Transmutations & Other Changes

No, Time, thou shalt not boast that I do change:
Thy pyramids built up with newer might
To me are nothing novel, nothing strange;
They are but dressings of a former sight …

Sonnet 123, William Shakespeare
The Green Mist Khmer Ensemble… Once Upon A Time In Cambodia…

Have Rice No Have Luggage

So it’s been a while between updates and there’s a whole lot to catch-up on. I’ve just arrived back in Cambodia albeit without my luggage – lost somewhere between Melbourne and Phnom Penh – frustrating at the best of times but worse right now… there’s work to be done and a lot of people, not least myself, depend on the contents of that bag.

Oh well, it seems the universe is telling me to jettison some extra baggage and travel lighter. So, it’s a good thing that the things I really care about are more or less weightless – with the exception of ‘heavy on the one’ when it comes to gettin’ down with the funk! and that’s what’s coming up, CSP3 playing some mighty Cambo funk, something we’ve recently cooked up in recording sessions in Australia – the soundtrack to the Rat Catcher of Angkor Wat – with the addition of a brilliant horn section led by Jack Howard (Hunters & Collectors, Epic Brass, Midnight Oil).

But hey! without a change of clothes, and back in the tropical clime of Srok Khmer… CSP3 ain’t the only thing gonna get funky. The coming months, we’ll be planning some hot funky nights under the Phnom Penh skyline and looking forward to picking up where we last left off. It’s great to be back and great to play live shows with the mighty rhythm section Bong Sak and Phea Bass. Stay tuned for dates announced first week in November.

When I first landed in Cambodia’s capital Phnom Penh there was a great little bar called Talkin’ To A Stranger – a salubrious place for the expat scene and occasional live music and of course, if you’re from Australia, you’ll immediately recognise that the bar’s named after one of the coolest tracks in Australian rock’n’roll. I was there when CSP was first getting rolling, in fact we played on of our first shows there and the bar keep told me “mate…that Khmer chick you got…she can’t sing!”. It mad me laugh, I already the feeling that Srey Thy as she then was known, was quite likely a amazing singer if not the world class superstar she certainly proved herself to be.

Needless to say, Stranger Bar…as local tuk tuk’s called it…was already a pioneering venue and run by a great couple who loved supporting live music. Now Phnom Penh is a very different place… there’s still a thriving music scene but so much of the earlier magic has been lost under the blindingly fast development… also the impact of COVID and the very slow return of tourism. The mystery and the magic of wild, weird, wonderful venues such as Stranger, Snowy’s, early Sharky’s and later Equinox have all but disappeared. So I’m on a mission to find out what’s happening and the cool spots to check out live music around the Kingdom and part of this will be doing The Cambodian Space Project shows over the Xmas and New Year’s period.

ប្រជាជនខ្មែរភាគច្រើនមិនស្គាល់តារាចម្រៀងជើងចាស់ អ្នកនាង កាក់ ច័ន្ទធី ច្បាស់ទេ ប៉ុន្តែនាងមានប្រជាប្រិយភាពខ្លាំងនៅលើឆាកអន្តរជាតិ។ ទោះស្លាប់ក៏ពិតមែន ប៉ុន្តែទេពកោសល្យដ៏អស្ចារ្យរបស់នាងបានធ្វើឱ្យបរទេសជាច្រើនស្គាល់ប្រទេសកម្ពុជា🇰🇭

From the Barbarian Ship to the Space Ship – sliding doors and other portals.

From The Green Mist to Phnom Penh and back

15 years ago, I was back in my homeland Tasmania where I met up with a drummer Stuart Robertson aka The Tart, who’d reached out for musicians via a scrappy handwritten note on a music shop noticeboard… the message was atypical of these kinda muso seeks band seeks muso… but something caught my eye… in the bottom corner it noted in upper case MUST LOVE IGGY.

Well, I do indeed love Iggy… one of the first record covers that really drew my in, once I’d passed the stack of 60’s LP’s and The Beatles and The Stones was The Stooges – the debut studio album by American rock band the Stooges, released on August 5, 1969 and produced by non other than John Cale. The picture of the menacing looking band on the cover of this LP got me in…Today, I’ve got Iggy and Underworld’s super cool and very funny “smoking on the aeroplane” track Bells & Cirlces on hi-rotation… and let’s not forget… Channthy and I are eternally grateful for all the kind words and airplay Iggy gave us on his BBC radio show Iggy Confidential…heck… we even made a great tribute LP with a bunch of bands here in Cambodia. Check out Angkor Pop! or go buy yourself an original vinyl copy at Chan Rean’s Retro Shop in the Russian Market…

So back to the “must love Iggy” note, that’s where my Tasmanian group The Green Mist began. Over the years we’ve played very few live shows but we did kick off with a great album Next Stop Antartica and followed this with a trip to Cambodia… I’d just made my first visit. I had met some of the amazing trad musicians at Cambodian Living Arts and took the time to set-up some recording sessions in a tiny little studio. This was such an interesting cross-cultural hybrid it got me hooked on seeking more… meanwhile The Tart returned to Tasmanian and until recently, it’d been almost a decade since we’ve seen each other. We’re doing a lotta catch-up though and one of the best things has been augmenting TGM with the brilliant talents of Julitha Ryan. As I write, we’re still just wrapping up our most recent venture – a psychedelic rock opera called The Barbarian Ship. Performing just 2 nights in Melbourne as ‘proof of concept’ and there’s gonna be more to come.

We’re gonna need a bigger boat!

I don’t know what it is about boats, busses and space ships but this seems to be a recurring thing for me…I’ve just stepped off The Barbarian Ship and now back aboard The CSP. Thinking of the trajectory of music along the way, and all the good times here at shows in Cambodia, I do recall the first shows I really played here was with The Green Mist performing a live soundtrack to JAWS! It was on a floating pontoon and also at Sharky’s Bar.

The Green Mist with Julien on lap steel guitar, Davis Zunk on Bass and Tart on drums perform JAWS.

The Golden Phoenix

Over the next few months, I’ll be back at our studio on Fish Island and putting the final touches to the tracks for The Cambodian Space Project’s first new LP in almost 6 years. It’s the album I’m calling The Golden Phoenix and it’ll be a mix of funk, instrumental and other tracks featuring some of the excellent Khmer vocalists we’ve come to know and love working with over these last few years.

Time to get Boogalarized with The CSP3
Tacos Koppelli – Once upon a time known as The Alley Cat

Well, despite all the changes and landing back here luggageless… it’s not all bad news… there’s some excellent new music happening about the place, not least at venues including Back Street Bar, The Tin Hat, Cloud, Craft, Osar’s and of course, mainstay of the scene and an old fave, The Alley Cat – see, I still can’t get used to it’s new name despite the change and update… this is such a great place, hidden away but once you’re there, you’ll meet Dallas and Mark – the guys behind what is probably the longest running and best little bar serving up live music, Tex Mex food and plenty of talk and tales to be told across the little bar. But don’t let size get in the way… this is where The Cambodian Space Project’s first video was filmed… with the band performing up upon the very unstable little balcony over the bar… I can’t remember a whole lot of details about the day (or perhaps two days) but it sure was fun and it was a busy, chaotic time… drop into Tacos Koppelli and I’m sure Mark and Dallas can tell you a few stories and fill in the gaps. They’ve also got a great collection of memorabilia on the walls.

New Merch! CSP T-Shirts, It’s Garage Fest and more!

We have some fantastic new items in stock and this includes some of the original CSP t-shirts, silkscreen prints and more. Visit our online shop for Fish Island Records’s merch and nab yourself a very cool original design – produced by Das Shirt – offering plenty of options on size, international shipping right to your door! and awesome designs on quality shirts. Click the link and visit the shop right here !

Last Notes

I’m also working on a very special film here, it’s dedicated to a great friend and to the family and music community of Brian Wood. Brian’s life story is special (all our lives are) and it’s coming to an end. Brian has been a great part of the local music and arts scene and much loved for his running of Open Mic nights at The Harbour and more recently at The Laundry in Siem Reap but everything has changed since he received the worst news possible at a routine medical check-up – aggressive terminal cancer. As many of you know, I recently spent time with Brian in Siem Reap to record conversations on life while also document Brian’s prep for a last hoorah – a celebration of life that would bring together family and friends from around the world and showcase his ‘bucket list band’ The Rockestra – this was a sensational night at The Star Bar.

Making Movies

While spending time and documenting just a few of the chapters in the life of Brian Wood… I quickly saw that Brian’s openness to share stories “Julien…nothing’s off limits” and to show a deeply personal and moving time – facing death in Cambodia – there’s a story to be told and shared with the world. Essentially, Brian’s choices, to follow love, to choose to seek freedom and and adventure, to opt out of life in the West and choose to live and work (as an artist) in Thailand and Cambodia is fascinating. We’re going to show how this life choice is joyous, profound, uplifting and it rocks! It’ll be in the style of rockumentary and will have a brilliant rock’n’roll soundtrack made right here in Cambodia.

In the spirit of good times and great fun! the film is titled The Hollywood Hotdog Man – and yes, I had to do the Big Lebowski thing and check if “the Dude abides in regards to the title” but it’s storytelling that gravitates out from one passing chapter Brian’s fascinating life journey – centred around a time when Brian opened a contemporary art gallery in Siem Reap but soon saw that this concept would need some other kind of cash flow… thankfully the idea to open a hot dog cart right in front of the gallery and to name it Hollywood Hotdogs was an immediate success… more so, a hit with locals, especially Cambodian kids who’d love the moment when Mr. Hollywood would pick up a guitar and step out from behind the cart to sing “I’m Your Hollywood Hotdog Man”. Needless to say, I’m looking forward to seeing Brian Wood this week in Siem Reap and recording stories we will be sharing with you soon.

Brin Wood and the CSP3 jamming out at soundcheck for a Garage Fest! gig at FICAC, rural Kampot.

Going out with a bang!

Thanks to Brian Wood, I’ve been able to check in and meet a lot of talented singers and musicians such as Mikayla who I first spotted singing at the Open Mic Brian’s been running in Siem Reap. It’s this kind of thing, bringing people together, championing new talent and lending support to ideas like It’s Garage Fest! Cambodia that has been really cool – it’s also the direction of everything I’ve been doing to build up and create at Fish Island Community Arts Centre where our purpose built studio The Yellow Sub is busily recording great things – raw, garage rock, ethno sounds, reggae… heck! even rooftop sessions. I’ll be updating you all with more news soon but it’s more than a mouthful already and as Mr. Hollywood will tell you about things that can make a good hot dog as well as a good life “It’s all about the relish!”