Batucada Sound Machine Interview

Friday, January 30th, 2009 | Interviews | 1 Comment
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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Pataphysics Interview

Monday, January 19th, 2009 | Interviews, VG News | No Comments
Pataphysics Interview

Pataphysics took the time to chat with us recently on his new sound that had me surprised with Australia’s developing hip hop community… interview below…

Thanks for stopping by… after seeing your performance a few months ago I was intrigued to learn a little more. So where and what have you come from?

At the moment I’m really into ideas about creation blending Astrophysics and Maya.

Your performance is exactly that, an actual performance rather then just a band. Do you see music as a vehicle for expression?

Yes definitely.  Almost everything we do is an outward expression of our inner.  Music and Art are some of the more tangible of these expressions. For me music can capture feeling or emotions through melody which cannot be described by words.  While lyrics can touch on ideas and moments many people share but do not voice.  Music

Both rapping and playing trumpet are fairly taxing activities; does it wear you out doing both simultaneously?
Nah, been doing it for a while, it’s all about breath.

I’ve seen you playing quite a few instruments, in other groups than Pataphysics also… with which instruments & bands do you play.
I play trumpet and vocals in a stack of different crews.  As well  as that I play drums with Trillion and Project nRt, playing some bass with Rosie Burgess,  electric piano and organ in UDL (Ubiquitous Dub Legitimizers), play guitar in this band I teach at Kensington community High School, and will be playing Tin Flute in a experimental Jamaican folk band Lotek’s working on.

Pataphysics - A short introduction

In the music and performances I have seen so far, you seem to have an underlying theme or message… how would you explain that message to someone who hasn’t heard your music?

The biggest theme that I feel runs through my music is one of positivity.  The message I guess is the one I tell myself, awake, understand, and ask questions. We aren’t powerless, there’s always a solution to a problem.  Today there are a heap of forces around that prevent truth and real dialogue.   Things are not always as they are portrayed to be, I am by no means a conspiracy theorist, but I do like to present an alternate view of things that we are fed .

What’s your take on the music scene in Australasia at the moment? Is anyone taking your interest?

There’s lots of music being made of all variety.  I am a huge fan of Rosie Burgess and Jemi White.  Also really enjoy Monkey Marc premier producer as well as another local lad by the name of Paranym.

And what about the international scene?

Morgan Heritage is the Bomb. Also Dead Prez.

Who were the artists you were bumping when you were developing your sound?

When I was little PE, NWA, Cypress Hill and Bob Marley are bands that influenced me greatly.  Later on in years, Miles Davis and The Brown Hornet showed me the freedom you had with music. Hendrix had a huge effect on the way I play trumpet.

Thanks for taking the time man… look forward to hearing more.

You can check out more of Pataphysics at:


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Raashan Ahmad Interview

Tuesday, January 6th, 2009 | Interviews | No Comments
Raashan Ahmad Interview

Pataphysics caught up up with California based MC, Raashan Ahmad, this week on life, music, Australian customs and other stuff… here is a basic copy of the transcript (as best as I could type it while playing it back to be precise).

You’ve had an interesting career so far, tell us a little about your journey.
Yeah man, I’ve been MC’ing for like 10 years now for real, ‘rappin since I was a little boy, walking up the street talkin to the beat, but I started to take it seriously with a group called Crown City Rockers putting out an album “Natural Phenomenon” in 2001(and ‘Earthtones’ in 2004).  Along the way I’ve just been touring consistently around the states and made it to Japan a couple of times also. I just released my first solo record called “The Push”, and now i’m just trying to make it bigger and better.

How did you get into Hip Hop, and who were your early influences?
I grew up in mid city L.A. going to a public school, and hip hop is and was the voice of the young generation. I was listening to the more conscious hip hop like NWA, Public Enenmy, KRS ONE, Big Daddy Kane, Rakim, Souls of Michief, Pharcyde, all of the Native Toungues, I’m a big fan of hip hop in all of its forms.

What do you know about Australia & New Zealand and our music?
Hardly anything man to be honest, i’m not really up on game at all. Thanks to border security and our tour manager not organising entertainment visa’s for our Crown City Rockers tour there a few years ago I’m not really up on it at all.

Raashan Ahmad – Peace

You’ve worked with some great artists in your career so far collaborating and touring, who are some of the most memorable for you?
Have to say maybe when I was on tour with Digable Planets, which was an amazig experience as it was, but working with their keyboardist, Bryan Jackson,  you know I got to do a song with him playing flute on the track, that’s probably gotta be one of my favourite memories, being in a hotel room in the middle of nowhere with an Mbox rapping with one of those cats who made some of my dad’s favourite songs.

You have come out with your debut solo album “The Push” after such a long time on the scene. How do you feel about the album and what can we expect?
I absolutely love it, this album was kinda like my selfish album, when I was making it the conscious album hype was going on, I think you can have conscious lyrics and dance at the same time, you can love the girls and do it all. I have a  song about mum passing on, my kid being born, thanks when the rain lifted, a track called “Fight” about George Bush, a track for my love for hip hop. I tried to make an album that showed more then just one side of me as an artist, but me as a human being.

Who’s playing in your headphones at the moment?
Right now i’m listening to this Wale Mixtape, i’m still listening to the Blue and Exile record,  Q-Tip ‘The Renaissance’, I’m really listening to ‘The shape of broad minds’ by ‘Jarrell’

If you could rock a jam with any cat from history who would it be?
Oh Man, Damn – that’s rough dude… dead or alive doesn’t matter??? probably Billie Holiday – i’d just like to sit in a room with her and just get the vibe she’s like so sad, and beautiful, I could just like stare at her.

So what’s coming up next for Raashan Ahmad?
I’m Touring Australia and NZ dude – I pretty much covered USA last year, so i’m just trying to get out there further and make some more music, put out another mixtape, and the Crown City Rockers new record is coming out, so play some more international shows, make some more music, open up some new minds and get turned onto new things.

You can check out more from Raashan at:


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More Than A Trillion

Monday, October 13th, 2008 | Interviews | 1 Comment
More Than A Trillion

VG: Today we chat with Jody Lloyd, the New Zealand musician behind the project Trillion: To start I thought I’d get you to tell us a about yourself, what you’re currently doing and your history in the music business, etc…

JL: Well, I started rapping kind of seriously in 1990, when I was 18. I recorded a few tracks in a studio. A year or so later I won a rap competition (performance, not a battle) and 6 months later (1993) teamed up with co-creator/rapper and friend Eli Foley to form the duo Dark Tower. Our first gigs used instrumental versions of American rap stuff as backing. Then I purchased a sampler, so I could build my own unique music. I had no musical experience, but come from a musical family, my dad was/is a folk musician. About the same time I got the sampler, Mark Duff moved into my flat. He was a keyboard wizard and also knew a lot about recording on computers, which at the time was a fairly new way of working. After we acquired a grant, Mark guided the recording of our first EP ‘Real Zealmen’. And Andrew from Salmonella Dub helped us release it. The EP would become the first rap release from the South Island of NZ. and the hit from it, Zealman, would acquire a cult following, and also be picked up by the NZ high school English curriculum and studied as a modern example of NZ language in music.

I made a second CD which had collaborations between me and a selection of Christchurch singers and musicians. It got picked up by Universal Music and I became the first NZ artist to sign a licensing agreement with them. I would later be ditched by them, but at the time I thought this was my big break. She’ll Be Right Records began as the label which licensed the music to Universal, and when the relationship expired I continued the label as an independent in 2002. Firstly releasing my own Trillion albums, then expanding it to include other acts. Currently (Oct 2008) we are up to the 25th release (18 of which were produced by myself) with roughly 15 active acts involved. last year we had a 10 year She’ll Be Right Records anniversary tour which involved nearly everyone ever released by the label. It was a really good time.

What were some of your main musical influences growing up?

As a young child I was really in love with my parents Beatles records. I used to listen to them over and over. I wanted to be in The Beatles. then at about aged ten, my interest turned to The Beach Boys. After that I began listening to things like Terence Trent D’Arby and INXS… From there I discovered break dance music. At 14 I went to the U.K with my dad and bought a tape: Beat Street Soundtrack, and a 7″ record: Wipeout by Fat Boys. That track changed my life. The Beastie Boys were all over the news when I was in London. I didn’t get their LP till I got back to NZ. So, Fat Boys taught me I could sample the music I liked and put it with the beats I liked. Beastie Boys taught me it was okay for white guys to do rap. And Upper Hutt Posse told me that I could do it in NZ. When I was about 17 I got really into post-war blues. But one of my strongest influences I didn’t realise for a long long time; my dad. I grew up around his music, he played acoustic guitar, harmonica and various whistles. This “folky”, “acousticy”, natural feel comes through in most of my production.

I first heard of you in the nineties when you were part of kiwi hip-hop group “Dark Tower”, who had a uniquely “kiwi” style in a time when most people were copying American rappers. Do you see yourself as someone who defines the NZ identity through your music?

We never set out to represent the ‘NZ identity’ or be cultural ambassadors. Our angle was purely to try and be us in our music, the best we could do. Incidentally… and sadly, most NZ rappers are still copying American rappers. It’s a disease.

I’ve seen some of the work you have done to draw attention to “serious” issues, like genetic-engineering and Aspartame for example. When you approach your music do you firstly think about what message you want to communicate, or how it will sound to an audience?

Music is possibly one of the strongest ways of communication, everyone likes music, and listens to it. So it becomes a good vehicle for sending out a message. When undertaking a ‘message’ song. I don’t think of who my audience will be, I just make the song as good and as accurate as I can. Although I have become aware of Internet searches, so now when I write a song that I want people to know about or learn something from, I make sure the key words that people will search for are in the title.

You obviously wear many hats in your role as engineer, producer, songwriter and lyricist. Do you see yourself more as an MC/vocalist, an arranger/composer or some kind of harmonious mixture of both sides of the coin?

Music for me is a therapy as much as it is something i want to make a living from. I don’t really see myself as an emcee even tho I rap. I don’t rap to be the best or to puff up my chest. I rap ’cause I like the exploration of language and rhythm and rhyme. And also it’s a way of telling people my thoughts and ideas without actually talking to them. Call me a rapping producer.

Can a jack of all trades, still be a master of some?

Ha ha, a jack of all trades can master them all. I spend a lot of time in every aspect in the creation of an album, right down to the cover artwork. I think it’s healthy to keep changing hats. each process brings something different to the next. As long as I have a built in quality control mechanism, i believe i can be a master of them all. That doesn’t mean I want to battle you on the mic by the way. Battle MC isn’t in my list of trades!

Which is your favourite part of the music making process?

It’s a good feeling nailing a tight rap verse in the studio in one take. I really like constructing music, or finding a primo sample or a weird record that no one will ever know about. It’s also pretty great to hear what other musician can add to a track. sometimes all it takes is an acoustic guitar strum, or a little lick for a track to come alive. I’ve had the privilege to work with some of the best musicians in NZ. Also it’s a real buzz hearing a song which I’ve constructed in a studio, being played out by my band, and then performing it…  listening to a really nice finished track over and over and over and over can be nice and hypnotising.

The latest Trillion album Silent Invisible came out earlier this year, how would you describe the album?

I would describe it as; a masterpiece, a concept, a journey. Masterpiece, not in an arrogant way. I spent a lot of time on it, and invited the best musicians I knew to play on it. It took me 3 years and everything is in it’s right place. The lyrics are probably the best work of my life ever. Concept, it combines a spoken word element which runs through it, and almost all tracks lead into each other. Journey, it tells a story, basically of a guy finding himself but in the setting of the New World Order. It tackles the issue of loneliness and it’s counter balance; aloneness. Thematically it covers political and social issues, relationships and personal discovery.

You recently relocated across the Tasman Sea, how are you finding living in Melbourne?

Melbourne is great, the best move of my life. I should have come here a long time ago. But if I had, I probably wouldn’t have fallen into such a deep hole that inspired the creation my masterpiece SILENTinvisible. Melbourne is full of artists, musicians and venues. Not such a great position to make a living from music, as there is so much stuff going on. But most of the people I meet, especially in hip hop, are really supportive and interested, whereas in NZ I feel like a tall poppy that they want to cut down. Hip hop scene here is really interesting and diverse too. Imagine a ragtime/gypsy band with a rapper.

What are the main projects and ideas are you focusing on for the future?

I’m just organising gigs in Melbourne for Jim Christy, a 63 year old poet from Canada who I produced an album for. it’s called God’s Little Angle. go find it, it’s really good. I’m also performing a bit around Melbourne with Eneti Waretini, and also playing lagerphone, political puppet show and raps in Pataphysics. Also I also met my super best friend about 6 months ago in Melbourne. Super best friend is like a girlfriend but way better cos you do lots of other stuff together, like making things, music, art and films. I’ve almost finished an album inspired by her. It explores areas which I haven’t been to before, in production and lyrical content. My last album is a bit sad, there’s so much war and hate in the world, I thought it’d be nice to make a whole about LOVE to try and balance out the world a bit. It’s called Loops Of Love. Should be out this summer, hopefully through an Australian label. I’ve also recently bought a video camera, so will soon be making all sorts of filmy things; for gig projections, for music videos and doco’s and live performance recordings for music and theatre stuff.

Find out more about Jody’s Past, Present and Future at:

Includes the FREE Downable “Garage Sale EP”
for your listening pleasure!


the GARAGE SALE (EP): is a bit of a mish-mash of tracks that are a bit humourous and topically too unrelated to fit into the SILENTinvisible or Loops of Love LP’s. Popping Bubbles is taken from the Rusty Springs EP by The Incredible Braking Wheel (2007), and Cold Touch of Dawn is a live version of a track on SILENTinvisible recorded live in Sept 2008 in Christchurch. The EP also contains a small montage of music from Loops of Love. ENJOY IT – It’s free! (any donations welcome)

“When you walk in the forest – let it go
when you climb up a hill – let it go
there’s a war in the world
you’re a flower turn and curled
heart and mind work best unfurled
let it go.”

(Let It Go- Trillion)

Queries By …Yossarian

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Opensouls Interview

Thursday, June 19th, 2008 | Interviews | 2 Comments
Opensouls Interview

Hey everyone, today we’re speaking with New Zealand’s Opensouls, a fine product from across the Tasman. The nine-piece collective is yet another Kiwi group making waves with energetic lives shows displaying their brand of funky hip hop laced with elements of jazz, reggae and soul.
So firstly, tell us a little about Opensouls for those out there who don’t know. How’d you form and who makes up the crew?

We formed out of the collapse of a former band 5th Floor. We have a horn section, keyboards, synths, guitars, bass, drums, percussion and vocals. Tyra Hammond – Vox Bjorn Petersen – Vox Julien Dyne – Drums Chip Matthews – Bass Harlin Davey – Sampler / Keys Steph Brown – Keys (currently in New York) Jeremy Toy – Guitar, Keytar Isaac Aesili – Trumpet, Percussion and a revolving horn section depending on availability.

Big things have been said about your live show, what can a crowd expect when you hit the stage? Any plans for a few shows on our shores in the near future?

We have plans to get across the ditch soon. We try and bring a party to every gig we play. It’s a big band and such a big dynamic that when it works it is a guaranteed good night out.

Your style of music is a product of so many different influences, obviously a result of the different tastes and experiences in music the various members bring to the group; where did it all begin for the Opensouls?

I’m not sure where it all began but myself and the drummer Julien Dyne share a similar love for soul and jazz music which is the backbone of our sound. Dare I call it jazz music but that is the music that keeps your mind thinking and continually challenges how you perceive music. An extension of that is artists like Tribe Called Quest, Premier and Pete Rock who took the jazz vibe and re-hashed it without ever making it sound like acid-jazz.

The musical community in New Zealand seems to effortlessly intertwine itself; how has this affected the way the Opensouls operate?

It effects us in a sense that there are heaps of people to help us out and to give us advice. Sometime that advice is a waste of time because you can only follow your own path but sometimes having so many people that you can potentially bounce ideas off of is very refreshing.

The various elements that make up your sound mean that you are not bound to any one genre when it comes to collaboration, are there any standout artists that you’d love to work with?

Thats a tough question. You never know how well you will work when collaborating until you are there doing it. I would love to get Liam Finn to produce a track for us. He is a stand out right now. Of course, if Chaka Kahn came knocking we wouldn’t say no. I have always wanted to play with Van Morrison. Soulful Irish music is big on my list.

Jeremy: Recently you picked up an award in New Zealand for Best Producer for your work with Hollie Smith on her album Long Player, how was working with her and do you have plans for anymore side-projects?

Working with Hollie on her album was a great experience for me. Hollie had set idea’s about how she wanted her album to sound so I took my role as the person to push Hollie outside of her musical comfort zone. She is a massive fan of Voodoo and Mama’s Gun and really wanted her record to be in the same vain as those records. I showed Hollie and the band the influences D’angelo, Erykah Badu, J Dilla and Questlove had when writing those albums and we tried to create an album that was not only influenced by these contemporary musicians but also by the musicians from the 60’s and 70’s that laid the foundations for the type of soul music Hollie plays. I am involved in other side projects. An Australian singer Tim Guy, he now lives in New Zealand. Tim writes some of the heaviest music I have heard, really well crafted songs. I am also doing demo’s with the Sami Sisters . They are 3 sisters with an undeniable talent for writing songs that grab at your heart strings and kick you to the kerb.

Your debut album, Kaleidoscope (released in April 2006), was mastered in Los Angeles by Stones Throw Records master engineer Dave Cooley. Did you get to go over there for that? How did the connection come about?

The connection with Dave Cooley came about when we needed our first 12″ record mastered. I got in hold of him via the Internet not knowing he had done any work for Stones Throw, all I saw was a quote from J Dilla saying that Dave’s studio was good, that was enough of a selling point for me. As he was mastering the tracks we found out his history with Stones Throw and we were blown away that such a heavyweight engineer was helping us out. From our initial contact his studio now works for heaps of New Zealand acts incl. Mark De Clive-Lowe, Nathan Haines and Eru Dangerspiel.

Recent reviews have compared your sound to that of Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings, Breakestra and Quantic Soul Orchestra; how do you feel about these comments? Are these artists that you draw inspiration from?

It is a hard comparison to take. Those artists are at the top of the food chain when it comes to Soul music. Yes, they are an influence but we are very aware that they have their sound and we need to develop our own sound, not just try and replicate what they are doing. I am more inclined to draw inspiration from outside the funk genre. I think there is more to learn from artists like Jeff Tweedy, Townes Van Zandt or Elliot Smith who communicate something through lyrics that only great songwriting can achieve.

As the Opensouls are involved in a variety of New Zealand crews (such as Che Fu’s The Krate’s, Ladi 6’s Verse Two, Recloose, Solaa and Tyra Hammond’s funk band The Tornado’s), is the Opensouls a side project for individual members, or are their other endeavours the side projects? How do this all work for the Opensouls?

This band is a crazy dynamic. I think we all will agree that when we get together and play live that it is the closest, best bunch of people that we could play music with. We all go out and work for other artists, as musicians we have to do that to keep our minds active but when we come off tour from those job and play as Opensouls we all realize that this is the one project worth putting in the hard yards for.

Hip hop is winding an interesting road through music history, what do you think of the current state of hip hop? And where do you feel that you fit on the hip hop spectrum?

I don’t know much about the current state of Hip Hop. To me there is always going to be a stand out release that may fit in to the Hip Hop Genre but its always something a bit left of field. Madlib is still ruling, Common seems to be hanging in there, Erykah Badu’s new album captured the vibe. There are some amazing things happening in Europe but it is more on the techno side of Hip Hop. As for what is on television top 40, I couldn’t care less. I think Hip Hop is in a good position as far as where it sits in the industry. It needs to be an underground music, it needs that constant low hum that works away while the top 40 slowly eats itself and decays.

What’s next for the Opensouls crew? New albums in the making? Future tours on the horizon?

We are working on our next record. We have a 7″ about to be release which will get to Australia in select vinyl stores, Northside Records etc. Hopefully if the Australian radio and television stations are nice to us you will hear our next single “Dollars” on the airwaves.

You can check out more of Opensouls at:



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