Michael Carpenter

  Michael Carpenter

Tell me about the genesis of Redemption#39 and where these personal songs came from.
MC: This record has been around for a while. I started it probably back in 2006. After the second SOOP record, and the Supahip record, I was kinda done for a while, and had no real intention of doing another record for the foreseeable future. I think i was a little disappointed too in my lack of ability to get either of those records heard by an even slightly wider audience, so I was going through a bit of a ‘what’s the point?’ period. I had my hands full with juggling a young family, and a particular career crisis with production works drying up a little at that point, and it all felt a bit dire there for a while. There were a few personal conflicts I was having as well, and ultimately I worked out that a lot of it had to do with a certain element of ‘mid life crisis’. I refused to accept that at the time of course.. assuming fate was plotting against me and that I was having a few bad months. But it was definitely part of a bigger thing that was going on with me, and as it turns out, a few other people around me. It was a general disatisfaction with where I was, what i’d achieved and where I was going.

So the cathartic way for me to deal with that was to write. Sometimes about where I was, with songs like "Workin For A Livin", "Sinking" and "Middle Of Nowhere", and other times about what I saw happening to other people, with songs like "King Of the Scene". And when I had gaps in my schedule I would record them. Stylistically though I was keen to reject any concessions to making these songs commercial or fit into anything. I just wanted to be as blindly self indulgent as I could sonically, hence some of the production choices possibly being a little odd. Ultimately, making those choices, in combination with what I’d written about made the record feel very important to me, and have a purpose. I guess psychological, I felt like I was thumbing my nose at my own personal demons, if that makes sense.

Will you do any more work with the Cuban Heels or another Supahip album?
MC: Yes indeed. The Cuban Heels are booked in for the final session for the album in September. I just need to finish writing the songs. We need to record another 5 songs, and then we’ll have 19 songs or so to pick a neat 10-11 track record out of. I’m very keen for that to be ongoing… I love those guys so much, and I become a very different version of myself as an artist approaching things the way I do with them. As for the Supahip, Mark & I have been wanting to do more for so long. We actually recorded the first track for the new album about 2 years ago. It was a cover of "The Only Living Boy In New York", and it’s fantastic. It’s up on our myspace site. But we’ve been working sporadically on his new record, and because he lives a few hours away, and I’ve been really busy, there just hasn’t been the opportunity. But we will, hopefully later on this year. Rest assured, that also is an ongoing thing. Life just keeps getting in the way!

Will you be doing any touring to support this album? Can we ever expect to see you in America at IPO or another music festival?
MC: I’m slowly being talked into doing a local launch, but there’s no plans to tour at the moment. I would love to get overseas again soon. It’s been way too long. But with 2 young children and a heavy commitment to my studio (and the taxman), it’s just hard to find, and justify, the time. Rock Indiana in Spain are putting the record out too, so there’s some desire to get over there too, which I’d absolutely love, so we’ll see how things pan out. If this sells by the thousands, the situation may be different! 

Is it challenging running your own label (Big Radio) as well as making the music?
MC: Well.. to be honest, there’s nothing much I enjoy about running my own label. It basically means I can’t find anyone else to put my records out! And it’s really hard. Absolutely daunting, and I just don’t have the time or resources to actually be any good at it. But if I don’t do it the records just don’t come out, and that’s kinda unthinkable to me. Not that I need people to hear my records to feel validated, but it is part of the whole creative experience this far into my career. Releasing anything on my own label means to get the basics of getting a record out there I’m doing a lot of REALLY late nights, and it’s certainly the not fun part of putting a record out.

Is the song "King Of The Scene" about someone very specific?
MC: Yes, it is. And no, it’s not me. But it stands to reason, we all know someone who left their partner before they should have for all the wrong reasons.

What guitars do you use — do you have a favorite?
MC: I’m very fortunate to have a job where it’s ok for me to have a good selection of guitars, so I’ve become a collector of sorts. And I see the value of owning really good guitars, as well as some interesting cheap and nasty ones. My favourites are my Gretsch DuoJet, my Epiphone Sorrento and my big favourite, my custom made Grubisa 12 string electric, which is on almost everything I’ve ever done. But my current favourite is a no name Les Paul Jr. that I’ve mutated with a single Rickenbacker Toaster pickup and, of course, a Bigsby tremelo. I also got given a cheapo strat that one of my best friends painted up like George Harrison’s ‘Rocky’ strat. I’ve set that up for slide, and it’s on all the slide on the album.

Are you very critical of yourself when reviewing your work? Do you bounce musical ideas off of anyone else?
MC: I think my self criticism has been tempered and put in a realistic perspective just by experience. I’ve now made a LOT of records, both as an artist and as a producer. So I’m always aware when I can do better, but I’m also not scared to say when i think i’ve done a good job. I quite enjoy a lot of the work I do these days, and am really proud of what I can achieve in the studio. I like hearing what trusted friends think of my work, but I don’t rely on them as I know if what i’m working on measures up to my expectations of it, and tend to push myself pretty well. Of course, I don’t have all the answers, so i’m always learning too. And with this album for example, once i worked out what ‘production style’ I was going for, I was really inspired by the decisions it allowed me to make. It was quite a joyous project, despite it not being the happiest time personally. Maybe that’s partly why it worked so well?

How is the music scene (or power pop scene) in Australia different from the US?
MC: Unfortunately, as far as I can tell, apart from a few little pockets, the powerpop scene is non existent in Australia. Which is personally very sad for me, as I’ve been such a cheerleader for power pop here, often to my detriment. The music scene I imagine is similar to everywhere else. It’s a young person’s game, so it’s hard for a 42 year old man with a family to make anything happen. In fact, I’m pretty sure many more people know of me as a producer here than anything else. My solo career is largely unknown here. So while I play a lot of shows as a sideman, I rarely get the opportunity to do my own shows. I don’t really even have a plan to get this new record out here, the opportunities for airplay and press are REALLY slim, so I’m relying on some word of mouth to spill back from overseas as reviews and talk starts up about the record, and hope I can leverage that into something. The internet IS really helpful from that point of view, and it’s a nice validation that people around the world who are hearing what I’m doing are responding so well to it. Anyway, I’m slowly putting a plan together to properly ‘release’ it in the next few months, and see what happens. But there is a fear that it’s a bit like ‘pissing into the wind..’

Is there an artist down under that you really like, who’s not getting any proper recognition here in the US? Who would you recommend?
MC: Oh.. so many. I’m obviously partial to some of the artists I’ve worked with, so a few I’d mention are the amazing Russell Crawford, who also plays drums in the Cuban Heels. He has a solo record coming out soon that’s amazing. I’m working with a local legend called Perry Keyes who writes very Sydney-centric songs, but I think his appeal could be broad. Then you have old war horses like the amazing Chuck Jenkins from Ice Cream Hands, who continues to put out great records. So, lots of great talented people, just waiting for people to find them!

Thanks for the interview, looking forward to the next album, Michael!

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