At The Helm

Deciding The Direction Of A Band Is Much Easier When It Is Your Band

School as a youth is designed to prepare you for adult life and how it truly does so is not always initially apparent. There are covert lessons, broadcast on a hidden frequency, that don't become clear until logic steps in later in life. School time spent learning about democracy is perhaps the pupil's greatest delayed eye opener. Teachers speak with great pride about how we live in a nation that gives a voice and vote to everyone and exercising this gift is important and imperative. This immediately seems odd to me since I was not given a choice to what we would be discussing in class and when it was discussed. If we truly lived in a democracy, my vote would have been for a forum on underage drinking, and how to increase it. I am confident that I would be able to lobby enough votes to ratify...

It is not until later in life we realize the problem with a democracy and giving everyone a voice is that no one ever shuts up. High school, national government or anywhere else in life, if you open up the floor, some axewound is going to fuck it up by wasting everyone's time about dog sweaters. Since it is illegal to stab people like this in the throat (so in addition to watching them die, you don't have to listen to them anymore), you eliminate shit like this by having one person in charge. What you are truly voting for, is not for what you believe should be policy, it is to appoint a person that will have the power to tell someone to cram it, and where the crammed item should go. Nowhere is this more necessary than in rock music. Bands need leaders to focus on the business of being a band and to avoid conversations about what colors smell like. Most successful bands have the one person who refused to listen the nonsense about finishing school, instead just tuning into the noise they heard inside their head. The noise became vision, the vision became something called "my band", and "my band" became a carnival ride that went through musicians like disposable lighters. In order to successfully navigate this road, your bandleader needs to have direction, and this direction often starts with the instrument the band catalyst plays. You should quickly realize that Ted Nugent's band would sound different than Scott Weiland's because Nugent plays guitar and Weiland shoots heroin.

Iva Davies is not just the leader and catalyst for the band Icehouse, he also may be the most successful oboe player on the planet. By Davies starting his musical education by learning the oboe in his youth, then parlaying this into a viable rock band, he became the dream example of every middle school music teacher. In hopes of getting people excited about woodwind instruments, a teacher might use this example to inspire; much in the same way singing waiters are reminded the Tony Curtis started his career in that shit job. The truth is that the quota for these rags-to-riches senerios is one and it has been filled-so press on with a different dream. The best an oboe player or singing waiter can hope for is to not get beat up every day on the way home.
The oboe did serve as part of the sonic template for Icehouse, a band with Davies as the centerpiece and only constant member. He used the atmospheric elements of the woodwind section to build layers and texture in his music. The band lived in the aural world between upbeat and melancholy, creating songs that mirrored both the open country and vibrant cities of Davies native Australia. Icehouse's 1983 EP "Fresco" was a 5 song display that attempted to raise the level of exposure in the U.S. "Street Cafe" was a spacious affair that paradoxically attempted to seek a personal connection. The song is a musical document of those ethereal moments, stamped in our minds, that took place somewhere real and tangible enough to cause us to return to the location time and again in order to relive and re-encounter what occurred. Fittingly, Street cafe appeared not only on "Fresco", but
The full album "Primitive Man" as well.

Listen to "Street Cafe"

The Golden Palominos
If you ever wondered why the drum machine never fully replaced the human drummer, you just need to remember that the drummer has weapons. Stationed behind the drum kit you will find a quiver of drumsticks, an arms length away to fire at anyone who dares to disagree. All it takes is 3 or 4 "OUCH! FUCK!" reactions before the drum machine vote get shelved. It also makes sense that a drummer led band would resist an electronic delivery in favor of a more traditional direction. Drummer Anton Fier formed his Golden Palominos to avoid the enchantment with technology, instead focusing on an intertwined emotional premise for each album that featured a rotating set of unique musical members. 1986's "Blast Of Silence" sauntered away from the stadium rock, new wave and hair metal records of the time that seemed to come with their own hair dryer, creating it own space, which eventually became alt-country and Americana music. The Peter Holsapple penned tune "Diamond" emerged as an anti-single drenched in back forty glamour featuring the painfully lush vocals of Syd Straw. "Diamond" moves along sadly, but briskly, carried by a simple depth brought about by a talented group (including T-Bone Burnett and Matthew Sweet) of players. The result is a timeless piece of haunting beauty and synergy.

Listen to "Diamond"


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