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Interview – Graham Greene – November 2012

By Shane Pinnegar

Originally published in edited form in Xpress Magazine – here we present the full interview transcript.

Graham Greene 02

Greene, Perth’s own six-string maestro, has a rich history going back to performing in cover band Flash Harry in the Eighties, through Ice Tiger, and a fruitful solo career.  More recently Greene has lent his skills to the album Icarus by Jac Dalton, been gigging with both The Jac Dalton Band and Lady Zeppelin – his collaboration with his wife Donna which celebrates the Led Zeppelin catalogue.

Comedians Jay & Silent Bob (Jason Mewes and film maker Kevin Smith) have recently used Greene’s flippant cover of Waltzing Matilda on their Jay And Silent Bob Go Down Under comedy special filmed in Australia – and Greene is understandably excited about one of his performances being used in such a high profile program.

Since this interview was undertaken, Greene has continued demoing material for the next Jac Dalton Band release, and also recording for yet another project close to heart and home – the progressive melodic rock band Resonance Project, another collaboration with Mrs Greene.  2013 certainly seems to be shaping up as one of the busiest and most exciting years for Graham Greene in recent times – 100% ROCK MAGAZINE will certainly be looking forward to all these coming releases!

100% ROCK: Hey Maestro – congratulations on your version of Waltzing Matilda being chosen to feature in the promos for the Jay & Silent Bob Go Down Under comedy special.

Yeah, that’s pretty cool.  It occurred to me that I Joked to my wife a while ago, when we were talking about what songs, and what music gets attention. Then I sort of joked to her that I seem to do two sorts of tunes; I’ll do the big epic guitar hero things, and the guitar heads are into that. But the public at large are sort of like, ‘Yeah, so what, there are no words.’ Then I’ll do these fun little things that we call ‘the little songs that can’. [Laughs]

You know, instead of spending hours and hours and hours perfecting a tune. I’ll get an idea for something silly, and slap it down in an afternoon, and someone will notice it. Because in 2008, there was the Star Music Awards in America, this big independent music thing. And a piece of mine called Impressive Hair, won best instrumental rock artist…

100% ROCK: Mm, I remember that.

Yeah, and that was something that I’ve been given a guitar by Perry [Ormsby, Ormsby Guitars, who make a Graham Greene range of guitars] that he’d built for a guy in Sweden. And he said can you do an audio sample for him so that he can hear the guitar? He’s into hair metal, he likes the 80s stuff. And so in an afternoon I just wrote some bombastic riffs, and then put that little spoken word thing in the middle as a gag. It was nothing overly special, there was nothing there proving I was the next guitar god or anything, but it got attention, and won the gong!

With Waltzing Matilda, I was sitting at home, and I like the idea of taking old songs, like classical music or something like that, and re-doing it in a rock format for a joke, because it’s fun to do. Then I thought of Waltzing Matilda; so sort of worked out the melody, figured out what chords would go under it, then just recorded it as something to do. I stuck it up on YouTube, probably a year and a half ago, just as a joke, so someone might hear it and get a smile out of it.

A few months ago, I got an email through my website, from someone asking about licensing a piece of Graham Greene music, and could whoever answered the email point them in the right direction. And that’s all it was, there was no, ‘we are this’ and ‘we are from there’, or any of that. So I looked at it, and the word in the email address that caught my eye was Monsanto, and the only Monsanto that I knew was the big chemical company. We thought this could just be a gee-up, just someone working on the contact link for something to do. So I replied saying, you’ve reached Graham, and if you’d like to know more; I mean, I’d like to know what piece you’re interested in and the project that you had in mind, and we can discuss it.

As it turned out the Monsanto, was the maiden name of Jason Mewes’ wife, Jordan, who is Jordan Monsanto, and she sort of said, I work with these people and these guys had done… Basically identified herself and told me that Jay & Silent Bob had done the Australian tour and filmed some of it for a comedy special on Epix HD the cable network in America, and they wanted to use Waltzing Matilda. And of all the things that I had on the net, that of all the tunes was the thing that they picked, because it was just that particular thing.

They’d been in Australia, and they found me on YouTube. They were obviously Googling Australian songs, or they might have thought well…think of an Australian song, and yanks have got Waltzing Matilda, so they found that, and because it was sort of a humorous, tongue in cheek take on the tune, they figured it would be perfect for their special. Everything was done in a few days, they sent out the contract, and made a payment through PayPal. And bingo, I just sort of sat tight until they started putting up the promo on the net. So I went through the stage of thinking, well they’ve paid for it, doesn’t necessarily mean that they have to use it. When I saw the promo come up, and it had the piece in it. There was a bit of a sigh of relief, you know: ‘Yes – they’ve used it!’

[Laughter]

And I thought, well, good old Waltzing Matilda – no-one’s done that much, so I figured I’d do a single download for it, and ride on the back of the show, get a bit of promo out of it, and maybe sell a few downloads. So it just goes to show, you never know who’s going to pick up on what, and probably just a little… not taking anything too seriously. You can sit there and be the tortured artist and turn out these seven to ten minute epics that are a statement… or just do something for fun, and people might notice that, because not everyone plays guitar, but most people have a sense of humour!

100% ROCK: That’s a really good point.

Yeah, so it was sort of like, there you go, there but for the grace of God go I. A piece of music can be a deep and meaningful observation of the human condition, but a piece of music can also just be a fart joke you know?

100% ROCK: So what’s the feedback been so far via the promo?

Well, they’ve kicked into their… I mean for us it happens tomorrow, so there its happening on the night, ten o’clock on the 30th November, and then it runs again the next day at 14:30 [East Coast US time]. I’ve been watching them promo it; Kevin Smith and Jason Mewes, who are Silent Bob and Jay, have been pushing it on Twitter. Epix HD have been pushing it on Twitter and they’ve had little give-aways, and signed posters, and they’re having a question and answer thing on Reddit. I’m not sure how that works, but it’s sort of gone into the promo thing for it now. They were putting a few thing up online, but it’s only a couple of days before the show, they’ve really gone into overdrive.

I guess that’s how they promo things nowadays. It used to be months of press and radio and TV and pushing everything. But now they seem to be, just knowing that people have short attention spans, and they’re hitting them with everything in the two days before the show. I guess relying on the fact that people won’t forget about it in two days. Watching the public response, there’s a lot of fans out there. I knew that there was people called Jay and Silent Bob, a little bit of research told me that Kevin Smith was the writer behind it all. He wrote Clerks, and Jay & Silent Bob Strike Back, and Mall Rats, and Clerks 2, and Chasing Amy, and all these other shows. He’s obviously a talented guy, and to get a movie made in Hollywood, you’ve got to know people and be kind of good at what you do, to get people to spend that much money and time. Just looking at the public reaction to it, there’s a hell of a lot of fans out there.

Borich - Graham Greene by Shane Pinnegar

100% ROCK: I went into the DVD shop last week, and there was at least two of their stand up shows in the new release DVD section, so…

Yeah, they’ve got quite a thing happening. Their marketing and what have you is pretty cool. The Epix thing of course is just America, that’s a cable show in a network that’s made up of three of the major movie studios, so it’s a pretty big player. But with a lot of that American stuff, it’s not available outside America.  [If you try and stream it], you get hit with, ‘Sorry not available in your territory’. So I’m sort of hoping that what they seem to do, is they release something on TV and then follow that up with a DVD release. I’m hoping that they’ll do the Jay and Silent Bob Go Down Under thing on DVD sometimes early next year. And it’ll be available in Australia.

100% ROCK: They’d be mad not to release it here, surely?!

Yeah, that’s sort of what I’m thinking. Once we sort of did all the deal and everything, it’s not like I’m in constant contact with them or anything. We did the deal, and that was where the back and forwards contact stopped, because they’re into their other things. They’re not hanging around drinking cups of coffee and chatting with me.

[Laughs]

I’m watching what they do online, the same as everyone else, but I have seen people asking. Australian fans have been asking about the DVD release, and people in America have been asking about the DVD release. Once it’s aired, I’d say they are already looking at all the packaging and promo and stuff, for releasing it as a DVD. So that’s what I’m hanging on for, so I can go and get a copy myself, and watch the show. I know that I’m getting a credit on the show, because I was asked how I wanted to be credited, either as Graham Green, or as Greenhouse productions. They’ve sussed out what I do, and where I’m from; just so they could get spelling right and all that sort of thing.

100% ROCK: Cool.

I’m imagining that it’ll pop up somewhere in the actual program as well as the promos, that’s what I’m hoping anyway, so it’s wait and see. But for the time being, were on a major show, on a major network, and it is airing. So no egg on the face this time, and looking forward to seeing how it goes.

Graham Greene 03

100% ROCK: Absolutely, I mean one facet of it that I’ve found really interesting is that, like you said, you recorded this, and you put it up on YouTube about 18 or so months ago. The potential life cycle of a song never really ends does it? I mean, years down the track, someone could take a fancy to something.

Exactly, it’s that old chestnut of, once it’s on the internet, it’s there forever. You can delete things, but somewhere on a server somewhere, or in a case somewhere, it’s sitting there waiting for someone to type the right words into their search engine, and bang, it’ll pop up. I get a lot of that because of my name – because there was this famous author whose name was spelt exactly the same as mine, and the actor as well, the Canadian/Indian actor who played the main Indian character in Dances with Wolves. His name is spelt exactly the same.

So if you Google just Graham Greene, you’re going to get the actor and the author and all that sort of stuff. But if you put the word guitar in there, then I pop up in the top of the search. Once stuff is up there, it’s there; and it just took someone who was producing a comedy show, that was recorded in Australia, to go looking for an Australian tune, and think probably Waltzing Matilda. There it was, just waiting for them to click along and go, hey, check that out!

100% ROCK: Certainly makes you think that maybe a few more of those ‘little songs that can’, might not be a bad idea!?

Yeah well, I mean, a fellow popped up and said; you know, you should do a whole album of those things, and just stick it out there. I guess the hard part would be; thinking of the tunes to do. I’ve always thought that I’d like to take a classical piece, and do a rock and roll version of it. All the obvious ones have been done, but I listened to a fair bit of classical music as a kid, because we didn’t have TV or commercial radio. So all we got was what was on the ABC, and there weren’t heaps of ABC channels at the time. You got 6WS and 6WN when you lived in the bush, and they were kind of the same programming. The song was done as a joke, so you know, if I could think up a few more jokes and stick them together on an EP or something, it’s definitely an idea.

100% ROCK: Well… if you’ve got your own studio set up, it’s not going to cost you 50,000 bucks to make.

Yeah, there are a lot of things now that you can release purely digitally, so there are no replication costs, as far as getting hard copy done. So I could do them one at a time and just bang them up on CD Baby and iTunes. And when there’s a collection of them, put them all together and sell them as a package.

100% ROCK: Absolutely. On to one of your other recent projects, the Icarus album, recorded with Jac Dalton, which was quietly released, I think, two years ago now? That’s still opening doors for you… you’ve recently picked up representation in England and Europe, partly through that. What’s the plan for the Jac Dalton Band?

Well, the first thing that we’ve done recently is to have the whole album re-mastered. So, the people that we hooked up with overseas… Jac got management with a woman whose head office is in London, but she sort of travels from London, she has a base in Germany as well. She also has a lot of solid contacts in mainland China, which is a very interesting market. So she’s sort of sniffing around with people that she knows over there, and we’ve also hooked up with some people in England who run Firebrand radio; an internet radio station that’s got a reasonable reach. They do media services and what have you as well. One of the people that works there used to work for Geffen records, and has worked with people like Nirvana and Guns N Roses and that sort of thing on promoting their albums over the years.

It’s good to have people like that on board because they know how the industry works. Particularly up there. Because America and Europe are very different markets to Australia, because of the numbers involved. There are more people in New York than the whole of Australia. The Icarus album was released online, and got a bit of air-play in various places. I know we were on high rotation for American Armed Forces radio. And since we’ve started setting this up in the northern hemisphere, we’ve started selling quite a few units in Germany. There’s a person there who’s selling hard copy, and we’ve sent I think three runs of CD’s over there, all which have sold out. The last lot we sent over there sold out the day it arrived. So they have enough back orders that they unpacked the boxes, packed up the CD’s sent them out and were left with nothing. We got another email saying require another run, so… that’s sort of good signs for what we can do in the New Year.

That will be basically following the sales figures, and thinking about how were going to get the band up there to take advantage of the popularity. Because Germany’s a good rock and roll market, there’s a lot of festivals that happen there, we know people that have toured there; Vdelli for example have been going up to Germany every year for quite a few years now. We just need to find the right times when people go out, and see the gigs and the festivals and that sort of thing.

Jac Dalton - Icarus CD

The American thing went kind of slow, mainly because around the time that Icarus was finished, and Jac and our Australian producer Darren Mullen went up to studio’s in Memphis, mixed it and had it mastered there. And around that time was when the American economy did that big face-plant. A lot of parts of business America, which included record companies and the music industry kind of almost shut down, they went into almost safety mode. They weren’t dealing with anything new. They certainly weren’t dealing with anything outside of America. That’s sort of slowly picking backup, they’ve just had their election, that was another thing that made everyone sit on their hands. Because they didn’t know who was going to be the next NSA puppet. What they were gonna do, where the economy was going to go.

We’re sort of hoping that in the New Year America is going to brush itself off and find its feet, have a look around and see what they want to do next. Being an ex-pat, Jac has a few friends in the music industry up there, and now he’s starting to hear from them again. They’re sort of like, ‘OK we know where the band is at for the next four years or whatever’, and we know what we’re going to be doing. So now that that’s happening, you should contact this friend of mine, send him an email, here’s his contact and I’ll be talking to him… where that’s going to go we don’t know, but some of Jac’s friends are quite in the know, so the thing will be… we’re going to be doing a double A-side single of the re-mastered Icarus for the northern hemisphere. We’re doing Locked, Cocked, Ready to Rock, and For Your Love. There’s a heavy track and a not so heavy track, which will spread us across a few more markets, and we’ll see how we go with that.

100% ROCK: Awesome.

Yeah, you know, if a particular territory takes off, and we start selling a lot of downloads or a lot of hard copy. Then they’re the places that we’ll be looking to go and play and capitalise on that.

100% ROCK: Great, very exciting 2013 then!

Yeah, here’s hoping! It’s looking pretty good so far, there are a lot of people in our corner. Definitely more than there were before. Musically, for me personally, it’s sort of like a carry on from what I was doing with Ice Tiger, the melodic rock thing. We’re writing for the next couple of releases: Jac will be doing a couple of EP’s and associated singles.

Since the album, and we’ve started doing the gigs with Jac that we were doing over here. Through all of that I’ve been writing, and we’ve got 11 or 12 sets of music that I’ve written and sent to Adelaide, and Jac and Darren are working on lyrics and recording demos for that. They come back, and we’ve had a couple of rehearsals. Jac’s come over and we’ve done some rehearsals with the new songs, they’re looking good. The direction of the band is getting more focussed, because Icarus had already started being written when I came along – I did some writing for Icarus, but I also did a fair bit of rearranging and adding my guitar parts to stuff that they’d already done. With this next recording, so far with the songs we’ve done, I’ve written all of the music. So there’s a firm direction there, and we’ll be getting into serious recording for that in the New Year as well.

100% ROCK: So you said a couple of EP’s, rather than an album?

Yeah, mainly for the timing sort of thing, spreading them out and keeping something out there. Because we’re going along  and actually getting involved in the market, as well as just sitting back and observing it. With the internet, people’s attention span has got shorter. There is always something new to click on, there is always something new to distract you and all that sort of thing. That’s the strategy that’s been decided on. Down the track, if something really goes off somewhere, then we can push the two EP’s together to make an album, and market that somewhere. But in the meantime it’s something that we can plan on having a slightly shorter life span so we might do, instead of an album, in a year we might do two EPs.

But that’s always under review as we go along, and that’s very much more now in the hands of the promo and management people who are watching the market and seeing how it goes. Which is kind of cool, because I prefer doing the music to the administration and we can now concentrate on being musicians, being songwriters and being performers, and then place that in the hands of the people in the know and if we do our job as well as we can, then they are as well armed as we can possibly have them, to go out there and make something happen.

100% ROCK: Right on. So, next Saturday [December 7th, 2012], Black Betty’s. You’re playing with Swannee, and supporting Swannee twice. Three sets of music, different styles, all these different set lists. How do you do it?

Practice. There’s definitely no magical formula to that! The Lady Zeppelin stuff we’ve been doing for a while – we’ve got that pretty together. We’re coming up two years we’ve played Zeppelin, so next year we’re probably going to do a little celebratory thing just to mark the occasion.

The Jac Dalton Band stuff… you know we’ve been doing for a while now, playing it live and getting the band together and the band sort of cranking with that.

So it was a matter of getting hold of the songs that John [Swan] wanted to do on his gig and sit down and learn them. Which was good – it was nostalgic because when I was playing in cover bands, The Flash Harry days and early Ice Tiger, and what have you, it was pretty much the same; you’d get a collection of songs that you hadn’t written and listen to them, work out how they went and then just kind of learn them, rehearse them and get them together. But in this case we’re playing them with the guys who recorded them and wrote some of them.

I’m really looking forward to it because I remember the first song I heard of Swannee’s was If I Were a Carpenter which was a classic song and he had re-done it. But his voice struck me. I’d heard all the great Australian singers because we were listening to them a lot at that time, picking songs for our cover repertoires, and the thing that struck me was that this guy could really sing blues. I heard these runs that you’d expect from a Paul Rogers or a David Coverdale or something, coming out of this basically Aussie guy with a really good voice, and that really struck me more than the song or anything else. He could sing these blues runs and it was like ‘Wow, I’ve never heard an Australian singer do that before’ and it just really struck me. He struck me.

It was like ‘Wow, what a great singer’. And he was aimed at a type of a mature-ish audience. He wasn’t doing anything too heavy. He did some nice mid-tempo ballad type songs and he sort of, as we’ve got to know him, he’s a really good bloke. He’s involved in a lot of charity stuff, a lot of support stuff and being Jimmy Barnes’s older brother he was the guy that got Jimmy into it. Jimmy found himself in Cold Chisel with Don Walker as the writer and that’s all well documented history. But Swannee has never gone away. He’s recorded some stuff recently in America with Bonnie Raitt’s band who are all really good players, and he has re-done some of his stuff in a sort of country/ bluesy sort of vein, and he is working on another album at the moment. So he’s never really gone away.

A lot of his contemporaries, like Russell Morris, Jim Keays, Darrell Cotton when he was with us, they’re still touring and some of them are almost [doing] low key things, like they are doing acoustic presentations as opposed to full bands and that sort of thing. I guess the economics dictate a lot of that. But the opportunity to get Swannee out the front of a big hairy rock band, especially one as good as what we’ve put together for him, it’s going to be great for us and I think it’s going to be really good for him as well. I think it’s going to vibe him up. Give him a kick up the pants and get him happening. If all goes well it would be great to do it again with him because I’ve heard some recent recordings that he’s done and the guy can still really sing. He’s still got that voice and all the chops are still there and you know, he clearly rocks and everyone that I’ve spoken to, from Adelaide and people here that have played with him, every one of them the first thing they say is ‘What a great guy, he’s a really nice bloke, you’re going to like working with him’.

So I’m really looking forward to him coming over. He comes in the day before the show. We’re doing a rehearsal with him that night to get everything tight and smooth and then we kick it in the guts on the 7th. I’m looking forward to playing all night. It used to be playing three 45’s [45 minute sets] was what you did, three, four, five nights a week back in the day. So you know, providing nothing breaks, I’m really looking forward to doing it.

It should be fun. We’re playing between eight and eleven, and then we’re out of there and then they’ve got entertainment that will take over. The hours are good for the people who have grown up with Swannee, who probably don’t want to stay out until three in the morning. Go there, see the show and still get home at a reasonable hour not too shattered. And we’ve had good response. We’ve got people coming over from Adelaide from the show. I think we’ve got a couple of people coming over from Melbourne for the show.

Graham Greene Ormsby Guitars

100% ROCK: Wow.

So there is interest being shown. There have been a few pre-sales and so we’re looking forward to a great night.

100% ROCK: Awesome stuff, mate. Thank you so much for your time.

My pleasure.

100% ROCK: Cool mate, awesome. Good to talk to you.

No worries, you too my friend.

https://www.facebook.com/GrahamGreeneGuitarist
http://www.grahamgreene.com.au
https://www.facebook.com/JacDaltonBand
http://www.jacdalton.com
https://www.facebook.com/LadyZeppelin
https://www.facebook.com/ResonanceProject

Interview - Graham Greene – November 2012

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About the Author: Editor, 100% ROCK MAGAZINE

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