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“I’m the same guy and I have the same general view and outlook, but now I’m more in control.”

He’s the poet laureate of the state of Australian desolation, carrying the torch left behind by The Triffids’ towering balladeer David McComb. But Strange Tourist is Liddiard’s most sonically naked and intimate release. The ragged, sulphurous delivery of The Drones, which has seen them become perpetual critical darlings but a commercial work in progress, is here replaced with heavy silence. Soft, twanging guitar notes are left to float through the air and Liddiard’s voice, which is normally a strangled howl, is more intelligible and gentle, often lifting to a lilting falsetto. You can even hear his breathing over the raw guitar work. “I’ve got a weird voice — it’s got character, I guess,” says Liddiard from Melbourne, where he is based. “It was just the opposite of doing the Drones thing, [where I’m] trying to stay over this huge racket.” Liddiard found the process of recording a solo record more streamline than with his Drones band, but there was still a lot of work to be done. “I really enjoy recording, so I was really looking forward to doing that,” explains Liddiard. “But I hadn’t realised it was just going to be me doing everything. Part of the joy of recording is telling other people what to do and then they’re doing it. You’ll be out playing pool while someone’s [recording] overdubs. I didn’t realise it would be in the stool the whole fucking time,

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Strange Tour ist is a solo record , but on ly in the litera l sense of the ter m . T he Drones have a lways been Ga r et h L iddi a r d’s words and music — but there’s nor ma lly a chaotic, thunder ing backing band . T his is the song w r iter ’s bare musica l bones . N ick M il l iga n spoke w ith Liddiard about his astonishing new a lbum . which is actually a bit tiring. The writing process was fun — it was all really fast. I did it all in eight weeks. Now I’m on the other side, I’m just happy it doesn’t suck, I guess.” Rather than make another record with The Drones after their 2008 masterpiece Havilah, Liddiard saw a lonesome record as a new challenge. “Well, I just hadn’t done it before,” Liddiard says. “I like to do something different every time. There’s solo records where you write a bunch of songs and get a bunch of people to play with you. Then there’s solo records where you play it by yourself. The former I’ve been doing anyway with The Drones. Even though it’s called The Drones, it’s a vehicle for my tunes.” Despite lacking the archaic arrangements of The Drones in full flight, Strange Tourist doesn’t lack ambition. The average song length is just under nine minutes. Lyrically, it continues Liddiard’s ruminations on Australian history and folklore, while sowing

in themes from the current political climate. The epic closing track ‘The Radicalisation Of D’, at over 16-minutes in length, takes a loose look at the incarceration of David Hicks in Guantanamo Bay detention camp in 2001. But while his imagery is as potent and vivid as ever, Liddiard isn’t ready to analyse his lyrics too closely. Time is needed for him to comprehend what he’s created. “It would only be about now that I’m starting to see things on Havilah,” Liddiard admits. “But Havilah and this record are the same beast — they were written in a real short time. They were written under a certain mental climate. It was all the same head space, so there’s going to be a thread that runs through, but I’ll be fucked if I can see what that is.” It’s always a surprise to Liddiard when people like his new material. “The minute you’ve finished it you have no idea how people are going to interpret it,” Liddiard says. “You’re

having trouble interpreting it yourself. Even though you made it, you’re having trouble seeing the forest for the trees. It’s like with The Drones thing when people say, ‘You get good reviews — you must expect to be loved’. But after every record I think, ‘People are going to hate this’. It’s always a surprise that people get it.” Liddiard has been performing solo for over a decade and will be touring the country as a one-man-band, in support of Strange Tourist. Since the early days of The Drones, Liddiard feels he has gained more control over the creative beast. “There’s certain things you can’t do when you’re young, and vice versa,” explains Liddiard of his songwriting. “You just bullshit out your arse when you’re young — things would be hard to fake now. But when you’re young there’s more of a chemical imbalance or something, which is hormonal. Testosterone. Depressive. You’re in a thrall. It controls you. It’s not like I’m old, but at 34, now I control it – that’s the difference. I’m the same guy and I have the same general view and outlook, but now I’m more in control.” Gareth Liddiard will play Lizotte’s, Lambton, Wednesday, November 17, and Lizotte’s Kincumber, Thursday, November 18, for Reverb’s Christmas dinner. Bookings can be made at Strange Tourist is out now through Shock.

reverb magazine issue #052 — November 2010   19

Reverb Magazine - Issue 52