(Band photo up: by Matsu Photography)
MW: Thanks once again for agreeing to this interview. I have to say, I’ve become an instant fan upon listening to the album! I love the fusion of jazz and hip-hop and Koi Child is just great, with its mixture of jazz, rap and psychedelic, “space” sound. It sounds amazing.
CP: Thanks, man.
MW: We know the beginnings of Koi Child – there was a concert at X-Wray in Fremantle, Kevin Parker was there, and he invited You to play with him on Rottnest Island. But I’d like to go before that – You were in a group called Child’s Play, before You met the jazz quartet Kashikoi. What were the beginnings of Child’s Play?
CP: I met Sam Newman when I first got to Australia, about 5 years ago. We met at an electronic music production course at SAE – Sound Audio Engineering in Perth. I did this course, because I wanted to make drum’n’bass music. I met Sam on the first day. For one of the projects we had to make a song - Sam asked me if I wanted to rap. At that time I didn’t rap at all, he would do DJ gigs and I would take the mic and pretend to rap, just mumble some stuff. For the project I wrote one verse, I thought it was cool. From there we just decided to make another song, then another… Eventually, saxophone player Christian Ruggiero joined the band. And that’s how Child’s Play was born. We decided to do an EP, “Sounds from the Playground”, just recorded four tracks and put them out to the world…. Much later, about two years ago, we did another one, “Absent Minded”. We played a lot in pubs, where we basically stood in a corner and no one would listen to us…. But we did it for fun, also got a little money from it.
MW: Are these EPs still available?
CP: Yeah, You can find a soundcloud link on our Facebook page. 8 songs in all, plus 1-2 older ones, made before the EPs.
Child’s Play got a little reputation, because we did gigs off our own songs. We played at “Hussle Hussle”, which is a hip-hop night played once in a month, and we also supported some big Australian hip-hop acts… Doing that, people started to notice us, which was cool. We didn’t expect it to go far but eventually we started taking it seriously. Even today, we don’t have many followers on Facebook, but at that point we started to think Fremantle knows us. And then we met Kashikoi and the concert happened.
MW: How did You meet with them?
CP: We saw them play one Tuesday night at Mojo’s. We thought they were really, really good. We knew them before, through parties and stuff. I actually remember kicking Kashikoi’s drummer and bass player out of my house once! I remember there were too many people in my house, and I just wanted to go to sleep… I had no idea, that one day I’ll be in a band with them.
We were okaying a residency at the Sail & Anchor pub every Sunday, and we started to incorporate drums, get different people to play different instruments – bass, guitar, whatever. Sam, who now plays trombone in Koi Child, had the idea that we should play with Kashikoi. We all were cool with it, we spent like 2-3 weeks preparing, feeling each other’s vibes etc. That led to the gig at X-Wray. We had a few grooves ready. Nothing was written in stone though, I didn’t even know what raps I would use to what grooves… I basically just freestyled.
MW: You mentioned You were interested in electronic music. Was Child’s Play also more “electronic rap” oriented?
CP: Yeah. I think at first we wanted to do more drum’n’bass and dubstep stuff. But it led more to hip-hop with its tempo and more prominent bass… To this we added saxophones.
MW: Did You think then that Your music will connect well with Kashikoi’s jazz?
CP: Yeah, we did think that, because we’ve already played with some drummers and guitarists, and it worked out fine. For me, it didn’t really matter if it was acoustic or electronic music – as long as the tempo and the beat were right, I was fine. And Sam was really happy to play trombone. We felt that it would connect well. Also, we saw Robert Glasper Experiment live, that also gave us an idea to work with Kashikoi. We love this nu jazz sound, and wanted to experiment with it. So that’s how we decided to work with a jazz quartet… We didn’t think anything big could happen. If we liked it, maybe one day we could do it again, if we want to – but that’s it.
MW: So, on Your first joined gig Kevin Parker saw You. How do You remember it?
CP: My experience of it was… I remember we were very excited before the gig, because the place was packed. That was the first time I’ve seen a queue outside the place. Someone told me that Kevin Parker is at the concert… but then I didn’t really know who Kevin Parker was. Much earlier I was told about him, and I’ve listened to Tame Impala, but I didn’t connect to it. I was excited anyway, because some rock guy was there, someone from another musical “world”, watching us. I don’t know if he was there specifically to see us, but it was cool regardless. After the gig I went outside with my friend Rory, he’s a comedian. Rory introduced me to this dude, I was like: “Hey, You look kinda familiar.” Rory burst out laughing – “This is Kevin Parker!” “Oh, this must be the famous guy someone was telling me about before”. We spoke a little, then I went home. There were two parties this evening – one at my home, and Kevin went with Blake Hart, our drummer. Blake is a big fan of Tame Impala, and he was on cloud nine, because Kevin let him drive his car… Next call I got a call from Sam, saying “How does it feel to know You’re gonna be playing in front of thousands of people in a month’s time”? “That’s crazy!” I literally ran around the house a few times, I was so happy. I didn’t really understand why! Sam explained it to me – Kevin Parker spoke with Blake that night - he said he wants us to support him at the concert on Rottnest Island.. He was a little drunk, so we weren’t sure, if he wasn’t just saying some drunk shit – we had to double-check that. Blake sent a message to him – and Kevin said “Yeah, I still want You to support me”. Those were the beginnings of Koi Child. Once we knew, that we’re going to support them, we became a band. We started working on our music more, preparing ourselves for the Rottnest concert… It was two years ago.
MW: And so, You recorded an album. I love the description in the booklet: “We recorded in a run-down shack by the river. Our soundproofing was the mattresses we slept on each night. We had to cross a river with all of our expensive, borrowed, and extremely un-waterproof gear”. How did it happen? Can You describe, how did the passage look like?
CP: We drove to the river in three cars, with all our gear – a few monitors, Kev’s really big mixer, few laptops, a drumkit, a lots of microphones… All of this stuff was borrowed. It was pretty risky, if anything fell in the water, we would have to pay for it, and it was very expensive. Around 10-20 000. Our drummer is in another band, called Hideous Sun Demon – a great “punk” band from Perth, You should see them live - and they had recorded in this place already. They were gonna row their gear over, but they met a guy who had a big tugboat and who offered them to help get their stuff over. By the time we were ready to record, we already had this guy’s number. We called him, and he helped us with all our gear, which was great… Once this was over, we used a little boat to get back and forth over the river.
MW: Where is this place?
CP: It’s a place called Yunderup, it’s like an hour away south from Perth. It’s a small island on the river. A lot of people think it’s some remote island in the sea – not at all. (Photo below - by Yann Vissac, Koi Child's bassist)
MW: Why did You decide to record there, of all places?
CP: We wanted to record somewhere far from anyone we knew, any worries… We just wanted to be stress-free, to feel like we don’t have to worry about anything. We’ve been to places like that, when we worked on our sets. When we want to do a whole lot of work, we try to get away from the city. It feels better. Like the only thing You have to do is to make music, not worry about e-mails, Facebook, your boss etc. Just chilling, partying and making music.
MW: I wish You’ve recorded those chirping crickets! How do You remember the recording sessions there? Did You find peace and harmony?
CP: Yeah, it was really great. We spent 10 days there, we could record when we want, and stop whenever we wanted… We didn’t feel rushed, we wanted the music to sound chilled, relaxed. We drank A LOT. By the time we were done, there was a heap of beer cans! It was probably the 10 best days of my life. Being with my friends, creating music… It did get a little tedious, there might’ve been a little argument here and there, because we all wanted the music to be good, and we all like things differently. But at the end of the day, it was all good.
We did a lot of rowing the boat at night. One time we were rowing at night and a fish jumped straight to our boat. It was great having Kev and our photographer Matsu there. Any pictures of Koi Child You see – Matsu took them. He’s a very good friend of ours, he’s been around since Child’s Play.
MW: Did You just record there, or all the mixing also took place at Yunderup?
CP: We basically had Kev set everything up. He wasn’t with us all the time, just first few days, just to make sure everything’s set up properly, so that it’s recorded in his style. Except for “Slow One”, which was recorded in a house in Freo, in the kitchen – way before we knew we were going to do an album. Kev asked, if we wanted him to mix anything for us. So we did “Slow One” first, then the album. At Yunderup, he set up the drums in his own way, set up the mics too. I was in the kitchen. One time I was actually making sausages and recording at the same time… Turn around – sausages, turn around – there’s a mike. Kevin was in a separate room, the one with a window. We could all see each other pretty much, there was even a mirror set in an angel, so that the drummer and the horn players could see each other perfectly. Most of the recording was done there, after that we took a couple of months to chill and do some touch-ups. I would re-take some vocals, there was a lot of re-taking the solos etc. Whatever was ready, we would just give it to Kev to mix. We would go to his house back and forth, let him know what we think – for few months… Eventually, we were cool with everything. It was all mixed really well, and so we sent it for mastering. That was it. It took almost a year to finish everything up, including the art (drawn by Han Atcheson) and the vinyl pressing.
MW: During the creation and recording of the album, have You been listening to other jazz–hip-hop fusion albums, artists like Guru, Nujabes or Digable Planets? Have You been inspired by them?
CP: Not really during, but we definitely take inspirations from stuff we’ve heard before. Definitely Nujabes’ music, especially during the creation of “Adventures for the Capsule”, our keyboardist Tom Kenny said: “Let’s do something like Nujabes”. We all had a lot of stuff in mind – I love certain producers, I mentioned them in “Cruzy P” – J Dilla, Nujabes, DJ Premier and Fat Jon. Have You heard of him?
MW: Yeah, he also did some track with Nujabes.
CP: Not a lot of people know Fat Jon. “The Ample Soul Physician”…
MW: He also did a soundtrack to the series “Samurai Champloo”.
CP: That’s my favourite anime!
MW: Thanks for reminding me, I have to check out his stuff.
CP: I can’t think of any other names now… But definitely those four. With regard to lyrics – a lot of them was written long before Koi Child. Some of them would’ve been Child’s Play lyrics, but we didn’t get the beats or I wanted to keep them for myself. That stuff is inspired by a lot of rappers, like One Be Lo, MF Doom… I love old Eminem, in terms of storytelling and flow he’s ridiculous. After the album was recorded, I started listening to Kendrick Lamar. I think “To Pimp a Butterfly” is awesome, I think it may have made people more accepting to live jazz instrumentation on a rap album, to what we’ve had put out.
MW: Even though jazz samples are pretty much the foundation of hip-hop, there are not many live jazz-hip-hop bands. In Your opinion, what’s the key to bridging these two worlds?
CP: I think jazz is hip-hop’s grandfather. You have to acknowledge Your forefathers, where Your roots are. In terms of creating jazz rap – as a rapper, I think of myself as one of the instruments in a band. Each individual musician brings his own piece to the puzzle. The bassist has his own creative thought, the keyboardist his own… We all have equal “pool”, input in how the music will sound. I think in making hip-hop and jazz fusion it’s important to let the musicians do their own creative work. Koi Child is seven people, seven musicians with ideas, each bringing his own history and inspirations to the music.
MW: One more question about the influences… You’re originally from Johannesburg, South Africa. Did South African rap scene also had an impact, influence on You and Koi Child?
CP: Just a little bit. When I was very young, I discovered a band called Max Normal. Do You know Die Antwoord? It’s basically them, but 12-14 years ago. When You listen to it, You won’t believe it’s the same guy – Watkin Tudor Jones. That was a hip-hop band, with real drums, real bass and really SICK, fat beats. They were definitely an influence, them and also very influential poet and rapper Tumi. He also was in a band, called Tumi and the Volume. But other than them – not really. I stopped listening to hip-hop, when I was about 17, and I started listening to drum’n’bass only. Then I come here and start rapping.
Most of my influences come from American rappers. As a kid, I used to listen to DMX, Nas, Method Man and Redman, stuff like that. Not too much African rap, which is weird – maybe I should have… I try now, but it’s really hard to find stuff that interests me. Right now, I feel like the whole African scene is so americanized, they’re trying so hard to be Kanye West or something.
MW: And what about Australian rap?
CP: I think Australian rap is great. They’re really good rappers. I love that most of them are pretty real, they don’t really need to talk about guns and violence. They have to be a little bit creative, instead of talking about the usual hip-hop stuff, they can rap about hoverboards… They try to keep it real, and they have a lot of respect for the type of hip-hop that I love – oldschool, 90s hip-hop. But I’ve been getting into modern rap now. Just today, I started listening to ScHoolboy Q.
MW: I like the fact that at the end of the album we can hear some didgeridoo. I haven’t heard it before in any Australian rap track, could it be that You’re the first?
CP: I actually don’t know! I haven’t heard it in Australian rap neither. Christian, one of the sax players, can play the didgeridoo very well. I can play it a little too, I learned to play it before I even knew I’ll move to Australia. One night Christian and Tom, the keyboardist, felt that they want to keep jamming, even when everyone else were sleeping. They lit candles and incense and played for an hour… The track is only like 40 seconds long, Tom went through the whole recording of that night’s jam, just to find a decent 40 seconds – and put it on the album as a dedication to the place we’ve recorded the album.
MW: Do You have some favourite songs or moments on the album?
CP: Yeah, I think “Adventures for the Capsule” is my favourite. But it changes often, for a long time it was “1-5-9”…. I wrote “Adventures” a long time ago, maybe three years ago. It’s kind of a letter to myself in the future…. Which is now. When I listen to it now, it’s like my past self is asking me how is it going… Maybe on the next album, or on a single I’ll reply to my old self.
MW: My absolute favourite track on the album is “Frangpani”.
CP: Originally, “Frangipani” wasn’t going to have any vocals on it. I remember sitting outside, listening to the guys just struggling to get it perfectly. I was on the phone with my grandfather from South Africa. When I finished, I went back inside, just stood in the middle of all of them… and started dancing. On the next take - they got the song perfect. So I had a big input in that song too! Much later, when we were back in Freo, I put some vocals there.
MW: So You finished the album, You keep touring… What’s the future for Koi Child? Do You think about the next album?
CP: We slowly started working on the first track a month ago, and we haven’t touched it since then. We have a lot of plans, but for now we’ll take our time. The first album is pretty rushed, I feel like I just slapped the lyrics on the beats – there isn’t any connection between the tracks. We would like the next album to be more cohesive, the tracks to be linked together. And definitely, we’ll keep touring. We would love to go overseas, but it’s expensive for 8 people – us plus our manager. But we’ll keep touring through Australia, saving enough money, and we’ll make it. We’ll go to Europe, to America, and to South Africa, where I’ll play in front of my friends. They’ve never seen me rap. When I left Africa, I wasn’t a rapper. It’s strange for me to say to them, that I’m starting a rap career, when I’m 21, I should have a steady job or be studying…
MW: What do You think of the reception of Koi Child in the music scene?
CP: I think it’s pretty different to how any other Australian hip-hop act has been received so far. You have The Cat Empire, acts like Sampa the Great and Remi, who have a bit of African flavour to them, being of African heritage or coming straight from Africa, like Sampa – and I feel like we have it too. It’s weird, I feel like we’re not completely part of the Aussie hip hop scene, we’re “leaking” into rock music scene for example… We’re kind of in a middle of all different vibes. It’s not just Aussie rap guys who like us, not just indie hipsters. A lot of different people like us, we have a nice blend of different flavours. In the crowd we see so many different people – old people, foreigners. I think Koi Child has been received pretty well. We’re happy with the fact that people like our music and we hear our songs in the radio.
MW: Do You have some message to the listeners in Europe?
CP: I really hope I see You guys soon!