Speaking with Christine de Felice ahead of new music festival Selwyn Sounds, singer-songwriter
Jason Kerrison discusses his career, music, beliefs and planetarian ventures.
Some of New Zealand’s most well-loved and iconic musicians will be ripping up the Lincoln Domain when they perform at the inaugural Selwyn Sounds music festival in March. The line-up includes bands Mi-Sex, Dragon, and Jordan Luck Band, outstanding female vocalists Sharon O’Neill, Annie Crummer, Margaret Urlich and Debbie Harwood, plus the award-winning Jason Kerrison. Over nine hours, from 11.30am-4pm, on March 4, they will present a musical cornucopia for everyone there to enjoy and reminisce over. Organisers Three Coins Gentlemen Events are aiming for a day of music, food, family and community – the first of what they hope will be an annual festival in Lincoln.
You have been at the forefront of the New Zealand music scene for quite a few years now. What have been the highlights of your career so far?
The biggest achievement for me by far is Band Together for Canterbury. Our response to the earthquakes felt like a good idea at the time, but it wasn’t until we had what was later reported as 160,000-odd people at Hagley Park that we realised the scale of what we had been a part of. Giving people that reprieve for even just a day of music was mint. I felt huge pride in the team.
What do you regard as your greatest achievement in music?
Getting the opportunity to work on very diverse projects – from being in rock bands like Opshop and Fungi and hybrid Hip Pop pyjama-wearing group The Babysitters Circus, to playing a dual role in the musical Grease earlier this year and being invited to play the drums for a band at the Dubai Sevens. Living the dream.
The music you create is somewhat diverse, so what kind of composer/musician do you see yourself as?
Recently I’ve tried to explore different forms in my #JKEP series, from the sacred geometry of the Golden Mean to the tuning and the universal harmonic of 432Hz instead of the typical 440Hz; just for fun experimentation. So pop experimentation at the moment I guess.
I also have a publishing company called Antipodes Music Publishing and Sync (AMPS) that produces and curates music for a number of projects. So it’s very diverse in terms of activities, whether you’re writing for yourself or to brief. You get to traverse a few spaces both commercially and creatively.
Being part of a band or a solo performer – do you have a preference and if so, why?
Nah, I feel rapt to do all of it, to be honest. I’m definitely looking forward to smashing it out with the Fungi, though. It has been way too long since we played. Almost two decades now… jeez.
Your EP #JKEP2 was an experimental work. What prompted you to produce this rather than a more conventional EP showcasing your music?
I felt with Opshop I had cornered myself into commercial ballad guy-ville and that was never the intention. I needed a change of approach purely as an artist to stretch myself. So the space sans Opshop provided an opportunity to experiment without too much commercial concern. I came up with the idea of producing 10 EPs over time, exploring different processes in each. #JKEP1 was largely poppy acoustic electronic stuff. #JKEP2 was exploring sacred geometry and its effects in music, and #JKEP3 will be around developing songs from briefs initially used for commercial clients.
How do you see your future in music?
I see myself as a working musician. Whether that manifests as a soloist, a cast member of Grease, or a music producer for the Sevens. I went from touring for the new Fungi album, which has been sitting in the Top 10 Italian Rock Charts for the last few months, and writing/composing for commercial clients to producing music for Toyota’s Global Street Band of buskers, playing drums for a band in Dubai, being the music director for the NZ Marley All-stars Tribute, and debuting a music festival, Selwyn Sounds in March with a stellar line-up.
I’m thrilled and bloody lucky I get to do any of these, so I’ll just keep saying yes and getting amongst it I guess. I do want to start an eco-conscious music festival on my farm in about three years, so that’s in the mix too.
New Zealand has produced some stellar musicians, both composers and performers, over the last five decades or so. Do you see that legacy continuing through today’s up-and-coming musicians and are there any that stand out?
Well, I’m in my own rabbit hole so much that I don’t get exposed to nearly enough new music. But I love Joel Shadbolt at the moment. That dude’s playing and singing. Far out, one to watch for sure. I worked with him as MD on the Bob Marley Tribute Show, and he just killed it. Genius. In fact, that whole production was insanely good and cool to work with. Bob’s the man.
What advice would you give to young people with musical ambitions?
Primarily enjoy yourself, and savour the fact that you get to do it. In terms of making a life of it? I often say it’s good to get a handle on what your success metrics are from the beginning. Is success joining a tribute band and playing once a month for well-paying corporates? Is it touring the world playing metal festivals? Is it writing commercials? Is it a combo of many things? Dream it up and get a handle of its manifestation early.
Charity work, particularly with young people, has been a feature of your career. Why do you see this as important?
I basically think that if I can help I should. That’s pretty much it.
You describe yourself as a ‘planetarian’. What do you mean by that and how does it manifest in your day-to-day life?
I feel the most important thing we have is our planet, so I try to be present to that as much as possible as a base point.
In terms of day-to-day life, I’m developing a permaculture biotecture-based retreat in the Far North. We’re trying to use as much recycled and retooled stuff as we can. For example, the Earthship we’re currently working on has earth-rammed tyres as basic building blocks. Eventually, we’d like to run workshops on the principles of resilient homes and communities along with other more esoteric interests of the retreat. So, I’m still learning a lot about it and relishing the chance to do it.
Tell us about your ‘Ark’. Why did you decide to build it and is it complete yet?
I wanted to build an emergency fallback shelter that would be off the grid, sustainable and be able to withstand earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes, and energetic solar events, away from significant fault lines with a high profile and an exceptional spring.
We found a property that suited those caveats. We went through many different phases of design but ultimately decided we’d like to try different designs around the Ecovillage over time. We’ve settled on a Michael Reynolds-inspired Earthship Hut design for the first whare and it’s an optimistic 70 per cent there.
The release of the Opshop album Until The End of Time in 2010 was a good opportunity for me to chat about preparedness around concerns I had for people being ready in the event of a catastrophe, predicted or not. My personal consideration around the literature of the predictions and culture of the end times of 2012 got me invested into exploring it further and writing about it in songs.
I’m what you might call an apocaloptimist, so I felt in terms of the media reporting what I was up to there was a misrepresentation to the degree that certain elements of my account were seized upon, sensationalised and tainted with whack journalism. Regardless I’m still of the opinion that ancient cultures have left clues for us about large cosmic cycles and their effects and that right now our solar system is undergoing interplanetary climate change. And climate change isn’t an earthcentric thing; cataclysmic and abrupt climate change is occurring throughout the solar system.
So change is upon us. I just wanted, and still want, people to be mindful of their preparedness, and I felt talking about that the Ark within the context of the record would be a good conversation starter. That seemed to be the case ultimately regardless of whether I was literally putting a boat up on a mountain, which, by the way, I plan to do one day. Ha ha.