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Words about Music

Taken from "Words about Music", NZ NATIONAL RADIO- broadcast SATURDAY FEB 28, 1998, 12:33pm. Recorded at Womad Aotearoa, February 1997.

- Dave Dobbyn, this elder statesman of the New Zealand music scene writes and performs his own songs, and in doing so, he reveals something of himself.

DD: It's a case of pulling back the layers and being honest with yourself as a writer, and getting to that point where you're pulling stuff from deep inside yourself to take yourself through a catharsis that is writing songs. And to the point where you've gone on a big journey from the idea, right through to how you perform it, to how it goes down on tape, to how it's done to an audience and stuff. It's a hell of a journey sometimes and it can change your life (snaps fingers) like that. I think it comes down to depth of experience- songs last longer when they've got more innocence and naievity to them. If you're thinking about the mortgage, or something that happened today, you're not thinking about the song- that instantly goes straight to an audience and they'll turn off just like you've turned off. There's a hell of an intensity of communication going on there, and to deliver, that's what delivering is; is to be totally concentrated on what you're doing. He says, about to lunge into a Les Paul and amp turned up to ten thrashing out some rock'n'roll song!

(A minute or so of "P.C." recorded live at Womad plays...)

- What about the effect of solo performance on the music?

DD: There's something about the transparency of an acoustic guitar sound. As a rhythm guitarist you can get some pretty interesting backbeats going, and some sort of percussive things going, and the tempos go up and down and all over the place. The songs are at their barest, but there's no particular harmony from the guitar within itself, so it does strip 'em down. It's a great test of a song.

(A minute or so of "Belltower" recorded live at Womad plays...)

- If a song can tell a story, so too can a set of songs according to Dave Dobbyn.

DD: It's like a telepathy that happens where you sort of go "Aha", where you sort of read an audience or whatever. It depends how cocky you're feeling, y'know. I mean sometimes I'll start a gig especially if it's a kind of woody, airy, livey indoor gig, but it's got a bit of life to it, like a theatre. I did a gig recently at the Watershed, which is an Auckland theater, you don't really need to be miked there, and these people are trying to put these mikes up in front of me and I just kind of pushed them away. It was just a little variety gig for the patrons, and of course I had a lot of fun with them, 'cause a lot of the patrons were probably people who went to the theatre a couple of times a year just to kind of get down to bohemia every now and again, to see what the bohemians are doing, so I sort of gagged along with that for a while, so there was quite a bit of patter going between songs and the good thing about that sort of thing is that you can really draw people in with a few stories and draw them in to the songs lyrically, and in atmospheres and really hold things out and it's hell of a lot of fun, because it's so immediate. Any social setting if some guy's being "jack-the-lad" or telling a story, people turn their heads and get drawn into what somebody's saying. It's basically having a good old yarn.

(A minute or so of "Loyal" recorded live at Womad plays...)

DD: It's very satisfying going off a stage at night where you've lifted people and taken them somewhere, and yourself included. And that's the test of good songs and a good set structure, if you can achieve that. Like any performer, if you can do that, you've got yourself a show. I think that for an audience like mine, it's quite a wide audience, all ages really, in the front there's crazy little kids, and then there's kind of University students getting off on it jumping up and down behind them, then there's people a little closer to my age still sort of jumping up and down and going around behind them are people like me with babysitters who want to be impressed whilst folding their arms, and behind them are the older people with grey hair, who are just there and at the right distance away from the stage for the theatre of it all, y'know! (laughs)

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