In Australia – with our pristine beaches and exquisitely tanned humans and all the other glamourised traits of our nation – it’s not often you’d find a true lover of winter. Our nation lacks the winter essentials: central heating, appropriate clothing and a nationwide penchant for vodka. Instead, the majority drink beer and wear boardshorts and thongs all year, waiting for summer to rear its sweat-inducing head. Likewise for Natalie Pa’apa’a from Blue King Brown, who was in the midst of escaping the wrath of winter when we spoke with her a couple of weeks ago.
Natalie: I’m excited to get out of Melbourne, because it’s freezing. It’s fucking, freezing (laughs).
MF: Lucky for Blue King Brown – they’re currently travelling through Perth and warmer climates for their album tour supporting The John Butler Trio.
N: It’s also John’s album launch tour. The audience is going to get a lot of fresh material, which is great. We’ve been doing lots of stuff in the build-up to our new album. It’s been two years in the making! We’ve also just come off a European summer tour. So we’ve been keeping plenty busy.
MF: And your album’s in two parts.
N: That’s right. It’s called WORLDWIZE: PART 1 – North & South. So the first album that we’re releasing it part one,; it’s a double disc album, a Northside and a Southside. The concept is that there’s then part two, east and west. So eventually there’ll be four discs in this project, which wasn’t the initial intention at all (laughs). The Northside of this album is what we consider the main album tracks, and then the Southside is all dub tracks of the Northside, with some extra stuff as well.
One of the reasons we’re bringing out this release with a dub disc in it is because these sorts of genres are still underground in Australia. Our country is missing out on an incredible amount of sound that is going on around the world. It’s not hitting the mainstream, so that could help those things.
MF: Because you are aware of these new sounds, do you feel it’s your role to show it to the masses?
N: I don’t really think it’s our job, but we definitely get excited about performing live and sharing these sounds that we love. We like to share this music that we love and are inspired by.
MF: There’s a lot of deeper meaning to the upcoming album…
N: Yeah, for sure! Our music is definitely conscious music – its music with a message, its also music you can dance to and it’s positive. We like to remind people of our connectedness from being alive as human beings, that we are a global community, and that together we can overcome some of the world’s darkest injustices, so that’s what we’re passionate about, that’s what comes out when I write a song.
MF: What’s the vibe of the first release?
N: The main thing you’ll notice about this album compared to our first album, Stand Up – which was very Rootsy, very Roots-Reggae, everything was recorded live – is with this album we spent a lot of time in post-production. We’ve added program beats to the live drums; we’ve added a lot more digitally-generated sounds, we’ve really spent a lot of time on every song, producing it and making every song hold its own ground.
We call our sound urban-roots, because we’re not strictly one sound or the other, but with this album there’s definitely that roots-reggae vibe that you will know from BKB but it’s also combined with urban, in that sense bass and drums and beats.
MF: You had some pretty renowned producers jump on board for this album I heard?
N: We had a great engineer/producer from New Zealand, Chris Mackeroe, who came on board and really facilitated a lot of the post-production and was really a part of that. Also, we worked with a great mix engineer, James ‘Bonzai’ Caruso, and he is amazing, he’s basically the engineer for all the MARLEY music, Damien and Steve and Julian Marley, but you know he works with everyone from Alicia Keys to Madonna. Sonically, he’s amazing, and to work with.
Any advice I can give to other musicians is to make sure that when you’re mixing your album that you are 100% happy with the mix engineer and that you feel you can express your ideas.
MF: You had a ‘tight’ relationship this time round?
N: We did, and it’s great; it makes such a difference because it is a creative process. Even in the last moment when you’re just laying down the last mix of a song, and you might have an idea to just “oh can we try to take that out and put in something random”, and you really want someone on board who’s just going to say “Yeah man, lets try it!” because sometimes those ideas end up being what you love about the song in the end.
MF: Did that happen often with the new album?
N: Sure did (laughs). We’re very anal about our music. We want every moment to be perfect. We always want to try new ideas and that’s the thing – having a team that can try the ideas – but the important thing is identifying what ideas are good.
MF: How was your overseas tour?
N: We’ve just come from Europe. It was great; it was a European summer. We were there mainly to do festivals, many we haven’t played before.
MF: What was the reaction like to your music over there?
N: We had a really positive reaction in Europe. What we’ve found is that people are similar around the world and that people like the same things, and I think festivals have been such a good foundation for our Australian fan-base, and it seems that this is the thing that will happen for us if we can continue to make it overseas. Everyone at those festivals is pretty much seeing us for the first time, and we do pride ourselves on our live show, we really like to go in there ‘all guns blazing’ (laughs). Give it everything we’ve got. So we got a great response to that.
MF: What is your campaign with The Bodyshop about?
N: This campaign that we’re connected with is to raise awareness and petition the government on the issue of child sex slavery and the issue of the human trafficking trade. Once I heard some of the statistics, like 1.8 million children have been trafficked for the purpose of sexual exploitation – it’s one of those things that you must feel as a human being; I felt sick from the inside out.
I feel that this is such a huge issue that’s going on right under our noses and it’s not something we talk about a lot. I’m really grateful that The Bodyshop and Childwise are pushing it to the next level; we’ve already got 70,000 signatures from all over the country. As the youngest members of our global family, they deserve to be protected.