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Interview: The Black Seeds


Doing what they do best!

Led by the vocal stylings of guitarist Barnaby Weir and percussionist Daniel Weetman, The Black Seeds are an 8 piece band from Wellington, NZ who have been making music since 1998. Featuring a blend of afro-beat, dub, soul, and classic reggae components, The Seeds have a fresh and vibrant sound that is the perfect accompaniment for an island getaway or a hot summer night. Fortunately for you, lucky readers, The Seeds have migrated from their South Pacific home-base of Aotearoa and are currently touring this great land of ours. 

I was lucky enough to catch a recent Black Seeds show at the Music Hall of Williamsburg and, I must say, I was thoroughly impressed by the energy, vibe, and showmanship that exploded off the stage. There are far too many bands out there who put on lackluster performances (especially in Williamsburg), and The Black Seeds are the complete antithesis of such sonic boredom. The seven men on that stage (a horn player was sick) inspired the crowd to dance and skank the night away (I was surprised there was skanking, too). 

Thanks to the miracles of modern technology I was able to score an interview with Daniel Weetman, percussionist and vocalist of the Black Seeds, for your reading pleasure.  Here is a slice of our discourse. 

CB:  What was the inspiration for the name? Have there been any changes to the name over the years? 

Weetman:  Our first bass player came up with the name before I joined the band. All seeds come from Africa, we are all from the same tribe. It was The Black Seeds when I started and has never changed. I really wanted us to change the name when I joined but it stuck and the meaning behind the name is fitting. 

CB:  How would you guys describe your music to people? 

Mr. Weetman testifying.

Weetman:  A progressive reggae sound while still staying true to the roots of reggae. A fusion of funk dub and afrobeat all with a pacific flavour from Aotearoa. 

CB:  How did you guys develop your sound? Was it a Beastie Boys situation where the sound evolved from radically different beginnings? Or were the reggae/dub elements a part of the vision from the inception of the group? 

Weetman:  The reggae/dub idea was always the vision at the start and, yes, it has evolved over the years into different directions. With 8 members having so many different influences, we are evolving our sound with each album while still staying true to our reggae roots. Not trying to be anything we are not is something that is not talked about much in the band, but is something we live by. 

CB:  Please describe what the creation process behind an average song is. Is it a communal songwriting process born from rehearsal jams? Do certain members bring in the lion share of material? 

Weetman:  Anyone from the band may bring an idea, finished or in parts, or a groove could just come from a jam. Barnaby could bring a whole song, or Mike Fab may bring a groove that has a verse chorus structure and myself or Barnaby will come up with lyrics for it. Some tracks just come out of jams like "Afrophone", which started from an mpc beat and recorded on my cellphone at a practice session each person at the time jump on the groove and with a bit of a spit and polish over a few months "Afrophone" came to life. 

CB:  Your live shows have been described as dynamic, mesmerizing, and spiritual. What do you think is the reason for this connection with your audience? Is it your material? Showmanship? Or something slightly more nebulous? 

Weetman:  It’s a combo of the material and showmanship for sure. We put a lot of energy into our shows to perform the best we can in a hour and forty minutes. 

CB:  Did it take time to develop the allure of your live shows? 

Weetman:  The touring over the first two albums with our first drummer and bass player were good years; we were a little rougher but we still rocked shows in NZ and Australia and, yeah, had two gold selling albums out in NZ. Once we had a new rhythm section (Jarney Murphy & RayRay) we stepped up a few steps in the groove department, which pushed us all forward in playing and performing live. 

CB:  What would you say is the most memorable gig the band has ever played? 

Weetman:  Off the top of my head: Roskillde Festival in Denmark 2008, and Lowlands Festival in Holland 2008. 

CB:  Where has the band been received best outside of New Zealand? 

Weetman:  Germany, France, Holland and now the US of A. 

CB:  What sorts of comforts do some of you require on the road? 

Weetman:  iPod, football (soccer), running shoes, just in case I have the energy and get a chance to run, laptop, and midi keyboard. 

CB:  Do you guys have any either A) Amusing or B) Nightmarish tales from the road that you would like to share with our readers? 

Weetman:  Checking out from a Melbourne hotel in a rush to get to a festival, we mistakenly pick up two extra bags that do not belong to us. Turns out, these bags had important medicine inside and we had to find the closest airport to fly them back to the owners who had already left Melbourne, assuming they had been robbed. $1000 or so dollars later, the bags are delivered and we make it to the festival just in time to set up and play. 

CB:  What was the recording process of Solid Ground like? Did it differ in any way from previous sessions? 

Weetman:  With Solid Ground, we wanted to record more in the same room at the same time and try to capture the live energy and sound. 

CB:  How did Mike Fabulous get tapped to be the primary producer of your records? Is it a situation wherein you all feel that it is the best way to stick to the vision and not have your music compromised by outside ears? 

Weetman:  Mike has a great ear and vision. He works hard to make things sound good, and knows what we want an album to sound like, but also an album evolves by itself too, and he is good at moving with what is happening at the time, and ready with an open mind to capture anything spontaneous happening in the studio. 

CB:  Do you enjoy making albums as much as touring? 

Weetman:  I like recording and touring. There are different stages of both that I like and don't like, but once you're in the swing of things they are great, unique, experiences that you will have again but never quite the same. 

CB:  So as you guys gain success, do you ever consider relocating from NZ? 

Weetman:  If we could move with our families to NY or Berlin, yeah bring it on. It would be a great experience for all our young kids. 

CB:  You guys have been together for about a decade now. Where do you see yourselves in 5 years time? 

Weetman:  In five years we should be getting ready to release our sixth album, and be touring around with a great festival and our own sellout shows all around the world. 

CB:  What is the music scene like in NZ? Are there any bands out there that we Americans need on our radar? 

Weetman:  Phoenix Foundation, Kora, The Mint Chicks, Naked and Famous, Hollie Smith. There are many more all over the NZ. 

CB:  Desert Island Game Time: If you were stranded on a desert island and could only bring 5 CDs with you, what would they be? 

Weetman:  Sly and the Family Stone -There's a riot going on, The Congos - Heart of the Congos, Chet Baker - It Could Happen to You, Led Zeppelin - too hard to choose just one, Saul Williams - The Inevitable Rise of Niggy Tardust (so I get Trent in there too) 

Barnaby Weir laying it down.

As I mentioned earlier, The Black Seeds are currently out there playing their sweet and soulful music for your delight. You should make it a top priority to see them when they pull into your town so that you too can experience the joy of leaving your internet connection/air-conditioning and getting entertained. If you are not familiar with The Black Seeds, why don’t you try clicking on this link for their Summer Sampler where you can find tour dates, videos, and download a five track glimpse of their awesome. Do it now and catch the fire, people. 

(Live photos provided by Marek Kozlowski)

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