THE STORY BEHIND THE ALBUM: Blue Sky Mining by Midnight Oil

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“It was a guerilla raid”: The Australian outfit’s classic 1990 release aimed to change the world—or, at very least, put it on notice, not the least of which came when the Oils stages a musical protest in front of the Exxon building in New York. It also very nearly swept the ’91 Australian ARIA awards to boot. Guitarist Jim Moginie and producer Warne Livesey take stock a quarter-century on.

BY JONATHAN LEVITT

Ed. Note: The concept behind our series “The Story Behind the Album” is pretty straightforward: what went into the making of a particularly noteworthy recording, as seen through the eyes of its creator(s). It can be an acknowledged classic or an under-the-radar gem, but the basic parameters are the same: a title that stands out in an artist’s catalog, one which has stood the test of time and still commands the respect of fans. It could even have been a critical flop or a commercially under-performing record upon its initial release, but the years have steadily unveiled its extant genius. Our first investigation was into Thee Hypnotics’ 1991 classic Soul Glitter & Sin. Then we took a look at New River Head by The Bevis Frond, followed by Rock ‘N’ Roll by The Cynics, From the Heart of Town by Gallon Drunk, and Couture, Couture, Couture by Frausdots. Here’s our latest, and it’s an album that I daresay is very close to the hearts of all the BLURT staffers. Enjoy.—FM

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It’s been 25 years since Midnight Oil’s personal and political statement of Blue Sky Mining hit record stores worldwide on cassette, CD and limited edition blue vinyl. The band at this point comprised Rob Hirst, Jim Moginie, Peter Garrett, Martin Rotsey and Bones Hillman. Sounding as fresh today as it did back then, the album managed to sear its way into the public conscience, taking aim at issues that not only permeated Australian culture but also amounted to global-scale environmental disasters such as the Exxon Valdez oil spill that ruined a pristine section of Alaskan coastline, the fragile ecosystem and the livelihoods of many who called the area home.

The album cover, with its parched earth and thunderstorm off in the distance, was the perfect imagery for an album trying to shed some light on issues for an ailing world. As Garrett would go on to sing, “In the end the rain comes down.” With the deluge of emotion that runs through the 10 cuts on the record, the band was hoping that some of the music would permeate the body politic, not just flow through it.

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The wonderful thing about Midnight Oil is that they have always managed to tackle large issues without forgetting the human connection. On Blue Sky Mining the band is confronting the issues with you, never placing themselves above the common man or the people living life on the front lines of existence. Herein lies the appeal of a group of musicians that has always had a working class, not afraid of getting their hands dirty, ethos. Something else that has always been refreshing about the band is that they seemed to forgo the material trappings of fame that have managed to add layers of separation between many a band and their audience. It’s true the band—even after countless tours and playing for countless millions—seems like the type of guys you could invite for a beer and actually become friends with.

Midnight Oil is mixed for me with some pretty intense memories from my young adult life. Being from El Paso, unless you happened to be into Iron Maiden or The Scorpions you’d never have a chance to see alternative acts play in town. Instead you’d have to make the trek to Las Cruces or sometimes even as far as Denver’s Red Rocks Amphitheatre. I was a big fan of 1987’s Diesel and Dust and remember reading that the band would be playing a show at the University of New Mexico, so I asked my mother if I could drive up and see the show. It didn’t take too much convincing on my part since she always was up for a trip through New Mexico. The concert was amazing with John Trudell and Yothu Yindi as openers, The Oils turning in a raucous set that had everyone up and moving. I made my way back to the hotel and rested for a few hours and then at 2 a.m. we checked out and I drove back to El Paso. I was just so psyched to be able to show off my tour shirt to people at El Paso High the very next morning. Being quite the fan boy I even had the ticket stub laminated.

I kept that laminated stub in my wallet until college. At that point I was the music director for my college’s radio station and when I was given a chance to see the band perform in Chicago for the ‘93 Earth Sun & Moon tour, I went to the meet and greet arranged by the label and met lead singer Peter Garret. It was then I pulled the stub from my wallet. There were plenty of people waiting to speak with him and I recall he did a double take when I handed him the stub, probably thinking what a nut this guy is to keep this thing in his wallet all these years. I used my twenty seconds and said something about road tripping to the show, and then as these things go was pushed aside. It didn’t matter though because it was one of those full circle moments you have in life.

Personal remembrances aside, Blue Sky Mining is a record that has one foot planted in looking outward at a world going to hell one environmental disaster at a time, the other looking introspectively inward at what it means to be Australian. It takes in a painful sweep of history with wars, the soldiers that fought for the nation, the politicians, the raping of the land, and the notion of corporate greed as it bleeds workers who toil in obscurity deep inside the earth or in the cane fields above ground.

The track “Blue Sky Mine” is the opening salvo that is remarkable because the band here went for a decidedly cleaner sound that evolves into a gritty manifesto railing against labor injustice driven by organ, some clarion call harmonica, acoustic guitar and a metronomic rhythm section. Here Garrett and crew place the listener in the position of being the exploited worker, the painful reality of being at the whim of a company that may be the only game in town and where workers exist paycheck to paycheck, trading blood sweat and tears for their meager lot in life. Garrett sings with desperation, “And if the blue sky mining company won’t come to my rescue/ If the sugar refining company won’t save me/ Who’s gonna save me?”

“Bedlam Bridge” tells the story of the world being leveraged to the hilt, with politicians who are, as Garrett sings, “captains not courageous.” It’s a moody number that adds to the unease of the record as The Oil’s assess a world where “the city is closing in around my head.”

“Forgotten Years” is one of The Oil’s greatest statements; here Garrett examines the uneasy pain of a nation’s past and turns it into a rallying cry for people to know one’s collective history and to not shy away from examining it whether it’s good, bad or horrific. Here the music has the perfect tension that serves as the ignition for turning the song into an anthem, one which will have you singing the refrain long after the song has finished.

“One Country,” coming late in the album, is a bold, awe-inspiring song punctuated with heartfelt emotion and tackling some of the most important themes on the record. Beyond the apparent notion of healing a divided nation, the band amalgamates the two perspectives of the record, yielding devastating results. The divisions between people whatever they may be are so infinitesimal, Garrett and company tell us (and herein this is where the beauty of the song lies), that we must look past these schisms towards loftier, more ambitious things such as healing a wounded planet, which will ultimately unite us in a common cause.

Blue Sky Mining is an album that shows a band at the height of its creative powers, and is an experience that will have you raising your fist in one song and yearning to change the world in the next. I was fortunate to be able to convince Oil’s guitarist and one of its founding members, Jim Moginie, to answer some of the questions that have been on my mind for more than two decades. As a bonus, Warne Livesey—the producer of Blue Sky Mining—also agreed to be interviewed for this article. So do yourself a favor and sit down and listen to the record, and then continue on to the interview section.

 

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Jim Moginie

BLURT: First, where and when was the album recorded?

JIM MOGINIE: Rhinoceros Studio, Sydney in 1989.

How long did it take to record the album?

3 months from memory.

Who designed the album cover?

I think it was a mate of our manager’s, a guy called Brian Livingstone, but don’t quote me.

What led to Blue Sky Mining?

Well, we had just come off the Diesel and Dust tour which took us all around the world for the first time. We knew we had to do the next record so we got straight to it. Funnily enough I don’t remember any undue pressure to do a follow up such a big album as Diesel. The Oils were a no fuss, practical kind of band. We booked a long period of time to do demos and we led a 9 to 5 kind of existence, going in every day for a couple of months, writing and jamming and recording. So we were well prepared, too many ideas in fact, which is a good problem to have.

How long had the songs on the record been floating around in some form before you set about to formally record them?

I don’t remember any of them hanging around for long, apart from the track “Blue Sky Mine” for which most of the music came from an idea I had when I was 15. I don’t know why that came back to me at that point, for the life of me! So mostly they were fresh.

Was there a point in the recording of the album that you knew you were onto something special?

The funny thing with making records is you never know if it’s special or not, you just do them.

Can you describe the evolutionary shift from Diesel and Dust’s gritty focus to BSM with its tackling of larger more universally identifiable issues?

The Oils had good radar for issues that were floating around but still had not had any mainstream recognition. When we were touring the Diesel record, and living on the tour bus, we were touring America and Europe and we could see firsthand the industrial landscapes and ugly strips of fast food restaurants coming in and out of most cities, and that had an effect. Songs like “River Runs Red”, “Antarctica”, “Shakers”, and Blue Sky especially. And “One Country” being more of a personal view. But many of the songs were about other subjects.

In terms of the running order, what decisions were made regarding the flow of the songs? Can you enlighten us if this is solely a band decision or if the label has input?

Running orders are really hard, but “Blue Sky Mine” was a natural lead off song with that harmonica and guitar intro. “Antarctica” a natural closer. I think we were still in the vinyl age somewhat so “King of The Mountain” was a good opener for Side 2. Having vinyl made orders easier in a way with that side 1 and 2 division. The order was done by Warne and ourselves, no record company ever influenced our decisions in these areas.

Which of the songs went through the most radical changes from when you first started demoing in the studio?

“Bedlam Bridge” was more of a straight rocker as a demo and became much more atmospheric. Warne Livesey our producer had just come from making Mind Bomb with The The so “Bedlam Bridge” acquired that steamy, slightly drugged electronic feel. “River Runs Red” on the album got some Roland 808 beats on it in the verses which made it sound sparse and electro, until the chorus, when the band comes back with a vengeance. Then, we were curious about making records and texturalising in the studio, even using samplers and an early Atari computer to assist, which ended up in the bin a few years ago! The record took a long time to make as a result. One of our sayings at the time was: ‘Big Ideas = Big Sound’.

As a songwriter, can you tell me your process for coming up with some of the songs on BSM? Did you come in with a sketch of a guitar part and then you all would jam and see where it would lead, or were you bringing in much more fully fleshed out ideas to the band?

It was a combination of both, I brought in “One Country” pretty much in a finished state, I had the music and chorus words for “Stars of Warburton” and “Shakers and Movers” and Pete wrote great lyrics for the rest of it. “Forgotten Years” were Rob’s words with quite a lot of my music added to by Pete, “Blue Sky Mine” was a collaboration with everyone that happened in the studio with the clock ticking, not the best place to write songs in my opinion, but we pulled it off. Most of the writing happened in the demoing stage; I think we were almost ‘demoed to death’ by the end of that process but there was a feeling in the band of really wanting to get it right, not taking any chances with the songwriting. In the past we had been on the back foot following up a successful album, but not this time.

“Hands have been clenched into fists too long” from “Forgotten Years” is such a moving line: when you wrote this song with Rob Hirst, did the lyrics come much later in the process or did Peter have some rough sketches for the topics he wanted to cover?

Rob arrived pretty much with that whole lyric from memory, but I could stand corrected on that one vis a vis Pete’s contribution. I always assume Rob wrote the more militaristic type of songs. “Forgotten Years” started as a song called Jacob’s Ladder which then underwent a substantial lyric rewrite with Peter involved (I think) and a few chord alterations as well, so now he could hook into it lyrically. Win!

Rob’s experience with his relatives that had fought in WW2, which inspired the song, was not unique amongst our baby boomer generation: my uncle, who had fought in France and Papua New Guinea and worked tirelessly for Legacy told me when he heard it and saw the video, it really summed up how he felt about the war and the sacrifice so many made. So I love that song.

How did it feel to win 5 big awards at the 1991 ARIA ceremony for Blue Sky Mining?

I think we were doing so much touring and the like that, great as it was, it didn’t even register! I knew we were becoming increasingly popular and were even mobbed when we went to Paris once, but we were always righteously thinking of songs for the next album, not necessarily celebrating climbing to the top of the mountain, real or imagined.

Exxon

Playing in front of the Exxon building in NYC in 1990, what are your memories of that day? Do you feel that was the turning point that helped propel the band to a full-on breakthrough in the US?

The day was completely chaotic, even though it had been planned with military precision. It was a guerrilla raid on New York City. We were playing 2 nights at Radio City and Exxon was on the morning of the second day. We had all slept after the previous night’s gig, and the gig time was moved hours forward, so were dragged out of bed and had to jump onstage without even tuning up. The police wanted to shut it down as we were disrupting traffic. There were heated negotiations between the mayor’s office, our record label Sony and the NYPD to keep it open for us.

It felt great to play to the crowd, even though it was only 8 songs: they were rocking. We played “Instant Karma” for the first time, which summed up matters pretty well about the oil spill. It felt good to make the point that needed to be made about Exxon. It was only afterwards I realized the event was front page news all around the world. I’m so glad it was filmed and recorded. Everybody heard about it in the mainstream media world so in that sense it put us in front of more people.

How did the makeup of your fan base change after BSM became a hit?

I’m not sure that it did; we were pretty big by then anyway, but numbers seemed to be increasing. If anything, our music was becoming more melodic from album to album, so it was a more radio friendly mainstream audience that was turning up at shows now. MTV also played a part as they aired our videos regularly. Some people who liked the Oils cared about the planet and what was happening to it, others I met just liked the fact it was a kicking rock band. But I think all realized that were we doing it our own uncompromising—and sometimes stubborn—way, and they respected that.

I remember seeing your band at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque for the Diesel and Dust tour. With BSM what was the transition like from small halls to arena’s like?

Oh, I remember driving from Albuquerque to Phoenix for the first time: amazing landscapes, what a great trip that was! Well, the first thing was we had more crew because the production and the stage sets got bigger. We had a huge mining gantry behind us on stage, and we performed standing on a giant canvas painted with a cracked earth motif. It felt bigger in terms of the venues yes, we were known around most of the world by then. But we had worked hard for many years up that point so it was a gradual climb up the ladder, so none of that feeling of an overnight success. We had a good set of songs and the audience knew most of them, doesn’t get much better than that.

The band was mainly doing arenas on the BSM tour in the US. What songs from BSM do you feel work well in an arena and which ones work better in a more intimate setting?

The acoustics of the bigger stadiums didn’t always suit the cyclonic trash of our early stuff. Sparser songs like “River Runs Red” and “Antarctica” sounded great in those environments. The shows had a lot of set design, lighting and great sound to make them work in the stadiums. We did well in club shows just doing what we knew and trusted, rocking. Only when we did the Unplugged thing a couple of years later that we stripped it back, a bit, not a lot!

Oil acoustic

Back in 1990 the band was being compared with U2 in terms of social action and championing global causes. Did the band even consider U2 as a peer in this arena?

U2 were kindred spirits in a way. They sang about issues, and wore their hearts on their sleeves like we did but in that wonderful Irish way of theirs, and their evolution in the ‘90s and embracing rock star irony is widely documented. We did it a bit differently—it was an Australian perspective. We knew them, and liked them as people and musicians, but that was as far as it went.

Did the band write at all during the tour and if so what songs came from it?

We wrote a few Blue Sky songs on the road on the Diesel and Dust tour, but most came when we regrouped back in Sydney afterwards. “King of The Mountain” came from a writing session with myself, Rob and Martin in a Baltimore hotel. “One Country” a sleepless night in Quebec City.

What’s your favorite and least favorite song on the record?

I like all of it really, it works well as an album and a cogent vision of the times. “Mountains of Burma” might be a bit overblown with all the strings and backwards echo, but it’s very powerful with all of the kitchen sink on it!

Will there ever be an expanded reissue of the album featuring demos, and or live tracks?

That’s a good idea, as we had too many demos of songs when we went in to the studio with Warne. I think good taste prevailed, and the best songs made it through the process to the album; however, I think that would be a good idea to give the album context of what else we were all writing, if only to make the album sound better.

In the intervening years since BSM was first released, what mark do you feel the record has left on the bands that followed and were influenced by Midnight Oil?

I’m not sure that that record on its own had an influence of anyone more than any other record. If [1982’s] 10,9,8,7,6,5,4,3,2,1 was about nuclearism and Diesel was about Aboriginal people, then Blue Sky Mining might be remembered for being about the environment. So in that sense we never shied away from talking about issues that were important to us. What followed soon after in the early ‘90s were the grunge bands where most of the lyrics were about ‘me, me and me’ so perhaps Blue Sky marked us as being one of those ‘politically correct’ bands. Perhaps proudly so. I don’t think we fitted in with the new crop, even though as a live band we still rocked harder than most of them. In hindsight, the records took more of a ‘pop’ direction as the songwriting got more sophisticated, but I think with [1998’s] Redneck Wonderland we certainly reclaimed the rock side of the band on record.

You often read about bands who are caught completely off guard by the success a certain album has. Were you surprised by how well received BSM was at the time?

I was, and that was good because most audiences internationally only knew Diesel and Dust so now we could tour and alongside the Blue Sky material we now could do a whole night of songs that people knew. I think we were more off guard with the success of Diesel than any other album to be honest.

Now that 25 years have passed, how do you regard this album in The Oils canon? When was the last time you listened to it?

I like it a lot, I think there was a feeling that there should have been less keyboards and more fast songs on it at the time (we were a rock band), but I’ll stand by it. It’s a soulful record, all the songs stand up well. I don’t listen to our old stuff much, but I listened to it 6 months ago and the first impression I had was I thought the vocals were really good thanks to our new (at the time) singing bass player Bones Hillman and producer Warne Livesey.

 The band reunited for 3 benefit shows in 2009 – how was it to be back in the saddle?

It felt like getting back on top of the wild stallion after lounging around in the saloon for many years, so a few sore spots and scratches, but strangely familiar on a cellular level to be doing what we had all done for so long.

It seems to me now more than ever the world needs a band like Midnight Oil to give people hope and to raise awareness on a multitude of issues. Given this, will the band ever record again?

It could be. I never say never as far as the band is concerned.

Does Australia have any bands that you feel channel some of what the Oils were doing back then with bringing some issues front and center?

Oh yeah, Urthboy, John Butler Trio. I wish there were more in one sense, but I never felt anyone had to feel obliged in any way to write about issues if they didn’t feel them.

Finally, how is your solo career going—any albums or collaborations slated for release in 2016?

It’s been quite liberating after the band split, though difficult at first to get used to not working with the same people all the time. I’ve stayed quite busy since then, making 7 albums since the Oils split, alone and with others, as myself and under monikers such as Shameless Seamus, Utes in The Paddock and Fuzzface (with producer Nick Launay). I’ve worked as a producer myself on many others including silverchair, Sarah Blasko, Neil Finn, and countless others and as a session musician occasionally. And composed a few soundtracks.

I play with Rob and Martin from the Oils (as well as Brian Ritchie from the Violent Femmes) in a surf band called The Break.

I love, and am a student of, traditional Irish music and play in a band called The Tinkers. I also play guitar with a collective called the Australian Chamber Orchestra Underground or ACO Underground, here and overseas, playing alongside string players from Australia’s premier string ensemble.

My most recent project is called The Colour Wheel with Jim Moginie’s Electric Guitar Orchestra. It combines music and art in the form of live painting, to create synaesthesia. That will be released in October this year. I’ve written all the music, I’m very excited by it and we have already performed at the Sydney Opera House, MonaFoma Festival in Hobart and in Ireland.

All my activities are on www.jimmoginie.com or on Facebook.

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Warne_Livesey_TR_tight

BLURT: Was there a different approach to recording Blue Sky Mining versus let’s say Diesel and Dust?

WARNE LIVESEY: I wouldn’t call it a different approach. Fundamentally, both albums were approached in the same manner. After we had gone through the process of ensuring we had the songs we needed we went into pre-production to play with the arrangements and fine tune the songs. Then the recording for most tracks were started with bed track live takes of the band (2 guitars, bass and drums with a scratch vocal) all performed together. We would often edit a master take together from several takes to get all the best bits. Sometimes we would redo parts of that take later and would overdub extra parts and all the vocals, of which there were many. There are a few songs that also involved various computer sequenced parts that were then built around.

The main differences were that in the meantime Bones Hillman had joined the band on bass and also we recorded Blue Sky Mining in a different and much more flexible and better equipped studio.

In terms of studio set up was everything done in isolation booths?

Yes. The layout of Rhino Studios was that there was a main room where we had the drums and a room either side of that where we put the two guitar amp setups. There was also a smaller Iso booth where Peter sang scratch vocals and another for the Bass Amp. All the rooms had good visibility. But essentially all the instruments were isolated from each other.

Which song was hardest to nail for the band?

Well, there were a few songs that went through quite a transition during the course of the sessions. The title track “Blue Sky Mine” being one. That song actually started out as a different song. After we had started the song if felt a little lacking and I came up with the idea of giving it more of a Motown feel. We started working on the Vox organ riff and then Martin came up with the echo guitar part and the guys wrote a new chorus inspired by that. It was a more convoluted process but it worked out well.

There are other songs like “Mountains of Burma” and “Antarctica” that involve more electronics, sampling etc. that were pieced together more than a straight up performance. But I don’t think there was any song that the band struggled with nailing from a playing point of view. They were well prepared.

Did the band have a clear idea of what they wanted to do with this album when they entered the studio?

That’s an interesting question to answer. The band has a strong identity of sound and style that is clear and they also demoed the songs prior to recording for the album. So yes, there was some clarity of objective. But they engage a producer like myself because they want my vision as well and also we all want there to be a freedom for the creative flow to take the songs off in new directions when doing so improves them. So as I already explained, some tracks like “Blue Sky Mine” transformed quite radically. But others stayed closer to the direction of the demos and pre-production sessions.

As a producer I always do a lot of prep work before I start recording. And I normally get a pretty clear idea from listening to demos how I envisage the songs could be best represented. Then when we all get together I present my vision as do all the band members bring their ideas, and we sift through what works best. But ultimately it’s the energy of the creative dynamic between everyone that produces the magic when its working well (the whole is greater than the sum of the parts dynamic).

Was there pressure on the band at this point to come up with hits?

Not really. Certainly not externally. “Beds are Burning” off the previous album Diesel and Dust was obviously a massive hit worldwide and of course we were aware of that and aware of how having a song like that positively effects the album sales and the career of the band. But the band had made probably 10 or so albums by that point and operated somewhat independently from external influence as far as recording was concerned. But I think we might have felt some internal pressure. In general I think as creative people we are all somewhat driven to keep improving and being more successful musically. That may not necessarily mean ‘hits’, but I certainly want to rise to the challenge of outdoing past work and I think the Oils did too.

Was most of this material already written in some form or was a lot of the material for BSM worked out in the studio?

A mixture. Some songs were pretty locked down. Others transformed and evolved.

I’ve always been interested about the wider global scale feel of the album: how do you feel your production enhanced this sense?

Well in the most generic sense, me being a Brit obviously brought a different perspective. More specifically, when I started working with the band on the previous record they indicated to me that they wanted to evolve and I thought the areas where we should really focus were on songs and vocals. They were obviously a great band. Fantastic players with a great energy. There were moments prior to those albums when you heard the vocal potential they had both from Pete and the background vocals. But I thought we could really enhance and greater utilize that side of the band and bring more melodic sensibility to these records. So we focused heavily on vocal performance and huge background vocal arrangements where appropriate. I was also quite driven for the production to be contemporary and appropriately incorporate new and modern techniques of the day (like sampling and programming) alongside more classic recording.

What were some of the songs you initially gravitated towards in the BSM sessions?

In all honesty I don’t remember. Looking back, I think the whole record is strong.

What songs changed the most in studio?

“Blue Sky Mine”.

In terms of the album did you have a hand in what the lead cut would be on the record as well as the running order?

When you say lead cut I presume you mean first single. I am not technically involved in that decision. That’s normally decided by the label in conference with band and management. But I give my opinion and there is normally an awareness during recording which songs are most likely the radio songs. And most of the time that turns out to be correct.

Do you remember any moments in the studio for the recording of BSM that you knew that this record would go further than any of their other records up to this point?

Hmm. I don’t think that’s quite how I relate to the process. As I already mentioned, I think we are always driven to improve and do better work. And I think there is a natural dynamic for us to be generally excited about the music we are working on. The way that translates into how the record is perceived by the audience and how it performs sales and chart wise are somewhat unpredictable. And I think BSM actually didn’t sell quite as well as Diesel: about 4 million as opposed to 5 million. Both of which are pretty successful sales. I do think we felt like we were evolving artistically.

The song “Bedlam Bridge” is really beautifully produced, the space that is created inside the song immediately sucks the listener inside a world where we are alone with Peter Garret’s word. Can you talk about how you went about sculpting the feel of this song, including the ability to sculpt out an aural world which wraps the listener in the music?

Wow, thanks. I’m glad to have that feedback because I think that’s what we were going for. Firstly, I have to give the credit to Pete’s incredible vocal. He has such an intensity in his vocal performances, even when he’s singing softly. There’s this believability and real emotional connection in his performance that is the centre of affecting the listener with the song. We worked very hard on lyrics: often they were written and rewritten many times to perfect them. And we also worked very hard on vocals. As regards to the musicality and atmospheric parts of the production I’ve always been influenced and inspired by more esoteric music and had a desire to incorporate that within a rock/pop context. I guess at that time, those inspirations came from people like Peter Gabriel, David Sylvian, Eno, The Blue Nile etc.

There’s a duality in the lyrics: the observation of the darker sides of society against the hope and positive potential. So I wanted to create that tension in the soundscape aspects of the track that enhance the more band like components. So there are angular elements like the reverse guitars mixed with sweeter synth pad sounds and the programmed sampled ethnic drums. Explaining it all in retrospect makes it sound much more calculated in how it’s put together, whereas in reality when we were working on the song we were following a general idea of what we were going for and are mainly led by intuition and what felt right.

Listening back to this record how do you feel it has aged now that its 25 years old?

I think it has some elements that seem dated to me. Certain sound choices perhaps. But overall I think it has aged well.

What is your favorite track on the record?

It’s always difficult to pick one favourite, but if I’m pushed I will go with “Mountains of Burma”.

Did you have a hand in the remaster back in 2007, and if so, what changed with the updated edition?

No I didn’t. It was just straight remastering from the original edited mix masters. Mastering for digital has improved a lot over the years since we made the record. So they were able to make a much better and truer representation for the remastered version.

With all of the bands that you’ve recorded since these sessions are there any bands that have cited this album as an influence on their sound or have any bands come to you and said we want this sound?

Not precisely bands wanting to sound like that, but it is certainly one of the records that many artists I’ve worked with since cite as a reason they want to work with me. And I get comments from musicians and producers that they were inspired by it.

Warne Livesey can be found at his official website, WarneLivesey.com.

Crosses

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