An edited version of this emailed interview is in the current issue of "RHYTHMS magazine.
Your book’s been out for a year or so now. Has anything changed? New fans? New doors opened?
People have been coming up to me and saying very complimentary and nice things. Just yesterday a music biz gent stopped me and barked " loved the book! I missed out on your career so it was good to catch up!" Things like that stay with me.
Other people sent very heartfelt letters and emails, as if we were old friends, and we were in some ways.
I am still doing some literary type events and write a column for the Melbourne Review every month.
In some ways it led to the title of this album, "you've been in my mind".
I get squeamish when family or close friends mention my book, I scramble to change the subject. They have been in my mind. With around twenty five albums or so I have been opening my brain for a long time. Its a public space!
The new album has a very specific tonal feel. In both production and playing. What were you aiming for?
Well we are in the same studio and the same engineer as our 2011 album of re recordings "rock'n'roll is where I hide" so we liked the situation and the approach. Hardly any overdubs, no layering , just panning the approximate placement of the different instruments.
I do most vocal takes once, maybe twice.
Recording songs the band knows their parts and getting a performance. This time with unrecorded songs of mine.
A pretty upbeat record. Where we master it, Greg Wadley is always getting out a Radiohead cd to use as some sort of a standard. I'm always telling him to get that shit away from my music. I make him play a Bobby Womack best of to tune his ears.
My musical forms and feels are very much 70s rock. Southern rock, mid seventies Stones. Clean guitars and grooves. Vocals up front. West Coast in some ways with lots of singing.
I love to play electric guitar and love my 12 string. Worked a lot on getting a super clean sound out of a solid state amp.
Stuart Perera's blazing lead is a real feature on the album. Stu Thomas is a great bass player. The album charges along for 6 tracks before we take a breath with "lifes a dream". That song is something I'm very mystified by, I think its something that , in a different music scene, all kinds of people could cover. I've only written a few songs like that.
The album does jump out of the gates, although a thing that interests me is, you’ll still throw in a not obvious chord change to keep us guessing. You don’t go for the big major chord change – why is that?
Well I did do that with the song "flash in the pantz" which I have been fooling around on for a while. Its got big , blocked major chords and then flips to a suspended and a minor 7th in the chorus. So, in my mind I was looking for a very 80s, tightly would and dampened feel for the verse. Something like teh Cars or Midnight Oil. Then I wanted the chorus to be like something from a mad jazz musical, something like "its time" by Max Roach.
"we need a champion" is pretty much major chords as well. I am jealous of songwriters who can work with real primary colours. Ron Sexsmith and Robyn Hitchcock and Will Hindmarsh from GoGo Sapien.
Other songs on the album are more in my weird melange of what I would identify as Brazilian / jazz/ r&b chordings and voicings. I like music to be open.
Another quirk I’ve noticed is that your live shows have become Springsteen esque in length. I don’t know how you do it. I’m a 45 minute man myself – would do less if I could. What is it about the long show that excites you? Life is short, there’s much to say? Or a reaction against the more fashionable punk short sets.
I got too many songs! Over the last few years we've done two albums that were pretty retrospective in tone. "Supermodified" and "rock'n'roll is where I hide" . In the middle of that I had all these songs and was wanting to start to play them into shape. Usually just getting warmed up after 45 minutes!
A 3 hour gig would be great to do.
Tell me about Stu Perrera. An underrated guitarist if ever there was one. Beyond fashion.
Stu joined us in 1998, after we finished with the Coral Snakes and Universal records. I saw him playing at a youth jazz workshop concert. I wanted to get a band of teenagers. Got sick of talking to kids still at high school who were going to have to get their parents permission. Stu sounded great. I wanted to have a "beat combo" with clean and dry guitar sounds and simple songs. We did a great album for Festival called "the dave graney show" and he has been on every album ever since. A great guy. Loves jazz and Slash and plays all the time in bars in the inner city. Totally match fit.. He lived in his van in the street for about four years, holding down a job and doing gigs. Very well educated. He plays a left handed solid body Rickenbacker through a small Laney valve combo. He used to drive a Morris Minor but has had his hot rodded Bedford van for a while now.
You’ve always had a knack of finding new cool musicians/bands, often giving them the chance to open for you at shows. Music seems very exciting at the moment, who’s new and tickling your fancy?
Well I love Go Go Sapien for their songs and their daring. The presentation they put into shows and their great songs. I also love Jane Dust and the Giant Hoopoes. Clare and Stu play in them so I hear what they are cooking up. the new album is going to be a very prog/space rock set. Matt Walker is putting out a new album and he is a killer singer , player and songwriter. The Sons of Rico from Perth are favourites. Their last album was so NOT indie rock it was amazing. I also loved Dan Kellys last album. Many others. The last Beastie Boys album. The new Bobby Womack album .
And a final one.
Five decades of music. It’s kinda insane. One of the things that has always struck me is your and Clare is purity – you have committed to this life – no jobs on the side, etc.
Most people flake out.
What are you most proud of? Come on, open up, brother.
Pride means hubris. An emotion I am rarely possessed by. I do love playing with the mistLY. I've leaned a lot from Stuart and Stu and Clare. Amazing players and very sophisticated sensibilities. Thats a bit of pride but mostly just happiness I guess.
Mostly proud of some of the songs I've written that I think could be played or sung by other people in other times. On this record I think there's "life's a dream" and "I'm not the guy I tried to be". On previous records there have been others of these "neo-standards". "Saturday night bath" on Hashish and Liquor"and "don't mess with the blood" on Heroic Blues. The other songs on this album and the ones before it I am also proud of. They're highly tuned and stressed patterns of my own peculiar interests and blues. Very rich and strongly flavoured.
"mt gambier night" and "playing chicken" on this album.
My favourite songs I've recorded have usually ended the albums. Long, meditative pieces. Songs like "crime and underwear" from "we wuz curious" and "everything flies away" from "I was the hunter and I was the prey".
So I'm proud of the people I play with and pretty much all of the work, some of it a little bit more than the rest.
Cheers dave, I love the easy going, cocksure nature of the newie. See you soon I hope.