Initially, Satellite Train was intended as a side project between friends. Michael Paynter of Icehouse is providing some of his strongest vocal performances when the group releases its debut material. Despite the fact that each song has a distinctive tone, we explore a variety of musical genres.
Michael Paynter of Icehouse, John Watson of James Reyne, John McCall of The Black Sorrows, Randy Jacobs of Paul Kelly, Shane O’Mara of Paul Kelly, Pasquale Monea of Stephen Cummings, Jamie Muhoberac of John Mayer, and Chris Chaney of Jane’s Addiction are all members of the band. Check out their song ‘Broken Heart’ and the exclusive interview below:
1. Can you tell us a bit about where you come from and how it all got started?
SATELLITE TRAIN: The group originally consisted only of Australian musicians, but American musicians have since joined. We began as a side project for musicians from various Australian bands. It’s just a bit of fun.
2. Did you have any formal training or are you self-taught?
SATELLITE TRAIN: It is a bit of both. The backgrounds of pianist John McCall and guitarist Shane O’Mara include both classical and jazz training. Several other musicians, such as Randy Jacobs and Pasquale Monea, picked up their instruments as children and became masters without any formal training. For instance, Randy has developed his own unique style of playing and has become a master of his instrument. The same is true of Pasquale, the bass player.
3. Who were your first and strongest musical influences and why the name ‘SATELLITE TRAIN’?
We are not really influenced by any particular bands, but rather by various genres of music. Because the band members come from very different musical backgrounds, their influences come into play. There has never been a statement that we prefer a particular sound. One of the musicians may mention that a part was inspired by an artist at times, but usually after they have played it, so it is not by design.
In terms of the band name SATELLITE TRAIN, we have am upcoming song entitled “Spacewalk” and were looking for a name that reflected that. One of the lyrics in the song is “Spacewalking, satellite to stars”, so the SpaceX satellite trains came to mind. In terms of a Google search of the band name, it is probably not the most suitable name since there are probably thousands of pages before we appear. However, we believe that the name is appropriate.
4. What do you feel are the key elements in your music that should resonate with listeners, and how would you personally describe your sound?
SATELLITE TRAIN: I would describe our sound as emotional and expressive. For us, musical elements are largely influenced by lyrical concepts. “Broken Heart” is a good example of a song where the song energy you hear in the instrumentation and vocals evolved from the lyrics being sung.
5. For most artists, originality is first preceded by a phase of learning and, often, emulating others. What was this like for you? How would you describe your own development as an artist and music maker, and the transition towards your own style, which is known as ROCK?
In the past, we recorded demos and did nothing with them. It was common for us to try different things, most of which did not work. We wanted to experiment and see how it goes, so that was our learning phase. Only recently has the music begun to fall into place and sound satisfactory. There was a real apprenticeship involved. As a band, we have our own distinct sound, but because of the varying influences of the different musicians, our style floats a bit.
6. What’s your view on the role and function of music as political, cultural, spiritual, and/or social vehicles – and do you try and affront any of these themes in your work, or are you purely interested in music as an expression of technical artistry, personal narrative, and entertainment?
There are certain bands that serve as excellent vehicles for political, cultural, spiritual, and social commentary. We’re not one of those bands. By its very nature, Satellite Train is just a bit of fun for the band members. Therefore, the lyrics and music will at best be relatable to some people, and hopefully entertaining as well. Technical artistry is not something we are aiming for. Our practice is to keep the first or second take of a recording in most cases and to move on from there.
7. Do you feel that your music is giving you back just as much fulfillment as the amount of work you are putting into it or are you expecting something more, or different in the future?
We are fulfilled by the process, by friends getting together to jam, by the fact that there are no rules and everyone is free to play what they choose. Satellite Train is essentially just a group of musicians. The project is not being conducted by industry professionals and no game plan has been developed. As a result, we do not really expect anything. There are several musicians involved in this project who do so part-time, so it would be nice if the project could provide a vehicle for them to become full-time musicians, but I am uncertain whether that will be possible.
8. Could you describe your creative processes? How do usually start, and go about shaping ideas into a completed song? Do you usually start with a tune, a beat, or a narrative in your head? And do you collaborate with others in this process?
The process is entirely collaborative. There is a very basic song idea and structure, as well as lyrics and a melody. It is extremely bare bones. From that point on, the musicians are free to express themselves creatively. Unlike the past, where all we did was create demos, today we have an idea, record it, and release whatever we come up with.
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Photo credits: GlenX Photography