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Catch Up: Lawrence Arabia

Catch Up: Lawrence Arabia

Tuesday 20th September, 2011 9:11AM

With whispers of a new project from James Milne, aka Lawrence Arabia, we thought it was high time for a quick catch up. We quizzed him on his latest round of international touring, mysterious new project Fabulous/Arabia,  and thoughts on twitter and facebook...

So tell me what you've been up to in the last six months?

Writing for a nautical musical film called "The Mysterious Secrets of Uncle Bertie's Botanarium (Part VII)" Making music with James Dansey for a new TV3 sitcom called "Hounds" Making music for a short film called "Station." Finishing off the vocals for a collaborative album with Mike Fabulous called Fabulous/Arabia. Recording the next Lawrence Arabia album.

You did a lot of international touring. How do you find the touring lifestyle? How did you find the international audiences responded to your work?

It's exceedingly expensive fun. Pinch yourself wonderful at the best of times, highwire stressful at the worst.

The audiences over there were enthusiastic and interested and everything you could want them to be really. It's just refreshing having new, different folks to play to every night, where even the most tedious post-show conversations are put in an exotic light.

Now that you've toured the latest album and can reflect on it, what are you most proud of / your favourite parts of the last record?

I think probably the atmosphere and sound of "Dream Teacher," and also the middle section of "Auckland CBD Part Two." Those were a couple of moments where the production worked better than I had expected, rather than struggling to try and achieve a sound or feeling that I had in my head.

What are you working on now in terms of Lawrence Arabia?

Next week I'm going into Roundhead to record strings for the new album. There's strings on most of the songs – rather than being a kind of token gesture, I've tried to make them integral to the whole arrangements, and also tried to avoid stacking up tonnes of other instrumental elements. Once that's done, I've just got to finish the last little touches, mix and master it.

We hear you've got another side-project going on, tell us about that.

Fabulous/Arabia is something that Mike Fab and I have been slowly chipping away at for the last couple of years. Mike had a bunch of instrumental pieces that he'd recorded in Dunedin, and he sent a couple of CDs of them for me to listen to with a view to writing some kind of vocal parts for whichever ones took my fancy. We ended up picking ten which I vocalised all over. It sort of runs from country/soul to funk, with me layering craploads of slightly complex harmonies all over like some kind of low budget Steely Dan. The band's going be pretty special – along with Mike and I, Tom and Hayden from my band are playing, plus Toby Laing and Riki Gooch. Hamfisted indie hacks meeting avant-jazz-Wellydub allstars.

You've been creating very vivid imagery / stories on Twitter recently. Are you always writing stories like this? What are your thoughts on Twitter and Facebook more generally? Posting a relatively long story across multiple posts kind of seems like you're mocking it?

I presume you're talking about the Paula Bennett story? It's not something I usually do, though I have been pushing myself towards writing more prose to try and shake myself out of formulaic songwriting traps. Twitter and Facebook are an absolute plague! They sap willpower, distract and demotivate. Hence, I use them all the time.

Tell us about The Mysterious Secrets of Uncle Bertie's Botanarium (Part VII)...

Duncan Sarkies, Stephen Templer and I came up with the idea of a fantastical musical film that centres around a fairly amoral botanist (loosely based on Joseph Banks) and his crew travelling to the South Seas to find some fabled plant that provides deep pleasure and inner peace. We made Part VII with the help of an enormous crew of volunteers to try and demonstrate what a finished product might look like, so we could seek funding to make the whole feature. So, any philanthropists reading this...

You collaborate with a myriad of other New Zealand artists. Who are your favourite musicians in New Zealand at the moment and can you tell us about some of the collaborative projects you've got going on?

Well apart from all the usual suspects, um... Princess Chelsea, Leno Lovecraft, Spring Break, The Eversons, No Aloha, Delaney Davidson, Full Moon Fiasco, Joe Blossom. But I don't go out enough, honestly.

As far as collaborations, there's only one that's kind of happening that I haven't talked about already, which is with James Dansey from the Sneaks. We've been making music for TV together, and there's a few rogue numbers from that session that are hinting towards something new.

You love New Zealand summers right - cricket, performing live and the like. Tell us what your plans for summer are. Will you be playing live much and if so, in what form?

I have no concrete plans for the summer apart from limbering up and training for the social cricket season. But there are some grand thoughts in my head which stretch beyond improving my bowling, which I can't talk about!

Looking forward to 2012, what are you going to be working on?

Just touring the new Lawrence Arabia album, all going according to plan. I can see that dominating and quelling my collaborative urges, but who knows what opportunities will present themselves.

Courtney Sanders

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