Wednesday, 28 October 2015

#66. Last Song - 21st Century Ox

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

Music by Dion Barker, Harry Fahey, Matt Hewson, Brendan Hoffmann and Matt Neal. 
Written and recorded at the Barker residence, October 2-10, 2003. 
Produced by 21st Century Ox. 
Recorded and mixed live by Dave Wilson.

As mentioned in previous blogs, 21st Century Ox spent the first week of October 2003 supposedly recording songs to finish off our unreleased album but mostly we spent the time getting fucked-up and not finishing off our unreleased album. I think we almost finished three songs, plus we recorded a few live versions of things. Then there was plenty of jamming and drinking and playing FIFA on the Playstation. But on the whole it wasn’t as productive as I’d hoped.

To be fair, we were all to blame.
Picture: Dannii Hale.

I was obviously oblivious to the fact the band was slowly reaching the end of its useful life. I was still keen to try and push 21st Century Ox along and maybe get some new material happening. Everyone still seemed interested in music, but no one seemed really dedicated to working. But I pushed on, trying to drive some level of enthusiasm and achievement. I guess that made me the Paul of this Let It Be-style scenario.

While digging through some of the jam sessions that were recorded during “Dion’s Week Of Debauchery” I found this little artifact - evidence of my attempts to keep the band creating. It was just four chords that I brought in, but it turned out to be Ox’s final attempt at writing a song together. Since Matt Hewson had joined the band some time during 2001 we’d loved the fact we had two sax players in the group, and occasionally wrote material with the aim of Brendan Hoffmann putting down his guitar and picking up the sax to jam along with Hewy. The Axolotl is the best example (there was also a now-lost tune in 5/4 called The Psychiatrist, which was partially a poor man's rip-off of Take Five) but this little unformed nugget of a song was another attempt at the double sax attack.

This is the second and final take of what I have called Last Song. We’re just feeling our way through the changes and seeing what happens, but it’s kinda fitting as a final track for Ox. It’s slightly weird but kinda nice and sweet, with a hint of sadness. When I look back on the band’s four-year burst, that’s pretty much how I view it. 

PS. That’s Jade McLaren at the end saying it “needs more triangle”.

PPS. This is a really short blog so I’m going to throw in a bonus track - 21st Century Ox's cover of Norwegian Wood, which always sounded to us trying to be A Perfect Circle (on their first album) while trying to cover The Beatles. Sorry about the sound quality - this was mixed on the run by our good pal Dave Wilson, who was concentrating on the live sound, not the recording.

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

Written by Lennon/McCartney.
Recorded at the Henty Hotel, Portland, in November 2002.
Recorded and mixed live by Dave Wilson.

Friday, 9 October 2015

#65. Lappers – The Extreme Sprinklers

Jade McLaren: vocals, programming
Matt Neal: programming, vocals, guitar

Music and lyrics by Jade McLaren and Matt Neal.

Recorded April 2, 2004 at Studio Studyo, Warrnambool.
Produced by Matt Neal and Jade McLaren.
Mixed by Harry Fahey.
Released on the Jamaica EP.

I’ve never thought of this as a real song. It’s a joke. Jamaica feels like a real song, despite it also being a bit jokey, but this one was just full-blown novelty in my mind.

The 80 Aces drummer Jarrod Hawker disagreed. Despite this song predating him joining the band (and the band’s name change from The Extreme Sprinklers) by about two years, he was convinced this song should have been part of our live set.

“I love it,” he said. “I wanted to play it ... which is why we never played it.”

Actually, we did play it. Once. At The Loft. I can’t remember why. But it confirmed everything I’d thought about the song. Namely that a) it wouldn’t work live and b) that it never felt like a real song. So, sorry Hawk, but I definitely tried to shut you down on the Let’s Play Lappers campaign.

Who could say 'no' to this guy? He's so rock.

And while I regard it as unfit for live consumption and more like a three-minute joke than a real song, I have to agree that Lappers is, in its own special way, kinda cool (or “super cool” as Extreme Sprinklers/80 Aces bassist Matt Hewson described it). The credit (or possibly blame) for it goes largely to Sprinklers vocalist Jade McLaren.

At the time of creating this very Warrnambool-white-people piece of hip hop, The Extreme Sprinklers was just Jade and myself. It was primarily a recording project. We were just writing for the sake of it and having fun learning how to record things. In those early days we would just write a song and record it pretty much straight away. Or just record it as we wrote it. Or write it as we recorded it. Either way, there was no filter and no rules and no band to consider and no “target market”. 

Lappers started with Jade getting my ex-wife to let him into my studio while I was at work so he mess around with some beats. 

This man should not be trusted in a studio by himself.

“I was working on it before you came home and when you came in and heard it, you thought I’d gone bonkers,” Jade said. “I remember you going ‘what the hell is this weird hip hop thing?’.”

If I recall correctly (which is highly unlikely) Jade had kinda pieced together a fair bit of the beat. It was nothing like wed done before, and yeah, I was probably wondering what the fuck was going on. Listening to some NWA recently, I heard a bit of a similarity to the start of Gangsta Gangsta, but I’ve got no idea if it’s what Jade was aiming for. But hey - if you’re gonna rip from someone, it may as well be Dre. 

Jade also already had his two vocal sections worked out - the “all the girls in the back” bit and the “you know he’s a fuckwit” bit. We wrote the rap together, laughing constantly, cracking ourselves up. “We’re doing it in front of cops, I get her first and you get slops” - that made us laugh.

I then (very badly) rapped it and we dropped the pitch on it to make it sound more like the dude from Jurassic 5 who raps real low (Chali 2na is his name apparently). His voice is boss. I added some guitar licks (the main guitar lick was called ‘The Arabian Chicken Lick’ because I declared it sounded like a Middle Eastern chook apparently) and we piled a bunch of badly sampled vinyl scratches and sound effects on to it (largely nicked from Grand Theft Auto I think).

My hip hop knowledge was fairly limited at the time but I can honestly say they biggest influence for me while doing this was Missy Elliot. The Arabian Chicken Lick was a reference to Get Ur Freak On, while the bit where we reversed the rap was a reference to Work It.

For those who don’t get what it’s all about, the whole thing is a Warrnambool in-joke. Lappers are douchebags who drive their cars up and down the main street at night for lack of anything better to do with their lives. It’s an insanely common pastime in Warrnambool. In fact, Jade and I stuck a microphone out the window of Jade’s apartment to capture the sound of someone lapping, preferably with their “shit music turned up to the max”, to add to the song. As if proving the point of the song, it took us no time at all to capture the required audio - that’s the bit at the end where a guy hoons past with L’il Bow Wow blaring out of his tricked-out Commodore (probably).

But back to Hawk. Why the hell did he want to play this jokey fake song live?

“I think it had great local relevance, it had comedy value, I actually also thought that the vocal rhythm of the ‘rap’ was quite good and I really liked the (original recording) so I thought that we could do a good live ‘band’ version,” he said. “It just so happens that when we did jam it live something about the groove struck a chord with me and I liked it.”

It must have struck a chord with Harry Fahey and Matt Hewson, who helped Jade and I bring The Extreme Sprinklers to life as a live band in that latter half of 2004. I’m not entirely sure why, but this recording ended up on the Jamaica EP, confirming the fact that we were trying to rival Ween in the weird eclectic stakes in those early days. Harry did some tasty mixing on it too, just to tidy the whole thing up.


All the girls in the back have been lickin’ his sack
Oh no he be trippin’ he’s been smokin’ crack
He’s got little blue lights to make eyes attract
And he’s got his shit music turned up to the max

Got a sweet ride, blue lights, see if I can maximise
bitch-pulling power every hour when I hit the night
My doof-doof could flatten a city block
I get the bitches then you watch my vehicle rock
Can’t stop, get on top, we’re doing it in front of cops
I get her first and you get slops

One time for my wiggas

You know he’s fuckwit
An IQ to match his gears
He wants her to suck it
But he hasn’t had a lady friend in years