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Delaney Davidson & Bruce Russell Share Album 'One Hand Loose' + Interview

Delaney Davidson & Bruce Russell Share Album 'One Hand Loose' + Interview

Friday 1st February, 2019 10:31AM

From a distance Lyttelton guitar mavericks Delaney Davidson and Bruce Russell can seem like they're poles apart – Davidson is widely regarded as one of Aotearoa's premier songwriters whose influence extends to such household names as Marlon Williams and Aldous Harding, while Russell's trailblazing work with his band The Dead C and underground imprints Xpressway and Corpus Hermeticum shifted the way an entire generation of listeners thought about "noise" on an international scale. In an unforeseeable yet ear-pleasing twist, these two sonic titans have come together for a new album named One Hand Loose, showcasing their shared appreciation for 20th Century US rockabilly pioneer Charlie Feathers.

We had to know more, and asked Russell and Davidson to quiz each other on their thoughts around the exciting and mysterious new collaborative venture, and hit up Ilam Press Records impresario Luke Wood (Hex Waves) about the challenges involved in wrangling such an improbable project into physical reality. Davidson and Russell are playing special release events in Auckland and Wellington this February and March – you can wrap your ears around One Hand Loose here, cop a beautifully packed limited edition 12" vinyl edition of the album via IPR's Bandcamp page, and scroll on down to read each primary agent's illuminating words on the record...

Delaney Davidson and Bruce Russell - One Hand Loose Album Release
Wednesday 27th February - Pyramid Club, Wellington
Saturday 23rd March - The Wine Cellar, Auckland
Tickets available HERE via UTR

Bruce Russell asks Delaney Davidson:

BR: You have an outwardly successful career in roots music / Americana / alt-country / boot scootin' - yet you actively sought out a player from almost the polar opposite side of the tracks. What was missing that made you (to paraphrase Bob Dylan) want to engage that kind of thing, when you never did before?

DD: I have always heard the sound side of music since I was young, and while doing theatre music in The Black Rider, this concept re-awoke in me the desire to explore sound as story telling and getting away from my own musical traps and devices. Music to me is about the learning or the new territory. I love the idea of getting on stage with no songs or setlist, not even tuning the guitar, and just telling stories in sound and music. I also wanted to make a tribute to Charlie Feathers and Bruce had a strong relationship to him and his music / ethos. It seemed like ingredients to a good recipe.

BR: What have you found you got out of the experience, and was it what you expected?

DD: These performances and album have created in me two things. A nervousness that the musical traps and devices I tried to leave alone have still followed me through the gate way, and an excitement at where the experience is leading me. Kind of like looking back and forward at the same time. It feels a bit like a knock on the door aswell. What I thought might be a one off project feels like a beginning. I am a big proponent of solo but I do enjoy a collaboration.

Delaney Davidson asks Bruce Russell:

DD: Bruce, how did you feel when you first played with me?

BR: I started out nervous, and ended up pleased but surprised. From the first you had a good grip on what you shouldn't do - try to get me to perform musically. But more than that you also showed you were willing to put aside a lot of the stuff you might normally rely on the make a performance work. That's what cemented the thing. And I've been consistently surprised that audiences, even ones accustomed to my 'thing', really like this collaboration. I'm still working out why, which is a good incentive to keep doing it!

DD: What is your favourite song on the record and why?

BR:I have to be completely honest, and say it's 'Rebel Motel', because it combines two of my favourite things - improvisation and screwing around with analogue tape to produce a universe of sound that cannot really exist. Because I got to take a decent but unexceptional track which was 'too much like the others' and do a range of technically unwise but 'old school' electro-acoustic manoeuvres - I feel I really got to flex my muscles on this one. My role on the other recordings was largely to stop it being real music. On Rebel Motel I got to actively push the music much further into 'my territory'. I like everything we've done, but that one I think is the one that surprises me the most.

Ilam Press Records boss Luke Wood on facilitating One Hand Loose and designing the album's artwork / packaging...

Facilitating the project:

So Bruce actually approached me to ask if I’d be interested in this project. For two reasons I think. Firstly he knows I’m a Charlie Feathers fan (Bruce loaned me the Charlie Feathers Revenant box set many years ago), but secondly, and probably more importantly, Bruce and I had just made a record together, called ‘Visceral Realists’, which I’d released under this then more-or-less imaginary ‘label’ I called Ilam Press Records. I’ve been involved in running a publishing workshop at the Ilam School of Fine Arts (University of Canterbury) since 2010 called the Ilam Press. The fledgling record label is an extension of that. Utilizing our facilities here at the art school to support the sonic arts in a more practical and visible way.

Back in 2017 I’d dragged an old Teac 4-track reel-to-reel machine out of a pile of rubbish outside the Psychology Department at the University of Canterbury, and started recording both my own, and various friends bands at our practice rooms. The record I made with Bruce was the first one I actually recorded out at the art school, and since that one came out quite well (I think) it made sense to do it out there again. To be honest I don’t do much when I record. I set up the 4 track, place some shitty microphones so that they look cool, hit record and hope for the best. They often come out pretty good, but really the tape machine should get all the credit for that. It’s the exact same machine Chris Knox used to use to record the early Flying Nun stuff. A bunch of people I know still use them; Guy from The Echo Ohs records all their stuff on one, and Phats from Stink Magnetic has used one for years. His was the first one I laid eyes on and always thought it looked cool.


The design of this album was actually kinda tricky, because I wanted to do something that would represent both Bruce and Delaney; who clearly come from very different musical backgrounds. I also became aware, in the process, that I wanted Ilam Press Records to maybe have some sort of ‘house style’. A recognisable aesthetic that might run through different projects. In this sense I’m particularly interested in the architecture of the school (1960s Brutalist Modernism) and also the historical trajectory of the Design department at Ilam (50s / 60s Swiss Modernism). I could go on about this at some length, suffice to say that the bulk of the basic typesetting is influenced by this.

A lot of Bruce’s work is presented fairly minimally anyway. And I’ve always been drawn to that. I interviewed Bruce some years ago now about his design work for both his labels, Xpressway and then Corpus Hermeticum. The Xpressway stuff in particular was an influence on the materials for this release. The cover is screen-printed (by Danny Knight-Barré) on a rough box-board, which actually Delaney has also used before for his album Devil in The Parlor. The artwork for the front cover is actually a subtle nod to Neil Young’s Harvest, and the minimal typesetting and lack of images are sort of inspired by John Fahey’s early releases on his Takoma label. So a sort of whirlwind of influences there I guess, but all sort of appropriate, or resonant somehow, I hope.


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