Tuesday, August 30, 2016

New single from Bajka


Great new tunes from Bajka (she's as previously released music on Jazzman, Ubiquity, Rebirth and Chinchin Records and worked with Sola Rosa).

"Bajka and Max Weissenfeldt first met each other when they both attended the same school in Munich, Germany. Their first recordings - under the name Goldenes Zeitalter - took place in 1998 and have proven to be a homage to the nowadays beloved spiritual-jazz-vibe in the manner of Alice Coltrane and co. and were released in 2005 by Jazzman Records.

Now, Bajka has found her way back to her musical family and joined Philophon - the right environment for such a unique voice, joining a growing roster of talented artists including: The Polyversal Souls, Roy X, Guy One, Alogte Oho Jonas, Hailu Mergia, Idris Ackamoor and The Pyramids, Jimi Tenor and Y-Bayani.

"The World" is driven by the heavyweight drumming of Max, counterpointed by the iridescent voice of Bajka. She reflects the glory of our world by showing the listener through her talent that she in person is for sure part of that glory. On the flip side, "Invisible Joy", Bajka gives her own interpretation of Philophon's own label anthem, which was previously the title track of The Polyversal Souls' celebrated debut album."

Out 9 Sept on Philophon, on 7"/digital

Monday, August 29, 2016

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Allo Love vol 6 out now

From WahWah45s: "The sixth instalment of the Allo Love series is our first collective effort, coming as it does from the combined musical mind of Leeds / London based electronica outfit Paper Tiger. We could bang on about how this is our favourite Allo Love compilation so far; how it contains more exclusive tracks than any of its predecessors and how it's an almost seamless journey through melodic downtempo and dance floor delights, but we thought we'd let Greg Surmacz from the band explain for himself!

"We were honoured and delighted to be asked to curate this release - the label has such a diverse and high-quality catalogue that narrowing down our choices was a tough process. However, one of Wah Wah 45s' defining characteristics is always pushing forward, always innovating: so in that spirit, we decided to compile as much brand new music as possible for the album and make it a 'family and friends' affair.

There's an exclusive new Paper Tiger song; a debut release for our bassist Sam Vicary's amazing Hunrosa project; a debut by Chrome Glaciers (my new project with fellow Yorkshire artist Bambooman); new music from our DJ/producer Adam Radley (aka Vital) and frontman Raphael Attar, plus exclusive tracks from some of our favourite new producers. The catalogue picks are also a nod to the Wah Wah music which has influenced us - Bonobo, Dele Sosimi, Gene Dudley and a mega blast of Kanye from Scrimshire's monstrous Hackney Colliery Band edit."

Follow me to the popcorn comp coming

"Originating in Belgium at the end of the 60s/early 70s, Popcorn was a scene with an emphasis on often obscure black American records. Drawing parallels with the Northern Soul scene from around the same time, young people flocked from all over Belgium to cram into a converted barn to dance to these exotic sounds. Whilst Northern favoured an often uptempo 60s soul sound, popcorn focused almost entirely on slower numbers.

There still remains some confusion as to what exactly Popcorn means in musical terms. Not following established genre conventions, The Popcorn sound is hard to pin down - there are Soul, Blues, Ska, Pop, Jazz and Latin records which are all Popcorn – and all are represented here.

This release comes with sleeve notes from original Popcorn insider Gerd De Wilde and his contacts within the original Belgium Popcorn scene. Along with never previously published vintage flyers and photographs and combined with the 24 tracks of heady, intoxicating R&B, Blues, Soul and Jazz, “Follow Me To The Popcorn” is almost certainly the fullest document yet of the important, influential and yet so often misunderstood Belgium Popcorn scene."

Out Sept 9 on Jazzman Records, 2xLP/CD/Digital

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Ring The Alarm playlist, August 27

Butch Cassidy sound system - Rockers galore
The Wailers - Put it on
Skatalites - Coconut rock
Marcia Griffiths - Feel like jumping
Cedric Im Brooks - Shaft
Joe Higgs - I'm the song my enemies sing
Dawn Penn w Steely and Clevie - You don't love me
Noiseshaper - Dunk (Adrian Sherwood remix)
Salmonella dub - Johnny (Dubmariner remix)
George McCrae - I got lifted (Mischief brew edit)
Angela Bofill - People make the world go round
Young Holt Unlimited - Light my fire
Martha and the Vandellas - We got honey love
Isley Bros - I know who you been socking it to
R Dean Taylor - There's a ghost in my house
Barbara Acklin - Am I the same girl
TSU Toronadoes - Play the music Tornados
Jamo Thomas - I spy
Barrett Strong - Money (that's what I want)
Marvin Gaye - Got to give it up
Oscar Brown Jr - Who knows what goes when the doors close
Idris Muhammad - Could heaven ever be like this (Leftside wobble edit)
Shannon - Let the music play
Set the tone - Dance sucker (Francois K remix)
Grace Jones - Peanut butter
Sharon Jones and the Dapkings - I'm still here
Laura Lee - Crumbs off the table
Elder statesman -Montreux sunrise
Bob James - Nautilus
Beastie Boys - Root down
Dizzy Gillespie - Manteca (Funky lowlives remix)

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Raggamuffin promoter pleads guilty

Raggamuffin promoter Andrew McManus was back in court earlier this week, to plead guilty "to lying to police in relation to a mysterious suitcase containing $702,000 in cash which police seized from the Sydney's upmarket Hilton Hotel in 2011"reports the Sydney Morning Herald.

"On Tuesday afternoon McManus pleaded guilty to attempting to pervert the course of justice. This offence attracts a maximum sentence of 14 years' jail.

Previous charges of knowingly participating in a criminal group and attempting to gain a financial advantage by deception by claiming the cash was his were dropped....

....In 2012 McManus told the police that the cash was part of a business deal. Because of problems with the Australian Tax Office, McManus told police that he had arranged for a Mr Hanson, "a very good friend of a friend", to pay US$700,000 to secure a ZZ Top tour but now McManus wanted it back to fund a Lenny Kravitz tour.

"In essence, I delivered back 700 grand I now need to borrow it again. As quickly as possible," he said."

Billboard reports "The impresario, now aged 55, was taken into custody in Melbourne in September 2015 following a joint sting involving the FBI and local Melbourne police into alleged drug trafficking and money laundering." He is due back in court Aug 26 to set his sentencing date. 

Godfrey de Grut - My Part in Kanye's Future Success

NZ Musician did a major overhaul of their website earlier this year, following a successful crowdfunding campaign. It looks great but their online archive of two decades worth of interviews is not currently available. I hope this gets restored as it's a valuable cultural snapshot. Like this story....

NZ Musician, April/May 2006 (Vol:12, No:8) By Godfrey de Grut

Godfrey De Grut was recently asked to do a keyboard session for Kanye West, possibly the world's most in-demand hip hop producer, and a multi platinum selling artist in his own right. U2 had invited Kanye to open for them on the Australasian leg of their world tour, but as we know, postponed the shows. This meant Mr West had some time to record at Neil Finn's studio in Newton, Auckland. Godfrey shares his experience with NZM...

The call came Thursday afternoon from Neil Baldock, whom I've known for years, first as the in house engineer at Revolver, and later working on Che Fu's 'Navigator' album and subsequent Crates' tours.

"Godfrey, can you do a session tomorrow?"

"Sorry, I teach at Dio on Fridays."

"That's a shame, it's for Kanye West."

Gulp... "Okay, when do you want me?"

Kanye requested a Yamaha Motif be used for the session. I'd organised to hire one from MusicWorks for the day, and also bought along my Korg Triton, showing up at Roundhead studios at 1pm.

I was greeted by Neil Baldock and given a tour of the nearly completed multi-million dollar Finn facility. The place is huge, littered with rare and vintage keyboards, guitars and amplifiers.

Neil had no idea what they wanted keys for but said much of the previous day had been limited to Kanye making beats on an Ensoniq ASR sampling keyboard and an MPC 2000 XL. These would later be recorded to Pro Tools and then dumped onto a CD.

I waited nervously for an hour before Kanye and entourage arrived. With him were MC Common plus bodyguard, stylist, manager, BV singers and two others whose job description I never fathomed. Every one had G4 Power Books, and started emailing furiously while Kanye got down to business on a beat he had begun the day before, and asked me to play keys along with it. I gave him a basic Ab to Eb minor 7 progression for a bar, which he seemed to like.

"Okay, where could this go for a bridge?" he asked. I responded with a quick 2-5 in the relative minor and landed us in Fmin.

The male backing vocalist piped up and began singing possible bridge melodies. He and Kanye riffed for a while and we began extending the bridge phrase to incorporate a shift to Db.

I felt electrified, here I was jamming with one of the biggest hip hop stars in the world and he seemed to like what I was doing.

Round and round we went, looping the verse and bringing in the Db bridge, but somehow it still lacked momentum. Kanye re-iterated his fondness for longer phrases that "... fly, and take it somewhere else".

After a quick calculation I re-jigged things to begin on Db (using an Ab stab in the sample as the upper structure to a DbMaj9. With a Bb minor 7 and C+7Alt to provide some harmonic rhythm I hit a Fmin7 the following bar. Next was a chromatic side step through Emin 7 to Eb min7 setting up a strong finish on chord 5 (Ab)).

It was pure gospel - they loved it. Hands were waving in the air; heads were nodding to the beat. I was stoked, trembling with excitement; all I needed now was a bridge.

"Just do the bridge you were doing before," said Kanye.

Tony the BV guy pointed out that it had been appropriated for the new verse.

"Try something else then," said Kanye.

I spent about five minutes trying just that, but to my dismay all the progressions were met with either indifference or outright horror.

"No no noooo," shouted Kanye, spinning around in his chair, arms flailing wildly at my attempt to jazz it up.

"Don't ever play that chord again," he menaced.

The sweat started to build in my armpits. Nothing I was doing would satisfy him.

He started to lose interest.

"I'm not a technical musician," explained Kanye. "I just know what I like - long phrases that build. You just keep playing the same chords over and over again. I don't want to spend too much time on this."

We wrapped the track up soon after. I played the four bar verse phrase into his sampling keyboard, and he began a new tune.

I was exhausted, and somewhat crushed.

The rest of the day was spent enduring long hours of boredom, interspersed with moments of panic when he would request additional chords, bass lines or little melody hooks to the beats he was building. The pressure was intense. Kanye was not patient, and would expect everything instantly.
I constantly had to keep track of what scale we were in, and what the progression was. This meant furtive trips next door to a spare piano to check the key, as Kanye constantly shifted the samples up and down in speed and therefore in pitch as well.

The biggest embarrassment occurred when Neil Finn arrived to see how the session was going. Kanye sang a melody to me and asked for it to be played with a glockenspiel sound. I tried to play back the riff while juggling with the Yamaha Motif's presets, fumbling terribly under pressure. Luckily Neil Finn intervened and saved my bacon by offering to track the part himself on a vintage vibraphone in the next room. I'd been up-staged, but was grateful nonetheless.

Kanye worked tirelessly, he didn't drink or eat all afternoon, hardly left the chair behind his work desk and ended up passing out at midnight from what I can only guess was exhaustion. That day he had built six tracks from scratch. His process was exclusively sampling bits of old soul and funk records. One chunk would be as long as 20 seconds - which were then cut up later into smaller pieces, usually molding the samples to chord changes rather than the start or end of the bar, but always allowing the phrase to contain a seamless groove. These were then spiced up with additional 808 samples from his G4.

He moved lightning fast and knew his gear inside out. Nobody interrupted him, but he didn't mind his friends bantering in the background. Every now and again he would ask Neil Baldock to turn the monitors up really loud, and would rap along with the beat, inviting Common to trade phrases and jam snatches of melody. All the while fielding international calls and emails from mates like Jay-Z and Nas.

It was unreal. At the end of the night they asked me to come back the next day. I caught myself thinking, "This is it. The highlight of my musical career. If I nail this I'll get asked to up stakes and tour the world with hip hop's number one star."

Fingers crossed.

Godfrey De Grut was a co-winner of the 2002 Silver Scroll with Che Fu. He has recorded with Brooke Fraser, Elemeno P, Nesian Mystic, and Amber Clare providing keyboards, guitar, sax, horn and string arrangements. He is currently preparing to tour Australia with Elemeno P in support of The Veronicas, before recording his own debut album.

(retrieved from Wayback Machine archive)

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Ring The Alarm playlist, August 20

Boca 45 - La bobonera
The JBs - JBs monarail
Clarence Reid - I get my kicks
Sugarman 3 - Chicken half
The Dapkings - Nervous like me
The Jones Girls - If you don't start nothing
Betty Everett - I'm gonna be ready
Carla Thomas - I like what you're doing to me
Penny and the quarters - You and me
Major Lance - Little young lover
Chaka Khan - I was made to love him
Roger - Do it Roger
Herbie Hancock - Rockit
James Brown - I feel good (Tall Black Guy flip up)
Hypnotic brass ensemble - Ballicki bone
Bacao rhythm and steel band - Pimp (version)
Junior Murvin - Cool out son
Johnny Osbourne - Truth and rights
Derrick Laro and Trinity - Don't stop til you get enough
Ray Barretto - Soul drummers (Tim Love Lee re-edit)
Cal Tjader  -Soul sauce (Fila Brazilia remix)
Bohannon - The Bohannon walk
Sparkles -Trying to get over
Misha Panfilov sound combo - Oliver robotron
Darondo - Luscious lady
Jackie Wilson - Somebody up there likes you
Durand Jones and the Indications - Smile
Ann Peebles - Beware
The Jam - Town called Malice
A Certain Ratio - Do the Du(casse)
Lord Echo - What is that feeling
Schoolly D and Joe Delia - The player (Ganja kru remix)
Beat pharmacy - Wata (deep dub)

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Ermehn in Real Groove, by Kerry Buchanan

"If I wasn't doing my music I would be hustling drugs to the baldheads down the South Island"

It's been five years since Ermehn released the under-appreciated Samoans Part 11 on the adventurous Deep Grooves label, it has since proved to be a prescient work. Influential on future artists like Deceptikonz, Scribe and the whole so called "Polynesian hip hop renaissance", next to Feelstyle's Break it to Pieces and Dam Native's Kaupapa Driven Rhymes Uplifted, arguably one of our culture's greatest achievements.
Now it's Ermehn's second time to prove why he's the MC with fire in his belly and more skills than Stott's Correspondence College. His Matai name, his family name, is Lealaialoto, meaning, 'To walk the path of blood' from which he takes the title of his new album out in July called The Path of Blood (Sony/ BMG), an interesting confluence of history's echoes and our troubled present.

He's had a vibrant, if not violent time since the last album, drug business and gang membership in the King Cobras; he calls it "hustling times". He makes no concessions to all of this, its just what happens, unlike many he can call himself a gangsta, straight up gangsta and no qualms about it. He told me this album was funded on drug money, on his hustle, and what flows is our first real hardcore work, our first gangsta creation. Perhaps also the most sustained work of Aotearoan street realism ever, you hear talk from "music experts" that now our music is too American, that we have no "drivebys", no history of cultural violence. These people know nothing about life.

Yes, the life, this is exactly what Ermehn wants to portray, certainly not directed at these cultural and musical arbiters but as he told me. "To never rap or write about what you haven't done...That this is for the bro's, what they want to hear, Mongrel Mob, Head Hunters, a voice for their life styles." He calls himself a few things on this album, "Your motherfucker from the city of sails" and "Otara O.G" being a couple, always emphasising the geography and pulse of South Auckland, Otara is where he came up and throughout it remains as the alpha and omega of it all. Maybe the hardest track here is 'Otara Street'.

Where he states "I was running these streets" and details events of a criminal lifestyle, of a young life falling. Extremely tough lines like "stick my cock up your arse like I'm loving it" and "need drugs not hugs" fly out like knives. The hardest line comes in the form of retribution, the result of some rift between equals. Yes, he attacks Dawnraid, or rather Brotha D with a few inflammatory lines like "Bring your guns, bring your money". Jesus Christ! Ermehn and Brotha D go way back to the glory days of the Proud tour and he assures me that all is well between them now. This is Ermehn as alpha dog running the pack.

Otara appears in numerous other tracks, as the dangerous existence of 'Snake City', the violent hallucinations that hang in 'Red Lights' and as an image in 'Savage Waters'. The latter is a track of extremes, concerning his time in the King Cobras, tough as iron and totally without sentimentality or any irony. It is as it is.
First track is 'Bank Job' and concerns hood economics where there is a dream of salvation in the act of robbery, that money will bring all. "I'm gonna buy me respect, buy me a car, buy me some kicks, fuck the benefit/ Plenty of money all around Showgirls here we come/We live like rich men, We smoke drugs in the kitchen." However this is a track with consequences, things do not go well, families become shattered. The bravado and warm desires of "Put another steak on the grill, mum and dad I've got the bills, I'm about to pay the rent" go the way of smoke, floating away. The acoustic styled 'Silver and Gold' is the antidote, a wonderful coming together, and a healing.

Certainly an unflinching portrait, punches are thrown and leave marks, however this is a work of redemption, interconnecting interludes - taken from actual media reports that Ermehn may or may not have anything to do with - build with intensity and tell a story, a journey that ends in reflection. Certain tracks cut into the social upheaval and portray differing approaches to life, as in 'Mama A Way', a celebration of Ermehn's early life in the "Pacific way" and 'Better Place' finds Ermehn wishing for "a place for the kids to play, where the dogs don't slay". These look back at youthful nostalgia and forward towards a comfortable existence, hem his life like bookends. Which way will he go?

Samoans Part 11 is a fantastic album that is raw and direct in subject matter and presentation, raw and real. Of course this wouldn't mean shit if it wasn't good in a musical sense, thankfully it's hot from beginning to end. His flow is old school, years of Snoop Dogg, Ice Cube and finding his own voice, riding rhymes with authority. Several crew tracks also add variety with guests from Mareko, Two-Face, Mr. Slick and Savage Poets. Production comes from Rob London, a name I don't know, and his style is open and deep giving great background to the vocals, nice Tina Cross sample as well.

Gangsta life and times in Aotearoa. Partly a celebration, partly a warning but essentially a truthful depiction that hurts and hopefully heals.

-Kerry Buchanan, writing in Real Groove magazine (2005). Copyright belongs to them folks.

Electric Wire Hustle - New album coming soon

Bastard Jazz say " We're happy to announce that Electric Wire Hustle 3rd full length album, The 11th Sky, will be out worldwide (ex NZ/AUS, out via Loop) via Bastard Jazz on CD, LP and Digital.

Expanding on their unique sound built over the last decade, the band laid the groundwork for this album with the acclaimed release of last years Aeons EP (which featured Kimbra, and Deva Mahal on vocal duties).

The brand new album is described as “David Lynch meets Motown” by frontman and producer Mara TK."

Out Sept 30th.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Ring The Alarm playlist, August 13

Dele Sosimi - Sanctuary dub
Manu Dibango - Abele dance
The Hykkers - I want a break thru
The JBs - Hot pants road
Charles Wright - Express yourself (alternate version)
Major Lance - Hey little girl
Willie Mitchell - Bum daddy
Ted Taylor  -You give me nothing to go on
Teresa - He's a cooker
Sonny Knight and the lakers - Sugarman
Monica - I don't know nothing else to tell you, but I love you ...
Undisputed truth - Smiling faces sometimes
David Ruffin - My whole world ended the moment you left me
Amerie - One thing (Mr K organ edit)
Aaradhna - Drunken heart. smokey mind
Tom Tom Club - Wordy rappinghood (remix)
The Clash - Magnificent dance
Big Bud - Runaway
Fat Freddys Drop - Hope (Sonsine remix)
Unitone hifi - Sneeze off
Scratch 22 - Shivani strut
Jurassic 5 - Monkey bars inst
Eric B and Rakim - Microphone fiend
Tausani  -Teardrop
Oddisee feat Muhsinah - That day
Willie Bobo - La descarga del Bobo (MAW remix)
La crema de New York - Cisco kid
Tito Puente - Mambo beat
Main ingredient - Happiness is just around the bend (GW edit)

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Ross McHenry - new album out Aug 19

From First Word Records, features Kiwis Myele Manzanza and Mark de Clive Lowe, who played on his last solo joint: 

"Child of Somebody is the new album from multi-award winning composer, producer and bass player Ross McHenry. Known for his work as bandleader of The Shaolin Afronauts as well as his 2013 First Word release ‘Distant Oceans’, Ross has been described as “The Future of Australian Jazz” (PBS FM)

The album was recorded at Red Bull Studios in New York in mid-2015 alongside regular collaborators Mark de Clive Lowe, Myele Manzanza and Dylan Marshall as well as seasoned NYC players Marcus Strickland, Corey King, Tivon Pennicott and Duane Eubanks. The resulting album represents the arrival of a unique antipodean voice in modern jazz; one that sits comfortably alongside artists like Kamasi Washington and The Robert Glasper Experiment at the vanguard of contemporary improvised music."

Monday, August 08, 2016

Nichola Richards - After Laughter (Comes Tears) single

Nichola Richards
Nichola Richards

Debut release from London-based label Wakeditown Records, another single coming then the album coming later this year... first single picking up spins from David Rodigan, Bobbito Garcia, and  Mungo’s Hi Fi.

"A reggae cover of a great soul classic by Wendy Rene (also sampled by RZA of Wu-Tang Clan for “Tearz” back in 1993), After Laughter (Comes Tears) is the first single from an upcoming album which will see London-born singer Nichola Richards reinterpreting 11 famously sampled soul classics in a reggae style.

Produced by label founder Matia "Ambassa" Gobbo, the single is proof of Ambassa’s reggae roots filtered by his unfinished love for soul and hip-hop.

The album - to be released in early (UK) summer 2016 - is titled “Ride Di Samples” and will feature reggae versions of classic hip-hop sampled soul tunes such as “Ready Or Not” by The Delfonics, “One Step Ahead” by Aretha Franklin, “Ain’t No Love In The Heart Of The City” by Bobby Bland, “Hard Times” by Baby Huey and more." 

Richards has sung and toured with German funk/soul outfit The Mighty Mocambos, while producer/bass player Gobbo grew up in Italy, living near a huge reggae festival, Rototom Sunsplash. 

Saturday, August 06, 2016

A Tribute to Phillip Fuemana (6 January 1964 - 28 February 2005)

Published in  NZ Musician, April/May 2005 (Vol:12, No:2)

In the last day of February this year, Phillip Fuemana died of a heart attack at his South Auckland home. His death, at just 41, was even more untimely because it meant that Phil missed taking active part in the inaugural Pacific Music Awards ceremony, a celebration he could very legitimately have claimed a stake in. In the event, a Lifetime Achievement Award was bestowed on him posthumously at the event.

Another gesture of respect and gratitude, long time friend Matty Ruys commissioned graffiti artist Askew to paint a wall-sized mural for Phil on the Otara Music and Arts Centre, where Phil had spent much of his time encouraging young musicians. A benefit concert staged in Auckland for the Fuemana family featured many of our finest and busiest urban performers.

Of Niuean and Maori descent, Phil was a mentor, an inspiration, a door opener, indeed a godfather of South Auckland hip hop and street soul. Back in 1990 he established Urban Pacifika Records which became the launch pad for a number of our earliest successful Polynesian artists and a blueprint for other independent labels like Dawn Raid.

He played a significant role in the seminal ‘Proud’ project, the 1994 compilation album/tour, which originally focused the nation’s attention on the ‘Otara sound’. The album and subsequent ground-breaking national tour proved to be the springboard for a number of future urban artist careers. His most recent release was the second ‘Gifted and Maori’ album, a compilation of music from unknown Maori artists.

Phil wrote and co-wrote music for his many acts, as well as being a highly regarded and successful producer. A collection of gold and platinum discs and three Tui awards testify to the success he enjoyed. He twice appeared on the cover of NZM. First in ‘94 with his brotherPauly, who was subsequently to gain worldwide success as OMC, and for a second time in 1998 with a number of UPR artists. The photographs on this page show him at the launch of UPR (courtesy of Garry Brandon), and more recently working with Mauri Ora Productions on the production of Maorioke for Maori Television.

Whirimako Black very kindly provided the korero below.
Rest in peace.

Lament to Phillip Fuemana

Na Ranganui i tuku iho ona roimata
He pa aroha mo matau e tangi nei mo to wehenga, e Phil.
Haere e hoa
Haere e te rangatira
E hoki ki te kopu o te whaea a Papatuanuku
a Hinenuitepo
ki te okiokinga kei reia ko o matua tupuna
Ko te tumanako ko au waihotanga e Phil
ka puawai mo nga uri o Te Moananui a Kiwa
otira te Ao whanui
Nga mahi whakatau puoro.
Hei aha ra? Hei whakaatu ora mo te huna rau aroha
He ohaoha maramatanga
He ohaoha mauri
To ao waiata
whakatangi taonga puoro
moe mai r¯a ki roto i te tangi o te oriori a o whaea
ma o mahi i waiho iho e koe
hei paiheretanga mo nga uri o
Te Moananui a Kiwa

Ranginui released his tears
Expressing all our lamentations for your departure oh Phil
Bon voyage dear friend
Bon voyage oh chief
Bon voyage back to the womb of Mother Earth
of the Maiden of the Night
at the place of gathering to be honored by your ancestors
The hope is that your legacy oh Phil
will come to fruition for our cousins of the Pacific
for the whole world
Recording of music
whatever, embodying life to those who loved you
Generous in mind
Generous in character
Your world of music
sleep now amongst the mournful laments of your mothers
let the legacy you have left
unify all descendants of
the Pacific

- Whirimako Black

Dropping In On Fat Freddy's Drop (2005 flashback)

NZ Musician, June/July 2005 (Vol:12, No:3) By Shaun Chait

The sun doesn't always shine in Wellington. But as news filters through this NZ Music Month morning that two of the capital's favourite bunches of sons - Fat Freddy's Drop and Shihad - occupy the top two places on the nation's music charts, even my normally winter-dark Aro Valley flat seems oddly bathed in a warm glow.

The most impressive thing isn't that Fat Freddy's have the #1 next to their name (and gold selling status to boot) on release, or even that the album lacks any traditional radio pop songs to get it there. It is that 'Based On A True Story' - their debut full length album - is independently recorded and distributed, completely devoid of any sort of major label involvement. Distributor Rhythmethod claim this as a first for the NZ music industry, giving Fat Freddy's Drop a unique place in Kiwi chart history. It's a fitting compliment for the music that Fat Freddy's have crafted, and for the reputation they have quietly built over five years.

The sun is certainly shining on the seaside suburb of Lyall Bay on the day I visit members of FFD in the historic bach/studio that producer/band memberFitchie (akaDJ Mu) calls home. It's accompanied by a rather awe-inspiring fog, sitting quietly over the stilled waters of Lyall Bay beach, providing a stirring and vivid background for our discussion. The members of Freddy's not surprisingly claim to be influenced by the 'vibe' of the sea, their melodies moulded by their surroundings. Today those surroundings seem to perfectly mirror all those things that the band's music embodies - a captivating, spiritual, earthly and graceful beauty that can bring viewer and listener alike to tears.

This is a band that musically doesn't succumb to timeframes, gently easing the listener into their soundscapes. Listening to 'Based On A True Story' as I stroll along the beach after our chat, the sweet soul, hypnotic dub, punctuations of jazz and organic roots almost melt me into the sand. Throw in generous doses of funk, reggae, and pop, hold together with Fitchie's beats, and you get an idea of what the intoxicating world of Fat Freddy's Drop sounds like.

It's a world that may not have been created at all. The seven members of Fat Freddy's Drop are all prolific musicians with high profile side projects in their own right. Members' 'other' bands includeTrinityRoots, Black Seeds, Ebb and Bongmaster. Freddy's may not want the 'supergroup' tag, but they epitomise the closeness of their city's music scene.

Much of this centres around the Wellington Jazz School, where FFD members Fulla Flash (Warryn Maxwell - sax), Tony Chang (Toby Laing - trumpet) and Ho Pepa (Joe Lindsay - trombone) first breathed joint life into their instruments. With acclaimed solo singer Joe Dukie (Dallas Tamaira), guitarist Jetlag Johnson (Tehimana Kerr) and keyboardist Dobie Blaze (Iain Gordon) joining band leader DJ Fitchie (Chris Faiumu/Mu) to round out the collective, the jamming began. Dukie subsequently added colour to the band's alter egos, immortalising them in the cartoon characters featured on the album cover.

Fitchie tells the story. "It was five or six years ago and we were all busy with other projects. We came together as a jam band, everyone sharing a love for improvisation. It progressed naturally from there, slowly morphing into everyone's main focus."

A string of vinyl singles and appearances on compilation discs fed a public appetite created by endless gigging throughout the country. This steady snack diet (including the very familiar Midnight Maraudersand album-closer Hope) was only broken by the 2001 four course album 'Live At The Matterhorn', which has gone gold. Vinyl is a big part of what Freddy's do, so expect a showing of remixes and new tracks on vinyl over the coming months, as well as a pressing of the album.

Freddy's are foremost a live band, a point they emphasised with their initial CD release, and by only committing selective cuts to record. No two outings of a song are played the same, the band putting each piece through a process of organic evolution every time they visit it.

"We had jammed enough on these songs and it was best to get them down and put them to bed before we move on. By the time we play in July half our set will be new, so we wanted to put closure on the last few years."

Many of the songs on the album came out of sessions at the Kaikura Roots Festival a few years back. Fitchie says the band was armed with Pro Tools, computers, pre-amps and mics but in the end didn't use any of it, instead concentrating on writing new jams and grooves.

"Cay's Crays came out of a bassline on the MPC2000, and four gigs later we had a song."

Jetlag concurs. "That's how we write songs - we evolve them live. I once made a mistake on a chord progression to Midnight Marauders and that led to what became the main version of it."

With 'Based On A True Story' sporadically recorded between March 2004 and April '05, the band had the luxury of being able to take their time, recording at The Drop - Fitchie's home studio. He also took the helm on production duties, handling the recording, engineering and mixing, thus allowing the band the freedom to tour the UK and Europe without add-on producer and studio constraints restricting their movement.

"Resources come in many different forms," explains Fitchie. "We had time. We were able to walk away and come back with fresh ears."

The recording process flowed as naturally as their music.
"The first step was getting the rhythms down. It was all roughly written into the MPC. Half stayed and half were replaced by live drums. Once the bass and drums were sitting in Pro Tools, we had a few goes with everyone jamming their instruments over the top so we could map out basic arrangements."

"We got ideas from the jams without worrying too much about how it sounded," elaborates Jetlag. "Once we had the core idea down we came in individually and laid down our parts."

They kept a lot of the jams, aiming to keep long sections in there to keep it as live sounding as possible with a natural feel and dynamics. Both agree a key ingredient was patience, Fitchie saying he pretty much lived in the studio for six months.

"We only used two mics, but we used good ones. A lot of people will say you should vary, but everything sounded good. A lot of it has to do with a good performance from the band and me being fussy at the point of recording and taking time mixing it. The conversion was also important. It's a part of the process a lot of people underestimate, but there's no point having a flash mic, pre-amp, and compressor if the conversion's done on something really cheap."

The modest Fitchie is somewhat of a recording/producing genius, widely regarded as one of NZ's finest - indeed this talent earned him the public-voted Best Producer award at the recent bNets, along with a second as Most Outstanding musician. (Dallas/Dukie won the Best Male Vocalist title.)

"Pro Tools has been my main weapon for years," he begins. "There was some late night drunk talk of one-take recordings, but that process only works now if you're a non-improvised, well-rehearsed band. We are all quite into the studio too - embracing the Pro Tools world."

Fitchie and Jetlag agree that the band approached recording as a collective. With seven equally capable voices able to make decisions on which directions to take songs in, it often came down to Fitchie engineering with whoever was around helping with arrangements. And with ideas flowing, the songs might have gone on even longer.

"Each song could've lasted for two years", quips Jetlag.

Fat Freddy's 'on our own terms' mentality is a model many bands aspire to. They are very much about old school ideas, combining them with a remarkably focused business head.

"It's all about live performance and pulling live audiences - that's always been the key for us," offers Fitchie. "It's nothing new - we are very old school musically, stylistically, and in our methods. We sell merchandise, not for the money but so that people will see and recognise the name. It's a classic thing - you go to a concert and you've gotta get the t-shirt. It's not like you go watch a DJ and buy the t-shirt."

The decision to remain independent in the face of significant offers is also with an eye to the long term.

"We wanted musical freedom, but it also made better maths in regards to finances," explains Fitchie, as Jetlag nods.

"We are all into being business owners and directors. We want to learn how to run a business. If you sign to a major, somebody is doing all those jobs for you. If you concentrate on the music, keep it real and have a good product, those good opportunities will still exist and you will still have a product to sell in six months time."

Walking the walk, the band released 'Based On A True Story' on their own label The Drop Ltd, with distribution handled by Rhythmethod Ltd, a small Auckland outfit whose initial involvement with the band was with the 'Live At The Matterhorn' release.

Fat Freddy's Drop have used their time abroad well, establishing contacts in key markets. 'Based On A True Story' is being released in Australia earlier than projected due to sales through online retailers Smoke and Marbecks forcing Aussie distributors Inertia to strike while the CD is hot. Distribution has also been set up for European markets through independents Kartel in the UK and Sonar Kollektiv in Germany, as well as Lexington in Japan.

Fitchie astutely explains that one big benefit of licensing to different distributors in different markets is that "... if one falls over it doesn't pull down the whole thing."

Europe is the big target, and typically the members of Freddy's have their own well-developed theories as Fitchie espouses. "You have to go there year in, year out. You have to hold onto your integrity and keep it real. If you stick to the old style of playing live lots and injecting money at the right time, then it's humbling what real music can do."