Interview: Way Of The Eagle

Published in Drum Media (WA) | 06.06.13 | Issue # 341



Working on new Way Of The Eagle material, and suffering from a mild case of studio “cabin fever”, award-winning producer and songwriter Jan Skubiszewski tells Daniel Cribb his new project signals a fresh, and much-needed, new beginning.

For years Jan Skubiszewski has been sitting quietly in the background of the Australian music scene, helping shape some of the country’s biggest hits. If you haven’t read his name in the credits on John Butler Trio or Cat Empire’s liner notes, you may know him as one half of Jackson Jackson.

He definitely has a presence onstage, but for the most part he’s behind the scenes – writing songs, producing and setting the direction of albums with the likes of Ian Kenny (Karnivool, Birds Of Tokyo), Wendy Matthews, Bliss n Eso and more. Those credits alone prove no genre is out of reach. Skubiszewski has even composed and arranged music for advertising campaigns for the Australian Defense Force, Yellow Pages and Panasonic.

For the length of his career, he’s been soaking up bits and pieces of each project he produces, and writing riffs, vocal melodies and songs that didn’t really fit with anyone he was working with. So with a large amount of creative energy and no way to vent it, Way Of The Eagle was born.

“I love that I’ve had so many great experiences producing records, but I finished a project recently and I literally woke up the day after and I thought, ‘Right, today’s the first day that I can really just focus on this Way Of The Eagle thing’,” Skubiszewski tells from his studio in Melbourne, taking a break from mixing the remaining four songs of Way Of The Eagle’s Rattlesnake EP.

“I’m just really, really excited about the years to come. I feel like I’ve had such a great run over the past couple of years, but I feel like I’m a prolific person and I just know there’s so many great songs to come, and I think Way Of The Eagle is going to be something that I focus on for a long time.

“Being a songwriter, I spend so much time in the studio working on tracks, and it’s always been something that I’ve loved to do and so I guess it’s just that thing of, I love working on people’s records and helping them develop as artists. I guess this is just for my artist development, and it’s a great challenge, but so far I’m really enjoying the challenge.”

The world’s introduction to the new project was the EP’s title track, Rattlesnake, and its accompanying music video in late April. The song was born from a spontaneous collaboration with long-time pal Dan Sultan. “The whole Rattlesnake [song] is quite stylised, and I love that, but I think the one thing that ties through a lot of Way Of The Eagle’s music is this sense of the romantic and it’s almost like really pushing that sense of fantasy, and so a lot of the songs are to do with big romantic gestures, but not all stylistically like Rattlesnake.

“Dan and I created Rattlesnake when we were doing a writer’s workshop, and we wrote the song in literally three hours, just sitting in a room…we just spent the rest of the day lying in the sun drinking wine – it was lovely.

“Dan and I are really chuffed at how people have been receiving it, and the film clip seems to growing; more and more people seem to be watching it, and since the project is only a couple of weeks old, as far as the public knowledge of it, I’m really chuffed that people are starting to grab onto it so quickly.”

The song Rattlesnake was released with an animated short-film music video that follows protagonist “The Wanderer” (Dan Sultan) through the dangers of the Wild West. The style of video and its storyline encapsulate the vibe of the music perfectly  – something Skubiszewski tells is an important element to the project. A gun-singing cowboy is the perfect role for Sultan. Having worked on so many different projects, Skubiszewski knows exactly where to place each piece of the puzzle.

“That sense of fantasy and that kind of real immersement into a sense of romance or nostalgia or something like that – whatever that emotion might be, it’s about pushing it to the extreme. So I think the video clip was a great way of facilitating that for Rattlesnake – really grabbing hold to that whole world. But the other songs have got different contexts as well, and so it’ll just be interesting to see how people can join the dots between everything.”

Over the years, Skubiszewski has come in contact with a ridiculous amount of talent. Daniel Meriwether sings on Find Your Love while Tin Pan Orange’s Emily Lubitz lends her voice on Drowning Sea. He’d struggle to fit any more talent onto the four-track EP if he tried.

Not only is Way Of The Eagle a way to vent his creative energy, but a means of bringing together and showcasing some of his close friends. But an EP isn’t nearly enough to capture the vibe he is going for. A follow-up LP is already halfway completed.

At the end of the music video for Rattlesnake, it fades out with “To Be Continued”. Skubiszewski says he plans to continue the story the full-length.

“Basically my plan is to finish this EP, and then I’m going to get straight into production of the LP,” he tells. While keeping “tight lipped” on the LP’s full cast, he did say that Illy and Owl Eyes, both artists he has worked closely with, will be making appearances.

Most know for his producers hat, Skubiszewski has decided to temporarily step down from producing other artists to focus on his new endeavor. He hasn’t booked any more production gigs for the rest of 2013.

“In-between working on the album, finishing the EP, I’m putting a lot of emphases into rehearsing a band for the live show, and the live element, and that’s going to be a big focus for the rest of the year. I want to figure out the right way to launch it live. I mean, everything that I’m doing for this, I’m really focused on launching it the right way, and I want the live act to have the same vibe.”

WHO: Way Of The Eagle

WHAT: Rattlesnake (Sony Music)