I HAVEN’T BEEN TO A HAIRDRESSER, NOR LET ANYONE CUT MY HAIR, IN 15 YEARS. (See below)
So while I have been listening to that amazing debut album by The Goon Sax for the past few weeks I was recently struck by two things:
a) Home haircuts
b) The fact that Conan got a bit affronted by it. (What?)
Here’s a pic of the Goon Sax. Louis, Riley and James
FIRSTLY: HOME HAIRCUTS
Louis sings, “Do home haircuts ever go right?”
Well I can tell you Louis, almost definitively — “Yes, yes they do.”
And he tries to get his mum to help but she seemingly refuses. All I can say to Louis is — Dude, I got all that push-back, but eventually I just went at it on my own. And I survived.
And here’s how. I have been cutting my own hair for about 15 years. That is a TRUE STORY. It’s not something I advertise, and when people find out, cause my fiance Dee likes to blab about it, they are genuinely surprised.
THE DENTIST (OR “HOW IT STARTED”)
See, just like Louis, I HATED going to the hairdresser. When I graduated from the barber (perhaps because they just refused to exist anymore) going to a hair-dressing-salon was always an ordeal. It’s so intimate. And then it’s all that forced “chat”. It’s in a space that was so alien. You’re almost strapped to that chair with that cape like you’re in a straight-jacket. It’s just like being in a dentist’s chair — the same amount of indignity, but without so much physical pain.
When I was just still in high school we had one up the road and they insisted on washing my hair before they cut it and it brought back bad memories. Nits (hair lice) were a big deal when I was a kid. We were all afraid of them but that didn’t stop us swapping hats, sleeping over sharing pillows and epic wrestling and generally being always in super-close-quarters. At the start of a school camp the teachers inspected everyone’s scalp before we were allowed on the bus to Binna Burra.
And then my grandmother, whenever I stayed at her place, insisted on personally washing my hair. She was such a control-freak. She assumed I was being mistreated because my dad wasn’t a religious nut like she was. It was like my Dad had made me so dirty because I had rejected religion and I needed purification — even if it just was super-cleanliness.
But home-haircuts were a thing when I was growing up. A chair got dragged out into the backyard and some unqualified scissors got dug out of the kitchen drawer. Both times it was one of my dad’s girlfriends who would just announce that they would “have a go” at cutting my hair. And both times it turned out great. “Great” in the sense that I was super-less-shaggy and neat and no-one knew any wiser.
A spark in my brain formed.
As a teen I tried growing my hair long just to be cool. And for two years I didn’t need a hairdresser. But as a late-teen my hair was so, so thick and consequently had no option but to get wavy and super-puffy. If it even got a whiff of shampoo it got even worse. It was like I had a wavvy-hair-afro. I got so sick of the puffiness I cut my hair short again and didn’t grow it long again for 10 years. So I then I was suddenly committed to keeping my hair short and because I was officially an “adult” and thus responsible for keeping my hair in order I asked my sister to cut my hair — which failed. But then I convinced an early girlfriend to have a go. I didn’t care if she failed. I just didn’t want to go back to the hairdresser. And she did amazingly for about two years. Then we broke up.
My hair grew out and when it got a bit too shaggy for my job I asked my new girlfriend to have a go at cutting my hair. She refused. Looking back I guess it was a bit much to ask from a woman who you had only been dating for only a few weeks.
But then I just gave it a go myself. And it worked. It wasn’t perfect — it never has been — but I got better and better at it.
HOW TO CUT YOUR OWN HAIR
And here is the exact point when I started cutting my hair on my own.
And then I realised that one side of my head wasn’t behaving like I wanted. So I changed the way I parted my hair. A complete revolution. To all you kids out there: you never know what side your hair will get thinner first.
So then I looked like this:
But the part of my hair was all wrong.
So working it all out was also the necessity of being in one of those corporate jobs where I had to look civilised — meeting lots of important people all the time — so I just hacked at my hair and prayed for the best. I learnt a lot just trimming a little bit universally. Then trimming some more over the same universal if that didn’t do the required.
The more I hacked the more I got good and then suddenly it was effortless.
BUT: I could never, ever cut anyone else’s hair — I was only trained to cut my own. I would definitely freak out if I was given that job.
Nowadays I look a bit like this:
I have used the same scissors this entire time. They are shorter than paper-scissors — but they are still just ordinary ones. The shortness helps your confidence that you are not going to chop off a chunk of ear. You start at the sides taking what you can best figure is an inch from every bit. And when I say “inch” I mean what you figure your hair needs to be ruley again.
Then you take an inch from the top. Then you just shorten the fringe how you think it would best suit — usually on an angle away from how you part your fringe.
If that is not to your liking you chop away at your hair again taking just a centimetre. So it’s basically a cutting that you do in stages. Start hacking, then trim. You’d be surprised how forgiving your shag upstairs can be.
And you might have to re-visit the cut maybe 2 or 3 times again in the hour or so that ensues just to target any issues you missed. I don’t cut with wet hair, because it made me cut a bit shorter than I might have wanted and when you cut dry what you see is what you get. The WYSIWYG principle. I can cut my hair in under two minutes. And that is no exaggeration. Crucially I could do it WITHOUT a mirror. It gets that automated.
Beard trimming took me a bit of practise. The first time I tried it on my own (Dee did the a good job of the first) I hacked a great big chunk out of the side of my face and was mortified. But no one noticed until I pointed it out and with a bit of a stroke of my chin like I was thinking hard it was instantly disguised.
So tips: go even.
EVEN: It’s the exact same principle as head-hair-cutting but it is super-trimming rather than hacking. It’s a finer detail. You just snip all over at the most even rate you can muster.
But as a right-handed person it is so much harder to trim on the right side of my face — so take a bit more time with those snips. And be more vigil lest you leave your face totally unbalanced. And just take your time, stroke around your beard like you are solving all the world’s problems, and work out what bits are too long and thick and what is fuzzy and not. Simple.
The moustache is a bit trickier. Just go slow and go even and it will become ok. I would say you need a mirror here. Just snip what is getting in front of your top lip and then trim elsewhere if it’s necessary.
OH YEAH — THE GOON SAX
Personally I never expected to like the Goon Sax much. I knew the band existed well before I saw them play at the Zoo supporting Darren Hanlon last year. And of course I was interested. I had never officially met Louis, but I had seen him around when his dad was about. He seemed like “that teenager” I used to be. Sullen and bored and wanting to be anywhere else but there. Just like I me at that age.
And so I watched then at The Zoo that night and they were a bit tentative and awkwardly swapping instruments all the time. It wasn’t a super exciting set — but that is not a criticism. The thing that was most awkward was the fact they seemed — on the surface — like a parody of the Go-Betweens. Two songwriters and a female drummer. And all the songs had a very “Lee Remick” vibe.
It’s a bit awful of me thinking back, but I cynically thought, “Is Louis…like *trying* to be like his dad? Really?”
IMPROVING ON YOUR HERITAGE
See when I was a kid I wanted to be nothing like my parents. I certainly wanted to be as successful as them, but I wanted to do things different. But then I thought a bit more and something occurred to me: “What choice did he have?”. This is my bias and my ignorance.
If your parents have impeccable taste and skill, and they’re not douchecanoes, and they’re obviously not telling you what to do — naturally you just might find your way to making your own awesome music…and it just might be in that same vein. Because awesome music is awesome music — right?
And Wintah is the best example I could think of. Wintah has an equally incredible musical dad who is actually a great guy. Wintah, son of Glenn Thompson (from the nouveaux Go-Betweens, Custard, Adults Today etc), was an incredible role model. He had the best taste in music and christ I wished my parents had brought me up like that. Why would you not want to emulate? Wintah was always ahead of the curve with music. I used to think I was pretty accomplished, but he introduced me to some amazing stuff and broadened my taste quite a bit. And thus his band, The Little Lovers, was not a huge leap from what his dad’s bands did. Stylistically and aesthetically it was almost a mark 2. Just quietly I thought Wintah had improved the model. (But that’s just between you and me.)
BACK TO THE SONGS
The thing that struck me personally was that this album by The Goon Sax seemed like a collection of “first songs”. They all seem like the first generation of songs in a songwriter’s career. And again that is no criticism. They remind me of my very first attempts at songs. And hearing songs like these (back when I was very little) inspired me to write something and form a band. (My inspiration in those days was The Melniks — but that’s another story.)
The difference is it’s just amazing how great this generation of songs are — I cannot imagine what the second or third generation will bring. Very excited.
Production-wise the album is much richer than you would think. They have been genuinely nurtured by whomever produced them. A definite hands-on producer. I know it was recorded at the JSS studio. The songs seems so earthy and pedestrian, but there’s a deliberate complexity. A bunch of layers you just might not notice. There’s a lot there supporting everything — like in the Home Haircuts song. . The first thing I really noticed was how bloody good James was at bass playing. I am just assuming he is the one playing on Louis’ songs. Just cause they seem so much more lush.
ALSO: I think the decision to put one of the strongest songs last — “Ice Cream (on my own)” — was inspired.
The drumming is so incredible too. Riley, a ginger like me, is apparently a brand-new drummer. She learnt the skins just to join. I know how tough drums are — being a frustrated one myself. She is pretty damn interesting and tight at the same time. Just see the mad-skills she displays in the “Boyfriend” and “Target” tracks. And live she has to sing back-up as well.
And just BTW: I genuinely had to look up who “Roger McGuinn” was. I am so uncool. But not so uncool to wonder once I saw his picture if his hair, circa 1967, is really aspirational.
And finally here is the Goon Sax at the Planetarium. One of my favourite places in Brisbane!
Oh and Conan’s judgement doesn’t really count. He has great taste in music, but it is highly, highly Patrician. He just doesn’t get this stuff. His loss.