When I was asked to write my bio for the site I thought about what I liked to read in other people’s bios. I decided that each band member should make their bio a bit more personal, not a list of achievements, more a statement about who we are as people and musicians. How we got to where we are, ‘in this place’.
Where did this ‘music thing’ start? When I was 3 or 4 I remember going on trips with my folks (I wasn’t quite old enough to get into bars yet…) – Dad loved music, not new music mind you, and was a great whistler so my sister and I would end up listening to him whistling, Buddy Holly, Johnny Cash and show tunes, pretty much anything he was into. Back then an AM radio was all you would get in a car and in the country there was limited reception! The competition would be to see who could guess the tune first – once that was done it would turn into a sing-a-long. As a result I fell in love with Buddy Holly, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and various other 50’s and early 60’s singers. Also one of my uncles used to live with us as well. He had the coolest stereo system. Big speakers! He was in a record club so he got the latest releases. He would let us into his room occasionally to listen to ABBA, Dr Hook, Sky Hooks that kind of stuff while he was getting ready for a big night out. I would sit there in awe of the sounds coming out of the speakers.
Dad had an old chord organ (run with an air compressor) with 3 octaves of normal piano type keys on the right side and accordion style chord keys on the left. He had some old sheet music specifically written for that organ (like TAB but for organ) When I was about 6 or 7 I tried to play it (properly not just smash the keys) mum sang (and I use the word loosely) the melody to me and I picked out the notes on the keys. That was the first time I had ever played a musical instrument. I didn’t even start on the recorder at primary school till after that. The recorder did really helped me with picking melody. Once I had (most of) the notes down, technique wise, I started picking out tunes on my own. We performed at quite a few concerts with the school in grade 5 and 6, which were my first experiences performing.
I think I wrote my first song around then, maybe at 7 or 8. It was a song called “Take Me Back To My Home In America” which is ironic due to the fact that I’m Australian (born and bred). I found out YEARS later that it’s actually a blues format song (which a lot of the rock stuff at the time was based on). It was catchy though – in fact I still haven’t forgotten it after all these years!
About the same time (say age 8 or 9) my neighbor had a sister who was 3 or 4 years older than us. She was into music. Dad’s newest music was from like ’68 (probably Peter, Paul and Mary). So I used to go around there and we would listen to her records. I remember KISS “Dynasty”. It rocked. I didn’t know what distorted guitar was but I learned every word. We used to put on the make up (I was usually Gene) grab a tennis racquet and just play air guitar till my fingers hurt.
I remember being on a family holiday at about 10 or 12 years of age. One night my sister and I were singing in the caravan’s annex (we used to sleep out in the annex so Mum and Dad could get some peace from us). Singing songs from “The Sound Of Music” (hey I was 10) mostly “My Favorite Things”. The next day the guy from the caravan next door was taking to Dad and I heard him say “who was that singing last night they have the voice of an Angel?” Dad said it was my sister and I. He couldn’t believe it.
Then I headed off to high school. Michael Jackson was huge. Everyone was wearing the fingerless gloves and Kung Fu slippers (how the hell did that happen???) I went to a pretty rough school Essendon Technical School. Lunch was a life or death experience. I started learning to play keyboard properly in yr 7. Ms Tanawaska an older lady (I have no idea what nationality she was but possibly Polish or Russian) was the school music teacher. A pretty tough teacher especially for a group of rowdy 12 and 13 year old boys! Most of the guys hated music but I really enjoyed the classes. We had 25 Yamaha organs all linked to Ms T via headphones and an intercom (pretty hi tech for a tech school). I always sucked at reading music (and still do) so I used to ask her to play the tune to me, you know, ’cause I couldn’t quite get the timing’, and I would just learn the thing by ear as she played it. I don’t think she knew.
At the end of year 9, I sang in the school choir. I hadn’t done any singing in a long time. After my voice broke I had no range (other than really low I’m actually a Bass Baritone) I though I’d never be able to sing again. My voice was too low to sing any of the popular songs that were around at the time but I got some good parts in the choir because I had that low voice and a strong falsetto. After the concert, held on my last day at the school, Ms T called me into her office (Mum was with me) she said to Mum “Never let Brook (she used to say Brrroooook) give up on music. He has a gift and a future if he wants it” I think that was when I realized that maybe I could do something.
I changed schools for yr 11. It was so I could do Physics (Essendon Tech wasn’t offering it and Mum and Dad thought it was important?!?!?!). So off I went to Niddrie High. That year INXS “Kick” was my album oh and COLD CHISEL and JOHNNY DIESEL AND THE INJECTORS. “Kick” was my summer album. I listened to it loud and proud for months. Then my friends introduced me to GUNS’N’ROSES. At first I resisted (thinking this is the devils music) but within a weeks I was listening to “Appetite for Destruction” nonstop. I used to take my little portable tape deck EVERYWHERE with me. I wore out 2 tapes I listened to them so much. (they actually came in handy later on for learning the parts on guitar haha). I knew every word, could hum every guitar solo note for note. I was infatuated.
During study week, for my final high school exams, a friend took me to one of his friend places. He had two guitars and I asked him to show me a couple of things (he only knew a couple things) and that was wild thing (in A (A,D,E,D)). My Dad had bought me an acoustic guitar 2 years before but I really hadn’t used it. I didn’t know how to tune it or what a chord was until that day. He showed me how to tune the guitar (my low E tuning peg was broken so always I had to tune it to that string) and I literally played that thing ‘til my fingers bled (eventually it even sounded better than the tennis racquet had!). I used to go up to my friends place and play his electric guitar (a lot easier on the fingers). Needless to say my exam results sucked. I didn’t care about anything but learning guitar. I probably studied 2 hours per exam. The rest of the time I was all about the guitar.
So over the summer after finishing high school a lot of big things happened. I got into university and I wrote my first real song with music and some poetry a friend had written.
I studied accounting it was sixteen contact hours a week. That rocked, I had SO much spare time to practice. For my birthday Mum and Dad helped me get the money together to buy an electric guitar. There was a music store that I used to visit and stand fantasizing about a cream (margarine yellow actually) Daion performer. I knew very little about guitar quality but it was $400 and back then there weren’t that many entry level guitars to choose from. I loved this guitar and I spent so much time on it that Dad pulled out an old kit tube stereo amp he had built in the early 70’s. At the time I had no idea about tube saturation (and the wonderful distortion that came from it) but I discovered if I cranked that thing onto 10 it would break up and it sounded awesome. At the time I was running it into headphones! I’d be in my bedroom with the amp blaring in my ears and me singing my butt off. It must have sounded awful lol.
Around this time I formed my first band (well, the beginnings of one) with the guy who had taught me my first few chords. We recorded everything we did on tape deck (I’m sure I still have that stuff around somewhere) I’d sing and play guitar and he would play guitar. We would both plug into his amp (I didn’t have one yet). We kind of pushed each other to learn to play. We’d show each other things and help each other get it going. That damn B chord was the bane of our existence for a couple of months. Most nights I’d play guitar and fall asleep with it lying on me. Slowly as we learned songs we improved.
For my next birthday Dad bought me my first real guitar amp. It was 30 watts of solid state grunt. No foot switch. I cranked that thing! While we were there I had some other money that I put into a Boss DS-1. Man I was jammin’. I used to crank the distortion to 10 on the amp and then had the DS-1 (everything on 10) for lead breaks. It would feedback and squeal but I loved it. I could get a sound that to me was so rock and just jam on stuff. About the same time Dad could see I was starting to get serious about playing. I had a whole bunch of chords down and could play basic songs with power chords and open chords but he decided it would be good for me to get some lessons. He knew a guy who taught – he had been in a Polish rock band of all things. He agreed to teach me. Dad used to take me around to his place. He taught me some theory and started me off with the pentatonic (blues) scale. I spent ages getting that thing right all up and down the neck. It drove Mum crazy. She’d be like “stop strangling that cat and turn it down” but I kept on. Then I moved me onto the major scales. My teacher moved away but I kept on trying to learn to apply the stuff he had taught me. I’d record a little riff for a couple minutes on tape and just jam over the top of it. Trying to find notes that fit. I’d also try singing melodies over it and then transpose that onto guitar (an approach I still use to this day) so I didn’t just stay within the basic scales.
My sister had a friend who did tarot readings. So I had her do a reading for me. My main question was will I make a living from music. She said I would but I didn’t know any of the guys I would do it with yet (she was right by the way).
I’ve always been an avid collector of many different styles of music. I guess if you went through my record/tape/CD collection you could see the different phases of my life. In the early 90’s I became aware of a country player that was getting a lot of attention in the media. I followed Keith Urban career from then on, while discovering Faith Hill and the whole Nashville scene a couple of years later.
I started working a full time job in a warehouse. I’d had so many people tell me that I would never make anything of music and maybe I had started to believe them a bit. As usual though fate stepped in to point me in the right direction! I met Leon Toomata through a friend I worked with. We decided to get together for a jam. Strangely though he decided that it would be a good idea to do it at a restaurant he played at. I was playing a lot of Jazz and Acid jazz type stuff at the time and I though I had some chops. Leon blew me away. He just killed me. We played some George Benson stuff and some other jazzy stuff and he just played out. He had no idea (theory wise) what he was doing, but had an unbelievable ear (he was a Samoan guy and they all seem to) and could translate that through his fingers onto the guitar. It freaked me out. I’d just play rhythm most of the time, listening to him and then he’d give me a couple bars and I would feel totally inadequate. I decided it was time to get some more lessons. I rang around to find someone that could teach me theory and how to relate that to my playing. I’ve never really been interested in reading music, and I still wasn’t, so we stuck to scales, chords and applications. Slowly my playing improved. I bought myself a jazz guitar (Ibanez GB-10 (George Benson model)) and really worked on it. I really got into Kenny Burrell, George Benson, Tal Farlow and Joe Pass. Kenny Burrell really got to me, his cool smoky bluesy Jazz was so fluid. I just loved it. My friends all thought I was bonkers and to be honest I still don’t really like a lot of the rock music that was out at the time. It all just sounded the same to me and that because I was so into jazz at the time.
Another guy (Arron Downes) started working with me. He was a working musician (playing, bass, 3-4 nights a week in a popular Melbourne cover band with Paul Gales (who became very important later :)). We started talking about music. He asked me why I wasn’t gigging. I really had no answer. He told me I should go to some auditions. He told me he knew of a band were looking for a guitarist at the time. I didn’t call them. I was scared I wasn’t good enough to audition. So I missed out. Arron and I went down to check the band out, as I watched I thought “I could easily do that”. I decided that I needed a new amp so I went out and dropped a bundle on a brand new Marshall head and quad box. About 2 weeks later Arron told me about another band that were looking for a new guitarist. So I called about an audition and they told me to come down to the gig and meet the guys and set up an audition time. They were a rock band, playing to a packed house of 1000 people, doing covers but playing like rock stars. I don’t know why but I never had any doubt that I would get the gig. I just knew it. I auditioned and a week later they called me and asked me to meet with them and they offered me the gig. Playing five nights a week – I was finally doing it. Making a living from music!
I learned a lot from those guys, professionalism, getting things right, striving to be the best I could possibly be! Things I’ve always remembered. I played with those guys for a couple of years and then moved between quite a few bands in the cover scene. I started lead singing out of necessity. I’d been in so many bands with lead singers who had either moved on, or weren’t up to standard. In the end it just became easier to do it myself. I met and played with so many great players in the cover scene. As I moved through bands I’d recruit players. I met Anthony Emery while he was filling in for a friend’s band. He was playing bass but his voice got me. I couldn’t believe the notes he was hitting in his backing vocals. I was moving out of a band I was in and asked him if he would want to join a new band I was starting. He said yes. He brought Ray Deegan in to ‘audition’ on drums for the band. I didn’t audition another drummer. He was so solid, I didn’t have to look it him for the whole session (except to rock out with him). These two guys have been the foundation of nearly every cover band I’ve formed since. I met Dan Meiners in my last cover band. His rock solid bass playing just fit SO well with Rays playing. I knew they were the foundation I could build a band on. I was chatting to Paul Gales who I have known for years about the original band I was putting together. He was very interested so I sent him a couple of the songs we were working on. He called me the next day to say he was in.
I guess that about brings us up to now. Our debut album has just been mastered by Adam Ayan at Gateway mastering in Portland Maine (USA). I can’t wait to see what this next phase brings into my life…