A multi-instrumentalist singer from Australia, by way of New Jersey, Paul Addie knows a thing or two about performing and recording. With a slew of what the artist calls anti-genre covers, as well as solid originals, Addie is equally plugged in during acoustic and electric sets. A former Zildjian endorsee, the musician’s resume even includes a starring role in an Aussie version of The Pirates of Penzance. But there is more here than meets the ear.
As the frontman for Paul Addie and The Select Few, the band turns out an engaging rendition of Bowie’s “China Girl” in concert. As a songwriter and solo talent, Addie has released a string of original tracks available on Reverbnation, most from a forthcoming solo debut album. A few of the Reverb highlights include “You,” which Addie calls “Balladesque with some sparse punch” and is listed that way in the title, “Nanna” and “Missapoint (The Proud Textured Artpiece).” A person of many skills, the Jersey City-based musician’s humor obviously often oozes into song titles.
When Addie is not performing and writing material, the artist co-operates New Jersey’s L & I Studios and teaches music. All things considered, who else could wait in line without a proper wristband and wind up backstage chatting and having a photo taken with Monty Python legend John Cleese? There is only one Paul Addie.
Musicinterviewmagazine.com spoke with Paul Addie about the artist’s music and career.
Musicinterviewmagazine.com: How did you achieve that wavering tremolo effect during the intro to the track “You (Balladesque with Some Punch)?” Is the sound realized in the instrumentation or in the production? Is this an original song?
Paul Addie: Thanks for listening closely enough to ask such a cool question. The mix for “YOU” took many, many attempts. Taking that week’s mix to gigs to play through different P.A.’s, the mental notes, adjusting equalization and levels when back at the studio, I must give props to my producer in crime, Steve Dawson, who tirelessly worked with me until we got it to sound the way it does. When the band kicks in with that beautiful warm bottom end, I wish I could say that was easy.
What we hear in the first chorus, when the band kicks in, is my brother Troy on woodblocks and second acoustic guitar, clean. There is also a violin player and after we found the right hook for the chorus, we made two extra copies, with the pitch shifted up a third and the other up a fifth, to make it sound like a string section. Again, with mucking around, nothing’s as easy as your own brilliant idea makes it all out to be. Ben Newton, who I played many Australian original band gigs with, is on bass. Ryan Gobbe is on one track of keys and the floating beautiful solo with Troy on acoustic number two, later on. Then, on the lead vocals, there are multiple me harmonies. I also played drums, real ones and acoustic number one, also clean, plus additional keys.
As for the wavering tremolo effect on the intro guitar, like my brother Troy’s perfectly floating acoustic solo, I actually had to learn, replay and rerecord note for note his one take solo, only after digital artifacts were found in the original recordings. We did this with many Australian gigs, where guitarist Steve Hargreaves capoed up to the seventh fret on an acoustic, while using a wah pedal during the intros, which was so cool. So, to your question, no tremolo effects were used, just a very active wah pedal foot with transposed capo chords up the neck. But with my re-recording I used a borrowed Fender Stratocaster, straight into the wah pedal, which is also featured in the intro and mixed accordingly throughout the duration of the song. Both instrumentation and production were labors of love. We set the bar especially high for this song. It’s all in the micro tweaks and the mega hours spent chasing the goal. And everything originally recorded, except the drums, which was done last and the vocals, were one take. Yes, “You” is an original song. I’ve been known to call it my kaleidoscopic, cryptic, poetic ode to the mysteries of a love song.
A Zildjian endorsee during the 1990s, multi-instrumentalist, singer and songwriter, do you also produce your own music? How many instruments do you play and teach?
I was extremely lucky with my Zildjian C grade endorsement, which meant twenty percent off the trade price of equipment, not retail. I was working in instrument retail when the Zildjian sales rep played in a band that I crossed paths with out in the field. We jammed a few times together with his boys, he with mine. It was the right place, the right time. Such things don’t exist anymore.
In the cross country journey following the music and studio work and living in studio spaces among strange locations, both on and off the grid in Australia, including the bad power supplies for computers, my production knowledge went from very little, to quite a lot more. What you learn from important pieces of paper, in an educational environment, does not really add up to much when you’re trying your best to make something radio, stream and video ready. And without expensive software, plug-ins and hardware, it’s down to the E.Q., compression and other old friends. During production of this album’s worth of songs, we produced several other peoples’ band’s projects, based off what we had achieved to that point. I’d play all the band instruments on some, like drums, guitar, keys, bass and vocals, or drums and vocals on others. It was always hands on in the production and editing process.
Having said all that, I still see myself as a drummer, vocalist and writer, even though my live performances are as a dynamically driven acoustic guitar player, with some completely overhauled other artist’s songs in the mix until they are nearly unrecognizable. It is fun seeing the penny drop with some audiences when they finally get the source material. I like to think how playing guitar makes me a little bit out on my own in how my music is created and played. I’m kind of on autopilot, applying a drumming mindset to playing the guitar. As far as teaching goes, it’s a means to an end in between music money. Until recently, I never used to think I needed a respectable piece of paper to do so, having done a few thousand gigs, huge and small in Australia, along with the tours, radio, television, session work live and in the studio and writing and producing multi genre projects. I’m much more comfortable with the idea of doing it [teaching] now because I have a genuine perspective on playing and making music that will be useful to less seasoned players.
For the music on Reverbnation, did you write and perform all of the songs yourself?
As mentioned within the other questions, I play maybe the majority of instruments on the pre-release, pre-mastered collection of songs I have for Buzz Building Purposes, which includes drums, guitars, keys, bass, and percussion. The music is copiloted with Steve Dawson with all the fiddly production bits and techniques. The other players include my brother Troy Addie, Ben Newton, Ryan Gobbe, Dave (Scottish) Forbes and Russel Tozer, with cameos from Luke Koster, Mofoisdead’s Paul Gallagher, guest vocalist Rachael Koster and Avalon Walker. I wrote the songs, with “Nanna” co-written by Jessie Lovejoy and “You” co-written by Luke Coster.
What do you enjoy more, singing down under as the central pirate king in The Pirates of Penzance or playing and singing rock?
I’m laughing at this one because I auditioned literally as a bit of a joke, not expecting anything to come from it, for a few reasons. I didn’t really know the material apart from, vaguely, the “I Am The Pirate King” song. I was at one of those places when you start feeling a little stale musically. So it was a little cry for help to mix things up a bit. I went to the audition and God knows how i found out about it. They handed me the sheet music of a song that I’d never heard of before from the musical. The piano started and into bullshit mode I went, completely making it up as I went along. After finishing, never expecting a call, I sheepishly walked away as someone mumbled something about how I can actually sing a little bit. Well, they called and I got the part. They said they were aware that I knew absolutely nothing about what I was doing up there. They also told me I would do fantastic when I did know what I was doing. So, I did my best John Cleese mixed with David Lee Roth-ish over the top theatrics and had a lot of fun. The evil wooden ruler-swatting music director noted something like, “You damn pop singers always scoop up and down to the notes. Hit the notes clean, don’t scoop.” I appreciated the candor. It was a wonderful experience.
As far as what I prefer, of course, that was a drop in the ocean compared to everything else I do musically. But rock singing? Once upon a time I might have called myself that and I definitely default to that without much thought. But I enjoy finding different ways to use my voice to convey different colours, textures, feels and emotions. That wouldn’t generally be classified as rock. I’m greedy and want to do it all. I want to feel it all. The best compliment I can remember is from a teenage bandmate, not too long ago, who said he had never heard my voice like that before. He wouldn’t have thought it was me. I really liked that.
How did the recent Twitter photo of you and John Cleese come about?
I went to a Monty Python and The Holy Grail movie screening with a questions and answer session, hosted by John Cleese. It was a gift from my girlfriend. It was very cool but kind of a greatest hits, with the sound bites we’ve heard before. But it gives the people what they want. After the show at this regal theatre in NJ, some people gathered near the stage with clipboards and radios. So, I joined the line wearing my Fawlty Towers posterized John Cleese t-shirt. But I was soon stopped by security from going beyond that. I pointed at my shirt, feigning importance, but I didn’t have the required wristband. It was almost over when a guy, the last in line, leaned over and told me that his friend didn’t come and I could have his. This guy was now my best friend in the universe within the moment.
I went up the stairs to what was the VIP room. There was John Cleese, shaking hands and posing for photos. Eventually, my new best friend and I were the only ones left. I walked over and John Cleese said, “Look at you,” pointing to my beard and hair. “Look at you,” I said pointing to my Fawlty Towers shirt. That’s when the picture was taken.
I told John Cleese thanks for “The BBC Radio Play Of The Death of Mary Queen Of Scots Parts 1 & 2” sketch. He leaned down and confirmed by replying something like, “O-h-h-h-h, that’s a good sketch, isn’t it.” For the next ten minutes or so, we dissected every part of that sketch, analyzing every facet. He finally concluded that was the best piece of work he’s ever done. At the time, judging by the looks of the staff, apparently, this was way off script. Cleese revealed he was not sure what his next favorite piece would be. Then he added that the “Norwegian Fisherman” sketch would probably be the closest. I mentioned being a featured extra in a Christopher Lambert movie called Fortress, where I convinced the director of the dystopian future movie to let me do “The Norwegian Fisherman.” It’s in the movie. We talked for a few more minutes with John Cleese wearing that big familiar warm smile. You know how crazy special that was.
Do you have any more live shows planned before the end of the year?
I live a few miles, a six minute drive, from New York City. I’m in New Jersey. You can find me at festivals, band and solo shows anywhere throughout the Tristate and beyond. You can also find me playing City Hall’s “Music on Broadway” solo acoustic shows throughout Bayonne, NJ on any given Friday night. I’m just keeping the pipes warm and fingers calloused, primed and ready for the next sonic adventure. I enjoy performing at some of the more intimate shows. Playing and singing with this niceness in mind is a discipline I love challenging myself with. And you know if i creep over the intimacy factor line, eh.
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Paul Wolfle is the publisher of musicinterviewmagazine.com and a web-based journalist who has written for several popular sites. Paul has a passion for connecting with a diversity of musicians who are looking to grow a positive presence on the World Wide Web.