Michael Cullen is an Australian song writer and performer. Michael plays old semi-acoustic guitars and makes music with tape machines, tube microphones, and other analogue equipment. Michael can be intense and has a baritone voice which ranges in tone from a mellifluous near croon to old testament tirade.
Michael's music has variously been described as adult alternative, indie rock, goth and punk. His early influences are ABBA, AC/DC, The Beatles, David Bowie, Elvis Costello and The Cure but comparisons are more likely to be drawn between Leonard Cohen, Nick Cave, Joy Dvision, The Triffids or even The Go Betweens.
Michael played in a number of post punk bands in Sydney in the 1980s and 1990s including No Man's Land, The Hardheads and Watershed.
Michael and Jon Cullen c. 1995
The Hardheads were a guitar driven three piece almost punk band, formed with Michael's brother Jon. The Hardheads, released one 5 track EP, The Long Goodbye in 1993, a collection of hard edged riff outs with a kind of pop sensibility.
In 1995, whilst recording their first album and believing that their musical style had morphed to being almost unrecognisable the band changed their name to Watershed. "In retrospect," says Michael, "this was somewhat misguided. We just threw four years of hard earned brand recognition down the toilet." The album became known as You Buried Me. It's hard edged take on British post punk was not fashionable in the grunge laden mid 90s.
Tim Powles, of Australian paisley guitar legends The Church, played drums on this record and contributed to its exceptional sound. "I am still ecstatic about half of this record. It has a sound unlike any other that I have heard." Michael and Tim have been collaborating now for 20 years.
Watershed released a follow up EP Sour Pop in 1997. It was not nearly as well received as You Buried Me and Michael took an extended break following touring for the record.
At Steve Kilbey's Karmic Hit studio c. 1997
Michael regrouped after the turn of the century with Tim Powles to create Love Transmitter, a completely different kind of indie pop record which combined feedback drenched guitar, Michael's resonant baritone vocal, various analogue keyboards and Tim's, now more casual, drums to deliver a sensual romantic hybrid unlike any other.
Love Transmitter was not well promoted. It was, however, enthusiastically received when discovered by reviewers. In 2011, an Australian music blog Tomatrax named it in the top twenty Australian albums of all time.
Love Transmitter, was re-mastered and re-issued in 2012 to rave reviews.
The long awaited follow up, True Believer, was released in late 2014. A vivid, if sometimes desolate collection of songs recorded on analogue tape at Tim's Spacejunk III and Studios 301 Sydney in bursts over a four year stretch.
"It wasn't an easy record to make. Love Transmitter we recorded in a month more or less but this one we recorded and mixed several times over."
In the end famed English producer Danton Supple was engaged and mixed the bulk of the songs and this provided the clarity and finishing touch that was needed.