Looking for Jack in the Shadowlands

Information: Melbourne street press article about Jack’s latest activities.

Author: Jeff Jenkins, Inpress.

Date: 14 March 2012.

Original URL: http://streetpress.com.au/online_mags/IN/IN_1219/


Article Text

Jack Howard was the trumpet player in Hunters & Collectors. He’s now made as many solo albums as singer Mark Seymour, and his new album, Shadowlands (available at bandcamp and iTunes), features a song called Just Let Me Sing. “If I can sing then I’ll find a way out,” Jack declares, explaining, “My dad was also a singer. In his last years, he told me that the only time the pain went away was when he was on stage.”

Shadowlands is a trip to the dark side of suburbia. With Jack’s jazz-pop styling, you’re tempted to call it adult contemporary, but there’s a dark undercurrent. “Gather here, all you voices in the dark,” Jack sings, “the shadowland is upon us.” Later, he sings of “cruelty and kindness behind every door.” Jack grew up in Oak Park, an experience he documents in City Lights, “the song that got the ball rolling”. He also sings about working in a supermarket: “See the world go by in aisle number two, take home a slab of Coke and pack of Winfield Blue.” Has Jack ever worked in a supermarket? “I worked in the old hardware store McEwan’s, and my song now works at Woolies. I pick him up late on a Sunday night and like to contemplate the tide of people coming and going.” Jack smiles when Howzat! says that In The Supermarket is like an Aussie version of Springsteen’s Queen of the Supermarket. “Yay, I’ve been mentioned alongside Bruce, my musical life is complete!”

Shadowlands starts, “A simple plan is always best…” Is that how Jack approached the record? “Well, it was almost a one-man operation, from recording and performing through to mastering and video editing, so I guess you could say that.” He’s surprised when Howzat! suggests he has a similar vocal tone to Ross Wilson, one of our favourite singers. “Ross Wilson? I never would have picked that,” Hack replies, listing his favourite singers, “Tom Waits, Don McGlashan, Ron Peno, Richard Hawlet and Neil Finn.” He’s also pleased when a radio listened reckons one of his new songs, Behind Every Door, sounds like Procol Harum. “It’ll take that.”

Jack has been doing Friday nights at Pure Pop in St Kilda. “I love the beer, The Large Number 12s, the beautiful vibe of the place,” he says. He’s recording the next two Fridays for a live CD and DVD, with guitarist John Berto.

Will there be more Hunnas shows? “Hmmm,” Jack pauses, “we’re just taking it one gig at a time.” Last December, the band went to Sydney to play at the V8 Supercars, their first full gig since 1998 (they also re-formed briefly when they were inducted into the ARIA Hall Of Fame in 2005, and for 2009’s Sound Relief). How was the V8s gig? “A hoot. I think rehearsals were as much fun as the gig – the old jokes, the company, that enormously powerful sound when the whole machine gets cranking.”

Music is Jack’s life. As well as the Hunnas and his solo work, he’s a music teacher at the Wesley College. Despite having written a song about Kevin Sheedy (Kevin Sheedy, He’s Out Man), Jack is a passionate Carlton supporter, who’s “very positive” about their chances this season. “Kreuzer for the Brownlow,” he declared. Away from music and footy, Jack “throws the shot put in the summertime”, with a best distance of 13.82 metres. “I haven’t written a shot put song just yet, but I’m sure there’s a heavy metal concept album in it.”