In 2002, in the aftermath of our relationship meltdown, Michelle and I had to sell our place on Wigan Street as part of the settlement. I rented a little flat overlooking the city and bought a computer and a Boss digital 8-track recording device – I had a new bunch of songs and wanted to record them.
There was no real Spines at the time – Tim Robinson had moved to Auckland and Andy was pretty busy with his PA business and Flesh-D-Vice. The new songs were pouring out – I’d met Janey and the Dharma and was plenty inspired by the heartache of the breakup with Michelle as well.
Mark Austin was an old buddy from my first days in Wellington and we had worked together on theatre, film and music projects over the years. He was a top-notch producer and wanted to make a solo album with me. He loved the new songs but his only stipulation was that we re-record my 1982 standard – Your Body Stays.
He had a studio in the old Writhe building on Martins Square and we got in some fantastic musicians for the various tracks. Riki Gooch and Tim Robinson on drums, Andy Craig, Les Knight and AK Goss on bass, Peter Robinson and Steve Gallagher on piano and keyboards.
I had the great luxury of being able to take the tracks home and work on the guitars on my little Boss gadget. A lot of the new songs I built from the ground up on that machine. It had a good drum sound and I would set up a rudimentary beat and layer the guitars over that then take it to the studio with Mark and put it on the ProTools setup he had.
It turned out that my old ’76 Telecaster was perfect to record with at home and a few of the finished songs are almost entirely the Tele and the Boss – The Great Unloved, Some of the Joy, Frida and Verity.
Most of the lead vocals I put down in one big session. Mark was really good in the way he coaxed my voice out. We were doing the vocal for Your Body Stays when I got the call that my son had broken his neck in a car crash in Dunedin.
Mark would send me mixes on CDs but I would just wander around Dunedin with one of the new songs in my head – You Will Walk.
When I came back we tried to get a grant from ‘Creative NZ’ but it was a mission impossible and then Mark’s life hit a similar wall and I had to get a job – we were both forced to move on to other things
He was clean and I was dirty and we worked really well together and he even let me play the bass on three of the tracks – Stop Forever (about Geina), Be With Me (about Janey) and You Will Walk (about Ang).
I hope he doesn’t mind me sharing all this with you.
The Ghost of Electricity – War Stories by Jon McLeary is a new initiative at Off The Tracks, a series of stories and reflections from painter, writer and musician Jon McLeary