Track By Track: The Cat by Ben Salter

The Cat
Walking down the street in New Farm where I used to live, there was this large Maori family that lived about a block away in a big red brick house – the daughters would sit on the back steps, comb their hair and sing. True. The boys would kick the footy in the back yard. They had these tortoise shell cats that bred and soon there were about five of them running about.

I was on my way to the bus stop one fine Brisbane day to catch the 199, and I spied one of the cats staring with that determined but ultimately hopeless cat expression as a group of some bird or another – probably mynas – ducked and swooped above. All the words came in a huge rush, something that almost never happens. I don’t write songs very much. I sat at the bus stop typing them into my phone, kept typing on the bus, and finally sent the whole thing as a text to Bridget (from The Gin Club), and asked her to write it down somewhere so I wouldn’t forget it. Took me ages to get the music to fit it. Never thought the chorus chord change would work but it kind of does.

The Coward
Was originally entitled ‘Yellow’ but Coldplay had a big hit with a song called ‘Yellow’ so I thought I should change it. Really just demonstrates what a snob I am – ‘West End Girls’ and ‘Once In A Lifetime’ didn’t get the chop. I am somewhat disappointed in myself in retrospect. Should have just kept it as it is. Coldplay never hurt anyone. Around the time I wrote it – 1999 or 2000 – I had that phrase stuck in my head – ‘Networking Eternally’. I had this big poem about the XXXX brewery, cause I lived in Milton and could see the sign from my back steps. I liked to imagine that the XXXX was a message from someone that had been censored.

I wrote this song along with ‘Digging Up The Past’ for the second Wilson Pickers album, Shake It Down, but it was rejected. This was not an issue, was just one of those things – wasn’t really suitable for Pickers to be honest, although Bedge was pretty keen on it, bless him. Anyway, I kept it. That was one of the few times in my life I have sat down and tried to write a song and I got two. Maybe I should do it more often but feels too much like real work.

The Mailbox Song
Incredibly old. I think we used to play this in our busking group Trampoline at the Stock Exchange Hotel in the city – Friday happy hour – free beer and wine for an hour. You can imagine how that turned out. I was pretty excited about the whole metaphor when I wrote it; seems pretty trite now. But it’s a good pop song I think.

German Tourist
I wrote this song when a bunch of us went to Fraser Island for Bridget from The Gin Club’s birthday. Fraser Island is amazing. For the anoraks it is in DADGAD tuning which is the favoured tuning of your old cadre of English folkies like Davey Graham, Bert Jansch etc. There are a few Zeppelin tunes in it, also; most notably ‘Kashmir’. Gareth [Liddiard, co-producer] named it ‘German Tourist’. At that stage I had no idea he had a song (let alone an album) called ‘Strange Tourist’. I feel manipulated somehow.

West End Girls
Had the idea for this song for ages, still not totally happy with the lyrics. It should be subtitled: ‘The Road To Hell Is Paved With Good Intentions’. Secret ingredient: “The Buddha Box”. My best friend Richard from HITS, who is basically a West End institution, has mixed feelings about this song. Well, they’re not that mixed – he hates it. I think maybe he thinks one of the lines is about him, but it’s not. IT’S NOT, RICH. Still, it is pretty negative and no one likes a h8er, except everyone on the Mess+Noise forum.

Know Your Strength
This song is by Bobbo [Robert F. Cranny, co-producer], so I don’t really know what it is about. But it’s amazing, melodically indestructible, like all of his tunes. It came up really well, I think.

I Am Not Ashamed
This started as a kind of waltz that we tried to make work with The Gin Club, but we have enough bloody waltzes. I always liked the lyrics – one of them was written by Mike Noga when The Gin Club took Gentlemen of Fortune on tour with us. Mike and I decided to try and write a song via text message while on a drive across country NSW to a gig in Wagga Wagga. We were in separate cars, obviously. Anyway, I stole one of them as I needed more lyrics for this song. When we went to record it no one was happy with it as a waltz so I started playing it all neurotic and punky and I think we ended up keeping the third take or something. Possibly the guide vocal too, not sure. Love the Korg. Grandaddy.

Things Fall Apart
This was the most recently written song on the album, and therefore my favourite. I want the whole next album to sound like this. Lots of fancy words in it – took me 10 years to get that damn arts degree, have to employ it for something. Someone asked me in an interview, “So what’s with all the big words?” FFS. My favourite word currently is “nomenclature”, just by the way. Try using that in a sentence and stay fashionable.

So Tired Tonight
Another very old song, maybe 10 years old. Ripped off Shellac for one of the lyrics.

Once In A Lifetime
This song was originally recorded for the Young Liberals album The Young Liberals meet T.H.E.L.E.G.E.N.D Uptown, our fifth album. Donnie Miller and I were just arsing about at the Foundry, beloved recording studio; there was this chord progression that I’d had stuck in my head. Absolutely fell in love with the song and spent AGES trying to replicate the original at Havilah [studio]. I still think I like the original better. That’s called “demoitis”: most famous exponents The La’s. Features some sick guitar and vocal work from Tom Lyngcoln who is the best.

Last Night I Dreamt I Was Chasing You
Old old old. Old old old. We found an old clock in the bottle shop carpark at Myrtleford when the car broke down (again). Used that. Also got some sweet skronk courtesy of Julien Wilson, Peter’s Hurdy Gurdy. Gareth really went to town on the mix of this one, sounds amazing, I think. It’s his favourite song; what a giant sook. Then again, I wrote it. I LOVE SEMI-COLONS.

Ben in 2011!

So yet another re-post today first published on the old and long dead website Mess + Noise in 2011, sorry I didn’t take note of the month this time. The Cat was Ben’s debut solo album who’s he’s been a member of a lot of Aussie bands over the years, he does name some, if not all of them above. He’s now up to solo album number three, released late last year entitled Back Yourself which I’ve included just above too, just in case you now want to listen to his new stuff too? Please do let us know if your digging Salter’s music, before or even after seeing/listening to it here?

Cheers 🙂




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