As I walked along the beach today, I thought about how I have been lucky in my life to have been able to spend chunks of time with very diverse groups of people.
I came to be thinking about it because of a friend of mine, Colton. We’ve just been friends for a year of so and although we haven’t really hung out that much in actuality, the bond is strong. It’s based on a positive outlook on life, a love of music. self expression and spirit. I answered an ad for a Korg Electribe rhythm production sampler on Gumtree and ended up at a boutique studio tucked away in the hills of Wilson’s Creek. I was met by the sound engineer, a Canadian with dreads and an easy manner. I didn’t buy the sampler but a few weeks later I invited him to a electronic music jam session in Byron and our friendship was formed.
He is one of a handful of musicians and music producers I have come to know over the last few years since I started doing my music production diploma at SAE. There are many top quality people like my teacher/mentors, Tyler from San Diego and James from Scotland. As well as them, there are the audio techs at school, fellow students and numerous DJs and local musicians who I have come to be friends with.
Spending time and interacting with these peeps has been a wonderful side benefit of my decision to studying music. Being around musos, I have come to know the breed from the inside. And I must say, they are a quality ilk. Easy going, considerate, and talented. Before I found myself enmeshed in the audio world, in my decades previous as more of a visual - art and film - person, I have to admit, I kind of always considered audio studies to be less desirable. It didn’t seem to offer the same vitality and energy that say, shooting or directing presented. I never considered it as something I would choose. Ironically, now that I am in it - deeply immersed - I have come to realise that it is a fantastically rewarding pursuit - in some ways the best ever. It’s like I stumbled into an entire world of wonder and magic that was always right there - I just never knew. It has been a revelatory experience, one that seems like it will continue to engulf, thrill me and pay me creative dividends way beyond expectations.
As well, it has connected me, more tangibly, with a new group of excellent people. Audio people are a true cool breed and I am very happy to be part of this exciting new subsection of creators.
I recall feeling a similar thrill when I was just nineteen and in my first year at art school. I looked around and thought; Wow, everyone here is kind of a weirdo! I found a place to belong! Previous to that I had tried two universities - Sophia, Tokyo and Sydney and found the whole academic world to be far too passive - too rote - too dry - and mostly unrewarding for me. At art school it was all about doing - expressing who we were - as honestly and intensely as possible. Not about being fed a whole bunch of old, preexisting concepts from books. We were there to discover and find meaning by making stuff - images, drawings, paintings, sculptures. I was lucky, cause back then National Art School was 95% practical. Just doing. There was an art history class - but it was just looking at slides after smoking joints and casually discussing images together and with the teachers - who were all practicing artists. Indeed, in third year of the painting major, we were each given a small studio space on the top floor an old sandstone jail and instructed to go for it. Teachers would drop by now and then for a chat, but really it was about allowing us to forge out own ways. A lot was learnt from each other. I loved being friends with and hanging out with artists back then as much as I do hanging out with musicians these days.
Back in high school in Tokyo, the group I eventually became part of was twofold. One was a couple of guys from the year below me. I was young for my class and although I did have a few friends it wasn’t till I somehow started hanging out with a Canadian, American and Brazilian guy from the class below (Richard, Kurt and Ricky) that I really found a place to belong. It helped that we were all non-conformists, rode motorbikes and liked partying. The other group I found place with was with the girls from the girls school. They would all go to a tiny basement cafe called Comos, in Hiroo, and drink coffee, smoke cigarettes and banter. Somehow, I became part of the gang. There were a few other guys, as well, but it was mostly the girls. A Hawaiian, a Texan, a Korean and a Japanese Brazilian were the stand outs. I learnt so much about life from these chicks. The Hawaiian girl, Jenny, and I became best friends eventually. She was one of the best people I have ever met. At the time, I was a little over weight and kind of an outsider, but through humour, a love of casual hanging out, and a willingness for explorative mischief in general - I became an integral member of the group. I was privy to some amazing stories and inside info! At school I was a non-achiever, not into sports or any extra curricular activities. I had trouble with authority and an efforts by teachers to order me around would get my back up. I mostly avoided trouble (by not getting caught) but did not find much value in the system - other than it supplying my clan and opportunities to facetiously rebel.
Another group that came out of this time was the night life people. I used to go out to discos and nightclubs and became friends with a number of Japanese nightclub workers, owners and partiers of the time. I also got to know some hostesses, high end call girls and members of the yakuza (tough but honourable). Being fluent in Japanese at the time was unusual and having lived there since the age of ten, I had insight into and respect for their traditions and mannerisms. I was a friendly, fun-seeking teen and was quickly able to become a kind of mascot to a number of interesting characters. In a few Roppongi nightclubs I was more than just a regular, I was availed special treatment - like being able to hang out in the DJ booth, sit in the VIP areas on occasion, and supplied with plenty of free drinks. It was pretty awesome. My preferred garb of the time was the full disco regalia - wide collared open shirt, vest and jacket - with heeled shoes or cowboy boots. I was as close to John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever as there was. It was an awesome time. A few times I almost got into some trouble, but somehow always managed to avoid anything serious. And again, it was because of my proximity and connection to the group that I was able to find meaning and satisfaction in the scene. I had incredible access to the Japanese ‘mizu shobai’ (nightlife world) of the time and got to witness and experience some dynamic and exciting things thanks to my proximity and friendships with key players.
A decade later, in the 90’s, it was all about film. A group of us used to hang out at the Tropicana cafe in Kings Cross - actors, writers, directors - and talk about projects and dreams. This was a fun bunch, too. I had found a new gang. The Tropfest was born in this time. I was there when it was first discussed - just an idea. John took it up and ran with it. My friend Rob Mac and I each had our short films in the first two - screened at the cafe itself back in those days. Rob and I went on to make a TV show called Coo-ee Australia for Japanese TV on spec. Many of the actors from those days have done well and we’re still friends. I continued to be involved in the film business for a decade, working on mostly Japanese TV commercials, TV shows and documentaries around Australia, New Zealand, the US and Japan. Film crews were my new family. Another fine bunch of people. Grips, DPs, art directors, runners. Lots of free spirits convening on projects. Like a circus troupe. Hard workers. Hard players.
After that I tried my hand at screenwriting, studying in LA. That was pretty solitary. I spent about three years immersed in that world. Studied at various places, read a thousand screenplays. One by one, I wrote six features. None of them got picked up. Maybe if there had been a gang, I may have endured.
The next group was poker players. What started as a casual tournament down at the local ended up lasting for a decade and over 3,000 tournaments. In the end I was semi-professional, making a few hundred a week, playing most nights, travelling around to wherever a good game was. Poker players are another strange breed. Itinerant, quirky, strong personalities. I got to know some good people, making friends from Lithuania, Germany, Britain and the US, as well as plenty of Aussies. Shared some good adventures and laughs.
So… it’s all about the people. Forming connections, bonds. Finding your tribe, or tribes that fit with what you are doing. Sharing pursuits, passions, techniques, goals, dreams. And now that I consider it all, it is the friendships and those special connections that endure. Memories were made. Some I will never see again. Most. But it doesn’t matter. We shared some good times together. It’s good to be part of a gang, affiliated with and immersed together in a common pursuit. We humans are good for each other.