Where are you from? Describe the kind of creative culture within the city you were raised in?
I grew up in East Auckland in a suburb called Howick. There wasn’t any kind of music scene there. Its about 1 hour on a bus to central Auckland where all the hip music was happening when I was a kid. I would have been considered a ‘trendy’ when I was a young teen, which then transformed into me being a goth. I spent my weekends in Auckland going to parties etc. and trying not to get beaten up by the local metal heads. Most of my friends had at some stage had their heads kicked in if not once, multiple times but I managed to avoid a beating throughout my youth. I left Howick the first chance I got and have only been back once in my adult life and even then the place gave me chills. I had a good group of friends that were really in to music so I just hung with them. I was in high school bands and we put on a couple of local shows in Howick community halls for but they usually ended in violence.
What made you get into music, who were the people around you which influenced you?
My parents were in to music, but not obsessively. My father had a classic yacht rock collection – Doobie Brothers, Fleetwood Mac, Supertramp etc. It was my brothers that really influenced me musically. I’m the youngest of three brothers, the oldest was into lots of post punk bands like Devo, Siouxsie and the Banshees, The Cure, B52’s and Talking Heads and my other brother was in to punk, reggae, funk, hardcore etc and I was influenced by all that stuff. I make it sound like I was so cool, but my first 7” purchase was Cliff Richards Devil Woman. I was also obsessed with Adam and the Ants and Depeche Mode. I was basically a product of the 80’s so I became infatuated with synthesisers and eventually saved enough money to buy one from doing a local paper route. I would have been around 11 years old. I had my first high school band at 13 and moved around between bands right through till I was 29. At this stage I’d had enough of band democracy and wanted out so I saved up some money and brought a home studio set up. Sola Rosa grew out of this.
Having been five years since your previous album, Magnetics, how did you change your approach for this album?
To be honest there have been some pretty dark moments between 2010-2015 with mental illness. I suffered through some pretty severe depression and anxiety and with Chasing The Sun I wanted to attempt to leave that behind and move forward. I wanted this record to sound hopeful. I wanted it to sound like a slice of summer. For me summer means happiness, I prefer writing during summer. My happiest memories are being a kid and surfing all summer long and I wanted to get back to that in some way, even though I’m not at the beach I’m stuck in a studio. I think also spending so much time in London making this album had an effect on the recordings. I was totally in my element, it was exciting being in a city like London, working day to day in a studio and having artists come through to collaborate. I felt like a kid in a candy store.
If you weren’t making music, what would you be doing?
If I could go back in time I would have learned to work with wood. I do have some skills in this department but not any real qualifications. I’d be a furniture maker. As far as qualifications I’m a bar tender and barista. I spent years in hospo as lots of artists do before they can finally survive on their music. However being a bar tender as much as it was a lot of fun in my youth would be a dangerous occupation right now, not only because of COVID but also because I like a drink.
Are there any producers/artists you work with really well, what makes your relationship work?
The stand out artists on this particular album would be Kevin Mark Trail, Thandi Phoenix and Wallace. To be honest pretty much all of the album sessions were good but these three stood out a little more. Kevin I’ve been working with in the studio and touring since 2013. He’s just a super creative, lovely guy in the studio, always looking to get the most out of the song and not afraid to try anything to make it work. When it comes to shows he is just an incredible frontman. Thandi was great because she was just a lot of fun, she’s quite nutty in the best possible way and she’s also a hard working creative mantis in the studio. Wallace I just got on with. It was like we’d known each other for years.
What were early experiences in music, did you start with playing instruments or go straight into producing with a DWL?
I started with a neighbours piano then bought my first keyboard – a Casio VL Tone (which I still own), then it was a Yamaha synth, then a Roland SH-101 (which I also still own), then a Roland Juno 106 (which I regrettably sold). After this I started getting in to more indie rock. Synths were super uncool, so I bought a guitar which I played badly for many years. Thing is I always had a 4-track recorder, so when I look back I feel like I started producing early. Production was my thing without me even becoming aware of it until decades later. I’m not great on any instrument in particular but I can put it all together if I have something to record on. I didn’t by a proper computer setup until around 1998, which was a super expensive slow Mac running Cakewalk, then Cubase, then Logic, then Pro Tools, now Ableton Live
You have some great features on the album such as Eva Lazarus, and Jerome Thomas? Who did you work with better out of all the featured artists, and why do you think so?
I kind of covered this one in question 5, but to elaborate a little more: Like I said, there weren’t any bad sessions. There were a few that didn’t make the album but thats just the process. Historically I have done a mix of home studio collabs and remote collabs but with this album 11 of the 12 tracks were recorded with me and the featured artists together in a room. I reached a point where I am comfortable collaborating with strangers in a confined space, I quite like the process. Each artist is different, some are gregarious, some are shy etc. It takes a certain amount humility and patience to figure out who you are working with and allow the session to flow without making the other person uncomfortable, but once you get to that point where you are both enjoying the session there is an energy to that that you won’t get from a remote session.
Why did you decide to start Way Up Recordings? Which artists on your roster should we be paying attention to?
Way Up was simply set up as I needed a label to release my music. I’ve been with indies and majors and have had a lot of shitty experiences. There is one label in Germany for example that I released two of my most successful albums through – these albums sold very well, however I have never seen a cent. In fact I’m still having to take legal action to stop them from trying to claim royalties that they have no rights to. Way Up Recordings was me saying ‘fuck it – I’ll do it myself!’. So I’m not looking to become a label manager at any stage soon, I barely have enough time to do all I want to do with Sola Rosa.
Have you got any future shows planned?
We have a bunch of shows in New Zealand over summer, pretty much all festivals. We’ll no doubt start planning an album tour now that we are out of lockdown as there are currently no community cases of COVID in NZ. But that could change at any moment. I was supposed to be in Europe and the UK touring now but that never got off the ground. Of course I would love to tour this album outside of NZ but we’ll just have to see how things roll. I’m sure we’ll get there eventually.
Listen to Sola Rosa latest album, Chasing The Sun: