Penny Ikinger

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It’s been six years since Penny Ikinger released her debut solo record, Elektra . In that time Ikinger has hardly been idle, playing and touring nationally and internationally under her solo moniker

It’s been six years since Penny Ikinger released her debut solo record, Elektra . In that time Ikinger has hardly been idle, playing and touring nationally and internationally under her solo moniker, as well as offering her guitar talents to Kim Salmon’s eponymous rock outfit. “I didn’t expect it take as long as this to release my second album,” she smiles. “But part of that is me being a solo artist. I don’t have a support structure around me, so I have to do all the organising that goes into touring and playing. I enjoy parts of the organising, but I suppose I would appreciate it if someone else was doing it,” Ikinger laughs.

Ikinger’s second solo album, Penelope, is a clear deviation from Elektra. Whereas her first effort exhibited an indulgent streak, it’s follow up is an unashamed pop album. “It was definitely intended to be a pop album,” Ikinger admits. “I didn’t want to make the same album as Elektra. I wanted to make a different type of pop music.” Having a pre-determined musical focus was useful, but also presented its own challenges. “[Wanting to make a pop record] was a challenge,” Ikinger confirms. “If you give yourself parameters to work within, then that itself can be a challenge.”

Having secured a Victorian government grant to assist with the funding of the record, Ikinger headed to Hot House Studios in St Kilda to record the album. An impressive supporting cast of musicians – including Radio Birdman guitarist Deniz Tek, Vinz Guilluy and Dimi Dero from Dimi Dero Inc and former Died Pretty vocalist Ron Peno – dropped into the studio to assist with the record. “Vinz and Dimi were over here touring, and I got them to come into the studio to record some tracks,” Ikinger explains. “Some of Deniz’s guitar parts were recorded in the US, and he emailed them back – you can do that these days with digital technology.”

The collaboration between Ikinger and Ron Peno – a duet on Memories Remain – was the culmination of a long-held plan. “Ron and I had always wanted to do something together,” she muses. “We wrote the song together spontaneously, and I thought we might as well do it as a duet.”

Ikinger dedicated Elektra to Charlie Owen, and her former Wet Taxis band mate Louis Tillett; in a similar vein Penelope is dedicated to Deniz Tek, who Ikinger says has been particularly supportive of her solo career. “He’s been really, really supportive of my music,” she notes. “He helped me with getting Elektra released in the US, and he helped me get onto (record label) Citadel here. Deniz has been something of a mentor to me.”

Tek’s efforts in securing label support for Penelope sees Ikinger return to Citadel, John Needham’s legendary independent label that released the Wet Taxis’ seminal records in the 1980s. “Citadel is mainly doing back catalogue these days,” Ikinger says. “I’m not sure exactly what John’s rationale was, but I know he loves the album.” Indeed, there is a school of thought that says the record label is a dying concept in the on-line digital age; Ikinger sees a label backing as still important, particularly for a self-managing solo artist. “Having a label does help,” she argues. “Being a solo artist means that there is so much work that you have to do. I don’t think labels are defunct. John Needham is also putting the record out in Europe – he’s really knows what he’s doing.”

Ikinger has also recently returned from playing a series of shows in France, backed once again by Guilluy and Dimi Demo. “I love touring,” she admits happily. “And France is a great place to play – in some ways it’s easier to play there than here. The working conditions are better in France, and in Spain. You get guarantees, accommodation, and you get fed, whereas in Australia musicians have to assume all the risk.”

With two separate Australian backing bands in Melbourne and Sydney – the latter comprising Tek, and former Barricudas and Radio Birdman bassist Jim Dickson and Crow drummer John Fenton – to add into her musical mix, Ikinger has an eclectic supporting cast to draw upon for her live shows. “Having different backing bands means that I learn more,” she smiles. “I see music as not being static – I see it more as water than changes shape. I see that as part of the experience – it gives the music an element of danger.”

PENNY IKINGER Penelope is out now through Citadel Records