Thursday, 22 November 2012

So what?

So why did we not make it big? Did we suck ... no, I don't think so. We had a few people genuinely interested in what we were doing. We got some good reviews in the local street press, some booking agents gave us some great chances, we had a few things going for us. But one thing that was always against us was ... money.

Money for good musical equipment, money to pay for a regular sound guy, money to record a good quality recording suitable for release, money to press 500 cd's, money to promote ourselves. We had none of that, I was unemployed ... eking out a living doing cash jobs, we were students, apprentices etc etc. Only one of us had a full time job. So back in the 90's if you had a few thousand dollars spare, you could start making waves, but we could barley afford to make a ripple.

I wonder if we had started today with internet making the world only a mouse click away, if we'd stand a better chance ... probably not. Today there are 10 times (100?) more bands battling to get your attention. Chances are that if you do get on radio, you are forgotten in 12 months.

Do yourself a favor, stay in school ... but keep playing, rehearsing, dreaming. You never know your luck.

Wednesday, 22 November 1995

Can't get there from here?

I wrote and demoed more than 100 songs before I turned 25. I figured that practice makes perfect, and the creative juices were not just flowing but pouring out of me. Writing a song was (and still is) pretty easy for me. Writing a good one is not as easy ...

Besides I had few distractions in my early 20's. I had tried university, but quite frankly I found it to be a wast of time. The Uni course I was taking was never going to get me anywhere other than into another Uni course. So one day I just quit ... walked out and never came back.

I had a fire in the belly driving me to succeed as a successful songwriter. Bands like REM, The Cure, Crowded House and The Church provided the spark of inspiration.

But after years of struggle, the battle was lost, but is the war over? The momentum of writing songs on a weekly basis has stalled, but I was still getting ideas for songs but I didn't have the time or motivation to finish them.

Saturday, 22 October 1994

Grinding halt

After 3 years of struggle, 1994 would be the Honeyriders last year. After 2 failed attempts at recording a debut single, the enthusiasm within the band started to dwindle. Rehearsals became a bit of a rarity, gigs even more scarce.

But when things looked truly grim, we got ourselves a manager. I cant remember which one of us got this guy (I cant remember his name) but I remember sitting in a coffee shop with Heath, and he proceeded to tell us how good we were and how he was going to get the ball rolling on our fast track to rock and roll stardom.

Q. So where do you want to play guys?

A. Punters Club, The Evelyn, The Prince ... you know.

Q. mmm ... How do you spell The Evelyn Hotel?

Forget it ... if you don't know those venues, why are we even talking?

After a few weeks of non-action, we decided to dump our manager and continue on as before. With the demise of the band looming, we decided to record our set list for prosperity. We went to Bakehouse studio to be again recorded by the wonderfully patient Nigel Derricks. We did our set list, there were  a few mistakes, but we knew those songs back to front and they sounded great.

20 years later I give the CD a listen and I'm pretty happy with the results. We didn't change the world but we managed to write and record some pretty good songs that I think stood the test of time.

Monday, 25 October 1993

Our Big Break

We again shopped around our demo tape to the pubs and clubs around Melbourne but the reaction was much more different than the first time. One of the bookers at the Prince of Wales in St Kilda liked the tape so much he had us playing a gig there within a matter of days. It wasn't on a quiet weeknight but as a support to a headline act from the UK. I thought our luck had changed, we had someone with genuine clout on our side.

We had our chance to impress and we blew it again. As a unknown band we were not slotted in on the main stage, Afterglow and the Underground Lovers were on the main stage supporting Adorable. They just had a sizeable indie hit with 'Homeboy' and were touted as the next big band after the Stone Roses. Quite a coup for us to be supporting a band like that. But we were not playing on the main stage, rather we were the band that was on between sets in the old Piano Bar near the main entrance, but hey ... we're playing the POW!

Our 2 sets were plagued by sound issues, our sound engineer was struggling to get the levels right, Adam's mix was so bad he could not hear himself. By the time our sound was right, our first set was over. Not too many people stopped to check us out, just kept on walking to the bar or the bathroom. Our second set was better but we came to the realisation that our equipment was just not up to scratch. If we were to start playing with the big boys we needed to get serious. Sounds easy right? mmm ...

Sunday, 22 November 1992

Second Time ... Lucky?

We auditioned quite a few bass players and none even came even close to fitting in. One day I bumped into an old school friend. His girlfriend was the sister of a guy who used to play bass, and I wondered if he was still playing. Matt came to rehearsals and within the space of a few minutes slotted into the role beautifully. We were a band again.

Within a few weeks we were back playing gigs, but we needed to get a single out ASAP. We scrounged together around $1000 and went to a better studio to record 2 songs on a budget. We had about 8 hours in the studio with an engineer, and we thought we could put 2 tracks down without too much fuss. We were in a good studio with a good engineer, we knew the songs backwards and we didn’t want to make the same mistakes we did the last time. Well so we thought ...

It took quite a while to set up the drums and get the drum sound going. I did not like the sound initially but we kept going, but I wasn’t happy. Then little did I know that Adam had invited some fiddle players he’d met a few nights earlier at an Irish pub down to the studio to add some strings. I wasn’t happy with that either, I thought that these guys would slow down the recording, and they did. They played well but it didn’t suit the song, but I was out voted so it stayed in the mix. We quickly ran out of time and the mix-down was rushed. By day’s end we had again failed to put something really good down on tape, at best we had a good demo tape … again.

Sunday, 22 March 1992

Bye Bye Bill

After about a year of playing sporadic gigs around Melbourne, Bill understandably got a bit disenchanted with the whole merry go round of playing small gigs to a half empty room supporting bands we didn’t like.

He was suggesting we concentrate on recording material on our own utilising the four track method rather than going into another studio. Bill was a big fan of The Bevis Frond, a band that was essentially a studio project. I liked the idea of recording material on four track but I also wanted to continue to play live and get more experience on stage.

But it all came head one night when we were playing a gig at the Bridge Mall Inn Ballarat with the Turbo Turtles and the Dead Salesmen. We all had too much to drink and tensions in the band boiled over. By the time we got back to Melbourne Bill and the Honeyriders went our separate ways.

Bill wrote some amazing songs in our short time writing together, but after his departure, we found ourselves having to ditch half the songs in our set and start again. Adam had already proven himself as a more than competent guitarist, so there was now more room for his creative input which he definitely rose to the challenge. Over the next few months we started auditioning new bass players and writing material for The Honeyriders MkII.

Saturday, 22 February 1992

In the studio for the very first time ... sort of.

Bill suggested a studio in St Kilda he recorded before with the Tide. We went in with the intention to record 2 songs and release a independent 7” single. We had booked the studio for a day, not a long time, but Bill assured us we could do it. Bill had invited Ivan to the studio a well as a friend of his Ian to play Hammond organ. Ian was a tall blonde guy with this old 60’s keyboard with a pair of Leslie speakers that had a great retro sound. The mix of musicians was exciting, we had the song, we had the band and we had studio time.

The session started well but the recording got bogged down very quickly as we were not at all happy with sound the engineer getting, he was relatively inexperienced, but he tried hard. After a few hours of trying to perfect the sound, Bill got pretty frustrated and left the studio. He had only put down a few of his parts but wasn't happy with the results. Then Adam stepped up to the microphone and totally dominated. It was like he was a seasoned pro in the studio. Put down his guitar bits in one or two takes. Done. Bill eventually returned and finished his parts and within the day we had 2 songs down on DAT. We listened to the mix and we all realised that the recording was not good enough for release as a single, a demo would have to do for now. Bands get gigs with demos, and some even get record contracts. Fingers crossed we get both.

We put the two songs on out first demo tape and started to distribute the tape around Melbourne. We got a mixed reaction from venues, some liked the demo, but some didn’t, it was after all the height of grunge and the Seattle sound, and we weren’t a grunge band. It got us gigs at places like The Arthouse, Nicholson’s Hotel and The Perseverance Hotel, the but we quickly realised a demo tape was not going to go far. We needed to go back to the studio and try to put something out independently. That was the norm in the 80's and 90's.

Friday, 22 November 1991

21 years ago when I was 21

I had a handful of song ideas, that is all. I had no idea what the hell I was doing when I put an advert in the foyer of the now defunct Missing Link record store in Flinders lane looking to put a band together. I was listening to bands like the Church, Died Pretty, The Smiths and The Stone Roses. I listed these as influences in the advert.

The first person to answer my ad was Bill. He was older, played in bands for years, had a cool Rickenbacker 6 sting electric guitar which he just picked up in L.A. and a handful of song ideas which blew me away. He liked my song ideas and we decided to start writing songs together. In no time we had about 10-15 songs, the next logical step was to to start rehearsing them.

The second person to answer my ad was Heath. He had just moved to Melbourne from his hometown in Ballarat with his drums and his recently acquired accounting degree. As we wanted to start rehearsing new songs ASAP, Bill asked an old bandmate of his Ivan to play with us as a fill in on Bass until we found someone permanently.

Rehearsals went very well and the songs were sounding great, so we talked about doing some gigs. But Ivan was not interested in playing live at all, so we had to find a permanent bass player. Heath suggested we audition a friend of his from Ballarat, Adam who was studying full time at RMIT. When he came to rehearse, we were impressed with his bass playing, but he was clearly more suited to playing guitar, so he ended up sharing lead guitar and bass duties with Bill.

We rehearsed with this line up for a few months before we played our first show at the RMIT battle of the bands in 1991 where Autohaze ended up winning. It was great experience playing live and in front of an audience. Soon after that we started playing gigs at The Rochester Hotel, Nicholson’s Hotel, The Evelyn and the Punters Club mostly as support bands to support bands on quiet week nights. We didn’t have a demo tape, so to get better gigs we need one, or a 7” single.