A MEETING WITH CONNAN MOCKASIN
By Crash redaction
Five years have already gone by since Connan Mockasin released his last album, Caramel, a collection of funky and suave psychedelic pop tracks. With his unusually high-pitched, almost childlike voice and absurd lyrics of surrealist composition, the musician conjures up an unsettling musical universe. Emerging at almost the same time as California-based Mac Demarco, the two artists have carved out their own special niche as the Crooner 2.0 – the kind of man who prefers to lounge around in pajamas eating magic mushrooms instead of caarefully slicking back his hair. In the style of a naïve poet, Mockasin writes warm and gooey songs that make us want to curl up and disappear into the New Zealander’s kitschy melodies. Since releasing his last album, Connan has kept his nose to the grindstone through a series of collaborations, notably working with Sam Dust on the Soft Hair project released in 2016, then touring with Charlotte Gainsbourg and working together with the French singer on an album that would never materialize. Today, he cultivates an air of mystery about his future projects, nevertheless confiding that a new album is on the way, a certain Jassbusters. A meeting with the oddball of pop…
You have just toured around New Zealand. How has it been? Was it important for you to offer your hometown a set of concerts?
I haven’t played around New Zealand since my first album was released eight years ago. It was important to do that before moving on to the next phase.
Your latest album, Caramel, was released in 2013, what have you been up to in the mean time? Have you dealt with loss of inspiration?
I make an album when I feel in the mood to make one.
You have lived in many different cities throughout your life. Do they all have an impact on your music? When you look back on your albums, can you tell where they were written or recorded just by listening?
Yes, the different places do impact my music, and it’s only something I recognize years later.
You seem to have a deep connection with Japan and its culture. Are you very influenced by late 70s/early 80s Japanese pop (YMO, Hosono, Akiko Yano, Toshiki Kadomatsu…)?
No, I’m not influenced by this music, but I do enjoy it when people play it to me. I love the atmosphere of Japan and the polite and thoughtful, caring people. My girlfriend, Hiromi, is Japanese. We may move there this year perhaps.
Can you tell me a bit about your project Soft Hair with Sam Dust? How come it has taken you so long to release it?
We had a falling out.
You’ve said you are a fan of Serge Gainsbourg’s records, especially Histoire de Melody Nelson. Do you also like to create concept albums with a thought-out story behind?
Not in story so much as sound. The cohesiveness of a record is important to me. I do not like songs to be put in any order and called a record.
You’ve had the opportunity to work with Charlotte Gainsbourg. How did you meet her and how did the collaboration begin? Can you tell me a bit about working on her latest album?
I was asked to write a song for her before we met. After we met we became good friends. We also toured together for some time. We then worked together alone on an album for six weeks on an island in France. The record wasn’t commercial, so it was rejected which is a shame. I like it and wish people could hear it.
I’ve read that you were thinking about doing stand-up comedy, which I found quite odd! Is that true? Is humor ingrained in your music or your songwriting?
I more enjoy talking to people with nothing to say. Improvising with nothing, not necessarily comedy. I have been doing that now and again around North America the last few years.
Your songs often have a very visual aspect. Do you ever think of creating film scores or releasing more soundtrack pieces? Do you have any favorite movie soundtracks?
In 2016 I made the music for a film called The Rehearsal by Alison Maclean. I’ve been making the music for my own film Bostyn ‘n Dobsyn. I want to make more film scores with Rory from the band Infinite Bisous, as “Scot and Scott.” I’ve always loved the soundtrack to the film Rush.
Can you tell me a bit about your next album? Without revealing too much but just enough to make our mouths water!
It is a record with two halves. One half recorded in Paris, the other in New York. All recorded with my touring band (Nick Harsant, Matthew Eccles, Rory McCarthy). They are called “Jassbusters” and are a band of school music teachers for the Bostyn ‘n Dobsyn film.
Will you be touring in France anytime soon?
I hope so this year. I love France. I miss it.
Interview by Alice Butterlin.
Photographer: Russ Flatt