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Jon Toogood - Interview: Jon Toogood

26 Jan 2019 // An interview by Steve Shyu

As the front-man for one of New Zealand's most successful Rock acts Shihad, the main man behind NZ's supergroup The Adults or as a solo performer, Jon Toogood has been at the forefront of NZ Music for more than 20 years; epitomising what it means to be a great musician. His illustrious career has cemented his place within NZ music history, and his music has inspired many other musicians; both here and in Australia.

Paul T Gheist from Muzic.net.nz had the pleasure of talking to Jon ahead of his solo acoustic tour of Aotearoa:

First round is on me - What’ll you be having?

Flat White – 1 sugar and a water.

The Adults tour in September, Shihad 30 Year Anniversary tour in October, and now an acoustic tour ready to roll - What gives you the drive to keep going year after year?

I LOVE playing music. Live performance gives me a thrill nothing else in my life does. I still can’t believe how lucky I am to have found a way to pay the rent while doing something I adore.

Of the three decades performing live, what’s the single craziest show you’ve ever played?

Supporting AC/DC at Western Springs in Auckland on their Black Ice tour in 2010. Getting to play our own music to 60,000 plus hard core rock fans in our home country then towelling off and getting to watch our favourite band ever from an awesome pozzy? One of the best days of my life and a completely surreal experience.

What have you been listening to lots of recently?

Idles’ latest album Joy as an Act of Resistance – one of the best guitar bands on the planet right now making music that is completely relevant. The 1975’s new album A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships, a Pop band that uses guitars who are actually ‘saying something’ that’s relevant to what’s going on in the world. I really like the Young Fathers new album too as it reminds me of things I loved in the early 2000's like TV On The Radio. Oh yeah, and the latest Adults album Haja. It’s music that didn’t exist before that I just needed to hear.

Did the current political atmosphere in New Zealand influenced your songwriting on The Adults’ Haja? Or has it been stoked more by international politics?

Living in Melbourne, and with the way we’re all connected online now I think it’s pretty much impossible to not be influenced by everything that’s going on worldwide. Everything that happens anywhere affects what’s going on everywhere else, so you have to take it all into account when looking at your own life. Sure, I live in a Melbourne suburb, but do I want my kids, who are half Sudanese, living in a world where what people like Trump and Pauline Hanson say is normalised? No and I will kick against that using the medium that I specialize in which is music. Haja was less of a scream against the status quo and more of a living example of the world as I’d like it to become and I think it’s powerful because of that. The joy it contains is still a ‘fuck you’ to the people who’d like to separate us.

You incorporated hip-hop and world-music influences into your songwriting on Haja; will you be mixing in new flavours or genres in future Shihad or The Adults releases?

You can’t help being influenced by what is inspiring you at the time. You go to what’s on fire and what’s genuinely moving you and see if you can become one with that feeling when writing. If it’s SABA then cool. If it’s Idles then just as cool. Whatever’s on fire is what I’m attracted to. Anything that’s speaking a truth and shining a light on injustice is good with me especially if it’s making you shake your ass at the same time!

You mentioned you had planned on releasing music under a pseudonym of 'DJ Yahia', which I think is a super fun concept. Will this be something you’d ever revisit and work on in future?

Maybe. But I liked that idea more when people didn’t know it was me. That was sorta the point.

What’s your fondest memory of Northern Sudan? (Aside from getting married, of course)

The people. They’re so beautiful, honest and generous. Even after being mistreated so badly by their government – they still retain their incredible spirit and dignity.

GGGarth produced The General Electric and Love is the New Hate - What’s the likelihood of working with him again on future recordings?

There was talk of doing an EP with him recently while he was in Australia at the end of last year, but shit got crazy busy and it didn’t eventuate, but I’d still be open to it. The guy knows how to make huge sounding rock albums.

With so much of your work becoming known as Kiwi classics throughout the years, what do you think makes Shihad and The Adults’ music so timeless?

I have no idea. All I try and do every time I go to write something is make music that’d I’d personally like to hear that doesn’t exist in the world yet. This is always gonna be based on my own personal experiences and whatever I’ve been listening to recently along with the feeling of every song or album I’ve ever been in love with. Most of the time I don’t think I quite get there but occasionally I nail exactly what I’m thinking, and it marries perfectly with the piece of music I’m working on and there it goes. Even after 30 years of writing the process is still a bit of a mystery to me which is why I still do it. It’s like being involved with something truly magical.

What’s the biggest difference fans can expect between this acoustic tour and the last?

I’m gonna be better than last time!


About Jon Toogood

NZ music legend, and guitarist and vocalist for Shihad and The Adults.

Visit the muzic.net.nz Profile for Jon Toogood


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