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.

No comments:

Post a Comment