Mighty Ash ... my story
I was about nine years old when my father sat me down in front of his small television and showed me the film clip for RUN DMC's version of Walk This Way.
Up until then most of the records I listened to were artists like Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix, DEVO,
The Doors and Bob Marley.
The mix of Rock and Roll with Hip Hop really spoke to me and I acquired a copy on cassette tape and learnt the lyrics, performing it at after school care in Croydon while singing into a cricket bat.
Me and my close friend Zac used to listen to Pink Floyd on our walkmans and promised each other one day we would write a song and it would be on the radio.
By year six I turned my interests to acting and was lucky enough to get into a performing arts high school from years seven to nine.
I'm not sure if I was a rebel exactly, but private school didn't suit me.
Me and my friends would spend our lunch breaks beatboxing and freestyling outside the canteen.
Me and my cousin used to listen to Ice T and NWA and I told him when I grew up I would be a rapper.
I studied acting and visual arts while all other subjects fell into disarray.
By year eight I think it was I was auditioned by John Bell and joined the Bell Shakespeare Company for their production of Richard The Third.
This was my first taste of real live performance, playing at the Theatre Royal in Sydney about three nights a week.
In year nine I was selected to go to a writers camp hosted by a group of published writers.
I began writing short stories that were more for reading out loud and getting a reaction
than leaving to paper.
I feel sorry for some of my teachers during this period as I was refusing to conform,
and so while I was expressing myself my grades were terrible, and I never, ever did any homework.
In year ten I transferred to Newtown High School of The Performing Arts.
I began working more as a professional actor while doing theatre during school.
We would perform plays by Anton Chekhov as well as Absurdist works while out of school I worked on mini series' and other small time television roles.
During this time most of my friends were starting bands.
I was always jealous of them but had never even considered changing path.
The bands that were big at the time were Directions In Groove, Def Wish Cast, Sound Unlimited Posse, Renegade Funktrain, Skunkhour, Juice, and of course me and my mates would go over to Erskinville and smoke weed while listening to Naughty By Nature, Beastie Boys, House Of Pain and Cypress Hill.
I fell in with a bit of a bad crowd, mostly because I think those were the guys that listened to Hip Hop.
We used to beatbox and freestyle at Newtown train station and record partly written raps over popular instrumentals onto cassette recorders.
Our local hangout was the big shed next to the station.
Most of these guys were what we called Bombers.
Its a term that comes from the jackets we used to wear that looked like air force clothing.
At that time in Newtown you were considered only one of five things;
a bomber, a skater, a nerd, a hippie or alternative.
This was around the time Arrested Development and Primus were big,
and some kids had even moved on to Mr Bungle.
Around the time I left school I had landed myself a speaking part in a new Australian film that was tipped to be a big hit. But when it came time to edit my scene was cut as it was considered too violent and dark and they wanted to appeal to a younger audience.
I didn't take this well and pretty much gave up acting over night.
I left Sydney and moved to the mountains of Wattamolla on the South Coast.
This was a great opportunity to get away from the gang life most of my mates were tied up in and find a new way to express myself. Making the commute every few days from the forest of the sixty acre property my dad owned to West Wollongong Tafe were I did my Fine Arts degree.
I eventually moved to Wollongong and started hanging out with all the visual artists and musicians who lived there and started my Bachelor.
Again I made a shift, deciding after a few years of art school that I wanted something different.
I moved to Berry and for the first time got my own house and started writing poetry.
I was about nineteen.
Some friends I met through art school started coming around and playing me CD's of John Coltrane.
It took me quite a long time to be able to hear that music. We listened to the hard stuff, avant-garde improvised jazz from the sixties.
Once I got in that groove my eyes opened to a whole new world and within the year I had bought a guitar and we started a band.
I never actually learned to play any instruments, but it didn't really matter because we wanted to play free music. Improvised and emotional. We began playing gigs immediately.
We had two electric guitars and a borrowed drum kit and we would break into the local
community centre at night and put on shows.
It was a small country town so not much was happening, thus we always pulled a crowd.
We used to rehearse in my one bedroom flat.
When I say rehearse I mean play,
because for all the years I was in that band we never once wrote a song.
We would book a show, play all week leading up to it, smoke a huge ammount of weed and then carry our instruments down to the venue and play sound scapes and strange melodies for hours.
Often I would play with less than six strings and sometimes in made up tunings.
Anyway we must have been making a lot of racket because eventually my next door nieghbour came over.
I didn't realize until then the person living across my yard was John Kenny from The Rockmelons, recording soul music on a four track in his basement.
He started sitting in on our gigs, singing mostly blues and soul, and when he felt he had my attention he introduced me to the brilliance that is Funk music.
(Obviously I'd heard Funk, but never played it)
Around a year later I joined another improvisational band in Gerringong and my friend Mahesh asked me to join his Rap / Heavy Metal outfit Plebeian.
Plebeian was a huge moment in my life.
I was learning to scream vocals and work with DJ's as well as play several instruments and formed a real bond with these guys.
We had a brother band with the other heavy players in town called Circle Of Ire,
the first band to ever get me into a professional studio for a recording session.
Now I was able to move from Guitar to drums to vocals and bass and rather than mastering anything in particular I became a mediocre multi instrumentalist.
You will often hear me claim to have worked in over twenty five bands,
and being that I didn't get into music until my late teens people often confuse that with meaning
I move around a lot.
The real reason is I tried to make a habit of being in around six bands at a time.
I found six was a good number. It meant I could work in different styles with different people, play different instruments and get lots of gigs.
I saw Jen Saunders playing at the community centre, The Berry Bizarre, and immediately talked her into having me on as a rhythm guitarist.
I also started an acoustic flamenco band and got a troupe of around ten or so drummers together and started a percussion group.
Around this time I also started a funk instrumentalist band called Graft.
My friend Ross and his sister Sonia opened a cafe in Nowra called The Tea Club and there
I met Matt Baka.
He used to be in a band called Doorbitch, playing music by bands like Cartoon, Mr Bungle and Primus,
but he was also known for going on stage solo with a fretless bass.
Matt introduced me to digital recording and we started the band The Marlborough Project.
We moved to Leichhardt and wrote crazy electronic experimental Hip Hop music.
When I listen back to it now its a bit like Dub Step crossed with Regurgitator.
I also started my first two man Hip Hop band Hybiscus with Jakebi and started taking MCing seriously.
Upon returning to the South Coast (again) I started working with other MC's
like Toothy Snake and Dr Rad.
We would record in the forests of Brogus Creek and Wattamolla using eight tracks hooked up to long power cords in caravans and sheds.
My friend James Hall from my first band had started a Funk / Rock and Roll group called
The Pheromones with our mutual friend El Toro.
We recorded an album with producer / guitarist / songwriter Peter Northcote.
This was around the time my son was born.
Me and my friends Toothy Snake, Dr Rad, John Kenny and Nana Blade started a Hip Hop band
called Ninja Vanish.
We played a lot around Wollongong and recorded a huge amount of material.
I began teaching myself animation and started using what I had learned from being around film crews to dabble in editing and direction.
After that it was just a long line of Hip Hop and Funk bands and I really got into the grit of playing live shows professionally when I joined FunkHouse and The Schlockmeisters.
The Schlockmeisters being a gypsy band that I played drums in.
It became a real discipline to express myself as a serious drummer.
FunkHouse was and always will be a very special band to me.
Joining up with Ross and John Kenny and my friend Eric Zarrella we started off playing Funk covers as
the house band at The Tea Club.
Players came and went and songs morphed and eventually Eric, myself, John and Grant started writing originals and working as a professional band for hire.
John had become my mentor.
Playing shows with him taught me so much about being a singer and making that a part of who I am.
My friend Roy Du Cord eventual came in as our guitarist and we started taking over venues.
We would bring all our own equipment and mix the band in house, playing for three or so hours with between eight and ten band members on stage.
Venues would give us hotel rooms and drinks on top of our fee and for a while I started to feel
like a rock star. So of course I decided I needed a change.
I moved back to Sydney to concentrate on my solo career, which is when I met DJ A.S.K.
It was A.S.K that suggested I streamline my career,
rather than spreading myself all over the place just do the one thing for a while.
I have been playing shows with him as well as my mate Matt Baka and we usually get John Kenny
or Jen Saunders up as a guest.
I have never stopped recording and have enough decent material to release at least four
full length albums. More if you don't need it to be decent.
I released twenty straight studio recordings on CD and am working towards releasing ten professionally mastered tracks online this year.
DJ A.S.K has been really supportive of my career as a performer, as has P.Smurf from The Daily Meds.
I have also had the opportunity to touch base with some of my idols from when I was growing up in Sydney like the guys from Def Wish Cast and people like Mistery from Brethren.
I know if I'd stayed in Sydney all along I would be much more established here as an artist but
I wouldn't trade my constant moving for anything.
By working in so many different mediums and using different tools and working with different people I have developed a far reaching appreciation of the arts, and it is my goal to bring all that freedom and expression and positivity to whatever I am doing. For now that is Mighty Ash.
But I still answer the call when friends are making music, I never truly left any band as the whole thing, art, acting, music, socializing, writing, cities, forests, poetry, fatherhood, its all part of the one big journey, and while it may come in stages its all connected and I try to bring it all to the table every day and do everything I do with the utmost sincerity and passion.
I don't concern myself with where I fit in as an artist, nor how I will be received.
I just do what comes naturally and hope to come into contact with like minded people.
(you can find an almost complete list of bands Mighty Ash has played with in the BIO section)