Let’s start at the beginning…
When I was 17 I was driving my VW Beetle along a rural road near where I lived listening to the radio. On came Bruce Springsteen’s The River. I was mesmerised, feeling the emotion of the songs desperation, with the sheer joy of everything about the song.
I think I decided there that I wanted to extend my first love, writing, with my second love, music. That afternoon I dug out an old guitar that was lying around the house and started to teach myself chords from an old, old guitar book.
In the two years it took for me to finish school and land myself in University I had a handful of chords and some songs that I thought were pretty good. It was 1990. Free Fallin’ by Tom Petty was a brand new hit when I met a fella called Rick Wiezel. Rick and I hit it off almost immediately and when we discovered a mutual musicianship, we quickly organised a jam. That first meeting was great fun. Rick loved The Black Crowes and had a smooth bluesiness to his playing that I fell in love with immediately. Rick and I would go on to form a group called Blue Mayday with a bass player and an oustanding drummer, Daniel Molketin. Daniel was introduced to me by a guy I worked with at the time and he would go on to play in hugely popular Sydney band, Rainhouse. Blue Mayday played a few gigs and seemed to be endlessly auditioning bass players and drummers.
As a sideline and pay supplement I took a gig singing for a soul band called The Midnight Hour. These guys were the real deal. I didn’t really consider myself much of a singer but the band happened to be a tribute to The Commitments, and with my long hair I looked a bit like Andrew Strong. I auditioned and got the gig and it was to start me on a love of singing that I still have today. I cut my teeth in that band, playing with “real” muso’s and to real audiences. The band were essentially session guys from the different “Services”…the drummer was from the Army, the horn section and guitarist from the RAAF, the keyboard player was from the New South Wales Police band. These guys were fun and fantastic to play with. We played mainly bigger gigs up and down the coast.
In 1996, with Springsteen touring his Ghost Of Tom Joad album, I was standing in front of Sydney’s Capital Theatre. I was there to meet a friend who had tickets for me for the following night. I noticed a guy standing around and we struck up a conversation. That conversation would lead to one of the closest and most productive friendships of my life. Bruce Williams was a freeelance sound engineer who played a little bit of harmonica and shared my love of Springsteen. We got together a few months later because he always wanted to jam with his harp but didn’t really know any other muso’s. We met at my folks place and jammed for a couple of hours on Springsteen, Steve Earle, Dylan and some other stuff. I said in passing that I write my own songs and he asked to hear a few. The first song I played was a song called As Long As There’s You. To my surprise Bruce loved the song. He asked to hear another, then another. After a few original songs he says “You gotta record these”. The closest I had been to a recording studio was my Tascam MT120 four track TAPE recorder. But over the next few months Bruce and I would record dozens of songs that I had written. It was through these late nights that we bonded and remain very close.
Nothin’ in The Rearview
We grew into home recording and with Bruces audio background we set about putting a band together to record an album. Rick Wiezel was the immediate choice for guitar. When I was writing the songs that would appear on Nothin’ in The Rearview, I kept hearing his playing all through it. He agreed and the first step had been taken. A drummer I knew and worked with fitted nicely into the band and another guy I knew, a guitarist, who I bumped into at a Tea Party gig, asked if he could play bass. Rick Wiezel, Darren Haar (drums) and James McCamey (bass) would form The Stand, and together we would record an album and for two years we would gig it. Dave Garner and The Stand played many gigs around Sydney and built a loyal following. We opened for bluesman Chris Wilson with his Crown Of Thorns outfit, and also opened for Weddings, Parties Anything front man Mick Thomas and The Sure Thing.
We launched Nothin’ In The Rearview on June 30, 2000.
The recording sessions were late night, laughter infused, pizza fueled affairs in a home studio in Sydney’s west. Dubbed Two Fat Ladies studios (the unit number was 88) we cut our teeth on new equipment, different techniques and wittled down the songs to a manageable number.
The result was an album we are still pretty proud of. At sixteen songs long there is plenty of material. It sounds organic, and whilst the limitations of the gear we had are probably evident to the trained ear, there is a feel and a sound to it that is still mysterious and inviting.
One Degree Of Separation
The second album happened almost by accident. Bruce and I started experimenting with samples and programming and I started enjoying that mode of writing. We worked pretty steady and hard at trying to create “atmosphere". The result was One Degree Of Separation (2004). We were busy recording and realised that we had close to enough songs for an album. Moreover, the songs seemed to follow musically and thematically, creating a story along the way.
There were live drums on only two of the songs and on one of those, we used drums from a session from Nothin In The Rearview, courtesy of Darren Haar. But by this time The Stand had parted company with James heading overseas, Rick starting a demanding job and a family and Darren disappearing off the face of the planet (only to reappear just in time for the next album). Personnel for this album saw the (finally) contribution from Dan Pugliese, my very close friend and someone whose music I love. It was a thrill having Dan play on the album. Liz Lohan stepped in on backing vocals but most of the work came down to Bruce and I.
There was no real live performance of these songs but a lot of attention received around the world, particularly in the podcast community.
Some of the songs are among my favourite on this album, and in more recent times I have started performing these songs with different arrangements, teasing and wringing from them different meaning or feel.
Hard Road Home
A lot happened between One Degree and Hard Road Home (2007). My extended family extended by two - a nephew and a niece- and my own family had Sam added to it. I finished a Masters Degree, changed jobs and moved house. Looking back with a bit of a space the songs seem to reflect that change. The characters are looking around for the next thing, or recovering from the last. They are wondering how their life would be if they had made different choices.
This is a rockier album with drums back in play and, having started playing an awful lot in The Usual Suspects, my voice really became stronger, a bit more honest. Dan is all over this album and Bruce did an amazing job of pulling it all together. Liz Lohan and Michelle O'Reilly did a fantastic job with the backing vocals.
Tilt Toward The Sun
With Tilt Toward the Sun I was really striving to wrap up what I felt like had been a stage in my life. There were endings and new beginnings in the wings and the songs certainly reflect all that I had been through, learned and summised from where I had been.
The additions of The Usual Suspects comrades Paul Barker and Rod Jonusas make this album sound amazing. Adding to Dan’s amazing bass work and backing vocals again by Liz and Michelle…this album stands as probably my own favourite.