Following a 12 year hiatus, former Hardheads and Watershed frontman Michael Cullen has returned with his second solo album, True Believer. Tomatrax caught up with Michael to discuss the album.
You’ve just released your second solo album, what’s it like to have it out?
A relief. This album was a lot harder to make than Love Transmitter for a whole lot of reasons but a good result in the end so I’m pleased.
Where did the name True Believer come from?
I was musing on the nature of a quest, a failed quest as most quests are. You have to be a True Believer to stay the course when you are on a hiding to nothing.
The album seems very personal, is it hard to put out your emotions like that onto an album?
Well it is and it isn’t. Personal experience is what gives a song writer raw material for their creative engine. And I have drawn on plenty of that in this album but it would be wrong to see this a a straight autobiographical recounting of events. It is not. Every song writer transforms the pain, joy, anger etc of their lived experience into the peculiar world of song to greater and lesser degrees. From time to time, I nail something so personal that I can’t go back and listen to it later – there is a song on Love transmitter which falls into this category – but generally I can live with the results.
What made you decide to use a vintage MCI 2 inch tape machine to record your album?
Well we used a number of tape machines – the MCI 16 track 2 inch machine we put into Spacejunk III was the mainstay. We also used the Studer 24 track at 301 extensively and a Fostex 16 track machine I have at home. Tape costs a lot of money, but no matter what anyone tells you, for rock music, it sounds better – and by better I mean more present, more real, more emotional – than recording straight into a digital audio workstation. Fact.
You’ve said that the album won’t sound like anything else around at the moment, is it your aim to be different to everything else?
No. It is not really question of intent. I don’t have a choice, it just is. There just don’t seem to be too many guys like me putting out records like mine right now.
The album picked 9 songs from a possible 13, are there any plans with the remaining 4?
Yes, they will most likely turn up somewhere. They just weren’t right for the balance of this collection.
Are there any plans to go on tour in support of the album?
No immediate plans but I am looking at what is financially possible.
What is the front cover of the album from?
The photograph is a detail from a fresco in the Orthodox Cave Churches of Goreme in the Cappodicia region of Turkey. I thought it was a nice, if ironic in this context, image to represent this collection of songs.
You recently put out a remastered version of Love Transmitter, are there plans to release a remastered version of Watershed’s You buried me?
I do plan to put together a kind of ultimate version of the Watershed songs on You Buried Me and Sour Pop when time allows. It’s a complicated undertaking and I haven’t figured out the best way to approach it yet.
You’ve been gaining a fair amount of acclaim for the re-release of Love Transmitter, what’s it like to have your music re-discovered after over a decade after its initial release?
Well it’s nice. Almost no one knew about the record when it was first released and I was too sick/depressed to promote it so it just disappeared without trace. Thanks also to Tomatrax for listing it in the Australian Top 100 and starting its renaissance. I am grateful that the record seems to have stood the test of time – it also shows what a great production job Tim Powles did.
You also talked previously about putting out another Hardheads’ album of previously unreleased material, is this still a possibility?
Very much. There are 3 songs recorded during the Long Goodbye sessions not included on the original 5 track EP, as well as a demo of a song recorded around that time that I discovered a few years ago when I was doing some archiving (I had no recollection of it). The unreleased stuff holds up pretty well I think. All the songs will have to be re-mixed but a The Long Goodbye Extended Version will appear over next year or two.
Do you ever listen to your own music?
Well when I am working on it, I listen to nothing else. Then when it is finished I go through a period when I can’t stand to hear it (every tiny blemish screams at me). Then a few months later I might be brave enough to put it on in the car or something and I have a sort of more relaxed relationship with it due to the passing of time. I listen to it a bit more neutrally and think, actually it sounds kind of … ok.
What music do you listen to?
Right now at home we are listening to the soundtrack of the film Amelie by Yann Tiersen, a box set of Miles Davis albums made for small labels in the mid 1950s before he hit pay dirt with Kind of Blue, Kraftwerk’s Man & Machine, and Beatles mono re-masters especially Hard Day’s Night.
Now that the album is out what do you plan on doing next?
Promotion for the album will run in various forms over the next year or so. I will be involved in that at various times in various capacities. In the new year I will start working on some new material for an album that will probably be recorded in 2016.
Check out Michael Cullen’s website to find out more!