There's a story in the latest Melbourne review about a song I wrote called Three dead passengers in a stolen second hand Ford.
Phil Kakoulas writes a regular, and very interesting column each month, focussing on a different track or artist. He sent me some email questions for the article. I thought I'd post the original answers here, just as extra information.
1) How did the collaboration with Stephen come about? Am I right in thinking you were both on Polygram at the time? Had you guys ever written or performed together before?
Stephen was on Polygram. I don't know whether I was. I had recorded a great album in the UK with my band called "I was the hunter and I was the prey" an it was sitting on a shelf somewhere. I was feeling very much at a dead end.in the doldrums. Got to know Stephen and he had a clause in his contract that he could produce another artist and get it released. Very generous of him. I was also trying to get Andrew Duffield to record a song of mine, "night of the wolverine" and make a SUICIDE type electro album. Went to Stephens place to kind of go over some of my songs. Thought I was pretty much washed up as a performer. He came up with the chords of the chorus and the line "easter show". I had the rest. I had a lot of material.
2) The references to Keith and ‘the border’ as well as details like the Serge Gainsbourg picture and miller shirts suggest you may have written the majority of the words. Is that correct? If so, what was Stephen’s contribution to the lyrics?
Yes, he wrote "the easter show". He's a very encouraging and generous person and doesn't get all uptight about putting stuff in just for the sake of it or insisting on equal billing. He's like a BEAT person. He would be a great producer or song mechanic for younger artists in pre production for recording. He was also an education in how to work in (then very expensive) studios quite economically. He showed me ways in how you could operate within an industry and make it work for you. When I eventually recorded the song, i did it for an album where I spent all my own publishing money on the studio. I still own the recordings. I didn't have the money for a big session but I had songs with drama and lyrical fire and thats what we concentrated on.
3) Was there any specific inspiration for the lyrics? Was there a particular event or car accident that inspired it? Or perhaps it was just another of those ‘Mt Gambier Nights’?
I thought I made it up but my brother told me it was real. When we were teens a troupe of speedway hustlers called THE FRENCH HELL DRIVERS came to the Borderline speedway. Next day there were a few accidents as all the teens tried to replicate the tricks. Was one major , multiple death accident , I think. We got our licences to drive at 16 then. I was wanting to write a song about teens and the stuff they fling back at the phoney world they are confronted with. In the song there are 3 strangely dressed corpses by the side of the road. they dressed to put on the world. The car was used, and stolen. Nobody owned anything. It was all a fiction.
I wrote a lot of these songs living in the UK. I left Australia with a one way ticket in '83 and never expected to come back. I thought about the south east where I came from , a lot , and it became exotic and dreamy to me. Coming back was like being transported! We got kicked out and had to scramble a ticket on Aeroflot.
4) Thoughts and themes of escape run through your memoir and a number of your songs. You and Steve got out but I imagine others were less successful. Would it be too much to regard the song as a tribute/metaphor to the dashed hopes/dreams of some of your fellow townsfolk?
Nothing that connected to other people really. I'm a callous person. Everybody else was callous too. Hardcore. I don't see the world in a sentimental way at all. Thats for Bruce Springsteen.
### Later I added - when I said "I was callous" I probably meant that I never thought I was escaping to anywhere ,
5) Can you tell me something of the writing process? Where the song was written and under what circumstances? Did you guys, for example, sit around with acoustic guitars swapping chords? Who wrote what of the music?
I am bad at collaborating, unless someone else does all the music, like in a band situation or they send me a track. I love to do that, to then be able to sing right over the chords and the changes. I can't get loose like that when I'm inside my own changes. Stephen wrote the chords in the chorus.
6) I notice both of you have done versions of it and you’ve sung it together. Was that the idea when it was written? Is the finished song close to how you imagined it when you wrote it?
I re recorded it in 2011 for "rock'n'roll is where I hide" and I like that version better. i don't like the original at all. It has violin on it and I hate the violin. Sounds too earthy and folky when the song is more cerebral and literary. I made the chords more jazz styled. 6ths and major sevenths back in 97 and have played it that way ever since.
7) Was there anything you learned from working with Stephen?
Its a fantasy to co-write stuff like that. I'm better with spontaneous lyrical stuff. So is Stephen. Basically , a performer needs DRAMA. They have to bring it wherever they perform. Its hard when you've suddenly got someone else there with you. I am also obsessed with timing and tempo, not in a musical way but in performance. How you reveal yourself.
8) Did the two of you ever collaborate again?
A few gigs here and there. We're both peculiar. I make music with Clare Moore, I don't hanker to work with a lot of other people. I recently worked on some recordings with Lisa Gerrard, she was more of a vocal producer. That was a life changing encounter. Totally thrilling. I also co-wrote songs with Stu Tomas and Stuart Perera from my band, the mistLY. I'd like to write songs for other people, or other people to write some songs for me. They'd have to be good though!
I am also collaborating with Will Hindmarsh from GoGo Sapien in a hip hop duo called WAM and DAZ. I just roll out some filthy science there. I love it.
Friday August 30th - dave graney and clare moore will be playing at the Barossa Regional gallery in Tanunda SA
Saturday August 31st and Sunday Sept 1st dave graney and the mistLY will be playing at the Wheatsheaf in Adelaide , SA.
Every friday evening in september dave graney will be playing an acoustic solo set at the Cornish Arms in Sydney rd Brunswick.