Batucada Sound Machine Interview

Friday, January 30th, 2009 | Interviews
Batucada Sound Machine Interview

We talked size with Batucada Sound Machine…

(Interview with James Hughes, percussionist and band founder)

A 12 piece band doesn’t happen by accident, how was BSM born?
Dude, we are now 12 piece, but were at 15 during the early days!
It all started when I returned from a stint in Cuba and Brazil studying percussion and I got a group of players together at a local club in town. We jammed once a fortnight and mixed brazilian and Cuban rhythms with drum & bass, hiphop grooves etc. The night started getting a reputation and soon a few horn players turned up, and MCs started coming along. Soon followed a bass player, guitarist and pretty soon we had a full band…playing improvised jams. We got booked for a couple of big local festivals and since then its been a mad ride…playing festivals around NZ, Aus and the UK, and resulting in the studio album with Neil Sparkes last year.

Does size matter? Is it important that there are so many of you?

We have developed our sound so that each person has their own role. From the rhythm section to the percussionists, to the traxedos (horn section) to the vocalists etc. Each person is key. Obviously there are logistical issues, but that’s all part of the fun.

Your music has been described as an ADHD Melting Pot of sound – is this deliberate?
Well, not sure who that person was, but we’ll take it as a complement! There are intentionally chaotic moments within some of the tracks, but by and large – its all carefully orchestrated…unless the band leader is having one of his ‘moments’.

How would you describe your music?
I would call it super-samba-afro-funk, with elements of hiphop and pacific soul added for taste….hmmm yeah I like it.

Your live set is said to be ‘explosive’. Was it difficult to translate this kind of energy into your album ‘Rhythm and Rhyme’?
The recording process was a great experience. We enlisted Neil Sparkes to produce (UK, Transglobal Underground) and he came out to NZ to record with us for 3 weeks. We had demo’d all the tunes for him which was great as we really worked on making the tunes album friendly and not the extended mixes we play live. In terms of energy, we captured the vibe really well during final recording, and then tried to enhance that as much as possible in the mixing stage (we were fortunate enough to mix at Avatar Studios in NY).  The engineer at Avatar was a genius and were stoked with the final result. We are discussing releases at the moment in Aus and the UK – so stay tuned!

Was it hard to create ‘one’ sound with such a wide range of talents and backgrounds? How do you avoid ‘too many cooks’?
It’s a process for us, and often song ideas are created by one person and then developed by the rest of the band. There is a core group of 3-4 of us who do most of the song creation – which makes for a consistent approach. Often a song may start as a rhythmical or bass driven groove, and then we’ll add horn and vocal melodies, breaks etc until things materialize into something we agree on. Often it will take a few times playing live for the final arrangement to stick.

As well as there being so many of you, you also enjoy collaborating with other artists – recently Che-Fu – what do outside artists bring to the band?
It was great working with Che on the song ‘Smoke’. He was super professional in the studio and had researched the subject matter of the song (which was loosely about Cuban Santeria etc). He had all the lyrics down and new exactly what BVs he wanted to do…all in all he was in for a couple of hours and done.

Batucada Sound Machine feat. Che-Fu

We have also worked with Kevin Field (jazz pianist on Hechicera) and Lewis McCallum (saxophone guru on Vai Chegar) – both of whom really added great touches to the respective tracks.

You not only perform in English but other languages such as Portuguese. Would you describe yourselves as a ‘Kiwi’ band?
To be honest, were probably not a ‘Kiwi’ band…what is a ‘Kiwi’ band anyway? Define NZ music!? Can I ask questions?
We certainly are from NZ and love being NZers, but take our influences from other parts of the world as most bands do to differing degrees as well.

Where will you be performing over summer?
We have 4 gigs in Aus lined up:
Thurs Feb 12 in Melb @ The East Brunswick Club – w/ The Melodics
Fri Feb 13 in Sydney @ The Factory Theatre w/ Son Veneno
Sat Feb 14 in Canberra @ Carnival in the City
Sun Feb 15 in Perth @ The Becks Music Box, Perth Int Arts Festival

Then back to NZ for summer gigs etc and hopefully hitting the UK mid-year.

What does the future hold? Will you get bigger in 2009?
We wont be growing band numbers that’s for sure!
This year, we are looking to release the album in Aus and also tour the UK and Europe…things are coming together well, and we have interest from a number of festivals over there…
So yeah…gonna be huge!

You can check out more from Batucada Sound Machine at:


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