Part time voodoo shaman and full time hellraiser C.W. Stoneking is known equally for his gravelly voice (that has more than a touch of the Louis Armstrong and Tom Waits about it) and his Americana-Africana inflected rock and roll. In an interview with Glam Adelaide, we speak about the shift of influences on his latest record Gon’ Boogaloo, field recordings, and the role music plays in his family.
I start the interview in a fumbling manner, mentioning to C.W. that it is the first interview I have ever conducted, and profusely thanking him a number of times for allowing me to do it.
C.W. is a gracious interviewee from the outset.
What is it about the idea of the jungle that holds particular appeal for you?
C.W. says the jungle holds a particular appeal to him because all of his ‘connecting influences’, ranging from calypso and blues to the song Caravan by Duke Ellington, seem to come from this same sort of jungle space. I get the sense that it is more of a metaphysical location, this jungle that C.W. feels his influences evoke, a sort of musical space of overlapping genres that bring certain images to mind.
What’s your songwriting process?
C.W. compares the process to ‘decoding a language’. He says ‘Well, I write the music first and then I sing in tongues if that makes sense. I come up with the sounds I like that go with the music, and then I have to translate them.’ It’s a hard thing to do, according to Stoneking, because you have to end up making the English words you come up with, sound like the gibberish ones, and also make some kind of sense.
I read recently that originally you wanted to record an album outside but had to settle for recording indoors. What do you think recording outside would have brought to the record?
He says: ‘Well, a lot of the old music I like was recorded outside- also just living in the country, outside recording always appealed to me. But when we were trying to record there were just not 15 days of good weather in a row. You have to record in an area away from trees and birds, you know, are really loud. You also have to construct wind shelters.’ He says despite all the problems recording outside is great because there is no reverb, and that despite the difficulties he will would definitely want to record outside in the future.
So you’ve got four kids is that right? Two boys and two girls? Are you quite a musical family?
C.W says his wife has sung on previous records but she refused to on Gon’ Boogaloo.He says they have gotten the boys a few guitars but the girls are too young still. But, ‘it’s the eventual dream’.
C.W. Stoneking will be playing at the 2015 Womadelaide festival in February.
Interview by Emma Doherty