My Original Music
I’ve been playing, writing and recording music for a very long time and over the years you accumulate tracks that you think were always good… and of course stuff that never quite seems to achieve what you were after. Also, as time passes you get new gear, new software – and hopefully new skills as well and it’s kind of fun to apply these to old projects just to see what can be done with the latest technology and equipment. Here’s a selection of songs I reckon are worth “putting out there” and I’ve included notes that explain some of the background – which I hope you’ll find interesting.
My greatest passion is for progressive rock and complex rock. I love bands like Toto, Porcupine Tree, Neal Morse… most of these songs aren’t quite that heavy, but you’ll hear the influence.
All the drums are programmed by me using Native Instruments’ “Studio Drummer” samples except occasionally I use NI’s Battery 3. The guitars are all me, real and played in real time. Keyboards and synths are a mix of real-time playing and programming – mostly the latter. I can’t really play piano at all. My programming software of choice these days is Presonus Studio One, but I also like to mix down in Sonar X3. Lately, I’ve gotten rid of a lot of third-party plug-ins so I can concentrate and learn using the DAW tools I have, which are more than good enough.
Just click on the song titles and most, if not all, browsers will play the track in some kind of media player, although note it may happen in a different page and you’ll have to hit the “Back” button to return here.
BY THE WAY (ACOUSTIC VERSION)
This is starting off backwards (kind of), because the original version of By The Way is the next track, which was first heard in a three-piece, original rock band I was in called “Quick Or The Dead” with myself on bass, Tony (Lodge) Kliszewski on guitar and Bill Butler on drums. I created this acoustic version for my And In The Morning (my WW1 novel) soundtrack and, as always, I couldn’t keep it simply acoustic. I rewrote the lyrics to suit the AITM narrative, too.
BY THE WAY (ROCK VERSION)
This is a modern rendition of the original version Quick Or The Dead played. The original lyrics too, which were supposed to reflect the apathy of modern Australian society towards the real reasons behind public holidays and the way people just take a day off without caring about what’s supposed to be celebrated. This isn’t quite so true these days, especially the reverence held for Anzac Day now, but at the time it made sense.
LOST AND ALONE
The awesome thing about this song has little to do with me – it’s the girl who sang it for me, Ellen Dixon. Just for fun I asked Ellen if she’d like to try singing some of my songs and she rolled up one afternoon tired from a late-night party, hungover and gasping for a cigarette. We found Ellen a cigarette, a glass of red wine and stuck the microphone in front of her – and this was the result. Brilliant.
In Wasted Life you’ll hear those prog’ rock aspirations really coming out. Aside from the Studio Drummer programming, I found an “industrial kit” in Battery 3 for all the factory sounds. It’s the kind of song that, as a musician and a sound engineer, you can remix over and over again and never be happy with the result, but I like this effort.
Who knows where this song came from? I started writing it, liked the idea, finished the tunes and the lyrics and discovered that I’d written… a country rock song! That’s like a WTF??? moment for me. But it works well. James Davies is playing the harp (harmonica) and doubtless we’d had quite a few beers during the recording process.
I’ll be adding more songs as I go. To be honest, I’m hoping to start posting new material rather than revisit the old like I have here. If you’d like to say anything about my music or ask questions, there’s the Comments section below or you can drop me a line at email@example.com Enjoy!
THE DEVIL’S NET
This is another attempt at a “soundtrack” tune to accompany one of my Horror Story books, called The Devil’s Net. As I’ve done in other tracks my main ambition here was to create this huge, layered progressive rock sounding tune and have fun trying to make it all mix together. So I make no excuses for the over-production. That’s the idea and half the fun for me. Too much? Let me know what you think.
BUY YOUR VOTE.
Here’s a song where the tune came first, then I had to figure out some lyrics! Donald Trump came to the rescue, appearing on the telly and like most politicians making promises he’ll never keep. If there was any doubt I’m heavily influenced by progressive rock and weird timing signatures, this song should dispel that! Interesting, I originally worked on this song in a Protools rig courtesy of the Boilroom Studio in Manjimup, when I came to work on it further in my own studio the timing between the two DAWs was just too blurred and drove me nuts. So just about everything was re-recorded into my Studio One DAW. Finally, for fun, mastered in Sonar 3 – ‘cos I love some of those Sonar plug-ins!
CRAZY KIND OF PLACE
A drum sampler I use, called “Addictive Drums”, comes with a bunch of preset programming and I decided it’d be an interesting exercise to write a song around one of these. Then I stumbled across the simple E chord/D Chord intro (funny how the simplest things can get you started) and came up with “Crazy Kind Of Place”. Only the basic groove came from the presets, the rest like the fills, breaks and so on I had to program myself. It’s another commercial kind of song really. But I like it.
THE HANGMAN’S GHOST
This is another song that’s a “theme” or “soundtrack”, if you like, to one of my horror novels, The Hangman’s Ghost. There’s also an audiobook, but because audiobooks tend to be mono and low resolution (spoken word doesn’t need to be high quality) I can’t include the song actually as part of the book. You can find links to both here. So the lyrics refer to a hangman having a conversation with a condemned prisoner, who is pleading for his life.
I wrote the music first – then discovered I couldn’t sing the initial lyrics to that key/chord structure, and I did a major rewrite into a key I could warble. It’s a typical (for me) prog’ rock epic of layered guitar tracks, and I suspect it’ll need revisiting to remix and master – but that’s half the fun for me, glueing all the various components together. I play or program everything here except for lead solo at the end, courtesy of Harry Peak (Mike Scott) who also sneaks in some ebow guitar in the middle.
SO FAR AWAY
Over the last year or so I’ve been corroborating with my very long and close friend, Avon Kilcullen, who for many years was the guitarist/vocalist in our infamous rock band “17 Sheep in a Box” (I played bass and did most vocals). We’ve been working to bring back to life some of our old “Sheep” (as we were known) songs with the idea of releasing them posterity to streaming services, and this is a reincarnation of what I remember as the first original song we wrote. I’ve had to program the drums, because while it would be absolutely brilliant to bring Tony “Bones” Frey into the process for his drumming and vocals, the logistics of recording Tony’s talents now are too difficult, but who knows in the future…? So I’ve tried hard to recreate Tony’s feel and driving grooves. There’s a middle eight section that I recall took forever to explain to Tony and Avon, mainly because I could only “hear” it without having any idea how it actually worked on a musical level. And of course, after many years and the evolution of all our music, this isn’t quite what we used to smash out in the beer garden of the Oriental Hotel on a Sunday afternoon. But the core is still there. Avon’s laid-back solo is a cool innovation!
DOWN THE HOLE
With all my novel writing and such, plus working in theatre, and I had this idea of writing a musical based on Lewis Carrol’s “Alice in Wonderland”. In retrospect, every man and his dog after a few beers decides to write something based on “Alice”, but it didn’t occur to me at the time. This song went through several versions and even bands, but this is in many ways the closest to how The Sheep (see above) used to play it live – with one important difference. It always needed a female vocal, not mine, and I finally got the chance to put it in front of the fantastic Moira McRae who recorded these vocals at home, no doubt with a new baby on her hip! The end result is beyond anything I imagined. Moira is an awesome talent. Who cares about our song-writing, have a listen to what Moira’s produced pretty much in a bedroom through a laptop computer. She’s a genius.
Again, I’ve tried to recreate Tony’s drumming. It doesn’t quite match those crazy days of drinking shots of Kahlua before every gig to “warm up” and nailing Tony’s drumkit to the stage, but I’ve tried.