A Lasting Heritage
by Andrew Stafford
"Fuck I love playing gigs in Brisbane! I'll never forget that
gig either, it was a beauty." David Bridie is raptly recalling
My Friend the Chocolate Cake's last Brisbane appearance. "The audiences
there for some reason have always been fantastic to us, there were a
couple of Not Drowning, Waving gigs we did there which were wild except
for a rather unspectacular performance at the Livid Festival one year.
And that last gig at Van Gogh's [with Chocolate Cake] was a boomer,
things kicked in right from the beginning." He's not kidding. Chocolate
Cake's performance in September was certainly one of the most spirited,
joyous and well-attended shows of last year and were it not for the
fact that the band have been especially flown up to play a wedding at
Noosa the following day (a couple proposed over their last album Brood
- ain't love grand?) they would probably be playing two shows this time
around. As it is, the band are emerging from a brief hibernation. Bridie
has been busy producing Christine Anu's acclaimed debut Stylin
Up, working on an album with ex NDW collaborator John Phillips
and moving house.
Now the band are fresh from rehearsals (where they've been working up
a cover of nothing less that Plastic Bertrand's Ca Plane Pour
Moi for the live set, which apparently "sounds very frenetic
with the strings") and have had a 10-track bonus disc of B-sides,
live tracks and other odds and ends added to the band's successful Brood
album from last year. (Those who already own the album can mail order
the bonus disc for $8, making cheques payable to white Records.) While
Brood concerned itself with urban Australia - about getting away from
it (I've got a plan), protecting it (Throwing it away), growing up and
growing old in it (The Old Years), Bridie's talk of recording a follow
up somewhere out in the country perhaps hints at more pastoral themes.
It's been a constant dualism in Bridie's writing going back to the days of NDW. "We're going to see if we can find a place in the country where we can take a mobile studio for a while, in a place where the environment impacts on the recording," Bridie says. "Studios can be a bit sterile and because some of the people in this band aren't used to studios, like Hope [Csuturos, violin] and the two Andrews [Carswell, mandolin and tin whistle, and Richardson, guitar], they probably play better in less formal environment than a studio; less ‘You're On’, TV lights and all that sort of shit. And Michael Barker [drums] joined the band about two weeks before we were due to go into the studio to record Brood, so with this record he'll be there from the beginnings of the songs' evolution. The first [self-titled] Chocolate Cake record was very accidental, Brood was a bit more planned and now the band's much more settled as a bunch of personalities"
The other constant in Bridie's work is the aforementioned idea of letting
the environment seep into the process of recording. "Sometimes
it's just a good environment to bring the best out of you, you're more
relaxed out bush that you are in town," he says. "With Christine
Anu's work it was a very different thing because we were keen to have
a very strong Torres Strait Islands influence on the record. It was
a cultural thing - we didn't actually record up there but sampling stuff
was an integral part of that record. "It's funny, I remember Cold
and the Crackle, the NDW record which we recorded in this big hall in
country Victoria, I listen to it now and realize that technically it
was a bad mistake because the rooms just weren't right to record in.
Sometimes it can be a bit of a headache, you can be too clever by half."
As for NDW themselves, Bridie says "Oh, we've been dead for quite a while now. I'd personally like to see us put together a compilation of stuff, and do a final bunch of shows. It's just sometimes the energy for these things goes out the door. If you can imagine breaking up with anything after a long period of time, it was an emotional strain and I don't think anyone wanted to come to terms with anything." He does, however, admit to missing his old band. "Now a year after, I'm starting to listen to the records again, which was something I wasn't doing for a while. We were all really disappointed with what happened with Circus, we all put a lot of energy and a lot of effort into that record and it was a bit of a kick in the head for it to go the way it did. There's a lot of things I miss about NDW now. We had a ball with it over the years and we did some great things, we look back now on things like recording Tabaran in Papua New Guinea off our own bat and pulling it off, and some of the live shows that we did in all sorts of venues... there's a lot of great memories and hopefully we've left a heritage that'll be there for a while." MFTCC play this Friday, 30th June at Van Gogh's Earlobe.
June 28, 1995, p16