Whobody?

howieHoward Eynon is an Australian singer & songwriter. His 1974 album "So What if I'm Standing in Apricot Jam" became one of Australia's most eclectic albums of the 70's.

Forty years later Howard has had a sort of musical resurgance as his album was re-released on both vinyl & CD. Following a Europe tour, he experienced a few setbacks where he wrecked his suspect left wrist by playing so much, and following it's surprisingly successful repair picked up a voice condition known as dysphonia. That slowed him down for another year. But what's a couple of years to an old guy! He's now back on all cylinders with new material in the works. 

With his charismatic storytelling and a rich 12-string guitar sound, featuring a unique tuning of his own invention, Howard's music has at times been described as "psychedelic acid folk" and his album "combines the fantastical, whimsical, cerebral, snide, political, and keenly bizarre in a manner that is utterly engaging and entrancingly odd." undertheradarmag.com

Howard, Barb and their two babes resided on NSW's Central Coast for many years and after July 2021 will be back in Tasmania. Recent times have brought him together with Melbourne artists Zak Olsen of
Traffic Island, Leah Senior and Jesse Williams. The person responsible for this connect with kindred spirits was Melbourne photographer Jamie Wdziekonski.

Early Days

Born in St Ives, now Cambridgeshire - was Huntingdonshire - UK.
At 11, the Eynon family travelled by ship from the UK to relocate to an isolated dairy farm in rural Tasmania, Australia.

Howard finally left the farm at 18 on his Norton and headed to Melbourne to pursue a career in anything. His first job was with William Houghton and Co - a wool broking firm where he learned to play poker in the tea breaks.

Howard in the 70sDuring this time in Melbourne he figured that becoming an actor could be an interesting life so he started doing auditions for Crawfords and other industry players in the town. He gradually picked up roles in tv and theatre and joined various theatrical repertory companies, while continuing to play & write songs. 

A surprise came in 1971 when he won the Grand Final of Australia's New Faces. This earned him a contract with Channel 9 in Sydney in 1972. Towards the end of the year he auditioned for NIDA, JC Superstar and Queensland Theatre Co and was accepted for all three. Turning down NIDA first as that meant 3 years with no income, then JCS as he'd already done a year in Sydney, he opted for QTC - a life-changing year as it turned out. During the rehearsal period he shared a house in St Lucia with Bille Brown, Geoffrey Rush, Trevor Smith (a local co actor in the same production who invited him to stay). He also discovered doorways to new perspectives through hash and psychedelics.

Later he accepted a years contract to work in 1974 for Tasmania Theatre Co under John Unicombe.  

While writing and recording a guitar piece for a TTC play, Howard met Nick Armstrong, sound engineer and producer, who invited him to record a full-length album. 

Recording happened over a three month period, and with the help of a number of talented local artists, "So What if I'm Standing in Apricot Jam" became one of Australia's most eclectic albums of the 1970's.

"1974 was another crazy fun year. Suzie and I and babe Dylan were renting a small cottage on a farm near Richmond near Hobart. There was always a clan of friends hanging out there including Luke Swann and Garth Tompkins who I'd met in Queensland, violinist Peter Daly, Ian Sherrey who was working with Nick at the time and many others. Everyone was into Tolkien. The Richmond place was our middle earth hangout in a strange way". 

In1976 Howard was the support act for a talking tour of Melbourne and Sydney by Hunter S Thompson. The tour was arranged by 'Jay Jerilderie McRoach, the nom de fume and altered ego of a rapscallion journalist for the then-flourishing alternative press who’d agreed to act as the Godfather of Gonzo’s publicist and “cultural attaché” themonthly.com.au

 

early kid shots

Dylan and Jesse Lee on the Hesket farm in 1980

Interview with Howard Eynon

When did you first start playing the 12 string guitar?

Probably about 17 - as soon as I'd earned enough money to buy one.

You have your own tuning, how did this come about?

My after we arrived in Tasmania, my mother bought my dad a cheap guitar for his birthday. I would pick it up and muck around with it. Apparently during his airforce years in the middle east, he was handed a guitar for the purpose of playing bawdy songs which he did so well. He didn't know conventional guitar tuning, so tuned it as close as he could to the banjo he used to play years earlier. So I picked up a guitar tuned irregularly and began making up my own chords. Later when I discovered the right way to tune a guitar, I was not interested in starting over. The tuning did not suit a 6 string, but was interesting on the 12.

How did you find 'your' style of music? 

I didn't even know or think about having a style of music. I started using 11 string only because not doubling up on the top string gives me some clarity when needed. I only started this practice a few years ago.

Do you still use your own tunings, can you tell me anything about it?

Mainly yes. It's E, A, C#, E, G#, B
It makes for quite a good droning style in E or A. I do tend to favour those keys a bit as a result. It does give the guitar a bit of a different voice.

What guitars do you own/perform with?

The old Gibson 12 I've had for years. It's been patched up quite a few times but still has a lovely tone. I bought a mini Maton 12 string for practice a couple of years ago, and prior to last years European tour I was lucky to find a 10yo Maton messiah. The Gibson at the time was in need of some work, which it has now had thanks to Rick Bartolo. Rick is our wizard luthier on the NSW Central Coast! He brought the old Gibbo back from unplayable to the absolute joy it is for me today. I also have a couple of other 12's - a Rickenbacker and a Danelectric - and some 6 strings mainly for other people to play.

What is different between your album from the 70s and what you're producing now?

I find that hard to answer. You do what you do. I'm a lot older now and still writing and playing. So I guess there may be a few more angles in some of the songs. I think some of them  will make their way into a sort of rokopra/musical - is what I'm thinking about anyway. I'm working on this with some good friends in Melbourne. Zak Olsen (Traffik Island), Jamie Wdziekonskl, and hopefully Jesse Williams and Leah Senior will join the fray!

How come Mick Jaggar is said to have known about your album?

That was picked up by the man who was getting me gigs in Melbourne around 1975. The Stones had arrived in Melbourne ready for their first tour of Australia. He called me on a Saturday very excited and asked if I'd heard the interview with Mick Jagger that had just been aired. I hadn't. He said that the interviewer asked Mick what they were going to do while they were in Australia, and Mick answered they might go to Tasmania to check out the Apricot Jam.
That was nice!