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.”