In early 2016 I rented a room above a gallery and studio space in North Fitzroy, Melbourne. This bohemian paradise, fondly named Empty Gallery, was at the time the home and workspace for infamous Australian music photographer Glen Wilkie. Glen and I had met when we worked together on a series of portraits for one of my music projects and for a brief 6 month period we shared this house of creativity and chaos.
It wasn’t uncommon to arrive home to a house full of Australian and International artists and musicians socialising and discussing new project ideas or sharing new material. There was always plenty of whiskey and red wine to help the conversations flow. Walking into the house was like walking into a Miyazaki film one day, a Lynch film the next, a Tarkovsky film the next. Whole rooms were sometimes filled with pine branches or blooming tulips. Some days smoke bombs and strobe lights. You never knew what you were going to walk into when you opened the door. It was an incredibly inspiring and creative time.
During this time I made an interactive public intervention piece called Light Conversation which involved 3 umbrellas fitted with LED lighting and speaker systems. They played a vocal composition I had writen much inspired by Brian Eno’s generative composition techniques.
Here is a photo of Light Conversation in action at The Gertrude Street Projection Festival 2016. These brollies were made with the expert assistance of Leon from Wow-Electron.
And here is a sample of the vocal composition to give you an idea of what these dreamy jellyfish sounded like when you stood underneath one.
Amongst all this craziness my favourite times were the evenings when Tommy Spender would come around and the three of us would play iPod DJ and try to out weird each other with obscure tracks. I would play an Aphrodite’s child track, Tommy would play some strange jazz improv thing, Wilk would play a song by one of bob Dylan's ex girlfriends and then round we would go again until the wee hours of the morning.
One night I showed Wilk the recording I had made of I Take This Time and he nearly fell off his chair. He loved Arthur Russell and knew all of his work. He immediately pitched a concept for the cover art with me, a homage image of Arthur wearing a newspaper hat.
Here is the original reference image of Arthur Russell taken by London-born New York based photographer Jeanette Beckman.
When I checked the copyright guidelines for using a recreated image like this I discovered that I needed to seek permission from the original artist. I emailed Jeanette not knowing what to expect but she responded with full support. I was so excited that we were able to not only pay homage to Arthur but also to Jeanette with this release. Jeanette has photographed so many iconic visual artists and musicians throughout her career. Check out her work here.
Working with Wilk on this image and a series of images for my new project has been really fun. He is not just a music photographer but a true artist. I have never met a harder working or more prolific artist in my career. I have no doubt that in many years we will look back on this time and realise that we were part of an incredible moment in Australian music and art history. You can find more of Wilk's work online here.
Next week I will be introducing you to the gorgeous Becki Whitton who mixed and mastered the track. Looking forward to sharing that story with you.