Home Interviews BOB SPENCER interview (Part 1)

BOB SPENCER interview (Part 1)

17 min read



Part 1: The Saints and Murderers album and Who Are These People? single

Bob Spencer, best known as guitarist for Australian bands Finch, Skyhooks and The Angels, is preparing for his first solo recording. His Pozible campaign to raise funds for this album has finished and the focus is now on completing the album, Saints and Murderers.

Saints and Murderers started life as a project with Melbourne based singer Laura Davidson, who Bob first met when performing with Bob Starkie and Greg Macainsh in a Skyhooks show at the Caravan Club, Melbourne, a few years ago. It was a very rushed meeting backstage before the gig, with no formal introductions.

“We did the gig and I think ‘Jeez, she can sing! This is pretty good’ ‘cause I have heard a lot of people attempt to sing the material. Shirl had a unique voice. It wasn’t just a good voice; it was unique. I accept that all voices are unique but it’s kind of like some are more unique than others. We do the gig; that’s all pretty groovy and then later I was at the benefit for Josie Jason. Josie was my favourite guitar player in Melbourne. She was just a frickin’ killer of a guitar player. The only reason she didn’t become famous in Australia is because maybe a few of the blokes were threatened by her because she was just an amazingly good guitar player. Anyway Josie passed away from cancer [so] there was a thingy at the Espy. A girl walked passed me and I said ‘I’m really sorry to do this but do I know you?’ Probably the last thing you want to be saying to a girl, especially at my age because it looks so dodgy and she said ‘Yeah. I played with you. I’m Laura.” Bob apologised for not recognising her, explaining that he saw her backside all night so really didn’t know what her face looked like.

“Anyway she got up and sang and I played and we just got along really well. So after a while of knowing her, a month or two, I said ‘Let’s have lunch.’ So she came over and we had lunch and I said ‘I think we should do something musically together. I think this could be fun.’ So we started writing over a cup of tea and chat.”

As much as they enjoyed working together and had all the best intentions of completing the album, it became difficult. Laura and Bob live on opposite sides of Melbourne. Laura has a full time job and some health issues that meant she got quite tired if they worked for too long. It was simply too hard to dedicate the time needed to write the album together.

“So basically I said ‘Look, this isn’t going to happen. This is going to take [too long]. I can’t do it.’ I’m nearly 60. As much as I would like to say ‘Laura, let’s release an album when I’m 75,’ I really do need to do this now,” Bob explained.

The first single from the album is ‘Who Are These People?’. A song Laura co-wrote with Bob.

“I already had most of ‘Who Are These People?’ and she came over and we tarted up some lyrics together. She was only ever over here for a few hours at a time ’cause at that stage was getting tired after a few hours work, so we kind of tarted that up and then I thought I may as well record the damn thing. So after I recorded it, I thought ‘There is probably a film clip in that’. I made the film clip and after that I thought ‘You know what? I will just keep going.’ So I called her and told her I was just going to continue with everything and she said ‘Yeah, sure’. There are some people, I have learnt, who would have been grossly offended by that.”

The tongue in cheek, fun film clip has been released on Facebook and YouTube with positive responses.

“I put that video directly on Facebook and it’s got 20,000 hits which apparently is good but I don’t know because it’s all new to me. I don’t really have anything to compare it with, to judge by. So it’s all very interesting.”

“It’s been getting a lot of positive feedback. I had hoped people might get a little bit of a kick out of it but when you are in the middle of it and you’re the person doing it yourself, you don’t really know what is going to happen.  There were things that I thought were funny and kooky in the video but I didn’t really expect other people to think they were funny,” Bob said with a laugh.

“Whenever you do something that you think has some quality to it, you never really know what anyone else is going to think of it so you just put it out there and there is a part of you that is cringing, waiting for people to say ‘That’s just the worst thing I have ever heard’ and then there is another part of you, sort of hoping that a couple of people might like it but you just never know. Especially when all this stuff just floats around in your head all day.”

“It was fun and it was a long day and hard work. We planned the film clip well in advance and had it storyboarded, as you do, and it all went to plan. It was exhausting and I was absolutely gone the next day. Couldn’t function,” Bob said.

As Bob told me, the Pozible campaign has been both successful and educational. Interestingly, his decision to use crowdfunding wasn’t just motivated by finances.

“There are a few reasons with crowd funding. One of them is that it forces me to finish the album by a date that I have given people publicly. So if I don’t finish the album I will look like a goose and, at worst, I might look like a liar which is terrible. So there is a matter of pride. I’ve told people the album will be released by October so the album needs to be released by October. So that’s a really important part. As a musician who has a small home studio and a family to feed, it’s pretty easy to think I will just work on that tomorrow and then you never get around to working on it. The primary reason for going with crowd sourcing is that it would force me to actually do it. I’m not lazy. It’s a public commitment I will have this done.”

“The second thing is it allows me a small amount of money to set aside to actually do it, so the bills I need to pay, the expenses, the things I need to spend money on while I’m recording.”

There are several crowd funding sources available for projects such as this one. I asked Bob why he chose Pozible.

“With Pozible you announce publicly what your target figure is. With some of the other platforms you don’t. I was told there are positives for this way, there are positives for another way but at some stage you just have to make a bloody decision and go. I am not sure that I would do publicly announcing the figure again. It seems as soon as the figure is hit, people go ‘Well that’s it now.’ The figure that I had was bare bones. A cent lower and I can’t do it.”

I asked if he set that low figure because he had no idea what sort of response he would receive.

“I set that figure as the bare bones expenditure. I am not very good with the confidence of what I do. People around me said ‘Don’t set it at $15,000. It’s too low and you will reach it real quickly,’ but of course me, thinking basically that people don’t like me, it’s going to be difficult but it was reached in two weeks. It was a bit weird. With other platforms you can manipulate things a little bit. For example, with Pledge you can set yourself a higher target and then drop the target through the campaign if you need to. Which is what a lot of people do by the way, apparently. I did quite a bit of research before I engaged in this. I followed what other people were doing. With Pozible, once you announce your target figure $1.50, $8,000,000 you can’t change it. For that reason, I may look at a different platform next time.”

“I realise now that I made a mistake in going for an absolute bare bones target figure because if anything goes wrong, I’ve got no leeway. So that’s been a very interesting experience. I’ve learnt a shitload in the last eight weeks [the campaign was 8 weeks]. I’ve learnt so much; it’s been great. I’m a bit of a learning junkie. People are addicted to all sorts of different things, you know, painkillers or drugs or alcohol. For me, I’ve realised, it’s learning.”

As well as learning, Bob likes to teach. More on that in part 2 of the Bob Spencer interview tomorrow.



by Suzanne Bunker


Copyright © Suzanne Bunker 2016.  All rights reserved

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