Massages and all that Jazz

Sun 16th Jan – Massage, Sheraton, Jazz Club
Aside:how your mind justifies things is quite funny sometimes. Because wages and excise on things like alcohol and cigarettes are typically quite low, things are very cheap, and you find yourself objecting to prices because you think someone might be taking more profit than they should. This is despite the fact that Continue reading

Tequila Bob, Buddha, The End

Fri 14th Jan – Gullivers Travels. Show at Buddha

Aside: The way we interact with others is a very subtly learned skill. This came to me as I was walking along Bui Vien, the street our hotel was on, towards Stella’s. Even given the larger number of people, there seemed to be an unusually large number of times that I and the person walking towards me did the “this-way-that-way” dance. At first I thought it might be Continue reading

Recording, donations, and applause for finishing

Wed 12th Jan – 5th day recording. All but two songs down. Visit to the Christina Noble Children’s Foundation

I was in recording for a half day today as Karen, Kayla and I had arranged to deliver some things to the Christina Noble Foundation, a foundation set up for local children.  Kayla came with me to Continue reading

Tues 11th Jan – A wise old arse

It was always going to be a tough ask; ten songs in 8 hours. Four hours in we had just finished the first one (Give it Away) and were starting on the second (So Saigon). I put down the main vocals and we called Walter, John, Dave and Rob in to do the backup vocals. I needed a rest and so sat at the piano (behind them) and directed from there. Once we got a combination of harmonies that sounded good and was reasonably balanced, they just needed to record it several times.

During one of these sessions I gazed at the shiny black keyboard lid of the piano. I could see Continue reading

The film clip and No. 5 bar

Apart from the recording and gigging we’re doing over here, Patrick has also been collecting vision for some film clips for 3 of the album songs. One of those is called “So Saigon”. It was originally entitled “So Far Gone”, but with the practices in Adelaide, it morphed a bit and became more topical. I liked it because of the sense of metaphor; although being “So Saigon” didn’t really mean anything before, it does now! We’ve since found out that it translates quite well into Vietnames, too, the “So” prefix gives the subject (Saigon) a uniqueness or feeling of being special. This may well be beneficial if we decide to push the single into HCMC when it’s all set up. The songs we are recording are…

• Blueprint
• Too Late the Hero
• Maggies
• Give It Away
• Plan B
• I Don’t Mind
• Sandpaper Sally
• So Saigon
• Falling In Love (for the 1st Time)
• Images

All songs were written entirely by Peter Flierl, the bass player, with the exception of Sandpaper Sally, to which I contributed some lyrics. Blueprint, Too Late the Hero and I Don’t Mind were all written and performed in the 80’s version of the band, and Plan B was written and performed by Dexy’s Midnight Runners. The band in those days was heavily influenced by Dexy’s and so took their name from that song. Although we’ve always performed it, the idea of including it on the album was a strategic one; while the album is being prepared, Peter, Patrick and myself will seek out blogs and forums of Dexy’s fans and make our selves known there. Once the song is ready, we’ll let them know about it and hopefully pick up a few new fans that way. I think we need to be prepared for some pretty ‘religious’ discussion at the time, but if we maintain a position of respect for Dexy’s, and that this song is a nod to them, not a rip-off, we should be OK. Given the number of songs, plus the two recorded last year (Call Me and Southern Delta), we’re actually considering releasing an EP first so that we can have it ready sooner. All the post production will happen back in Adelaide, so we’ll just see how long it takes when we try it. Anyway, back to the film clip. Patrick’s idea was for it to be about me wandering lost after having broken up with a girl (played by local girl Thi), and another girl (Helen) always appearing at the right moment to help me out. Helen was fantastic; she is actually one of the receptionists at our hotel, and was happy to give up half a day to appear in the clip. The clip takes place mainly in the back alleys near the hotel. These are amazing places, like rabbit warrens, off the main streets. Patrick put together a test clip (click here) to get a feel for how it would look (excuse the ‘dry’ singing, this is actually a very difficult piece to pitch because it has such long extended notes in it. The soundtrack on this clip is from one of the guide vocals I put down early in the recording process.

That night we played the No. 5 bar. We played here a couple of times last tour, and so there was a real sense of coming home in preparation for this gig. As usual with high expectations, the reality was a little disappointing. The bar and the girls which seemed so much fun and welcoming last year felt a whole lot more ‘business as usual’ this time. We set up, we played, and we left. Actually, it wasn’t quite like that; we had a few chats to a some of the customers and got a great reaction from the crowd.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The following day I spent around the hotel room, not doing a lot. Apart from my own recuperation, Kayla was still quite poorly; she slept most of the day, and so I stayed with her to give Karen the opportunity to do some exploration. That night we dragged her out of bed to go to the Jazz Club, a club run by the owner of the recording studio, Tran Manh Tuan. We didn’t stay too long but the whole experience was very rewarding, seeing Tuan play and watching a couple of locals get up and sing with the band. This sparked the idea in me that I could do it, too, and so I resolved to speak to Tuan the next recording session. 

Day 2 and 3 recording. Gig at the Blue Salute.

Just another day at the office… Walter and Rob were back on deck (sort of) and we recorded another 3 songs for the album. It was a similar thing as the previous day, with me in the control room singing guide tracks while the drums, bass and guitar were recorded. I was concerned that a few more days of this might be too much for my voice given that I was always either in air conditioning or pollution. We broke for lunch and Pete came in and told us there’d been a mix-up with the No. 5 booking and so we had no gig that night. I was pretty happy with that; we did another five hours and headed back to the hotel. Karen, Kayla, John and I took advantage of the night off by going out to a pizza buffet place down the street a little. Inside it had the red checked tablecloths and a selection of pizza, pasta, salads and other stuff. It was a little dodgy; several of the pizzas had corn on them! Corn? On a Pizza? That’s just wrong. That night both Karen and I got sick within an hour of each other. We’re not sure if it was that place or not because Kayla didn’t get sick, though it’s possible that we both ate something she didn’t. As a result I was in no condition for recording the following day. We had a gig booked the following night at a place called the Blue Salute, so I opted to stay in bed and recover as much as possible to try and make the gig. I couldn’t face eating anything substantial but forced myself to have a couple of crackers. Despite this I didn’t feel too bad when we arrived at the gig and just sat on a couple of cans of 7-Up for the whole show. I can’t actually remember too much of the show itself, except that someone kept offering the whole band drinks of Johnnie Walker Platinum, and I had to say no. Sigh. Good thing I’m damn sexy.

The arrival

We landed in Ho Chi Minh City on the evening of the 23rd along with 2 or 3 other international flights, and it was interesting to note how much less intimidating the whole thing was compared to last year. The customs, the security people, the press of people waiting outside the airport and even the manic taxi ride to the hotel was familiar. It felt almost normal, compared to last year when we were all like rabbits in the headlights.

We arrived in the backpacker area of District 1, at the guest house we had all booked into. Last year we stayed at The Duc Vuong, a hotel further up the street and had struck up a friendship with the manager, Mr. Law. Between tours, Mr. Law had started up his own venture called the Phoenix 25 Guesthouse and so we elected to give his place a go. The name should have tipped us off, it was a guesthouse, not a hotel, which means a lot less privacy and security. “OK”, we thought, “we can put up with this; it’s not too bad – just not what we were expecting”. Karen and I reassured Kayla that it would be OK and we just needed to settle in. So we deposited our gear and went next door to the GoGo club for a bite to eat. The music in there was quite loud so we sat outside and had a few beers before retiring for the night. Back in our room we discovered that we actually shared a wall with the Gogo club. Which meant we had the thoomp-thoomp-thoomp all night. It finally went quiet about 6am. At 7am, the renovations in the building on the other side started.

I showered (in the shared toilet/shower cubicle, like all the guest houses) and walked up to Duc Vuong to book a room for the remainder of our time in HCMC. Karen and Kayla were getting ready while I was doing this and so we agreed to meet at Stella’s for breakfast. What an oasis that was! And I think they recognized me from last year 🙂

Stella's... Where everybody knows your name

It was nice to return to the civility, air conditioning and peace and quiet of Duc Vuong. I quickly sent off an email to the other couples yet to arrive and arranged rooms for a few of those that wanted it.

One of the trademarks of the Duc Vuong is its free breakfasts and family evening meals. They also have a family party on Sunday nights which is very, very funny to be involved in. First up there was an American guy who took it on himself to tell us how wonderful the place was. I think he was a long time resident of the hotel – he wasn’t there last year (the MC-ing was Mr. Law’s job) and this guy was the typical loud American tourist type. They’re almost as bad as the loud Australian Yobbo tourists. After the introduction, the manager came out and introduced the meals, and then it was “time for dance”!  This was hilarious. The manager is a very slight build and reminded me of Kenneth Williams (the weedy guy from the Carry On movies). And he dances like a madman! This guy has some serious moves!  Most of the room got up with him, and then it was time for Karaoke. Walter, our shy and retiring drummer, really broke the ice with We Will Rock You by Queen. I’m sure he was channeling Homer J Simpson for most of the performance, he was awesome. After that, it got a bit silly. I eventually got up and did “I’m too sexy” by Right Said Fred and “I will survive” by Gloria Gaynor, duet-ing with Walter. I chose them specifically because it’s all about being an idiot, not being a good singer, and there’s no way you can do either of these songs seriously. Patrick took some video, I’ll post it later if I can!