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Interview With Josh Pyke

One of Australia’s greatest singer-songwriters Josh Pyke has announced a national tour next year in support of his fifth studio album “But For All These Shrinking Hearts. We caught up with the man himself for chat about the new album and which dinosaur should be his next tattoo.

Firstly what’s the reception been like to the new album “But For All These Shrinking Hearts“ compared to previous releases?

It’s been amazing! It was my highest debut record, which is really gratifying even after five albums and ten years. I think people assume that I don’t worry about that kind of stuff any more, but you never know what the album’s going to do. So it was really great to have such a high debut and to know there’s a really passionate core fan base out there that are still engaged! I have to say the response was the best ever, which is great!

As you’ve mentioned, “But For All These Shrinking Hearts” debuted at #2 on the ARIA Charts, your highest album debut yet. Does this mean it’s your best album?

(Laughs) I don’t know! I can’t answer that, I don’t ever put out an album unless it’s my best work, so for me I think it’s my best album…but I’ve said that about every album I’ve put out! But I think that’s a good attitude to have.  It’s an impossible question to answer but subjectively I think it is, but it’s kind of up to everyone else.

I first heard your music when you released your 2006 album “Memories & Dust”. That album’s now nearly a decade old, how do you feel you’ve changed as a musician and person since its release?

Oh everything’s changed! As a musician I think I’ve developed more than anything else. I’ve honed my craft and been consistently working as a musician without a break for like ever, so I feel I’ve been getting better and better at being a musician, a songwriter, and a producer. My life has changed massively, I mean I’ve been doing this for 12 years now and 10 years at this (professional) level. I have two little kids now so I have a lot more structure than I used to and that’s kind of reflected in how I create, with my studio at home I have a lot more structure and a lot more freedom to be creative. So I guess that there’s less frustration creatively and a bit more structure, which is something a lot of creative people don’t get to have so I’m very fortunate for that.

What’s your recording process been like since having a studio, literally, in your backyard?

I’ve actually just finished renovating (the studio) from an un-treated shed! So I recorded all the demos for the album at my house, then it was necessary to go to other professional studios to record the album. I’ve kind of got the best of both worlds because I can go down to my studio and record demos whenever I like, sometimes late at night or in the middle of the day, and then when it came to making the album it was good to get out of my space. It allows me I guess to also be more experimental.

Have you, just because the your studio is so close and convenient, recorded any anti-Josh Pyke tunes like hard rock rather than your sounds?

I do actually all the time! I’m a musician first and foremost. So like the other weekend I had a few mates round and I recorded their band, which was pretty heavy guitar rock. I also have a psychedelic rock side project called Bonkers, so I do a lot of stuff outside the “Josh Pyke” sound. I guess I’ve always done that, just people don’t know about it…

You co-wrote songs Songlines with Jinja Safari’s Marcus Azon and Momentary Glow with Dustin Tebbutt. Who’s next on the list to co-write with?

Oh gosh, good question! I’m up for co-writing with anyone really, like I did some co-writing with a young pop-rock band a few weeks back. I’d like to do more work with Dustin and Patrick James and Marcus as well. But people just approach me and if I’ve got the time to do it I’m happy to because you always learn something, either about your own process or you’re inspired by theirs.

What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learnt over your career so far?

I think the biggest thing for me is not operating with an agenda. So sometimes you’re given a brief, like when I’ve done co-writing for pop artists, that it needs to be a certain type of song. I’m happy to engage in that kind of world from a creative point of view because it’s quite fun, but when writing for myself I can’t write to an agenda. I can’t sit down and write a single or I need to write a song about this or that, it just has to happen kind of naturally. And the heart of overcoming an agenda is to really trust your heart as a creative person because what you think is good is not necessarily going to be the same as someone else’s good, but if your instincts are telling you strongly about a piece of music you have to back yourself. A good example is Middle Of The Hill, it’s the song that kind of broke my career and it doesn’t have a chorus, and when I wrote it people in the industry were saying “it really needs chorus”, yet it seemed to be the song that really resonated with people. So I think trusting your instincts is really huge and important to remember. 

“But For All These Shrinking Hearts” is inspired by the story of American inventor Charles Redheffer and his perpetual motion machine scam. You’ve said the metaphor for the story is creativity isn’t bound by physical laws of nature and science, and the ultimate perpetual motion is creativity. What inspires your creativity and what will you do if or when the well to your creativity runs dry?

I don’t believe the well ever runs dry, but it could shift and I can maybe see a time in my life where I might not write songs for a while. For me, creativity is everything, like creative thinking is happiness and it’s how I operate in this world. I approach everything in my life with the same kind of thinking as in my songwriting, which is follow your instincts: I think about what’s lacking in a situation and what I need to add. So I don’t think creativity will ever run out for me and I think the thing that inspires me the most is creativity itself, which is why I love collaborating. I find it inspiring talking to creative people, even those who aren’t necessarily in the same field. It’s other people’s creative energy that inspires me more so than particular musicians, it’s the concept of creative thinking and people with energy. You can’t be a creative person if you don’t go out and do stuff, and it’s the getting out and doing stuff that I find very inspirational.

So Josh, where do you go or what stuff do you do to be inspired?

As simple as it sounds, just hanging out with other people that are engaging in that (creative) world is hugely beneficial. When I feel like I’m uninspired I just go out and have a coffee with somebody else who’s involved in the creative world, and I just kind of feel revitalised. For whatever reason I just find human engagement with people who are doing creative things helps me the most. You can be in a bit if a slump creatively, and go meet up with somebody who’s really firing creatively and then you get inspired by them. Then you go off and do something creative then chat to someone who’s in a bit of a slump and you inspire them, so it’s all a big cycle.

You came across Redheffer during your search for new tattoo design. What Tattoo did you end up getting?

I still haven’t got one unfortunately! I couldn’t decide because I’ve got a few tattoos and I wanted to do the Perpetual Motion Machine design until I found out it wasn’t genuine so it lost it’s charm. So I’m not sure what to get next, I kind of want to get one of a dinosaur ‘cause one of my kids is really into them at the moment and I think it would be funny to get that!

Which dinosaur in particular?

Ahh maybe a Diplodocus? No probably a Brachiosaurus actually, because they’ve got a nice shape, which would be pretty cool! But it’s a pretty permanent joke so I’m not sure if I’m willing to make it (laughs).

Yeah! Think about what happens when the kid gets older and moves on from dinosaurs!

Exactly! But I could change into something else I guess…

Lastly, which Australian artists are you currently loving or impressed by?

There are lots, but Tame Impala I’m pretty obsessed with. I reckon Kevin Parker’s amazing…but’s there’s lots of Australian musicians that are great. One of my favourite bands is The Woods Themselves, but I’m not sure if anybody would have heard of them. There are plenty of great creatives out there but people just don’t hear of them, which is kind of the great thing about the process of discovery.

Josh Pyke “But For All Those Shrinking Hearts” Album Tour

Friday 29th January
Twilight At Taronga, Sydney (All Ages)

Saturday 30th January
Canberra Theatre Playhouse, Canberra (All Ages)

Thursday 4th February
Studio 56 @ Miami Marketta, Gold Coast

Friday 5th February
The Triffid, Brisbane

Saturday 6th February
Star Court Theatre, Lismore (All Ages)

Friday 12th February
Melbourne Zoo Twilights, Melbourne (All Ages)

Saturday 13th February
The Wool Exchange, Geelong

Friday 19th February
Her Majesty’s Theatre, Adelaide (All Ages)

Sat 20th February
Astor Theatre, Perth

Get Tickets HERE