Thursday, 19 July 2007

INTERVIEW: Little Bushman

A Psychedelic Jazz Enhanced Journey.

Resurrecting the iconic sounds of the past, the Little Bushman have created a sound that stays true to their roots. Pushing away the safety net, this 4-piece band’s (Warren Maxwell, Rick Cranson, Joe Callwood and Tom Callwood) brave fusion is destined for an exciting future. Their debut album, Onus On The Sand, featured the stunning vocals of Lisa Tomlins and Deva Mahal. They currently have their heads down working hard on their next musical experience.

Lucy Wyatt talks to Little Bushman’s drummer, Rick Cranson to find out more.

Lucy Wyatt: The Little Bushman creates a deeply atmospheric and confident sound. Taking into account your jazz past and your personal influences of Hendrix, Zeppelin and Marley is this where you pictured your sound ending up?

Rick Cranson: Yes and no. We definitely have influences from 70’s rock n roll – a lot of influence from Hendrix. There’s also influence from lots of jazz, Coltrane, the later Miles Davis bands, and many others. Also lots of psychedelic rock and roll like Pink Floyd, but really it’s a sort of an evolving sound. But the new album is quite different to our first one and that’s because musically, our writing has changed. There are more elements of Little Bushman and lots of improvising. There are lots of big jams that last 15 minutes or so. It’s simply an ongoing thing.

Lucy: “Jimi” is a very thought provoking track – the obvious strength of a legendry icon combined with the sensual Polynesian backing vocals inspires something of a mesmerizing cross-cultural journey. Was it your intention to create such a feeling?

Rick: Initially it was just a song about this fantastic musician that had given us loads of great music and loads of ideas to think about. It was supposed to be a celebration of his life and his gift of music – although we do try and keep things very New Zealand with our sound – like the Polynesian style vocals, so it sounds different to anything else overseas. We like to keep it like that – as New Zealand has a sound of it’s own.

Lucy: Even though your sound is quite different from that of Trinity Roots, (Warren Maxwell’s last highly successful band), there are still the strong overtones that tell of nature and community. How important of a sub-genre is this for the band?

Rick: It’s a big part of our music. It’s almost like escapism. We try to take the people that come along to our concerts on a journey. We try and push as far out there as possible to create an almost trance like effect. That’s a really important thing, and it’s reflective of New Zealand culture - wanting to escape and have a good time, to forget about work and the things you have been doing during the day and take on another experience. The more we play live the more we want to go down that road and make a whole experience of the shows.

Lucy: Onus Of The Sand is an incredible album. There are so many elements that ring through from the psychedelic rock era of the 60’s, a bluesy tone and some dramatic twists of jazz improvisation. This is arguably a new type of New Zealand sound – was it more of a discovery or specifically planned to sound this way?

Rick: It’s a little bit of both. It’s definitely a conscious decision to say that’s where we are going. Warren Maxwell would come along with a whole bunch of skeleton ideas for songs and lyrics and a couple of basic cords and from there we would do a little bit of improvisation. Trying different ideas until it evolves into something that is a whole piece of music. That might take weeks but we do have a goal in mind. We try out all these ideas and if they work they stay, if they don’t they get replaced. We want it to be interesting for our audience and of course interesting for us. We improvise a lot so the tracks aren’t going to be similar. I think that’s quite a strong thing with us all being jazz players. Within that there are definite structures - we follow those structures so that each track has a character if it’s own.

Lucy: With New Zealand music becoming more internationally recognized and accounting for your influences, both the legendary and the genre-based, do you think this will afford you some better recognition abroad?

Rick: Yeah - I think we’ll try and jump on the bandwagon. We’d like to get over to Australia next year if possible. We’re going to finish this next album and get it released in November so that we have 2 albums under our belt. We’re definitely hoping that the overseas listeners will embrace us much as they have embraced other New Zealand bands in the last couple of years. But you never know, they might think - man what are these guys on?

Lucy: What are your foreseeable plans for Little Bushman and do you have many tour dates booked for the future?

Rick: Our biggest thing is getting our second album finished. We’ve just spent 3 weeks tracking it over in the studio and there’s a whole lot of over dubbing and extra parts to put on and a whole months worth of mixing to do. Our aim is to release it in November. We have a few dates booked - some in Napier in October and then we are also playing with the Auckland philharmonic orchestra. The composer is going to score out a whole bunch of our songs for an orchestra. We are very, very excited about that. Next year we’re predicting a very busy year - getting out. We’ve been out there quite a bit this year already, like Soundsplash at the beginning of the year, that was great fun and of course this Saturday at the San Francisco Bathhouse.

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