Big Smoke was formed in 2009 by lead singer and songwriter, Adrian Slattery. The band was a beloved staple of the Melbourne music scene, building a reputation as a group of phenomenal players with an exceptional command of classic rock ‘n’ roll.
In early 2015, Adrian was diagnosed with terminal oesophageal cancer. Despite significant health obstacles and the knowledge his cancer was incurable, Adrian was determined to keep going, eventually tracking the band’s debut album between a four-month regimen of chemotherapy and brain surgery in November 2015. Working tirelessly, the band continued to produce overdubs at The Aviary Studios in Abbotsford from late 2015 to early 2016.
“Given my terminal diagnosis, I have a profound sense of urgency and gravitas about what I want to achieve in my career and the completion and release of the Big Smoke album is paramount to this,” Adrian said during the recording process. “The songs on the album were written in the time period following the dissolution of my marriage and diagnosis with terminal cancer, pairing these lyrical themes with our established musical sensibility for rock ‘n’ roll, pop, country and soul.”
Before he died, Adrian and the band had earmarked engineer Shawn Everett to mix the record. They wanted a sound modern yet timeless and believed Shawn – who won a Grammy for his work on Alabama Shakes’ Sound & Color – was the best person for the job. Shawn flew to Melbourne in August and mixed the bulk of the album in Northcote. The remainder was done in LA the following week – including an additional guitar arrangement by Blake Mills. Luke, Alex and Adrian’s ex-wife and best friend Paige Clark were heavily involved in the process, acting as creative decision makers in Adrian’s absence. They worked 12-hour days, from midday to midnight, turning Adrian’s grand vision into a bold, beautiful reality.
The result is Time Is Golden, a testament to the band’s determination and vision that lives out Adrian’s wish to create an enduring, major work. But this tale isn’t a tragedy. As Adrian himself said, “This is not the story of heartbreak or of illness, it is the story of living and all that it entails.”
Time Is Golden (2016)
Time Is Golden is awe-inspiring in its beauty and scope. A country-soul album that rivals the greats, released just six months after lead-singer and songwriter Adrian Slattery passed away. The album was recorded after Adrian’s terminal diagnosis and features 10 songs written by Adrian over the period of a decade. Even without considering the tragic circumstances of the album’s creation, Time Is Golden is an extraordinary work of romance and pathos. A release which we’re incredibly proud to have played just the smallest part in.
Have You Heard/Harley & Rose (2016)
Released as a hand-pressed single for Record Store Day in 2016, this little beauty features the country-soul banger Have You Heard and a beautiful version of The Black Sorrow’s Harley & Rose.