DAVEY Lane lived every bedroom guitarist’s dream when he became the fourth member of his favourite band You Am I. GEORGE KATRALIS speaks with the renowned Australian guitarist about his debut solo EP The Good Borne of Bad Tymes.
You’ve said that You Am I were your favourite band. How long did it take being star struck to wear off, or at least settle down before you got really comfortable calling the guys friends, calling yourself a member of You Am I and also when you felt ready to bring forward some of your ideas for the music and direction of the band, be it riffs, art ideas or songs? I remember chatting to you in Sydney some years back about playing in Crowded House and you said that even on stage you were pinching yourself that this was the real deal. I guess these experience must still feel surreal?
You Am I were for sure one of my favourite contemporary bands growing up, but I think it was more a feeling of absolute respect for them as a band and for their music than it was any feeling of being star struck. I knew all too well that it was a big deal, and wanting to not only be up to scratch but to contribute something worthwhile to it was at the forefront of my mind. Compounding that were a nervy disposition and the ol’ teenage social awkwardness which I found pretty crippling at the time. At school I was a bit of a loner, so to be thrust into an environment where I’m interacting with three witty, charming, but amazingly welcoming individuals and a whole lot of other people from major label record companies (not so witty and charming) and people you’d socialize with at gigs took a lil bit of getting used to. If it wasn’t for You Am I, I would never have met most of the people I love and care for today and my life would have taken a whole other trajectory, which is not something on which I’d ever like to ponder. I didn’t have much aside from music going for me so I don’t really want to speculate what might have been.
15 years have past since you first took to the stage with Tim, Andy and Russ. In that time 5 You Am I albums have been released which is 1 more then the guys had done before you joined. In that time on stage and on record us fans have literally and physically seen and heard the evolution of Davey Lane. You’ve gone from a shy denim clad kid who stood right of stage shoe gazing in the shadows to the guy who owns the solos, takes the spot light, has a laugh with Rusty during songs, does the occasional Pete Townsend-esq scissor kick, takes a swig from Tim’s bottle and then these days backs it on up by multitasking on the keys too!
Not only on stage but on record too we can hear riffs and sounds unheard before on previous You Am I albums which, from other interviews I have read, Tim has directly credited you and your influence on him and the band in making that happen.
Is this evolution something that just happened naturally as you got more comfortable with your place in the band, the songs and being on stage or is it something that the other guys had to encourage you to do?
Well yeah, as I said in my previous answer, as those nerves subsided, the more I felt at home. The less inhibited I felt on-stage, the less stilted my playing became. Nerves did (and still do) have an adverse effect on my playing if I let it get on top of me. Tim, Andy and Rusty certainly did encourage me, but a great deal of it was just experience.
With all the bands you play(ed), in that I mentioned above, and with the tag line of being a ‘gun for hire’ it’d be fair for any casual observer to consider you a guitarist first and foremost above all else but with The Pictures, and now with The Good Born of bad Tymes, you have turned your hand to being a song writer, singer and front man with the blistering solos we’re used to coming in second to these other hidden skills. Is Song writing something that you’ve always hand an interest in and done or is it something that came after a few years of playing guitar as a kind of natural next step and progression? Basically, in Beatles terms. Were you a John and Paul, natural writers or were you a George and bloomed later under the experience of your surrounds?
Well if you reference the new EP, you’ll notice I’ve tried not to skimp on the “blistering solos”! Though, to be honest, I’ve always considered myself more a songwriter than a guitarist, it’s just that I guess the latter advanced to a serviceable level before the former…I think its only been in the last few years (probably around the time of the second Pictures record) that I feel I’ve been able to find my own voice in terms of songwriting. And I feel like I’m getting a lil more confident as time goes by. I know in any case I’m writing less duds than I used to, though I’m still well aware of my limitations as a lyricist and vocalist. Everyone begins out copying their heroes, and it makes me cringe to hear how overt the influences are on my earlier songs, but I wasn’t writing back then coz I felt like I wanted to challenge myself or say something — I just needed a song with which I’d make as much noise as possible and jump around like an idiot, in a nutshell, smoke and mirrors to make up for the shortcomings in my writing. And I guess I feel the same way about singing. It’s only my most recent solo stuff that I can hear without cringing — I was either trying to sing too hard to get a certain throaty gruffness out my voice that wasn’t there, which would throw my pitch right out, or I was trying too hard to mimic other singers.
You’ve had the unique experience to play along side some of, not just Australia’s but in my opinion the worlds best and underrated song writers in Neil Finn and Tim Rogers. You no doubt have some very good influences and inspiration around you. Do you ever find yourself asking them for advice on your own music or running your songs by Tim to get his opinions of them?
Nah, I actually got asked about this the other day, I’ve never really sat down with Tim and mused on the ancient art of it all. Of course we have a mutual appreciation of great songwriting — if we’re together and hear a brilliant chord change or melody we take note or get violently enthusiastic about it, depending on the time of day. I reckon I’ve learnt enough about songwriting by listening to, learning and getting inside his songs for so many years —enough so that we don’t really need to talk about it. Just like we don’t really need to “jam” — a jam band we proudly ain’t.
2005 saw you release you first album with The Pictures called Pieces of Eight which was met with some great accolades, but both before and almost immediately after its release you guys had some issues with drummers. Both Brett Wolfenden and Johnny T left the band within a very short time, which I’m sure, would have made things tricky and we didn’t hear from you guys in about 3 years on record. What was the general feeling between you and Luke at the time. Was it initially to stop the band or was that never an option?
We were always gonna give it another go even though the future was looking pretty dire. We realized we were on our own, so I just started saving my pennies and threw it all into the second album. I was confident with the songs that were being written (much more than the songs on the first record), so it seemed to be the right thing to do. I felt as though I’d spent enough time in studios to begin manning the board for the first time — as did Luke — but we really produced it ourselves out of necessity, we just couldn’t financially factor a producer into the budget.
I very much regret how things with Brett were handled with the Pictures, it was a pretty shit scenario. And really with Johnny it was totally amicable, we just gave him a chance to jump off when it looked as though the ship was sinking.
As for the delay, I dunno, it just took a while for me to get the cash together for the second one. For the first record we had an infrastructure of sorts — management, a booking agent, a record company. All of those things had either imploded, lost interest or declared bankruptcy by the time we were ready for the second one!
Although Kicking Indifference didn’t chart as you probably would have liked, personally I think it was a huge step for you as a songwriter. Songs like “Lion’s Share”, “Masie” and in particular (possibly my fav Pictures song) “Better Let Go” showed a real maturity in your song writing and a real growth from Pieces of Eight. The songs on that album seemed quite personal with a real heart on your sleeve feel. What was going on at the time different to 2005 to bring out this emotion? (If that is to personal please feel free to ignore)
I wasn’t worried in the slightest about charting or anything like that, the only disappointment for me was that no-one really knew we had a new record out. If I’d known then that folks would still be asking me 4 years later when The Pictures were putting out a second album I would have given it away for free.
Yeah there are a few songs on there I’m really proud of still. Loads more than on the first one. in actual fact I was in a far better place personally around that time than I was in 2004/2005, when I’d gone through some pretty screwed up relationship and family breakdowns. It fucked me up bad and got me onto a pretty self-destructive path for a while. But boo-hoo eh, it ain’t no different to any of the curveballs anybody else in the world gets thrown from time to time. But by the time the second record came around most of that bullshit had been ironed out, but I guess it was still pretty fresh in my mind when it came time to write.
Maisie is one of the only times I’ve written a character/story lyric, it’s kind of based on my gran who passed away while I was writing it. Better Let Go is one I still really really like, but for personal reasons I can’t really play it anymore as one of the two people it’s directed at is nowadays one of my closest friends, shame, coz it’s got some real purdy chord changes! I was never one to hide behind metaphor, and it doesn’t really take a rocket scientist to figure out what its about. It’s a well-worn story. Pissed-off guy writes bitter song, gets it outta his system, works out shit with friend, ultimately wishes he wrote different lyrics! The other person I no longer talk to so it still rings true in a way….
What’s in the future for The Pictures? Will we see a 3rd Album?
No idea. If folks want one, maybe there’ll be one down the track. Someone else can pay for the next one though! I mean it was arguable that folks even wanted a second record, though I’m super glad that we made it. But for the foreseeable future, I’m happy doing what I’m doing with my own band.
In the song “Thank you Honey” you send a thanks out to your Mum and Dad. Back in 2003 on the You Am I Cream and the Crock DVD you acknowledged your Dad as being a big influence on your musical upbringing, crediting him as being the one to played you old Who and Stones records when you were a kid. One thing I have always wanted to ask you is, what does you Dad think of all this? I mean put yourself in his shoes, as a teen of the 70’s listening to and possibly seeing bands like The Who and The Rolling Stones do their thing and admiring them like we all do. Fast forward some 30 odd years later and his Son is opening for the very bands that he introduced him too, you’re family must be a proud bunch?
Yeah of course they’re proud. I’m sure for a while they wanted me to pursue a more conventional path, not knowing if it’d last 15 weeks let alone 15 years, but my folks know this is what I’m gonna be doing with the rest of my life and they’re happy with that. I’ll probably never own a fuckin investment property or shares (or probably even own my own house), but I’m happy with that. I’ll tell you a funny story about my Dad. My school sent a letter home telling them my appearance was unsatisfactory and I needed to tidy up my barnet. Now I dunno what the fuck was unsatisfactory about having an indie rock kid’s haircut and sideburns when other kids were getting about with blue hair and mohawks…but anyways my Dad pulled me aside and gave me a bit of a stern talking to, the words I distinctly remember were “tidy your sideburns, you’re not in bloody You Am I you know”! I was glad to have proved my dear ol’ Dad wrong once at least!
So from You Am I to The Pictures and now going complete solo. Tell me, how did The Good Born of Bad Tymes come about? And what prompted you to make this a solo release under your own name, as opposed to a Pictures, Scram or a release under a band alias?
Well, I thought the Pictures had been painted into a corner in terms what people perceived their style to be. I thought making a record under my own name would free me up to explore whatever I like, I like a lot of different styles whereas a band name is an umbrella or signpost for a certain sound or direction, I liked the idea of having complete stylistic freedom with no preconceived expectations of the material that’s released under my own name.
I’ve been following the progress of this album for a while now. About a year ago you posted a photo of a 20 odd song recording list that you had written, mapped out and planned to record for this debut LP of yours. Over time however this seemingly 12 track album has turned itself into a 5 track EP?
What brought on the change from making a full length debut that you seemed to put a lot of work into and turning it into a 5 track EP?
I thought long and hard about this, and came to the realization that there’s no set model you have to adhere to anymore in terms of how you release your music. As you said I had a 20 song list. That’s not even the half of it, I’ve been recording my own music for a few years now. And up until a few months ago, I’d had neither the support of a manager nor the distribution infrastructure to get records out there.
When you think about it, one can only realistically release an album every 12 months (at the least). Sure, you’re flying a little more under the radar releasing EP’s as opposed to albums, but I can release an EP every 3 months, and get 2 albums worth of material out in half the time it would ordinarily take. Not only that, I can make each release more focused, the full-length album was pretty all over the shop stylistically, the two EP’s I’ve split it up into now seem to each have their own cohesive thread.
The songs on ‘The good born of bad tymes’ once again show an interesting turn in your songwriting. Steering away from the Who-esq guitar sounds and Gallagher-esq vocal sounds we’ve come to know and love from you, you’ve seemingly taken this album down a more prog rock, synth heavy produced direction. With a lot of songs such as ‘Comfortably dumb’ and the first single ‘You’re the cops, I’m the crime’ lending their influence towards a more Pink Floydd, David Bowie, Todd Rundgren style of sound and production.
What brought on this change of musical direction for you and what made it an attractive choice to debut on your first solo effort?
Well, it’s a style that’s always appealed to me — dunno, it’s just the way I started writing a couple of years ago. I’ve still got jangly guitar pop and rock ‘n roll in my blood and it always will be — it’s just another avenue I wanted to explore.
12. Years back I had a chat to Wayne Connolly about Hourly Daily and asked him why a great track like ‘Boulder Fair’ was left off the album. His answer was a simple, “That’s the hard decisions but something not gonna make it”. Sadly, my fav song of the initial demos ‘Keep your eyes to yourself’ and another great track in ‘Bound to break me’ were shown the door and a new track in ‘You’re the cops’ was included in the album. What was the process of song selection and what made you cut long standing tracks that were good to go in favour of a new song that you wrote during the making of the album?
Those songs you mention have not been scrapped by any means, it’s just that they’re being held over for the second EP, called Tymes Two, which, all going to plan, will be coming out in January. It just so worked out that the songs on the first EP leant towards a more spacious, synth-oriented flavour, and the second set was a more stripped-back guitar oriented set of songs, closer I guess to what folks would expect of me. As I said before, making them two sonically cohesive sets of songs instead of a hodge-podge of styles. I’ve just written a track which we’re recording with Tony Buchen for the EP, it’s called The Last Of The Freakazoids and it’s the closest to rapping that you’ll ever hear from me. It’ll be the first song featuring my live band on record, Brett Wolfenden on drums, James Fleming on keys and Zac Crozier on bass.
13. You’ve released this album under your own label “field recordings’ In this day and age of do It yourself records You Am I went along the Indie route with their latest album, is this something you will do from now on when it comes to releasing your own music? What inspired you to make your own label? Where did the name come from and what would you like to achieve from it?
Yeah I think this is how I’ll release my own records from here on in. I thought I’d start my own label because I realized that it’s not out of grasp to set up a little cottage industry with people I trust and release records the way I want to. Not to generalize, as some of them are great at what they do and are passionate music fans, but a lot of folks in the music “industry” are sleazy liars who wouldn’t have a fuckin clue about any band that doesn’t play Rod Laver Arena or that they weren’t being paid to take an interest in. So basically out of an aversion to those sort of people! “Field Recordings” refers to anything that’s not recorded in a conventional manner, outside a regular recording studio, and is a document of sorts of a time and place. It just seemed to sum up what I’m trying to do.
14. Lastly (I hear you breathe with a sigh of relief) Who plays Davey Lane in the movie of your life?
Mike Noga and I have agreed to take acting classes and play each other.