AUSTRALIA, PART TWO, PART TWO

MELBOURNE, 4/13

upon arrival to Melbourne, I headed straight to a student television program, to tape a short interview, with an affable gent who was a dead ringer for James Franco, and oddly, *hadn’t* heard that one before. Afternoon nap followed, then it was time to head to the lovely Grace Darling Hotel. One of the loveliest settings for one of my solo shows; antique molding that’s been painted over in modern black & white-and it’s upstairs, the top floor; there’s big windows about and minimal lighting, and the bar is tucked away in another room so you have the show to yourself. The Wellingtons were there to support/back me up, and they’d provided all the gear–the only issue I had was that there was no electric guitar, and no reverb on the amp, which meant poor Kate had to run around town and find a guitar and a reverb pedal. I mean, she could have also told me to take a flying leap in a rolling donut but she was kind enough to source the items.

Showtime that night, all was dark. When the Wellingtons started there was literally one audience member in the house (remember, there’s a full pub downstairs, so, people were getting their drink/food on). My man Michael had flown in from Adelaide with some very good Penfolds drinkables that we were in a dark corner guzzling with our pub grub. That put me in a suitably surreal state, the kind of state where, along with jetlag, I can coast off on streams of fancy, and thereby entertain whilst standing upright (counterintuitive, I know.. you’d think all I want to do is lie in a corner and snooze) for hours on end. We had a great crowd, and they wouldn’t let me go, either. I pulled out some rarities, and could always get the Wellingtons up there when I needed some uplifting support–on “One Morning”, “Solar Sister”, “Superwise”, “History Buffs”…and I also had Kelly, violinist to the stars, join me, but as my duet partner on “Doesn’t It Remind You”. She’s been touring with one Darren Middleton, songwriter who was part of the band Powderfinger, til they disbanded a few years back. Darren is handsome talented fella who also plays a little tennis on the side–Kelly brought him along and we had a good chat–def potential there to make some noise together in the future.

The show: was very good. The night: top. The after show donut: unnecessary, but not unwelcome.

The next morning: way too early.

Flew up to Sydney and rocked out to the Watson’s Bay Boutique Hotel, which is out on a spit of land that projects like the arm of a starfish trying desperately to reach beyond the Sydney environs. A tranquil little cove more than a proper bay, you feel very far from the bustle of Sydney. It’s like being on vacation but you’re still technically in the city. Soon, we assembled in the lobby– the “we” being myself; Mitch Easter, who of course plays in the Big Star Third shows and recorded my album “Touched”; Don Dixon, whom I’d never met, whom, with Mitch, produced REM’s first two albums, and on his own produced two incredible albums by the Smithereens, including my personal fave “Green Thoughts”; Blondie Chaplin, who was a part of the Beach Boys early 70s lineup that produced the albums “Carl & the Passions — So Tough” and “Holland” and who does backing vocals for an up and coming English group called the Rolling Stones; and Rob Ladd, who is a fabulous drummer and knower of many facts, has played drums for all kinds of folks, too numerous to mention but in fact also goes way back with Don & Mitch. We had been assembled by one John Rooney, who played in band some years back called the Lonely Hearts, and now releases records periodically under the name Coronet Blue. Most days he’s putting people back together again as an orthopedic surgeon, but he loves to get out and play some music when he can. So, he lined up some gigs and flew in all these talented Americans (Blondie comes from South Africa, but these days is a US citizen and lives in LA) to make it spectacular.

This day we rehearsed at the venue we were playing later in the week, the Vanguard, which is narrow room with tables at the front and a small standing balcony above. Cozy little place. We had a nice selection of gear to work with, I had a Kurzweil on one side and a Nord on the other, to play mostly Wurli & Hammond but a bit of mellotron, too. And do backing vox. We ran thru all the songs, I’d practiced at home but it was quite a bit of material to get your head around, but I felt good by the end of the day– we only worked for a few hours so it was like, vacation…I’m usually expecting brutal, 12+ hour days whatever it is I do. We all went out to dinner afterwards and I needed some sleep…so by 9pm I was in my tranquil room at Watson’s Bay, listening to the waves lap the beach….ah.

On Tuesday we did the same again, rehearsed at the venue, and spent some time working on the vocal harmonies…you gotta love working out vocal parts with a former Beach Boy. Like, wow. Don Dixon did a few parts too but he has such a deft musical sensibility for pointing out what’s possible, what’s good, what’s necessary…like, well, a great record producer. Such a warm, funny, knowledgeable fellow.

When we wrapped at about 5.30, we decided to go straight to an early dinner, at an Italian place just up the road, I had coniglio cacciatore, and I brought some nice wine from a bottle shop for the table. This was the day of the lunar eclipse, the blood moon; we couldn’t see it as the clouds rolled in but even they looked otherworldly, black with a golden glow at the front. The rain exploded and did not let up–which was wonderful, to have out my window. Again an early night, listening to the thousand drumming fingers of the rain with my back terrace doors open.

SYDNEY, 4/16

I woke up at 5am. The rain was gone, the waves gently combing the beach. I went out to the deck and saw the moon, enormous, its reflection broken into a thousand pieces of platinum (if platinum was the color of goat cheese) on the bay. The Sydney skyline off across the bay. And then a kookaburra broke into song…you know, the laughing thing…these things are LOUD. I know that it’s a territorial thing, so I made a little prank–I pulled up a youtube video of a kookaburra laughing and played it out my back door, and got the actual kookaburra to sing again and again, warning off the interloper. Much fun! Magical.

I went back to bed, the sea whispering to me.

That day I was delighted to catch up over lunch with me old china Brad Shepherd (Hoodoo Gurus guitarist), and his lovely daughter Penny tagged along. Brad is one of those gentlemen of another era really; every gesture he makes is imbued with grand bonhomie.

In the afternoon we headed to soundcheck, which was pretty much done, really, since we’d been rehearsing there for two days. I caught up with Kat from Mezko, we had wine and dinner with her friends at a nearby pub (I augmented the vegan salad with seared kangaroo…I know, I know. Only $4 more). Got back to the venue and saw various mates — Dave Faulkner (Hoodoo Gurus singer), Darryl Mather (the proprietor of the Orange Humble Band, and a good mate of John Rooney’s). The opening band had finished, and, furthermore, did not destroy our gear, so that was nice.

We took to the stage and tore it up– considering it was a fairly impromptu band, you have some seriously experienced players up there…it went by incredibly fast. By the time we were doing our encore covers–Badfinger, Small Faces…and busting out “Sail On Sailor” under Blondie’s direction…the evening roared by. I grabbed a bottle of wine from the bar, and cruised on to the hotel for a bit of kip.

BYRON BAY, 4/17

Oh it was an early morn. Flew up to Brisbane, drove down to Coolangatta, in crushing holiday traffic. Popped by the hotel, and then headed to the Byron Bay Blues Festival site, picking up saxophonist Andy Thompson at his farm out in Byron, which was confusing as he’d been onstage with us the night before; it was sunset now, and as we drove, the fruit bats took to the skies by the thousands, always a magical sight to me. Upon arrival to the site, I met up with Andy Burton, keyboardist for John Mayer, whom I knew via correspondence previously; he’d been, hahaha, instrumental, hahah, in sourcing our Mellotron for the Big Star third show in Central Park. Indeed, it was his unit onstage. We had dinner together in the (excellent) festival catering, then it was time for me to set up my gear. I had access to the keyboards behind the stage, so I got to customizing a palette of sounds for the live set up. Suzanne Vega was on before us; I introduced myself to her as she’d written me a very nice email after the Big Star Alex Chilton tribute at SXSW in 2010, the performance where Alex had died just 48 hours prior; She kinda remembered writing the mail. Ah.

Then we got our stuff onstage and line checked and ripped it up…this was a great gig, and by now I didn’t need any notes whatsoever. Considering it was a festival slot, the sound was actually surprisingly good. I had a blast, and felt more confident on the backing vocals, all good. The set ends with a song that has a lot of jamming with a reggae feel, so, that’s a lot of fun…I play a reverb-ed out squeaky kind of organ throughout.

After the show I chatted with the very friendly Allen Stone, who has just recorded an album with Magnus Tingsek, a mate of mine. Then we went off to see Buddy Guy’s obscenity-laden set. Super weird set up for the audience–it was in a big festival tent, and people were standing up front; but, there *were* seats, but starting like…300 feet from the stage. And people were sitting in them. I was like…make some efforts, mofos..this, uh, Guy, onstage is almost 80 and he’s gonna stand up for 2 hours. Whatever. He was great. I was with Ella Fence, my duet partner in Hobart last week. She lives in Brisbane, and I was happy to invite her as my guest to the festival; indeed it was her birthday that weekend. My bandmates wanted to take off so she agreed to drop me in Coolie on the way home. We watched some of Buddy, tried to watch John Mayer but couldn’t get close enough, watched some of Allen Stone’s set (the boy can SING) and then drove up to my town. We were going to get a drink and talk about her record making plans, but at midnite it became Good Friday and the bars shut just like that. So, we sat on the beach…the sand while cool made this squeaky sound when you walk on it. We talked for about 20 min, and I saw a single cloud, a big ball, over the horizon, suddenly flash–lightning in its interior. It would flash thusly every couple of minutes…and you couldn’t hear the thunder. It was spooky, and beautiful. Time for bed! She drove on, I crashed out.

BYRON BAY, 4/18

Up early, I went for a swim in the Pacific, so warm and inviting. The beach at Coolangatta is in two lengthy sections, the shorter being in front of our hotel. It’s about 300 yards wide. A rocky point on the southern end is where the surf was breaking, surfers were at it in large numbers, but inside the rocky point was a calmer area that was great for swimming. OK…we went up, and played in the midafternoon, and had dinner and a great hang time…meeting friends like Wally from Even. Drank too much. Watched a few minutes of Gregg Allman. Drove back to Coolangatta. Slept.

Up early on Saturday, swam again, we flew to Sydney and I had an incredible evening drinking wonderful Aussie wines, at the home of Craig Gee whom you might recall from our Sydney Festival days, with wines provided by my friend Roz. And on Sunday, I spent it with friends, swimming in the harbor and generally resting, going over to John (Coronet Blue’s singer) & Georgie’s (John’s wife who helped organize all the show things and is just a peach) lovely home for an evening of wine and conversation.

Love
KS
Sydney

Australia Part Two, Part 1

When the week began, I was in my studio, mixing Richie Parson’s album. I knew that I’d be doing some of these mixes offline while traveling, so, each day I would do the overdubs that I thought a particular song might need, since I couldn’t easily record on the road; then I’d do the overdubs on the song I was mixing that day. Definitely hard work, but these overdubs made a huge difference in the number of options I had for more making each song sound more complete when it came time to mix. I had everything set up so I could bounce from task to task quickly–my guitar amp was mic’d, there was a mic for tambourine playing, a vocal mic for backing vocals, and I had my keyboard set up for keyboard overdubs. If I needed to do an acoustic guitar track, I’d put the vocal mic in figure 8 pattern, switch out the dark tambourine mic for a Neuman KM 184 on the same mic line/input channel, and record the acoustic in a ‘mid-side’ pattern. By Tuesday evening I felt all the overdubs were done for all the songs, I could mix the last few songs on the road with confidence. If I really worked hard on the mixes, I’d merely have to, upon my return to Paris, assign outputs to various tracks and let the mix run thru my analog summing stage, and the mix would be done.

On Wedsnesday, I was up early and out the door by 8, to head to Australia. I was dropped off at the terminal and patiently worked my way forward in the Etihad check in in terminal 2C. Got to the front of the line, at 9am, for my 11am flight to Abu Dhabi. The woman checking me in frowned in the direction of her monitor, and apologized…I was actually booked on the evening flight. Oh dear. Well, my bad for not reading what the travel agent sent me, tho I could have sworn I explicitly selected the morning flight–I’d written down flight numbers corresponding correctly to a morning itinerary, and had been planning to arrive in Sydney the following evening. No such! The thing is, all I needed to do is work, so I parked myself in a corner table at a brasserie in the terminal, that had a power outlet next to it, and at this table I not only edited and mixed a Richie Parsons song (and started on another), I also had breakfast, lunch and dinner over the course of the next 11 hours. I checked in to the night flight none the worse for wear and in fact feeling rather caught up on my work. The travel to Australia is so long, that Thursday barely existed–just a couple hours spent in the Abu Dhabi terminal, where I pretty much finished up the mix of another Richie song. I arrived to Sydney Friday morning, having had time to not only sleep at least 8 hours, but watch three films, and do some writing besides. From Abu Dhabi to Sydney, the longer leg of the journey, I had a bank of two seats to myself, so I could stretch out my getaway sticks and snooze like the proverbial deceased.

SYDNEY, 4/11

We landed just a touch behind schedule, and I breezed thru customs and immigration. I declared the merch I brought, which interested the customs folk not one bit, but it earned me a pass thru the beagle-equipped sniffing station, which resulted in no net change in the outcome. Upon exiting, my promoter in Australia, Adam, was waiting with two just-arrived musicians from Britain, a folk duo called the Bad Shepherds — whom I was glad to meet, as I’d wondered if their moniker was a reference to the bad ass hero of Aussie music, Brad Shepherd of the Hoodoo Gurus. Nope. It was a folk thing. They were lovely gents, and we had a good giggle on the way in to town as Adam dropped me in Marrickville, at the home of Matt & Leah, my hosts. Being that it was quite early, they were getting ready for work, but fixed me a cup of tea and made me feel most welcome. They went out the door and I had a couple hours to freshen up, and being a dutiful fellow, I hooked up my laptop to their stereo, listened to Richie’s mixes in progress, declared the good to go. Then I listened to the sequence of Nicole Bianchet’s album, fiddled with an alternative sequence of my own; decided hers was superior, and told her so. Then I showered up and via telemetry with my record company promo fella, Marshall, got a cab delivered to my address and zoomed in to town. First stop was a live radio performance and interview on 2SER, which you can listen to here. I was feeling pretty fresh considering the sitch, some 36 hours of travel just behind me. I played a decent version of “110 or 220V” and then the host played “You’re the Gold” from my album, which I dedicated to my son Kenny, who was turning 28 this very day.

Then Marshall and I had a little time to kill, so we went back to his office, dropped my gear, and he took me to his local espresso place, Fragrance. Recently opened, Fragrance has rapidly gained a stellar reputation, with a line down the block if you head there in the early morning. But by this time, midday, it was calm and we had a seat inside–there’s maybe seating for half a dozen people. I have to say, my macchiato was nearly as good as I’ve encountered, I’d have to go to Tim Wendlboe in Oslo to have a superior one, I think. Nutty, soft, and gorgeous to both the palate and the eye…this gentleman, a young fellow, needs to give Cuptasters a go; he’d really have a chance at accolades there. After juicing up here, Marshall and I had sushi for lunch, then I had another macchiato at Fragance with my buddy Craig, who was our driver and so much more during Sydney Festival earlier this year. Then, I knocked out a radio phoner from Marshall’s office, and headed back to Matt & Leah’s to putter about. Leah gave me a lift to soundcheck, Petersham being not far from Marrickville so no great hardship for her. Matt had his own gig that night, playing guitar for the former singer of Died Pretty’s new outfit, just up the street from their house.

As for myself, I was back at the Petersham Bowling Club, where my previous tour had wrapped, with such marvelous result, back in February. In point of fact, that very show Feb. 1, which was nearly sold out, and was studded with guest appearances from the likes of Mike Mills, Chris Stamey & Skylar Gudazs was going to be impossible to top. So, I had to accept the fact that this show merely distinguish itself by offering some variety, making it a kind of encore to the February show. Many people said, even before the show, that I could have just played exactly the same set list as the previous one and they’d be happy as, but I felt we had a chance to stretch out a bit. Of course, many factors conspired to make that other show a sellout, and tonite’s show was not as crowded–but, having said that, attendance was very good, it’s just that this night’s audience was going to be able to see and hear me clearly from front to back/side to side. I had a full band opening for me this evening, Mezko; Kat, the guitarist, was my duet partner. They play a very intense, drone-y, serious kind of Krautrock. People loved them. I myself love when the bill is musically diverse…many a promoter has underestimated an audience’s ability to live with contrast. When they finished, I made a big show of taking my gear off the stage, and dragging it up to the first row of tables, so that the audience wasn’t obligated to come up to the edge of the stage and have to stand all night. So, I had my groovy digital keyboard set to a Wurlizter sound, and I had Kat’s Laney amp still onstage but accommodated by my extra long cables. No mics. And off we went. It was a marvelous vibe, and once again, the audience was in no way shape or form going to let me out of there early. There were tons of requests, and in the end, some fun to be had with guests–I had to pee at some point, and I handed the guitar to a fellow from the audience, who got up and played a Mississippi-style folk blues tune, which I made it back in time to accompany on the piano. And, when I did a version, by request, of “Thirteen” by Big Star, he (Lee he was named) was called back up to the stage and then two of his friends also hopped up and suddenly we had vocal harmonies going, it was so sweet. Kat’s duet with me was done in the middle of the audience, she was spectacular, too. Had some friends out, and some of the greatest fans ever. A couple folks brought in a mad amount of Posies/Big Star/KS albums to sign. I am blessed. After the show I helped sell merch; in fact, Matt, my host, ‘s grown daughter Hannah was the door person, she’s just a sweetheart, and a calm presence. All was organized, and my man Craig Gee, who had hopped up and gone into action whenever my cables were entangled, gave me a lift back to Matt & Leah’s. Hannah went with friends to her dad’s gig; Leah came back from it after a bit and just as I thought to go to bed she opened the wine and got out the cheese–and this man was missing France more than a bit so it was lovely.

HOBART, 4/12

And I was up probably 4 hours later. Hannah had come back at some point and was zzzzing on the sofa (I was told this sofa is a killer for naps; I was strongly tempted, but managed to get thru my arrival day without succumbing, so I’d have a hope in not being ravaged by the effects of eastward-travel’s lethal jet lag). By 8am I was in the air, bound for Melbourne, and sleeping the whole way. On my flight to Hobart, I had two seats in an exit row all to my self, so again I could stretch and sleep. Landing in Hobart’s petite airport, I was greeted by John from the college radio station. My flight was in late so we scurried over to the station, which he’d left on automatic pilot, and we did a quick interview and I played a song or two. Then he zipped me over to the big national radio/TV station station, where a lovely gent named Joel taped an interview and performance with me. And, from here, James, aka J. Robert Youngtown, picked me up and drove me to the Homestead Hotel, where tonite’s gig was to take place. James was doing the support tonite; he used to live in Hobart, work took him to Launceston on the north side of Tasmania, but he was glad to zip down and do this gig. In fact, he’s worked with Jon Auer on I believe two albums, Jon mixed his latest effort for example. He’s gentle fellow whose calm demeanor barely covers a mischievous edge.

We rolled up to the venue, and the young lady at the bar gave us keys to one of the rooms that we’d be staying in. My goodness, but the upstairs where the rooms were, was in a state indeed. It looked like the set of a film set in post-apocalyptic Albania. Cigarette filters and, oddly, two not-yet decomposed pats of butter were part of the room’s decor, which was lit by naked bulbs protruding from the walls at questionable placements. We shuddered collectively and headed up the road to lunch at the Republic Bar, which in fact is where I had a very rowdy show in 2005, with Melbourne band Even. I supported solo, and then at the end of Even’s full band set, we did a super-encore of Posies, Big Star, and other related material. My solo set was barely audible above the Saturday night din, but we got thru it. In the day, the place was genteel, and I was presented with filets of wallaby, succulent and delightful, and a glass of Tasmanian dry riesling. Then, it was nap time. We went back to the Homestead and I flopped on the presumably previously slept-in bed, on top of the covers fully clothed, hoping for the best. I got about an hour in before soundcheck, which was merely enough to fuck me up royally. I stumbled down to the venue completely unable to perform the simplest functions, but somehow directed the soundcheck to its completion. I took dinner in the venue, and then…more nap time, this time in my actual, and pleasantly tidy, room. Got another hour or so in, before it was time to head back down and meet my duet partner, Ella Fence, a lovely singer from Brisbane who had played the venue two nights prior and was still in town. We did a run thru of the song, and soon James was up onstage performing his set– I could see that it was going to be night not as challenging as the Republic but still there was a lot of ambient chatter and the occasional shouts/guffaws. The stage is set into a little cozy nook separated from the venue as a whole by a proscenium, so this is already an advantage. When James was done, I wasted no time in getting going, and I took the mic down into the crowd and did my set amongst the faithful, of which I would say there were at any time about 30 inside the arch and intently listening. The piano was stuck onstage, tho, so I had to return to the stage to make use of it, but by the time I got around to doing so, I’d made the level of my commitment to the audience and performance clear, and had the people on my side. And it wasn’t long before the crowd noise from the bar at large was not much of an issue and I was having a ball. Two hours later, I retired from the stage to sell merch. Now, during the show, I took requests, such as one fellow’s call for “You’re the Beautiful One”. And once again, I had to pee at some point; at this time I had Ella come up onstage and plug in her Martin (I made a convincing argument that Australia’s main guitar brand, Maton, was brought about my simply pronouncing Martin in a distinctly Aussie fashion) and do a song of hers, which I was delighted to here the last minute or so of, with her wild, feral swooping voice. Then I politely borrowed her acoustic and we did “Doesn’t It Remind You of Something”, and she was, of course, brilliant. You have to love a gal who calls herself Ella Fence, and travels with a lanky, warm-hearted poet named Adonis. At the show were quite a few interesting folks, including a gent named Michael who was from Seattle, and had been living now in Tasmania for 17 years; he’d seen the Posies back in the day, and was delighted to see I’d come to town; he now works as a ship captain, and was happy to oblige my geeky questions about the ship he’s soon to be commanding–things about fuel consumption and such.

So, after I stashed my gear in my room, got paid, and sucked down some more shiraz, James and I walked over to another venue, the Brisbane Hotel. On the way, as I walked by a tree, something moved in the edge of my vision, and I looked up to find myself staring into the eyes of a possum, of the Aussie variety–a pudgy, fuzzy critter with a darling face; evidently, tho, they are nasty if approached. At the Brisbane, we found quite a number of people engaged in karaoke– A DJ spun the instrumentals, and the singer was to get onstage and deliver, while the crowd yelled, danced, and generally acted like drunken idiots in a rather endearing way. I gulped down wine and made chitchat, and then James & I sauntered back and I got not nearly enough sleep.

Up at 8, with a quick shower and such, James dropped me at the airport and headed off on his 2-hour journey home, and I headed to Melbourne for the next show, to be blog-tinued next week.

Love
KS
Virgin Australia flight 1321 to MEL

brief history of stringtime

PRE ORDER the upcoming KEN STRINGFELLOW live album–a double vinyl LP, with video *and* Mp3 or uncompressed audio download! “Paradiso in the Moonlight”. The only recording of one of the only full band shows I did for my last album “Danzig in the Moonlight”. Recorded at Amsterdam’s legendary “Paradiso” venue, with nearly everyone who played on the album backing me — drummer Joost Kroon; bassist/guitarist/my bro JB Meijers; keyboardist/accordionist Pim Kops; the Westside String trio; horn players; Eva Auad & my own daughter Aden on vocals; and a duet with none other than Margaret Cho. It’s limited to 300 copies and is selling fast so pre order NOW here! Ships from UK. The album artwork is designed by Moker Ontwerp who did the illustration for “Danzig” and the audio was mixed by theLAB who mixed “Danzig”. It’s a great performance, perfectly captured, a perfect companion piece to DITM.

This week I’ve been working on Richie Parsons’ album; we recorded 2 songs from scratch; did the bulk of overdubs on a third, and then I’ve gotten into mixing the rest of the album, which he’d recorded back in the states. Of course, there’s always overdubs to do, so I’ve been adding touches to various songs each day–backing vocals, guitar, keys, percussion. The album is getting kind of a Walker Bros. vibe…this I can dig! The weather was so nice today, I had a nice lunch break with Dom & Aden, Aden the perpetual sourpuss in a preteen way, but when we walked back from lunch she gripped my sleeve, like she’s done since she was a tiny baby.

The live album is selling well, but you can still preorder it…come ON!

Love
KS
Paris

String Forward!

PRE ORDER the upcoming KEN STRINGFELLOW live album–a double vinyl LP, with video *and* Mp3 or uncompressed audio download! “Paradiso in the Moonlight”. The only recording of one of the only full band shows I did for my last album “Danzig in the Moonlight”. Recorded at Amsterdam’s legendary “Paradiso” venue, with nearly everyone who played on the album backing me — drummer Joost Kroon; bassist/guitarist/my bro JB Meijers; keyboardist/accordionist Pim Kops; the Westside String trio; horn players; Eva Auad & my own daughter Aden on vocals; and a duet with none other than Margaret Cho. It’s limited to 300 copies and is selling fast so pre order NOW here! Ships from UK. The album artwork is designed by Moker Ontwerp who did the illustration for “Danzig” and the audio was mixed by theLAB who mixed “Danzig”. It’s a great performance, perfectly captured, a perfect companion piece to DITM.

The week’s start was one of those formless things–I wasn’t working, per se, but I had work to do. Enough to fill the days. I did spend a day working for Eva Auad, making stems from her album sessions for use in her live shows. The day before I’d spent doing final (well…we’ll see) touches on her mixes, after she’d had time to live w/them for a bit. And I did some touch ups on Nicole Bianchet‘s album mixes too. On the Eva day, Monday, I finished up her stuff just in time to head out to Espace B, to see Somebody Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin, who invited me to their show via Twitter. I didn’t know their music, so their show was a total surprise–and a great one. Phil, the singer, traded places with Jonathan, the drummer, like 40% of the way thru the set, and damn, if he wasn’t one of the best drummers I’ve seen, he had, like, the perfect touch really…and this was accompanying his singing. Will, the guitarist, whose simple coif and facial hair have him looking just like the King from a deck of playing cards, was truly a knight of the Jagmaster, his playing had so much subtlety…and damn, the one song where he gets to fingerpick…look out. They were lovely people, and after the show, whilst passing around a whiskey bottle in front of their hotel, it was decided that some of us would go to my hood, and that Will could even stay at my place, seeing as they had like 2 hotel rooms for the 6 of them. Epic fail–in our drunken enthusiasm, no one had anyone’s number, and I stood waiting at the head of rue de Lappe hoping the second taxi would materialize, I ate a crepe, waited. Nothin. And…..goodnight.

Tuesday was a pretty epic day in my studio…I finished up the last (again, we’ll see) mixes for Eva, and exported the stems for one of those songs; I finished up a mix for Nicole. I mixed the final mix for the trailer for the Devil Walks In Salem, whose music is quite different than the film itself, I invented a few things for it, by layering single elements from the film into a new whole. And then I worked on a song with Seattleite Mike Lucero, who is working on an album of his own compositions, and covers, with various locals, and presumably we’ll end up recording thus song together somehow, either in person or via file transfer. Basically, I took his piano arrangement, cut it down in size a bit, and wrote a bridge, and a introduced the idea of ending the song with a transposed chorus, that does actually resolve to the original key of the song…clever, clever lad that I am. Then, I took his lyrical first draft, and pinpointed the melody, added a few words of my own, and sent him a new demo, so now, he can fiddle with it, and send me a new new demo, and so on.

Then I hopped on a plane and flew to Berlin.

Here I spent two days in the studio w Marisa Schlussel. You hear the name, and you go, oh, yes, she’s German, I get it. Nope! She’s as American as a jelly donut (wait…that’s ein Berliner) but she & her husband, who gave the German name via his Yiddish roots, did the “let’s move to Berlin” thing, but unlike all those “putting the fun in trust fund” posers who are sclerotizing the city with their innate lack of need to accomplish anything as long as they look good (not) doing it, Marisa is determined to make a record. She’s been in and out of bands since she was a teen, and indeed, she contacted me about producing her band. Who, being typically (as I have come to understand it) Berlinese, realized that they’d have to actually *do* something and promptly split up. Whereupon Marisa said…well, fuck that…I gots me own album to do, and sent me a bunch of songs, wrote a bunch more, and put her money where her mouth is.

By the way, all you indie people…you do realize that hipsters, for the straight job-masquerading as cool hunting, for all the fetish-ization of Miele and Marzocco…are just yuppies, right? Beware, and don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Marisa and Andrew are not yuppies. They are doers; he does and teaches computer animation; she…rocks. And rock we did, banging out two songs at the very cozy Tricone studios, located in a former DDR radio station, run by a patient Aussie fella. The room has got a mid century East German’s sense of both soundproofing (elegant wood bass traps) and color (orange, evidently). I can only say, we worked hard, and the results are punky and garage-y and cool. Imperial Teen meets the Modern Lovers. Go.

One night, at my request, we grabbed some amazing sandwich monsters from Vöner, yep–vegan döner kebab! sliced TVP with, say, peanut sauce. That was all kinds of awesome. Berlin has some cheap eats, I tell ya.

DORTMUND, 3/28

My mom’s birthday (I called her once it was midnight the night before, as I knew this would be a busy and potentially non-connectivty-enabled evening). Marisa wanted to see the show, being a fan of my work, she’d never seen a solo show. And she got a doozy. We trained together, me mostly snoozing on this ancient rust bucket of an IC, that looked like something from a Carry On film, and took its sweet time crossing Germany. Got to Dortmund, and she went off to her accom’s as the show was hours away, I went on foot to the venue. Hey…that girl that just walked past me had to have been Nicole Bianchet…now, where’d she go…too fast.

I walked up to the theatre, and entered, meeting Phillip, the helper of all who came for the evening. He guided me to the show room where tonite’s concert was to take place. Tiny little place, with a banquette hugging the perimeter, and barely any space between its lip and the bar, the bar which was used not to serve drinks but to get amplifiers up off the floor for better hearing. In other words, as tiny a space as you can imagine, and now put 90 people in there, and now, my show. And a piano. Perfect conditions, for a KS solo show. And in walked Nicole, who was indeed the girl I saw hustling out of the hauptbahnhof. Note that I’d mixed her album, fallen in love with her songs, and received some startlingly confessional emails from her, but we’d never met. I’d insisted on a Skype session before the mixing began, just so we had a rapport beyond email. But here she was in the flesh, freshly recovering from the flu, but here nonetheless, to share the evening with me. She’d agreed to learn the duet, and it was clear I was going to make her play some of her incredible tunes, as I needed to confirm that these angels swam out of that body & mind. Oh, and she paid me for my work, and I gave her the archive of her album mixing sessions.

Enter, too, Mick Harvey, guitarist who has accompanied much of Nick Cave’s finest work. I was expecting something of a gothic wild man, clad in leather; in reality, Mick is a thoughtful, genteel fellow with goofy wit, more of a Scottish balladeer than a punk primitif (yes, I know he’s Australian). He’s also no slouch in speaking German–the Birthday Party lived in Berlin for some time; whilst the others were discovering the local culture via needles n such, he actually absorbed the local parlance.

So, the night, Small Beast, is a regular night held in this little space, hosted by the grand theatre that surrounds it’s musical director, Mr. Paul Wallfisch, of the band Botanica. Paul comes from New York, and indeed I played his Small Beast night when it was held in the Gramercy Tavern in that very city. That was in 2009; the following year he got the gig to run the musical side of things at this theatre. Now Paul, he is the offspring of two esteemed classical musicians, and not only is he going to have incredible composer hair when he’s an old man, but he is as deft as a snowshoe hare on the black & whites. He can out-moan Nina Simone, and has effortless command of lyrics in, that I heard, as there are probably more, German, French and eengleesh. He speaks German very well, which you’d hope he’d do after 4 years there, so your hope is rewarded. So, he, having some influence on the program of the theatre, enlisted Mick, and one Alexander Hacke of E. Neubauten, and Alex’s hurdy-gurdy playing partner Danielle, to make a band, that would make the music for a very elaborate theatre piece, Republik der Wulf, being an adaption of Anne Sexton’s poems that parallel the fairy tales of Die Grimm Brüdern. Phew. The theatre piece is running, but also, the band has been touring the music as a rock concert, so they were in mid-tour mode. Me, I was well out of practice, this being my first *real* show since Sydney over a month ago, the little splash in Paris being something of an hors d’oeurvre (which I now, after living here for 11 years, know how to spell. And have never needed to use, as no one says that word when petits-fors will do).

OK. let’s skip ahead to the show, I have work to do today. The doors open at 22.30. The building in its other parts had already hosted an opera and the rehearsal of another theatre work. All those patrons had gone home, and walking up the Theatre Dortmund at ten on a Friday night, you wouldn’t get much in the way of butterflies in the stomach. But, a few souls gathered in the lobby. I ran into Marisa, and promptly thereafter the lovely Hannah Fearns, who has sung with me in the past. I got them some wine, and got them talking. And then there was, all of a sudden, a queue. The doors to the room opened as described and the lobby emptied and Paul opened the show with a few numbers on the piano. Intimidating man to follow, but he’s also an expert emcee so I was set up with a great intro and you know, that crowd comes to that series expecting to love what’s being presented, and they ate my set up, the love was warm and vocal. Once again, I am further convinced that the German audience is possibly the most empathic to my solo material. There’s a real piano there, too, so that made it easy; the show is infinitely more dynamic when I have such a great musical and visual prop to work with. So, I was able to do very powerful versions of “Drop Your Pride” and such. At the end of my first set I brought up Nicole for “Doesn’t It Remind You of Something”. I only introduced her *after* our duet, as I wanted people to experience here in a pure context, no preconceptions. She was marvelous, of course. Then, I told people the story–her email out of the blue (then only 3 weeks old), leading to the very intimate work that is mixing someone’s debut album, and finally meeting that day.

Then Mick did his set, mostly solo guitar, but occasionally accompanied by Paul. He had some drone sounds on a sampler, as well as delay and other effects on both his acoustic and electric guitars. High lonesome, dark troubadour balladry, excellent stuff.

After his set, Paul called me up for another set, so I stretched out and did more songs, and also had Nicole play two songs on her alto guitar (made by Yamaha, it’s called by them a “guitarlele” — it’s a six string classical guitar with a tiny body, one 5th higher than a normal folk guitar. Here’s a video of one of her songs.

Then I did a few more, and…then what? I got Mick & Paul up for a few tunes, they backed me on “Lover’s Hymn” and Big Star’s “Kanga Roo”, we did some of Mick’s song, and Paul led us on a Dylan tune. And so to bed, right? I went out to the merch table, which was well received; Nicole served us Manhattans from a premixed cocktail bottle she’d been given for her recent birthday…and I looked at my phone…HOLY SHIT…we played for FIVE HOURS!!! It was 3.30am!! My god. Well, by the time we packed up, etc..it was 4.30 when I got to the hotel.

And up at 7.30…owwwww…..train, endless train, to Berlin. Spent two days working with Claudia Rorarius on more acting exercises. I was so blurry, from the show, not just the lateness of the hour but the incredible energy I spend making a solo show happen, it takes extraordinary focus, a kind psychic embrace of the souls in the room, to bind us into one for some hours. It’s pure ESP, and it burns calories. My body was broken and sore the next day. So, we worked and talked during the first day, and then I was in bed by 9.30. I slept thru the spring forward and was up Sunday at 7.30 to start preparing for the next day. We spent a long day doing our work, again, I’m not going in to great detail about it for a reason. By 11 that night we were having dinner and it prob was more like 1am when I went to bed. And was up at 3.45. OWWWWWW. To get my flight back to Paris.

Since then I’ve been in my studio recording with Richie Parsons. Richie goes way back in the Boston punk scene, with his band Unnatural Axe; we met a few years ago when playing in Rome, I think it was when I was there with White Flag and the Avengers, that would have been 2006 I believe…when I watched the SuperBowl in the office of the hotel, at like 2am. So, we have our friend Suzy in common, who has booked shows for many bands in Italy including The Disciplines; and we had the late Bill Bartell as a mutual friend. Richie also hosted me when I played in Somerville last year on my solo tour. It was here that we listened to his demos late at night and formulated a plan to make an album. He recorded in Boston, except for two songs which we did here at my studio; to the rest I will add tracks as needed or just mix. The stuff I did is kind of Phil Spectory, Walker Brothers-y. The album has a rock & roll purity, but it’s very sweet, too, it’s not an angry punk record by any means. It’s gonna be great. Mixing starts now. I’m on it!

Love
KS
Paris

Kind of a boring one, but busy

So this week I worked on the mix for Nicole Bianchet‘s amazing album. And Eva Auad‘s album. And I learned the set for my upcoming dates with Australian band Coronet Blue. We are going to play Sydney at the Vanguard April 16. And then make two appearances at the Blues & Roots Festival in Byron Bay April 17 & 18. I fixed a broken key on my USB keyboard. I hung out with Drew deNicola & Dominique in Paris. It was a great week. Bye.

Love
KS
Paris