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18 March 2012 | 7:42 pm | Staff Writer

“I started thinking this was an American city I could spend a week in without getting scurvy. And it’s really cheap. So I went, why not?”

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One thing remains constant. Whether in song, or just having a chinwag, Mick Thomas tells a good story. There's a rough count of 14 albums under The Sure Thing or Weddings, Parties, Anything banners. But all have that conversational tone of the bloke chatting to you over a coffee – or more likely a beer, or three.

Maybe it's needing someone to chat with that means, even though The Last Of The Tourists is billed as his first 'solo' album, he happily credits fellow singer/songwriter Darren Hanlon – here in the producer role – for much of the album's tone and style. “It's a trust thing. There are just people you like to work with, like to play with,” Thomas clarifies. “Yeah, I totally need a collaborator – someone to bounce ideas off. And there is method to Darren's madness. He always seems able to find a thread.”

This comes through in the record, where a theme of growing older and working out what really is important comes through. Thomas conditionally agrees. “Yeah, I guess it is. But I certainly didn't go into it with great thought of that. And Darren chose the songs more than I did. I never sit down to write a bunch of songs for an album – there's no high-concept thing going on. It's just what's going on around me, and just getting older.”

And so they just kept going with the flow, with things somehow falling into place. Thus, a large proportion of the album was done in the unlikely surrounds of Portland, Oregon. “I've always been a big believer to get away to record. To give yourself some distance and perspective about what you're doing, maybe. Darren was spending a lot of time there, and it all seemed simple.” A bout of Internet research followed: “Portland is into coffee, into bicycles, into food – and it's the microbrewery capital of North America – what's not to like?,” he chuckles. “I started thinking this was an American city I could spend a week in without getting scurvy. And it's really cheap. So I went, why not?”

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There were further discoveries: “The city is full of musicians. But the majority of record was just the engineer going 'Yeah, I'm not a drummer, but can play that.' And Darren on bass.” Plus Weddoes mainstay Ian 'Squeezebox Wally' Wallace adding a range of bits and pieces. So, “95 per cent or so” of the album was done in about five days. And only then did it get complicated. “We needed about three overdubs, and those little bits took the rest of the year,” Mick muses. Hanlon had gone back to his touring musician ways. “And so I'd get a call from him: 'Yeah, I'm in Poland – I met this guy in Berlin who's a really great clarinet player for that bit we need. It'll cost 80 Euros, how's that?' That's what you come to expect from Darren, and it's part of the 'fun' of it.

“It just got really messy with files emailed back and forward – used to be if you wanted something like that, you'd have to post the tape over, and then wait for it to come back. It was almost easier,” he laughs. “Even now, somewhere in the ether is four bars of a shaker part that's supposed to be on the title track – and Darren's going 'Yeah, but I'll find somebody and we'll just do it again.' Eventually I had to go 'Darren, no – enough! The world is not going miss those four bars.' So, somewhere between his travels through Berlin, Poland, Oxford, Portland, Melbourne, and wherever else he's been – it's still out there somewhere.”