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

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Rick Bryant interview, 1999

Doing time with Rick Bryant

By Mark Bell, NZ Musician, Vol. 8, No. 2 April/May 1999

The cover of John Dix's sprawling encyclopedic odyssey of New Zealand pop history 'Stranded in Paradise' shows a caricatured vocalist, eyes clamped shut in almost religious devotion to the task at hand. That the vocalist just happens to be Rick Bryant is no whimsy on Dix's part, rather an earnest doff of the cap in the direction of this perennial musical journeyman.

Quite a journey it has been too: from '60s R'n'B outlaws Mammal; through the acid-fuelled, multi-media organised anarchy of Blerta (featuring among others the late, great Bruno Lawrence and film maker Roger Donaldson); a stint as an English lecturer, cut short when he fell foul of the pot police; surfacing again with the hard-touring and aptly named Rough Justice; then a busman's holiday away from frontman duty with the quintessentially Ponsonby band, The Neighbours; to his current and on-going labour of love, the big band R'n'B sound of the Jive Bombers.

Throughout much of this time he has maintained his interest in the Windy City Strugglers, a band of Wellington mates with a shared love of old roots standards played on traditional jug band contrivances such as washboard and tea-chest bass. Strugglers in name perhaps, but they've got three albums and a RIANZ folk award to show for it. Then there's the Heaven Bent Choir which sees Rick flamboyantly leading them in song.

There would not be too many musicians still active on the scene today who were there when New Zealand rock was in nappies and everyone was going ga-ga over Johnny Devlin and the impeccably groomed Mr Lee Grant. Dix explains his choice of cover star in 'Stranded In Paradise' when he says: "As much as anybody, Rick Bryant represents the spirit of New Zealand rock'n'roll." Tellingly, the section of the book on Bryant is entitled "The Man Who Sold His Soul To New Zealand Rock'n'Roll".

It's a fitting tribute to Bryant that Dix should have decided to honour him in this way, for there are surely household names who ascended greater heights, sold out more and wilder concerts, inspired juicier gossip and shifted more records. The question is, where are they now?

Rick Bryant is currently in Auckland where he recently put the finishing touches to an album of his original songs, a number of them co-written with young producer-in-waiting John Kempt. That the perhaps ironically titled 'Time' occasionally progressed at glacial pace due to budgetary and technical constraints, and the sporadic availability of mixing downtime at Jacob Simonsen's Groove Merchants studio, obviously did not faze this seasoned campaigner in the slightest. 'Time', released on fellow Struggler Nick Bollinger's Red Rocks label and distributed through Metro Marketing, was recorded over a three-year period, with a year passing during the mixing process alone. If nothing else, the music business teaches one the patience of Job.

On the face of it, the decision to team up with Kempt seems an odd one, given that he has very little grounding in the soul and R'n'B styles beloved by Bryant, and his production experience at the time was precisely nil. They had however, been writing together since Bryant used Kempt's three-piece outfit, The Scissormen, as a pick-up band for a series of shows a few years back.

All track laying was done at Bryant's Auckland bookshop, which has since closed. 'Time' was recorded using analogue Fostex 8- and 16-track gear, the deadening effect of thousands of books providing the ideal non-reflective surface for the walls, and the kitchen with its lino, brick and plaster roof proving to be a more than passable bright room for guitars and the like.

We meet at the latest incarnation of Bryant's bohemian lodgings in Newton Gully to talk about 'Time', the Universe and everything. So why did Kempt get the nod?

"He was the motivator, in some ways, the originator of the whole thing," says Bryant. "I mean for a couple of years we'd been saying 'We must do some recording together', or he'd say something like 'We're going to make a record with you sooner or later, you realise'.

"I introduced him to Fane Flaws, who I'd done some recording with a few years ago - tracks that have never been released ."- and he really liked a couple of them. They ended up as bonus tracks on this album. Bruno Lawrence, Ross Burge, Jonathon Swartz and Peter Dasent all played on that so it was choice! That was the background to it, and it just happened gradually from there."
The 'few years ago' of which he speaks is in fact 12, but who's counting? I ask if he had any apprehensions about using an inexperienced producer on something as precious as an album of his own songs.

"No, because I wanted someone to do it by then. I'd already aborted a couple of projects by thinking I could do it myself, or thinking I could do it in such a way that I wouldn't need a producer. And I mean that was just expensive and wrong. It took a long time to find that out."

That's not to say that this odd couple found unanimous agreement in all their endeavours.

"All that engineering side, of course I went entirely along with him, but I have to say that a lot of the time I disagreed with him on all sorts of musical things."
So how were differences of opinion ultimately resolved?

"I gave in!" says Bryant somewhat surprisingly.

"Nine times out of ten I gave in. He has a stronger will than me. I took the attitude that we wouldn't be making it without him. At times we had to agree to disagree and move on to the next subject because there were things we just couldn't see eye to eye about. I mean we kept it friendly, but at times, especially when he was making me do a lot of vocal takes, I'd get a bit touchy, a bit bad tempered because it's take 16 or something. You think you've kinda nailed it by then but he wants another run!"

"The crucial thing I learnt is, it never really hurts to do it again. You can do it again all night. Nothing's really sacred. If your concentration's adequate you're going to be able to do another good take later on.

"The fact that a lot of other R'n'B singers, good ones like Etta James and James Brown, were using young pop producers to re-kickstart a R'n'B career wasn't lost on me—it was probably the best tactical thing to do."

What then was in all this for Kempt, putting in these long, unpaid hours in a less than ideal recording environment?

"He wanted to teach himself production using good home gear. He had, I think, the fashionable theory at the time that you could do it at home if you used analogue and good mics."

To this end the indefatigable Kempt spared no effort in securing the right mics for the task at hand, augmenting his own resources through borrowing and even buying, and later selling, what he needed to get the results he desired. Patience is the key word here in overcoming any technical shortcomings they encountered. Up to eight mics at a time were put in front of guitar amps, with various configurations and placements being painstakingly assessed until the right sound was nailed. Similar efforts were expended in building a hardboard drum booth for the times when a bouncy, reflective sound was required.

Whatever Kempt may have lacked in experience he made up for in his determination to thoroughly explore all the options.

"After working with John for a while you realise that if things take time - so be it. You know he's getting it the way he wants it. Some people might get bothered about engineers taking tons of time to do things, but if they're a perfectionist and that's the time they want to take, that's okay by me."

Bryant later adds: "Although it was engineered in a non-professional context I think it was engineered with a totally professional attitude."

The clock has finally stopped on the making of 'Time'. It's hard to say whether either Rick Bryant or John Kempt got exactly the album they wanted to make, such is the nature of compromise. At the end of the long day Bryant has a fine album, an album on which he has steered his soulful R'n'B vocals and songwriting down roads he would not have travelled without his young mentor and co-writers, while Kempt has come through the baptism of fire as a bona fide producer.

Of the home-recorded album experience Bryant says:
"I want to do it again, and next time a lot of the things I'd like to do as similarly as possible. I know you can't expect to have the same party all over again, but I do hope we can have some of the same players and have the same positive experience with near-strangers, who just seemed to catch on quite quickly to the mood of the project and have a bit of fun with it as well as taking the money."

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.

Sunday, February 10, 2019

AKA Brown interview, 1999

AKA Brown

AKA Brown - Duelling On The Pacifikan Frontier

By Mark Bell, NZ Musician, Vol. 8, No. 3 June/July 1999

When Killing Joke singer and international troubadour Jaz Coleman first cast his eye over New Zealand as a potential location to set up a recording studio, one of the first things he twigged to was the huge amount of musical talent bubbling away in the South Auckland region. With characteristic messianic fervour his intention was to launch a crusade to harness and direct all this talent and ultimately unleash it on an unsuspecting world.

"There's good deeds and there's good intentions," as Ben Harper so eloquently sang, and while Coleman has since sold his share in York Street Studios to pursue overseas projects there has been no shortage of people willing to take up the baton for urban Pacific music. At the head of the queue is Phillip Fuemana and Urban Pacifika Records in partnership with BMG Records, the latter providing the necessary financial, marketing and distribution clout for a venture of this kind.

Younger brother Pauly Fuemana's international hit How Bizarre was the wayward snowboarder that helped trigger the avalanche of urban Pacific R'n'B, hip hop and dance music that is now making its presence felt on radio, and hence the national consciousness.

The main players to date in the UPR catalogue have been all-girl group Moizna, hip hoppers Lost Tribe, Dei Hamo, and Phil's own OMC project. That is about to change with the release of 'Pioneers of a Pacifikan Frontier', a tasty sampler of what the UPR family of artists has to offer, including three tracks of sweet R'n'B grooves courtesy of two young men known collectively as A.K.A. Brown.

John Chongnee and Sam Feo II have been patiently waiting in the wings, waiting for Phil to see through his commitments with other artists, all the while honing their craft and knowing that when the call came to record, they would be ready.

In May they released their debut single Something I Need, thus heralding their departure from the holding pattern they've been stuck in for some time now, and pointing to the fact that a full-length album cannot be too far away.
NZM got together with John and Sam at BMG HQ to talk about what's big in A.K.A. Brown's world at the moment.

Where was Something I Need recorded?
John: It was recorded at (the since demised) Deepgrooves with Simon Holloway and mixed at Beaver Studios.

Who were the players involved?
Sam: Just us two and Phil.

Can we expect an A.K.A. Brown album in the near future?
John: Yeah, early next year. Another single's coming out this year.

Why the long wait for a single - has it been a case of 'wait in line'?
John: Yeah. Phil's got a large roster - Moizna, Lost Tribe, Dei Hamo. He's been concentrating on the others, it's just now that he's started concentrating on us.

Would you say Something I Need is representative of your style?
John: That's the sound that we're concentrating on at the moment - pure R'n'B. Nobody's doing it in New Zealand, so we want to try and pick that up. It's mostly hip hop and rock groups and stuff like that at the moment.

I understand you did some work on Scene III with Che Fu. What was your involvement in that?
John: I was involved in practically his whole album, not just Scene III - just doing beats for him 'Do you want a kick or snare there?' I had input on the keys, on the rhythm and little (fancy) bits.

Has the church been an influence on your vocal style?
John: Dad used to play organ for the church and we had to sing for the church audience as kids, and for schools. Basically just singing in the shower and the toilets, on the field at school, right up to now.

How did you learn programming?
John: 'What does this do? What does this button do?' That's basically it. We learnt heaps off Phil engineering wise.

Are you keen to get into more production work?
John: Yeah. I'd like to get in the studio with other groups as well.
How was the recent Radio Programmers Conference (at which A.K.A. Brown played a showcase gig)?
Sam: That was massive, it was mad. We've had massive feedback from it. Who was that guy from Hauraki? He'd been working there for 17 years and he'd never heard that kind of style.

Do you work on refining your act and your music consistently?
John: Yeah. Phil's organising a dance troop for us for the live shows, but music wise, all the time, yeah.

You must have quite a backlog of songs by now.
Sam: Yeah heaps - 20 or 30.

Before you go in the studio do you have a good idea of how you want things to sound?
John: We make sure everything's really solid, otherwise it's more time in the studio. When we get in the studio it's done as quickly and as efficiently as possible. That's when we start fitting little parts in that aren't in the programming.

Are there plans to tour?
John: Yeah. I think that's in September, a national tour, and hopefully in 2000 an international tour with the whole UPR crew. Cross the fingers for that one.

How do you go about writing? Do you start with a groove?
John: More piano, more tune than anything. We both sit at the piano, he (Sam) plays the song, just any chord and we start singing to it. Later on when we've got the song sussed we go in and do all the programming and the drums and all the bits and pieces, with the melody we thought of next to it.

Where do you get lyrical inspiration?
Sam: Women! (laughs) Sex, love, just stuff that we've experienced - romance and emotion ...

Do you see a lot of new talent coming out of South Auckland at the moment?
John: All the time. There's a new record label called Dawn Raiders, and they sign up and coming talent so they can pursue their career in music through contact with Phil and the Dawn team.

Have you been doing much in the way of live work?
John: We've just finished supporting an international act from America - Next, and Snoop Dog. That was the UPR crew - Lost Tribe and Moizna, Dei Hamo.

Do you make a lot of use of samples in your music?
John: We try to stay away from samples. It's more creative using synths and real time instruments, guitar, real bass. With loops, I mean they sound really good, people will say 'That sounds really bad', (good) but at the end of the day it's not your creation.

With Something I Need in the Top 20, it is clear that A.K.A. Brown are meant to be in the spotlight, on the Pacifikan Frontier and everywhere else besides.

Track List 'Pioneers of a Pacifikan Frontier'

Losttribe (with Dei Hamo), Pioneers of a Pacifikan Frontier
Urban Pacifika, One
Del Hamo (with A.K.A. Brown), If You Came to Party
A.K.A. Brown, Something I Need
Losttribe, 5 B.U.N.G.A
Moizna (with Dei Hamo), Who's Got the Flow
A.K.A. Brown (with Dave Dobbyn), Beside You
Interlude (Samoan National Anthem)
Brotha D, Tua
Dei Hamo, Hamostyle
Losttribe, Hark
Moizna, Summer Goodbye
A.K.A. Brown, Baby We Can Do It
Moizna, Keep On Moving
Dei Hamo, Whirlrocker
Moizna, Just Another Day
Losttribe, Summer in the Winter
Phylpcydes' Outro

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.

The Mercenaries, 2001

Fresh Talent: The Mercenaries

By Jennifer Scott, NZ Musician, Vol. 9, No. 6 June/July 2001

More styles than a fashion week catwalk is what you will find listening to this Auckland five-piece. The members' musical histories encompass R&B, hip hop, jazz, reggae and even a bit of opera - combining in The Mercenaries' songs to make something unique.

Singer/guitarist Steve Tofa studied performing arts and opera singing and in the mid-'90s toured the USA with the Pacific Island performance group, Pride of the Pacific. Drummer/percussionist Paul Burnell is a School of Audio Engineering graduate and former production manager for Auckland radio station 531 PI, where he engineered demos for Phil Fuemana of Urban Pacifika. 

He also toured Europe with Tim and Milan from Pluto and his playing encompasses jazz, rock, hip-hop and latin beats. Nas Kama (Rhodes keyboard/percussion) is also a SAE graduate, worked at 531 PI and played bass for Coelacanth. He taught himself to play the Rhodes and is also exploring blending traditional Pacific Island and contemporary percussion instruments into songs.

Turntablist Sam Leauanae is an accomplished flute and piano player and has completed a certificate in audio engineering. Bassist Aaron Thompson - the newest mercenary - has been playing since he was 15, firstly in Wanganui band Loup Garou and then Wellington's Marabu, an afro-funk band with French vocals. In Auckland he was part of Her Majesty's Minstrels. He has also studied sound production, event production, live sound, lighting and tour management.

All of these experiences and influences come together on the band's six-track EP, the beautifully presented 'Sunday Cleanup' (available on Nas says experimenting with a variety of styles is essential to the band's sound and crucial to musicians' development. "It's like when a rugby team trains, they don't just play rugby, they do weights and practise different skills. It's important for musicians to try other styles and from those experiences develop something unique."

Early indications are that The Mercenaries' sound may have cross-over appeal. stations have picked up You Will Pay and Mai FM - and its new record label Mai Music - have taken a shine to Beautiful Face and Forget It. The band has a single-by-single deal with Mai Music and hope the singles and EP will attract record company interest for an album later this year.

The band is also building a live profile around Auckland and Nas says the immediate future will be spent refining their live show and their stage presence. Live-to-airs on radio and a spot on TV's Good Morning show also help in making The Mercenaries definitely one to watch.

King Kapisi interview, NZ Musician, 1999

King Kapisi - Photo by Allan McDonald
Photo by Allan McDonald. Elvis costume from Harlequin Costume Hire.

In the Court of the King

By Jennifer Scott, NZ Musician, Vol. 8, No. 6 December 1999 /January 2000

King Kapisi, aka Bill Urale, has been a hot ticket in New Zealand music throughout 1999, his singles Subcranium Feeling and Reverse Resistance garnering attention and admiration from a wide circle of fans and industry alike. Indeed the second single recently won Bill the prestigious 1999 APRA Silver Scroll Award - the first hip hop artist ever to do so.

The first year of the new millennium looks set to be an even bigger one for 'the King' with the release of his debut album, 'Savage Thoughts' scheduled in March. If he continues to ride the wave of popularity and respect he is currently surfing the album looks set to be received with open arms by audiences well beyond the local hip hop community.

Talking to Bill I quickly get the feeling that he is a man with a mission, and that mission is to get his brand of Samoan hip hop heard. So far he doesn't appear to be having much difficulty. Subcranium Feeling was a Top 20 hit, reaching number 8. The video directed by his older sister Sima also scooped numerous awards and went a long way towards branding a distinctly Polynesian image of King Kapisi into people's minds.

I ask Bill if the support received has come as a surprise.

"Everything surprises me! I'm still surprised that I won the Silver Scroll. I mean I only just found out that it was for Songwriter of the Year! I was like, shit! I thought Silver Scroll was just APRA but I didn't click that it was the songwriter of the year! That's pretty out of it'."

First and foremost a beats man, Bill began his musical career playing the piano and drums, quickly developing a knack for blending melodies with beats.

"I took piano lessons for three years - got forced into it. Mum would be sitting there saying 'Practice!'. I'm so happy she did now because if I make up a tune at least I can lay it down on the piano. All those tracks on Reverse Resistance and the B-side Hip-Hop's Got Me, they're all my melodies, I played everything in."

There have been some indelible and strong influences which have shaped Bill and his music over the years. Most important is his family, the love and respect he has for his parents, Pusi and Fatu Urale, resonating from him.

"They're very musical, my mum and dad. They play guitar and used to sing songs with us, but the main thing they taught us was to love your brother, love your sister and just love your family. The respect that I have for them is upmost. Religion doesn't even come close to the love that I have for my mum and dad, so that's why I feel so strongly about why should people follow religion before the family? How can people give to religion and not give to their family? That's why I put this message into the songs. The whole religion thing, about being an atheist - I don't want to trip out on that sort of buzz, but I'm not all about religion. I'm about family, and family values come first with me."

The Urale family moved to Wellington from Samoa in 1974 and Bill was born in Wellington a month after their arrival.

"Mum was a teacher and my dad had to go work in the factories. They came here for education for the kids. A lot of families I know have not instilled the (Samoan) culture within their children because they believe so strongly that you can only make it through the education system if you only know English, so I'm really lucky that mum and dad still talk to us in Samoan."

Another early musical influence for Bill was his uncle's family band. While he did not play in the band himself, he spent a lot of his days listening to them.

"I was watching the different harmonies, all the different types of feels that they had with the traditional Samoan plus the funk and the old Yandall Sisters type of feel - they sort of crossed everything."

When he turned 13 his interest in music flourished.

"I went to Wellington High School. It was the wickedest school! The teachers treated you like adults,not like kids and that was the difference between that school and other colleges. Music was strong there and if I hadn't gone so hard on the music there, and believed in my music from then, I don't think I'd be doing this. I would still be keen, and have a tootle but it started from there, being able to perform and play the drums."

Bill was the drummer for the school's junior funk band and was in some pretty good company at Wellington High School.

"There was the heavy metal band, and that was Shihad. To see them still rocking the shit and going around the world, I'm so happy for them. Tom (Larkin) and another guy named Stumpy were my first influences in drumming. They taught me things that I didn't learn when I was younger."

After failing School Certificate, Bill moved to another, less liberal school and it was here that he first started speaking his mind, something he continues to do through his lyrics.

"I thought 'Shit, I failed, I better go to another college to make my mum and dad happy' and that was the wrong move! Everyone else was on a 'yes, sir, yes sir,' trip and I came from Wellington High where everyone was equal, you know. After a while they knew who I was because I didn't take any shit. I was a rebel from then."

It was here, at Ronogotai College, that he first hooked up with longtime collaborator DJ Raw, the 1998 Australasian International Turntablist Federation champion, who taught him how to scratch during the days they didn't quite make it to class.

Another extra curricular activity at the time was modelling and it was while walking the catwalk for a fashion show that he got his first chance to rhyme in public.

"I did this fashion show with Gerard Tahu, and he was just making the beats and he asked me, 'Hey bro, you do a bit of rapping, do you want to do the intro' and so I wrote a little rhyme and then I sort of hooked up with Gerard after that. He had another crew going with Ruau Moko and I went up one day and just chilled out with those guys. They had another gig and I wrote another rhyme and it all just started from there."

What had started was the group that first bought Bill to the public attention, Gifted & Brown, Bill donning the moniker Bran Muffin MC.

"Gifted & Brown was me and Gerhard and then Atiwhai came along and we were doing our thing. Then I said, 'My sister Maila can sing really wickedly', and so she came along and then finally I said 'I've got this other bro, DJ Raw,' and so we all hooked up and started doing a couple of gigs, and then we did our single So Much Soul."

Released on Tangata Records through BMG, the single featured on the 'Once Were Warriors' soundtrack and it was the royalties which dribbled in from this that made Bill realise he could, one day, make some money from music.

Work with Token Village followed but after "the usual band diasagreements" he decided to go solo, and in 1995 King Kapisi was born. His first solo project was the song Vertikal Sequels which went to radio and was promptly picked up by the

"I think there should be an award from the to the artist who has been in the Top 10 for the longest because I think I've been there for about a year now!"

The next step was to try and drum up some record company interest so 'King' and his sister Makerita, his manager at the time, hired a music lawyer and accountant and began to shop themselves around.

Their calling card was the underwater video for Subcranium Feeling - made for $7000 but looking more like a $20,000 production. Festival Records liked what they saw and offered a P&D deal for the single. When that promptly went Top 20 he was signed direct to the company, a three album deal with options.

A nomination for most promising male artist at the 1998 New Zealand Music Awards led to another opportune meeting for Bill, this time with one of his musical idols, Neil Finn.

"I still freak out on Neil!"

While talking Bill frequently - and sincerely - names the many people he has "a lot of love for" and cites a long list of Kiwi artists as influences. He is not unwilling to express the admiration he has for them when he meets them. Finn, thus charmed, invited him to record at his home studio, Roundhead.

Reverse Resistance and its B-side Hip Hop's Got Me were recorded at Roundhead with Bill and the Submariner (Andy Morton) producing. The album however will be recorded at Dean (Cuba of Cuba & Gizmo) Godward's home studio with Bill producing and Cuba programming. While admitting he doesn't know which buttons to push in the studio, Bill says he knows what the song should sound like.

"Some people don't have the vision that you have. In some other situations I wasn't really happy with what the final product was so now I'm like, 'There's no difference between the beats that you can make and the beats that I can make so I'm just going hard.' No one knows your feels like you do."

Lyrics are a key element of King Kapisi's music and doubtless the key factor in his winning the Silver Scroll (see page 37 for Reverse Resistance lyrics). Bill says he does not censor himself nor restrain himself when it comes to songwriting.

"I write the lyrics first, I'm a bit backwards in that way but for me there's no rules in hip hop, there's no 'your rhyme's got to be 16 bars'. That's bullshit because when you work like that you put limits on your way of thinking."

Knowing who you are and sifting through the bullshit are two of the main themes of King Kapisi's songs. Reverse Resistance attacks the influence the church has on the Samoan people. This has not gone unnoticed by the Samoan community.

"A lot of people say to me 'Why do you talk about that shit, it's the past and gone' but then I say 'If there's no cats like me telling you what happened in the past everyone's going to forget'.

"I've gotten slack from Samoan radio. They say 'King Kapisi is a good role model for the kids but he's an atheist'. But I don't rap it to be negative. I rap it to empower the people to find their identity. My self belief is because I know where I'm from. I know my mum and dad and I've gone back to Samoa so I know where my roots are. What I try to empower the kids with is that I'm a Polynesian, I'm a Pacific Islander and the songs that I write are for young Pacific Islanders."

One young Pacific Islander he writes for in particular is his four-year-old son, and it was to be near Rakim that Bill moved from Wellington to Auckland.

His less conventional style of hip hop has meant that commercial radio has also until now been reluctant to play his music.

"I've got, 'It's not the Top 40 format. It doesn't go verse, chorus, verse, chorus', but that's pretty ignorant. They can't take it as a song, as a musical piece. It doesn't matter if it's rap or whatever. If you listen to it as a song, it's a dope song. I've proven a point to myself that you can get a Top 20 song without having to do that. I just want to make my own style. I don't want to follow. I want to be able to create my Pacific style, my Samoan hip hop and no matter what I do, it is Samoan hip hop.

"I don't just rhyme. I do everything within my songs. I've got this song called Come Into My Realm and it's like, why I call myself King is that when you listen to my track, I am king of that track and since I made every little bit of it or had a hand in every little bit of it, that's why I'm King. I'm not a bighead. I'm not king of the world or anything but when you listen to that track I'm the king of that track and you're in my realm."

Once he has the words, Bill then finds the right beats.

"It's basically just layering, I make up a tune in my head and loop that and then make up a tune that goes with it and then maybe at the end freq it a little bit and so if you had to put them all into a loop into four bars they all mould as one. Then you just spread them out along the track and then you just freq it at different stages, pull things in and pull things in, pull things out. That's how I do it, it's just a process of elimination."

On stage Bill's a Technics turntable and Vestax mixer man.

"I don't have any equipment myself. I go down and take in my own sounds, take a snare off a record, take a kick off a record and just make up the beat and then play the bass in, play the keyboard in and get my brother Sam Konise (violin) to play."

It is obvious that he gets a kick out of using classical musicians on his recordings, for him it is part of bringing hip hop to the masses. Cellist Ash Brown also plays on Reverse Resistance. Others in the King Kapisi crew include Tha Feelstyle on vocals, Overstayers from Kua, DJ Raw, his partner Teremoana Rapley and his sister Maila.

Eventually Bill would like to take Samoan hip hop to the world but for now his main focus is on completing the album. He says it is always good for hip hop artists to be creatively challenged, which is why he attends events such as the recent International Turntablist Federation World Championships in Hawaii.

"In New Zealand you can lose your way as a hip hop artist because there's no one to battle and you can't better yourself. But when you go to a meeting like that, everyone's into exactly the same thing that you're into and it's like a whole hall full of people and these are like the best people in the world, the best DJs, the pioneer DJs, all my favourite idols were all there. For me to meet my favourite rapper - Jeru the Damaja (New York) was, ohhhh! I gave him a couple of my vinyls and gave all the DJs my vinyls for them to play it and said 'Make sure that whenever you play it and have the chance to say what it is say it's Samoan hip hop.'"

While he may call himself 'King', you'd be hard pushed to find a musician more humble and genuine than Bill Urale. Everything he does is done out of a passion for music, his people, and to make his mum and dad proud of him. I am sure they are.

King Kapisi's Savage Thoughts - track by track (NZM Vol. 9, No. 2 October/November 2000)

King Kapisi released his much anticipated debut album, 'Savage Thoughts' on October 19th. Following his 1999 Silver Scroll win for Reverse Resistance last year, NZ Musician featured King Kapisi, aka Bill Urale, on our Dec 99/Jan 2000 cover. Celebrating the long awaited album release we asked Bill to take us through 'Savage Thoughts' track by track.

Fix Amnesia
1) Basically telling people not to forget their heritage and roots and 2) informing the youth about the injustices done to our peoples. A nation's culture is being lost thru new influences. There needs to be more people that acknowledge our past. Just to be aware that all things have not been hunky dory in the South Pacific. More family values need to be introduced. The answer is not in the church, the answers are inside of yourself. Otherwise you'll be talking to to your invisible friend again. Too many brainwashed people out there. Remember ...

Reverse Resistance
My feelings about the whole missionary beliefs, colonialism and religion's introduction to the world and the Pacific. Fuck them all! Also the government's false promises while these fools have the term in power. Reverse karma and give it back to these bastards. Power to the people!

Had to calm this one down heaps. Rhymes were a bit too harsh, so basically this song is about cats that try to ruin your mission and dreams … our experiences in this bullshit industry … suckers being too jealous of what you achieve. Ruining your shows or trying to find some way to tarnish your name. Too many cats talk shit but don't do shit, just sit on their ass and do jack shit!

Home Invasion
There's no way you can stop my music! Put up your barricades, quota sidestepping, whatever! Through the media, internet, radio, TV, concerts, someday, somehow … I'll find a way to get to you … even if I have to bum-rush your show and beat your DJ and take over the turnies … yeah … places I've been, shows, towns I've rocked … Savage intellect to force you into submission … LISTEN! ha ha! No matter where you are on this earth! I'm coming to get ya! Heh-heh!

Kinetic Souls
No matter what you do in life, there will always be fools around and yes men that smile in your face and then stab you in the back! Two-faced pricks. They probably work in your record company! Ha ha! Probably couldn't sing in tune to save their lives. They always seem to gravitate to you like you're a superstar when all you want to do is make beats, write rhymes, have a back 2 back! That's their perception. Keep these fools a km distance away from your physical and mental. Try your hardest to not come in contact with these fools as much as possible.

Da Ula
My experience with homegrown ingenuity … up north in the bush having a rest after a couple hours digging … have a ula … music portrays how I feel, with my brother Juse giving us his perspective too. Stay Green. Vote the Green Party! Yeah!

Hip-Hop's Got Me
I listen to all music but hip-hop is my passion and preference. "Hip-hop will never perish, the task I pledge my life to!".

Method Of My Madness
The feelings I feel about a certain lady friend who means a lot to me in my life. The only 'lovey dovey' song I've ever written other than for my family and son. A dedication to all people in love … children … parents … family. One love!

Screems From da Old Plantation
Hopefully a song that my aunties and uncles will like. Paying homage to my roots and the Island style of music. Lazy ukelele style of guitar. Rolling rhythms blended with hip-hop beats. A fusion between two styles of music which I love. Taking it back home to the Island style I grew up on.

To mortally wound and confuse the enemy using straight-to-your-head-style tactics! To let you know diversity is the key. Broadminded to all styles of music from jazz to classical to heavy metal to obviously hip-hop! Bang your head to this!

Letting you know you must be prepared to battle in the face of any enemy. Uplifting Newtown/Lyall Bay/Welli underground hip-hop to the fullest! Utmost props to my Dee-Jay Rawski, my sensei on the turnies for the last eight years! Challenging any opponent to outright combat! Best believe that my crew comes prepared!

2nd Migration
Me and the Feelstyle's journey from our motherland to Wellington to our 2nd Migration to Auckland. Paying homage to one of Aotearoa's leading Pacific Island groups that influenced me … Herbs … thanks for all the awesome songs brothers! Cher!

Saturday, February 02, 2019

Ring The Alarm playlist February 2

Ramsey Lewis Trio - Slipping into darkness
O'Donel Levy - Bad bad Simba
Blue Mitchell - Dorado
Darondo - Didn't I (Trishes edit)
Chackachas - Jungle fever (Greg Wilson edit)
The Inbetweens - Mr funky
Johnny Rocco Band - She's knocking at my door
Tubbs feat Dallas - Five day night (Fat Freddy's Drop remix)
Johnny Drop feat Sarah Williams White - Looking glass (Julien Dyne remix)
Julien Dyne feat Ladi6 - Hours
Che Fu - Misty frequencies (Manuel Bundy remix)
Unitone Hifi - Juicy fruit
Tenor Saw and Buju Banton - Ring the alarm quick
Al Brown - Aint no love in the heart of the city
Granville Williams Orchestra - Hi-life
Lynn Taitt - Soul food
Clifton Chenier - Black gal
The Impressions - I'm so proud
Honey Cone - One monkey don't stop no show
Jackie Wilson - Whispers gettin' louder
Mel Davis - Just another smile
Geno Washington -  Water
Joe Bataan - Subway Joe
Latin Blues Band - Take a trip
Dianne and Carole with the Latin Whatchamacallits  -The fuzz
Patato and Totica - Mas que nada
Willie Bobo - La descarga del Bobo (MAW remix)
Lewis McCallum - Fly or die

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Gifted and Brown interview, 1992

Wellington group Gifted and Brown, photo by Phil Simpson, Planet magazine 1992

Gifted and Brown; Soul of the Pacific

By Makerita Urale, photo by Phil Simpson. Planet magazine, #8 Winter 1992, p34

The big noise in Wellington dance club scene these days comes from Gifted and Brown, purveyors of Polynesian rap, funk, and soul. The name was coined by the group's youngest member MC Bran Muffin [now known as King Kapisi], and it's an expression of what much of the music’s about.

The face of programmer and producer Gerard Tahu, framed by long dreadlocks draped casually over his shoulders, is thoughtful and serious when he says that this is a band with a message.

“One of the things we write about is being Polynesian and living in the 90s in Aotearoa. Our overall message is an affirmation of ourselves as Polynesian. Don't be shy - you can do anything you see people of other races and cultures do. Feel positive about who you are and get out there and do whatever you want to do. Whether it be photography, journalism or music, don't be half-pie about it or treat it as a joke or something to do until you get a so-called real job.”

Tahu, Muffin, [MC AT] and NZ DJ champion DJ Raw started the band about a year ago as a live rap group, but when Mara Finau (formerly of the Holidaymakers) joined, the style broadened to taken soul influences.

“Suddenly we had a soul diva,” Tahu explains. “And we had to use her singing. That really took us into the singing world because Bill [Bran Muffin] and Atawhai [MC AT] have beautiful voices too.”

The band’s Maori and Samoan heritage doesn't stop at sweet harmonies either. Their live spontaneity and “brown” humour flows from the stage in gibes and quips to each other and the crowd, ensuring warm vibes without diluting the hype. They even schedule in opportunities for people in the crowd to jump up and jam onstage. There's something for everyone.

“The samples and grooves we use are predominantly 70s-based, but there's a contemporary production done on them. It has a heavy dance beat, so we have a strong appeal to young people, including the urban Polynesians. But we also appeal to older people because of the soul influence

“I've called us hardcore in the past but I think there's too much soul in it to be considered as such. It doesn't mean the soul influence weakens our music, it strengthens it.”

The links with black America extend beyond sweet soul music. Tahu feels an affinity with American blacks and sees a relevance here in the history.

“Whatever ground the American blacks gain in terms of human rights filters out to other cultures living within a European-dominated society.”

Two songs, ‘Chocolate city’ and ‘So much soul’ have been recorded at Wellington’s Village Sound studio and a release is pending. The work they’ve put into live performances should ensure big hometown sales to a growing posse of enthusiastic fans.

“As far as the music centre Wellington goes, I think what we've created is something totally new. What we've done for ourselves is like job creation. We can now go to nightclubs and do 40 minute sets within their dance scenes. We’re not like any other band in Wellington because we sound different and we work within the dance scene, which means our format is different too, making our sets shorter and more intense.”

Gifted and Brown have already demonstrated that their name is something more than a collective ego trip. But perhaps the last word on that should go to Tahu:

“Our name”, he says with a grin, “is not an exaggeration. It is an affirmation.”

Gerard Tahu, Planet magazine, #3, 1990
Gerard Tahu, Planet magazine, #3, 1990