Grinspoon

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If you love 1990s Aussie music then 2017 has so far been a big year for you. The Living End, Spiderbait, Killing Heidi, and Midnight Oil all hit the road and even Def FX have announced there is something in the offering. The latest band to announce that they are back is Grinspoon who exploded onto the scene in the late 1990s, thanks to Triple J’s Unearthed competition.

Seven albums over a twenty-year career and now Grinspoon are going back to where it all began. Taking a leaf out of Spiderbait’s book, Grinspoon is playing shows to celebrate the twenty-year anniversary of Guide To Better Living from 1997, and are also releasing a mega – and I mean mega – version of the CD with a bunch of never-before-released material.

When I catch up with Phil Jamieson from the band, he laughs when I ask what has made the band decide to hit the sweaty stages across Australia again. “To be honest, we didn’t know we were going to do a tour,” he laughs. “We knew 2017 was the twenty-year anniversary of our debut album and management had always kinda planned that they would re-release the record – put out on vinyl because it’s never been on vinyl, etc., etc., etc. Have a bit of a ‘Happy Birthday, Guide To Better Living’ situation. Then it came up, ‘Did we want to go on the road?’ and I was like, ‘Dude, I don’t even know if I can perform this record.’ I was like that because I recorded it when I was 19 and it was really full-on and then I went through a ‘really, people would come and see this’ stage. But the plan all came together, management put it all together and then we were like, ‘yeah, let’s get out there and play this’. And then when they announced the tour, people were very excited, which was very lovely and now I have to learn how to play this record from start to finish which is intimidating and scary but also a challenge. People out there seem to have a lot of affection for this material which makes it even more special in some ways.”

Just as Spiderbait faced with bringing Ivy And The Big Apples to the stage, Phil says there are tracks from Guide To Better Living that have never been played live before. “We’ve never played “Scalped” live… I know that. So we will have to learn how to play that and there are a string of other tracks from that album that we wouldn’t have played for twenty years. I don’t really like listening to myself so twenty years is a good time, so I’m able to go back and take a look at it all. Was has struck me about this record is now I can listen to it without being in it. When I went back and listened to that, it was a lot of fun. It’s a fun listen and I enjoyed it, which is really weird because I really don’t enjoy listening to what I record.”

 

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Of course, the thing that really made Guide To Better Living stand out when it was released was the fact that it was so raw, so how does the band go back and recreate that rawness live? “A lot of that is going to rest on Pat. Pat’s guitar sounds over the seven albums we have ended up tracking has matured over time. His guitar work has become more refined over time because back then it was a real buzzsaw – it was really raw guitar. That is the really essential thing about the sound of that record… its guitars. So we are going to have to work on that and get the guitars sounding identical, or as close to as we can get. As for the singing, I just yell a lot, really… don’t I? I just carry on. I was stoned, I was out of my brain on Lismore weed and was carrying on about things that were really nonsensical. What I have to do is not easy but I have a fair grip on what I can do. It is going to be fun going back and screaming at people again, though.”

As we chat, Phil remembers back to the actual time they were putting Guide To Better Living together. “We were all living in Lismore at the time, I think, and we just recorded all the songs we knew… I think it was like 20 songs or something. We recorded out in the hinterland of Byron Bay. We were allowed to stay in the studio, which at nineteen is the ultimate fantasy. Recording at 4am, going for swims in the pool… it felt so luxurious.

Being able to record everything we wanted. There wasn’t even a tempo mat, it was just like, ‘No, that’s a bit fast or a bit slow.’ That was how we did it. You can even hear the tempos changing during songs if you really listen. There are even guitars out of tune. We tracked it all in seven days, it was mixed within fourteen, and yeah, it was an amazing time. There was a birthday, a blackout… yeah, we have lots of memories of that recording. There were even times where I’d be yelling at 5am: ‘I want to record now’ because I was drunk or stoned.”

Phil bursts out in fits of laughter when I tell him that Guide To Better Living recently made a list of Top 50 Australian Albums that all music lovers should own, alongside albums by bands like Midnight Oil and Cold Chisel. “Maybe Guide To Better Living somehow represents the late 1990s,” he says between laughing. “I’m lucky that I made that record but I think it’s something about the time and the age of the people making the fucking list. In ten years time, it might be The Presets or something; but I am honoured that we made the Top 50 and I am glad that people want to own it. I love it and I fucking made it so I’m glad people want to own it.”

Grinspoon’s national tour kicks off on June 30th.

Written by Dave Griffiths

 

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