Manus Island Riot

Today’s song post features a nine minute story, five vocalists, three instrumental solos. It’s a musical documentary about the riot at Manus Island Detention Centre on February 17 2014 in which a 23 year old Iranian man, Reza Barati, was killed. The man below lost his eye.

The original inspiration for the song came from this article describing the farcical scenes of a senate inquiry into the riots.
The singers play several of the people involved in the running of the detention centre at the time and are sung by Lachlan Denton (The Ocean Party), Helena Plazzer, Scott Garred (Super XX Man), Saul Jarvey, Peter Joseph Head and Evan Meagher (Actor Buddhists) as the inquisitor. Lehmann B. Smith plays bass, Jonathan Mendelovits plays drums and Taran Carter plays saxophone. I played Farfisa, glockenspiel and guitar.

If you think people being detained in conditions that lead to people being killed and maimed is no good, maybe start by looking at this GetUp website of pictures drawn by detainees at Manus Island:
and signing their campaign here.

Also check out Refugee Action Collective here.

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たゆたうと連絡とツアーとか。One Meeting, One Chance. How Tayutau took Melbourne.


My friend Matsu is a Melbourne-Inner-North-Japanese-Style-Doyen-Purveyor-of-Urban-Wabi-Sabi.

Matsu Sits

 He likes to wear beanies year round. He is a master in the creation of the evocative Microsoft Word sign that both pulls at the heart strings and delivers a gentle moral nudge in the right direction.


He is the owner of the Johnston St. 2nd hand clothing Zakkaya cum sly community hub Ura.

URA courtyard trendies.

URA courtyard trendies praying to shadowy indie Goddess.

Earlier this year he told me he had fallen for a band on the internet. Called Tayutau. They were from Japan’s ancient capital of temples, tea and Nintendo, Kyoto.

He said he was putting together a scratch band of local musicians and asked if I wanted to play cello.  He streamed me a sample of their music through retro, wooden, tweed fronted speakers wired up to his slightly grimy white macbook while we slugged back dainty cups of misty green sencha.

Tayutau have the best promo photo ever.


Tayutau melt into a mystical steaming promo broth.


I vaguely registered the folk music as we chatted. I blasely committed myself to the project.The rest, as they say, is historically inaccurate. But let’s persist.

The plan was to do five or six shows all in Melbourne in the space of a couple of weeks. I thought it was weird and risky to come all that way to play that many shows in just one city. I put it all to the back of my mind for a month or two.

When the sheet music came through I went back to the tracks. Shit. I had been thinking it was three chords and the truth in Japanese. I hadn’t counted on this pulsating tangle of mutating rhythms. The first drumming candidate dropped his sticks and was out within days. I resorted to making my own short hand versions of the music.

Tayutau sheet music

Whatever gets you through the five or six nights.

Luckily the scratch band was a crack team of haggard and virile music warrior veterans and next big thing-a-me-bobs. The air in the rehearsal room sang and crackled and hummed. We were onto something.

First rehearsal.

First rehearsal. Note musical cheat sheet.

And I needn’t have worried about crowds. Rather than unraveling like a ball of string they gradually built with each night like strands into a jumper.


This one is the Some Velvet Morning show. Packed houses implied in omission.

I needed to siphon off a bit of these good feelings for myself. I hatched a plot to get Tayutau and whoever else I could over to my house to record a song.

In truth, I had been scheming for a while. I even had a song ready to go a little Tayutau collabo. Here’s one I prepared earlier. One of my growing handful of songs in Japanese.

It’s weird writing lyrics in a non-native tongue. You’re never quite sure if they’re any good. Last week’s blog post had a song written by Maudita in Spanish. I notice a not insignificant number of people in Japan choose to write in English. How about Jens Leckman writing all his lyrical witticisms in his non-native English? How do they do it?  Or Jonathan Richman’s Spanish and other foreign language songs? Even Tom Waits throws in a line of this and that here and there. Do they know if their songs are good?

My one is called Renraku 連絡, meaning “make contact”. It’s a Frankenstein conglomeration of a few different stories massaged into one that aims to tell the story of dead love.

Study Notes

Study Notes Exhibit A

Tayutau’s song is an abstract homage to nature that twists the participles and subject object pairings so that salmon are climbed and the housese come home.

Study notes exhibit B.

Study notes exhibit B.

For the day of the recording, stars aligned for Akiko & Hiroko from Tayutau, Becky from Sui Zhen, and Matthew Watson from Other Places to come round to Sunroom Studios to make some magic happen.

In the Sunroom.

ワイワイ ワンマイク祭りだ
Havin’ fun in the Sunroom.

SBS radio.

If only SBS radio had an affiliate links program.

Here’s a somewhat spooky instagram clip of us with headphones on fooling around.

Becky and Hiroko belted out Renraku’s vocals into a single mic Andrews Sisters style along with the band. They threw in some call and response hollers and turned a break up song into a Ryukyuian party anthem.

Sui Promo Shot

Sui Zhenの写真を心理学的に分析したらいかがですか。
Sui Zhen also has the greatest promo shot in the world and with a fish.

それでこの写真と科学的比較して結果を出してください。 Here's what she looks like at Ura in a rare non fish shot.

Here’s what she looks like at Ura in a rare non fish shot.

After bowling over “Renraku” in the morning Becky and Matthew had to leave. But the Japanese contingent was still on the job. They were clearly excited and energised by their first encounter with Hummus at lunch.
So we channeled this latent chick pea charge into song. The afternoon yielded Kitsutsuki no uta (Woodpecker song).

笑顔 Not only did Tayutau experience Hummus for the first time they also had their first pub meal in Melbourne. Talk about your culinary cherry poppings.

Not only did Tayutau experience Hummus for the first time they also had their first pub meal in Melbourne. Talk about your culinary cherry poppings.

What a day of firsts, lasts and onlys. Ichi go Ichi E. One meeting, one chance.

It must be noted that Matthew Watson managed to keep his mug out of most of the photos of the whole trip. We do however have a record of how it looked from his angle due to this sneaky mid performance shot he took of me from behind his kit. Perhaps it sums up the vibe of the whole tour.

Mat eye view of Peter

A Matt’s eye view. Educational photography for young drummers.

なぜか日本人とアジア系は下 Team Tayutau.

Team Tayutau. Note uncomfortable male backline and subtle use of Instagram filters.
Left to right back to front: Matsu, Matt, Pj, Dan, Nick, Matsu, Akiko, Hiroko, Sayako, Becky

Watch footage of Tayutau in Melbourne here:

!!!Peter will be touring Japan in October & November!!!

Oct. 24 Yokohama – Galaxy
Oct. 25 Akasaka – The Earl Sandwich Bar
Oct. 26 Tokyo – 晴れたら空に豆をまいて
Oct. 27 Nagoya – Kakuozan Larderz
Oct. 28 Matsumoto – Give Me Little More
Oct. 30 Miyazaki – Bistro Orench
Nov. 2 Kyoto – Urban Guild
Nov. 3 Osaka – Tabimogura Cafe
Nov. 4 Tokyo – Muu Muu Cafe

If you would like to have a link to a download for the mp3 of this song and other song-a-week-club songs sent to you wack your details in the box below!


Lehmann, Maudita & the Death of the Myspace Revolution


Lehmann & choir including Maudita, sitting between Marty & Liz, in front of retro keyboard contraption.


I remember making a bad joke at a gig about how my wife still had Tom in her Myspace top 8. I was playing at the Old Bar, the Fitzroy pub with the long thin room and the Andy Warhol style pictures of Elvis above the fireplace with the mixing desk mounted to the wall next to the stage which you had to attend to between rock star riffs and scintillating stage antics.

If you’re too young or too old to remember the Myspace Revolution, you wouldn’t know that Tom was the mythical Patriarch-God-Head-Company-Ceo-Dot-Com-Guru-Prophet magically beamed out to a generation as their first primordial social network friend.

I was trying to be topical and the audience smelt a rat. My joke fell flat at the pub.
But online, for a brief span of years in the mid to late noughties, who was in your top eight was an important thing. A badge. Something you wore and narrowcast to others. And used as a bargaining tool for gaining & exchanging social kudos.
Myspace was all about the top 8. You don’t get that on Facebook. Or on Twitter. Or not really even on Myspace properly anymore. Oh the 8’s nostalgia.

Maudita Top 8

Maudita Top 8

Myspace was fucking huge. It was the online mother ship, the Titanic that could never be sunk. I remember listening to a couple of my muso friends talking shop around the time.

“oh so you’re touring the country…how did you organise it?”

“Myspace Revolution”

And it was revolutionary. For a brief moment every band in the universe existed in single templated page with the play button in a standard place. Anyone who had any connection to music, and a large proportion of people that didn’t, was suddenly accessible by a single send message button.

But, somehow Myspace, for reasons that noone can adequately articulate, imploded in on itself around the start of the teenies. Or, more accurately, hollowed itself out. It became the victim of a crisis of confidence. There was a run on the bank. Someone moved the railroad to the neighbouring town and everyone just loaded up their horse and cart and set out on the road to Facebook. Myspace became the first bonafide online ghost metropolis to sink deep deep down into the vast information ocean.

The only silver lining at the time seemed to be that Rupert Murdoch had bought the whole operation only months earlier and seemed set to lose himself billions of bucks.
And yet, the ripples from the great hulking atlantis travel out across days and across years, across bits and across bites to lap up on our shores. Every now and then wayward digital artifacts drift along to remind us of the great civilisation that once was.
Lehmann B. Smith singing Maude Farrugia’s “Singing Tree” is one of those ripples.
“I somehow found Maudita on myspace in 2008 and we fast became myspace friends”, explains Lehmann. “Out of the three songs she had on there, I became obsessed with “The Singing Tree”. It used to frustrate me that I couldn’t sing it cause of the Spanish. All I could discern was “silencio” and so would sing gibberish either side of the word. Now I have the lyrics. The gibberish remains.”

“Singing Tree” is one of several Spanish language songs that Maudita used to play around town at the time. She followed love to South America as a young girl and fell in love with the region and the language at the same time that she fell out of love with the boy that brought her there.


Maudita on Myspace


The number of people that somehow found each other through the Myspace Revolution at the time would astound the casual Facebook native sophisticate of today. “Somehow found each other” happened a lot. Occasionally little flowers bloomed.

Lehmann & Maudita have collaborated several times in the years since. Maudita was a member of the legendary Lehmann B. Smith Choir that was kicking around at the time of his trade mark darkly tongue in cheek Girlfriends album of a couple of years back.

Lehmann Girlfriends

Lehmann Girlfriends album cover

Lehmann & Maude

Lehmann & Choir. Maudita 1st right of drummer

“Recording started last summer, originally done to put out with another cover, and it was resumed a few weeks ago”, says Lehmann. “Zachary Schneider (Totally Mild) plays bass and Lachlan Denton (The Ocean Party) plays drumkit”.

For my own part, I definitely did a lot of communicating with both Lehmann & Maudita over myspace. I’ve also had the pleasure of hanging out with them both in the country. Here’s a couple of shots from my private collection:

Maude Country

Country Maudita looks like this

Lehmann Shooter

Country Lehmann looks like this

I know which one I’d rather run into in a dark pastoral valley. Or, for that matter, in a shadowy digital social media ghost town.

If you would like to connect with Lehmann or Maudita, why not send them a Myspace message? Who knows where something like that could lead? Collaborations, music, play your clicks correct and you might even make the top 8.

Lehmann also contributed his song I’ll Always Be There song to the June edition of the Song A Week Club which you can listen to here.

Maudita also did a beautiful & melancholy collaboration with Great Earthquake called “Words & Images” which you can listen to here.

And cop this, Lehmann put together a whole playlist of Latin and espanol tracks to accompany The Singing Tree! Areba!


If you would like to have a link to a download for the mp3 of this song and other song-a-week-club songs sent to you wack your details in the box below!


Plazzer v. Spector – reimagining the soul of dumb for the twenty-teens

Helena Plazzer_SING SING
Ok, so Phil Spector seems like a bit of an arsehole. And he did murder a woman in his mansion on a drunken rampage. But on the up side he had some interesting ideas about how to engineer the perfect pop song. Apparently, for his recordings he would hire the most virtuosic jazz sessionados, in multiples of four, like an overzealous noah herding the creme de la creme of the New York & LA muso scenes aboard a grandiose pop hulk, and masochistically roam around whispering in their ears, “play dumber, play dumber”.
Which kind of sums up the raison detre of the truely great works of bubble gum soul pop as radiated out of places like the Brill Building and Hitsville USA in the 50s and 60s. Strum quietly and carry a big riff. Be the sun but hide behind a cloud. Be a deep ocean and reflect the pale blue sky. Play dumb.
“It’s My Party” is dumb – “I’ll Cry If I Want To” hints at a sprawling chasm of social angst and existential egoistic anxiety. Quincy new it, Phil new it. Just add horns and you’ve got yourself a hit.
“Tonight the light of love is in your eyes” is a throwaway line. But really it’s just there to lull you into a false sense of superiority before it flaws you with “But will you still love me tomorrow”. Gerry Goffin and Carole King weren’t dumb.
Which brings us to Helena Plazzer’s new contribution to the genre “Before I Change My Mind”. Is that Hal Blaine thumping out the cavernous drum intro? Is that Barney Kessel choking his severely simplified chord progressions through the verses? Who’s that honking that baritone sax?
“Kiss me now”, it doesn’t get more lovey dovey than that. “Before I change my mind”, is that You-Go-Sister sexual bravado or indecisive inner dialogue reflective of deep seated insecurity?
Helena says, “I took 3 half written ballads about heartache and lost love and turned it into an upbeat song that I knew I would have fun singing. Its my way of having a laugh at tragedy.” It’s the buffoon-tortured soul divide.
Helena Plazzer and Benjamin McCarthy with the Western Region Concert Band players
And the crack wrecking crew funk brother all star wind & brass ensemble?
“The band is a mixture of peeps from my high school band, the Western region concert band. Plus a couple of volunteers from an ad I placed on Gumtree. I basically met everyone on the day and taught them the material right before we played it.”
Whether Phil would approve of Gumtree remains an open question.
I think we can safely say he probably wouldn’t have gone in for Helena’s vocal philosophy.
“I dont like to compress or over effect my vocals. Just choose my favourite take. I always end up loving the little imperfections.”
Phil wasn’t renowned for his love of the little imperfections. He was more of a threaten the little imperfections with a six shooter up side the head kinda guy. But one suspects the Plazzer and Spector stars align in the realm of Small Percussion,
“I spent more time choosing the perfect tambourine sound than recording all of my vocals and backing vocals” could surely be a quote from either 60’s era New York or 2010s era Melbourne.
This is Helena’s second song for the song club after ‘In the Dark’ back in June.
For further research into the depths of dumb or the dumbs of depths try the following “Swoon Kiss Boom Boom Sixties Soul Girl Groove” playlist that Helena has curated as a background to “Before I Change My Mind”.

If you would like to have a link to a download for the mp3 of this song and other song-a-week-club songs sent to you wack your details in the box below!


June Release – ‘Pho’


Melbourne artist collective Airpunch have added four new songs to their newly minted song-a-week club. The tracks by t:dy t:wns (featuring Brite Fight), Sugar Fed Leopards, Oblako Lodka & Helena Plazzer are collectively titled “Pho” and follow on from their debut June release “Ramen”. Continue reading