Currently finishing his Variations tour, we caught up with Josh Pyke a few weeks ago for a quick chat.
Being the bitter and jaded music journalist that I am, I was all ready to ask some mean questions and try and get him to sound like a cunt. However feeling some remnants of my journalistic ethics compelling me to do some research and listen to the music instead of just taking his success as permission to unleash the unholy fury of underground music on his pop/folk ass, I found myself lightening up a bit listening to his music.
It might not be my thing but I tell you what, it made an impact, and considering how many CDs wash over my fortified senses only to break on my acid ears in futility that probably means it’s good. That or I had a momentary surge of serotonin, dopamine, adrenaline or testosterone in response to his dreamy voice and objectivity went out the window… I’m such a slut.
Music Feeds: So first off, you covered Wuthering Heights for No Man’s Woman. What an amazing song, what made you choose it?
Josh Pyke: Being a bit if a nerd, I loved the book before i loved the song, but when i eventually saw Kate Bush swaying those crazy hips, and waving her arms like a tree in a stiff wind, i fell in love with the song too. I think she really captured the unencumbered emotional turmoil of the story in her song. I kind of wanted to represent the subdued, repressed, frustrated element to the turmoil in my version.
MF: Would you ever indulge in some Kate Bush-esque dancing in one of your videos? I’d buy that for a dollar
JP: I’d also buy that for a dollar. I definitely have done my share of stupid things in film clips though. I’ve always wanted to re-create that Springsteen clip where he pulls Courtney Cox from the crowd and onto stage and does rad 80’s dancing with her….but then i heard that Shannon Noll has done a clip similar to that. So I’m out.
MF: You started performing at a very young age, at that time what was it that made you want to play as opposed to doing the stupid and dangerous things kids usually do?
JP: It was a bit of a calling really. Once I’d done my first gig in a band, I was simply hooked. I was bad at sports, pretty lazy academically, very bad with girls, but playing music was something that just came naturally and that I seemed to be good at, and it just felt so good to play songs with your friends on a stage or in a lounge room, or busking at the markets. Playing music never really stopped me from doing the stupid and dangerous things kids do anyway, but I do think it kept me interested enough in one thing that it kept me out of serious trouble.
MF: Was there ever any pressure from your parents?
JP: There was never any pressure from my folks one way of the other, but they were very encouraging, so I never felt like I had to become a crazy punk rebel in order to pursue my musical ambitions.
MF: You have a tour coming up, what can we expect from the show? Band, solo?
JP: Every time I do a tour I have people telling me they like it better when I play solo, or that they love it when I play with a band etc etc. So I figured on this tour I’d try to cover all bases, and play a solo set, and then a kind stripped back set, with some different organic/acoustic instrumentation, and then do a full band set too. I just wanted to express these songs in a variety of different ways as the last thing I do for this record. Hence the Variations title of the tour. It’s gonna be great to play my own songs again as opposed to the White Album, so I’m very excited about it!
MF: A lot of bands thrive on touring, with it’s excitement fueling their creativity, how does it affect you creatively if at all? Do you ever write on tour?
JP: I always write on tour. In fact I would say I write more on tour than at home. It’s a stimulating, and inspirational vibe on the road. You’re always kinda excited, you’re always seeing new things, meeting new people, you’re tired, you miss home, you’re also kinda in a bubble where you don’t need to worry about paying the phone bill or doing the groceries. For me it’s always been a good time to write, or at least to try a few new ideas at sound check, which is also a great time to write.
MF: What are you like on tour after a big show, booze and broads or tea and biscuits and bed by 12?
JP: I would say that any normal dude that is offered the chance to get up late every day and is given a very large bucket of booze every night will occasionally succumb to the temptations that are there, but I also have a healthy respect and understanding that my main responsibility is to put on a good show every night. You just need to figure out what your limits are, and whilst it may have taken a while for me to do that, I think I have now.
MF: Your music is very intimate how do you approach trying to recreate that in a large venue?
JP: I think that people’s connection to the songs always create an intimate feel no matter what the venue is. When the whole crowd is singing along, it’s a very amazing, and quite connected (for lack of a better word) feeling. I just play the songs, and let the songs create whatever vibe they take on on any given night. There is definitely something very intimate about playing a song with just a guitar to accompany you in front if a big crowd. In some way I find that to be more of a revealing feeling than in a small room.
MF: You’ve got a relatively new album out, Chimney’s Afire, how does it reflect on your evolution as an artist in your eyes?
JP: I honestly don’t know what to say about any of my music, except to say that i never set out to do anything in particular, and when i try to analyse the success or failings of any song i just find I confuse myself, and make myself anxious about whether or not i’ll ever write another good song again!
MF: It’s been very well received by radio and the fans, aside from the obvious music merits of the album would you say’s it’s more accessible that your earlier work?
JP: I reckon maybe some of the songs are more confessional, so maybe some people reacted to that more strongly? I think some songs are more upbeat, so perhaps some people found that more accessible.
MF: Do you think more people having heard about you since helped as well?
JP: I think you’re right to say that in general as a musician who has done two records and a mini-album, I think that a lot more people knew who I was this time, and that always helps. I always feel like I’m being a bit of a dick, and a bit unhelpful when I say this, but I really, truly cannot be objective about my own music, so I find it’s all second guessing myself when i try to figure out the answers to these sorts of questions.
MF: Do you have any guilty musical pleasures you can let us in on? Like Wham! or maybe Tears For Fears or something?
JP: Enya? I don;t know why. I also love Foreigner. Well, i love one song of theirs, More than a Feeling….apart from that I’m not too embarrassed about any of my music tastes. I stand by the Doobie Brothers, and the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band!
MF: You started out playing in a band then focused on solo stuff, why? How are the two different in terms of creativity to you? Do you enjoy discourse and input or do you thrive on isolation?
JP: Being in a band was awesome, and i basically learned everything I know about song writing and how to deal with people from that experience, but in the end the band fell apart, and I wanted to try something that I would only be able to blame myself for if it all went wrong. I just wanted to know that if I got somewhere it was my own merits that would get me there, and I wouldn’t be hanging on anyone’s coat tails, or dragging anyone else down either.
MF: Would you ever want to play as part of a band rather than a solo artist again?
JP: I would definitely join a band again, and in fact I have done some collaborations with some Perth musicians that may see the light of day some time. I would love to be in a pretty angular, indie rock band again, but at the moment, it’s hard enough to find time to scratch myself!
MF: Nice, you have a reputation for being a very nice guy amongst journalists, and I feel like I’ve missed the chance to find out, is it true or is all lies? You can tell me if you’re a secret asshole.
JP: I would say I am often mis-understood in that regard. I am incredibly sarcastic, but i think sometimes that gets lost in interviews. For example I may say sarcastically, “Wow, great question, I am LOVING this interview,” but I will be being totally sarcastic and total ass hole, but somehow it always gets translated as me being a nice, appreciative guy. Frankly you can all go and crawl into a fucking hole and die. Just kidding, I’m a pretty polite kid.
MF: What’s next other than the tour? Any plans to record any new material?
JP: I’m gonna start to Demo in October, and am looking around at various US producers to go do the next record. I want work with a producer again for this one, and i really want to try a new sound, possibly more of a full band sound. Apart from that I’m just going to enjoy the ensuing summer and take a break!
He played in Sydney a week or so ago, so if you missed him, I’m sorry I took so long writing this, and Josh if you’re reading this, I’m sorry too. Anyway check out Chimney’s Afire and for more information visit http://www.myspace.com/joshpyke