GUIDE TO RE-LIV­ING

GRINSPOON IS HIT­TING THE ROAD FOR THE 20TH AN­NIVER­SARY OF THEIR LAND­MARK DE­BUT AL­BUM. WE SPOKE TO GUI­TARIST PAT DAV­ERN ABOUT THE HEADY DAYS OF 1997 AND BE­YOND. BY PETER HODG­SON

Australian Guitar - - Feature -

Pic­ture it: Lis­more, 1995. A lo­cal band named after the Associate Professor Emer­i­tus of Psy­chi­a­try at Har­vard Med­i­cal School – Dr. Lester Grinspoon, who sup­ported the medic­i­nal use of mar­i­juana – sub­mits the track “Sick­fest” to triple j’s na­tional Un­earthed com­pe­ti­tion. They won, and for the next two months, the song was the sta­tion’s num­ber one re­quest. Folks couldn’t get enough of Grinspoon, and they were snapped up by Univer­sal Mu­sic im­print Grudge. In Septem­ber 1997, they re­leased their de­but stu­dio al­bum, GuideTobet­terLiv­ing, which quickly grew to dou­ble plat­inum sta­tus on the back of five chart-top­ping sin­gles: “Pedes­trian”, “DC×3”, “Re­peat”, “Just Ace” and “Don’t Go Away”. The al­bum spent 36 weeks in the ARIA Top 50. You def­i­nitely know some­body who owns it – that is, if you don’t have a copy of your own.

Twenty years later, Grinspoon is emerg­ing from the grave to take the al­bum out on a tour in cel­e­bra­tion of its an­niver­sary. They’ll be play­ing the al­bum in its en­tirety – along with a bunch of other ca­reer-defin­ing tracks – hit­ting 28 dates across Aus­tralia. It’s their first such tour since they went on hia­tus in 2013, aside from a sup­port slot on Cold Chisel’s Per­fec­tCrime tour in 2015 (be­cause you don’t say no to Chisel).

The al­bum is also be­ing re-re­leased in an ex­panded multi-for­mat reis­sue which blows the orig­i­nal 16-track record out to a whop­ping 49 tracks, in­clud­ing rar­i­ties, live tracks and un­re­leased record­ings. The al­bum also ap­pears on vinyl for the very first time, scor­ing a lim­ited edi­tion red wax press­ing that the orig­i­nal al­bum with a sec­ond disc ti­tled LiveAtCBGB’s. The phys­i­cal two-disc CD edi­tion is pack­aged in a deluxe slip­case, along­side a 36-page book fea­tur­ing un­seen images, scans of mem­o­ra­bilia, full lyrics, and es­says from each of the band mem­bers. Aus­tralianGuitar caught up with gui­tarist Pat Dav­ern to talk about what the record means in 2017.

Take us back to when the al­bum came out. What comes to mind first when you think of those days?

It was an ex­cit­ing time, ob­vi­ously. We’d just got signed to Univer­sal Records, and it was the first time we’d spent any length of time in a stu­dio. It wasn’t like it would be later on in our ca­reer where we’d write al­bums while ac­tu­ally mak­ing the

al­bums. All the songs that we had for that record were songs that we’d been play­ing live ei­ther since we started as a band or just after. We were locked away with a cou­ple of weeks to track, and that was a re­ally ex­cit­ing time. From what I can re­mem­ber – it was a long time ago, after all – I have some fond, fond mem­o­ries.

At that point, did you ever think you’d be talk­ing about the record 20 years on?

Well, no! You don’t think about that when you’re writ­ing a record. But in the en­su­ing years – the last cou­ple of years in par­tic­u­lar – we’ve thought about the fact that the record was go­ing to be 20 years old, and it might be worth cel­e­brat­ing that in some way. It was our de­but al­bum, it was a big record, and it was re­ally a dif­fer­ent time. Peo­ple would go out to a CD store and buy a CD, and we’d do in-store sign­ings. That was def­i­nitely a dif­fer­ent time in the mu­sic in­dus­try. There was no in­ter­net, re­ally – there we no dig­i­tal down­loads, there were no iPods, and ev­ery­thing was a lot sim­pler. So the record was re­ally well re­ceived in that time. The ‘90s were a great time in Aus­tralian mu­sic as well. I’m glad we’ve made it to 20 years and we can go out and cel­e­brate it like this.

Once upon a time, you didn’t nec­es­sar­ily know your favourite band had a new record out un­til you saw it in the New Re­leases sec­tion of the record store!

Yes! Ex­actly. I re­mem­ber get­ting the paper news­let­ter at the record store to see what was go­ing to be re­leased. It was very dif­fer­ent!

What gear are you us­ing th­ese days, and how does it dif­fer from what you used on GuideToBet­terLiv­ing?

Back then, I was us­ing a Mar­shall JCM800 combo, which I wish I still had. Gui­tar-wise, I had a gui­tar I’d built my­self. It had a Schecter body and a Ja­panese Stra­to­caster neck, and I took all the pick­ups out of it and had a Sey­mour Dun­can In­vader in the bridge po­si­tion. It was pretty balls-to-the-wall. I used to use a vintage green Ibanez Tube Screamer, which I don’t have ei­ther any­more. It’s funny – I’ve gone around and looked for this stuff since we de­cided to do this tour. I found the Strat: it had been put back to its orig­i­nal con­fig­u­ra­tion with Texas Special pick­ups put in to make it more of a tra­di­tional Strat, five-way pickup se­lec­tor and ev­ery­thing. But I think I’ve still got the In­vader, so I might take that back to its Guide

ToBet­terLiv­ing con­fig­u­ra­tion. I had that when I recorded the al­bum, and I think I had a bor­rowed Les Paul – the one with the thin sin­gle coils but not the soap­bars. It was a Gold­top that I bor­rowed off a guy named Leon. I’m pretty sure that I used a Big Muff and a Scion head on the al­bum. [Leon] cus­tom-built amps for the Scream­ing Jets and stuff, and I think I used one of those.

Now, things are to­tally dif­fer­ent. I’ve got lots of dif­fer­ent gui­tars and lots of dif­fer­ent amps, and I’m not sure what I’m go­ing to take out on the road. I’ve got an old Sunn 100-watt head that I’ll prob­a­bly use as my dirt sound, and I’ve got an old HiWatt Cus­tom 100 which I might use for a lead sound. I haven’t de­cided on any of it yet. And I’ll prob­a­bly take some­thing else out for a clean sound

and switch be­tween them – maybe a Roland JC-120 Jazz Cho­rus. The first part of the show is when we’ll play GuideToBet­terLiv­ing from begin­ning to end, and then we’ll have a short in­ter­mis­sion be­fore play­ing around 45 min­utes of well-known songs from our other al­bums. I’ll have my reg­u­lar rig for that part of the show, which is com­prised of a Model T head and a cou­ple of Les Pauls, an SG and a Tele.

Was it hard to track down the bonus ma­te­rial for the reis­sue?

Well, the LiveAtCBGB’s record­ing is in­ter­est­ing. When we re­leased GuideToBet­ter Liv­ing, on the back of the suc­cess of that record we got signed to Univer­sal Records, which is based in New York. We moved to LA in 1998 and did show­cases at the Whiskey and the Troubadour – all of those kinds of clubs – to build up a bit of a name for our­selves on the west coast. And then we moved to New York when the deal with Univer­sal was inked, and we did our first show­case for the A&R guy. We did it at CBGB’s, and they took a pro­duc­tion truck down there and recorded it. To be hon­est with you, I had never heard it! I didn’t even know it ex­isted! We went to Univer­sal in New York and said, “Have you got any­thing?” and they sent us that. I’d heard a cou­ple of the triple j tracks, like the ones that were live from Falls Fes­ti­val, but there was also a b-side from GuideToBet­terLiv­ing that I hadn’t heard since we recorded it. So there are def­i­nitely a few sur­prises in there for me.

It must be in­ter­est­ing to hear what “20 years ago Pat” was do­ing.

Oh, yeah! When I lis­ten to the CBGB’s set, it’s just funny. We’ve all got higher voices be­cause we were ba­si­cally just kids! Stoned kids!

Look­ing back on that time, what kind of ad­vice would “20 years later Pat” give?

Wow, I don’t think I can give any ad­vice as to what peo­ple th­ese days need to do in the mu­sic in­dus­try. As I said be­fore, it was so dif­fer­ent. I guess I’m a bit of a di­nosaur. I lis­ten to Spo­tify and I get all my new mu­sic from all those kind of things, but to be hon­est with you, I strug­gle to re­ally see how artists do get heard. I’m sure there’s a ma­chine th­ese days, but when we started, it was just about get­ting out there and play­ing as many shows as you could; try­ing to knock down as many doors as you pos­si­bly can. I guess it’s still the same in a lot of ways, apart from the re­lent­less gig­ging. I don’t know if that’s a nec­es­sary part of the process to be­come a suc­cess­ful band any­more – not when peo­ple can dis­cover new mu­sic by click­ing some­thing on their phone.

The down­side is that a lot of bands don’t learn how to per­form. Play­ing for a crowd is very dif­fer­ent to play­ing for an iPhone.

Yeah, that’s right. It’ll be in­ter­est­ing to see what the endgame is for the way mu­sic is evolv­ing un­der th­ese con­di­tions – whether there’ll be some­thing that breaks through in a to­tally dif­fer­ent way, or in an or­ganic process like the one we went through. There are still pos­si­bil­i­ties for bands to come through not by tra­di­tional means or via stream­ing. More fes­ti­vals? More live mu­sic? Peo­ple turn­ing away from things like Face­book? Who knows?

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