"Chimney's afire" is the cry whalers of yesteryear made when they harpooned a whale and a plume of blood and water spurted out of its blowhole into the air.
"It's a horrifying, brutal image, but the actual language is evocative and quite amazing," says Josh Pyke of the title of his new album, the follow-up to his ARIA Award winning debut 'Memories & Dust'.
While Pyke's interest primarily lies in the language of the time rather than the act of whaling itself, references of a nautical nature flow through the album.
"I've always been interested in maritime history... my ancestors were all whalers and Navy men, so I feel some kind of pull for that kind of life and history," he says.
Maritime themed books about Magellan, Moby Dick and Joshua Slocum's solo voyage around the world contributed to the imagery in the songs as well as childhood reminiscences and stories.
"Ever since I was a kid reading adventure books, especially Huckleberry Finn, I've always had the desire to jump on a raft and disappear down a river," says Pyke. "When I was growing up there was a beach town called Patonga that my family would go to every year. The song 'The Summer' is based on that town. Everyday I'd jump in a canoe and paddle up the river and set crab traps, or jig for squid from the wharf or get my dad to drive me to the next town to go surfing. I always think of those simple pleasures as the ultimate happiness, and so I think I relate solid, seafaring adventuring tales as the romantic, alternate universe that I'd want to live in if I was ever to throw it all away and disappear."
The album is more than a simple ode to seafaring though. Pyke traverses an ocean of memories, ideas and thoughts about everyday concerns, with stability and the notion of making up your own mind emerging as overriding themes.
He explores the concept of a home, what it means and why it's important; fate, and whether there is a plan for us all; getting older and what it means to settle down; responsibility; being careless or careful with people and the legacy one leaves when they go.
While these concepts aren't exactly unchartered musical territory, it's Pyke's unique way with words, sense of melody and quirky song structures though that set him apart from other singer/songwriters. His critically acclaimed debut 'Memories & Dust' collected three ARIA Awards, hit the charts at #4 and went on to sell 50,000+ copies. The album was released in the UK on Island Records, and Josh toured there extensively. A slot on the Glastonbury Festival bill preceded a run of sold-out theatre shows back home, followed by Homebake and the massive Big Day Out tour.
With 'Chimney's Afire', Pyke is set to anchor himself as one Australia's most talented artists. While he co-produced 'Memories & Dust' with Wayne Connolly (resulting in an ARIA Award for Producer of the Year), this time around he recorded and produced the majority of the record himself. In the studio, Pyke would perform the songs then dash into the control room to compile in Pro-Tools, as well as arrange the songs and direct the additional musicians.
"The main challenge was switching roles a million times a day and not losing that sense of fun when I was doing the performance side, and not losing the sense of objectivity when I had my producer's hat on."
While other artists have chosen to self-produce records because they haven’t been happy with earlier albums, this wasn't the case for Pyke.
"I've learned so much from people like Wayne Connolly, and I want to produce other artists in the future, so it seemed like the natural progression to develop my skills on my own record. At least that way if I was no good it'd be my own record and not someone else's that I'd be ruining!"
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