Thursday, July 23, 2009

Martyn Jacques, The Tiger Lillies

The Tiger Lillies are the godfathers of the dark cabaret movement, which means that The Dresden Dolls and Rasputina probably owe them some royalties. Among their albums are Shockheaded Peter, a collection of songs based on a German children’s book and The Gorey End, written in collaboration with Edward Gorey. In real life singer Martyn Jacques’s voice isn’t the alarming falsetto wail he sings in; he’s disturbingly normal and exceptionally friendly.

Did you come from a musical family?

MARTYN JACQUES: Not at all, not at all. No music at all. I think it was just the inspiration of my headmaster.

He encouraged you?

MJ: Yeah, he was great. Literary, a very literary man, very musical man. He played recorder and the violin very badly but with great enthusiasm. He was great. He was one of those old-fashioned, liberal, arty teachers, which we need if children are going to grow up to be anything other than accountants and lawyers. You’ve got to have people in the arts really, haven’t you? Teachers encouraging young people.

What was your childhood like? From the songs on Shockheaded Peter I have this image of something that was unutterably horrible.

MJ: No, it was actually very nice. My childhood was very nice, it was my adolescence which became very disturbed and unpleasant but my actual childhood was very happy – happiest time of my life really. Maybe that’s why I’m fascinated by childhood, I sort of want to return there in some way because I was very happy. Obviously Shockheaded Peter is really dark and disturbing but kids like to be frightened. Probably not frightened too much. We’ve had kids come and see Shockheaded Peter. Some kids come and see The Tiger Lillies. Their parents bring them. I think they like it because I think they see this rather mischievous or misbehaving naughty monster or whatever on the stage and it’s got a sort of childlike feel to it. Adults behaving badly, children are quite attracted to that.

Friday, July 17, 2009

The Alchemist

Alan Maman, a.k.a. The Alchemist, is a hip hop producer and rapper from Beverly Hills. He went from being an associate of Dilated Peoples to DJing for Eminem, straddling both sides of the conscious/street divide in hip hop.

Are you from a musical family?

Alan Maman: No, but I do remember my mother and father were definitely fans of music. I don’t know if they could sing. My dad was a good dancer, I guess. I don’t know. There’s some old footage of him doing boogies, doing the boogaloo. Other than that, there was not too much, yeah. They were into music, there was always music in the house.

Did you inherit your dad’s boogying ability?

AM: Yeah, I got some killer dance moves, I got some fancy footwork for the ladies. I got super-duper moves, man, let me tell you.

Do your parents listen to your music?

AM: At low volume. Very low, when they’re going through a carwash talking on the phone. Actually, this new album there are certain records on it that my mother and father both say they like a lot. That’s a first.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Guy Pratt

Guy Pratt is a bass player who has worked with practically everyone, including Pink Floyd (as well as Floyd guitarist David Gilmour’s solo project), Madonna, Icehouse, Michael Jackson, Roxy Music, The Orb, The Smiths and, yeah, everyone. He’s also turned the stories of rock excess he picked up along the way into both a book and a stand-up comedy routine.

Do you come from a musical family?

GUY PRATT: It had been. My dad was a songwriter, although that was before I was born. He was Lionel Bart’s partner and he wrote all of Tommy Steele’s early hits, the first English rock & roll songs. And then he was an actor so the music had kind of petered out by the time I came along.

That’s a pretty good musical lineage though.

GP: Yeah!

Have you found your family a good source of comedy material? I mean, are you tempted to work them in alongside the stories of rock & roll debauchery?

GP: No, that’s not really what I do. There’s certainly a couple of stories in my book regarding them. When I had this sort of 'the prodigal son returns' homecoming when Pink Floyd played Wembley Stadium my grandmother, who lives in Cypress, came over for the show and she’d had days of people patronising her, going, ‘You know, Maria, you won’t like it very much but they’re the best at what they do and you should be very proud of Guy.’ Of course she went to the gig and absolutely loved it and managed to run through security and get hold of David Gilmour as he came off the stage and she trapped him and shouted, ‘I didn’t think it was a terrible racket at all!’

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Tomek Archer, Van She

Van She are a dancey electropop band with a strong 80s influence and the synth turned way up high.

Do you come from a musical family?

TOMEK ARCHER: Yeah, I guess so, but in kind of a different way to some people. My parents didn’t have any pop records or anything like that at all. Mum listened to a lot of jazz and both parents played a bit of piano, but it was just like, you know, tinkering and classical stuff. So it wasn’t like I grew up listening to Dark Side Of The Moon or other kind of seminal ’70s records like a lot of other people did. I kind of grew up listening to the radio. I got pushed into playing music when I was really young and sent to piano lessons since I was four and that kind of stuff. I dunno. I didn’t really get guided into following their taste in music, put it that way.

Do your parents listen to your music a lot?

TA: I doubt it [laughs]. I don’t know. They’ve got the record. I don’t know, they never mention it really. They’re always interested to hear what we’re doing, but I don’t know.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Elana Stone

Elana Stone is an award-winning jazz vocalist, leader of the Elana Stone Band (who are a bit jazz-rock, only not in the lame way you're imagining), winner of the Rockwiz trivia competition and member of Jackson Jackson's backing choir, the Jackson Jackson 5. She’s also sister to Jake Stone from the band Bluejuice, who is about as disgustingly talented as she is.

Do you come from a musical family?

ELANA STONE: Not any more than anyone else I don’t think. Like, our parents, they’ve both got normal jobs. My dad’s pretty eccentric.


ES: He’s sort of like, I dunno, just a bit European. He’s a bit passionate, sort of like an old Yiddish grandma. He used to burst into tears when we’d do things well, like put a bike into a car efficiently... He introduced us to music he loved, which wasn’t so left-of-centre. It was the Beatles and Police, Paul Simon, so it was like pretty much just ’80s music – pop music. As kids we did a lot of performing at home. My sister’s an actress and we used to make radio shows and write songs and we had a little kiddie band, but we only played La Bamba and I Wanna Hold Your Hand. Jake played drums in that and I sang and my sister played tambo or something. We definitely like do a lot of performing, but probably the same amount as any other family. But yeah, we kind of developed more interest in it later when we were in high school and Jake really suddenly got seriously into music, ’cause he was always a writer and a standup comedian. He just suddenly became a rock star and I’ve been doing it forever. It was quite a shock to me, I was like, ‘Oh shit!’

Did you have some sibling jealousy?

ES: God yeah. Like, I mean, it’s quite confronting – Jake’s brilliant, he’s a smart guy, unstoppably charismatic, he’s probably my favourite live performer, like I just I think that energy he creates on stage is so incredible and that’s just him. He’s not doing anything unnatural. He’s just a little bit manic and I think I’m a little bit more even keel. I think his live energy is a lot to do with why the band is so great and also ’cause, you know, Vitriol and the videos that they’ve made and stuff like that. I’ve come from a more sort of weird purist angle from studying jazz and really studying music. I think we’ve taught each other a lot. He’s taught me a lot about writing pop songs and thinking about things in a more succinct way.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Ray Mann, The Ray Mann Three

Ray Mann leads a trio of soulful funketeers in Sydney. Previously, he played guitar in the band Kid Confucius.

Do you come from a musical family?

RAY MANN: My parents are not particularly musical. Well, they’re not really musical, but they definitely introduced us to a lot of music growing up. I think my mum’s father was a bit of a renaissance man. He died when she was very young, but apparently he was a poet and a violinist and a whole bunch of other things and apparently that’s where our parents and aunties and uncles can trace that, back to him, this artistic inclination in me and my cousin Andy who’s in Kid Confucius. In our house at least most of the music that we were hearing, my dad would only ever listen to an Egyptian singer called Ummm Kulthum ’cause we’re Egyptian. She was like the Elvis of Egypt back when he was growing up. Mum mainly listened to Elvis, you know, who is the Elvis of the rest of the world. Between them they definitely put a lot of things in front of me. Everything from Michael Jackson to Simon & Garfunkel to whatever, you know? So most of that stuff came from listening. I decided to pick up a guitar based on everything they were putting me onto rather than them encouraging me to go and learn to create music.

When you picked up the guitar did you want to be the Elvis of Australia?

RM: I think at the time I wanted to be Ritchie Valens from La Bamba.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Switch, Major Lazer

Switch, a.k.a. Dave Taylor, is half of the DJ/production team behind Major Lazer, a dancehall cartoon superhero who is ready to battle the Gorillaz and impregnate Josie & The Pussycats. Just listen to the dang song already.

SWITCH: No, not at all, not at all. My family are more sort of sport-orientated. I don’t know where the music came from in me. I’m not musical at all either, really. I can’t play any instruments. I can’t sing. God knows where it came from in my end, but definitely not my family.

Do your family listen to your music?

SWITCH: It’s taken them a few years, but they’ve finally started to get it. I think.