February-March 2004

Miriam Zolin By

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I am a communicator and my voice is my instrument of communication. —Nina Ferro

In this edition:

Check out this fantastic AAJ discussion thread, started by Kenny Weir and constantly being updated with information about what's happening with Australian jazz. And I agree totally with Kenny's enthusiasm for the Mike Nock CD. Love it!

As this Notes from Downunder is uploaded to AllAboutJazz.com, the Necks are in the middle of their latest Australian tour to promote their CD Drive By. Fans of their unique style of music are packing into venues in Australia's major cities for a fix of the Necks live experience. Meanwhile, Lloyd Swanton's other major interest, The catholics, continue to perform from time to time and Swanton's name appears in the personnel of bands playing in venues around Sydney.

Late last year, in a pub in Sydney's Eastern Suburbs, AAJ spoke with Swanton about the musician's life, The Necks, The catholics and the quest for success.

All About Jazz: When did you first decided that music was a path to follow?

Lloyd Swanton: Well in my case it wasn't actually a clear decision but the older I get the more I realise it's where I'm most comfortable - and happiest.

When I started playing bass guitar it was just something to do. I was a teenager and I don't even think I took it as far as assuming it would be a good way to pick up girls - a common explanation that people give for taking up music! It was just a hobby, I guess. My friend down the street was playing the guitar and I bought an electric bass.

AAJ: And suddenly you had a band?

LS: Mmmm sort of. We never actually performed in public. We never got to that stage. But things just happened along the way that reinforced that direction until now, after twenty or twenty-five years, I just find it inconceivable to do anything else. I'm doing what I want to do with my life and I just happen to get paid for it. That's what we're all looking for, isn't it?

AAJ: The two main projects you're involved with at the moment are The Necks and The catholics. Were both of them your idea to start with?

LS: Well the catholics for sure. With the Necks, if we want to get technical, it was me that picked up the phone and rang Chris Abrahams and asked "Do you want to put a band together?" Then we discussed drummers and called Tony [Buck]. So I made the initial phone call but I think we can comfortably say that all three of us have had the idea since!

The catholics was actually just something I wanted to do as a calling card. I was feeling totally fulfilled just playing in other people's projects but I thought it would be nice just to do one album of my own and then just go back to being a bassist with other people. Then, not only did I start to enjoy the band but it was very successful from day one.

I suppose that gets back to the question of money versus creativity or finding the true purpose of life. I guess I'm somewhere in the middle.

My instinct is to be a creative musician and make a living doing it. And I actually consider those the two criteria. While there are plenty of people that only do one or the other... their only role and purpose in life is to make a living or they're just totally into creativity and they honestly don't care if a scrap about whether they make enough to live on.

I try not to let the quest for success swamp the quest for expression. I've made a decision that any opportunities that come my way I will try to make the most of but I'm not actually going to get so much into the marketing that I end up neglecting what being a musician is all about. There are plenty of opportunities I haven't chased up but I like to think that most of the opportunities that have come my way I have at least given them a look and decided whether there was anything I could get out of it.

AAJ: If you look at The catholics and The Necks in terms of success and building a fan base, both bands have done quite well in that area. Do you think that is to do with the music or to do with some energy that you're putting in to pushing them?

LS: I really think it's both.

AAJ: I've noticed that you do actually send an email out to tell people there's a gig coming. It's really basic stuff but a lot of musicians forget.

LS: Yeah. That's an example. I think you have to do all that but if you're going to be wasting all your creative energies on plotting marketing campaigns and printing up fridge magnets then you are diverting your creative energy but also the preciousness of the creation is getting devalued.

Both bands have something different and I think then it's a question of how you present it.

The catholics are pretty candid and open. We basically just 'do what we do'. Happy, good time stuff - it's very simple. I'm amazed that more people haven't thought of doing it.

With the Necks I guess I could agree with people who say we’ve cultivated an image – more out of being very careful about where and how we're presented and actually saying no to a lot of things. We have been choosy.


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