Smokey's Blog

we gonna do the damn thing or what

Month: October, 2013

The 4 Stages of a Banksy Piece (NYC 2013)

Luckily there was an "abandoned" block in the densely populated lower east side of Manhattan

Luckily there was an abandoned block in the densely populated lower east side of Manhattan

Stage 1 involves the discovery of one of Banksy’s #banksyny series.

"I don't know art but I know what I like"

“I don’t know art but I know what I like”

Stage 2: A crowd gathers and takes photos. All day. A local cafe puts up a sign “Banksy drinks coffee here”.

Art lovers or auto wreckers looking for spare car parts?

Auto wrecking art lovers

Stage 3: Rip that shit off.

Like it never happened. Care and temporary wall mysteriously disappear.

Car + wall disappear revealing a private car park like the whole thing never happened.

Stage 4: Fortunately, someone efficiently disposes of everything as if the whole thing was meticulously organised – less than a week after it emerged. Local cafe changes sign to ‘Banksy is a fake’. Kinda like this.

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Jimblah

I heard about Jimblah through a good mate BVA from Mnemonic Ascent years ago. For those who don’t know, BVA is a dope producer, rapper and lyricist who had a little studio in his house in Adelaide, while he cared for his grandmother in the attached granny flat. The Herd reluctantly toured Adelaide in those days because we’d be playing to 800 people in Sydney and Melbourne, only to scratch our heads as a trickle of Adelaide’s finest would make for a sparse venue. Hard to justify when you’re flying 10 people around. We did, however, look forward to hooking up with BVA for the odd studio session so there were never any regrets. Actually that’s a lie – we had band members who swore blind never to return to South Australia. We did though, many times.

BVA worked with Jimblah in a kind of mentoring role, and this is one of the first songs I heard that made me really take notice in 2006 or so.

The moment Jimblah stopped me in my tracks was with his debut album Face the Fire – it’s undeniably underrated, but it’s arguably a classic. I clearly remember driving around Adelaide airport dropping a hire car off after unloading the band to check-in, tears welling up in my eyes as I played the title track – and its heartbreaking outro. I was struck by how good it was. How on Earth was this record not being talked about, everywhere? That moment set off a chain of events that included Jimblah enthusiastically agreeing to join up with Elefant Traks; Pegz being magnanimous enough to allow us to sign him despite a contract with Obese Distribution in place; and us re-releasing Face the Fire. Here it is in full:

 
He’s been productive ever since. He brought that distinctive warm strained soul to Glimpses and On Your Shoulders on my most recent album Smokey’s Haunt.

Then took The Tongue to a new level with his part in the push and pull of Victory from his 2013 album Surrender to Victory.

After he signed off on the mixes of his album mid 2013 he flew to Sydney, dropping into triple j to cover Matt Corby‘s Resolution. By flipping some of the lyrics he completely recontextualised the song in a manner consistent with the single-minded focus and dedication he’s shown on his new album Phoenix.

The following month saw Horrorshow‘s third album King Amongst Many land at #2 on the national charts with a brilliant collection of songwriting and production. One of the most memorable songs on the album is Own Backyard, the collaboration with Jimblah – a stunning match of mood and lyrics with a showstopping verse from Solo and a heartfelt chorus from Jimblah that knocks it out of the park. A future classic.

And at last, the follow-up to that incredible debut album is almost upon us, with this beautiful video and haunting introduction to Phoenix.

I know I write more words than is maybe necessary. Sometimes I find it hard to encapsulate just how much this music means to me. It feels so important not just as works of art, but in the insights it provides as we seek to understand ourselves. His posts on his facebook page are an accurate reflection of the way optimism and turmoil have to slug it out. It’s honest, like his music. The entire world should pull up the handbrake and stop to listen to artists like Jimblah. But if that’s unfeasible, then at least you should.

Jimblah’s album Phoenix comes out October 11 through Elefant Traks.

True Tears of Joy

Sometime in late 2012 I happily received a call from Paul asking if I’d produce a song he’d been asked to do for the upcoming Hunters and Collectors tribute compilation. I said yes before the soundwave had properly entered my ear canal. The straggling second half of his question was still weaving past the wax on my eardrum after I’d started making plans.

The song was True Tears of Joy and he had Emma Donovan in mind as a collaborator. I knew it’d be better if Jimblah joined in too.

Jimblah. Pic by Dave Stefanoff

Jimblah. Pic by Dave Stefanoff

My only condition was that it wasn’t going to be anything like a Paul Kelly song, which I suspect is what he wanted to hear.

The first call I made was to one of my favourite cohorts Elgusto, producer of half of my solo albums and better known as one half of Hermitude. We had a preliminary session with Paul at the Elefant Mansion coinciding with his visit to help induct Yothu Yindi into the ARIA Hall of Fame. After playing a few electronic artists on youtube it was agreed we’d work with textures that took it as far away from classic PK as possible – without losing the essence of True Tears.

There are multiple audiences here – Hunnas fans, Paul’s fans and our own ears. If we go all out electronic we might make Paul’s voice jarring and incongruent. If we stay safe and close to the original we risk being red brick bored at the pointlessness of it all.

Emma Donovan

Emma Donovan

Emma is an incredible vocalist and Gusto and I felt that she’d be perfect for a soulful treatment – her voice is layered and rich with character. Jimblah is like crackling smoke if there were such a thing, and his flow is endlessly listenable.

Then you have Paul Kelly.

Gusto and I hooked up to work on the beat and he manned the boards, programming and playing the melodies – the producer in a hip hop sense. I was steering the direction, overseeing all aspects – a producer in a more classic sense.

Finally the session went down. Vibes were great in The Cave, Hermitude’s studio above Parramatta Rd in Leichhardt. Jimblah wrote a new verse on the spot, did a few takes and nailed it. He perfectly complimented Emma’s verse in backing vocal duties. Emma was a joy to work with – she adlibbed a range of little grabs that we pitch-shifted and incorporated into the song (you can hear them throughout).

Song Selfie!

Song Selfie!

Originally Emma did two verses to Paul and Jimblah’s one but I was a little concerned about the pace and flow. We worked on the song a little more before I got the courage up to ask Paul if we could remove the third verse altogether. Lyrically I couldn’t make much sense of it so I wasn’t concerned about sacrilege of compromising Hunter’s artistic vision – but songs are weird, man. There may be a profound meaning I’m missing and anyway, who am I to deliberately break something so important on loan?

Paul took it on board, tentatively agreeing, and taking on the task of asking Mark Seymour. It turns out Mark had discarded that verse in his live shows long ago and was completely cool about us doing the same. Mind blown.

Were you there?

Were you there?

The final piece of the puzzle was Mitch Kenny mixing the damn thing. Our instructions were to reel the electronics back in and make it thump a little less. Yep, what the fuck indeed. During the course of retelling this song we had to keep coming back to our original goal of it making sense sonically. Nothing was going to change the vibe (especially when it comes after The Living End in the tracklist!) but the treatment of the kick and snare and the proximity of the vocals to the bass and synths were crucial in finding the right balance. I don’t know how Mitch did it. I was still uncertain when we sent it to him but I wasn’t when he sent it back. Dude is good.

We did it.

It’s worth a listen.

Paul Kelly and Emma Donovan featuring Jimblah – True Tears of Joy

Crucible came out Friday Sept 27 through Liberation. It features covers from Alpine, Cloud Control, The Rubens, Matt Corby, Missy Higgins and more.

Jimblah’s debut album Phoenix comes out October 11.