red ochre music

 

red ochre music is the story of David (DB) Claringbold and Glad Reed, who met fell in love and went on a musical journey over the course of the last 20 years. In that time they have lived in  the squats of Darlinghurst as Sydney’s rock star elite began their rise, worked with and in some of the greatest bands of that time, traversed the globe, lived in France, built a studio on the docks of Sydney’s Rocks district and raised a family, all the while making music, doing gigs, releasing records, making demos, giving a hand where they could and cheering on others. In all it’s a long story.......


David (DB) Claringbold and Glad Reed. began making music together after meeting via mutual friends in Sydney. Glad had been a trombone player since early school days and made numerous appearances for the Dubbo Civil and Civic Brass Band. Glad came upon the trombone via the simple fact that it was the only instrument left in the cupboard when they were handed out at school. Making her public debut marching up and down the main street on Saturday mornings and then on interstate band competitions where the lights beyond the relative isolation of the western plains of NSW planted a desire to one day live in the big city.


DB learnt three or four chords off his brother Keith in the bedroom at home in Sydney’s western suburbs where they jammed with a tennis racket used alternately as a second guitar or drum kit. Schooled by older teenage brothers and sisters into the music of The Beatles, Easybeats, Elvis and Dusty the brothers plotted a wobbly course to stardom in their shared digs. Keith was always the one designing album covers, writing songs and generally living it. DB was more into sport at that time but was also drawn by the power of music, especially by the musical journey of the Beatles that played out so vividly in peoples lives at that time. “Play A Day in the Life again...” was a repeated request so he could watch the fingering of the chords and hear the orchestration in his head.


Over Space Invaders and cappuccino at Reggio’s in Crown St ,they were recruited to be  part of the “Protest Pop” band  Minor Fits  based in the Gladstone Hotel squat in the  inner Sydney suburb of Darlinghurst


The Gladstone was a collection of people and rooms all dedicated to various art forms. To fund much needed plumbing and electrical works the Minor Fits would stage parties, concerts and exhibitions that attracted the local art community in numbers that swelled into the streets Such spontaneous happenings being  fore runners to the much of the late 80”s dance explosion. The Minor Fits were a highly selective band, so much so that finding venues and causes with correct enough politics to play at gradually reduced the output of performances to a trickle, still there was some sparkling moments and a creative urge was awakened.


When the squat closed to make way for road works Minor Fits too disbanded but Glad and DB continued their partnership into a new format “ Just a Drummer” so named because at first they lacked one. With an eclectic line up that variously included “Doug” Wade, Bevan “Beet Boy” Reed and Rachel Maza they released their debut single Sweat” and then a follow up “Dreams” through a Hot records sub label Correct. Just a Drummer were fixtures on the independent circuit and received strong radio support from the country’s burgeoning networks like JJJ, ZZZ and RRR. They toured up and down the coast playing shows under their own right and supporting many big name local and international artists. One memorable such occasion was supporting Jonathan Richmond, who in Brisbane refused to let them play because he deemed the music too loud for his minimalist taste, after a frank exchange of views and exchange of tapes, Jonathan added them to his Sydney shows and danced down the front during the show. Oh well !


I’d love to tell you there was a reason for them disbanding, but i don’t think there was one, they just kind of stopped and drifted apart. In between DB and Glad wrote tunes for films and television, which sounds romantic but mostly it was just bits and pieces for friends. One of those early friends was a young man called Baz Lurhman who staged a theatre show at Bondi Pavillion for which DB played guitar. Following that Baz asked him to do a percussion piece. DB miked up all kinds of things and recorded them under the nom de plume of Austral Turf, partly because he was looking for a name that resonated with the earth and with his home. Austral was his grandfathers name on his mothers side, and it was damn close to Australia, so it was used for a while. Baz was mooching about Darlo  like a James Dean character , all leather and lip curl and the intensity was hard to bare. The music was passed to Baz but nothing ever came of it,


Forming Red Ochre became DB and Glad’s defining statement, at that time the local music industry was starting to mature and this matched their vision for a new musical voice. They found inspiration in the Xavier Herbert novel Capricornia that spoke of the physical expanse of the Australian landscape and the complex relationship between the indigenous and non indigenous people in the Top End. The homestead of the central family in this epic was the Red Ochre and it resonated with Glad and DB by speaking  of the country and the relationships and people in the wide brown land, this was their goal too, to provide a sensitive and mature voice to the experience of growing up in Australia and of Australia growing up in the world.


Releasing their first single as Red Ochre in 1988  "In the City When it Rains" was heralded by Glad’s signature brass and again received strong airplay and critical reaction. determined to not rest within the inner city cycle they pursued playing the suburban halls that were so much a part of the musical landscape of that time. The band assembled were some of the strongest players available, Lucky Jim Elliot , Ken Gormley, Jason Kain, Tim Rollinson and Barry Turnbull added a tougher and more dextrous dimension to the sound.


The following year an album “ Sleeping Under Stars” was recorded charting much of the restless urban lifestyle , nomad existence and yearning of those times. The cover was inspired by Frederic McCubbin’s iconic painting  On the Wallaby Track  showing a squatter and his family in the bush  making tea. DB and Glad transposed this to the modern urban setting of Sydney’s dockside, the bush replaced by an industrial  landscape, the soft undergrowth replaced by a gutter and the swag by  the back of a Ford Falcon. Sleeping Under Stars spoke of the gentrification of the inner city, the transitory nature of relationships and lives thrown together by the pursuit of their passion  juxtaposed against the struggles and identities of loners and battlers everywhere.


Sleeping Under Stars did not have a significant impact locally despite positive reviews, airplay and well received shows and the band became dispirited by the struggle and conflicting commitment to other projects. In particular the time Glad was spending touring with Midnight Oil and Laughing Clowns disjointed things, though they were such amazing opportunities it was never a question of turning them down.


DB and Glad returned to the studio and recorded more tracks for a follow up  but these were never to be released. After a  period of  shopping these recordings unsuccessfully they decided to relocate to France where an artist friend offered them lodging. It proved a defining move.


Arriving in France in 1993, DB and Glad converted an old barn on the property of their friend Gregory Wait , a photographer and his wife Fafou, in the depths of the Normandy countryside, nothing could be further from the inner city lifestyle the had been so intrenched in and shackled by. They were determined to re ignite the fire of creativity and the passion in their performance. A friend brought his young son Yvick to visit one day, Yvick had just returned to France after studying guitar and music in the US, at a quickly convened jam session a few songs were played and a nascent spark ignited. France’s national Fete de la Musique, where it is compulsory for music to be staged, created an opportunity and  the trio performed at the local village pub, word spread and soon the small bar on the edge of town was crowded with people. Before long they had enough material and word of mouth exposure to mount regional tours and copies of Sleeping Under Stars were quickly transformed to cassette for post show sales, this was a particularly worthy cause as the band struggled to survive. Before long shows were being booked in the South and in Paris where Red Ochre made their debut at La Divette du Montmartre a wonderful rock institution much like Sydney’s Hopetoun Hotel. Free from the expectation of their contemporaries, the writing and performing flourished and a powerful creative bond was formed.


The French sojourn was a difficult and rewarding time, living solely on the generosity of friends and the money earned from shows the group played every where imaginable and an energy that was unable to be expressed in Sydney due to the restraints of expectation and inhibition was tapped to engage audiences on the broadest scale possible. The French sojourn was many things, part musical awakening, part sea change, part life defining experience DB and Glad were challenged in every way possible, artistically, personally and professionally they were pushed to the limits of possibility, endurance and understanding. Assisted by Nicole Grierson, Yvick’s then girlfriend who was American, but fluent in French the group were spending more time in Paris and after a period of door knocking and distributing a tape made at home, the group were summoned to the headquarters of Island Records for a meeting where an offer to sign and record a new album was made. The group made their way into the chill air of the Parisian night beaming and not able to comprehend what had just transpired. Before long  Midnight Oil came to town and as Glad was well know to the Oils , touring and recording with them at home, the group scored an opening slot at Zenith, a large in door venue that held around 6,000-7,000, things were on a role. The two nights at the Zenith were a triumph with the big crowd soaking the mixture of music and naive charm the group expressed by  talking to the crowd in French with broad Aussie accents and slamming them with some good tunes and Yvick’s virtuoso guitar. Glad explained The Surge to them and then played a soaring version, it was magic. The next show at La Divette du Montmartre in Paris the following week was packed.


The bubble burst when simultaneously the deal with Island fell through and the French army came and took Yvick to perform his compulsory 2 year national service. The pressure on the group dissolved relationships and soon enough Glad and DB were facing winter in Normandy with no accommodation or work prospects and only their resolve to see them through. After all the highs, this was a new and challenging low.


Luckily, some friends from the region who lived mostly in Paris were prepared to allow DB and Glad to reside in their isolated summer house. The house had only bare concrete floors and no how water but was located in a beautiful valley in the Calvados region, famous for it’s apple cider, cheese and abundance of natural beauty. DB sought manual labour work as there was no alternative now that the truck, manager and guitarist were now no longer part of the immediate team. Fortunately a young farmer and industrial designer , Luc Corbin, offered DB work clearing the farm, river banks and old buildings on his property so that a holiday and cycling park could be constructed. Luc not only gave DB work but he took him and Glad into the family and was generous and open, treating them like long lost brothers and sisters. The Normans being conservative at heart were mystified by these Australians who were living so vicariously on the fringe of the village, things could have gone either way and they could have been shunned, instead they were welcomed into the soul of the community. As Luc did not speak English DB’s French took flight during this time, entire days passed where the only English spoken was at home in the evening. The day spent toiling in the open were invigorating for the soul and a fertile patch of writing was also the result of this spartan existence.


After a winter of bitter cold hard work, and solitude the approach of spring brought a sense of optimism and opportunity. Yvick had been able to visit occasionally on weekend leave and the trio jammed again, things were not the same, they never would be, but the spark was still there. The local village was over looked by an 11th Century church,and  the group had the idea to stage an acoustic concert in the church, invite the villagers they had come to befriend and hopefully raise some money to get back on the road for summer. The church was an incredible spectacle inside,statues of Christ and various figurines adorned the halls and were pure theatre in their menace and intimidation, going into such a room and singing their songs, was a whole other communion, more akin to enlightenment than was the lingering impression of the dark ages that dripped from the walls and doors. The group sort the permission of the head of the church, a bizarre moment where DB and Glad explained their idea and why the church was a suitable location. They had already decided to donate a percentage of money from the event to the church restoration fund and this more than anything seemed to placate the priest who duly gave his consent. The next step was to gain the permission of the Mayor of the village, who happened to be Luc’s grandfather, so that was a formality signed with a large glass of the local Calvados, an apple derived cognac, the grandfather had quite a heavy hand when pouring, so negotiations quickly took on a jovial air and all was set.


Over two nights the local community came out in droves, the first night being standing room only, at one stage all lights were turned off and the band played by candlelight, it was magic and they were saved, the door takings and cassette sales were sufficient to mount a tour of the south. While bidding a sad farewell to Yvick, who returned  back to the army, DB and Glad relished the challenge of organising a tour on their own. The drove south to the Dordogne region and reconnected with Georges Alain Duriot a local music entrepreneur, he housed them in Labbaye a small town out of.Sarlat in the house where George's wife’s father had not long passed away. Over this  period n the south DB and Glad learnt how to put on a show with just the two of them, handle expelling the old mans ghost from the house and cleaning it all up so that it was a lasting present as a way of saying thank you. The shows were wonderful  and the tour was a great success, but now they headed back to Paris, it was time to think about leaving.


The group convened again as three in Paris where they played a number of shows before Glad and DB flew back to reconnect with Australia. The final shows were bitter sweet, full of verve and promise and once more the  undeniable bond between the three ignited the room. Walking back through the lane ways of Paris, rugged up and toting their instruments after the final gig is an image burned into the psyche , but the moment was lost, the group resolved to meet again, this time in Australia to continue the journey.


DB and Glad soon set up digs in the Sydney’s Rocks district, one day on a walk through the neighborhood they happened upon a deserted warehouse that was being divided into work spaces for artists and designers. they agreed upon a modest rent and took up a lease on a space that was previously utilised to spray paint cars. In partnership with Paul Berton a guitarist , they built a recording studio called “The Writers Hand” Yvick arrived in Australia and they all busily combined to complete wiring and try to rehearse material for an album. Working with a local rhythm section of Dave Rashleigh and Paul Miskin they tracked the songs for the next release  “ Ragged Soul” the album received good press but not much airplay as the group hardly performed to support the release as Yvick had returned to France, the tyranny of distance was still a huge hurdle.


Yvick returned again to Sydney a few years later, it would be a productive visit. During this time the group recorded  mostly in the home DB and Glad shared at Millers Point, experimenting for the first time with computer recording systems produced some great results, but to really get back to their roots the three decamped to the Blue Mountains with Sydney engineer and producer Bob Scott, they spent two days recording, one of which was heavily affected by rain on the tin roof of the isolated  farm house they occupied.


Those sessions became the foundation of material that is now “Orchid Avenue”