Def Robot was formed in 2019 when David Hancox and I, Paul Taylor, reconnected after 20 years.
I was the singer and David was the bassist in 90’s Manchester U.K. grunge/rock/indie band Kerosene, who were signed to Dead Dead Good and then Sire records. We released an album “Arrythmia” along with various singles and toured the U.K., Europe and the USA supporting such bands as Green Day, The Flaming Lips, and Terrorvision amongst others.
I have just released my first solo album. It is called Mox Nox, a sundial motto that means ‘night, shortly’, and the theme running through the record is the passing of time, particularly the transition from day to night. Rather than writing songs specifically for the album, I looked through my songbook for things I had already written that fit this theme, and one of them (now called The Broken Song) jumped out at me as being a bit of a curiosity.
I’ve always been a night owl. I can be absolutely exhausted at 10pm, but by 11 my head will be racing with ideas. The Broken Song began its life during a nocturnal writing session, and its original lyrics made direct reference to being up all night. The song was clearly relevant – but it was also an underdog, half-written and still wearing its working title. I hadn’t thought about it in years.
Looking over the lyrics, I remembered that I had always liked the verses but struggled to come up with a chorus. I’ve never been too worried about following a verse-chorus structure, but I knew this song needed more, and I knew that it was stuck. The breakthrough came when I deleted my crappy excuse for a chorus and looked at the lyrics that were left. Quite suddenly, I saw that the song I had thought was about a particular event in my life was about something else entirely.
Diving At Dawn has always been a frustrating stop-start affair for me. I’ve never been able to be genuinely productive and build momentum with it because I find working alone so tricky. As part of a band or production team, I’m pretty efficient, but when the responsibility falls solely upon my shoulders, I become a procrastinating perfectionist of epic proportions. The lack of productivity in my solo work has caused me a fair bit of anxiety over the years, but I’ve always been busy enough with other projects to distract myself. However, in 2022 my anxiety levels went through the roof. Unfortunately, age, experience, budget constraints, and technology have all conspired against me, thus turning Diving At Dawn into a genuine one-person band.
When I read the advertisement for the contest, I had to chuckle. The Nassau cultural prize for contemporary composition 2003 sounded great to me. Yet I hardly believed in myself enough to think the effort to apply would be more than futile. So that’s what I called my non-existent band project: The Futile Project.
I had left all my former bands when I returned from six months abroad in Glasgow. There, for the first time, I had an opportunity to present my music to an audience of musicians I hardly knew. Therefore, the feedback I got was honest and not tainted by friendship or sympathy. I performed almost every Monday at Gerry Lyon’s open stage night in the Nice’n’Sleazy, a club on Sauchiehall Street.
It first began in 2019 with the release of ‘guilt.’ There have been three releases since.
The latest release, ‘too artsy for the footy kids, too footy for the art ones,’ was released in February 2023.
It was written and recorded in my bedroom as I moved across Melbourne, Bendigo, and Canberra over the last three years. Its title comes from a line in its second song, ‘michael cera, serotonin.’ It references how I fit in socially, growing up in a country town with an interest in sports and art.
Mrs. Penny was one of those teachers you remember – she encouraged me, enjoyed my stories, and often read them to the class. She told me to study sciences for a better-paid job, and off down that road I skipped studying engineering. But as Iggy Pop once quipped, if you’re creative, there’s something inside you, and it needs to get out…
Million Pebble Beach is my chosen “Nom de Guerre” – a nod to a local artist and the area (Pete Codling’s One Million Pebbles project in Portsmouth).
I have been a Prince fan since I was 8 and first heard Let’s Go Crazy, with its ear grabbing pyrotechnic guitar ending. Since then, I’ve learned from him, copied him and even just ended up doing the same things as him by osmosis or naturally. His work ethic, energy and diversity are three touchstones of my own ‘career’ and I have many strange ethereal intangible links to prince and ‘signs’ attached to many of my fondest moments in music so far that it’s almost as if he’s been a musical guardian angel since his passing in 2016 – an event that hit me so bad that I bought a streaming package, set up a little shrine on screen and DJ’d for 3 days straight, so fans had a place to hang, and I had some way of expressing my own sense of loss and gratitude for him voluminous output and inspiring presence in my own life. My phone went off non-stop that first day, I was associated with him so much by my circle of friends, they were checking that I was ok!
Okay, that’s not entirely true. I have the language. I can talk about what a particular song means to me, or I can talk about what that drummer is doing on the hi-hat that makes you know it’s them. Music history is an easy one – I’ve devoured all the rock bios, read all the critical analysis, seen all the interviews. I eat, sleep and breathe music. So why does it feel hard to talk about?
Not to sound all new-age about it, but music is elemental. Larger than life. When I was a kid, like most kids, I was into superheroes. The bright colors, the high stakes, the every moment of a story that meant something important to the larger narrative. As I grew up, music was the only “adult” thing that felt that exciting, that vital, that universal and yet intensely personal.