Interview: The Black Seeds
Ahead of their Melbourne show, Figaro has a chat with Barnaby Weir and Daniel Weetman of The Black Seeds to discuss the freshly released album 'Fabric', playing together for almost 20 years and featuring on the hit Television show Breaking Bad.
The tour has already kicked off with a number of Australian shows, how’s the album been received so far by the Australian Public?
So far so good. Great to be back in Aus playing shows again and making new fans and catching up with established fans too.
There’s an excitement about the new tracks we are playing for us and the crowds. We have worked hard at getting into a playable state which was a slightly more complicated than we expected but so worth it now that we are here. The radio stations also seem to be Enthused about ‘Fabric ‘ which is encouraging.
So we just want to do what we always try to do and play some great shows live and pump the album out there as much as we can.
The band first released an album in 2001, how do you feel your sound has developed since 'Keep on Pushing'?
The Black Seeds sound has evolved and developed naturally through our 6 albums/ 19 years. We started as a good time party band covering a range of alternative vintage ska and reggae rhythms we liked, with a great Soundman dubbing is in a cool Analogue way. That was 98-2000.’ Then we managed to finish the 'Keep On Pushing' album which put a flag on the ground that we had arrived and we were doing something different. The songs have a youthful energy to them and a meaning drive behind them lyrically, it’s quite dramatic but raw and in polished.
I guess with our new album ‘ Fabric’ we have learned to be better musicians and producers and writers. This means we can release songs with more purposeful confidence musically and we know what works better and what we don’t like.
Of course, we don’t always agree and that hasn’t changed but you can’t mix by democratic means, the writers need to be the captains of the songs, but listen to the crew and follow their recommendations. Serve the song, always serve the song.
It’s been 5 years since your last album release ‘Dust and Dirt’, was their a reason for the five-year wait or, was it simply trying to get the best possible end product with Fabric?
The extended gap between albums was for various reasons, we toured a lot over that time including trips to Europe, USA and Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Brazil. We were writing a lot of that time but not always together in a room.
We actually started recording an album and got halfway through, then 2 Key members left the band for there own personal reasons so then we shelved those recordings, regrouped and started again with Fabric. I’m pleased we did as now we are all invested and committed to the band 100% and we are a new but legit version of the Black Seeds, one that respects its past and relearned all the older material for our live shows as well. We are in good form at the moment.
What we quite like about Fabric is how different a lot of the songs are, the album brings with it some very chilled out reggae rhythms but also some almost club sounding funky tracks. Was this something you planned when you first started putting the album together, or something that just happened as part of the process?
Cool, yeah the album was always going to be a mix of styles, like most of our albums. But there was no formal plan throughout, just that we would only release the best songs from the list and that we wanted them to be good to play live.
Those were the main guidelines.
Francis (Harawira) and Ned (Ngatae) have recently joined the band, what influence do you think they’ve brought to the Black Seeds?
Yes, we are a great team these days!
Ned has been working with the band on and off for about 6 years as our guitarist in Europe and the states. He’s been a full member for 3 years, he’s a really good player and a thoughtful Muso who pays attention to detail.
Francis was Ned's recommendation for bass and we are all so pleased and lucky to have him onboard. His tone is so so heavy and his feel is super tough. He and Jarney on drums work well together and it’s given the band a new energized feel.
There’s a huge, incredibly fertile roots, soul, and reggae scene in New Zealand which you guys have been a big part of for awhile now, can you tell us a bit about this scene?
So we have been around for 19 years and when we started Trinity Roots and Fat Freddies Drop had started kind of around the same time. So the scene in Wellington was really cool bass heavy, soul, reggae sound. Roots, Reggae, Soul music has always been popular in Aotearoa with our strong Maori and Pacific population and culture being always attracted to the music the scene. Isolation is a creative factor in carving out our own interpretation of this multi-genre.
Collaboration between bands seems to be quite popular In New Zealand, I’ve noticed this a lot at the Byron Bay Bluesfest where artists from Trinity Roots feature with Little Bushman and you guys have some members who work on Fly My Pretties. I was wondering what effect these side projects have on The Black Seeds sound and is it a matter of switching off from a side project and trying to sound like The Black Seeds, or do you think you borrow the sounds from certain bands and bring them to what you're currently working on?
I think having side projects always help members to express their creativity in other bands or styles. I guess artists are always influenced by other bands, styles, musicians etc and you couldn't really say what has been brought to the TBS jam room or not. I do think with so many members in the Seeds we influence each other the most.
I’d love you to shed some light on the very iconic One by One scene in Breaking Bad (where Heisenberg and Jesse get cooking) and what effect did it have on your popularity in the states?
I think the usual avenues of being purposed the request of a song to use on a TV show that wasn't massive at the time. The first time I saw the scene I was channel surfing and recognised our tune and wasn't sure what the hell was happening with the cooking meth in the caravan to our music! funny moment for myself. Overall, we had some good feedback from One by One being on the show, but I think all the touring we have done since then has really helped us get the name of The Black Seeds out in the US more.
In an attempt to not be pigeon-holed by the American market how have you shown that your more than just the band that was on Breaking Bad?
We never really gave Breaking Bad exposure a second thought as to influence us to write more songs that sounded similar. With each album after Into the Dojo we have just progressed as a band naturally. There are millions of reggae bands playing straight up reggae or putting on accents to make their sounds accepted. We write to excite ourselves and in the process end up with our own take on reggae, funk, Pacific soul. We like old school, we love new school and love creating both and pushing sound.
Finding Figaro has always had a pretty deep love for the bands coming out of New Zealand, are their any up and coming bands from New Zealand that we should start to be aware of?
Tunes of I, Albi and the Wolves, Hopetoun Brown, Cairo knife fight, Daniel E Weetman.
The Black Seeds continue their Fabric Album tour tonight in Melbourne at the Corner Hotel