Author Topic: James Paterson  (Read 61772 times)

Offline Urpal

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James Paterson
« on: June 23, 2007, 08:58:16 PM »
What became of Mr Paterson?

A couple of years ago I asked this question. The other day it was answered when James contacted me by private message to say he's here and if I want to know anything then let him know.

James is one of a few barely visible characters in The Triffids story, but if, like me, you read the small print on record sleeves his name won’t have escaped your attention. I for one have always wondered who this mysterious person was with co-writer credits for some of the best regarded songs in The Triffids canon: Save What You Can, Jerdacuttup Man and Raining Pleasure for starters. If you have the Lawson Square Infirmary album you also have a smiling photo of James on the back sleeve amongst The Triffidsish line-up for that record.

James also introduced Dave and Graham, a story recalled by Graham in the "barbie abondonment scene" here and elsewhere.

Anyway, it felt a privilege that James had contacted me and the idea of a “private audience” was tempting. But (a) my journalistic talent for interesting questions is limited and (b) I thought you guys might be interested in any answers and have questions of your own.

So I asked James if he’d be willing to do take questions from forum members in a special thread here. He said yes, so here it is.

Welcome James. I hope you’ll contribute to discussions more generally going forward.

Here are my few questions for starters:

1.   How did your relationship with Dave go from gig attending Triffids fan to working on songs together?
2.   How did you write the songs? In what environment, on what instruments, after how many coffees etc?
3.   Any funny or peculiar stories to tell about your songwriting ventures?
4.    What “donation” was accepted from you to the song Raining Pleasure?
5.   Who wrote which elements of the songs you worked on together?
6.   What song are you proudest of and why?
7.   Do you still write?
8.   As someone who “passed babies for adoption”, what did you think of the finished songs on Raining Pleasure and Calenture as against what you had in mind for the songs when originally written?
9.   Do you still play/have you recorded versions of the songs you co-wrote with Dave?
10.   What were your first impressions of Dave?
11.   What are your fondest memories of Dave?
12.   What surprised you most about Dave?

Answer or ignore as many of those as you like. Hopefully some others will come along as we go.

I hope I haven't exhausted the possibilities for more imaginative questions from others. Please fire away with any more that occur.
« Last Edit: June 23, 2007, 09:03:47 PM by Urpal »
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Offline lynsey

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Re: James Paterson
« Reply #1 on: June 24, 2007, 03:53:24 AM »
Welcome James!  :)
There is a light that never goes out.

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Re: James Paterson
« Reply #2 on: June 24, 2007, 03:36:31 PM »
Thanks urpal, and I look forward to reading Jame's responses.
I'd certainly appreciate any clarification on the order of events etc concerning my own introduction to The Triffids and I have already thanked James and will do so again here for putting in a good word for me when Dave was tossing up whether to ask me to get involved or not. 

Offline son of albert

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Re: James Paterson
« Reply #3 on: June 24, 2007, 11:25:12 PM »
James - have you got the Lawson Square tapes; is there anything else on there; and can we expect a loving restoration a la In the Pines?
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Offline Cassiel

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Re: James Paterson
« Reply #4 on: June 25, 2007, 06:18:33 AM »
Hi James. I just want to know the story of your involvement Save What You Can, the story behind the song, how it was created, did it take a day to write or was it weeks, anything really because it's the pinnacle for me.
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Offline jimjamtwo

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Re: James Paterson
« Reply #5 on: June 26, 2007, 06:56:22 PM »
Thanks for the warm welcome, Paul, and I must say that I enjoy wallowing in nostalgia as much as anyone, so it's quite a pleasure for me to think back on times past. I'll start off by answering your first question. Hi also to Lynsey, Graham, Son of Robweb and Cassiel - Son of and Cassiel, answers to your questions will follow shortly.

1.   How did your relationship with Dave go from gig attending Triffids fan to working on songs together?

The singer of my band, John Kennedy, was sharing a house in Chippendale (Sydney) with a photographer from Perth, Denise Corrigan, who knew Dave and Alsy. I asked her to relay them a message saying how much of a fan I was and that I wanted to meet them, which she did, and they sent a message back saying that they'd be happy to. A week or two later, I ran into them in Redfern Mall (now East Surrey Hills, I think), which was just down the street from where they were living at the time. They were pushing a trolley down a supermarket aisle when they came across me and invited me over for dinner. I think I went over to their house in Marlborough St. two or three nights later. The meal was rather economical (chilli con carne and salad, I seem to recall) as the band was saving its pennies up for, I think, the sessions that became Treeless Plain.

On this first occasion, I was surprised and a little disappointed to find that Dave was actually quite a withdrawn, indeed somewhat moody character and that the gregarious, outgoing, chatty one was Alsy, who turned out to be extremely amusing and adept at what were referred to as 'Fat Elvis' impersonations. While Alsy (and the others in the house) were being plain silly, Dave tended to skulk off upstairs to his room with a bottle of red wine - probably to work on new songs, as he was really quite prolific in those days. (This is not to say that Dave was not also up for the occasional 'Fat Elvis' impersonation himself.)

Anyway, over the next few weeks I visited the Dave/Alsy abode fairly regularly, and Dave, Alsy and I had a few chats, mostly about the internal politics of our respective bands. I remember being shown Megan Simpson's clip for the song Bad Timing, which must have been made very shortly before, and also that for Spanish Blue. As very much a fan of the Byron Sinclair/Jill Yates lineup of the band, I was particularly interested in hearing anecdotes about that pair. Those I recall hearing were mainly about Byron, who seems to have been quite a character. (I wonder what he's doing now.) I was also regaled with a huge amount of Triffids lore from their Perth days so that I started to feel almost as if I knew all their Perth friends too (and in fact I did end up meeting a few of them when I made it to Perth myself about two years later.)   

At the same time, Dave and Alsy took to doing their laundry at my house in Abercrombie St., Chippendale, and it was there that I think the idea first came up of Dave and i trying to write something together. The first attempt was a bit of a disaster, though, as Dave had no ideas whatsoever. I was taken aback to discover that someone who'd already written over a hundred songs, most of them very, very good, could not simply be turned on like a tap.  After that I never put the pressure on him to write again and everything else we worked on was at his instigation.

The first time we actually did write something together was Everybody Has To Eat, which was done around the same time that the band was recording the Beautiful Waste single. I remember Dave appearing in the living room at Marlborough St. with the lyrics to Eat and handing me a guitar asking me to see if I could do something with it. He didn't like the first few chords I came up with because, as he explained tactfully, they were MAJOR chords. At the time, major chords were a big no-no with him and it was made clear that everything had to be in a minor key. So I fumbled around with a progression that started, I think, on A minor, and he liked it enough to write it down. I was actually quite surprised that he thought there was anything there, because I had more or less chosen the chords at random. I was absolutely amazed by what he ended up doing with them and in the end the track (which is on the Raining Pleasure mini-LP) was just great. (By the way, when Dave finally gave me a copy of Raining Pleasure a few months later I found that one of the tracks I had never heard before was in a major key. I had a go at him about that and he looked suitably embarrassed!)
 
Around the same time as Eat Dave left a set of lyrics called Mercy at my house. I learned that his fundamental problem was that he had many sets of lyrics without any music. Mercy actually had some sort of music already, but it wasn't very good and didn't sound to either of us like it could go anywhere so he left it for me to see if I could work up some new music for it from scratch. I think I worked it out on the piano that night and played it to him a few days later. Apparently it didn't make much of an impression on the band's then producer Nick Mainsbridge so instead of going on Raining Pleasure it ended up being shelved until the Lawson Square Infirmary idea came along a few weeks later.
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Offline Urpal

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Re: James Paterson
« Reply #6 on: June 26, 2007, 07:44:31 PM »
Thanks for that, James. It touches on a number of things that I'd like to know more about - the Byron Sinclair/Jill Yates days, the importance of the "minor chord"etc. Good to know about the great taste in cheap and cheerful food too! You can't beat a good chilli ;D

I'm not surprised to learn that Dave had predominantly "introvert" characteristics - at least I assume that's what you are saying. I think that's a big part of what gave him his "edginess" on stage, and what made you as an audience member (particularly if you shared those characteristics) feel edgy too (the same observation might be applied to Ian Curtis). What is more surprising is how someone not always up for being "the life and soul of the party" coped with getting up there occupying centre stage on punishing tour schedules.

The "writers block" observation also links neatly with the Leonard Cohen post I've just made. How long did the songs you worked on take to patch together?

I'd also like to mention that I love Everybody Has To Eat, so thanks for the insight into the writing of it. Great song. Amazing to think that lyrics aside it almost developed out of the ether.
« Last Edit: June 26, 2007, 07:49:15 PM by Urpal »
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Re: James Paterson
« Reply #7 on: June 26, 2007, 09:41:04 PM »
Thanks James, I look forward to more of this stuff...

Offline Eke

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Re: James Paterson
« Reply #8 on: June 26, 2007, 09:45:30 PM »
I was just going to say exactly that! This is the sort of stuff I love to find out about - keep 'em coming James :)

Offline jimjamtwo

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Re: James Paterson
« Reply #9 on: June 27, 2007, 12:26:05 AM »
Son of Robweb asked:

'James - have you got the Lawson Square tapes; is there anything else on there; and can we expect a loving restoration a la In the Pines?'

Actually, I haven't seen the LSI tapes since I handed them over to Hot Records all those many years ago. I presume that at some later stage Hot gave them to the Triffids together with the tapes that belonged to the band. In fact, this must be the case because Graham recently mentioned to me that LSI might well be re-issued at some stage in the near future.

Unfortunately, there are no other tracks that could be included. The six that got recorded that night is all there ever were, the whole thing having been put together quite literally in the space of a few days. Perhaps the Triffids could be prevailed upon to record another couple of tunes in a similar vein, perhaps little-known D. McComb compositions, to fill out an album-length set. Graham, what say ye?

CORRECTION (Oct 3): I recently established that a take of 'Do You Want Me Near You' was also recorded. A different version subsequently appeared on In The Pines.
« Last Edit: October 04, 2007, 02:46:25 AM by jimjamtwo »
St Francis died on his knees in a gaudy downtown bar
He had every known disease you can contract in the back of a car.

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Re: James Paterson
« Reply #10 on: June 27, 2007, 12:33:19 AM »
Perhaps the Triffids could be prevailed upon to record another couple of tunes in a similar vein, perhaps little-known D. McComb compositions, to fill out an album-length set. Graham, what say ye?
Ooh, I'm not sure but that might be pushing it a bit. I think maybe LSI should be left as is and we could remaster. I'll be picking up, in the next few days, transfers of the only master that we have of LSI, which was a quarter inch tape. I seem to recall it was actually recorded on a video tape. Does this right recollection match yours? If so we don't seem to have that, but the quarter inch should be pretty good.   

Offline Urpal

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Re: James Paterson
« Reply #11 on: June 27, 2007, 12:47:28 AM »
Ooh, I'm not sure but that might be pushing it a bit. I think maybe LSI should be left as is and we could remaster.

It's a nice idea though - Would you be able to sneak into Sydney Opera House under cover of darkness these days?

It would be ahistorical. But then, unlike the others in the set, LSI was an informal record.

You could contemplate doing something like the thing that Frank Black did a year or two ago on releasing his original solo demos of the Pixies stuff backed by a disc of modern revisitations?
« Last Edit: June 27, 2007, 12:49:08 AM by Urpal »
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Offline jimjamtwo

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Re: James Paterson
« Reply #12 on: June 27, 2007, 01:02:52 AM »
Cassiel wrote:

'I just want to know the story of your involvement Save What You Can, the story behind the song, how it was created, did it take a day to write or was it weeks, anything really because it's the pinnacle for me.'

Well, I was in Melbourne staying at Julian Wu's house with Dave and Martyn for a few days when Dave showed me ten or twelve pages of lyrics, one of which was Save What You Can. It was a lot to take in and I didn't have time to do more than glance through them, but I do remember instantly being struck by some of the excellent lines that survived intact into the final version on Calenture. I don't believe that there was any music for it at that stage, although I could be wrong.

Anyway, either later that same day or the next there was a gathering, probably a barbecue, in progress in Mr. Wu's back yard and, hardly knowing anybody there, I stole away for a while to tinker on the piano in the living room. I came up with this little piano melody, but because I am a very bad - i.e., clunky - piano player it sounded more like the Go-Betweens (Before Hollywood-era) than the Triffids. Anyway, Dave came to join me at the piano for ten minutes and I played it to him. He must have had a phenomenal memory because within hours he had turned it into the beginning of Save What You Can. He'd replaced one of the chords I'd been using with another, which made it considerably prettier, but kept the melody more or less the same (maybe one note changed). It certainly didn't sound anything like the Go-Betweens anymore but had acquired that combination of poignancy and majesty that ended up defining the song.

I knew nothing further about the song's progress until ages later I heard the unmixed tapes for Calenture. As usual I was stunned by what Dave had ended up doing with an idea that I hadn't set too much store by. So my role was simply that of getting the song started. Once you had set David off in a direction in which he wanted to go he suddenly became all inspiration. (The same observation applies to Stolen Property, another case where I just made up the melody at the beginning.)

I should mention that on this occasion - when Dave joined me at the piano - he also played me a short instrumental which apparently he'd been tinkering away at for years. This also ended up on Calenture.
« Last Edit: August 17, 2007, 03:20:12 PM by jimjamtwo »
St Francis died on his knees in a gaudy downtown bar
He had every known disease you can contract in the back of a car.

Offline Cassiel

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Re: James Paterson
« Reply #13 on: June 27, 2007, 01:36:24 AM »
Cheers James. Fascinating stuff. Praise be that Mr Wu's barbecue was so boring eh? ;) Have you told him you used his piano? He may accuse you, in the immortal words of Nick Cave when he learned Grant Mac wrote Cattle and Cane on his guitar, of stealing its only tune...

It is a lovely little melody, very evocative of New Year, the end of a party, even Celtic in its lilt.

I don't think David is that unique in needing a nudge. The metaphorical blank piece of paper is intimidating, and attempting to come up with something from scratch is a painful and tortuous experience. But once you have that breakthrough, a phrase, something you've read or heard, a piece of dialogue if you're a writer say, or a melody, a set of chords if you're a songwriter, then off you go. Of course, where David was unique is in the quality of what he produced once the juices were flowing.

Nice of him to give you credit too. Not all creative types like to reveal that it wasn't all down to their own genius.
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Offline jimjamtwo

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Re: James Paterson
« Reply #14 on: June 27, 2007, 01:53:42 AM »
'Nice of him to give you credit too. Not all creative types like to reveal that it wasn't all down to their own genius.'

In this respect, Dave had learned his lesson. Apparently he had neglected to give a co-writer credit for 'My Baby Thinks She's A Train.' After being  duly told off about his, he resolved not to make the same mistake again. That said, there are a couple of times that I thought I deserved a credit and didn't get one, but this was not because Dave was trying to wriggle out of giving me a credit. Rather, it was a case of our general inability to communicate during this period. Please recall this is the pre-email era and issues concerning matters such as songwriting credits had to be addressed in letters and postcards. Not everything was able to be ironed out by means of these rather primitive communication techniques. In any case, as a fan I was simply over the moon to see my name bracketed with his. I think the first time this happened - presumably this was for 'Everybody Has To Eat' - I stared at it for half an hour before I could tear myself away. After i had been given a few credits I had had all the ego gratification I needed and didn't care so much.
St Francis died on his knees in a gaudy downtown bar
He had every known disease you can contract in the back of a car.