Josh Pyke Lists His Favourite Collaborations Of All Time

18 March 2022 | 9:35 am | Josh Pyke

Five-time ARIA Award winner and one of Australia's favourite storytellers, Josh Pyke has today released his seventh album, 'To find Happiness'. With the album's stacked tracklist of collaborations including Gordi, Elana Stone and more, Pyke lists some of his favourite collaborations of all time.

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Wilco and Billy Bragg – Mermaid Avenue

This is one of my favourite collaborations ever. It’s Billy Bragg and Wilco getting unreleased lyrics from Woody Guthrie (via his daughter) and putting them to music. The related project was Mermaid Avenue. Now, what I’ve heard is that the two camps (Billy’s and Wilco’s) didn’t get along at all and there was a lot of tension in the project, and I feel like you can hear a bit of that emotion in the recordings. That tension helps to emphasise some of the more political messages in Woody’s lyrics and gives the project that element of authenticity.

Temple Of The Dog

For me, as a 16-year-old this was an awesome collaboration. Like many, I only discovered this project a fair while after it had been released. It was initially a collaboration between Chris Cornell and the singer of Mother Love Bone. Most of Mother Love Bone went on to become Pearl Jam. In fact, Eddie Vedder shows up on a track about a year before he even joined Pearl Jam. For a grunge fan in the '90s, this was a real who’s who nerdfest.

Basement Birds

I couldn’t talk about collaborations without mentioning Basement Birds. This was of course the “supergroup” that included Kevin Mitchell (aka Bob Evans), Kav Temperley, Steve Parkin, and yours truly. We recorded our one and only album in Fremantle over a few months, and did one tour. It was truly a joyous time, and I still listen to that album with a lot of fondness. We even got our friend Julia Stone to perform on one of the tracks, as well as a host of Western Australian indie music legends.

Nations By The River

This was another great one that only lasted one album. It was members of the now-defunct indie band Gelbison, Ohad Rhein aka Old Man River and Luke Steele. Sarah Blasko appears on a track too. It’s still available on Spotify, and it’s really good, well worth checking out.

Iggy Pop and Kate Pierson - Candy

This was a one-song collaboration for the track Candy, which Iggy has described as the only good pop song he’s ever written (which I would definitely dispute!). This came out when I was a teenager, and it kind of blew me away (like any good collaboration should) that these people would know each other. Iggy Pop, the grandfather of punk, and Kate Pierson from indie popsters The B-52’s. Seeing worlds collide like that in a surprising way is really what appeals to me most about collaboration.

Gordi and Josh Pyke – The Hummingbird

Well, of course I had to mention this one! Working with Gordi (Sophie Payten) on this track was awesome. We essentially flicked ideas back and forth via email during lockdown until a fully formed song emerged via the magic that is creativity! Luckily Sophie was able to come and sing the song at my studio during a brief respite from lockdowns. I’m a huge fan of Gordi and have admired her trajectory since being one of the first winners of my grant program the JP Partnership. Her voice is truly one for the ages!

The Dissociatives

This was a great collaboration! Again, a project that I could only have come through friendship, and that the average punter would not have expected. I thought Daniel Johns and Paul Mac created something really unique in the Australian musical landscape at that time, and it really highlighted the range and scope of Daniels' virtuosity as a vocalist. I also loved seeing The Presets in their live touring band. For me as an emerging musician at that time, it was cool to know that all these musicians that I wouldn’t have assumed knew each other were hanging out being creative together.

Seeker Lover Keeper

Another Australian “supergroup” made up of Sarah Blasko, Holly Throsby and Sally Seltmann, three artists that I am a big fan of separately. It’s great when you know each of the artist’s individual work well, to hear the confluence of those elements create something totally new. This album came out around the same time that our Basement Birds album came out, so I always associate the two albums with each other. Good times.

RUN DMC and Aerosmith – Walk This Way

Walk This Way was already a popular song by Aerosmith alone, but I only heard the song when they did it as a collaboration with RUN DMC. As a 9-year-old kid at the time watching Saturday morning music videos, it really blew my mind. I didn’t really know much about rap, and I also didn’t know about glam rock, so it was a bit of an introduction to both. I loved how cool the RUN DMC guys were, and I was really confronted by how overtly sexual Steve Tyler was. I mean, who were these people, so clearly very different, yet apparently rehearsing next to each other, presumably in Hollywood somewhere. Now I know it was an entirely constructed exercise to break RUN DMC into a more commercial market, and to try and make Aerosmith relevant to a late '80s music market…but it’s a great song!

Scared Of Horses

In 1998 Paul Dempsey from Something for Kate (one of my favourite Australian bands) did an EP under the name Scared Of Horses. It was super indie and super cool and featured other indie musicians such as Glenn Richards from Augie March. This was probably the first time I’d heard Glenn, and Augie March has become a staple for me ever since. Little known fact, the EP was called An Empty Flight, and my nascent punk band took that phrase for our name until we broke up in 2005. So that particular collaboration had a pretty big impact on my musical life.

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