Monday, 15 June 2015

Teach To Learn

Over the years, I have been approached by many guitarists to give them lessons and advice. When time and circumstances have allowed, I have obliged, and in the process have made some friends that remain so to this day. Usually, they were players who already had a good idea, and were looking to improve their technique or have new doors opened, but more recently I have found myself teaching beginners, some quite young. This presents a completely different set of problems, particularly for one not accustomed to teaching from scratch. I first picked up a guitar thirty eight years ago, and I must admit to not having a clear recollection of what it was like to not be able to play. The guitar has been an extension of my body and soul for that long that I can't remember when a neck felt alien in my hand.

Being faced with a completely clear slate in each student, I had to approach the lessons and the instrument with a similarly fresh approach, and it took me a little while to find that 'square one' from which to start. Doing so gave me the opportunity to revisit some basics and clarify my own overall approach, even broadening my musical scope in the process. I have always found that teaching something to someone helps to cement it into my own mind - the best way for me to nail a new piece was to teach it to one of my students. Having to do this with the basics of holding a guitar and pick, of playing the most simple of pieces produced great clarity. It wasn't that I need to learn those particular pieces, but the approach of taking the elements a small bit at a time and explaining them in terms a child could understand enabled me to view music at a quantum  level. Taking what I learned from teaching fresh minds and applying it to things I was working on gave me a fresh outlook and a fresh insight, and some of the results are on my latest album.

I am currently on the faculty of Sowilo Communty High School, a care school in my local suburb, and also teach at Classic Sounds, my local music store which runs an extensive music school. Both places give a great deal to their community, and help our youth find purpose and meaning, which is always a good thing. The payoff for me is learning  more about myself, including what I can do as a musician and music educator, and that warm feeling when I see the lights go on in a pair of young eyes as they learn the joy of music. As I teach, so I learn, and I think that's what it's all about.


Guitar time at Sowilo Community High

Thursday, 23 April 2015


With the new album finally released, there is a sense of relief, of accomplishment, satisfaction... and a sense of "now what?". In reality, there is no time for laurel resting because a whole new set of things to do have just presented themselves. Once the album is finished and made available, then the real work begins - letting the world know that the album exists, and where they can find it. This entails a lot more than putting the tracks on iTunes. iTunes is a big place, and it is likely that the average download customer is there for a specific artist or artists, and isn't idly browsing the shelves. This would hold true regardless of which download site is in question.

So here we go - waving flags and shouting from our little corner of the web to let the world know that there is some new music from The Greenehouse, and we think it's pretty damn good.

Down Devils Road
Down Devils Road was never a clear cut, start-to-finish album project. In fact, before the last four tracks were recorded to complete the album, I was in two minds as to whether or not I really wanted to continue releasing material at all. The four track digital version of Lord Of Misrule was online, and the six track CD version that had sold at Hells Bells gigs was now sitting in a box since my ear damage induced departure from the band. I was feeling far from inspired, yet the studio still beckoned - there were some compositional loose ends that were in need of tying up, and I wouldn't be happy until it was taken care of. In particular, the track that was to become Through The Dark needed to be finished. That tune wasn't just a track that had to be completed. It was a wound that had to heal. Another thing that had to heal was my hearing, and I was fortunate to be able to rest my ears for a while before making the decision to gird my loins for battle and wade in to making a full album out of an EP and a collection of ideas that were part of my personal rehabilitation, physically and spiritually. My hearing came back to a point that I was able to complete recording, mixing and mastering without compromising my musical integrity, and the journey through the last three instrumentals and the vocal track was at times chaotic and intense but ultimately cathartic. I will no doubt ruminate on these themes in future entries, but for now - cheers to a new record.

Down Devils Road was an album that had to be made. Mission accomplished.

Monday, 13 April 2015

About A Song

It's a little thing I have, that on each full-length instrumental album I like to include at least one vocal track featuring Donna. It provides a relief from my incessant widdlywiddlings, adds a nice tonal colour and somehow brings everything into focus. The song on Down Devils Road, Hand On The Handle is stripped back, four on the floor and, quite frankly, pumping as pharque. Donna relaxed, kicked back and nailed a quintessential rock vocal. Anyone who witnessed her flatten the Ocean View Tavern with the 'Bells last year will have an inkling.

Photo: Awakening Vixen Photography ©

Sunday, 12 April 2015

New Album Coming Soon!

The new album will be pressed next week, and we have announced the album title and track list - Ladies and Gentlemen, we present... Down Devils Road.

Track List:
1. Show Me The Money
2. The Elegant Savage
3. Down Devils Road
4. Bobbo's Café
5. Spirit Fingers
6. Hand On The Handle (feat. Donna G.)
7. Chicken Soup For The Soul
8. Tonight We Ride
9. Through The Dark
10. Race To The Eastern Sea
11. Lord Of Misrule

More details will be released via my website and social media pages as they become available. In the meantime, enjoy the new vibes in the video. Journalists may contact me for interviews and press releases via the usual web points.


Saturday, 11 April 2015

Hells Bells!

I spent the the better part of 2014 and January of 2015 doing something that I never saw myself doing in a million years - playing in an AC/DC tribute band. And thoroughly enjoying it.

My personal trip down the Highway to Hell started when I received an out-of-the-blue phone call from Mal Osbourne, the manager and rhythm guitarist for Hells Bells. It was mid-to-late 2013, and their lead guitarist was having health issues that looked like placing his performing career on permanent hold. The band had held a meeting and decided to offer me the gig if and when it became available. I think Mal and I were both surprised when I said yes!

In early 2014 I appeared at a concert to honour the late Bon Scott, which featured the guys from Hells Bells, the original singer from AC/DC, Dave Evans, and another guest vocalist. This was my first taste of playing a set of AC/DC songs and, I have to say, I had a blast. Playing at the Astor Theatre was a treat, and I found all the guys easy to work with. Shortly after the gig, I settled down to learn a whole repertoire of AC/DC songs, and my education began. I had spent many years playing in cover bands learning lots of other people's stuff, and had learned a stack of music, but I had only really played a couple of AC/DC songs in that whole time. The whole set list was new material for me, so I dug in. First up - the Back In Black album.

The first thing I noticed about Back In Black was that it is a great album. A really great album. It was the perfect statement from a band at the crossroads, and a rocker's paradise of riffs and that unique Acca Dacca groove. By the time I had learned the album, I had a whole new respect for the band and what they did. In particular the rhythm section, led by the relentless right hand of Malcolm Young. Holy crap, what a rhythm player! Nailing those rhythm parts was great fun, to the point that it was almost a shame to have to take the solos. For the most part, those guys sit right on the beat. And by that, I mean Right. On. The. Beat. If that's where the beat falls, that's where the rhythm section plays. Bang. Right there. I found myself getting left behind in the early run-throughs, but caught up quickly enough. No laying back on the beat, just play the damn thing. A great vibe to nail. And the riffs! Having played my fair share of Zeppelin, Purple and Sabbath in my day, I was partial to a good riff or three. To this day, Hells Bells is one of my favourite songs to play. Quite a few AC/DC songs aren't far behind.

I had been given a fair amount of time to learn the repertoire, so I was well prepared when we started rehearsals. Lady Zeppelin and the Jac Dalton Band had done double bills with Hells Bells and I had done community work with Mal, so we were all already good mates and there was no personal settling in period - we just got straight into having fun. The main problem I faced was remembering which song was which - with so many songs in the keys of A and E, it was easy to get intros and solos mixed up. Glenn (Warber, HB drummer) correctly interpreted my panicked visage, and would sing intro riffs when needed. Saved me a lot of embarassment, did Glenn.

The thing about Hells Bells is that they do a great job, and they have a faithful legion of fans that come to gigs, wherever they may be. Playing AC/DC is a pretty safe bet if you want to find an audience in Australia, and the crowds appreciate a job well done. We had a singer in Wayne Curnow who could cut the songs of Bon Scott and Brian Johnson with style, mimicking both to great effect and hitting the high notes. I wasn't required to wear a school uniform or play the solos note-for-note (we were'nt that kind of AC/DC band), so I had free rein to play what I wanted, with plenty of room for stretching it out and improvising. That being said, I played a lot of the solos as they were recorded, simply because they were the best thing for the song, and they were good solos. In fact, I picked up a few things from Angus that I hadn't played before, and I love learning new stuff to add to my box of guitar playing tricks.

The gigs were something I hadn't experienced for a while - loud, rocking and well-attended. I was accepted by the Hells Bells faithful from the first gig - in fact, I was groped by an over-enthusiastic fan in the front row during a guitar solo at my debut gig, which the rest of the guys found quite (okay, very) entertaining. They considered it my induction. Could've been worse, I guess. There is something about playing on a decent stage with good production to a big crowd of rock fans that never gets old. Once I had the songs under my fingers, I had little to think about on stage apart from rocking out and having fun, so it was easy to walk onstage and relax quickly into the set. Mal managed things well, and for the most part, everything ran well. It was a little taste of the good old rockstar days, and it was just what the doctor ordered after a couple of years of very 'real' real life thay had left me questioning what to do next musically. The answer was to get out and just play some rock and roll, and not take anything too seriously. Donna even came and did a couple of gigs when Wayne had a stint in hospital for an appendectomy, which was a rare treat for us both and a huge success. I was almost a year into my Hells Bells tenure when things unfortunately changed again.

Our 2014/2015 New Year's Eve gig was a loud one, and I had left my earplugs in my bag when we went on stage. I felt some pain in my left ear during the gig, and hoped I hadn't done too much damage. I thought things might be okay after a bit of a rest, but the next two gigs made it clear that I was in trouble. A visit to my doctor showed that I had two small perforations in my left eardrum, and my right middle ear had suffered some damage as well. That diagnosis pretty much put an end to things right there, as I couldn't risk serious or permanent harm to my hearing. I needed my hearing to function as a musician, but also as a carer. If I went deaf, I wouldn't be able to drive - an important ability for someone who is caring for two people. I rang Mal as soon as I got out of the doctor's surgery and broke the news. The guys were all supportive and understanding, and it was fortunate that there was a break before the next shows so a replacement could be found and worked in to the set. After a few weeks of noise avoidance, I started listening to music I had been working on at home, and gradually got an album finished - which is a whole story unto itself.

I had an absolute ball during my year with Hells Bells, and it is an experience I will always remember fondly. Playing good rock and roll with good blokes to good crowds is about as good as it gets, and I took away some handy guitar tips as well, courtesy of the Young Brothers. An unexpected detour on my musical journey, and one I'm glad I took.


Images courtesy GruntRat Photography and Crosbie Photography ©

Friday, 27 March 2015

How To Make An Album Without Really Meaning To

Well, here I sit, putting the finishing touches on an album that seemed to manifest itself out of the experiences of the last eighteen months or so without my prior knowledge. At least that's the way it feels.

At the beginning of 2014, three recordings were released - my new four track EP, Lord Of Misrule, a remastered edition of my very first EP, Blue Feathers, and the Resonance Project EP, Tale Goes On. Lord Of Misrule was basically released because I had four unreleased tracks lying around and wasn't too sure what my musical future entailed. I was settling in to my new role as full-time carer for Donna and her mother, and there was no way of knowing how much of my time was going to be needed to properly discharge my duties. A digital release was a simple and fun way to put some music out without having to spend time and money on pressing CDs and going through the rigmarole of promoting the product, and I was aware of the fact that without promotion, the EP would go largely unnoticed. I was cool with that - it was just nice to write and record again.

I spent 2014 playing occasional gigs with an AC/DC tribute band called Hells Bells, which was a lot of fun and brought in some much-needed funds to the household. It was fascinating to get inside the guitar work of the Young Brothers, and I found some interesting things in their approach that got me playing some new stuff. I also wrote some music in the stripped down, straight ahead style of AC/DC, and Donna came on board with a rocking lyric. We ducked into the studio, and a song was born. This song would raise its head later, at just the right time.

While I had no projects I had to prepare or rehearse for, I turned my hand to experimenting with different styles and ideas in the studio. I found it therapeutic to sit and play whatever came to mind or fingers, and I wound up with enough ideas to piece together arrangements and record them when I felt so inclined. Some ideas sat for a while before being completed, and I found some old demos that sparked new ideas as well. I finally wrote and recorded a Blues instrumental - a long-time goal - and got into messing around with horn and string arrangements. That led me back to revisiting classical music (my first ever vinyl owned was Beethoven) and the effects it had on my development. Borrowing some extra Ormsby guitars added fuel to the fire, as I always get an idea when I meet a new guitar, and before too long I was looking at a mixed bag of tracks that happened to have some fine compositions and performances on them. I had jumped into writing and playing with no preconceptions whatsoever of what direction I would head in, instead choosing to follow ideas and feelings wherever they went. This lead to me actually putting a lot of myself into the music - all the frustration, hope, fear, joy, resignation, anger and love that had swirled around me during the past months found a place to flow, and it flowed into the tunes.

I had pressed a short run of an extended version of Lord Of Misrule with six tracks, to sell at Hells Bells gigs. With my exit from the band due to an ear injury, I no longer had a place to sell the EP with the extra two tracks. I had written new music in the interim, and was sitting on ten tracks. Ten tracks...  hmmm... oh, wait... there's that song we did. Listening back to it, it's a pretty good song...

That makes eleven.


Might as well, then, eh?

Since 2015 marks ten years of my association with Perry Ormsby and Ormsby Guitars, I have written a few words about the guitars I used in the writing and recording of the new album. Stay tuned, because I'll be posting it here, one guitar at a time.

Oh, one last thing... we are coming up to two years since Donna's diagnosis with MS, and while we have faced some bad days, her condition has remained more or less stable, with no progression on the lesions detected in the MRI scans. Our heartfelt thanks to those who have given their support, and while we may not be traipsing around the world any time soon, there is still plenty of music left in both of us.