Taste released Rock is Dead in 2008. It was the band’s first record since their initial three-album run in the 1970s, which came to a halt when the band broke up in 1979. Now, eight years later, they’re back with the single ‘I Am God’, taken from the album Life On Earth, which is due in late May. Although Rock is Dead was a triumphant return, the band members weren’t sure how long the reunion would last.
“The original plan was that if it did well we were probably going to keep going. But it was such a long project to get underway, by the time it had actually run its course I think we probably needed another seven years to regroup,” says vocalist/guitarist Ken Murdoch.
Rock Is Dead came into being after the band were asked to reunite to play at a festival. Once back in the jam room, the idea of a new record became hard to resist. “I’d written a couple of songs and I said to the guys, ‘Do you want to hear these songs?’ And when they heard them they decided they really liked it, so I went and wrote the Rock Is Dead album,” Murdoch says. “[Life On Earth] was more... a couple of years ago I’d written a short story called ‘The Doppelganger Effect’, and I put it to music and I sent it Michael [Tortoni, bass] and said, ‘I think this sounds like a Taste song.’ He wrote back and said, ‘I hope you’ve got some more of those.’ So we went ahead with it, but we actually dropped ‘The Doppelganger Effect’ in the end.”
While this song didn’t survive, it reinvigorated the band members’ enthusiasm for Taste. They proceeded to come up with another 12 songs, and now album five is ready to go. “[‘The Doppelganger Effect’] got us on a footing of where we wanted to go,” Murdoch says. “I had a few short stories that had unusual lyrics. Like ‘I Am God’ – you know everyone is saying that he’s got a reason for all these disasters and the way the world is going, and the short story was he was actually playing us like a Sims game – so he wasn’t quite as benevolent as everyone thought. So that led the lyrics into that direction about life on earth and what was happening. There’s a song called ‘The Fatal Shore’ about the terror attacks in Sydney, and ‘Is It Just A Dream’ is about kidnapping and murder and necrophilia. There’s not many happy songs on it [laughs]. Even the love song is about the last day on earth.”
The lyrical content mightn’t scream of good times, but the arrangements keep it sounding fun and immediate. There’s plenty of big riffs and massive guitar sounds, courtesy of Murdoch and lead guitarist Joey Amenta. This album also introduces new drummer Damian Corniola, who combines with Tortoni to produce plenty of bleeding rhythmic energy.
“When we did the Rock Is Dead album we were governed by time, because we did it at Sing Sing in Richmond. I thought it was a really good sounding album, but it was a little sterile in mixing. So with this I suggested we record most of the stuff in my studio and then outsource the drums and the string section and some vocals. So we basically spent a year doing it and then we outsourced everything. It was very easy to spend a month on harmonies for one song. There was no time restriction. We jokingly were going to call the album ‘Epic’ because it was developing that theme in the mix and the use of strings and big guitar sounds. Then when we got Damian in; because he’s such a ne drummer it became even bigger.”
Murdoch relished the opportunity to self-produce the record. “I really got to spend a lot of time doing what I wanted to do on Rock Is Dead, but just didn’t have the time. There’d be a song that maybe we started nine months ago and I’d listen to it and think, ‘The melody for the song is wrong.’ So we’d get another approach to it and usually it worked out.” Murdoch also took care of a few of the final mixes. However, he felt it necessary to pass the majority of the mixing duties onto someone else. “I mixed three tracks, but it was outsourced to Angus Davidson, the sound guy for Crowded House. He did most of the album and then the last two tracks were sent to a guy called Benny in a great studio in Boston. He’s a drummer, so he brought a lot of the drum tracks out more.”
When going through the mixing and mastering procedure, Murdoch drew attention to a few records whose sonic characteristics he appreciates. “Matthew Gray, the guy that mastered it, he said, ‘Do you want it really loud?’ And I said no. I wanted it to breathe. So I referenced Abbey Road by The Beatles, because I just think it’s so clean but powerful; and then I referenced Sheer Heart Attack by Queen, because I thought those harmonies are really cutting but it hasn’t lost any of the power; and the third album was one of the Foo Fighters’ albums which I really like the sound of – I think they’re going too far over with the compression and mastering now, but some of the older ones had a lot more breadth. So a combination of those three seemed to work well.”
July 1 – Crowbar, Brisbane QLD
July 9 – Fowlers Live, Adelaide, SA
July 14 – Frankie’s Pizza, Sydney, NSW
July 16 – The Corner Hotel, Melbourne VIC
For more details, head to taste-music.com.