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April 6, 2009 | by  | in Music |
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An Interview with Andrew Spraggon, aka Sola Rosa

“It’s been raining all week in Wellington. Summer is over down here, but your album has such a summer feel to it. What were you thinking putting Get it Together out this late in the year, man?”

Groaning, Spraggon told me that Get it Together was originally going to drop at the start of summer, but had been held up by some frustrating complications connected to the 7” release. We proceeded to talk about summer mix tapes, and then I asked him some largely innocuous questions about touring, and the collaborative nature of his album. Our conversation wandered. He told me that he had to keep things eclectic, and that he could never make dubstep, because he would find the restrictions of a narrow genre too tedious. By now I was starting to feel anxious. There was no way I was going to remember even half of his responses, and my notes were a mess (Salient’s phone-call recording device wasn’t available). I looked down at my question sheet, saw that I was running out of options, and decided to roll the dice.

“A Tribe Called Quest… or Katchafire?”

Spraggon cracked up, apologised to Katchafire and declared his eternal love for the Tribe. I grinned. He had done well. In fairness, my question had been pretty loaded. Tribe are fucking legends, Katchafire are, well… reggae. If I had wanted to be fair I would have had to give him the option of Bob Marley. But I didn’t want to be fair, I wanted him to loosen up, and loosen up he did. His phone demeanor relaxed noticeably, so I went in for the kill.

“Ok, one last question, The Avalanches… or The Neptunes?”

Now this was really a pretty valid question. Sola Rosa’s album has a polished, synthy feel that vaguely recalls some of The Neptunes’ best productions. As for The Avalanches, well, his response tells the story.

“Man, sorry, but it’s not even close. The Avalanches for sure, those guys were awesome. Their album sounds so fresh, even today. I was listening to some Neptunes beats the other day and a lot of them sound stale now.”

Now, I fucking love the Avalanches, and could talk about them for hours, and it seemed that Spraggon could as well. Thankfully, I managed to reign myself in, and went for another question:

“Yeah, I kinda like the Avalanchy feel this album has, it’s so warm, and has a similar same sense of fun as well. You used a whole bunch of samples when you recorded it, right?”

Spraggon’s response caught me by surprise. He revealed that at least 90 per cent of his album had been recorded live. He had started off with a collection of samples, but had opted to get his band to record their own versions of all of them. This struck me as a pretty novel idea, and when he told me that the album had taken three and a half years to complete it totally made sense.

Despite my earlier promise to end the questioning, we talked for a few more minutes. I asked him about Sola Rosa’s live setup, and he explained how they augmented their live instruments with a little something called Ableton Live. Now I happen to know a few things about this program. In fact, my genius flatmate has been putting the finishing touches on an album written and recorded almost exclusively inside of Ableton’s wonderfully clean and usable framework. When Spraggon told me how it had liberated Sola Rosa’s live act by enabling the group to ‘synch up’ much more easily, I was unsurprised. Without getting too hung up on the tedious technical details, let me just say that Ableton is pretty much at the cutting edge of music-making technology right now. In fact, I’m pretty confident that within a few years it will be just as common a word in your standard music-tech conversation as vintage synths, Pro-Tools and auto-tune are at the moment. Who knows, maybe in 10 years we talk about Ableton with the same kind of reverence that we talk about guitars with today. Well, my flatmate might anyway. Spraggon hasn’t used it in the studio yet, but it’s still a relatively new find for him, and his enthusiasm for figuring the program out was more than apparent.

Once the interview was over I stepped outside. In true serendipitous fashion it was a perfect Wellington summer’s day. The sun was back for one last hurrah, and without thinking I grabbed my iPod, popped in my earbuds and threw on Get it Together for the walk home. The weather stayed good for the next few days, so the album went into regular iPod rotation. Nice one, Spraggon! And have fun with Ableton. Who knows, if it all works out we might not have to wait three and a half years for your next one.

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