Solomon Cole a merry old soul

The Solomon Cole Band, from left, Lee Catlin, Dionne Denize, Miss Sophia and Derek Solomon.
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The Solomon Cole Band, from left, Lee Catlin, Dionne Denize, Miss Sophia and Derek Solomon.

Derek Solomon is the singer, guitarist, songwriter and leader of The Solomon Cole Band, whose debut album Bruises is one of the year's best.

Who is Solomon Cole?    

He is the fictitious character at the centre of all the songs on the album Bruises.  He is a lazy rock'n'roll appropriation of Solomon Burke (whose comeback album made by Joe Henry is still a big influence) and the magic of Cole Porter, who my mother used to love. 

What's going on on Waiheke.  Is it no longer the preserve of the pinot drinking artistes?    

Dunedin once had Flying Nun, Wellington had its bed of amazing NZ musicians, Lyttleton has produced Marlon and The Eastern and now it's Waiheke Island's turn. The fourth most beautiful island to live on (according to Lonely Planet) has its own scene and micro-industry with everything to gain and nothing to lose. Albums by The Solomon Cole Band, Aaron Carpenter & The Revelators, Oyawa & The Waiheke International Soul Orchestra are to be released in 2016/2017. The bourgeois wine set sit perfectly next to a rather productive bohemian rock'n'roll music scene 

Did you Dione, Lee and Miss Sophia all meet on the island?

No, Lee, Sophia and I released albums previously via Jayrem Records for an Auckland band called PAYOLA. Those records were Gone To Ground and Dirt and Stars.   Somehow, years later we found ourselves all  moving  to beautiful surroundings of Waiheke and decided the time was right to do more records, once we met the  "wonderful and very beautiful Dione Denize". This made the power of four, the magic number, the perfect balance of rock'n'roll, two girls, two guys. It was an elemental force driven by electricity, sweat, blood and loud guitars.

Does Miss Sophia have a real name, or is she a diva? 

Just Miss Sophia, christened after her late grandmother. She is no diva in the high maintenance sense of the  term, however. It is her commanding presence, raucous stagecraft, and ability to channel vocally the spirit of the great soul sisters that give The Solomon Cole Band that rare and special edge onstage, that makes her a diva. Offstage, she prefers the quiet life, but when she hits the stage, she is an entirely different woman. On songs like Shiver, live, she exudes such a sexiness and feminine power that draws audiences to her everywhere. It's hard not to be transported back to Tina Turner in the early 1970s. Miss Sophia is the dark horse, the wild card, the missing ace in the deck that gives us a full house.

Dione is a red-hot drummer and she is female, which is quite different for a New Zealand band, with the exception of Caroline Easther, who played with The Chills.

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"The wonderful and very beautiful Dione Denize", as she is introduced on stages everywhere we play (to wolf whistles and cat calls),is the point of difference. In the words of veteran NZ engineer Nick Abbott, Dione is the Phil Rudd of NZ Music. She has the power of simplicity but also "she has the swing". Phil's got it, Charlie Watts has it and as soon as we played together we knew Dione Denize had it. Her style is The Solomon Cole Band – you either have the swing or you don't – it can't be taught. 

Are you more of a bluesman and where does this influences come from?

No, I'm not a bluesman, in the purist sense. I'm as much a musical magpie as anyone that lifts, coerces and cuckolds everything I've ever loved into one big gumbo. I am as much Son House and Robert Johnson as I am the sonic wall of Bailter Space, the jagged stylings of Duane Dennison (Jesus Lizard), or blues trickery of Jimmy Page and Angus Young. It's all in there somewhere and Bruises, the album,  contains all of it, in one way or another.  It has its inception back to when I was 13 with a tennis racket, a mirror and a little tape deck my uncle had with a cassette in it that played the opening refrain of Whole Lotta love for the first time and I was off running.

Are you a maverick when it comes to songwriting, or are their certain things in life that you draw from?   

I'm a very big Tom Waits fan.  I like to write songs from the character's point of view, hence Solomon Cole is at the centre of the stories and not the real me. Both people are entirely different. I write little pockets of music that remain unfinished, then they are placed in the live show and we wait for the "happy accidents" to shape the song to it's finality. We keep the spirit alive – that way the edge to songwriting comes from the telepathy of what happens between four people standing on the verge of "getting it on".  I like dark little tales and double entendres that are tricks of the tongue. Miss Sophia and I write the lyrics and they draw upon sex, malice, tales of woe, Americana, and more sex.

Bruises is an interesting title.  Do you have any — physical or emotional?

Sure, Bruises was the song that was a point of difference for us as a band where we knew we could do anything within the confines of our own simplicity. Forward-moving, brooding, dark and powerful, the song was everything we are and where we want to go further. But it had the melancholy that we all carry, or that I carry, as any artist does. I like dark and terrible stories told from beautiful mouths and Bruises is that – part Biblical, part a message to the darkness of my mother's past ("Mary I hear you weeping through my door"), part the little ink blots of life no one dares speak of anymore. It was the only title for this record.

 - Sunday News

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