Interview with Tom Morgan

By Roo Simpson

December 2005


What are you up to at the moment? Any new projects on the go?
I'm living in the country for the first time in my adult life. Leticia and I moved here a while ago.Its pretty cool.There are horses just behind our backyard and a nice stretch of river to walk the dog by. Musically, I've been re-writing and finetuning songs the Givegoods recently demoed. Andy (Calvert) and I are both trying to get them up to scratch for recording. Leti and i have a couple of projects. The most promising is BambinoKoresh. It's an arty mix of 60s girl group chants, and current events. We're not quite sure how we will present it yet.

What is the current situation with Smudge and the Givegoods?
The Givegoods are finetuning demos for the next record. Leti has also joined on bass and we're in the process of re-re-evolving. Give it time. Smudge have played a couple of shows recently. Mainly supporting friends' bands. The reactions have been great. I'd forgotten how cool it was to play with Alison and Adam. So easy and natural. We have penciled in another album for the not too distant future.

Having played with many bands, including Smudge, Givegoods, and Sneeze - which would you say has been your most enjoyable experience?
All the bands are fun in some way or I wouldn't do them. My role changes in each so they're different strokes. But if I wasn't going to be so diplomatic and dodge the question, I'd have to say Sneeze. It's impossible not to have a
good time playing in that band. Great songs, great ethic, great people.

In an interview with us, Nic Dalton stated that: "Sneeze is top of the pile in what Tom Morgan and myself have achieved... On the right night, we are the best band in the world!" Would you agree with this assessment?
Sneeze is a law unto itself. When Nic and I started it, I don't think either of us had any idea it would turn into what it has. It seems to have its own ideas and it operates outside of the accepted norm of the 'music industry'. Because we pay for everything ourselves we have total control and there are no expectations on what the next record should sound like other than our own. It started as a shy recording project and has grown into a 5 (plus) piece energetic live act. It's hard to describe the effect Sneeze has had on me but it has given me a confidence in my vocals and in live performance that i'd never had before. Some people see it as a joke band or musical comedy thing and that's cool, I can see how that happens. They see a record with 41 songs on it and assume the quality must be spread pretty thin. Without thinking of the time and effort put in. Or they listen to "Lost the Spirit" and hear lyrics about strippers, transexuals and sad old men and assume its not serious. However we wrote with all the conviction we would afford our most honest heartfelt 'serious' songs and probably went 'deeper' into ourselves than we had on all our other recordings. As a result Sneeze got to write some of the greatest songs about love/regret/loss/sex from points of view rarely explored in pop music. I could go on and on about this and never be satisfied I'd fully explained it, but yes, on the right night we are the best band on the planet. Hands down.

Are you still in touch with Nic? Have you heard his new album? If so, what did you think of it?
Nic and I have been friends for a long time and although we don't see each other as often as we used to the reason is more geographical than anything else. He introduced me to my wife and was the best man at my wedding and we'll always hook up and record when we're in the same city. As for Nic's new record, I love it. It's not just a bunch of tunes you know? There is a method to the collection of songs which is totally Nic. A break-up album written and recorded with the girl who's leaving you! That's something only Nic could do. The rest of us have too much self awareness to expose ourselves in that way or to put ourselves in that situation but with Nic it's all about the art. My one complaint to him was that he had used the same font on his album as Sneeze had used on all of their releases. But he set me straight by telling me that he had done all the lettering on all of Sneeze's records and posters himself by hand for years and in reality it was HIS font. Fair enough.

Any plans to work with Nic again in the future?
Always. We're working on a Sneeze 10 inch right now. It's Nic's fault I got into this music stuff in the first place. HE told me to write songs, and HE said I should form a band. HE released all my records and HE introduced me to Ev. Everything leads back to Nic. So we'll always be working on something. Sneeze is so casual and so fulfilling there's no reason to ever stop it.

Have you always been into music?
Yeah, even in high school, when I was... Yeah, actually pretty much, since I was about 9 or 10. My brother was really into all that Jam and The Clash and Joy Division and stuff. And so, I just used to pilfer his record collection, make tapes, and as I left school I just sort of got into it, started playing guitar.

Did you have a band in high school?
No, no, no, no. I had a friend who had a band in school. He was the guy who sort of taught me, got me interested in playing guitar, and also got me into the Velvet Underground.

What was your first band?
First band was... Justin Hayes who plays in Whopping Big Naughty - which is a band in Sydney - I had a band with him, I played bass for him. And then I left and I started Smudge with Alison.

When you were first playing in bands, what music were you listening to?
Dinosaur Jr and the Pixies, really. I guess it would have been '89 or so, and that stuff was rife.

How did your association with Nic and Alison start?
I was a fan of Nic's band The Plunderers, I used to go and see them quite a bit and Alison was going out with Justin Hayes' brother, so that's where we met.

How and when did you first meet Evan Dando?
In '91, the Lemonheads toured here, after doing Lovey - I think they were on the verge of splitting up or something. It was pretty exciting for a young kid to see, they were really really good and they were playing the sort of music that I liked. I didn't know any of their songs really. I was living above a pub, and the person in the room across from me owned Lovey, so I heard a lot of those songs across the hall. And I knew of the band, but I didn't know any of the records. I went along to the gig and it was really fucking amazing, I really liked it. And I went to every show after that.
I met him the day before the show, or the day of the show. I was in Half A Cow - the comic book/record store that Nic owned - and Evan came in and Nic introduced us.

How did your friendship develop into a songwriting partnership?
Pretty quickly. We didn't really become close friends that tour. But he came back a few months later, we met I think in July and he came back in September and did some acoustic shows. And that was the first time that he'd actually done a solo thing, so he was nervous. We supported him and started hanging out for the time that he was here. It was all very casual, it wasn't a rigorous tour, just coming up and playing a couple of shows, go to the beach.
We used to stay up all night and walk around and talk, and just sort of make up funny lines that could be used in a song, or a weird song title. It was sort of more the drugs talking. We just went back to the house I was living in, in Sydney, and the guitar that I had only had five strings on it. And we went back and started playing around with words and Evan had this chord progression and we wrote Shame About Ray that morning.

Was that the first song you wrote together?
Yeah, and that morning Evan wrote Rockin' Stroll and Confetti as well. So the beginning of the record - the first three songs - were written in the same morning.

You've told us a little about how your process for writing together started out, is that how it's always been?
Yeah, it was never like a business arrangement, it was a product of hanging out together. We always have one guitar, we never have two guitars because people get caught up in your own little thing. So, you have to have one guitar and you hand it back and forth. Like the, what do they call those things? Speaking stick, y'know? Speak when you hold the stick - like that. Otherwise you're playing over the top of each other, there's no focus.

With the songs you've co-written (specifically thinking of Come On Feel where you're credited on half the tracks) do you have any influence during the recording, or are the songs just handed over to the band?
Evan and I just write together, that's pretty much where my involvement with the band ends. We write them and then he takes them to the band and he does what he wants.

Of all the tracks you've written together, do you have a personal favourite?
Umm... probably Being Around. I like that.

Did you ever discuss joining the Lemonheads?
No. No, because I had Smudge and we'd just started, and things were happening for us. We both had our bands, only his was really famous.

From an outside perspective, you seem like a big positive influence on Evan and his career - do you feel that way?
No. Well, I don't feel any responsibility for him, he's his own person. But, you know he's a really great and true friend, one of the truest friends I've ever had in my life - a really, honest and genuine person. I'm really, I'm just amazed that we ran into each other, living on the other sides of the world - it's quite a cosmic experience - at a certain age, in a certain place, at a certain time. Somebody from so far away, it was very very lucky and very cool.

Can you hear an obvious distinction between Evan's solo recording and his work in the Lemonheads?
Definitely the newest stuff, the stuff he's been recording lately, it sounds more - well, you know I thought the solo stuff sounded like a compilation of diffferent recordings y'know, not that it's a bad thing - but like Shame About Ray had a real texture about the whole record. The songs he's recording now have, not a similar sound, but have a common sound, and it sounds more complete. And I think that's the band element I guess.

You're obviously still in touch with Evan, do you think you'll work together again in the future?
Yeah, probably, yeah I guess. You get older and things happen and life takes you in different direction. Because the process is so casual, you can't schedule it, you can't say "we've got two weeks off, let's go here and write songs" - just what happens when we hang out together, ends up happening. We'll eventually pick up a guitar and start writing.

We have released two tribute albums this year - if you had to choose one song from Evan and the Lemonheads back catalogue, which would it be?
Umm...okay...umm... I love Half The Time, but also Mallo Cup, I love that. I don't know. That's a hard question to answer.

Finally, are there any bands around at the moment that you'd recommend us checking out?
My favourite at the moment, are an unrecorded Sydney band called The Momo Benchseat Band. They're really, really good. Good music.


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