Party piece

by Jim Pinckney / 22 December, 2014
For his tenth album, Nathan Haines and friends have cooked up a funky mix.
Nathan Haines, Jaimie Webster Haines
Nathan with wife Jaimie Webster Haines.

Returning to the clubby territory he visited on 1996’s Soundkilla Sessions Volume 1 and career highlight Squire For Hire (2003), Nathan Haines has journeyed back to New Zealand for his annual summer jaunt with a new album, his 10th, in tow. On the heels of two very straightforward jazz records, 5 A Day has markedly different influences and a small army of local and UK-based talent joining the prolific horn blower.

The album was recorded in a house in Buckinghamshire belonging to two long-time Haines collaborators, producer Mike Catto and his wife, singer Vanessa Freeman, with none of the rigmarole of big studios and similarly sized expense accounts. With Freeman adding her vocals to the Tom Jobim-flavoured Count On Me and Catto’s contribution evident throughout, it was very much a family affair – Haines donning the apron.

“I did all the cooking,” he says. “Mike had the studio set up and plumbed some speakers into the lounge and out into the garden, so I could be in the kitchen working and he could be getting on with it in the studio. So those two, making the record in that environment, breaking all the rules and not being precious were really important.”

Aside from a lone contribution from New Zealand’s P-Money, the percussive part of the process was left in the hands of Londoner Marc Mac, who cut his teeth as one half of influential progressive drum’n’bass act 4hero, but leaned on his hip-hop and club roots for this assignment.

“He’s always been in my periphery, and I’ve loved his Visioneers and solo stuff,” says Haines. When I went, ‘Right, what am I going to do, what sort of record am I going to make?’, I emailed Marc and he was so generous. He sent a file of eight beats over and I ended up using six. They were just so inspiring, and in about two weeks I’d written four tracks for the album. They’re not in-your-face banging or modern, they’re just classic.”

Appearing for the first time is DJ Jaimie Webster Haines, Haines’ wife. Alongside her spoken contributions to Madmazelle Midnight, she helped provide a crucial antidote to the dangers of fiddliness and overcomplication.

“I wanted to make a record you could party to, that’s still got all the really cool elements,” says Haines. “Enough so that the beard-scratching, polo-neck-wearing dudes can get their fix, but you can still put it on in a bar or a club and jump around or nod your head. A lot of what Jaimie said, because she’s not a musician, was really important, because Mike and I are sometimes too precious. When you spend your whole life really honing your craft into this minutiae, which is what Mike and I are like, it can all get a bit too much, so she was the sounding board.”

Nathan Haines, 5 A DayLike a significant number of recent hit-makers, from Pharrell Williams to Jungle, Haines cites the smooth sophisto-funk of Chic as another influence on the album. “While I was making the record, I read [Chic guitarist] Nile Rodgers’ autobiography and it was really interesting seeing how much of an influence [Chic singer and bass player] Bernard [Edwards] was on Nile and Nile wanting to be a jazz guitarist. They played a big part in this record and how it was made, especially in terms of how they approached record making – though without the massive amount of cocaine! Most importantly it was group vocals; very few Chic songs are single vocals. I’ve always done songs with single vocal lines; this album is all about group vocals – get everyone singing.”

5 A DAY, Nathan Haines (Warner).

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