note: also, Mark Perry-Brown (known as KRAM) is british deathstep/dubstep/drum'n'bass producer that debuted on Damaged Sounds label.
Mark Maher (aka Kram) is the drummer/singer of Australian band Spiderbait. He also appeared at the 2004 benefit concert for the South-East Asian tsunami, Wave Aid, as a member of supergroup The Wrights who performed Stevie Wright's 3 part classic, "Evie".
When it came time to cut a solo album, Spiderbait’s co-vocalist and percussive lynchpin Kram had a deceptively simple philosophy. “I wanted it to be like a radio station where all the songs sound like different bands but its all played by one person,” he explains. “The premise of the whole album was to be constantly changing your approach musically."
One listen to Mix Tape and you’ll grasp exactly what he means. The 15 tracks veer from spooky Prince-like soul (“Burnin’ Sands”) and storming fuzz rock (“Good Love”) to melancholic country ballads (“Won’t Be Home Tonight”) and funky pop jams that could be a lo-fi Scissor Sisters (“Satellite”). It’s an eclectic, invigorating collection of songs that fits with its creator’s clear intentions.
Kram debuted Mix Tape with a prestigious Friday night slot at December’s Meredith Music Festival. “I wanted it to be fresh and do whatever sounded good without any preconceptions. That’s what’s been liberating about it and why it’s come out so well.”
It’s hard to believe that it’s taken Kram this long to put out a record under his own name. He’s long had a restless creative energy that’s seen him take part in numerous side-projects, including the rock & roll supergroup The Wrights and Hot Rollers, as well as helping propel Spiderbait to a prominent place in the Australian rock canon.
With over half a million records sold and an enduring live popularity, Spiderbait is both a natural starting point and a full stop. So while you can naturally hear echoes of Kram’s work with Spiderbait, Mix Tape gives him the freedom to explore new perspectives. The instrumental palette is sparse but unexpectedly audacious, while the lyrics have a hitherto unheard focus.
“It’s a luv and rock n roll record,” Kram points out. “I made “Good Love” the first song because that says it all: just me and my girl Ree and our little boy Lonnie. Pretty simple but awesome."
Family life also influenced the album’s writing and recording. “When you have a kid you can’t stay up all night anymore” says Kram." Late at night used to be my productive time, but now its different. In the morning your voice is deeper and croaky… good for country ballads. Afternoon is great for drum tracks….your fresh to make some noise. Evening is guitars and vocals……..after that i generally pass out."
The album was cut in short sessions held every few months over a two year period at Melbourne studio, Sing Sing South. Aside from the odd guest, such as Jet’s Nic Cester and Tumbleweed's Richie Lewis , Kram played all the instruments and produced the album with engineer Andy Baldwin. Sessions would start after lunch and often finish just after dinner; the early afternoons produced the best rhythm tracks.
“It was really fast,” Kram notes. “If I don’t over-think something I’ll get pretty good stuff. Just let it flow then go."
Mix Tape was subsequently mixed in New York, where Andy Baldwin had relocated, taking up in a Chinatown studio. The new space and a different perspective provided the final impetus to finish the album in May of 2008, while also allowing Kram to debut the songs at some casual loft parties thrown by his close friend, filmmaker Mark Steven Johnson (Daredevil, Ghost Rider,Grumpy Old Men).
With Spiderbait currently on hiatus (although plans are afoot for 21st anniversary activities), Mix Tape is a potent reminder of how Kram has long been a creative force. And now the public’s taste for bold, genre-hopping albums has finally caught up with his idiosyncratic outlook.
The result, according to Kram, is the soundtrack for a road trip, with each tune moving you down the road and across the musical spectrum. The only problem is that the listener may be tempted to pull over and simply enjoy what they’re hearing.
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