Monday, January 17, 2011

Deepgrooves - New Loungehead

New Loungehead were a splendidly jazzy combo, who dropped their debut album, Came A Weird Way, in 1997. It featured guest vocals from Sulata, and Mark James (Slave) on a song a piece, and won Best Jazz Album at the NZ Music Awards the following year.

The group's lineup at the time of recording was Dan Sperber (guitar), Isaac Tucker (drums), Godfrey De Grut (sax, keys), Chip Matthews (bass), and Matthias Sudholter (percussion).  The album was recorded at Okura, with Kaiun Digital Mobile in December 1996 by Chris Sinclair, and overdubs done at Kaiun Digital (Deepgrooves inhouse studio) in Central Auckland with Dave Rhodes in Jan - March of 97. Vocal overdubs were recorded by Simon Holloway. The band were managed by Frances Chan.

New Loungehead, from Rip It Up, August 1998

I got to know Chip Matthews several years back, when he and Buttafingers (Harlan) started doing the radio show after me on BaseFM on Saturdays - they both play in the Opensouls. I've got a lot of time for Chip, he's a very talented musician and knowledgable DJ. I asked him what he remembers of that time working with Deepgrooves. Here is his response. Thanks, Chip!

Chip Matthews: "Deepgrooves was quite a special time for me personally cause it was by and large my first consistent dealings with a label, recording on a label and being around a bunch of musicians who were all trying to do their projects. Around the time I was there, as well as being part of the New Loungehead's album, there were albums being completed by Breaks Co-op and shortly after, Sulata's album, an album I still say is one of the most under-rated NZ albums of the 90's.

"The studio then was on Victoria St. We were recording to ADAT (oh the days prior Pro Tools et al!) and would be crammed in the studio listening to take after take being done, the whirling of the ADAT machine as it cued up again, overseen by the big tapa cloth on the wall. For a freshy, it really was like being shown an exciting new musicial world.

Chip describes Ermehn's album Samoans Pt II as "an album still under-rated. I remember in about 97 or 98, Kane took a few of us to Australia to do a bit of a showcase. There was us [New Loungehead] and Erhmen with the mighty Submariner.

"That was a first for me in seeing people desperate about not missing out on some record digging (Submariner), [and] visiting some of the more salubrious bars up Oxford St whilst tripping out courtesy of some of the local whanau wanting to pull a fasty on us. And the trip for me and perhaps as a metaphor for Deepgrooves around that time, we had to share one room at a hotel down by Hyde Park. One room for about 8 or so of us! Luckily I spent a couple of the nights there hanging out until sunrise, so the need for me wasn't so pressing, but trying to find room for all those people to sleep was pretty funny.

In terms of the day to day running of the label, Chip says "I was largely unaware of any problems with the Deepgrooves label and Kane's running of the thing as I was so new to the townie side of being a muso. But I do remember that when it came to the more financial side of things, Kane was a little less forthcoming than the moments where money wasn't an issue. Again, with me being not so clued up, I was largely meh about it all. But I do know that we made some money off our album which we are still awaiting!!

For Chip, "the legacy of Deepgrooves is the main thing though. To me it was a label of opportunity when opportunities seemed harder to come by. This was before the halcyon days of the early 2000's where Che's Navigator album [which Chip played bass on] and King Kapisi's Savage Thoughts really changed the game in regards to "urban" music and how it was viewed as a local product in a market-driven almost exclusively from overseas.

"The albums that came through from my time there were just some of the best that have been created for mine, and in that regards, Kane invested so much into our community. It was still very much a no 8 wire mentality and in that regards, for me, he did a great job.

He says overall it was "a positive experience. Sure there were some downers, but it was a great learning experience for me personally. Being around watching Zane Lowe freeing up the studio for The New Loungehead by taking his keyboard into the kitchen area - I was a big fan since they were pre-Urban Disturbance, Leaders of Style - for me it was the very encapsulation of how I imagined a studio to be. It was a fun time cause there seemed to be less riding on it in terms of material - the thought of making a job out of music was just way too far fetched -  but [it] was so meaningful when you actually produced an album. Amazing times for me."

Dan went on to play in Slacker, the Relaxomatic Project, Spammerz, and currently plays as SPERB3R. Chip and Godfrey ended up playing in Che Fu's band The Krates, and Chip played in the Opensouls, Homebrew, and with Anika Moa - he's currently a regular with Tami Neilson. He was also the delightful breakfast radio host on BaseFM. Isaac went on to play with UK dance act Spektrum. Godfrey has done various session work, from Brooke Fraser to Nesian Mystik to Kanye West (read about that last one here, it's pretty funny).

ADDED Jan 2022: New Loungehead are reuniting to celebrate the 25th anniversary of their album with some remastered reissues and some live shows, including playing at Splore. Details on their website.

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