Thursday, 5 February 2015

Steve Kilbey on Grant McLennan

a teenage rasputin takes a sting from a gin
last nite i received some terrible news about a dear friend
as i havent confirmed it yet for myself
im hoping against hope that it isnt true
that theres been a mistake...
i first met grant mc in a bookstore in new york
he and amanda b and bobby f. were playing a gobetweens gig there
so on a freezing cold december n.y.c. night replete with snow
i stumble into the blah blah bookshoppe
a real old style nyc bookshop, my little pigs
not a boreders or barnsey and knowable
i stand around for a while
i dont really know a lot about the gobees
they gotta lotta mora critical acklaim than us
and i'd kinda tuned em out
i'd filed em under too soft in the backa my mind
anyway they come on
(well...on, i mean they came out in the middle of the floor
on a tiny little stage)
there were about 60 people there
they were stupendous
the harmonies spot on
the acc guitars inventive
amandas fiddle incredible
they played a few songs
grinned sheepishly
and finished
the crowd loved em
and were stunned to see something like that
playin in a bookshop somewhere
later i met em
robert was kinda statesmanlike and seemed aristocratic
looking down at me with an imperious smile
amanda was nice
grant was different
he was vulnerable, thoughtful but he loved a laugh too
we talked of this n that
he went out of his way to make me feel at ease
and we both realised we could be friends easily
the next nite i saw em slay new york accousticall again
just the 3 of em
if you were there in the knitting factory, ny
dec 1988
like me
youd still be thinking about it
emotions i didnt really think rock could do
or could do without being soppy and maudlin
roberts distance and irony
his jokes at yours n his expense
grants open childlike strange songs
unashamedly australian
a sensitive new age bloke with unexpected darksides
a sweet melancholy voice
a gentle lovely guitar style
(but with rock)
they killed nyc
i was smitten
i got all the albums immediately
couldnt believe i'd been avoiding em so long
i liked both the songwriters
(they didnae write together)
they coexisted well within the one band
(like the you know whos)
about 2 years later in 1990
i gotta call from grant
after we met atta party one night
he hadda plan for forming an aust supergroop
featuring him, me, neil f, and paul k,
we never got the others really
tho we had lunch with paul ....
so grant n i formed a pared down soopergroop
jack f
so i go over grants place for our first writing seshh
boy o boy he operates a lot differently to me
1st of all hes got all his songs
written out in one big exercise book
that he musta had since high school
he never really let me look at it
but i guess you woulda found cattlen cane
or bye bye pride
or anything in there
i thought that was quaint
he was a strumm em out type writer
not like me..
constructing stuff in my 8 track home studio
he then proceeded to play 10 new songs to me live
each one preceded by a preamble
explaining whatta "beautiful" song it was, steven
(always called me steven,never steve)
he finished with a song about jesus called
"the man that died in rapture"
he sang this most lamenting melancholy achingly lovely song
all with his trademark off in the distance look
his eyes slightly unaligned that made him seem unfathomable
his soft voice filling up the sunroom of his bondi junction flat
so please dont forget...the man who died in rapture
i was moved and surprised
i felt like i'd seen a man bare his soul
grant finished
good lord grant that was amazing..are you a christian..
no he says
i wrote that for a competition..
eventually that day
i was allowed to pick up my 12 string
and we immediately on 1st chord
wrote didnt know where i was
off jack f.
grant seemed to have a way of opening up his mouth
and singing instant choruses
hed plucked outta the ether
words flew to him
he walk with melodies at his beck n call
we wrote a few more that day
then we started having days where we would write
20 or 30 songs inna day
all of em great
they were all on cassettes
where are they?
who knows
we werent that careful with em
we couldnt believe we could keep on writing and writing and writing
i never wrote songs like this before
me n another bloke strumming along
i rented a house in surry hills
and me n grant would just walk around strummin and writin all day
laughing because it was so easy, baybee
we did the first jack f in a studio in balmain
that was bit by bit being repossessed
cos they hadnt paid the bills
we'd be halfway thru a song
and someone would be carting the limiters away
we didnt care
we were high on our creativity and our record
it was interesting to see grant working my way
constructing songs..
if ya listen to the record
you can hear the constructed ones and the 2 guitar strum ones
grant loved a drink and a smoke
and by the end of each night he was on fine form
never drunk or boorish
but always merry and mischievous
tho sometimes hed sink into a distant melancholia
where he couldnt be reached
hed split up with miss a.b. by this stage
and a lotta those songs carry a genuine ache
that is tangible
grant n i wrote and played the whole thing together
a real 50 50 deal if ever there was one
i brought my recording techniques and song strategies
he brought his melodies and lightness
the record is a masterpiece
it did pretty good
arista even released it
and we did a short tour of the states
just acc guitars n little places
grant taught me so much about everything
he was a great guy to be on tour with
i think the audiences liked it
at the same time grant was working on watershed
which i heartily recommend
for sad lonesome songs
as well as his colloquial stuff
years later we did the second jack f
this was recorded as a band with timmy p. playing drums
a totally different record
much had changed in the between years
my little problem was now a huge gorilla
pushing me around all over the place
i wassa innercity drug hermit
grant was never as bad as me
tho he was plagued with his own daemons too
the record captures the roiling boiling turmoil
of those days
i can hardly bear to listen to it myself
its agony is apparent
but it bleeds for you
and its a great falling apart record
a la sister/lovers...
tho it wasnt a pleasant experience..
we did a little tour of aust when it came out
that would be best forgotten
grant and i sometimes popped up
at each others shows
but our connexion was gone
and we drifted apart
in 1998 i saw em play in stockholm, grant n robert
just the 2 of em
the swedes were in love with em
they were better n funnier than ever
we hung out a little
grant never seemed to eat anything!
but always the constant coffee, wine and stuyvesant ciggies
after that
years of silence
a couple of years ago
ian haug from powderfinger gave me grants number n said
you should ring him....why not?
i did
and we met up here in bondi
when he was down doing something for the new gobees record
oceans apart
he played me 2 tracks
i played him block
oh steven, its a little too....autobiographical isnt it? he winced n grinned
we went down the pavillion where i had a veggie burger n chips
grant had coffee and cigs
we talked about the gobees, a.b., jack f, all the cool dudes
and all the fucking idiots we had met in our travels
at the end of lunch grant came and picked up my kids and met nk
he caught a taxi off to his next interview
and i felt well pleased
maybe there could be 3rd jack f record after all...
one of australias most beautiful singers and writers
an amazing human being
a poet, bohemian, adventurer
raconteur and nice guy too
grant, i hope it was just a rumour...

...Eleven years later, he was recording for a new project named Jack Frost with his friend Grant McLennan, a fellow Australian pop star best known for his work with Brisbane act the Go-Betweens. One night, while out at a bar and feeling an empty sense of unhappiness at the life he’d earned, despite his success, Kilbey was taken aback by McLennan’s proposal: “Let’s get some heroin.”
“It came right out of the blue,” Kilbey recalls in February 2013. ‘It was the last thing on my mind. I went, ‘Oh, here’s $100, get me some too.’ No one had ever offered it to me up until then. All the other drugs you might get offered, but no one ever says, ‘Hey, want some heroin?’ It’s not like that. If you’ve got a stash, you don’t offer it. You don’t really go around turning other people on. It’s not the sort of thing you advertise.’”

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