Step Into The Wild With Pepa Knight and His New Tunes
Pepa Knight is a wellspring for all things creative and quirky when it comes to music. After a few years as a key member of jungle pop superstars, Jinja Safari, Knight has stepped out on his own to make some solo tunes, with his first single “Rahh!” being released to critical acclaim. With his absurdly large collection of crazy instruments, many of which have been obtained on his various travels to India and Africa, and a penchant for big production, “Rahh!” is not a far cry from the anthems we are used to from Jinja Safari but is still clearly something different. We had the chance to have a chat with Pepa about his music and here’s what he had to say.
Jinja Safari have been around the traps for a while now, and have managed to build up quite a following. How has it been to be part of such a successful band over the last few years.
Yeah it's been wild. We have been super lucky and still surprised with the amount of support we have had. It hasn't been as easy as what people would imagine and there has been a lot of challenges and compromising having two songwriters in the band. But in saying that, it's been a really positive process and we have complimented and pushed each other to write songs we never would have otherwise. And there have been so many magic moments playing these songs to audiences all around the world. It totally makes the hard stuff worthwhile.
Have you found that being in a band that has toured pretty extensively has slowed your attempts at making solo music or has it helped the creative process along the way?
It has been a tricky one to balance especially when there has been a lot of touring with the band over the last few years. And whenever we have a break from touring, my main focus is usually writing and producing new JS tunes. And it consumes me all day and night so it doesn't leave much time for anything else. It was really important for me to make time for this new project so I have worked extra hard to make it happen. These songs have been hiding in my head for too long so it feels liberating to be releasing them into the wild.
You’ve managed to release your first single “Rahh!” in recent weeks. It hasn’t wandered to far away from what Jinja Safari do, yet still as a strong individual stamp on it. Was that a conscious effort or does that sort of music come naturally to you?
Yeah I guess that style of writing and that eastern influence comes naturally to me and will be similar to what I do in Jinja Safari. 'Rahh!' would be the closest to that anthemic sound out of all the new songs. I guess the great thing about a solo project is you can do whatever you want! There are no rules! :) So it has been really cool to have the freedom to explore a more refined collection of songs from my time in India.
You’re known for having a crazy collection of instruments from all over the globe as well as using sampled noises and performances from your travels in the production process. What are some of your favourite instruments and samples that you’ve used on your solo work?
I really enjoy playing the sitar and flutes but I think the harmonium would have to be my favourite instrument that I have collected. It is a super portable and loud accordion that you play with one hand and the other pushes the air in through a fan at the back.
There is a song from my new release that has a sample of fireworks that I recorded during the Diwali festival in India. And it was a really fun process to cut up the individual blasts and make a beat out of them instead of having real drums. I also got samples of tabla and nagara drummers and indian singers that I love having in the recordings.
I read on your Facebook page that you had an entire solo album complete but deleted it by accident! That must have been a hard pill to swallow. How did that happen and how did you bring yourself to re do the entire thing?.
Haha...yeah it was heart breaking. It was such a silly mistake as well. I was clearing some space off my hard drive and somehow deleted the folder that had all my recording sessions. It was three years of work so it took some time to sink in but I decided that the songs were still in my head and deserved to be rerecorded. I luckily had all of the samples I had collected saved and early demos for some songs. It was the hardest thing to motivate myself to do everything again, but I think I did it better the second time. I put more effort into the individual parts and I did things a bit differently with a fresh ear.
You’ve also released a pretty amazing Peter Gabriel cover of the track “Downside Up”. Has he been a big influence on your songwriting and production over the years?
I am such a Peter Gabriel fan! I always wanted to record a version 'Downside up' but never intended on showing anyone. I really hope I did it justice. My dad listened to Peter Gabriel and Genesis when I was young, but I only appreciated his songwriting later on. If you ever get a chance you should definitely check out the 1993 Secret World live dvd, it will blow your mind...especially when you see the skin tight pants.
What’s happening next for you in regards to solo work? Do you plan on releasing the entire album?
I am not sure yet if it will be a collection of songs in separate volumes or a full blown album but so far I know it will be titled 'Hypnotized'. I plan to release another single from the release in the near future.
Finally, how will you play live? Will you bring a travelling band of sitar gypsies with you or re work the songs for solo performance?
Ha! I would totally love a traveling band of sitarist and just let them shred! Sitar solos all night long! In all seriousness though, it can be difficult to source tabla and sitar players around Sydney, but I am really excited about playing these songs live. I do go a little overboard with my instrumentation though and would need at least 30 band members to pull off some of these songs live so I am currently reworking on a more realistic approach to perform these songs.
By Callum Wylie