Monthly Archives: April 2010

Don McGlashan – ArtTalk

I love it when you go to something expecting a worthy and sober interview between serious people and instead are treated to a lively and animated discussion.?? I got that with Marcus Chown at the Auckland Writers and Readers Festival last year and I got it again with Kirsten Johnstone interviewing Don McGlashan in the Art Talk for the #nzfest.
McGlashan has been spending a lot of time writing for film, TV??and theatre recently, including Matariki, This is Not My Life and Ship Songs which was one of the shows on at the Festival.?? He said that it was interesting writing music that interweaved with a story about 'sea faring and risk'. He saw it as a 'metaphor for revealing self. What happens when we fail to tell our own stories or when we are written out of history? Why is one story bigger than another? There's the private story and the mythical story and the big real story.' He urges all of us to tell our stories.
He doesn't mind writing for other people.?? In New Zealand there are a small number of artist so 'we tend to be singer/songwriters. There's a sense freedom in writing for someone else, imagining how someone else might sound.'?? He doesn't mind writing to particular parameters either.????'It's collaborative, more fun, meet lots of people and??work with other kinds of storytellers.' He's??'amazed at similarities although the??craft,??and media??are different. It's great to suspend worry about whether this?? what??I want to do.??Get to??use all storytelling antennae. Music can help balance or weight story.' It gives him a 'way to work with music that has bigger budget, allow other exploration.' He 'gets a kick out of witing a song for a film if I like the story.'
He believes that "making art is just noticing things." Artists are a kind of 'membrane. Artists are like sieves moving through the world.??The point??is to??notice the world and somehow make into art. The??artists job is to present it to the world.'
He says that 'Acting is the shy persons revenge on the world.' He's??'more comfortable when I have a role, my happiest place is in the corner of the room with my back to wall where I can watch people.'????He has a ??'rigorous and regular habit' of writing a journal which he considers is 'writing a letter to myself about art. It's not just a diary. "I went here, I did this". It's a way to be in dialogue with myself.'?? He recommends it to young artists to help them??'get to know yourself, what kind of artist you're turning into.' He??described it as being an archaelogist and??uncovering different layers of understanding. 'That's the feeling you should have when you write your journal. [It's your ] "job as artist to know different layers of own emotional life."'?? Part of the benefit from writing a journal is that he feels there's always a creative process going on. He's 'never happier than when on the trail of a good idea.'
When he's writing he??'starts with a big scaffolding of ideas. Work away at it, things fall away.' He recommends that you??'write stuff for yourself. Not as therapy but first audience.'???? Part of that is including place names in the songs.?? He makes an??active choice to put a place into a song.??In response to criticism that??people from overseas won't know where e.g. Dominion road is he says??'what matters is that its a good song, place name is evocative and??only an adjunct to the song.'?? (Apparently overseas fans want an exact list of locations so they can visit all the places he sings about.)?? Once the song is recorded he says??'how can I??tell you how to listen to it? Let it go.??I don't care.' (Even if he is surprised by the songs that people have as favourites and why.)
He talked about??growing up in New Zealand and the??'small number of templates for being a man. Think it is changing. Any man standing up who is not an All Black or woodchopper can help change.' (Apparently someone wrote their phd thesis on Don not being typical in rock.)

McGlashan performs tonight as part of the Bellbirds??at LATE02 at Auckland Museum.