Listen and/or buy. Notes on songs. The full backstory. Bonus songs!
Not Nor Mal is Mal Webb's 2016 album. 21 songs, all real instruments and voice, written, sung, played and recorded by Mal, with a few excellent guests:
Kylie Morrigan: Violin (Spur five string) on tracks 1-4, 7, 14-17 and 20
Aurora Kurth: Lead vocal on So Over You
Sam Lemann: Electric guitar on Brooke's Jetty
Jenni Pittock (niece): Flute on Follicle Drive
"All the Birds": Clarinet by Susan Robertson (Mum), introduction by Grandad (so BBC!) and applause by John Webb, Granny and family, all from a 1970 recording.
Mal plays nylon string guitar, piano, mbira, ukulele (strummed and drummed), banjo uke, electric bass, Swales gourd bass, trombone, slide trumpet, melodica, Suzuki Andes, chromatic harmonica, whistling and all manner of vocal techniques (sideways yodeling, throat singing, beatbox, etc).
Anything that sounds like drums is either Mal's mouth or ukulele drumming. And anything that sounds like birds, electronic or reversed is also just Mal's voice or whistling (with a bit of mic flapping). In short, it's all real, in real time ... really!
Mixed by Mal Webb (except tracks 1, 3, 4, 5, 14 and 18 by Jim Moynihan)
Mastered by Jim Moynihan (Spoonbill)
Listen to it and/or buy it
Bandcamp: You can hear it and/or buy a digital copy (with all the artwork) as mp3 or WAV (CD quality!) Yes, you can hear the whole album, but Bandcamp limits the number of times you can do that. https://malwebb.bandcamp.com/album/not-nor-mal
Buy the CD from me! Click here.
MGM Distribution: You can order it in stores (JB, Sanity, etc.) http://www.thegroovemerchants.com
iTunes and Spotify: These options aren't as finacially good for me, but that's OK!
Notes on each track
1. Give It Up - 4:44. I wrote this for my brother John, who isn't a fan of audience participation. Neither is my faux Pa, Alan. And a few years ago at Glastonbury, when Beyonce performed, she came out and yelled "Hello GlastonBERRY", a tall English chap next to me exclaimed, "Oh, for Christ's sake, it's 'Glast'nbry'... it's 3 syllables... how come people can't get these things right?!"after which he promptly left! I just had to write this song. You may note that the chord progression goes A A Dm Dm throughout the song, but I add or subtract 2/4 bars between the sections such that the one shifts. Not as disturbingly as in Brick, but still fun. This concept was inspired by Once In A Lifetime by Talking Heads / Brian Eno, which shifts like that between the verses and choruses (to my ear, anyway) and Angry (GIMA) by Bobby McFerrin, in which I'm never quite sure where he's feeling the one... I hope to ask him one day!
2. Henrietta Lacks - 3:49. In 1993, my Dad told me about HeLa cells, but at that point it was thought that the woman's name was Helen Lane, so I wrote my song with that name. I wrote it for the Oxo Cubans as a disco groove and we performed it quite a few times, but never recorded it. Then when I found out that her real name was Henrietta Lacks, I started to rewite the lyrics, but people liked the name Helen Lane so much that I just changed a line in the last verse to explain the confusion. That's the version that's on my Trainer Wheels album, with a sweet guitar accompaniment. But I decided the song needed a proper rewrite (losing the name Helen Lane altogether) and a return to its disco origins. I hope you like it!
3. Plague - 1:31. Overpopulation is a tricky subject and I wanted to express that in a song. I resolved long ago not to have kids, both for the sake of the planet and my desire to be a good uncle (and faux unk), which I think is a very important role to play... OK, sure, there's a little fear and selfishness thrown in there too... I do love the mummy back guarantee! This started as a solo voice piece, but adding Ky's violin really helps express the lyrics to their full extremes, from thrashy face punk to faux Disney. Yes, it's really just two tracks, one violin and one vocal.
4. Brick - 3:25. I wrote this song in about 1994 when my sister Cath struggling with the idea of putting on an exhibition, whence I got the idea for an "inhibition" of art, presented in a hidden cupboard (very hipster, in a post modern way!) She did exhibit in the end, with great success. Essentially Brick is more about communication struggles in relationships. Yes, the word "Brick" is often misheard as "prick", but that kinda works in the song too! I arranged it for the Oxo Cubans in a clumsy ska groove and we played it many times but never recorded it. Around 2003 I came up with a guitar version, around which all the chords are the notes A, B and E with different bass notes undernaeth (every note is used except Bb, which is horrid!) But I really got excited when I came up with the idea of the shifting loops. The 3 beatbox loop layers (spitty crunch, cloppy clicks and straight Ps and Bs) are 16 beats long and run for the whole song... simple! BUT the "one" (the first beat of the groove) is shifted by what the voice and other instruments do, such that throughout the song, nearly every one of the 16ths is felt as the one as at some point! And the middle instrumental section goes from 16 to 15 to 14 to 13 to 12 to 11 to 10 to 9 to 8 beats (Kylie and I had to practice that part A LOT!) But my aim was to make it so that all the complexity washes over you until you actually listen in for it. Let me know what you think! Oh, and the ambient loop is 17 beats long... just for fun!
5. The Lot - 0:48. This is a true story... sort of. On the hamburger menu of a takeaway shop in Mostyn Street, Castlemaine , they had 'The Lot'*, but below that, they also had 'The Lot with extras'. When I questioned the woman in the shop, she said "'the lot' doesn't have beetroot or pineapple". I asked, "But shouldn't 'the lot' have every possible option on it?" to which she replied, "No, that'd be 'the works'". This irritated me so much, I said, "'The Works', 'The Lot'... it should be the same thing! It's not just a hamburger with 'a lot', it's with 'the lot'...it's the definite article!" at which point her dull gaze led me to tie up my rantette and order 'the lot with extras'... hurumph! The resultant song is a very short and punchy acapella number, featuring that classic Pauline Hanson line.
*For people from UK, etc. who don't know the term, 'The Lot' means a hamburger with everything on it... kind of obvious really.
6. Fun Detector - 4:03. I think the term "fun detector" originated on a Batacuda (roving drumming group) tour to Singapore, a land brimming with fun detectors, who are all the full bottle on the regulations and eager to let you know where and when you aren't allowed to have fun (i.e. most places). I'm not sure who actually coined the term: It may have been me, but hey, it's hard to know with that kind of authorship thing. The recording built steadily over the past few years, adding the horns, then the ukulele drumming ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tf_VMuQTYdE ), then the mbira and finally the Suzuki Andes (Kylie's idea), which really caps it off! Yes, I can play that guitar solo live!
7. So Over You - 4:37. I wrote this for (and not about!) my friend Aurora Kurth, who'd asked me to write her "a tragic love song... something Shirley Bassey might sing". It's kind of harsh, but Aurora really works its schizophrenic extremes. I'm hoping to send it to Shirley Bassey one day. I think we all know people like this character and we're all a little bit like her, eh!
8. Oblivious Man - 2:39. My niece, nephew, sister and I were once playing music for my Gran in the public space of her nursing home and all the residents there were loving it. But then a guy came in a started vacuuming, completely oblivious. After a few seconds of stunned incredulity, I began to make up a song for him called Oblivious Man, which all enjoyed greatly, except for him, as he remained oblivious! Eventually a nurse came in, assessed the situation, got his attention and suggested that he do the vacuuming later, due to the music going on. He replied, "Oh, OK" good naturedly and wandered off.
I continued to work on the song, making the character more of a superhero (like a extreme version of Roger Ramjet) who has no idea he's saved the day. Around that time, an animator called Evan Newby contacted me about collaborating. I checked out his website and he had a cartoon called Oblivious Man, who was pretty much my charactor, in drawn form! Now my song is finished, I think OM needs to come to life... we have plans!
9. TLA - 3:31. TLA can stand for either Three Letter Abbreviation or Three Letter Acronym*. Strangely enough, there've been a few TLA songs written, but nothing really comprehensive. Mine is in a Pacific Island style, as the word "Tielei" sounds (to me) like a Polynesian greeting. I've avoided countries, companies and organisations on the whole, as that would make it toooo long! I was determined to make it all make sense, in a pointless kind of a way. Have you noticed that POW and LBW both have the same number of syllables as their meanings? And note that the melody I sing on WWW makes the shape of a W.
*FYI, acronyms are abbreviations which are said as a word (such as PIN, SIM, GIF, etc).
10. Brooke's Jetty - 4:17. Brooke's Jetty in St Kilda, which features on two of my CD covers was neglected by those responsible for it (Parks Victoria) and then demolished without any public consultation in 2015. I've lived in St Kilda for 25 years and windsurf off the dog beach next to Brooke's Jetty, so I was horrified when they destroyed it. There's a fine crew of locals (including a few lawyers) who are pushing them to rebuild it and I thought I'd lend a hand and a larynx to the cause. Sam Lemann, another St Kilda local and gorgeous guitarist, kindly recorded the perfect electric guitar part for the song. Thanks Sam!
11. One Finger Fanfare - 1:01. I wrote this fanfare for the opening ceremony of Woodford Festival 2014/15, but they ended up not using it! We did eventually use it as a parade piece and then for the closing Fire Event... phew! The name is due to the fact that on Bb valve brass instruments, the whole piece is played with only second valve, thus it could be called "Middle Finger Fanfare", but I decided against that! And ironically, I recorded it only on slide instruments, thus it could be called "2 Position Fanfare", which doesn't have a great ring to it either. Regardless, its positional and valvey simplicity made it accessible to all the players (many of whom were novice), despite its otherwise complexity.
12. Rooster Tree - 3:42. For more than a decade I'd noticed the tree on the hill just before Broadford as you drive up the Hume Highway from Melbourne. One day mentioned it to a group of locals up in Wangaratta and they all said, "Aw yeah, the Rooster Tree!" and then turned to each other and said, "Oh, you've noticed it too!" After much discussion (and abhorrent mention of squirrels), a woman at a neighbouring table leaned over and said, "Hey, you know that Rooster Tree has a Facebook page with more that 5000 members!" Thus, I decided it needed an anthem. You need to know that "gallinaceous" means chicken-like. In recent years of good rainfall, the ol' Rooster has got a bit shaggy and when I drop my CD to the owner's house (I'm pretty sure I've worked out on whose property the tree resides) I might see if they're up for some judicious pruning... is that wrong? Hmmm. I thought I'd better make the song a "driving rhythm" and anyone trying to work out the banjo uke part, remember I'm left handed and don't restring my uke!
13. Ad For Beer - 1:37. This is a true story. Chick Ratten, who ran the Rainbow Hotel in Fitzroy, once said to me "yeah, I've been playing your demo in my car... I love it, but I can't give you a gig... your music's not a good ad for beer". I'm told he used the phrase quite often. Sadly, Chick died 8/8/2008 at about the time I was finishing the song (I had no idea he was unwell). There's a nice article about Chick from the AGE at: http://www.theage.com.au/national/rainbow-warrior-and-musos-patron-saint-pedals-off-on-last-ride-20080812-3u6f.html?skin=text-only
This song actually began as an instrumental and was recorded as "Shk Shing" on a Bomba CD and I retro fitted the lyrics. Note that the first and second phrases are the same, except shifted by quaver (1/8th note).
14. Load - 3:59 - On a plane once I was sitting beside the head of transport for Australia Post. He'd been at a Volvo truck launch in Alice Springs. The plane was delayed, so we spoke at length. I asked him how much mail went by train and he said, "Ha! When I first got this job, I commissioned a study into using trains and transfer stations versus just trucks and found that trains are 3 times more efficient than trucks... 3 to 1! 3 to 1! People kept saying, "But door to door has to be better" and I just kept repeating "3 to 1! 3 to 1!"... they must've thought I was a loony. And it didn't help anyway... people are obsessed with trucks". Thus, I wrote this song. I was spending a lot of time with Dad, helping with his chemotherapy, and discussing the song with him spurred me on to finish it. Thankfully, with the rising acceptance of intermodal freight systems in other parts of the world, good sense may eventually prevail. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intermodal_freight_transport
15. Picture - 2:58. This song is inspired by Michael Franks' lovely metaphoric love songs. It wasn't written for anyone... just hopeful! Musically, it's inspried by Clifford Brown's Joy Spring and its key shifting AABA form (F, F#, G, F). I went with F, G, A Eb so the A sections always rise to the next. It's rather old school big bandy style. The arrangement on the recording plays with a mixture of muted and unmuted strings and brass. The last note of highest violin part required me to finger the note while Kylie slid the harmonic up the neck... I held back from giving myself a violin credit on the album!
16. All The Birds - 5:45. I did a song for Mum Susan's 70th birthday. I played it live at the big family party and everyone sung along and played their harmonicas gloriously. Mum loved it (and managed to retain her composure throughout... watch the video of the performance on YouTube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XN9dYJuYFi4 )
On the recording, that's my Grandad doing the intro, taken from a 1970 recording (I was 3 1/2)... how BBC does he sound?! And that's Mum playing the clarinet from the same recording... that took a little bit of fiddling to make it fit. Thanks to my aunts Margaret and Jean for their fine contributions, like the poem mum wrote (I've included a link to a photo of the original). And thanks to Mary and Alice for editing, ideas and a few arched eyebrows (Alice wanted it to be "a keg of kisses"... noice!)
Here's a few useful facts: "Bilione baci" means 1,000,000,000,000 kisses in Italian. Mum really did cook us brains for our birthday breakfasts... yum! She took up hamonica at 65, but isn't into blues at all. She was a fan of a Canadian series of books about a girl called Susannah, so her mum, my granny, used to call her Susannah Boardinghouse. Aunt Margaret told me that mum wrote the poem "Laugh and you'll get there" when she was about 6 or 7, but mum doesn't recall writing it at all! But she does remember the family quoting it often. Of course, this song was written in secret, so I found that out afterwards. Paul Mills bullied my brother John at school and mum was a classic for saying things like "Well, I hear he's not very happy at home...". There are many other little in-jokes, but they could never be explained.
Original Poem: http://malwebb.customer.netspace.net.au/LaughAnd.jpg
17. Roadworks - 4:31. This isn't a true story... but it might be! Note that the whistle and voice beeps are 8 against 9 of the groove.
18. Pash Crush - 4:37. This song was originally a little instrumental, but while it was being rehearsed, Nicky Bomba started chanting "Pash Crush, Pash Crush" in the breaks (inspired by a bottle of cordial that graced the table at tuba player Wayne Freer's house). I then wrote the lyrics and recorded it with the band, Bomba. When I used to sing it (solo and with Into Wishing) I tended to drop the chant (at the risk of offending Nick!), but for my recording, I've re-added it both forward and backward! This song uses a weird scale I made up: 1, flat2, 3, sharp4, 5, flat6 and 7. It's like a blues scale starting on the major 7th! It turns out that this scale is known as Raga Puriya Daneshri in Indian music.
19. Win - 2:57. I wanted to write a song about winning that didn't involve anyone losing. Like something Dr Suess would write. The groove is just 4/4, but it might not seem like it! The low bass sound is buzzing the tip of my tongue against the roof of my mouth.
20. Follicle Drive - 4:55. My Dad, Graham Webb, passed away peacefully, painlessly and in good company on November 15, 2015. I wrote this song for his funeral. I miss him hugely. He was fine fella indeed. More about this song at: http://malwebb.customer.netspace.net.au/follicledrive.html
21. Wake Up Instrumental - 1:35. I recorded this instrumental version of my song Wake Up as part of my soundtrack for UK puppet company Wishworks' show, 'Whispering Smith'. We ended up not using it, so I though it was an excellent way to finish my album.
The full backstory of this album:
Making this album was quite an adventure: After finishing my 3rd solo album, "Dodgy", in 2008, I did all manner of projects, such as working with Spoonbill and Aurora Jane, making my "Live and Instructional" DVD and recording and mixing the 4th Totally Gourdgeous album "Pun Kin" and the music for the "Woodley" TV show at my house. Throughout that time I was working on my next solo album, Not Nor Mal and in 2012, I buckled down to finishing it. While I made good headway, something always popped up that caused me to delay it, like recording and touring with Formidable Vegetable Sound System, forming a duo with Kylie Morrigan (inspiring me to explore new arrangement ideas) and finishing the 36 song 2nd album for Ti Tree School. All good things indeed. Then my Dad's illness and consequent passing in Novmber 2015, which was devastating for me, charged me with determination to finish my album, having written two songs honouring him. And the album songlist suddenly leapt from 18 to 21!
While I had a little more confidence in my studio skills, I was still daunted by the idea of mixing my next solo album, for which I'd done some big multitrack recorded arrangements, including Kylie Morrigan on violins. Having worked with Jim Moynihan (Spoonbill) on his material and on the Woodley soundtrack, I got him to remix and master one of my songs and loved the result. Yet I still felt that for the majority of the Not Nor Mal songs, I should again mix with Ross Cockle (who had mixed my last two solo albums with fab results). The problem was that in 2009 I stopped using Protools (the recording software Ross uses) and started using Reaper, which I much prefer. As a result, I couldn't premix the songs as much as I had in the past and Ross really had to start mixing from scratch. He did a great job of it, but throughout the process, I increasingly got the feeling that I should really be mixing it myself (Ross even said that at one point). But I was having trouble hearing it, as I was a bit freaked out by it all. So I kept on, as I was on a deadline to get it done before I went to Europe, mixing the remaining tracks with Jim and consequently mastered it all. I headed home to my own monitor speakers, compared the masters to different stages of the process, and, in a moment of painful clarity, came to the rather daunting realisation that I wasn't happy with it. And there were things I wanted to rerecord in several tracks and re-edit, etc. But it was good, as I could finally clearly hear what I wanted. I'd learnt a lot from watching Ross mixing those tracks and even though I'd paid him and he was very understanding about it all, I still feel bad about it. Jim was also very understanding and was determined to get his mixes (and the way we master it) such that they met my expectations. I went to Europe, continuing to tweak my mixes in hire cars and on friends' (Alex Cellier and Steve Jefroy) speakers and on returning home, Jim and I finally finished it off, well to my satisfaction. Phew!
The artwork came about after YEARS of development. Much like the music on the CD, I had a good idea of what I wanted. The front cover photo took quite a lot of prep, practicing my back to sail windsurfing technique and working out how to keep the slide trumpet safe in the process. My neice Alice Bittisnich took the photo from Brooke's Jetty, which is now sadly gone. I'd designed the interlocking Mal Webb logo years before and my sister Cath Webb kindly turned it into clouds as a pencil drawing. Alice then computer painted Cath's drawing. The back cover photo is me actually wearing all my instruments. The set up was painful, and fairly risky to both me and the instruments, but the resulting photos, taken by Dominic Hook (assisted by Kylie Morrigan) are perfect. My sister Mary Webb, Kylie and Mum proofread the CD text and lyrics. Then the amazing Charlie Mgee put the whole design together and messed with it in the best possible way!
Printed and pressed by Austep Music (100% recycled and vegetable based inks)
These are two songs I'm not legally allowed to put on my album, so here they are on Soundcloud!
"Five Been Everywhere": https://soundcloud.com/malwebb/five-been-everywhere