Hiya folks thanks for joining us in the virtual RGM lounge today, grab a brew and take a seat.
What made you decide that music is a thing for you?
I’ve wanted to play music for as long as I can remember. I think what intrigued me was how all of these different sounds could be happening at the same time, interweaving to create something bigger than the individual parts. And that the result could create anything from sublime beauty right through to absolute chaos. I really wanted to understand that.
What’s your musical history?
I started learning classical guitar when I was 12 (?) and felt like I’d found my thing. Played in all the usual school bands – jazz, concert, orchestra etc.. Then in 1986, I started a psych-pop band with school friends (my last year of school). We played around the underground venues in Brisbane.
In early 1987, I discovered British trad folk fusion band, Pentangle, and was absolutely blown away. I loved how the guitarists were playing with the technical prowess of classical players with the freedom and invention of folk and jazz forms. That led me to spend the next 25-30 years down the rabbit hole of traditional folk music, and its re-interpretations.
In 2012, my family moved to the Sunshine Coast hinterland here in SE Qld, and with the move I felt I needed a break from gigging. But not music. So I built a studio and got myself an electric guitar and a few pedals. Meadow Argus grew out of my attempts to merge my interest in folk music with other styles that I’d been listening to over the years.
Tell us about Meadow Argus
Meadow Argus is an interesting machine. It’s just a name I use really to record and release any music I feel like without the need to stick within any rigid boundaries. It gives me the freedom to make anything I like irrespective of style, genre, instrumentation etc… I guess the underlying intent is to merge my love of folk music with other more esoteric styles. I like the term “Space Rock as Folk Art”
The music industry is the hardest industry in the world to progress in, how do you feel you are doing?
As far as progress goes, I don’t really look at it like that. I’ve spent my career making music that I guess is probably quite ‘niche’. I don’t really see myself as ‘part of the industry’ but more as a satellite to it.
I feel pretty lucky to have been able to pursue my craft for all of my adult life. As a result, I’ve developed some beautiful relationships within the music world over the years and have met and played with some amazing people and artists. To me, that’s what it’s all about.
How have your songwriting skills developed over time?
Like any skill, you get better with practice. When I was younger, I’d practice guitar for three hours a day. With a family and a mortgage, and all the usual responsibilities, I don’t have time for that anymore. I treat my songwriting (and audio engineering) the same though. Bring intent to any activity and you’ll inevitable get better. So, I write as though I’m a beginner. And I read a lot. And try to be as critical as I can. I certainly don’t record every song I’ve written.
I’m seeing a lot of debate about women not feeling safe at music gigs, any thoughts on what we need to do to help?
Unfortunately, our society has been built on patriarchal institutions with generations of inbuilt misogyny and entitlement. Plenty is being done at the ground level to make spaces safer for women and, at least here in Australia, there’s a massive push to make the industry more accessible, and safe for women.
Of course, there’s always pushback from those that feel their own privileges may be threatened, so we need to find a way to reassure them that they’ll also be ok!
At its very simplest though, the solution is that men should just stop being dicks. Teach your boys to be respectful.
Tell us Two truths and a lie about you.
My three children and I all have the same birthmark.
One of my folk acts once played the support spot for a death metal band.
In my 20s, I spent two years hitchhiking to and from work.
What are your thoughts on Spotify’s monopoly of the music industry?
It’s disappointing that the current model for music distribution is so heavily weighted in favour of the suits over the artist. But I guess that’s just a new version of the same old same old.
Meadow Argus is essentially a studio-only project so our music kind of needs to be on those services. I’m under no illusion about getting any financial rewards from it. But the reality is that it’s another way to get in front of people; and as independents, we need to utilise any resources available to us. And get creative. Use platforms like Bandcamp to sell your music. Make connections, and build relationships. Think laterally.
Do you sign up to any conspiracy theories?
Only the ones I make up myself.
Oh, and I love how crop circle designs have developed over the years. It’s almost as if the aliens (or lizards or whatever makes them) have been practicing. Or their technology has improved! Or something.
Did you buy anything you don’t need during the pandemic?
Lots of records. But I need them.
Apart from that, no – we’re fairly happy and self-contained here.
What was the worst experience on stage?
My worst stage experience was actually playing 4 gigs in a row around the outskirts of Brisbane for St Patricks day back in the early 2000s. I was playing in an acoustic folk duo that took a lot of its influences from the English ballad tradition. We’d recently taken on an agent who’d seen the word ‘folk’ in our bio and saw dollar signs so booked us all these St Paddy’s Day gigs in outer-suburban taverns. We questioned the agent relentlessly leading up to it. “Have you actually listened to our recordings”. “Oh yeah, you’ll be perfect”. Suffice to say, he hadn’t listened, and it wasn’t perfect. I came close to blows with the bar manager at the first gig and at the final one, on the request of the giant blokes playing pool in front of us, we gave the stage over to them as an open mic night. We ended up becoming friends so that part actually turned out ok.
It was a challenging day, and I learned an important lesson in the art of when to say yes (and no) to gigs.
Tell us something about you that you think people would be surprised about.
I have a parallel career helping to restore the damaged natural areas of South-East Queensland.
Ahhh thats ace nice one. What makes you stand out as a band/artist?
Although it’s not uncommon due to the prevalence of home studios these days, I think the fact that I’m essentially a solo artist with guests masquerading as a band, is slightly different.
Mainly though, I think the different musical elements that I bring to my productions – there are the years immersed in traditional folk music and my studies of ethnomusicology along with a long-running interest in psychedelic music, abstract sound art (kosmische, musique concrete, etc), and even field recordings. It sounds like a weird mix but, hopefully, it works.
I hear you have new music, what can you tell us about it?
Of course! The new EP is called “Dancing Through a Slow Apocalypse” and is probably the most ‘pop’ piece of work I’ve ever made. It’s seven songs that deal with various personal aspects of the global events of the past couple of years. I deliberately pushed myself outside of my usual approach to form and style so there’s quite a bit of genre-hopping. From an acoustic country death song to synth-based new wave style pop. I also invited a number of different singers to help out so across the album, there are 6 singers. If you count me. Which you possibly shouldn’t.
Talk me through the creative process of the new tunes.
I made a deliberate attempt to get inside musical styles that I hadn’t explored before, so I got to spend a lot of time listening to music I was familiar with but hadn’t really gotten immersed in. Each song is basically the Meadow Argus version of what I was listening to at the time.
What was the recording process like?
Well mostly, it’s just me in the studio building parts and layers. Then writing vocal melodies and imagining who should sing them. And because, there was never really any intent to put a band together and play the songs live, I had a bit more freedom, sonically, to add textures that I may not have if I was constrained to a four or five-piece band. Having said that, I do hope the song-writing stands up well enough to be able to do that if the fancy ever takes me.
What was the biggest learning curve in writing the new tunes?
Well, my background in traditional music has given me good arrangement skills but my song-writing has occasionally been a little formless or meandering. If you listen to some of the earlier Meadow Argus releases, you’ll notice most pieces are at least 5 minutes long. I made a deliberate decision on this release to stick to structure and keep everything as tight as I could. I think the songs have benefited from this approach. The next album seems to be going in the other direction though…
Would you change anything now that it’s finished?
No. But yeah but no but…
It’s almost impossible to listen to a finished piece of work and not hear ways it could be different or better. But I’ve learned to accept that each release is simply a record (pun intended) of where we are at this point in time. It’s all good – I’ve got three new projects bubbling away so there’s no time to worry about old ones.
What does 2023 hold for Meadow Argus?
Well, I had ambitious plans for 2022 to release 5 albums. “Dancing Through ta Slow Apocalypse” is the second one to come out. The first was an EP by “Small Engine Chorus”, my collaboration with modular synth player, Nick Lavers, called – “Phosphenes Vol.2”.
I obviously didn’t achieve the five. But the other three projects are well underway. There’s another Meadow Argus album to come very soon (it’s almost finished), I’ve got an all-acoustic concept album based on a kids’ book halfway done, and I’ve been putting together an album of fingerstyle guitar instrumentals. On top of that, there’s a couple of collaborations bubbling away…