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100% ROCK MAGAZINE

EP REVIEW: CHRIS GIBBS & THE TRANSMISSION – News Of The Day
Noise-A-Thon Records
15 April, 2017
Reviewed by Shane Pinnegar
8 ½ /10

Chris Gibbs’ 2014 album Big Appetite was a solo album in the very definition of the term, right down to being produced in his home studio. Three years later, he’s brought his band of the last 24 months, The Transmission, in to rework five of the tracks from Big Appetite for this little gem of an EP, News Of The Day.

Where Big Appetite had loops and programmed drums, News Of The Day has Josh Gallagher’s fluid, feel-heavy drumming. Where Big Appetite was full of “mostly acoustic hard rockers,” News Of The Day is slinky and layered, full of feeling and groove.

To say the songs are an improvement is an understatement – the new treatments bring out the subtleties of Gibbs’ songwriting and amplify them, as well as allowing The Transmission to put their own stamp on them. That the songs have had a few years being played live to grow inside themselves is also evident, Take On The World, Said The Spider To The Fly and Big Appetite especially sounding like they’re now fulfilling their abundant potential.

Playing the two releases side by side – the very good Big Appetite, and this even better EP – only leaves us hungry for a full length, full band collaboration. Bring it on, Sir!

THE ROCKPIT

Perth, Western Australia songwriter Chris Gibbs is a name familiar to many on the local scene. As one of Perth’s hardest working musicians even if you haven’t seen him live playing his own material there’s a good chance you might have been enjoying a quiet pint in your local with Chris providing the accompaniment in the background.

After the release of his second solo album ‘Big Appetite’ in 2014 ‘The Transmission’ was formed as a vehicle to play electric ‘full band’ versions of that album and Chris’ debut ‘Little Empires’ and this EP is the logical next step – laying down the 5 best tracks from ‘Big appetite’ but played with a lot more grunt to replicate the band’s live sound. It also acts as a marker for ‘The Transmission’s’ forthcoming full length album scheduled for November 2017.

On the original ‘Big Appetite’ release there was a real range of styles at play from the ‘Easy listening’ lyrical dexterity of title track ‘Big Appetite’ through to the Bluesy stomp of ‘Said the Spider to the Fly’ but predominantly it was all about melody and a distinctly laid-back and very light ‘West Coast’ AOR vibe. So it’s interesting to see the song selections and how sonically they’ve been reshaped.

Indeed the changes are pretty apparent from the off with one of ‘Big Appetites’ most laid back tracks ‘News of the Day’ even taking naming rights to the EP! The original version brought back memories of L.A. mornings by the sea, a slow laid back awakening and gentler simpler days. Here ‘News of the Day’ is transformed into a slick AOR romp, a little funkier and a lot smoother. It lifts the song considerably.

‘Take on the World’ was originally our favourite track on ‘Big Appetite’ and it remains so here: a heady dose of 70’s singer-songwriter AOR that gives you that clear blue sky feeling and brightens your day. Here it again receives a real boost from the full band treatment with an almost ‘Hagar era Van Halen’ meets ‘Collins era Genesis vibe’!

While there’s no room for the Bluesy ‘Wrong Side of the Tracks’ the hardest hitting track on the original album its sonic counterpoint ‘Said the Spider to the Fly’ is again reinvigorated with a bigger thrust and tastier bluesy stomp; and whilst ‘Lover’s Last Embrace’ still starts out with that Dylan-like harp, rather than rest back into the gently strummed ballad  it takes on a slicker more contemporary feel.

That leaves us only with the original album’s title track ‘Big Appetite’ which gets a stripped back opening and gentle revision that injects a little more attitude and smoky vibe, like all the tracks revisited here there’s something added and nothing at all taken away or lost in translation.

When I heard that Chris was reworking half of his latest album I wondered what he’d do with it – if he’d veer off on a tangent or just rework it gently by adding a few more layers and instruments. I hadn’t expected to discover such a wonderful transformation. This is world class and if you love the likes of Steely Dan, TOTO, Jeff Porcaro or even if you can imagine an easy listening take on early eighties hard rock this is well worth checking out.

100% ROCK MAGAZINE

Chris Gibbs has been a staple on the local music scene for some twenty years, and is now releasing two EPs in quick succession: one as Chris Gibbs & The Transmission, on 15th April, at The Henhouse; and one with his power pop rock trio Graphic Fiction Heroes, on 13th May, at The Indi Bar. Cue an illuminating conversation about the art of songwriting, and the local music business itself.

Gibbs is one of the precious few full-time musicians in our isolated city. He initially forged a name for himself as guitarist in the bands F.U.L.L. (with whom he was awarded WAM’s Most Popular Guitarist Award in 1997, and the 1998 Song Of The Year, Rock category) and Kingpin (2001 Song Of The Year, Rock category). Since then he’s forged a respected solo career; won a 2013 Song Of The Year, Country category gong with Graphic Fiction Heroes; drawn crowds with popular bands Axe Cane and tribute act KISStake; made innumerable guest and session appearances; worked as a producer through his own Noise-A-Thon Studio; and continues to lecture in songwriting and the music business at WAAPA. He’s also a damn nice guy – something of a rarity in this business – and through it all, considers himself a writer more than anything else.

READ MY INTERVIEW WITH CHRIS GIBBS AT AROUND THE SOUND

Read on for bonus material from our interview:

Talking about the recording of the new Graphic Fiction Heroes EP:

“My parts are recorded at my place, and then Matt [Ferguson] recorded keys at his place, and then everything kind of culminated at the Noise-A-Thon studio at my place. So I guess the problem – or the challenge – with GFH is you’ve got to get everyone available at the same time. We do what we can with a very, very hectic schedule, because everyone is in demand in a lot of other groups at the same time.

“With the Chris Gibbs & The Transmission EP, that was just something I had always wanted to do. As you know, [my solo album] Big Appetite came out in 2014. It was created largely with percussion and loops because I’m not set up for recording live drums. So it wasn’t until the line-up of Chris Gibbs and The Transmission formed, about halfway through 2014, and we got some gigs under our belt, that we worked out that Josh Gallagher, our drummer, has his home studio. So I decided, ‘you know what, I would like to hear some of the songs from Big Appetite re-done as The Transmission.’ I did remixes, remastered, and added extra guitar and bits and pieces to create the first Chris Gibbs and The Transmission EP as an experiment to see what could be done with an album that already existed.

“That’s what I’ve been doing for the past couple of years, and it’s basically happened that it’s all just fallen into place not only at the right time, but almost the same time. We have the Chris Gibbs and The Transmission EP launching on Easter Saturday [15 April, at The Henhouse], and we’ve got the Graphic Fiction Heroes EP coming out in May [13 May at the Indi Bar].

On the art of writing a song:

“I think the idea of struggling to smash through and come up with songs when you really need them is probably not the best way to write your best work. Over the years, I’ve tried to get myself into the habit of just writing, whether there’s something coming up or not.

“However, as a counter to that, my creativity does naturally increase when I start to look at the calendar and realise, ‘wow, there’s an opportunity here to write a whole bunch of stuff and get this happening.’ And the creativity just goes up ten-fold. So, for example, with The Transmission demos that I’m doing at the moment for the next album, every time I go to record the song that I’ve written, something else pops out on the guitar or vocally and I end up demoing that, instead. So I’m coming up with songs in two and threes, when I’m intending to record one at a time.”

The art of songwriting – like any writing – is never a cut and dried formula. Gibbs explains that he works in a variety of ways in order to ensure the creative taps stay on.

“I have to admit, on my last solo album, Big Appetite, a lot of the lyrics were actually… you could almost call them exercises. They had an intent. And it was also the first time I had written songs completely devoid of an instrument or a melody. I was just writing lyrics to get them to work on the page. And I really enjoyed that, because it made me really focus on where the words were strong and where they were lacking.

“It’s something that I’ve worked into my songwriting since – even if I don’t write in exactly that way all the time, I always make sure there’s a period where I’m writing the song with a pen and piece of paper and nothing else. Because I think the thing is, if you are a good guitar player or you’re a good singer or you’re a good piano player or whatever it is, I think that sometimes you can actually mask a reasonably average idea with good playing.

“I don’t want my songs to rely on that. I want to be able to look at that page and go, ‘right, outside of melody, and with no concept of what this song is going to sound like, that is a decent set of lyrics.’ So sometimes, I’ll sit there and these lyrics will be coming out so fast that I’ve got five or six pieces of paper and I’ve got all those songs on the go at the same time. Sometimes, I might sit for a specific period of time – days or possibly even weeks – with an idea of a song just waiting for that next thing to happen, and then pushing it a little bit and working with it, because I know there’s something special that’s coming and it’s just not quite there yet. But I will go through periods where, once I get onto an idea of a song, I’m pretty good at associating. So I’ll go, ‘well, I really love that imagery – what else is associated with that imagery? Great – now we’ve got two verses, let’s go for it.’ That kind of thing.

“I guess I’m at the point where I’ve been writing for so long and I’ve been doing this for so long. The new Chris Gibbs and the Transmission is release number fifteen for me in my career, if you don’t count compilation CDs, and if you don’t count stuff that I’ve done for other people [Editor’s note – Gibbs estimates he’s done session work, produced or co-written tracks on another thirty or more releases]. So I’d like to think that at this point in time, the various systems I’ve put in place, at least give me a good shot of putting out decent songwriting over a fairly reasonable period of time.”

On having to be dysfunctional to a certain extent in order to write meaningful song lyrics:

“I should imagine that it would be quite a scary situation to feel like you could only create said output of work if other things were imbalanced or in some sort of flux. But I know a lot of people kind of run their careers that way… I don’t think I could relate to that as well.

“Let’s put it down to this: some of the stuff I write happens because something else has happened. There’s something going on and it has to be written about. Other things are written about because, as a songwriter, in a roundabout way, I’m a writer of fiction, like anyone who’s writing poems or novels or things like that. Not all of my stuff is autobiographical, but I do put a lot of myself in a lot of the non-autobiographical stuff. So I guess sometimes, from an outside perspective, it could all seem autobiographical. But I know [which] songs definitely mean something very personal, and are commenting on my life directly, versus things that are fictional with a basis in fact.”

Of the new tracks on the Graphic Fiction Heroes EP, Gibbs says they’re not as personal – to him – as we may have suspected.

“Vicious Valentine came out in 2016 – that is based on a person, based partially on an experience that I had, but it’s complete fiction. The Great Divide is more of an ‘us’ song. I got into those around the time [we made the album] Who Will Save Us Now, when I started writing from an ‘us’ perspective and a ‘we’ perspective, rather than a ‘me, you or I’ perspective. I feel like The Great Divide is almost a follow-up or a sequel to the song Who Will Save Us Now. It’s a little bit of positivity after the question of negativity in Who Will Save Us Now.

“And it opens this EP, as well, so I guess it’s a kind of companion piece to the previous record. Bundle Of Joy is probably the song that you’re referring to. Now that song is obviously quite personal – it’s clearly a song that’s about becoming a parent for the first time – but that song is largely driven by my co-writer, Matt Ferguson, in that band, purely because of the time it was written. I’ve been a father since 2001 and that’s a new song – the ideas are very new in terms of potential parenthood, and the things that are largely more a reflection on what the woman’s role is in the coming of a child into the world. I really enjoy that song because for my co-writing on that one, I had to delve back into feelings that were quite old. My eldest son is fourteen, so I had to go over a decade back to relate to what he was talking about. Whereas, between Who Will Save Us Now and this EP, Matt’s had two children, so that song is obviously a lot more personal for him than it is me. But I really enjoyed writing it because it made me go back and have a look and have a think about what did that feel like – what was that like fourteen years ago when my eldest was born? So it was an interesting one.

“And Our Libertine is a fictional song. In fact, I’ve got this habit, of every album I do, I tend to go back into the archive. That song could have become a Kingpin song back in 2004, but the band chose something else and I put it back into the files, and I think it works well as a GFH song.”

On struggling to make ends meet as a professional musician:

“Now there’s lots of different ways you can work in the industry: you could be the career musician like me, where long ago I decided I would rather work as a musician than anything else, so I take on many things. I have the solo shows, the duo shows, and the band shows, there’s cover shows, there’s original song releases, there’s tribute acts, there’s performing as a hired gun for other people. All of those things contribute to what you would call my music career.

“Because Western Australia, as we all know, is a very expensive place to live – but I don’t see anyone’s wages, especially people who are sole traders like myself, in any industry, I don’t see their work increasing significantly or their charges increasing significantly. If anything, because of increased competition, a lot of contractors and sole traders are having to become more competitive which means their bottom line is actually decreasing.”

With expenses up, and less money to go around, the practical upshot is that what used to be a band gig becomes a trio or a duo – or even a solo gig.

“That’s right,” he says ominously. “It’s a challenging situation. I’m in a show at the Ellington Jazz Club later on in May. It’s got some graduates of mine and some existing students of mine and it’s presenting a showcase of seventies music. And the gig actually does okay, and the Ellington shows do okay. We’ve sold out the first gig but the pay packets for each member will be reasonably small and not because of anything other than there are so many people in the band – because to get that to work, we’ve got vocalists and backing vocalists and sax players and piano players to present a show that works. But the reality is, if people can only afford to pay so much for a ticket, the pie stays the same size, and the personnel keep getting bigger.”

We can’t leave things on such a maudlin note, so I ask Gibbs if seeing his WAAPA students over the years develop in front of his eyes has been inspirational.

“Yeah, it’s great,” he gushes instantly. “I don’t make a big thing about the graduates because I don’t want to claim ownership, because a lot of these people are on a trajectory and you’re simply a person that assists. But most of the time when I’m sharing someone else’s EP or someone else’s album that is being released or something like that on one of my [social media] pages, it’s either a colleague that I’ve had a lot to do with, or it’s actually someone who has, in fact, come through our ranks and we’ve seen them grow from someone who’s reasonably green to someone who’s in control and releasing their music and doing well. You can’t help but be proud of that when you go back and remember those first stages when those students first come through the doors and they don’t know what to expect.

“And you don’t know what sort of pool of students you’ve got each year. To be part of that in some small way, is really the reason that I teach. Obviously, there’s no doubt that having a supplementary income from one of the most popular and revered schools of music is excellent – I’m not going to discount that in any way, shape, or form. But I have always felt that there is a responsibility from those of us that have gone through and done it, and are doing it, and have made the mistakes and had the successes, to pass that on. This is an excellent vehicle for me to pass that on to students so hopefully they can take and shape their career in a way that will get them up more rungs of the ladder, and they can maybe take on board some advice, and learn from someone who has learnt the hard way!”

 

AROUND THE SOUND

Chris Gibbs has been a staple on the local music scene for some 20 years, and is now releasing two EPs in quick succession: one as Chris Gibbs & The Transmission, on April 15, at The Henhouse Live; and one with his power pop rock trio Graphic Fiction Heroes, on May 13, at the Indi Bar.

Gibbs is one of the precious few full-time musicians in our isolated city. He initially forged a name for himself as guitarist in the bands F.U.L.L. and Kingpin, picking up three WAM Awards on the way. Since then he’s built a respected solo career; won a WAM Song Of The Year award (First And Last took out 2013’s Country category) with Graphic Fiction Heroes; drawn crowds with popular bands Axe Cane and tribute act KISStake; made innumerable guest and session appearances; worked as a producer through his own Noise-A-Thon Studio; and continues to lecture in songwriting and the music business at WAAPA.

And through it all, Gibbs considers himself dedicated to the craft of writing songs, more than anything else.

“For years now, I have definitely been a songwriter, rather than a person in a band who writes songs,” he declares. “I'm writing songs all the time, as a writer. Some of them present to one band, some of them present to another band, some of them present to neither, so they go into the catalogue, and one day they might make sense in something else that I'm doing.”

The emphasis of being a songwriter first is an important one to note where Gibbs is concerned. As mentioned above, he lectures on songwriting: this is his focus, and his bands are the vehicles for presenting those songs. The actual writing is a near-daily imperative, rather than a chore for a specific project or release.

“It's something in my songwriting classes at WAAPA that I encourage - exercising the actual ability,” he describes passionately. “Just like you would practise a guitar, or your drum kit, or your vocals, I think that songwriting can be practised and honed.

“It’s about the discipline of realising you should sit down and write a song with no agenda: ‘I don't know what band this is for. I don't have a deadline. I'm writing because I need to get better at the craft of writing’. I think that creates a habit of productivity. And that's what you need if you're going to make records, otherwise, you're always going to come up short and you're probably going to end up using that song that you weren't quite sure about.”

For an insight into the philosophical reasoning behind what creatively fuels songwriting, I pose Gibbs a question: Is it necessary to be a little bit dysfunctional to write meaningful song lyrics?

“That's a great question,” laughs Gibbs. “I mean, do you have to have something happening in your life, do you have to have something out of the ordinary going on, in order to create lyrics? I've often posed that question not only to colleagues and students, but to myself. What sort of career are you in, if it relies on some sort of dysfunction? That's a pretty scary prospect in itself.

“And yet, a lot of great work has come from that very singular notion that something has to be happening to inspire those lyrics and inspire that writing. I think that I have written that way in the past, no doubt about that. But I think that I've also developed a technique of being able to develop ideas devoid of real life experience and devoid of outside conditions because it's the only way I think I could survive because I like to have a reasonably high output of work.”

With such a prolific career in the rear-view mirror, is earning a living as a full-time musician in Perth harder to do today than it was 10 years ago? Gibbs paints an unpleasant picture of an economic reality which is certainly not confined solely to the music industry.

“On the one hand, you could argue that the opportunities continue to present themselves - so that's good. On the other hand, although the opportunities tend to go up depending on how versatile you are, what also goes up is the amount of people doing it - but what seems to float is the amount of people that consume it. But I think that you could definitely argue that with the increased cost of living, there's not necessarily an increase across all industries in salaries and wages. So yeah, things can get tight.

“So, I've often had to make the hard decision to go out and work by myself - rather than hiring my fellow musicians – in order to pay the bills. But I think I could be sitting here as a plumber, as an electrician, as a builder, as a caterer, and basically have exactly the same conversation. You just do what you can do.”

For the past couple of years Chris Gibbs & The Transmission, and Graphic Fiction Heroes have been the primary focus for Gibbs’ original work. He describes GFH as having, “that influence of not only guitar bands, but also bands like The Police and groups like that,” whereas The Transmission is more about a “rootsy, guitar rock swagger, and maybe a little bit of a lighter feel.”

The main deciding factor for which material goes to which band, currently, is whether he writes it himself or not.

“I'm probably the driving force of both bands, creatively,” he says thoughtfully, “but the majority of GFH’s stuff is co-written with at least one other band member, but for Chris Gibbs & The Transmission, the difference at this point in time is, it's only songs that are written by me.”  

Both of the new EPs were primarily recorded at his own Noise-A-Thon Studios, with only the drums recorded elsewhere – at Soundbaker Studios for the GFH release, using proceeds from their 2013 WAM Song Of The Year prize; whilst The Transmission drummer Josh Gallagher recorded drums for that EP in his own home studio.

“That win was a long time ago - it's 2017 now!” Gibbs admits. “But to put it in perspective, we did sit on the GFH songs a while because our bassist, Joe Southwell, is now so in demand that he's often out of the country playing shows with many acts and recording on many albums. So, it became a situation where Joe was actually recording the basslines on a cruise ship off the coast of Iceland!”

The new releases are similar but different: The Transmission’s EP, News Of The Day, features five songs reworked from Gibbs’s 2014 solo album Big Appetite; whilst the GFH offering, Dreams Of A Libertine, features one track released as a single last year (Vicious Valentine), and four completely new songs. Both have Gibbs as their fulcrum, but while The Transmission are rootsy and a little mellow, GFH are riffier, with a power pop edge.

“And I've already demoed up all the brand-new songs for the Chris Gibbs & The Transmission’s full-length album that will come out in November,” he adds. “So this will be the first time in history that I'll have put out three releases in one year, which is pretty good!”

 

ONLINE REVIEWS

JANUARY 8TH 2016: GRAPHIC FICTION HEROES, RAGDOLL & MIDNIGHT BOULEVARD ASTOR LOUNGE, MOUNT LAWLEY

Graphic Fiction Heroes have released their first single since their ‘Who Will Save Us Now’ album release in 2012. To celebrate the digital release of their new single entitled ‘Vicious Valentine’, the band invited some of Perth’s best local acts such as Nevsky Prospekt, Midnight Boulevard and Ragdoll to perform on the night.

Unfortunately I missed watching the Nevsky Prospekt set, however, word around the venue was one of praise and admiration. Midnight Boulevard launched into their set in front of a relatively small crowd. The band’s front man Dane, wasn’t shy of having a conversation with the crowd, although at times found it hard to receive a response, as you could almost hear a pin drop between songs. The band however, sounded very tight and focused. Without using any backing vocals for the entire gig, Dane was faultless from start to finish. After playing an exclusive new song and one of their more popular songs ‘Anyone’, it became obvious that Midnight Boulevard are heading in the right direction and set the tone for the remainder of the night.

With a barefooted-front man, two band members wearing ‘Bintang’ singlets and a band name such as ‘Ragdoll’ I wasn’t too sure what to expect. The band wasted no time in pulling out heavy riffs and a crowd pleaser in ‘Tell Me’. At the conclusion of the song, you could feel a real buzz around the venue as the crowd started to build. The band then dedicated the next number to all the ladies in the crowd and described the song as a “jazz ballad”, the song was titled ‘Break You’ and triggered laughter throughout the Astor Lounge. New songs ‘Last Time’ and ‘Playing God’ were among the highlights along with ‘Rewind Your Mind’, which was only recently released as a music video. The band concluded the set with a heavy and popular track ‘All I Want’ which capped off a solid and tight set. The bands lead guitarist Leon, showed class on the strings and in my opinion was the band’s driving force. The band was in good spirits and conveyed good vibes from start to finish. Ragdoll was definitely the real “surprise package” of the night.

The event headliners Graphic Fiction Heroes were up next to conclude the night. I won't lie, the band had big shoes to fill after an impressive “Ragdoll” set. However, Graphic Fiction Heroes proved to be such a professional three-piece band that had years of experience behind them. Members, Chris Gibbs, Mat Ferguson and Gareth Hughes joined forces on stage for the first time in three years, which appeared to be a significant moment for the band.

Graphic Fiction Heroes opened the set with an upbeat track from their last album entitled ‘The Scene’ followed by the opening track from the album ‘Too Highly Strung’. Two songs into the set, the band appeared to have a Cheap Trick sound, mixed with a little Tom Petty. With the Astor Lounge at near capacity, lead guitarist and vocalist Chris took to the microphone to dedicate a 90’s sounding track ‘Just One Thing’ to his wife. Graphic Fiction Heroes blasted through other popular songs such as their album titled track ‘Who Will Save Us Now’, ‘Missing You’, the 2013 WAM Country song of the year winner ‘First and Last’ and ‘When In Rome’ which was initially written by the band’s drummer. A sneak peak of the band’s upcoming album was later showcased, with the band playing an unreleased track and potentially the second single entitled ‘The Great Divide’ which was significantly heavier than anything they had played throughout the night. ‘Oh Well’, another upbeat song from the band’s 2012 album was swiftly played before the band finally unleashed the much anticipated new single ‘Vicious Valentine’. The conclusion of the song brought a loud roar from the crowd, as it was possibly the performance and song of the night. Graphic Fiction Heroes wrapped up their 75 minute set with a fun song entitled ‘Poor Middle Class White Boy Blues’ followed by a Mat Ferguson drum solo.

I departed the venue along with a full Astor Lounge audience with ‘Vicious Valentine’ blasting out the venue’s clean-sounding PA system, which was an appropriate conclusion of the event. The professionalism and nature in which the band played and presented themselves was a true reflection of years of hard work and experience in the local music industry. The band’s new music has emerged heavier than previous releases, and has me eagerly waiting for the new album. In the meantime, I will relive the night by playing the band’s last album which I purchased after the event. So what’s a lonesome boy to do now?

Josh Atkinson

TOP SHELF MUSIC 89.7FM

A production of the highest quality with exemplary song-craft and some of the tastiest lead guitar this side of Hendrix's grave. There is no reason why Chris Gibbs should not be shifting as many units as Australia's cream of singer-songwriters with this very impressive release.

THE ROCKPIT

From the ‘Easy listening’ lyrical dexterity of title track ‘Big Appetite’ through the Bluesy stomp of ‘Said the Spider to the Fly’ Chris Gibbs’ latest solo album has a lot going on and a distinctly laid-back ‘West Coast’ AOR vibe.

The clear summer sky feeling which rushes over you when you listen to ‘Take on the World’ (one of our picks of the album), captures some of the great strengths Gibbs has accumulated over the years: it’s a hearty dose of seventies singer-songwriter AOR with a slick solo, and the immediacy that you only get through years of practicing your art.

The Joe Jackson meets Elvis Costello of ‘Separate Ways’ which has a cheeky almost country refrain is another gentle reminder that rock doesn’t have to be turned to ten to have impact. And whilst the jazzy lounge lizard ‘Room for Everyone’ with smoky sax may not be to my particular taste it still feels at home here.

The Whitesnake-lite groove that underpins ‘Wrong side of the Tracks’ which is perhaps the ‘Rockiest’ track here, is wonderfully delicate and another real standout, lifting its head gracefully with a perfectly fitting solo and studied vocal. ‘Lover’s Last Embrace’ on the other hand might start out with harp that makes you think of Dylan, but slips effortlessly into a gentle singer-songwriter acoustic strummed ballad that hits all the right notes.       

The West Coast AOR vibe is thickest perhaps on the last few tracks:  ‘Don’t Count Him Out’ has an inch perfect soulful groove and strummed refrain, with crisp vocals which are lifted by the smooth female vocal underneath. The solo has the wings required to just push it over the edge. There is also the masterful ‘News of the day’ which continues that vibe, it’s a light ‘LA morning by the beach’ of a song that delivers that shot of simpler times living life slow.

This is a very light album, whose very low-key nature allows individual tracks to creep up on you. It’s consummate song writing if you like that light pastel-painted West Coast style, with subtle infusions of pop and rock and blues to add texture. Whilst you can never really pin down an album like this it’s certainly something that fans of Steely Dan, Stephan Bishop, TOTO, and maybe even George Benson and Jeff Porcaro would enjoy.

 

100% ROCK MAGAZINE

CD REVIEW: Chris Gibbs – Big Appetite
Noise-A-Thon Records
30 March 2014
Reviewed by Shane Pinnegar
8/10

Chris Gibbs - Big Appetite CD cover

Local guitar slinging singer Chris Gibbs continues his prolific recent run with his third album in as many years, and it’s a mostly acoustic hard rocker that continues to set the bar high.

The man’s love of KISS shines through in a few places, notably the title track’s witty wordplay, and Said The Spider To The Fly’s Gene Simmons-by-numbers rocker. They’re both the sort of thing that a lesser talent would make a ham’s fist of, but Gibbs is a pro and turns them both into album highlights, sliding an excellent and unexpected sax solo into the former, and a blistering guitar solo into the latter.

It’s not all reflective of the face-painted monster rockers (though ironically the very different Take On The World would have nestled in comfortably on their none-less-KISS album, Carnival Of Souls), but all ten songs are intelligent and mature melodic rock n’ roll that tries to be nothing but itself.

One of the very few musicians who can legitimately claim to make a full time living out of his music, Gibbs’ command of his instrument, and ability to craft a thoroughly enjoyable tune, means he simply doesn’t have the ability to release anything that is less than top quality.

Separate Ways and Lover’s Last Embrace are the sort of acoustic based near-ballads that made his debut solo album, Little Empires, so enjoyable, then you have the clever wordplay of the title track and Wrong Side Of The Tracks (which shows great interplay between Gibbs’ softly picked acoustic guitar and Joe Southwell’s bubbling bass line), and the simple yet masterful storytelling of boxer’s tale Don’t Count Him Out and Room For Everyone, which also features another groovy sax solo from Dan Hart.

There’s nothing raucous or even terribly ‘rock’ about Big Appetite: it’s simply a consummate songwriter and performer laying down ten tracks from the heart with little regard for the radio, the charts, or indeed anyone except his muse and his fans. As such, it’s a winner.

GLOBAL METAL APOCALYPSE

AXE CANE
'Axe Cane'
NOISE-A-THON RECORDS

Fresh from the outback and ready to surf up their debut EP is Perth's very own newbies of Melodic Heavy Metal and Melodic Hard Rock, Axe Cane and their self-titled release. Axe Cane deliver no-bulls**t music along with a menacing vocal range and have that same tenor found with bands like AC/DC and Airbourne, just a little grittier and heavier. This quartet take no hostages in delivering a solid display of the old school of metal and rock and yet manage to glorify it with the modern influences of guitar-driven music and as their self-titled EP acts as a path for them to go by, this is a band to watch out for in 2013 as they are sure to make tracks across the globe.

[10/10] RHYS STEVENSON

100% ROCK MAGAZINE

8.5/10

It’s easy to forget that a lot of great music slips through under the radar.  With an exponentially growing world population there is simply more and more quality bands worth listening to!

Chris Gibbs, ex-Kingpin, released this album in 2009 and it’s only just crossed my desk – where, I can tell you, it is doing it’s best to make up for lost time!

Featuring a semi-acoustic approach across these eleven tracks, there is a strong Cheap Trick/Ginger Wildheart presence throughout.

Opener Building An Empire features a cracking Frehleyesque riff and a big fat hook which doesn’t let go, and follow-up Too Pretty For Radio will be a favourite of anyone who has sung along to a Cheap Trick rocker.

Fourth Of July is a mandolin and acoustic guitar driven lament, almost baroque in feel, full of the ever-present melodic hooks that Gibbs can seemingly write in his sleep.

One In The Same contains hints of both Radiohead and John Lennon, while Turning A Dream Into A Nightmare is more atmospheric whilst no less catchy and hummable.

In Hearts Collide Gibbs has crafted a delicate-as-a-rose acoustic ballad.  Perfectly co-sung by Jodie Lee Bartlett and Gibbs, this is simply a wonderful song.

Fragile is another heartfelt outpouring of emotion – the kind of song which takes bravery to put out there in the world, baring personal feelings of the rawest nature.

Put simply, Little Empires is a great album by a supremely talented singer/songwriter, and this is the worst kind of best-kept secret – music this good deserves a far wider audience.  With Gibbs gearing up to release the debut album from his current outfit Graphic Fiction Heroes, now is a damned fine time to catch up on his past work, which you can do via the new Noise-A-Thon Records website.

THE ROCK PIT

By Shane Pinnegar

In the dark and misty past, before a hundred ever-more-weird sub-genres were invented by kids with nothing better to do (Ambient Symphonic Alt Viking Folk Doom Metal, anyone?!?!), heavy metal was all about the riffs, solos, a powerful rhythm section, and a singer with lungs of leather. Melody stood high on the mountain next to noise, and the number of notes the guitarist could hit every minute wasn’t particularly relevant.

This is what I mean when I talk about METAL – vocals I can hear, melodies that burrow into my head, riffs that make me want to crank up my trusty air guitar and play along.

This is what AXE CANE deliver on their debut EP – 4 tracks of old school metal that pound and roar with a groove reminiscent of the glory days of 80’s metal: the days when Saxon, Iron Maiden, Motorhead, Judas Priest and their ilk were gods, and Metallica and Megadeth were just starting to make their presence felt.

Throughout the four tracks, Geoff Callaghan never slows down thumping seven shades out of his drum kit, Rob Ramsey’s bass thunders away on some truly inventive fills, Chris Gibbs and Nic Di Rosso’s guitars blend together harmonically like a metal Thin Lizzy, and Di Rossi’s vocals are never short of crisp, clear and understandable whilst still being menacing and passionate.

Loaded Treason is my pick of the bunch, not that there’s a dud on the record, and if you long for the days before metal became an extreme sport, then AXE CANE is for you. Oh - and the cover is just AWESOME!

THE ROCK PIT

When you score a gig in this town along side three of Perth greatest (Ragdoll, Stone Circle and Graphic Fiction Heroes) the last thing you wanna do is snap 2 strings on BOTH of your guitars. However it didn't seem to faze solo artist power house NATHAN GAUNT. Playing a fantastic set of original music less a few strings, he then by the end of the set decided to ditch the guitar altogether and end in acapella proving to the crowd he is one of Perth's best.

Needing no introduction it was on the stage and off the stage and straight out the door for hard working rock act RAGDOLL. Having to play another gig on the other side of town unfortunately they couldn't stick around to say hi. Though they there to play and their performance was flawless and sounded beautiful.

Now when you talk about hard working bands, to me one springs to mind that leads the pack. STONE CIRCLE hit the stage still firing on all cylinders after extensive mine site gigging with The Angels and no sleep. Front man Harry Harris used all of his energy to lead the band through an electrifying gig. Well done to the boys.

As great as the first three acts were, its was GRAPHIC FICTION HEROES' night! Their album launch in fact. I was blown away by the band's groovy sound and really tight act. Their new album is sure to bring great things for the band. Do yourself a favour and get a copy. Cant wait for the next show boys.

LUKE MEYERS

THE ROCK PIT

"Chris Gibbs and GRAPHIC FICTION HEROES were an unknown quantity to this reviewer before tonight, but I have to admit, I’ve been missing out! That Gibbs himself can play a mean axe is one thing, but his knack with a Cheap Trick-friendly melody here, a Stone Roses-like riff there, and all with a power trio foundation that rocks out might just make Graphic Fiction Heroes ‘The Wildhearts’ of Perth! There’s nothing here but pure class and hook-filled radio-ready Aussie rock at its finest."

THE ROCK PIT

WORLD CLASS MELODIC ROCK

From the opening melodies and classic rock riff of opener ‘Too Highly Strung’ you know that this is on one level going to be a rewarding album and on another you instantly know that it’s not going to play by the rules.

What we have is an album that clearly comes from the heart, it may well have one eye on the radio but the other eye is clearly on producing a ‘record’ in the old sense of the word: something that should be taken as a whole an appreciated as a collection of songs that are bigger than the sum of their parts.

The biggest buzz I get from hearing something like this is that its appeal is all encompassing: you can appreciate the time, effort and musicianship on one level and on another you can just sit back and just enjoy. This isn’t heavy music, it’s grounded in song-writing and driven by Chris’ voice and lyrics which do stand out in a world that often appreciates style over substance.

To me this is melodic rock at its finest in that it doesn’t really reference a particular style or genre it just relies on great melodies and construction to tell a story. ‘Who Will Saves Us Now’ is like listening to the best of bands like Foreigner with a slant towards the airiness of the West Coast American melodic rock of a number of decades. It’s subtle: at one level it’s a dreamscape, at another it’s clean and lean, resting on a stripped back sound that these days is a real risk.

‘Just One Thing’ is one of my favourites here, it’s one of those songs that brings back the sound and smell of summer: the joy of being young, and a world that is still optimistic and open. I hear echoes of Enuff Znuff at their most complete, I hear elements of the big melodic names, I hear pop, I hear a band getting the most out of the basics of music: drums, bass, guitar and voice:  but most of all and most pleasing to me I don’t hear a band trying to be like another or hang off the coattails of what the media will tell you is the ‘genre of the day’.

‘When In Rome’ is replete with real Roman lyrics that took me back to my last visit many years ago, it’s a great song that I can see hitting a large audience if it gets the right exposure. In truth though it’s just one of many great songs here on an album that doesn’t have a weak point.  ‘Missing You’ is a wonderful song that has me reaching for a chance to mention one of my favourite song-writers-  Harry Hess from underrated Canadian Melodic Rock band Harum Scarum, as far as this reviewer is concerned there is hardly a bigger compliment I can pay.

‘Another Day Like This’ leans beautifully Beatles-ward, and just when you think that you have the essence of the band down pat ‘Love Song’ ups the ante and adds pace to add another welcome dimension. At the moment it’s probably my favourite here, and features my favourite vocal and guitar. To me this is THE song that will demand attention.

‘Oh Well’ has a lyric that draws you in completely and hits the dilemma of the underexposed band firmly on the head with its “I’ve shed the tears of ten years’ refrain. This is another song to be reckoned with  and one that would not in any shape of form be unwelcome on Top 40 radio. And hey if you want to seal the deal end with a song like ‘Poor Middle Class White Boy’ – who moreso these days needs a blues!

This isn’t just an album that stands up on a local level it’s an album that nationally and internationally deserves to be heard.

Mark Diggins

 

By Mark Diggins

100% ROCK MAGAZINE

6. Graphic Fiction Heroes – Who Will Save Us Now?

Graphic Fiction Heroes Who Will Save Us Now CD

Looking for the finest melodic rock goodness, full of riffs and clever lyrics and just goddam great songs?  Look no further…

Singer/guitarist Chris Gibbs explained “GFH intended on making an album in every sense of the word: a listening experience that is coherent from start to finish, with songs that aim to add up to more than the sum of the parts. I hope we got close to that, and I hope that the material resonates with everyone who listens to the album. Thanks 100% ROCK MAGAZINE!”

100% ROCK MAGAZINE

We all know the experience of a song getting stuck on a loop in your mind – “Ear worms” they call them, and the experience can be good or bad, depending on the song!  (I once had Jeremiah Was A Bullfrog stuck in my head for a week – and still bristle at the thought of the song), and earworms abound on this album (in a good way!).

Chris Gibbs follows up his cult favourite semi-acoustic 2009 solo album Little Empires with Graphic Fiction Heroes’ debut album Who Will Save Us Now, and it is CHOCK-A-BLOCK full of impossibly catchy melodies, hooks that could land a whale, and memorable riffs and choruses from wall to wall.

After making Little Empires, Gibbs, drummer Matthew Ferguson and bassman Gareth Hughes gigged incessantly, becoming a solid unit and formalising the arrangement with the new band moniker and Ferguson & Hughes’ inclusion in the songwriting process for this album.

Musically, Gibbs was determined to rock out on this album, but his acoustic guitar still gets plenty of workouts, providing a cool intro and bedrock on opener Too Highly Strung and nice counterpoints on First And Last and more.

The irresistible melodies that are the calling card of Cheap trick, Enuff Z’nuff and The Wildhearts all come to mind when listening to Who Will Save Us Now? – every track a killer, the whole album will keep spinning in your head long after the CD player has shut down.

Lyrically thought provoking and touching, GFH cover territory such as missing social gatherings due to working nights on First And Last (such is the nuanced layers Gibbs & Co bring to the songwriting, this song will also strike a chord with anyone who has worked restaurants, bars, as a cop or anywhere that had them working late whilst their friends were out to play).

Just One Thing and Missing You are radio hits waiting to happen, Another Day Like This is a touching Beatles pastiche with Beach Boys elements, all tied up in a tasty bundle that is uniquely Gibbs – it’s a great song and one which may not be as immediate as some of the others previously mentioned, but creeps up on the listener like a stealthy big cat on the prowl.

Closing the album is a suburban blues rocker in Poor Middle Class White Boy Blues – a tip of the hat to Gibbs’ wry sense of humour.

Who Can Save Us Now? Is a wonderful album that summons up influences as diverse as KISS, The Beatles, Cheap Trick and more, and digests them whole before processing them into an album which is relentlessly good and deserves to be heard by any fan of melodic rock n’ roll.

8.5 / 10

Shane Pinnegar

100% ROCK MAGAZINE

Interview – Graphic Fiction Heroes’ Chris Gibbs, December 2012

By Shane Pinnegar

Originally published in edited form in Xpress Magazine, December 2012

On the eve of the release of GRAPHIC FICTION HEROES debut album, I sat down for a long chat with singer/guitarist/main songwriter Chris Gibbs, covering the new album, and delving deep into Chris’ musical journey from childhood to now.  Along the way a portrait develops – Gibbs is a man who lives and breathes music, it’s his passion, you can see it in his eyes and hear it in his voice when he excitedly talks about bands who have influenced him, or the meanings behind songs he’s written.

The other thing you’ll learn is that Chris has a whole bunch of words inside that he wants to get out – they tumble from his lips at a hundred miles an hour.  Strap yourself in and try to keep up…

SEE THE ENTIRE INTERVIEW BY CLICKING THE LINK!