After formally announcing his new project The Collaborators earlier this year, former TISM member Jack Holt is set to give the new band its live debut this weekend.
Anyone who has considered themselves a fan of Aussie music would likely be aware of Jack Holt’s music, even if they aren’t aware of his name. Having served as a member of TISM from conception to eventual end, Jack’s influence is all over the musical history books.
Having previously released a solo album under his TISM pseudonym in 2003, Jack announced earlier this year that his next venture within the public eye would be that of The Collaborators, a musical outfit borne out of a meeting between himself and prolific Melbourne musician Matt Jeffrey.
Following a crowdfunding campaign to turn their debut album into a reality, this month saw the self-titled debut from The Collaborators released into the world, with a launch show set to take place this weekend at The Gasometer Hotel in Melbourne.
Ahead of the show, we sat down with Jack Holt, fellow ex-TISM member Sean Kelly, and live guitarist Adam Lovering (of T.K. Bollinger & The Cold Hard Ground fame) for a chat about the new record, where it came from, and what’s next for The Collaborators.
Check out ‘Should Have Known Better (A Love Song)’:
Tone Deaf: The Collaborators’ debut album was released earlier this month, what’s the response been like so far?
Jack Holt: All my friends think it’s really good, that’s basically it. I’m starting at ground zero here. Matt and I began formulating and writing two or three years ago, virtually starting from ground zero. The reaction from others, say Neil Rogers of 3RRR, has been good. He likes it and has played a few tracks, and is going to play some more.
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The most pleasing reaction I’ve been getting so far is “great production”. People are saying it sounds great, and that for me is one of the most pleasing things, because really – for me – it’s the craft of working with these guys, it’s the craft of standing in a room and putting it together and playing together.
Adam Lovering: I came into it much like fans did, because I wasn’t on the record, so I’ve come into it, listened to it and said, “I like the songs, these are good songs.” So it was easy for me when Jack asked if I wanted to play it live: the craft is good, the lyrics are good, it does have a bit of a TISM feel in some ways.
JH: Someone else said that to me a while ago, “ooh, you’ve got a few serious love songs on here.” TISM did some very serious songs.
“’40 Years – Then Death’, for example; “All that’s good, all that’s right, everything hot, all that’s tight/Women, men, pubescent girls never again to finger their curls on their heads, so exquisite/Never again to visit the palace of love“, then the chorus is “Forty years of living, then death“, talking about your own mortality and your ability of procreations.
That’s very serious stuff. It doesn’t get any less serious than that. That’s where the music carried that song.
Sean Kelly: When I compare what Jack’s done to what we did many years ago, there’s definitely more actual love songs in there. Well, they’re not so much love songs, but rather songs about loss, actually.
JH: What Matt’s done initially in terms of songwriting, and what I have done to that, is a good example of his morbid songwriting, and my innate want to harmonise and enhance.
It took about two-and-a-half years between first hearing the songs and recording them onto the disc. Matt’s a churner; he does a lot of open mic nights. At one point he said to me, “I don’t want to do this any more. I wrote this song 18 months ago, it’s no longer fresh.”
Matt’s got a book full of songs, and I’ve got a head full of dreams, so we’re both ready to start writing again.
Overall, the reaction to the record has been good. It’s a good sounding record, though it’s going to take a little while for it to get out there, but the reaction has been good. It’s on Bandcamp because it was a cheap and easy way for the album to be heard my people. It’s on iTunes now, and we’re slowly ticking the boxes as we go along.
Check out TISM’s ’40 Years – Then Death’:
Tone Deaf: There was a crowdfunding campaign to help get the album off the ground, how did that end up?
Jack Holt: It did end up well, though it was a struggle right at the end. Typically, I could’ve thought about this a bit more. So as a warning to anyone else who may want to do this sort of thing in the future, maybe pick a crowdfunding website that doesn’t cut you off if you don’t make your goal.
Pozible only puts a reserve on a person’s credit card, and only takes the money once the goal has been reached. If you went with another platform, then you would get that money even if you only get a certain part of the way.
I have stuck my neck out for this project. A while ago a friend of mine said, “you’re here, you’ve got the tools, you’ve got to have a crack. If you don’t have a crack, it’s waste of abilities and everybody’s time.” I had to push the crowdfunding just a little bit over the line myself, and I’m happy to admit that, because it shows just how committed to the thing that I am.
Much more importantly to me, no matter what I’m doing in this process – whether its being driven in by running Facebook, a Pozible campaign, or by trying to work on the recording and mastering – I just feel good, and that’s why I really want to do it, and Matt does too.
Adam Lovering: It’s pretty obvious walking into the rehearsal room that you guys are really up for it.
JH: It just feels really good, and I’ve always been that way, every time I play live or rehearse, I just come out feeling 100%. It’s therapy, it’s therapy that I need. It’s just something that I really know that I have to do.
Check out ‘Just Like Before’:
Tone Deaf: You previously noted that your composition of songs was more of an organic process rather than a desire to achieve a certain sound. That said, did anything particularly influence their composition in the end?
Jack Holt: There were a couple of cues from a couple of songs where I’d add some instrumentation or add a layer and say, “ooh, that sounds a little bit like…” But that’s just the mechanics of music, and the harmonies used.
There was one moment in ‘Just Like Before’ where I was doing the strings and some of them approached a sound used in a Massive Attack song and I said “ooh, ah”. The vocal stuff is pretty much experimentation until I find a thread and then go down that thread.
But when I’m working with something, say Matt’s ideas, I generally know exactly where I want to be. I know what I want. I’ll never go to the studio and look for something. I’ll look for something when I’m lying in bed, half-asleep, or meandering through my brain.
There has been a lot of cues, but there hasn’t been a lot of stuff that I’ve thought to myself “this sounds like my favourite musicians,” because maybe it’s not as good as my favourite musicians. if it was as good as my favourite musicians, it would be approaching Frank Zappa or Captain Beefheart, but you know, they’re clearly mad, and I can’t approach that.
But then again, this is Matt’s material too, and I’m working in the framework of his ideas.
Like with all these projects, you aim for something in mixing. Mastering’s another thing, but you aim for something in mixing where you want to create this impression, and I’m reasonably close on all of them. But I’m not spot-on. I could go and remix this album all again. I could sit down with the engineers Jimi Lloyd-Wyatt and David Kerven, and remix it all again.
Check out ‘Polystyrene Man’:
Tone Deaf: Likewise, is there anyway you would particularly describe the type of music on the record?
Jack Holt: I’m just a – and we all are – a victim of our influences and our directions, but there’s a difference between someone that’s writes something that sounds like someone else and someone that just writes something and sees where it takes them.
Hopefully I’m making something that is slightly less derivative and a victim of influences.
Adam Lovering: I want to say that I believe it is derivative of Jock Cheese in TISM, because there’s no other bass player that would play the bass lines you play in those songs. It’s just Jack, really, so that’s where I get the TISM influence from, you can see a line of where it all came from.
JH: I made a rule in the old days of; “just don’t play anything standard”. Never play anything standard and always find a way to play it differently to the standard.
AL: That’s where I’m coming from, you can see a line from the TISM days because it sounds just like Jack.
JH: I think it’s an interesting meld in that Matt has been producing some pretty interesting lyrical ideas in the body at the moment. He does use a fair amount of common chords and songwriting structure. He’s got the Neil Young about him.
AL: That’s where I see where he’s coming from, I can fit in with him as a guitar player. I can work with Matt quite easily, and then I can see where Jack’s lines come from, and it’s easy to work with.
JH: So I think it’s my job to get in there with a bent monkey wrench and warp it around a bit.
AL: Isn’t that what Matt said, that “I brought these songs to Jack and he fucked them around and put them out like this”? In a nice way.
JH: Matt was the primary lyric writer. He came to me with the songs – literally just acoustic guitar and a voice – and said “do whatever you want with them.” So, I have, and added verses, rewritten lyrics, etc. ‘Hello Breakdown’ came off just that chorus line, “hello breakdown, goodbye day“. But I just thought, “what a line!”
And I came up with this little bass thing that I was going to throw at something else previous to that, which was kind of a bit stoic. And I just thought, “yep, there’s the line, there’s the body of the bass line.” And then off I went, and ended up putting some relatively straightforward chords behind it.
Sean Kelly: I think you’ve got a situation where you’ve got a basic singer/songwriter meets an arranger/producer/session musician. That’s what I found when Jack asked me to come along and lay down the strings. I just thought, “where is this all coming from?”
I understand because I’ve worked with Jack a lot, but after seeing what he’s done, I would bet that these songs sound nothing like what Matt would have envisioned at the start.
JH: A friend of mine said recently said “it’s a painting, and you’ve actually got it finished.” It’s a huge achievement to go from zero to form to finished, and then you frame and it, and it’s done. And I’m very pleased that it’s done.
And I’m very very pleased, just personally, that the opportunity is there to do more playing, and that I get to play with Sean, and Adam, and Venom [Vaughn Lush], our drummer, is just awesome, and Matt, for him to come out of being a solo performer to playing with a full band.
Check out ‘Hello Breakdown’:
Tone Deaf: There’s a release show at the Gasometer on Saturday. How are you feeling about showcasing this new project to the world?
Jack Holt: Way more comfortable than I thought I was. I knew that quite a while ago, although I knew the material pretty well, translating that to getting other people to coming in and doing that…
Adam Lovering: We’ve done the work. We’re in a good spot. I had to learn the material from scratch, getting the tones right was difficult, but in the last week, I’ve really gotten on top of it and gotten it down. We’ve still got a couple of rehearsals to go, but we’ll get on top of it.
Tone Deaf: What does the future hold for The Collaborators? Are you hoping for more shows and records?
Jack Holt: Most definitely want to do more shows, I’m actually looking for an agent at the moment. I’ve talked to a couple of people, and hoping to find someone who wants to book some shows. But the band is sounding really good.
Adam Lovering: We want to gig it, and then do future stuff later this year, next year, whatever.
JH: Absolutely we want to gig it. I do want to sit back for a minute and play this material. It won’t be long before some new material starts coming in, because that would be a nice way to revolve. But, we definitely want to do a whole heap of shows, and we’re just looking for an agent.
So, hello to anyone reading this; we’re currently looking for an agent.
AL: I’m keen to be involved from the start of it, rather than be involved in the end. Which is fine now, but I won’t have to learn or relearn the parts, and I can develop with the parts. It makes it a lot easier.
JH: When people came into this recording project I had a whole lot of things set in stone, but I also opened it up like with Sean and our cello player Digby [Holmes], and basically said, “here are these parts, and what else do you want to do?”
Same with Venom on the drums; rough guidelines. But because I’ve worked with him before and where I want to go… and Dave Downing, with his input, we were basically very close, very on the mark. So, it’s a collaborative thing, but I really want to move forward and do some more shows.
I mean, Matt and I have a list of things that I partly finished but didn’t make it onto this record, so that’s the body of work moving on. Matt’s got another 60 or 70 songs, I’ve got another 15 partly formed, so I’m ecstatic to get out and gig this more.
Check out ‘Second Skin’:
Tone Deaf: Now that the album’s out and you’re about to give it a live debut, is there anything else about the project you’d like the world to know?
Jack Holt: I’d just like to say that I’m doing this out of the compulsion to do something that makes me happy, and that’s what people should be doing out there. Putting their energies into something that makes you feel fulfilled.
I’ve stuck my neck out with this release with my professional life, with my family, with my friends, I’ve asked a lot of people, and people have been amazing in coming across and enjoying where Matt and I have gone so far and liking what we do.
There’s no crystal ball here for me. we’re starting from scratch, and we’ll see where the road takes us. My big thing is that I’m happy to stick my neck out because it’s what I love to do.
The Collaborators’ self-titled debut is out now on Bandcamp. Catch them playing their debut live performance at The Gasometer Hotel in Melbourne this Saturday afternoon, supported by Rhysics and The Tropes.
Check out The Collaborators’ debut album:
The Collaborators Album Launch
With Rhysics and The Tropes
2pm, Saturday, October 26th
The Gasometer Hotel, Collingwood, VIC