This July saw the release of Yoko-Zuna's long awaited debut album'This Place Here'. The album feature's a who's who of guests, such as David Dallas, Rodney Fisher, Bailey Wiley, Melodownz and Spycc.
The lead single ‘Revival' feat. Team Dynamite has been garnering top plays across a number of the country's bNets, with the video featuring an epic cartoon battle between the two different outfits.
Consisting of Frank Eliesa (Keyboards, Synths, Bass), Swap Gomez (Drums, Percussion, Samples), Kenji Holdaway (Guitar, FX, Bass,) and JY Lee (Saxophone, Flute, FX), I had a chance to sit down with Swap & Kenji to find out some more about this intriguing outfit.
How did Yoko-Zuna form?
Swap: I guess we were like session musicians, playing for different people. It started with me and Frank (Eliesa) our keys player. It kind of turned into us wanting to do get away from that... being a session artist you don't really get to do any creative things. So it wasn't a bad thing but we wanted to do something that was our own style.
We were hosting this jam night at a bar called Rakinos and Kenji came up with his guitar and started jamming, then JY (Lee) came up one night who is our saxophone player. He played and then after that we didn't see him for probably about six months. Kenji said he'd be a perfect fit for our new project. So yeah, it kind of started as an idea just to do something a bit different.
What's the story behind the name?
Swap: We had heaps of trouble coming up with a name that suited the music we were making. I'm a huge fan of wrestling, WWE. So when we were looking for a name I looked to my other passion which was wrestling, and started naming wrestling moves... like ‘suplex' and all these different names. And then I said the wrestler ‘Yokozuna' and these guys loved it. It kind of just stuck after that. Kenji's half Japanese but it didn't really come from that...
Kenji: I guess that can kind of justify it a little bit (laughs)
Your first single released was Revival. What was it like working with Team Dynamite?
Kenji: We'd done quite a bit of work with them as session musicians. So we wrote the track and we thought they could be a really good fit for it. It was quite different to the beats that they usually work on, and they did a great job.
Swap: I think it was a little peculiar for them because they didn't know what kind of style we'd hit them with. It started off with a bass line that Frank came up with, and that the beginning we didn't actually think about having a feature on it. But then we thought the perfect fit would be Team Dynamite, because their rapping style is really kind of spitfire fast paced. The track is like a running through the jungle kind of thing. Once they jumped in we didn't even really have to say anything, they just came and did their thing and just loved it.
You have a lot of guests on the album from David Dallas to Rodney Fisher... quite diverse artists.
Kenji: Diverse artists for a diverse album. We had no preset criteria for our album, we didn' havet ‘this sound' or ‘that sound'. So we just wrote as a free for all, and because of that we ended up with so many different styles. Every track is almost a different genre. So it's interesting having these different artists on the tracks.
How did you get these guys on board?
Swap: We had Bailey (Wiley) and MeloDownz from 3rd Eye in mind before hand. The main reason being because we had this live session; a jam session that we filmed and recorded - and that actually led to the album, and from there we knew we wanted to do a track with them. Those two tracks were kind of like a given. When it came to the other songs we were kind of fishing out who to get. We had so many names, some people couldn't do it because they were so busy doing other things at the time... or it was different to what they were use to and struggled with it a little bit, and some of the song structures aren't traditional. When Dave (David Dallas) jumped on he was supposed to be the only feature on the track initially. And then we thought it would be so cool to get another rapper to do another verse, and that's when we got Spycc.
Kenji: They kind of feed off each other...
Swap: Yeah, they compliment each others verses. Rodney Fisher was probably one of our first picks as well. The opening track; the intro to the whole album is kind of this swishy swoshy Pink Floyd kind of stuff. And he comes from that traditional rock sort of background, and we thought his breathy voice would be awesome. So he came in, did that and he was cool.
Where did you record the album?
Kenji: We recorded the majority of it at Delete Media. Things that didn't quite need studio atmosphere like guitars & keys so those were done at home.
Who handled the production duties on the album?
Swap; Our main recording engineer, Cam Duncan, handled a lot of the production. I'd say it was probably 60/40... 40% we'd be helping him out while he took the reigns. Because all the tracks are really different to each other his production kind of makes it more coherent. If you listen to the album from start till finish it doesn't feel like a whole different band, there's still that stuck together kind of feeling.
What plans do you have for the rest of 2015?
Swap: We've got plans for a few summer festivals, we'd definitely like to get on that sort of circuit. We'd like to play to as many audiences as we can.
Kenji: We also want to write more music. We're always jamming and working out new things.
Can you describe your sound?
Kenji: Yeah, we kind of have. What we came up with was ‘Electronic Progressive Hip-Hop'. A few more influences, but that's the general sound I guess.
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