Fat Freddy's Blackbird takes flight

Last updated 05:00 22/06/2013
Fat Freddy's Drop

See miniature versions of the Fat Freddy's Drop members get on their groove.

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The Kitchen, which flung open its doors in Wellington in 2009, was a narrow old pantry. Access involved walking sideways. It could accommodate just two members of Fat Freddy's Drop at a time.

Open 24 hours a day, The Kitchen was little more than an MPC2000XL and enormous speakers.

Blackbird, the title track of their new album, out now, first flew out of a sequence nicknamed Teestyle after Tehimana Kerr, aka Jetlag, cooked up its electric roots one morning in The Kitchen.

Chris Faiumu, aka DJ Fitchie, was next door doing the dishes and binning the empties.

"Blackbird is one of the biggest songs on the album for us," Fitchie says.

"We do a lot of writing on the road while we're gigging then we wrap up a period of time with an album and try to do it last.

"This album represents the last three years, even though until now there hasn't been a recorded version of Blackbird, we've been playing it live for a long time.

"The album is a wrap of a good era of music. With this song, and the album in general, we wanted to keep it as close to live as possible. We didn't want to get too freaky or weird and drop something that is completely different to what fans had heard live."

One afternoon in The Kitchen Dallas Tamaira, aka Joe Dukie, and Joe Lindsay, aka Hopepa, got silly on a slice of uptempo ravehall known as "The Russian" but over the years of refining it live a rockier Russia appeared.

This phase of the Freddy's became known for prolific beat making, smoky chicken, icy southerlies and exploits on the Miramar Lakes.

But most significant was the attendance of Loggy Logg, MC Slave. The elusive "eighth Freddy" is said to have towered over The Kitchen, watching the pots until the small hours.

Six weeks after its inception The Kitchen was dismantled and Fat Freddy's Drop moved into their own studio, Bays, in Wellington's beach suburb, Lyall Bay.

Bays is the kind of place where an obsolete keyboard in disrepair never feels lonely or unloved. The building was home to Polygramm, one of the last vinyl pressing plants in New Zealand, before being converted to an Apostolic church in the 1970s.

At one time the Bays was a Musicians Residential Club and Literary Institute, before that it was Kim's Cousin's Noodle House and now it is home to the vintage music equipment Freddy's have accumulated. "Lucky for us it's a great sounding room with a lot of acoustic treatments already on the walls, it was a bonus for us. There's definitely a bit of history in the place."

One day Scott Towers, aka Chopper Reeds, hung some carpet in the booth, cooked tacos for 18 and then left to DJ at a peninsula wrap party. The track Bohannon arrived shortly afterwards and in the same week so did Bones or "Shuggassie" as it was known.

On one of countless zip disks of beats someone found Fitchie's beat for "Skunkadilla" - now Silver and Gold - but many ideas were lost, "submerged beneath the wave files" but Mother Mother was also saved from obscurity.

Drummers appeared at Bays' door.

Redford Grenell attacked Blackbird in the stationery cupboard while Julien Dyne (Ladi6) inaugurated the drum booth on Mother Mother, Clean the House and Bones.

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One night a sudden downpour flooded the roof drains and 65 secondhand 7in singles lost their lives.

"It was a tragedy."

Many beats were brewed over many sessions. The resulting tangle of leads and cables meant a tidy up was necessary and Clean the House was literally the theme song to cleaning up the studio. Its marionette video got over 20,000 hits in two days.

"The puppet master who made the puppets, John Coddington, is a barista at our favourite cafe. Chatting over early morning coffees I discovered he was a puppeteer. The beat, bassline and the vibe for the song came from that little session of cleaning up the house."

At the Beach some time in 2005 the Freddys had a hoon and Soldier stood to attention. Seven years later they saluted the finished track.

"There are definitely two sides to the album. The first half is definitely reggae or soul, roots derived influence, it goes into soul and funk and then it slowly gets a bit stranger and more electronic. I'm feeling the back end of the album, Soldiers and Never Moving."

Blackbird is being set free at a sold-out show in east London at hip club Village Underground.

A ticket ballot held over 24 hours saw 5000 people vie for 500 tickets to the show.

"That show is more about the release of the album. The rest of the British tour is festival dates. Then we go back in October to do headline shows, we've already sold 2000 tickets to a show at the Brixton Academy in October. I'm just proud that we can do what we do and maintain being a fulltime musician in New Zealand."

But Kiwi fans shouldn't have their feathers ruffled. Fat Freddy's Drop are bringing Blackbird on a New Zealand tour, including a Christchurch date, this summer.

DETAILS:

Blackbird the new album from Fat Freddy's Drop is out now.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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