Niq Reefman: interview
“Good Times make good memories and Bad Times make good stories”, is the very quote the unique and talented Australian song writer, multi- instrumentalist, story teller, singer, Niq Reefman would love to be remembered for. “A Selection of Musical Tales”, is his recent new release, encompassing nearly all genres ever invented, including: Reggae, Folk, Jazz, Cabaret, Electronic, and Comedy. Eileen Shapiro interviews for Louder Than War.
“Fans refer to him as: “Tim Minchin, flying a trumpet through a thunderstorm”, and as a “One-man -musical”. He travels to festivals, wine bars, theaters, schools, and anywhere he can accomplish his mission of “encouraging the embracement of culture that enriches our lives”.
I found Niq very unusual, in the best way possible. He seemed to turn our conversation into many different stories, instead if just a question and answer type of chat. He even offered a live ukulele concert via Skype. Niq has a lot to say musically and a lot to offer the world talent and entertainment wise…”
Louder Than War: So what’s with the 12 and a half hour time zone difference in parts of Australia, as opposed to the whole hour?
“I’m not sure. I haven’t looked into that, that’s a good question. I find that sometimes the answer to good questions are not as interesting as the questions themselves. Sometimes it’s just better that you make up your own story.”
Louder Than War: That’s why I like your music, you make up up your own stories it seems like.
“I do use a bit of artistic license, but a lot of them are really based on true stories like the “Mooshiek Man”. The song is based on a ridiculous thing that happened to me just when I was just down inside my brothers place in Sydney. He had to change the babies nappies, so I was thinking I didn’t have to be near that so I went outside his place and was playing my accordion. Next thing you know this guy sticks his head in my window, with this look as if he had seen the devil himself. He goes, ” Are you alright mate”? I said, ” Yeah, I’m fine”. I think he was expecting more than that. Then he says, ” This is really weird”. The whole time during his silence I thought to myself that he was the one who stuck his head into the window, you’re going to be the one to start the conversation. Finally he said, “This is a good neighborhood, the kids are coming home from school soon”. I didn’t know what to say to that so I said, ” Well yeah, my bother says it’s a good neighborhood”. He said, ” if you’re going to be smart, I’ll call the cops on you”. I told him that there was no need to do that, and that I would just move down the road. He wasn’t very happy but, I went down the road and the next thing I knew, the cops arrived. They did a background check to make sure that I wasn’t a criminal, and they asked what the story was. I told them that I was just playing music outside my brother’s house, and that this guy was totally freaked out because I was playing accordion. It turns out that guy was the town drunk.”
Louder Than War: Oh no!
“Yeah. I thought I can’t let that situation go without creating a song about it. So I thought how could I make the music man sounds scary. Really one of the harmless groups of people out there are musicians. There aren’t many killer psychopath musicians out there. So I turned it into the “Mooshiek Man”.”
Louder Than War: That’s a cool and funny story.
“This sort of thing happens to me traveling around. Traveling around on the road weird things happen, and it’s great because, sometimes it’s quite uncomfortable and other times it’s just magical, but it inspires song. Sometimes I make things up and sometimes it’s quite close to the truth.”
Louder Than War: What do you think about while you are writing a song?
“The first thing is that there’s no one way that I write a song. I call myself an experimentalist. I love trying out new things, so sometimes the song is inspired by something crazy that has happened. What I am thinking of writing with a song is, how can I bring this situation to life, and paint the picture for people so they can sort of see it the way I saw it. Other times there is next to nothing in my head, and it’s just completely an instrumental, and it’s just coming out. Each note each cool one comes as it does, and follows the next one. I would say that in those moments I’m in a state of flow. It’s just coming to me and I’m not really thinking much at all.”
Louder Than War: Do you consider yourself an out going person or an introverted person?
“I would say I’m definitely a healthy mixture of both. When I was a kid I was quite outgoing. Technically speaking I think that you are an introvert when you can recharge alone. By that definition I’m an introvert because I definitely recharge in my alone time. Too much time spent around rowdy people can drain me. Having said that, I love spending time with people, and I love the dinner party vibe, not the loud noisy vibe. I love lots of people around, socially meeting new people. That’s one great thing about the music, meeting people.”
Louder Than War: Any touring plans, maybe to the U.S. Or the U.K.?
“I think that would be fantastic! I’ve got a couple of friends who have done that. I resisted in the beginning because I was thinking, “well, where are all our good musicians going? They’re all just going off to the states or Europe. I was thinking they were all complaining that there was no culture in Australia, and that’s because you are all going away. I thought I’d stay here and see if I could do something about the culture here, and people are loving it. I’ve got a bit of a European thing going, playing the trumpet and the accordion simultaneously. I would definitely love to go to the states as well, yes.”
Louder Than War: How many Instruments do you play?
“Probably too many. Well I don’t play violin.”
Louder Than War: That’s interesting when you can name the instrument that you don’t play because there are less than those that you do play.
“They are getting fewer and fewer. I play a lot of instruments, and what happens if someone will come over to me and tell me about an instrument that their grandfather played. They would just wish that somebody would play that instrument. They ask me to play it, and this happens to me, and it’s very hard to say no. The only problem is I’m running out of space in my van. The ones that I play the most would be the trumpet, the accordion, I consider my voice to be an instrument, lots of whistles, and flutes, and the ukulele. The ukulele pays for my food. I don’t actually buy breakfast lunch or dinner anywhere because I know that in any café or restaurant, if I offer them a song on the ukulele, in exchange for a meal.”
Louder Than War: You used to be a wine salesman, correct?
“Yes, I use to do wine tastings, actually I’m going to be getting back into that again, because I really enjoyed it. The reason I stopped doing it was mainly because the company I was working for they were all about sell more, sell more, sell more, sell more…and I was performing better than anyone in the country. I wanted to look after my customers and not keep hassling them. My old boss has a new company now and would love it if I worked for him. So I will start doing winetasting’s again and probably serenade people in the meantime.”
Louder Than War: There is nothing better than wine and music.
“They work very well together.”
Louder Than War: Might there be something that you would like to say to your fans and followers?
“I’d say that the most meaningful performances I’ve had as a musician, we’re the ones where I’ve played festivals and house parties. Those are the ones where people are really listening. They are really there for the music. So for the fans and people who are already dedicated to my music and who are following me, I just sent out a newsletter yesterday, and it’s the storytelling, that’s what my music is about. So I’d like to tell my fans that the stories will keep coming. The personal performances, that’s what I’m all about. I’m going to keep doing that and I will be finding more interesting ways to do that. Particularly I’m keen to be getting more feedback from my fans, because it’s a challenge for me. I like to keep everybody happy. I like to do stuff that I like and stuff that they like.”
Louder Than War: Is there particular song that you like performing more than the rest?
“I’d say that being a multi-genre album…. The reason why it’s a multi-genre album is because I get bored playing the same music all the time. Sometimes I like to do something simple, so the song, “Fishing”, really works well for that. It’s simple musically in the lyrics are really simple too, even though it has a second meaning. Probably my favorite at the moment is, “Storm at Sea”. I love the energy of that one. I don’t get to perform it very often because I actually do need a band, minimum a trio. The novelty certainly hasn’t worn off.”
Louder Than War: Did you ever see a kangaroo?
“I’ve seen plenty of kangaroos. They are all over the place in Australia. Actually up north I haven’t seen many. I’m in a bit of a sabbatical. I’m still playing music but I’m spending a lot more time writing music and learning new songs. Now I have a question for you; why is it that everybody in the US seems to be so interested in particular with kangaroos?”
Louder Than War: We don’t have them here and they are really cool animals.
“There’s not many animals that just go bouncing around. We’ve even got bouncing rats. Very strange, why are all the bouncing animals in Australia? There is a little mouse that bounces around on its back legs. I never thought about that, yeah Australia is the land of the bouncing animals. There’s a song in that.”
Louder Than War: Yeah, definitely a great song title.
“Yeah, and what I love is quoting old folk songs as well when it’s relevant.”
Louder Than War: Is there anything that you want to speak about that we haven’t yet?
“I want to encourage anybody who likes my music to get in touch with me, I’m a very approachable person. I keep in touch by my newsletter or any other way. I’m pretty quick to respond, i’m pretty keen to come to the US and if anyone has got any suggestions about what sort of interesting tunes and melodies I should check out, I’m so keen for that.”
For more info on Niq:
All words by Eileen Shapiro. More of Eileen’s writing can be found in her author’s archive.