In my bedroom, dreaming of an imminent rockstardom as soon as I got old and wise enough, I imagined I would just be a Jimmy Page or a Pete Townsend or a Keith Richards — in other words, I would be a non-singing lead-guitarist. But as that dream of rock just there on the horizon started to dull and get a bit blurry, I realised just being a plain-old-guitarist made forming my own band even more complex. So I forced myself to be able to play and sing at the same time. It was a skill that took some serious effort but when the first song I could play and sing along to — (it was Nirvana’s Polly btw) — just randomly arrived, it was a bliss I struggle to describe. But I will remember the joy of that exact moment forever.
Like a lot of musical-instrument-learning — a massive leap in skills can happen very quickly. One minute you absolutely have no hope of playing that difficult 4th chord in Stairway to Heaven, then the next minute you can. On drums it was a lot more acute. One minute I wasn’t a drummer, the next minute I was. In an instant I could rhythmically coordinate my two hands and my right foot at the same time. And to a random observer of that day, it would seem this process only took that instant — but to me all the hours of trying to get things in sync would still sit in my brain, but if anyone asked I would deny all that and say, “Yeah — drumming — NBD — whatever.”
So with my brand new skill I set about recording “covers” of Nirvana songs. Ostensibly just practicing, but really, just being a dickhead. Soon I had this idea to make a whole 45 minute side of a cassette tape of me mimicking Custard songs. Just me, my guitar, my amp and my shitty overdrive pedal. Somehow I managed to fill up a side of the tape, just like I was making a mix-tape for some babe I was hoping to wally-on to — and then I handed it to David after some Custard show in Ipswich as casually as I could. That night on the band’s hour-long drive home in the van, I am reliably informed, they listened to it in entirety. When I discovered this fact I was like, “COOL!” but now I look back I cannot imagine how much LOL’n ensued at my expense.
But graciously, David suggested I play a song with the band at their next show. Indeed he even mentioned me in at least two interviews in street press — one in RAVE and one in SMOKING DOG PRESS — saying I could play the songs better than they could. (NOT true by the way).
And then BANG! I was at this venue called “The Capitol” on Vulture Street directly opposite Annerley Road. The place was Brisbane-famous having been formally known as this awesome venue called “Van Gogh’s Earlobe”. (But a year later still it became a strip joint — pretty much how Brisbane treats its icons).
This was my very first Custard soundcheck and while I looked on with utter bladder-compromising-incredulity — I suddenly got dragged upstairs into an office room by Custard’s manager who then proceeded to rant at me as delicately as possible for divulging some “corporate secret” on my Custard website I had been told by Matt when he was in a state of too much lucidity and I was in a state of remembering each and every word they said to me. I said a thousand sorry’s and might have even conjured a few tears just to accentuate my contrition. But then I was released and I sprang back downstairs as fast as I could just catching the last bit of their rehearsal. And then I was invited up on stage.
This would be the first of my future shitty public performances. Even though it was just a soundcheck — it was still right in front of my favourite band, and there were also a shitload of other people in the room. Admittedly most of them were bar-staff looking busy, but still. Epic.
But then Glenn had to leave for some reason, so David played drums. The song was “Lucky Star” and I was told they would get me on for the encore. “The encore?” I thought. “FUCK. LIKE FUCKING FUCK!” Talk about added-pressure. UGH!
Before I could build on that fret, I was on stage and in the moment I got to prepare I did TWO THINGS:
1) I lengthen the strap on David’s guitar. So I could look more “rock” and also cause I am actually taller.
2) I turned up the distortion on David’s amp just to hide any fuckups.
I got through the soundcheck and just being so brazen and autistically-wedded-with-what-I-only-knew — I said to David, “Why don’t YOU play drums?” (I assumed I could only pull this off again if conditions were EXACTLY the same as before when I had somewhat succeeded). David thought that was cool and Glenn said, “Sure” (but was probably a bit shitty I imagine).
So then I hung around, watched the show — which I tried hard to find amusing — the fact they played it in alphabetical order. Anyway, after the last song I dived into the backstage area and while they slogged at more beers I was completely sober and alone in that clarity of sheer FEAR.
I could hear the crowd going nuts. It was a massive room, maybe twice the size of the Zoo, and it was sold-out.
Eventually it was time and I followed quite a few steps behind. David introduced us as like the cricket team has an “AUSTRALIA” and an “AUSTRALIA A“. And this was “Custard A”.
Meanwhile I cranked up the overdrive and adjusted the strap. And so then I lifted up my arm and smashed at my strings with the brand new pick I had bought (and not used until now) especially for the occasion (so I could keep it in situ forever afterwards). And then for that two bars intro I was completely alone but now with a completely busted “rock n roll cherry”.
I still managed to be a dickhead up there. I quite theatrically did the “devil-horns” directly at Matt. WTF?
Penny Bradfield has photos of that night. Maybe I should see if she still has them?