Nathan Haines

By Wal Reid

Nathan Haines is something of an enigma, he's always seen playing everywhere but seldom recognised. With eight solo albums, four of those released internationally, and guest spots on hundreds of releases. Nathan has carved a musical career as long as the Waikato River, where he's been at the forefront of modern soul, jazz and electronic music for over 20 years. However most people may be a tad surprised to learn he's more than just a sax player.

"It's funny I just got off the phone from another interview" he laughs "I've always been a producer and a band leader. I've always been hands on with everything I do and have been through all of my records, all of my productions I've done for over twenty years, that's the only way to survive".

"Most people know that I'm not just a saxophone player, I'm a multi-instrumentalist I'm also a vocalist a producer, I play keyboards and I've mixed my own records. If I was just a saxophone player yes, it would be a miracle to be able to feed my family, I've always done a lot more than that. If I was able to make a living just playing saxophone that would be great. I wouldn't have to do all these other things, I love producing I love collaborating with people. I'm very lucky to have two really great vocalists for this weekend's shows Tama Waipara and Kevin Mark Trail of London and as well I've got my brother Joel Haines with me on guitar, Mickey Ututaonga on drums from Rotorua; the original drummer I did my first record Shift Left which has become a bit of a classic in NZ".

He laughs as he retorts with "does that answer your question?" The thought crosses my mind that not even Wikipedia could've summed it up that well. 

"Actually the thing about my Wikipedia page" he muses "It's so old I went in there to update a lot of it and I did a lot of stuff but then it got changed back, I just gave up but I do really need to look at that. I think the photo on there is about fifteen years old".

I casually let admit that I thought it was Nick from Supergroove to which he laughs down the phone, an unexpected reaction. The talk then swings to other notable famous sax celebs, of course the only ones that spring to mind are Kenny G & Dutch sax player Candy Dulfer, I'm thinking Nathan has a few contacts maybe he's met these two?

"No, I wouldn't want to, that style of music you may as well be playing Chinese pan flute music or something" he says adamantly.  "It's so far removed from what I do it's not even in the same vocabulary. The thing I know about Kenny G, Miguel Fuentes a very famous percussionist who lives in NZ played on my album Shift Left also played with Grover Washington for many many years in the 70s and 80s, he's from New York he's Puerto Rican. He said Kenny G use to come to all of Grover's shows to hang around backstage wanting to talk to Grover, this skinny little Jewish white kid. The thing about Grover what Miguel told me, his wife said 'Grover we need to talk about marketing because there's thousands of saxophone players in the world, it's not about being the best saxophone player (that's already been John Coltrane) we need to market you in a certain way' so Grover Washington what he achieved in the 70s & 80s was unbelievable. I don't think there's been a saxophone player who's sold as many as Grover Washington, the only other person who has is probably Kenny G. Kenny G learned from Grover Washington because of Grover's wife about the marketing. However he's a bit of a laughing stock among saxophone players, but who cares he's got multiple houses"

"That's what I mean... and you know in my own way I've tried to do that as well, when I was very young I thought to myself 'How can I differentiate myself from other saxophone players out there?' you know. Because the reason I'm the best is because you've got people like John Coltrane & you think 'I might as well give up' but I didn't and I haven't. It's about telling your own story... I think that's what people are into at the moment, they're not in tribute bands, they want to see what I've got to say and people who buy my records know it's going to be different from the last one, I don't write to a formula".

Haines latest single is 'Got Me Thinking' with UK vocalist Vanessa Freeman, its quirky upbeat disco soul vibe was an engineered feat and not a chance happening.

"Fantastic Bass player on there, absolutely ridiculous. We came to the end of the recording and my wife said 'I want a track I can play up' because she's a DJ as well. I went right, tempo 123 BPM and so we listened to a lot of all this classic chic, a lot of chic on the record... Nile Rogers - that sort of style of sound, groove vocals, horn arrangements, the way the drums are, we tried to write it in the that classic 80s Black funk soul disco music".

Right now, Nathan is touring with UK based singer and 5 A Day album collaborator Kevin Mark Trail and our very own Tama Waipara, the collaborating is a natural osmosis it just keeps on growing.  

"The thing is with Tama is that he's a little like me, we refuse to be put in a box and we refuse to have anyone A&R us. I mean Tama was very hands on with this record, we've been very close for about ten years now. I first met Tama when he was living in New York and he was brought in to a remix project then when he moved back to NZ we did some work together and we did some shows in London. He draws on so many influences if he made a very straight ahead record and did it like that he might be bigger than he is, but he refuses to be pigeon holed. We're doing two of his songs on tour Medicine Man and Hunter live so that will be great for audiences".

"Kevin Mark Trail, it's so cool he's in NZ because his level, his coolness and his vocal chops it's something people don't see here, it's such a great time working with him. We do the 5 A Day live experience and we do a full two hour show, we really run the gamut styles, not just the 5 A Day album but the whole catalogue".

"Most of us have all got family's and jobs" he says "I DJ at the moment and have a new baby boy, my brother on guitar, it's great for us to be out on the road together it's great . My brother's boy is 19 now he's old enough to be in the band, my brother just goes ah yeaaa haha".

For the all-important Waitangi weekend in Feb 2015, Nathan Haines joins forces with Auckland-based bandSola Rosa for an exciting double bill featuring both bands. Saturday February 7 sees Nathan and Sola Rosaat the Raglan Club, then Sunday February 8 both bands are at the beautiful setting of Hamilton's Vilagrad Winery and Vineyard for a late afternoon outdoor concert. It's a lifestyle that Haines and his band thrive on, even with family in tow.

Nathan Haines

Saturday February 7th:  Raglan Club, Raglan (with Sola Rosa)

Sunday February 8th:  Vilagrad Vineyard & Winery, Hamilton (with Sola Rosa)

Saturday February 14th:  Rawene Town Hall, Hokianga

Tickets via Eventfinda

Nathan Haines Facebook

Nathan Haines '5 A Day' iTunes