The Mixtape: Barnaby Weir

From RNZ Music, 5:00 pm on 9 September 2017

The Black Seeds frontman shares his completely BBQ reggae-free selection of locally sourced tunes, and tells Yadana Saw a few yarns.

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Photo: Supplied

Many people would call Barnaby Weir the head chef of 'BBQ reggae', the much maligned faux genre, which has been gaining popularity in NZ over the last two decades.

For nearly twenty years Barnaby has been frontman of skank-dub-soul institution The Black Seeds, and he's showing no sign of leaving what's arguably the most enduring relationship in his life.

“I think that there’s no time limit on that as long we’re into the music and it’s sounding good.” He reckons his enthusiasm for the enterprise is still there.

The band have just released their sixth studio album Fabric. It sees them embracing a more funk-driven approach, paying homage to the infectious grooves of bands like Chic and Sly and The Family Stone, rather than the Jamaican skank the band were renowned - and derided for.

“Initially you think it’s a bit of a jab,” says Barnaby on the derision; but then he reveals a shrewd philosophy: any attention is good attention. “It actually becomes a compliment ... people are listening and hearing you, and they’re talking about it.”

Barnaby has an assured and buoyant attitude, which helps explain why The Black Seeds' music seems relentlessly positive. Although he says the band’s sound is “not always positive, happy-clappy stuff".

"You’ve got to listen in a bit closer because you might hear a mellow, groovy sound, but there’s a bit of politics in there, and human struggle.”

There are even love songs where “you’re saying how great it is, but actually we’re breaking up”.

The Black Seeds

The Black Seeds Photo: Will Moore

Barnaby's one of the enduring personalities of the Wellington music scene. He's still the Musical Director of Fly My Pretties, which has evolved into a successful touring show, selling out theatres all over the country.

He also reckons we haven’t yet seen the last of his solo moniker Flash Harry. But how does he maintain quality control over so many different projects?

“You’ve totally got to get a second opinion but at the same time you don’t because you’ve got to have faith in yourself and your personality of what you make.

"Everyone has doubts in things that they make, but it’s being done to please yourself anyway. The art is being made to express yourself and please yourself. If somebody gets inspired by that or enjoys the look of that, or the sound of that, or play it at their wedding then that’s great. That is a bonus.”

Barnaby has gradually built up his confidence up over years of being a professional musician. Though it's clear he's first and foremost a music fan.

The Black Seeds at Victoria Ska Fest - photo by Matt Love

The Black Seeds at Victoria Ska Fest - photo by Matt Love Photo:

He reveals passionate, articulate and informed opinions on topics including Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry’s idiosyncratic production methods and his legendary mu-tron bi-phase sound; as well as ACDC's Phil Rudd and his criminally underrated style of drumming. “It’s actually harder than you think, pumping those high hats. Hitting the snare beautifully in the centre every time consistently and still having a groove on a 2/4 beat."

Barnaby expresses the same sentiment when speaking about his musical selections from childhood friends like Samuel Flynn Scott, Wild Bill Ricketts. Or fellow ACDC fans like Craig Terris. And generously enthuses about the other artists on his Mixtape whom he's proud to call his friends.

The Black Seed's sixth studio album Fabric is out now.

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