Lawrence Arabia, aka James Milne, won the inaugural Taite Music Prize for his second album Chant Darling. We catch up with him as he takes the album on the road, playing it in full live more than 12 years since its initial release.
How has Chant Darling changed for you over the past 12 years - in the way you think about it, listen to it, play it?
Chant Darling is wrapped up with the memories of my time living in London, and of all my grandiose hopes and ambitions for my career at the time. By the time the album came out, I'd achieved quite a lot of what I'd aimed for, though at the time I didn't realise it would end up being a bit of a high-water mark for my career. The songs from that record will always be the linchpin of any set that I play.
Chant Darling is coming out on vinyl. When you're putting together an album, how conscious are you of its two-sided nature, end tracks, opening tracks etc?
The tracklisting is normally a puzzle I try and solve once all the songs are recorded, though some songs present themselves immediately as closing tracks or opening tracks. In the case of Chant Darling, Dream Teacher immediately felt like a closing track as soon as I composed it.
How did the events of the past two years affect your music-making?
It pretty much derailed it completely. Apart from having to reschedule a bunch of tour dates on multiple occasions (thank goodness for my promoter) it actually totally changed my approach to music as a career. I started writing a book and making other music that won't become Lawrence Arabia music.
What one track should a new listener check out that best represents Lawrence Arabia?
The Listening Times is one where I achieved the about the right balance of enigma, melody and arrangement.
What one change would you make to the New Zealand music scene if you could?
Well it would seem crazy for it not to be gender equality.
Name one artist would you love to work with.
I don't know quite what I'd do with them, but I really admire Mica Levi. They've composed some amazing film scores that remind me of the excitement of fearless creativity.
What next for Lawrence Arabia? What's happening in the rest of 2022 and where do you see yourself in five years?
After this tour, I'm going to get back to writing my book. In five years I'd like to see a lot more fearless creativity and a lot less maintaining my social media accounts.
When they write the definitive history of New Zealand music, what will it say about Lawrence Arabia?
There will be a small inset section about me as a mild aberration.
In a post-Covid world, you're curating a music festival - who's on the bill, alive or dead?
Outkast, The Ballets Russes performing The Rite Of Spring, The Raincoats, The Stooges, Björk, Prince.
Finally, please share with us a deep observation one might come up with if, say, one was stoned at the nail salon?
Volcanoes are releasing thermal energy that has built up from chemical reactions that started at the very formation of the Earth.
• Lawrence Arabia, who can be heard on Lorde's song Stoned at the Nail Salon, is touring now alongside Na Noise, winners of the 2021 Taite Music Award Auckland Live Best Independent Debut and recent winners of the Aotearoa Music Awards' Best Alternative Album. Chant Darling is out on vinyl.
Tour dates and venues
JAN 13 THU Loons @ 8:00pm Christchurch, New Zealand
JAN 14 FRI Grainstore Gallery @ 8:00pm Oamaru, New Zealand
JAN 15 SAT Sherwood Queenstown @ 8:00pm Queenstown, New Zealand
JAN 16 SUN The Captain Cook Hotel @ 8:00pm Dunedin, New Zealand
FEB 18 FRI San Fran @ 8:00pm Wellington, New Zealand
FEB 19 SAT St Peters Village Hall @ 8:00pm Paekākāriki, New Zealand
FEB 20 SUN Paisley Stage @ 8:00pm Napier, New Zealand
MAR 3 THU LAST PLACE @ 8:00pm Hamilton, New Zealand
MAR 4 FRI Point Chevalier RSA Bowling Club @ 8:00pm Auckland, New Zealand