Track By Track: Dave Graney
Veteran raconteur DAVE GRANEY detours from a full-band setting with his new solo album, ?Fearful Wiggings?.
I wanted to make a pretty simple and direct album, so I’d rather not comment on the songs too much. I mean, I hope they just WORK for people. I started it on acoustic guitar, not thinking of the end shape. I ran into [Lisa Gerrard](/articles/4554595) from Dead Can Dance – quite out of the blue – and she invited me to record some vocals at her studio, saying she had these great mics and pre-amps. She reached out to me from a purely musical direction. I guess she expected me to turn up with one track and I had 14 on my hard drive.
Likewise, Nick Harper responded, equally as out of the blue, to my stuff and got in touch. Clare Moore, who plays on most of the album on vibes, percussion, keys and vocals, has shared my whole music life with me. I sing about us on the title track.
?A Woman Skinnies a Man Up?
There was a conversation with my cousin Garry, who’s a stock and station agent in southeast South Australia. He often says funny things. People who work with animals are always talking frankly about sex. He was describing how a friend behaved when a woman was around. ?She skinnied him up?? He meant that he started acting funny – she focussed him with her searching female gaze.
The music is a kind of boogie that I’d been goofing off on for years. No bass. I saw a documentary about the Californian country singer [Buck Owens](http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Buck_Owens) and he said he hardly used any bass on his trademark ?Bakersfield sound? country records, so as to give more room for the vocals. I love the sound of ?60s country and where the voice sits, way out front, so that was a big thing in my approach to the whole album.
?Everything Was Legendary with Robert?
A mutated Bo Diddley beat with acoustic and electric guitars and bass xylophone. This is [the single](/tv/4651371). The music sounded like a TV theme tune to me, which is to say I thought it was high quality and really catchy. It’s like a Ray Davies type of a song as far as the lyrics go. I mean, it might have started out with me thinking on an actual person but songs take off in their own direction. I was also thinking of myself at different times being a very painfully self-conscious type of person. Guilty!
?How Can You Get Out of London??
The second line is ?How can you get London out?? We lived there for five years and had to leave suddenly. On an Aeroflot flight to Australia with a couple of carry on bags and a life in storage in someone’s roof in London – never to be seen again. A kind of a ?what if?? shadow life runs through my mind occasionally: ?What if we’d stayed there??
I love to read books about London. It’s in my mind a lot. The music is a kind of Latin groove, again. Clare’s voice has no reverb. Dry and straight like those British folk records I’ve been immersed in for years.
?Country Roads, Unwinding?
Aside from London, I am obsessed with country roads and downbeat country towns. They’re disappearing, really. Just villages with old people and a few antiques shops. I know, I do a lot of driving. Clare plays the vibes on this track. It was finished very early in the piece. Just fell into a sweet spot pretty easily. The song references the poet Max Harris. If you see [a picture of him](http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/4/46/MaxHarrisJoy_Hester.jpg) from his early Modernist days in the 1940s, he looks like a character from the postpunk scene in the ?80s.
He was involved in the [Ern Malley](http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ErnMalley) affair – a prank on modern art by two conservative poets (of the same age). The only time poetry ever made the front pages in Australia. Anyway, he grew up in the same town I did, [Mount Gambier](http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MountGambier,SouthAustralia), and was said to have read every book in the library when he was a kid, got a scholarship to a school in Adelaide. (The Ern Malley affair seems to have knocked a lot of the weirdness out of him and he was a different person afterwards.)
The song is about the dream state you get into driving down country roads. He would have driven down them, as did my parents. ?Into the past, into the future. Again. Just like before??
?Flower of the Earth?
I got very ill in Paris in 2008 and almost coughed my lungs up on a metro train and then on the street. Thought I was popping my cork. A lot of blood can scare you. When it’s coming out of you. I had been trying to learn French and read, slowly, a lot of old books. One was French Vietnamese poetry and there was this proverb saying, ?Man is the flower of the earth.? I thought that was a wonderful thing to be said at a time when the person’s country was being ?bombed into the stone age? by the Yanks.
A lot of bad French grammar in the lyrics of this song. I wanted to say ?Man! Woman!? [like Eric Burdon did](https://www.youtube.com/watch’v=Tj2Ai2GirUk). I pulled the beat together and liked the groove of the chords. Augmented or diminished chords. Kind of a ?cha cha cha? feel in the bass line. Like all those great ?30s feels that a lot of classic disco had.
[Nick Harper](http://www.harperspace.com) played guitar on this song. He’s a UK singer and player. Son of [Roy Harper](http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roy_Harper). I’d been listening to all this UK folk and he grew up totally IN that world. He got in touch once because he liked some of my songs and even played one at his gigs. He asked me to sing a song on his 2013 album, [Riven](http://nickharper.bandcamp.com/album/riven). In return, I asked him to play on a couple of mine. An amazing guitarist. I’ve never met him in the flesh. Hopefully some time this year.
The lyrics of this song are very personal. It was originally called ?The Ballad of Graney and Moore?. That was either a bit too high-flown or a bit too rootsy or earthy. It’s guitar and vocal and goes for seven minutes. An epic. I like to throw down epics on my albums.
?I’m the Stranger in Town?
Sadly, I have realised that this is how I have lived my life. As if I was just passing through – or if I was set to leave at any moment. Like the songs says: ?Silly – I know.?
The music is a bit of a groove I’d been mucking around on for ages. Didn’t want it to sound too straight and ?bluesy? so I asked Clare to play it half-time as if it was a hip-hop track. Just one mic on the drums. There’s cicadas on it. I needed a lonely sound and walked onto my deck with a ZOOM and took them from my own yard. Summer sounds.
?Je est un Autre?
A line Arthur Rimbaud wrote in a letter to a friend when he was 17 years old. ?I is another.? Translated differently sometimes, but this has the correct clunky meaning. ?I? is the person who is thinking ?me? up and fronting it to ?you.? Just me on 12-string guitar and some buried keys.
?Look into My Shades?
When I was coughing up blood in Paris in 2008, I had to see a doctor with x-rays of my lungs. He came out all dressed in denim. The denim jacket slung over his shoulders. He had longish grey hair and mirror shades on, as he stared at the x-rays and waved me off with a happy-go-lucky smile and shake of his head. I went around the corner to have a coffee and was heaving up more blood into a bin five minutes later.
The doctor with the shades image stayed with me. The song is kind of an Isaac Hayes rap. A wounded, macho man groaning about his ills. The music is a lot of chordal work, stacks upon stacks of chords, set against a Bo Diddley beat. No bass until the last minute. This song is also seven minutes long.
?I Know You Can’t See Me?
This is the purest moment of the session I did with Lisa Gerrard. She worked on the vocal EQ for a long time. The reverb and its stereo pan. Just guitar and vocal and Lisa doing some ambient singing way in the distance. I can’t thank her enough for inspiration and fire.
The lyric of the song is kind of drifting and shapeless too. Like my initial idea of the whole project. I was thinking about how people can see things – or performers- only if they’re familiar types. Archetypes. The archetype for an older musician is to be sad or to be drunk. Preferably both. People can see that sort of person. They can see it so well they don’t even have to listen to the sounds. They know what it’s like. My song goes: ?I know you can’t see me, since I quit drinkin? ha!/Wish I could bring that drama, that pathos, that bad feeling/I know you can’t see me, I’m hopin? you might hear??
?Everything is Perfect in its Beginning?
This was all recorded at our studio. Funny, discordant guitar chords. I’d demoed this a couple of years ago. Hard to get a beat to the irregular timing. I figured something out with a hip-hop boombox. Kind of prog chords in the chorus. Monstrous distorted guitars and some slide too. Lots of guitars. Clare hates too many guitars, but this was my album.
The lyrics are kind of proverbial. When things begin, they contain their end, so they’re perfect.
?The Old Docklands Wheel?
I wanted to write a really, really DOWN downbeat song. Lots of music isn’t heavy enough for me. It’s too cute. Or shallow. I want things to be really heavy or sad if they’re gonna try for those depths. So this is a relentlessly downward-spiralling song. A spiky, discordant folk blues song.
Mentions ?the artist [Schiele](http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Egon_Schiele).? It goes down and down and then falls a bit further. Then the singer notes, outside the window, ?the old Docklands Wheel? – Melbourne people will know what I’m talkin? about.
This song is graced by the guitar stylings of Nick Harper too. He’s a demon.
?I Was There?
Almost a duet with Clare Moore. We’ve been musicians for a long time. Sometimes we hear and watch people talking about situations and events that we were at and they’re talking about a completely different scenario. It’s become mythic. You can’t challenge myths. I’m trusting this could be a common feeling. That’s what you have to do when you write songs: trust that things and ?vibes? you have deep within you could be common to others.
It’s also linked to ?I Know You Can’t See Me?, musing on the same riffing ideas:
To see something, in a way
you have to be lookin? for it
to find it – the pattern
what’s the point of the boundless panorama
The iTunes version of the album has three other tracks I re-recorded with Clare Moore:
?Aristocratic Jive?, which was a song on an album called The Dave Graney Show we did for Festival in 1998. I always liked the chords and the lyric. About the kind of person I wanted to be . perhaps a song like ?Everything was Legendary with Robert?, which was again an echo of one called ?You Wanna be There but You Don’t Wanna Travel?.
a good old boy in slave to the royal way
a buckskin fur trapper in the court of the mad king
a cattle baron partakin? of afternoon tea
holdin? his pinky finger in the air
restin? his spurs upon the leather chair
what makes a man?
money, blood or nerve?
it’s what you don’t do that counts the most
?Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye?, which we originally recorded for the album of the same name in 2000. The timing on the guitar lick has escaped everybody I ever played with – even Clare leaves the room saying it doesn’t make sense. I always liked the groove, even if only I could hear it. Story of my life!
And ?I Need Some Scratch?, also from Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye. An album of mixed acoustic tracks and electronic pop. All these three songs were done with bass xylophone (like a marimba), vibes, and guitars. This was my kind of a blues song, getting personal?
the more I struggle the tighter the rope gets
the deeper I sink into the black sand
I’ve been a fool
it wasn’t always the case
I loved to bullshit and let the sounds fly
crazy and rootless like a cloud above my head
I used to be the one that cried wolf and ran
I wanted this album to really sparkle so I got it mastered in Phoenix by [SAE](http://www.saemastering.com) (Roger Seibel), as I loved the sounds on the last couple of Bill Callahan albums.
##?Fearful Wiggings? is [out now](http://davegraney1.bandcamp.com/album/fearful-wiggings) digitally and on CD through Cockaigne/Fuse. Tour dates below.
Fri, June 6 – Basement Discs, Melbourne, VIC [free lunchtime gig]
Thurs, June 5 – Bridge Hotel, Castlemaine, VIC [w/Teeth & Tongue]
Fri, June 20 – City Band Hall, Mount Gambier, SA [w/Blue Valentine]
Sat, June 21 – Wheatsheaf Hotel, Adelaide, SA
Sun, June 22 – Wheatsheaf Hotel, Adelaide, SA
Fri, June 27 – Royal Exchange, Newcastle, NSW
Sat, June 28 – Milton Theatre, Milton NSW [w/The Glamma Rays]
Sun, June 29 – The Bunker, Coogee, NSW
Wed, July 2 – The Brass Monkey, Cronulla, NSW [w/The Glamma Rays]
Thurs, July 3 – Camelot, Marrickville, NSW [w/The Glamma Rays]
Fri, July 4 – Smith’s Alternative Bookshop, Canberra, ACT
Sat, July 5 – RAD, Wollongong, NSW [w/Justin Frew’s Loose Intentions]
Sun, July 6 – Six String Brewery, Central Coast, NSW
Fri, July 11 – SS&A Club, Albury, NSW
Sat, July 12 – Martians Caf?, Deans Marsh, VIC
Fri, July 18 – Beetle Bar, Brisbane, QLD
Sat, July 19 – Solbar, Maroochydore, QLD
Sun, July 20 – The Great Northern, Byron Bay, NSW
Sat, July 26 – The Toff, Melbourne, VIC [w/The Glamma Rays]
Fri, Aug 22 – Happy Yess, Darwin, NT