12 May 2024

Getting over writer’s block: Fast Favourites with Troy Kingi

From Culture 101, 12:15 pm on 12 May 2024

Ten albums in 10 years in 10 different genres - that's Troy Kingi’s goal. But after the release of the seventh album - 2023’s ambient instrumental vibe album Timewasters - he’s admitted in a new TVNZ series Desert Hīkoi it was “starting to feel a bit stale.”

Desert Hīkoi follows Kingi on his creative and spiritual journey with his band to regain his mojo.

They went to California’s Joshua Tree National Park to record a desert rock album at a legendary studio.

Troy Kingi in the desert 2023

Troy Kingi in the desert 2023 Photo: Mark Russell / Renegade Peach

Kingi (Te Arawa, Ngāpuhi, Te Whānau-ā-Apanui) has described Rancho de la Luna as “my holy place”, where his favourite album of all time, Songs for the Deaf by American rock band Queens of the Stone Age was recorded. 

His time in the desert kickstarted the creative process, he tells Culture 101.

“We were trying to find the sound that my favourite artists had recorded over there, that desert sound, and you don't have to actually look for it when you're in the desert, it creeps into your music regardless.”

In an episode in the series, a doctor from the Kawiya tribe takes the group far into the mountains, at night, to a cave which is said to be a portal into another realm. In another, Kingi tries mushrooms as part of a plant medicine session with shamans. He also attends a sweat lodge. 

Troy Kingi in the desert 2023

Troy Kingi in the desert 2023 Photo: supplied

“I just wanted to embrace everything that the desert had to offer and especially going to the cave with the doctor. I really can't explain it you can get a glimpse of it on the documentary, but just being there in the middle of nowhere, we had no reception for at least three hours.

“It felt like we went back in time, and then we got into this cave and time stood still we were looking at art on the walls that was thousands of years old.”

He also got to work with Dave Catching, owner of the studio and guitarist with QotSA, who asked the band to contribute to an album he was working on.

"Queens of the Stone Age is the pinnacle for me. And he's also just a lovely guy. So, when he asked us, I think it was on day three or four. If we wanted to be part of it and we’re like of course. I think he's got Dave Grohl. He's got all these amazing artists on that album. So it's an honour."

For the Auckland Writers’ Festival he is exploring his creative process with an audience - who will help conceive, write and perform an original waiata in 60 minutes.

The audience will give Kingi the genre, a key lyric and then he’ll get to work.

“Basically, the audience is going to write the song, I'm just going to try and hurry it along, because we only got an hour. And I suppose, I just want the audience to get a glimpse into the way that I work, the way my mind works and how I put stuff together. I don't know if we're going to walk away with a masterpiece, but we'll try our best.”

A Waiata in an Hour He waiata I Te Hāora is at the Aotea Centre on Saturday 18 May at 5.15pm

Kingi’s eighth album in eight years will be released in the second half of this year.