Published on January 4th, 2018 | by Denny Armatrading0
Nahko and The Medicine for the People
It was always going to be a risky business interviewing and reviewing a band whom we love, feel connected to and inspired by. The paradoxical possibilities of such an undertaking are not to be underestimated. Challenge invited, created and accepted with enthusiastic heart.
Medicine for the People will already know and understand the power of manifestation. Our thoughts creating our reality. We are creators. One evening last summer we set our intention, “we will meet Nahko and the band”. We saw it and spoke it awake. Fast forward a few months and here we are. Its fair to say we saw forests and beaches as opposed to grey Manchester skies, nevertheless, the sun always shines in our hearts 😊 Live your truth with love. We are the medicine.
Thursday 30th November, 2pm, we got the call… Nahko and the band would be happy to meet with us pre-show. We were already travelling up from London to attend the gig along with 10 of our friends and family so securing a spot at such late notice was really a wonderful happening and not considered to be work at all. After a quick check-in at our nearby hotel we were off to Manchester Academy. Excited, much! Expectation can of course be a doorway to disappointment, so we consciously set pre-conceptions down at the dressing room threshold. Fan hats off (ish) and professional heads on (yeah right ) Well one of us managed (for a while) but the other kept the fan hat firmly fixed and the balance was right.
Fans of Nahko & Medicine for the People will be familiar with seeing the guys set against sun drenched Hawaiian beaches and ancient American forests. In this instance we are fans first, and so to initially encounter the guys in a very muted Manchester dressing room donning their scarves and shoes with no instruments in hand was somewhat odd. Upon reflection we drew vivid comparison to beautiful fish of rainbow colours suited to the ocean as opposed to a glass bowl, or birds confined to cages that should be free to soar. We feel privileged to share space and witness the beauty with our own eye, yet somehow long to see them return to their natural habitat. A feel. A broad observation of course, maybe presumptuous even, nonetheless one that offers food for thought and asks for consideration of our wants as fans and how that may affect the creative needs of artist. The energy exchange must be fair.
Each member of the band and crew were as gracious and humble as one would imagine and hope them to be. All seemed perfectly relaxed upon our arrival despite the gruelling schedule and only travelling in from Paris, France that day. Nahko finishing off some work on the laptop, Pato (Patricio Labarca/Bass Guitar) preparing some food, Max (Max Ribner/flugelhorn & keyboards) jammin with his headphones on, Chase (Chase Makai/Guitar) doing handstands against the wall and Justin (Justin Chittams – Chitty/Drums) just chillin out. Mel (Melissa Gibson) the lovely tour manager, effortlessly beavering away, swan like on the surface but no doubt plenty of work happening underneath. Tim Snider (Electric Violin) not present, somehow making our anticipation of his input just that little bit more exciting.
After hugs a’plenty and exchanging footwear admiration (Nahkos slippers were very fetching), followed by being mocked for bringing a clipboard laden with questions we proceeded to pick the brain of the lead man himself whilst the rest of the band carried on with their activities. Any professionalism (along with pre-conceptions) had clearly been left at the dressing room door. This became evident as we both began to melt like warm coconut oil on a hot day, completely abandoning any plan on how we were to conduct this interview and opting instead for the more organic enthusiastic fan approach peppered with loose questions……… embarrassing, for some maybe, perfect for us.
Nahko assertively took the audio recorder and began playing around, offering a glimpse of the funny, multi-faceted, creative mind that we’ve all come to know & love so much. 5 voices in 5 seconds a stretch by any means.
MixUp – “We feel like maybe you’ve got multiple personalities manifesting through you Nahko, what say you?”
Nahko – “Yeah, I have issues (laughs), what can I say? There’s a lot of people who talk through me.”
At this point we relaxed, content in the knowledge this was going to be a real chilled interview (or a very busy one).
MixUp – How do you stay led by spirit whilst being tied into the schedule of a tour?”
Nahko explained that much like anyone who has a daily routine, be it work, parenting etc, we all have our anchors and we all choose what to fill the gaps with, our choices are what’s important. He explained that the band have reached a place whereby there is a structure and consistency to their routine. Like all routines this leaves little gaps and spaces.
Nahko – “It depends on what we fill the little gaps and spaces with, how you reconnect with yourself and whats going on around you. On previous tours I used to wake up, smash out emails for a couple of hours and stuff like that. On this tour I’ve been running every morning. The workload has been pretty intense, not getting into it until the afternoon, taking a couple of hours outside, it really helps.” He went on to say that “Going on stage is an escape, this is my shit, this is my dimension, I know what to do here
At this point Mel the tour manager came over to let us know that a private room was now available, we were all pretty comfortable and opted to stay on the dressing room sofa. As we thanked her (in our native accents) Nahko (obviously skilled in mockery) offered up a sample of a very good English accent. Talented, deep and funny….. like we didn’t already know.
Discussing the various countries and audiences they’ve encountered during this tour, It became evident that some were more open to Nahko’s flavour of humour than others. He light-heartedly told The MixUp that his monologues have been receiving mixed responses, some of which made the band chuckle. As people who have now seen the show we at the MixUp can say unbiasedly that the monologues are wonderful. They demand to be pondered and help to create a real performance for the audience.
MixUp – “Many performing artists report something likening an addiction to performing, do you find this to be the case and if so how do you handle that?”
Nahko – “As far as the addictiveness of doing it, yes, theres a piece of it thats like a drug, you just wanna do it again and again. Part of its your ego and part of its knowing you have quality worth sharing.” As much as I pretended that I didn’t get off on doing it, I know that there is something that gets released when you can be with the music so holistically. Theres so much vibe happening, you know? The energy work happening between you and the band, thats one thing. Then theres between you and the audience & then the spirit of everybody’s collectiveness. Fuck its intense
MixUp – ‘Hoka’ winning song of the year at the Native American music awards must have been a huge moment for you. How did that feel?”
Nahko -“Yeah that was pretty wild. One of my uncles at the ceremony after said to me “You don’t have to wonder whether your being accepted anymore. Your being received. That was awesome.”
Moving onto asking what artists/albums he is most inspired by Nahko referenced Leonard Cohen (who we are slightly red cheeked to say we didn’t know…. ooops) as one of the greatest songwriters of the 1960’s. Chelsea Hotel being a particular favourite. We at The MixUp have since explored some of Leonards work and totally get the sentiment and the perfume of his influence.
MixUp – “You fit a lot of words in a sentence and a lot of sentences in a song. Does that present problems when performing live?”
Nahko – “Trust me, sometimes I wish that I hadn’t. I can be on stage singing a song & if I brain fart, I really brain fart. Your playin it, your with the crowd, your singing the notes, then your like, fuck….. what did I just say? I feel like I’m getting better at just stopping the show and being like, you know what, I dunno wtf man. I sometimes call audience members on stage to help out. Its cool.”
MixUp – “Do you consider yourself an activist? Does your work have intention behind it?”
Nahko – “Yes. More often than not when I’m writing music I just write whatever I’m feeling. Theres been some stuff that I’ve written specifically for a thing. (Standing Rock & Bring the Salmon back being two) I would say that I just do what I feel to do.”
When we told Nahko about the Build a Bridge Community, a movement of people within the UK coming together to create positive change, he was enthusiastic and shared the news with other members of the band. Nice to be reminded that the ripples of the music and its message spread far and wide. #medicinetribe
MixUp – “You’ve been working with Bernie Sanders. What led you there?”
Nahko – “He’s the dearest old man. Loving his work, loving what he stands for and wanting to be more involved in politics. I mean, what Bernie was able to inspire in young people in our country was, still is, unprecedented.
MixUp – “What do you feel about anarchy as a concept?”
Nahko – “Its never worked in history so its not really on the table.”
MixUp – “What do you feel the solution is”?
Nahko – “I feel the solution is getting more young people in politics that have old spirits. Its like we’re waiting around for the majority to move from a passive space to an active space.
MixUp – “You call yourselves medicine and that is evident in the music. Can we ask about psychedelics and their influence on your creations/work?”
Nahko – “Yes. The influence is huge, like 98%. I wouldn’t have had the experiences that I had at that time and I would probably not have made it out with the right openness that it came from.”
MixUp – “Ok quick fire now, first thing that comes to your head please, Do you like blonde skinny cougars? The blonde skinny one of us just couldn’t hold it back and the resounding roar of laughter made it clear it was not on the table, so back we go to real questions. Favourite Band?”
Nahko – “Bright eyes, Connor Oberst”
MixUp – “Favourite Album right now?”
Nahko – “A Debussy collection”
MixUp – “Who’s the comedian?”
Nahko – Chase
MixUp – ” Who’s the chef?”
Nahko – Max
MixUp – “& the grumpiest?”
Nahko – Chase but Chitty can be pretty grumpy too.
MixUp – “Favourite book?”
Nahko – “Ishmael, Daniel Quinn.”
MixUp – “Favourite British act?”
Nahko – ” Kate Tempest, she came to Portland, Oregon. Her’s was the last record I bought I think. Mumford and Sons are also cool.”
MixUp – “Favourite track from this album?”
Nahko – “Creations daughter.” MixUp’s Angie was thoroughly pleased as it holds very special meaning for her too.
MixUp – “What one single piece of work are you most proud of?”
Nahko – “The CaliRoots 2017 show was one of the best shows of our lives.”
The full interview by Angie Jessop & Martine Munt on behalf of The MixUp
Admiring a beautiful medicine pouch Mr Bear was wearing he shared that it was given to him by a special someone. Nahko recommends we all check out www.medicinecollective.com. it was time for the band to do their sound check so reluctantly we left….. ok security had to be called.
We thoroughly enjoyed our time with Nahko and the band, insightful and thought provoking as always. More hugs before we bid farewell until next time.
A quick freshen up at the hotel and we arrive back at the show with tribe in tow to find ourselves a close snug corner, Now for the moment of truth. After a feisty and very well received opening act from The Sound of the Sirens, Nahko opened with a solo classic piano piece gathering up the silence from the crowd with each note, by the end you could hear a pin drop. Britches took centre stage, a reminder of the musical story you’re about to embark on and on came the ‘Dragonfly’, the first release from the album and a stunning melody that has already been featured as one of the most beautiful songs in the world on Spotify.
The crowd join in from the offset. After the first verse, Nahko softens the pitch and expectations grow, then on to the stage step one of the most multi-talented bands around today to the rapturous wolf whistles and howls of an admiring crowd. It was going to be a good night.
The audience, able to sing along to a song only just released seemed to give the band a ‘nod and a wink’ and they responded with a huge performance. Though the venue was very intimate, only 3-400 guests, right through from the waltz’s and spoken word to rocking out, these guys gave it their all and the chemistry and lust for oneness was a beautiful thing to be part of. They delivered the show with all the passion, expertise, energy and gusto of one of their CaliRoots performances. During the show they would swap instruments, Pato the co-producer on the album would leave his bass guitar to jump on the drums, Chase would jump over to base guitar, Justin would hop off drums to the trombone, Max would flip between the flugelhorn and the keyboards, Tim enthralled with his solo rendition on the electric violin and can play a mean guitar, and Nahko was as comfortable at the piano as he was on the guitar and microphone, truly awesome glimpse of their many talents.
People had flown in from Galway, Ireland, driven 300 miles up from London or down from Scotland, waited in the cold since 2pm to see these guys perform. With each new track you could visibly see the impact that had been made on them, Creations Daughter, what a tune! And when sung with a voice so ‘full up’ it sounds like it came from way back when and steeped in ancient history, just amazing. Goodnight Sun, Susannah, Kirby Joes, and the pumpin ‘Early February had every being in the house rocking, heady and open to be taken on a journey with the band. Complete strangers hugging and greeting each other as friends. Well who else would you find at a medicine tribe show? Some crying, clenching their heads, squealing in delight as the notes got tighter and tighter. Some telling of how the band ‘saved them’, not just once was this heard, and they meant every word.
The pace dropped for ‘Die like Dinos’ then ‘Ghosts embodied’ ramped up the crowd again to full throttle. Introduced by an exquisite solo from Tim Snider (had the ladies crumbling), Chase’s face contorting to squeeze out every drop of his magical sound (this man can play a 12 string guitar!), Nahko bent double to the floor shredding his guitar, and Max just could not keep those fantastic long legs down so whoop! up they came in perfect timing with the bash, while the beautiful souled Justin powered down, no flashy wasteful excess just pure quality. Pato, well this man just oozes sex appeal and he whipped that long flowing mane back and forth with an evocative performance giving the ladies a real treat The crowd were buzzin and wanting more but how were they going to follow that? They did! Out came the anthemic ‘Love letters to God’ and every single word was sung right back to them by a delighted audience, just awesome.
Nahko came down from the stage to meet the crowd, stretching to reach and hug as many as he could whilst still belting out what was a firm favourite. Lovely moment. Alice then oozed in to prepare us for the finale, an outstanding performance of ‘Be Here Now’ trumped, stomped and twanged us to the end of a truly brilliant night and a reminder that ‘right now’ is whats important. The people had come for a happening not just a show, they were hungry for soul food and good company and were feasting as brothers and sisters united in the desire for truth, peace, love and empowerment. The show was on point, the playlist perfect and the array of playful yet meaningful monologues added points of reflection. Very nice touch. Medicine had been delivered, souls comforted, and they thanked their hosts with howls of unity. Everyone left with full-up hearts.
Suitable for all ages (our 8,12,14 & adult children loved it) A band we highly recommend you catch live if you have the opportunity. Each individual member is a master of their craft and stands well alone. Collectively they create an elemental wonder.
Listen to Nahko’s latest album ‘My Name is Bear’ on Spotify.
Manifest. Believe in the good things comin. One Love
By Angie Jessop & Martine Munt on behalf of The MixUp