DIARY - 5 MARCH 2011 - SHANE NICHOLSON INTERVIEW
NICHOLSON RADIO ACTIVE
is dead, music is dead/ long live the radio." - Music Is Dead
- Shane Nicholson.
are a dangerous weapon - especially when you sprinkle them through
satirical songs with, ah, gay abandon.
Queensland born and latter day NSW Central Coast singer-songwriter
Shane Nicholson wants to make one thing quite clear.
His riveting new song Music Is Dead is not biting the hands
that feed and bleed him - ABC, community and regional radio.
No, the song - one of three new tunes with radio references - is more
a reflection of changes in modern music orchestrated by the commercial
It's a far cry of the days of yore in the fifties and sixties when
country and folk music enjoyed nuptials with pop and rock on commercial
That was an era way back in those mists of time when many metropolitan
stations boasted individual owners.
before the new age shock jocks and faux comedians whose next funny joke
will be their first.
Let's let Nicholson explain.
"The song is not about radio in general but more about commercial
radio, talkback and comedy breakfast shows," Nicholson told Nu Country
TV on the eve of his Victorian tour in March to promote his fourth solo
CD Bad Machines (Essence-Liberation.)
"When you turn the radio on you often don't hear music but some fast
talking DJ on a breakfast show laugh at his own jokes. I've been doing
radio for the past few weeks.
Without radio (like ABC, RRR and PBS) we would be lost. I wouldn't have
That rapidly growing oasis, with community and Pay TV and occasional commercial
TV variety show support, is the flame that ignites roots music in the
"Mainstream radio doesn't represent the broader cross section any
more," says Nicholson.
"Music Is Dead uses radio metaphors. I'm basically trying
to hold up a mirror to a lot of things changing, quite often not for the
better. It's quite scary, not just the music industry but how music is
perceived and what it's become. We're living in different times. It's
a song about that. Music to kids now is different to what it was to me
when I grew up. It's one of those kicking and screaming songs, wanting
the old days. On radio there is so much talking I don't hear any music
- that annoys me more than anything else. It gets old pretty fast, depends
what you are after. The song deals with how things are changing and how
our taste is changing - how the magic of music is definitely changing
and the way people view that magic. To me it's still a mysterious magical
thing - a lot of people are still fighting to retain it. It's not a complaining
song but holding a mirror up to it."
like that old toy train/ no longer bright shining red/ just like that
rusted chain/ sitting on a tyre by the shed." - Broken Things
- Shane Nicholson.
about his confession at his recent Fitzroy CD launch at the Workers Club,
nee the Rob Roy, that his singing spouse Kasey Chambers was second cab
off the rank as partner on new song Broken Things.
The singer told the capacity audience he invited Sheryl Crow to guest
on the song but she had not responded.
Maybe she was busy promoting her trio video clip with Texan Miranda Lambert
and Loretta Lynn on historic Lynn hit Coalminer's Daughter.
"I sent it to Sheryl Crow," Nicholson revealed.
"I don't know if she ever heard it - you don't know how many people
are between you and her. I guess we're not as good friends as I thought.
I thought if she couldn't do it I would ask my wife. I don't think Kasey
minded being second choice - she quite liked the song. I think she minded
more if she thought I was telling everybody."
Nicholson also makes it clear it's not a reciprocal present for Chambers
writing The Stupid Things I Do when she forgot to buy him a Valentine's
Day present last year.
She included the song on her fifth solo album Little Bird in 2010.
"Mind you I earned that," Nicholson joked.
"I gave her a whole bunch of stuff for Valentine's Day - that was
her repaying me."
a hammer at a dead man sale/ never landed straight on a nail/ I think
it's guilty of ungodly sin/ I think it's keeping a ghost within."
- Hammer And Nail - Shane Nicholson
Nicholson is indebted to Ohio born touring partner Kim Richey for
inspiration for another new tune Hammer And Nail.
Shane and the frequent Australian tourist and hit writer collaborated
on a brace of writing sessions during her visits that began in 2002
with Jim Lauderdale and Canadians Fred Eaglesmith and Jason McCoy.
"It felt like a Stephen King story when I wrote it," Nicholson
term hammer and nail came from Kim Richey. I was writing with her, we
were writing something else, talking and chatting away. She was telling
me they have these dead man sales in Nashville - someone passes away and
they sell off all the estate on the front lawn, like a yard sale. They
call them a dead man's tale apparently. I like that term - I thought it
was kind of interesting - if you bought something it was haunted. In this
case it was a haunted hammer, used for evil purposes in the past, came
with its own free ghosts. That was the idea - then you are haunted by
the hammer. It became a funny sort of dark humour - something I've never
done before. I don't usually deal that much with humour in my songs but
there is much more of it on this album. It's always dark or dry or sarcastic
that's tongue in cheek. On the surface sounds very macabre, like a slasher
movie. It might make a cool movie or short film."
COLD WITH MAD BASTARDS
you rise or will you fall/ will you walk or will you crawl/ will you dream
in black and white/ when you're sleeping cold tonight." - Sleeping
Cold - Shane Nicholson-Kasey Chambers.
like Chambers, is no stranger to landing songs in movies and TV shows.
"There's a new Aussie film coming out called Mad Bastards,"
Cold from our Rattlin' Bones album is in that movie. There are
always things on the boil, we're never quite sure as it's always a
long time until they finally come out. You kind of forget by the time
the film comes out that you actually have a song in it. I haven't
had as much luck as a couple of years ago - there was a real spate
of my songs in movies for some reason. It was a lucky time for me.
I haven't seen the film or anything yet. I had another in recent Australian
movie - Prime Mover. I haven't tried too hard. I don't think
about songs in movies all that much - it's not really what we work
on day to day."
is a David Jowsey-Brendan Fletcher produced movie that was filmed in the
Kimberley and also features music by Alex Lloyd and co-producers Alan
and Stephen Pigram.
The movie, featuring an indigenous cast, has been screened at the famed
Sundance festival and recent Australian festivals.
Prime Mover - a 2009 David Caesar directed truckie comedy movie
- starred Ben Mendelsohn, Michael Dorman and Emily Barclay with Gyton
Grantley and William McInnes also in the cast.
Although Nicholson is a movie buff he prefers writing and performing to
MACHINES AND VIDEOS
up the mountain with a bible and a gun/ a whole generation following the
chosen one/ gotta stack the numbers boys, it's damage by design."
- Bad Machines - Shane Nicholson.
Central Coast musician Duncan Tombs has directed his last two video clips
Bad Machines and Famous Last Words.
"It took about five hours to shoot the video for Bad Machines
but took him five weeks to plan it and set it up," Nicholson confessed.
"The Bad Machines video was shot in Duncan Tombs warehouse
near our home on the Central Coast. The set was built for the video -
there was animation on two screens behind me. Videos are the least favourite
thing I do - the least natural thing to do in the music scene. That's
the time I feel most out of my comfort zone. I don't always enjoy that
process that is foreign to me - it's not something I feel in control of.
You never know what to expect with a video. I don't have that film vision
and idea. I have got to wait until you see it - it's an interesting process."
Nicholson prefers the writing and performing process.
"The idea Bad Machines came from reading Midnight Express,"
"There are three specific situations in the modern world where one
person can influence a lot of people - not always for the better. It's
more a social commentary than anything else.
That's what it's about - it's not about a specific person. It's more a
generalisation. One person can organise a social change that can involve
massive amounts of people. One of the verses deals with the media in general.
It's nothing to do with one specific person - more a social commentary."
Nicholson also filmed the new video clip for Famous Last Words
on the NSW Central Coast with Duncan Tombs.
It will feature in Series #16 of Nu Country TV in June.
WAS A VAMPIRE
were working on a folk tale/you were hanging from the guard rail/ you
were building up a backbone/head first along the grindstone." - Jimmie
Rodgers Was A Vampire - Shane Nicholson
drew on myths surrounding Jimmie Rodgers - the late singing brakeman
from Meridian, Mississippi, who died of TB - for another new song.
was born on September 8, 1897, and died aged 35 on May 26, 1933,
after a short but colourful career as a yodelling pioneer and country
"There was a time when people associated TB sufferers with
vampires," Nicholson revealed.
symptoms they showed were similar to those of vampires. There was
confusion about that, that we know now with medical knowledge was
wrong. I joined the two things together and used them as a metaphor
for getting things completely wrong, being way off the mark, completely
wrong about the situation. The song itself is just a conversation
between two people.
Jimmie Rodgers was the metaphor. People thought they knew the situation
but had it arse about face. There is kind of a humour in that song
but more of accepting you are wrong."
she pulls her skirt above her knees/ I'm thinking bad things come in threes."
- Whistling Cannonballs - Shane Nicholson.
also explores diverse country staples including cheating and temptation
in Blueberry Pie and Whistling Cannonballs - a duet with Paul Kelly.
"Blueberry Pie is a character story," Nicholson explained.
"I used three unlikely characters, one's a monkey, one's a crow and
one's a human. It's almost a surrealistic song. The characters were chosen
for a reason - they represent different things.
It's a basic love triangle I guess - it's also about cannibals. I feel
like I didn't write that song. I feel like it arrived, just came to me
and I grabbed it from the air. I usually plan a song and write it out
but not that song. It kind of wrote itself - it was done in less than
an hour, a second draft. It came out steady in a flow until it was finished.
It was like that song was already been written and I was grabbing it from
the ether - that song did arrive that way."
Whistling Cannonball enjoyed a more explosive incubation.
"If I couldn't get Paul Kelly to sing it with me I probably wouldn't
record it," Nicholson confessed.
"I had my heart set on it - luckily he did agree."
ON THE SHIPWRECK COAST
it on the radio, paint it on the walls/ I don't want to go until the curtain
falls." - Famous Last Words - Shane Nicholson.
produced the album with brother-in-law studio veteran Nash Chambers at
diverse Central Coast locales with vocal cameos by Kelly, Chambers and
Nashville singer-songwriter Matthew Ryan
Guitarist Mark Punch, bassist James Gillard, drummer John Watson and multi-instrumentalist
Bill Chambers headed the session serfs.
Nicholson wrote all songs except Fish And Whistle by former Chicago
born singing postie John Prine whose Australian tour highlight was an
historic concert at picturesque Hanging Rock Racecourse.
But Shane will be in full control over those bad machines and haunted
ghosts when he plays in Victoria this month with a stripped down band.
"I play the drums with my feet rather than having a drummer bashing
away behind us who drinks all the rider," Shane joked about his band
that features father-in-law Bill.
"Bill and I did a show at Port Fairy last year as well as the previous
year with Kasey. It's such a great festival I just wanted to get back
there. I don't get there with a full band and crank it up to 11. I'll
be doing a trio with three or four players. We do the folk version of
the album at Port Fairy - Bill and Jeff McCormack and Ashley Dallas a
young fiddle player from Tamworth who plays in Kasey's band. She'll be
playing in the same band as Kasey as we're playing consecutively on the
Saturday night. We will pretty much be doing one long set I'd say. Kasey
plays after me. In Brunswick it will be similar but I'm doing the show
in so many different ways.
It's an easy record in do in any sort of format. I'm enjoying that. It
will be a full band at the Bluesfest in Byron. I like handpicking shows
to do differently. The Melbourne shows will be stripped back - a whole
different take on the record. It gives me three or four different ways
to do the songs - stops it from ever turning into a routine. It keeps
it interesting and exciting."
Nicholson's tour to promote fourth solo CD Bad Machines (Essence
- Liberation) starts at Moomba on Friday March 11, the 35th Port Fairy
folk festival March 12-14, East Brunswick Club March 24 & Williamstown
Substation - March 25.
CLICK HERE for Tonkgirl's Gig Guide
for all details of tours by Shane and Kasey.
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