recording of a kookaburra, while Australian voices talk about climate change and how kangaroo meat tastes like crap. The music ranges from my skewed take on techno to a banjo quartet arrangement of 'Auld Lang Syne' to a piece with shakuhachi (Japanese woodwind) accompanying the Gosford dawn chorus.

North Island tour was good fun, with my new approach seeming to go down well. I even made $30 or so on the Wellington and New Plymouth gigs (nothing on the Auckland one). New Plymouth looks good these days, and seeing the mountain again draws up all kinds of emotions. I think if people ask me where I'm from I'm feeling more and more inclined to answer 'New Plymouth' rather than 'Wellington'.

I've got loads of possibilities for this year, with several instruments and computer resources to work with here in Nelson... I'm just reaquainting myself with my tenor saxophone, which I played a bit in 2002. It got damaged and has been sitting in its case for the past three or so years, but 60% of the notes still work. Hopefully I'll get it fixed soon...

Oh and The Stooges were great.

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www.fiffdimension.co.nz

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January 09, 2006

coming this Friday

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I'm playing a gig in Wellington on Friday, at Photospace Gallery, 8pm. It would be absolutely wonderful if you could come along - it's only a gold coin entry. Rick Jensen's playing saxophone and the father/son comedy duo Rubber Banana are always good value.

Friday 13th seems appropriate given my chequered history there and love/hate relationship with the Wellington. I can't see myself living there again - Kapiti Coast maybe, but probably not in town. I slept badly last night due to a dream about a shorthand test and fear that noone's going to show up on Friday. Job for today is gig promo, because playing to an empty room really sucks.

I'm finishing off the After Maths & Sciences album - it's a good one. I've got a whole new palette of sounds to work with, and I found my way out of the introspective trap by means other than submerging into a group sound. The trick was, I shifted the focus from myself to my Australian surroundings. There are 'Melbourne in winter' and 'New South Wales in summer' halves, and there's development between them.

Anyway I'll get the album done this week and take it on the road. Hope to see you there...

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January 01, 2006

eet's two thousand & seex

The temperature here in Gosford for new year's day was 43 degrees! There's a big bush fire a few kilometres away at Woy Woy (some great place names in Australia) and the night sky's got a pink glow. Bush fires are actually a natural part of the ecosystem in Australia, clearing old growth and re-fertilising the soil - but Australia's feeling the effects of global warming, and so hotter summers will make them more common.

An even beegger issue here is lack of water - the dam here is at 22% capacity, and this is on the coast. As you go inland, water gets harder to find - so the great majority of Aussies live along a small east coast corner of this huge continent. And Australia's an affluent western nation that's living beyond its means - the infrastructure's overstretched, and the issues are starting to catch up with them.

The Central Coast region of New South Wales is an hour's drive north of Sydney. I was pleasantly surprised to see that it's mostly covered in forest, whereas the area around Melbourne is more farmland. Australian bush looks and smells so different from that in NZ, and I do get a kick out of seeing bats flying around at night, and rainbow lorikeets, galahs, cockatoos, and laughing kookaburras by day. There are dozens of great beaches (not so great when the stinging bluebottle jellyfish arrive), and when it's 43 degrees outside going to the beach is all most people here want to do.

A cliche I heard many times this year is that Melbourne's like Wellington and Sydney's like Auckland. Sydney consists of numerous bays with beaches, and it has a harbour bridge and a skytower (actually shorter than the one in Auckland). It's the business capital of Australia, whereas Melbourne wants to be the cultural centre (and is built around a single harbour like Wellington, though the huge flat sprawl is quite unlike Wellington's hills).

Sydney also comes across as less friendly than Melbourne, and the public transport system seems unnecessarily complex - you have to buy a ticket for each individual ride, whereas in Melbourne one ticket lets you use the whole network. And it's underground rail rather than trams in Sydney, so not much to see out the windows. Sydney's like London but with the compensation of beaches and warm weather?

We went to Newtown in Sydney, which is funnily enough the grungy part of town. I bought a Combat Wombat CD - Aussie hiphop's been a great musical discovery for me this (correction: last) year. It sounds nothing like the Maori/Polynesian strain in NZ, and is also thankfully free of American cliches. They've got their own thing happening, and it's great stuff.

Plenty more I could say about the fortnight in NSW - will get some of it down here. The new year's eve party I went to is a story in itself, and I gave the host a hongi. I've also been taping people and wildlife and shooting some video - hopefully it's a productive trip... two days to go then back to NZ and the North Island tour!

Friday 13th - Photospace Gallery, Wellington
Tuesday 17th - Missing Link, New Plymouth
Thursday 19th - the Wine Cellar, Auckland

www.fiffidmension.co.nz

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