Since his stints in these groups, he has released a trilogy of albums – Melodies (2010), Curiosities (2014), and Harmonies (2017) – plus several singles throughout the years.
Lord Echo began as a side project to his work in The Black Seeds, releasing a few tracks on compilations as Mike Fab and the occasional 7-inch single.
He released his debut album Melodies in late 2010 and, wrote Peter McLennan, “charmed all who heard its seductive soul-reggae and afrofunk.” Melodies attracted attention from several overseas labels, picking up release in Japan and Europe, both on CD and vinyl. The album highlight proved to be his cover of Sister Sledge’s ‘Thinking Of You’, reworked as a skanking reggae/ska tune.
Echo is a multi-instrumentalist, a music producer, sound engineer and DJ, working out of his home studio in Wellington. On tracks such as ‘Thinking of You’, the single ‘Just Do You’ (2016), or ‘The Sweetest Meditation’ (2017, both with vocals by Mara TK), his music has a smooth reggae or funk groove, with a gentle vocal floating over the top, often from guests.
Echo’s musical education started young: he grew up in a large Irish family where there was always singing around. He attributes the beginning of his interest in music to his mother, who taught him ukulele and guitar as a young boy. His musical education continued at Victoria University, where he studied music composition but dropped out after a little over a year. At the same time, the loan of a 4-track cassette machine began the process of recording bands he was in and creating his own music.
Other projects he has worked on are the Black Seeds albums Solid Ground and Dust and Dirt, which he produced, and – as half of Fabulous/Arabia – a 2011 collaboration with Lawrence Arabia. On their album Unlimited Buffet, he composed the backings to Lawrence Arabia’s lyrics and melodies.
Echo’s music has an easy groove but its blissful mood can be deceptive. He refers to his 2017 album, Harmonies, as a kind of midlife crisis album. In an interview with RNZ’s Yadana Saw he said, “There’s a point you get to where you’re just like ‘What am I doing? What have I been doing?’ How do I keep on going?’... and on a purely technical level of recording music I had just thought that I would be better by now.”
Echo’s music has an easy groove but its blissful mood can be deceptive.
On Harmonies he recorded all of the parts, except for the horns. With the project behind him, in 2017 he said was looking forward to focusing on other activities, whether they be creating new music or painting houses. The latter urge was a desire he acquired after finishing Harmonies, explaining that painting fulfills the need “to use his hands” and add structure to his life, “to just take me away from this crazy world of music”.
Part of his desire to take a break from the music scene is his identification as an introvert: he prefers being alone. In a 2018 radio interview with Jim Mora he explained he has had to teach himself to bridge the worlds of being introvert and extrovert, as his career is one of being in the spotlight and in crowds, a space that he appreciates, but given the choice he would rather just be in the studio by himself or one on one with people. He says this seems to be a common feeling between artists, one of wanting to lead a more solitary life but having to be in the spotlight due to what the industry requires, such as performing and publicity.
All three of Lord Echo’s albums share the same reggae/afro-funk sound, making his work so recognisable. This was intentional: he wanted each album to be a continuation of the last. He believes that musicians often want to challenge their listeners and themselves by changing their sound but he wanted to challenge himself – and his listeners – by seeing how far he could take one idea.
To NZ Musician’s Aabir Mazumdar in 2017 he explained, “The people that I work with generally are people that I’ve known and worked with for a long time. You’ve got to have a certain amount of trust because you just have to trust that whatever they’re going to do is going to be good, and if you don’t think it’s good then you can tell them and it’s going to be fine – which is something you learn with experience.” Among the core group of musicians he has featured are Lisa Tomlins of Fat Freddy’s Drop and Fly My Pretties, Mara TK (son of Maori psych-rock guitarist Billy TK), and Fat Freddy’s trumpet player Toby Laing.
“When you create something, you hear it in a way that no one else will probably ever be able to hear it,” Echo said in 2017. “It’s very hard to get across because it is so vague. It’s ephemeral.”
To Lord Echo, music the king of the arts because of the emotional effect it often has on people. He says the most important part of creating music is the audience’s reaction; he wants to create something that will leave them feeling something that only music can bring.
Original stub by Peter McLennan, 2013