By BRUCE DENNILL
“Influence” is a loaded, often misunderstood concept. An artist may sound similar to another but have no knowledge of them, or be a super-fan of someone whose output is completely different to their own. Who or what was the artist, album, song, era or scene that initially mapped out the road to you becoming a musician?
The thing about influence is that it comes in all forms. I have been influenced by the faceless man by the campfire who sang songs we would never hear again. I have been influenced by the blind busking whistler in the town centre, whistling Amazing Grace at a Masters level. I have been influenced by the singing stranger who’s passing through, resting at our home for the night. My father influenced me greatly with a huge variety of musical tastes from Led Zeppelin to Leonard Cohen. My Spanish mother had unmarked European tapes with songs that I to this day can’t identify the creators of, but we danced to them every weekend. My four older sisters were all four years apart and each one with their own unique taste in music, from hip hop and disco to punk and grunge. And finally my friends were all metal heads, so they had a massive impact. There is no one album I can point to that made Crimson House what it is, because we don’t even know what it is.
Has that changed over the years? If so, how and why, and what are you currently exploring?
These days, my ears are wide open. I’m listening to anything someone recommends me and taking it all in, with no biases to genre. Whether it comes out in my music or not is still to be determined, but I’m sure everything finds a way to creep in there. I like taking songs apart and seeing what they’re made of and how they’re pieced together. I like to rebuild things. Songs don’t get as messy as engines.
Name one song you wish you’d written (or, if you’re not a writer, one you’d like to be know as the definitive interpreter of). What makes that song so important?
Imagine, by Lennon and Yoko Ono, which I don’t even perform. It was done the way it should have been done the first time. That song characterised such an important idea; an idea that our imagination is powerful and that all great things stem from imagination.
Which aspects of your music do you prioritise? For you, would you rather have that your lyrics, your melodies, or your vocals or instrumental work are the are the most memorable parts of your songs?
It’s all sounds meshed together. Not one thing takes precedence. Every layer is important to a song, from the groove to the bassline to the hook and the harmony. I don’t prioritise any particular instrument, but if you can whistle it, then you have a song.
The music industry is no longer a single-narrative operation. For you, what is the best way to get your music from your head to potential listeners? Please comment on digital means (from social media to full streaming and download distribution), playing live (how often; where; to whom), being a cottage industry (eg selling CDs from a box in your car) and any other creative channels you’ve explored.
We live in a time in the music industry where it easier than ever to get your music out there, but getting people to find it is the new challenge. When the labels were the only way to get out there, there was far less music getting heard, and it was all filtered through many hands to get to the ears of the public. There was less music, but they made a lot of noise about it, and only those with access to the media megaphone could be heard. Now we have way more releases, but not as much noise. Because we’re talking at the same time, it’s tough to break through and be heard. So you have to be so on top of your game in every aspect of the industry. You have your social media on point, your traditional media on point, and your shows have to be polished, because shows are where you can make a lot of noise and get people excited about your music. Playing shows more than ever is where the bread is. You can have millions of listeners and still not sustain your habits of living. Live shows for me are my bread and butter. I do almost any kind of gig if it agrees with my nature and doesn’t filter me.
In terms of the above, is there a gap between what you envisioned and what you are experiencing now? Does it matter, and if so, how do you close that gap?
What I envisioned was a life that would include a lot of challenges. I knew I would work hard for years to become a sustainable artist. What I envisioned is what I got. This is one of the toughest industries out there, but I love it so much. I love performing and making people happy. I envisioned that I would be making music with my friends, and that I wanted myself and my friends to sustain ourselves in the public service of putting smiles on people’s faces. What I have now is actually better than what I envisioned when it comes to Crimson House, it’s so much bigger than me and I am just a building block in making it what it what it is.
What is the story behind Bounceology – the genesis of the songs, the people involved, and the muse behind the album’s creation?
Bounceology has eight new releases on it and the four singles we dropped one at a time in the build up. I’d say the one that stands out is Unicorns, which is the last song that was written for the album. It came to me while we were staying in Pretoria during the winter of 2018, around the time we played Oppikoppi. The song itself came about when I was sitting on the porch with my acoustic guitar, and I have the chord sequence going, it started out in B minor, then I thought “A minor is easier to play live” and dropped it down. I had this thought in my head about people who are referred to as “Unicorns”, the type of people who are so rare, so magical, that you would be blinded by their light. I got to thinking about what makes them so magical, and my theory was that they don’t care about what other people think of them; they are their true selves all the time. I then thought about how I think about other people who are doing their thing, shining and being all magical, and I don’t put much thought into it, so I surmised that people don’t really judge each other as much you would think. This gives us freedom to be ourselves and just not worry about what other people think. I worked with the band to get the groove and worked with Tebogo the Zulu sax king to come up with some catchy horn lines, and that track has people happily bouncing all over the world.