New Zealand native Nick Jackman, who also goes by the moniker Stomping Nick for his one-man punk blues project, entered the scene in the not too distant past like a sonic tempest furiously moving through the present musical landscape. With his well-timed percussion, which consists of a standard kick drum, snare rig and hi-hat, it only further increases the explosive quality of his sound. But it is all of the elements of his sound together that make it what it is–-the dirty, fuzz-driven guitar, the frantic wailing of his harmonica, and the punk snarl and bite of his vocal delivery.
It wasn’t all that long ago that Jackman self-released his debut album under his full moniker Stomping Nick and His Blues Grenade, titled Punk Blues One Man Band. Ten songs in all, Nick split them up between covers and originals, though not evenly, as the album has a bit more cover material. Be that as it may, he gives them all a “blues grenade” touch, laying ‘em down his own way, thus creating memorable renditions of songs like “Orange Blossom Special” and “Black Betty.” Punk Blues One Man Band would have been better, decidedly, had Jackman included more Stomping Nick originals. Otherwise, it’s a damn good debut, with a signature sound that is tight, energetic, marked by solid grooves, and as big and loud as a few pipe bombs strapped to a petrol can.
Recently I had both the opportunity and pleasure of interviewing Stomping Nick. What follows is the content from that interview in its entirety.
To begin, as is usually case in these interviews, I like to open in an introductory fashion, so as to provide the readers with a better understanding of the artist. In other words, who is Stomping Nick, not just as a musician and singer/songwriter but also as an individual, as a human being of this mad world in which we live?
My name is Nick Jackman. I was born and raised in the small port community of Lyttelton in Christchurch, New Zealand. Lyttelton has become gentrified in recent years and is quite a vibrant place with lots of artists and musicians who have moved there, but when I grew up it was a rougher, working class town. I currently live over the hill in Christchurch city. There are a lot of active fault lines around this area which have only come to life in the last year or so. A significant earthquake killed about two hundred people earlier this year and much of the city is destroyed, buckled and bent with many areas now abandoned. The earthquakes have fucked with people’s heads but I’m feeling ok about things now, and I’m living in an ok part of the city. The shaking has died down lately after more than 7,000 aftershocks, although we all appreciate that another big one could happen at any time. Live and love while you can because you could be taken out at any time.
Music has been the only constant thing in my life. It has got to the point where I feel more comfortable on the stages I play than off them. When I’m on stage doing my thing, presiding over an audience drinking, laughing, dancing and living in the moment, I can think of nothing better to do with my life, and I probably will do nothing better with my life.
I can spend a lot of time on my own and I appreciate my own company, which helps if you are a one-man band. I can usually entertain myself so often I don’t bother going out to be entertained by others. I tend to drift around networks of friends and acquaintances, regularly going underground for periods of time when few people see me. I was married to a woman who was very kind to me. However, we drifted apart and got divorced, which ironically helped to preserve a good relationship. I’m now with another woman who is also very kind to me.
I am particularly interested in history and politics, so I generally try to keep a weather eye open to our troubled times. I don’t hold a lot of hope for humankind to develop the political ability to control the problems it is creating. I believe a lot of ideas and institutions are creating more problems than they solve. Don’t get me started…
As a one-man band enthusiast with an undying fascination for the scene in general, I am always interested in why an artist chooses, rather than joining or putting together a full band lineup, to go it alone and do the one-man band thing. Why did you?
I started doing the one-man band thing in 2003, but it was as a side project to other bands I was playing in. In 2009 I made the decision that this was what I was going to concentrate my energy and resources on. I think I chose to go this way because my one-man band act is a more self-contained unit whereby I only have to rely on myself, and I thought it was more special than anything I had done before. It’s also such a buzz making this big sound all on my own.
I have tried to get a band like the Blues Grenade together with other people in the past but found it hard to find people who could understand the primitive blues aesthetic and also had a good work ethic, communication skills, respect, tenacity, etc. When I got to the point where I could do it all myself I was very pleased. I also see so many bands struggle financially because the money they make doesn’t support the number of people making the music, so I think small units are often where it’s at if you want to make a profit margin.
What instruments do you employ in order to compose and perform your Stomping Nick and His Blues Grenade songs?
I was mainly playing a Rickenbacker 340 through a Fender Deluxe Reverb with distortion and overdrive pedals but my guitar sound has changed. Currently I’m playing an Eastwood P-90 Special and a Godin Radiator. I also have an acoustic Maton six string. My guitar amp is now a Fender Blues Junior. I play harmonicas through a Strnad pickup into an old Masco amp. For drums, I play mostly kick and snare with occasional hi-hat and tambourine. Sometimes I might use just a stompbox if I’m doing a stripped-down gig somewhere.
Your sound, as a blues and rock’n’roll hybrid, no doubt has a number of influences on both sides. In fact, it seems as if you have somewhat of an affinity for North Mississippi hill country blues, as well as for primitive rock’n’roll and dirty street punk. What inspired you to twist traditional music out of shape by creating your own take on blues punk?
I listen a lot to Sun and Chess recordings, and similar stuff from that era, as well as pre-WW2 blues and field recordings. Old-time folk, bluegrass, skiffle and 1940s/50s honky tonk also make their way into the sound. Blues people who have had a big influence on me include John Lee Hooker, Doctor Ross, Hound Dog Taylor, Sonny Terry, Little Walter, Howlin’ Wolf, both Sonny Boy Williamsons, and Joe Hill Louis, but the list could go on and on. I know what you mean about the North Mississippi hill country sound but I haven’t listened to a great deal of it, and I suppose I arrived at the same destination via some other route, or I’ve absorbed it through secondary sources. As you guessed, I also listen to a lot of rock from different eras, both pop and underground. Out of all the hundreds of rock bands I like, The Gun Club would have had the biggest influence on me. Jeffrey Lee Pierce is the prophet.
I’ve always liked raw, distorted sounds, and I guess it has always seemed natural to mix blues with dirty rock & roll because blues is the root of it all. When I was putting the band together I had in mind something that sounded kind of like a Chicago blues band but totally not like that at all. I like the way those British bands from the 1960s took the blues and made it something else and I wanted to do my own take on that energy and attitude.
Punk Blues One Man Band, your latest release under your Stomping Nick and His Blues Grenade moniker, is a solid album with fair balance between original material and cover songs. Is it your one-man band debut, or have there been other releases earlier in your omb endeavor?
While I’ve played many gigs and spent hours honing my craft, this is my first one-man-band release. It has been very well received and I’ll have more out soon.
Though you are not the first singer/songwriter I’ve interviewed from New Zealand, you are the first one-man band. That really says something, since I have come across a lot of one-man bands, and since I have interviewed nearly two-dozen of them from all over the world. What’s the music scene like in New Zealand, not just with one-man bands but independent and underground bands and singer/songwriters in general?
I don’t know of a lot of one-man-bands here. Delaney Davidson would likely be the most well known to your readers. Also, there are a few others connected with the Stink Magnetic scene: Tape Man, Boss Christ and Bad Evil. There are one or two other one-man bands I have met or played with, but Boss Christ is the only other one-man band I know playing dirty tunes to the traditional kick drum and hi-hat accompaniment. Sometimes people come up to me at shows and say they feel inspired to try a one-man band act too. Maybe something is brewing right now in little old New Zealand.
Music communities in New Zealand tend to be quite close-knit, supportive and a bit incestuous (figuratively speaking). There are a lot of talented artists here working in and between all kinds of genres and I am amazed at the amount of talented songwriting that goes on. It is disappointing that there is not a big population locally to support the many musicians so they often have to try their luck overseas.
What have been some of your most memorable touring/gig moments to date?
I generally have good memories from all my gigs. I’m lucky not to have had a crap one yet. I suppose lately I have been thinking of the shows I performed in some great local venues that the earthquakes have destroyed. It’s weird having fond memories of places that suddenly cease to exist. My favourite venue was a small basement bar in my hometown of Lyttelton, called El Santo. It felt like a second home to me, owned by a great guy who has a real affinity for primitive blues, trashy rock & roll, one-man-bands etc.
When I’m touring I just love being on my own on the road – I feel very relaxed and centered. I enjoy the ride, the headspace and places along the way. Sometimes I just recall traveling to or from a gig in another town and it gives me a good feeling, so the journey can be as memorable as the show itself.
Is there anything of note coming up for Stomping Nick? Tours? Special performances? Writing new material? Recording projects? Etc?
I kind of withdrew from the world and wrote a bunch of songs after the February earthquake, so that period is now starting to bear fruit as the songs get arranged, performed and recorded. I have a set recorded from a recent gig, which is almost ready for release, probably as an album sometime soon. I’ve also just spent a couple of weeks in the studio recording a bunch of tunes, and I am thinking about how I want to release these.
I’ve been getting interest from enthusiasts in Europe and the UK, so I would like to tour over there, and the USA has always appealed to me as a tour destination. However, I need to plan everything more. It also makes sense to start playing in Australia seeing it is close to New Zealand. I’m always keen to hear from promoters, etc, who might be interested in working with me, so please feel free to get in touch.
Lastly, if there’s anything I failed to cover, or if there’s anything you would like to discuss or express, please feel free to do so now. The floor is all yours, Nick.
I’d just like to say I’m enjoying your One-Man Band Series. It can be an overlooked genre, so I’m genuinely impressed to see a committed music journalist picking up on a potentially under-rated scene – nice work.