PRESS RELEASE JUNE 2009
555 Music Co.
From Manhattan to Melbourne
Hanging out at 555 Music Co. with is a little like stepping back in time. Twisting, rusted iron bars frame the front windows; weathered floorboards creak with every step; a deer antler chandelier sways proudly from the ceiling. Around the walls, rare guitars hang like trophies. An assortment of handcrafted pedals, amps, equipments and ephemera fill the gaps.
The internationally renowned, US-born guitarist, composer and sound designer’s new guitar store resembles the estranged cousin of saloon bar, a hunter’s cabin or a private museum than the typical, garishly branded clutter of a music retailer.
“I wanted it to have more of a creative atmosphere,” says Garant, casting an eye about the space. “All of the stuff is imported, all of it is boutique, I’m in contact with all the builders of the instruments and it’s all kind of curated hand-picked.”
“People walk in here and seem really excited about it, you know, to see something other than just Gibsons and Fenders.”
Having forged a career on the New York experimental scene in the mid 80s – working with anyone from hip-hop iconoclasts Afrika Bambaataa and Keith and Hank Shocklee from Public Enemy production clique the Bomb Squad, to pop maestros Hall & Oats, Sting and the, err, one and only Vanilla Ice – Garant’s approach to music has always been about investigation.
In fact, it’s precisely what brought him to Melbourne. Arriving in the mid 90s on what he thought was temporary visit, Garant became ensconced in the local music community. “I lived in New York for 17 years and I thought I had everything I needed,” he says. “I thought I’d never leave. I was planning on being on of the those old guys hanging out in the East Village making noise when they’re eighty.”
Together with old friend Paul Hester, the ex-drummer from Crowded House and Split Enz, he formed the group Largest Living Things. They performed throughout Australia and acquired their own TV series Hessie’s Shed on the ABC. It was only the start for Garant, who has since played with the likes of Paul Kelly, Neil Finn, Mandawuy Yunupingu, Archie Roach, Kutcha Edwards and Dan Warner. He still keeps busy playing international touring acts Jon Langford (Mekons, Waco Bros), Fernado Saunders ( Lou Reed, Maryanne Faithfull) and even sometimes jumps on stage with the Wiggles.
“I used to tell my friends in New York that Melbourne was actually better for live music,” he says. “I’ve spent a lot of time in cities of this size all over America and the world, and for whatever reason there’s nowhere near the musical talent, the amount of gigs that go on, or just the diversity that Melbourne has.”
It’s with that diversity in mind that this musical journeyman – who cites anyone from John Fahey and Johnny Cash, to Lou Reed and the Wu Tang Clan as influences – felt that it was time to unleash his biggest musical venture yet. Transcending a mere retail store, 555 Music Co. offers a state-of-the-art recording studio, teaching rooms manned by the likes of Melbourne luminaries Shane O’Mara and Marcel Borrack, a performance space, a select collection of books, DVDs and CDs, and just a good place to spend time.
“We have built a green room out the back that’s like a lounge,” he laughs. “So people can just go in there, shut the door and just play loud and really try things out .”
“I could have easily just done the whole online thing,” he pauses. “But balls are something that you have to feel and touch and smell and play and say, this is me, this is my music"