Interview with Artist Thomas Friggens
Kia ora, my name is Thomas Friggens and I work as a drummer and percussionist! I’m originally from Hawkes Bay but migrated to Wellington in 2008 to study Jazz but mostly to get involved in the music scene here.
What have you been listening to lately?
High rotations from the last few months have been the Khurangbin with Leon bridges albums Texas Sun and then after its release Texas Moon. Julia Jacklin first album, ‘Don’t let the kids win’ has been living in the car stereo for a good couple of months now. Soundgarden, namely the Superunknowen LP, is something I recently revisited. I'm big into digging for music on Bandcamp and found a really cool album ‘Kuni’ by a group called LNDFK. The lack of gigs due to cover had me digging into some classic drum solos for transcribing purposes including Max Roach and Clifford Brown’s ‘Jordu’, and Steely Dan’s ‘Aja’.
How did you get into music?
I got into music through my parents. My Dad was always playing music on car journeys and around the house. I remember listening to a lot of Pink Floyd, Bob Dylan, and Leonard Cohen but then from time to time, he’d put on some classical. He had a good selection of records that I’ve now ‘borrowed’, including some Beatles and lots of Otis Redding. My Ma gave my siblings and me the opportunity to learn music whenever we could. We all started on the piano, then when we got a little older she gave us the opportunity to branch out.
My siblings went down the brass band road and played an assortment of horns. I wanted to play the drums when I got the chance to choose. The choice was begrudgingly granted but came with the condition of doing some extracurricular drumming. This came in the form of joining the Hasting Pipe Band as a snare drummer. Which turned out to be a fantastic experience for me on so many levels!
You recently had the opportunity to compose a soundtrack for the film 'Ultimately Lacks Polish' which is all drum-based. How did that come about? Tell us a bit about the process of recording a soundtrack. Any challenges?
This came about as I have done some live performances with Freya Daly Sadgrove, who is an amazing Poneke based poet. The film is a short doco about Freya and where she was in her life at the time. She was (and is) in the midst of running a live poetry extravaganza, ‘Show Ponies’, and writing a live show based on her book, ‘Head Girl’. I have the fortune of being involved in both of these as the live drumming element has become something of a theme for her performance. The director of the film, Kathleen Winters, thought it appropriate that I compose a soundtrack which was an opportunity I couldn’t refuse.
The recording of the actual drumming was fairly straightforward as we’d already done quite a bit of back and forth to get the right emotion/atmosphere for the different parts of the film where the music was to be placed. There were definitely challenges. Trying to replicate moods purely on a drum set was one of them. I got directions in my brief such as ‘positive nostalgia, for when looking back at photos, reflecting on how she's changed,’ this had me digging really deep to express that musically.
Tell us about your favourite or most memorable performance that you have done in your career?
A very memorable moment was performing with Strike Percussion as part of the ‘Big Bang’ which opened the international arts fest a few years ago. The gig featured Strike Percussion, Kora, Musicians from the Cook Islands, a 200 strong choir, and 200 school kids all playing a drum each. The concert took place in Civic Square and was performed across three stages simultaneously with the audience in the middle of the square. I had the challenging position of keeping the 200 school kids in time with the rest of the mayhem!
Are there any Kiwi musicians who inspire you? Who would you most like to collaborate with?
Heck yes! Being somewhat drum-centric I tend to be inspired by other drummers. Dawn Diver, Clear Path Ensemble, and the Troubles are three excellent groups led by 3 excellent drummers, Ben Lemi, Cory Champion and John Rae respectively. Shaun Anderson is one of the most hard-working drummers out. He’s also a wizard at adapting to different styles, like he’ll play Latin a Tuesday, Jazz on Thursday and Death Metal on Saturday. Rick Cranson is a wonderful drummer who is a particularly great jazz player as well as a king groover. I saw him playing some amazing groove with Kita over the summer at Twisted Frequencies. Olivia Campion also played some excellent drums with both Doons and Revulva at Twisted this summer, and then ran away to tour the world with Yumi Zouma. What a boss!
I would really love to collaborate with a Cook Island Log Drum ensemble. I love the sound of those drums.
Do you have any hobbies or interests outside of music?
I like to cook but even more so I like to eat! Spending money on some delicious food is always money well spent. Recently I had an amazing feast at Ortega at the bottom of Majoribanks St in Mt Vic. There’s a spot in Newtown, Mason, which is producing some damn fine cuisine. On the wish list is the Damascus up in Vogelmorn who I hear are cooking up amazing Syrian food.
What’s next for you? Any new collaborations, projects etc?
Currently, I’m working on a few releases. Sea Mouse is in the throws of releasing an EP of original blues tunes. Released in part as a bit of a homage to some of the blues greats we’re inspired by as a band. The first single was released recently, It’s called ‘Evil Heart’. Bazurka and Sheeps have received their masters back both for full LPs of original music. Bazurka plays music inspired by the music from the Balkan states in Europe, and Sheeps is a Prog-rock band.
Asides from those, I’m working on some concerts coming up. One particular concert that’s getting a lot of work put into it is with ‘Shades of Shakti’, who play a fusion of Indian classical music stylings.
Check out more of Thomas's work here!