Ever wonder how musicians keep themselves occupied during those long days of travelling from town to town on the tour bus? I suspect many would use the time to catch up on sleep between gigs but bass player Mark Ferrie has found a much more constructive way to pass the time. When RocKwiz embarked on another tour earlier this year, he put those endless hours on the road to some good use and the result was an album of instrumental tracks, put together with the help of his trusty iPad.
“It wasn’t planned,” Mark tells me during our recent interview. “It basically was borne out of hours and hours on a tour bus during the RocKwiz tour this year. We toured around the country playing a lot of regional centres and doing a lot of travelling on buses and spending a lot of time in hotel rooms. I was taking my iPad along with me and there’s an app that I’d used a little bit in the past but mainly just to record ideas, like a musical notepad. I strapped on the headphones while I was on the bus and got into kind of a deeper understanding of how to use the program and started putting together a few tunes, just trying out everything.”
And that experimentation led to Mark’s new CD, the very smooth and chilled ‘On Hold’. He had also been spending a bit of time hanging out in the bar in his local area, listening to some Ethiopian musicians, learning about the scales that they use in their music and started experimenting with them as well and that is where the inspiration for some of the tracks came from. “Others were just ideas like musical scraps that were already on this GarageBand program and once I kind of got going on it, I turned them into more fully realised pieces.”
Mark has also been doing some DJ gigs over the last couple of years and had been collecting various samples and snippets of things that people said; bits of dialogue that he found amusing. “So, it was a collection of all those things. With this kind of music, you don’t need a whole lot happening, but you need something new every now and then just to kind of keep the ball rolling. There’s a couple of things where I’ve taped rehearsals I’ve been at to remember a certain idea, with me using the iPad to remember musical notes or ideas. One track is actually Peter Luscombe from the RocKwiz Orchestra and myself just playing a feel over and over, so I just recorded this in a rehearsal room and it turned into a track. The track is ‘God Help Us’ which was an expression my mother used to use.”
The video below for ‘Recharge’, a track from On Hold, was created by Mark with the help of Peter Bain Hogg one of the RocKwiz producers. The video was also put together with random stuff that Mark had on his iPad.
Of course, quite aside from this solo project and his role as bass player in the RocKwiz Orchestra, Mark is best known as bass player with Melbourne band, Models and he is very happy that the band is working a lot more these days. On Saturday 9th December, Models will be playing at the Caravan Music Club for one of the venue’s final shows at their current location in Oakleigh before they close their doors for the last time at the end of the year. While the Caravan is on the lookout for new premises, the closure of the Oakleigh venue is sad news for local music fans.
Mark agrees. “Yes, it is. We were actually kind of involved in it in the early days. We had this band called the Models Super Orchestra. It wasn’t actually Models but Sean, Andrew and I were all part of it. That essentially formed, I think, for Andrew’s 50th birthday party and basically there was some equipment and instruments there and that was pretty much how the group began and then people started talking about it. I think Peter Foley (Manager of the Caravan Club) had heard about it and this was in the very, very early days of the Caravan Club when it was still at the Bowling Club and he asked us to come down and play there and that helped him kick the whole deal off. He started it all with a pure heart. He essentially started doing it because he and his mates in that part of town had nowhere to go to see gigs. He actually started doing gigs in his lounge room. And the trio that I had, The Mercurials, were one of the first if not the first gig he booked for one of his lounge room shows.”
The Mercurials consisted of Mark, Andrew Pendlebury (Sports) and an Israeli woman named Adi Sappir that Mark met when she was busking in the subway. “I was doing graphic design at a studio in the city and I would pass by and she was busking, playing cello and singing in the subway. I thought that she sounded fantastic and one day I stopped and asked her if she might be able to play with me and my friend. She came on board and our first album came out in 2005. There’s a little snatch of The Mercurials rehearsing in one of the tracks on my new album.”
‘On Hold’ is quite different to anything that Mark has done before and, as he explains, “Basically, I was sitting on a bus and just learning. Each track was a ‘what if I do this?’ kind of scenario, just trying out different things. I was sitting there bopping away.” Keeping busy definitely does help to make the time go by faster when you’re sitting on a bus all day. “That was the thing. I think that kind of influenced the music. You’re sitting there in this kind of bubble in a way and the world’s rushing by you and when I hear the music, it takes me back to that… seeing the ancient mountains, sugar cane fields or road works or… you name it, it’s going past you. We travelled through many, many miles of this great land.”
‘On Hold’ is out now. Physical copies available exclusively from Basement Discs in Melbourne. ‘On Hold’ digital download available through iTunes or listen via Spotify.
Purchase tickets here for Models show at the Caravan Club (Melbourne) Saturday 9th December.
by Sharyn Hamey
Copyright © Sharyn Hamey 2017. All rights reserved
Photo: Courtesy © Angie Paton