AUTOreverse #14, Summer 2011
interview by Skot Schtikla
“The title comes from the where and how of the recording which had a very strong impact on the end result. It was recorded in a run-down shack out the front of a property in Avalon that was lent to us. Thus the bleeding, spilly, haphazard non-studio quality. Secondly, it was all recorded mostly live to an 8 track cassette recorder by my friend Chris Colquhoun” – comments from Jamie about his latest album ‘Avalon Cassettes’
Avalon is a suburb north of Sydney
Jamie has been playing live and recording constantly for years. As part of Bluebottle Kiss he could always be relied upon to put on a blisteringly good and very loud live show. Even on quieter tunes Jamie always sings with such an intense passion. He is a brilliant writer, arranger and performer of songs that are always topped off with soaring vocals & thoughtful, picturesque & personal words. His last few albums of Bluebottle Kiss and now solo (but often with backing band) have started to incorporate a much more loose and percussive feel, and often feature subtle sounds & field recordings weaving in & out with the music as well as elements of almost ‘junk band’ feel where many little instruments and bizarre sounds may interject whilst beautiful melodies lazily float over the top…..
I first saw Jamie perform in Bluebottle Kiss Supporting Beck on his ‘Mellow Gold’ tour and I mainly remember them being like a full on rawkin feedbackin trio that at the time whilst really good, didn’t stand out hugely to me. Over time they became much more unique and powerful songwriters (and pretty popular in Australia) culminating in my favorite album of theirs, the double album ‘Doubt Seeds’ before Jamie more recently began releasing his somewhat mellower, yet just as unique and in a way more bizarre & broad, solo albums. He always writes amazing melodies and songs with beautiful structure yet manages to fit little nudges of quirkiness and incidental sounds in amongst them. He has also stepped away from earlier use of studios to embrace home recording on his latest efforts and i must say, the sound is brilliant. Definitely an example of recording with home equipment & settings that is as good (if not better) sounding as anything done with hundreds of thousands of dollars of studio gear…….
JAMIE HUTCHINGS – GIMME FAILURE
video by Scott Hutchings
When did you first become aware/ interested in sound in general and what do you remember of your earliest ‘hearing ‘experiences whether musical or not?
I think the main first impressions I remember with sound were the kind of noises that changed when in a different context to how you’d usually hear them in the everyday. For instance – how loud and ferocious the sea sounds when you’re camped out at the beach at nightime as opposed to walking around in the busyness of the day or how confronting a fridge sounds when it turns itself on in the middle of the night. I always remember staying at other people’s houses and having to go to the toilet and how incredibly loud and terrifying the cistern refilling would sound in the sparseness of a sleeping house. Like a hissing monster. A glass smashing in an empty room as opposed to in the midst of a party is way more of an event. Hence my love of minimalism as opposed to the super multi layered approach people seem to go for now.
First instrument/sound making thing of any kind you played/owned? Did it come to you or did you go looking for it?
I didn’t really go looking for it but when I was 11 in the last year of primary school there was this scary Abraham Lincoln lookalike teacher who wanted to start a bush band with kids and he held auditions for the bush bass. The bush bass is a broom handle with a string tied onto it attached to a tea chest. Kind of a one fingered double bass. I tried out sheepishly and I got the job, it was a bit of a revelation it seemed to come really naturally to just find the notes.
So did you take instrument lessons of any kind or did you just go off and learn to play yourself? And what about your earliest ‘jams’ with other people?Mum tried to get my brother and I to learn piano when we were six but we didn’t last long, I had a couple of other goes at other things but was too distracted. Eventually in my teens I started mucking about on my brothers drum kit and pretty much taught myself, had a couple of lessons later on. Same with guitar. I remember once I was well and truly going having no idea what I was doing so enrolled in a ‘guitar for beginners’ course at a night school. No one could play but they all knew more than me. I got frustrated and gave it away. I used to play with whoever I could on drums, often to music I hated just to play. The first time I started jamming with other people on guitar it was to my songs, I pretty much taught myself guitar so I could write songs.
How did you approach forming your first bands? mates in the garage kinda thing or advertising for players etc? And when did you do this, how early did you get band stuff going?
It went from friends at first to strangers eventually. Whenever I started garage bands with friends there would be in fighting as people didn’t really want to play my songs. I had no track record, once Bluebottle Kiss got more of a reputation I started seeking out people based more on a musical connection rather than a personal connection, in a way you’re less self-aware playing with strangers. But I feel like I’ve formed a special bond with everyone I’ve played with.
What about music writing, can you recall any articles on music that really had an impact on you influencing you to play? Or just any writers that were big influences?
I don’t really remember having any real epiphanies based on interviews etc I do remember an interview with J Mascis where he talked about the advantages of limitations whether it be time/budget/the instrumentation on hand. Basically being able to make something great out of what you have rather than wanting more. I guess in terms of writers The Beatles were a big deal when I was little but I became more interested in people who could write great songs but dress them in unexpected ways which I guess is why the whole singer/songwriter tag puts me off a bit. Definitely the noisy but melodic bands of the late ‘80’s were a big influence at first. Dinosaur Jr, Afghan Whigs, Husker Du. They were the first bands to fuse the heaviness of hardcore punk with the more classic literary and emotive songwriters of the ‘70’s who are a big deal to me too Dylan, Young, Van Morrison etc I’ve always had an interest in free music too, that boundlessness that a lot of the more experimental jazzers had early ‘70’s Miles, Coltrane etc
Aside from songwriters & bands what about experimental stuff, noise, free form kinda sound that some wouldn’t call ‘music’ how did you come about that stuff? What acts, artists of this nature did you first hear/like? When did you realize others actually did this sorta stuff on purpose, by preference?
I think I realized it more through learning about other forms of art. I went from going to a fairly surfie kind of high school to studying fine arts at a young age. The realization that people were de-constructing their work, almost throwing their tools away to make something more instinctual on purpose opened up a new door for me. People like De Kooning, Jackson Pollock etc Musically the first time I really heard this was on ‘Revolution Number 9′ by the Beatles. It’s very dramatic and a totally intimidating listen when you first hear it. What’s impressive about it is that you have two of the greatest traditional composers of the twentieth century chucking their familiar tools away and building something in a totally new language but their genius for arrangement still perseveres in a unexpected way. Later on I remember listening to a cassette of’séance’ by the Church on my walkman when I was around 16. There’s a song on there called ‘Travel By Thought’ it’s basically Steve Kilbey talking over some free form noise improvisation. It’s like nothing else they’ve done, to hear if for the first time was unnerving, transportive. Sonic Youth of course as well. Some of the collapse sections on ‘Daydream Nation’ like on ‘Silver Rocket’ or ‘Total Trash’, the way the song just falls over in the middle like a car crash. Destruction can be beautiful thing to watch or listen to, it’s hard to turn away from. I’ve gone on to enjoy elements for free jazz too, Ornette Coleman, Pharoah Sanders and to a degree some noise music but more as a live experience and philosophically too, I like it’s courage and lack of self awareness. People like the Dead C, Keiji Heino though I’m a dabbler. I’ve been slowly assembling some recordings more in this vein using non musical objects to create pieces but whether I’ll do anything with it, who knows…
How about other forms of art…whether doing it yourself or as a fan or both, writing, painting, drawing, reading etc When & how did you get into these things, what influenced you in other creative fields aside from music & sound?I drifted towards drawing and writing straight way. I’ve always been useless at most other things so from a young age the imagination was something I overused pretty much immediately. I’ve pretty much answered this already above but I did also get into literature straight off as well. I went through a period in my teens where I swore it off when I got into surfing and felt kind of ashamed of it but by my late teens I’d discovered Dostoyevsky, Camus all those feverish kind of writers and that’s something I got lost in and it motivated loads of my writing.
What role, if any, have various ‘altered states of consciousness’ whether it be drugs & alcohol, sleep deprivation, belief in magic powers, meditation etc played in your musical life, as listener or creator?
There is that awe factor in some forms of music either as a participant or an observer that I’d put on par with coming across a huge mountain range or a sprawling ocean or anything larger and more incomprehensible than yourself. In that sense I guess I feel a God connection, like there’s a language beyond words and you’re standing outside yourself and seeing parts of yourself that even you don’t understand. Like a wordless prayer. Not all the time but in some of the things I do or have done. I understand people trying to find that place by altering themselves chemically to get there but it’s kind of a short cut and most of the people that can find it don’t seem to rely heavily on that route in my experience. Once you get into your late teens your frontal consciousness seems to take over. It’s like this hyper self-awareness that begins to form like a callus over your more childlike unhinged self, your imaginative primitivism which probably explains why people mess themselves up around this age. You don’t want it to die. It’s like Adam and Eve suddenly realizing they’re naked. I’ve always been aware of it happening and I guess it’s a confidence thing to a degree. Sometimes I’d stare at myself when I was first starting out and view it as an absurd thing. I worked pretty hard to try and destroy that self-awareness. I used to spend an inordinate time on my own in the early days, getting into that meditative creative space. It’s there in your consciousness somewhere and when you do find it you do feel like your both part of everything as well as being in a private universe.
Equipment, instruments, sound gadgets, home recording gear etc can you list and/or tell us a bit about different things you’ve used over the years, favorites you’ve had?
Multi track cassette players have been a huge part of what I do. My favourite is a Tascam porta-05, they’re disappearing fast unfortunately but they can be extremely present sounding due to all the sound being naturally compressed onto a tiny cassette. I love the format from a creative standpoint as well. You have self-edit more, deal with limitations of the format. It makes you work harder. I’ve used different portable gadgets over the years for field recordings. I had a portable DAT player on loan for a long time from the first record label I signed with and now I have a digi recorder by Tascam. It’s great for stereo field recordings. On ‘Avalon Cassettes’ I used it a lot as well as my four tracks to record everything from trains and storms to typewriters. Fortunately my friend Chris Colquhoun is way trickier than me with recording technology so he was able to transfer it all and fly it over the top of the mixes.
Can you list (and tell us a little about) all the bands you’ve been a member of and any releases or performances you’ve done solo or played a part in some way over the years?
I had a few bands I played in as a teenager that never really went outside garages or rehearsal spaces, some of them recorded demos.
The Fallen Scarecrows – played drums, my brother Scott on bass, my friend Mark Moldre on guitar we all sung. It was pretty anything goes fairly poppy. We recorded one live demo. Around ’89-’92.
Rubber Donut- first band I played guitar and sung in. Our guitarist was into metal, we used to get together to drink beer and make noise basically, a mess, didn’t record anything. ’91-‘92
Snail Fever- same band minus the metal guitarist, Peter Noble one of Bluebottle Kiss’ first drummer was in it. Again not much going on, grungy, recorded a really bad demo I think. ’92-
Bluebottle Kiss – My first and last serious band. A fair few line-up changes and what I’m mostly known for. Elements of noise, folk, pop. A kind of collision of traditional and experimental guitar music I guess.
BLUEBOTTLE KISS – THE WOMEN ARE AN ARMY
Higher up the Fire Trails ‘95
Fear of Girls ‘96
Revenge is Slow ‘02
Come Across ‘03
Doubt Seeds (double) ‘06
E.P’s + MINI ALBUMS
Double Yellow Tarred ‘95
Somnambulist Homesick Blues ‘97
Tap dancing on the Titanic ‘98
Girl Genius ‘99
The Last Playboy in Town ‘04
A Little Bit of Light ‘05
The Women Are an Army ‘06
Slight Return + Out Seeds ‘07
Autumn Comes Too Soon ‘96
Rust and the Time ‘96
Helping You Hate Me ‘97
Return to the City of Folded Arms ‘99
Ounce of Your Cruelty ‘01
Hasten the Blows ‘02
Fathers Hands ‘02
Everything Begins and Ends at Exactly the Right Time ‘03
Sonic Elevator Music For The Masses ‘94
The Golden Coach ‘02
His Imaginary Choir ‘09
Avalon Cassettes ‘11
After the Flood ‘08
Brother You Were Built For Speed
(from ‘two minute noodle’ split 7″ compilation) ‘98
Hummer – I Don’t Babble (drums) EP ’97 grungy three piece band, morphed into electronic outfit ‘Centipede’
Rocket/Sonic Emotion Explosion – drums ’95-99? Unreleased recording and live shows. Collaboration between Liz Payne from SPDFGH and Brad Herdson from Gerling.
Scared of Horses – vocals/lyrics on the song ‘Fishes’ from the album ‘An Empty Flight’’98 . Instrumental project by Paul Dempsey of Something For Kate with guest vocalists/lyricists.
El Mopa – Get Behind – vocals, guitar, co-production ’00. Dreamy country influenced four piece, recorded their first cassette and co-produced this album.
Browning – And the Ghosts they Howled in the Eye of the Wind- slide guitar, co production ’02. Sprawling three piece band I came across in the late ‘90’s that I got involved with , recording demo’s co-producing etc bassist Chris Colquhoun recorded my latest album.
Peabody – Professional Againster, ‘03 The New Violence ‘05, Prospero ‘07 – vocals, percussion, production on all three albums. High energy melodic punk influenced band on the same label as Bluebottle Kiss. Produced their first three albums.
The Maladies – With You By My Side Baby The Deal Just Can’t Go Down – production, percussion, vocals, guitar ’09. Great swamp/country influenced band. Produced their first album.
Mark Moldre – The Waiting Room – vocals, guitar, piano, drums. Child hood friend, dreamy singer/songwriter. Will be producing his next album.
Sophie Hutchings – Becalmed – drums ’10. My sister Sophie, beautiful epic instrumental piano led album.
thank you, Jamie!