Mick Hart: The Face.

3 June 2002 | 12:00 am | Eden Howard
Originally Appeared In

Down On The Upside.

Mick Hart launches Upside Down In The Full Face Of Optimism at The Zoo on Friday and the Great Northern Hotel in Byron Bay on Saturday.

After the critical success Mick Hart had with his passionate Still The Flowers Bloom album last year, Upside Down In The Full Face Of Optimism is not the album one would expect him to make. That’s not a bad thing. Mick Hart’s fourth release is still a cracking good record, but rather than whack you over the head, he takes the time to build the album up from an almost introspective opening to a thunderous ending. Quite literally taking you from a whisper to a scream, and in many ways all the more rich a listening experience for it.

“I think this is a bit rawer in ways than the last record, in ways where we just wanted to capture that emotion and not clutter it up,” Mick explains. “We’ve taken a more stripped down approach on a few songs because you can fall into the trap of overproducing things. We tried to be as tasteful as possible and let the songs live their normal lives.”

“The one thing with Flowers was that it was a pretty intense album. This is trying to show that there are other sides, and there always has been, basically. I guess there’s a bit more of a peaceful flow to it. I just wanted it to have a beautiful kind of flow from start to finish. A nice even balance, almost a soundtrack sort of thing. From the starting point it’s totally different. The last album started with one of the more psycho heavy songs and this one’s kind of quiet.”

And with an opening like that, by the time Mick lets loose on the later part of the album, it’s as though it’s just crept up on you.

“That’s the idea,” he enthuses. “I wanted to let it really sort of take you in, in a more subtle kind of way. When it gets to the end it really lets go, but there’s not too much of it, which is a good thing.”

Retrospectively, did you feel the last album was a little more on the heavy side than you would have liked?

“In some ways. I mean, the airplay we got from Triple J was unreal, and the songs they played were the heavier ones, and the perception that people had was that we only do heavy songs.”

Is Upside Down a better representation of who you are as an artist?

“I guess it’s more where I am at the moment. In some ways it feels better for the songs to tell a story without having to force them too much. I think that’s a cool thing. I don’t want to really follow in the footsteps of anyone, but I really admired what Radiohead did with Kid A. They just took a different approach, but it was still them and they were creating. I didn’t want to make another Flowers Bloom, because it is what it is, but you have to keep challenging yourself. That’s sort of where we were at with it. It’s all art of a journey, I guess.”

Does that mean you look at each album as a snapshot of where you are along the way?

“I think so. That’s cool. It kind of represents periods in time, so I hope that will make it more enduring. You’re just putting out what was going on at a point in time. You get a real sense of where it was, and what people were feeling. It’s just a peaceful sort of time, and I think it’s a lot more optimistic as well. I don’t want to just depress people,” he laughs.

Upside Down once again finds Mick releasing as an indie artist, once again giving him the freedom to work on his own schedule, and put together releases when the time feels right.

“Basically the last album got some great reviews, but it didn’t sell huge numbers, and the record company were kind of hesitant in getting behind the new disc,” he explains. “We kind of just came to an agreement, and they were good about it as well. We were contracted to do another album with them, but at the same point I don’t want to force my music on people, and I didn’t want to do it if there weren’t totally involved, because it would just take so much longer.”

“It just feels great that we were able to get in without that pressure of having to answer to too many people and just rock away and come out with something creative and hopefully something really different.”

“Flowers came out in March last year, so we’re only really a year down the track. I think it’s cool to be able to do this. If you’re into creating and writing songs, this was you can follow up with different albums and now feel confined. It’s a free approach to music, but with marketing plans and major labels it becomes a lot harder to get albums out. Radiohead did it with Kid A and then Amnesiac, Tom Waits has just put two albums out on the same day. I think it’s great. It should just be more about the music.”