Sunday, June 13, 2010

Don Bartley, Thai Donuts and Tape....Glorious Tape.

Last weekend I flew up to Sydney to have my CD, Ghost Songs, Mastered by Don Bartley ( The Yoda of Mastering ). Don has worked with some amazing artists over the last 30 years including David Bowie, Sigur Ros, Inxs, Midnight Oil and countless other legends.
The mastering session was definitely one of the best musical and emotional experiences of my bizarre little life. Don did an incredible job. Not only did he understand what I was trying to say, he helped me say "it" so much better through his approach to the mastering process. He also is one of the nicest people you could ever meet.

Here's a little photo/film journal of the mastering experience.

10:00 am - I meet my buddy Dave and his daughter at Chat Thai in the city on Campbell st. On Dave's recommendation, I stock up on two massive bags of Thai donuts and head over to 301- Benchmark Mastering. The donuts are out of control. Thanks for tip Dave.

10:35 am - Typically over caffeinated, steaming donuts in hand and 5 minutes late, I fumble my way into the studio's foyer. I meet Don and nervously blurt out "I brought the donuts Don, sorry I'm late!" Don grins and immediately I like him. We get to work straight away.

10:40 am - I start jamming donuts into my face. We talk about the music and have a listen to some of the Ghost Song tracks.

10:50 am - Don suggests that the CD would sound great if it was run through tape. Running the recording through tape can only mean one thing- Analogue Brownness Baby!
I became really excited because I wasn't expecting this suggestion. Stuttering and stammering I managed, "C-COOL! Y-Y-YEAH, L-LET'S DO IT"

So Don started working his magic...

Here is some footage of the studio with the tunes tracking to tape.

17:00 pm - My stomach is bulging full of donuts and my ears are on a new spiritual plane. In my hands is the Ghost Songs Master. I couldn't be happier.

This is Don. Thanks Buddy. I am eternally grateful.

Now it's time to print up the CD!
More soon. Stay tuned...

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Jesus Mixed My Hotrod.

Ghost Songs is mixed. Thank Christ, or should I say... thank King Charlie. By looking at the above photo, and hearing the mix, I'll let you all decide who mixed the CD. Divine intervention? or one of the most magnificent ears and proponents of dub in Australia?

Damian Charles AKA King Charlie is the brains behind the Australian dub band, The Red Eyes. I was lucky to schnavel the Wolverine/Evil dub genius at the end of his psychotic mixing schedule of the new Red Eyes album. The final mix of Ghost Songs is beautiful, and I am really excited, because he immediately understood what I was saying and brought his unique sensitivity and creativity to the mix.

Thanks Damo.

Ghost songs is getting close the release. Thanks everyone for the support.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Green Drop, Davarj and Flying Pigs.

It’s 1997 and I am 20 years old. It’s Friday night and I’m at the Gollan Hotel in Lismore. The scent of lavender, beer, sweat, cigarettes and unwashed uni-students is suffocating. The onset of another claustrophobia attack is close and I can feel the hairs rise on the back of my neck. My heart is starting to race as the walls start to bow in on me. The Gollan is packed, and I can hardly breathe. The sweaty steam of 250 people has condensed on the ceiling, and is now dripping on us in time with the chest compressing, pounding, bass guitars roaring from the stage.

The stage in the Gollan is tiny. A drum kit is jammed between two, seven-foot tall bass amps. But somehow, tonight, the stage feels massive. Marrow penetrating bass-frequencies wobble through us, and I can barely stand. On stage, one of the bass players, a lanky, tattooed guy, is pounding out the most incredible rhythms. My head is spinning and I am losing my breath as I battle though the claustrophobia attack. I can’t leave, because I’ve never heard bass playing like this. His timing has a raw, primal, tribal, feeling. I wish I could play with this guy. I want to experience what it’s like to play with that animalistic sound. But I’m guessing the day I play with him, pigs might fly too.

The band is that is playing is called Preshrunk, and the bass-playing beast, driving the steam-roller groove is known as Davarj.

Preshrunk were an Australian band that had two bass guitarists and a drummer. They toured relentlessly throughout Australia and internationally and released a few Eps and some albums. They had a significant cult following and finished up in 2004.

It’s a Saturday, early 2005. Tali and I are hanging out on St Kilda pier. Our friend John calls and says that Davarj is looking for a guitarist for a gig on Sunday and do I want to do the gig? I’m trying to remain cool, but I end up screaming psychotically down the phone, professing my love to John for helping to launch those flying pigs into orbit. It’s been eight years since I heard Davarj play, and now I get to do a gig with him. I couldn’t believe my luck.

It’s 4pm the next Sunday. I unload the car. My amp weighs almost 40 kilos. Stumbling under its weight, I enter a lifeless, tacky corporate bar, somewhere in South Melbourne. There are a few bored patrons waiting for the band to start. I’m nervous. I’m about to play with one of my heroes. Davarj is really welcoming and cool, but some of the other guys aren’t as nice. They have a look in their eyes that says, “Who is this guitar playing chump? This guy’s a no-one! Never heard him, never seen him. And what’s with those chunky legs?”

Time to play. We start. The band plays some of the worst music I have ever heard. Harsh looks and stares are flicked and shot between members of the band. I’ve walked into a group that needed some serious counselling. Davarj is different. He is magnificently avoiding the onstage tension. Like a seasoned pro, he gracefully grins and bears the painful music.

We finish the gig, I pack up quickly and my celestial pigs have crash-landed to earth. They are bruised and bleeding. The guys in the band have split into two groups and are bitching about each other. I decide to get out of there quick before they start tearing each other’s arms off. I slip quietly back to my car, hoping to make a clean getaway. Davarj catches up to me and says,

“Lewi, I’m really sorry about what just happened back there. The band is about to break up and the drummer and I are starting a new band and we were wondering if you want to be in it. It’s nothing too serious. It’s a house jam band for the Lounge, Revolver and some other things.”

And this is how I ended up in a band with Davarj.

We played twice a week around Melbourne for about 3 years between 2005 and 2008. Most of the time it was Wednesdays and Sundays at The Lounge on Swanston St. Occasionally it was at Revolver or at a few festivals. It was some of the best fun times I’ve had in a band and I learnt a lot. I did get to experience playing with the ferocious groove Davarj creates. It was amazing. He became a friend, a mentor of groove, and guaranteed party buddy.

The song “Green Drop” is dedicated to him. It features the incredible double bass player Tamara Murphy. The song was featured on a Triple J unearthed podcast and will be on my upcoming release, Ghost Songs.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Kitchen Sinks, Law Degrees, Guitars and Samples from the Pencil case

In 1999, during a spontaneous road trip to Sydney with my friend Dave Hibbard, I decided to move to Melbourne to become a musician. The decision was made on a stretch of road in NSW, between Lismore and Grafton.

After three years of studying music, I had finished my degree and I was floundering in a half-hearted attempt to do the sensible thing and study law. (Whatever possessed me to think that studying law was a good idea is beyond me.)

Life had become pure drudgery. The amount of reading time required for law was demanding. There was no time for music and I barely touched the guitar for a few months. My hands felt lifeless from not playing guitar, as if atrophy had started to set in. I was living a life that had no creative input or output, and my mind felt like Dave’s 83 Subaru crunching through it’s rusting gears, as we bumped along the pacific hwy.

I first met Dave Hibbard at University in 1996. Originally from Tamworth, he was studying drums, and he was already playing like a pro. We ended up becoming friends, playing together a lot around town, and having a great time. I learnt a lot about music from Dave.

The stretch of road between Lismore and Grafton is 130 kms long. It has the beautiful, melancholy feel of a flat, dry, Australian rural country landscape. As you near Grafton, when the purple Jacarandas are in bloom, they introduce the most incredible colour to the landscape, I’ve tried to capture this feeling in the song Lismore to Grafton, which you can listen to on myspace.

I recorded the song in my studio in Melbourne and sampled lots of stationery (pens, pencils, staplers, etc).

The stationery and kitchen sink form the rhythm track and symbolise the insular loop of home and study that I found myself in at the time.

The hopefulness in the last part of the song represents the Jacarandas, which are a broader metaphor for future I was driving into.

Dave and I left for Sydney in his Subaru 83 wagon. He bought the car from the high yield dividends of his first investment- three dollars in a poker machine.

Dave apologised, “Sorry Lewi, the radio’s busted and we have no music for the trip, so we are just going to have to sing all the way to Sydney.”

For the next 10 hours, we sang the back catalogues of Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix and James Brown.

Between screaming, “ ’Scuse me, while I kiss the sky!” and “I don’t know Karate but I Know KA-RA-ZY”

Dave grumbled, “Man, why aren’t you playing music? There are plenty of lawyers out there, just move to Sydney, you’ll be okay, you’ll be able to survive as a musician, it just might take you a while. You just gotta have confidence. Get out of Lismore Lewi.”

So I left Lismore, and instead of moving to Sydney, I ended up in Melbourne. This move is one of the best decisions of my life, and the song Lismore to Grafton is a way of saying thanks to Dave.

Dave Hibbard has played with some of Australia’s top acts including Jimmy and Mahalia Barnes, The Whitlams, Wendy Matthews and currently The Bad Loves. Recently he has started an awareness campaign called Sunflowers for Suu, which aims at bringing attention to the plight of Aung San Suu Kyi in Burma.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Sound Safari in Vietnam

A few years ago, on a trip to Vietnam, I persuaded a cyclo driver to help me find a place to buy traditional Vietnamese instruments.

Tal and I squeezed into the cyclos and our drivers launched us into the swarm of motorbikes that fill the streets of Ho Chi Minh City. We had entered a hurricane of metal and flesh that chaotically swirled and swerved, spitting out black exhaust fumes that stung our throats and burnt our nostrils. I loved it. After colliding with a motorbike, and losing a bit of skin off my knee, we ended up on a quiet street near the outskirts of the city. The street was a crooked row of small garage style workshops selling handmade musical instruments. Sawdust, sewage, sweat and incense punctuated the thick, docile air.

Outside one of these workshops, a young Vietnamese man greeted us. He was covered in a thin film of fine sandy coloured saw dust. With a cheeky grin, he proceeded to tell us all about the instruments in Vietnamese. He knew we didn’t understand, but kept explaining anyway. He took an instrument down from the wall. It was a Dan Tranh, which in some ways looks like a lapsteel guitar crossed with a harp. I remember breaking out in a cold sweat. I was so excited, my nerdy little brain was already thinking of all the different guitar effects I could run this alien instrument through.

I am not sure how the Dan Tranh survived the rest of our trip, as it is a pretty fragile instrument.

One incident comes to mind. We were in Hoi An, it had been raining for days and the stone streets were slippery.

Tal and I were on a small motorbike, which was being driven by a young sociopathic tour operator.

Sitting on the back of the bike with my backpack, Dan Tranh in one arm and guitar in the other, I was holding on for dear life with my previously mentioned Irish potato farming legs. Somehow, we survived the wobbling and sliding through the back streets at psychotic speeds, and I managed to bring the Dan Tranh home in one piece.

I’ve used the Dan Tranh on one of the tracks from my upcoming album Ghost Songs.

The song is called Dalat and you can listen to it on my myspace.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Tight White Short Shorts

Spacecadet Lullabies - Spacecadet Lullabies - Secret Angel Song

Back in 2002/2003, I recorded my first self-titled CD "Spacecadet Lullabies". My friend Tim Webb recorded the album in his studio on the North Coast of New South Wales.

Looking back, the CD was like a time capsule. I had studied music at University, and I realised that for many years prior to the recording, I really didn’t have much to say as an artist. I was too busy thinking about the mechanics of music and missing the whole point of why I picked up an instrument in the first place. After finishing University and spending a few years floating around and playing guitar in a few bands, I began to experience the world a little more and actually living a life. I remembered why I love music and I felt like I had something to say as an artist.

I decided to record a CD and just play the music I heard in my head. Limited by time, budget and a basic understanding how to make all this happen, I had to find a job to pay for the recording, and jump in the deep end.

Somehow, I ended up working as a pool-side waiter in a Gold Coast resort. The uniform consisted of a white polo shirt and the tiniest white short shorts that would look incredible on Beyonce, but horrific on a little man who has inherited the thigh genes of his rotund Irish grandmother. I didn’t feel good, and those nasty little shorts were a warning sign, that maybe I should really stop messing around and start creating music ASAP.

I saved up the money, recorded Spacecadet Lullabies, printed up 200 copies and then thought. Okay…um what now?

I sent about 20 discs out into the media world. Not expecting any response, radio play or pats on the back I resigned myself to the idea that I would have to spend the next 40 years working in call centres hoping that David Bowie’s phone number would appear on my call list, we’d get talking and he’d say “Why yes! I am interested in renewing my subscription to the Age newspaper, by the way Matt, do you know of any young guitarists looking to do a world tour in my band?”

A few months later, Jasper Lee, at the now defunct oz music project, reviewed the CD.

Over the last year we've seen quite a few sparse instrumental indie bands come through the ranks, with bands like International Karate, Ukiyo-E, Seaworthy and any of the Dirty Three solo projects. Springing to mind. Matt Lewin is another of these, and his seven track LP fits very well into the title "Spacecadet Lullabies". Relying on a twin guitar setup and spaced-out interludes, Lewin's work is subtle; drawing the listener in subconsciously. Some elements of this release seem to be a sparser rendition of Air's composition of the "The Virgin Suicides" soundtrack, most notably in the title track. What is also noticeable is the lack of indulgence used throughout the LP, with each track limiting themselves below the five-minute mark: giving Lewin enough room to manoeuvre his sounds in slight tangents to keep the listener inspired.

”Spacecadet Lullabies" is a delicate yet involving listen. One would be quite happy with this gorgeous release.

When I read Jasper’s review, I lost my mind. I couldn’t believe that anyone would say anything about my music. Very slowly, lots of nice people started saying nice things about the CD. By then, I had slipped back into the world of playing in lots of bands and trying to survive. But this time I realised that I wanted my own recording gear and I needed to understand more about my artistic vision, the recording process, the business side of things and how the hell did I fit into those ridiculous white pants?

I bought a basic recording set up, and started writing and producing my next album called “Ghost Songs.” The music is so different to my first album, as I was seeing the world and hearing music in a totally different way. Each song is a soundtrack for a different friend.

For me, the way a musician communicates is not a quantifiable thing, it is an emotional visceral experience. The music I listen to has to be fearless in it’s creation and expression. It has to take me on a journey through the world of the artist, point back at my world and ask “What now?”

Next year I am going to release my new CD titled “Ghost Songs”. In the meantime, here's a link to my first CD from 2003 “Spacecadet Lullabies.”


Spacecadet Lullabies - Spacecadet Lullabies - Secret Angel Song