Published on September 8th, 2015 | by The Beige Baron


Playlister: Pete Warden

11919591_10153591614498524_3061564507079936275_nThis year, the small town of Creswick (about 15 minutes out of Ballarat and 100km from Melbourne) will play host to the inaugural Happy Trails Festival, an artist-run, not-for-profit music event showcasing the region’s most exciting and original bands.

To help spread the word, festival organizer Rob Webb [ex-Dad They Broke Me] asked some of the acts on the bill to share something about their musical background.

And who better to start with than experimentalist Pete Warden aka Onion Engine, who’ll be sharing the stage this year with bands such as Claws & Organs, Hard Rubbish, Creeks, Dead, and The Reprobettes to name but a fraction on October 31 at the Creswick Railway Workshop. Check out the Happy Trails website for full details.

But for now, let’s sit back, relax, and let Pete give us a glimpse at part of the soundtrack to his daily life.

Originally Rob asked me to talk about albums that were significant to me growing up. But to be honest I gave almost no thought to music at all until my late teens. It was a real slow burner for me. I was more interested in climbing trees and drawing people made out of rocks.

So instead, I give you a handful of albums that have considerable weight in my day-to-day life. All have left dents in Onion Engine’s collapsing melodies one way or another.

The Shaggs — Philosophy of the World (1969)

Monday Morning. Waking up.

Waking up is rough. It’s kind of like being born. You’re clumsy and ponderous. All of a sudden you have to walk and do things. Carrying your own weight and balancing on your legs is considerably more challenging than having your body supported by a mattress. There’s muck in the sides of your eyes, the light is too bright and your voice sounds like a frog.

The Shaggs will help you out, though. You gotta harmonise with your sounds, and when I’m off balance, lethargic, and croaking, the Shaggs are my go-to.

The Wiggin sisters were pushed into music by their old man after he had a run in with a psychic. The Shaggs can’t play. And they still sound better than your band. If something is worth doing, then it’s worth doing poorly. For god’s sake, imagine if you had to get good at everything before you did it, what a dull fucking existence.

Limp into the morning, it’s better than not getting up at all. Or something.

Moondog — Moondog (1969)

Tuesday arvo. Making coffee.

Moondog is music for working and making coffee. He’s a hypnotist and a motor. The repetition and cycles act as a tugboat to drag your arse through the day.

These compositions are stronger than their diminutive size lets on. They unfold and expand. Making coffee is a tugboat too. It’s a little incantation to motivation. Extracting the taste from beans is almost a transformational process. Moondog is a coffee grinder for your day, he’ll help you milk out the good stuff.

By this point, Moondog feels like a close friend. I keep a shrine to him on my wall at work. Moondog says, “Don’t regret, what might have been you might as well forget.”

What a feller.

feedtime — Shovel (1986)

Thursday evening. Weeding the garden.

I could have chosen countless other things to do while listening to this shit. But it’s mostly for activities that don’t require delicacy, weeding seems as good as any other.

These guys are probably Australia’s best band and absolute gents to boot. Special and forceful stuff here. They smear all the edges. Different sections in the songs almost collide and scrape past each other. Songs end abruptly or just sort misfire before they collapse.

These songs are muscular and economical with an unstable power. There’s a profundity in the strain. Tom told me feedtime listened to motorbikes to help them write their songs. That makes sense to me, I reckon. Think about weeding while you whistle, listen to garbage trucks while you cook your eggs.

Bali: Music from the Morning of the World (1967)


This is a compilation of Balinese Gamelan songs. Wild gong orchestras, this is some shimmering, celestial shit.

Considered music selection while driving is crucial. Most people choose for themselves, but I think it’s much more polite to let the car decide. My old car liked Captain Beefheart. But my new car likes Gamelan.

My car has a couple of scars and has developed a smoking habit. Driving around to this stuff makes me feel like I’m in a metal paddle steamer on a bitumen stream.

I would never drive a car with a different taste in music than me. That’s how accidents happen.

Pumice — Pebbles (2007)

Saturday night. Drinking.

Underrated New Zealand excellence. Blown-out speakers for blown-out synapses.

Backyard drinking beats the pub any day.

Winston Riley — Meditation Dub (1977)

Sunday morning. Spacing out.

“I know I ain’t doing much, doing nothing means a lot to me.” — Bon Scott

Classic Jamaican cuts. These tunes are thick and syrupy. Like a lot of the other stuff on this list, it shows a deep respect for simplicity. Sounds as thick and lethargic as these need a bit of room to breathe.

Lots of folks can’t abide reggae, this record has been known to change minds and hearts. I’ve been trying to spend more time spacing out; I’m practicing doing nothing.

When doing nothing, I like to look at coats. Coats are excellent, wrinkled, furry creatures. They often maintain the shape of the people that wore them. They’re kind of like portraits. Echoes are coats that their original sounds wear.

This record has plenty of clothing.

See Pete Warden and fourteen other mindblowing bands at Happy Trails, October 31. See website for details.

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Groping for trouts in a peculiar river.

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