Charlotte Church’s drummer rummages through pop’s past to craft his own kaleidoscopic sound.
Boy Azooga recently met a Beastie Boy. It took place in the very pub where we are now sitting, a pub so fancy that band leader Davey Newington’s Guinness and black comes as a bottle of stout and a jug of blackberry liqueur. He’s wide-eyed at the memory of the encounter with Mike D. “It was the best!” he raves, his words tumbling over each other. “I asked him about Paul’s Boutique because that album was really influential on the first Azooga album, all these amazing ideas and styles and things coming together…” You might not file Newington’s Boy Azooga, a solo project that blossomed into a four-piece band, next to the Beastie Boys, but that element of musical exploration unites them. Under the name Bongo Fury, Cardiff-born Newington also drums for Charlotte Church’s Pop Dungeon, a ragtag crew of party animals who tackle live covers of everything from Nine Inch Nails to Amerie’s almost impossible to play 1 Thing. “It’s one of my favourite ever songs,” he says. “It’s a sample from a drum break from The Meters – it’s a really hard part, so I was always super-nervous playing it.” Prior to Charlotte Church, we can thank Mr Clark, Newington’s GCSE art teacher, for expanding his musical horizons beyond the Foo Fighters and Queen. The gold-toothed, Subaru-driving teacher turned him on to Can. “It wasn’t really like an epiphany, I was just like, ‘Yeah I’ll check it out’.” So he took himself into town and bought a Can CD, then, enraptured, spent hours on end in a YouTube wormhole as he mapped out the musical pathways that spiralled around them. Moving off into tangents that took in Sly & The Family Stone, Television, OutKast and Nigerian synth wizard William Onyeabor. Due out in June, the result of that musical exploration is 1, 2 Kung Fu!, a kaleidoscope of styles and quirks where baroque psychedelia rubs up against heavy funk grooves, clattering percussion and even Black Sabbath-like riffing. Having recorded the album before recruiting his own band, Newington plays nearly every instrument himself. He did, however, have to rope in the services of his dad, a former violinist with the BBC National Orchestra Of Wales, for the string parts. “A lot of the influences on the album are from my dad. There’s a song called Hangover Square about the book [ Patrick Hamilton’s tale of interwar London booze hounds] he gave me when I moved out,” he says. “And now he plays the strings on that song, it’s wicked.” Talking about the future of the band, Newington’s face lights up and his gestures get bigger as he tries to envelop the entire audible world into his plans. He talks about found sounds and string arrangements, Brian Wilson-style layers upon layers upon layers. Finding himself in a position where he can make music is clearly the biggest thrill of all. “I just never want to get used to it,” he grins. With that, Newington finishes his posh concoction and heads out. He’s off to see LA soft-rocker Jonathan Wilson tonight. No doubt he’ll have his radar up for more sounds to weave into Boy Azooga.
Mix and matchless: Boy Azooga, featuring Davey Newington (second right).