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My Friend The Chocolate Cake
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Although My Friend The Chocolate Cake are not Scottish (they're Australian, actually), the music they make really fits in what we call 'rainpop'. Take songs like 'Sirens' or 'Talk About Love', for instance. They can't but remind of the Blue Nile, who David Bridie mentions as one of his musical influences. Also - the interview makes clear - there's more than one Celtic connection...

How much did it take to write and record 'Good Luck'?
Some of the songs had a gestation period of about 2-3 years but in terms of actual studio time, we started in late feb 96 and finished mixing in june.... about 2 weeks recording and 2 weeks mixing..

Do you think that 'Good Luck' is your best record?
Can't compare it to the first which we recorded in a couple of days, but I think we may have been on top of it all a bit more than 'Brood'... whether it's better is for others to judge.

'Good Luck' is almost totally dedicated to the sea. Is it just a metaphor? What is your relationship to the water?
I wouldn't say almost totally but yes there are quite a few. I had a few writing sessions down the Great Ocean Road in Victoria overlooking the Aireys Inlet lighthouse, rough ocean seas, cliffs etc. A very beautiful place, rugged, intense.. I am a piscean but I don't believe in that stuff.

The 'tusitala' is a very fascinating character. What else can you tell me about it?
I spent some time in Western Samoa a few years back where Robert Louis Stevenson lived for a while and was given the tag tusitala. A tusitala is a story teller, a person who carries the stories and mythologies and bears the responsibility of passing them on so that they will not be lost which in a culture with such a strong oral tradition is quite an honoured and important role.This 'Tusitala' idea also has parallels within Papua New Guinean and Aboriginal society. But I guess in the song Lighthouse Keeper,its about passing on stories within a relationship,of needing and wanting to tell stuff, to communicate and share thoughts, songs, politics, colours, ideas whatever.. of keeping it vibrant and alive

What is the 'Kitsch Parade' to you? Who do you refer to exactly?
Circuses not bread.. The conservative government in Victoria and now also the Federal Government in Australia are cutting back quite severely on community services and pumping resources into casinos, the olympic games, statues and museums. Antipodean Thatcherism, parades and chest beating... playing the fiddle whilst rome burns ...economic rationalism over even the smallest hint of compassion... that kind of thing

Personally, I think that 'Talk About Love' is the best track in the album. Does it have a true story behind?
Some of it but it would be too long winded and personal to go into it. Needless to say, when things fuck up horribly, that is the real test of love and commitment...

You talk about sirens. Do they have anything to do with Ulysses?
No altho I think Dubliners is one of my favourite collection of stories.The song is about the 40 degree straight off the desert north wind summer days in Melbourne's summer that can bleed you lifeless... the whole city doesnt sleep, the dogs howl, the sirens wail, and the strangest thoughts run around the cities collective head throughout the whole evening

John Phillips co-wrote some of the songs in the album. What happened to 'Not Drowing Waving'? and to the other members (apart from Helen Mountfort )? How many albums did they release?
Ndw released 8 albums..1 Another Pond 2 The Little Desert 3 Cold and the Crackle 4 Claim 5 Tabaran (together with musicians from Rabaul in Papua New Guinea) 6 Circus (Recorded at Rockfield,Wales) and two film soundtracks 7 Proof and 8 Hammers over the Anvil.The band split or more to the point ,petered out a couple of years ago .As to what the others are doing...John Phillips (the guitarist and co-founding member with meself) and I still work together quite a bit.This year we've done a few soundtracks together... 3 australian films.. 1 What I have Written directed by John Hughes, 2 River Street directed by Tony Mahood and 3 Idiot box directed by David Caesar plus a Sony New York film called The Myth of Fingerprints starring Roy scheider and Julianne Moore and Noah Wylie directed by Bart Freundlich... plus John has programmed loops and grooves for a couple of artists who I have produced... he also married Barry Humphries' daughter and has put on a bit of weight!! Rowan McKinnon (bass) edits Lonely Planet travel books and Russel Bradley (Drummer) has a successful desktop publishing business..

Do you read much poetry? In any case, who are your favourite writer and film director/film?
mmmmm Tim Winton, Patrick White, Nick Hornby, Coen brothers, Yeats, Coppola, Jane Campion, Raymond Carver... gee theres so many

Classical music seems to be very important in your songs (just like the Penguin Cafe Orchestra). What is your relation to classical music and do you feel you owe anything to any band in this sense?
Helen was a trained classical musician from new zealand who had very little rock upbringing... she'd never heard 'Smoke on the Water' until she was 27!!! So, she comes from a contemporary classical perspective and I come from the other way and I have immense respect for her musical vision and her sense of feel as a cellist... the Penguin Cafe were an inspiration at the beginning in the sense that their records seemed very loose, anything goes, the songs just fell away at the end and the instrumentation was largely acoustic... the dark moods and textures of arvo part are also in there somewhere altho for me, The Velvets and Eno and Paul Kelly and Bowie were probably more influential?

It's difficult (especially for us) not to find links to Scottish pop in your songs (i.e. Deacon Blue above all). What is the 'fil rouge' from Australia to Scotland?
My ancestors are from Dundee.. Andrew Carswell is from Glasgow... I guess thats 2 out of 6. I've only been to Dundee once.. seemed a bit lacking somehow. I much prefer the other places in Scotland I have visited... Lochalsh, Oban, New Cumnock!!!, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Easter Road Football Ground... (I wish I was there when Hibs beat Rangers a couple of months ago). There's heaps of Scots in Australia. I guess there are similarities in our attitude to the English, the harsh landscape, being countries that are neither too big or too small... a sense of pervasive irony, the ability to take the piss out of our selves... a lot of people say I sound like the singer from Deacon Blue.. I've liked what I've heard of theirs but I haven't heard much..

What has changed since "Brood"?
New drummer, Greg Patten. NDW has broken up so for Helen and I this is the main potato... the Cake has consolidated as a band... we probably take it a bit more seriously now.. It, not ourselves...

Boring but necessary question: why the name "My Friend the Chocolate Cake"? Does it bring you back to childhood?
We were mucking around, it's the name of a song on an album by an experimental electronic 1982 band called Ya Ya Choral from Sydney... I guess its a bit of a dieting joke

Is that sorrow and pain that comes out of your cello and piano or is just innate melancholy? What do you think is the natural engine of your music?
Both... although I think over a whole gig or album, this melancholy and tension is balanced out by other moods, but I think we do sparse, sad and personal best...

Why did you choose to cover a Magazine song in 'Brood'?
I think the Correct Use of Soap is a bit of a classic... Howard wrote fantastic lyrics, Barry Adamson ain't too bad either and I always wanted to play it... and Helen liked it too altho she'd never heard of them...

Where will the musical road you're walking on bring you to? And where does the 'open road to salvation' lead'?
Who knows... more challenges, other audiences outside of the southern hemisphere, strong songs sounds and albums... as for salvation... no idea.

Off 'The Bagpiper', Jan 1997
©1997 Rainsound * The Scottish Music Club