On Thursday 31st of January and Friday 1st of February, Ben Salter will be playing two special shows at The Union Hotel in Newtown, Sydney. Come on down Sydney!
Ben has also finished wrapping up the organisation of his house party tour as well. If you were interested in having Ben perform at your house during March/April/May, you can still get in touch but do it soon!
Just email – ben <at> bensalter <dot> com <dot> au
Ben Salter management
Q: Has it been a month already?
A:Yes Ben it has.
JAZZ AT BREAKFAST/NO BAD VIBES
The end of the Berlin trip was great. A bunch of us ex pats – me, Richard Cuthbert, Paul Donoghue, Justin Cusack, Josef Muller, Sam Wareing and special guest James Cruickshank – did two days recording and the results are pretty good I think. We might release it under the name “The Green Dress Society”.. There was a poems stuck to the wall where I was staying with Justin called “The Green Dress”.. It was quite grim. Our society, on the other hand, was anything but. Jazz at breakfast and no bad vibes.
After that I headed off for more of my little mini tour with Aage Hedensted aka Mixtune For Cully, a singer/songwriter from Aarhus in Denmark. Did I speak about Aage already? We played in Leipzig together, then back to Berlin, then I went to Stuttgart, then we met again in beautiful Metz, just over the border in France.
Me in Metz
Then on to Duisburg.. Fans of the English comedy series “League of Gentlemen” will be familiar with Duisburg.. Then up to Stockholm ON THE NIGHT TRAIN BOTTOMS UP with a six hour layover in Berlin to see my buddies at the Green Dress Society one last time. Phew. The stretch between Metz and Duisburg was really beautiful, taking in Bonn and Dusseldorf and Cologne. The train goes along the river and the weather was really nice.. The weather has been alarmingly nice the whole time I have been away,with the possible exception of a few days in England and Brittany.. It is meant to rain all the time in Brittany, though. Just read Asterix and The Normans if you don’t believe me.
CURRANT EVENTS, RAISIN D’ETRES
So I’m presently en route to Oslo from Stockholm via Karlstad. Have just finished a week in Stockholm hanging out in leafy stately serene Tullinge which is pronounced TULL ING GA which sounds like TARINGA which fills me with contentment.. Quite a lot about Stockholm and Sweden has and does fill me with contentment, not least the presence of Mr. Ola Buvall Karlsson my bosom buddy and band mate of some nine years standing. Arrived on Saturday with Aage and headed straight for that night’s venue, Southside Tavern in Södermalm, an Irish pub staffed by heaps of Australians and some smatterings of other ethnicities and nationalities. I have stopped even doing the whole “Oh from Australia are you what part etc etc” thing now – it’s become clear we’ve spread to all corners of the world like a cheerful disease. So it’s sort of embarrassing to draw attention to it. You just go about your day. Was so great to see Ola and to finally meet Eric Lindstrom.. their band El Madrigal is fantastic and I do hope they can come to Australia at some stage. Much dancing and revelry ensued and I finally got to meet Ola’s brother Lars which was delightful. Plus his Mum was there. They’re all excellent.
DANCE MODS DANCE
The next night was also in Stockholm at the beautiful Teater Lederman, with Ola’s other band The Moving Sounds who are a beat combo. I got up and sang “Have Love, Will Travel” with them which was awesome. The whole show was awesome – they had a grand piano so Ola accompanied me for most of my set which was a lovely change.
Ola and I, Teater Lederman
We sped off after the show to try and catch Memphis garage soul champions Reigning Sound at the famous Revolver nightclub, which is right in the middle of town. Unfortunately that night was their tenth birthday or something and the place was absolutely packed with beautiful Stockholm hipsters. I am not sure how many in the queue wanted to see Reigning Sound or just wanted to be seen but after a half an hour in it – the queue – the Reigning Sound had already started and we were still a half hour away from the front and so that’s why we consulted the I Ching and left. No bother. These are not real problems.
The next day we road tripped the six hours to Gothenburg, home of lots of great death metal bands and possibly the only town in the world to my knowledge that has a comedic tradition/heritage, specifically that of PUNNING REGULARLY.
Me, Ola and “The Count”, Ola’s Volvo.
Ola told me about this on the drive and I sort of thought he was lying or something. However within five minutes of meeting our first local the first one dropped. He was the sound guy and he was actually Finnish and he said something like “Oh but I won’t be around for the Finnish”, and then smiled sheepishly and stared at his feet before commenting “.. I have been in Gothenburg too long.” No sooner had the dastardly pun left his lips than Ola’s head snapped around toward me and he said “See?! See!?” ..I couldn’t believe it. Ola is quite fond of a pun himself but he’s not from Gothenburg. Where does that leave us?
Anyway, yeah, all the locals backed up the story. I told my best pun joke:
Q:What happened when the frog’s car broke down?
A:It was toad away.
Anyway the crowd at Vansinnet (trans: The Insanity) was small but enthusiastic and the gig was great fun, and afterwards we all went out drinking together till the wee hours and there was a great cross cultural exchange of ideas between Australians, Danish, Swedish and Belgians. Yep. I’ve been to Europe m8.
FIVE FOUR SIX EIGHT THREE FOUR
So the past week has been spent lazing around Ola’s place, recording songs, making food. Ola and I went on a date on Thursday night, to the season premiere of the Stockholm Symphony Orchestra. It was great. Although, in an effort to increase my concentration, I drank two coffees before we went in. I never drink coffee as it gives me anxiety. So you can imagine how well that turned out. I was still a bit jittery by the time the finale, Mahler’s Fifth, came around. It goes for seventy minutes. I think I managed to concentrate for about thirty or forty percent of it, so that’s not too bad. It is a struggle when you’ve been bought up on three or four minutes at a time! Our recording also went really well.. I have ended up with six songs so I’m pretty pleased with that. A lot of strange time signatures, for some reason. Neither Ola or I are drummers, really, but we can get by, he more so than I. But it was still a bit of a challenge. Still, I think my two hours of five four Talk Talk rip off drum patterns made me a better person.
Anyway we are approaching Oslo. Outside the sun is shining and it all looks a bit like central Victoria, funnily enough. It’s not though. I must go. Only two weeks left of my trip! As soon as I get back I embark on a tour with Something For Kate which is very exciting. A few others things in the works as well. Stumbling towards the finish line, but I remain grateful and very happy. And perhaps most importantly, productive!
Thanks for reading and please stay in touch.
All the best
Hello again, this time from Berlin, where I have now been for about two weeks. LAST WEEK I SAW JONATHAN RICHMAN.
Regular readers of this column will know just how exciting this was. So I won’t say anymore. Except I TOUCHED HIM and IT WAS AMAZING.
Berlin Berlin.. What do you say about Berlin.. Everyone has an opinion. The best advice came from my new friend Tom, who is a physicist. “Don’t try and come up with some generalized theory of Berlin, about why it is what it is or how it came to be this way. You will be wrong.”
So yeah.. Maybe come and visit. You won’t be disappointed. It’s amazing. It’s also rather hot.. 34 or something today. Also, there are HEAPS of dogs. As a result, the cats keep a pretty low profile. Hardly seen any! Heaps of dogs in Paris, also. It’s great, they’re just seamlessly incorporated into everyday life, on the u Bahn and the s Bahn and at restaurants and pubs. Dogs dogs dogs. All shapes and sizes. Just below where I am staying in Freidrichshain there is even a shop that just sells bones for dogs! It’s called “Bones for Dogs”. Controversial.
There certainly are a lot of Australian musicians here, and I’ve been collaborating like crazy with as many as I can.
Sydney’s Richard Cuthbert, of Cuthbert and the Night Walkers and Green Mohair Jacket, who I played with in Sydney just before we both left.. Brisbane’s own Paul Donoghue aka Big Strong Brute. Josef Muller of Laneous & The Family Yah, The Well Alrights and many others. Justin Cusack of Black Pony Express. (I’m currently staying with Justin. We’ve established a social club.) Sam Wareing aka Wasp Summer who has also sheltered and gainfully employed me. Tom “The Physicist” Oates. And of course Melbourne rabble rousers Bitter Sweet Kicks.. They’re on your throughout Europe. They’ve had a hell of a time.. They’re all pretty young, it’s their first ever international tour, and they’ve had some MAJOR crises.. they have no driver or anything, doing it all themselves.. But they’re doing an amazing job. When I saw them at White Trash they absolutely tore the place up, it made me so proud to be Australian! (Much more proud than the stupid Olympics. There wasn’t much to feel proud about there, and I’m not talking about the medal count.. The way the athletes carry on is appalling in my opinion. I dunno, I know it must be tough and everything but surely the fact that there can be only one winner must be foremost in their minds? You wouldn’t think so. Anyway.)
But yeah, we booked a studio for four hours, Bitter Sweet Kicks and I, and recorded a few songs which I think are pretty cool. One is called “Better Drunk Than Homesick”, which is something a bar tender said to them in France or somewhere. They’re playing at Meredith this year and I think I’m gonna have to go, the line up is incredible. Don’t know how. I’ll figure it out. Spiritualized! Turbonegro! Hot Snakes! Primal Scream!
I feel kind of bad that I haven’t really engaged with any Berlin or German artists yet but I am working on rectifying that. I’m off to Hamburg for few days on Tuesday, then Copenhagen, then back to Berlin for another week and another show, and a huuuge mega collaboration thing I am planning.. Kind of like a Young Liberals recording session but in Berlin.
Prior to Berlin I was in Paris for a week, which was really lovely. Did a couple of shows, wrote a few songs, went and saw a cello recital, went to a bunch of galleries and stuff.. It was fantastic. What can I say? I am extremely lucky! I pray every day to the Flying Spaghetti Monster. Thanks so much to Marion and all her pals, and to Boris and La Feline and La Pergola.
Prior to THAT, I was in Madrid. I am going back to Spain in September but I had to make a special visit to do a special collaboration.. More on that later. It went very well however. I didn’t have much of a chance to do any touristy activity, but I saw some flamenco, which was amazing.. Met up with Luis who is organizing some shows for me next month. It was a whirlwind four day visit.
Anyway that’s about it I think, for now. So excited about winning the Best Album award for The Cat.. It’s a huge honour. Also very excited to see HITS on the cover of the Courier Mail. Tomorrow I have to go and negotiate getting my shipment of CDs from German post. Apparently that’s quite a drama.
My Dad came here when it was still divided, with the wall and everything, and snuck into East Berlin, cause he was in the army and could kind of get away with it. Drove around. That’s pretty cool.
Anyway it’s getting toward bedtime.. Even though it’s past midnight it’s still around 28 degrees here at the Green Dress Social Club.. I might try and demo a song before bed.. We’ll see.
Hope you are well and please stay in touch.
Last night “The Cat” won best album award at the Queensland Music Awards! I am so honoured. Thank you so much to everyone who has supported and helped me, lent me money, come to my shows.. To all the people who played on, produced, mixed and listened to the album.. To all my family and friends. And to you, whoever is reading this. Thanks for that too. Respect to all the other nominees and winners. I’m currently in Berlin having a grand time.. Today I collaborated with Melbournians Bitter Sweet Kicks and Black Pony. About to get stuck into mixing our collaboration! While I have been here I have also recorded songs with Big Strong Brute, Tom Oates and Sam Wareing.. Hoping to chase down Richie Cuthbert soon! So busy.
Also went and saw JONATHAN RICHMAN.
More clues coming.
I thank you.
Just refused to sign the bit of paper.. Normally a formality.
Just last week a polar bear was spotted near Akureyri, which is just near Skagastrond… They come over on the icebergs, from.. Greenland I suppose. Or the Arctic. The place I played at up there, Kantrybaer, was Iceland’s first (possibly only) country music bar, started by Iceland’s first ever country music singer, Hallbjörn Hjartarson, some 35 years ago. Upstairs is a radio station where Hallbjorn DJs or programs country music 24 hours a day.
In spite of Ludo and I’s best efforts I still managed to miss my train to Paris come Monday morning, and with it all connecting trains to Lecce, and was forced (the horror!) to spend another night in Bretagne.
Anyway I met one of the stunt women, she seemed nice, all stocky, tanned, toothy and friendly.. she said the movie *spoiler alert* has something to do with astronauts. Also met a high frequency energy healer called Max. She was a sassy New Yorker of about fifty, not a bit flakey as you might expect of someone with her job description. “Are you getting any sort of aura off of me, Max?” I asked, not impolitely. “I’m not here to work honey”, she replied.
Remember me? I’m the one who had your bayybbeeee nowww.. That’s for you Tim old chum.
Woke up a bus driver.
Along with other new friend Danielle, we climbed a mountain, Spakunofell, where legend says the prophetess Þhordis (Thordis) combed her hair every day with a golden comb. In the 10th Century. Iceland is full of amazing stuff like that. Sagas. Took us six hours to climb that mountain. We got lost on the way up.
In Iceland in summer the sun never really sets. It goes just under the horizon.
Now present for two presidential elections.. France, in Lannion, with HITS; and Iceland, in Skagastrond, a small fishing village of about 500 people, right up in the north, where the aforementioned NES artists residency was located. Run by a Brisbane gal named Melody with help from Loppa the dog.
There were other collaborations.. in England.. Before Ireland and Iceland. There was one with Michael Tomlinson. One with Christa Vi. One with Bjorn Baillie. There were gigs, at The Good Ship in Kilburn and at The Ridley Road Market Bar in Dalston. And at the Lazy Bishop festival in Farnham, where John is from. Wandering with Phoebe and Tom around Dublin. Coffee.
Went and saw Aaron and Ben’s band CIVIL CIVIC at The Macbeth in Shoreditch. So good. Instrumental two piece.. Really cool. Japanese noise band first up. A lot of people in Sonic Youth shirts. Am I old, is that what that means? Must consult I Ching.
I’m writing this bit, now, in Lecce, Puglia, Italy. The bottom of the heel. Outside the cicadas are chirping and screeching and there’s a dry wind from the north east, down from the mountains of Serbia and Croatia, I am told, over the Adriatic and here. I’m thankful for the breeze, as is all of Puglia.. Last week it was 44 degrees. I guess now it is around 32 or something. Feels bizarrely enough like being at my sister’s cattle property on a summer afternoon.
Got bitten by a silky terrier in Binic. Who gets bitten by a silky terrier? I didn’t feel so bad though, because apparently it bites everyone.
Jonathan Richman. The Velvet Underground. Lou Reed solo. The Go Betweens.
I have acquired a new pair of boots courtesy of Tourette’s, as I killed my beloved winklepickers climbing up a mountain. Also got a good hat from Tom.
Iceland unlike France is a parlimentary democracy (like Ireland and.. Some other places) so the President is largely a ceremonial figure (like our Governor General), wheeled out for state dinners and such; however the current President did win the hearts and minds of the Icelandic people by effectively vetoing a piece of legislation that would have required Icelanders to pay back $5 Billion to Dutch and UK investors after all their banks collapsed in 2008.
There must be an I Ching app.
As I had missed the markets I was unsuccessful but I found some dry stuff and also made some kick arse cous cous.. A Moroccan french girl even gave it the thumbs up. Authentico. Butcher was hilarious. A translation impasse attained, I found myself resorting to the time honoured tourist technique of steadily increasing the volume of my spoken English.. “how.. MUCH DOES IT COST?”.. Managed, eventually, to rein that in and go back to hand talking.
Serial cat hassler. Wandering the streets of Europe taking photos of random cats. This blog has requisite Internet approved number of cat pictures.
As I wandered up to the bar carriage, I came across a young man playing the ukelele, near the baggage racks.
In spite of this they seem a very agreeable lot. Considering how sexily close it is to the Arctic Circle, Iceland is rather warm, only reaching -15 in the depths of winter and climbing to a very lovely 9 – 22 for my visit. I forgot to mention that the scenery will melt your face.
There was Bastille Day in France, spent partially on a bus between Lorient and Binic. Jubilee, Bastille Day, 4th July. Embassies. Elections.
We were both waiting to use the bathroom, at the embassy. The budget for mini hamburgers was as large as the queue for the toilet was long. The toilet queue was where all the real networking got done.
Italians like to stay up late. Tomorrow night I am playing at a bar on the beach near here.. The thing doesn’t even start until midnight, and it finishes at 7 in the morning.
I went to Ireland, before Iceland, one letter the difference, vive la difference!, which was also grand, green, amazing. Played in Cork, Galway and Dublin, zoomed around on the bus. Saw Ray Davies play in Galway. Met a Go Betweens enthusiast in Cork.. Well, two of them actually. My host, Adam, formerly of Wellington, was a keen exponent of antipodean pop and rock amd we nerded it up big time.
He was a scout, on his way to Turin, for a scout jamboree.
A scout from Belgium, shrouded in mystery.
I have finally stopped listening to Azealia Banks.
They had mini hamburgers, and Samuel Adams’ Boston Ale. Ola would have liked that. Assorted US expatriates present, including some of the crew who’d been working on the new Tom Cruise movie, ‘Oblivion’. The apocalypse continues, in Iceland. Local farmers weren’t happy with Tom pushing everyone around, a sort of ‘We grew here, you flew here’ situation that was for once entirely understandable.
I have already posted about this blog on Facebook but here I am at 3.00am tinkering. That’s the future. No copy control. Tobias’s friend Oswaldo wrote a romance novel! He is also a journalist, and promotes concerts. The Kronos Quartet came and stayed here, when they did a show in Lecce. With Philip Glass. One Ell or Two? One Hell Or Two? Fore di Capo!!
I took full advantage of it by attempting to record a five track EP whilst I was there. Did four songs, including a cover of “I Heard Her Call My Name” by The Velvet Underground. That’s the fourth Velvets cover I have attempted whilst over here. Pattern Recognition. Still have to do vocals for some others. Iceland… Phew.
Just visited the Castle of Otranto with my wonderful hosts here in Lecce, Tobia Lamare and Cecilia (and Oswaldo and Antoinetta).. Amazing. Cannot explain. Turkish. Battle. Catacombs. Andy Warhol exhibition.
The other wind is the Sirocco, from the south, Africa, over the Mediterranean. It is humid. Sometimes the humidity reaches 90%. It’s all a lot like North Queensland.
As I drank a beer and pressed my nose on windows to the left and right, gazing out at the jaw dropping alps passing by on both sides, I heard the young Ukelele player pluck the unmistakable riff to “Riff Raff” by AC/DC, a song very close to my heart.
After Lorient, Binic.. Beautiful Binic, and Ludovic Lorre, proprietor of Le Chiland Qui Passe (The Passing Ships). A beautiful little cafe on the marina. Scene of some disgraceful expatriate behaviour on my last visit some three years ago; I was keen to make amends.
L’espirit du e’scalier
Scene also of the increasingly famous Binic Folk & Blues festival, which has played host to a number of Australian bands over the years. This year, Dan Brodie, Jamie Hutchings and Suzie Stapleton are all performing, as are Burn In Hell. Aussie pride. I played four shows over two days, including a cameo at a 50th birthday party, and I think they were all good. I exhausted my supply of CDs in any case.
Seems pretty reasonable to me; as far as I can gather no one in (itl.) Iceland (itl./) got their bloody investments back.
I have written lots of songs.
I got here after 30 hours on trains from St Brieuc via Paris, Milan and Rome. The humidity and heat. It makes everything sort of surreal, as Australians know well. Last night I played outside at an Irish pub.. They have them in Puglia too. They are ubiquitous. I must go.
After Tim and Helen’s, it was on the train to Lorient, a place beloved of many Brisbane and Australian musicians.. Le Galion, and Jean Baptiste, the paratrooper. Had a fantastic couple of shows there.. I stuck around for Friday the 13th and decided to repay JB’s hospitality by cooking him and his business partner Crystal (as well as a few patrons) a traditional lamb roast. This entailed a visit to almost every supermarket and store in Lorient in the quest for fresh Rosemary or ROSMARIN.
One day as I drank beer at Kantrybaer with Tourette’s, the radio station played “The Pub With No Beer” by Slim Dusty. Played a bunch of Slim Dusty. Was it random or did Hallbjorn know?
I read “The Man In The High Castle” by Philip K. Dick. It had a profound effect on me. Truly amazing.. In its portayal of obsession with imaginary (or real?) contemporary cultural ephemera it reminded me of William Gibson, and Antiques Roadshow.. Or Gibson now is like Dick. Of course. Chilling. The I Ching.. I must get a set. The ending.
Tonight I ate fettini di cavallo.
TOM COONEY THE MOON AND THE LIFFEY
I SAW RAY DAVIES PLAY IN GALWAY. Thanks Gugai!
I told Max that I did sense an amazing sort of energy about Iceland, that I kept forgetting everyone’s names and sort of stumbling about in a beatific daze.. Whether that was due to the stunning scenery and fresh air, or to the local spirit, Brennivin, aka “The Black Death”, is another question entirely.
Two embassies (or one High Commission and one embassy, to be precise, as we’re still ruled by England, true story!) ..while in Iceland I managed to sneak in with other ‘artists’ from the NES residency to the 4th of July party at the American Embassy in Reykjavik. True story.
On my iPad I have every Asterix and Tintin comic, scanned (I HAVE BOUGHT THEM ALL SEVERAL TIMES)… Asterix is from Bretagne. Probably somewhere between Lannion and St. Malo or something.
This required a trip back to Cork but Ireland isn’t that big and I was just grateful that crisis had been averted. I spent the next few days giving money to every beggar and busker I saw, which in Dublin particularly is a fairly hefty outlay, but I felt the karmic balance had to be redressed. More on that later.
Anyway they voted the old President back in. Meanwhile I hung out with the arists, a motley collection of printmakers, painters, installation..istas, a Danish collective and a rapper from NZ, Damien aka Tourette’s, who was writing a novel. We hit it off and even did a collaboration.
It was due to the hangover I sustained drinking with Adam and his awesome Irish housemates (on the topic of the Jubilee: “No person should have to bow or kneel to another person.”) that I lost my wallet in the bus station in Cork. Cards, and €80 cash.. Realised, too late, on the bus to Galway. After some frantic texting and what not it was located at the bus station; someone had handed it in. With all the cash in it.
Apparently Þhordis buried treasure up there on the plateau that looks like some strange spongy lunar otherworld. But you can only find it if you’re a woman, virgin, never read the word of God (the Christian one), never had cow’s milk.
One embassy, one high commission, one Jubilee
Whilst in Reykjavik I did three shows, the biggest at a place called Cafe Rosenberg with my patrons, landlords and all round excellent fellows 1860. They have been described as Iceland’s Fleet Foxes which seems reasonable enough to me – I’ve not listened to much of them (Fleet Foxes, that is) but I’ve heard they go alright. 1860 certainly go alright and their back story and general vibe was very reminiscent of The Gin Club’s.. Started as a side project, lots of members, a sort of Indie The Band thing. They organised my gigs and let me sleep in their rehearsal room which was amazing.
After Iceland there was a brief layover in London. More shenenigans in Dalston. Having it large, etc. Down the offie. Made my first cous cous. No, that’s not a euphemism.
I got the ferry from Portsmouth over to Brittany again. Brittany, Bretagne, Breihz. English, French, Breton. From St. Malo to an ancient farmhouse in the woods and a couple of nights with new friends Tim and Helen. Extensive collaborating, soul searching and red wine drinking was done. Tim is an English ex pat who has lived in Brittany for a number of years. He has quite an interesting musical career which I won’t go into here. I will just say that he, Helen, their beautiful two year old Isabella, plus two or three cats, were all tres hospitible.. The same cannot be said for Betty the goat.
Trendy bars across Reykjavik hummed with the sounds of people quoting Top Gun and speculating as to Mr. Cruise’s choice of sexiness and religiosity, neither of which I am prepared to speculate on here as he just seems frankly like an excellent fighter pilot and an above average assassin. Can also race cars and sell athletes.
Hello again weary readers, whoever you are.. Tolerant, open hearted, kind. Envious, no doubt. I would be. I am one lucky hombre. When this trip began, I would say to everyone, well, it’s not all luck (and here I find the lack of italics in nearly all iPad applications frustrating).. You know, sure, I got a grant, but I’ve been plugging away for so long yadda yadda yadda yabba dabba dooo.. Well, I have abandoned all that. I am lucky, and I am grateful. And that’s it. Here comes this month’s exciting installment, rambling.. Sorry if it’s too long for you but I am too busy doing stuff to write newsletters all the time and besides that gets boring quickly. Go get a cup of tea.
SHANTI SHANTI SHANTI
Lecce, 21st July 2012
Mailing ListJoin my mailing list NOW and receive
FREE MP3s of The Lovecats and The Mailbox Song.
Ben Salter Live
Is out now! get it at my bandcamp now.
Featuring 26 tracks, all just me, an acoustic guitar and a tambourine. Includes all of "The Cat" plus Gin Club classix, two new songs and covers by Smokey Robinson, Sam Cooke, The Velvet Underground, John Prine, Guided By Voices, Neil Young and more.
No shows booked at the moment.