In early 2010, Bret McKenzie decided it was time to start learning guitar.
he is a New Zealand-born actor and musician who signed up for a class at the Silverlake Conservatory in Los Angeles, a music school founded in 2001 by bassist Flea of the Red Hot Chili Peppers.
McKenzie’s new guitar teacher was naturally curious about what prompted him to go back to school with kids and beginners.
He told him he had a gig coming up. “He said, ‘Oh, great, where are you playing? ,” the 46-year-old recalls in his broad Kiwi accent.
Sitting in the bright and airy home studio above his garage in Wellington, he smoothed his salt-and-pepper beard into an awkward grimace. “I was like, ‘Yeah, yeah…we’re playing the Hollywood Bowl.’ He burst out laughing.
That was the unstoppable rise of Flight of the Conchords, the two-man band McKenzie formed in 1998 with musical partner Jemaine Clement.
Sardonically billed as “New Zealand’s fourth most popular guitar-based digi-bongo acapella-rap-funk-comedy duo”, the pair made a name for themselves on the standing circuit before receiving global acclaim with a hugely popular HBO sitcom. ran from 2007 to 2009.
The series spawned a Grammy-winning album and catchy viral hits like The most beautiful girl (in the room) and Hiphopopotamus vs Rhymenoceros.
Soon, the pair performed to thousands of people at venues such as the O2 Grand Arena in London, where their lack of technical mastery proved to be part of the charm. “We probably wouldn’t be a comedy band if we could have played the guitar better,” says McKenzie. the song is less funny. “We used to aspire to be a band, but there’s something about the failure of our aspirations that’s really at the heart of so many comedies.”
Movies about Muppets
Since the Conchords turned down the chance to do a third season of the Emmy-nominated show in 2009, McKenzie has built a career as a Hollywood comedic songwriter. His clever, witty tune served as the soundtrack to two Muppets films (2011 The puppets and 2014 Most Wanted Muppets) and some episodes of The Simpsonsand many other film and television projects.
Personally, however, he’s spent the last few years working on songs that aren’t necessarily lyrical. His debut solo album is titled Reset Expectations The song has no jokes. “For me, writing songs is no joke,” he said.
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“Songs about emotions are not something I am familiar with [writing], though that’s pretty much every other song. While 99pc musicians write about their feelings, my career is writing songs about characters and jokes. “
The album features McKenzie reveling in the influence of 1970s musical heroes such as Steely Dan, Harry Nilsson and Randy Newman. So it’s only fitting that McKenzie recorded it in LA alongside some of Hollywood’s most revered version musicians.
“Down the hallway in Ocean Way Studios, they have all these golden records, and these guys walk along: ‘Yes, I did it. And that,” he said reverently, still a little surprised to have the likes of Joey Waronker (drummer for Beck and REM) and Steely Dan sideman Dean Parks play his music. “I told Steely Dan guitarist to play more like Steely Dan,” he laughs. “It’s a real highlight!”
According to the lyrics, McKenzie frequently finds himself caught somewhere between Wellington, where he grew up and now raises a family, and the twinkling lights of Hollywood, where he has worked and has settled for more than 10 years. .
He said: “I started living between the two places with an exotic seaside lifestyle with 12-hour commutes. Open machine This worldhe ponders the fate of the planet and grapples with the knowledge that frequent long-haul flights don’t exactly help.
He said: “There is a real crisis for New Zealanders, because traveling a lot to work is so normal but completely irresponsible for the climate and the planet. “There is a feeling that the way we are living is not sustainable. I think everyone feels that. All my friends do. People are trying to figure out how to live with this doom all around us and still trying to have a good time. That’s the feeling I brought with me and it shows through the songs. “
McKenzie has been making music for as long as he can remember. Born in Wellington in June 1976, he grew up with the arts. His mother, Deirdre, was a ballet teacher who ran a contemporary dance company. His father, Peter, was a lawyer and musical theater singer who, as McKenzie put it, “gave up the law for a more reliable income from training racehorses”.
As a teenager, McKenzie played in a string of bands including the James Brown indebted Blue Samanthas and a funk reggae band called The Black Seeds. “I played in a lot of different groups,” he said. “It’s one of those towns where the joke is [that] every Wellington band is the same musician with a different name. All passed, and from that tapestry came the Conchords. “
He met Clement while studying drama and film at Victoria University of Wellington. They were placed together in a sketch comedy team of five, including future Oscar-winning director Taika Waititi. “We had to come up with a 10-minute piece on male body consciousness,” recalls McKenzie. “The outfit is leather cycling pants with a removable Velcro penis. We talked about what it’s like to be a man naked. It was a very funny arrangement. “
McKenzie and Clement were successful and got an apartment together, where they lived while auditioning for different soap operas at the hospital filmed in Auckland. “We formed the band because we decided to ‘Fuck these hospital dramas!’” he said. “We were just sitting around not getting parts as doctors or nurses.
Waititi is also nearby, and will come to paint in their apartment while the Conchords are writing songs. “He was painting these rather dark and moody pieces of art,” says McKenzie. “Ironically, he is also probably the best guitarist of all of us. He played in a ska band and he might disband, but he will solo through the band leader.”
Waititi will go on to direct four episodes of The flight of the gourd, including the finale. “Then he went through Sundance and evolved,” explains McKenzie. “I think it’s great that he’s had so much success. He is an excellent artist. “
That student apartment has created not one but two Oscar winners. McKenzie won Best Original Song for Man or puppet (since 2011 The puppets), a powerful ballad performed by Jason Segel and mixed puppeteer Walter. He keeps the statue atop the piano in his living room, as a reminder of the night he had to live with all of his Hollywood fantasies.
“People think Los Angeles is all about glitz and parties and celebrities,” he said. “Not so. You may occasionally see a celebrity. It is mostly very lonely and a lot of driving. On that Oscar-winning night, LA was just what one imagines LA. We were at one of the cocktails and my friend said: ‘This is like being at Madame Tussauds but the people are real.’ Then the next day, you go back to the supermarket and ask: ‘Where’s George Clooney?’ “
As well as his work with the Muppets, McKenzie has become something of a regular on The Simpsons. He made his debut on the show alongside Clement in 2010, as Lisa’s performing arts camp counselor. Since then, he has written music for the next two episodes and revealed that he is currently working on “an R&B song” that will be featured in the fourth season.
Last year, he wrote loving parodies of The Smiths – Hamburger kills and Everyone is horrible except me (and maybe you) — for an episode starring Benedict Cumberbatch as Quilloughby, the Morrissey-esque frontman of the fictional band The Snuffs. Morrissey herself doesn’t see the humorous side, complaining: “In a world obsessed with hate laws, there are no laws that protect me.”
McKenzie seemed surprised by his reaction. “I’m a big Morrissey/Smiths fan, but you know, I have some issues with Morrissey’s political views,” he said. “We didn’t really anticipate Morrissey’s anger and public anger. If you’re being ridiculed by comedians, often the best thing is to laugh it off and enjoy the joke. Try to acknowledge that everyone has something that everyone can laugh at. He took it very seriously and openly, and it blew up. “
In fan-pleasing news of both Hiphopopotamus and Rhymenoceros, McKenzie hinted that there could be more to come from New Zealand’s fourth-most popular hilarious folk-humor combination. “I think we’ll do something,” he said. “But I don’t think we know what yet.”
It probably won’t be a long-term rumor The flight of the gourd film (“We don’t have a screenplay”), but he feels confident that the future The song has no jokes most likely some other song with them. “I was obsessed that these would be songs with no joke,” he said. “Now I come out to the other side: ‘You can relax a little, you don’t have to be so serious.'”
Bret McKenzie’s ‘Song No Joke’ is out now. He plays National Stadium on October 9
© Independent News Service
https://www.independent.ie/entertainment/music/bret-mckenzie-were-all-trying-to-work-out-how-to-live-with-this-doom-41954447.html Bret McKenzie: ‘We’re all trying to figure out how to live with this doom’