Teddy Bear

The hills are the green-blue they ought to be and it’s my favourite season, Autumn. The drive is beautiful. Greg lives in Christmas Hills, close to the Yarra Glen township. He’s going to be our sound engineer, recommended to us by our manager. The road up to his property is steep and vertiginous, casting a lovely view on the surrounds. His home and studio, two seperate buildings, have a rustic, homely feel, a lot of it built by Greg himself. Greg is tall, mild mannered, and looks like a mix of Daniel Day Lewis and Peter Capaldi. He likes to listen intently, sprinkling his attention with lots of nods and hums as he concurs.
There’s a lot depending on this new EP, titled Teddy Bear. I’m either making the mistake or wise decision of banking big on the whole drumming thing. It’s hard, requires some dumb luck, but I think it’s possible. When we start tracking I have trouble on the first track, ‘Save Yourself’. I’ve practiced these songs to death, both with Olivia and on my own, but I’m rushing the triple kick strokes at 100bpm—not good enough. I manage to calm my giddy right calf after a few takes and get it done. We lose half the day trying to sort out backing tracks and Logic projects so we only have time for one more song, ‘Wake Up’. I do three good takes and I’m finished, the last of them being the best. It’s my favourite song, over seven minutes long and, not to boast but I am rather proud, I designed it’s finally-decided-on structure. At the end of the day Greg shows me some rough EQs and plugins on the drums and they’re sounding good already.
I drive up with Liv a day later for the next three tracks. ‘Broken’ doesn’t give me much trouble, neither does ‘Distance’, all of them done in a few takes with a couple of small parts redone for clarity. We swap out my Spaun 14×6.5″ steel snare for a Ludwig Black Beauty for the last track, ‘Where I’d Rather Be’ (I prefer it’s original name along with all its warm and friendly associations, ‘Beach House’). At a lower tuning it has a fatter sound that fits the vibe. With Liv working on the guitars and synth at home and with drums finished, vocals are next.
We’re playing our next show on July 1st as a kind of retrospective launch for our First EP. We have to admit, ‘Finally’ still sounds good to our ears and to lesser extent ‘Flare’ too (I still love the long outro in ‘Funky’, but the rest of the song feels a little careless). That said, we’re over it. Anyone in attendance will hear the earlier material but also the new stuff, still being mixed as I write. I like the idea of Liv not even mentioning that a song about to be played will appear on the next EP, that she might only say ‘this is new’ before we step off and into the water that the music often feels like.
Liv knocks the vocals out in one day, despite the big room we recorded in being too cold that day for comfort. Greg takes some footage of Liv singing. He did the same for me when I tracked the drums. We might put something together one day, using this footage and much more. I like the idea of many different clips playing in small cuts, all mixed up: Liv and I playing, hanging out, laughing, our friends, the sky, the woods, the clouds, night lights, parties. Moments and times, glimpses and flashes, of where you’d rather be.

Drums

I’m in my 25th year and I haven’t much to show for myself. Thus the hopes pinned to this endeavour—will I finally be proud of something? I guess the odds are that I’ll feel as I do now when our investments and strains are met with a vacuum—deflated and blue. I keep thinking that I’m the only sane one around, that for anyone else to think that anything less than all of my energy and time being dedicated to the thing I love is childish or ill-wrought are those merely despondent and forlorn in their own long-ago-abandoned ideal; that anyone closer who doubts me can only see time enough to only flirt with the ideal. Where are my fellow martyrs to the cause? Maybe that’s the problem. Perhaps I am too keen. I suppose the odds are that I’ll be one more leaf floating down the draft without anything much happening at all along the way. What are the odds? Where is my Numbers Man? Punch in the data, give me an answer and I’ll act accordingly—wouldn’t I?

Cracks in the glass from fires sweeping past the studio some years ago

I sometimes wonder if drums on their own can produce narrative. If, on their own, they can deliver real emotional cues in some order. I think it’s possible. Drums are what you first hear when the Fellowship realises Pippin’s mistake, signalling the coming forth of some grisly menace from the depths. Drums are what you first hear in Whiplash, twisting and snapping in a solitary space—loneliness. There is something in particular rhythms, along with their architecture—their tones, echoes, pitches— that denote emotion, perhaps because it echoes the natural rhythms of our world. I can think of the first there ever has been—your heart: Ka-thump, ka-thump, ka-thump; da-dum, da-dum, da-dum. There’s more. The sound in your step as you descend the stair, the rumbling of engines on the highway. And does not the feel of jazz resemble the flutter of speech, the feel of ambient deep thinking? Are there not rhythms that feel like actual thoughts, following the same internal highs and lows, crescendos, accents.  The crash of the cymbals sounds like waves breaking and bass drum is always the heart.
I think it’s possible. I’d like to try.

~

I’m obsessed with greatness—what it takes, what it is, who it is. If it is anything, it must be pure and utter devotion. There is time only for that one thing, that one pursuit or craft that you’ve chosen, or whatever has seemingly chosen you. It must also be terrible. Nature calls to the senses scenes so huge, so overwhelming and awe-inspiring that it is, and cannot otherwise be without, terror. The twisting storms, the fire, the tallest mountains, the smashing of stars, the distance between worlds, the majesty of the sky. Likewise, greatness.
I hope this doesn’t appear as a measure of conceit. I am only interested, I like thinking about it. Know that I hold my own life in small regard. I’ve done nothing so far. I am, on the kit and elsewhere, painfully average. My Numbers Man: you cannot escape the laws of means and averages, not easily.
Teddy Bear is in the mixing stage right now—a lot of back and forth, lots of waiting. Meanwhile we’re preparing for a show on July 1st. I’ve been worrying intensely about there being just the two of us: are there too many layers in the backing tracks? Will we look like a real band? Will it sound any good? My worries are settled by our manager, who can only use other peoples’ comments as measurement. We sound good, apparently. And it’s not the 90’s anymore, not nearly so many people look down on using backing track material in a live setting. Besides, the drums are on stage, he says. It looks good, sounds dynamic. And at this stage in the band’s life—in our fledgling nature—it’s passable.
It’s with all this in the back of my mind that I operate, doing ordinary things, trying crawl into some corner of progress. Time rolls on and everyone I know is moving forward in some way. Jobs, property, money. I feel often like a child, thinking idly about music, greatness, looking at the clouds from behind the car window, only I’m driving now.

In truth, I feel as if I don’t know what I’m doing, that I don’t know anything at all.

Glorious suburbia

Something changes in the air once Summer passes and Autumn falls. There’s a cool clarity in the way the sun shines through ambers and reds, the pale clouds. Something seems to change enough for my mind to wander about, floating through thoughts and ideas. Dreams. Falling through my hands. Watery.

I wish to take take more walks under pines and oaks. I take kindly to the cool afternoons and cold evenings.

This is Work

I spent last Friday night behind the drum kit and worked on the same section of a song for close to three hours. I was trying to lay it down in the hardwire of my brain, trying to heap cement among the steel. This new song is full of instrumental detail and I’m finicky. My manager (and boss) can hear me on the other side of the wall. He stresses that I get the dynamics right so we can really elicit feeling in an audience. I get all of my practice done at the rehearsal studio these days. The drum room at home is in a state of raw plaster, saw dust, glue, timber and screws. So whilst progress on a soundproofed, room-within-a-room drum room is steady, it is also slow, and I stay late after work on the kit and go over each track.
We recorded our First EP around a year ago. It has a compressed sound and relatively average song structures—we were never that happy with it. It’s finish was delayed unreasonably so and once it was, we were, as writers and players, done with it. It was the first effort, the first meek and mild step into the studio and it was, as first-time adventures go, average. It’s an awkward sounding thing.
I’ve taken to practicing with the lights off with only a lamp illuminating the chrome steel and brass. I have a favourite ambient track I like to play through the PA whilst I warm up and methodically work through my exercises. It’s something without much beat. It has to be consistent, strong in tones but subtle too. For practice is, to me these days, a kind of meditation. That’s what the darkness is about—isolation. Me and drums, the drums and me. My latin grooves are slowly improving, the triple push-pull strokes are gathering speed, my linear and quintuplet patterns are sneaking their way into any freestyle moments that come to me. I’ve read somewhere that drummers are apparently more in tune ‘naturally’ with rhythm, that they can tap into the innate rhythm of the environment and themselves. It sounds empirically dubious but my intuition tells me otherwise—I can feel it, like blood in the veins and light in my eyes.


It is tiresome, going over the same section, the same movement again and again. I get nerves on stage (based on my limited experience) so I want to know every bar, every stroke so that it’s one long muscle memory, so that I don’t have to think, panic stricken, about every section, so that I don’t feel that pukey feeling, so that my hands and neck don’t sweat cold.
We’re hoping to have all the tracking done by the end of April and to have a finished product soon after. We can’t wait. We adore these songs, much more so than we ever did those on the first EP. We feel confident, but who knows? Maybe it’s all shit. Maybe we’ve looked in the mirror long enough and said it enough times for it to be so: ‘This will be great! This will be great!’ We rebound off each other a lot, echoing the sentiment. But we disagree at times, we discuss. We flesh out songs, we deliberate (shall we turn a 2:30 intro into a 7:19 monster track? Yes, of course). This is what gives me some hope—work, difficulties, progress. And I often think how much of a dream it really is to me, as I stand bare foot on the grass in the backyard, how surreal the thought is, to imagine a moment, maybe on a stage somewhere in some distant country, when you might think ‘this is it.’ How much like a dream it would be then to think back to now—ordinary things. How this wishful thinking isn’t setting me up for trouble, I don’t know…
When I take a break and sit in the empty foyer, in a cavernous space with with two vending machines for company, I can sometimes hear the building breathe, groaning and shifting, as if to ask, what are you still doing here? I look around the place, its green walls and exposed brick, the red doors and white floor; I look at the trolleys, the bins, the old stacks and amps, drumkits and sticks; I look into my cheap instant coffee and think, is this the dawn before the day, the way the light looks before it gives it all some shape? Maybe. You’ve got to believe, says my manager. If you don’t believe, if you don’t think something is doable, that you’re not capable, then you will fail. But if you do, if you really think it’s possible, you might just succeed.

I walk back to my drumkit waiting in the shadows, poised for me.

This is work.

Wanted:

’60 dollars’ I say. He hands me a bankcard through the reception window. We both wait in in silence as the eftpos works. ‘Receipt?’
‘Nah man,’ he says, ‘cheers.’ A door somewhere down the hall slams shut and it’s quickly followed by a guitar whirring into life. Big metal chords. Drums start up from another room somewhere, then singing, more guitar. When the studio rooms are all occupied the sound bleeds out into the corridor and mixes into one droning mash. Pulses, all mixed up and garbled. I listen to it in reception, flicking through band ads to kill the time.

Serious band looking for rock/metal drummer.
Alternative rock—looking for drummer and bassist to form a band.
Punk Rock, western suburbs. Green Day, Blink 182, The 1975, Paramore, Jimmy Eat World
Mature cover band looking for drummer

I close the browser and look out through the reception window. Two vending machines look back at me. Blank faces. There’s laughter down the hall from some band members. I’ve been looking for another project. Maybe I’ll start something completely new. Seattle Fix, the band I’ve been in for around three years now, can’t go full time, not yet (I have my hopes). I need something else to fill the time so that my time isn’t wasted. My 20s seem to be drifting by with nothing much to show for it. But it’s hard to find something interesting, something that isn’t a cliché.
I put the word out and I get a response every so often. I even watched one band read out loud the ad I put up at the studio where I work, not realising that ‘Drummer, 23’ was me, watching them from reception. ‘Bit young,’ they said, ‘ 13 years playing though!’
Bit old, I thought. They send me an email. I don’t answer. Another band gets in touch. They’ve got that big Violent Soho feel. Other side of the city. I’m tempted. They sound good, but too far. Too punk.
I’ve been thinking about music a lot. I can’t stop listening to Radiohead’s A Moon Shaped Pool. It, and other albums, have recently made me think harder about the sound, to listen closely. I’m beginning to think of certain songs as real compositions as opposed to simple songs. Radiohead’s recent release is, unsurprisingly, a fine composition. It’s a favourite for when I’m alone on the train, alone in my room, alone, driving late at night. It’s that kind of album. It sings to you a kind of sadness, loneliness. Best enjoyed in solitude. But putting aside the album’s emotion, I listen closely to the details, to the layers and how they work—how they morph into one another, what kind of rhythm they have, their tone, how loud or soft.
I listen closely to a song like “Ful Stop”, the song building into a finely layered, up-beat movement. I count the different guitars as they come in. One, two, then three. There are, I think, five guitar layers working at its height, as well as two, maybe three vocal layers, all of them placed so deliberately, answering each other. It might sound obvious to say so, but realising a song’s deliberate mastering, with all its different parts, has an impression on me. The guitar layers drop off to just one, signalling the song’s imminent closure.
In other tracks I notice the tinier details. It was only the other day that I noticed a sound in “Daydreaming” that I hadn’t before. I was sitting on the train at the time. Was it the carriage I was hearing as it moved along the tracks, rocking back and forth? I turned the volume up and yes, it was there. A clicking. No, a ticking. When I got home I listened closer again, honing in on the sound. If you listen closely to something and begin to pick it apart, the sound you’re looking for will suddenly come through to you, as if you suddenly realise it—a detail in a painting, a remote figure in the landscape, yet now, to your eyes, so distinct. It’s the sound of a clock I can hear, gears working in the background. It’s there. Listen closely.
I’m obsessed with this track. There are odd sounding voices at the beginning and the ending sounds distinctly like a warped Thom Yorke saying ‘half of my life’, backwards. Tick, tock. Tock, tick. The last track, “True Love Awaits” I’ve played more than any other on the album. Even in a track as stripped as this, there are details. Is it the sound of the keys being pressed on the piano that I can hear? I listen for the length of the echo in Yorke’s voice. And there’s something about that stumbling set of keys playing alongside the main progression that perfects the melancholy.

but yeah let us know if you think it might be something  you’d be keen to—
Here’s the link to my latest band, an EP and—

Have a few things recorded here have a listen mostly acoustic stuff but—

Warpaint’s Heads Up—more layers, a lot of beautiful harmonies. The details I enjoy are often in the combined lyrical effort of the members. Echoing each other, harmonising; there are three, maybe even four voices sounding off at times, some subtle, some striking. I still hear small vocal licks I hadn’t heard before. Mastering the details in Synth Pop pays off. That one piano stroke in “Don’t Wanna” is the cream on a dreamy crop of interwoven words. Throughout the whole album I admire the composition of a myriad different percussion samples. Again, I play the isolation the game. To take note of that previously unnoticed synth-pad, that one scratch across the guitar strings, that one chord on the keys, is hearing the song for the first time. Details of a universe.
They certainly followed their sophomore effort with something to die for. It’s delicious, their art definitely improving. I wonder how long it takes to weave together all their voices. It’s not as if the lines are always long and simple. It’s a mix of lyric, moans, hums, harmonies, echoes. They’re another band that make me appreciate music as more composed. They also make me think how profitable it can be to go against the usual format of a band as a boys club. Whenever a woman walks through the door of the rehearsal studio, I’m almost always surprised.

Forums / Musicians Available / Drummers available
Forums / Musicians Wanted / Drummers wanted 

My thoughts on Heads Up are interrupted when I stumble across a 20 year old and his Soundcloud. He’s looking for a band and his Soundcloud account is full of gold—shredding on guitar, electronica, synth. There’s a crazy-fast disco/funk arrangement, a 15 minute ambient track titled “Financial Report 2016/2017”, an ‘experimental’ track that sounds like a guitar dreaming, a track called “New Spell Acquired” with vocal samples and a old-school hip-hop style percussion. Even a ‘psytrance’ track. Wants to be like Frank Zappa. He’s far far west of Melbourne. Too far. I keep looking.

Drummer wanted for Pop punk/melodic hardcore band.
CENTRAL VICTORIA – TECH DEATH
Wanted female musicians to jam with
Looking for a drummer who just gets it (cover band)

I’ve been getting drum lessons again. My new teacher is introducing me to linear drumming. The idea is that every stroke is separate, your hands and feet rarely striking at the same time. At first you might think this would slow you down but it actually means speed—you can roll the groove across the kit, learning it like a rudimental combination, pushing it out through muscle memory, fast and hectic. One of the two bands he is in just played at Strawberry Fields and his other, a metal outfit with a couple thousand likes on Facebook, rehearses at the studio. I’ve probably seen him around. He’s of a similar age to me. This makes me want to work harder, to get on with it.
Sometimes I think back to the moments that made me want to drum. It’s always the memory of my parents’ old records playing. Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, R.E.M. The DMA’s 2016 release, Hills End, reminds me of R.E.M. in a big way. I like to blast it out loud when I’m home alone, cleaning up the kitchen. It’s where those moments are in the archive of my brain. Dishes, meals, laughter, songs—that’s me in the corner… night swimming… this one goes out to the one I love

More wandering among the neurons in the shadow of my skull.

Then There Were Two

sf
sf

Jimmy Chamberlin was 24 years old when the Smashing Pumpkins put out their debut album, Gish. Chamberlin is one of the giants of drumming that I look up to most and is the one I’m most often trying to emulate. I’m hurting the most when I’m trying to match his single-stroke rolls stroke for stroke at those awesome speeds, when I’m trying to match those insane combos across the kit. I think most drummers know it, the feeling of having past greats hovering behind them like a poltergeist when they’re punishing their drumheads, trying to improve, urging on the sinews in their forearms. The standards they set are something to work towards or, sometimes, even surpass. They’re also a reminder, not of how great they were, but of how hard you have to work and that it’s just not possible without moving as fast as you can. When I think of this salient point I am always reminded of the words spoken by an unlikely figure in this context, Paul Keating. He once paraphrased the advice his own hero gave him when he was a young man, at a time when he was unsure of what to do first: people say you’re young, that you have time. But the truth is, you haven’t got a moment to lose.

My own band, Seattle Fix, is on the verge of releasing our debut EP. Four tracks, one intro. It’s a kind of mix of synth pop and alternative rock—that’s if you ask me the question that I hate answering: what do you sound like? I don’t really know. You will soon be able to decide for yourself.
It took a few days to record and around six months to produce. Listening to the final mastered tracks is exciting. We have a long way to go as a band, so much to improve upon, but it sounds pretty good. Not bad. But it is a frustrating experience in some ways. It takes time to make and in that time we’ve been writing newer and, in our opinion, much better songs. I listen to the drumming on those tracks and six months feels like an eternity of difference—I play those songs so much better (much more so when I’m on my own, too. This is agonising: I need to play that well in front of others). I shouldn’t complain about the lag between the finished product and the works in progress, it just means I’m always thinking: ‘you need to hear the new stuff.’ I remember listening to Martin Amis talking about this problem, expressing his disinterest at best when talking about a recently-released book, for all he can think about is what he’s currently writing. We love the tracks on the EP, but we’re continuously finding something better. At least we finally have a product we can push and the newer songs will be the hints of greater things when we finally start playing live again.
Of course, the road is never as smooth as you’d like. The first time a member quit, I was at the gym. I go every now and again, especially to keep the back in check. Drumming can create all sorts of problems (sitting down for long periods of time does this anyway), pulling the back and shoulder muscles forward, creating a bio-mechanical problem. I was also at the gym when I received the latest letter of departure. Nicholas’s time in the band was going to come to an end, but we didn’t expect it so soon, nor did he, I suspect, until very recently. It’s not as you might think: no one is angry, no one is bitter. There is a general understanding between musicians about these things. Getting upset about creative differences is like crying over the weather—no point. And besides, Nicholas is a friend of mine. It’s just the nature of the business, especially for a young band going through its long and gruelling teething process. A band’s childhood is often exciting but its adolescence is a bitch and the adulthood that follows isn’t as certain as you might think. At a time when we finally have in our hands a brand new EP, our first well-recorded and well-produced product, music that people might genuinely enjoy, there are suddenly only two of us left. We can play as two, we have thought of this, and we are more or less ready for it. To have three, however, delivers a greater presence on stage and offers more balance in the creative sphere.
There’s still so much to do. Promotion, shoot a music video, invest in merchandise, organise shows, play shows, not to mention writing and more writing, practice and more practice. Now the band has to set about rebuilding itself. This means, we hope, eventually welcoming a new member. This will take time. But that’s just the way it is. I can view it only as an inconvenience or I can see it as just another part of the band’s evolution, that the band can only remain the same or improve. I can also see it as part of my own evolution as a drummer, something I can’t imagine ever stopping. Difficulties are, as I’ve suggested before, just a sign of progress. None of it is meant to be a breeze and nothing worth doing is meant to be easy. Something better might lie around the corner, or not.
Speaking of his drumming at the time of Gish‘s recording, Chamberlin said in 2000, ‘I made Gish when I was twenty-four—eleven years ago—I was just out of control then.’ His drumming, in the time that followed, matured, becoming more refined, a process all drummers and musicians go through, undoubtedly. At the time of Gish Chamberlin was going full throttle on the drums (though it’s hard to believe it was his hardest or most complex, listening to some of the drumming tracks on Melon Colie and Machina). He looked back and saw a young man holding nothing in reserve. It’s also the album that arguably gave them the base to launch their break-out album, Siamese Dream. I’m around the same age and don’t at all mind the thought of holding nothing back. I’m worlds away from being anything like Chamberlin—hero of rhythm to me—but I want to leave my mark on the kit, on the band, on the music that I hope will mean something to someone. I want to build something. I’m 23 and though we finally have an EP ready to go, we just lost a member and though we’re feeling more and more confident in our sound, the future isn’t set. Who knows what will happen. There is no album, no Gish up our sleeves. Not yet. At times it makes me think, makes me worry, that as hard as I might be trying it might not be enough, that though I’m ‘young’ I am fast running out of time.

Maybe the standard I’m setting is too high, maybe I want too much too soon. All I know is that I want it.

Seattle Fix‘s First EP comes out 27 September