Nathan Haines has just released his ninth studio album Vermillion Skies. The follow up to his Tui winning record The Poets Embrace, Haines relocated to London last year, but returned to New Zealand before Christmas to record Vermillion Skies and play some theatre shows around the country.
We caught with Nathan and found out some more about his impressive new album and life in the UK.
Firstly, congratulations on The Poets Embrace winning a Tui for Jazz Album Of The Year.
Thank you. The funny thing is that one of the other nominees; Jennifer Zea, I actually produced her record. I won my first Tui in 1994 with my first album called Shift Left, so it's been a gap of almost 20 years but it was nice to be recognised for that. New Zealanders certainly seem to be enjoying what we've been doing as of lately so that's really great.
You've just released your latest album Vermillion Skies. Where did the title come from?
The title for that came from the song ‘First Light', which is the single really, and what I'm singing and talking about is Vermillion Skies. But it actually came from sunrise in London in the middle of summer. It happens very early so if you're up or at a party or something and it's getting light, there is so much pollution there and it makes like a red-brown colour.
And you wrote most of the album in London?
I did, I wrote the whole album in London. Navarino Street is a track which is very much about living in that area of East London, with all these trendy young guys with beards riding bikes around. So that was a real tongue in cheek poking fun at how trendy this area of London has become. The only track I didn't write in London was Lady Lywa, which I wrote a week before we recorded the album. I wrote that for my mother because her Chinese middle name is Lywa. When we came back to New Zealand at Christmas time to record the album, we didn't have anywhere to live but my wife owns a boutique in Ponsonby Road called Jamie Boutique, so we've been living above the shop. But I can't practice during the daytime because it's too noisy for customers and everything... it's a tiny place. So when I came back to New Zealand I asked my parents if I could practice at their house during the day, so it was a thank you to my Mum for having me around the house a bit and being able to practice. To do an album like this you need a lot of practice.
You relocated to London last year, how do you find living in the city?
It's great man. It's a very challenging, full on, frenetic and a huge place. It's one of the world centres for culture and the great thing is I'm now on Warner Classics & Jazz for the UK, France and Germany, so The Poets Embrace comes out there on May 15th. I've been wanting to be on a major label over there for years and it's been very well received so far. It's been like a whole new lease of life for me.
Where did you record Vermillion Skies?
We recorded the album at York Street Studio, which is an amazing facility. They have a lot of vintage gear, which is how the great vintage jazz records sounded like they did. Myself and Mike Patto (producer) have really gone to a lot of trouble to investigate how these records are made and why they sound like that. We made the record for vinyl as well and that's been selling really well.
Which musicians feature on Vermillion Skies?
We've got pianist Kevin Field; he's been a long-term collaborator of mine and even appeared on my first album Shift Left. I used the same drummer from The Poets Embrace whose name is Alain Koetsier and actually lives in China; he came back to New Zealand to record this with me, and Ben Turua on acoustic bass. Then I supplemented those guys with a 60's horn section, so I've got 2 flugels, 2 trombones and 2 French Horns, which is quite unusual. And I've also got my brother Joel Haines on guitar for a few tracks. I wanted to do something a bit different to The Poets Embrace and have a bigger sound, so that's why I got all these guys in.
How long did the recording process take?
2 days. It was very much made in the way of an old record where you rehearse the band and you get everything ready and you record it. Some of the tunes were from a first or second take and we wanted to capture that live feeling of recording that way.
Besides being out and about promoting the new album, are there any other projects that you're working on at the moment?
I guess I'm working on the next record, and thinking that will be a completely vocal record. But I guess I'm trying to stretch myself and up my game at all times and practicing. Even though this record is all done I will spend the rest of my life doing that, and I think it's really important if you call yourself a musician to get out of your comfort zone and really work hard at what you are doing and learn about your art. So I'm already working on the next one and I want to do an album a year. I think it is really important to keep the work ethic up. Ideally I'd like to do a couple a year, because all my heroes use to do that. I want to keep challenging myself.