Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Remembering Shiyan...part 2

Once the Shiyan line-up was settled we began rehearsing.

For a new band with cheap equipment, we were pretty damn ambitious. Songs included:

I Remember You - Skid Row
It's So Easy - Guns N Roses
Whole Lotta Love - Led Zeppelin
...just to name a few of our crazier choices!!

I have really good memories of this time - I remember jamming on drums with Matt Lane to songs like The Song Remains the Same. We had a lot of fun and laughs and even got some gigs.

Places we managed to play included:

Steve Mason's birthday party
The Victoria Hotel (double-bill with legendary Bathurst band, Wicked*)
Kelso Sports Club ??? (I think that was the name!)
Heath Murphy's birthday party at Katoomba Masonic Hall - we slept overnight in Brett's car!!

There may be others but I am having trouble remembering.

The great thing about Shiyan is that we were really into writing original songs. Brett in particular was really good at coming up with really nice chord progressions, and he put lyrics to his own tunes as well. He was a massive inspiration to me in those early days, and we eventually managed to put together a demo of four songs. The names of the tunes were:

Youth Flight - a frantic, metallic rocker
Sunset Masquerade - a whimsical, acoustic & electric fantasy tune
Before the Dawn - from one of Brett's chord progressions with lyrics
...and one other tune the name of which I can't recall off the top of my head.

Listen to 'Sunset Masquerade' here.

The demo was recorded at Chris McCusker's studio in Raglan - which was very convenient for me as all I had to do was walk to the studio! It was such a great experience, being in a proper studio set up, putting down our songs on tape for the first time. Unfortunately I wasn't too impressed with the mix, but still it was a good time had by all.

Shiyan was a really fun band to be in, but as with all my bands, as soon as we recorded our demo we split up! But Brett and I kept the flame alive, and soon we were fortunate enough to get into an even bigger and better band...

Thanks for the memories, guys - it will always be a happy memory for me being in Shiyan.

* Wicked, later called Black Rain, were a well-known Bathurst band who gigged a lot. Their members were Craig Glawson (bass), Julian Casey (guitar), Damien Casey (drums), and lead singer Kelly Peck.

At one time I was in a band with Jules and Damien, we played songs from the Doors amongst other things. We had one gig at a hotel in Orange which went fairly well, but it didn't last. Jules was an excellent guitarist, though, professional and great to work with, and his brother Damien was one of the best drummers that I knew.

Edit: I actually found a photo of the guys from Black Rain - it seems to be the one and only picture of them out there!!! Features the vocalist, Kelly, and bassist Craig.

With thanks to

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Remembering Shiyan...and more, part 1

So this blog is about a band I was in from 1994-1998, Indigo Rush. But before that, from 1992-1994, I was in a little outfit called Shiyan.

First a bit of background. I had discovered music at a very young age - before my conscious memory, in fact - and other than piano lessons for a couple of years I had never really done anything with it. I had taught myself to sing listening to radio while being driven around in the family car.

Then gradually my musical horizons expanded. I was a radio addict, but in 1989 I discovered an album called Appetite for Destruction. I had been a fairly uptight Catholic schoolboy, half convinced that heavy metal was the devil's music. But when I listened to Appetite (ironically lent to me by a school classmate) my world was turned inside out. Somehow, these five guys from the mean streets of LA got inside my heart, mind and soul and showed me a new horizon.

Then in 1991 I finished high school and was just kicking around at home waiting for uni to start the following year. A friend turned me on to Led Zeppelin, which at first I just thought was a god-awful noise. Then one night, while giving their debut album one last try, somehow I suddenly got it. It was like a religious conversion - suddenly, Plant's wailing, Jimmy's emotive guitar, Bonham's powerhouse drums and Jones' throbbing bass suddenly all made sense. I wanted to learn it all - bass, drums, guitar and to sing like Plant. It was at this time that I taught myself guitar chords, started singing again and I started to write rudimentary songs.

At uni I met a very unlikely candidate to be in a band with, but nonetheless fired by idealism we started a band called Backslash. The guy's name was Alex Kelleher, and he claimed to be able to sing. He did show me a couple of squeaky falsetto notes - his way of imitating Vince Neil - but claimed he really could sing properly. I guess I sort of believed him, so it was arranged he would sing and I would play bass (which was becoming my main musical expression of choice). We christened our two-man group Backslash - in honour of the computer craze sweeping the world and the fact that Alex was doing an IT degree.

I had no idea how we were going to recruit other members. Alex was from Canberra and knew no-one in Bathurst, and I lived at Raglan and similarly knew hardly anyone. But a mate's sister, on hearing from me that I wanted to be in a band, recommended a guitarist she knew - Craig Heterick.

So a meeting was arranged. Craig soon recommended two other musicians that he knew - a wandering minstrel that hardly anyone knew how to find in the pre-Facebook, pre-mobile phone era, a guitarist by the name of Brett Stevens. The other was a drummer, Daniel Murphy.

And so with Alex on vocals, Brett and Craig on guitars, Dan our drummer and myself on bass, suddenly we were a five-piece group.

Our first rehearsal was in Dan's backyard, he lived on Russell Street if I recall correctly. Expectations were high, at least for me, since this was my first time playing properly in a group. It was somewhat ramshackle - I had a fairly crappy practice bass amp - but everyone made up for that with enthusiasm.

We started in on the first song - fuck knows what that was now - and we all watched as Alex stepped up to the mike to sing the first notes. He opened his mouth, took in a breath - and nothing happened. He shook his head in embarrassment and stepped away from the mike. We were all like, OK, first time nerves that's fine. He had a couple more goes at it - but each time with the same result.

So - eventually we all agreed that Alex had to go, and to my surprise I was asked to step in. I could certainly sing, but for some reason I just wanted to be in the background playing bass. That seemed cooler to me than being upfront. Nonetheless I took up the mantle.

Backslash didn't go very far, we played a birthday party in a shearing shed at Burraga - a farming community outside of Bathurst, with a ring-in drummer who was attending my uni and who hailed from Palm Beach, Sydney. Ha ha what a bit of culture shock for him! Nonetheless, Jeremy Allen did well to adapt but I think it did his head in a bit.

Eventually, Brett, Dan and I decided we could no longer continue to improve as a band with Craig on guitar. We all liked him but sadly we just felt he wasn't keeping up with the rest of us. So it was down to me to give him the news. It was one of the most difficult things I had ever done, telling this nice guy he no longer had a place in this up-and-coming group, and even though he was upset he accepted the decision.

So now we were a three-piece - but not for long. We found another guitarist, a guy even more elusive than Brett had been - Matt Lane. He was also heavily into Led Zeppelin, in fact it was Matty who turned me on to one of Zep's less accesible albums - Presence. (That album remains one of my very favourite albums of all time.)

So now we were a four-piece:

Dan Murphy - drums
Brett Stevens - guitar and vocals
Matt Lane - guitar
Anthony Tobin - bass and vocals

The name for this new band was given by someone in Dan Murphy's family (his brother? his brother's girlfriend?), and was taken from the Native American tribe, the Cheyenne.

Coming in part 2...Shiyan - influences, gigs and misadventures.