Recording Diaries




Ah, but I was so much older then, I’m younger than that now – Bob Dylan

The last time I recorded an album seems like a lifetime ago
In fact the last time I was in a studio 
recording my own material
Would possibly be about 7 years ago
I dunno
My memory is always shaky when it comes to dates
It certainly doesn’t seem like it was that long ago 
But none the wiser
At the last session
a few years ago
we set up camp in a little cottage in Avalon
And we recorded live to tape over a 6 day period
But life being as it is these days
Schedules are so tight
Jobs, wives, kids, overseas trips, expecting mothers
….all the important things
Well it means we now hope to get this thing accomplished 
4 days


Invention, it must be humbly admitted, does not consist in creating out of void, but out of chaos.– Mary Shelley

Now the guesthouse in which we recorded
An Ear To The Earth 
Was undergoing renovations at the time
So it was empty
But this time we’ve decided to make it even more challenging…
Our bass player, Reuben – 
His mother has kindly offered her home in 
Frenchs Forest
But for us to turn it into a mobile studio 
Means that we also have to become furniture removalists
Reuben’s Mum is wonderful and sweet
But I doubt that she had any idea of the chaos she was letting herself in for
(and this is utter testament to her relaxed n composed nature)
As she slowly watched 6 noisy fellas
Turn her neat and tidy house into a mobile studio
Pushing her beds and couches up on their sides against the walls
Moving ornaments and coffee tables
Untangling leads and spreading them out down her homes corridors
Tangles of cable snaking into her 
Lounge room
And bedrooms
All joining up at a central hub
On her dining room table 
Whilst we continue lugging in an enormous amount of gear
Tape Machines
A Huge Mixing Desk

About 12 guitars/Banjo/Slide Guitar
Double Bass and Drum Kit

4 or 5 amplifiers
About 20 microphones and stands
Milk Crates full of bits n pieces
Sugar free/grain free food 
To accommodate my stupidly restrictive dietary requirements

All the while generally making a massive racket
For 2 weekends straight
In fact there was so much setting up to do on 
Saturday morning
That we didn’t really start recording until about 2pm
We’ve decided to repeat our successful experiment 
Recording live straight to 1” reel to reel tape
Which means we’ve got to get the songs right
All at Once
Mistakes Mean:
And Start Again
Amazingly enough we still get 
3 songs down on Day 1


“Making music together is the best way for two people to become friends”
Herman Hesse, The Glass Bead Game

Hang on, did I forget to introduce the team?

Jamie Hutchings, producer and resident Jazzmaster noisemaker. 
Calls a spade a spade.
Has an ability to add jagged, angular edges
To the sweetest tune
whilst retaining it’s sweetness

Scott Hutchings, drums and percussion.
A stalwart with a steady hand
Sits behind the beat….
Doesn’t usually have any sense of time of day
Baritone vocalist

Reuben Wills, Double Bass.
Svengali. Stonemason.
Good with his hands. 

Prof Adam Lang, multi instrumentalist.
Banjo/Lap Slide/Xylophone/Theremin/Suitcase Drums/Guitar/Mandolin/Bass
Instrument repairman, electronics whiz. 
Metal guru and part time shredder

Chris Colqhoun, always the sharpest pair of ears in the room
Full time Doctor, part time engineering shaman.
New Dad to be. Calm under pressure. 
Here he is at the dining room table.

Reubs Mum
Sweetheart and great cook
(in fact she even baked and cooked
to my dietary requirements with delicious warm grain free bread
and sugar free cake)
Her friend Magda enjoys the Bedlam

Oh, and I was there too, occasionally


Claret is the liquor for boys; port for men; but he who aspires to be a hero must drink brandy.” Samuel Johnson

Noisy songs are attempted earlier in the morning
Quieter songs into the night
In an effort to placate the neighbours
2 or 3 warm ups on each tune and hit REC
Whirr of magnetic tape
Nerves are lit
We listen back
Listen again
Nods and mumbles
Unsure smiles and excuses
Someone Says
I played a wrong note in the bridge
Someone else says
You can’t tell
It sounds fine

Reubs Mum and her friend Magda 
Enthusiastically voice their approval
Italian Magda especially loves 
The Drums!
The Drums!
And she then plays air drums
Gesturing wildly in her excitement
Magda pours everyone a celebratory brandy
Said racket is committed to tape
At the end of the first weekend 
We have to return the house to 
Its original glory (or at least close)
So a couple of hours of packing up
And we disappear for a week


“Well, what if there is no tomorrow? There wasn’t one today.” – Bill Murray as Phil Connors

The following weekend is 
Groundhog Day
Quick set up
Not much time for chit chat
Work to be done
Reuben is chasing his Mum’s chicken in the garden
And cutting wood for the fire
(…not that he plans on cooking his Mum’s chicken)
Scott disappears every now and then
Grabbing organic delicacies for lunch
And a few Coopers Long Necks
Jamie and Chris are in intense concentration
Listening carefully for hiccups in grooves
A few things slow us down
Noisy power for one
Adam runs around trying to find 
The source of the
Buzzzzzzz zzz zz
Leads that work
And then
Mics that work
And then
False starts
We struggle with the songs
That we thought would be the easy ones
And nail the songs we thought would be hard
Quick lunch breaks
Scott makes friends with Reub’s Mum’s Chicken

Work late
Take 14
Tape Whirrs
Retune Guitars
Amps Hum
Someone accidentally kicks out a lead
Knock at the door
Stop. Rewind. Record.
Did we eat dinner?
I don’t remember
Nail a track
Smiles and relief
Magda pours the brandy
Long suffering homeowner waiting for sleep
Day Four
Repeat Day 3
Only the songs are different
Group vocals
Swing Big Band style call and response
In a circle around one mic
Hands a’clappin’

Ten songs in the bag
Some back slapping
No idea how we made it in time
Best part of the experience
Is always spending some quality time
With old friends

Back to work.


“Make room for the real important stuff.”

We decided a few o’dubs were in order
So Jamie and I sang some more 
And rattled some percussion
In Chris Colqhoun’s bathroom

Then off to the Seymour Centre
To record Lee Hutchings
Tenor Sax extraordinaire

Plus Jadey O’Regan and Tim Byron
Husband & wife team
Add piano and
Hammond organ
Both of them falling into the tunes
Like they’ve been playing them for years

Now we hand all our efforts over to Chris
To work his Mix Magic
But First
He’s got a brand new baby and wife to look after
What’d I say about jobs, wives, kids etc 
At the start of this ramble?
That’s where it’s at
The important stuff
It can wait.

PS A year after I wrote the diary for these sessions
The album is mixed and mastered
We’ve completed a successful crowdfunding campaign
And FEVER DREAMS is now available
On Digital, Vinyl and CD


We set up camp slightly north of Avalon
Nestled between the hills and the beach
Bryan Ferry was continually crooning in my mind the whole time I was there
When the samba takes you out of nowhere
And the background’s fading
 out of focus
Yes the picture’s changing every moment
And your destination 
you don’t know it
Actually this was the ideal place for our grand experiment
The weather was perfect
Lazy north shore clouds drift across the sky
And we broke the peaceful quiet
Loading an enormous amount of gear into a small guesthouse
This album is predestined to be different from anything I’ve done before
Not a computer in sight
No timetable
Minimal overdubbing
Recording completely live to a 1” reel to reel TASCAM tape machine
In fact we had 6 days in which we plan to get 12 songs recorded
With a 5 piece band
And one engineer
Here’s the line up: Me on acoustic guitars and vocals

Jamie Hutchings
(who many will know from his recent solo outings
Or from his long history with Bluebottle Kiss)
Jamie played electric guitar and percussion

In fact Jamie recorded his wonderful last solo outing
Avalon Cassettes here in this very same guesthouse

Scott Hutchings on drums and percussion

Reuben Wills on double bass

Adam Lang on banjo, lap slide and pedal steel

Chris Colquhoun was our tireless/long suffering engineer

Jamie also fulfilled production duties
Adding his customary sandpaper, grit and spit to the tunes
Reuben and I set up camp in the lounge room
A bookcase was the only thing between us
To help prevent too much spill into each others microphones
Jamie and Scott set up their percussion in two separate bedrooms
And Adam played his banjo parts
Sitting outside on the balcony
His microphone picking up birds, street noise, barking dogs
And all kinds of other suburban sounds
That will infuse their way into the musical blend of the finished mixes

For the first time I had to nail my guitar parts and vocals in the same take
I was a little nervous about that to say the least
But we’d been rehearsing hard and the band was in fine form
Making my job so much easier
Copious amounts of green tea was consumed in the mornings
Chris’ special blend – 5 or six green buds per cup blended with jasmine

After lunch tea was replaced with Coopers
We moved quickly from one song to the next
Making snap decisions
Jumping from a 1920’s style dixie to a calypso
A folk song followed by an old-fashioned country waltz
Jamie tells me when I’m rushing my parts
I’m always rushing my parts
I sit ahead of everything in the groove nearly all the time
He tells Scott when he’s playing too far behind
He’s usually still playing the end of the previous song
When we start a new one (in joke)
His behind the beat drum style
Is just like his laconic speaking style and laid back temperament
Between the two of us we create a lot of musical push and pull
Reuben is unshakeable
He takes up the double bass a few months before the recording
And plays it like a pro from day 1
Adam only ever seems to need one take on the banjo
The usual question at the end of every take is
“Was that OK?”
Adam always says, “Yes!”
As the rest of us mumble dubiously about our bad notes and missed cues
Jamie played the electric guitar on this album
In his own unique and individual style
This was the first time I had relinquished my guitar role
And I agonized over not playing the guitar parts myself
But in keeping with things remaining as “live” as possible
I let it go…
(…And loved his parts)

Lots of guitars were used on the album
(For the gear heads:)
I played my somewhere between 1900-1910 Lion & Healy parlour guitar, painstakingly restored by The Guitar Repairers:

1957 Hofner arch top:

Maton EBG808 Artist
A 6-string ganjo
And Jamie’s Martin Acoustic:

Jamie played his Jazzmaster:

And my 1957 Gibson ES225:

Thru my Swart AST Pro amplifier
And pedals used: Malekko Echo, TIM, ZVex SHO and a Boss Blues Driver

Chris used to play in a Sydney band called Browning
And he may have been dying to pick up a instrument most of time
Especially when listening to me cause six false starts
Or rush my gan-jo tracks
But he managed instead to have marathon-ic concentration
Never missing anything and constantly keeping us focused
A true master of the mixing board

Aside from the obvious work of getting the songs recorded
We started our studio book group
Surf magazine, Smith Journal (required reading) and a Cormac McCarthy book were being read
Adam created memes on his phone
Jamie organized his upcoming interstate tour
Chris anxiously googles “align the tape”

Reub and I discuss the vagaries of the term “my grandfathers axe”
(Can an axe still be called “my grandfathers axe”
If the handle and head have been replaced dozens of times – Does the axe remain the same?)
Angus and Julia Stone’s father pays a visit
(He lives close by)
And invites us to a beachside jam session
Scott quietly creates his own kitchen workbench
On a plank of wood balanced across 2 pillars
And proceeds to bring out bread, tuna and olive oil
Much to Adam’s astonishment/amusement as he downs a burger and fries

We all discuss being weirded out about the fact
That the toilet/bathroom currently has no door
This discussion becomes more interesting after we all go out for Indian
We work through til about 11 each night
And crash out in the guesthouse doubling as a studio
At the end of the first 3 days the bulk of 10 songs have been laid down
Adam, Scott and Reub head home
And Jamie, Chris and I remain to record some more
I record 2 more songs
One on my own
And another with Jamie
These two will most likely end up as bonus tracks
As I’m hoping to make a succinct, shorter album this time around 10 tracks in total
And next up the horn players arrive
Gregory Bennett – a young student
Turns up with a tuba ($10,000 tuba!!) and trombone
He manages to decipher my scrawled charts And gets his parts down quick

Lee Hutchings arrives in a whirlwind of sound
And completes the Hutchings family trifecta
He gets out his (very loud) clarinet
And fills the room with Artie Shaw and Benny Goodman licks
Assuring me that he will get a couple of the licks down in his take
And quickly tells us where we’re going wrong with our note choices
In the arrangements and manages to make things Sound “more Dixie” in seconds
Having listened to Lee play Sax, clarinet and flute since I was a kid
Finally getting him on one or two of my recordings
Was a truly unforgettable moment
His natural soulfulness and ability to swing hard on a multitude of instruments
Make him a pleasure to listen to

Next up was Jochen Gutsch
A soundscapist running a one-man musical art fest in his project HINTERLANDT
Jochen is a multi instrumentalist who I played a show with a year or so ago
My jaw hit the floor watching him in action
And it was brilliant having him stop on by to lay down trumpet on a few tracks

His jazz trumpet was smashed on a flight and was still in repair
So he brought a very old classical styled trumpet for the parts

He also laid down his parts super fast
Then he too was gone
On the last day Scott and Reuben returned

And we
Clapped hands
Shook things
Dropped things
Thigh slapped
And drank the last of the gin

Scott sang in his low baritone

We all sang together in sailor’s voices
Then as Austrians swinging their beer steins in ¾ time
Or as a chain gang
And when Reub and Scott left
Jamie and I continued overdubbing a few barbershop quartet style parts
A little melodica, some six string ganjo
And suddenly our 6 days in our north shore paradise were over
Gear was packed up and loaded into cars
The studio returned to looking like a guesthouse
We said goodbye to our gracious hosts Charlie and Leanne
And we all hoped that what we’ve captured on two spools of one-inch tape
Contains just a little Avalon magic