After twenty-two years at the helm of New Zealand’s most loved rock band, Shihad frontman Jon Toogood has built up a treasure trove of musical connections. Lucky for us they have now collided, resulting in one hell of a project.
After a couple of years “collecting musical ideas” the multi instrumentalist began work in earnest six months ago on what has become The Adults, a celebration of his work with some of New Zealand’s brightest talents and an iconic Kiwi album in-the-making.
A truly collaborative affair, the project began with a wishlist of artists that Jon “loved, admire and respected”, all of whom jumped at the chance to work with him to create the eclectic tracklisting. The roll call of names on the album reads like a who’s who of New Zealand music, including names as diverse as Shayne Carter (Straitjacket Fits / Dimmer), Anika Moa, Ladi6, Julia Deans, Gary Sullivan (JPSE / Dimmer), Nick Roughan (Skeptics), Ruban & Kody Nielson (The Mint Chicks), Warren Maxwell (Trinity Roots / Little Bushman), Ricki Gooch (Trinity Roots), Redford Grenell (ex-Shapeshifter), Steve Bremner and co-producer and collaborator Tiki Taane. Collectively, the group is now known as ‘The Adults’, and the frontman says that after twenty years in the business it was definitely time that he “learned a whole new way of writing music from these people, who do it so well”. They too learned a whole new musical vocabulary from Toogood, and appear on this album in ways you’ve never heard them before.
Jon began with the idea of taking some already-penned songs to each artist and having them appear as guests on the track, but after beginning his journey that modus operandi soon changed. “I started out thinking ‘I’ll take this person a song and see what I can get them to play on it’,” he explains, “but then everything would go out the window once I got into that room. Each of the artists who worked with me weren’t afraid to challenge me straight away, and being confronted by a musician who had a totally different way of doing things to me to me was such a buzz.”
The end result is a collection of songs that is beautiful in its eclecticism, and will be a surprise for many of Toogood’s – as well as his key collaborators’ - fans. He is particularly proud of his work with Shayne Carter, which he confesses to being “a little nervous about as I’m such a fanboy when it comes to his music”. He adds that he was pleasantly surprised by their similar “writing temperament”, and the end results are magical. A fine example of the duo’s work is the track “Most Important”, a paean to what they have sacrificed in the name of creating music.
The female vocalists who collaborated with Jon on the album are also integral to its success, including Anika Moa with whom he duets on the plaintive and lullaby-esque “Sleep Me Tight”. Good friend Julia Deans is his co-pilot on the optimistic “New Beginning” and “Anniversary Day”, whilst Ladi6 unleashes a burst of sweet soul onto the rocky “Nothing to Lose”, also featuring Shayne Carter.
A magical partnership that has been percolating to differing degrees over the years is the one that Toogood has with co-producer and key collaborator Tiki Taane, “which I knew just had to happen. I have toyed with different musical ideas him for so long that it just wasn’t an option for him to say no when I asked him to work with me on this project with The Adults”. The two have known each other for almost twenty years, and after following his career trajectory over that time Toogood says that Tiki was the only man for the job when the time came to “collecting all of the disparate ideas that I’d assembled from many different locations and transforming them into a seamless and beautiful album”. The feeling of anticipation that he felt upon delivering each new song to Taane’s Woodhill studio north of Auckland was huge, “as I just couldn’t wait to see what he would turn my – admittedly very raw - material into, and to watch it blossom at his hands”.
When asked as to why he chose this point in time – 22 years into Shihad’s career – to unleash his solo efforts upon an unsuspecting world, Toogood says that it was all in the timing. “I finally had some downtime from my band and it seemed like the perfect time to nail this record,” explains the singer. “This project has been an ongoing musical journey for me for some time now and one that I’m so proud to unleash at long last.”
“It was a real exercise for me in letting go of the reins and trusting other people’s ideas, and as a result, the songs on here are so much more than I could ever have imagined. I feel so good about finally letting my guard down and creating this beautiful beast.”
THE ADULTS – THE ADULTS - 20 JUNE 2011