Bedroom Records (JMag – 2008)
When I was fifteen I recorded my first album of songs. This was done in my bedroom, on a little cassette walkman with a stereo microphone blu-takked to the indoor clothesline. Sitting on the edge of my bed, I aimed to nail each track in one take, but I’d usually stuff up somewhere along the line and have to rewind back to the start. I tried ‘dropping in’ halfway through a song, but it left me with more pops and clicks than a retirement home. Naturally, the recording’s were no-fi and dusted with tape hiss, but they captured the essence of the songs, and the whole process prepared me for many of the factors a musician in the studio can face.
I gave the album a title ‘Ad-Liberation’ (my affinity with puns blossomed from an early age) and cover art, made up of a wobbly texta drawing of the planet earth with arms holding a sign that read ‘the end is nigh.’ (A sense of pre-millennium tension as early as 1995.) The songs themselves were structurally ambitious, usually running over five minutes in length, with about eight verses and a prog-folk ‘strum solo,’ (a genre created by the cat sitting on the lyrics.) The subject matter was equally bold. One song ‘I Will Never Leave You’ was about a father returning home from war while another ‘Thought She Loved Me’ was an angsty break-up ballad including the immortal lines ‘I loved you (x4). All of this from someone who’s only kiss so far had been their greatest hits. I just figured that’s what songs had to be about, like an emotional version of playing dress-ups.
While my production values were primitive, I still strived to improve my sound. In 1996 I experimented by moving my studio into the bathroom as I liked the acoustics better. The odd feeling of sitting on the toilet with the seat down kept me alert, and I informed Mum if she was going to knock on the door then it had to be in 4/4 time. In Grade Ten, when my peers were playing NBA Jam and making prank calls, I was singing about existentialism. “Time moves so fast, you forget who you are.” I was a wise old sage with a bowl cut and a Kuta Lines polar fleece.
I never suffered too much anxiety when it came to listening back to the recordings. I’d always been fine with hearing my own voice, and felt safe hanging out inside my own sonic cubbyhouse. Playing them for my family was a different matter. Add a human to the mix and the songs became instantly embarrassing. I’d press play on the stereo before running outside and hiding under the trampoline. Listening to the tapes recently, I could have sworn they were done on high speed dubbing, but no, my voice really was that high. At that stage the only balls dropping were the ones hit to me at cricket.
I look back on those days with fondness, when music was an activity that I did for the sheer joy it gave me. There was no business side to consider, or performance schedule to maintain. There was no chance to overthink or overcook the recordings. The songs rolled off the guitar already finished, all I had to do was catch the butterfly in the net. It’s good to have that texta drawn blueprint for simplicity, reminding me of the power of unaccompanied guitar and voice, and the days when I’d sit watching the tape wheels go round and round, fantasising about my own time in the sun.