In Love With Guitars

3 July 2012 | 7:25 am | Michael Smith

“It’s a really anti-careerist thing to do in a way.”

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While they're best remembered as having heavier, guitar feedback-laden tunes, Bluebottle Kiss were as likely to record trippy pop or freeform jazz workouts, ever following the muse rather than pursuing one particular style. The band's singer, songwriter and guitarist Jamie Hutchings has been just as eclectic performing solo.

“It's a really anti-careerist thing to do in a way,” Hutchings admits. “As far as I can see, people that do the best pretty much find one sort of thing, do it really well and they stick to it – and that's what people want. I'd find that like having a nine-to-five job doing that where you're basically, 'Oh, I've got my niche…' I get bored between one album and the next album. I really feel whatever's happened before it's like I've got it out of my system.

“I usually have a really strong vision of what I want to achieve at the start of the projects, but usually by the end of it I have to admit there's only like a small residue of that left. Like, you end up somewhere entirely different. You get distracted and that's part of it; you kind of just write it and accept it.

“That's what makes it such a satisfying thing. It teaches you to try to find a balance between being controlling and being free, because I think if you've got strong ideas your natural tendency is to go towards control, but then you learn over time to try and let go at certain points. That's one of the hardest things to do, but that's where you tend to shift; when you let go of something for a while that's when suddenly you get thrown into another domain that you didn't expect and that can end up in a whole different journey. That's what's fun about it.”

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As for Hutchings' influences over the years, “to me, what it's about as you keep going on is you've got this big huge treasure chest of things to grab and use, but if you've been doing it long enough, it still has your personality.”

Hutchings has been writing and recording new material for his next album, some of which he'll be performing during a small run of shows he and his latest musical aggregation, The Goldfish Memories, featuring his brother Scott on drums and Reuben Wills on bass, are undertaking before they head off for a handful of shows in France. Hutchings' keyboards-playing sister Sophie, who's married to Wills, joins them for their Sydney date and the French part of the overseas tour, playing five shows: four in Paris and a festival in the north of France. After which Hutchings and Scott will go on to play five shows in China, mostly in Shanghai and Beijing. He'll also be playing material from his last album, Avalon Cassettes, as well as his other solo records and even some Bluebottle Kiss material.

“I think after Bluebottle stopped playing together, I really felt like challenging myself by not relying on volume. So for quite a few years I wanted to be able to create something that wasn't reliant on drama and theatrical kind of noise, and so I've done that for quite a while. I was trying to show myself and other people that I could bring everything down to the most simplest, barest form and so they would be more about songs. So just playing at low volumes and having the music as more conversational was a real challenge. But now it's kind of like I'm really enjoying playing the electric guitar again and twisting it into different shapes and improvising a lot more and so forth, so in a way I'm sort of… When Bluebottle started, it was very jammy and noisy, so in a way I've probably just come full-circle. I'm actually quite enjoying playing some of the Bluebottle stuff as well as more recent stuff, and also the new record that I'll do is very much about the electric guitar. It's very repetitive sort of rhythms, like some of the kind of classic elements of the record, of really repetitive, almost industrial rhythms but a lot of more kind of 'scrunky' kinds of guitar playing. So it's not that that hard for me to go back, especially to the last Bluebottle Kiss record, because I'm really enjoying really attacking electric guitar, whereas I'd sort of had my fill of it by the time that we had a break.”

Revisiting some of the Bluebottle Kiss catalogue is timely of course as both Hutchings' solo records and the independently-released Bluebottle albums and EPs – the Sony-owned first two albums in 1995's Higher Up The Firetrails and 1996's Fear Of Girls, originally released on “indie”-styled subsidiary Murmur, and are available through iTunes – have now been digitally re-released via Bandcamp.

“It's sad the amount of record stores that are closing down,” Hutchings laments, “but by the same token, people are getting used to buying records direct from the artist. I've never downloaded an album in my life – I bought my first laptop second-hand the other day and I still haven't got round to getting an Internet connection – I'm just really hopeless. But obviously I know people are downloading all the time; for a huge amount of people that's the way they buy music.

“The earlier stuff, which was on Murmur, like a lot of artists in the '90s there was a little bit of a rush there where a lot of major labels set up indie subsidiaries that then shut down, so all those records are all out of print. So if people want to buy hard copies they have to look on eBay and often pay really over-inflated prices for it. So all that stuff's available. I'm really proud of a lot of that really early stuff, so it's nice that people who want to get it in some format can. It was very difficult to make it happen in the past. Hopefully major labels will start doing that with their smaller artists in general, because there are loads of people that have made music for a long time in Australia.”