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Troy Kingi on his new album 'Black Sea, Golden Ladder'

Troy Kingi has reached the halfway point of this 10/10/10 series, with his fifth album ‘Black Sea, Golden Ladder.’ Nina Lesperance from SOUNZ caught up with the Hongi Slicker AKA Troy to talk about his new album.

Ko Matawhaura te Maunga
Ko Rotoiti te Roto
Ko Hinekura te Marae
Ko Ngāti Pikiao te hapu
Ko TeArawa te Waka
Ko TeArawa te Iwi hoki

Congratulations on your new album ‘Black Sea Golden Ladder.’ This new album is a Folk inspired album. The lyrics within the songs on this album tell a story, and sound a lot more personal than that of your other records. Does each song on this album reflect a different stage of your life?

Yes. The initial concept of the project was to spend time writing poems about different phases in life, things that the majority of us could relate to but also to help people realise that although we have our own personal stories and narratives happening all [the] time - we all have at least a few common threads that we have all been through in some point in time.

The poems never really got off the ground (the curse of being too hypercritical) so instead I had mini wānanga about each topic and each of those became songs.

 This album marks the halfway point for the 10/10/10 series. Do you think as your albums progress your writing style has changed?

Without a doubt. Every Album has its challenges that require a lot of research, a lot of learning and in some cases unlearning, for instance, how you play guitar or sing in one style doesn’t exactly translate to another genre, when you are wanting to be genuine with each project you have to leave your ego at the door. What made one album cool sometimes has to stay with that album. That can be scary, but there in lies the challenge and my whole reason for this, to find the ngako or the magic mojo that’s gonna help make each and every project stand on its own two feet regardless of what’s come before it. 

I’m constantly trying to reinvent myself, put new feathers in my cap, learn new tricks but at the core of it you are always gonna be yourself, you can never fully remove who you are from what you are doing, and I think that’s the common thread through all these different styles, you will always hear and feel my wairua.

You worked with Delaney Davidson on this album. What was it like working with him and how do you think he influenced the album and it’s overall sound?

Majorly. I knew very little about this style and he is intrenched in it. I don’t know if he’s ever worked in a super genre specific setting before, this was probably super new territory for him too - we were both finding our feet at the same time, for that reason I probably couldn't call this album entirely folk. But what folk really? Essentially music by the people for the people. Mōteatea could be classed as our indigenous folk music.

It was a pleasure working with him, it was a first time for me not writing an album by myself in the comfort of the Taitokerau. All of those things, writing in a different genre, in a collaboration with someone who brings their own history and skills and also doing it in a different town, all that attributed to it sounding the way it does. 

I do feel like this is the first time in my 10/10/10 series that it achieved what I’ve been wanting it to achieve since the very beginning and that’s to have an album and it’s predecessor sound like they are at two separate ends of the musical spectrum.

 You went to Te Aute College in Hawkes Bay. How did going to this Māori boarding school influenced your music and have you written any songs about the stage in your life where you attend boarding school?

I loved my time at Te Aute. I think it’s influenced me by simply making me the person I am today which in turn has influenced everything I do. I learnt independence here, found my love of kapahaka here and also discipline. I’m Yet to write a song about TA [Te Aute College] but there are still many songs to be created.

 The title of this album ‘Black Sea Golden Ladder,’ is very contrasting, is there a story behind this name or something that inspired it?

The initial working title was ‘A 75+ Year Trip to Perpetual Sleep’ - quite a buzzy way of saying ‘life’ or ‘Our Time on Earth’. After writing the Album the title just felt wrong so I chose a lyric from the song about Birth (You in my Arms) ‘climb down that golden ladder’ which is a reference to new babies ascending from a magical parallel universe via a golden ladder, and Black Sea is an ode to the song about death (Sea of Death). 

Birth to Death - representing time, I put the Black Sea before the Golden Ladder because it just sounded cooler hahaha

This album was recorded with Matairangi Mahi Toi artist residency hosted by the Governor-General and Massey University. This must have been an awesome opportunity, did you find that it added pressure to the project?

No added pressure, it actually was more a relief than anything, gave us a solid base to work from and a surreal environment to be creative in. They were very accommodating. 

You can purchase 'Black Sea Golden Ladder' from the SOUNZ Shop 

Check out Troy's Instagram for information on his upcoming tour