How do you get 31 mattresses, an eight
track Fostex recording system, an Atari sequencer and two musicians
with all their instruments into a room which is 4 x 4.5 metres?
The answer is right here in Melbourne where
songwriter David Mills and audio technician Alistair Miles have
converted a bedroom into a studio which, they jest, doubles as
a padded cell.
The three year marathon began after Alistair's
offer to record David's songs which he felt had a "depth
and maturity" that most message songs lack. Thus began the
painstaking process of piecing together a studio with carefully
sought out second-hand equipment. Alistair himself constructed
over half the cables used, and acquiring, then lining the walls
with mattresses for sound-proofing was another enormous task.
Over a year had elapsed before they could begin recording.
This pair are at once ordinary and extraordinary.
When you consider that it may take up to 6 - 8 months for eight
people to produce a full length CD recording in a fully equipped
professional studio, you begin to realise just how much they achieved
in completing their own within 18 months. Alistair alone was
engineer, lead guitarist, drummer, keyboard player and flautist
as well as being one of the lead vocalists. Pause for breath.
What image are they trying to project? None.
"We've come together," says Alistair emphatically,
"to combine my technical and musical know-how with David's
songwriting abilities to produce an album which will help other
people." And that is the bottom line. David hopes that
Learning to Live Again will help people find what they are
looking for, be it greater meaning, inner peace or a change of
values. Should that smack of idealism, read on. Neither have
had an easy ride. As the title suggests, both have had their
fair share of suffering and pain.
Like most of life's ventures, this one has
been a learning experience. Increasingly aware of how influential
music can be, David has identified a need; the need for music
not only to entertain but also to bring out the greatness in people.
"You can give so much through music if you get it right,
and that's what I want to do but in my own way."
Meanwhile, Alistair, who has learnt a great
deal about recording, is left feeling somewhat disillusioned about
technology: "It's supposed to serve us but sometimes we end
up serving it." Continually having to repair unreliable
equipment, he would often say to himself, "Why am I doing
this?" And being acutely aware of the world's poverty,
starvation and conflict, a further question dogged him, "Is
what I'm doing really measuring up to the needs of today?"
Despite the doubts and despair, the combination
of his single-minded perseverance with David's patience gave them
the necessary to complete what they had started. The result:
a most unusual collection of songs which on the one hand stir
and provoke whilst on the other soothe and relax. David's poetic
lyrics are of a high calibre and the music, which combines different
styles from folk to rock, almost defies definition. But as Alistair
says, "I'm not interested in styles or fashions or trends
- I'm interested in reaching the heart."
Learning to Live Again
is available on CD, Cassette
and Songbook from: "Learning to Live Again", Grosvenor
Books, P.O. Box 164, Burwood, VIC 3142, Australia; Tel/Fax: +61-3-889
Laura Trevelyan, UK