The world of Connan Mockasin is anything but dull, and if you want to know where Connan gets his affinity for the unusual and offbeat from, look no further than his dad, Ade Hosford. In 2021, the idea of how Connan’s new album – and their first together – came to fruition seems like a fever dream. Well before a pandemic struck, Ade had a health scare that prompted Connan to insist the pair finally write and record their long-planned album as a duo.
There was no time like the present, and no better place than in Marfa, Texas, where Connan holds a residency at Mexican Summer’s Marfa Myths festival. Armed with a notebook of lyrics that read ‘Poetry’ on the cover to throw off any suspecting customs officers, Ade went to America for the first time – for years he played in bands throughout the 60s and 70s in their home of New Zealand. The album It’s Just Wind is almost entirely comprised of tracks born from an impromptu jamming session, jetlagged and after one too many cocktails. With no concrete plan, the 10 improvised tracks are what Connan describes as the most natural recording he’s ever been involved with. Perhaps these tracks have been lingering inside Ade and Connan for a lifetime.
Below, the father and son trace the stories behind the songs and we premiere a very special documentary by Sam Edward Handley titled 72 y/o gets a record deal! that follows the duo through the recording process, narrated by Ade.
Connan Mockasin: Well, I just happened to bump into a clairvoyant who was from Haiti and it interested me because I’d never spoken to a clairvoyant before. She asked if she could do a quick reading and said that there was a project I wanted to do with my father, who had just had a major health scare. She said I had to make it my priority or I’d regret it for the rest of my life. It was an interesting moment. I was doing residencies in Marfa, Texas, each year, so I asked Mexican Summer if it would be appropriate to bring you along and set up a makeshift studio in one of the buildings there.
Ade Hosford: You told me we were going to write some songs and make an album.
CM: Yeah, you said you were threatened [laughs].
AH: It was slow progress, but the first track on the album [The Wolf] I wrote in four minutes. We extracted sections of the songs and put them into what was ad-libbed, and then evolved into the album, which was a bit of a surprise at the end. It kind of worked.
CM: You had one of those exercise books and wrote your lyrics in there and put ‘Poetry’ on the front because you were worried about getting caught by customs.
AH: Yeah, worried I’d get caught for working!
CM: You wrote a few songs, but we didn’t know what we were doing at all for anything else, like music or anything, and we didn’t have much time.
AH: That was scary.
CM: It was all improvised music and you would just riff over and start singing some of your lyrics… or sometimes making them up. It was effortless. I remember the first night we got there we went out for dinner and had a lot of cocktails. We’d set up the makeshift studio, but we didn’t think we were recording that night, so only a few of us went in to play around. When we listened back the next day we were pleasantly surprised, and it ended up being the majority of the record
AH: It’s a bit like when Billy Connolly first had sex, he reckons it was dark, he was alone, and he was scared. I thought of that standing in this big dark studio with a mic stand in front of me, a producer to the left, keyboards to the left, guitarist down the side and behind you, and a drummer hidden behind the equipment. I mean, you guys played together, so sort of… hopefully knew what you were doing. Then, there’s just this isolated guy standing behind the lights, gazing into the back of the hall thinking, “Jeepers.” Three years down the track, I still don’t really know the lyrics. Having died a couple of times, I had some nasty drugs put through me while I was unconscious. It’s shot the memory section in the brain, so every lyric is a new lyric. It was emotional, there were times it totally overwhelmed me.
Photography by Alex Marks
“It’s a bit like when Billy Connolly first had sex, he reckons it was dark, he was alone, and he was scared.”
CM: We didn’t have any idea what we were going to make, so it was just going in with fingers crossed. It could’ve been terrible. You had some old recordings from 1970, from one of your first bands, Autumn Stone. Going off that, I think some of the guys thought we’d end up forming some blues-rock band with an old guy, but after the first night I think everyone was excited because you were up for anything
AH: My first introduction to music was rock ‘n’ roll in the 50s and I always sang since I was quite small. I even put on the odd performance at school. I had a Samoan teacher who used to play acoustic guitar and I’d stand on one of the desks and sing a Harry Belafonte song. That used to go down pretty well. When I got into my teens, I was probably one of the first people to hear The Beatles as we had some new neighbours come up from England. I got interested in blues through the end of the 60s. The first band was quite blues orientated in 1969, and then the next band in 1970, Autumn Stone, which has four tracks associated with this album, was more commercial. It just kind of faded out after that. I wound up getting married and that really put an end to it. I stuck to architecture. I really didn’t want to live in some swamp house in Wellington. I saw some of the conditions the band guys were living and thought, “This isn’t really good.”
“Having died a couple of times, I had some nasty drugs put through me while I was unconscious. It’s shot the memory section in the brain, so every lyric is a new lyric.”
CM: You used to have the nickname Spotlight in your band playing days.
AH: Yeah, that was given to me by my younger brother.
CM: I started playing guitar when I was really young. Mostly because my friend was learning and we had a little guitar here that was my older brother’s. But I wasn’t really allowed to touch it.
AH: You’re still not allowed to touch it [laughs].
CM: Mum used to make me play it when the TV adverts were on because I wasn’t practicing. So I started doing five minutes between adverts, and then I started really enjoying it and played all day every day for a few years. Then I got really into Jimi Hendrix, like most people playing guitar did. Through high school I didn’t play so much, and then when I left home I thought playing guitar was probably one of the only things I could do that I felt I was good enough at doing, so that’s why I went to England and had a go at trying to make music.
AH: I probably introduced you to Band of Gypsys.
CM: Yeah, that was the first Hendrix I’d heard. You’ve got lots of records in the cupboard and I hadn’t heard of him before. I had that on all the time and then put it onto a tape. I’d rewind tiny little bits and play like that.
AH: I had a part-time bassist in the first band I was in who introduced me to Van Morrison and Band of Gypsys in about 1969. Before that we were playing a lot of black music like Josh White. They were strange musical days because people in Hawke’s Bay were very conservative. Music-wise it was pretty music country and western and overseas pop. In those days you didn’t hear the overseas version, you heard the New Zealand version. Some of them weren’t too flash, but some were better. A NZ band called The Underdogs did a version of On Top of the World by Eric Clapton and John Mayall that was better than the original. I did that song and While My Guitar Gently Weeps at Laneway [Festival] one year and the biggest promoter in NZ told me later that was the best bracket of the entire concert. We did a whole day of covers and I’d still like to hear them
CM: I’ve got the tapes.
AH: We don’t have a tape recorder.
CM: I’ve got an 8-track, so we can have a listen. I remember there was a time you’d just listen to Debussy exclusively for a few years.
AH: I love Debussy’s work. I’m really looking forward to the test pressing of the album [It’s Just Wind] to put it on a turntable. At the moment I’m listening to it on a little mp3. It’s called It’s Just Wind because when my father used to break wind and anyone would complain, he’d say, “It’s just wind.” I always smiled about it. He always used to ask questions and say, “What it are,” so we were thinking about called the album that, but It’s Just Wind floated a little easier.
Photography by Connan Mockasin
“How about that party when the main guest turned up in a white carriage with six white horses and a beautiful ball gown?”
CM: What It Are is one of the tracks on the album. You did the cover art too… the picture of your old boss.
AH: Yeah, that’s a true story too. He did something wrong on a building site and he came out to see me one day. “I’ve got a commission for you. I’ve stuffed up,” he says. He wanted a drawing of himself leaning up against a sheet of corrugated iron, “And make me particularly well hung,” he said. So I said, “Alright.” It got taken around the office, and went down pretty well so I took a photocopy of it. I must’ve kept a copy of it, so that’s how it became the cover. We were also looking at a photograph we took in LA of me looking into one of the gay shops. There were a lot of semi-naked guys with all their sexual apparatus in a really flash shop. I was standing in the gutter watching, and you guys took a photograph of me. I thought, “Boy, that’s going to make a good record cover.” The one we’ve got is good though…
CM: You hadn’t been to America before either
AH: No, that was a new experience. And I didn’t fly cattle class, which was different. Your mother thinks it took me two weeks to get over it! It was a good flight to America, but there was always someone pestering you if you want a drink. The complete opposite of what I was used to. LA is crazier than I thought it was. How about that party when the main guest turned up in a white carriage with six white horses and a beautiful ball gown? He gets out with his henchmen behind him and he’s met by a bunch of big wrestlers. There was a table near me and I said to my wife, “Look, someone’s going to go through that table before the end of the night.” Sure enough, in comes the princess, and one of the big guys picks him up and bowls him through the table.
CM: It was wild! It was Eric Andre’s birthday.
AH: It has to rate as the craziest party I’ve ever been to in my life.
CM: We have our fair share of late evenings.
AH: Business meetings with whiskey. I remember there was a lovely moment when we got back to LA, the first person we saw was Neil Finn, and he gave me a handshake and a hug, and he said, “Ade, you’ve done really well,” so that was good. We had some enjoyable times.
Ade and Connan Mockasin’s It’s Just Wind is out now via Mexican Summer.