One by one they came up the stairs,grumbling volubly about the fact that there were stairs to be negotiated at all and also about the difficulty of finding the studio.They were the ShawNuff Big Band.A Sydney based eighteen piece swing group in the classic style.I was there to record a track with them for a “meeting of the generations” type concept album.(to be called “songlines”).A whole lot of current artists (which equates with “young” )were being paired with a whole bunch of older artists (which equates with ,”you’ve had your fun,you’re messin’ up the vibe by hangin around,fuck off!”)I took the opportunity of being cast as the “young” person” with both hands as it wouldn’t really be happening in any other situation and I also thought it would be a bit of a stir.
A big band sounded like a real blast but,just to stretch us both a little,I picked a song from the mid sixties pop parade,”1-2-3”( by the Len Barry Combo) as the lyrics of a lot of their swinging repertoire didn’t really turn me on.It would prove to be a most enjoyable and enlightening session.Jimmy Shaw is both the drummer and the leader.A beret wearing,bespectacled little bull of a man.Seventy three wiry,tough ,fuck you years old.He had a very direct voice yet seemed to be speaking past you all the time.Rather like Phil Silvers in Sgt Bilko.
The engineer was a very keen young man who had never experienced the process of recording so many instruments at the same time.He was going to do his best to get each trombone or bank of saxophones recorded as directly as possible and also have a half a dozen mikes placed around the room to record everything in the ambience of that particular corner.All these could then be mixed together in the usual,orthodox way.The band all began to set up just as they played on stage which blew out the studio engineers carefully planned conceptual microphone placement scheme. Jimmy then told the engineer to go down the stairs and fetch the rest of his drum kit.He did so. Jimmys kit was an old Ludwig which he told me came from the late 40’s.Most people who talk up the value of their gear sling stuff like that at you but in this case,he really could been playing it since that time.The cases were all full of mismatching straps as the whole thing must have fallen apart and been mended a few times over the years.There were about five fellows under thirty in the band,the rest went from fifty to seventy four.This is in itself quite a achievement.You rarely get to meet mature musicians and get to see what sort of aesthetic or perspective has developed over such a long period of involvement in performing.In the rock scene they lose interest as all their peers settle down into a more straight life or they have to leave the scene due to health reasons.These fellows were all marvelous players and had been for a long time.They were very self possessed and self assured.They didn’t give a rats arse who they were recording with or what it was for.It was a rare opportunity to record themselves.The most hardcore of the bunch was the piano player.Having just had both hips replaced,the stairs were quite a major obstacle for him.After the powers that seem to be refused his request for a beer or two,he spent the session hunched over his instrument with his head down,barking out ,”how much longer is this gonna fuckin' take?” at every shadow that passed over his keyboard.He really had everybody spooked.
The notion of a “recording session” being an all important occasion took a further battering as Jimmy directed one of the “young fellers” to help him put up the bandstand flyers in front of each player.They were going to set up and play in exactly the same formation as they did in a live venue.It was just another gig.I only surmised that the fact they weren’t wearing tux’s was due to the fact that they’d thrown them away years ago and preferred to just blow,daddyo.
Mal,the arranger came in with what we in my outfit refer to as “the fly shit” but in more sophisticated circles is known as the sheet music.They warmed up on a tune familiar to them from their live shows and then prepared to lay down the track.None of them wore headphones except for the piano player and the bass player.(the most acoustic and soft instruments,to record them properly they must be isolated a little from the other,louder sounds)Everyone just followed the charts and listened to each other.I was in a booth by myself but could see them through the window.Nobody was looking at me.The tune came out charging at an incredible speed,I’d never had to record anything so fast!I couldn’t even fit the lyric in if I stopped and spoke them.I registered this problem with the arranger but he more or less told me to lift my game and off we went again.In all my experience of playing music the beat was always a solid structure around which everything else moved.In this case,everybody moved in swooping,flying and driving formation like a mad flock of birds.I had to really get in there and know the moves as well as everybody else.Everybody was up in the air and flying like the crowd of jitterbuggers in that great forties cartoon,”the three little bops”.I tried to listen for the beat but that seemed to be coming from a very foreign direction ,the swishing hi hats and ride cymbals rather than the bass drum and snare architecture I had been used to walking through.This was tough stuff.
The band went through the track again and then put it down onto tape in a performance they were satisfied with.They didn’t have to listen to the tape to come to this conclusion,they just knew how it had gone down.Jimmy was the only one who was interested in going into the control room to listen to a playback.He nodded his head at the end and expressed his opinion that “the bass was a bit loud”.The engineer informed him that each instrument was on separate tracks and that it could be adjusted in the mix.Jimmy got up up and walked out ,saying over his shoulder,”I don’t wanna know about that new technology!”I felt more than a little piss weak as I took three extra passes at the vocal after they had left.
- dave graney
- WORKSHY - 2017 memoir out on Affirm Press. Let's get Tight - 2017 CD with Clare Moore. Moodists - Coral Snakes - mistLY. I don’t know what I am and don’t want to know any more than I already know. I aspire, in my music , to 40s B Movie (voice and presence) and wish I could play guitar like Charlie Christian or Grant Green -but not in this lifetime, I know.
2014 solo album from Dave Graney. *****"If I've learnt anything in my years of writing about music it's that if you are going to do anything of worth in this tough game, you better have your own thing. Today's generic is easily replaced by tomorrow's. And yet you need to be flexible, to follow wherever the songs demand. In the case of this, only the second credited as a solo album among 30 or so Graney releases, it's a curious yet welcoming lane he walks you down, with acoustic guitars, not much percussion, vibes, smooth sounds. At the end of it you feel like you've awoken from a strange yet pleasant summer's dream. As shot by Luis Bunuel. It ranges from off-kilter reveries (A Woman Skinnies Up a Man, The Old Docklands Wheel) through to the softly seductive (How Can You Get Out of London) and the downright arch (Look Into My Shades, Everything Is Great In The Beginning.) This is music that is neither folk, nor blues, nor country, but it's all Graney, somewhere out to the left field beyond Lee Hazlewood's raised eyebrow. It's astringent on the tongue but sweetens in the telling." Noel Mengel Brisbane Courier Mail
you've been in my mind
June 2012 super high energy pop rock album - blazing electric 12 strings - total 70s rock drive. Greatest yet! available via paypal - $20 pp
SUPERMODIFIED - August 2010 remixed/re-sung/re-strung//remastered/replayed comp via PAYPAL
also available as a digital album
Knock yourself (2009)-first ever dg solo set-filthy electro r&b-available via Paypal- $20
available as a digital album too
We Wuz Curious (2008)-blazing R&B jazz pop album available via paypal-$20
UNAVAILABLE-COMPLETELY SOLD OUT!!!
AVAILABLE AS A DIGITAL album
Hashish and Liquor (2005 double disc by Dave Graney and Clare Moore) available via Paypal $25
UNAVAILABLE-COMPLETELY SOLD OUT!!!
Single album HASHISH available as a digital release