Taylor is in Australia to play a series of gigs with his new band, the Sloppy Boys. Featuring Cec Condon (Mess Hall) and Ed Clayton-Jones (The Wreckery), Noah Taylor And The Sloppy Boys is dirty rock’n’roll in the classic Australian tradition. Having spent the last ten years living and working overseas, Taylor is even more enamoured with the Australian rock’n’roll tradition. “I think one of the great shame watching old footage of Australian ’60s garage bands is that you know they would’ve been huge all over the world if they’d been from the US,” Taylor muses. “Australian bands were never that much about recording – it was about playing in pubs. Bands like AC/DC, Rose Tattoo, The Stains – they all had a commonality about them, and it’s that no frills, pure rock’n’roll character,” Taylor says. “So the record we’ve just done is definitely inspired by Australian music – and having Ed Clayton-Jones from The Wreckery allows us to get a bit of that 1980s Melbourne music sound in there as well,” he says.
Taylor’s current abode is in Brighton on the English coast. Unlike the prohibitively expensive London, Brighton offers Taylor plenty of opportunities to hone his musical craft. It feels a bit like St Kilda in the 1990s – everyone’s in a band,” Taylor says. “London is a nightmare to play, and it’s very expensive to rehearse. I think sometimes the big cities don’t have much of a band scene because it’s just too expensive to be in a band.”
The decision to focus on music came to Taylor in his early 40s with little fanfare. “Sometimes people refer to a ‘hobby’ like it’s a dirty word,” Taylor says. “But often a hobby is someone’s primary passion. For me, music is the thing I year to do – and I find that the friendships you make through music are really tight,” he says. In contrast to cinema, Taylor says music offers a more ‘spiritual’ artistic outlet. “I find playing music has a really spiritual dimension to it,” Taylor says. “And I’d much rather listen to music than see a film. So at the age of 42 I’m living out my rock star fantasies!” Taylor laughs.
Clearly, Taylor hasn’t decided to thrown in his lot as a professional musician for the money. The average professional musician – especially a musician with a passion for the dark and abrasive sounds of The Scientists, Beasts Of Bourbon and The Drones – isn’t likely to find themself listed in any BRW rich list. “I’m not sure if there’s any financial advantage in becoming a musician – for the most part I’m aware that music is financially unrewarding,” Taylor says. “The stark reality is that music is one of the toughest jobs in the world – I’ve already hurt my back lugging my gear around,” he laughs.
Taylor was visiting Australia when the opportunity to record arose, almost serendipitously. With no backing band as such to fill out his nascent rock’n’roll tunes, Taylor turned to a few friends for help. “I’ve mainly done bedroom recordings, but when I was in Sydney I was offered some cheap studio time,” Taylor says. “So I wrote some three-chord songs that anyone could pick up and play.” Taylor contacted his former band mate Ed Clayton-Jones to play bass, while after Taylor’s original choice for the drumming spot fell through, Loene Carmen suggested Cec Condon as a replacement. Holiday Sidewinder, Taylor’s god-daughter, also contributes vocals on one track on the record.
The resulting product, the six-song blast of raw rock’n’roll energy, Live Free Or Die!!!, was recorded in a day, and mixed that evening. “Most of the music that I’ve liked over the years has been made in a short space of time,” Taylor says. “I think sometimes what you sacrifice in quality you make up for in energy,” he says. While Taylor agrees that making music brings with it a certain catharsis, his own current listening tastes are in fact someway removed from the intense attack of Live Free of Die!!! “I tend to listen more to muzak-y stuff at the moment, like 1970s Chinese pop,” he laughs.
The title of the record has both a philosophical and rock’n’roll rhetorical aspect to it. Taylor notes that ‘live free or die’ is used in certain American states to convey libertarian ideals; it’s a philosophical statement Taylor feels more than sympathetic towards. “It’s definitely a vaguely political statement,” Taylor says. “When I came up with it I really wasn’t predicting the whole Occupy Movement. But I suppose you could describe me as a libertarian. I think we certainly live in a nanny state world, and coming back to Australia I see that the country is suffering from that a lot,” Taylor says. “So the title is a little bit tongue in cheek, and it’s also meant to be fun – but it’s also a bit more than that.”
With his four-year-old daughter still living in England, Taylor isn’t likely to return to Australian permanently for a while yet. Taylor does, however, see himself spending more time playing, and recording, in Australia in an effort to solidify his fledgling music career. “I’d definitely like to come out here a bit more,” Taylor says. “The music scene in Australia is just so strong – outside of big American cities like Nashville and Memphis, the concentration of good musicians over here is just phenomenal.”