by Joshua (J.Smo) Smotherman November 15, 2016
In this interview feature, we speak with Nick about the new EP, influences, surviving the digital age and much more.
Where are you from and what style of music do you create? (In your own words, not necessarily in marketing terms or by popular genre classifications.)
I am from New Zealand, based in the city of Christchurch. I like to play punk blues, which combines my love of old blues with my love of primitive garage rock and raw sounds like distortion and noise. Most of the time I perform as a one-man-band, singing and playing guitar, harmonica and drums all at the same time.
What led you down this path of music and what motivates you to stay the course?
It’s never been something I’ve had to force myself to do. I have been interested in melody and rhythm since before I can remember and later I developed a strong appreciation of noise. When I was five, my first instrument was a pair of bongo drums and since then I have always sung and played something. I’m just hooked on the power and beauty of sound waves and their vibrations and I love how you can make endless new combinations of these waves and mix them with language. So it’s not hard for me to keep going with this. I don’t really have any other comparable interests in my life, and I have never felt motivated to develop any other skillset outside of music that I could make a decent living from.
Who or what are your biggest influences when it comes to your creativity?
Old blues is a big influence and endless source of inspiration. I listen regularly to a lot of old recordings from the 1920s to the 1960s. There are so many blues artists I love but it’s probably worth mentioning one in particular, Joe Hill Louis, who was a Memphis one-man-band in the 1950s. My one-man-band act is based a lot on his, but my sound is much different. I have also been influenced by some of the great rock stylists of the 1960s, in particular, The Stooges, The Rolling Stones, The Velvet Underground and The Doors. I love raw, primitive punk sounds and bands that combine punk and blues. The Gun Club is a big influence on me for doing this and I totally dig bands like The White Stripes, Soledad Brothers and The Gories. I also like the take on punk blues that came out of Melbourne, Australia – artists like Nick Cave and particularly Hugo Race.
How is your new release different than previous ones? Did you set out to accomplish anything specific?
“Shake For Your Cake”, my second album, took much longer to record. It was 2011 when I started. During that year, Christchurch experienced thousands of earthquakes that destroyed much of the city and changed people’s lives forever. The quakes messed a lot with people’s heads and everyone reacted differently to them. I experienced a strong feeling of being physically and mentally unsettled, which did not help the production process. I continued making recordings over the next few years but it didn’t seem the right time to release them, although I continued to perform live. For part of this time I lived in my van, traveling around New Zealand and putting on shows, mostly in the small towns. I even tried living in Australia for a brief period before deciding New Zealand is where it’s at for me. Eventually, the unsettled feeling passed and I started living permanently back in Christchurch. That’s when it seemed right to finish the album and release it.
Although technical ability in music is nowhere near as important to me as feel and emotion I have tried to push the boundaries of what is possible with the one-man-band art form. On “Shake For Your Cake” I was trying to demonstrate how my ability to play all the instruments at once had progressed, although my skill level is even higher now since that album was produced. Both my albums are live in the studio recordings but “Shake For Your Cake” does have a track at the end with overdubs.
Where can we follow you online and hear more music?
Adding further to the already ridiculously extensive list of talented musicians who call Lyttelton home is one man band Nick Jackman, aka Stomping Nick. Jackman sings and plays harmonica, guitar and drums all at the same time – without the aid of loop pedals – fusing garage punk with rhythm and blues. He talked with Sammy Jay Dawson.
Receiving a pair of bongo drums as a present aged five, Nick Jackman remembers obsessively practising along to an album of African drumming and gumboot dance music.
Singing in choirs at school, he soon turned his hand to piano and in his teenage years guitar and harmonica, soaking up everything from punk to blues. He cites acts like The Stooges, The Sex Pistols, Howling Wolf, Elmore James and John Lee Hooker as early influences.
“I was born and raised in Lyttelton. Back in those days there wasn’t really a lot of the artists and musicians you associate now with Lyttelton. It was more a working class port.
“For a long time there I didn’t really do much with music, I couldn’t really get my act together because I had this problem with alcohol. Eventually I stopped drinking and was able to play professionally. In the early ’90s I started playing with the late Ken Nichol, an absolutely brilliant mandolin player, perhaps one of the best to ever live in NZ. I’ve never really seen anyone play like he did, he shredded it.
“Everyone considered Ken the wandering minstrel sort. Often he lived homeless, slept in his car, slept on people’s floors, mostly connected to his own alcohol dependency. He’d go around Canterbury travelling around the wops and small rural towns entertaining people and bringing music where it didn’t normally travel.”
Jackman teamed up with Nichol over several years, playing everywhere around Canterbury.
“We played a style we dubbed ‘Bush Thrash’, a rural mixture of blues, bluegrass, traditional folk, rock and just random things thrown in. During this time is when I mastered playing harmonica and guitar simultaneously. They say being in a band is kind of like a marriage, and just like the cliché we’d break up and get back together on and off over the years.”
Around 2002 Jackman started playing with local Christchurch band The Black Velvet Band on drums, occasionally playing harmonica. Hesitating to call himself a drummer, he identifies his uneasy alliance with the drum kit as the final piece of his journey to becoming a one-man band.
“One day I was sitting behind the drum kit playing guitar, then I started stomping on the bass drum and instantly I realised it was this really big sound for one person. I really thought I was onto something – though at the time I thought I was the first person to ever do it. I soon learnt that there was this huge tradition of one man bands.
“In fact a lot of the artists I was listening to and was influenced by were doing it that way, people like Joe Hill Lewis and Hassel Atkins. They had this really dirty, primitive thing going on, but I always thought there were at least two or three people. So I started studying it and taking it quite seriously.”
By 2009 Stomping Nick was Jackman’s sole musical focus, frequenting venues across NZ, in particular Lyttelton’s Wunderbar. The following year he released a debut album titled ‘Punk Blues One Man Band’. Recorded completely live in the studio by Rob Mayes, it’s a raw mixture of country, blues, folk and garage rock, referencing everyone from Sonny Boy Williamson to The Doors.
“I started working on ‘Shake For Your Cake’ around the same time as the earthquakes, which had left me quite physically and mentally unsettled – which greatly hindered the recording process. I did a lot of different recordings over the years, so this album is really the result of several years, three different studios and three different engineers.”
Like his first record, ‘Shake For Your Cake’ is the sound of one man live in the studio, with the exception of Somebody’s Somebody, recorded with fellow one man band and wizard’s apprentice, Ari Freeman, aka The Blues Professor.
“We’ve done a lot of shows in Christchurch with the troika of Li’l Chuck, Blues Professor and myself, and people really seem to love it. I guess it’s really bizarre if you’ve never seen it before. Often I’ll be playing and see people in the audience talking amongst themselves, then pat their heads and rub their bellies,” he laughs.
“For the next record I want to step away from the one-man format, no limitations or constraints. Have overdubs and other musicians. It’s going to be a different sound, bigger, fuzzier, a big dirty wall of blues. I think it’s the logical step and time to shed the one-man thing, though I will continue to perform that way live. It’s just so easy. I can put my gear in a van, put my bed in and drive around NZ playing, rock into a town, play, then on to the next one.”
"SHAKE FOR YOUR CAKE" REVIEW IN NEW ZEALAND MUSICIAN JUNE/JULY 2016
The new album from Christchurch’s one-man raw blues act Stomping Nick, “Shake For Your Cake” strips blues down to its roots and rock down to its core in a tightly packaged record that works to refresh the listener in what honest music is. Recording (playing) all the instruments at once on most of the 10 tracks, Nick Jackman was helped by Rob Mayes at Avalanche, Jonny Pipe at the since-closed Angels Gate and Ari Freeman at Blues Professor HQ, with recording and mixing. We see Jackman’s musical skill throughout the tracks with a standout harmonica intro to Coopers Creek, and a searingly raw guitar solo in Pray For Me Mama (I’m A One Man Band). The stripped back Porter No More solos out Jackman’s voice, accompanied only by his kick drum and harp. The heaviness of Bee My Honey contrasts this nicely, driven by pulsing drums. Joined on bass by Ari Freeman on Somebody’s Somebody, he holds down the bottom end to round off the album, The album is short (31 minutes) and to the point, which is the exact aesthetic of Stomping Nick, presented in what you often forget is not just good musicianship, but also incredible co-ordination. Jesse Austin
There is a one-man band with a difference, someone in 2016 who is not utilising technology or even a drum machine to back him, oh no Stomping Nick is all Nick, he sings, plays harmonica, the guitar and drums all at the same time, and his new album Shake Your Cake was even recorded that way! With all but one song on the album recorded "live" in one take, so what you hear is the real sound of Nick's songs as he performs them, the only thing missing is an audience's applause, but he sure does deserve some applause. Nick is a truly gifted musician with incredible dexterity and stamina, just the fact he can achieve this multi-instrumental performance is impressive, but the songs are so complete as well, they are very catchy and full of high energy blues that sound near faultless and in no way lacking from the absence of a full backing band.
While seated Nick plays his guitar and his harmonica, and the drums are played with his feet, so the beats mostly consist of a good kick to a bass and snare drum, hence each track has a rather unavoidable stomping beat. There are no cymbal splashes or drum rolls or fills, but Nick more than makes up for this by singing his lyrically powerful songs with a strong emotionally charged voice. In between his singing Nick's harmonica playing is an incredible treat too, best highlighted in the superb Coopers Creek a rollicking feverish brut of a song, that showcases his awesome harmonica talent. But it's the gritty texture and powerful emotion of his singing that is a real highlight, his potent vocal work helps give contrast to each track, and in the end the guitar and drums tend to be a very sturdy backing rhythm.
The first track The Devil Likes to Boogie is fast and full character, with gritty guitar and singing that hook you in with its catchy melody and relentless energy. Most tracks are driven with a powerful rock sound that skirt the edges of punk with some boyish aggressiveness, but never too serious and always upbeat. Nick does waiver from the rock blues sound in songs like Porter No More a deep and moody number with its breathy chanting and prison blues harmonica capping it off perfectly. The repeated rhythmic fingerpicking riff in The Dust is Blowing is a pleasurable and mesmerising departure from the usual guitar strums too.
Occasionally you do wonder how good some songs would sound with bass and a full drum kit, such is the great feelings some songs implant in your brain, but you can tell each song has been refined and perfected for his one man abilities and they sound right. Each song is well structured and on repeated listening's you notice the subtle changes and expressive lifts and turns he executes with skill and flair, making you appreciate even more the music he has produced, its so impressive you will soon be looking at the gig guides to experience a Stomping Nick performance live, I know I am. Andrew Smit
"SHAKE FOR YOUR CAKE" REVIEW AT ELSEWHERE.CO.NZ
One-man band Stomping Nick Jackman from Lyttelton takes his lead in the blues from the distorted sound Captain Beefheart, John Lee Hooker (before he became famous) and Chicago wall-shakers like Hounddog Taylor. With a raw and raucous approach, wailing harmonica, churning guitar figures and floor-thumping bottom end, Nick rages through these often incendiary originals – and a fiery These Boots Are Made For Walkin' – which are also smarter and more finely honed than original impressions might suggest. At times he channels the power of Dr Feelgood and the Pretty Things (Bee My Honey) in these songs about whisky, fury, the evils of work and so on. You'd think this one-man band thing wouldn't translate to record but here it does, and flies out of the speakers. Light the fuse and stand well clear. Graham Reid
"PUNK BLUES ONE MAN BAND" REVIEW IN BLUES MATTERS #63
I can imagine getting tired of listening to this but probably not until I've listened a couple of hundred times. This is one of those albums that Ronsons it - does what it says on the cover. His band are formed formed of such performers as 'Mouth' on harmonica, 'Left Hand' plays a mean lead guitar while 'Right Hand' is equally accomplished on the rhythm guitar, 'Right Foot' will win friends on bass drum and its partner 'Left Foot' does a bang up job on Snare and Hi-Hat. I can't spell it out any more clearly - this is a one man band that plays Blues with a punk heart and completely irreverent tone, I love it. 7 of the 10 tracks here are self-penned with titles like 'One Man Band Fury' or 'Baby I'm Your Dog' but when he plays a classic like 'Orange Blossom Special' he takes it by the scruff of the neck, shakes off all the niceties and delivers a blast of ferocious harmonica and speed king drumming - Lonnie Donegan should hear this in heaven and smile. He certainly understands Blues and he plays it pretty damn well but I get the feeling his heroes might just be Chuck Berry and George Thorogood and 'Apple Wine' has the storytelling style of both but he can be pretty angry and snotty with just vocal, harmonica and right foot on 'I'm Not The One'. 'Word Gets Around' boogies like a bad-ass and 'Sewer Man' is downright dirty. He closes with a surprisingly tuneful version of Robert Johnson's 'Preach The Blues'. This is so much the way that Blues should be played - solo and with huge heart and total integrity. It doesn't hurt that he plays pretty well too. Andy Snipper
"PUNK BLUES ONE MAN BAND" REVIEW (allgigs.co.uk)
The blues...hold onto your cowboy hats. The rule book may just have been rewritten. This is foot-tapping, hard-stomping, backside-kicking unsurpassed hard-hitting, raw energy 'blues' from, of all places, New Zealand!
Crickey this is really good stuff. Stomping Nick by name and by nature, and best of all he does it all by himself like some crazy roadside showman in down town Harlem. I saw the one man band that is Newton Faulkner recently and was mightily impressed. However Mr Stomping Nick has taken the word solo to another level.
So we have a collection of self-penned tracks and a touch of Huddie Ledbetter and the man himself Robert Johnson. The Stomper plays all the instruments pretty much at the same time, recorded live this album is incredible.
The pulsating sound of electric guitar, snare, high-hat, bass, drum and harmonica as well as some hard hitting vocals is quite breath taking. You've got Hendrix and Jack 'White Stripes' White in the sound and as well as some very old school blues - ' Black Betty' what a song!
It's all stuff about broken relationships, drinking, dubious women, drinking, trains, stitching people up, drinking and other day to day blues related subjects. Is it reality or just the blues?
If you want something a bit different and something very good, get on to this 'Punk Blues One Man Band'. Impressive.
REVIEW OF "PUNK BLUES ONE MAN BAND" IN THE SUNDAY TIMES, 21st AUGUST 2011
Seasick Steve narrowly pipped the less marketable Jawbone to the lone position for punk-blues one-man bands in the casual consumer’s collection. There’s no house room for more hollerin’ lonesome hobos, yet, like HG Wells’s foolhardy Martians, still they come — Reverend Deadeye, Lewis Floyd Henry and now, from the unlikely blues cradle of Christchurch, New Zealand, Stomping Nick and His Blues Grenade. His guitar is a buzz-garage blur, his harmonica-playing is beautiful and bellicose, his drumming is breathless and barrelling, and his Orange Blossom Special is a breakneck bulldozer blast. Stewart Lee
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 7000 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 choose the one-man band path?
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. Oldtime 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 Boys Williamson, 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 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 ceased to exist. My favourite venue was a small basement bar in my home town 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 centred. I enjoy the ride, the head space 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.
"PUNK BLUES ONE MAN BAND" REVIEWED BY NICK BOLLINGER IN THE SAMPLER, RADIO NEW ZEALAND, DEC. 7th 2010
The blues won't go away, and New Zealand has had its share of aspiring practitioners, but Stomping Nick really does stand out. There's nothing worse than a polite blues, and Jackman's are suitably rude and raw – no effete displays of technique, the cardinal sin often committed in the name of the blues. And yet, rawness doesn't equate with monotony – quite an achievement when you're in a band of one. Perhaps because beneath this music's raw exterior there's no shortage of finesse. Jackman is especially skillful on his harmonica, but his playing throughout this enjoyable album combines just the right measures of abandon and accomplishment.
DAMNED BY LIGHT APRIL 11th 2011
An interview with bluesman Stomping Nick Jackman, who hails from ChristChurch New Zealand, and plays his own unique style of Punk Blues as a one-man band. Here Nick speaks about his influences, the blues and playing as a one-man band (by John Wisniewski)
How long have you been playing music and interested in music?
NJ > I first started playing some bongo drums when I was six. I would take them to school and pretend I was some kind of cool bohemian. Then I would go home and obsessively practice along to an album of African music my parents had. So I guess you could say I've been interested in music all my life. When I was a kid I also did the piano lesson and school choir thing. I learnt guitar and harmonica as a teenager and started to embark on the musician's lifestyle. I learnt how to play a drum kit in 2003 when I was much older – that's when the one-man-band thing started, after I put all the instruments together. I hadn't been a solo performer before that.
Could you name some of your influences in the blues and other forms of music?
NJ > My biggest influence is a local musician who died in 2004, Ken Nichol. He played guitar and mandolin and we worked together from 1995-2002, mostly around the small towns and backblocks of the Canterbury countryside. Often we played as a duo or we would team up with a fiddler or banjo player, or sometimes a drummer. Ken had a philosophy of taking the music to the people and trying to uplift audiences whenever he played, and I have tried to stay true to this code. A lot of the attitude in my music, as well as some of the rhythms and repertoire, comes from the period I worked with Ken. He was a rambling party man and a lot of folk miss him.
Most of the blues I listen to is older stuff, although I really dig people doing their take on a punk blues sound. I like a lot of Sun and Chess label stuff, and similar music from that era. I also like to listen to the older blues – field recordings, jug bands and other pre-WW2 artists like Blind Lemon Jefferson, Tampa Red and Big Bill Broonzy. Other blues artists I love include John Lee Hooker, Hound Dog Taylor, Muddy Waters, Lightning Hopkins, Chuck Berry, Howlin' Wolf, Bo Diddley, early Stones in particular and 1960s British blues in general. Some of the blues harp players who have had an influence include Little Walter, both Sonny Boy Williamsons, Sonny Terry, Noah Lewis, Jazz Gillum, Papa Lightfoot, Sugar Blue, Charlie Musselwhite, and John Popper.
The one-man-bands Joe Hill Louis and Doctor Ross are big influences – my act is based on these two artists. There are also a lot of other one-man-bands I dig like Hasil Adkins, Scott Biram, Bob Log III, plus plenty more from around the world I have discovered on various social network sites.
Old country music is also a big influence. I have studied and played a lot of American oldtime and bluegrass harmonica so this crosses into my music, such as my version of the Orange Blossom Special. I also like a lot of that 1940s/50s honky tonk, although there is not so much harmonica in that, apart from Wayne Rainey – he's quite a strong influence. I am also quite well-versed in traditional Irish and Scottish music, which I think is the real roots music over here in New Zealand, at least with Pakeha. I don't think this has crossed over much into the Blues Grenade sound but what has is the Irish concept of “the craic”. This is an atmosphere of fun, levity, dancing etc. I try to get the craic going whenever I play. This is what music is all about for me – trying to help people forget about the bad things in their life, even for just a few songs.
On the rock side of things there is so much that I like. My favourite band is the Gun Club. I am influenced by a lot of that primitive stuff like The Stooges, The Cramps, White Stripes, Gories, Soldad Brothers, The Coachwhips, but there is so much more I like, both underground and pop.
Why do you choose to play all of the music as a one-man-band?
NJ > I love the primitive approach to music and being a one-man-band tends to limit you to playing this way. It's also satisfying and a lot of fun making a big sound all on my own and watching people go nuts over it. It can be difficult having a vision for a certain sound and approach to music and finding the right people to achieve it, so it has been great being able to do it all myself and not having to rely on anyone. I like being independent and I hate being let down by musicians.
Any plans to put a band together?
NJ > The idea behind the Blues Grenade is that it could expand to a bigger band but I'm not working on anything like that at the moment. However, it might be a good move to do that one day if the right people come along.
Could you name some of your all-time favourite blues artists and albums?
NJ > Here are a few of them:
- Hound Dog Taylor and The Houserockers (the album and the band)
- Little Walter: Hate To See You Go
- Nina Simone Sings The Blues
- Doctor Ross: Call The Doctor
- Joe Hill Louis: Boogie in the Park
- Ramblin' Jeffrey Lee with Cypress Grove and Willie Love
- Hooker and Heat
- Hooker Alone
- George Thorogood's first album
- Robert Johnson's recorded work
Do you get the chance to play live?
NJ > Yes, but I haven't been playing so much this year. We've had some really bad earthquakes where I'm living, in Christchurch, so that has disrupted things. It has been very devastating here. About 200 people died in one of the earthquakes and large parts of the city are broken and buckled with areas that have been abandoned. There have been over 7000 aftershocks here and when you think they are starting to die down you get a series of jolts to remind you how unstable the ground is. Everyone here knows that another big one could strike at any time. As a result of the earthquakes there aren't many venues that are in one piece, although new places are starting to spring up now, and there are also more house parties. It's very interesting here. Because of the shortage of buildings, businesses have appeared that operate out of tents and shipping containers and similar temporary structures. This has begun to be seen in the entertainment and hospitality industries. I've been playing in a new bar that is a temporary structure on the site of an historic pub that fell down. The bar is the type of building you might see erected for an expo or festival, with bolt-on panels and windows made of clear plastic that roll up on a hot day. It virtually sprung up over night. We call this kind of thing a “gap-filler” - something created in an empty space which recently had a building on it. Although new venues are starting to emerge here, the future for me will involve a lot more touring, or perhaps moving altogether, because Christchurch will take a long time to recover and it may never be the same place it was that provided me with a decent amount of work.
Is this genre of music popular among New Zealanders?
NJ > There's quite a strong interest generally in Americana music but it has only been in recent years that younger fans and musicians have really picked up on it in a big way. Before that, a lot of people considered it a bit uncool to play blues and country. The older hippy generation has always been into blues, country and folk so the audience now is mixed in terms of age. I'm also doing it more punk and dirty than most New Zealand bands of a blues or country ilk, so I cross over into an audience that is more into its rock. I don't know many people doing it this way so I guess I am virtually alone here in terms of a genre or sub-genre.
I also think by just being a goodtime dance band that tries to connect with the audience I appeal to a lot of New Zealanders who might not be specifically into those genres but just want to have a good time. Women and children generally have no problems dancing to my music, and it all just flows from there.
Any interests outside of music – what do you do when not recording?
NJ > I don't really have time for many other interests. I have so many instruments to practice, and because I am on my own I have to do all the promotion and marketing. When I have time, I try to keep up with reading, mostly about current affairs, history etc. I try to grow vegetables but because I tour I can't grow anything that needs a lot of maintenance.
Any plans for the future?
NJ > I have recorded a bunch of tunes both in the studio and at a show so I'm just looking at how and when I will release that. I'm also working on getting more gigs outside my area. I have just procured a van so I am looking to drive around, play shows, and sleep in the van. I would also like to tour Australia, USA and Europe one day but I need to plan that more. I'm keen to network with anyone who might be able to help me achieve this. Apart from all this, the future will involve just trying to stay healthy and sane, and attempting to keep the blues in check.
'PUNK BLUES ONE MAN BAND" REVIEWED IN HIGH HEELS SLUT #11
Sometimes bandnames and record titles can be very clear, so this could be the shortest review in the zine. But that would be unjust towards this New Zealand madman. Stomping Nick laid down these ten tracks live in the studio doing all the guitar, drums, harmonica and vocal work without overdubs or other studio tricks. What you get is a thrilling and energy-driven set of bluespunk that has captured all the live intensity on tape and once more proves the live take in the studio is the best take. Stomping Nick actually wrenches a raw and modern day take on the blues outta his primitive instrumental set-up, as if John Schooley and King Louie would both melt their solo acts into one. But he know for sure where the roots of his shit are, by giving some tunes by classic artists a raw makeover. "Black Betty" (often credited to Ledbelly, but apparently also recorded in the very early 1930's before the man did), "Preach The Blues (Up Jumped The Devil)" by Robert Johnson and a steamin' rendition of Johnny Cash's classic "Orange Blossom Special". In a time where onemanbands pop up like mushrooms in a forest during fall Stomping Nick definitely puts himself between the most delicious! "
"PUNK BLUES ONE MAN BAND" REVIEW IN NEW ZEALAND MUSICIAN FEB 2011
Christchurch-based Stompin’ Nick Jackman is a true one man band playing bass drum, snare, wailing harmonica and some bad ass Southern snake oiled guitar distortion – all simultaneously! It’s a tradition that kicks back to the vaudeville era. Yet Jackman’s stock and trade is dirty swamp rock ’n’ blues and in true Mainland style it’s a DIY affair. Save for a Huddie Leadbetter number (Black Betty) and Robert Johnson’s Preach the Blues everything here is self-penned and performed without the aid of loops, re-mixes, over dubs or other trickery. That in itself is remarkable but what really separates this one from banal novelty is the pure soul and guts of the performances. Opener One Man Band Fury lays down the manifesto in a wailing serpentine of guitars and cymbals. This is followed by the grinding Feral Mama and, later, Apple Wine revives the terrific poltergeist of Muddy Waters. Remember the snippet of a street musician from U2’s Rattle and Hum doing Freedom For My People? Well, this is like that. On acid! As the flyer rightly says ‘… it’s hard to believe it’s only one man grinding out this raw trash-boogie’. Tim Gruar