Saturday, March 16, 2019

Ring The Alarm playlist, March 16

Bits and Pieces - Don't stop the music
Brooklyn Funk Essentials - The creator has a master plan
Aim - Just passing thru
Cutty Ranks - The stopper
Jimmy London - I'm your puppet
The Kingites - Polynesian Panthers
The Yoots - E papa waiari
Ballistic Bros - Peckings
Souleance - BBQ and Pimms
Manu Dibango  - Soul makossa
Julien Dyne with Mara TK - Steady
Sola Rosa  - Lady love (Richie Phoe remix)
Eru Dangerspiel - Coq au vin
Pete Rodriguez - I like it like that
Bobby Valentin - Use it before you lose it
Magic Circle Express - Magic fever
Lord Shorty and Vibrations Intl - Vibrations groove
Concept Neuf - The path (Sofrito edit)
Hank Marvin - Sunday for seven days
Eddie Billups - I need someone
Hank Ballard and the Midnighters - Its love baby (24 hours of the day)
Della Reese - Compared to what
Chubby Checker  -You better believe it baby
Gladys Knight and the Pips -Letter full of tears
Bo Diddley - Another sugar daddy
Incredible Bongo Band - Ohkey dokey ot2
Durand Jones and the Indications - Long way home
Bobby Womack - I can understand it
Nina Simone - Seeline woman (MAW remix)

Saturday, March 09, 2019

Ring The Alarm playlist, March 9

Raphael Saadiq & Q-Tip - Get involved
Eric B & Rakim - Eric B is president
Tall Black Guy -  Love to the world
Candi Staton - Do your duty (Pepe Bradock remix)
Innerzone Orchestra - Bug in the bass bin
Beanfield with Bajka - Tides (C's movement #1 - Carl Craig remix)
Pharoah Sanders - Astral travelling (Boozoo Bajou remix)
Shirlene King - Super stuff
Helene Smith - You got to be a man
Ella Fitzgerald  -Get ready
Nadine Brown - Leave me alone
Ellen Jackson  - Ghetto boogie
Clarence Reid - I get my kicks
Total Experience - Contradiction
Salmonella Dub - Platetechjonics (Groove corp remix)
Unitone Hifi - Listen or ya dead
Sound Foundation - Ram dancehall
DLT - Liquid skies (Ultra neon remix)
Julien Dyne - Like glue
The Fourth Way - Everymans your brother
Dizzy Gillespie - Soul kiss pt1
Della Reese - Compared to what
Barbara George - I know
Aretha Franklin - Respect
Leonard Charles - Funk case
Aaradhna - Drunken heart, smokey mind
Sly and the Family Stone - I cannot make it

Thursday, March 07, 2019

BaseFM launches in Samoa on March 16

Exciting news from my BaseFM peeps: "The launch of Island Base 87.5FM Samoa in happening.  
Our very own new sister station broadcasting nationwide over in Samoa ft. real DJs from New Zealand & Samoa mixing things up!

Going LIVE this March. 
Look out for our first live shows in Samoa this month as we’re taking over a handful of some of our top NZ-based pacific artists. 
Island Base - Connecting the sounds & people of the South Pacific.

BROADCASTING LIVE on Samoa airwaves 87.5FM and via live stream on from 16 March.

Kicking things off in style, we're bringing some of your favourite NZ artists to SAMOA to play for you on our new station and perform live!

*The King of hip hop from Apia City himself - Poetik
*Representing Team Dynamite, party starter Lucky Lance
*Straight out of the Runtingz Family, Reggae / RnB voice of the decade Lion Rezz as well as award winning Reggae producer and singer/songwriter Israel Starr
*Plus our boy KP from the legendary Sunshine Sound System

Saturday, March 02, 2019

Ring The Alarm playlist, March 2

Chackachas - Jungle fever (Greg Wilson edit)
Wilson Pickett - Engine no 9
Cold Blood - Kissing my love
Hiroshi Fukumura - Hunt up wind
Billy Cobham - Stratus
Tyra and the Tornadoes - Hui hui
Willie Mitchell - Sugar T
Major Lance - The matador
The Impressions  -We're a winner
Bobby Bland - Keep on loving me
Aretha Franklin - (Sweet sweet baby) Since you've been gone
Mary Wells - Aint that the truth
Willie Hightower - Walk a mile in my shoes
Jimmy James and the Vagabonds - Good good feeling
Jackie Wilson - Squeeze her, tease her
Donnie Elbert - Sweet baby
Arthur Conley - Aunt Dora's love soul shack
Lloyd Price - They get down
Isley Brothers - It's alright with me
Cameo - Keep it hot
Chaka Khan - What you did
Ladi6 - Royal blue (Silent Jay, Sensible J, & Leigh Fisher remix)
The Elder Statesman - Trans alpine express
Julien Dyne - Maddingos
Dub Asylum - French letter (free download here)
Lee Scratch Perry and Dub Syndicate - Train to Doomsville
Overnight Players - Shaka the great
Junior Tucker - Lock me up
Johnny Osbourne - Budy bye (Kenny Dope remix)
Guts - Kenke corner

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Natural Yoghurt Band new album coming

Woo, new tunes coming from Natural Yoghurt Band... "After two albums on Jazzman and Stones Throw subsidiary Now-Again Records, and two EPs since their arrival on Black Milky-way Music, The Natural Yogurt Band strikes again but this time with a third full-length album.

Those classy, groovy melodies coming out of Miles Newbold's mind ride along with both Neil Tolliday's drumsticks. Halfway between their studio in UK and a distant galaxy, sounds from Braille, Slate & Stylus are echoing, resonating, creating a highly psychedelic soundscape.

This album slowly fades from funky tunes, African-oriented grooves and smooth library music to a more absurd, free and contemporary vision of jazz. The last four tracks consist of drum breaks that set a sudden ending point to this long yet too short journey in outer-space."
Out May 3, 2019 on BMM, on vinyl/digital

Monday, February 25, 2019

Phase 5 interview, 2000

Phase 5, NZ Musician interview

Electronic Alchemy: Creating Gold with Phase 5

By Dominic Blaazer, NZ Musician, Vol 9, No 3 December 2000/January 2001

Phase 5 - is that a new music funding initiative then I hear you ask? Well no, actually it's a new grooviness initiative. Phase 5 is the nom de technologie of two people, Stinky Jim and Angus 'Mo Delay' McNaughton whose debut album, 'Space Bar', is now on the shelves following 1999's vinyl-only 'Space Bar EP' (both on Jim's Round Trip Mars label and distributed through Flavour).

The pair were in Unitone HiFi (along with Joost Langveld) back in the mad-for-it '90s, featuring on the cover of NZM in '97. Jim and Angus began work together again soon after, first calling themselves Soundproof. According to Jim this album was developing even then.

"Some of the tunes were written directly after the Unitone implosion over three years ago. A couple were written or, in the case of Mothman, re-munted earlier this year but all of our material is continually re-assessed and improved anyway until we're completely satisfied. The four tracks that appeared on the 'Space Bar EP' have been dealt to since then as well. We'll sort out another 12" with the four remaining CD-only tracks next year-ish."

This predilection for re-invention pushed them into the public eye when, for the 'Higher ++' EP, HDU asked them to remix Lull - a track I imagine everyone wanted to get their hands on. But Phase 5 are being heard much further afield than Dunedin.

"It sounds a bit blow-arse if you carry on about who's been playing your music but the 12" certainly got around and we got a lot of direct feedback. We've had radio play from Kid Loco in France, Coldcut on Radio One in England, Manasseh also in the UK, ABC in Australia, shows in the States, odd spots in Europe, Thievery Corporation geezers ringing up at insane times in the morning - all over the shop really."

As well as their creativity together in Phase 5, both Jim and Angus have respected reputations in their own fields. Ex-Headless Chook Angus has produced many New Zealand hits and Jim is - well, he's Stinky Jim, the DJ's DJ, the Selector's Selector, though I know he'd be lightning-fast in pointing out "it's just playing bloody records, mate".

Now I could go on about the 'Space Bar' album from a theoretical position of detachment but as I played on three of the eight tracks, I'm uniquely placed to relate a very special working view of Phase 5 from the inside. And how does that look? Tongs please, nurse.

When Jim or Angus rang last year, from the now defunct Incu-bator Studio, they'd either want me for a TVC soundtrack (fun, pays the bills) or for some Phase 5 naughtiness. Mostly I'd bring my Hammond L122 organ with a Leslie but sometimes an elderly Yamaha electric piano/dubsichord, a Moog or the old faithful Precision. I had very little idea what was going to be asked of me, they had no idea what I was going to play for them, and nobody had much idea how the end result would sound. It's a process that I love and having recorded music only in the 'traditional' ways for many years what happens next blows my retro mind.

During the session, Jim and Angus play me some rhythms, either rough or finished, and I am asked to provide a selection of introductions, lead lines, basslines, vamps, funky grooves, spacey sounds or whatever their leetle hearts desire. Maybe I'd end up on the floor playing the Hammond's bass pedals with my hands, or rocking it from side-to-side for spring reverb 'boings' as on Bag Juice. All in a day's work for Phase 5.

Then I'd get progress reports from Jim: "Tracks are sounding good Dom, but they're not quite ready yet," he'd say. "Good-oh," I'd nod, "call me when you find Angus again."

When the 'Space Bar EP' was finished, my concept of music making was pretty re-adjusted. There were three fully-fledged pieces of great music, Box Juice, Bag Juice and Verb Vendor featuring my sounds with their arrangements. I'd been sampled, chopped up, delayed and well and truly treated. Trad' old Dad was baffled, but glowing with pride like a healthy tissue donor.

Phase 5 are far from dependant on their contributors but two other long-time Friends of Band also feature: Burnt Friedman aka Nonplace is one, on Mothman Skunk, which wanders into some beautiful Balinese gamelan sounds. Secondly, 'Sweet Baby Dave' Goodison (Garageland guitarist/Hitlist bassist) who features on the student radio hit Easy Gargamel. Jim affirms there's an inevitable duality in collaborating.

"Undoubtedly, the worst thing is when you link up with supposedly hot musos who turn out to be one trick ponies. Purveyors of over-notely noodlings can apply elsewhere! The best thing is the musical options we can conjure up when we combine with other people's skills and creativity. It also allows us to have the richness of well-recorded instruments alongside the ludicrousness that technology can offer."

The analogue additions are recorded onto Pro Tools 24 where they await attention via Angus' toys. The Pioneer home hifi spring reverb and Drawmer valve compressor are favourites, as are the Akai S1100 sampler and Roland JV-1080 sound module.

As well as various people playing things, you are listening to a whole lot more besides with Phase 5. Box Juice is a mixture of a bossa nova rhythm with a Jamaican dancehall bassline. (A neat feature peculiar to dancehall is the use and abuse of a few basslines for an entire season by many producers.) When Jim's working, he's known mainly for reggae, roots and dub, but his and Angus' music collections mirror that of any other sadly habitual rummager and hoarder. For example, who remembers that bastion of NZBC light entertainment, Oswald Cheesman, his singers and orchestra? How about 'Percussive Moods' by Johnny Keating's Kombo? Those runt releases also share the shelves with a mass of ancient and modern diversity, all fair game to Jim and Angus when looking for their sounds.

And their sound? Unlike many so-called electronic/instrumental/cut and paste derived albums, 'Space Bar' doesn't stick to one feel throughout; a reason why I think this album, and incidentally, SJD's album '3' works so well. Some tracks are designed for modern dancing, some to suit the wee small hours with special friends and some constructed purely to draw in the listener so they may try and decipher what's going on.

It's hip, modern music made from available elements. If you must file it then 'Modern Lounge' seems apt. Remembering that lounge music was always concerned with new takes on the old, with foreign sounds, and with providing a relaxing ambience. It only became retro in our hands.

After finally completing 'Space Bar' the lads turned their attention to its supporting project, the 'Sideways' compilation. Also newly released this features 12 artists including Sola Rosa, Pain's People, SJD, International Observer, Submariner and Phelps & Munro's amazing closer Horse Winning Without Rider.

"The Phase 5 album was finished for a while before we released it because we decided it would be advantageous to unleash it alongside the 'Sideways' compilation as a double-barrelled statement of intent from Round Trip Mars Records," says Jim.

The statement has been heard thanks to the 'Space Bar EP' leading also to requests for tracks on other compilations.

"We've had quite a few from outside of this country but the only one we're seriously considering is to sling a couple of tunes to Statra, the NYC label who just put out Denver McCarthy's (Micronism) excellent new album."

With increasing numbers of electronic musicians succeeding on the live circuit, to what degree does Jim see Phase 5 following suit?

"We are 360 degrees viable as a live event, which is why we try to keep it to a few times a year so it can remain an event rather than just another gig. We don't do shows unless we have some fresh angles to offer or it's a particularly musically stimulating mix-up like playing alongside HDU or SJD."

Phase 5 Gear

SE10 Custom made silly noise creator box
Lineartech foolish sound unit
Technics 1200 turntable
Cosmic Charger Raygun
SS PC-2 Perconcussion Synthesiser
Boss DM-300 delay machine
Crusty tape deck
Kool Shades electronic kiddie keyboard
Spirit Folio 12.2 desk
Various DJ mixers
Soundtracs PC MIDI series desk
SCI Prophet 600
Roland SH1
Realistic mono synth

Saturday, February 23, 2019

Robot Riddims

Now this is fun... hat tip to Stinky Jim, awesome bleepy riddim bizz. "Strictly lo-fi for your hi-fi. 8-bit, noise and malfunctioning drum machines."

Friday, February 22, 2019

New Souleance biz out now

"First Word Records is proud to present a new full-length project from Souleance!

Following on from 2013’s acclaimed ’La Beat Tape’, the Parisian duo return for 2019 with ’French Cassette’.

As well as the recent single ‘François / ‘Sète’ (both included here), we have 25 new tracks dedicated to all things Français. This mixtape opus is a true labour of love; A French voyage through time and genres, as Soulist and Fulgeance like to do. Each track is purposefully named after various French clichés; characteristics, phrases and places. You’ll excuse our French, and check those out for yourselves…

‘French Cassette’ is comprised of an array of noises from various French composers; from boogie, to jazz, to sound libraries, to chansons. Cinematically sultry sounds, with a lot of funk; where Brigitte Fontaine and France Gall meet François de Roubaix in a back alley somewhere near the film set of Calmos, whilst pumping out the soundtrack to La Haine. A little moody, a little sexy, a little rough around the edges.

Whilst the film noir-esque interludes accentuate the theme, Souleance’s unmistakable grooves ride throughout, with a symphony of synths and scratches, beats and basslines. This is undeniably, unashamedly a celebration. Boom bap and breaks, all flavoured with a healthy layer of je ne sais quoi."

Out now on First Word Records on digital/vinyl/cassette

Monday, February 18, 2019

Coco Solid dropping knowledge

This is essential viewing. Coco Solid on changing the paridigm.

Coco Solid via FB: "Kia ora y'all. I gave a talk at the Ableton event LOOP in Los Angeles last November. I talk about how if the music industry truly wants all that radical artistic innovation and groundbreaking invention, it needs to authentically (not superficially/tokenisticly) involve the people it has traditionally excluded (but also ironically stolen from) within every step and skill of the music making process.

It's been getting some pr-etty intense reactions lol which has been an interesting/cool/creepy experience for me. I can't stand this video cos I'm so visibly nervous but *shrug* I'll take the L in the hope it inspires someone lol."

Form Albleton's site: "At the most recent Loop summit, we introduced a new solo presentation format where we invited people to give short talks on one aspect of music-making that is important to them personally. This time around, we’re happy to share a video from Coco Solid. 

The Auckland, New Zealand-based artist came up through underground punk and rap scenes, before building a discography of wild disco-rap with Parallel Dance Ensemble, swamp-punk grunge-electro with Badd Energy and radical rap with the nine-member collective Fanau Spa.

Alongside her musical output, she also heads Kuini Qontrol, an “accidental label, club night, podcast umbrella” which she uses to amplify women, LGBTI, queer and decolonising voices in the Pacific. At Loop, Coco Solid gave voice to her conviction that those who have been traditionally excluded from the music industry are the key figures to restoring music’s potential as something more than a mere commodity."

Oh, and don't read the comments on the youtube clip.

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Splitter interview, 2000

the band Splitter

Splitter: And Then There Were Three

By Mark Bell, NZ Musician, Vol. 8, No. 7 February/March 2000

Splitter, it would seem, was a prophetic choice of name for the Auckland pop/rock three-piece which formed in April 1995. Usually when we feature a band's first album in NZM, that band is somewhere near the start of their career.

Unfortunately, Splitter's first (and only) album, 'Stereo Happiness', now out on Marital Records, essentially serves as the band's epitaph.

Andrew Thorne (guitar/vocals) caused the first disruption in Splitter soon after their EP "What You Know" was released when he accompanied Bic Runga as guitarist on her 1998 European reconnaisance tour. Meanwhile band co-founder Kurt Shanks was playing bass with Bic's sister Boh, in Stellar. By mid-1999, increasing workload obliged Kurt to decide between his two musical mistresses and he chose to devote his energies solely to Stellar, thus leaving Splitter without a bassist. Kurt's bass shoes proved difficult to fill and Andrew and drummer Matt Meehan were left to seek a release for an album finished by the original threesome (and friends).

When Matt was found dead in November last year, a victim of drug-related misadventure, Splitter had officially left the building, their album recorded and mixed but unreleased.

Though Matt primarily drummed in Splitter, he was one of those multi-instrumentalist types, happy on just about anything you cared to sit him at. Andrew, Kurt and Marital's Mark Roach all say that Matt left most people blown away not only by his raw talent but also by his sheer rock'n'roll attitude. Kurt readily confirms this: "It was great to have him in the band because recording-wise, he was a very complementary musician. On Some Part Of You, he played everything: drums, bass, guitar, and he sang it as well."

The flame which burned inside him was obviously a contagious one, and as Splitter's set came together, honed by live outings, the band began to see that they had some very special 'X' factor stuff going down. It had to be captured and 'Stereo Happiness' is the very classy result.

Andrew and Kurt are proudly promoting the album, and re-counted its development. Andrew recollects: "Three tracks (What You Know, Tremolo Panned, Bad For Me) were recorded with (producer/drummer extraordinaire) Wayne Bell at The Lab three or four years ago. The rest was done largely thanks to Chris Tate doing the rhythm tracks at College Hill Sound in a disused office.

After Matt joined the band, we finished those tapes at his house with engineer Steve Ward and some borrowed ADAT recorders. Steve's now in London doing very well for himself, I believe. It was coming to a funny time for the band in the respect that I was going overseas with Bic Runga and Kurt's involvement in Stellar was starting to escalate, so we thought it was time to get a permanent record of the songs because we all felt that both the songs and the band were so good."

Kurt agrees: "It was an uncertain period because we weren't really sure when Andrew would be back. When we went in to record, we knew we had a bunch of cracking songs and just wanted to get them down."

Label manager, Mark Roach had the job of seeing that the final product was cohesive.

"All the mixing was done by Chris Van de Geer at Airforce and then he, Andrew and I took those and the three Lab tracks to Gavin Botica at York Street for mastering. Gavin then had the onerous task of putting them all at the same level and making them sound the same ... "

"Which he's done ... " cuts in Andrew enthusiastically. "We spent a whole weekend on Bad For Me in The Lab, and you can compare that with Departure Lounge which is a great song, but it was just a tinpot little recording, really, from Matt's kitchen."

Andrew says he has no real interest in chart success for 'Stereo Happiness': "If anything, I just want one copy in my hand and for the memory of Matt as well - to have an official record of what a fantastic musician he was."

This is Mark's company line as well.

"In a way, Matt's death shifted the focus back onto the music and made us think 'well, what are we doing this for?'. It's about the music and it's a great album and it shouldn't be an album that gets sucked into that marketing void that the '90s music industry, globally, has become."

Hindsight has made things clearer for Kurt. "It should have been out 18 months ago but we spent too long trying to get a major record label interested, instead of just getting it out there. It's never been a particularly marketable band - the music's great, but it's not a band you can sell through pretty posters and videos ... more along the lines of REM and Radiohead."

"We're fucking ugly, but we sound good." is Andrew's more precise summation.

Over the fence with the definitely not-ugly Stellar, Kurt is getting some major marketing lessons with Sony. Splitter's label, Marital, is not one of New Zealand's major labels, but it is one of our longer-established independents. Neither experience is 'better' Kurt says. It's just diff'rent strokes.

"The experience I have had with a major label has been great, but so has my experience with Marital. It's mainly because of the people involved. People's perceptions of major labels particularly in this country aren't quite accurate. I don't think how they operate here is the same as in, say, America or London. The truth of the matter is that there are only so many local bands that they can sign up. At the moment, there are probably more local bands on major labels than ever."

Andrew shares Kurt's enthusiasm, adding: "You can whinge all you like, but realistically, majors are more responsive to New Zealand music than they've ever been and you can pretty soon sniff out if someone is into working in a record company because they like music or because they like being in a supposedly 'hip' business. Working with Mark is really good. I can just ring him up and talk about ideas. If he has time to do them, he does, if he doesn't, he tells me. It's generally black-and-white and if something doesn't get done, it's generally because of budget, not because of him arsing around or going to lunch or talking on his cellphone."

It's a brave record label that'll put out an album when there is no possibility of the band supporting it, but Andrew has plans, nonetheless.

"I love playing guitar and being in a band, but I'm not sure at this stage what form that'll take. New band, new members, new name, new songs, new everything. I daresay I might pull some Splitter numbers out every now and then. There's already been a session using Peter Stuyvesant Hitlist's bassist, "Sweet Baby Dave" Goodison on guitar, but I've just got to write some songs, really. I go through fits and starts - I'll go for ages without writing anything and then one day I'll have something in my head and think 'What is that song?' and then realise that it's not something that I've heard, but something that's happening in my brain."

'Stereo Happiness' features one of Kurt's songs, God Only Knows and he says that Andrew's absence encouraged both his and Matt's writing.

"That was quite good for us, because we did about three little gigs together and it spurred on our own songwriting. Matt began a real spurt on songwriting, which I hope we have 4-track recordings of, because he borrowed Andrew's recorder."

And how was the overall experience of touring with Bic Runga through Europe, Andrew?

"Flying business class everywhere and playing to audiences of 300 teenage girls for Spanish TV was great! We also had guitar roadies and when I arrived at Heathrow, there was this guy holding my name on a placard, and a limousine. We were well paid for everything we did, gig, tour, radio slot, whatever. It was no less than I deserve - ha ha.

"I felt artistically satisfied playing with Bic, certainly. It's purely her thing and she absorbs energy from other people - Bic's very good at getting creative energy happening and was very open to input. She was amazing, being 21 and having the confidence to work with all those people. She really, really did produce that album."

Andrew's style can definitely be heard throughout 'Drive', but for 'Stereo Happiness', it is quite removed from that.

"'Drive' featured a more subtle way of playing" says Andrew, "but for Splitter I got in touch with the Rock Pig within. Matt's drumming drove a lot of the songs, and there's a definite Zeppelin/Who lineage going on there. His drumming was always, I thought, a combination of John Bonham and Keith Moon. He had that heaviness but the flailing as well. We could do The Kids Are Alright and get away with it."

With all the obstacles that have been put in Splitter, and Andrew Thorne's way, he remains philosophical about the big picture: "Music is metaphor for life really, being in a band, you encounter the same obstacles that hit everyone, and you keep on doing it ... or you don't. You just do music because you want to get it out."

Splitter Gear
Rickenbacker 330 guitar
1971 Gibson Les Paul Deluxe
Rickenbacker 4001 bass
1974 Yamaha Custom kit
Fender Telecaster '51 Reissue
Epiphone Casino guitar
Fender Jazz Bass
Mark Bell's Strat
Vox AC15 (whole album, one amp!)
Red wine

Saturday, February 16, 2019

Ring The Alarm playlist, February 16

Sly and the Family Stone - Love city/ I cannot make it / Thankful and thoughtful / I'm an animal / Plastic Jim / Thank you for talkin' to me Africa
Little Sister - Stanga
Bomb The Bass - Bugpowder dust (La Funk Mob remix)
Freddie Cruger - Something good
Rae and Christan with Bobby Womack - Get a life
Charles Bradley -No time for dreaming
War - Galaxy
Stevie Wonder - Another star
Charles Wright  -You are the one for me
Fat Freddy's Drop  -The raft (steppers dub)
Lord Echo - Molten lava
Grace Jones - She's lost control
Sola Rosa with Oliver Daysoul - Promise me (Tall Black Guy remix)
Brassroots - Good life
Bacao Rhythm and Steel Band - Xplosive
Preston Love with Shuggie Otis - Chicken gumbo
Gene Faith - Family man
Eddie Kendricks - Keep on truckin' pt2
Four Tops  - Turn your love light on me
ZZ Hill - Keep on loving you
Rare Earth - Get ready
Eddie Bo - Baby I'm wise
Jeanie Dee  - Shake a hand
Shirlene King - Super stuff

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Katchafire interview, 2003

By Mark Bell, NZ Musician, Feb/Mar 2003

This is not good. The message from Mai Music's Victor Stent appears to have torpedoed my last opportunity to interview Hamilton based reggae eight-piece Katchafire, supposedly up in the Big A putting the finishing touches to their debut album 'Revival' at Mai FM's studio (with Dubious Bros' Chris Macro at the controls). The gist of the message is that a couple of members have copped a nasty virus (gotta eat those greens on tour, boys), the band are still in Hamilton, and that is where they are staying until well after print deadline.

With space already committed to the story, this news makes for a fair bit of teeth-gnashing back at NZM Towers. That is until our unflappable, or perhaps simply desperate editor suggests a road trip. The plan is to head down to Raglan to the impending Soundsplash reggae festival, corner the boys for an interview backstage and then take in their live act later on that evening.

Talk about pulling one out of the fire. Not a bad concept as far as salvage-jobs go, and so it is that we find our be-sandaled and sunscreened selves weaving our way through the colourful mish-mash of characters who've come from all points around to soak up the good vibrations in sun-splashed Raglan.

A quick recce of the bar tent (well it was hot) soon reveals the presence of rhythm guitarist/singer Thompson Hohepa, his impressive full-face moko making him an easy mark as he relaxes with a couple of members of the extended family that is Katchafire. Although we're not running tape yet, he is so clearly enthused by the events of the last few months – along with the anticipation of what is clearly going to be a magic night sharing star billing with the likes of TrinityRoots, King Kapisi and Fat Freddy's Drop – that he's up and running anyway. He talks about the indelible impact that Bob Marley had on him as a young man, of being at that legendary Western Springs concert and the defining moment when Bob asked all the gang factions to take down their flags, telling them that we are all one.

He is also understandably buzzing over their recent trip to Noumea to play an international outdoor reggae festival alongside the likes of Andrew Tosh, who performed with his late father's original band. It was Thompson's and two other Katcahfire member's first trip outside New Zealand, actually his first time on a plane! You can still read the anguish on his face when he talks about his passport not coming through until the day before he left. If the bastards wanted to make him sweat they sure succeeded.

We're backstage now and talking to singer/songwriter/guitarist Logan Bell, bass player and web-master Ara Adams-Tamatea and singer/songwriter/keyboardist and tasty sax player Jamey Ferguson, the big man responsible for writing and singing their super-hookey debut single Giddy Up.

After spending over two months in the Top 10, one of only three local singles to go gold last year, Giddy Up was the sort of runaway success that can take everybody by surprise, band included.

"We kinda were hoping that we were headed to do something special soon" says Jamey, "but the fact that it was Giddy Up that brought it was a surprise to everybody I think."

Ara continues: "Pretty much it was just introducing us to the music industry, it wasn't meant to be the song that was as big as what it was. It was the introduction song, but not THE song to launch us. But we're not complaining..."
The story is that Katchafire took out a Mai FM talent quest, the prize being recording time to the tune of two singles at Mai's Auckland studio, with no strings attached regarding signing to the Mai label. With interest being shown in the band by Dawn Raid, what tipped the band in favour of signing with Mai Music came down to the influence Mai FM currently enjoy over the Auckland area through their radio network, and, according to Ara. "Because it's in their best interests to play our song, and it's in our best interests to get our stuff out there."

Katchafire have been around since '98, and, largely through word of mouth from their legendary four hour pub gigathons, they had a very healthy following even prior to things blowing up with Giddy Up. The downside of so much playing is that it can be disruptive to the recording process. Logan admits that the band's live schedule has caused delays in getting 'Revival' out there.

"Yeah, we've calmed down on the gigging to get in there (studio). We're still fresh, we're still learning how to sing every night and still have a voice, how to say 'no' and go home, ha ha!"

Do they ever find time, or in fact ever need to practice? "I warned you about those questions," says Logan, revealing a wicked sense of humour. "Just to learn new songs now and then and before these big festivals, Rhumba and Big Day Out, that sort of thing."

The band have something approaching 100 Marley songs in their kit bag, amongst a swag of others and are essentially a cracking good reggae covers band with a hit original single on their hands. I ask how Katchafire are dealing with this tricky transition from pub jukebox darlings to serious songwriters, although I already suspect that the covers will never fully be jettisoned from the songlist.

Ara, as usual, is first to the mic. "Covers can get you so far and we're really happy with the success and the work that it's given us. But I mean we know that to be able to stay on top of our game in this industry you've got to be able to tour and play your own stuff, and obviously getting on the radio helps. I mean you look at bands like UB40 and all these other bands that are still touring now, that tour two or three hours of original music. But it's just over the years what they've accumulated. So we would love to be in that position where we've got albums and albums of original stuff – definitely a goal!"

There's a real sense of community, brotherhood, commonality, whakapapa, whatever it is that comes across in Katchafire's performance that night, the crowd are lapping it up. It's spirited but traditional and sweet reggae in the style that Marley crossed over to the world in the '70s, with a tight, punchy sound and beautiful vocal harmonising.

With three Bells in the band since its inception (guitarist Grenville Bell is Logan and drummer Jason's father), it's not hard to see where the extended family vibe comes from and serves to remind how refreshingly un-ageist reggae music is.

"It is family for them." says Ara, "and for the likes of myself anyway, and the others, it's a really close-knit group of guys. And Logan's family, who've basically been there from the beginning, I don't know, forgive me if I'm wrong, but they're pretty much like family to the rest of us." Nods of agreement all round.

With 'Revival' slated for mid-March release, Katchafire will once again be answering the call of the road, doing what they do so well: singing and playing their hearts out to sweaty rooms full of gratified reggae lovers. It may not be at the flashest joint in town, but at $15 or less on the door you can bet it'll be the best value night out you've had since Carols by Candlelight, and a hell of a lot more fun.

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Southside Of Bombay interview, 1999

Southside of Bombay recently popped up in AKLD playing at Waitingi Day celebrations. Here's an interview with them from last century.

Southside Of Bombay: Still Running

By Shaun Chait, NZ Musician, Vol. 8, No. 3 June/July 1999

If only all interviews could be like this. It’s a pleasant enough early May afternoon, I’m sitting in a Wellington cafe with Southside Of Bombay’s Kevin Hodges and manager Teresa McGregor, and the only reason I’m having difficulty getting questions out is because every time Hodges tells a story to punctuate his answer, we all fall about laughing.

Southside’s music has a warmth and welcoming vibe to it that puts the listener at ease, and it’s no real surprise that band co-founder Hodges shares these traits. So here I am, trying to lay off the giggles long enough to enquire about the Southside story.

The seven strong line-up of today is markedly different to that which won a Wellington band competition way back in 1990, less than a year after coming together. Original members Hodges (tenor sax), Joseph Fa’amaoni (guitar, lead vocals), and David Fiu (trumpet, lead vocals) have remained with the band throughout its 10 year career. A fourth original, Ranea Aperahama, has recently rejoined the band. Hodges says at least 20 musos have been part of the group since its inception, and usually Southside runs with an eight-strong ensemble.
The band debuted in 1990 to a full house at Wellington’s Paisley Park. Hodges reckons the music scene was quite different then: “In those days you could play three different places on three consecutive nights in Wellington, and guarantee full houses. It was good for the spirit and good for the pocket – it really urged us on as to where we could go next”.

They toured the North Island extensively and recorded two songs at Word Of Mouth as part of a band competition prize. One of those songs drew immediate attention.

“Shortly after that, Ian Morris heard us play at a varsity orientation gig”, Hodges explains. “He was blown away by the song and approached me and said ‘I wouldn’t mind recording that, but with a few conditions’.”

The reworked version, released on Trevor Reekie’s Pagan Records, was called What’s The Time Mr Wolf, and became their first single in 1991. Southside remained with Pagan until 1997, when they switched to Tangata Records.
Hodges has nothing but praise for Reekie: “He’s taught me a lot. He would fax us and say ‘maybe you should just shut your eyes and jump in with both feet’, and we did that a lot of the time.”

‘Live In Aotearoa’, Southside’s recently released debut double CD, produced by Nigel Stone (who Hodges describes as ‘the type’ of guy that every group craves’) features live versions of the band’s greatest hits and a shorter studio CD. It comes after five successful singles.

“Out of those five singles, in order, Mr Wolf went gold (staying on the charts for an astounding five months), All Across The World won something at the ’94 New Zealand music awards, Kia Mau took out two awards in ’96, Umbadada won as well, and Running … is still running,” boasts Hodges.

Mr Wolf has gone on to become a true New Zealand anthem, and although Hodges is rapt with the reaction, he has an amusing anecdote to tell: “We were blown away by what was happening with us then. A good way to describe it is ‘woooaaaahhhhh’. But the first time I saw it on TV I was pissed off. It was on the programme Marae, and somebody hadn’t locked the speed on properly, so it was slowing down and speeding up (gives graphic demonstration), and this is on national bloody TV! I was fuming. When it finished, our phone just went berserk and I said ‘I’m going outside to chop some wood’.”

Once I’ve stopped laughing, Hodges reveals the scars left by the episode: “It really dented my pride, really kicked me. I thought ‘how could professionals stuff it up so bad?’ That ruined it for me.”

Southside have practised twice a week at the same Kensington St location throughout their career, which given the size of the band, requires a ton of dedication and commitment. Hodges says it’s his passion for the music that has enabled him to stick it out over the past 10 years. When the topic of highlights comes up, he displays the same earthiness: “We were playing in a mall in Porirua in ’95, and kids from toddlers up were all totally getting into us. It really moved me to see that we are making an impression on their lives – that they were in awe of us. That made a huge impact on me. From then on I’ve realised that there are little wee ears coming up after us, and what we do now affects tomorrow.”

He also considers a time in Noumea with the band huddled round watching a giant cockroach a highlight.

“That’s where our music has taken us. We’ve had hard times, that helps bring the band together. If we can’t enjoy ourselves offstage, we aren’t going to onstage.”

To release a double CD, let alone a live one, as a first album is an unusual step. Hodges agrees, but says the live experience is what Southside is all about. The band already have songs ready for their next album which they hope to do next year, but until then there’s this one, a national tour and hopefully a trip to Europe at the end of the year. And the grand scheme?

“World domination,” Hodges states, half mockingly.

Saturday, February 09, 2019

Ring The Alarm playlist, February 9

Barry White - Theme from King Kong pt2
Dalvanius and the Fascinations - Who said that
Betty Wright - Where is the love
George McCrae - I get lifted
Vernon Burch - Fun city
Chaka Khan - What you did
Marvin Gaye - Got to give it up pt1
Four Tops - Something about you
Jackie Wilson - Squeeze her, tease her
Arthur Conley - Aunt Dora's love soul shack
Bobby Bland - I'm so tired
Willie Hightower - Walk a mile in my shoes
Jackie Moore - Willpower
E L Fields feat Sharon Jones - Heaven bound
Elder Statesman - Montreaux sunrise
Shogun Orchestra - Sword of doom
The Jamaicans - Chain gang
Phillis Dillion - Rocksteady
Superbeagle - Dust a sound boy
Supercat - Don dada
Buju Banton - Boom wha dis
Herbs - French letter dub
Honeydrippers - Impeach the president
Darondo - Luscious lady
Laura Lee - If can beat me rocking you can have my chair
Idris Muhammad - Express yourself
Mighty Mocambos - Next message
McCoys - Fever
Tommy James and the Shondells - Hanky panky
Cannibal and the Headhunters  - Land of a thousand dances
The Champs - Tequila
Booker T and the MGs -Sugarcane
Sonny Knight and the Lakers - Sugarman
Fontella Bass and Bobby McClure - Baby what you want me to do
Brenton Wood - Some got it, some don't

Friday, February 08, 2019

Dubwize Soundsystem interview, 2003

DJ Messenjah (left) and MC David Snypa Levi of Dubwize Soundsystem. Photo by Jacqui Calcott.
DJ Messenjah (left) and MC David Snypa Levi of Dubwize Soundsystem. Photo by Jacqui Calcott, 2009.

Dubwize Soundsystem

by Anna Saunders, NZ Musician, Vol. 10, No. 6, December 2002/January 2003

While it seems that everyone from No Doubt to ABS is jumping on the dub and reggae bandwagon these days, the New Zealand dub sound is becoming recognisably unique.

While Wellington lays claim to many of these acts, including Trinity Roots, Rhombus and The Black Seeds, Christchurch-based Dubwize Soundsystem have helped to even out the score with the release of their debut album, 'To the Control Tower'.

A collaboration between Dubwize Soundsystem and well-known Christchurch DJ and producer Confucius, 'To the Control Tower' was released through FMR in mid November.

Unlike many other groups mixing drum 'n' bass tracks with jungle and dub, Dubwize Soundsystem is strictly roots.

"There's a lack in roots reggae in NZ – the real original Jamaican stuff," says Dubwize's Messenjah aka Gabriel Calcott. "We don't want to mix and mash our styles. We don't play jungle. We just play roots through to dub and dancehall."
Originally known as Roots n Riddim Soundsystem, Dubwize had its beginnings through Calcott's RDU reggae show.

A live selector gig at the Dux de Lux in 1999 saw the incorporation of vocalist Justin Rahui (aka Littlejah), who has been involved in Kiwi reggae, including Ebony Beats Soundsystem and Dancehall Dons since the early '90s. In 2001 Californian MC (and former member of The Twelve Tribes Of Israel in Auckland), David Papa Levi, who had returned to NZ from supporting international greats Jimmy Cliff and the Wailing Souls, also joined the Soundsystem. Dubwize began to be known for its roots reggae.

The crew has often fronted for Salmonella Dub on their South Island tours, their performance guaranteed to add to the vibe. In fact, if you had to use one word to describe the Dubwize sound, it would be 'positive'. It's the kind of music likely to played on sunny decks, beaches and bachs throughout summer and Calcott says the laid-back, affirmative element is strongly connected to the group's Rasta philosophy.

"There's a one-love, spread-the-love message. It's a rasta influenced soundsystem and it's definitely an important thing. You can listen to the lyrics and hear the message in it," he explains.

He's right – with lyrics like "Man was not made to suffer and hate because he was made out of love..." the Rasta connection is pretty hard to miss.
In fact, Papa Levi says he was initially quite surprised that a number of mainstream record labels were interested in the group. Dubwize signed a distribution deal with Festival Mushroom Records because the label were able to release it quickly.

"Major labels have tended to stay away from that sort of thing. This is the first time really staunch lyrics have been distributed here. [The rise of reggae] is a phenomenon that's been going on in the northern hemisphere for decades, but down here it's just catching on."

Papa Levi says that while the songs on the album stay true to the original roots message, the lyrics themselves have had to become more involved.
"The lyrics are staunch and the issues are deeper now. You can't just be 'jah love' and 'can't fight Babylon' because everyone's heard that a million times."
Instead, 'To the Control Tower' touches on issues as diverse as GM, faith and, in Every Youthman Stand Strong (which picked up an award at the Bay of Plenty music awards in 2001), young people struggling to stay true to themselves.

Dubwize started recording in March 2001, but geographical issues (Confucius and Messenjah live in Christchurch while Papa Levi is based in Bay of Plenty and Little Jah lives in Nelson), complicated the process. "It was a bit of mission," admits Calcott. Papa Levi agrees, adding that even performing together required a lot of legwork.

"I probably came down to Christchurch 10 times this year. It was a three-hour drive to Auckland and then I'd fly down. We'd have booked a Monday night in the studio and every time we came together it was crazy."

Fresh from a MAINZ course, Messenjah, together with Confucius (who is due to release his second solo jungle dub album), co-produced the album at Confucius' Christchurch base, Footnote Studios.

The pair had been talking about working together for several years, before teaming up for the Dubwize debut and Calcott says the collaboration has been so successful that Confucious will merge with Dubwize for the next album.
"He's a bit of a genius I reckon," says Calcott of Confucius. "He can pick up any instrument and play anything. He's really multi-talented and an awesome songwriter."

Papa Levi agrees that working together has been very successful.
"The others are really easy guys. They listen to your ideas and vice versa. We've got a good thing going."

Dubwize Soundsystem are already working on their next album, but Calcott says a instrumental-only dub version of 'To The Control Tower' could be out as early as the beginning of next year, although details haven't been set in stone yet.