Song writing is a strange obsessive business. Tossing chords and words in the air, the iphone in record on the benchtop. I reach for the guitar, then put it down again.. I walk. I run. I cannot rest. “Noodling” it’s called, staying slightly ahead of a thought left hanging like the very riddle of existence, the one that provoked you in the beginning, churning forever in the dark little room of your mind. One day a phrase caught your attention. It cried out to be sung. You looked for the melody that rang true, under your breath at first, then a little louder, closing the garage door when the singing turned into a scream.
Suddenly the dog rises from its resting place. She noses the slider. You put down the guitar and wander over to help her escape the cacophony and then the phone rings. Your daughter’s kitchen sink is blocked. There’s an awful smell she says. Help me. But somehow in the midst of all this the urge remains.. to build a tune that expresses how you feel. And how you feel is the sum total of all that surrounds you anyway, all that defines your condition as you navigate your way through life. The world and your feelings feed each other, back and forth. You’re just like everybody, and finding the songs is your way of engaging with the world. And you realise that the songs are you. Any songwriter who tells you otherwise is lying.
Inspiration…What of that fickle creature? Though I’ve found great joy in writing music, in the struggle to find her, there are times when I am stuck in that wretched place where no useful thought exists, only navel gazing and childish recollection. But when I look outside myself and consider how you might feel, that single thought feeds the next one until I arrive at the exit point and slowly I climb from the hole of my self indulgence to find inspiration in in the joy and suffering I share with other people.
No one can ignore the truth of their condition for ever. We all reach out for help at one time or another. It is in our nature. My lovely mother used to say, before she lost the power of speech, “Eat what’s put in front of you boy. There are kids starving in Africa.” Though it’s a time-worn phrase, it speaks to me now as my country turns in on itself. Our nation’s leaders are manipulating us with messages of fear and loathing in the belief that we will succumb to a narrowing vision of life where those of us who are already blessed with wealth and privilege will grow disinterested in the welfare of those who are not. This way, we will become easier to control, easier to deceive.
Good friends be vigilant, for the angry beast is in us. History bears the scars of human failure, that dark murderous vein of selfishness and greed that leads to catastrophe. Freedom isn’t just personal. It can only survive when we understand our shared condition. Let tolerance and generosity be our guide. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.. These urgings are in our nature, and they are our best. Each of us benefits when we rise together. If I give to you, you will almost certainly give back. If we truly look outside ourselves, we cannot fail to be moved. There’s suffering enough in the world and yours or mine, may not be the greatest.
Let me introduce the lads:
On guitars and other duties, master of the spoken word, Cameron “Mayhem” McKenzie, who, between spinning the licks, has been known to lose his way on the seventh hole. His morning motto? “Give me more! I need to eat…”
On the bass guitar, John Favaro, who once said, “Hey fellas, why don’t you all just shut up and play the goddamn song?” Despite being a devotee of the Collingwood Football Club John has a good side. He is blessed with the rare gift of knowing how to listen to the words. This has been a source of great relief to let me…
Peter Maslen plays the drum kit. All the way from the deep North, Peter is a Cairns boy with hands the size of dinner plates. Peter’s father once said, “POIDA! If I have to come over there I will!” He was the secretary of the Seamen’s Union and fought for the right of indigenous dock workers to get paid with money.
– Mark Seymour