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TBI Q&A: Singer/Songwriter Tama Waipara

Sir Plus and The Requirements is a one-hour musical performance combining humour and theatrical narr

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Sir Plus and The Requirements is a one-hour musical performance combining humour and theatrical narrative. Devised and developed by singer/songwriter Tama Waipara, the performance ties in with his first full length album release.

Sir Plus and The Requirements is a one-hour musical performance combining humour and theatrical narrative. Devised and developed by singer/songwriter Tama Waipara, the performance ties in with his first full length album release.

Waipara says recording Sir Plus and The Requirements “was like entering a fantasy studio bubble and living in it undisturbed for a couple of weeks. It was strange to be that devoted to something at the exclusion of everything else.”

Justyn Pilbrow, who produced the album, described Waipara’s musical style as ‘one foot planted in nerdy 50’s pop and the other in 70’s soul.’

Tama is joined by a four-piece band and three back-up singers for Sir Plus and The Requirements, as part of the Auckland Festival Red Square programme. The musical performance features rising young actress, Morgana O'Reilly and lighting design by Jeremy Fern, set design by John Verryt and costumes by Lindah Lepou.

Raised on a mixture of 60's Brit pop, 50's Motown and fed the falsehoods of 80's New Zealand stereotypes, Sir Plus is a social avenger. Like Batman, he is a law unto himself, albeit with a slightly dented heart of gold. A balladeer gone bad.

‘A lush antidote to all your societal woes, Tama Waipara brings to you the long lost Polynesian cousin of Sergeant Pepper; Sir Plus and The Requirements'

During what hours of the day do you feel most inspired?
First thing in the morning and then last thing at night, and also when I am supposed to be doing something else that has an urgent deadline. For some reason this is always a good time to start writing songs.

How would a good friend describe your aesthetic or style?
Musically, it is always interesting to hear other people’s take on what my style is or isn’t. The best one recently came from Justyn Pilbrow who produced my latest album, “Sir Plus and The Requirements”.

“Don’t take offense, but you have one foot planted in nerdy 50’s pop and the other in 70’s soul”

What aspect of your creative practice gives you the biggest thrill?
Until recently it was always performing but recording “Sir Plus and The Requirements” has very much changed the way I think about recording. It used to be a stressful and anxious time and I was always concerned about what state my voice would be in for the session. Working with Justyn has set a precedent for taking the right attitude into a creative space and being grateful that there is an opportunity to do so.

How does your environment affect your work?
I think a lot of my work is based on the place and the people I’m around. I don’t think it is ever something I’m too aware of but I do think that NZ particularly is a good place to find your own style and voice in music. We don’t have the population to sustain sameness, and it has always made me want to do my own thing. The emotional compass always determines the direction though.

Do you like to look at the big picture or focus on the details?
I alternate between the two and whenever one is too overwhelming or frustrating, I try and use the other as motivation. This is especially true when dealing with multiple projects. The best is to try and chip away at each of them rather than cower in fear of looming deadlines.

What's your number one business tip for surviving (and thriving) in the creative industries?
Be very clear about what it is that you want to do. To survive we often end up doing a multitude of things that may not be the primary focus, but if they are approached with the right intention they can all feed into it. Be a good person. The people who have made the biggest impression on me in this industry are always striving to be a decent human being first and foremost.

Which of your projects to date has given you the most satisfaction?
It was definitely recording “Sir Plus and The Requirements” at Stebbings Recording Studio and mixing it at Revolver in Waiuku. It was like entering a fantasy studio bubble and living in it undisturbed for a couple of weeks. It was strange to be that devoted to something at the exclusion of everything else.

Who or what has inspired you recently?
A group of young musicians at Henderson Intermediate who recorded a CD of their original songs and compositions after spending 2 weeks putting the material together and performing it in front of their school.

If you could go back and choose a completely different career path to the one you've chosen, what would it be?
I think being a dancer or a gymnast would be incredible. I really admire people who have command over their body in the way that these people do. To jump and know that you can land safely must be an amazing feeling.

What place is always with you, wherever you go?
Waiotahe Beach. The pohutukawa glade as you drive into Opotiki. It is like an exhalation you didn’t know you were holding back. The exhalation starts from Matata Spit and continues through those Pohutukawa.

What's the best way to listen to music, and why?
Live if possible and probably acoustic in a small space with no mics. I love to hear all the colours of the voice/ instrument when it is as raw as possible. I like to hear the dirt in a voice and it is often difficult to capture that in recordings. Failing that, I’ve had some legendary moments with my ipod.

You are given a piece of string, a stick and some fabric. What do you make?
A new flag. Hopefully the fabric is one we all like.

What's the best stress relief advice you've ever been given?
Play mind cricket. Imagine that you bash away each stressful or negative thought with a cricket bat. Mind tennis too but then you have to consider that someone is hitting the thought back to you.

What's great about today?
Getting to do what I enjoy and calling it a job. It helps that the sun is shining too.

What’s great about the Auckland Festival 2009?
Red Square!!!!!!!!! Festival Club and Spiegeltent are the places to be. There is a huge amount that I want to see in this festival. Silo Theatre’s Ensemble Project, The Arrival and Taonga: Dust, Water, Wind to start with. Leila Adu will be great too. I’m also quite keen to head to Nick Bollinger’s interview series, “Couch Time”.

What’s your big idea for 2009?
I’ve decided to drown out no with YES.

  • SIR PLUS and THE REQUIREMENTS

    Red Square, Auckland Festival 2009
    When: Wed 18 - Thurs 19 March, 9.30pm
    Fri 20 March, 7.30pm
    Where: Auckland Festival Club - NZI Room, Aotea Centre, THE EDGE
    Bookings: THE EDGE - 0800 BUY TICKETS (0800 289 842)

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