An interview with: Cairo Knife Fight

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‘Colossus’ (n): ‘A huge or important thing.’

Since being founded in 2009, New Zealand’s Cairo Knife Fight have released four EPs and opened for the likes of Queens of the Stone Age, Shihad, Them Crooked Vultures, Foo Fighters, and Gomez. 2015 is the year that Cairo Knife Fight finally release their debut album on May 29th, which will be followed by concerts in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch.

The album is called ‘The Colossus’ and talking to Cairo Knife Fight’s founding member/ drummer/frontman Nick Gaffaney, it is easy to see how the name fits. Written and recorded over three countries and two continents, this “beast” of an album “heralded a new beginning for the band…[the album] has been through so many incarnations, its sounded so different it was such a colossus to put together, that [The Colossus] just seemed like an appropriate title for how big this project has been.”

‘Big’ is a good descriptor for those who have been involved in the album as well as the album itself. Gaffaney has been drumming since he was six years old. Now 37, he cites a wide range of influences, from Tony Williams to John Bonham, honed over years of being involved with everything from free jazz to rock and roll. He also worked with some of New Zealand’s leading musicians, including Anika Moa, Dimmer, and Fat Freddies Dropbefore he established Cairo Knife Fight. This allowed Gaffaney to“appreciate how much work goes into creating music, so I was under no illusions.”

Cairo Knife Fight are well-known for smashing precisely layered tidal waves of sound over their listeners, and this album looks to be a “progression from the EPs, that were all trending towards a more concise, punchy, rendering of the music.” Collaboration has been an important part of Cairo Knife Fight’s music from the beginning. The band operates as a duo live, with Gaffaney and an eclectic mixture of established musicians performing under its moniker. This has included William Knepp, Joel Haines and Aaron Tokona, as well as Mark Lanegan (QoTSA) as well as Los Angeles producers/musicians Tyler Fournames and John Anderson. However, when creating music for the album, it was done “mostly as a duo” says Gaffaney. “I’d get in the room with someone, with our gear and I’d hit record on Pro Tools and we’d jam and we’d find bits that we’d pull out and say that’s a great little part there let’s turn that into a song, and most of the performances begin that way on the record too, Its drums and guitar down and then we fill out around things how we want.” 

George Pajon Jr is the latest musician working with Gaffaney and will be joining him on his tour of New Zealand. Pajor Jr is a Grammy- award winning guitarist, song writer, and producer, who was involved in co-writing many of the Black Eyed Peas hits, as well as being a cornerstone performing and recording musician for them. He has also worked with the likes of Carlos Santana, Damien Marley and NaS. The pair met serendipitously as George had a studio in Gaffaney’s backyard. “I literally walked outside, and there he was and yeah, we got chatting and he wanted to jump in. He’s been wanting to play rock again for years, because obviously the Black Eyed Peas didn’t really do that, and yeah, he’s excited about it.”

From that initial chat, the duo have performed at South by Southwest festival and various shows in L.A. They are currently doing an 18-tour show across Australia with Karnival before Cairo Knife Fight head over to New Zealand.  It is clear that Gaffaney is brimming with optimism about the “new beginning” for Cairo Knife Fight. “Everyone who has been involved in the project is like ‘we are starting again, its exciting again, and after all the twists and turns- because, you know, bands aren’t easy things to be in- it’s good.”
With the three date tour of New Zealand fast approaching, Gaffaney hopes that the band brings “a sound that hasn’t been heard [here] before. The way that George approaches guitar is exciting, he gets incredible tones that I haven’t heard or worked with before, he really knows what he is doing, and its exciting, I feel the vibe onstage, its pushing us to new heights and its exciting.”

As Nick and I say our goodbyes on the phone, I am struck by how both this project and the band itself has involved a colossal amount of talent, dedication, and tenacity. Rather than being the means to an end result, this album marks the beginning of a band that traverses geographical and musical borders, creating a sound and potential that is infinite with possibilities. That is a huge and important thing for any band.

This article was first published by Rip It Up magazine on May 21st 2015.

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