Wednesday, 15 May 2013

#10. Big Fat Texta – 21st Century Ox

Dion Barker – bass.
Harry Fahey – drums.
Brendan Hoffmann – vocals, guitar.
Matt Neal – guitar, backing vocals.

Lyrics and music written by Brendan Hoffman.
Written in 2002-2003?
Recorded at The Barker Residence, 2002-2003?
Produced and mixed by Harry Fahey & Dave Wilson.

In late 2002-early 2003, as 21st Century Ox was fizzling out, guitarist/vocalist Brendan Hoffmann was writing some of the best songs he’d ever written. I was blown away by the stuff he was coming up with, notably this song and another sadly unrecorded number called World Of Cats. They were lyrically surreal and slightly bent musically, but had great vocals lines and pop hooks.

But the band was starting to fracture by that point. Some members were starting to lose interest and some time in 2002, Hoffa and bassist Dion Barker had told me they thought I was controlling the band too much, and I almost quit. Instead, I stepped back, trying to strike more of a balance between Hoffa’s material and my own, even encouraging sax player Matt Hewson to bring in songs.

Hoffa (left) and Dion jamming in The Love Shed, which was the garage
 of the place where Hoffa and I lived for a while.

Here's Hewy:
"I was a latecomer to Ox, and so I was blissfully ignorant of whatever was going on with tensions etc... Well, that's not entirely true, but I certainly tried to affect a complete lack of awareness of everything but making music and having a good time (not necessarily in that order)."

Around the time things were fading, Hoffa roped in Hewy and drummer Harry Fahey to start a side project called HHH (pronounced Triple H). It was more acoustic and jazzy than what Ox was doing and I loved the material they were recording. One of the songs was Big Fat Texta, a skewed pop song with timing kinks but beautiful melodies. I adored the track and asked Hoffa if we could play it in Ox. He agreed.

Here's Hewy again:
"I really can't remember how it came about, but somehow Hoffa, Harry and I ended up sitting at Hoffa's in front of an amateur recording setup. We were attempting to make music with a different spin: still with grungy, alternative roots, but with elements of strange beauty, a touch if the sublime, which I'm not ashamed to say was mostly provided by Hoffa. Harry and I offered ideas and certain performance and arrangement talents that aided the songs as final products, but apart from a tune called Plato, the basis of all the music was the enigmatic Hoffa."

This recording of Big Fat Texta is from the extended recording session/prolonged party we had at Dion’s parents’ house sometime in 2002 or 2003 (as previously described in this blog), which Dion referred to as “Dion’s Week Of Debauchery”.

Here's Hewy having too much fun during a recording session at Motherlode Studios.

I tend to view that week as the end of Ox among my fractured memories – we got a handful of tracks out of the session, but everyone was too busy getting fucked up and being disinterested, and it doesn’t seem like we really jammed or played much after that. We never recorded again. Certain members just didn’t seem interested in the band anymore.

I asked all the former Ox members what they recall about the break-up of the band and Dion sent me this:

"That stirs up some memories! I do remember being completely taken by surprise when it was suggested that Ox break up, though. Despite some mild but expected infighting, we were making some great and interesting music at the time!"

Harry said he couldn't remember much. And Hewy said this about his time in Ox:

"Those times were a lot of fun. I've always enjoyed the fusion of multiple genres in my music-making, and Ox and HHH, hot on the heels of the Piffen Yonnies, satisfied that desire nicely. We were all young, pretty dumb, and sometimes rather callous and childish in our treatment of each other, but given our ages that doesn't surprise me. Nor does any of it bother me - in fact, it rarely did back then! We were growing up, and screwing up, together, but I guess that's what being in a band when you're in your teens (or just out of them) is all about."

I'm reasonably sure this photo of (l-r) me, Hoffa and Dion
 had nothing to do with the break-up.

The album that we were working on – which I had tentatively titled The Last Sane Man On Earth, probably without regard for everyone else – was left unfinished, and Hewy, Harry and I eventually reconvened in early 2004 to begin The Extreme Sprinklers with Jade McLaren, which would eventually become The 80 Aces.

But despite the fallouts and the fights and the failures, I genuinely love the song Big Fat Texta, and Hewy agrees it was a favourite of his, too. It is the epitome of what was so great about Hoffa as a songwriter, particularly in the band’s latter days – the song is weird and beautiful at the same time, it feels effortless but is quite tricky, and it’s strangely uplifting. I still have no idea what it’s about, but I think it’s great.

Actually I think it might have something to do with me and Hoffa sniffing textas in high school but I'm not sure.

For the final word on the matter, here's Hoffa:
"I wrote this song with a big fat texta. Didn't get me high though! I feel I wrote some of my best ever songs during this period, mostly with the HHH project. We should've really tried some of those songs in the band, but I think the end was really nigh by then."


Don't write songs with a big fat texta,
Don't you slip as the fumes go past ya,
You could lose all of your brain.

Don't ride fast or the smell will catch ya,
Sign my cast with a big fat texta,
You could lose all of your brain.

So someone bring me over
A pot of beer and some Mexicans
So summer bring me over
Some tulips crossed with Mexicans

So someone bring me over
A pot of beer
So someone bring me over
Some Mexicans

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