THE FAMOUS ELSEWHERE HIGHLY PERSONAL QUESTIONNAIRE . . . Kiki Van Newtown aka Giantess

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THE FAMOUS ELSEWHERE HIGHLY PERSONAL QUESTIONNAIRE . . . Kiki Van Newtown aka Giantess
As Elsewhere noted when we reviewed the debut album Big Woman by Giantess, the person behind it Kiki Van Newtown had appeared previously under anther guise, as part of the band Hex.

But we also noted about Big Woman that there was a lot going on musically and some interesting references, so we were curious.

Time to ask Kiki/Giantess some very personal questions . . .


Where did you grow up, and with who?
I grew up with my mum and sisters north of Tāmaki Makaurau in the Wainui / Leigh / Kaipara / Orewa quadrant.

Was music an important part of your childhood?

Music was the first thing I was really profoundly drawn to as a kid. I was involved in community theatre doing musicals from when I was five, and then started on recorder when I was seven. We were pretty poor but mum somehow always kept me in music lessons and I am so grateful for that.

What are your earliest childhood memories of music which really affected you . . .

When I was in primary school my friend’s family started taking me with them to the Auckland Folk Festival every year. We’d arrive and go and find the pack of kids and then spend all weekend roaming around, joining jam sessions, playing shows, and trying to sneak snacks (and later beer). I wasn’t a cool child, but at the Auckland Folk Festival you didn’t need to be cool. You could walk around wearing bells on your ankles and doing bendy sword dances, or playing the lagerphone, or dancing with no bra on to Kath Tait and it was all good. Music was for everyone.

Was there a time when you felt it was going to be music and nothing else?

After highschool I was planning on doing performance viola at university, but by seventh form I had just became so bored and angry at the culture of classical music. I was poor, and playing in youth orchestras and doing musical theatre workshops on scholarship was like an exercise in proletariat rage for me. I realised that to build and support an arts career when you don’t have a financial safety net is an almost impossible dream, and I was so shattered by that, that I actually gave up for a number of years. I didn’t play anything at all until I picked up guitar again in my early 20’s, and I’m so glad I did because music really is what gives my world structure and definition.

When you started on your music career were people around you supportive or did you have to find those people?

My mum has always been supportive. She’s the best kind of enabler. She’s a mix of super pragmatic and ‘fuck it’ just give it a shot because why not eh? And a music fan myself I was always friends with people who were also music fans, so yeah, my social groups were always supportive too. I owe a debt to all my flatmates past who have endured me cry-playing terrible demos at them.

The first song of yours which you really felt proud of was . . .? And why that one?

The first song I felt really proud of was called “Loops and Tapes”. It is twee AF. It’s a song about human kindness and hanging on, and it just poured out in one go as this really devastating, badly recorded, earnest, finger picked ballad as part of my first solo project. I love it because my BFF Lucy says it’s one of her favourite songs of mine ever.
Any one person you'd call a mentor, angel on your shoulder or invaluable fellow traveller?

Probably Lucy! We met when my old band played at her 21stat Happy. She’s made videos with me, and inspired songs and guided me through more than one relationship shipwreck. She is the first person I send my demos to, she is basically my muse and my target audience haha.

Where and when was the first time you went on stage as a paid performer?

Probably as a young teen? I think it was a Christmas concert at either the Devonport or Titirangi folk club, and I think we got $35 to split between the band.

Ever had stage fright or just a serious failure of nerve before going on stage?

I’ve never had a serious failure of nerves. Sometimes I do get a bit nervous but it usually goes as soon as I step on stage because it feels familiar and safe up there, like being in a cocoon. When I’ve finished a set and have to walk through the crowd though, that’s when I turn into an anxious mess.

As a songwriter, do you carry a notebook or have a phone right there constantly to grab ideas they come? Or is your method something different?

I record melodies on my phone, and I have a million scraps of paper with lines scrawled on them. I basically never refer back to these sketches, but something in the process of capturing them makes me feel secure in my ability to create.

What unfashionable album do you love as a guilty pleasure?

So many. So much twee stuff, so much problematic stalker-dude rock. Probably Kings of Convenience ‘Quiet Is The New Loud’. Gah, I love hate that album so much.

Any piece of advice you were given which you look back on which really meant something?

My seventh form English teacher told me to listen to my mother. Solid advice.

It's after a concert and you are in a hotel room or back at home, what happens then?

a0615966640_16It 100% depends on what I have to do the next day. My favourite is when we can just have beers and talk shit and make each other crack up. When we were on tour and doing lots of late night driving we always tried to find a 24 hour diner. There’s something magical about having pancakes at 2am surrounded by kids who are all dressed up and having their prom afterparty surrounded by 1970’s décor.

Is there any fellow artist you admire for professional and/or personal reasons?

I am a big fan of Amelia Berry (Amamelia, Fimo, Polyester) who is an incredible Tāmaki musician and producer and has been involved in so many great bands. I just really admire how prolific and how GOOD Amelia’s music is, and how she just keeps getting better and better at what she does.

And finally, where to from here for you do you think?

Recording! I feel like I’ve been holding my breath to get ‘Big Woman’ released, and now it’s out I’m so excited to get started on the next album. I want to go even bigger, heavier, mountainous. 

You can hear Big Woman at bandcamp here.

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