Friday, 11 September 2015

#63. Karma Comes Around – The Extreme Sprinklers

Harry Fahey: drums
Matt Hewson: bass, vocals
Jade McLaren: vocals
Matt Neal: guitar, vocals

Lyrics by Jade McLaren and Matt Neal
Music by Harry Fahey, Matt Hewson, Jade McLaren and Matt Neal.
Written summer of ’05-‘06.
Recorded at The Shed, Warrnambool in April, 2006.
Produced, engineered and mixed by Harry Fahey.

By the start of 2006, The Extreme Sprinklers were on a roll. We were playing just about every weekend, there were some great support gigs (67 Special, The Exploders, Regurgitator, The Vasco Era), our own headline shows, plus plenty of cover gigs to help us pay the rent on the rehearsal shed we shared. Singer Jade McLaren and I were writing more songs than we knew what to do with, the band was building up a strong local following, and the after-parties were plentiful.

And we looked fabulous. Picture: Glen Watson

Sometimes I had to forego the after-party and be the designated driver, purely because I drove a stationwagon. So did The Extreme Sprinklers’ drummer, Harry Fahey. That meant that when we packed up following a gig, the kit and the bass rig went in his car, and the PA system and my gear went in my gear, and we were the poor sober bastards who had to drive drunken Jade or drunken bassist Matt Hewson home.

Pictured: Drunken Jade and Hewy.

After once such gig (at the Seanchai I think), I drove home and pulled up out the front of my house. It was about 3am and it had been a long night of entertaining drunk punters while having to stay sober myself (which makes long covers gigs even longer). I really couldn’t be fucked loading all the gear out of the car and into the house as usual, so instead I just loaded my gear inside and left the PA in the back of the wagon. You can probably guess where this is heading.

When I awoke the next morning, the car was still there but the PA was gone. I rang the cops, who came out and dusted the wagon for prints. They pointed out there didn’t appear to be any forced entry, which most likely meant I’d left the car unlocked. Idiot. I knew a lot of the cops at the time because I was on the police rounds at The Standard and spent a lot of my spare time drinking with cops and lawyers, so they didn’t give me too much of a hard time about leaving the car unlocked.

Not pictured: Cops and lawyers.

“Don’t worry,” the detectives said, “we think we know who has your PA, but we’ll put the word out at the music stores just in case they try to sell it. We’ll keep you posted.”

I rang the rest of the band and broke the bad news. I can’t remember if I mentioned the bit about possibly leaving the car unlocked, but it didn’t matter – either way, we had lost our PA, which we’d worked our arses off to buy. We figured we’d never see it again and starting working out how many gigs we needed to play to buy a new one and how much it was going to cost to hire another one in the meantime.

"Ok everyone, we're just going to pass Doc's hat around...."

Amazingly, within a couple of days, the cops recovered our PA. A couple of knobs had been busted off the head, and the back had been taken off one of the speakers so it could be wired up to a stereo apparently, but otherwise it was in full working order. Great work, Warrnambool police.

That incident sparked this song. If Jade had gotten his way, it would have been a song about going out and inflicting violent retribution on the thieves. I threw a mild tantrum and said I wouldn’t be a part of a song that promoted violence as I didn’t believe that was an appropriate response to such an incident. The tantrum must have worked, as Jade agreed to my approach of passive resistance. I’m not religious at all, but I like the Buddhist notion of karma, and Jade eventually agreed it was a better angle for turning the PA theft into a song. We were angry at the thieves and Jade genuinely wanted to go out and inflict violence upon them, but I was content to let the universe have its revenge (which is both the last line of the song and the title of another song I had written prior to this one – it will be in a later blog).

Artwork: Jade McLaren

The chorus – “You can’t stop us, you can only slow us down” – is Jade’s lyric, I’m pretty sure. It sounds like his sense of bravado anyway, and reflects his more assertive and defiant mindset about the theft. But the rest of the words were a real team effort.

There’s one line in this song I particularly like (and I honestly don’t know who came up with it). It’s the phrase “like a panic in your skeleton”. I really love that – it’s so weirdly evocative of that deep down feeling something is wrong. It sounds like a Thom Yorke lyric. Jade obviously liked it too – I found a file recently that he’d put together compiling all the Extreme Sprinklers lyrics and it was titled “A Panic In Your Skeleton – The Complete Extreme Sprinklers Songbook”.

Artwork: Jade McLaren

This recording, made during band practice one night in 2006, is a good example of Harry, bassist Matt Hewson and myself clicking together. It's a little rough (especially my falsetto at the start) and Jade forgets a few lines (full correct lyrics below), but otherwise this rehearsal recording is pretty cool. Everyone is on song (or at least “close enough for jazz” as they say in the classics). I always loved the middle section of this song – it gave Harry and Hewy a chance to go nuts and I got to make feedback and noise rather than solo, which played to all our strengths to be honest.

Rehearsing in the shed. Picture: Glen Watson

The intro, I realised belatedly, sounds a little bit too close to the Coldplay song God Put A Smile Upon Your Face but I’m not sure what the rest of it sounds like. I dig it though. It's rocking and each bit feels interesting. When Harry left the band not long after this recording, this was one of the many songs that fell by the wayside, probably because it was hard to dance too or some similar bullshit.


Karma comes around to make some waves while ships are safe and sound. Now our precious spice, our livelihood which grew from good advice, is paying dividends. We can score so much more again. Stealing through the night... something’s coming. Things are running right....

A wave of karma, like a panic in your skeleton

You can’t stop us, you can only slow us down

Stealing through the night, son of a snake - you can’t take the light, like a nuisance leech, siphon blood where it is hard to reach. You won’t drag us down to where you’re from - hiding underground. Karma come around and salt the leech that tries to breach our sound.

A wave of karma, like a panic in your skeleton

You can’t stop us, you can only slow us down

Slow down

Stealing through the night comes the breeze and it sees it right. Karma comes again - the universe will have its revenge.

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