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Interview: Connan Mockasin Talks About New Album 'Jassbusters' + Summer Tour

Interview: Connan Mockasin Talks About New Album 'Jassbusters' + Summer Tour

Thursday 11th January, 2018 12:17PM

It's been almost five years since the release of Connan Mockasin's previous worldwide hit album Caramel, but if you thought the Hawkes Bay psychedelic-pop artist has been resting on his laurels you'd be wrong. Mockasin has maintained a busy schedule of collaborations and recordings, dropping the Soft Hair album with Sam Dust (of Late Of The Pier) in 2016, and working alongside such luminaries as Charlotte Gainsbourg, James Blake, MGMT and more. Back in Aotearoa for the summer, he's currently performing alongside Neil and Liam Finn on their 'Where's My Room' tour before heading out for a headline tour of New Zealand, his first in almost eight years.

We caught up with Mockasin just before Christmas, shortly after the artist arrived back to his Te Awanga family home following a run of shows supporting James Blake in California. Check out our conversation below where he generously took time out to chat about his upcoming concept album Jassbusters, recent work with the Velvet Underground's John Cale, challenges he faced working on Charlotte Gainsbourg's new album Rest, and more...


Hi there, whereabouts are you?

I'm in Te Awanga in Hawkes Bay, I just got back about three hours ago.


You must be pretty exhausted from travelling.

A little bit, I'm having a wine and sitting by the ocean. It's nice. The trip from LA's not too bad because the time zone's almost the same. It could be worse.

How did your shows with James Blake go over there?

Great, it was good. I did a solo performance at the San Francisco ones, and I'd never done that before and I had nothing organised, I improvised all (of it) so that was really liberating for me. It was really fun. That's what he wanted me to do I think.



You performed last month at a massive Velvet Underground concert with John Cale.

John Cale yeah, we did the fiftieth anniversary of the Banana Record. Velvet Underground.

Were you playing the entire album or were you guesting on specific songs?

I did a few tracks. I did 'Lady Godiva's Operation' in a nurses outfit, I did Lou Reed's interjecting parts. And I did one with Animal Collective, 'Here She Goes Again.' And I did another few, I can't remember the names of those.

You've had a very busy and productive year. You starred in the video for MGMT's recent single 'Little Dark Age'...

I was the caretaker.

How did you get to be involved with that video, and have you been working in the studio with those guys as well?

I have yeah, I did a little bit on their new record and Andrew (VanWyngarden) and I have become close friends, and Ben (Goldwasser) as well. He came to Te Awanga last year for Christmas, he stayed at my parents here with tents and stuff. Just really lovely people. Andrew and I did a surf trip to Iceland last year where we were making music for a surf film with some of our favourite surfers. We both enjoy surfing, we're not very good at it but we're fans of the sport.



Whereabouts do you surf in Hawkes Bay?

There's a break out the front here, there's a point break in Te Awanga. Or you can go down the road to Haumoana, there's a river mouth there. If you go around Cape Kidnappers theres's Ocean Beach and Wiamarama, around there. Beach breaks.

You've been involved with quite a few collaborations recently, and you've also been working on a new solo album?

I have yeah, but it's a band recording. The first one I've done. That'll come out next year (2018).

Is there a title for that?

Jassbusters (Mockasin spells out the title). J.A.S.S.B.U.S.T.E.R.S.

What ideas are you going to be exploring with that album? Will it be as sexy as Caramel?

Well it's a concept record in that it's a music teacher's album, and they are called Jassbusters. It's the first band recording I've done and it's in two halves, one half is the New York version and one half is the Paris version. That goes with the Melodrama series, or five-part movie if you will. I'm not exactly sure what to call it at this point. That's something I've been working on for twenty years with my brothers and my next door neighbour. So I thought it was a good time to do that now.

What's the Melodrama five-part series?

That's the music teacher and his relationship with one of the students. And that's his band, the Jassbusters. So that's their record that they put out.

You'll be heading around New Zealand on a headline tour in February right?

Yeah! First time in a long time.

What can audience members expect from your tour?

We'll get to have this touring band that's not been to these places, I usually come here for a holiday anyway, and we'll play a mixture from the last two, three records maybe even. And new things, I won't give away too much but I'm really excited and the band are as well. We never really did New Zealand properly and we did the rest of the world, this is sort of the end of this era and it would be nice to do it back home before we stop doing things this way.


Your headline tour will follow a big pile of shows you're doing with Neil and Liam Finn. That's about eighteen shows in a row then right into another tour straight away.

That's right yeah, it's a lot for a small country. You can't even do eighteen in America.

What's your role going to be in that tour?

I don't know yet. I recorded a bit on their record when they were making it, so I guess I'll be doing some of that. I think I'll be playing guitar mostly. Maybe some bass. We'll find out when we have a few days rehearsal.

You've also worked recently with Charlotte Gainsbourg and Vince Staples, What was your role with those projects?

I'm not sure if Vince's stuff ever got used or not. James (Blake) was producing some work with Vince and I came in for a week to do some sessions with them, and Dom (Maker) from Mount Kimbie. We were all doing that together.

With Charlotte, she had this place on an island in France. Her and I went out there for six weeks and wrote music. She was doing all the lyrics, she wanted to do it all in French which is really great, but I don't speak French. It was quite tricky but we wrote most of her record, and then Paul McCartney had done a track as well. But then the record label didn't really like the production I was doing, or the direction I was taking.

So they re-did a whole record (Rest) and they got SebastiAn who's a French electronic musician, and they had Guy (Emmanuel de Homem-Christo) from Daft Punk, and just used some of the tracks that I'd done as well. This is years ago we did this. And Paul McCartney's as well. SebastiAn produced it all and so it turned into that. I've only listened to it once. I'd love to do something with her that would be something that the record label would hate. Which is what we did. I'd love for people to hear what we did together. But y'know that stuff will never be allowed out, probably.

Are there any artists that you're finding to be inspirational in your own work at the moment?

I tend to tune out to things while I'm working. I've had obvious influences when I was younger, now I like searching for things that sound new to me, and excite me. Things do inspire you but I don't really like listening to something and go "I wanna, I wanna..." I mean there's no point is there, copying something that's already done? So no not really. But yeah I get inspired by something here or there but then I won't want to listen to it deliberately because I don't want to be influenced too much.

What does 2018 have in store for you?

I'm doing the yearly residency in Marfa (Texas), I'll be taking my Dad there to record with the band. I haven't been touring properly for over four years I think, because I've had a lot of time off enjoying life in Los Angeles. I'll be collaborating less and working more.



Connan Mockasin will touring throughout New Zealand in late January / early February, for more info and tickets head along here. You can catch Connan Mockasin playing at Laneway Festival 2018 on Monday 29th January.

Links
facebook.com/connanmockasin/

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