Australian musician Graham Greene is a veteran of the music business, and during his long and successful career he has (among other things) released some inspired (and inspiring) instrumental rock. His 2016 release “The Guitar Vinci Code” was one of my favourite releases that year, and I am very much looking forward to his new album, titled “Rage of the Innocents” and set for release later this year.
Thanks so much to Graham for taking the time to talk to Rock And Roll!
Q. In 2016, you released a wonderful album called “The Guitar Vinci Code”, and now you’re back with a new album, set for release in April. What can you tell us about this release, give us the inside scoop!
Graham Greene: The new album is “Rage of the Innocents”, after the last track I wrote for it. It struck me after I had chosen the title that it was somehow apropos what had been happening in the world around the time I was finishing recording and mixing, in particular the situation in the US. I watched school children standing up and marching in their own defense, and while I was full of admiration for what they were doing, I also felt saddened that they lived in a place where this sort of thing was necessary.
I had originally planned to write another EP to partner The Guitar Vinci Code, but after I had completed six tracks, the ideas kept coming, so I kept writing until I had enough material for a full album. There was a rather intense period where I had two or three ideas jostling for position in my head at the same time, and I was putting down tracks as fast as I could before I forgot anything. There were many all-nighters spent recording, mixing and editing different tunes as I just followed where the music led me. It was mentally and physically draining, but being swept up in the flow of creativity was at times elating. The tracks fell into order as I worked and the album materialised, not only as a logical continuation of the Guitar Vinci thread, but as a solid entity in its own right.
Q. Tell us a bit about the tunes on this album, do you have any favourites, or any that might have an interesting back-story?
GG: Picking a favourite would be difficult at this point, but I do find myself listening to the title track a lot. I had no clear ideas when I sat down to write, but once I began it all came out in a rush, like all I had to do was start and the song did the rest. There is a track on this album called “Captain Dangerous”, which was written way back in 1994. I performed it at my very first gig as a solo artist, headlining the ’94 WA Music Awards, and it hasn’t been played since. I finally neatened it up and recorded it for Rage of the Innocents, and I’m pleased that it is going to see the light of day after so many years. The track that closes the album is dedicated to a friend who passed away on the day I finished writing it.
I drew on a few little classical influences when arranging some parts, including two composers I hadn’t previously thought about when writing – I took a Pachelbel approach to a particular section I worked on, and another track resulted from listening to Aaron Copland and wondering what it would sound like if I added some metal to his classical interpretations of Appalachian folk music. Sounds a bit strange when I put it like that, but I had fun and got a tune out of it.
There is also a vocal track on the album – Kings & Queens from the Resonance Project EP, Tale Goes On. It’s one of my favourite RP songs, so I re-recorded the guitars, added a little bit of orchestration, then remixed and mastered it for Rage of the Innocents.
Q. Full disclosure here: one of the tracks you’ve written recently was inspired by one of my science fiction short stories, “The Gates of Balawat” (from the collection “Odin’s Eye”) – can you talk about that (because that might be one of the cooler things that has happened to me as a writer).
GG: Odin’s Eye is a great book, and quite a few of the stories in it took me back to when I first fell in love with sci-fi via another great collection of short stories – Isaac Asimov’s I, Robot. Apart from The Gates of Balawat having the coolest title (laughs), there was something about that story in particular that stayed with me for a few days after reading it – I had this kind of repressed energy. After brooding on it for a while, a musical idea started to form and off I went. A unique experience, responding to literature with music. I might have to do it again.
Q. I know you are very much a guitar-lover, and you’ve been part of the Ormsby Guitar family for many years, what instruments and gear did you use on this album?
GG: Over these last two recordings my rig has become standardised to revolve around my three signature Ormsby guitars – the GG6, GG6FG and GG7 – and an Ormsby SX Standard that is used to double and harmonise the GG6 on some tracks. Those guitars all run through a Mesa/Boogie RectoVerb 25 head and Cab Clone speaker simulator/interface. All the bass tracking was done with my Bass Collection bass, and I used Taylor six string and Ibanez seven string acoustics. I also played my trusty Korg X5 keyboard in a few spots.
Q. You’ve released quite a lot of new music in the last few years, do you know what fuels your creativity? And do you ever experience the dreaded “dry spells”, and if so, what do you do to pull yourself out of those?
GG: I’ve never been in the situation where I needed to write something and couldn’t, but I do go through periods when I don’t compose. That being said, back when I was getting my chops up and ran out of ideas, I would take one of two options, depending on the situation. I would either find something totally new and different to learn and play and work through it, or I would put the guitar down and step away from it for a few days to clear my mind of what I had been doing and make room for new stuff. When I haven’t been writing for a while, it’s usually a new idea that indicates it’s time to get back into it.
Q. Do you have any thoughts on the current state of the music business, with so many “old” bands still touring, and that whole push/pull between whether to release new material or just keep playing the big hits. I’ve been kind of fascinated by an artist like Robert Plant who doesn’t seem very interested to revisit the past, while his former bandmate Jimmy Page seems to hold the opposite view.
GG: If a band has a big enough back catalogue of hits to tour on, then I guess they’ve earned the right to do so. Releasing new stuff is up to the inclination of the individual songwriters, and some writers have aged better than others. I imagine that Jimmy saw Led Zeppelin as his crowning achievement, where Robert had more and different things to say with his writing and career post-Zeppelin. There was a time for me when it was fun to revisit the old days, but now it feels a bit like picking over the carcasses of bands past, so I look forward instead.
Q. What kind of music are you listening to right now, anything you can recommend, new or old?
GG: As it happens, our last purchase was Robert Plant’s new effort, Carry Fire. Excellent album. I was a fan of his world music sounds since the Unledded album with Jimmy Page, so I’m loving the new stuff. I’ve also been listening to Yes’ Magnification album, where they used an orchestra instead of just keyboards. Online, I recently watched about an hour of Trans-Siberian Orchestra concert videos. Massive cheese factor, but a great show and cool arrangements.
Q. I know you did some gigs with the Graham Greene band – can we expect more gigs to happen with the release of the new album?
GG: That may depend on how well this new album is received. I had a ball playing with Jim (Awram, bass) and Troy (Brazier, drums) last year, and I would definitely like to do some shows, possibly with a bigger band sometime this year. In the short term, however, I’m concentrating on getting some videos shot and edited, and performing other get-the-album-out-there-type duties.
Q. If you could give some advice to young musicians and young bands out there on how they should approach a career in the music business (while keeping their sanity), what advice would you give?
GG: Regardless of the amazing performance enhancing technology and vagaries of the market today regarding quality, it’s still a clever idea to get really good at what you do. Practise. Learn. Get smart when it comes to the business side of the industry, and don’t be afraid to say no to things that will distract you from your goals. I you love listening to what you do, chances are someone else will too, so find your market and go there. Finally – persist.
Q. What’s coming up next for you? What do you have planned for this year?
GG: Well, first up will be to give Rage of the Innocents as much support as possible, because I feel that I’ve come up with a good album that deserves to be put out there as best I can. If we have a positive response, we might plan some live shows for the second half of the year, including the extended lineup I mentioned earlier. As far as new material is concerned… well, I thought I was done writing after The Guitar Vinci Code, and look how that turned out?
Rage of the Innocents is set for release on May 1st, and you can find out more on Graham Greene’s website: http://www.grahamgreene.com.au/