If psych-rock was the dominant export of the Australian music scene over the past decade, then by default, Jay Watson has to be one of the most vital local musicians in recent memory. Since donning the drum kit for Tame Impala as a shaggy teenager in 2008, Watson has grown to become recognised as one of the nation's most inspiring multi-instrumentalists, with his contributions to POND, Tame Impala and his own solo project GUM viewed as being some of the best to have ever come from the West.
However, Jay isn't just a wildly talented multi-instrumentalist and skilled songwriter - as his solo work with GUM reveals, he's also quite formidable in the producer's chair as well. His new record Out In The World, which arrives on Friday June 12 through Spinning Top Music, demonstrates a new level of songwriting maturity and production prowess, with Watson expanding his skill set to explore new sonic directions while maintaining everything that's made him so popular in the first place.
With the release of his new record right around the corner, we got in touch with Jay to hear about the songs that inspired his approach to songwriting and production across Out In The World, as well as the special moments in music that he wished he could have been a part of.
1. Shuggie Otis - 'Strawberry Letter 23'
GUM: "One that's a blueprint for a lot of the stuff I do on the new album is 'Strawberry Letter 23' by Shuggie Otis (Freedom Fight, 1971). It's got a drum machine with real drums over it - the last POND album, Tasmania, the whole record is like that, and I'd say most of the songs on this new GUM album are like that too. I'll put a drum machine and a real drum kit together and sort of choose which kick drum I like more and save that one so it doesn't flam away.
"It's got a nice arpeggiated synth right at the end of it and a glockenspiel, which I like to use a lot too, doing melodies in the top of the mix. For me, it's always been a real blueprint of trying to slowly make things sound and feel as good as they do in that song."
2. LCD Soundsystem - 'Someone Great'
GUM: "I really love the way that LCD Soundsystem records sound. My favourite song is 'Someone Great' (Sound of Silver, 2007). It's really cool. It's really sort of midrange-y - there's no super highs or subs, but it doesn't sound harsh.
"It almost sounds tight and boxy, but like good boxy, and I really like records that sound like that."
3. Kanye West - 'Power'
GUM: "I was blown away when I first heard 'Power' by Kanye West (My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, 2010). That was kind of the song that got me into hip hop. I never realised that hip hop music could be so ambitious production wise before then. I always thought of it as quite minimal; like a sample, a beat and then a single vocal.
"A lot of it still is, and I've since come to be really into that kind of rap, but at the time 'Power' was released I was really into prog music and really epic Queen sort of stuff. It just seemed like a modern, super outrageous version of that - like the hip hop 'Bohemian Rhapsody.' I was just obsessed with that.
"I like that with hip hop production it's all about the way the sound makes you feel. When you're producing or engineering rock music, you're often trying to catch a natural, thick sound and make it sound realistic, whereas when you're making hip hop music, no one really cares whether it sounds like a real instrument or not, you know? It's just about bringing a vibe or an attitude across."
4. 10cc - 'I'm Not In Love'
GUM: "For pure quality of mix, sounds, arrangement and everything, I'd have to say 'I'm Not In Love' by 10cc (The Original Soundtrack, 1975). It's kind of just like the perfect bit of pop production really.
"It's kind of insane that all the stuff they did in that song was before digital. I love that song."
5. Beck - 'Devil's Haircut'
GUM: "I think a big influence on the GUM stuff and the way that different styles and genres are chucked together is some of the early Beck productions. 'Devil's Haircut' (Odelay, 1996) is a great example of all that.
"It's kind of just like... Man, I don't even know. They probably would have made it and been like 'I really don't know what sort of music this is', which is something I think I'm always really striving for. It's kind of Sixties-ish; it's got the weird kind-of metal screamed ending with all the feedback, and it's just so weird, but so sick."
GUM's new album Out In The World arrives onb Friday June 12 via Spinning Top Music.