An Interview With The LA-Based New Zealand Formed Rock Duo, CAIRO KNIFE FIGHT!
Posted On 25 May 2017
Meet the rock duo, Cairo Knife Fight! They are originally from New Zealand and now based in LA. They are huge in NZ but still breaking into the US rock scene. They’ve performed at SXSW a few times and around LA as well. They’ve opened for the Foo Fighters, Queens of the Stone Age and Karnivool. They’ve hit the Top 40 Rock chart in NZ with their last album, The Colossus, and were nominated twice for Best Rock Album at the NZ Music Awards.
Their latest “Rezlord” video stars Hannah Tasker-Poland, a New Zealand actress/dancer who is in the movie Ghost in the Shell with Scarlett Johannson. It’s pretty intense, and has almost 12 million views!
Check out the video here:
Cairo Knife Fight guitarist is George Pajon, Jr. and Nick Gaffaney. George has been the touring guitarist with the Black Eyed Peas (and currently with Fergie) since 1998. He has also worked with several other major artists, including Santana, Sting, Ricky Martin, will.i.am, Macy Gray, Damian Marley and John Legend. George also co-wrote the BEP’s signature songs, “Where is the Love?” and “Let’s Get it Started”.
George joined CKF in 2015, and together they recorded their new album, Seven, which is set to release later this summer. Their current album was only recently released in the US. You can stream it via Spotify here: https://open.spotify.com/album/32Kg12m3efeWeuGPMTnonj
Connect With Cairo Knife Fight Here:
Learn more about Cairo Knife Fight in the following All Access interview:
Thanks for your time! What are some words you would use to describe 2016? What were some of the highlights for the band? What are you all most excited about for 2017?
NG: 2016? Transitional, upending and bizarre. In 2017 I’m most excited about getting busy with things. There’s a lot of waiting in the music business and it can be incredibly frustrating.
GP: The biggest highlight for me was writing, recording, and finishing a new Cairo Knife Fight record. WE are excited to play as much as possible. I am really excited to play this music live, It sounds huge live and super proud of the sound of the band.
How did Cairo Knife Fight first form? How did you come up with your band name? What other names were you considering?
NG: CKF formed in New Zealand back 2009. We quickly did a bunch of great things out there and then began setting our sights on moving overseas. It’s a small country and it’s far from everybody else so it can be a quiet life if you’re doing something out of step with the mainstream. We never had any other names actually. This one came from a friend of mine who grew up as a diplomats son in Cairo in the 60’s. His father used to take him to the Monday night Knife Fights regularly held in a suburb of Cairo by the ex-pat community. There were rules such as no stabbing, only glancing blows and nothing deeper than a graze, no fights longer than 5 mins and no grudge matches….. no one was meant to get properly hurt. He’d tell me these things and use the phrase “Cairo Knife Fight”, seemed like a great band name.
What has it been like making the transition from New Zealand to Los Angeles? How long have you been here in LA? How did you finally decide to make that big move?
NG: I’ve been in LA for just about 3 years. It’s like any other big city, it takes years to feel at home but I’ve been lucky to meet some great people quickly which has at least got me working in some good environments without too much trouble.
You have opened for many high-profile acts like the Foo Fighters and Queens of the Stone Age so I am curious to know what it was like? Was it in those moments that you felt like you really “made it”?
NG: Those gigs were fantastic and there really was a sense of vindication as a result. Being in that kind of machine, even for a day or two, opens your eyes to whats possible and the professionalism of a touring party like that is incredibly inspiring. Definitely not any feelings of “making it” though, ‘making it’ means a hell of a lot more than some support gigs! Its important to enjoy the moments of success along the way though as it’s easy to get lost in the grind and never take a minute to enjoy any of it.
Your “Rezlord” video is getting a lot of attention these days. Can you talk about what it was like making it? How creatively involved were you with it? How did the New Zealand actress, Hannah Tasker-Poland get to be a part of it?
NG: I made a decision a few years back to never be IN any videos again if I could help it. I hate the process so it’s best for me to be outside of it. I get involved in the gestation of the idea and the direction we want to go in and then I hand it off to Karl Lear at RedYeti in New Zealand who brings it to life. He found Hannah for us. Usually when our videos are being made, I spend the day at home in LA watching the photos and updates come through, counting my blessings that I don’t have to be there.
George, how does your experience as the touring guitarist and co-writer with the Black Eyed Peas and Fergie helped make you a better band member in Cairo Knife Fight?
GP: In the years that I put into those projects I think I have learned what mistakes not to make and what right decisions to be inspired by. I also have great relationships that can help Cairo to do things in the future and now. I believe that being blessed with such amazing experiences gives me a realistic grasp of expectations and I bring a high level of professionalism to help Cairo reach its goals.
Later this summer, you will release your newest album, Seven. Can you tease this collection a little? What can fans expect from this album?
NG: It’s a progression from previous albums for sure, it was written and recorded very quickly and to be honest, we expected it to be out a while ago but got held up with the music industry’s favorite game of cat and mouse. Our desire is to release records more quickly, two a year if we can and this one was meant to be viewed within the prism of that concept but it stands in it’s own timeline well I think. It’s an old school listen in that it’s expected to be done from top to bottom as a continual experience, there’ll be other ideas we get through in the future but this one is definitely coming from that school of thought.
GP: They can expect the same energy and big sound that Cairo is known for. I did my best to build on the amazing work Aaron Tokona and Nick Gaffaney did with the previous music and I wanted to make sure I kept the spirit the same. I was a fan when I first was introduced to Cairo Knife Fight and I wanted to preserve that. I was really excited to add my heart and soul to this project. And I truly believe you can hear it on the Album.
Who are you all listening to these days? What artists have continued to inspire you and your music? Who would you absolutely love to work with in the future?
NG: Currently I’m listening to Fiona Apple again, her record “The Idler Wheel Is Wiser than the Driver of the Screw and Whipping Cords Will Serve You More than Ropes Will Ever Do” has been on high rotate as has Nine Inch Nails, for some reason I’m looking back more than ahead at the moment.
GP: Queens of the Stone Age, The Mars Volta, Royal Blood, Foo Fighters, Vintage Trouble, Clutch, Jack White, At the Drive In, System of a Down, Alain Johannes, Arctic Monkeys, Crobot, Muse, Rival Sons, & Radiohead. We would love to perform with any of these amazing bands (the ones that are still together) and any new ones that we do not know about. Hell, we just want to play as much as possible.
At the end of the day, what do you hope your fans take away from your music? What do you hope is the message of your songs?
NG: This record was written during a turbulent time in American life when I’d recently moved to the country. It’s a highly politicized combination of observation and immersion. It’s also greatly affected by growing older in a culture that adores youth. When i was a young musician i was getting a jazz degree and most of my heroes were already dead. I never venerated youth in the way that pop culture does so being involved in relatively mainstream music now I experience it first hand and it’s a fascinating thing. Message? Not so much a direct and distilled message but there’s plenty there if someone listens.
GP: I hope our fans get inspired when they listen to the music the way I do when I listen to what Nick and I have created. We wrote this album in 8 days at Kingsize Soundlabs Studios because that was all we could afford to pay and we needed a big enough studio to be able to isolate my 5 amps in separate rooms to have no bleed to the drum mics. I personally was scared shitless because I have never worked that way. Nick and I would show up early to the studio work on an idea I would program my rig for unique sounds then we would map out the song structure and finally play the song down live about 10 to 15 times and pick the best version. We did that for all 8 days and ended up with about 9 songs and “Seven” made it to the Album (Hence the Title)
There is a real purity in the sound and it’s a real representation of what the band sounds like live. After we where done at Kingsize, we finished the songs at my studio. So the only overdubs where vocals and harmonies and a few guitar things I added later. I made sure that everything I recorded could be somehow replicated live so it would sound the same. It’s quite the challenge to come up with parts that can be played live bye 2 people. I want our fans to know that we did this recording in the purest way possible, and what they are hearing is our heart and souls. And we are going to continue to create this way a lot. It’s only the beginning. I am really excited about the future.
Is there anything else that you would like to share with our readers about yourselves and your music?
GP: I want to thank your readers and All Access Music for giving Cairo Knife Fight a listen. We can’t wait for them to see the band live. It truly is where we shine and we have a blast doing this new material and the old stuff live. Can’t wait to share it with the world if we are lucky enough to get the opportunity to do so. So keep checking out for us because we are going to continue to release stuff like Seven.
(Photo Credit to Chris Frape)