Lost greatest hits
By the time I turned twenty I thought I’d given up on rock music. My first band Movement had not been the success I’d hoped it would be and I was making a name for myself as a novelist. I sold my amp, let my electric guitar collect dust and played the acoustic for my own edification. But I never stopped writing songs.
By 1997, age 24, I was as burnt out with writing as I had been with rocking. Although at first the arts grants had seemed generous, I realised how hard it would be to sustain my momentum, and I left the peace and solitude of Tasmania for a life of sharehouses, partying and straight jobs in Melbourne and Vancouver. Meantime, almost by accident, I wrote an album.
As the album grew to 20+ songs, I learned production with a Tascam digital 8-track via a series of jams and improvisations (see Cottage Industry Recordings), loathe to waste my “real” songs on anything less than a professional sound, and I kept moving. Friend Paddy Ryan of Greater Northern, fresh from audio engineering school, recorded me a demo. Tom Barton (AKA Tomsea) did the same. Only in Manchester in 2009 did I form the band I called Shadow History. Comprising Liverpool postpunk legend Chris Layhe (ex-Icicle Works) on bass and brothers Leigh and Paul Eaton (owners of Stockport’s LP Studios) on drums and guitar, Shadow History had three recording sessions and played a handful of gigs before I returned to Australia in 2011. A last demo, recorded with Reed “Bleed” Cathcart in an Adelaide Hills loungeroom, plus a single gig in Adelaide with Reed and Adam MacBeath (Swimsuit, ex-Mandelbrot Set) in 2012 finished the story. I moved on.
The problem with Shadow History was my high expectations of it. This was Loveless with a story, Darklands with a fourth chord. It was pop music – there was no way I was gonna record it lo-fi! But with basic equipment and no recording expertise I didn’t think I had a choice. Well, it’s been 20 years. I have a bunch of demos to testify to what might have been, and – surprise! – a new sound (Light Traveller) that suits me better than all those break-up songs anyway. For now, my greatest hits package will have to remain in the shadows. Sure, I’ve been tinkering with it now that I’m halfway proficient at recording – I can’t help myself! But I still can’t quite catch that big sundrenched indie rock sound. Resurrection or no? For now, the jury’s out.