Dave Hole’s long-awaited 11th studio album, Goin’ Back Down – mostly self-engineered, produced and chock full of his trademark searing slide guitar playing as well as a couple of surprises has just been released.
The Perth slide guitar legend, internationally revered for his unique playing style, is hitting the boards around the country to celebrate.
“I made this album, in some ways, to please myself,” he declares, “there’s a couple of ballads there that I normally, probably, would’ve left off, because they’re a bit out of left field for someone like myself.”
We’ll talk about those ballads a little later. For starters, we discover that part of the reason it’s been over 10 years since last album Rough Diamond is that Hole spent a few years setting up a new home studio and getting his head around ProTools. So much for not teaching an old dog new tricks.
“It’s been really a fun thing to do for me, actually,” he agrees. “I’ve enjoyed that learning curve, and I’ve enjoyed having the control over the whole thing, and getting into the engineering side of it’s been a lot of fun, as well. I had a few tearing-the-hair-out moments, as you do with technology, but I got there.”
Most of Goin’ Back Down was recorded by Hole alone, playing each instrument one by one, but a few tracks were recorded with Bob Patient and some old friends at Anarchy Studio.
“I mixed them all in the home studio, so it’s pretty seamless, really. They have got a slightly different flavour, because of the way that they were performed, and the guys playing them – and that was done in a much more live kind of way than the ones that I did all myself, which were built up, track-by-track.
“As a musician, that takes a little bit of getting used to, so that you can get the vibe that you need to perform them, because it can be sterile. That’s the downside of doing it this way. It’s not all win-win. Sometimes the vibe, the energy of playing something live in a studio with other musicians, is a great thing.”
Hole’s unique playing style came about when he broke his pinky finger and couldn’t play slide any more. So he stuck the slide on another finger and improvised, playing some of the notes with his hand over the top of the guitar neck. The results of this serendipitous accident were both immediately incendiary and a career boost for Hole.
“That’s correct. It was years, and years ago, but I was just kicking the footy with a mate, and went up for what I thought would be an easy mark, and it caught my little finger, and broke it. It was at a time when I’d just started playing slide. I was using that pinky, the little finger, to play with the slide, so I ruled that out – it had a cast on it.
“I actually couldn’t play standard guitar, or anything, for ages. I was just hanging the slide over the top of the neck, and doodling around, and I was getting a sound out of it. I thought, ‘that’s okay …’ I was still committed to doing some gigs, so I did a lot of it that way – it just started to feel good, and sound good to me, so I kept doing it, and all the rest is history, I suppose. It’s been something that the press has made something of, because… maybe it does sound a little different, I think, than playing the so-called conventional way. It’s been very beneficial to me.”
We’ve referred above to a couple of surprises on Goin’ Back Down. The first of these is Arrows In The Dark, which doesn’t sound like Dave Hole at all – at least, not as we’ve heard him before. In fact once you get past the early-Beatles sound of the melody, then maybe you’ll be checking the liner notes to see if Hank Marvin’s name appears. (It doesn’t).
“A friend of mine, Nick DiFalco, had this idea for a chord pattern,” he explains. “We started mucking around with it, and it sort of triggered, in me, a ’60s vibe, so I went that way with it. I think anyone of my vintage would be probably lying if they said they weren’t influenced by The Beatles, and all the stuff that went on in the ’60s, because we were young teenagers when it hit, and very, very impressionable. Even though blues is my first love, I still have a real great fondness for that stuff, all those Merseybeat things, and it was quite natural for me to fall into that, and develop the song along those lines.”
The other surprise on Goin’ Back Down is Tears For No Reason, which is such a terribly sad, yet gorgeously rendered, story of depression.
“Well, yeah, it is about depression, obviously,” he says thoughtfully, “and I think we all get a bit depressed. In some of us, it’s very severe, and others, it’s just like you get a bit down. It’s kind of part of the human condition, I think, but some people suffer terribly from it.
“The lyrics came first, which is unusual for me: normally I get the music going, and then I think, ‘what can I write about?’ In that case, it was the lyrics, and then the chord progression came from just mucking around with the guitar.
“I suppose it’s probably a bit of wishful thinking, but I’d like to think that people who do suffer badly would maybe hear a song like that, and it’d make them feel a little bit better, because they’re not quite so alone in what they’re going through.”
Another standout on Goin’ Back Down is The Blues Are Here To Stay: six minutes of blues groove as an excuse to cram in as many slide solos as possible. It sounds as much fun to play as it is to listen to.
“It was! I did have a ball with it,” Hole chuckles. “You’re quite right, it’s just a vehicle for me to sing out on slide guitar, so I made the most of it. It went on for about six minutes, and then I’m thinking, ‘well, this really should be edited down,’ but in the end, I just thought, ‘no, I’ll leave it alone,’ because as I say, the whole ethos behind the album’s been self-indulgent, so why not?”
Short Fuse Blues was Hole’s first solo album, released in 1990, and quickly brought him fame and acclaim, especially in the home of the blues, the United States. Short Fuse Blues was issued worldwide in 1992 by esteemed label, Alligator Records, and Hole was in demand from that moment on.
“It was a very exciting time,” he says, unsurprisingly still thankful for the opportunities, “and it was a bit awe-inspiring to go, and do my first show in America at Buddy Guy’s Legends, and meet Buddy for the first time on my second day I was in America. It was all a sort of whirlwind, so it was a bit hard to deal with, but because I was 40 at the time – I wasn’t a young kid – I think I had a bit more of a level head on my shoulders by that time in life. I think that might’ve been a good thing, and that helped me deal with it, without getting too over-excited, and whatever.
“It was a brilliant time, just the newness of it. To be able to tour internationally, and all that, was something I’d never expected to be able to do, so it was a great thing. It was a lucky break to be able to do that. So many musicians that I come across that are deserving of far more recognition, they don’t get that lucky break, they don’t get the chance.”
Dave Hole plays an all-too-rare hometown show to launch Goin’ Back Down at the Charles Hotel on Saturday, May 26. Full details at www.facebook.com/events/576473802715027/