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Troy Kingi Shares New Album 'The Ghost of Freddie Cesar' + Interview

Troy Kingi Shares New Album 'The Ghost of Freddie Cesar' + Interview

Chris Cudby / Interview by Priya Sami / Friday 11th September, 2020 11:14AM

Winner of the 2020 Taite Music Prize for his roots reggae masterpiece Holy Colony Burning Acres, Troy Kingi is sticking to the plan of his ambitious 10 10 10 Series (10 albums in 10 years in 10 genres), revealing today the fourth instalment The Ghost of Freddie Cesar. Sparked by a mysterious cassette tape marked with the name "Freddie Cesar" and a list of songs on the back, discovered while going through his missing father’s belongings in 2007, Kingi's new record makes connections with memories of family life — drawing upon a notebook of lyrics from the original tape and a funk-soul sonic palette to paint a picture of the elusive Freddie Cesar. Kingi has described the new collection as "kind of a dedication to my dad and Freddie Cesar, this album. Even though the lyrics aren't fully mine and the music’s not fully mine, I feel him when I’m singing these songs."

Along with today's album release, Troy Kingi and his band The Clutch have gifted fans a stylish Soul Train-inspired video for their latest single 'Chronophobic Disco'. You can catch the artist touring throughout the North Island in October, experience the nostalgia-drenched visuals for the new single, dive into the stream of The Ghost of Freddie Cesar below, and scroll downwards for an excerpt from his recent phone conversation with Priya Sami (Trip Pony, Dateline, Sami Sisters) — where Kingi discusses his genre-spanning ten year project and reveals he's already completed another new album with Delaney Davidson, due out in early 2021.

Priya Sami: I'm calling you on behalf of Undertheradar, because I'm really choice and they asked me to interview you. I don't really know how to interview but I hate the same questions that artists always get. How bored did you get, to decide that you wanted to do ten albums in ten years in ten genres?

Troy Kingi: I didn't really drop my first album until my early 30s, so I think it was a whole lot of pent up energy, just wanting to release it. More than anything, not really bored, but it felt like I had a lot to get out.

Do you think also, we're a bit lazy as musicians? Because for example in Japan, if you're a musician you work nine to five doing music. We have this idea that... when the inspiration hits, that's when you make music.

I've always thought that the best music comes when the inspiration hits, but I don't feel like it's ever hit me [laughs]. I suppose I try and get myself in a spot where it's forced but in a natural way... I don't want it to feel like I'm squeezing blood out of a stone.

When you grow up in New Zealand I especially think, we have of different music going on. Because our pool is so small you enjoy lots of different stuff. You never get into one spot with music?

That was probably the reason why I wanted to do different styles as well. Because I've always loved so much, I've never been one particular style when I've listened to music. But it was when I was doing an EP over a decade ago, the guy who was producing me was just like "these all sound like completely different songs. Who do you want to be, what do you want to do?"

I think your voice is amazing. I always feel like, coz I've got a foghorn voice [Kingi laughs] I want to be an RnB singer, I probably suit more jazzy, poppy genres. Is that a thing for you? I feel like people can pigeonhole you, especially if you're brown and you sing?

When I first started my influences were like Queens Of The Stone Age, I was into more rockier stuff. So people were seeing this Māori face, expecting it to be like, acoustic-y or reggae. Saying that, I've still done a reggae album, but after I've made my point. Bringing out this indie-ish rock album and a space-soul album, by the time the reggae album came out I'd kind of cleansed their palettes.

I find it really buzzy as a musician, or any art, trying to pigeon hole it. Because there's so many influences. To not acknowledge influences is to say you're making something completely new. Inspiration feeds inspiration... that's why I think it's really cool that you've gone "I'm going to make a reggae album" because you're honouring the genre. And that's why this funk-soul, it's exciting, because you can afford to have a bit of showmanship... What would be your five requirements for a funk album?

Really good bass lines, which is kind of fundamental in reggae as well. Good drumming. Definite horns, kind of stabby vocal sounds... Five: subject matter — singing about women a lot I suppose?

I'm going to add a sixth — your BVs (backing vocals) on this album are amazing. Who are they?

My girls Rachel Hall and Nina Joyce. They're very young, I used to tutor them in the kapa haka team. They'd never played a gig until they played with me last year, in July was their first ever live gig. That was the release of Holy Colony Burning Acres.

The album is a big sound but those BVs just blew my mind. Also 'First Take Strut'?

With that one especially I tried Red Bone type vocals, that weird type of effect on my vocals. Also having Neko (Ngāneko Newman), she also sung on that Church & AP song. I knew I wanted her, I didn't know where on the album. I wrote that piece especially for her, because I needed her.

Me and my sisters, and quite a lot of my friends and family, we are part of DDC, which is Dead Dads Club. Which is pretty morbid, but I feel like when I read about your dad, I was like "fuck". No closure. For me, my dad died in 2005...

That's the same year... It's a freaky predicament really, it's a real weird one. So much time has passed that it's become part of my DNA, the feeling of no closure. You put it at the back of your mind but you know it's still lingering somewhere.

Have you ever felt his presence? I read something where you said, It feels like writing this album is a homage to your dad, but sometimes you feel him in the music?

When I was writing this album there were moments where, I don't know if I felt his presence more than just nostalgic feelings, but definitely where I finished mixing the last song for the album, it was a massive weight off my shoulders. I don't know what that meant. Probably more that I don't have to remember these songs anymore, they're tracked now, I can just let it go.

Are you going to release it just on tape? Are you going to keep it digital?

We've already sold all the limited edition vinyl for it. We had this real special one, I think we released 400? There was 100 that were this limited edition, bloody transparent one and they come with like an old Blaxploitation poster. The other ones, I think they're nearly sold as well, but people might be able to get them from JB Hi-Fi or Southbound or something. The other one have a pink vinyl. Thinking of making some limited edition cassettes as well. Nobody's going to play them, but it'd be cool to just have.

My car doesn't have a tape player, but some cars do. You know your video, the single ['All Your Ships Have Sailed'], are those Freddy Cesar's lyrics or are they a bit of you?

There's bits of me as well, because it's got my kids in there. Whenever there's parts of me in it, it's because I couldn't decipher what he's talking about... my three daughters and my two sons.

How long was the process? Have you given yourself deadlines for each album, and how long do you give yourself to smash it out?

It was probably a good two years actually. From thinking about it, to trying to decide the songs while I was doing the other album, Holy Colony. The recording process, just like the other ones it's pretty quick. We got in the studio and smashed out the bones of it in two days. All the drums, bass and guitar. And that's how I like to work with all my albums. The base of it, we brought that live vibe and then we start layering it with everything else. There was that, and it was supposed to be done by the first week of the first lockdown, and that ended up getting pushed out. So we didn't end up finishing it until the end of May.

In saying that, this new album after this that I've been working on with Delaney (Davidson). We got together two months ago for five days and wrote this new album, got together three weeks later with Jol Mulholland down in Wellington, and recorded it in seven days. So that one will be due to come out five months after this one. That's an exclusive just for you man, I haven't told anyone that.

Thanks. Okay cool! I'm going to round things up, I just want to know about the live show, because I reckon we're going to have more live shows. When's your live shows? Are you going to do the box step and the double-kick back?

Well I can't dance for shit, I'm going to try and practise between now and the end of October. I promise I'll dance as best as I can.

'The Ghost of Freddie Cesar' is out now digitally, on compact disc and limited edition vinyl LP via Triple A Records, orders available here.


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