Photo – Malcolm Clark, musician/producer/engineer
Voices From The Other Side is a musical performance showcasing the vocals of a diversity of dearly-departed iconic singers of the past, with live backing by some of WA’s finest musicians.
As a career musician for two decades, Malcolm Clark has had some unique experiences. From recording and touring the world with The Sleepy Jackson and Jeff Martin777, to session playing for The Basement Birds, Katy Steele, The Exploders, Bob Evans and more, plus being the co-founder/creator (with Steve Parkin) of the highly successful Record Club Roadshow series, Clark has seen, heard and done many things.
The idea for Voices From The Other Side, however, literally seems to have come from on high.
“About two years ago I had the most bizarre dream,” Clark begins. “I was at a party and there were instruments set up and I jumped on the drums and next thing Jim Morrison walks in… ‘hey man, do you know any of my songs?’ ‘Yep let’s jam’. Next thing Elvis and Little Richard came in too and started playing. I was spinning out and said to them, ‘this is so strange I thought you guys were dead’. Jim’s like, ‘well if we had died then how do you explain all this then?’
“‘How DO I explain this?’” I wondered, then I woke up. Now I’m sure millions of people share these kinds of dreams, but I awoke that day and lay there for hours with this idea. I could picture it actually working in my head. I’ve seen a few hologram shows online and they have also done an Elvis with a live orchestra. They were cool, but searching the net I found there was something special about hearing just the voice, isolated and raw. I thought a small four-or-five-piece live band would complement these vocals better and give the audience a more intimate show. I wanted to also try and bring that ‘everyone is jamming’ feeling from the dream. As Pink Floyd put it, The Great Gig In The Sky. They are all parting together and they’re gonna break through the cosmic fabric back onto the planet and into the Newport for one night to have a singalong.”
Clark’s a gun producer and video technician (anyone who has attended Record Club Roadshow gigs will have been blown away by the visuals that accompanied all performances) but there’s been a healthy amount of challenges, both technically and in terms of arrangements, in putting this show together…
“I knew it would be a big job,” he says, “but if I realised how big I probably wouldn’t have put it together.
“The process is kinda like this – after finding an isolated vocal I liked I would have to analyse and process it to try and get rid of the unwanted artefacts from some of the low-quality tracks. I had to break down every part and then I transferred it onto tape and back.
“I then sent all these tracks to my mate Carl Brown, the Dr Of Sound, who is our sound engineer, too. He would go through every track and tweak levels, EQ, effects etc, while I created a metronome to sync the video and the vocals with the band. I’d sit there for hours recording the tapping of a tambo for every song; then I would try and edit the video to lip sync with the track. I’m really happy with the result.”
From John Lennon to David Bowie, Frank Sinatra to Amy Winehouse, Roy Orbison to Michael Jackson, Janis Joplin to Tom Petty plus many more, it’s a melting-pot of vocalists from many eras. This was this an important factor from the get-go.
“Yes,” Clark affirms. “A few years ago, so many of my favourite singers passed away; I realised I would never get to see them live. I have the vinyl and I have YouTube, but that feeling of watching a live band and a singer that’s killing it onstage will always be the ultimate experience.
“As most of us have never had the pleasure of ever seeing most of these singers live, this is probably the closest we would ever get to hear someone like Freddie Mercury or John Lennon through a PA with a live band.”
The nuances of each singer and the source material their vocals are taken from have also created some demanding scenarios on their way to band and stage.
“They all have their differences and challenges,” Clark says. “Like James Brown and Elvis, the tempo speeds up and slows down and we have to follow that otherwise we go out of time with the vocal. Some vocals were half a semitone out of tune; so I have to pitch them slightly without losing presence, things like that. But nonetheless they have all been pretty good to me.”
As well as producing the event Clark will feature on drums, accompanied by guitarist Steve Hensby, bassist Shaun Street, saxophonist Dylan Hooper, and keyboardist/guitarist, Michael de Grussa.
“There are a lot of wonderful musos here in Perth,” he says. “It was hard to decide who to use for this show. I basically wanted to bring players that know each other, but have never really played together before.
“The truth is over the last two years I mentioned it to some people and whoever’s eyes lit up and they were like, ‘that’s rad, count me in’ I wrote their name in a book. I had about 10 people; so I booked a show and waited for a while, then messaged all of them three weeks before the gig to see who was keen and four were available. Bingo, there’s my jam band! And don’t let the word ‘jam’ throw you, these guys are world-class players.”
What do you hope people take away from the performance?
“Well basically this night is all about the audience and their experience. If we can make everyone walk away feeling like I did that morning when I had that dream, then job well done. I just want to try and bring a little something different to all the music lovers.
“Also, although all the artists have passed away, I want this night to be a celebration of life and the memories and joy that they brought us. If you believe in the afterlife you can applaud the singers. If you don’t, that’s fine; I’m sure the guys in the band will be happy to accept your appreciation.
“It’s a win-win, so come on down.”
Voices From The Other Side happens at the Newport Hotel on Thursday, September 27. Tickets and full details via www.facebook.com/events/275784156363410/