Playing for beer, Proto-punk and TLC: A chat with Chris from Six60
Somehow managing to bring dub-step, rock and RnB together to create a beautifully unique sound, is a feat in itself for New Zealanders Six60. The band had built up quite the live following over the years in their home country, and this diverse range of genres they cover is largely responsible for it. When they released their debut album Six60(2012) they were confident in it’s potential, said bass and synth player Chris Mac: “In New Zealand we knew it was gonna do well before we released the album. We had a big live following, we had big crowds and a great fan base…so we knew it was going to sell okay, but we had no idea it was going to capture New Zealand the way it did.” To them, the plethora of awards it won, including “Best Act” and “Single of the Year” at the New Zealand Music Awards, as well as its four times platinum status, were just the icing on the cake: “It was such an honour to take that home. Especially as an Australian living in New Zealand, there are a lot of New Zealanders who have taken Australian awards so I took a few New Zealand awards on their behalf!” he quipped.
I managed to have a chat with Chris from the band whilst he was in Germany waiting to return home from tour the other week. Down to earth and sincere with a sense of humour, Chris gave us an insight into the influences of Six60 as well as how they’re enjoying their whirlwind rise to becoming an internationally successful band.
You guys seem to be a band that embraces tradition whilst also distancing yourself from it, when it comes to the vast array of genres that mix together to create your sound. What are your personal musical influences and what influence does the band draw from collectively?
“Personally, I’m a punk guy. I’m all punk. I listen to a lot of proto-punk at the moment…Kind of the late 80s New York scene, and then heading a little bit north, one of my favourite bands is the Bad Brains, and then heading South it’s more like Patti Smith who I’m really into at the moment. I grew up in Darwin, and there’s a really good scene up there. (In reference to the band as a whole) Some of the guys are really into the hip hop scene, so I got into hip hop and reggae music, some of the guys just listen to hip hop, one of our guys is just a metal head.”
Yeah, I really thought the run between songs like “Windy Days” which has that really surfy Donovan Frankenreiter sort of vibe to a track like “Forever” that you could almost hear it blaring at a club was interesting. You guys seemed to go all guns blazing, and just kind of did what you wanted on the album, which seems to have worked pretty nicely for you.
“That is exactly what we wanted. We went in and the only through-line we wanted to create was that we wanted to do what ever we wanted to do weirdly, but…it would still sound like five guys playing songs live together…that was our through-line for the album and I think we achieved that. The next album is probably keeping along a similar line but it might surprise a few people. I hope that people really enjoy it.”
I don’t want you to take offence to this because I feel like it can become a bit of a dirty word in music, but I think the sound that you guys are producing, even though it is really eclectic, a very accessible sound which, I believe is what pop music should be. You guys are providing so many different things without sacrificing your artistic integrity yet at the same time garnering a lot of commercial success and pleasing a lot of different people.
“Look I guess accessibility could be a bit of a dirty word in music but I grew up on a lot of punk and proto punk in the 70s and 80s. You’ve got people like Blondie making incredible music that was so revolutionary at the time but was so successful because it was so well put together and interesting. There’s nothing wrong with being accessible I don’t think. We have the point of view that we want as many people listening to our music as possible. I heard a quote the other day, that sounds a little pretentious but is still a great quote that “I’d rather be overrated than underpaid”…I think then speaks less to money and more to that idea that I’d rather a lot of people knew what my music sounded like than have no idea but I was cool.”
You must have played along side some pretty incredible acts over the last year or two. Could you give me some of your highlights? Who are some of your favourite bands right now?
“We got to play Glastonbury. And that is obviously host to some of the greatest. It’s the best festival in the world and I got see Nick Cave play who is one of my personal heroes and musically is one of the greatest of all time. Just to play the same festival was a huge highlight. One of our favourite things is when people have seen us in Australia and New Zealand, we try to pick up local acts to play for us, and we’ve actually found that a couple of the artist that have played before us have gone on to do pretty well. People like Sticky Fingers from Australia. It was maybe one of our first or second tours and they were our support act and we loved them, we thought they were really cool. There was a band called Sasquatch from Melbourne, we love them as well. A particular song of theirs gets stuck in our heads all the time. For me playing with smaller bands and seeing them do well is probably one of the greatest highlights you can ever have because I loved that as a musician growing up in Australia. I remember supporting Killing Heidi when they toured Darwin in one of my early punk bands, and I was thinking, “Wow, this is such a great experience” and I love being able to give that back to other bands.”
Could you tell us a bit about the iTunes session that you guys recorded that was released in December? Does it feel nice to be asked to do something like that? Also there is a previously un-released track “Home”, can you give us a few words on it?
“The iTunes session was just so cool, when we got approached to do it, we were really excited, because as you say so many bands and great artists have done that and a lot of artists I really respect have participated in it and we just thought it was such a great moment for us to go let’s give something to the fans. It’s not expensive, it’s not a full album, but it’s still something special that we can give to the people that they can hear in a different light. We recorded a great cover of waterfalls by TLC. If anyone hasn’t heard that cover yet I recommend it highly. Normally I play bass but on that track I play drums, and I just think it's such a fun cool cover, and who doesn’t love TLC Waterfalls, really? “
Totally, I think everyone in the world loves that song, and I think those who don’t should be banished from society.
“Yeah. You know what? Those who don’t are liars! I think it’s a great EP. For anyone who hasn’t picked it up yet, if they don’t know us as a band it’ll show a real cool more chilled out soul vibe. ‘Home’ is a track that we wrote pretty early in the piece for the new album and we loved. There’s a few songs that have just floated around but this one we’re really attached to especially as we were spending so much time away, basing ourselves in Berlin for five or six months. While we were there we developed that song to a point where we thought we’d like to release it. We played it a bunch live…we really enjoyed it and think it’s a great song. The feed back we’ve got is that there have been a lot of tears shed from people over seas who are missing home…I think it’s a universal truth that people want to be home whether it’s their family or their country or just where they feel comfortable. It just struck a chord”
What’s in the woodworks for six60?
“Well we have a couple of New Zealand shows in the next week or so then we are headed off to Australia to do all the main centers, unfortunately not Darwin, which is a bit of a pity, but we’ll get there. I am tirelessly arguing with our promoter to set up a show in Darwin. But we are doing Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne and Perth in a couple of weeks and it’s a completely new show, a new set and something really different.”
By Callum Wylie