…and now for something completely different

June 18, 2009 | By | 20 Replies More

It’s time for some Gratuitous Self-Promotion! Yes, in lieu of having anything interesting to say about anything interesting, I shall talk about myself.

Apart from being an interweb crank and having been described, just the once, as an “in-your-face modern atheist” (whatever that’s meant to mean – I’ll take it as a compliment though, because people say that kind of thing about Richard Dawkins and I think he’s a top bloke), I’m also a musician. Specifically a singer and lyricist.

From the Ashes - Incendiary

From the Ashes - Incendiary

Since the age of 15 I’ve been in numerous bands, starting off playing metal & hard rock covers in a high school band named Mothdust in 1992 and joining my first original act, Roger The Band, in 1996. In 2000 Mothdust reformed and we started writing our own stuff. Having those two bands on the go was awesome if a little challenging, especially considering I was doing some acting with a small Adelaide theatre company at the time. In 2001 both bands released six-track EPs within a month of each other and it was a tiny thrill seeing both records in the local Adelaide charts! Both bands managed to attract a small but loyal following and many, many great times were had.

Eventually though, Roger The Band gradually started falling apart, as bands sometimes simply do after six years. I decided to move to Melbourne with the members of Mothdust in 2003, to see if we could make a go of it in Australia’s rock city. This also was not to be though, with one member going back to Adelaide after nine months and another getting married and buggering off to Manchester with his new bride six months later. After the final member and his wife returned to Adelaide to spawn, my lady Jo and I were left alone. I thought I’d be happy just strumming my guitar and writing electronic music on my computer for my own amusement, but I really missed collaborating with other musicians and playing really loud music, so I started looking online for Melbourne musos who were at a similarly loose end. Long story short: after many woeful demos I found a highly motivated and creative guitarist (Jiz) and drummer (Mike) who had been writing and performing together for a couple of years. We hit it off instantly, shared many of the same musical inspirations and attitudes and starting writing straight away. Eventually we found a bass player (Lachie) to round out the quartet (no mean feat – good bassists who aren’t in bands are hard to find in Melbourne) and Jiz named the band From The Ashes. This was 2005.

Last month From The Ashes released our debut independent album entitled Incendiary. We’re launching the record officially on July 31 at Melbourne’s famous Esplanade Hotel in St Kilda. DI’s own Mike Pulcinella is featuring one of our tracks, Said & Done, on his latest documentary, Raising The Bar 3 (which I’m looking forward to seeing and no, not just because our song’s on it – Mike makes a mean doco).

What do we sound like? I never know how to answer that question. We’re a rock band with diverse influences – everything from Elvis Costello, Paul Simon & The Police to The Mars Volta, Faith No More & Smashing Pumpkins. That doesn’t mean we sound anything like any of those artists, it just means we like musicians who put a lot of thought into their music, especially into constructing interesting melody & mood, and who aren’t afraid to be a little bit self-indulgent. Sometimes. That being said, we also just love bands that rock the f* out like Queens Of The Stone Age and Foo Fighters.

Now, I’ll do what I always do when asked what we sound like: invite the questioner to have a listen to the gear, decide for themselves what we we sound like and maybe leave some feedback. Here are some links containing preview tracks and other assorted rubbish:

myspace

Last.fm

iTunes

Thanks for your attention & I hope you like the material.

Cheers
Hank

L to R: Mike, Lachie, Jiz, Hank

Mike, Lachie, Jiz, Hank

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Category: Entertainment, music

About the Author ()

Hank was born of bird-watching bushwalking music-loving parents from whom he gained his love of nature, the universe & bicycles. Today he's a musician, non-profit aid worker, beagle keeper and fair & balanced internet commentator - but that just means he has a chip on each shoulder.

Comments (20)

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  1. Erich Vieth says:

    Hank: Thank you so much for sharing (at my urging) the story of From the Ashes. I took the liberty of posting the thumbnail of the Album cover of Incendiary (my own autographed copy, no less).

    Congratulations on your launch. You guys have obviously taken your music to a high level, but it's not typical music in any way. There is always a surprise or two coming around the bend, whether it be a change of rhythm, or an unanticipated chord or yet another phrase of your thoughtful lyrics. Not much need for me to describe your work, of course, since you've provided several links. I recommend that anyone who wants to be dazzled turn up their computer speakers and click on one of the links you've provided.

    Awesome, Hank. Keep us advised as the world is more fully introduced to your art.

  2. When I first heard "From the Ashes" on MySpace I realized instantly that this was an interesting, talented band and I knew that I had to get Hank to let me use "Said and Done" for my documentary. The song jumped out at me, not only because of the lyrics, which suit the story perfectly, but also because of the superb craftsmanship of the piece.

    Over the past few years I have cultivated relationships with up-and-coming musicians in order to build a library of music for my documentaries that doesn't infringe on copyrights. For a no-budget, independent filmmaker, getting permission to use most copyrighted songs is out of the question. It either costs thousands of dollars or your emails and phone calls are ignored.

    With many of the young bands who are hungry for exposure it's a hit-or-miss proposition. A lot of the music just isn't very good. When I heard "Said and Done" and later when Hank gave me the permission to use it I couldn't believe my good fortune! This was no garage band, this was an accomplished group on the brink of big success. What perfect timing! I had found them before lawyers separated them from the ability to make decisions about their own music. (Sorry Erich!)

    Thanks again to Hank and the band for their generosity. Your song is truly the emotional centerpiece of my documentary and I predict it will be the first breakout hit of the CD. I couldn't have pulled this off without your help. I hope I can return the favor by helping to promote your music as I promote my DVD!

    Mike

  3. Danny says:

    Hank, I just gave the songs a tumble and I say kudos! Great solid harmonies, energetic stuff!

    Hope you guys go all the way.

  4. Alison says:

    Oh, this is the kind of music I miss! We had finally found an alternative station we liked, and the owners turned it pop. I've heard nothing but tunes I already had, and a few of my daughter's discoveries since then. Now I can be the one who found something new! Thank you!

  5. Hank says:

    Thanks guys, it's very encouraging to hear such things! We worked intensely on writing these songs and making this record and it's a great payoff to hear such positive reactions.

    I hope we're able to build on the positivity we hear and generate a bit of publicity for the record – compared to getting people to hear it and buy it, all those exhausting days in the studio recording, arranging and even writing new bits were a walk in the park!

    Mike, we were happy to let you use the song and I'm glad you like it so much – it's an honour that it's such a focus point of the film too! I really hope we can help each other out. As far as gettin' lawyered up, we paid for this album ourselves and so had complete creative control – we hope to continue having such control over both what we sound like and where our songs go!

    PS if any of you have iTunes, we'd love it if you could leave a review or rate the album. It'd help us out a lot and we'd really appreciate it (I'm not sure if you have to buy the stuff to be able to do that though).

  6. Alison: One of the reasons I feel sure that FTA will go far is that as I was sitting at my computer enjoying the sample MP3s that Hank had emailed me, my 18 year old daughter was walking through the room and stopped.

    "What's that?", she asked.

    "It's the band of a friend of mine"

    "It's good!"

    She stood for a few moments and then went back in her room. Within minutes she had tapped into my iTunes through our wireless network and was listening to Said and Done on her own.

    It's a good sign when music crosses generations that way!

    Hank wrote: "…we hope to continue having such control over both what we sound like and where our songs go!"

    That is the new way of doing business, is it not? I hope it continues because it can only mean a healthier, more vibrant and diverse musical landscape for all of us!!

    • Erich Vieth says:

      I'd like to think that FTA will do well because of what was mentioned on its MySpace page: The music of FTA is top notch–you won't hear many garage bands even attempting it. It offers dynamic energy with lots of surprises, yet the music also retains a well defined sense of melody. I would add that I am really impressed with Hank's intense and thoughtful lyrics, all of which tell memorable stories. Truly powerful poetry. I wish I could say that I didn't actually know Hank when giving this review so that people wouldn't rack it up to the bias of friendship.

  7. Erich Vieth says:

    Hank: Have you made the written versions of your lyrics available anywhere yet? Is that something that you would allow me to do at this site?

  8. Hank says:

    Mike, I'm very glad "the kids" are digging our vibe!

    Using the obvious, recent examples of the latest albums from Radiohead and Nine Inch Nails, bands certainly are becoming more conscious of doing things their way. The old way of making a pittance on each record sale is going the way of the dodo, thanks to improvements in home recording hardware & software (my first two bands' EPs were homemade) as well as the relative ease of self-funding a professional recording. The hurdles of publicity and distribution still remain (and are really only a matter of cash) but the old cliche of needing to attract a label only to get screwed is becoming more and more a distant memory as the balance of power shifts. Of course with a popular, established band like Radiohead, it's easy to go out and make your own record your own way, but unknown bands are starting to realise their power is increasing and that's very encouraging.

    Erich, what I think I'll do is post the lyrics on our myspace and facebook pages. I've been meaning to do it for a while actually – thanks for the reminder!

    • Erich Vieth says:

      Hank: Thanks for posting your lyrics. In response to Mike's question, I rarely notice lyrics, even when I perform a tune. It's usually rather rote–a means to provide a melody. When I heard your music, I didn't pay attention to the lyrics, but rather to the tone and the energy of your voice and the execution of the vocal notes. That's the way it usually is for me regarding most music.

      You had taken the time to send my your lyrics a few months ago, however, and I found them to be unusually compelling. You often don't tell simple stories–quite often you challenge your audience. I'm glad you're willing to post the lyrics so that other people who don't usually zero in on the story behind the songs can have a better opportunity to do so.

  9. Hank, it's the same with my no-budget, homemade documentaries! It's a trade-off. You have complete control, but you also have to do the promotion and distribution yourself. It's difficult for sure, but before the internet it would have been impossible. It's really a miracle. I know for a fact that I wouldn't be doing what I'm doing if not for digital technology and the internet.

    Bands like Radiohead do have the advantage of already being established. It's still tough to get your foot in the door and get name recognition, but I do think that quality will win out in the end.

    Without the filter of the record companies anyone with a computer can advertise themselves. It's no longer only the "chosen ones" that get to be promoted. Of course with this comes a lot of garbage but I still think that quality counts. Now that I think about it, it's kind of like natural selection in a way, with each artist vying for the public's attention the way organisms battle for territory and food. The best art will rise to the top, I am sure of that.

  10. Question for everyone:

    Erich's request for FTA lyrics made me wonder…What do all of you notice first when listening to a pop or rock song? Are the lyrics or the music more important to you the first time you hear a song?

    For me it's the music. It has to be layered, complex and harmoncially interesting. Only after a few listens do the meaning of the words begin to seep through and I often find myself a bit startled. "So THAT'S what that song is about!" I attribute that to the fact that my first love was instrumental classical music. If the musicality isn't there I won't care about the words.

  11. Alison says:

    Definitely update the facebook. It has become far more popular among the kids I know than anything else, and I'll definitely become a fan and spread the word.

  12. Hank says:

    Thanks Alison!

    For the next seven days we're hosting the entire album at our myspace page (the link's in the post). Have a good listen to everything and see what you think – try before you buy!

    Really glad you like the lyrics Erich. It's really nice to know they're appreciated!

    To answer Mike's question, it's always the melody and execution of a song that grabs me straight away: I zero in on the mood & melody of the music and the quality and honesty of the singing (which is why perfectly, clinically produced pop stars annoy me no end – no believability, just polish). Also, more and more these days I find myself concentrating on drummers once I've absorbed what the guitars and vocals do (thanks to people like Stuart Copeland from The Police, Carter Beauford from the Dave Matthews Band and Thomas Pridgen from The Mars Volta). Lyrics are usually an afterthought – most of the time I'm content with being able to sing along to bits that I can make out and fake the rest or sing the guitar parts (although with Radiohead lyrics I'm always interested in learning them all).

  13. I thought that some of you might want to see the first trailer from my new doc. (Hank isn't the only shameless self-promoter on DI!)

    This clip does NOT use Hank's music, we are saving that one for later in the promotion process. But it does hint at the emotional aspect of the film that FTA complimented so well with their song.

    http://www

  14. Tim Hogan says:

    Hank, I swear to God!

    My daughter walked behind me as I played your music, and said; "Hey, that's cool!" She was right. She has a couple of iTunes cards and maybe we'll have it permanently. It's $9.99, right?

  15. Hank says:

    Thanks Tim (and to your daughter), that's great to hear.

    I believe it is indeed $9.99 at the US iTunes store. A dead-set bargain 🙂

    We'd appreciate a review/rating if you can spare a minute (and if you like the stuff of course!) – we're trying to lift our profile in search results and charts.

  16. Driving to work this morning From the Ashes BLASTING from my car stereo and I realized something and hadn't noticed before. There's not a hint of an Aussie accent in the vocals! Hank, is that intentional?

  17. Hank says:

    Really? I hadn't noticed to tell you the truth. I tried to just sound like me and be a bit accent-neutral (many of my countrymen & UK comrades sound more American than some American singers – I thought The Rolling Stones were from 'the south' for years …).

    The thing is, when you're rounding or lengthening vowels to fit your melody and phrasing it can be hard to retain your speaking accent. Some parts of the album certainly sound more American-ish than others, but then again I've probably heard every note on it more than anyone else on Earth…

    Awesome that you were blasting it 🙂 Hope you didn't scare anyone on the street.

  18. Hank wrote: "Hope you didn’t scare anyone on the street."

    Only when I started playing air drums on my steering wheel and swerved into oncoming traffic.

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