Connan Mockasin: “She just had one question, but I wasn’t very good at it”
The following interview with Connan Mockasin took place in February 2014 before his concert at Palace, St. Gallen (Switzerland). At the time, the musician from New Zealand had just released his third album „Caramel“. Followed by some collaborations in the upcoming years, it was in 2018 that Mockasin released „Jassbusters“, his latest album accompanied by the five-part series „Bostyn ‘n Dobysn“.
As I join the Mockasin family, they just finished soundchecking. Connan is still up on stage, appearing like a troubadour while the rest of the crew is sitting in a front row of red velvet seats. “We have to watch this, otherwise we’ll get kicked out of the band”, they comment on his attempt at improvised comedy. The musician and painter also has a strong affinity for acting — if making music was still his favourite method? “Yeah, probably. It seems to be the easiest way anyway at the moment.”
Ever since the release of Forever Dolphin Love (2011), his follow-up album had been awaited eagerly. Once Caramel (2013) had come out, the reception was ambivalent. Connan seems to understand this kind of disappointment: “It’s a bit different to the first one, but I think they go together quite well.” Indeed, „Caramel“ starts off as sequel to „Forever Dolphin Love“ but soon evolves to follow a different approach: “I think the new one’s actually a better overall record.” Whereas „Forever Dolphin Love“ is one conglomerate of idea and state, „Caramel“ sticks to its concept. “Just give it another listen, please?” Although Connan adds: “I don’t expect everyone to like „Caramel“ at all, no way. Nevermind if they don’t like it.”
Equal in their ethereal quality, both albums might also share the same artwork fate: “I did two covers for the last record, so I wanna do another one for this one. If the label’s gonna press it again, then I’ll make a new cover artwork when I get some time. So it’s not gonna be like Cher’s one”, Connan notes after I reveal to him the similarity of Caramel’s current artwork to the one of „Closer To The Truth“. Unintentionally (according to Mockasin), yet striking.
“It’s quite a small town, isn’t it? Are people coming?”, Connan asks me. Considering the fact that the band is playing sold-out shows and venues like Le Trianon in Paris on this tour, it is rather exceptional to have them perform in a small and half-full venue like Palace in St. Gallen. “I really like this building, it’s nice. It reminds me of the town closest to where I live which was wiped out in the 30s from an earthquake and rebuilt all Art déco”, Connan observes while looking around this red-light venue, a cinematic relict from the twenties which today is one of Switzerland’s most remarkable venues.
“How was it?”, Connan is asked by his bandmate Nick after our interview.
“She just had one question, but I wasn’t very good at it.”
“What was the question?”
“She wanted to know everything there is to know about this particular live recording we did.”
“This is from memories quite a long time ago, it’s really hard to remember. I haven’t heard it since we did it, I feel uncomfortable listening to stuff once it is done; I leave it for other people to enjoy, I suppose… I can’t even recall how it went but I’m sure it sounds a lot different ——— It’s a little bit different each night, anyway. If you’re in the right feel or good mood, that can change quite a bit. But this recording is definitely far from how we do it now. Except for Nick was playing bass, it’s also with different players: Elrory on drums and a man called Joe who is about 60 years old and never played with us before, he played on another guitar. But it was bascially the three of us playing. It was in the living room of Elrory’s parents place in Shoreditch, London. It was evening, so we had to be careful with the noise. We did have to apologize to the neighbours afterwards. We had maybe 50 people coming in off the street, just friends bringing their friends, we kept it kind of quiet. The room was packed, more than half of people were sitting down, the couches were pushed to the back and used. It was just to do this live recording. It sounds like a demo, really. Like a microphone in a lounge. That was three, maybe four years ago? When I originally started recording ‘Forever Dolphin Love’, I would start with the drums first. There’s two different drums playing. My friend Joe and my friend Ricky took over drums for the record with Will Ricketts on percussion. So I recorded those first and then I remember continuing working on it and thinking that the drum recording was really bad. Really bad. I couldn’t do it again, though. So I didn’t know what to do. I still think it’s bad but in a way it sort of fits well with the recording, so it’s okay. It was my first time recording, I was just learning. I remember it was fun and enjoyable and really easy to make, everything seemed to be just first takes ——————— But I didn’t know what I was doing, really.”
And that’s exactly the moment when Connan is Mockasin. Ask him about aesthetics or potatoes, you will receive the same answer: None. Here is where it’s at: “I just heard it in my head”, Connan tries to explain the story behind ‘Forever Dolphin Love’ and continues: “‘Forever Dolphin Love; a-a-a-a-a-ahh’, that was the dolphin singing, so I just called it that.”