Talking Thailand and coming of age with Paddy Cornwall of Sticky Fingers

How did Sticky Fingers go from almost breaking up to touring the world? We talk the third record with Paddy Cornwall

Sticky Fingers have come a long way since they were just a couple of mates on Australia Street. Since their breakout tunes about weed, debauchery and sweet, sweet hangs the lads have truly gone global.

Last Friday their third album Westway (The Glitter & The Slums) dropped, and from initial reactions it’s looking to be yet another supersonic leap forward in Sticky’s career trajectory. Right before it’s release, we caught up with their vagabond bassist Paddy Cornwall.

sticky fingers
Illustrations by the awesome Scotty Beanz

In the lead-up to their album’s release, we lock down Paddy Cornwall of Sticky Fingers for a quick chat and a mean Bootsy Collins impression.

HAPPY: The album Westway (The Glitter & The Slums) sounds a lot more mature and reflective than Land of Pleasure and Caress Your Soul. Musically and lyrically it’s a real development, the album on a whole seems almost cathartic….

PADDY: It’s almost like a coming of age record, [after us being] like a gang of immature brats not having to pay the consequences.  I can admit I’ve been close to a five-year period or longer I was the most arrogant fucking stubborn motherfucker you could ever come across and maybe over the last year gone a bit more, like ‘hang on maybe I actually don’t know everything and I actually know nothing at all’.

HAPPY: You guys have come back off two years of really intense touring; seemed like a breath of fresh air to reassess, look at what we’ve learned and let’s move forward. You’ve mentioned in the media that you came to points of almost breaking up, overcoming tension, musically and in your personal lives. Has this really come out in the album?

PADDY: That’s more or less what the album is all about, like Land of Pleasure and Caress Your Soul are much more light and upbeat kind of cheeky records. But this album, while it still has that, it also shares a lot more of a vulnerable personal side of the band.

HAPPY: Land of Pleasure had some amazing scores up against it, #3 in the ARIA charts, sold out shows all over the world, Triple J’s hottest 100 with three tracks…have you got really big expectations for what’s to come for this one?

PADDY: Not at all. I’m just so happy that we’ve managed to hold it together and get to this point and we have no expectations at all, we’re just focused on making sure that what we’re making feels good to us and going off the ethos that if we’re doing something that feels good and sounds good to us, then other people out there are going to be able to resonate with it.

HAPPY: I think the with summer coming people are really ready for an album like this one, the album seems to come together with a much bigger, more driving sound.

PADDY: Yeah after Land of Pleasure we were really chuffed with ourselves because that was a totally magical experience in itself and one that I will look back on as being one of the fondest memories of my life. Up in the hills in Byron, all together getting super experimental and making that record and we came out of it being so chuffed with ourselves, like ‘yeah that’s the best thing we’ve ever done, not just in the band but in our lives’.  And then got to spend a year or two just jet setting around the world and just enjoying that and coming back and being like ‘ok now you’ve got to make another one’ and we were like ‘oh shit’.

I guess we really accepted that we weren’t going to be happy unless we made something that we felt could top it again.  To be bigger and better and once again the experience writing and recording that album is one I’ll never forget. But for me personally, as magical as it was, maybe it wasn’t one of the happiest times of my life but it might have been one of the most significant and important.

HAPPY: Often the best stuff comes out of the worst experiences, the best lesson’s learned come out of the things that you struggled with…

PADDY: And music being just as good a therapy as any other and as an outlet for talking about anxiety and depression and forms of mental illness, relationships coming together and falling apart. And then having the luxury to go to Thailand for four to six months and it was like musical rehab.  We were living in this studio that was like this villa right on the beach, it almost felt like a complex as well.  We were just there for a month all clad in these white cotton Thai get up. And yeah, getting clean, drinking lots of tea and eating this amazing Thai food.  And then laying out all these stories of the past year and putting it out.

HAPPY: Coming off that experience, you’ve had this amazing physical and mental break, but now you’re about to embark on another national tour, coming up this summer. Do you think you’re ready for that? Are you ready to jump back into touring or are you feeling hesitant to going back on the road?

PADDY: More ready for touring and being back on the road than anything else.  It’s funny I think we’ve been doing this for so long, all five of us have this shared feeling of, ‘the more we go away, then when we come back home doesn’t really feel like home anymore, like where the world makes sense is when there’s all five of us together doing what we do on the bus and being together’. And then we kind of come back it feels like everything and everybody that was once home and normal to us has moved on.  Which is totally cool, I mean we are having the time of our lives on the road, it is a funny feeling coming back home and it not feeling like home at all.

HAPPY: You touched on how you almost broke up and it was a tense time for you all, now that you’ve returned you’ve recognised that being together and being on the road and performing together is actually where you belong. Do you think because of that these next live shows are going to bring something different?

PADDY: I reckon there’s always been this quality in the band that people have been able to resonate with, whether or not they like our music, because whether you like our music or not…the band is the real deal.  It’s totally DIY and independent and we do everything ourselves from making our tour posters to producing our video clips. And also that all five of us were all best mates before…before Beaker had even bought a drum kit, to not knowing who The Beatles were kind of thing.  More destined to become a footy player…we were all mates before we were a band so when people see the band on stage, people can get a sense of it not just being thrown together.

HAPPY: And so going into collaborating with REMI – Something Strange is totally incredible, the reverb is insane, the guitar solos just as much. The whole track seems to run with these little licks of soul into such a voluptuous sound…was this the original intent?

PADDY: You know Bootsy Collins? [I was treated here to a truly mind-blowing rendition of the funk master’s own “I’d Rather Be With You“…cheers Paddy, may I never forget] we really wanted to get our sexy sperm lava, lots of wahh…nice and sleazy and sexy track.

HAPPY: And having REMI in there, takes the sound to another place of hip-hop.

PADDY: I think having REMI on the record really breaks it up and adds a whole other element. I’d always been a fan of REMI’s and what he’s all about. He’s not just Aussie hip hop, not like backyard barbecue rap, what he’s done really stands on its own.  World music, all the issue’s he’s tackling and then Sensible J’s production on all of his gear is magic.  If you’ve heard his new record, its no wonder it’s getting the froth that it’s getting.  

The way that it came together though was fairly organic, like I’d met him a few times here and there at gigs and what not and had a few mutual friends.  And then he kind of gave me a call out of the blue and said he was in Sydney and that they needed a drum kit for a gig that night. And I said ‘sure come swing by our studio, I’m just here working on a beat’ and he came by and we rolled up a spliff and I showed him what we were working on, which was Something Strange, and he was getting down to it.  I could see he was into it, and so I just asked ‘do you want to jump on it’ and he just said ‘Fuckin’ aye’ and then that was it.  Mutual dope respect.

HAPPY: I’m from Newtown and I am a big supporter of The Lord Gladstone… I think they have the best fries in Sydney. Such a good pub. But that window is delicious, and I feel so blessed, walking past it’s like ‘Kings of Chippendale’. So how did this come to be?

PADDY: It was basically a cocaine-fuelled idea that actually came to fruition.  Where 99.99% of those ideas do not.  This one actually did and I still just laugh at it, we are absolute wankers, obviously… putting yourselves into a renaissance stained glass window at your local pub, it doesn’t get much more wanker than that…but we’re proud of it…haha. I do love the idea of after the apocalypse, and our stained glass window’s still there and whoever’s left will actually think we are like Saints or God like characters.  You know the wall on the Led Zeppelin album cover of Physical Graffiti or Wakin on a Pretty Daze by Kurt Vile… I’ve always liked the idea of where it’s not just an artwork on an album or what you see on Spotify but you can actually go and visit.

HAPPY: Finally, I guess from the early days of Australia Street and Caress Your Soul…its kind of a new grown-up Sticky Fingers. Obviously the original flavour’s there but are you guys progressing towards the next stage of your careers and your musicianship. Is there anything you want to accomplish in the next couple of years, which reflects the changes you’ve made on the album?

PADDY: I’m just really proud of the band, the other guys as much as myself where, we’ve had so much fun over the past ten years and we were kind of at risk of losing the plot altogether. We had to wake up to ourselves a little bit and start respecting what we do.  And realizing that it’s grown into something that’s a bit bigger than just the fun we are having on the weekend. It’s funny we’ve been in this band since we were all like fifteen, sixteen and because of it being the age of the internet, like if you go full circle on the internet you can find some really old amateur embarrassing shit cause we were just kids having a laugh. We aren’t on a mission to bury any of that at all because; it’s such a great feeling to know we are such a great band because of where we’ve come from.  From then until now.


You can catch Sticky Fingers at Beyond the Valley this New Years Eve. Holding the hottest set of the festival, Paddy and the boys will be onstage during the countdown to midnight, and 2017. You can grab BTV tickets here.