Thursday, December 28, 2006

Haunted Places

The other day De Campo and I caught the 12.15pm train to the country. We were heading to a family gathering to celebrate her sister’s birthday. The destination was Riddell’s Creek, but I wasn’t really paying attention. Twenty minutes into our journey, the train made its first stop. With my nose stuck into the great escapism of Paul Auster’s ‘Moon Palace’, I wasn’t really paying attention until I heard De Campo scream “We gotta get off!” She then proceeded to trample my legs gunning for the exit. I looked outside and saw that the station said Diggers Rest and quickly trailed her. We were so late getting to the exit that the train conductor had to phone the driver on his walkie talkie and request a Code Red to get the doors to open. It wasn’t until the train had departed the station that we realised we had gotten off at the wrong stop. Three stops too soon.

When De Campo rang her Dad he was waiting at Riddell’s Creek station with her mother drinking a latte in the good air. He was on the phone long enough to hear the bad news and then the battery on his phone died. De Campo’s brother-in-law called to say that they had got in touch with the parents and that the parents were on their way. Digger’s Rest was too cold for the t-shirt I was wearing, so I put my hand inside the bag De Campo was carrying with her sister’s present in it and pulled out a brown and grey vest that De Campo said she despised. I wore that and it felt good on my back. The green bus shelter we huddled in was missing a window to the east the same direction the wind was coming from, so we removed our clothes and cuddled because I’m told that’s what you’re supposed to do when you’re freezing your ass off these days.

Thirty minutes later her parents collected us. We told them we were sorry and they drove us through the dry hills of Sunbury like hell for leather. So many derelict 70s houses with Range Rovers parked in the driveway. The second we arrived we had three minutes to order food before the kitchen closed. I had a seafood salad with watermelon salsa and a beer.

Just so you know, there are some incredible pubs in the area. Down the highway in Clarkefield there’s The Coach and Horses Inn, formerly The Clarkefield. It’s a big bluestone mansion built in the mid-1800s when gold mining was the thing to do and Clarkefield was a handy rest stop between Melbourne and Bendigo.

De Campo’s Mum met a lady at the chiropractic office where she works who said she knew the new owners of the Inn. The owners took some photos of the stairs and when they had them developed a 13 year-old girl in a taffeta dress was standing there. She wasn’t there when they took the photo. Turns out the place has been haunted for years.

Once a maintenance person was cleaning the windows outside and a hideous face inside came towards him. Window cleaner tried to lift the window (why I do not know), but window is shut-tight whereas a few minutes ago, window seemed to open fine. Hideous face receded into the darkness. Window cleaner tried the window again and guess what? Window opened!

Journalist with a death wish stays the night looking for some spectral action. No occurrences whatsoever. The next morning he notices the pump at the well is dryer as can be. Notes the observation in his log. Seconds later, pump starts to gush!

De Campo’s sister handed me a book called the Ghosts of Australia and it was there that I located a ghost house in my old neck of the woods – on Church Street in Richmond. I used to walk by the place and say Trent Reznor must live here. Chilling in a ‘I dabble with the darkside’ kind of way. Once owned by a one-armed mining lobbyist apparently. He died in bed and his kids jumped off the balcony to their deaths sometime after and to this day people can sometimes see the kids hanging out on the balcony looking gaunt and dejected.

Once a guy felt a hand grab his ankle and his conclusion was that the only reason he felt one hand was the person must have been missing the other!

We barely caught the last train at Clarkefield Station (of which the pub is right there), otherwise De Campo's parents said we would've had to spend the night!

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Meredith Music Festival: Sunday 10 December 2006

After an ice coffee and a egg tortilla stuffed with hot yummy bacon, our posse gathers at the Pink Flamingo for one last hurrah. I’m the only one with the gall to get stuck into the Bloody Merediths, but why, they’re bloody good dammit (though not as good as last years). TNT (Tex N Tim, geddit, Orville?) are basically two megalomaniacs out to have a good time. They’re on stage with their shirts unbuttoned all the way grinning behind mirrored sunglasses. I remove my mirrored sunglasses and I’m like, staring into the lenses, ‘how could you do this?’ The act’s profoundly complacent, worthwhile only when it degenerates into corn like these kernels from Tex Perkins: “Fridays for funerals/Saturdays for brides/ I guess that leaves Sundays ARE MINE.” (CAPS indicate GROWL). “On weekends I perform miracles/ I turn whole paychecks INTO WINE.” With this tune firmly lodged in Toby's brain, he's dangerously funny, but mostly it’s Snoozefest ‘06, an invaluable addition to the Sunday lineup. “Sounds like ten minutes went into the songwriting process,” snorts De Campo. Most everyone goes home.

Before The Gift is run, Edan runs things. It’s a rap attack. “This goes out to all the heartbreaking ladies out there, what you do to us guys is fucked up,” he says over a sample of ‘Femme Fatale’. He then gets into a rhyme duel with his partner in crime and it’s glorious. He uses some obscure 60s soul samples, plays a little guitar, bends noise on a theremin, toots a kazoo and manipulates the bass by remote control. He closes the set with a short speech. “I have self-confidence and sensitivity, I am so secure I can take it out on some pretty shit,” he says. He then proceeds to play the biggest, noisiest, wildest, party track of the day.

The reason we’re still here is not to see fifty guys run naked through the dirt. Honest. Sometimes they trip up and sever their equipment. It’s difficult to watch. There are four heats. De Campo films three of them. “For posterity,” she asserts (probably would have done a fourth but the battery died).

Like the Sand Pebbles kicking it off, Spencer P. Jones and the Escape Committee took us out in style. They rubbed us raw! Now that’s what I call music!

Final thought: the toilet situation was totally fine this year. I really can’t tell you why. Perhaps a lot people were tormented by previous experience and became too scared and abstained. Bought a bottle of prune juice when they got back to Melbourne or wherever they called from.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Meredith Music Festival: Saturday 9 December 2006

Arise around 10.30am feeling like The Silver Jews' song that goes “the the the death death death”. A line from Lucky Jim also seems fitting: “His mouth had been used as a latrine by some small creature of the night, and then as its mausoleum.” The hills are hazy and the sun is a little pink dot in the sky. Bushfire alert is on.

Waiting outside the toilet, I overhear some guy in a black singlet and skinny black jeans say to two guys walking past carrying slices of pizza: “Fucken Donuts.”

Tapes ‘N Tapes, four oversized Goonies with better chemistry than an outer suburban meth lab, cure one of the vilest hangovers of my entire life, delivering the rock show of my secret fantasies and enabling me to shake the devils out and my tail around ever so stupidly. De Campo bets me a Pink Flamingo that a drum solo is forthcoming, she nails it (first song even!). Goodness this is exciting. I move to plant her one, teeth collide, she chips her tooth. She looks horrified and stifles a scream. Suzie and her friend Ness bet that the drummer gets the most girls, even though he looks criminally pre-pubescent (he’s 20). Dust is everywhere. It's up my nose. I pick my nose with great hostility.

For Midlake, we are joined by Blake Menzies and his senorita, who we thought we'd never find. The two of them have the charisma that Midlake lacks. The keyboardist has excessively hairy arms. Between songs, I announce that the next song will be about the singer’s gangrenous foot, referring not so much to the gruesome warning on my cigarette packet but to his uncomfortable presence. Despite my howling, drunken demands, Midlake’s set doesn’t end with a Saints cover. Bastards! Their best songs end up being the ones with guitar solos.

“Postmodern blues!” barks Gabriel Piras, wooshing up to me during The Drones’ set. I was completely haggard by this point and I turned to him and said as much. He then replied “you think you’ve lost it, take a look at that guy.” I turned to my right and there’s a guy wearing nothing but a purple sequined g-string, dumping a VB down his neck. My inertia lifts. I join De Campo off-stage and polish off a red curry wrap.

De Campo and I bump into Julian Tovey and his girlfriend Kate. Like most everyone, they look overheated. The sonofabitch is drinking a Gordon Gin and Tonic in a can! What?! Where did you get that? we ask, explaining how we searched all over town for them. “I got the last batch,” he says. “Apparently they were all recalled after someone found metal shards in them.” Back at the camp we bless the inferior Smirnoff. Bren, Susie’s brother, vomits a biscuit he didn’t want in the first place. ‘I’ll try that with a biscuit’ becomes a new catchphrase.

We stumble back to see The Cornelius Sensuous Showcase live up to its title. Saturday night at Meredith is severely hedonistic. Guys chase around the spotlight on our flashlight like depraved members of the canine species. We're too tired for this. We share a quesadilla and a plate of revolting nachos, while some guy entertains a group of teenagers nearby with the creepiest puppet imaginable. At midnight, De Campo and I retreat to the cinema to watch ‘Faster Pussycat Kill Kill’. She is quickly snoring, while I go in and out of consciousness imagining earwigs wiggling their way into my loose clothes.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Meredith Music Festival: Friday 8 December 2006

Collected by Toby, co-conspirator, dude, hell of a musician (plays in Flywheel), looks a bit like a young Boris Karloff, and his fiancĂ© named after the actress Susan Hayward, who received (deservedly) an Academy Award in 1958 for ‘I Want to Live!’, a prison movie. Incidentally I texted Suzie, as she likes to be called, the other night after I got a bad reaction to cream cheese spread. “I Want to Live!” I wrote. Suzie enjoys a good Susan Hayward reference.

No Gordon Gin & Tonic cans anywhere in Melbourne. We leave town empty-handed. It’s very upsetting. We arrive in Meredith around 2pm carting a bunch of those inferior Smirnoff tins and a lot of beer. It’s stinking hot. We set up camp amongst some trees on a slope in an area that has the prestige of Melbourne’s Eastern suburbs. We camp near some dudes who took bad acid last year. They hope to maintain good vibes all weekend, so they are really nice to us. They offer us beers and turn their country music down, so we can hear our dire little unit pump out stuff like The Decemberists.

The Sand Pebbles open the show and class it up with an eleven piece band including Dave Graney, a turbaned snake charmer, a gypsy wearing black braces and beefy pants and two Chartreused chanteuses singing back-up. Subsequently I skedaddle up to the Pink Flamingo Bar and knock back three Pink Flamingos (Pink Lemonade and Vodka) waiting for Wolf and Cub to start. The Pink Flamingo is located above the stage on a hill. The sound is still pretty good from up here, but the further away you get the worse it is, sometimes worse than imaginable (Macromantics=Sir Mix-A-Lot; Dallas Crane=Dallas Crane). Wolf and Cub’s first song sounded better than the smell of a Magic Marker, but their grunge act turns stale the minute they bring out the smoke machine. I head back to camp and get loaded as night falls and come back for Band of Horses, who are overwhelming. They play my two favourite songs, Great Salt Lake, Weed Party straightaway, which allow me to peak far too early in the set. The crowd is tight near the front where we stand. Some guy passes by and steps on my Eski. He looks down indignantly. “You brought your own Eski?” He then asks me where I intend to piss, which so happens, I am relieving myself on his shoe. Band of Horses cover Otis Redding and the detuned guitars ring like Pavement. The singer’s voice is Grand Canyon-esque. He is very charming. He streaks twice during the New Pornographers’ set. We return to camp and play tunes from a small portable unit, loud enough to attract visitors from camps nearby. “Isn’t one David Bowie enough?” a female visitor asks, during a Stephen Malkmus song. A Motley Crue number attracts a fine fellow named Mick, who takes to saying outlandish things just to be provocative. Mick looks a bit like this guy. We drag him to watch The Presets and I have never had so much fun. The Presets are perfectly awesome given the curious state I was in and the laser light show was outstanding. I also admire the number of people Mick insulted in a very short time.

We lose Mick and hit the Pink Flamingo for another drink. The bar is nearly empty. Meredith is really splendid in the wee hours we find. We bump into a couple friends and shoot the breeze until daybreak. My final activity is using the men’s in absolute quietude at 6.30am (the program is a fine read). Sleep proves to be a disastrous proposition. The heat is unpleasant and disgusting and it hasn’t cooled down nearly enough.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Lilys Interview: Part Four (The Conclusion)

What’s your favourite song on the album?
Um, I think the one that makes me consciously smile and giggle is probably Scott-Free by David Rappaport and I’m not saying that the ones I wrote or the ones that I was more in charge of are not as good, but there’s something kind of timeless about it.”
It’s lovely.
“That’s it, it’s just fucking lovely. David Rappaport did a fan-fucking-tastic job. He wrote it, he recorded it on a four track in ‘99, he changed it when he recorded it in the studio and he did a cover of the 4 track version that’s actually sampled from the cassette tape.
How many singers are there?
Well I sing predominantly the lead vocal. If you can call it that. I sing the head or the melody. Michael Johnson sings the kind of beauty school dropout, the Queen or Grease vocal, he’s doing a total Todd Rundgren thing a mile wide and once again, I always find my self learning more from what we didn’t do, and the energy we could have put in…”
Your songs are very economical though.
“Yes absolutely. Well it’s not about ELO anymore. That’s what makes it sad about the early 90s because everything was becoming a joke.
I was into rap then. Talk about your economical songs.
“Yes, I was going to say, once again, I turned pretty exclusively to R&B and hip-hop and really it’s only been in the last 3-5 years watching the Gorillaz rise up with Demon Days and Kanye West…
See I don’t know if I like them all that much.
“I’m not talking about liking. I’m talking about the unit shifters. Those with multiple publicists, multiple stylists. They have tour staff of upwards of 25 people and two tour buses and an 18-wheeler bus and they are not even the booshy boosh-country superstars like Faith Hill and Tim McGraw, who have eight buses and twenty tractor trailers! See where I’m going?”
It’s ridiculous.
It could shift people’s awareness of the history of music and their earned lineage. We are at the threshold. Either there will be misinformation about how music is done or the current winners will rewrite this is how reggae always has been played uh you know Faith Hill will do a reggae version of ‘Take Another Piece of my Heart’ by Big Brother Holding Company. (Kurt gets distracted. There is noise in the background). “Baby Mama just said, communication is truly my occupation.”
You guys coming to Australia, or what?
“We’re on our way, that is, I’m just hoping a political party or a corporate entity finds value in bringing us over there, because it really is such a turning point in both our careers and I think we’re looking outside of how bands have toured before. I probably will have to give a media psychology lecture to be able to underwrite this or Australia might have a task, as they might say, a janitorial service, a toilet that might need scrubbing, someone’s got to get this shit out of here, oh and Kurt Heasley’s the man for the job. Figuratively speaking.”

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Lilys Interview: Part Three

Did you grow up in Philadelphia?
“I grew up in Washington DC.”
My sister and her family live in Arnold. It’s near Annapolis.
“Yes Arnold, Maryland. I lived directly below in the Fairfax County. In Lord Fairfax’s county, yes, her majesty”.
Oh so you would have been influenced by Unrest, Mark Robinson’s band.
“Mark? Influenced? I know Mark. I mean he was maybe 17 when I was 15. He’s not that much older than me. He was still doing punk rock when I was doing pop. He started doing pop music a little later on. What really transformed the band Unrest into what you know as ‘Isobel’ was when our guitar player Archie Moore from our first album ‘In the presence of nothing’ was in a band called ‘Velocity Girl’. The singer Bridget Cross left music altogether because of her boyfriend who wanted to spend more time with her, so she stopped touring, she...
Who’s that guy?
“Exactly! You don’t know his name because he doesn’t exist anymore. Mark saw Bridget at a show and said, 'why don’t you come in play bass chords on any song, so they started to play. She wrote a series of songs, he then countered and with Wharton Tiers, recorded ‘f.f.r.r.’', which is where people think Unrest began. That’s like Mark’s 27th record or whatever”. Adopts sarcastic tone: “I’ve only done seven so I’ve got twenty more until I find my identity! In the world of Mark Robinson, you know. But yeah, he’s, he’s, I mean I love him. But he wasn’t always doing pop music. I think Fugazi had as much songcraft as anyone, if not more, than a lot of my contemporaries today. And it makes me sad that he and Ian and…they’re all incredibly activated people and yes, I grew up with that self-actualisation and that element of personal sovereignty that I’m only going to be the person I am and the person that you wake up as is the person you’re going to be and you use experience and experiment to prove what you believe to be true because if you believe something to be true in the province of the mind, it is true, until you’re able…I mean this is where you know, religious dogma, and you know, fear-based, sex and negative body image, advanced marketing techniques that do not encourage development of human potential are based. They are preying on the vulnerable and it is part of, I have only said no to two jobs and I won’t go into what those two jobs are, but they are saying, you couldn’t get more aggressive company into uh, outsourcing as Nike. I’ll admit I am wearing a pair of solid rubber Birkenstocks gardening clogs right now...

Monday, December 11, 2006

Lilys Interview: Part Two

Pardon me for the gap in follow-ups. Been out of town is my excuse, shaking it around in Golden Plains Shire for the past few days. But more on that later. Here’s another dose of Kurt for your reading pleasure.


Prescott-Bush (President Bush’s grandfather), he of course was a tire salesman until he was married, that was when his father-in-law gave him a job in his bank and later he went on to start Union Bank with Averell Harriman. Now Union Bank of course is one of America’s first and most staunch supporters of, ironically enough, speaking of terror and fear mongering: The Third Reich. They put about 40 million dollars into the Nazi Party in 1930, but I’m not saying it wasn’t…I mean Communism was horrible, horrible, but you know what, the same people, the same exclusive rich, you know rich beyond…rich to the point where governments need them to fight wars-rich. I asked him (not sure who he means, the Australian lawyer, perhaps) do you know how many towers fell on September 11, 2001 in New York City and he was like two? And I was like, this is where I am going to say it’s misinformation not disinformation; only because three towers fell that day, tower north, tower south and tower seven. Now this is very true. The owner of the World Trade Centre said, in an interview, yes um the building was just so damaged we decided to pull it at 5 that night.”

I read somewhere that the security advisor was related to the Bush family.
“Oh it’s the President’s brother, but his contract was actually over September 11, ironically enough. They insured the World Trade Center for 3.5 billion, over 200 percent what it was worth and remember the World Trade Center was an asbestos nightmare. Unfixable. Yes, so you must be speaking of its owner, Silverman, yes Mr. Silverman, good guy if you’re into that. I mean if you’re into that kind of stuff.”
What do you mean?
“I don’t know. I don’t know, I don’t know what I mean by that.
“It seems a bit…it seems like there’s a lot…I mean, I have a friend who was the actual litigator for the Victims Compensation Fund —name was James McGarry. Partner in the law firm Barasch McGarry, who for twelve years before, were the legal representation and council for the fire department of New York City and when September 11 happened, now remember, he was also managing bands on Astralwerks, he was putting out records by Lilys. In 2003, James L. McGarry was lead council for the VCF. He doesn’t even live in this country anymore really, he comes back to New York every once and awhile, but mostly he just travels.”
So he was doing something good then?
“Yeah, but that’s not what they wanted. They wanted to go to war. They wanted a reason to go to war.”
He was looking after the victim’s families.
“People who had put out every single fire in a building and then all of a sudden the building implodes on them, OK?
What spins me out is all this talk of a controlled demolition and then Oliver Stone goes and makes this sentimental Hollywood pap I mean isn’t he supposed to be this huge, subversive guy?
“Why is Michael Moore fat.”
No, no, you can’t be as blunt as that.
“Hey I was someone who at the point in my life when I felt the most cornered, put on 78 pounds in three and a half months. I went from 200 pounds to 280 pounds. “
You would have been a beast.
“Oh I was”.
Did you play basketball?
“I only play for fun. I play clean. I like the old school. I don’t need money for sports you know?”
Oh God, I didn’t mean that.
“Oh well some people play, you know, not for…and there are some dudes who play for the love of the game and that’s beautiful and they have the psychology of it. They have like the Carl Jung approach too, they suddenly realise they are only playing to make their mother cry”. He starts trash-talking: “Their mother’s weeping! She’s can’t believe she went to good titty time on you! Bitch! She look like a bitch and you are going out, bitch, yeah! Carl Jung fuelled basketball court psychology. I’ll abide by that.”

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Lilys Interview: Part One

The first I’d heard of Lilys, a pop group from Philadelphia, was their ‘Everything Wrong is Imaginary’ CD released earlier in the year. To my surprise it was their seventh! Gosh, I thought, if their back catalog was half as good as this, and I had a sneaky feeling it probably was, then I am falling over and laughing because ‘Everything Wrong…’ has sweetly slayed me for daze.

I was fortunate to interview their enigmatic frontman Kurt Heasley for a Melbourne weekly recently. My assignment was a piece considerably shorter than the 2,500 words I ended up with. Kurt rambled on for ages, totally off-topic, which is a rare thrill if you can find it. What Kurt was saying really tickled me and it compelled me to continue transcribing. The process was an arduous one and I often felt like I was typing out the manuscript to ‘Gravity’s Rainbow’ – searing insight amidst profound tidal waves of nonsense sweeping over me.

Kurt is tall (6’6”), psychedelic, loquacious and something of a mystical shamanistic dude. The pantleg part of his trousers has more talent than that jackass from Brian Jonestown Massacre’s entire body (and to think they made a movie about that guy). Kurt’s unyielding brain activity and blitzkrieg verbiage belies his spare pop songs, and in conversation his dogma is delivered in a hilariously grandstanding oratorical style that recalls Gore Vidal at his most didactic and highfalutin. There is no order, no pause in a Kurt Heasley interview, just a cursory mention of lunch and suddenly we’re cast-off into the otherworldly world of Kurt Heasley. This is the first of, I don't know, ten or so parts.

“So what are you going to have for lunch today?” he asks. I was thinking of picking up some Japanese. “A sushi roll?” Yeah, would you approve of that? “I would.” What are you going to have? “Well it’s 11.18pm and I’ve already had two or three different dinners and the uh, no, know someone just asked me if there was someone downstairs and I’m like no, that would imply that the door is unlocked and there is way of getting in a locked door unless they smash a four and a half foot piece of glass, eighteen inches wide and you would hear that, you would hear that, probably long before you would hear anyone foot-stepping around know I was having a dialogue with a former lawyer, also Australian. We were talking about guilt through omission, misinformation versus disinformation. I think it is implied that misinformation could say I was incorrectly informed or I read the briefing wrong. Disinformation means there are three blue dots in the line and four red dots and saying there are two blue dots and one red dot...

"So I asked him because we are coming up on our senate and congressional election. Very important. I’m not particularly of the democratic or republican view but more of ‘where are our voices of reason?' We have all these wonderfully eloquent extremists that can give hellhouse scenarios and really get people excited about the worst possible change of events, and fear mongering is valid, it worked for the Third Reich, several political machines have used it to fantastic success. We have a government and a media that is completely at ends with each other and this is why it’s very, very… but if one thing ties them all in together, they were born into a ruling family elite. I am talking about the exclusive. And I’m not saying that new money and new blood and new ideas are not coming out, they are coming out, people are rising to the top, new philanthropy is out there, people, you can’t really stop someone from finding it out but you don’t have to tell them where it all is."

to be continued...