This Thursday we are excited to be hosting New Zealand's first Bemsha!, Nathan Haines' club night which he started in London back in the 90's. Nathan grew up in Auckland in a very musical family (his father Kevin was one of New Zealand's leading jazz bassists) and was performing at international jazz festivals with them by his early teens. In 1991 he moved to New York to study jazz, and then in 1994 moved to London - shortly after, Bemsha! was born.
Nathan, alongside Frank Booker, and a crew of live musicians will be bringing the same sound and vibes as the original Bemsha! to the club tomorrow night. Expect a mix of classic soul, jazz and boogie all on vinyl, as well as a live jam from Nathan and his band.
To celebrate the Auckland Jazz Festival and learn more about Bemsha!, we caught up with Nathan to ask him a bit about the night and his love for vinyl.
This Thursday is New Zealand’s first Bemsha! gig. How do you feel about hosting Bemsha! in your hometown?
I’ve been wanting to do something for years, but Jaimie and I and Zoot only moved back to NZ in November last year ie. all my records and studio gear was in London! So, as soon as all that gear landed I’ve been formulating a plan. Doing it in conjunction with the Auckland Jazz Festival was also a good fit, as I wanted to attract both a club audience and a non-club/more listening audience who were passionate about real music, and not just a soundtrack to get wasted to haha! So I’m feeling nervous but also excited at finally putting a real club night together based around the music that Chris Cox and I cut our teeth on - the soundtrack of our lives so to speak.
There is a lot of excitement within the younger music community around the relaunch of Bemsha! and the debut gig this Thursday. Why do you think it is Bemsha! has as much appeal now as it did in late 90’s London?
I was lucky in that I got to know the owner of the Notting Hill Arts Club (incidentally a NZ’er) and he offered me the worst night of the week - a Tuesday. I felt I needed somewhere to play and experiment, and I was already a “don’t-miss-it-under-any-circumstances” attendee of the Fridays with Phil Asher and Patrick Forge and guests for their “Inspiration Information” night. With my night I didn’t realise it at the time, but there wasn’t really much like that going on in London. I was a musician running the night who was also hanging/working with a lot of DJs in different styles - from broken beat to Drum and Bass to proper dance floor jazz to House music and everything in between. I had to put effort into the programming of the night, I had to make sure I had a solid line-up week in week out, and over a period of years I think it created it’s own reputation. Plus I think a lot of Kiwi’s came to check it out - in saying that though, it was never an “ex-pat” night, but rather a melting pot for all types of club people and music lovers, and if you happened to be from New Zealand then all the better.
In a pre-Serato 1998, strictly vinyl was just how most DJs rolled. Why is it important to keep 2016 Bemsha! strictly vinyl?
Well record collecting is a big part of our lives - me and Chris I mean - because it acts as a direct conduit between the music and the DJ or collector. I mean people would come down to the Notting Hill Arts club to see Phil Asher and Patrick Forge do their thing on Friday nights and bring a notepad so they could write the records they played down! It was a MASSIVE learning experience for me. You had to learn about records, about producers, their sound, the history and the stories. There was scant information on-line at that time even. The records were WAY cheaper too. My head was bursting with ideas after every Friday night, so I tried to transplant that feeling into my own night - and of course I tried to do the same with the records I made and the gigs I would do.
Bemsha! is renowned for its guest DJs, who have been some highlights to date?
Well, there was a big list! Paul Trouble Anderson is one of my all time favourite DJs, plus Roy the Roach who got me away from “straight-ahead” jazz in the first place and listening to House music - these guys were like the building blocks of my musical experiences from the mid-90’s until I made Sound Travels in 2000. As I said Phil Asher and Patrick Forge have ridiculous record collections, plus they have an empathy with the crowd when the play and they know how to program their sets. I learnt about the real ‘art’ of DJ’ing listening to those 4 guys, night after night. Goldie, A-Sides, Peshay and Storm all played blinding drum and bass sets, plus guys like Diesel from X-Press 2, Shuya Okina from Kyoto Jazz Massive, Ashley Beedle (I played with him at the Arts Club in 2014 for a great night), Rich Medina who also did spoken word on some tracks on Squire for Hire and plays a blinder of a DJ set…there was so many I find it hard to remember... And of course I can’t forget that Manuel Bundy played there as well!! I guess I also really had to up my game as a DJ as I pretty much played every night as well. I would usually play the first set upon opening - a good chance to break out some serious jazz.
You’re playing with your live band this Thursday. how did the original Bemsha gigs help you develop your sound?
Well, in my band I had some great, great friends who I still play with like Vanessa Freeman on vocals, Mark de Clive Lowe, Kaidi Tatham, and Simon Colam on keys, Carl Orr on guitar (who bought drumming legend Billy Cobhan down to sit in TWICE), Daniel Crosby on drums who was there from the very start (!) and is still part of the UK band, Williams Cumberbache on percussion, bass players Miles Danso and Level Neville on bass and a load more. When myself and Phil started making Sound Travels then later Squire for Hire, I called on all the guys to record and do their thing. Both of those records did very well for us both, and really set me on the path. I mean within 6 months I had gone from playing the Notting Hill Arts Club to being flown around the world to clubs like the Tokyo Blue Note and the North Sea Jazz Festival based on the popularity of those albums. I’ll always be indebted to Phil for believing in me, and putting the time and effort into making those records and producing them. It was as much about learning about the great artists and producers through their albums (on vinyl of course) than it was about actually writing and recording the music. It was a whole lifestyle which I still eschew. That’s what “Bemsha!” is all about.
Come along to Bemsha tomorrow night, this is not one to be missed! Auckland Jazz Festival participants and ticket holders get a special $5 on the door ticket price. Doors open 9pm.