No corrections yet
Thursday, December 16, 1993
By MIKE GEE
SAD BUT true — snapshots of life
from two men who know the bot tom line, have always been able to capture pure emotion, put the whole daily race to the finishing post into perspective. Tex Perkins and Don Walker — the rider on the storm meets the suburban street poet; strange urban blues is born, a sad but true collection of heartbreak, hope and loss rolled into one package.
Don Walker is a gentle man. Richly talented, horribly under-estimated; a man who has written so many great songs that, as he will say later in the interview: "Turn on the radio and you'll hear one of my songs every half an hour." Many don't recognise those songs and as Walker also says this hasn't helped Catfish rival Michael Jackson for record sales.
Sad but true ... in a way it's the theme of this interview. Walker is a little guarded, a little uncomfortable, a little sad. But he's also happy because this platter he's cut with Perkins and Charlie Owens may well be the first album to really capture the Australian urbanity... and he's proud of it.
Born of a rather uncertain series of events that had their initiation at a Triple J live-to-air when the threesome cut four tracks, a vague promise to do something more somehow came true when six months later Perkins rang Walker and said, "look, I'm really seri ous; I want to do a record". Perkins dropped round to see Walker, they compared songs and after a couple of such sessions found they had enough material to do an album. Owens was more than happy to get involved and the trio headed for the studio.
"I had the most fun I've had record ing an album for maybe 12 or 13 years," Walker said. "It wasn't an album ap proached with any kind of seriousness. It was always going to be a couple of afternoons in a studio and a jam.
"It wasn't until after we had it all done that we started to realise that we might have something special.
"The way the record sounds is just a ' reflection of doing it very quickly, very informally and not really bothering to do anymore on each song than was absolutely necessary."
So where did these songs spring from ... they aren't really typical Walker or
Sad but true ... in Walker's case most of the songs are orphans that have survived the years having never fitted in anywhere else. A song like the short Barlow And Chambers has been tying around, unwanted, for years.
"I've demoed it a couple of times, run it by people and they've said 'well, what would you want to write that for'. I played it to Tex and Charlie and they started leaping around saying 'yeah,
yeah, I want to do that one'. In fact, there were several songs like that which are a case of receiving encouragement from those two." Orphans songs that finally found a home.
Perhaps, the most remarkable facet of the album is the way Perkins' and Walker's songs blend together perfectly to create an overall sound and feel. That, Walker said, was probably "the
sweetest fluke" of all.
"I was writing a little to one side of what I'd normally write as was Tex and they matched very well. They sound like they belong on the same album together." And that isn't to overlook Owens" guitar work and his swampy instrumental Dead Dog Boogie.
That jagged blues roll was something Owens figured the album would need from early in the first session, "Some thing to blow out the tubes and he made it his job to come up with it,"
Walker denies that his songs arc any thing more than "a bit of a picture" that he can sing in tune. Social comment? No way.
"By and large it's a joy," Walker said of his songwriting. "It's extremely use ful to keep me sane. It's nice to have that distraction and that way of getting things out and having a bit of fun. 1 think of the friends I have who don't have that kind of outlet and I really wonder what gets them through the day.
"You get to work a few things out and it's also something to occupy the hours in your head. You can tool around with whatever you are working on and it's like a little game going on in your head' continually.
"I have very minimal requirements to be happy. I found a long time ago that happiness doesn't have a lot to do with record sales because I have had a lot of record sales and very few record sales over the years and it really has nothing to do with real life.
Walker crafts and demos songs at home — just him and his piano and a head full of sanity.
Already swimming round the Walker conscious and subconscious is the next Catfish album for which he has got eight or 10 songs demoed. The New Year will see him calling up the rest of the fish... and also solving that peren nial problem — recording contracts. Catfish have parted company with Warners (or vice-versa) and are cur rently without a contract. Walker doesn't seem phased, says he's deliber ately put ofT-doing much about it until after Christmas but there have been a few expressions of interest.
Meanwhile, there's a low-key series of gigs with Tex and Charlie, aided and abetted by a few friends such as Jim White (Black Eyed Susans) and Shane Walsh (Legendary Boy Kings) to cele
brate Sad But True.