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anitaquayle2Classically trained at Victorian College of the Arts, Anita Quayle soon discovered that the standard classical repertoire road wasn’t for her. However, improvisation and collaboration was. For the last 15 years or more, Anita’s journey has led her to many eclectic musical projects from Chris Wilson’s Crown of Thorns, Pete Murray, Gossling and Jeff Lang to TV, theatre work and her own 9 piece instrumental ensemble, The Quayle Project, who will soon release a debut album. Australian Musician is pleased to profile Anita in a Q&A, which reveals a dedicated and talented musician with a thirst for musical exploration.

What was your first instrument?
The piano which I started at the age of 6 having weekly lessons until the age of 10. I didn’t know it at the time but this was integral to shaping my appreciation for sound and intonation, which ultimately fast-tracked my ability to be able to pick up and play the cello later on at the age of 12.

Tell us about your cello. What it is and where was it acquired?
Edward (my cello) is an old soul, who is over 110 years old now and was made in Germany. I picked him up for a steal through the trading post back in the dark ages when the trading post came in newspaper form. A Melbourne University music student had to make the very painful decision to choose either the flute or the cello as her primary instrument – a tough decision for sure!

Cello maintenance advice/tip?
Definitely regular servicing for older instruments as they are notorious for being temperamental due to factors such as changes in the weather. The more you can do to keep your instrument in top condition the better. Dampit Humidifiers are also a good way to maintain moisture levels through all seasons.

Does your cello have a pick up? Do you ‘di’ it? What are some live sound issues you have to contend with for your instrument?
I have a fabulous pick up which Stu Wood, a double bass player friend of mine, custom-made for me. He was making them for double bass at the time (I believe John Butler’s old double bass player was using them also) and so he thought “why not see if it works for cello”! And does it ever! It’s based on the realist style pick up, which sits on the belly of the instrument underneath the bridge. The result is a deeply warm, rich and so bottom-end-gutsy tone, while the top end is completely mellow void of any scratchy overtones. I had considered including a pre amp when playing live (LR Baggs do an amazing one for acoustic instruments) but if the sound guy knows what he’s doing (which in my case is about 95% of the time) you get a really good natural result.

When I’m involved in full band shows in festival or stadium type venues I do sometimes run into some mid range frequency feedback issues which are fairly annoying for the sound guy. The cello (as gutsy as it is) just isn’t designed to compete with bass and drums at hugely overwhelming volumes. I guess having an electric cello would solve that though.

What’s your latest recording?
My 9 piece instrumental ensemble The Quayle Project  (TQP) have in recent times released a single ‘Song for Ed’, which is a little taste of things to come from our debut album New Horizons. The music I’ve written for this ensemble is a reflection of my time spent head down and bum up back at university studying music and composition with the incredible Dr Tony Gould, Chris Hale, Eugene Ball and Niko Schauble. These guys were an absolute inspiration!

When will you be back in the studio?
These days I generally record at home, where the current advancements in technology allow me the freedom to send cello files to other recording studios via that magical system known as the internet. I’m currently putting the finishing touches on a selection of music I was asked to create for a theatre production due for performance in early September at La Mama. I’m also currently working on some smaller scale cello pieces with loop pedal, which I aim to include on TQP’s album for early 2015.

What gigs have you been playing lately?
I’ve just come back from a whirlwind month tour of Germany. My partner and I travelled throughout the northern parts of Germany and into the Netherlands playing in clubs, community halls, old theatres, festivals and lake-side restaurants. We even took some songwriting workshops while we were there at one of the Steiner schools in Bremen. Sounding romantic? Well if you call 33 gigs in 26 days romantic, then yes it was!

Since being back in Melbourne my ensemble (TQP) performed as part of the GlobeLight Festival of Light at the Abbotsford Convent which was a fabulous event! When TQP perform live we have 2 visual artists (Jenna Fahey-White and Emily Altis) that work alongside us, creating the most beautiful images in real time. Working with these talented ladies has really helped to give the music a strong aesthetic and a greater sense of place. Our audiences love it too as they walk away with an even greater understanding of the music we’re presenting.

anitaquayle1Most memorable gig?
They’re all memorable in a way as you’re always learning new things when you’re fusing brains together with other people on stage. While I don’t have just one memorable gig (that just wouldn’t be fair to note!) I think the most memorable time for me as a musician was the 18 months I spent with Chris Wilson and the Crown of Thorns (circa 1999 -2000). Being given that incredible opportunity to be immersed on stage with some of the best musos in the business (Chris Wilson, Andrew Pendlebury, Graham Lee, Chris Tabone) was something I’ll never forget and was so pivotal in shaping the kind of musician I’ve become. Every single gig was a music lesson so I must say a big thank you to Chris and the guys for that experience of a lifetime!

Worst stage nightmare?
OK, so for the short version of the story… I was opening solo for the  Women in International Film and Television Awards (maybe 12 years ago now). The one character building catch to this gig was that  I had to play stark naked! That didn’t worry me too much as I had a silk gown draped at the bottom of my chair so I could cover up when finished. My back was to the audience while I was playing and lots of amazing images were being projected onto my back and onto a big screen in front. All good up until now. I wrap things up with an audience of about 2000 clapping wildly and I go to grab the gown but something’s wrong – it’s stuck to the leg of the overly weighted chair! By the time I try to sort the situation out the lights go up and it’s game over!

Album that changed your life?
Renaud Garcia- Fons ‘ Arcoluz’ – a double bass virtuoso who has been pushing the classical/ jazz/world music boundaries big time for double bass players everywhere. This guy is a freak of genius to say the least. Thanks to Kris and Kylie for introducing me to that live album all those years ago. It opened my eyes to possibilities beyond measure!

What gigs are coming up in the next few months?
Cello-wise I’m taking a short break for the next month and a bit while I put on my composer’s hat, where I’ll be mixing up all things sound and music related for a play scheduled for performances at La Mama theatre in Carlton from the 3rd – 14th September. It’s called ‘We Were Almost Entirely Happy’ written and directed by Caitlin Dullard and is a fictional account of the ongoing love affair between poets George Barker and Elizabeth Smart. It’s going to be a fabulous show.

La Mama ticket link

Face Book event

A good piece of music career advice for others?
Don’t wind up being a bitter has-been intent on reliving that one momentous rock star moment over and over and over again!  You owe it to yourself to find new and exciting opportunities, expand the possibilities and be excited by them. They’re hidden around every corner if you look hard enough, and collaborate with people who inspire you.

What are you most proud of with your music career?
Having the guts to finally branch out at the age of 34 and start writing music that comes from me. These last 3 years have been the most significant in helping to shed some much needed light on those  ‘who am I’ questions.


The Quayle Project at RAW Melbourne

Gossling – War (studio clip)

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