DIY Love & Hate

20 November 2012 | 10:23 am | Michael Smith

"It’s funny, that song,” he admits. “I did it as a dare really. Howler, my booking agent, was, like, ‘I dare you to write a ballad,’ because I’d never written one before, so I tried and it took me ages to write that song."

"Yeah, same old crappy shitbox,” Claude Hay laughs, on the line from somewhere outside Melbourne, standing next to the tour bus he's converting into a travelling home which has just decided to lose its gearbox. It's all part of the giddy whirl that is life as a completely self-sufficient independent solo artist; he built the house he shares with his film composer wife in the wooded back blocks of Katoomba, as well as the studio in which he composes and records, and the bulk of the instruments he plays.

It's obviously been the right way to go. Hay is currently travelling Australia on his third album, I Love Hate You, fresh off a tour of Poland, which was followed by opening for Joe Bonamassa on a couple of shows on his Australian tour last month. That followed months of touring through North America and some concerts in France.

Hay began writing the new album in America, as the result of a “horrible experience [travelling] from California to Kansas City,” he recalls. “I kinda write about going on a Greyhound bus that I almost died on [chuckles]. I sort of wrote it there and I ended up in Memphis after a bunch of shows. I went and checked out Sun Studios, more as a tourist thing, and they told me that they still hire out the front studio, so I recorded some of Hound there. It was amazing. They'd boarded it up for years but kept everything, all crusty and old, exactly how it used to be.”

Like Hounds, the bulk of I Love Hate You was written on the road, but the rest of the tracks were recorded at home in the “Deathstar”, or more precisely his home, Vader Studios. He's an obvious Star Wars obsessive.

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“It kind of started off with a lot of experiences that I hated,” Hay laughs again, “and it just became too many hate songs – not necessarily hate, but just not positive, basically. It started getting a little too negative for my liking. I like to have a bit of fun, so I thought it was time to write some positive stuff. They were two extremes of each other, and I thought that was a great way to encapsulate it and write about things I love and things I hate really.”

Now, when Hay says hate, there's still a sizeable amount of tongue in cheek, as in the opening and title track – written about the aforementioned tour bus – or Stone Face, a comment on the contemporary idea of “customer service”. Opposing that is the astonishing Close, the best song Jeff Buckley never wrote or performed.

“It's funny, that song,” he admits. “I did it as a dare really. Howler, my booking agent, was, like, 'I dare you to write a ballad,' because I'd never written one before, so I tried and it took me ages to write that song. I actually wasn't going to put that song on the album, but a couple of people convinced me. It's so left-of-centre, that song.”

As he has for previous albums, Hay decided to make a new instrument he's named Stella. “I've always loved resonators, and banjos as well, so I wanted to build something that was in between the two, and I wanted something with bass strings and guitar strings on it,” he explains. “So it was really an experiment – a $7 baking tray from K-Mart and bits of junk lying around the house, but it's definitely got that cross between the two tones, and it inspired me to write a whole bunch of different stuff – Stone Face was the first one I recorded with it. I definitely find sounds influence me.”

Claude Hay will be playing the following shows:

Thursday 22 November - Peachtree Hotel, Penrith NSW
Friday 23 November - Oxford Art Factory, Sydney NSW
Saturday 24 November - Katoomba RSL, Katoomba NSW
Thursday 29 November - The Odyssey Tavern, Geelong VIC
Friday 30 November - Harvester Moon, Melbourne VIC
Saturday 1 December - The Bluestrain, Queenscliff VIC
Sunday 2 December - Westernport Hotel, San Remo VIC
Friday 7 December - Cabarita Sports Club, Brisbane QLD
Saturday 8 December - Royal Mail Hotel, Goodna QLD
Wednesday 19 December - Rails Hotel, Byron Bay NSW
Saturday 22 December - The Victoria Hotel, Orange NSW
Saturday 29 December - Peats Ridge Festival, Glenworth Valley NSW