DALLAS CRANE-SONGS FROM THE FACTORY
November 24, 2006 | Author: Jenny Valentish
Dallas Crane strip things right back with their new, no-frills album Factory Girls. Jenny Valentish is definitely curious.
Right now Dallas Crane are at their musical peak: tighter than Tim Rogers’ trousers, rawer than a freshly pulled tooth and packed full of protein. For starting points on their fourth album, Factory Girls, jump to the full throttle rawk’n’roll of Curiosity, or the pedal-to-the-metal Lovers and Sinners. It’s full on.
But it was so nearly, well, not. The band’s label, Albert (also home to Dallas idols AC/DC) took receipt of the original tapes, then unceremoniously handed them back again, declaring the band could do better. While this would have taken the wind out of any band’s sails, Dallas Crane used the opportunity to get back to basics.
“When you’re up so close to something and you’re around it all the time, you can lose track of what you’re doing,” banshee-voiced frontman/guitarist Dave Larkin says philosophically. “We hadn’t rehearsed the songs as much as we had on previous albums. We just wanted to get into the studio, Neil Young-style, chuck it down and see what happens. You get a bit carried away sometimes with all the things you can do in the studio. We lost track of what it meant to be Dallas Crane, just putting sound down and being a band.”
Fans want Dave, guitarist/vocalist Pete Satchell, bassist Pat Bourke and powerhouse drummer Shan Vanderwert to be a pedal-to-the-metal act live, so exactly how far into Sergeant Pepper-style whimsy did they stray?
“We were trying all sorts of things,” Dave admits. “There was one song, which didn’t make the record, where we got the rubbish bin lids out for accompaniment. There was a lap steel on another song, and originally the Bella Mae solo was on harmonica. Our old bass player from about four years ago [Chris Brodie] joined us for a giant session that went on till about four in the morning. The story goes that we finished everything, went home and it turned out we’d accidentally wiped the tape. So we had to get him back in to do it all over again but then we didn’t end up using it at all. He was a little bit pissed off, because apparently he’d done some genius work, but what can you do? A lot of that sort of stuff happened. We’d spend ages on an echo or a drum sound or something and then it wouldn’t make it onto the recording.”
After the band realised they weren’t Neil Young, they decided to trim things back and recapture their live spirit. Originally, Dave and Pete worked the songs out in their home studios, using a simple 4-track, drum machine, guitar and bass set-up. While this meant less jamming things out as a band, Dave reckons working in isolation didn’t affect things adversely.
“That just gave us the opportunity to get the songs into better shape and prepare them for the band,” he says.
The approved version of the album was recorded at Jonathan Burnside’s Eastern Bloc Studios in Melbourne. Jonathan – renowned for his work with Faith No More and Eskimo Joe – was bought in for his mixing skills in particular, while the band also recruited Wayne Connolly (also frontman of Knievel) for his strengths in engineering.
“It was great,” says Dave. “We were moving quickly. We didn’t want to get bogged down with silly things we couldn’t do live. Most of the stuff you hear is analogue. It went through the analogue chain, right up until mastering. We did some stuff on ProTools though – you have to go to digital eventually. It’s getting more and more expensive to use tape, but we’re lucky that in Australia there are a lot of keen and passionate analogue equipment collectors. We’re big vinyl fans, too. Everything we do has to come out on vinyl.”
The band recorded in a one-room live set-up, and only the vocals were overdubbed. Each guitar is panned either left or right, rather than a blend of the two.
“It’s generally the rhythm guitar which goes through the right and that could be either of us, as we mix it up,” Dave explains. “To get the buzzy guitar tone on Tonight! (There’s a Party Going Down) we pretty much just jammed the guitar straight into the mixing desk, no amps, because that’s how I did most of the stuff at home, using headphones. The Beatles used to love doing that. The other guitar tones on the album are due to different mic placements or using different amps.”
Dave is kitted out with a ’65 Fender Bassman with a 40W head. “It’s beautiful, but unfortunately not very gutsy, so I mainly use a Fender Tonemaster live. Pete uses a Tonemaster, traditionally.”
Dallas Crane have never been big on effects, mainly just using distortion, which Dave admits he has been known to stamp on in times of trouble on stage. “Only very recently we’ve bought a tremolo pedal. We usually just play straight out of the amps and keep it real.
“We’ve been really lucky to have support from Fender, who also look after Gretsch,” he continues, “because they like the band. It’s not a full endorsement but it’s a pretty fair deal we’ve got.”
To this end, Dave wrestles a Gretsch Falcon and a DuoJet, while Pete prefers a Gretsch Brian Setzer, or bends the rules with a Gibson 335.
Live, the pair are psychically tight. Was that natural from the start, or did they have a tendency to play all over each other when the band began some 10 years ago?
“Yeah we did play all over each other, but we were also pretty close. When we first started we didn’t have any faith in our voices, so the two of us were just playing instrumental guitar, which meant we were forced to listen out for each other. Pete would come up with most of the solos because I eventually took over the singing side. So we’re pretty conscious of that sort of thing, although sometimes we’ll turn round on stage and squint at each other.”