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NZMM: Favourite Wellington Music Moment: Rob Joass & Hobnail

For NZ Music Month the last couple of years, we asked bands/artists for a favourite memory of making music in Wellington.

It could involve a favourite gig, a funny story from the recording studio, a moment that led to the inspiration for a song, the fond recollection of a defunct venue, or the piece of music or lyric that they were most proud of creating.

We really enjoyed the stories people told us, so we are doing it again this year.

Next up is Rob Joass.
Rob moved to New Zealand from his native Sydney over 25 years ago. Since then he has maintained a consistently high profile in folk music circles in New Zealand, having released 10 albums with his bands Hobnail, Too Many Chiefs and The Shot Band, and touring the country regularly. He has been a finalist at the NZ Music Awards 3 times (twice for best country song, once for best folk album) and has had songs covered by bands in New Zealand and Canada. His third solo album “Pencarrow” was released recently to rave reviews.
“…a songwriter’s songwriter…beautifully done, understated and allows the songs to breathe.” 4/5 stars – music.net.nz

I have organised a charity fundraiser supporting DCM’s work with the homeless in Wellington for several years. Everybody I approached from the industry, including many of the most successful musicians in town, didn’t hesitate to offer their services. No egos, no demands, just a willingness to help out. In fact one of my favourite things about making music in NZ is that the most successful people are often the nicest and most generous people you can hope to meet.

It has been 25 years since Hobnail (then Hobnail Boots) made their first tentative steps in the world. Rob Joass and Jo Moir had previously played together in the short lived Wild Blue Yonder, an acoustic folk/pop band influenced by the likes of Paul Kelly and The Go-Betweens (career highlight – opening for Suzanne Vega!) Hobnail Boots was an altogether different animal, starting life as a party band playing celtic and country music, but always with a solid slice of original material thrown in. Finding their original material as popular with audiences as the cover versions, they started taking things a bit more seriously, recording and touring their own music, and were invited to play in North America on the back of their first 2 albums. Since then Hobnail has continued what they have started calling their endless tour, performing all over NZ (including the Mercury Bay Music Festival, Christchurch Folk Festival, The Caroline Bay Festival and a wonderful Lazy Sunday at Hagley Park to an estimated 3,000 happy fans).

It’s the eve of their 8th and 25th Anniversary Best of album release “Boots And All” in late June, with a tour reaching far and wide planned during June and July. In the lead up they have recorded a ripping version of the 1983 classic Sierra Leone by Coconut Rough. Built around the driving violin of Jo Moir and sung by bass player Hamish Graham, this version pays due respect to the original while giving it a definite Hobnail spin. Hobnail have always drawn from folk/rock influences, and while their take on Sierra Leone falls towards the rock end of that spectrum it will not disappoint long term fans of a band who have always taken an eclectic approach to cover versions to go alongside their respected catalog of original music.

I was engineering a session at Mediate Music a little over 25 years ago. A “Medieval Folk” group called The Caught Jesters were in the studio. The percussionist had a variety of instruments, including ankle bells. We spent quite a bit of time working out how best to capture the magic of that particular instrument. Lets just say he had a unique approach to music. And life. That was Hamish Graham, who I have now worked with continuously ever since. No more ankle bells, but still most definitely unique.

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