Q&A: Totara Jack
Previously best known for his copious chops as a Jazz session player, Cameron Deyell has again been putting those skills to good use, but this time for his own project, as Totara Jack. With a unique sound, aided by time spent absorbing the exoticisms of India, and fellow possessors of impeccable chops, drummer extraordinaire Laurenz Pike, and producer Lachlan Carrick, buddies from their time spent Jazzing it up as part of the Jazzgroove nexus, he doesn’t sound like anybody else, which is in itself an achievement. Let’s take a moment, and immerse ourselves in all things Totara Jack….
In a little room in New Delhi I chime away at shapes and riffs I like on my electric guitar. I sing a sparse whispery vocal over the top because I still don’t like the sound of my own voice. When I invite him over, my friend Laurenz from PVT plays killer drums to these tunes, but there’s still lots of space. And no bass.
Who makes up your band?
It’s all me, baby. After years of playing in bands in Sydney, this is my first solo project.
What were your influences when you first started writing music?
I was a teenage jazz snob. Totally absorbed in the amazing music being made in the Auckland and Sydney underground jazz scenes. Everyone from Phil Slater to Nathan Haines, Carl Dewhurst to Roger Manins.
And what are your influences now?
I love artists who build their own worlds themselves. A few seconds is all you need to tell who it is. Son Lux makes these amazing intricate layers of strata and sits his voice bare on top. At the opposite end of the spectrum is King Creosote who uses space and simplicity in ways I’m envious of. And Connan Mockasin reminds me the most important thing is to make music in your own unapologetic way, life’s too short.
What are you working on at the moment?
Yesterday here in Delhi I recorded some guitar for my friend from Bondi’s new project that he’s making in the back if a tour bus in the US. Recently I played guitar on this hauntingly beautiful new ballad by Sia. Over the last 2 years I’ve co-written a new album by Lior. It’s nearly done. We wrote some of it staying overnight in a turret of a Fort Palace in the Rajasthani desert.
What do you think about India’s music scene?
There’s a spooky 650 year old Sufi tomb 20 mins from my house. Every Thursday a family of Qawwali singers sit on the same spot their great granddad’s did and sing spine tingling songs. That’s my idea of a ‘scene’.
Who are you digging?
How good is ‘Another’ that new Seekae song?! Wow. And the film clip! I also really like the 3D clip for PVT’s great song ‘Vertigo’, it’s a live performance inside a sealed truck.
Any interesting stories?
Here in India, every day is a crazy happening and an embarrassing incident! Two journalist friends of mine and I just rode motorcycles over the Himalayas. My friend Joe Tawadros, the Oud player is staying at my house and at his gig on the weekend the Maharaja of Jodphur introduced him to Mick Jagger.
A week ago my old friend Bertie Blackman and I slept in a Darjeeling Tea Garden, drank fermented rice wine and talked about songs we’ll write one day that will sound like The Pretenders.
Where are you playing next?
I’m moving to LA next year and I’ll form a band that will use these songs already recorded as Totara Jack as a starting point. I want to see where these songs will grow. I feel like I’ve started something that I want to do for a long time.
Check out our post for the premiere of his debut clip here.