The Kaje talks “War In My Kitchen” to Direct Influence

Having just finished a tour of Australia and New Zealand, Melbourne’s Direct Influence headed straight back to Western Australia for a second sell-out stint. Not a bad close to a year that has seen them welcomed in everywhere from Vietnam to Sweden. As the dynamic duo prepare for a much-deserved break, The Kaje caught up with guitarist Marcus Ross to find out more about their hectic year…

Sounds like you’ve been a busy bee. How is it all going?

Not too bad bro. Just driving down to the country right now. I am actually going down to tidy up my family home as my brother is coming in from Indonesia. He hasn’t been in Australia for two years. He is flying in tomorrow, so I thought I might make the house look nice for him.

Sounds like it has been a busy year. Did you expect it to all take off for you in 2010?

Yeah man, well, we wanted to do everything in our power to make sure it would take off to that degree. The aim was always to basically tour heavily and bring the live show to as many places a possible. Basically to bring the party to wherever they want us.

So when did you first get into music?

When I was about 11 years old and my cousin moved over to UK and left his guitar behind for me. I learnt guitar through playing in a band with mates. We learnt all our instruments at the same time. So I played my first live gig at 12, we came second in a battle of the bands or something. Ever since that I knew it was the direction I wanted to take.

Where does Direct Influence’s hip hop meets reggae sound come from?

It was when I met the singer Dylan. He came over from South Auckland, New Zealand, from a family heavily who was influenced by reggae in South Auckland which was heavily influenced by hip hop. When he and I met, I was more into the rock than hip hop, but we started writing together it just happened naturally that we started getting those elements.

When me and Dylan met I was 14 and then I was very much a rock boy. But over the last decade I have got very much into hip hop and reggae. It is hard to say. The conclusion I draw at the end of the day is a song is a song, no matter what genre it comes under, if it is a good song it will draw the same emotions regardless.

“War In My Kitchen” is a loaded album title, what made you choose it?

“War In My Kitchen”, which is obviously based off the title track. It was basically, a reflection from our viewpoint of the media these days. I know how cliched that sounds, but what I mean is just even in your own living room, you can’t escape, even if you sit down to watch a soap or a sitcom, there are always newsflashes. It is usually about war as the media likes to ham that sort of thing up as it usually sells newspapers in a sense. You just can’t escape even if you just want a relaxing night in your lounge or your kitchen, you are going to be faced with these images of war, whether you like it or not.

The album is a split between sending out a social message and a battle with the new age media, but about 50% of the album are love songs and break-up songs. So “War In My Kitchen” can kind of be applied to that too, if you see what I mean? It is a relative title really.

If you had to describe your sound to a stranger what would you call it?

I would definitely have to say a reggae, hip hop with elements of electro and rock. At that point people would be looking at us going what the fuck!?! At that point, I would probably invite them to a show to check it out.

What song would you recommend they listen to from as an introduction?

Personally I’d like them to listen to the last track “Moving On”, just because it gives a bit of an example of how we can mash the genres up. It is the perfect cross between the electro rock into the hard-hitting dub-reggae. I am quite happy to stay in the territory we are in. I am quite happy with the reggae/hip hop sound with a little bit of a rock tinge. That is definitely the direction we want to go for in the next album.

Who inspires you musically?

It is really funny, we always kind of go through little phases of what is in our CDs players. Right now its Temper Trap, so I’ll go I want to write a song like that. We always bring new elements into it. It is always our spin on whats coming out. What bands we listen changes every week.

The album features some pretty high profile collaborations, how did they come about?

EQ, he was actually working with the same producer we were at the time. When we came to the table with “Final Word”, which is kind of a scathing break-up song, the producer suggested EQ, who had just gone through a very shocking split with his fiance. He seemed like the perfect man for the job and he was. I love the verse EQ put in there. In regards to Dan Sultan, “For My People” Dylan wrote. He is a Maori, an indigenous New Zealander and he basically wrote that song as a message to all his people. He is sick of seeing them working as security guards and forklift drivers.

Dan Sultan, being an indigenous Australian, Dylan just said Dan Sultan needs to be on this track as indigenous Australian and Kiwi sending a message to their people. Fortunately our producer had worked with Dan Sultan before, so we were able to get in touch with him too. He was well up for the track.

Is there anyone else you’d really like to work with?

There is an artist from New Zealand called Tiki Taane. We have definitely got our eye on him. We’d love to work with him. We just love his sound and what he does to the whole reggae/hip hop thing. I’d love to bring some of his elements into our music. There is also a drum ‘n bass DJ called Shock One, who we’d love to get on board for a couple of remixes. I reckon our sound with his touch on it would really come alive.

You’ve spent a lot of the year on the road, what can people expect from a Direct Influence gig?

When you come and see Direct Influence, you have to expect a hard-hitting show. We have minimal breaks and many breakdowns. Our aim is to get every last person on the dancefloor, even if there is only three people. Basically we don’t give people much opportunity to have a conversation with the person next to them as they should be focusing on dancing to the tunes.

On the performance front, is there anyone you aspire to be like?

I really like what The Cat Empire did, in that they are constantly on the road and reaching out to audiences in the most interesting places all over the world. Whether they are doing a fraternity tour across the US or a tour through underground bars in Eastern Europe. I really like that. I just would like to go to the most interesting places to connect with the most interesting people throughout the world.

So it more about your music touching people than widespread acclaim?

Definitely, touching the people. I am sure you would make a lot more money if you r song is constantly played on the radio or your video is constantly on TV, but I don’t think you get the same satisfaction out of it while you are sitting in your apartment. You don’t get a gauge on how people are digging your sound. Whereas if you are out there playing festivals across the world, you really get a first hand gauge on whats going on. Europe is going to be our first port of call before we try and tackle to US market. We want to get over for a European summer. It is going to be special.

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