King Curly: An Explanation.
“King Curly” was born of the desire to right wrongs and to punish evil. In that respect, his spiritual forefathers are Robin Hood, Batman, Moses etc. When I first conceived the character - in the songs “King Curly” and “Curly and Sue” – Evil was enjoying a stronger-than-usual stranglehold on the world and I was working in the public service. King Curly was a drab little man in a drab little job – circumstances curiously similar to my own. But unlike me, King Curly had a dangerous and wonderful secret: on his R.D.O’s he was raising an army of outsiders – lepers, failed artists, amputees, frustrated adult film producers and marginalised school bullies to set right the many wrongs of the world.
A decade down the track, and as far as I know, King Curly is yet to chart anywhere. He hasn’t been invited (or even nominated) to an awards night either - and I’m reasonably confident he would do badly if he ever competed on ‘Australian Idol’. And yet King Curly records have found their way into people’s houses all over the big wide world and folks sing along at shows.
Like other artists, I’ve grown used to the feeling of operating in an alternative dimension that runs parallel to the one shown in mass media. For some time now the word on the street has been that the music industry is bloated and about to pop itself, and that cockroaches like me will have our day. I find that exciting and strangely in keeping with the original King Curly fantasy but Im still waiting for that happy day.
King Curly has become a Lost Dog’s Home for all those bum-notes digitally shifted out of existence, a safe haven where the awkward and the ugly lie down with the beautiful and the damned. But let’s not get too carried away - King Curly was never intended as anything but a half-baked expression of myself and the people who play in it.
Here’s a brief précis of the many incarnations of King Curly:
In the beginning Greg J Walker (now of Machine Translations) and I worked together in his little shack by the sea to record the original ‘Familyman’ series of songs. We were both very sure of our genius and smugly heckled just about everyone from a safe distance. I was also recording some of these early tunes with Brendan Gallagher (Karma County) at his home in Bondi at the time. Elmo Reed and Jon Nix were solid as Incan pyramids throughout this period; multi instrumentalists with music stamped into their DNA. Greg is now rightly feted by the industry as a gun producer, Jon’s skills as an animator are much in demand and Mr Reed is currently the world’s best guitarist. He also finds time to occasionally pen books about Intelligent Design and lords it over the world as a Doctor of Philosophy.
Two years later the songs that became ‘Lullaby’ marked my defection from Sydney. They were recorded in a single run at a local school hall near where I now live in the Blue Mountains. ‘Lullaby’ sounds different to what I had done before because I had played a good deal of live shows and was keen to capture that spontaneity. I’m very proud of “Lullaby”, and the distinctive sound we were able to briefly hold. The album featured just myself, Elmo and Ritchie Bray on drums. I can offer no explanation for the weird dreamy feel of that record except that it was a time and a place, I suppose.
Then, in collaboration with my friend and brilliant underground Sydney writer Dan Creighton “Doomsday Piano” came to be - featuring a boot-camp of academy trained musicians; John Hibbard and the Uncanny Hauptmann Triplets Zoe, Ben & James – all intentionally hobbled by instruments made from fencing wire, driftwood and iron. It’s a sinewy taut motherfucker of an album if I don't say so myself.
Which leads us now to the release of 'The Fall & Rise'. A consolidation project featuring a collection of new and old songs as well as some remixes - all guided by the fickle tastes of the fans who know the music and sent their requests via the web.
Prognosis for the future: that’s a hard one. While making Night Parrots, I sensed a hardening of the arteries and a thickening of fatty tissue around the soul that I worry might be the beginning of the end. The other night, as I prowled about the house turning off lights – I realised I was no longer scared of the dark. On the contrary: it was somehow comforting – and I wondered if I’d become the very thing I used to fear lurked there.
But I have been known to overdramatise - and for the record, it must be noted that recent years have unexpectedly blessed me with a beautiful young family, plus six chickens and as much pie as I can eat - It would be a sin to complain.