On Stage (Bonus) Colin Hay is more than just ‘Down Under’

By Denny Dyroff, Staff Writer, The Times

Colin Hay

For most musical acts, there is a pattern to follow. You release an album and then you tour in support of that album. If you’re a popular musician, that’s what you do.

On March 3, Colin Hay released his new album “Fierce Mercy” on Compass Records and has been touring almost non-stop ever since. On October 20, he will bring his U.S. tour to the Grand Opera House (818 North Market Street, Wilmington, Delaware, 302-652-5577, www.thegrandwilmington.org).

“When you go out on the road, you’re like a traveling salesman trying to sell a record,” said Hay, during a phone interview last week.

Hay was at his home in Los Angeles during a short break.

“I’m upgrading my studio so I’m going mad,” said Hay. “It’s one of those things you have to do every three or four years. I’m going to ProTools 12. It’s always very involved.”

“Fierce Mercy,” the singer’s 13th solo release, is an epic, cinematic step forward for Hay, who is known for being a dynamic front man and beloved for his intimate, confessional live shows.

Recorded in both Los Angeles and Nashville and mixed by Vance Powell (Chris Stapleton, Jack White) and Gordon Hammond (Buddy Miller, Don Williams), “Fierce Mercy” explores themes of love and loss, aging and mortality.

“I recorded the album last year starting in April,” said Hay. “Most of it was dome at my home studio. The strings and some odd overdubs were done in Nashville. It was a ne combination of cities — Nashville and L.A.

“The studio is in the basement of my home in Topanga Canyon. Not a lot of the homes in this part of the world have basements. It’s a good size room. The ceiling is a little low but, as far as a home studio, it’s pretty deluxe. I use ProTools and have nice microphones.

“I’ve been writing with Michael Georgiades for the last three albums. Most of the songs on ‘Fierce Mercy’ were co-writes. We get together, sit in the same room and write. We have a wonderful time.

“With this record, I had a lot of ideas that I put on my iPhone. I listen to them and then sit down and start to work on something. Other times, Michael will call and say – I’ve got something – and then he’d come over.

“He’d have most of the music and just one line of lyrics. He’d keep playing the music and I’d come up with the lyrics. In the end, we’d pick the best of what each other had. All the songs are pretty new.”

Hay, a talented singer/songwriter/guitarist, was born in North Ayrshire, Scotland and emigrated to Australia with his family when he was 14. Then, Hay moved to America and settled in Los Angeles 22 years later.

Casual music fans might not recognize Hay by name but they most likely are familiar with his music.

Almost any music fan over 30 and most fans of classic rock under 30 know that a “land down under” is “where women glow and men plunder.” They know because Colin Hay told them so. Hay was the lead singer of the Australian band Men at Work.

In the early 1980s, the band had major worldwide hits with a trio of songs — “Who Can It Be Now?,” “Overkill,” and “Down Under.”

Hay knows that survival in the music business these days involves taking the music to the people — and that means a lot of touring.

‘I’ve been on the road a lot,” said Hay. “I was in Australia for a while – all over the place. It was a multi-bill tour with three Australian acts.

“There are three things you do as a musician — write songs, record them and play them live. I still do two Men At Work songs in all my shows — ‘Overkill’ and ‘Down Under.’ Obviously, they’ll be a little different from how they did originally.”

Some of Hay’s new songs deal with the precarious state of the world today and the biggest threats to the planet’s well-being.

“It’s not hard to imagine it getting worse,” said Hay. “It’s almost like the things you fretted about in the 70s when you first became aware of climate change, authoritarianism, nuclear build-up and the threat of nuclear war.

“The worst part is the nuclear threat. They say it (nuclear war) is not possible. It’s a very dangerous time. It’s difficult to forecast what will happen.

“When that guy got elected, the thing that made my insides crawl was that he is a psychotic, narcissistic dictator in the making. He has all the traits of a dictator.

“You hope that the people in charge will realize it and do something about it. Climate change is real. Nuclear build-up is not good. The free market system is a better system with socialism built in so that people can get hospital treatment.

“But, somewhere inside you, you have the nagging feeling that this isn’t going to happen. This album is a way to musically express those feelings. I think it’s safe to say that the record is a combination of things.

“There is hopefulness there but you can’t expect anything to change without action. Honestly, I think we’re in for some rough times.”

Video link for Colin Hay — https://youtu.be/XpdUTtt-npI.

The show at the Grand, which has Chris Trapper as the opener, will start at 8 p.m. Tickets range from $35-$55.

The Grand Opera House (818 North Market Street, Wilmington, Delaware, 302-652-5577, www.thegrandwilmington.org) will also host Pink Martini on October 22.

Echo Black

Echo Black, a New York-based pop/rock band is known for its intense performances – for shows that leave audiences physically and emotionally drained.

This fall, Echo Black is on the road with its “The Break Of Dawn Tour.” The band is doubling down in the intensity level by bringing along fellow NYC pop/rock band Moonfall as the opening act.

The tour will touch down in this area twice this weekend – October 20 at the Barbary (951 Frankford Avenue, Philadelphia, 215-634-7400, www.facebook.com/thebarbary) and October 22 at Bar XIII (1706 Philadelphia Pike, Wilmington, Delaware, 302-746-2213, http://barxiii.com/event/echo).

Recently, Echo Black released its newest single and music video for “Dawn”” off their upcoming album of the same title. The band teamed up with Walter Dicristina and Axel Otero to record the song and recruited Chris Newhard (Sia, Jessie J, Train) to bring the track to life.

After premiering their last video for “Chemicals,” the band met and exceeded the goal on Indiegogo raising over $13,000 to fund the new album, which was released on October 13.

Echo Black features Danny Blu (vocalist), Billy Long (drums, keyboards), Felix Skiver (guitar, vocals) and Rob Gnarly (bass, vocals).

“Right now, this is just a short early tour for the album,” said Blu, during a phone interview last week from his home in New York.

“We had three singles out and then the single ‘Dawn’ was the lead for the album. I so excited that the album is coming out. We’ve been waiting to put an album out since we started the band in 2015.

“We raised over $13,000 on Indiegogo to make the album. It’s pretty exciting that people give a shit about us and our music. We offered rewards like autographed items, drum lessons and makeup tutorials.”

Makeup tutorials might sound strange perks for a band’s funding perks but not that strange if you take into account that Echo Black is billed as a “queer pop/rock band. All of Echo Black’s makeup is sponsored by MAC Cosmetics.

“I think it’s funny that we get described that way,” said Blu. “We just make poppy rock music and I happen to be gay. The other three aren’t.

“I grew up in Morris County in North Jersey and have been in New York City since I graduated high school in 2008. I moved to Queens with my sister. I went to New York to be an actor.

“I went to New York University as an acting major. I spent a year-and-a-half there and hated it. I didn’t want people telling me what to do

“I started making music in 2011 and out two albums on my own. Billy has been with me since Day One and Felix joined four years ago. We did a Danny Blu tour and then the process changed. We began writing as a group. That’s when we became Echo Black.”

Echo Black is comprised of members whose musical inspirations range from basement punk to Frank Sinatra, and everything in between.

“We’re all from different musical backgrounds,” said Blu. “Now, we all come together to make the dark sound we make.

“We recorded ‘Dawn’ earlier this year. We were in the studio over the course for as month. Some of it was recorded in Seattle and some in Paterson, New Jersey. Then, we had to rush to finish it because we were going on tour with Psyclon Nine.

“Now, we have our own tours. This is just a short tour but we’ll be out again after the album has been out for a little while. Ninety per cent of our live show is the songs from the new album.”

Video link for Echo Black — https://youtu.be/Hy9-mYGqjTg.


Moonfall is a three-piece alternative pop/rock band from New York City featuring Matthew Howl (Vocals & Guitar), Mei Moor (Bass) and Andrew Chow (Drums).

Known for their versatile musicianship and their experimentation with genres since their inception, the three musicians quickly discovered their approach to composing.

By amalgamating different musical styles with meaningful lyrics and unforgettable melodies, Moonfall has forged a connection with its audience and listeners.

“We started the band near the end of 2015 – just the tree of us jamming,” said Howl, during a phone interview last week from his home in New York City.

“We had our first show in the last few days of 2105. Me and the bassist are brother and sister. We found the drummer through Craigslist and it was love at first sight. We held auditions, but when he came it was the perfect fit.”

Moonfall released its debut EP “Refraction” not long after forming.

“On the first EP, we went in the studio with a lot of ideas – trying to figure out what we wrote,” said Howl. “We all have a lot of influences and we try to bring them together.”

“Now, we have a sound that is us. We usually tell people who ask that it is alternative poppy stuff. There is a lot of distorted guitar – and a lot of synthesizers.

“My sister and I grew up with music. We were exposed to a lot of music early because our mom was a musician. We grew up partly in Europe – London and Amsterdam – and partly here. Our dad was a flight supervisor so we moved a lot.

“I started guitar when I was 16 and she learned to play bass later. I always wanted to start a band but it took a long time for it to happen.”

Now, Howl and his sister are realizing their dreams.

Video link for Moonfall – https://youtu.be/2dglvCn-Nyk.

The show at the Barbary, which also features Manganelli, Generation Empty and Tim Kellams, will start at 5:30 p.m. Tickets are $12.

The show at Bar XIII, which also features Generation Empty and Tim Kellams, will start at 5 p.m. Tickets are $5.

Black Pistol Fire released its new album “Deadbeat Graffiti” at the end of September and then headed out on tour to bring the new songs to its fans across the country.

The tour visits the area on October 20 for a show at The Foundry at Fillmore Philadelphia (1100 Canal Street, Philadelphia, 215-309-0150, www.thefillmorephilly.com).

Black Pistol Fire

Black Pistol Fire features guitarist/vocalist Kevin McKeown and drummer Eric Owen – a pair of Canadian musicians from Toronto who now live in Austin, Texas.

“Kevin and I go back to when we were five years old in kindergarten at Annunciation School in Toronto,” said Owen, during a recent phone interview as the duo traveled from Muskogee, Oklahoma to a gig in Kansas City, Missouri.

“We met there and became friends for lifetime. We grew up in the Don Mills neighborhood in Toronto.

“We began making music together. Kevin got good on guitar and I got O.K. on drums. We started a band when we were going to Senator O’Connor High – a Catholic high school in Toronto.

“At that stage, we were just doing covers. In our college years, we started doing originals. That was 10 years ago. Eventually, it was just the two of us.

“Kevin evolved into a great songwriter. We made our first album a few years ago in Detroit and our second LP in Toronto. Our third, fourth and fifth albums were done in Austin.”

After a while in their hometown, the two traded their culturally great but cold hometown for a culturally great and warmer home in Texas.

“We moved to Austin eight years ago,” said Owen. “We had been going back-and-forth between Austin and Toronto for years and Austin became more home for the band.

“We fell in love with Austin. It has an authenticity to it. It seems more organic. We tried to make it in Canada but it didn’t seem our music was viable there.

“We figured that if we could make it in the United States it would get better in Canada – and it has. Now, we’re getting played on radio in Canada.”

Both countries are being introduced to “Deadbeat Graffiti.”

According to the band, “Our fifth album is a representation of our listening habits. It has a roller coaster effect, with many different tempos and influences ranging from garage-punk, to hip-hop, soul, and everything else that we may listen to on a given day. It is meant to act like a mixtape or Spotify playlist, where the listener won’t know what’ll hit them next!”

The album was created in the Texas capital.

“‘Deadbeat Graffiti’ was recorded in two studios in Austin – Fifth Street Studio and Arlyn Studio,” said Owen. “They are the same studios we used for our previous album. Each studio has its unique attributes.

“We took a long time writing for ‘Deadbeat Graffiti.’ Most of it was done between July and September last year. Kevin is a great songwriter. Either he comes in with a full song or he comes in with an idea and we build from there. And, some of the songs we put together like Frankenstein.

“We finished the album in April and now we’re touring a lot. We’re excited to be coming back to Philadelphia. Philly is one of our favorite places to play.”

Video link for Black Pistol Fire – https://youtu.be/2YyfIYadXVc.

The show at the Foundry at Fillmore Philadelphia will start at 8 p.m. Tickets are $18.

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