Midnight Oil

[Powderworks] Writing a song with Rob

Mike Blackwood mikeb@cs.mun.ca
Thu, 22 May 2003 09:01:59 -0230 (NDT)

On Thu, 22 May 2003, [name removed] wrote:

Damien, I have 2 things to say to you:  Firstly, YOU LUCKY LUCKY 
BASTARD!!!  (read that in a Monty Python voice).  Secondly, PLEASE call up 
Hirst and BEG for permission to post an mp3 of that song somewhere!!!  
After all, Hirst released Stand For Something and Funambulist as mp3's 
years ago, and they still haven't seen an official release...


> 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 
> bone
> 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 
> from?)
>                                    You Don't Even Know Yourself 
> ........Anymore
>   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,
>                  Damien.
> >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 
> >the
> >foundation of music which is there regardless of whether we think it's 
> >boring
> >or not...  I will be very surprised if he does.
> >Alexei
> >
> >[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...
> >
> >
> >
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