What is all this ‘solo album’ shit?

Apr 18, 2011   //   by Damian_Cowell   //   Damian Cowell's Unwanted Opinions, Rants, vs Art  //  No Comments

I hang around after gigs in the vain hope that girls will ask me to sign God’s Own Curves with a permanent marker. This never happens, of course, but you do meet some rather interesting people. And that’s hard earned praise from a hit-and-misanthrope like me. In Hobart I met this bloke called David Walsh. Assumed he was just another drunk. He had a proposal for me, which usually means someone wants me to play a benefit gig for The Society for Proselytizing Against Reiki Denial. But this David Walsh seemed different – everyone appeared to know him, in fact, someone had already whispered to me that I should meet him. Like he was some Russian gangster who owned the town. Maybe not so far off. He is a kind of gangster, well, not in the underpant-showing-wannabe-from-Cranbourne sense, I’m trying to conjure up an earlier, more romantic image of a Baudelairean maverick type, riding his tricycle outside the dotted lines of life’s traffic school. His thing is art. He is like this auteur of public enlightenment, bringing to his home town of Hobart – whether they want it or not – a shitload of art – concerts, exhibitions, festivals, architecture, a winery, a restaurant, a brewery, and, in January 2011, MONA – the Museum of Old And New Art – featuring all the big todgers of art like Whiteley and Nolan and Boyd, plus all this other weird shit that horrifies old ladies. But the art is only part of the museum’s cachet – in and of itself, it’s a complete fuck-off architectural synapse-exploder, 70-odd million bucks worth of conceptual doosra, apparently to rival the fucken Guggenheim. In Hobart. The town that has a station called “Ho FM” that doesn’t play hip-hop.

Good, fine, great, but back on planet naturestrip, what’s it got to do with me? This David Walsh asks me to make an album for MONA. Not just any old album, but an album about the art in the museum. Songs about art. Mini-golfing about dancing about architecture. To be heard in the museum. There you are, looking at art inside a giant work of art, staring in abject mystification at some unfathomable ‘installation’ whilst simultaneously listening to me singing a song about it. My reaction was not unexpected. A binge-drunk backwash of reservation surged to my lips. Was I perhaps not quite the right person for the gig? You know, wouldn’t this better suit some earnest vowel-murdering chick with an acoustic guitar? Or that bloke in Grinderman who I’m sure I saw outside my office building swaying on the spot and asking for loose change? These are the kind of people who use ‘art’ and themselves in the same sentence without feeling like they should do eight hours of community service by way of reparation. Would I not be likely to gumboot into his beautiful garden reeking of 2-stroke and unwittingly ringbark the creative vibe with my whippersnipper worldview? Well, see, this David Walsh, he knew all of above, and yet here he was asking specifically for it. Instead of Cave, Cage, Cale, he gets Cowell. No brief, mind. Just write. About the art. Despite the art. Praise, criticise, deconstruct, trivialise, even completely distract from the art. Well, be careful what you wish for unless what you wish for is what you wish for. So I did it. I made an album. It’s called ‘Vs Art’. What the fucken hell some art lover who’s flown all the way from Zurich will make of it is anyone’s guess. It’s meant to work as an album, without knowing anything at all about its background – or, you could stand there looking at the art and listen to the song and see the connection. Who knows if I pulled it off, but let’s face it, I am the king of irrelevance – just ask any of the poor bastards who have tried to interview me over the years.

So I serve up a tour de force of topic evasion. Confronted by a giant installation that creates constantly morphing phrases out of a waterfall, I end up singing about a party where you come dressed as a no longer popular Google search word. Or a canvas blackened by squashed insects, where I sing about cynicism on trial. Or ‘Fat Car’ by the deliciously named Irwin Wurm (Dr. Wurm, perhaps?) – an actual real life red Porsche, only it looks overweight – where I sing about doomed ambition. This is the kind of anorexic relevance-purging you’re dealing with here. I wrote the songs, I got out the laptop, I called my friends Henri and Douglas Lee, and ‘Vs. Art’ happened. But other things happened too. I decided to call myself ‘Damian Cowell.’ I changed my mind about a lot of things. My former group ended. We plotted a new one. This is the DC3. Push button. Receive bacon. A group conceived out of songs conceived out of art. Sounds worthy, lofty, glossy mag credible. The DC3 will give the lie to this. The DC3 will make our first public appearance at the opening of MONA in January 2011. We’ll play some of the selected red herrings from ‘Vs. Art’ and some of our newest collaborations, Ballardian collisions of cheap machines, my raving and the lascivious cavorting of my two tall comrades. Audiences will get to see proper art like Phillip Glass, Health, and a host of others – and then, they’ll see us. If we don’t get lynched, I’ll be hanging around afterwards with my permanent marker. You never know what I’ll get to sign.

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