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The Recording Of Escapist

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I began recording my new album in December 1995 and finished it off in early 1996. It was produced by Steve Kilbey, at his studio Karmic Hit in Balmain, Sydney.

This time around, I decided to change everything that I did. I wanted to take a sharp left turn in musical direction. Why? I believe it's fairly easy to slip into a automated way of recording, especially if you've been in Music-Biz for as long as I have.

Kilbey's idea was to loosen my moorings and see what happens. He wanted to make all the songs up on the spot. This was too extremist for me! I wanted to make an album of gradual disclosure. A subtle collection of music that rewards the listener for their perseverence.

Robert Goodge (aka Filthy Lucre and Underground Lovers producer) contributed heavily to this idea. He co-wrote 4 songs and did all the programming. Robert is a pioneer of synthesiser music in Australia and he has kept every bit of crappy equipment he ever bought. He drove it all to Sydney in a station wagon, refusing to trust his delicate contraptions and his Gibson ES 330 TD guitar to the airlines.

My modus operandi was to fuse Kilbey, Goodge and myself and create an atmopsheric recording that blended layers of clashing, rippling guitars, hopefully achieving an equivalent sound to that which groups like, the Young Bloods, Buffalo Springfield and Fleetwood Mac sometimes got, only with nineties connotations.

Karmic Hit is best described as between an upgraded home studio and a professional amenity. It's situated in the basement of a factory in Balmain. It has a 24 track, one inch Tascam recorder and a Soundtracs desk. The engineer was Simon Polinski, who has worked with Kilbey on new Church and Jack Frost projects. He also engineered both Paul Kelly's and my last album, Falling Swinger.

The story behind the recording of Escapist is interesting, I can only liken it to having a 21st birthday party. You invite along all your friends and abruptly realise just how dissimilar your friends are. You start to despair and fret they won't come together and be friendly. In the end, common sense prevailed.

Kilbey has a variety of guitars that he's picked up over the years and he's blessed with the ability to be able to get an interesting sound out of most instruments. He has a matching set of Fender Coronet guitars.

Guitar on the additional songs was played by Peter Koppes, an original member of The Church, and also by Michael Sheridan, who has played with No and Max Q. Michael seemed to find the idea of playing songs with a conventional structure a strange experience.

After I'd packed it in most nights, Kilbey would stay on and overdub warped guitar and keyboard parts, most of which we kept. There's something of Nosferatu, the vampire outcast, about Kilbey. He's more in his element when he's alone with his toys and nobody around but the engineer to distract him.

The Church's drummer Tim Powell was recruited to play drums. Bill McDonald, current bass player for Frente, played bits and pieces on various songs. Sandi Chic sang wonderfully and Chris Abrahams played any keyboards Robert Goodge or Steve K didn't.

I was very fond of a song that Kilbey had co-written with his spouse, Karin Jansson, called Taken By Surprise. We ended up recording it and I managed to persuade Kilbey to allow me to play 12 string acoustic. As a rule, I'd never play guitar on my records, I'd rather someone who has more ability and know-how did it. But nowadays, if it's a simple bit, then I feel confident enough.

I recorded two other Kilbey compositions this time around, Midnight In America and Sleep With Me. It was my idea, I appreciated the notion of becoming more of a vocalist again. I'm an admirer of Steve Kilbey's songs, however I'd have to admit that I don't always understand the lyrics. They often have a sinister Lewis Carroll like charm about them.

We also co-wrote two songs, Sometimes, the first single, was an impromptu piece that was worked up at the last minute from a partially recorded idea Steve had dredged out from his vaults. Karin Jansson provides harmonies and Swedish utterances. The other is Anyone, an electro indulgence that highlights Marty Wilson-Piper's attacking guitar solo and I get to recount the tale of an outsider on the run from an un-named tragic event.

The whole process took about eighteen days in the studio. There were re-mixes, mastering and disagreements over what songs to include and what order they should appear. There were personality clashes, horrible silences and a lot of laughs and fun and tears as well. I might work up the energy to do it again in two years time. Then again!

Hopefully with Escapist, I will be able to acquire some new fans without alienating my faithful and understanding following. It was an interesting, perplexing experience, as ever.


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