AT RANDOM (1991 – 2002)
At Random were established on the Gold Coast and made their live debut in early 1991. The members of the band were Nicole Salisbury (vocals), Jon Muecke (guitar, vocals), Andrew Muecke (bass) and Paul McCarlie (drums). Most of their early performances centered around Queensland locations with a particular focus on the Gold Coast, Brisbane and Northern NSW.
The band’s foundation came from playing live on the pub & club circuit. By playing so many gigs in the early days (sometimes requiring over 40 originals to complete the night), the band was able to develop an exciting live show and provided a formidable catalogue of original tunes.
Their first EP, AR001 was released as a six-track cassette in December 1991. All of the albums released by At Random were self-titled – this one became known as “Light Bulb” due to its front cover design (by the graphic artist Paul Collins).
This graphical approach became synonymous with the band and their original marketing material was well received by the industry throughout their career – this included supporting products such as biographies, posters, stickers and coasters.
Although the band live shows were gaining momentum and they had radio support from Triple J’s Costa Zouliou, particularly for a new single “Sanctuary”, Nicole Salisbury left the band to pursue a solo career. This was just prior to the release of their second cassette EP, AR002, “Blue Fan”. The band nonetheless completed both the cassette release and the video for “Sanctuary” in November 1992. The EP was an accurate reflection of the sound of the band at the time which was hard edged female vocal led alternative music.
After a period of time, the band re-appeared on the live scene in late 1993 with new vocalist Kathryn Battaglene. Although the band struggled early to regain their initial success, the musicianship was growing and the recordings were becoming more adventurous.
The key recordings (“All In My Mind”, “I Will”, “Personification” and “Beware”) which made up the foundation of their first full length CD were recorded at Rockinghorse Studios at Byron Bay, NSW with production duties by Greg Courtney. The album, AR003, “Multicolour” was released in December 1994 with the track “All In My Mind” as first single.
In addition to good radio support from Triple J, day time entertainment show, “Simon Townsends Wonderworld” invited the band to Sydney to record a film clip for “All In My Mind“. The video showcased the band at their best and exposed them to a larger market. A number of the songs off the album were used by the show as backing tracks for their stories. The band also performed live to air, most notably on 4ZZZ in Brisbane.
Progress was derailed when Kathryn Battaglene left the band in early 1995. Tracks where recorded with other vocalists but the next significant phase for the band was with vocalist Jo Stanley. Jo was a veteran of the industry having appeared as a solo artist on “Countdown” as a teenager as well as being a main character in the day time Australian soapie “The Restless Years“.
Jo Stanley brought a sophisticated pop sensibility to the band and it was a particularly prolific time for At Random with many new songs being written. A focal point for their next release was the recording of the track “Don’t Fake It”. An accompanying video clip for “Don’t Fake It” was recorded and the band moved down Melbourne to further their career. Some significant opportunities were uncovered by the band, particularly having gained the support of key Australian music show Video Hits (and an album worth of tracks ready to record) but the band suffered both personal tragedy and other issues which saw them back on the Gold Coast and back at square one.
A retrospective of this period which includes tracks recorded with Jo Stanley in addition to the first two cassette EP’s and other recordings from the period 1991 to 1995 was released as the CD, AR004, “Sunrise”. There are different versions of the disc in existence – some have 20 tracks and others have 23.
The band rose again, this time with Stephen Keyse on vocals, keyboards and saxophone. Although there were sporadic live appearances the main focus for the unit was the release of a new full-length CD. With the added bonus of more instrumentation available and with a renewed confidence in song writing skills and performance, the band entered Sherwell Studios on the Gold Coast and the resultant 15 track album AR005, “Blue” was released in September 1996.
The band gained overwhelmingly favourable reviews throughout Australian street press for the album and key radio support from Triple J and other stations for the lead single “Another World”. The accompanying video for “Another World” was supported by the ABC’s landmark music video show, RAGE. The track also appears on The Big Backyard SXSW 1997. Videos were also produced for the track “Days Go Bye” and a re-imagined “Don’t Fake It”.
Despite gaining significant support from sections of the industry and playing some high profile gigs, the bad luck continued with the bands gear being stolen and Stephen Keyse leaving the band.
At Random had been invited to be part of the first Pacific Circle Music Convention in Sydney in 1997 and Jacinta Broondgeest (who had provided backing vocals on the “Blue” album) took over the vocal (keyboard and saxophone) duties to honour the commitment.
When the band returned to the Gold Coast, the decision was made to continue on, but rather than focus on live performance and search for a new singer, efforts would be placed on recording a new album.
AR007, “Red” was recorded over a lengthy period of time and this was why an EP AR006, “Car” was released. All previous At Random recordings had been done using time proven analogue recording techniques, but these new recordings moved into the digital age using the Pro-Tools recording system. Some digital programming to augment the drums was used on the tracks released on “Car”. The track “That Reminds Me” and accompanying video (utilising footage from Europe and Ceylon in 1960) produced At Randoms’ most successful period with airplay and video play in many areas around the world. The track, utilising the vocal talents of Ramya V singing in Indian Sanskrit, was playlisted on MTV UK/Europe appearing on a number of shows, but in particular the Chill Show with Massive Attack and Portishead.
By the time recording was re-started to complete the new album, long time member Paul McCarlie had left the band. Although guest vocalists and guest drummers helped complete the album, the loss of a foundation member was the beginning of the end for the band.
Although the “Red” album is considered disjointed, it was recognised in reviews that the musicianship and originality was particularly strong. Videos were made for the tracks “Aliens”, “CT” and “Bursting Bubbles” and industry support continued for the band. The video for “Bursting Bubbles” was a spur of the moment decision by the band and was recorded in a few hours only using props held within the studio. Perhaps fittingly it was voted second worst of 1998 in a poll by cable TV music show “Channel V“.
Without a live band to support the release At Random were unable to take advantage of any opportunities. Although a greatest hits package called ‘Decade’ was released in 2002, it was at this time that brothers Jon and Andrew Muecke decided that At Random would conclude.
4IIGO was a once-off project between Andrew Muecke and vocalist Elly Hart. Andrew wrote the music, played the instruments (bass, guitar, keyboards, loops and rhythm programming) and wrote the lyrics, with Elly providing the vocals.
The two recorded a 6 track EP at Sherwell Studios on the Gold Coast with Andrew performing both engineering and production duties. Reminiscent of acts like the Sneaker Pimps and Moby, the EP was released on December 2000.
Of particular note was that the release remained in the mp3.com.au top 100 ambient/alternative discs from the time of its release until the retirement of the site in 2012.
ANDRISSA was a project between Andrew Muecke and vocalist Melissa Stankovic started in 2001. A meeting between the two at Sherwell Studios on the Gold Coast led to Andrew providing a track that he had been working on to Melissa. Melissa came back with written lyrics and the track “Heaven Scent” was recorded.
Liking the results, the pair decided to record as much as possible in the short period that they had left as Andrew was moving to Adelaide, South Australia to live. Two weekends were available to record so the pair set to recording with the vision of demonstrating their capability to a record company who would assist them to complete the album.
A number of the tracks were initially recorded by capturing Melissa singing and playing guitar as a guide and then the tracks were built by Andrew who also played the instruments.
Seventeen tracks in all were completed in record time and formed a draft release labelled “Essence”. They even found time to put together a promotional video to accompany the track “Telling Her To Stop“.
The pair gained support from US record company Triton Records and a CD-ROM was authored as part of a promotional package to represent the band.
On moving to Adelaide, Andrew contacted Ashley Starkey, a local documentary maker who had advertised some work that he was doing focusing on local creative artists in one of the street press magazines, “dB Magazine”.
After working together on that project, Ashley offered to do a film clip for the Andrissa track, “False Need“. The resultant clip won the 2003 South Australia Music Industry Award (SAMIA) for best video.
Although the album “Essence” was garnering positive reviews in Australian street press and the video clip was being supported by shows like RAGE, the collapse of Triton records soon thereafter, and the tyranny of distance between the Gold Coast (Queensland) and Adelaide (South Australia) led to Andrew and Melissa abandoning further work as Andrissa.
After the successful working relationship developed with ANDRISSA, Andrew and Ashley decided to work together further. This originally took shape based around Andrew providing Ashley with musical backings for a new documentary that he was working on called “The Path to Totality”. The resultant track, “For the Sun” was completed in December 2004. The track mixed Andrew’s drum, bass, guitar and keyboard lines, with some Ebow guitar work from Matt Cahill (ex The Violets) and what was to be the blue print for future Happy Ghosts releases, the use of old voice samples as accompaniment.
Their clip “Booze and Pills”, from the debut four-track EP “Paranormal Behaviour” was released in 2005. The video was selected as a finalist in the Below Ground Music Video Festival Awards (Australian & New Zealand) in 2005 and was also banned by the community television station “Channel 31”.
The second EP, “Something Beautiful” was released in early 2006. The track “Something Beautiful” was included on Three D Radio’s Depth Charge 5 compilation and the “Something Beautiful” Video was selected as a finalist in the International Portable Film Festival in 2006.
The Three D Radio Depth Charge compilation is shared with partner radio stations in various spots around the world and this gave the band a number of new opportunities to pursue. Of particular note was the support they were receiving from the radio station CIUT in Canada. This led to a Happy Ghosts compilation CD, “So Far” being created and sent to Canadian College radio stations. So began a very fruitful 3 year period where each Happy Ghosts release garnered excellent support and consistent charting throughout Canadian College radio.
The “So Far” compilation included two new songs, Loosen Up and Young – these two songs and “Something Beautiful” formed part of a local CD/DVD release. The DVD component captured the three Happy Ghosts videos completed at that point – this included the video clip for “Loosen Up” which made the final 10 in the Below Ground Video Fest Awards 2006 (Australia & NZ).
The next focus was the creation of an art-film called Ammunition, an hour long montage of ever moving audio-visual released in mid-2007. Ammunition was selected for the New York Independent Film Festival in 2007 and short listed for the Byron Bay Film Festival. To all intents and purposes, ‘Ammunition’ is also a music release in its own right. Throughout its one hour duration, there are over 41 songs (or remixes of songs) that are not available through any other Happy Ghosts release. ‘Ammunition Screener 1’ and ‘Ammunition Screener 2’ were ‘shorts’ created for publicity and marketing.
The band’s first full length album, “Secret Code of Beauty” was released in November 2007. The lead track, Trouble Maker’ got plenty of community radio support throughout Australia and continued the appearance of Happy Ghosts on Canadian college radio charts. Positive reviews appeared in well-respected journals including The Sydney Morning Herald. The band also signed their first contracts with a series of film and TV placement companies and had their tracks appear on a number of documentaries (peculiarly, a number of these were ‘surfing’ documentaries).
The band continued to work hard and the second Happy Ghosts album, “Silver Lining” was released in October 08. A video was made for the track “On the Move”. The track was also selected for inclusion on Three D Radio’s Depth Charge 8 compilation. The album was an entry in the Three D Radio Top 100 +1 artists for 2008. The additional singles “Gotta Do It” and “Can’t Seem To” were given strong support by community radio.
Although Ashley continued to play a role with graphics, he took a step back to allow singer Carrie Barr to take over vocal duties for the third Happy Ghosts album “Carrie Sings” which was released in November 2009. Carrie had played a role with the Happy Ghosts going back to the second EP where she sang vocals on the track “Four Emotions”. She also sang the song “Lament” form Secret Code of Beauty – this song was singled out in many reviews of the album due to the impressive opera intonations she delivered on that track. She also appeared on two songs from “Silver Lining”. The album was an entry in the Three D Radio Top 100 +1 artists for 2009.
The “It Is” EP was released in 2010 with Ashley Starkey returning for vocal duties. A video clip was produced for the lead single “It Is”. Originally intended as an 8 track EP, four songs were removed just prior to pressing. These songs appear on the compilation “So Far II” which was released in May 2012 and made to accompany the album “Reverence for Life”.
“Reverence for Life”, the fourth full length Happy Ghosts album was released in May 2012. The album itself, its construct and song listing is based on the Nobel Peace Prize winning philosophy of “Albert Schweitzer”. A concept album of sorts, each ‘song’ is separated by a short instrumental, covering a different component to the elements of Albert Schweitzer’s philosophies.
A video was produced for the track “Voices” and the album was an entry in the Three D Radio Top 100 +1 artists for 2012. The album also received a 5-star review from Music SA – the site had been generating new album reviews for over a decade and “Reverence for Life” was granted their first ever 5 star review.
The song “Voices’ (and its sister track, the concluding “Voices Reprise”) is important as it is the first joint recording performed by Andrew Muecke and Matt Cahill, with Andrew providing the music, and Matt the vocals. This is the format that they would take into their on-going project “The Quiet Room”. All other vocal duties were performed by Carrie Barr. The compilation “So Far II” was made at the same time to accompany promotion of “Reverence for Life” – it gathers songs from the early EP’s in addition to containing a number of unreleased tracks.
A period of relative inactivity followed the release of “Reverence for Life”, however, “Decayed”, a compilation to celebrate the first 10 years of Happy Ghosts which released in April 2016 (albeit delivered 12 years into their career). The 18 track album captures songs from throughout their history and includes two new tracks recorded with Ashley on vocals, “Pistols and Credit Cards” and “Pattie and Robert”.
A fifth full length Happy Ghosts album, “Divergent Theories” containing 12 new tracks was released in October 2018. The album has one track, “Doesn’t Mean It’s Right” sung by Carrie Barr and Andrew’s brother Jon contributes guitar and backing vocals to a number of other tracks. The album gathered numerous positive reviews with Happy Magazine stating that “Across their twenty-album-deep discography, the band have formed one of the most unique bodies of work in Aussie music”. The album is an audio-visual release with a video being produced for each of the twelve tracks. There is a playlist accessible on YouTube to view the video clips. In addition, the album was an entry in the Three D Radio Top 100 +1 artists for 2018.
Happy Ghosts continue to write and record with new material expected in 2019.
Andrew Muecke was approached by his brother James Muecke to work together on creating a Drum and Bass focused album. The album was fully recorded using a Roland Fantom X6 synthesizer console and guest vocalists were invited to perform the lyrics written by James. The tracks the two recorded together were Without You, Groovetube, Your Own Way, Beautiful Dream, Better Love and Showtime. The full 12 track album (with an additional six tracks solely produced by James) was released by Turmeric Records in 2008.
Andrew Muecke wanted to explore the use of the Roland Fantom X6 synthesizer console as a recording instrument rather than a programmable workstation and the idea was to use it to create an ambient album in the style of David Sylvian and Mark Isham. Andrew set some strong parameters to work within and set himself the goal of recording the core tracks for the album in the space of a fortnight. Each night a new song was written with mixing to be done at the completion of the recording. The resulting album, “Thoughts of Empathy” was released in February 2008. The album was given some support by ABC Radio National and is still used in a number of areas for meditation assistance.
Although their time in At Random finished in 2002, Jon and Andrew Muecke continued to work together. A one-off recording, “Peace” under the name “Gallerry” was produced for a documentary in 2007.
This led to a more formal project being undertaken called “Rise” which produced the double-single CD containing the tracks “Alone” and “Near” in 2008. A film clip was recorded in the historic “Barr Smith Library” at the Adelaide University for “Alone” and both tracks received airplay on community and commercial radio. These songs included keyboards from Alexia Cunningham and Alexia expressed an interest in working collaboratively with Jon and Andrew on new recordings.
Initially a live band was put together in 2009 including Abbie Cardwell (vocals), Alexia Cunningham (keyboards) with Jon Muecke (guitar) and Andrew Muecke (bass). The band played a series of shows and a live-to-air performance on Three D Radio, Adelaide. A range of new songs were written to support these performance as an original band.
Alexia, Jon and Andrew then worked together on a one off track called “Best off Moving On” (under the moniker “Red”) which was commissioned for a documentary to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Holden Ute.
Abbie Cardwell left the unit to focus on a solo career and Alexia Cunningham stepped up to take over vocal duties. A re-energised three piece unit of Alexia, Jon and Andrew, settling on the name “Group Therapy” embarked on recording an album.