Turkeyneck Lasso

Russell Kilbey Speaks With Anthony Horan

Jan 24th 1997
This is a feature on Russell Kilbey's current project, Turkeyneck Lasso, which ran last week in Melbourne's InPress Magazine.

Having vanished for some time after a stint with his band The Crystal Set, Russell Kilbey has returned with a record that's decidedly different not only from his own previous output, but also completely removed from just about anything else going on in Australian music at the moment. Under the band name Turkeyneck Lasso, Russell, along with co-conspirators Ed Clayton-Jones and David Baldie (and Kerri Simpson on occasional vocals), has fashioned a virtual soundtrack, a score for a film that doesn't exist, a spaghetti western that hasn't been made yet.

It's terrific stuff - open, expansive, widescreen, Morricone-inspired twang-atmosphere that, far from being background music, actually demands attention and as an added bonus sounds great in the dark. It's the kind of album that doesn't appear too often - while film soundtracks are dime-a-dozen, their strict adherence to the film's main musical theme tends to drag them into monotony quickly. Turkeyneck Lasso, not tied to a real film at all, simply uses the Western genre as its theme and ventures from there into intriguing places. It's the first recorded output from Russell Kilbey for some time; between The Crystal Set and now, he did release a project, but you'd be more likely to have heard it if you happened to be on holiday in Japan at the time…

"I did put out a record called Warp Factor Nine - kind of a hip-hop thing. That got released in Japan, and sold more there in the first week of release than it did in six months in Australia."

The genesis of the Turkeyneck Lasso record was typically spontaneous, the result of a chance meeting with legendary musician (and one-time Dogs In Space star!) Edward Clayton-Jones.

"I met Ed through G.W. McLennan," explains Russell, "because I'd been doing the Jack Frost record, which we had a great time doing. G.W. said there was a mate of his that wanted to do a record, and did I want to meet him; and that was Ed. I thought, this guy's a bit too cool for me, me being a casual, easy-going type of person. But we met and we got on fabulously -he's got a great sense of humour. Ed used to be in The Wreckery and The Bad Seeds - and he was the drug consultant for the film Dogs In Space. He was the guy who had to make sure that all the scenes were authentic… But anyway, he's very straight down the line now, like we all are - you either give it all up or you die. So anyway, I was doing a lot of computer music, and one day I woke up, saw the light, and thought, fuck this. I don't want to sit in front of a computer screen. I want to touch things, hit things, bits of wood and all that. So that was the angle that we took, and I suggested we do the soundtrack for an imaginary spaghetti western. It just developed - it was recorded whenever we had spare time. We started in April of 1995, and we'd just do one day every three weeks or so. It was very casual."

The self-titled Turkeyneck Lasso album is a soundtrack in one way- it was inspired by a novel called Dead Wood.

"That's a fantastic novel by Pete Dexter, the guy that wrote Paris Trout. It's about an incredibly, brutally real western town called Dead Wood, and Wild Bill Hickock's adventures leading up to his death. The first half of the record sticks pretty faithfully to the book, and then we wandered off into other places. But the book was just a starting point - you need the germ of an idea to start things off, to get the movie running inside our heads, the movie we were seeing on the film screen of our eyes. We were just doing it for fun, basically."

So at what point did what could possibly be the world's first Book Soundtrack become a released album?

"I just played it to a few people at Polygram, and they thought it was good enough to put out," Russell recalls. "And they have a lot of involvement in film music. I'm thinking of doing another album with Turkeyneck Lasso, but I haven't figured out yet whether it's going to become Turtleneck Lasso, and be full of spy music…"

Of course, the logical question is whether the music on this album -tailormade, in many ways, for soundtrack use - will turn up in a film, or whether the band may be hired specifically to write a soundtrack.

"I hope so. I hope there's people out there now getting their hands on copies and thinking, these guys could do a great film soundtrack. That's obviously what we'd like to do. And that was one of the reasons we wanted to release it - the Australian film industry is a lot healthier than the Australian music industry, basically."

Though it's not a policy set in stone, it's unlikely that Turkeyneck Lasso will venture out to the live venues to bring atmosphere to the pubs. But, says Russell, the possibility is always there.

"We did play live once, and we had Simon Day playing guitar, because he loves it too - he did the cover design, actually. Maybe we'll do another one. We'll see how it goes. If the demand to play is there, we'll do it."

Meanwhile, search out the album and have a listen. If Russell's right, you'll probably want it once you've taken the trouble to hear it.

"If only people hear it once, they'll buy it, because it's just a great record to have to play at dinner parties, or when you're feeling like killing someone. Or maybe a dinner party where you kill someone. It's a really good record for creating a forty minute mood shift - when you bung this record on, you don't have to listen to someone singing about their girlfriend or anything like that. Of all the records I've had, this is the one that I could walk up and give to anyone on the street, and know they'll go home, listen to it, and think it's pretty good. Normally when you have a record that you're singing on, it's like asking someone to come into the bathroom while you're having a shower or something. But with this one, people totally, unashamedly seem to like it."

With Turkeyneck Lasso safely soundtracking its way into record stores, Russell is planning to return to writing conventional pop songs as well as possibly continuing this project. The intriguing thing about this wildly creative man, though, is that you never quite know what's coming next.

"Doc Neeson rang me up once and said, let's do something together," Russell says. "I thought that was great - I was going to make him sound like Nine Inch Nails. I rang him and we talked. And he never rang me back."

Copyright (C) 1997 Anthony Horan and InPress Magazine.

Notes: Simon Day was the lead singer of Sydney band Ratcat, and is now working as a graphic designer, specialising in record covers. Doc Neeson was the lead singer in successful 70s/80s Australian band The Angels.

The Turkeyneck Lasso and Warp Factor Nine albums are on the iD label, distributed by PolyGram Australia.


Physical mail: P.O. Box 40, Malvern 3144, Victoria, Australia

Russell Kilbey can be contacted at rpk@incybr.com.au

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