Midnight Oil

[Powderworks] Writing a song with Rob

[name removed] example@example.com
Thu, 22 May 2003 19:12:54 +1000

Well i can't speak for Rob, though i don't think he reads the dots himself 
(sheet music!) if you look at the
credits for the Olympic CD the charts for strings and brass were done by his 
Brother (who is a classically
trained pianist). Now i can speak from some experience of having written 
several songs with Rob and
recorded one of our own songs and one unreleased Ghosties song with him. Now 
with our own tune
we sat down to try writing together for the first time. I brought with me a 
chord progression that i really liked
and i played it to Rob and he said "yeah that's great!  give me a few min" 
(while he practiced my chords
and looked through his big book of unfinished song lyrics (now who wouldn't 
love to get their hands on that!).  Soon he had found a great verse lyric 
and matched a melody with my chords and sung them to me
so i wrote em down.
                                         If i don't hear you calling out in 
the storm
                                         Caught up in all these nights of 
fire and stone
                                         Even when your locked and safe in 
your home
                                         I can see right through you to the 

Now this was where the first change happened as he thought my pre chorus 
progression would make a better verse and my verse a better pre chorus!. 
Next he worked up a pre chorus lyric (on the spot, no book
this time!).
                                     And so you hide
                                    Somewhere inside
                                    You know you lie

The he went into a chorus with this lyric (oh cause you need skin like a 
crocodile!) and i said "FUCKING
WHAT!!!!" "what's that crocodile shit?" and Rob said "oh well (nervously!) 
well you need it to be tangible
  Dames, you know so that guy in a warehouse can say to his mates that's a 
song about a fucking
  crocodile!" and i said "nah Rob you can't write that amazing verse and 
then go on about a crocodile!
  no crocodiles please" So Rob sat there looking a little shocked and then 
just pulled one of those great
  Hirsty choruses out of his bum (where else do you think good choruses come 

                                   You Don't Even Know Yourself 

  And i said "That's it!"
  So we went on with the rest of the song from there, Rob made the second 
verse one line shorter so he
  would have one less lyric to write later!. He then came up with the second 
pre chorus though...

                                     Though you try
                                     With all your might
                                     You can't decide

  Then we worked up a violin melody for the instrumental and harmonies and a 
slight variation on the
  chords for the outro....

  Then the next part of the process happened in Melb while the Oils were on 
tour in my home town...
  Rob and i sat down again borrowing Krusty's mini disk recorder (thanks 
Krusty) and Travis Zanoni's
  acoustic guitar (thanks Trav too!). Now we were ready to get some ideas 
recorded so we played through
  the tune to get some sort of arrangement down. Rob wanted to start it with 
a wollop like the intro to Beds
  to wake up the listener! then it was into the soft gentle verse with Rob's 
light harmonies leading you into
  the first lyric then through to a pre chorus where Rob shouted into the 
microphone make that last bar 5/4
  (the rest of the song so far was 4/4). Then we wnet to a chorus and the 
next verse and the next pre chorus
  he shouted into the mic again "make that last bar a 7/4". So from there we 
played through the song and
  got bars and time signatures of them to feel right (as they felt to play 
naturally!). Then we got onto the mini
disk more harmony ideas and string ideas.

A few weeks later Rob calls me up on his cell phone (he is waiting to pick 
up Lesley and the girls) the
lyric for the second verse just popped into his head while sitting in the 
car so he makes me write it down...

                                       You say your always running to an 
endless sky
                                       Your really only hitching to the 
heart of someone
                                       Lets go racing down an empty road

Next we end up in Sony studios in Sydney to record the song. Rob want's us 
to play live as a rhythm
section. Rob pre recorded his acoustic guitar and guide vocal so Rob, Rick 
Grossman and i play live to
that. We are all in the big drum room with Rob (Ricks amp is in the hall and 
mine is in a sound proof room
covered with two more soundproof petitions! (thanks Rob for letting me turn 
your Vox AC30 up to 11 too!).
We all listen to the song in the headphones and hear that Rob has cut out 
the funny bars and the beds crashing intro and put in a few single rest 
beats here and there to build the tension. Rob says to Rick "now i want you 
to play Sting for the verse, Peter Gabriel for the pre chorus, the Who for 
the Chorus, Ghostwriters for the instrumental and Midnight Oil for the 
outro!" so Rick says easy and we roll tape.....

Rob crashes in with a nice cymbal as Rick slides in on the Bass and does 
some stuff in the verse that
makes me look over at him and go WOW! that's genius!. Rob come in easy with 
rim shots and full kit for the pre chorus as i strum my dirty (sounding) 
guitar too. At the chorus Rob, Rick and i all go hard (and i think to myself 
i feel like Pete Townshend with these guys!). The second verse comes in with 
Rob's kit doing some stuff this time and me playing some ringing chords! (as 
it turns out Rob played one wrong
chord in the verse on his pre recorded acoustic part, so every time we play 
that chord together i am playing a really different chord to him (though as 
it turns out it sounds great and i don't realize till after the final take, 
so it was never fixed and the song is better for that weird accident).  So 
we march on and rock into the next chorus and i see something go through the 
air and look to Rob and he is sitting there bashing
away with a silly grin on his face as he has broken a stick! (i should add 
that Rob is playing the Redneck
Kit with the Kangaroo on the bass drum and is also wearing his white singlet 
so is really looking the part
as the drumming icon at this moment!).

We go through the song a few more times and get the great take! (i drop in 
two bars of my axe later
that were pushing the timing thing), as i do this Rob says through the 
headphones to me "just keep up the
intensity!".  I must also add that Rick played one of the most amazing Rock 
and Roll bass lines ever on
this song (after Rob's brief early on i guess he could not come up with 
anything less!).

Later on came Rob's harmonies, strings and lead vocals though i might go 
there some other time.....
I just wanted to point out that never were charts or any musical theory 
brought into the writing and
production of the song, everyone played their part intuitively and with 
natural feel (Rob and i even sang
the string players their parts!).

                                                     Just my take on it all,

>From: ALEXEI <alexeis@usa.net>
>To: <powderworks@cs.colorado.edu>
>Subject: Re: [Re: [Powderworks] time signatures]
>Date: Wed, 21 May 2003 14:43:53 +0300
>Damien, what you just said is what largely makes the difference between
>Musician and a musician.  I wonder if Rob Hirst feels the same way about 
>foundation of music which is there regardless of whether we think it's 
>or not...  I will be very surprised if he does.
>[name removed] wrote:
> >  I will make this clear that this is as boring as fuck
> >   and i personally don't count bars i just watch the
> >   singer for counterpoints and play off the rhythm
> >   section...
>Powderworks mailing list

ninemsn Extra Storage is now available. Get larger attachments - 
send/receive up to 2MB attachments (up to 100 percent more per e-mail). Go 
to  http://join.msn.com/?page=dept/home&pgmarket=en-au