It's no secret that at Steppin' into Tomorrow we love what Arp Frique (Niels) is doing. It's thanks to their colourful music I discovered Ronald Snijders, dove into Cape Verdean music and danced my ass off to their live performances over the past years.
Obviously, I got very excited (an understatement) when I heard about an upcoming album through Antal's Dekmantel Connects DJ set. This week we finally got a taste of the upcoming album when certified summer tune 'Paa' hit the streaming platforms. Mariseya's beautiful vocals in Twi (Ghanaian) are a match made in heaven with the myriad of synthesizers you hear.
We had the utmost pleasure in having a quick chat with Niels about his new project 'The Seed'. Even though it was short, we sure learned a lot about Arp Frique & Family, historical influences, and the fascinating elements to his creative process in actualizing 'Paa' and the album.
I'm still a bit confused. What's the difference between Arp Frique and Arp Frique & Family?
Arp Frique is my alter ego and on the album versions, it's me recording all the instruments. When we play live, with the band ('the Family') you'll hear the same songs but played differently. Every artist has their unique story and personal touch. So it sounds different from the record but that's on purpose! We never do the same show either. We always mix it up.
Can you tell us a bit about The Seed? It's your upcoming album but also a movie? What's the story here?
My first album was created almost by accident. Antal & Kees Heus heard some of my demos and told me I should do something with them. So I recorded the album. Nos Magia (with Cape Verdean legend Americo Brito on vocals) was one of the last tracks of the album. We started touring with the band and I realized that I could do a lot more!
This album has been in the making for 2 years or so. It's a bit like painting - autonomous art you could say. Layer by layer I'm building the tracks and I get a sense of what kind of vocal I want. Then I look for the right person to do the actual singing. For this album, I worked with Americo Brito, Mariseya, Orlando Julius, and the singers from The Scorpios, a Sudanese band.
The accompanying movie is a bit of a mix. It's got all the tracks in there but it's also an autobiography of my life. The backdrop is the turbulent past 2 years we've lived with Black Lives Matter, Corona, Trump, etc. The movie is a bit hysterical, trippy, and weird. I hope that in the future, people will look at it and think "that was a crazy time". The video clip of 'Paa' is part of the movie as well. Other parts of the movie include a lot of VHS recordings from the tours we did with the band. From Ibiza to Indonesia, London, Zurich.
Both album and movie will be released together in September and now we're slowly putting out some stuff. It's been very complicated with the pandemic to get the timing right. The live performance calendar is starting to take shape but has been very uncertain for a long time.
What influenced your music & art? The Seed has a very 80's look and feel - a bit different from 'A Colorful World'.
You can hear a lot of disco influences on the first album. But music trends come and go. In the DJ world as well, people started listening to a bit more electronic music and I have all those machines and synths so this album definitely has an 80's feel to it.
My friend Jasper aka Djosa says that I make "Pop music from another decade and continent" and I think that's a good description. I've had other influences as well, when I was young it was mostly classics like Stevie Wonder, Herbie Hancock, Jimi Hendrix.
I definitely heard you channel your inner Jimi on the last third of 'Paa'. Some sick guitar action!
That's funny as well, by the way, the drop in 'Paa' (about 2/3 into the song) was a bit of a happy accident. The music was playing in this loop and all of a sudden it came back in so I just kept going! It definitely felt like something a DJ would do with a filter or something.
To come back to the influences, it's often not a conscious choice but all of it does end up in your toolbox as a musician. There are even some East African influences in there. Certain tonal scales, some synths. Somalia and Ethiopia have a colonial history with Italy and a lot of synths were made there. If you're into the gear, you'll notice that on some tracks.
Maybe one last question for the gear heads - what synths did you use for the track / album?
For the album, I used the Roland D50, Yamaha DX7, Farfisa Soundmaker, Farfisa Syntorchestra, Solina String Ensemble, Roland Juno106, Roland SH2000, Arp ProDGX. For 'Paa' I used the Yamaha DX7, Roland D50, Juno106, Roland SH2000 & Farfisa Syntorchestra.
You can watch the video clip & listen to 'Paa' on your favourite streaming platform and preorder the album via Rush Hour. You can also catch Arp Frique & Family live this summer at a festival near you, so keep an eye out for the line-up announcements.
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