TALL TALES FOR DARK TIMES
Skyscraper Stan reveals why his new album is called Golden Boy Vol. I and Vol. II and discusses the joys and frustrations that come with committing to a life in music.
Stan Woodhouse has always performed under the name Skyscraper Stan, ever since staff at the Wine Cellar in Auckland, New Zealand, gave him the nickname when he was working the bar and taking his first tentative steps on the venue’s stage as an 18 year old. Fast forward a dozen years and he’s releasing his sophomore album, a warm and intelligent mix of soul, rock ‘n’ roll and dark folk music.
In the wake of his debut album Last Year’s Tune (2015), and a couple of years of shows with his band The Commission Flats and numerous solo jaunts across Australia and New Zealand, Woodhouse was at a crossroads. Continue living hand-to-mouth, eking out a living from gigs, or return to an unfinished science degree.
“I was nearly going to throw the towel in,” he says grimly. “I’d moved out to the country, I was sick of doing all these poxy little shows around the country in front bars where it was loud and people were drunk and just wanted you to play Foo Fighters covers and I felt like I was flogging that dead horse a little too hard. But then I had these songs I wanted to record and so I put out the Pozible campaign, almost on a whim, and received overwhelmingly positive support and that galvanised me.”
The crowdfunding campaign hit its target, making the album a reality, though the recording process was a drawn out one due to Woodhouse and co-producer/engineer Richard Stolz’s determination to fully realise their creative vision with the right song balance and optimal arrangements, combined with the availability of Stolz’s studio.
“An album with the kind of gear we were using would be a $40,000 album but I didn’t have that kind of budget so I was relying on mates rates and the generosity of Richard. He’s got a really beautiful studio that he rents out at a premium and so if someone like Tash Sultana turns up with lots of money she’ll be in the studio for a couple of weeks and you can’t do anything,” explains Woodhouse.
“Between the band, myself and Richard, we’ve done the best the we could with the record. We put a lot of effort into the production and the arrangements and I’m really happy with how it’s come out,” Woodhouse enthuses. “It best represents where I’m at at the moment in terms of songwriting and composition. I’m really proud of it.”
Golden boy is what I was called a lot by my younger sisters when I was growing up,” reveals Woodhouse as we discuss the title of the album. “I was mum’s favourite according to my sisters and being the only son meant that I could get away with a lot more, both in my family and societally. Over the last couple of years a lot of us have been thinking more deeply about what that means. The idea of inherent privilege is a really difficult thing to understand if you’ve always experienced it. As a golden boy it’s been hard to intellectualise but it’s important to have those discussions and try to figure out what it really means to be a man and find ways to make masculinity a functional thing. I wrote a lot of the songs with themes around that.” Woodhouse has divided Golden Boy into two volumes, which fit neatly onto each side of a vinyl record. “I split it into two halves because the first half of the record is a fair bit rockier and distorted and quite groove-based and narrative-driven with character studies and story songs and then the second half is generally more autobiographical and delicate. The first half is stories from outside my life and the second half is stories from within it,” he explains.
Approaching a decade of living in Melbourne and with two records under his belt, Woodhouse has come to the realisation that this is what he wants to do long term and for a life in music to continue to be viable he needs to plan ahead, much further than just the next gig.
“I think it’s very important to be real about that kind of stuff and be in a position where you can continue to record and release music without grinding to a halt because you’ve run out of cash and you didn’t plan things properly. I can support myself through live music, it’s just coming to terms with the fact that you may not be home a lot. It’s just the way it has to be these days if you don’t want to work a manual labour job. This is what I’m going to do for the rest of my life and I’ve come to terms with that and I’m happy with that.”