May 18, 2008

right there in the room


o fantasma de robert forster

um belíssimo texto do robert forster, sobre o novo disco, the evangelist, ou na verdade sobre muito mais que isso...

We had started on our 10th album. It had begun the same way as all the others. I went over to his place during the day and we’d play the songs each of us had written.

I’d find him in either of two locations: pottering around the kitchen or lying on his bed, reading. The first 10 minutes would always be a little tetchy. Although we’d known each other for almost 30 years and worked closely together for a good half of that time, he’d be a little gruff; it was as if, each time I saw him, he had to get to know me again. So, he’d make coffee and I’d sit in a chair in the kitchen and pepper him with questions in an attempt to bring him around to good humour. This is where having known him for such a long time helped, because I knew the buttons to push, the silly things to say, the cheeky remark about an album he liked, the films of a certain actor I’d know he’d trash, a bit of local rock-scene gossip. Anything really, and after 10 minutes, he’d be the person I’d always known.

Then we’d play guitar together: his new songs and mine, which built a world we’d then shape, record and send out to those who loved or liked what we did. It was the 10th album we were shooting for. We were just two months into it, eight songs written, when he died.

The group is the Go-Betweens and «he» is Grant McLennan. We’d started the band in 1978 when we met as art students at Queensland University. He was the film nut who passed every exam and who, at 18, was programming the campus cinema. I was flailing my way through courses with a 50% failure rate, my mind too taken up by the NME, import records and the fumbled desire to express myself through songwriting. We became best friends and, two years later, I convinced Grant to learn bass, to learn my songs, and to fall into the dream of being just 20 and in a rock band.

Quickly, Grant started to write songs, too. I knew he would – given he was the most switched-on and creative person I’d come across. So there were two singer-songwriters in the band and, over the next 11 years, we took the group as far as we could. People joined and left. Six albums were made. For five years, we lived in London and did as well as any Australian band could hope to do without hitting the big time of platinum-selling albums and arena-filling tours.

Maybe that made us lucky. It meant Grant and I could walk away from the band in 1989 and still be friends, still be sane and still have the determination to make good solo albums. It also meant we weren’t stamped with the 1980s. No reunion tours with Culture Club beckoned.

This all helped when we restarted the group in 2000. With musician friends Adele Pickvance on bass and Glenn Thomp-son on drums, we made three more albums, the last being 2005’s Oceans Apart. By then, the whole thing was on an upswing. We got five-star reviews and our first music award. With another album approaching, Grant and I could feel the momentum and goodwill. We were writing well: it felt as if, with our most recent three albums, we were on a run, as we had been in the 1980s. And then it all changed in a day.

Grant died of a heart attack on May 6, 2006. He was 48. Others lost a brother, son, lover, cousin, acquaintance. I lost my best male friend and my working partner: the one who’d been with me through countless performances, studios, rehearsals, airports, tour buses, bad television shows, hard-to-find radio stations, songwriting bedrooms and kitchens; the one I thought I still had a future with. Our band finished the day he died. I knew that instantly. What remained were shock waves of grief and days on my veranda trying to make sense of it all, and of what I was going to do next.

We had the eight songs. Two of them I had written; the other six were Grant’s. One of his was Demon Days. I remember him phoning me up in late January to say I should come over and hear some new songs. There was excitement in his voice. I went over late one night, which was unusual because we always played during the day. He lived in a small two-storey tower at the back of a house, and I climbed the stairs to his bedroom, where he’d set out two chairs. He then played me three songs. Two of them were amazing, and one in particular, Demon Days, I immediately thought was one of the best four or five he’d ever written. It was a waltz ballad, and as he strummed and sang it, with a beautiful instrumental section included, I looked at him in wonder. And I’m glad that at that moment, as the room went still, I said: «For the next 18 months, I’m going to be writing just to catch up with you.» He laughed, but it was true.

The reason The Evangelist exists is partly due to my determination to record Demon Days and bring it to the world. There were other great songs he had, two of which I took for the album. Our collaboration went on after his passing in that he had not finished the lyrics to any of those three songs. Demon Days was the most complete, with a chorus and five lines written of the first verse; the other two songs, Let Your Light In, Babe and It Ain’t Easy, had chorus lyrics only. For Let Your Light In, I constructed a narrative that had come to me after reading a 19th-century poem of erotic romance set in a church. It Ain’t Easy was harder to write. I settled on a portrait of him, something detailed that played off against the quick pop feel of the melody. I wrote eight verses before I hit one that started «And a river ran, and a train ran, and a dream ran through everything that he did». I liked this. So I started the song with it.

There were my songs also. Some Grant knew, as I had played them with him; others he would never know.

The writing of the first song after Grant’s passing was a moment that had to come. A breakthrough came in August, when I wrote the title song, The Evangelist. The song crept up on me and just unfolded in one day. I wrote it with relief, and with joy, because I could see it was a big song, the kind you hope to have two or three of on any given record.

I wrote another song, and then it was time to phone Adele, the bass player, who lived 10 minutes away from me in Brisbane, and to start playing the songs with her. By now, it was the new year. We would sit side by side. I’d say, «Here’s Demon Days» and play it to her. Then, «Here’s The Evangelist». Then, «Here’s Let Your Light In, Babe». And a new process started up. Adele, whom I’d known and played with for 13 years, became the other person with me now: kicking off ideas for arrangements, listening to the songs and commenting, and singing along on the choruses.

Where to record the album, and with whom, was the biggest question. One impulse was to run: find a shed somewhere by the beach or out in the bush, drag an eight-track in there, make a howl and a seeming fresh start somewhere far away. But I went with Adele and Glenn back to London. Back to Lower Norwood, in fact, where the producers Mark Wallis and Dave Ruffy have a studio and where we recorded the previous Go-Betweens record in 2005.

That decision worked. We recorded together knowing a piece was missing, but that we were all happy working together on the thing that happened after the piece went missing. Grant’s ghost was there, but there weren’t too many sad moments. Process, and the day-to-day work that goes into making an album, robbed us of too much reflection. His amp was set up and a guitar of his stood on a stand. We all had to work a bit faster because Grant’s turn to sing or play never came around. Through it all, though, we knew we were honouring him by making a great record in a place that he knew.

We did Demon Days, and I think we did it justice. On the night Grant had first played it to me, we had talked of strings and one name had come up: Audrey Riley. Audrey had done the string arrangements on our fourth album, Liberty Belle and the Black Diamond Express, which we’d recorded in London back in 1985. They were the first string arrangements she’d done. After us, her career bloomed (this often happened to people who worked with us) and you’ll now see her name gracing Coldplay and Foo Fighters records.

Audrey and the other members of her quartet came to the studio on the allotted day. Three of the quartet (including Audrey) had played on Liberty Belle 22 years ago. Circles were being completed. Grant had been close and then far away through the recording. As we heard the gorgeous flowing lines that Audrey had written, at that moment, bows on strings, strings on wood, he was right there in the room.

publicado aqui, no dia 20 de abril de 2008


furtado (o post) daqui thanks sweetie pie


saturnine said...

estes têm sido dias de coincidências deliciosas e assustadoras. agora, por exemplo, um post de ontem de que suponho que vás gostar.


alicinha said...

Acredita. Coincidências assustadoras.

saturnine said...

e (pelo menos aqui) sempre com coisas mágicas e miraculosas e perfeitas. caso para dizer que deus existe. e lê blogs. ;)