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Family road trips to Maxx Music and a few things in between

I grew up in a semi-typical Australian household, Mum, Dad and my Sister and many foster brothers and sisters over the years. We would go on holidays down the coast and most years a take a trip down to see my Grandmother and family in Melbourne. One thing that was always there was the music, always John Williamson, Bill Haley, Elvis etc. At home Dad had an old Pioneer turntable that we listened to music on, it was always old Rock N Roll, Australia All Over albums and Elvis’ Gospel album was often played. It was always special to be able to put that needle down yourself. I still have and use that turntable to this day, every December I listen to Brian Setzer’s Christmas albums religiously with my Daughter.

In primary school I played Clarinet and my sister played flute. The band leader was Ken Marks who was a very humble, passionate man. Even though we were squeaking our instruments and just kids in 1988 at the schools 200th anniversary he wore is formal military uniform. He was not only one of the most inspirational people for a kid with an instrument he had served and was a war hero.

Around the age of 12 I got my first guitar, a shorter scale Suzuki from a neighbour. I really wanted an electric, so I saved up my pocket money and found a Rok Axe in the trading post. From memory it was $120 with an amp. The guitar was in bad shape and I ended up selling it to a mate also named Tim (will call him Tim E from here on to save confusion) for $50 who then managed to get $80 out of cash converters for it.

As most Australian families at the time, Hey Hey It’s Saturday was a big part of our week. When Nathan Caveleri was on the TV playing his guitar, I thought he is about my age and if he can do it I can give it a go. My first cassette I personally owned was his version of Little Egypt.

Tim E’s dad used to get together with old mates to have a jam playing old shadows tune. I would go along and play my guitar along with them. One of his mates John had a Fender Strat, it was Olympic white and a 1984 model, his guitar was his pride and joy. He asked me if I wanted to have a go and I instantly fell in love with the thing.

Tim E got me my first job at 15 with a metal fabricator where he worked. The goal was to buy my very own Fender Strat. I saved up and was about $100 short when my parents told me they would pay the remaining amount. We went down to the music store and they had an American standard in Sonic Blue which came home with me.

In high school I started a couple of bands firstly covers then another band doing originals. At the time I really was into silverchair, then Green Day. But in 1996 something hit me, while hanging out with Tim E a news story came on that the Sex Pistols were doing a reunion tour. He grew up with an older brother that was into a lot of older punk, so he was excited. I instantly connected with the sound of that band. Tim E moved to Perth before that tour so I ended up going with my girlfriend at the time that turned up in a tie die shirt, which was probably the most rebellious thing to do at a Sex Pistols gig. I managed to talk my way backstage afterwards and briefly met the band and got some autographs, which at the time for a 15 year old was a dream come true. I don’t care what any says about ‘ol Johnny Rotten he treated me well, he saw an excited kid, signed my copy of his book with no hesitation and gave me a big smile.

My Sex Pistols concert ticket

I purchased a digital 8 track recorder a Fostex DMT-8VL which at the time was $1699. The unit allowed me to record 2 tracks at a time, had no effects, two band eq, very primitive to todays standards. On the unit I taught myself to edit in timecode, which these days can be done with a slide of the mouse. After a while I ended up purchasing my first interface so I could do some “serious” recording on a comuter. It was a Hoontech C-Port with two preamps, i later got then expansion which gave me 10 preamps into my computer. This was before USB interfaces so you had to put the card inside the computer and hook it up to a “Break out box”. I later upgraded to an RME that I still use today. From teenage years to early 20s I ran a studio out back of home working most weekends with local bands. I still occasionally get people I meet telling me they have recorded at my house.

My first digital multitracker
My first audio interface

Just before I turned 18 I was asked if I wanted to start a new band with some of the guys from local band Spilt Milk, one of my favorite bands as a teen. Originally called “Sucker Punch” then later changing the name to “Unpaid Debt” I was on 3 releases, toured the east coast, did some fun local and international supports including One Dollar Short, Grinspoon, Frenzal Rhomb, Area7, US Bombs and Goldfinger who I had seen support the Sex Pistols years before.

Unpaid Debt at Manly Youth centre, Area7 headlining

I was asked to work at Music City in Petersham where I bought my equipment. The store was great, we were all friends that used to hang out after work often going out in Newtown which usually ended up with a group of us sleeping on the floor at one of the other staff members house around the corner. It was like an instrument store equivalent of “empire records”. I later worked at one of the major chain music stores with one of the staff from music city and after that I swore I would never work in a music store ever again.

During a recording session with a guy who did ballads, the drummer Joe Rahme who was a solid very loud drummer asked if I wanted to run his PA systems. I said no I wasn’t interested, besides I had only used a couple of vocal rigs in rehearsal rooms. When he offered to pay me, I asked when the gig was. I did a few gigs with him, the typical load in load out, getting squashed 3 wide in the front of a van next to “Big Al” that loved getting a Kebab with extra garlic after the gig. My very first live sound gig was at a pub down south, everything was turned on a rough level set and the next thing was “we’re on” and I was left to a side of stage mix on a cheap mixer with volumes set very loud. I held on and gave it a good run, everyone seemed happy with the way it went. Throughout those years I would sometimes work in warehouses during the week, 2 days in the studio and two nights of gigs often to near 90 hours a week.

From there Joe asked to run a couple of in house rigs over the years in venues from Penrith to Concord and every so often doing a walk in gig here and there at venues such as The Gaelic Club in town and the Bridge Hotel. Around 2008 a new inhouse rig was being installed at the Bull and Bush hotel, I was asked If I wanted to buy the rig and have it as my own business. It was great, my girlfriend at the time (now wife) would come in and operate the DJing and song requests between bands and even learnt to run the PA system. For a few years we would work 3 nights a week and end up going fishing or taking a drive out to the country during the week.

Ben Finn was one of the performers that was always fun friendly and a good laugh. During one of the nights he was playing he asked if I wanted to run one of his music stores. I had decided that I would never work music retail again but being a likeable guy and a family owned and run business I thought I’d give it a shot. I operated the PA in the Bull and Bush nearly every weekend for 12 years straight right up until the corona lockdowns. A few years ago i played in a Sex Pistols/Ramones/Punk tribute show that was a blast, but outside of that the last decade musically for me has been singing cowboy songs with my Kids. My daughter has her first drum lesson at Maxx Music this week.

I started at Maxx Music in 2012 and really enjoyed the challenge. As all jobs there have been ups and downs but one of the most rewarding things in my career with music is when a kid gets their first instrument and has that excitement in their eye not knowing what their journey may bring.


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