Where are you currently based?
I’m now down the South end of Sydney I have lovely peaceful spot near a beautiful river here.
How did you first start playing music?
I formed my first band in 1989 in my garage. Soundgarden was all the rage.
What’s been happening recently and how has your Covid experience been so far?
It’s been a great chance to face my fears and tackle some time-consuming things like getting better at music production, using a computer while doing that more and writing for writing’s sake. I’ve also enjoyed seeing my 8-year-old daughter a great deal more as I’ve been in town (obviously !).
Your debut album ‘Colourful, Noisy’ is out now, what influenced the sound and songwriting?
Many of these songs were written during the last few years of what was a turbulent, chaotic time in my life. I write as a cathartic experience and it helped me to get over that and give me something else to focus on. As far as the sound goes, I’m influenced and somewhat limited in a good way by the fact that until super recently I didn’t know how to record on a computer, couldn’t paste a loop together ! So these are ‘song songs’ written from a voice and piano and then layered with real instruments. It comes out sounding more modern, though, I think! Because I’ve had to figure out how to still get certain sounds that are in my head out, whilst still only using “real’ instruments. I’m also just a human who is influenced somewhat by all things, topics and energies from today in general, so of course it’s going to sound this way.
How did you go about writing the music?
Melody and chordal structure are the first things usually. Sitting down at the piano with merely a feeling and the drive to create is all I generally need. Often 80% of it comes in the first 10 minutes of this sit down.
I always have a notetaker recording. However, then it’s sometimes a case of transcribing what I just did, followed by agonising over the last 20% ! Often I take ages to actually commit to lyrics, a middle section (if needed) or whatnot. I’m getting better at not making this part such a chore and accepting what is. If I’m lucky, sometimes a spark or a melody even comes in a dream. Once I met David Bowie (in my dream !) at Bondi and he helped me write a few lyrics to something that had alluded me. How lucky.
Where and when did you record/produce?
Free Energy Device Studios in Camperdown with Richard Belkner has always been a great space to lay down tracks, especially bed rhythm takes. I did quite a bit in my new space too here and also some mixing with my old mate Sean Carey at Church St Studios in Camperdown who is great musician, mix engineer and producer in his own right.
What programs/instruments did you use?
It’s all built up from the piano and voice. Live drums (mostly Evan Mannell), double bass (my main instrument), electric bass. ’The Long Game’ has live strings on it. A fair bit of layered vocals. The album has sparse use of some vintage keyboards and minimal guitars.
You worked with your former Thirsty Merc bandmate Sean Carey who mixed the record, how did this come about and how was the experience?
I just reached out on a whim, I had a song (‘Share Your Dreams’) and had a thought, ‘you know who’d do a great job with this?”.
The song is written for my daughter and it’s almost like self-consciously I had to get Sean because he knows me, and it takes a certain type of delicacy. He’s such a connected, emotive guy, and not everyone who’s also a bad-ass mix engineer is like that. I then got him to mix 2 the tracks in a similar vein. I even ticked him into singing a little too. He has a delicious voice. He’s now in my live band too!
You’re playing Mary’s Underground on the 15th of October, what can we expect?
My hot new band! Evan Mannell, Harry Sutherland and Sean Carey. There is some instrument swapping. I’m going from basses to piano, and Sean from guitar to bass. Abby Dobson Is supporting which is really exciting for me. She has a voice and sound of an angel.
How do you prepare for live shows and what do you most enjoy about playing live?
I get way more nervous on my own shows than playing for way more people as a sideman with some else. The music is deeply personal. However I do enjoy the challenge of trying to cover the general layered feeling of the record with a live band.
How do you feel about playing during Covid and playing after nearly 6 months?
I feel great about it. I’ve done a few small things but this is really exciting to play this material with my band and let the rest of the world take care of itself for a night.
Who are you listening to at the moment?
What do you like to do away from music?
Be in the moment with my daughter.
Be in the moment with my partner.
Drink coffee, sit and be still.
What’s planned for 2020 going into 2021?
Writing the next thing and witnessing however that unfolds. There’s no time limit or stylistic restrictions on what this sounds like, so that’s exciting.
Favourite food and place to hangout?
I’m appreciating the inner city area a great deal more after not living there for a while.
Phil Stack’s debut album Colourful, Noisy is out now.
He plays 2 shows (early & late) at Mary’s Underground in Sydney on Thursday 15 October. Tickets are on sale now at moshtix.com.au