Here’s a nice little interview with Totara Jack, one of my favourite partners in musical crime:
First things first, you’re recently relocated and are now based out of India. How has the transition been and what inspired your move?
I never wanted to come. I was having a great time making music with good mates back in Australia. Finally doing okay after years of working hard playing and touring.
My wife was offered her dream job as a Cultural Diplomat in India. She asked if I wanted to move. I said no. We’ve been here 3 years now. You can see who won that one!
From what I have read it seems that the move has really inspired some introspection into yourself and your own unique sound. Do you think then that your single ‘Supercolliders’ could have happened if you had otherwise stuck in Australia?
Well, that’s exactly what I’ve learned. Coming here became an amazing opportunity I wasn’t even looking for. A chance to break a comfort cycle I had settled into. India is the craziest most challenging place to live. Life is at a whole other level of intensity here. I found myself sitting alone here and trying to write music by myself for the first time. This music is the sound I discovered.
To this end, tell us a little bit about the track and the journey constructing it. Supercolliders has been said to tell the story of a couple, fondly in love, who have broken up. How significant is this concept to you? Are we getting a true story here or a relevant piece of fiction?
Supercolliders was written quickly after a real experience I had. This song came out fully formed in about half an hour. I had just had breakfast with a friend who had recently broken up. The night before I had dinner with her newly ex-boyfriend. I heard both sides of their story one after the other. As an outsider it was so obvious they should still be together, but they were just unable to see the bigger picture and hold it together. The chorus lyric is “Supercolliders and Flying Ships won’t show you what you’re missing”. I quickly sketched the opening loop of the song on my iphone, and that’s still there in the final mix. The guitar riff came straight away, and that’s my good friend Laurenz Pike from PVT playing a cool Motown feel on drums.
Was it challenging working on somewhat of a solo project rather than collaborations for which you are known?
This was the scariest part of it. Sitting alone in a room, on the other side of the planet, with a blank page in front of you, guitar on your knee and saying, “Now what?” One of the hardest, loneliest things I’ve ever done.
Despite concerns and fears when making your own unique sound, did you find the experience liberating to be working solo? Or was it more daunting only have yourself to work with and no one to bounced ideas off?
Once I got moving and the first few ideas began to come out, I found the process strangely liberating. It still felt like a collaboration, but it was just me! I was chatting away, asking myself if a song should turn left or right, and taking ideas as far as I wanted. The freedom of not needing to compromise was liberating.
Producer Lachlan Carrick and drummer Laurenz Pike headed over to India to help you record and build up your desired sound. Despite the musical significance of such friendship, did the two provide with some grounding? Did they instill some confidence in what you had constructed prior to them coming to help record?
This music would never have been made without Lachlan Carrick. We had a coffee in Melbourne before I headed over to India for the first time, and he challenged me right then to really use my time away. Just get on with it, and write. He offered to produce whatever I came up with, and so after a few months when the first song came together, I sent him a demo. That was frightening. I had written this super slow song about feeling such intense isolation. There’s a loop from my phone recorded through some guitar pedals, a 12 string acoustic plugged straight into my computer and a my first ever vocal sung straight into a hand held mic. It sounds so dark! I attached a rough mix to an email to Lachlan and then just sat there, not hitting send. I was so sure he’d change his mind about making a record after he heard this bleak track! It took half an hour before I had the courage to send it. Later when we had finished most of the other songs we returned to this one, and Lachlan said we shouldn’t touch a thing! He said there’s no way I could manufacture that headspace I was in making that first demo.
Laurenz is really old friend and the only other musician I heard on these songs. He’s such a strong musical voice. While he stayed in my house in Delhi we wrote together, had some fun adventures and completed the soundworld of these songs.
The film clip for Supercollider’s definitely has an Indian feel to it – with the inclusion of Bollywood super star Pallavi Sharada and the throwing of powder similar to the Holi festival – were these choices you wanted for the film clip? Was it imagery you thought would best suit the song or rather just looked the most aesthetically pleasing for the song?
The clip came from an idea my wife had about filming particles colliding, and how that could describe the end of a relationship. The clip is definitely influenced by the Hindu festival of colour, Holi where people get stoned on magic milkshakes and throw coloured powder at each other. Pallavi is a dear friend, an amazing dancer and a fellow Aussie having her own wild adventure in India. We shot the clip in an old Bollywood film studio with a white backdrop and wearing amazing white outfits my super talented designer buddy Nitin Bal Chauhan handmade for us. We carefully set up the shots of coloured powder hitting us, because there was no second chance! We slowed down the footage, and the shots of Pallavi dancing are in reverse, so the powder looks like it’s flying off her and hitting him. A cool way to describe the end of a relationship, and in a way we could only have done in India.
Conversely, what has been teased of your track ‘Needle’ seems to tell the story of another side of your life in India. What have been the primary influences behind this track and its film clip?
‘Needle’ is a song I barely remember making. It was never one of the songs Lachie and I laboured over, it was just seemed to always be there, almost an afterthought. But at the end of the process I look back and think maybe this is one where we really nailed the vibe. It was never hard work.
That little clip was shot one afternoon with some friends on the roof of my house and down at my local market. It cost about 100 bucks. Good clean fun. That’s my son in the clip too. He likes checking himself out on YouTube!
*originally appears at http://www.aaabackstage.com.au/interviews/4862-feature-interview-totara-jack.html