Category: music

empty the bjm

December 16th, 2013 — 11:48am

After the Herculean task that is preparing for and sitting an Ancient Greek exam, my normal life seems easy and plain. But I am at last able to turn to other interests, things like tumblr, pieces of silver, marshmallows, and Brian Jonestown Massacre.


Lately, whenever I try to introduce the Brian Jonestown Massacre to my friends I am usually greeted by a slightly underwhelmed silence. But this only reduces the estimation I hold for my friends, it does not affect my love of the bjm. Who are they? ‘Just a 90’s garage group’ with drug problems that raided the back catalogues of their parent’s generation without inhibition? Yes. But there is an interesting social phenomenon at work with bjm, the underdog coming out on top against the industry megacorps, with a mixed multitude of home brewed albums, a shot of moonshine to wash away the fake glitter of establishment music. An undercurrent, that copy and pasted every genre including itself, a rag tag shermozzle of drone pop, self destroying but somehow surviving against the odds. A success story, a chance survivor of lady lucks’ play.

Anton Newcombe himself an ironic prophet, wearing his history on his sleeve, an exile to Europe and its cultural medicine, a truth seeker. He has embraced the internet and posts early mixes of his stuff on youtube – a two way communion with the audience continuing, it is direct, it is revolutionary.

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Hashemoto Interview

February 28th, 2011 — 8:07am

Originally published in BMA

Connoisseurs of the Canberra music scene will have at some point found themselves grooved by the intimate and experimental folk triptet Hashemoto, or may have got to know them in their previous incarnation Trouser Trouser. The core of that outfit Damo Flanagan (guitar) and Potsy Webber (double bass) have in recent years combined their talents with those of Melbourne trained classical pianist and composer Alan Lee to create an exotic harmony of folk songwriting and classical traditions. I met up with Damo and Potsy under a cloudy moonlit sky for beers and discussion on the origins and direction of the band, on the virtues of live performance and the music scene that they have been part of in some way since the nineties.

“We called the band Hashemoto because Trouser Trouser had worn a bit thin, so to speak. That name had us pigeon-holed as a funny band. Hashemoto was the name of a Japanese Prime Minister – we thought it was the cool guy with the big hair – actually it was another Prime Minister without big hair, he had really short hair. But we liked the word Hashemoto. It doesn’t really mean anything or reference anything.”

The band’s line up has been tweaked several times since inception sometime around 2003. “Our experience as Hashemoto has been accidental and different to Trouser Trouser. We are playing a lot of small gigs, at lots of different venues. Sometimes there might be only ten people. We play house gigs, backyard gigs..” Potsy is wearing a hairy brown jacket and sucking on a schooner “.. the local scene is so exciting at the moment. Because there are no venues … the Canberra Musicians Club is doing bachanalia (monthly gigs in private backyards) and there are all these house gigs. Its a really trusting arrangement. It could only happen in a city this size… where you can drive everywhere. It will have changed again in a few years.. don’t miss out on it while it’s happening.”

Hashemoto recently contributed live music to the Min Mae production of ‘Still Standing’, at the Street Theatre and in September they played at an album launch of another Canberra act, Julia and the Deep Sea Sirens. A spontaneous gig at the ruined Yale-Columbia Refractor on Mt Stromlo was nearly scuppered when observatory staff found out about it. “Someone made a facebook page for the event and word began to get round when suddenly we found that the people at Stromlo weren’t that happy about it… but we managed to make some calls and smoothed things over.” Fans assembled in this odd concrete astronomical relic were treated to unique acoustic performance complete with trolleyed-in piano and sunset over the Brindabellas.

So are there plans for an album? “People sometimes come up to us after a gig asking if we have a CD and we have to turn them away, saying we’re just a live band. But we recently booked a room in the School of Music and Duncan Lowe from Infidel Studios, who is a brilliant, internationally renowned engineer, came in and set up a mobile 16 track studio. We got together a small audience from the mailing list and over about three hours, we just played through everything we had. But it was six weeks before I listened to it.” says Damo. Making some kind of recording available to fans one day is grudgingly entertained, if only to attract more people to their live performances, but it will take these two musicians to agree on whether screen printing on an album cover is the way to go first.

For all the candlelit intimacy of their performances, there remains a tension at the heart of the music of Hashemoto. A tug of war somewhere between the discipline of tight harmonies and the spartan under-amplified sound. Damo says “there is nowhere to hide, either the harmonies work or they don’t – you can’t disappear behind a wall of sound”. It is as if the funky-folk-pop ghosts of trouser trouser are tremulously assaulting a tower of classical song, Alan Lee’s piano strewing a torrent of machinated Rachmaninoff and Debussy upon an unfamiliar enemy landscape. The lyrics play with visual dreamlike images, and like the live medium in which it exists, this music has a renegade quality, escaping capture.

“There is a deal with the audience. Sure, there is the odd person who talks. But someone will ask them to shoosh up.” Potsy recollects “I remember the time when we discovered the thing. It was a rock and roll night. But we unplugged and just sat on the piano with the guitar and the double bass. And the whole pub went quiet. If that happens you know your melodies work. Because you can’t keep 100 people quiet in a pub… you couldn’t do it if you went there with that aim… unless it was Anzac day or something. That was one of the most amazing moments of my life.”

(This image of Hashemoto is plucked from the web blog of alan david lee, i hope he doesn’t mind if i plug him and his band )

Hashemoto are playing at the National Folk Festival April 21-25 2011

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Tame Impala / Cabins / Felicity Groom @ ANU Bar, Sat Oct 9 2010

October 10th, 2010 — 8:09am

Originally Published in BMA

Tame Impala swept a Canberra crowd with psychedelic viscera on Saturday October 9, as part of their current Australian tour in support of their first full album, Innerspeaker, released in May this year. Having recently completed a significant European tour, the band is riding a wave of complimentary reviews, many of which advise fans to ‘take their dads’ to hear the apparently John Lennon-esque vocals of lead singer Kevin Parker, or to nostalgia surf on Cream/Hendrix like layers of wet and chunky out-of-phase fuzzy goodness. This feat is made the more remarkable by the fact that the band was firmly beyond the womb when said acts were on the stage, rocking their mums or dads (or grandads).


The crowd at the ANU Bar on this night were firmly of the current generation, to be fair. Recent touring seemed to have worn down the batteries of the band; renditions of It Is Not Meant To Be and Solitude Is Bliss were far too soporific even for the dreamy genre to be entirely to blame. But the boys began to find their groove with an infectious, driving and loud take of Lucidity – probably the strongest track from their new album. It is a compliment to the band’s virtuosity that it can convincingly recreate the complex textures and nuanced sounds of their new album on stage.

Innerspeaker is the lovechild of indulgent studio tweaking and experimentation by the band, who locked themselves away in a remote mansion south of Perth for seven weeks to develop the project last year. Kevin has described it as “a modest album with modest songs” but fans have revelled in its luxurious decayed guitar riffs and poignant nods to early influences. The band’s retro sound and home studio origin have sometimes led to comparisons with contemporary lo-fi outfits, but Tame Impala are responsible for some of the most lush and organic music gracing the Australian airwaves in recent years. And for what is essentially a traditional four-piece band, their onstage presence is hard to match, after the layers of reverb and echo begin to stack up.

After Lucidity, the band returned to older material, which has seen significant reworking since the Sundowner Syndrome tour of 2009. Desire Be, Desire Go is played twice – once containing a lengthy interlude that references obscure early Pink Floyd’s Atom Heart Mother, the second rendition as a short almost punky segment that is segued into Skeleton Tiger. The band’s well known cover of the 1980s Blueboy remix Remember Me revealingly gets the most enthusiasm of the night from an audience that seems more interested in dance songs than in exploring the aural soundscapes in a blissed out swoon, like its ‘68 era LSD soaked prototype. But this is the price of popularity. Finishing the night with their superb Glass Half Full of Wine the band gets a roar from the crowd, but ultimately there is a lack of frisson, which becomes palpable with no chance of an encore being granted due to a soggy endgame of half-hearted applause and confused whistling. The sound desk has to look at how it is mixing this venue as a massive midrange and loss of detail was punishing this music at different points during the night.

Tame Impala are already talking about releasing their next album, whilst continuing to tour almost constantly, and judging by the ease with which they are creating great music (and amassing kudos), they are going be a hot act to follow for some time.

Support act Felicity Groom and The Black Black Smoke made an impression earlier in the evening; the eponymous Ms Groom sporting an awesome elastic voicebox and an electric zither – occasionally both at the same time. If you’ve never heard an electric zither, go find Felicity right now, and get her to stick one in your ear.

tame impala buying an impala guitar

Tame impala, appropriately, buying an Hagstrom Impala guitar at Chicago Music Exchange (image courtesy of) These guys are all about the gear!

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Damien Rice – The Borderline, London W1, 9th&10th September 2002

September 10th, 2002 — 4:58am

Originally Published in SX Magazine, September 2002

Damien Rice took to the stage in fine form last tuesday night to an audience of loyal fans who had come from far and wide to hear his subtle blend of Irish folk/rock and turtle juice, touched with deeply textured thoughtful guitarwork and maidens singing. The transition from almost silent harmonies of lyric and cello, marked by the quivering of candle flames on stage, to electro fuzz and noise, far too big for this modest sized venue, was carried out time and again to greater and greater effect. Looking like a mischievous leprechaun, with tight curly hair and bright blue-green eyes, Damien established a close intimacy with his listeners that couldn’t be broken. And he was well matched by his singer Lisa Hannegan, whose vocal chords lilt effortlessly high like a dancing seagull. The Cellists notes weaved their way through each song like a dark thread, drawing the diversity of sounds together. Even the drummer was able to adlib a drum solo during a short break using only his lips. It was like crashing into a secret gathering of folk alphabetti.

For a someone who still has the freshness of a new performer about him, Damiens songs are amazingly tight. And they climb from one sound to the next without becoming repeditive or over-worked. His debut album ‘O’ released 6 weeks ago in the UK has just gone Platinum in Ireland and he has a growing following here too. Catch him when he plays support for Kathryn Williams this October in the Old Vic.

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Stonefruit gone bad – the moldy peaches – The Garage, London, 22nd August

August 22nd, 2002 — 5:00am

Originally published in SX Magazine, August 2002

They came from the bottom of the fruit bowl and taught us how to be bad and cooky. Perhaps they ate their parents. Who knows how exactly it was that these theatrical satanist misfits came to be over here, but it was largely the work of Ryan Gentles, who is manager for the Strokes. He assembled this motley assortment of New York musicians and taught them to smile while singing strange warped sesame street-jingles with lines like ‘who’d mistake the steak for chicken, who’m I gonna stick my dick in?’. What else can we drag out of the schoolyard.

It works because on stage these guys are so relaxed. They can have a giggle at the silliness of their own lyrics and pose for photographs and with six performers they fill the stage and can even afford to wander on and off a bit, returning occasionally to add a neccessary lyric. The guitarist in the walrus costume (well it looked like it was a walrus) must have regretted his choice in the heat of the stage. But for such an ecclectic mix of performers, who all show their individuality in their style of playing and odd costumes, they fit snugly together and create a sound which is exciting and full of moments when a lot of different musical genres seem to be being touched on at once. With a sound as colourful as their wigs, they set a fast pace, they’ve got lyrics you can laugh at and they can come up with a new idea. Like playing recorder and adding feedback. Yes, these guys are probably on to something.

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