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May 11, 2014 | by  | in Features Homepage |
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Who the fuck is James Milne?

“Hello, James speaking…”

James Milne is a very successful New Zealand musician, but it’s unlikely you’ll recognise the name. In 2006, he released two debut albums, one a self-titled solo album under his current guise, and the other with his band at the time, The Reduction Agents. In 2009, his second solo album Chant Darling won the inaugural Taite Music Prize (most recently won this year by Lorde). Since then he’s released another two albums with the band, toured as a bassist with American band Okkervil River, been involved with The Brunettes, written music for Taika Waititi’s film Eagle vs Shark, performed in another band called BARB with Liam Finn and Connan Hosford of Mockasins fame, worked with Mike Fab from the Black Seeds, and toured with NZ music legends Crowded House. He’s just about to play all three of his Lawrence Arabia albums on consecutive nights in both Wellington and Auckland. Salient Editor Cam sat down on the first day of NZ Music Month to chat with a little-known legend.

What’s your go-to song when you’re at a party and you want to play a really cool song that everyone likes?
Oooh, tough first question. I’ll just check my iTunes for the name of it. I don’t have Spotify because I don’t have a device. I’ve got a shitty old cellphone. Hang on, what the fuck’s it called. The song is ‘Teardrops’ by Womack and Womack.

Who was the first band you listened to when you were growing up that made you want to play?
Either the Beatles or Queen.

Who’s your favourite Beatle?
Probably John. Pretty tough to choose. I mean, I like Ringo, but I wouldn’t be Ringo.

What were your different influences from album to album?
My early stuff was influenced by the Kinks. The first Lawrence Arabia album was Syd Barrett and kind of weird stuff. More Beatles and David Bowie for Chant Darling. Serge Gainsbourg for The Sparrow. I don’t know what the current one I’m recording at the moment.

Which is the piece of work that you are the most proud of?
Shit that’s tough. I think it changes. I think the first Lawrence Arabia record is the one I’m most interested by at the moment. It was a real kind of mind-purge when I made it.

Tell me about the upcoming shows. Is it tough to play some of the sound effects live?
It’s not a case of just getting together and jamming. I want the shows to be quite faithful representations of the records. There’s quite a lot of electronic stuff on the first one.

Does the lineup of the band change much?
The core of the band has stayed pretty much the same since about 2011. It kind of mutated out of different bands. It’s quite fluid, but always maintained the same, I don’t know what you’d call it, spirit or something.

How’d you get into the music scene?
I just had a crappy little band in Christchurch. No, actually, that’s mean to members of the band. It was a formative band in Christchurch, just trying to make stuff happen. I started writing for the student magazine at Canterbury, Canta. I got drunk and interviewed the Brunettes and ended up joining them. It wasn’t a calculated thing, I just enjoyed hanging round with musicians and wanted to have that kind of lifestyle.

Is the lifestyle all sex, drugs and rock’n’roll?
It doesn’t really pay well so it’s pretty humble.

So no cocaine and fast cars?
Definitely not. I’m lucky enough not to have a day job, but it’s reasonably rare to be in that position in New Zealand. But I’m definitely not well-off.

Is music like a 9-to-5 job?
It used to be more spontaneous, but I guess time was less of a premium when I was younger. Now that I’ve got a family, I have to be a little bit more focussed about it. Definitely not a 9-to-5 job, it’s more bursts of creativity. Now I’m older and more self-critical, it takes a little longer to do it.

What’s it like being a daddy rocker?
It changes my day a bit. I work around nap times. It hasn’t made any substantial changes to my lifestyle – I was a bit of a homebody before I had a baby anyway.

Where’s the best audience you’ve played to in New Zealand?
Chick’s Hotel in Port Chalmers has always been pretty reliable for a great fun night and a good audience. I like it when audiences are smiling and dancing and enjoying the music. I don’t want the audience to be too reverential because that’s a bit awkward.

What does the future hold for James Milne?
Hopefully I’ll release my new album at the start of next year. I’m working with Mike Fab and we are co-producing it. It’s more poppy than The Sparrow. It’s got a slight Latin influence, a lot of percussion.

Friday 30 May – Lawrence Arabia
Saturday 31 May – Chant Darling
Sunday 1 June – The Sparrow

118 Tory St


$45 for a season pass (every night)
$15 for Friday
$15 for Saturday
$25 for Sunday

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