Kinematic was originally an acoustic duo of singer-songwriters Michael Owen and Gordon Clarke. Former Aspirin members Mark Olszewski (drums) and Michael Clarke (bass) joined in 2002 and Kinematic took the first steps towards properly recording a full-length album in 2003.
According to the band, getting their first album done right came down to hours of hard work in pre-production. Fourteen of Kinematic’s 50-odd tracks were selected for the first record. All that remained was to find a sui tab le location, the right engineer, and to snag that all-important week off work to get the songs in the can — on a shoestring budget, naturally.
“We turned a country house into a studio for a week. The house is down in Gippsland, a mudbrick place on 40 acres of bush,” says bassist Michael. “We worked for 10 days straight. We just picked the best places for each instrument in the house, and we were lucky because there was heaps of space, high ceilings and this reverb — a really natural sound.”
Bass and drums were tracked after a couple of solid 16-hour days, while the more challenging things to nail — the lead vocals, guitars, backing harmonies — were captured only after an exhausting number of takes.
“It was the hardest I’ve ever worked in my life,” says vocalist Owens. “There was no time to do anything else, no watching TV or anything. I nearly went insane. Lead vocals are probably the hardest, because you can hit the note, and it’s correct, but there’s gotta be something special you like about it as well.”
“He was drinking heaps man,” Olszewski laughs.
“Yes, there wasn’t a warm VB to be seen… I just had to do it. Of course there’s things you want to go back and do better, but you just do as best you can.”
Then the songs languished on a computer hard drive for the best part of a year while the band sought a mixer. Eventually TV sound engineer Michael Stiffter was recruited to mix the songs, and thanks to his hardcore connections, secured the band a slot on The OC and various other high-profile Channel 10 TV commercials.
“Ahhh, no… the album just sounds like The Wheel of Fortune theme!” Olszewski counters.
“It was great to get a fresh pair of ears to hear it, and having someone that wasn’t from the music industry to do it. We were very fortunate to have such gifted engineers so open to our ideas.”
With the mixing and mastering done, all that remained was to finalise the cover art (oil paintings depicting Northcote by well-respected local artist John Hunt) and launch the record with a show at the Corner Hotel — one year and five months after the intended release date.
“We’re absolutely proud of it,” Owen says. “To get a record like this out with no label or financial backing is a real achievement.”
“I’ve done a lot of recording over the years and this is the first one I’m really proud of,” agrees Mick Clarke. “You’re always your own worst critic: you look at something you wrote years ago, and you go oh my god! What was I doing? But this is one I can’t stop listening to.”
“It’s funny, since we sent the album to radio stations, we thought the opening track Tripitaka-san was the best single, but everyone’s chosen different songs to play,” muses Olszewski. “Different songs mean different things to different people, and that’s quite an accomplishment I reckon.”