Guy Pearce

TIME OUT, 2014

What were you afraid of? What was he afraid of? Guy Pearce’s musical effort is up to his usual high standard, says Jenny Valentish.

Guy Pearce was absolutely not going to release any music, but the evidence that said otherwise was the home recording studio.

“I was thinking to myself, as I was watching the builders build it, this means one day, I’m going to have to actually get past the fear,” he laughs over a coffee in a South Melbourne pub. His appearance here has left whisperers in his wake, most of whom are reminding each other of his classic movie moments: Prometheus; The Proposition; Factory Girl; LA Confidential; Memento. They’re not aware of the music career yet.

“All the money I’ve ever earned from jobs in the past has gone on gear,” Pearce adds wistfully, as we consider that growing home studio: his subconscious made bricks and mortar.

Perhaps his fear of being lumped in with Jason, Kylie et al decades after they had their hits had become a bit of a self-made prison, I suggest.

“It wasn’t self-made, let me tell you,” he retorts. “If you’re on a TV show like Neighbours and you mention music, then nine trillion people – whether they’re friends, colleagues, journalists – go, ‘Ohhh. Really?’” He lays the patronising tone on thick.

“I thought, ‘Yeah, you’re absolutely right’,” he continues. “’I shouldn’t inflict my stuff upon the world.’ And this was the story that I’d run with and amplified, so to let it out after 25 years of build up was a bit of a hurdle.”

So preemptively, he’d imagined what journalists would say–

– “and got in before anybody else did,” he finishes.

That’s a very English thing to do.

“That’s right. Well, I am English.”

Pearce is now stuck with a different script, for the next few weeks at least: not the ‘Why Did You Have to Release Music, Guy?’ story, but the ‘Hey Guy, Tell Us How Worried You Were’ story. Once the album, Broken Bones, is out in November, it will speak for itself. It’s meditative, ambient guitar music with layer upon layer of vocals. Actually, it’s quite high-inducing, I venture. ‘Overflow’ comes on like a pill. First single ‘Storm’ has bongy meanderings. ‘Golden Heart’ is as warm as cough syrup. I’m seeing fractals…

“Right,” he laughs. “Well, I have had a bit of a history with medication, so… But no, I just really love lush production and detail. Think of the layers you can delve into with Genesis and ELO, and even the later Beatles stuff. I’m a huge Peter Gabriel and Kate Bush fan, and I love the richness of that kind of recording. If you look at the ProTools sessions of my songs, there’s the band tracks and then there’s 400 fucking vocal tracks.”

Pearce wrote and produced the album at home, before heading to Neil Finn’s studio in New Zealand in 2011 to record his demoed songs with a band. He completed the album in Melbourne with John Butler’s former rhythm section, Shannon Birchall and Michael Barker, backed on vocals by old friend Rebecca Barnard. She will also join him on his Sydney and Melbourne live dates – not the first time they’ve sung on stage together. The pair used to provide guest vocals for Guy’s old schoolmate Tim Neal, and his outfit the Unconscious Brothers. As for the Finn connection, Pearce had appeared in the MTC’s Poor Boy back in 2009, singing his songs. “I was a big Split Enz fan, but I certainly didn’t want to say to Neil or Tim, ‘Hey, do you want to be part of this, man?’” he says quickly. “Like I’m sure everyone else does.”

After our interview, Pearce will head out to see alt-country great Joe Henry play at the Recital Centre, but beyond his own Sydney and Melbourne dates, he’s not sure where music will take him. “I don’t look ahead very often, to be honest.”

And it’s not like he has time to. This year has seen the release of dystopian road movie-meets-Western, The Rover (“it was hard work wasn’t it? It’s not a barrel of laughs”). Earlier in the year he was in Austin, Texas, playing an Aussie fitness instructor in Results alongside Cobie Smulders and Kevin Corrigan, and he’s just finished filming futuristic love story Equals in Japan with Kristen Stewart and Nicholas Holt.

“I’ll continue making music, always, but if the world says, ‘This is horrible, you should never do this again,’ I’ll go, ‘All right.’ I certainly don’t think, I’ll have a pop career now. I’m too cynical and old to think like that,” he says.

As long as there are long stints on remote movie sets he’ll be producing music in some form, though. “I really enjoy writing songs as a way of letting the film go in bursts,” he says. “I can’t write music when I’m at home.”

He needs the loneliness of the hotel room.

“Absolutely,” he agrees. “The vastness of the mini bar.”

Originally published in Time Out Melbourne.