INTERVIEW: Fat Freddy’s Drop

A NEW FLIGHT PATH

FAT FREDDY’S DROP ARE ABOUT TO TAKE LEAVE FROM RECORDING THEIR NEW ALBUM TO PREVIEW IT AT THE SYDNEY OPERA HOUSE. KEYBOARDIST DOBIE BLAZE GIVES CHRIS FAMILTON AN INSIGHT ON THE TOURING LIFESTYLE AND THE BAND’S CREATIVE PROCESS.

New albums aren’t a common occurrence in the world of Fat Freddy’s Drop. To date there has only been 2005’s debut Based On A True Story, Dr. Boondigga & The Big BW in 2009 plus an EP and live album. Ever since the band first formed around the start of the new millennium the’ve maintained a strong focus on their live shows and subsequently touring has taken up a major part of their time and played a key role in their songwriting process. As the band readies themselves for a brief run of dates in Australia they are also in the middle of recording their next album Blackbird which will take flight in the first part of 2013.

Europe is a key territory for Fat Freddy’s Drop and the region where they have focused most of their international touring. The band recently got back from another tour there which keyboardist Dobie Blaze (Iain Gordon) rates as the most enjoyable one they’ve done in terms of the shows and the personal relationships between band members on the road.

“It was an awesome tour, the best we’ve ever done really. It was a combination of our own shows and festival shows so we had great audiences and lots of beautiful venues. We get on really well on the road, especially with touring being managed so well which is a huge part of everyone getting on. We have an amazing tour manager through Europe and it’s just the way they structure the tour that takes the stress out of it. Everyone is there to do the job so no one gets pissed off. On the tour I don’t think there were any issues so it is nice to come home and feel like it was a success and there is no big drama to deal with when you get back.”

Returning home, in Blaze’s case to Paekakariki just north of Wellington, is a chance to recoup and reunite with family who don’t get the chance to accompany the band on the road, as much as they would like to share the experience with them. “When you get home it is a case of back to reality. As my wife puts it, it takes a little while for me to land,” chuckles Blaze. It’s always wonderful getting back to family so by the end of the tour you can’t wait to get home and the kids can’t wait to open their presents. Life on the road is very different, it’s all go and you get into your routine of bus travel and sleeping when and where you can. There is the luxury of living in hotels and not having to clean up after yourself though. You have to change those bad habits a lot when you get home. It’s great to be able to have those experiences as part of my life though.”

Fat Freddy’s Drop have played Sydney a number of times but this will be their first performance at the Sydney Opera House, as part of the Graphic festival, where they’ll be previewing the forthcoming Blackbird album accompanied by animation and illustrations. It promises to be a special evening as the band combine music and visuals in a venue seen as one of the world’s best. “I’ve got absolutely no idea what to expect from the Opera House so I’m really looking forward to checking out such a legendary and prestigious venue. It feels like we are doing something very grown up and arty,” says Blaze before adding “ I better go and get a new hat from my hat man for the occasion.”

This interview was first published in Drum Media.

Listen to the brand new single Silver And Gold from the forthcoming 2013 Fat Freddy’s Drop album Blackbird:

 

 

 

NEWS: Hallelujah Picassos release compilation…

Hallelujah Picassos were one of the most original, visceral and genre mashing bands to come out of Auckland, New Zealand in the early 90s. They combined reggae, lovers rock, punk, dub, hip hop and garage rock with the end result being an overwhelming live experience. Frontman Roland Rorschach, bassist Johnnie Pain, guitarist Peter McLennan and drummer/singer Bobbylon were something of a musical history lesson for young kids growing up in New Zealand, giving them an entry point into a diverse array of genres, pointing the way for them to make their own discoveries about 70s Jamaican dub, New York hip hop and US hardcore. Roland always seemed like a mysterious figure whether he was serving coffee at Cafe DKD, striding along the city streets or prowling the stage like a caged panther.

Rewind the Hateman is released October 31st. For more info head to http://picassocore.blogspot.com/

Tracklisting

1 Lovers +
2 Black spade picasso core
3 Crack dub
4 Snakeman’s cry
5 Bastardiser
6 Sister Stacy
7 Hello Pablo
8 Shivers
9 God gave us Boom Boom Washington
10 Hateman
11 Rewind
12 Drinking with Judas
13 U+I
14 Glue
15 I want you to be my million/Happy go lucky girl
16 Smokin and fumin
17 Yardy
18 Seven stripes of the Maumau

LISTEN: to the new The Checks song – Candyman Shimmer

The Checks have taken a turn into dub reggae grooves on this, their new single. Apparently it is all about…

Candyman Shimmer is really all about you and your stinking mate in a clapped out 1.3 litre Fiat Uno chain smoking cigarettes hooning past two slick fellas in expensive suits cruising the motorway in a silver Porche. You pull your blue jumper over your eyes as you boost along and think about the Barbados coastline.

If you want to give them your email address they’ll give you a free MP3 of the song HERE.

LIVE REVIEW: Katchafire @ Enmore Theatre, Sydney (24/06/11)

written by Chris Familton

Rewards come to those who do the hard work and Katchafire have certainly been doing that for the last decade with relentless touring and four albums of exceptional roots reggae music. For a band that probably gets next to no radio airplay in Australia, attracting a large crowd to the Enmore Theatre showed just how large an audience they have gathered over the years.

Up and coming local reggae act This Version were impressive in the opening slot, warming the punters up and loosening the joints for the main act. They too trade in a fairly traditional reggae form but the vocals of Ray Te Oranga Nolan contain traces of hip hop and r&b, adding up to a more contemporary feel. With a still growing crowd and the large Enmore stage, the connection with the audience wasn’t complete but the band did an admirable job of bridging the gap.

After a ‘hype man’ type intro Katchafire took the stage to a rousing reception from the audience seemingly made up of mainly fellow Kiwis. The great thing about reggae is that it is pretty much impossible to stand still. That offbeat rhythm has a way of seeping into your hips and knees and before you know it your head is nodding away. Katchafire have the knack of keeping the tempo just right for maintaining perpetual movement without relying on faster songs or excessive audience call and response antics. Their new album On The Road Again featured prominently with the title track opening the set and name-checking the myriad of places they have visited on their tours. Alongside older tracks like Lover Letter, Rude Girl and Who You With, Katchafire showed the strength of writing they’ve been able to maintain over their career. They included one cover, a little predictably, of Bob Marley’s Three Little Birds which sounded positively congregational with the audience almost drowning out the band at times. Props should go to both guitarist Grenville Bell for his beautiful solos and the understated and rock solid rhythm section. Katchafire are a band that relies on a sense of community and family in their music and their audience and there was definitely a strong sense of that (and ganja smoke) in the Enmore Theatre.

this review was first published in The Drum Media (Sydney)

LIVE REVIEW: Bad Manners @ Annandale Hotel, Sydney (18/06/11)

Eager 13 | photo by Chris Familton

written by Chris Familton

Ska’d For Life was the name given to the second night of Bad Manners’ Sydney gigs at the Annandale. This one was billed as a whole afternoon/night of ska music celebrating the original form of reggae and all its various mutations with mods, punks and 2 Tone fans gathering to celebrate ska and one of its longest serving bands Bad Manners.

Late afternoon saw the bands kick off with Jarrah Zen & The Switchblades playing a obnoxious and rudimentary set of punk and rockabilly tunes. It was pretty primitive stuff made to look all the more unappealing by the vastly superior Eager 13 that followed them. With the only female on stage for the night – Caz – they played an authentic set of late 70s/early 80s punk and ska. Rock Steady Dub Milita stripped things back to a three piece but delivered some nice dubbed out moments and a great cover of Gregory Isaacs’ Night Nurse amid their more generic ska/rock songs. Los Capitanes were the first band of the night to really ignite the crowd with a mad mix of ska, rock, hip hop and punk that somehow all melded together brilliantly. Their sense of humour, a killer version of In the Summertime and guest spots from Pete Porker added to the feeling of controlled chaos and amplified the party atmosphere. Backy Skank are stalwarts of the local scene, differing from the punk flavoured acts with a clean pop sound clearly modelled on Madness and others. What they did they did well and the crowd clearly enjoyed their set, especially their closing cover of The Specials’ Nite Klub.

Bad Manners have gone through hundreds of lineup changes over the years with frontman Buster Bloodvessel the only constant in the band. They played exactly what the crowd expected and wanted – a set full of hits, sing-a-longs, deep bass and a party atmosphere. The band played with just the right amount of precision and frivolity with the rotund Bloodvessel keeping the knees-up momentum going for the entire ninety minute set in front of a now jam-packed and sweaty Annandale. My Girl Lollipop, Lip Up Fatty, Lorraine and an exhilarating Special Brew were some of the highlights of their set. UK originators like Bad Manners are keeping the flame alive with integrity ensuring ska remains as strong as ever both as a heritage movement and one attracting new fans.

this review was first published in The Drum Media (Sydney)

LIVE REVIEW: Grace Jones @ Enmore Theatre, Sydney (19/04/11)

written by Chris Familton

This was dubbed the Hurricane Tour which was kind of strange considering the album of the same name was released 3 years ago. Coming 19 years after Grace Jones’ previous release of original material it isn’t surprising that she still considers it to her ‘new’ album (as she often reminded us), such was the length of time between drinks.

This was a show that was as much about theatrical costumes and crazy and clever humour as it was about the music. Jones has always been one to blur the line between fashion and songs and so it was more an expectation rather than a surprise as she unveiled wild and ostentatious costumes that added colour and flair to the music. She tailored her look to specific songs like the floral explosion of La Vie en Rose, the devilish medusa look in Devil In My Life and the  dancehall queen colours of My Jamaican Guy.

Jones’ song choice was impeccable with a cross section of her biggest hits alongside a large proportion of the Hurricane album. It was those newer songs that sounded the most impressive. They were loud and utterly contemporary, drenched in trip hop dread, dark electronica and some of Jones’ most powerful vocal performances. The highlights were Corporate Cannibal with its accompanying video and the grand skittering drama of the wind assisted title track. Her band never over-shone Jones but they were a powerful group of musicians that could switch from the French pop of La Vie en Rose to dub soaked endings of songs like Private Life with consummate ease.

With Grace Jones you get it all – from backstage commentary about cocaine at airports to confetti cannons and laser deflecting bowler hats. Through it all it was her voice that constantly impressed with a range that can seduce or scare the living daylights out of you with a malevolence akin to Tricky. She closed the show with two of her biggest hits – an overplayed Pull Up To The Bumper and Slave To The Rhythm that lost its way with mid song band introductions. Those missteps plus some minor costume hitches and false starts meant this wasn’t a flawless show but it mattered little when she had earlier delivered such an astonishing electro glam rock take on Roxy Music’s Love Is The Drug. Jones showed she is still one of the more forward thinking and creative pop culture icons out there – original types that are increasingly rare to find.

this review first appeared in Drum Media