NiceUp talks to Damien Charlie AKA King Charles, guitarist and producer and from Australian reggae band, The Red Eyes, who are set to tour NZ in January.

Who/what are some of The Red Eyes major influences and inspirations?

Of course like everyone in New Zealand Bob Marley has been a big formative influence for us.  The Twelve Tribes of Israel Grey Lynn warehouse parties were also a big influence, not to mention listening to Dubhead and Stinky Jim’s radio shows on BFM. Black Uhuru, and UB40’s first album, they got a bit lame but ‘Signing Off’ is awesome.  Then I got right into King Tubby (hence my nickname King Charlie) and Mad Professor.  Leftfield was a big influence at the start, and watching Mike Hodgson dubbing Salmonella Dub in the early days at Kurtz Lounge in Auckland.

What do you think makes the Red Eyes sound distinctive from other reggae bands in Australia and New Zealand?

I think El’s voice and lyrics are a big factor that make The Red Eyes unique. We also tend to have a darker edge, so the themes are heavier, and the focus on dub means that no one has ever accused us of being ‘Barbecue Reggae’!

We were recently quoted as bringing ‘inventive instrumentation’ to the genre, referring to our timpani’s, Jew’s harp, our sax players harmonious whistling, babies crying in the background etc.

How do you feel the Australian reggae scene has been developing in the last few years?

It’s been patchy but interesting, the live band thing has blown up big time in South East Queensland and Byron Bay, in Sydney it’s more about sound systems playing dancehall and hot girls in little gold hot-pants.  Melbourne is a bit of both, and Perth and Hobart are more about the kind of ‘BBQ Jack Johnson acoustic happy major chord thing’. Adelaide you can just forget about!

You are celebrating your tenth birthday in 2012 – what have been some of the highlights for the band during this time?

Finishing the first album was a major highlight, it was such a long-winded process and I was really happy with how it turned out.

We have played some amazing festivals like Woodford Folk Fest in Queensland, we’ve just returned from our fifth time playing that festival. We had one show there that was particularly memorable, El had just received terrible news that his sister had died in a car accident, and we were supposed to play a 2.5 hour set over the new year countdown that night.  Bill the festival director told us we didn’t have to play, but El decided he was going to do it and dedicate it to her.

By the time we hit the stage most of the audience seemed to know about it and there was around 8000 people crowded onto our stage. We ended up playing for over three hours and the atmosphere was incredible. It was just really moving to see how noble El was with his grief and how generous he was to the audience, and how generous they were back.

The band kicks off a NZ tour at the end of January.  How did this tour come about, and what can people expect from your shows?

This tour has been long time coming as New Zealand is the home ground of myself and El, we both grew up in Auckland. There have been a few tentative dates planned that didn’t come to fruition, but we are so glad to finally bring this band home.

Expect a big live show, with our two-piece horn section, four-part harmonies, and very energetic front-man El, who reviewers frequently compare to a Maori Iggy Pop.

What else have you got planned for 2012?

We’re touring Papua New Guinnea for the first time, we have a new album due out so will be in the studio a lot finishing that.  Then we will hit the road to tour the album, hopefully we will make it back to NZ before the year is out too. Oh, and it’s our tenth birthday so we will be celebrating more so than usual!

Any last words for the massive?

Can’t wait to see the cuzzy’s and all the whanau at our shows, get tickets quick cause it’s going to be huge.

More info:
The Red Eyes website
Red Eyes NZ tour dates

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