With seven years of mega catchy tunes behind them it’s not hard to see why ELEMENO P are one of New Zealand’s most popular Rock bands. After setting up their own home recording studio last year the band set about recording the third ELEMENO P album, a self titled work released as NZ Music Month 2008 was drawing to a close. Drummer Scotty Pearson talks to NZRock’s Dave Borgioli-Jones about the new album and why it’s the most honest ELEMENO P recording to date…
It’s been three years since ELEMENO P released the last album, what was the reason for the gap?
I think we spent a lot of time promoting the other record and it just takes a while to kind of work out where and how and how you want to go about it and all that stuff. Things take a while to fall into place. So there’s been no conscious effort. We actually had ambitions to make the album be out this time last year. But yeah, after doing three albums, it feels like they just kind of have their natural life that they work out themselves and when they’re going to actually get done and come out. So you can’t push it, I guess it’s a creative situation, you can’t really make it, you’ve kind of just got to let it.
You guys have recorded and produced this album yourselves, what gave you the inspiration to do it that way?
There are lots and lots of different factors about it but I think a lot of it was our budget, we didn’t have as much money as we did last time so to kind of go into the studio and pay $1200 or $1500 a day for 30 days was going to burn up most of the budget that we had and then similarly paying for a producer. We’ve made two ELEMENO P records before but all of us have been on other recordings and similar situations so we felt like we actually had as much clue as anyone else to do it. We employed Dan Rejmer the guy who engineered our ‘Trouble In Paradise’ record in Australia. We flew him over to be engineer and then we got an assistant who has been a MAINZ here in Auckland, Anna Riley. She was the assistant engineer. Then we just built our own room and did the recording. So I think it was about practically making it work better for us, like in our own locality and our own situation. It worked really well and we’re really happy with the result of it.
How long did it take you to record from start to finish?
Well as a band we’re quite hard on ourselves. We’re quite stringent about our stuff. So we met about it and decided that we’d do five working days a week from 11am until 9 or 10 or 11 or 12 sometimes at night. And that way we could still do our bits and pieces and jobs that we do in the mornings and still have the weekends with our families or whatever. So it took from July until about October when we finished but that was including the time for building the studio and we actually went in with no songs written. So we wrote the songs and recorded them in a reasonably quick fashion. So it was quite vibing when we were in there. It was quite good.
Did you have all of the recording grear to begin with or did you have to buy that as well?
Justyn had quite an amount of his own gear. We used a little budget to buy some gear and we rented a bunch of gear that we put in the room so it was a combo of all those things. We bought a little desk in the end because we were trying to use this old Neve console that was in the room, basically that was one of the reasons that we used it. But the old Neve console was just so problematic that we flagged it in the end HAHA! Bit of a shame.
What made you guys decide to call this the self titled ELEMENO P album? I read on your Myspace page that you guys feel this is the most honest recording from the band to date.
That came about… I dont know… It’s hard to get a name that you’re all happy with that kind of represents what you’ve got and what you’ve done and we hadn’t done a self titled record. And it just felt like that becase of that, because we produced it ourselves, it’s really just like a little snippet of our time at that time. So I guess it was just like, yeah let’s call it ‘Elemeno P’ because it really is ELEMENO P – it couldn’t be more. It’s like the basic raw ELEMENO P, let’s go. So I think that was the feeling about it and it just saved us from having to come up with some lame name that we had to fight about for three months.
Is that what happened with the last two albums?
Oh nah, I think that sometimes a name just kind of comes out. ‘Love And Disrespect’ just sort of popped out one night and it was good. But this one hadn’t had a name that stuck out so that’s why we took the tact that we did. But it really is an honest kind of reflection of who we are, not that the other records where dishonest HAHA! But I think the feeling on it is really us.
There are some upbeat tunes like ‘Baby Come On’ and then some mellower or ballad style songs. Were you aiming to have a broader spectrum of music on this release?
Well I think that was it… we didn’t aim anything, that’s what’s cool about it. It’s like this is what came out and that’s why it is ELEMENO P. There’s nothing really preconceived about anything. It’s like lets try and make some songs and this is what happens. I’ve always loved the softer side of our music too. I’ve always thought it was one of our strengths. Some of the 6/8 feel songs on the other albums you know, like ‘On My Balcony’ from the first record and there were a couple of slower songs on the last record too like ‘One Left Standing’. So that’s always been a part of us but it’s never been something that’s had a lot of radio, they’ve always just been album songs. I guess they’re kind of sticking out a bit now which is cool.
The new album has just hit #3 on the New Zealand music charts, have you guys done anything to celebrate or are you waiting to see if it’ll reach #1?
I guess it’s hard because it’s changed and we’ve been around for seven years now. We’ve had a #1, we’ve had a #2 and now we’ve got a #3. It doesn’t really feel like failure or anything but obviously I think in terms of a sense of excitement, if we’d got a #1 I think we would’ve been beside ourselves and we would’ve been right out enjoying the moment. But it’s kinda come and gone you know, we’re working towards the new tour so just the busyness of our every days lives kinda takes over and this week passes and you’re onto the next one HAHA! It is good you know. I think who’s gonna be able to beat out a middle of the road act like NEIL DIAMOND you know. Anyone would be hard pressed to beat him on the chart this week. So you know, it is an accomplishment when you look at the fact USHER had a new record out and he was #5 so it’s a pretty good thing really.
ELEMENO P is one of the most popular Rock bands in New Zealand but like pretty much all of our bands you all have day jobs. Does that get frustrating or are you cool with that?
Oh absolutely frustrating. I think that’s one of the things that over the years we’ve learned… because we’re really ambitious you know. We’re really hard working, we always have been, we’ve always aimed to put on the absolutely best show we can within the realms of the budget and the situation that we’re under and I think that none of us would have other jobs if we didn’t have to. So I think it’s just the reality of living in New Zealand. We do better than most bands but all these people get a slice of the pie and you just cant tour… like if we could tour like we do, 9 months of the year we probably wouldn’t have to work but the problem is we can only do that for about six months every two years when the album’s out and things are hot and songs are on the radio. Then you kinda do the odd spot date and so you know, I think it’s just a reality and we’re kinda getting real about it. You actually have to have another income from somewhere because you just can’t count on it. We’ve tried, we’ve tried… Living off the band but it doesn’t take long before you cant pay the rent and you can’t keep your phone on HAHA! We’d all love to be full time but you know, now six or seven years on it’s just a reality we face every day now.
Have you guys looked at moving overseas to spread the ELEMENO P gospel?
Yeah we’ve talked about it lots. We’ve talked about moving to Japan, moving to the UK… just up and going. But because we have had family situations here it’s always been something that’d have to be reasonably calculated and really well organised to make us really want to go there. I don’t know. On the same token, of a good opportunity came up now with some reasonable backing and some decent deal sort of thing going on then we probably would up and leave… well I would. So I guess it’s about being real and I think that’s part of what’s happened between the last two records. We’ve actually kinda got real about some stuff and kinda gone right, this is how it is in New Zealand and we have to make the best of it.
You mentioned Japan and the UK but what about the US? I’ve always thought the ELEMENO P music would do well over there.
Yeah I mean I constantly run into people who go oh, I took your album over with me when I went to live in California, all my mates love it and la la la. I know there’s pockets of people all over the world who love ELEMENO P. We did a few shows over there early last year. But it’s just really hard reaching all those people you know, and it’s such a vast country. But when we first got signed we were very naïve and we thought that you know oh, we’re signed to Universal the biggest record company in the world, we’re gonna be huge… without being tossers it was all in a naïve kind of fresh faced sort of way but we certainly got slapped around pretty quick into knowing that it doesn’t all work that way. Record companies are pretty fickle. No disrespect to Universal New Zealand, they’ve always looked after us really, really well. But trying to bust out in the US, it’s expensive and it’s hard work. We’ve got people over there who represent us and stuff but I think the situation with the world as it is at the moment, the music industry, its pretty messy.
It’s all about touring to make the money as opposed to doing albums?
That’s what they say yeah. I think obviously there’s just not the money spinning around. I mean the record companies were always making the lions share of that money anyway. The bands were never really getting it. Unless they’ve sold a lot of albums, then the band starts to make money but yeah, it’s always kind of been heavily loaded in the record companies favour. So now it’s getting a little bit more real, the record companies are earning probably more than anyone else. The bands do go out and make their money on touring. They have got more ways to promote themselves ie the Internet. So yeah, I think its a different world now. You can’t get the budgets off the record companies because they just aren’t making the money that they used to make. That makes a band suffer in a way but at the same time you can actually record for cheaper too you know, digital gear and all that stuff, it makes it much more accessible.
It’s interesting to see what will happen because the record companies are trying to do these 360 deals where they look after everything in order just to make that higher percentage of the income that the bands have. I don’t know, it’s exciting but its just different and you’ve got to try and work out how you fit into all that.
Back in the 90s you were in a band called HOI POLLOI which was based in the states, what happened with that band?
Well lived in Nashville and we toured around the states. I was in it for a couple of years. It was a New Zealand band that had gone over to Nashville with a record deal and then they’d wanted a drummer change and stuff like that so I went over and took the opportunity to play with them. It was a massive experience man, it was like crazy. We went to like 48 states in two years, we just drove everywhere. But we came home for a holiday and I wasn’t allowed back into the US. I hadn’t done the correct visa and stuff and the band could never afford to get me the right visa HAHA! So yeah, that was bit of a bummer because there were a lot of friends and a lot of good times over there. But yeah a few years later I got into ELEMENO P after being back here for a while. But that was a massive experience you know, driving across the States for virtually two whole years of being on the road. I recorded one album with them in Nashville which did really well, but it was a few years ago as well.
What about before that, New Plymouth is known for its strong hardcore Rock history, were you in any bands when you lived there?
Yeah I was in bands right back from the time when I was in high school in the Naki. There’s a compilation from Ima Hitt Records that Brian Wafer put out called ‘What Is This Place’. I was in a band called HARD SILENCE so we’re actually on vinyl which is quite exciting HAHA! I was playing in that band and then I went to Tauranga and I did cover bands over there for some times. I own a pub over there and make a few bucks to suppliment my building job. So yeah I was in bands for a long, long time and the experience jumping into ELEMENO P has I guess been really, really helpful.
Do you have any memories of the rugged Rock scene back in the Naki?
It was kinda Punk Rock band then. It was a long time ago and I’m older than I look. I remember playing at the Eltham Town Hall for a gig once and it was pretty messy down there. A whole bunch of little Punk rockers went down there. HARD SILENCE was playing at the time. It was all very exciting at the time but pretty rough. But we used to have all the parties at the halls that were slightly out of town. Bands like NOCTURNAL PROJECTIONS were playing. It was crazy days!
All my family has left the Naki now. I had a sister down there until a couple of years ago so now it’s all a bit of a distant memory. One of my best mates lives down there but I don’t get to see him very often. He’s up here more often than that. But nah, the Naki is a bit of a distant memory.
ELEMENO P has played some awesome shows, I saw a great one at the Coroglen Tavern a couple of years back. What’s are some of your favourite shows to date with the band?
I think there are several highlight gigs. I felt that supporting THE FEELERS this year we played some of our best ever shows with time. Like our New Year’s show down in Riwaka this past summer was just incredible. I think some of our EdgeFest shows, that’s when you actually felt like you were a real professional band because because for once you actually have a big stage and a real setup. We’d always been ambitions about what we tried to do so we did some stuff with some backing tracks and some sync to video stuff as well so the video was playing while we were playing along with it live. Some of those shows worked out, all of the technology really worked and it was really exciting. And the crowds, one of them was like 10,000 people at the Supertop. Big Day Out shows, there have been a couple of magic ones of those. I think the first or maybe the second time we played at the Big Day Out it was just magic. So there have been lots of really good gigs and none of them have been band. I don’t think we ever do a bad gig as far as I’m concerned. I just love playing. I love being up there and doing it. None of them have been bad for me HAHA!
What about the SXSW gig in the US last year? How did that go?
Yeah last year up there, that was cool. That was a massive experience. It’s basically like the Mardi Gras for Rock N’ Roll so you know, you’ve never seen so many black jeans in your life! Something like 1300 or 1400 bands play in that week and they’re there and they’ve all got their vans and their traylors and they’ve all come from who knows where and all over the world as well. It’s just madness actually, you just walk down the street… they’ve blocked the main street off like blocking off Queen St in Auckland and there are just bands everywhere, downstairs, upstairs. Some shops empty out and they just become venues for the week as well. It’s just mad. It was great fun that one and our show we played pretty good.
There’s the ELEMENO P song ’11:57′ and also 1157 is the name of the record label that KITCH are on. You were part of a KITCH video so I was wondering if that whole 1157 thing was deliberate or a coincidence?
I think when Gibbo wrote that there was a little bit of flack with people saying “oh, you know you’re using the 1157 thing” and that never even crossed our minds that whole thing. Although we are friends with the KITSCH boys so that’s why they said come and play on the video so I did that just for fun. And all the other drummers that were there were just doing it for a laugh as well. The KITSCH guys are cool. The singers brother Nathan is our tour manager sometimes so we’re a little bit involved with them and I know the other guys pretty well. So that’s just little fun things to do for a laugh. I know them through the FOAMY ED connection, I’d well left New Plymouth by the time those guys were around.
What’s on the ELEMENO P agenda for the rest of the year?
I think we’re going to go out and do this tour starting the weekend after next. We’re doing Nelson and Blenheim this weekend for Smokefree and then we’re off a weekend and I think the next weekend we’re doing North Island shows all around. That’ll take about a month or five weeks to get through both islands and then I guess just what ever comes up between now and Christmas. Then we’ll do a summer tour of own headlining shows I guess. We don’t know who we’ll take but we’re trying to make a plan for that now but that’s our plan is to do a big summer tour and then we’ll see what happens after that. Summer touring in New Zealand us just a phenomenon. It’s just got it’s own little life and weirdness about it and man, it’s just great fun. I guess it’s a holiday and everyone is up for a good time. So we just try and help instigate a good time if we can HAHA! Bring the party you know!