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Tuesday, April 10, 2018 7:33pm

REMASTERED: an interview with David Blumberg


David Blumberg is an Adelaide based multi-instrumentalist and composer whose most recent album and song cycle Gertrude was toured extensively around Australia in 2017 culminating in a performance at MONA in November. David and his quartet will perform re-imaginings from Gertrude, as well as new originals for vocals, bass clarinet, guitar, bass and drums at the REMASTERED afterparty on Fri 20 Apr.

Dave took some time out whilst recording in Melbourne to answer a few questions for us.

Tell us about your background Dave. How did you get started in music?

I started learning the clarinet as a child, my Dad was a disciplinarian and made me do a lot of practice! He said I'd thank him for it one day, and sure enough here I am now and I certainly do. 

What is your connection to orchestral music? Do you have any stand-out favourites?

I spent high school studying music, practicing the clarinet and playing in the school orchestra. After school I attended the Conservatorium studying composition for two years. At some point a wanderlust took hold of me and I left Australia. On returning I dived straight into making music whilst supporting myself with a series of dubious jobs. 

Some of my favourite pieces of art music are, Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto and Mahler's Fifth, I love the intense drama of these legendary works. I love the ethereal beauty of the works of the French impressionist composers and I am also very fond of Stravinsky and the inspiring experimentation of his oeuvre. Going back in time further, I find the haunting music of Carlo Gesualdo incredibly intriguing. The dissonant harmonic twists, terrifying to our traditional-tonality-conditioned sensibilities! 

What piece of music on the concert program are you most looking forward to, and why? 

I remember studying the Concerto For Orchestra while at university and it is a brilliant piece of music. Strange scales, Bartok's signature use of folk melodies, and other clever compositional ideas such as the intervallic rules for different instrument groups in the second movement make it a fascinating work. Bartok is an incredible composer and as well as this piece I adore his string quartets - seriously far out, psychedelic stuff. I visited Bartok's house in the hills outside of Budapest once, there was a glass case containing one of his rolled cigarettes, half smoked, that had been found inside his piano!

You’re a recording artist, and have a pretty solid roster of bands. Can you tell us a little about the different bands you’re involved with?

I'm playing regularly in three groups at the moment; 

The Maraby Band is a big group of 8-10 musicians located in Melbourne and Adelaide. We play a "concept album" I wrote called "Gertrude", which is a cosmic-locomotive-fairytale and we have a hell of a lot of fun. We've been lucky enough to tour the country and play some amazing shows including on the outdoor stage at MONA, and just recently at the fantastic Festival at Basket Range. 

The Cowboys of Love is a rock'n'roll trio I have with two good friends, we play our own little antipodean style of guitar-pop music, and have just released an LP "Axe In The Public Realm". The bass player from the Cowboys, George Thalassoudis will be playing with me on the 20th.

The High Beamers is another Adelaide based trio, we play the wonderful songs of my great friend and collaborator Thomas Spall. The songs are rooted in country and folk, electrified and harmonised by the three of us. The High Beamers LP "Cooked" was released in 2017. Drummer Harry Freeman will be joining me for Remastered. 

Men With Chips is the other group I play with, we released a record "Attention Spent" in 2006. It's sludgy rock and roll fare with a heavy free-jazz bent. Our drummer went AWOL in South East Asia for a while but he has recently returned and we will be playing again this year. 

One of the bands you’re a member of is called Cowboys of Love – tell us Dave, what’s in a name and where did it come from?

Initially, we planned to just hang out, pretend we were cowboys and sing our favourite tunes by great country legends like Gram Parsons & Emmylou Harris. Then I started bringing out my songs at rehearsals and ruined that idea! We probably should have thought of something more intelligent, but the Cowboys of Love we became and the name lives on. 

Your most recent release, Gertrude, was recorded in the Flinders Ranges. Can you tell us about that experience?

Absolutely. The Maraby Band takes its name from Maraby Station, an old homestead east of Hawker in the sublime Flinders Ranges. The property is the old family farm of another musical collaborator, Melbourne based musical provocateur Pat Telfer. The station is isolated and off the beaten track, and the perfect place to get away from the omnipresent communication and technology of today's world. It allows one to become intensely immersed in creating something, void of distraction surrounded by nothing but the wonderous expanse. 

David and his band at the Maraby Station

You’re about to perform in some underground tunnels – where is the most interesting place you’ve ever given a performance?

I'm really looking forward to this show and it's going to be a great venue to play in! There have been some other incredible gigs; in February this year the Maraby Band travelled from Far North Queensland where we were literally playing next to a croc infested lagoon in Port Douglas to one of the most picturesque gigs in the country, the Scarborough/Wombarra Bowls Club in the Illawarra: mountain on one side, Pacific Ocean over a cliff on the other, outdoor show in the sunshine with waves crashing, seabirds flying - absolutely sensational. The Theatre Royal in Castlemaine is also stunning, and I must say I always love playing at the legendary Tote in Melbourne. 

Are you able to tell us a little about what you’ve got in store for your performance at REMASTERED?

I've enlisted the services of great local jazz guitarist Django Rowe, and the rehearsals have been very exciting. I'll be focusing on singing with a bit of liquorice stick thrown in, I'm partly going for an absurd-suburban-Sinatra-shtick, re-imagining some songs from all over the "back catalogue" as well as some brand new ones which I am currently in the process of recording right now as I write from Melbourne! 

David spoke to Fritz Magazine about his most recent album, Gertrude

Hear David and his quartet perform at the REMASTERED afterparty on Fri 20 Apr. More information and tickets are available here.

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