The story here goes back to the 8th Feb 08 when we’d completed recording Grey-11. I think it was Stanier called the breakdown in the middle section, very “Rollins-esque”. Me, I thought it was more like TMOC, but I could see what he meant from the point of view that there is a drop away of the guitar and the bass and drums mute somewhat and play this driving riff for about a minute and then get back into the song. The Rollins Band would do something like this but with a little more pattern work occurring on the drums, and the bass would also be walking the riff, plus the guitar would come in and out underlining whatever Henry would be sing/talking about – anyway, the fundamentals of that sort of approach were there in Grey-11, and the guitar does return during this section, but in what I would call a “tmoc-esqe” sort of way…
For me, I’d always seen this section as where some sort of vocal “dialogue” would definitely occur. Then, I think Evan, who is recording the album, said something like you should get Henry to do that middle bit – and we all mutually nodded in assent – great idea – then, I think it was Kim, mentioned well, you know Henry will be out here for his shows in April – it might be possible. After that point it was all left very much in the air and we got back to finishing off recording. When John Stanier was on his way home, at the end of all this, he met with Tim, our manager, in Sydney and mentioned the idea to Tim, and as Tim has been looking after Rollins’s touring interests since around 1989 and can do these things, he said he’ll ask and see if Rollins might be interested.
I in the meanwhile hadn’t really thought too much more about all this, and to some extent forgot all about it until a few weeks ago, when Tim said Henry was cool about doing some guest vocals on a track for us while in Adelaide for his show, and that he had a free day available, or something like that – basically there would be time to do it.
So, last week was when we just started recording vocals for the album so I started with the vocals for Grey-11 as first up, and Evan ran off a rough vocal mix which I then sent to Tim, along with a slight description of what the song was about, the themes involved etc for on-forwarding to Henry. The wonders of technology. Must admit, I was worried Henry would hear it and think, Man this is crap, how do I say no – but that’s my own personal paranoia – Tim really liked the song, and that’s generally a good sign.
So, Tim forwarded me Henry’s tour manager’s details, I sent off an email to touch base, say where the studio is etc, and we organised to meet up today (Wed 16 April 08) at the studio at 4pm. Henry and tour manager Ward were getting in around 2pm.
[Just a quick aside – technology has been somewhat more of a key player this time – I mean even in 2000 when Andy Gill was doing mixes for us in the UK – he’d send MP3’s to us to check out and advise changes. For this album, we invested in a Macbook pro and a Protools LE Rack003 software/hardware set-up and we’d used that to record our rehearsals with John prior to his going on the Big Day Out. Also, I am able to get copies of what we’ve done in the studio (as the studio also uses Protools) and take them home and listen to them, cut and arrange, record rehearsal vocals, and guitar or bass to try stuff out. In fact because the songs were so new, when I went to do my extra guitar tracks to replace the original session guide tracks – I went through the song at my place and put markers up at each point the song changed from one riff to another, i.e. “verse”, “chorus”, “do 9 of these!”, “false ending coming up”, “Transition C – D – E – F” etc, etc, and transferred these to Evan who then set up a spare monitor in the studio so that as I played guitar I could have a visual cue system and my own performance notes flashing by as the screen scrolled playing the audio. It really cut down the time that would have been wasted trying to relearn each new song, after having not touched them for a month or so and when they’re that fresh its easy to forget little parts…Anyway, I just wanted to say how much its helped.]
Anyway, back to Hank – So, I got to the studio around quarter to 4 – Evan was already there with everything prepped and ready to go and dead-on 4pm Henry and tour manager Ward turned up. (GPS is a wonderful thing – studio is in a one-way street, not real obvious – another technological time saver for those without a sense of direction…). Henry was in his usual fine spirits, we said g’day, shook hands, and off we went into the studio.
First up Henry explained the MP3 of Grey-11 had been mangled on delivery from Tim so he hadn’t heard it yet but had read my notes – I gave a quick intro regards the song, and my perception that though it has a certain “jauntiness” do not be put-off by it as its part of the whole album and works well in establishing a needed balance – Again, I think my jaunty is someone else’s, heavy as fuck with a tiny bit of melody. Anyway, Evan let it roll, Henry bent his head forward, concentrating on listening, and as it played said, Yeah! Commented on Kim’s bass performance improving (but it was my overdubs on bass as a holding position until Kim re-dubs it!!) So, Henry really dug it – which was great to hear -– not that I need anyone to say if something that I already like is good – but knowing Henry has similar and overlapping areas of interest that we do its good to know if it appeals to him as much as it appeals to us. He’d also mentioned on some radio interviews he was doing the song with us, and a few people have told me that even JJJ has mentioned we are recording a new album – so word is slowly getting around.
Henry listened to it a few more times – had a listen to my lyrics, and we sat down and discussed the idea of the song and Henry suggested a few ways to approach the middle section – he totally got the song (of course) – the idea that its about a guy coming back from somewhere harsh and seeing if he’s been cuckolded or if there is anything left for him in the life left behind…Rollins applied it to his knowledge of what it meant with respect to guys overseas serving in Iraq, Afghanistan, plus those involved in last centuries wars, like Vietnam, World War 1 and 2, Korea, where young men come home changed by what they’ve seen and experienced and they know they’ve changed and only their fellow comrades can understand – They also know that as soon as they see their loved one, they will know in a second if everything is alright, or if she’s been seeing Jody on the side – (That’s the guy she’s seeing while he’s away – I think a British term and the Yanks use it too in their cadence songs when they march).
“Ain’t no use in going back
Jody’s got your Cadillac
Ain’t no use in calling home
Jody’s got your girl and gone
Ain’t no use in feeling blue
Jody’s got your sister too
Took away my faded jeans
Now I’m wearing Army
By the way, those aren’t the lyrics for Grey-11 – just thought some ‘edumacation’ is always a good thing – so now you know what a Jody is….
Man – its always a pleasure to speak with someone who reads as much and even more than I do – I really feel reading is the second life that allows you to experience/empathise/realise so many truths about the world without having to literally go and do things yourself in order to find out – obviously its great to get out there and experience life, but for those of us who work 9-5 etc, there is limited spare time, so sometimes reading is the best way to learn and grow – ..Ok, pardon me, I’ll step down off my soapbox now…
What’s good about talking with Rollins is he’s totally getting what you are saying and vice versa–before they’ve even finished speaking you get it and they know you get it. Total fucking pleasure. Anyway – Henry took some time out and wrote for a while on the theme of disconnection, the eternal stranger in a strange land and then went into the studio and we recorded his vocals for the middle section. Then once that was done (took like 5 mins max probably), Henry suggested try another approach, some other lines, etc, and he wrote some more, and we recorded the next part of dialogue and these were really good as well. There was too much good stuff – a bastard to have to chose what to have in effectively one minute of the song – There was a particular take we all really liked – so we’ve marked that one as a keeper, but I may cut other sections and sprinkle them around the place…maybe…
Anyway – so this all took about an hour and a half– Kim arrived a little after 4.30pm I think – After we all chatted for a while, I asked Rollins to sign a poster I’d found of the Jan’89 Rollins Band tour. I found it the other night while going through my filing cabinet tracking down old lyrics, journals and poems. Such a long time ago but I remember both the nights, there were two shows and I went to both – after which Henry vowed to never play Adelaide again after our gracious rednecks here had really outdone themselves and managed to get Adelaide blacklisted. They were slagging off the James Brown songs being played over the PA and saying “get this nigga stuff off!” Totally embarrassing. Henry said he regretted judging the many by the few, but that’s what happened. Anyway, the next time the Rollins Band toured we played with them and that’s when Henry got a copy of Battlesick. We talked for a while on the various places the Rollins Band and TMOC has played together – we played quite a few times with them. Rollins reckons the poster from the ’89 tour is pretty rare, Henry has one and there is one at Waterfront Records in Sydney – he asked shall I write to John etc? When I said whatever you’d like – he joked “oh yeah right, you get more for them if they’re not personalised….” Like I’d sell it…..
We all jawed on for a little while more, my wife Kristie and her friend were going out to dinner in town, and as the studio is in town I suggested they drop by, so Henry got to meet my daughter Lily as well – Lily was very shy! Kristie said hi and said she wanted to give him a hug – Henry was fine about that and joked the nervous hug – very cool and I know that K got a kick out of it and enjoyed meeting him.
Anyway – after a bit more of a chat it was time for Henry and Ward to leave – it all went really well – Rollins pulled me aside as he left and said if his vocals don’t work in the final mix “…don’t hesitate to take them out” and that he’s a professional and won’t be offended – “just do what’s right for the record”. I said of course, but know we won’t need to do that. One of Henry’s last remarks, while listening to playback of Grey-11, was “Cool, I’m on a Mark of Cain record” – which was funny, but meant a lot as well.
So it was all straight in, straight out, no messing around, total professionalism, on our part and of course Henry’s part – cos we don’t fuck about. We said our goodbyes and see you at the show tomorrow night (which is now tonight as its 1.36 am as I finish this and I’m hitting the sack.) Good night.
PS: Show was great. Rollins spoke for 3 hours without a sip of water. Bums got sore on the Norwood Town Hall crap seats – but show was worth it. Kim and I dropped backstage for a last hi, thanks and goodbye. Outside the venue, Henry took time with fans, signed stuff, had photos taken – spent a solid 30mins there.