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The Seventh Cummings

from Sun Herald (Sydney) - 1994

In a recording career spanning almost two decades - with The Sports and then as a solo artist - Stephen Cummings has benefited from many musical lessons.

Perhaps the most important, and the hardest to accept, is that an album is simply as representation of where the performer was at - in the sterile environment of a recording studio - on that particular day, at that particular hour.

The tape machine sets in stone what is in essence an ever-changing beast. How Cummings sang on a Monday at 5pm is not how he'd sing on Wednesday at midnight or the following Friday at dawn.

He said: "I only think of the record as being that moment, and that's it. A lot of songs you will never play as well again as you do on the the album and some you play much better later. It's infuriating, but just to capture something at the time is the thing.

What Cummings caught on tape in March this year is his seventh solo album, Falling Swinger. For the first time since the electronically flavoured Senso in the early 1980s Cummings hopped on a flight from Melbourne to Sydney and bunkered down for a month to record.

"It was just a good break," he said. "It was better weather, I could walk around and get away from everything. It was like a holiday, and I was in quite a good mood. I stayed with friends, in a hotel, in the recording studio - which is in Steve Kilbey's house in Surry Hills. It was during the gay Mardi Gras, so it was a totally diffeent experience for me walking around town."

And did he find himself in the Mardi Gras mood?

"Well, I got into a mardi gras mood. Being in Sydney was like playing truant."

Cummings had never met his producer, the Church's Steve Kilbey, before the Falling Swinger recording sessions. Given the Church's penchant for a thick atmospheric sound, it is hardly surprising that Falling Swinger occasionally has a rather dense quality to it. The first track, The Big Room, sounds like an Echo and the Bunnymen out take.

Vocals have been doubletracked, effects have been piled on, something Cummings has not indulged in since the Sports.

"It was one of those things where we were on the same wave length," said Cummings of Kilbey. "I think he's a year younger than me, but we've got similar reference points. When we talked it was sort of like in shorthand.

"He got tough with me when it came to doing the vocals. I usually stick the vocals on at the end, and I do it very quickly. I just do it with the engineer, and I have no one commenting at all about it until I piece it all together.

"On this occasion he took me through all the songs, and he would suggest changing some of the words or suggest singing a different way.

"At first I thought: 'Oh give me a break", and then I thought: 'Oh well, I'll do it'. And I got into the spirit of it, and, you know, it improved it."

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