Ed Cake (aka Ed McWilliams) has featured as musician, producer, engineer on albums from Tim Guy, Anika Moa, Don McGlashan, Duchess, The Brunettes, The Chills and Brand New Math. He was in legendary Flying Nun band Bressa Creeting Cake, and has worked as a solo artist under various monikers, releasing his own ‘Downtown Puff’ in 2004. He has also worked short film and feature film soundtracks, and also as a sound designer for various theatre projects.
Cake’s latest album project ‘The Fearsome Feeling’ is being released under the name Pie Warmer – a group assembled in 2005 after his discharge from Auckland Hospital’s mental health clinic. With Jason Smith (keys), Tamasin Taylor (violin, vibraphone and vocals) and Cole Goodley (drums) Ed Cake has created an album of quirky poetry, darkly comic imagery, and tingling sounds of twisted pop.
He’s a bona fide creative genius and we figured the best way to capture and convey Ed Cake was by getting a fellow musical genius to interview him. Geoff Maddock, best known for his long term role as guitarist/arranger/songwriter/producer with Goldenhorse, was also a member of Bressa Creeting Cake, and has collaborated with Cake several times over the years. Here’s how their exchange went.
Geoff: So what comes first Ed, the music or the lyrics?
Ed: You’re kidding right? It comes together, in a heaving ecstatic pulse.
Ed: Oh god… okay. I write in the winter. I write outside during thunderstorms. When I see the flash of lightning I count: 1 potato, 2 potato, 3 pota... BANG. The entire song is delivered before me. It’s like orgasming, shitting, sneezing, and puking all at the same time.
Geoff: Right. I usually do the music first. Tell me about the Pie Warmer album, I’d like to know some technical details about the production. What kind of recording system did you use?
Ed: Well, we had heaps of machines and knobs and computers and wires and microphones and speakers all over the place. We had tape machines everywhere and stacks of recording consoles and effects units. We used 11 different studios, with four different engineers. We recorded the drums in three different caves, and the vocals in a haunted mansion on a remote island. We recorded the electric guitars in an empty submarine moored off the coast of Rangitoto Island. We…
Geoff: C’mon Ed.
Ed: Okay, we used ProTools on the computer at home.
Geoff: What do you think of the state of the music industry?
Ed: We live in interesting times. Most thought that computers would dominate the humans by emulating the humans – however, the humans have instead decided to adopt the characteristics of computers, making it that much easier for the computers to dominate.
Geoff: Umm, what does that have to do with the music industry?
Ed: Well, vocalists are now naturally singing like they’ve got autotune on their voice. They’ve been doing this for a while actually. In music, the humans are now emulating the computers in all kinds of ways.
Geoff: Mmm… what about CDs?
Ed: Dead format. Again, the humans have adopted the computer’s process of dealing with music: mass storage, instant access, networked sharing.
Geoff: Favourite Black Sabbath song?
Ed: Yeah, now you’re talking! Symptom Of The Universe – it’s got 8 bar drum fills, not solos, fills.
Geoff: Yes. That’s Bill Ward on the drums. Incredible drummer. Favourite Deep Purple song?
Ed: Space Truckin’ I actually sang it karaoke the other night! The midi backing track was unimaginably awesome.
Geoff: You do a lot of karaoke don’t you?
Ed: Yeah, I like to keep my singing chops up. I usually start with Honesty by Billy Joel, it’s a good warm-up song.
Geoff: This is kind of beginning to sound like a proper NZM interview!
Ed: It is eh. And then I work my way up to Ben by Michael Jackson. I actually sang Ben the night before MJ died, freaky huh? My current favourite is You’re Beautiful by James Blunt. His voice is so easy to imitate, “Yoorw beuwitfwool”.
Geoff: Ha ha, you know you look a bit like James Blunt. Maybe you should enter Stars In Their Eyes.
Ed: Hee hee. ‘Edmund Cake, tell us who you’re going to be tonight?’ ‘Tonight Simon, I’m going to be James Blunt!’ And then all the ladies in the studio audience start going fucking bananas. Didn’t Goldenhorse do the Pio show there at Avalon, the one where you played to a non-existent studio audience that they dubbed on later?
Ed: I watched that whole series. Man, John Rowles sung this song about Edmund Hillary, called Hillary. It was insane. On the set behind him there were children doing backing vocals, standing inside a kind of a cage thing. Actually, Ross Burge told me he played drums for John Rowles during that number, and he set up his cymbals extra high to so he couldn’t be recognised.
Geoff: Okay, enough about John Rowles. I know you’ve got dozens of John Rowles stories, but you might have to save them for your John Rowles’ biography.
Ed: Did you know Howard Morrison pinched me on the bottom once?
Geoff: Ahhh… save it for the bio. Tell me about your new album, ‘The Fearsome Feeling’. How did that title come about?
Ed: Well, we were recording the song The Fearsome Feeling, it was originally called Love. Tamasin was doing some BVs on the song and there was a line in it that went, “You know the fears I’m feeling”. But when she sung it, it always sounded like, “You know the fearsome feeling”. It just kind of stuck.
Geoff: That’s pretty boring.
Ed: Oh maybe they’ll cut that bit out.
Geoff: I really like I Love Everything off the album. Tell us about the genesis of this song.
Ed: Thanks, I’m glad you don’t think it’s boring. It’s loosely based on my friend’s father. He was a spiritual cult leader in Australia in the ’80s. He mostly preyed on solo mothers, and eventually had quite a following. He preached a wack mixture of new-age gobbledegook.
The cult leader’s son (my friend) lived with him for a while on the commune. One day he said to his Father, “Dad, can I…”, his father interrupted him, “Actually, I’m not Dad anymore, from now on call me Zarion”. My friend used to hang out, make out, and play music with all the young girls in his dad’s commune. Recently he discovered he has a 13 year-old daughter. True story.
Geoff: And I Love Everything is based on this new-age guru guy?
Ed: Yeah. In the song I adopt a guru persona that preaches a message of love for absolutely everything. But hate and anger eventually hatches out of the person that has indiscriminate love for everything.
Geoff: Okay, wow, deep man. You know I just remembered, in England I did a small studio session playing guitar for James Blunt - it didn’t end up on the album or anything.
Ed: Shit, does he look like me in real life? Who else was there?
Geoff: Nah, he’s kind of weird looking. The only people around were James, the engineer and the studio receptionist. No models or drug dealers. He didn't even play or sing or anything. After the session he invited me and the engineer to the pub, but they never even showed up!
Ed: Stink, what a nerd.
Geoff: Have you experienced any MJ grief?
Ed: Yeh. Had a night on youtube, and had an MJ dancing night with some friends. I showed my kids the Thriller video. My favourite new MJ songs are Say, Say, Say with Macca, Smooth Criminal (which is so mental). Nothing stopping The Jacksons from touring now I suppose. I hope they play at Vector Arena in Auckland.
Geoff: So when’s the album out?
Ed: 27th July 2009. Are you winding up the interview?
Geoff: Yup, short and sweet. Anyway, we’ve discussed James Blunt, Black Sabbath, Sir Howard Morrison. That’s enough. Thanks for talking Ed, it’s been a pleasure.