When illustrator Michael Camilleri called Martin Martini in the middle of the night and asked him what sort of mushroom he would be, he was only a little bewildered. It’s not a question a person is usually asked, but he didn’t hesitate in answering.

“I said, a morel! My partner and I go mushroom hunting in our spare time and the morel is a very special mushroom to us. There’s a line in one of the songs, ‘the mushroom man is always looking down’,” he said. “So, in this book, he turned my head into a giant morel.”

The book in question comes as part of Martini’s latest album, Vienna 1913, released through his recently established vinyl-only label, Pound Records. In contrast to the rambling, stripped back sound of the album, the packaging is slick, containing a 50 page graphic novel bringing to life a lush fantasy world of gods and monsters, inspired by the music.

“The recording has been made with just one microphone and it was unrehearsed and raw. So I like that juxtaposition of giving somebody something that’s quite rough and unpolished and wrapping it up in something beautiful.”

The decision to release only on vinyl is a conscious attempt to return to basics. The label was born out of an evening of impromptu recordings at The Pound, a crumbling former dairy farm and coffin factory in Malvern, Victoria.

“The main reason I wanted to put these recordings out on vinyl is so people can have a more intimate listening experience. We kind of listen to half a song, or a quarter of a song and we whack it in our ears while we’re running from one place to another. We don’t really sit with the music,” he said.

Vienna 1913 was born from The Vienna Project, a 2011 commission by the National Gallery of Victoria which musically explored Vienna’s major modernists. In comparison to the Bone Palace Orchestra, Martini’s former band, the songs are much more relaxed.

“I used to put a lot of stress on what kind of show am I gonna do; it’s life and death and it’s gotta be amazing. Now I’ve sort of realised that there’s other things in life that are more important like a day job and being a father. Just living a real life,” he said. “So I’ve been working as a labourer for 3 or 4 years now. I go to work, and I get dirty and my body hurts, then I get home and make music later. It feels like a good place to be an artist from.”

But, while Martini admits he doesn’t “feel the need to be shouting as much as I used to” there are still a few numbers to keep the crowd moving.

“It does get a bit raucous at times and a bit rough. It’s not all laid back.”

Martini describes The Pound, where Vienna 1913 was recorded, as “almost like a halfway house” for musicians – with people coming and going, but maintaining the communal spirit of sharing and storytelling that drives Pound Records.

“I don’t want to put any music out on this label that you can’t actually sit around with a group of friends and sing. I want the music to be at its most basic, as a form of storytelling.”

The Pound itself is falling to the ground. The front of the house is sinking into the mud, roots are coming up through the floor and, most recently, a storm blew the roof off. However, Pound Records is less about the physical space and more about the attitude.

“It’s not so much that all the recordings are getting made in that place, it’s more about what that place signifies. It’s a way of life,” he said. “That place will fall to the ground in the next year or so. It hasn’t been built to last. It’ll die eventually and the idea of The Pound will go somewhere else. It’s not really fixed to that house as a primary place, but it’s definitely had its birth there.”

Vienna 1913 is available for purchase from November 30th from www.poundrecords.com.

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Martin Martini and The Bone Palace Orchestra Funeral Show, August 14th 2009. (Photo by Dee Dee Magee).

Alex Johnson

Our guest writer Alex has a fantastic blog called Pop Culture Boner which we love and definitely recommend you check out.

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