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The Necks

This experimental trio, founded in 1987, have been heralded as one of the greatest cult bands in Australia.

Interview with Chelsea Heaney.

With an entirely improvisational playing style, The Necks offer a live show that is always unique and transcends most ideas of genre and performance. Following the release of their 19th album Unfold this year, The Necks are back on the road and bring their celebrated live show to the Top End.

Off The Leash had a chat with drummer Tony Buck, breaking down what Darwinites can expect from their performance.

How would you describe your performance or playing style to someone who isn’t familiar with it?

Our playing style is one which takes place at perhaps a slower pace than a lot of other music people might be more familiar with. There is not really the idea of soloists or accompanists in the standard sense. The music sometimes sounds static or repetitive, giving the impression of a focus on those types of elements, but in fact is probably more concerned with change. It’s music that unfolds slowly and organically.

After playing together for such a long time, do you find your improvisational styles have changed?

I think over the years we have incorporated a great many different and varied ways of playing into our improvisations. Importantly though, these developments have never interfered with the basic ways in which we have always improvised. It is a bit like we are simply increasing our vocabulary but speaking the same language.

Do you have a way of communicating in performances about where things are going or do you just allow the music to flow completely organically?

I think the most important thing we do while playing is listening – we communicate through listening. Listening to how the music is unfolding is fundamental to the way we approach music making.

Are there any environmental aspects that affect your performance?

The room we play in, the circumstances of the event, the people there, the people who have organised it, the instruments we find ourselves playing, and what has been happening leading up to the performance all contribute to the way the music comes out. These more immediate aspects affect individual performances in the same way that 30 years of playing together and all our other experiences, musical or otherwise, contribute to our performances.

You realised your 19th album Unfold earlier this year. Did the recording process for this one differ from previous albums?

This latest record seems to occupy an interesting space between live performance approaches and our studio recordings. The tracks were recorded live in the studio with very minimal post-production. One or two overdubs at most and the final mixing didn’t interfere with the flow of the initial performance.

How often do you guys play together outside of live scheduled performances?

We don’t play at all together as The Necks outside of the concerts we perform. There are instances and situations where we might find one or other of us collaborating together outside of the group, but these are very different kind of music making situations and stand outside of The Necks activities. Although, as I referred to earlier, these experiences might feedback into the language of The Necks in some unforeseen way.

You made the decision to divide Unfold into four vinyl side length sections with no track numbering. Why did you decide to do that? 

We recorded those tracks with the specific aim of making pieces suitable for release on an LP record. Each track was made as an independent piece of music we felt stood on its own merits as a piece. In a sense, LP records project a certain hierarchy, a side A and side B, an ordering, which has the connotation of order or importance. We felt that we didn’t want to impose that kind of qualitative standard onto the music. It also gives the listener a kind of licence to make their own decisions about how they should listen to the record. A way to curate the record themselves.

See the event listing.

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