When I was ten years old my father bought me a piano.
At the time I was a very angry little girl. My parents had split up and I was devastated.
It was all about me, you see.
Through the eyes of a child I felt he left ME. Not my mother.
Not long afterwards my father was planning a trip back to Africa, and I was offered the choice.
I could go on the trip….or I could have a piano.
I don’t really know the reasoning behind it, but it did feel like a bit of a bribe.
A guilty gift? That’s how I saw it.
Of course, being that I was so angry with him the last thing I wanted to do was to take the trip.
So I chose the piano.
That piano proved to be the best choice in life I’ve ever made and I’m no longer angry with my father, but eternally thankful.
Unwittingly, probably, he paved the way for the greatest gift I’ll ever have, and that is music.
To have something like music in your life, when you’re a child, a teenager, and even an adult, is truly the best medicine one can have.
It’s far healthier than drugs, cheaper than therapy and it’s always there.
I had some piano lessons in my early teens.
Mr Chan , the music teacher in high school had heard me tinkering around on the school piano and offered his services as a piano teacher.
I knew there was something “not quite right” about Mr Chan’s interest in me as a music student.
It began with gifts…just little things, a necklace, a bracelet…etc.
Then the compliments began. On my appearance.
I was…thirteen….with unbelievably big boobs.
He wanted me to star in some Chinese movie “his friends were working on” . They would make me up to look like a Chinese girl, he said.
I politely declined.
He took me out one weekend to some kind of plane thing. Stunt planes….etc.
I took a friend.
One day he gave me a cassette with a song he’d written.
It was called “I love you”.
It was a love song…to ME!
This made me VERY angry.
I was sexually abused as a child, by a family employee back in Africa.
My father betrayed me by leaving.
My piano teacher betrayed me by his lecherous behaviour. (He really WAS creepy!)
This pattern was emerging (in my head) that men were not to be trusted, you see.
So, I didn’t stick with the piano lessons for long.
They bored me anyway.
I wanted to make up my OWN songs.
Scales? Pfffft! BORING!
Throughout my teenage years that piano became my saviour.
I would lock myself away for hours on end, playing, singing, making up horrendously depressing, soul sucking little songs.
But it kept me sane.
At sixteen I met my husband, and promptly left home.
I understand now why my parents were so upset about it all, but at the time I did what I needed (wanted) to do.
My husband didn’t play an instrument but he soon learned of my passion and ambition to join a band, so he taught himself how to play bass, and before long we were playing in covers and eventually originals bands as my songwriting became …slightly better.
Our biggest claim to fame (ha!) came when we developed a concept band.
A Divinyls concept band.
I played Chrissie Amplett.
If I don’t say so myself, we developed a damn good show and had a lot of people fooled.
The Divinyls themselves, who still performed sporadically, were not very impressed though.
I had some balls back then. I remember going to a concert of theirs once and pushing my way up to the front of the stage and handing Chrissie one of our Bio’s.
She took it, but at the end of the set she threw it in the air on stage.
She was not impressed.
We didn’t want to steal their limited limelight….we wanted to PROMOTE their music, because they hardly played live anymore!
That’s what we said.
I got tired of it all.
Sleeping in the back of trucks, bathing in the ocean to substitute as a “shower”, eating greasy bacon and egg rolls for breakfast with horrible hangovers….
Drunk audiences, long drives to venues where our production costs chewed most of the profits.
And I was singing somebody ELSES songs.
I quit playing live all together and started raising kids.
But music never left me.
I started buying keyboards, and kept writing.
My whole view of the music industry changed over the years and I no longer wanted to be part of that FAKE, world.
I wanted to write…because I HAD to write, for me.
Safer than drugs, cheaper than therapy….
I don’t write ALL the time, but everywhere we go I always have a music room.
This is my music room today.
I need a place to go, to be alone, escape the madness of domesticity.
I even have a couch see.
I write FOR MYSELF.
To please, myself.
It’s selfish, yes, but it works, for me.
I hate what I hear on the radio these days. It’s so contrived, churned out on the music making conveyer belt.
The same formula, done again and again and again!
The music “business”.
Where did the soul go?
Anyway, I could rant about that for days…
I record everything I write on my computer…
I compose the music on my keyboards, (a one woman “band”), which seem to be multiplying every time I turn around…
I know keyboard sounds are no substitute for REAL guitars, REAL drums etc…but It’s all I have to work with.
I tried learning guitar, and it HURTS!
I piece everything together.
It’s like a puzzle.
What sound goes with what?
Where should that little guitar lick slip in?
What strings should build there, or here?
Usually the words, the melody all fall out…slide into the song as the puzzle begins to make sense (to me)
I rely on the songwriting Gods for inspiration….
Sometimes they are forthcoming, sometimes not.
Mixing is the hardest part of all.
I’m still learning. It’s not my forte, I know that.
The tiles on the floor suck for mixing.
I’ve tried to stuff the room with things to improve the acoustics, but…oh well.
Doesn’t really matter anyway.
They are all just ideas…
It is the PROCESS, rather than the finished song that really matters, in the scheme of things, to me.
The piano is now long gone.
I miss it.
Keyboard piano sounds never satisfy my ears.
One day, when we “settle down” perhaps I’ll buy another piano.
For now though it’s just me and my pretend guitars, and drums, and orchestra.
And my trusty couch.
Here is my latest “session”