From vision to release date: TQX global collab pop project comes to life

Wednesday, 12 Dec 2018

Composer, pianist, and APRA AMCOS Ambassador Barney McAll set out five years ago to make an album on his own terms. He gave it patience, time and space to organically come together across timezones, oceans, and of course, very busy schedules. This album became Global Intimacy and was released last Friday, 7 December under the moniker of TQX. There's a lot to learn from the mission that Barney went on to make it a reality and one that speaks to the ethical and business quandaries that face modern artists.

Barney answered our question about how an album with collaborators including SIA, Daniel Merriweather and more came together and stayed true to its intention.

Q: You’ve been working on the TQX project for five years. What was the impetus to it, how has it evolved, and what keeps you motivated?

I suppose the impetus was just looking around and seeing how fast and how deeply technology and screens are changing our lives. I wanted to make an album about that! The eerie blue glow coming from every home, all the Christmases where YouTube has now replaced conversations, all the children who can't read or even speak properly as a result of their screen addiction, all the Silicon Valley fat cats in Steve Jobs clothing who quickly staked claims on the livelihoods of artists and musicians and convinced them to "upload" everything! ie. ad fodder for corporate interest, the 2016 election results!?...I could go on, but, i wanted to make a kind of 'trojan horse' pop album as a statement and a kind of comment on the current music business,

Q: One thing that we often hear at industry panels and Q & As is that independent and/or self-releasing artists need to have their elevator pitch ready. What’s TQX’s ‘elevator pitch’? 

SIA and a whole pile of pop stars are on it?
Banksy's art work was stolen for the cover art ?
Also, true story: "We Are Nostalgic For The Present" was always the TQX catch cry and then SIA asked if she could use it as the name of her recent tour... what an honor!

Q: With such a diverse range of artists contributing from around the world, how did the songwriting, recording and production of the album come together?

It was a truly global affair that was written, recorded and produced in 6 cities over 5 years. Some songs were created with the artists in person and some were pieced together via file sharing. I have to say a huge thank you to all the amazing efforts of those who helped create this beast. I was co-producing Daniel Merriweather's album here in Melbourne and we wrote And When They Come For Us together for TQX. I wrote a batch of songs with SIA in New York and she wrote lyrics for The Day That You Moved On on a plane from LA to NY and emailed me her vocals. My cousin Phil Rose (Nursery Crimes/BodyJar) and I wrote a lot of stuff together, Gabriel Winterfield from Jagwar Ma was suddenly living next door to me. The track with Ben Monder is a recording of Ben's guitar and his poem recitation set against a recording of a pile driver that was next to my apartment in the East Village... so anything goes!

Q: What is the key to collaborating from afar? How does it differ from face to face?

I suppose it's better to write in person but, there are so many variables to songwriting and often I find that an artist can get into some strange and fertile zones when they are alone and composing to an existing track. Its such a beautiful feeling to fly in some vocals from elsewhere and feel the exhilaration when it really clicks together. So much pop is done remotely now and it may even have created some fresh musical paradigms? That being said, there is nothing like having a songwriting epiphany with a co-writer in the same room. 

Q: With an overarching theme commenting on the advance of technology and how large corporate entities play a dominating role in how we communicate, distribute, and share and value content, how do you reconcile - or perhaps, take the best bits – from those outlets and technologies so that your music and message connects?

Well, Global Intimacy is only available on CD and to download, so maybe it will connect less than something stream-able but this is a twist I'm OK with. TQX looks at mandated streaming in this way. It's amazing how much money artists spend on just getting into playlists and being represented as "popular" online but then they get no actual financial returns? It seems artists have been duped into cannibalising their own financial futures. This album is unorthodox but I also reckon the songwriting is excellent. I hope that primarily, the songs themselves connect in - their own sweet way.

So much pop is done remotely now and it may even have created some fresh musical paradigms? That being said, there is nothing like having a songwriting epiphany with a co-writer in the same room. 

Q: How have you approached the marketing and promo of the project? Any learnings or tips you can share from your experience?

I am interested in "blackhat" marketing for Global Intimacy as I feel like it fits with the ethos of TQX. I read Ryan Holliday's Trust Me I'm Lying which is an amazing and disturbing account of how media manipulators work and that has been eye opening. The "radar screen" is just one huge throbbing green blip and everyone is just sell sell sell! How DO you stand out? Do you make a CD only album about how toxic the internet can be and which, in its subject matter, tries to hold the most powerful corporate giants accountable but then you steal the cover artwork from Banksy? Maybe I'm not the best person to ask, maybe I am?

Q: You’ve mentioned that  the album will be available as DL and CD only. Is that still the plan or will you be making it available on streaming services in full?

It will only be a CD and DL. It is a reaction to so much unnecessary greed online and this greed will probably cause a terrible homogenisation of culture. My only hope is that this CD is a tiny seed of change in a music climate that definitely needs re-thinking.

Q: Lastly, can you discuss how the project is both a political statement and a pop album, and how as a songwriter and creator you can bridge the often perceived gap between politics and pop?

I will never forget being at a Midnight Oil concert and everyone was singing Armistice Day. That was a powerful moment and a song like that can mean many things to many people. Beyoncé., Kendrick Lamar and many of today's great pop acts are making political statements and I feel like the key is making something catchy and soulful and then, people can take whatever they want from it...and hopefully they will eventually get more than they bargained for? The main thing about this whole journey is that it's fun and it's a way for me to make sense of the world.

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