Neil Porter, know to macjammers as jiguma, is 58 years young and lives on the beach in the middle of nowhere, someplace in Australia. He’s a survivor of early band days, a young man’s rock-n-roll excesses, of a high stress job and the burden of all the secrets a psychologist holds inside (especially one that is a team leader/senior administrator), and now lives in his isolated Eden, connected to the world by the Internet and a powerful soul.
Not only his unique voice, organic grooves, outstanding lyrics and solid sense of melody give his tracks a signature sound. The way he mixes and layers his music is unlike anything I’ve heard. I can tell a jiguma track the moment it starts. (I love that.) If you listen from his earliest to his most recent, you will hear steadily increasing production/mixing abilities, which is one of the things this site gives many members. Plus, his songs have a conscience. His song writing is strong from top to bottom…
Here are some of my favs:
– Too Many Ghosts
– Coastal Daze
– Blown Away (w/ziti)
– SOMEWHERE DEEP
– BLUE POOL (w/Anne Cozean/kevmikwa/alfalpha/Ms jig)
– Take All Night
– BIG DRY (w/Ms jig)
– Gulaga Dreaming
– ACROSS THE WATER
– WELL ENOUGH ALONE
– Northern Road
– Nashville Nights (to Neil Young)
– ALL FALL DOWN
– WALK AWAY
– SAYING SO YOU’LL KNOW w/kevmikwa
– WINDS OF CHANGE w/rtcooper
– Guantanamo Vacation w/Cydniko
– What If?
– Ship Of Fools (with stevel)
– Make Me Smile!
– Up To You
– Careful of the Undertow
– People Beyond Blue
– Doing The Eggshell Walk (w/ziti)
– The Golden Days
– Something About Her
– If God Is Love w/Alfalpha
– Simplify (Woodstock MJ)
– Deep Bosphorus
– Danger Signs
– Angel Eyes
– Clouds Across The Sky
– Occidental Sun
– Dark Nights by the “Rusty Dusty Brothers”
– A Certain Roundness (Marastique)
– Mixed Emotions
– Ripples in the Sand
My fav jiguma collaborations:
– Train (Coming ‘Round) Collab by Ed_Moran (w/jiguma)
– Naggie Maggie Blues by Joe Brady w/jiguma/rtCooper
– Nolan’s Unobtainable Remedy by Nolan
– There She Goes by Vic Holman (w/jiguma)
– Perfect Illusion by mikey_d (w/jiguma, Texasfeel)
– CRAZY MOON by Sil-VER (w/jiguma)
– Tonight ver2 by Ed_Moran (w/jiguma)
– Would it be different by apb (w/sonny jim/jiguma)
– Headful Of Smiles by Sil-VER (w/jiguma)
– Everybody Knows/Collab by rtcooper
– Baleful Waking Morn by rtcooper (w/jiguma)
– G’BYE MOON by rtcooper (w/jiguma)
– The Mist Comes Up The Valley by EJH (w/Mystified/jiguma)
– The same herd – multicollab by thoddi
– Let no one stay outside (multi collab) by thoddi
What is the origin of the name “jiguma”?
“When I first registered I had to make a quick decision on my login name, not really thinking that it would be what I ended up being called on the site. I had a small company making specialised databases for psychologists and special educators called Jiguma Solutions (named after the local Aboriginal name for the beach area where I live) so I just used that. No-one seems to actually know what ‘jiguma’ means – it’s just a place name (although it would certainly have a meaning if there was anyone still alive that spoke the local dialect).”
Does living in the middle of nowhere make MJ more appealing? Impact your music?
“We like to think of it as being the centre of the universe down here, but geographically I guess we are a little isolated. There are very few other places I would live. I suspect I would have become involved/addicted to MJ regardless of where I was living. I did computer studies when I was at university as part of my Bachelors degree – we used a huge machine called ‘George’ for programming and such. George had the power of a Nano iPod and took up a whole room in our Applied Sciences building. I’ve been involved with Macs in schools since the Classics were released, and developed a little niche for myself with IT in the school counseling service. Finding MacJams was meant to happen for me as it was the first time I could see a connection with IT and music (not being a keyboard player). It was also a time that I was becoming more and more unhappy with work. Could have been the same if I’d been living anywhere.
“Impact on my music in general is a different thing – if I was still living in Sydney I’d have a huge number of players to work with, bands to join etc. Down here, the choices are very limited. However, there is a thriving music scene down here. It’s just that everyone in it is quite a bit younger than I am.
“I think living here has certainly provided much of the stimulation for my lyrics – when you live in a small place for a long time you get to know it more intimately than a city – ‘the more you look the more you see’. Family is also a big inspiration of course.”
When did you start playing music?
“My very first musical memory (and maybe I just remember this because my mum told me about it) is playing a little ‘kettle drum’ whenever I got the opportunity – started before I started school, and trust me, that’s a VERY long time ago! Later on, when I was about 8 or 9, I convinced my parents that I’d like to learn an instrument – first choice was drums, then trumpet, but my parents decided that guitar would be more easy for them to tolerate. I had maybe 10 lessons before I realised that a) my hands were too small to do any bar chords, and b) I was the youngest in the class by about 10 years. I still thank my mum for walking me the mile and a half each way every Wednesday afternoon though! I sang in the Sydney Town Hall in a children’s choir when I was 11 or 12.”
Some great memories. Why did you want to get into music?
“My mum played piano (although we could never afford one) and dad played harmonica, learnt on British Navy ships in WW2. Corny as it sounds, I always had an affinity for rhythm – used to love watching Salvation Army bands when I was young – possibly had a crush on the tambourine player J – always attracted to drums.
“My first ever gig was playing lead guitar in a pick up band when I was about 16 – it was a school talent quest (which we won) and I still hate ‘When I’m 64′, which is what we played. After the ‘show’ I discovered that girls thought guys in a band were pretty cool, and my fate was sealed.”
What were some of your bands?
“In my early 20s I played in a few interesting bands in Sydney. I started with an unnamed band which did a few gigs – including a memorable one at a girls boarding school where one of the young ladies wanted us to smuggle her out. Being gentlemen, we of course declined her associated kind offer. Here’s a list of some of the bands:
“Triton – a 3 piece jazz band in the style of ELP or Brian Auger (in our dreams at least): B3 Hammond, bass and drums – playing all original tunes, mainly written by the keyboardist/vocalist. Strange little band, but I loved being near a B3! We did some recording for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC).
“Marastique was an unusual line-up of mainly acoustic instruments with electric guitar and electric bass. We had a fantastic lead singer and everyone except me sang harmonies – I still haven’t fathomed how bass players can sing at the same time as playing! Some recording done at studios on the Northern Beaches of Sydney.
“My next (and probably my most) serious band was The Rusty Dusty Brothers (with Joe – aka ILoveVariousArtists at MJ). It was a really nice little acoustic trio until the drummer and I joined and turned the shy folkies into rock gods (do you like that one Joe?) We played country rock – emphasis on the ROCK, and ‘we coulda been a contender’ until I apparently volunteered to leave in early 1976.
“I briefly joined a fun band with an electric violinist, The Great Dividing Band, before heading for a 12 month drive around Europe.
“Played in some covers bands where I currently live: 4 Wheel Jive (aka Harnett’s Chips) and Stir the Possum (a slightly feral bush band with Fairport inclinations but not much skill).
“I have no musical theory training, and apart from those 10 lessons when I was 9, am completely self taught – I can’t read a note. I did a lot of jamming with friends in my late teens and early 20s – mainly playing my 12-string Maton or bass. Played right through university, and in the first (and only) 2 years of my teaching ‘career.’ Had the opportunity to play with some outstanding Australian rock musicians during the early 70s.”
“Playing with the iconic (in Australia at least) Tamam Shud – only did two gigs filling in for their bass player Peter, but they were a very cool band and I want it known… Just a lowlight really as it turned out, but getting booked to back Frank Zappa at the Sydney Hordern Pavillion was a huge break for us – shame we ended up having to pull out just before showtime due to a booking error.”
“In the late 60s I was listening to a lot of British RnB (‘proper’ RnB, not what passes for it these days) and rock – Them, The Animals, Free, etc etc – as well as The Beatles, Cream, Hendrix, Traffic etc. Moved on to bands like Yes, Gentle Giant, Genesis, ELP when playing in Triton (for obvious reasons) and then to The Byrds, Poco, Eagles, Flying Burrito Brothers, Gram Parsons, Emmylou Harris, CSNY later on. The Beach Boys were an influence throughout most of my life. Lots of other influences (such as Bowie, Steely Dan) since.
Do you remember the first song you ever wrote?
“Interestingly, I’ve just posted the first song I ever wrote (Simplify) – I always thought it was a pretty good song, but in both Marastique and RDB there were very strong writers, and it was pretty well impossible to get anything past them. It sounded a lot quieter when Marastique rehearsed it, but had a flute and congas, so it can’t have been too bad. I have remembered the chords and lyrics for Simplify for nearly 40 years (but I can’t remember chords and lyrics to anything else I’ve posted at MJ!)”
Do you have a band currently?
“I like to think of MJ as my current extended ‘band’ – lots of people to play with. My most recent musical project has been my CD through The Lost Records, using quite a few MJers in various ways. I play with a group of ‘celtic’ musicians once every couple of months, and occasionally with Alf (MJer alfalpha) when we get a chance, and once with Ross (MJer Myshkin). I have a presence on a number of other music sites, but MJ is by far my preferred site.”
What do you do for a “living”?
“I’m a senior psychologist with the NSW Department of Education – a team leader of a group of 7 psychologists working in schools in a 2 hour radius from my home. I’ve also been developing an IT network and training for school counsellors in our broader region (maybe 200 people). It is in this role that I have learnt the meaning of the word ‘Luddite’! Currently I’m on leave from the job, and keep myself busy with various community organisations (for whom I’m running blogs and setting up web pages) and exercising (gym, swimming, bushwalking, surfing).”
Why are you on leave? Did you do it specifically to make more music?
“I’ve had a number of periods of long leave in my career – usually to travel, but often to just de-stress from what can be at times a very stressful job. I had 15 months off in 2006/7 with the idea of retiring at the end of it and doing all the other things (including making music, both at MJ and live) that you want to do when you have no time. Against my better judgement, I went back at the end of 2007 to finalize a few things before retiring this July. Unfortunately, the stress caught up with me and I burnt out (in quite a blaze!) after 8 weeks. I’m now on sick leave. Family and colleagues alike are glad I’m not working at the moment I think – they were quite concerned about my health.”
Is you health better now?
“As long as I don’t go near a school my health is fine. I think I’m just a delicate soul who just tried to push the work envelope a little too far.
“I’m certainly happy not working (although I’m doing some webpages and blogs
for local community groups as well as picking up a Treasurer position on a
small committee). Sometimes I think that I miss the STRUCTURE of work –
it’s just the stress of work I don’t handle well.
“I live in a fairly isolated part of the far south coast of NSW in Australia. I’m married with a 27 year old daughter and a beautiful nearly 2 year old granddaughter. I have lots of time for music, although I’ve discovered that I’m much more productive musically when I’m at work. Having extra time just means I have more time to be finicky about details on my tracks. Work expands to fill the time available!”Anything we Macjammers don’t know about you? (that you’d like to share)
“I don’t think I’ve held much back from the MJ community – I’m a doting grandfather with the most beautiful granddaughter in the world, I enjoy traveling to places which test me linguistically, I ride a vintage Vespa scooter (until I’m allowed to buy a proper bike), I cook regularly and my dear wife says I am good at it.”
What are you goals, musically?
“I’d really like to do some live playing again, even if it’s just as a bass player in a local band. Ideally I’d like to get a band together to play small festivals down here, doing original songs – the reality is that I don’t know that I have the confidence to do that anymore – we’ll see. I’ve also been toying with the idea of a virtual band – a set group of musicians from MJ and elsewhere to do a CD. It would be people who can cover the bases for a live performance and most of whom write – we’ll see where this goes (if it gets off the ground).”
What obstacles have you overcome in your musical career/endeavors?
“Time to stand up and be counted I guess ….. when I played in bands, I found the natural link between bands and things addictive had quite a strong impact on me, mainly because, while my attraction to such things was strong, my ability to cope with them wasn’t – if you get my drift. Leaving music to travel overseas with my partner (now wife) Jan was greatly beneficial to my musical career as I’m still around to have one.”
Care to share more about “things addictive”?
“I guess by ‘things addictive’ I mean the usual: drinking and smoking too much, not to mention the addictive nature of (presumed) impending success. The alcohol and smoking were pretty out of control for a while which made me much less of a musician and much less enjoyable to be with. The way all of the above took over my/our life was not good.”
What role did you wife play in helping you survive?
“Jan is my childhood sweetheart, the first girl I ever went out with. We were in the same year at high school and it took considerable plotting on my part to eventually make our relationship a permanent arrangement. That didn’t happen until we were in our early twenties (the early 70s) – we married in 1978. Jan tolerated all the band bullshit and was there with an alternative option when I was no longer a part of the band. We just travelled around Europe (she’s a languages teacher) for a year or so – GREAT therapy!”
You play several instruments on your MJ tracks. What’s your main instrument?
“I’ve seen myself as a bass player for 40 years, but it’s hard to have a good time playing bass by yourself, so I’ve developed my skills on guitars to make life a little more interesting. I’ve had my 12 string Maton since 1970, and used to have periods where I’d drag it out and strum it – I also had periods of over a year when I forgot I had it (although I expect I was waiting for the pain to go from my hands after the previous time I’d played it). I bought my 6 string Seagull acoustic after I joined MacJams and after I realised I might be able to use it. My Telecaster came about 18 months later. I am obsessed with midi drums now, and although a good live drummer will always be better, I find my midi kit can be pretty realistic. I also mess about with pseudo B3 sounds on my keyboard and my trusty Irish whistle, recorders and a flute which I might learn to play one day. Almost forgot that I play harmonica and have a nice yellow tambourine.”
“1971 Fender Precision Bass; 1970 Maton FG150 12-string guitar; 2006 Fender Telecaster; Rode NT3 mic; Behringer UB802 mixer/preamp; iMac G4; Logic Express; Ozone 3; Yamaha PSR300 midi keyboard. I have a small studio which is about to move to a bigger space when I get my new iMac and Logic Studio in a month or so (when the new iMac comes out). Ozone 3 is a must have plugin for getting a crisp sound. My midi drum sounds are from the ns_kit7 collection.
What is your recording/mixing process?
“I usually start with a combination of unusual chords (I rarely use ‘regular’ chords because, being a bass player, I never bothered to learn many) that I like the sound of, and keep refining them and adding to them until I have something vaguely resembling a verse, a chorus, and, if I’m lucky, a bridge. I then annoy Jan for days playing these over and over again until some words leap into focus. I rarely have any idea of what a song’s going to be about at this stage. Eventually, I write some lyrics and then start to figure what it might be about – then I finish the lyrics. While the lyric writing is going on, I pick a drum loop which sounds about right for the song and just paste in 6 or 7 minutes of that loop. Then I play the various sequences in on my acoustic in a rough way. Next, I cut it up into one ‘verse’ one ‘chorus’ and one ‘bridge’ and lay it out in the structure I want. This basic track will be removed later on, as will the drum track. I then start layering in the various instruments, starting with guitars and bass – keyboards come next and then I make or find a roughly suitable midi drum loop or 2 and spread them out for the length of the song, making them into one midi track before starting to work on the drum track. Meanwhile, the lyrics are getting close to being finished. For the drums, I try to set up everything as close as I can for the song and then go in and ‘micro manage’ it – usually 2 or 4 bars at a time, with care being taken to look at each of the kit components’ part in the whole track. Once this is nearly right, I split the drum track into 5 separate midi tracks – kick, snare, hihat, other cymbals and toms – and work on each separately, including a separate type of compression for each. I always ask myself ‘could a human drummer play this?’ so the kit isn’t too bizarre – and often ask Mike Watkins (kevmikwa) the same question. Then I sing it – a hit and miss affair once I get to the harmonies.
“So, that’s how I record. I mix using my Sennheiser HD280 Pro phones and my Event ALP5 studio monitors. Usually I cut tracks back to the point where NOTHING goes into the red on the whole song and balance and pan with that as the baseline. It’s a black art. Mastering is with Ozone 3 – again, a black art helped by listening to stacks of music in my life. Basic rule is to not let anything into the red.”
What is your strongest point, musically?
“My strongest points musically are the things which make me different from other people: unusual voice, unusual guitar style, individual bass style, localised, accessible lyrics and different melodies and chord progressions.”
” I’ve always seen my voice as my weakest point musically, in that I can’t ‘belt it out’ without losing pitch. I get around it by writing songs and melodies that don’t require it. My lead guitar playing is a bit average too – overly repetitive and haphazard. If I could be highly skilled in one area it would be keyboards. I’d love to be totally comfortable playing keys.”
How do you come up with a song?
“Chords then lyrics. Melody lines seem to be already in my head. Sometimes the lyrics aren’t! I have a stack of ‘songs’ without lyrics. There’s quite a genesis in the feel of most of my songs from start to finish – often there’s very little resemblance between the starting point and the finished song. Choosing instruments makes a big difference to the sound – do I give the acoustic or the Tele the main role (or if I’m feeling brave, the B3)?”
“Get the best gear you can afford – especially a microphone.
“It took me a long, long while to accept that I could sing, mainly because when I tried to sing like my vocal heroes (Sting, Jack Bruce and Rick Danko – interestingly, all bassists) my voice sounded awful. Once someone convinced me that my voice sounded OK (at MJ – I think Adam Clarke may be partly responsible) it gave me some encouragement to write and sing my own songs.
“Major tip is to make the most of the constructive criticism you get at MJ. Each time I got a suggestion about a song (either musical or production wise) I tried to incorporate it in my next song. Asking Ikhabod Pain for a crit once was, at the same time, both rather humiliating and extremely useful.”
Has Macjams been helpful to you?
“LOTS of helpful/inspirational experiences at MJ: Jim Bouchard’s long suffering advice on production; Mike Watkins support of my midi drumming attempts (and his great live drumming on a few of my songs); Anne Cozean’s gracious collaborations; the ridiculously positive comments on my first vocal song post at MJ; developing special relationships with individual MJers (too many to mention here); Coop convincing me I can play lead guitar (and B3!) – or maybe just too polite to tell me I can’t! Support from MJers for my CD, which was totally unexpected, but greatly appreciated. You get back what you put in – always try to listen and comment as much as you can on other people’s music. I try to be constructively critical if a song warrants it – it’s how I learnt how to do most of the things I now take for granted.”
What MacJams song you are most proud of?
“This seemed easy at first, and I chose ‘The Big Dry‘. Musically, it’s the first really good sounding guitar playing I’ve done, and I think the mix was pretty well ‘right’. There are still some things that bug me about it musically, but it just worked – a song I probably should have tried to sell. Lyrically, I think it tells a good story in a few words, but also gets across a lot of emotions at the same time.
“I have one other which I really love to play – ‘Walk Away‘ was really important for me to write. I was having some pretty major hassles at work and I really did have to ‘walk away’ for my own health. Musically, this is pretty subtle for me, and was the start of me taking notice of Jim Bouchard’s production techniques and advice. I like the playing generally, and especially the ‘B3′. Lyrically it’s emotionally charged and describes a very important event in my life.
“My more recent jazz/blues attempts have been rewarding too – ‘Things Must Change‘ was the first time I extended my vocals successfully (and a track on which I had my ‘dream band’ of MJers).”
You seem to enjoy collaborating on Macjams…
“I really enjoy all my collaboration projects. Perhaps the ones that stand out are the songs I’ve done with rtcooper mainly because there are a significant number of those and we gel together really well. Of these, ‘Everybody Knows‘ with Anne Cozean and Coop is my favourite. Playing with Anne and Coop is like having a band in some ways.
“I’ve also really enjoyed stuff I’ve done with Anne Cozean, Alf Solti, and Mike Watkins, Thor Oliversen who feel kind of like my MJ ‘band’ – I used them on my CD. I did three songs with SIL-VER, which was a fantastic learning experience for me, and also a couple of tunes with Fran Dagostino (again an amazing learning experience). Also really enjoy working with Vic Holman, Joe Brady, Jack Miller et al (sorry if I missed anyone). I haven’t done a collab yet which I haven’t enjoyed. The most satisfying have been the ones where Jan has joined in on harmonies …. just because J I have one coming up soon with two of my favourite MJers who I haven’t collaborated with before – really looking forward to getting that one finished.
Anything you want to add that I forgot to ask?
“MacJams has far surpassed any expectations I had of a ‘virtual musical community’ I just hope I can give back the great support and advice I’ve had over my 3 years of being on the site!”
CD REVIEW: Jiguma Dreaming