Tuesday, 18 August 2015

#61. A Journey Across Space & Time – 21st Century Ox

Dion Barker: bass
Harry Fahey: drums
Matt Hewson: saxophone
Brendan Hoffmann: guitar
Matt Neal: guitar, vocals

Lyrics by Matt Neal.
Music by Dion Barker, Harry Fahey, Matt Hewson, Brendan Hoffmann and Matt Neal.
Written 2000/2001?
Recorded at Motherlode Studios, 2002.
Produced and mixed by Tony Peel and Harry Fahey.

Epic. That’s what I was going for here. This collection of weird chords was always intended to be a dynamic slow-burner, perhaps with a hint of psychedelic and prog-rock that burst to life and took you on a trip … hence the hilariously overblown title. Space grunge, perhaps.

I’m sure this sounds like something pre-existing – at the back of my mind is the feeling that the arrangement and the strange array of chords are very similar to something else, but I can’t figure out what it is. All I can pin it down to is an odd mixture of the stuff I was listening to aged 19 and 20 – Pink Floyd, Tool, Nirvana, King Crimson and The Smashing Pumpkins. Nothing specific really but just a mash-up of musical elements I’d probably picked out of the sounds of those bands.

So kinda something between this:

... and this:

The idea in my head was for this to be the final track on the unfinished unreleased second 21st Century Ox album, The Last Sane Man On Earth. It seemed like the kind of epic closer I like to see at the end of an album. From memory though, we used to open sets with it when playing live – that moment at 1.38 tended to get people’s attention and let people know what we were about.

“It was definitely one of my favourites to play live - I think it (was) pretty indicative of Ox’s stage presence,” Ox guitarist Brendan Hoffmann said.

“It's probably my favourite track on that album – it’s a real shame that we never got to release it. Hewy’s solo is epic! The vocals were equally epic!”

21st Century Ox live at the Lady Bay Hotel 
supporting 28 Days and Bodyjar in 2001 or 2002 (I think)

Hewy’s solo is indeed epic. It’s patently obvious to everyone who’s seen him play that he is an amazing sax player, but it’s his inventiveness and the way he fits into a song that make him truly awesome. You should all buy his jazz album. It’s king. His cover of Everlong is awesome.

The odd thing about A Journey Across Space & Time is that it began life as a track on a weird side project album that Ox bassist Dion Barker, Hoffa and myself put together in about 2001 called The Peppermint Anthology.

The idea behind The Peppermint Anthology was to get a bit messed up and to improvise songs (a bit like Gutsy As!! to be honest, but not as good) and record them into Hoffa’s Tascam four-track, sometimes layering strange instruments or sounds, sometimes just improvising lyrics and melodies as we went.

The rig. Pic: Matt Neal.

The results were generally shit. From memory, we sold two copies.

“Yeah, I remember it was pretty crap, but it has sentimental value,” Hoffa said.

Here’s the Peppermint version of A Journey Across Space & Time:

Dion Barker: acoustic bass, vocals
Brendan Hoffmann: beats and loops
Matt Neal: acoustic guitar, vocals

Recorded on a Tascam four-track at Janlor Drive, Warrnambool.
Produced and mixed by Dion Barker, Brendan Hoffmann and Matt Neal.
Released on The Peppermint Anthology Volume 1

This recording was slightly more organised than most of the other Peppermint stuff. I’d written the chords some time prior, probably with the intention of taking them to an Ox rehearsal, but we decided to have a muck around with them one afternoon at Hoffa’s place, with me on guitar, Dion on acoustic bass, and Hoffa at his computer using some weird DJ program to live trigger various samples. Dion tells me the program came free in a cereal box. He’s not even joking.

"And I got my bass guitar in a tin of milo!" - Dion
Pic: Matt Neal

That pre-organisation meant that this was the stand-out track of the Peppermint Anthology album. It had the fewest amount of fuck-ups and we actually sounded like we vaguely knew what we were doing. The aim of the Peppermint experiments was to capture magical musical accidents, which it did from time to time. Unfortunately the bits either side of those happy accidents was usually shite. But you live and learn.

Like how I just learnt it's apparently not cool to wear shorts on stage,
even if it was the Cri and the year was 2001.


Say goodbye tonight
We gotta fly tonight

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