The White Album

Author: Rory McCartney

The Canberra Theatre
Tuesday July 22

Officially entitled ‘The Beatles’ but universally known as The White Album, the double LP was recorded in a fragmented atmosphere (with many songs lacking the participation of all four Beatles). In 2009, 41 years after its release, four of Australia’s finest – You Am I’s Tim Rogers, Josh Pyke, Chris Cheney of The Living End and Grinspoon frontman Phil Jamieson – brought it back to life. Now they were back again to play the whole lot in track order.

The 17 piece backing setup was impressive, with brass, strings and two drum kits. The gear was picked to match the album cover too, with white baby grand and black and white drums. The show kicked off with a jet plane sample as Cheney let loose with ‘Back in the U.S.S.R.’, before Jamieson followed up with the gentler ‘Dear Prudence’. Jamieson, Cheney and Pyke joined forces for ‘Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da’ before Rogers made his first appearance in a truly shocking checked suit for ‘Wild Honey Pie’. He had no guitar to do windmills with, but did the next best thing with his tambourine. It was a bizarre feeling at first, seeing these legends in a kind of super karaoke. However, that feeling passed quickly as the four guys and their backing band were so into the songs and the fun of the event. With 30 songs in two sets to get through, there was no mucking about and a continual swapping over between singers, with occasional participation by all four at once.

Each of the stars brought his own style to the show. Jamieson, in dinner jacket and bow tie, camped it up in the first half, but came back full of attitude and high kicks after the interval. Pyke was the cool crooner, while Cheney was the guitar wielding straight rocker. Rogers played the rascal, becoming increasingly more disheveled as the night wore on, although he returned in the second half looking cool in tropical white. He was also the comedy relief and spokesman for the main players, with his most telling comment being that they were not there for nostalgia, they were there for the joy of the songs and delivering them with a lot of love.

Jamieson was the most mobile, wandering through the backing band, draping himself on them and, to the misgivings of the audience, overselected members of the crowd. He was super flexible, banging out the big notes in ‘Yer Blues’ and mincing about for ‘Honey Pie’ (it was a long way from Grinspoon’s ‘Dead Cat’). Cheney showed his stuff with the wailing, drawn out guitar solo in ‘While My Guitar Gently Weeps’ and rocked out in ‘Helter Skelter’, playing a guitar laid flat on the floor before throwing it high for a catch. Rogers shone out with his extravagant, theatrical style, with a fake pistol (complete with ‘bang’ flag) against his head for ‘Happiness Is a Warm Gun’, then dancing around a plastic pig mask during ‘Piggies’. Pyke’s biggest moments were in ‘Julia’ and ‘Blackbird’; songs just made for his smooth vocals.

The backing band, led by musical director Rex Goh, flexed its muscles presenting the experimental instrumental ‘Revolution 9’, with its clouded vocal effects, before all four blokes returned. The encore served up ‘A Day in the Life’, from the ‘Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’ album and a reprise of ‘Revolution1’. At the end, a small boy went on stage to dance and sing along with the band. Boosted onto the piano by Jamieson, he was so good that it was hard to believe that it wasn’t a set-up. However, a gob smacked Rogers assured us of its genuine spontaneity.

The White Album Concert

Author: Chris Martin

Sydney Opera House
Sunday July 20

They may not quite be Australia’s Fab Four, but there’s plenty of star power in the air when Tim Rogers, Chris Cheney, Phil Jamieson and Josh Pyke get together. They’re touring (once again) their tribute to The Beatles’ self-titled 1968 release colloquially known as The White Album, and the Sydney Opera House has filled four times over for the occasion.

It’s a surprise, therefore, to witness a docile crowd welcoming Cheney with only muted applause for ‘Back In The U.S.S.R.’. There a few key songs that were always bound to define this project as a success or failure, and the McCartney penned opener is one of them. So is ‘Dear Prudence’, led by Jamieson, which despite the 18 musicians onstage for this rendition, gets nowhere near the shimmering magnificence of the original. And it takes two drummers to do what Ringo did by himself 46 years ago.

The first real wave of enthusiasm spreads across the Concert Hall for ‘Ob-La-Di,Ob-La-Da’ – as a song, it’s one of The Beatles’ worst kitschy crimes, but it’d be unfair to deny the fun that it creates for this audience. Cheney, Jamieson and Pyke share the stage for this one, before the self-appointed rock star of the group makes his arrival in Rogers.The You Am I frontman seems to insist that his hungover monologue is the one consistent presence that ties the whole show together, but frankly, his bravado act gets tiresome.

Not so Cheney’s, as ‘While My Guitar Gently Weeps’ lifts much of the audience to its feet. As ever, some of The Beatles’ songs sit better in certain hands than others, and Cheney’s treatment of George Harrison’s tune (and Eric Clapton’s solo) is exultant. Pyke is a natural fit for the softer tracks – ‘Blackbird’ and ‘Mother Nature’s Son’ especially – while Jamieson seems happy to ham things up, so it’s fair enough that he gets ‘Don’t Pass Me By’.

By no means is The Beatles a flawless album – even the most popular group in musical history made its mistakes – but this all-Australian ensemble does a commendable job in reflecting the source material fairly. It’s just a shame that The Beatles never actually get a mention in all the self-congratulation that goes on here. Still, the Rogers/Cheney/Jamieson/Pyke group could do worse than tour Rubber Soul or Abbey Road, perhaps – because if all those songs haven’t yet grown dated, they won’t anytime soon.

The White Album Concert

Author: Annelise Ball

Hamer Hall
15 Jul

Well dressed baby boomers dominate the crowd gathering in Hamer Hall’s multi-level foyers. The White Album Concert brings The Beatles’ seminal double album back to life 44 years post-release thanks to the talents of Tim Rogers, Chris Cheney, Phil Jamieson and Josh Pyke. Cheney’s punk-rock credentials blast the set open with Back In The U.S.S.R. and Glass Onion while Jamieson charms wearing a big bow tie and singing the wistful Dear Prudence. All take part in the crazy Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da, with Pyke giving Cheney a blokey, footy-style tap on the bum before walking off once the job is done.

Rogers takes on the early run of wacky, acid-trip tracks dressed in a fetching tweed suit. The timeless While My Guitar Gently Weeps then shifts the tone to moving, all-encompassing intensity. Cheney fills in admirably for Eric Clapton for the compelling lead guitar solo and receives a massive response from the crowd. Pyke successfully maintains total coolness while singing the twee Martha My Dear, but perhaps shows his true feelings when tossing away the tambourine as he walks off. He later recovers by nailing the fingerpicking acoustic beauty of Blackbird.

Helter Skelter is an early highlight from the second side, with two wailing guitarists, double drum kits and Cheney’s ripping guitar solo making huge amounts of awesome noise. Later, Cheney almost misses the start of Savoy Truffle but redeems himself by chucking Cadbury Favourites into the crowd. Two drummers keep perfect time as they bash their kits in mirror image during this rhythmic track. Avant-garde shit gets real with Revolution 9 – a track so trippy and multi-layered that musical director Rex Goh steps up to conduct. Gorgeous lullaby Good Night, greatly improved by the merciful absence of Ringo Starr’s vocals, sees all four artists on stage together to bid us farewell. Rogers whispers, “Goodnight,” and then, “let’s go fuck shit up” – a suggestion that’s probably not often heard on the Hamer Hall stage.

A Day In The Life, an imposter track from Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, lets the rock orchestra loose with its signature instrumental rise to the top of the scales while triumphant octaves crash below. Random punters are hauled up on stage to join the fun during Revolution 1, forcing Jamieson to defend himself against an enthusiastic older lady who tries to pinch his mic. The White Album Concert is definitely the best aural acid trip through the swinging ‘60s you can score.

Back In White

Author: Unknown

We get Josh Pyke, Chris Cheney, Tim Rogers and Phil Jamieson to tell us about the return of the White Album tour.

Josh Pyke
Which track on the White Album do you think you could listen to indefinitely and why?
I think Revolution Number 9 has enough crazy sounds in there to occupy the mind for eternity. It might be an uncomfortable experience, but it wouldn’t get boring.

Choose one: John, Paul, George or Ringo. Why?
I read once that when Paul was asked “What is it like being the best songwriter in the world?” he replied, “I don’t know, ask Neil Finn.” That’s a nice thing to say… I’ve also read he’s a ruthless business man, and was frustratingly perfectionist. He was also the “cute” one. So I dunno, I think on balance there’s enough going on there that even without the amazing songs he wrote to make him my favourite.

Finish this sentence: We’re bigger than…
The Big Merino in Goulburn. 

What’s something special you’ll be singing on the night?
Playing Blackbird is pretty special for me… An honour, also quite scary.

The 50th anniversary of The Beatles visiting Australia is currently being celebrated: do you think your music will be remembered in 50 years? 
I can almost guarantee that at least two people will. But beyond that I have no idea!

Chris Cheney
Which track on the White Album do you think you could listen to indef initely and why?
Goodnight. Because it makes me smile but I feel sad when I hear it. Not many songs can do that.

Choose one: John, Paul, George or Ringo. Why? 
George. He was effortlessly cool. What pressure to compete with John and Paul’s songs but he absolutely stepped up to the plate.

Finish this sentence: We’re bigger than…
The hangover that I suffered after the final show of the White Album tour five years ago?

What’s something special you’ll be singing on the night?
Glass Onion. How kooky was John Lennon? The guy was nuts.

The 50th anniversary of The Beatles visiting Australia is currently being celebrated: do you think your music will be remembered in 50 years? 
Perhaps by a select few!

Phil Jamieson
Which track on the White Album do you think you could listen to indefinitely and why?
Tricky question this one. I am unsure if I could actually could pick one song to listen to indefinitely unfortunately. If I am allowed to pick five? Happiness Is A Warm Gun, Honey Pie, Piggies, Blackbird, I’m So Tired… not necessarily in this particular order. The thing I love about the White Album is its variety, so choosing just one song takes away the magic somewhat for me.

Choose one: John, Paul, George or Ringo. Why?
There is a lot of choosing one thing in this questionnaire? I’ll go with Ringo. Why? It seems the right thing to do.

Finish this sentence: We’re bigger than…
The dining table. Well, my dining table that is. If you combined us all… the four of us? Tim, Chris, Josh and I? Or the whole touring band??? The touring band is probably bigger than a bus. Perhaps not as tall. It kind of depends. Are you stacking us on top of each other?

What’s something special you’ll be singing on the night?
Don’t Pass Me By. It was written by Ringo. It went to #1 in Denmark so it’s probably more special for the Danes but it’s an oddity on the White Album and that’s why I think it’s special.

The 50th anniversary of The Beatles visiting Australia is currently being celebrated: do you think your music will be remembered in 50 years?
If DCx3 isn’t being covered in 100 years I’ll eat my hat.

Tim Rogers
Which track on the White Album do you think you could listen to indefinitely and why?
Savoy Truffle. Was my favourite as a kid and I never knew why. And I still don’t. Lick the mystery.

Choose one: John, Paul, George or Ringo. Why?
Stuart Sutcliffe. For his cheekbones and early quiff.

Finish this sentence: We’re bigger than…
The illicit dreams in your noggin.

What’s something special you’ll be singing on the night?
Serenading Philip to sleep each night.

The 50th anniversary of The Beatles visiting Australia is currently being celebrated: do you think your music will be remembered in 50 years? 
I’d prefer to be remembered for my “unique” looks.

The Pants Collective

Author: Augustus Welby

The Pants Collective is the solo product from Living End drummer Andy Strachan. His first foray into band leading is an accessible listen, but it rarely seems interested in pushing the envelope. This debut EP hews closely to the attitude and aesthetic scope of The Living End, but it doesn’t necessarily sound like the output of Strachan’s day job.

The seven-track release begins with the cartoon-like garage blues of ‘Secrets’, before getting more debauched (and less effective) on chunky rocker ‘It’s Gonna Be Fine’. It gets more interesting when Strachan shifts into gears he’s less familiar with. ‘You’ll Never Know’ dons a hazy ’90s pop-rock visage, while two-faced EP closer ‘Hometown’ evolves from a neo-reggae experiment into a pub rock anthem. Strachan’s voice is by no means laughable, but it’s not a striking feature. Accordingly, nothing of lingering curiosity is said during the set’s 24-minute run time. Nevertheless, Strachan does show promise as a songwriter. These songs would surely benefit from someone with pronounced on-record character revving them up.

Similar to how films that don’t require particular patience or attention to detail are the most suitable for in-flight viewing, this is easy to digest, but it mightn’t have you raving to your friends at journey’s end.

The Runaway Boy

Author: Tom Hersey

Stray Cats’ drummer Slim Jim Phantom talks with Tom Hersey about his legacy and who’s going to carry the torch for further generations.

“I think we invented it to be honest with you, ”Slim Jim Phantom says, looking back on Stray Cats’ impact on the rockabilly scene.

From any other artist this might sound like typical rockstar hubris, but with their 1981 self-titled debut, the trio set the template for the genre – everything you need to know about rockabilly can be found on that record, from Jim’s stand-up drumming to the scuzzy pompadours sported by the band members on the front cover.

According to a good-humoured Jim, his catalogue of work with Stray Cats, and groups like Phantom, Rocker & Slick, The Head Cat and Swing Cats, makes these solo tours a lot of fun.

“At this point I’ve been around for long enough, everybody’s nice to me. It’s a little bit like being Ringo but on a smaller scale. [Audiences] like it when I sing the songs, there’s not really pressure… They come because I’m a character that they’ve known along time now, and it’s a brand they can trust.”

When he gets here, Jim’s hoping to catch up with old friends, especially The Living End’s Chris Cheney.

“Fans can expect more or less what they’ve known about me and what I’ve kinda earned my stripes doing. It’ll be rockabilly music. There’ll be a couple of Strike Out songs in there, a lot of family favourites… I’m bringing Tim Polecat from the Polecats. We made a record together about ten years ago with the band 13 Cats so we’ll do some of those and some original songs… Just the same Slim Jim they’ve known and grown to love.”

So, if Stray Cats started rockabilly, who’s out there in the next generation of artists to keep it going?

“There’s a lot of good stuff. I really like Imelda May and JD McPherson.There’s a lot of people who are breaking through. And those guys are both on their way, and so all it’s going to take is for somebody to have that hit record. We did that with Stray Cats when we first formed, we got those couple of songs that are now pretty well entrenched in the public consciousness. I still play Rock This Town in the jungles of the Amazon or China or Australia and everybody knows it. It’s up to someone to do something like that. We’ve gotta get that hit record that crosses over into the mainstream but brings the rockabillies along for the ride.

“I encourage everybody to get out and make it broad appeal. It’s there to be loved by everyone; it’s not just some exclusive club. We never set out to play for an exclusive slice of the population; we just wanted to play for everybody all the time. And rockabilly, that’s my scene. I love the music and the style and the people, but I think we should expose ourselves to all sorts of stuff.”

Kashmere Club

Author: James Nicoli

At a gig a couple of years ago, local rockers Kashmere Club were getting ready to play in front of your regular Saturday night crowd at the Espy front bar when they suddenly spotted someone in the audience who they hadn’t exactly counted on being there. “We were sound checking and the bass player Jono came over to me and is like ‘hey man have a look in the front row’ and I looked down and it was Chris (Cheney) just standing there with a beer,” remembers vocalist and guitarist Billy O’Connell. “When I was in my teens I was a massive (The) Living End fan; I had the whole guitar hero thing going. So yeah he stayed there and watched the whole set and afterwards he came and had a chat to us.”

What started out as a chance meeting at one of Melbourne’s most iconic music venues ended up with The Living End front man Chris Cheney signing up to produce Kashmere Club’s latest off ering, the Lost & Sound EP. “We got in touch with him and sent him a few emails and you know what the industry’s like – you never hear back – but we kept at it,” recalls O’Connell. Eventually they managed to pin the guitar virtuoso down, and once they had a date, they then holed up at Red Door Sounds studio in Collingwood. “He (Cheney) lives in LA now so it was kind of a matter of waiting for him to be back in Australia and try to book out a week of his time.”

Working with such an esteemed Australian musician proved to be a profound experience for the band, and O’Connell is full of nothing but praise for the legendary guitarist-turned-producer. “He’s a hilarious dude and grounded as hell, such an Aussie,” he says. “He’s got a massive reputation of being a perfectionist. I’ve heard of him locking himself in a room tracking the same mix for eight hours. He takes massive pride with anything that his name is on, so it kind of got to the point where he was the fourth band member.”

Despite his profile, Cheney worked tirelessly on the songs and his work rate was something that rubbed off on the band members, helping them to get the best results possible from the time they had together in the studio. “He worked really hard,” admits O’Connell. “Like we were meant to just do the standard 10 or 11 hour studio day, and I think every night for the whole week, he was going well past midnight. He’s got an incredible work ethic which opened my eyes; to see someone who’s achieved that level in Australian music and to see how hard they do work.”

O’Connell admits that although the band member’s musical influences are vast, they were definitely channelling some sort of 70s vibe into the soulful rock’n’roll numbers which make up the EP. “Nathan the drummer, he’s basically ‘70s influenced,” says O’Connell. “He’s a huge Jon Bonham fan, so I guess there’s plenty of Led Zeppelin influence in the rhythm section. The songs usually start as basic folk songs, and when they come to the band they kind of get that 70s thing stamped on it.”

If there’s one thing Kashmere Club pride themselves on, it’s their live performance. So naturally while recording the songs for Lost & Sound, one of the biggest challenges for the band was how best to translate the raw energy of their live show into the studio. “I think it’s the age old challenge to try and capture your vibe and what you do best live in the studio,” admits O’Connell. “(But) I think we managed to achieve it. When I listen to the EP, I feel like it does capture us live; it’s a lot more polished. Being a three-piece, there’s no room to add guitar layers or second melody lines when you’re playing live; we still had the opportunity to add those things, but it’s still very much a representation of us a three piece.”

KASHMERE CLUB launch their EP Lost & Sound at Cherry Bar on Saturday August 24.

Ash Grunwald

Author: Tex Miller

The evolution of Ash Grunwald’s blues sound throughout his career has been an interesting journey to follow. Having already played a stellar set at the Wool Exchange in February this year, Ash is set to get you grooving again this Saturday night at the Torquay Hotel. The gig at The Wool Exchange (February) prominently featured the rhythm section of The Living End, and this was seen as a one-off performance. Yet, given the explosive energy and chemistry between the trio, they are on the road for the Gargantua tour. Although he was in the airport, jet-setting around and getting ready to tour once again, it was great to talk to one of the legends of the Australian blues scene.

“We’re really excited about the Torquay show. I used to live there for five years, so it is always fantastic to get back down there and soak up the atmosphere. Hopefully, fingers crossed, there will also be some waves, which would be good,” Ash said about the homecoming show.

Having written a stack of songs over the last decade, the decision of what to play on the upcoming tour must be hard; yet given the party atmosphere of the majority of Ash’s songs, there is definitely something to get you moving on the dance floor. From just a quick YouTube, if you have nothing on this Saturday night, Torquay is the place to be. To coincide with this tour, Ash is releasing a new album entitled Gargantua, which was born out of this collaboration. The first taste of this album, ‘The Last Stand’, went live on social media last week to rave reviews and steers away from his 2012 release, Trouble’s Door.

“The sound of this record is as far away removed from the last few albums as possible. It’s still got a lot of bluesy elements to it, but it’s the classic rock band setup. We started off recording for a few hours and that turned into six solid days of work. There’s two new songs, two covers and some reworkings of my older tunes. Playing with The Living End guys is fantastic because it is a lot more high energy than what I would usually do. The recordings were a lot more raw and original with everything done live. They are definitely one of the best rock rhythm sections in Australian music.

“The way that the Living End work is that they practice and practice; and Chris Cheney is an amazing guitarist and taskmaster, so that was definitely an interesting concept within the recording process because I am the complete opposite,” Ash said about the new collaboration.

The first single off the release, a cover of Gnarls Barkley’s ‘Crazy’, started out as just a bit of fun as a promotional piece of material for the tour; yet after receiving airplay on commercial radio, the response from Ash’s fans has been extremely warm and positive. “It’s always good to change things up when you’re playing someone else’s song. Cee Lo is a great singer and I wanted Andy to go really rocky and arse-kicking in the chorus, rather than being smooth. Looking back now, it’s a lot more high energy than we first thought, but it’s going be epic to throw down live.”

I’ve got my tickets, have you?

When & Where: The Torquay Hotel – June 15; The Corner – June 27; The Prince – June 28.

This Is Not The End

Author: Izzy Tolhurst

Surf roots bluesician Ash Grunwald has taken his collaboration with The Living End bassist Scott Owen to the next level, inviting the band’s drummer, Andy Strachan, to join them in the studio.

Ash Grunwald and Scott Owen, notorious bass-straddler with The Living End, allegedly forged their friendship and founded a musical collaboration over furlongs of soy sausages. As it happens, their respective wives play together in a band with Kram called Mr Cassidy, so social mingling was inevitable. The first fruit of that friendship saw Owen join Grunwald on a track from his most recent album, Trouble’s Door. However, the speedy acquisition of The Living End drummer Andy Strachan to join Owen and Grunwald on their latest endeavour, has resulted in a full collaborative album, which the boys are about to launch an album via a national tour.

The project and tour preparation is now in full swing, and following the commercial success of their cover of Gnarls Barkley’s Crazy, the trio have announced that their debut album, titled Gargantua, will be released late June.

“It has been a truly fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants expedition,” Grunwald admits of the whole process. Particularly the mere six days this band spent at St Kilda’s Hothouse Studios – which boasts a worldclass Neve console, featuring 24 Neve 1073 mic pres, on which albums by AC/DC, Midnight Oil and Rose Tattoo were recorded – to create the album.

Grunwald describes Hothouse as “an Australian Sound City”, referring of course to the documentary directed by Dave Grohl that details the history of Los Angeles’ Sound City Studios. But Grunwald is making specific reference to the Neve 8028 analogue mixing console that the St Kilda studio utilises. Craig Harnath, the longterm owner of Hothouse, also has an overwhelmingly “massive collection of guitars here,” says Grunwald, like a kid in that sort of store. But amidst the multitude of guitars sits a Neumann U47, the microphone apparently manufactured “for the perfect broadcasting of Hitler’s voice”. And it‘s Harnath’s Neumann U47 that Frank Sinatra allegedly sang into when he was here when Bob Hawke was Prime Minister and he got in trouble for calling that news reporter a ‘two-dollar whore’, a member of the recording team discloses excitedly.

Several tracks on the album have already been previously released by Grunwald, including Walking and Breakout, both ‘fist in the air’ songs that have been reinterpreted with Owen and Strachan. And throughout the speedy process, Grunwald says he’s “learnt the value of professionalism. Because I’ll tell you, these guys are as tight as a fish’s arsehole.”

But for drummer Strachan, it’s Skywriter, taken from Grunwald’s 2006 album, Give Signs, which speaks most of their experience together. “That song sums everything up for me. The first time we played together was in Geelong and I didn’t know what we were doing… but Ash just said, ‘It goes kinda like this,’ and as he played it we started tracking it, and that’s the final product.”

“There’s no bullshit. That’s the whole thing [about] working with Ash – if it doesn’t sound good and if it doesn’t feel good then don’t do it! It’s kind of where this whole project is at; we’re only doing it because it sounds and feels right. We’re not trying to be anything or anyone else, and we don’t think too much about what’s been done in the past, but rather inject what we feel is required to make it different.”

Smack-bang in the middle of the ten-track album, Gargantua is a cover of Black And Blue, a song by seminal ‘70s Aussie act Chain, who Grunwald jokes were “pretty much Australia’s biggest-ever blues band. They were the panel van driving, VB drinking, wife-beater wearing, going to Sunbury in ’73 kind of riffy ‘70s band.”

But perhaps the most enticing track on Gargantua is Last Stand, a song first composed by Grunwald and his regular producer Fingers Malone as a pitch for the latest Arnold Schwarzenegger film of the same name. And while it didn’t gain Grunwalda film credit, his wife was persistent that the song be included on the trio’s album, saying, “Do that Arnie song! It’s catchy, and evil and heavy!” the dreadlocked singer recalls. “Then I realised we really should. And it’s probably one of the rockiest tracks on the album.” Running through the analogue Neve desk to get that essential warmth, the album tracks have gone through Hothouse’s ProTools HD3 Accel system on Mac Pro with 24 96k inputs and outputs, the digital part of the process allowing for the speed necessary to get the whole thing done in the six days the trio had to deliver the album.

This Is Not The End

Author: Izzy Tolhurst

Surf roots bluesician Ash Grunwald has taken his collaboration with The Living End bassist Scott Owen to the next level, inviting the band’s drummer, Andy Strachan, to join them in the studio.

Ash Grunwald and Scott Owen, notorious bass-straddler with The Living End, allegedly forged their friendship and founded a musical collaboration over furlongs of soy sausages. As it happens, their respective wives play together in a band with Kram called Mr Cassidy, so social mingling was inevitable. The first fruit of that friendship saw Owen join Grunwald on a track from his most recent album, Trouble’s Door. However, the speedy acquisition of The Living End drummer Andy Strachan to join Owen and Grunwald on their latest endeavour, has resulted in a full collaborative album, which the boys are about to launch an album via a national tour.

The project and tour preparation is now in full swing, and following the commercial success of their cover of Gnarls Barkley’s Crazy, the trio have announced that their debut album, titled Gargantua, will be released late June.

“It has been a truly fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants expedition,” Grunwald admits of the whole process. Particularly the mere six days this band spent at St Kilda’s Hothouse Studios – which boasts a worldclass Neve console, featuring 24 Neve 1073 mic pres, on which albums by AC/DC, Midnight Oil and Rose Tattoo were recorded – to create the album.

Grunwald describes Hothouse as “an Australian Sound City”, referring of course to the documentary directed by Dave Grohl that details the history of Los Angeles’ Sound City Studios. But Grunwald is making specific reference to the Neve 8028 analogue mixing console that the St Kilda studio utilises. Craig Harnath, the longterm owner of Hothouse, also has an overwhelmingly “massive collection of guitars here,” says Grunwald, like a kid in that sort of store. But amidst the multitude of guitars sits a Neumann U47, the microphone apparently manufactured “for the perfect broadcasting of Hitler’s voice”. And it‘s Harnath’s Neumann U47 that Frank Sinatra allegedly sang into when he was here when Bob Hawke was Prime Minister and he got in trouble for calling that news reporter a ‘two-dollar whore’, a member of the recording team discloses excitedly.

Several tracks on the album have already been previously released by Grunwald, including Walking and Breakout, both ‘fist in the air’ songs that have been reinterpreted with Owen and Strachan. And throughout the speedy process, Grunwald says he’s “learnt the value of professionalism. Because I’ll tell you, these guys are as tight as a fish’s arsehole.”

But for drummer Strachan, it’s Skywriter, taken from Grunwald’s 2006 album, Give Signs, which speaks most of their experience together. “That song sums everything up for me. The first time we played together was in Geelong and I didn’t know what we were doing… but Ash just said, ‘It goes kinda like this,’ and as he played it we started tracking it, and that’s the final product.”

“There’s no bullshit. That’s the whole thing [about] working with Ash – if it doesn’t sound good and if it doesn’t feel good then don’t do it! It’s kind of where this whole project is at; we’re only doing it because it sounds and feels right. We’re not trying to be anything or anyone else, and we don’t think too much about what’s been done in the past, but rather inject what we feel is required to make it different.”

Smack-bang in the middle of the ten-track album, Gargantua is a cover of Black And Blue, a song by seminal ‘70s Aussie act Chain, who Grunwald jokes were “pretty much Australia’s biggest-ever blues band. They were the panel van driving, VB drinking, wife-beater wearing, going to Sunbury in ’73 kind of riffy ‘70s band.”

But perhaps the most enticing track on Gargantua is Last Stand, a song first composed by Grunwald and his regular producer Fingers Malone as a pitch for the latest Arnold Schwarzenegger film of the same name. And while it didn’t gain Grunwalda film credit, his wife was persistent that the song be included on the trio’s album, saying, “Do that Arnie song! It’s catchy, and evil and heavy!” the dreadlocked singer recalls. “Then I realised we really should. And it’s probably one of the rockiest tracks on the album.” Running through the analogue Neve desk to get that essential warmth, the album tracks have gone through Hothouse’s ProTools HD3 Accel system on Mac Pro with 24 96k inputs and outputs, the digital part of the process allowing for the speed necessary to get the whole thing done in the six days the trio had to deliver the album.