Monday, September 22, 2003

Go you good thing!
Given that Auckland rugby decided to use my song R U Ready as their theme song this season for the NPC, I thought I better go along to Eden Park and check this out for myself. So I head off to the game on Sunday, thinking I'll slip along incognito, and watch Auckland run out onto Eden Park to my song. The plan was good, except for when I was walking down the road to the game along with all the other fans, some clown leans out of their flat and starts singing "Are you ready, are you ready" at me. I look up, and I am so busted. Its Hugh Sundae - bastard! He knows exactly where I am going and why. Damn.
Anyway, I get my ticket and find my seat, two rows from the front, near the players entrance, munching on some hot chips. Ah, salty goodness.
Finally, 2.35 rolls around and Southland run on to the field, to Salmonella Dub, very laid back. Then... here comes Auckland! The chorus of "R U Ready" blasts out of the PA as the Auckland team run out, and I'm grinning from ear to ear. Its a very surreal, very funny moment. That's my song, at a rugby game. How weird, and yet also very cool.
Anyway, Auckland scored one minute into the game, great start, except Southland scored off an intercept two minutes later. Half time was 22 to 7 to Auckland, by the end of the game it was 42 to 19 to Auckland. A solid win, but not without some holes in Aucklands defence, and their attempts at conversions off their tries were appalling, some terrible kicking - one attempt barely lifted above the ground. Gosh, I sound like I know a a lot about rugby - how'd that happen?
Hats off to the ground presenter, especially when one of the Southland players got into a bit of a scrap with one of the Auckland players - out blasts Tim Finn singing "theres a fraction too much fiction..." nice work.
Next home game is October 4, against Northland - see ya there!
Dub is the new Rock.
Friday was the annual madness that is the BNet Music Awards, the alternative to the official NZ Music Awards, or the Tuis. Having attended a few of these loose affairs (The BNets), I was curious to see what they came up with this year.

Last years was hosted by Otis and Slave, who were great, but had the unfortunate handicap of a minibar on stage, which slowed them down significantly as the night wore on. Drinking spirits will do that to you.

This years host was dapper young man about town Hugh Sundae (or as one talent agency lists him, Huge Sundae). He arrived being lowered from above the stage at the Bruce Mason Theatre, holding a guitar miming to God Defend New Zealand done Hendrix-anthem style. How tasteful.

Then straight into the first live act Shapeshifter, with guest vocals from Warren Maxwell (Trinity Roots/Fat Freddys). The quality of the live performances during the night was exceptional - you get the sense that the bands chosen to play at this event know that they're playing to their peers, and they pull out all the stops to make themselves noticed. The Mint Chicks leapt around with punk rock fury that was charming, Dimmer battled with gear problems, which nearly defeated Shayne Carter, but he rose above it, delivering a blistering guitar attack on Seed, once his guitar roared back to life. Scribe and P-Money blasted into their tunes, including the number one single in the country last week, Stand Up. Sola Rosa noodled away, and the D4 tore thru two songs before pausing for breath, long enough for Dion to blurt out "we're the D4 - thanks for coming - good night" and BANG - straight into Get Loose, absolutely ferocious. I'm lukewarm on the D4 on record, but live there's no denying that they kick serious ass.

There was a live cross to John Peel, a fan of the BNet, which someone said was very CNN, but didn't really work due to poor audio, but Hugh's MC battle with the Decepticonz (sitting at a table down the front) was hilarious. He was getting heckled by Savage of the Decepticonz, and Hugh took to him, getting DJ Logikal to give him a beat, and off he went, in most impressive form, rapping something about "Think you know more than me? Bet you don't know Scribes out the back with the chick from Lucid Three." Then he passed the mike to Mareko (NZ's best freestyle MC) and then it was all on. Mareko dropped a line about "Hugh Sundae, who you tryin to fool? You probably think I named my album after you" (Hugh was wearing a White Sunday Tshirt), and Hugh grabbed the mike and said "You wanna see how white this sundae is?" and turned to face the back of the stage and started to drop his trousers! Thankfully, he spared us the full glory of his naked butt. I mean, people were eating, after all.

So, some people won some awards, Concord Dawn made a terrible joke - Matt says "I was told if I got up here I had to tell a joke so here goes - how do you turn a triangle into a straight line?" Answer - "Shave it". Oh, very nice. Still they get 'mad crazy props' for showing off Evan's Shore boy tattoo - MSA tattooed in large gothic letters across his back - Shore boys representing, apparently. MSA stands for something like Milford Society of Alcoholics.

Rhombus won lots of awards, proving that Welli dub is taking over the country. The Datsuns won a few too, and, oh, I don't remember it all, but it was bloody good fun. Aussie Michael Gudinski of Mushroom Records presented the International Achiever Award, and told the assembled musos to "Get off your arses and get out there" - good advice, but he gets points off for mentioning his own company twice while presenting the award. Nice to see Karen Hay up there too, presenting. Brent Hansen from MTV Europe was in the room too, lending some prestige to the event, not that anyone there really cared about that - they were more concerned with where the next drink was coming from.

As I headed off to the car, I ended up following the Mint Chicks loading out their gear. One of them was singing something, going la la la la, sounded like Clav Dub by Rhombus, while one of the other members suggested that maybe they should change their name to the Dub Chicks. Smart marketing move boys, but Punk rock is coming back into fashion any day now. Honest. Its really big with hairdressers.


Grant Smithies in the Sunday Star Times described the event as... "Louder, scruffier, more arty and underground than May's New Zealand Music Awards industry shindig, this is essentially the "alt.Tuis" and the punters love every minute of it. Each year they laugh, they cry, they drink too much and bemoan the profound suckyness of mainstream radio."

But is mainstream radio that sucky, given that many of the bands winning awards have also had mainstream radio success, like Salmonella Dub, Nesian Mystik and Golden Horse? Industry mag Median Strip picked up on this one...

"Music fans voting for the weekend's 2003 b.net NZ Music Awards demonstrated just how blurred the line between 'mainstream' and so-called 'alternative' music have become recently, by sending some of the year's biggest 'commercial' stars up onto the b.net podium.... The mainstream industry has taken some strides to the left in recent times, picking up music which only a few years ago would have been entirely the domain of the b.net.

But equally, the public voting for the b.net awards seems to dicate the 'alternative' audience has moved a million miles or so to the centre since the first awards in 1998. (Or, perhaps more explicably, not everyone who votes for the b.net awards necessarily listens to the b.net)..."

Monday, September 15, 2003

Man in black
Johnny Cash died last Friday. The Chicago Sun-Times called him the original punk rocker. I remember playing a song of his with my old band the Hallelujah Picassos -we were playing at BFM's Summer Series around 94, I think, and each band playing that day had to cover a Johnny Cash song (as it was near his birthday). I dug out Folsom Prison Blues, and sampled some of the vocals, and we dropped them over a menacing dub reggae tune of ours called Marshall Law dub. "I shot a man in Reno, just to watch him die..." accompanied by gunshots, part of the Marshall Law track. I have no idea why it worked, but it did.

World famous in NZ? - Not really, but I did get namechecked by Russell Brown in Fridays Public Address post....
"So the Auckland NPC team is now running onto Eden Park to the strains of 'R U Ready?' by Dub Asylum (aka occasional Public Address contributor Peter McLennan) - does this mean we have finally departed the era of risible radio jingle-rock as a rugby accompaniment?"

On a similar note, I am happy to report that Auckland beat Taranaki convincingly on Saturday, 24 - 13. Suddenly I have a vested interest in rugby. What a surprise.

Thursday, September 11, 2003

Kiwi musicians get rich! Part 2
Murray Cammick has written more on the current foreign adventures of some New Zeland bands (see Wednesday Sept 3's post for more on that). Making It in the USA. He's got some more sales numbers, this time for NZ albums in the UK...
"The darlings of the NME the Datsuns lead the NZ garage rock field in the UK with their self-titled album at 74,729 sales. This is a Silver Album in the UK. The D4 follow with their album 6twenty selling 13,436 units so far... Sony NZ have achieved UK releases for their two biggest current local signings with Bic Runga Drive scoring 6,222 sales while Che Fu hardly makes a dent in the UK with Navigator at 155 sales."
Several comments appeared at nzmusic.com after the first part of the story was published there, with some responses being pretty dubious. Take this one.... "There's no mention of Steriogram anywhere. I heard that they're bigger than the Datsuns and the D4 in the States. They're actually Capitol Record USA's highest selling overseas act currently." As Murray points out,how can they be Capitol's highest selling overseas act when they haven't released their album yet?
One of the more interesting resonses posted was from US Producer Joe Berman, who is involved with signing Steriogram in the US. He says that "Unlike other territories (UK, NZ, etc.), the USA music industry is very "radio driven." Unfortunately The D4 and The Datsuns radio campaigns were pretty lackluster, and there was no "set up". With little or no radio activity, it's extremely difficult for US labels to get "excited" and prioritize a new artist. The USA video channels (MTV and VH1) also play key roles in breaking new artists, but with weak radio reaction, it's very hard to get added at these channels. Another problem that I have seen with Intenational artists on USA labels is that USA (artist) management is imperative. A band signed to a major USA label needs to have someone who can communicate with, and bulldog various label department heads, and make sure nothing "falls through the cracks."
Murray also caught up with Tom Larkin from Pacifier who told him that the video for their song Bulletproof off the Pacifier album cost $US 350,000 - more than it cost to record the album. This is the 'lets throw lots of money at this record and that will make it sell heaps' theory. Go figure.

My watch is running perfectly. I managed to figure out how to set the date - you wind it forwards to 6 o'clock, then forwards again to 12.30, then back to 6 o'clock. Keep doing this til you have moved the date to the correct setting. Each time you do the above procedure, it moves one day forward. Its a slow process and my finger and thumb were a bit sore after....

Friday, September 05, 2003

Bad day at the office
Last Thursday, Pizza delivery man Brian Wells went to work at Mamma Mias Pizza-ria in Erie, Pennsylvania. By the end of the day he had robbed a bank, been arrested by the police, and blown to bits by a bomb strapped to his body, in that order. Its a pretty horrifying story - he made a delivery and ended up with a home-made metal 'collar bomb' chained round his neck. The Police caught him shortly after robbing the PNC bank, handcuffed him, but didn't do anything to get the bomb off him. It blew up, killing him.
Now it appears that "Such bombs were the subject of an episode of the CBS drama "CSI: Miami." The episode, which last aired July 7, was called "Losing Face." It was about a serial bomber suspected of attaching an explosive collar to the neck of a wealthy Colombian importer in Miami." The FBI has pictures of the collar bomb on their website, and are calling for information. They also announced that "Agents also are unsure of something else: why Wells was carrying "a sort of gun" when a homemade bomb exploded on his chest a week ago. A top FBI agent in Pittsburgh disclosed the existence of the makeshift gun on Wednesday."
Former co-worker Lisa Sadowski said "(The robbery and bombing) is way above something he could even think of. He was not a violent person. We had parties at our house. He played volleyball. He was funny."

Wednesday, September 03, 2003

Kiwi musicians get rich!
Unlimited magazine's September issue has an excellent feature on NZ musicians and their recent successes here and overseas, written by Russell Brown.
"Locally produced music has roughly doubled its share of a stagnant music retail market in five years, to just over 11% in the last quarter. More artists, and a wider range of them, sell gold and platinum. The proportion of overall commercial radio airtime devoted to New Zealand music has reached 15%, up from 2% seven years ago, and at least one commercial station, Channel Z, tops a once unthinkable 30%. The industry is looking healthy... At this point a reality check is necessary: selling gold (10,000 units) and platinum (15,000) in New Zealand will not make anyone rich, especially not the recording artists, or, in most cases, their indie labels."
The story contains plenty of hard numbers detailing the growing success of New Zealand music on the radio and in the charts here. So, whats the payoff? "If we score the big one we could be looking at serious money for New Zealand — Ireland reaps $600 million annually in music exports; we currently earn about $5 million. But even if we don’t, there would be something terribly sad about living in a country that couldn’t make its own music."

For the flipside of the successes of the Datsuns, D4 and Pacifier, our bands taking it to the US, Murray Cammick has dug up some numbers too. "We hear all the good news, the hype about NZ musicians gaining releases in the USA, but we don't hear much about the reality, the sales or the cost of trying to sell those recordings."
According to Murray's research, The Datsuns album has sold 24,000 copies in the US, D4 are at 26,000 (remember their label trumpeted about shipping 100,000 copies to shops prior to release?) and Pacifier, despite 4 months intense touring in the US, have sold 9,600 albums there. Given the huge amount of money thats been pumped into their new album by their US label, you get the impression that unless one of their songs takes off at US radio, their latest shot at the big time will be chalked up to experience, and they'll shuffle back to Melbourne.

Still, they rock the bejesus out of local crowds - at the end of Pacifiers jubilant gig at the St James in Auckland, Jon Toogood walked back on stage, pulled down his jeans (exposing his Pacifier panties - ladies variety) and sprayed the front rows with a water bottle held at crotch level. The he turns and waddles offstage, with jeans still round his ankles. He's all class, that boy.
Murray told me recently that when Pacifier toured the States for this album, they didn't take their own soundperson. This is something that bands just never never do. You ALWAYS take your own soundperson, they're generally seen as an integral part of the band. Apparently the reason they didn't take one was the expense, and the soundman for the band they were supporting had a very good reputation. Weird.
So, Bic Runga may have sold 90,000 copies of her latest album, but her label Sony expect to maybe break even from that, against recording and promotion costs. Thats how Kiwi musicians are getting rich? No, its in music publishing. See Russell's article for more on this.

Thursday, August 28, 2003

Graffiti art is on the out
Graffiti art has been a key part of the annual Aotearoa Hip Hop Summit, now in its fourth year (coming up on October 10th & 11th). Held for the last two years in Auckland at The Edge (Town hall, Aotea Centre and Square), its a huge event, attracting DJs, MCs, breakers and graffiti artists from around the country and overseas. One of the most exciting parts of the three day event is the outdoor graffiti art jam in the Square, organised by local artist Askew. Temporary plywood walls are erected around the edge of the Square, and graffiti artists spend a day going hard, painting the walls, while the public wander past checking out their skills. You think its easy painting with a spray can? Give it a try sometime, its bloody tricky.
It now seems that the Auckland City Council wants graffiti out of the equation. Hip hop fans talk of the four realms of hiphop, being djing, mcing, breaking and graffiti art. Now the Council want to change 25 years of musical history, and make it three realms. Scuse the language, but WTF?

Check out this recent newspaper article...

"The Auckland City Council wants applicants for publicly funded hip-hop events to denounce graffiti.
The move is being described by one leading urban artist as an absurdity.
Graffiti art is one of the integral parts of the global youth movement, one of "four realms" of hip-hop culture that also include DJing, rapping and breakdance.
In a report to the council's law and order committee, its dedicated graffiti prevention officer, former policeman Rob Shields, recommends a zero tolerance policy on graffiti.
Mr Shields says many hip-hop artists get council funding and support for major events and they should formally denounce graffiti vandalism in writing, and also publicly during the events.
In the latest of his regular updated reports to the committee, Mr Shields writes, "The hip-hop culture has a sinister side and that side's most common form of expression is graffiti vandalism. In this light, it is suggested that all funding associated with the hip-hop culture all be linked to a requirement for the applicants to denounce graffiti vandalism in writing."
Established Auckland hip-hop icon Otis Frizzell thinks forcing hip-hop artists to condemn graffiti is absurd...."
Read more about it here.

Wednesday, August 27, 2003

We are the robots.
Its only taken them 17 years, but electronic pioneers Kraftwerk have finally put out a new album. Tour De France Soundtracks is built around a song they released as a single way back in 1983, and includes a re-recorded version of that tune, alongside 6 new tunes, and a 3 part reworking of Tour De France which shows they have been paying attention to Detroit techno. When I bought the album, I got talking to the guy in the shop, and he suggested they should've released something sooner to cash in, so to speak. He's got a point; Kraftwerk have been so hugely influential across dance genres in the 17 years since Electric Cafe that there must be a missed opportunity there. Kraftwerk were always about the art, not commerce. But then there was Expo 2000...

The last time Kraftwerk released anything new was the Expo 2000 single, which was based around a commercial they recorded for the Expo 2000 festival in Hannover, that same year. According to The Guardian, "Hütter and Schneider were paid DM400,000 (around £145,000) to come up with a four-second jingle. Snappy financial thinking like that eventually caused Expo 2000 to lose a staggering DM2.4bn (£700m) - £10 for every man woman and child in Germany - and the {German} media deemed Kraftwerk guilty by association."

The Guardian's Alexis Petridis headed off to Dusseldorf to try and find Kraftwerk, and all he comes up with one stunning fact...
"Rosso Sport certainly looks like a very Kraftwerk kind of shop. A converted industrial warehouse next to a disused railway line, it is staffed by rather stern-looking men with lycra shorts and shaved heads. One drags himself away from the giant television screen showing the Tour de France long enough to answer my queries. Yes, he says, Florian Schneider sometimes comes in here. He has two bikes. A racing model and a small collapsible bike. And with that, he curtly turns away, like a man who has suddenly remembered some kind of Kraftwerk confidentiality agreement."
Its a very groovy album, definitely 'Kraftwerk like". Have a listen at Kraftwerks site, or check out this great fan site from Brazil.

Tuesday, August 26, 2003

A hairy night out First published at Public Address
I'm surrounded by 2000 hairdressers. How did this happen? A late afternoon phone message from local comedian Radar, who is hosting the TV coverage for ETV at the L'Oreal Colour Trophy Awards 2003. He's got some spare tickets to this do. Lots of free alcohol and food, how bad can it be? Well...

We arrive and search out the alcohol. No worries there - they're handing out the bubbly as soon as you walk through the door. But as for food... there's a few waiters walking round with baskets of tiny bread sticks, and that's it. Are these people afraid of food or something?

Anyway, the stage looks fabulous, and out strolls Helen Clark to make the opening speech, praising the high calibre of our hair stylists - well, look what they did for her!

Then the fun begins. A young woman dressed as a 1930s dancer comes out lip-synching to a song out of Chicago - then Bang! Gunshots and oh, lookee, she's dead. A silhouetted figure walks down the stairs behind her; there's some strange orchestral music whining away... Oh dear, they've re-created the video of 'My Way' as performed by that famous pop crooner Mr Sid Vicious, complete with impersonator with perfectly spiked hair, as you'd expect from a hairdressing event. He lipsynchs the entire song, then shoots the woman but the gun doesn't fire so he throws it away and kicks her instead; does the fingers at the crowd and walks back up the stairs. I think it might be post-modern - or just really naff.

(Turns out he was actually singing it - the video screen behind him had a delay which made it look like he was lip synching. The talented chap in question was Clint Sharplin.)

Then the awards begin, hosted by Simon Praast and Danielle Cormack. As each of the first group of finalists paraded along the catwalk with their hair models the music blasted out piercingly loud: more punk rock, this time the opening bars of the Sex Pistols doing the Who's old clunker 'Substitute'. This music is repeated again and again and again. Later the finalists in another section are paraded to the Buzzcocks 'Autonomy' played over and over. I'm not sure what the connection with punk is here - this whole event is about celebrating the exterior, how you look. It's about artifice and the superficial, which is the opposite of punk.

The energy of the audience was great. Each time someone got up onto the catwalk with their model a small but vocal team of supporters / friends / workmates would leap up and cheer and holler for all they were worth. It was very cool. One winner even managed to fit in a happy birthday mum on behalf of a friend, very nice. Next it's David Bowie as Ziggy Stardust, courtesy of our impersonator. He's back later for another burst of wierdness as Marilyn Manson doing that old chestnut 'Tainted Love'.

The other entertainment during the evening consists of two fashion shows from the Spring collections of Nicholas Blanchet, Karen Walker, Natalia Kucija and Trelise Cooper. There were some wonderful garments but mostly appalling music. Special points to the models for Natalia Kucija, who were subjected to the sound of a CD skipping through multiple CDs. After listening closely I could make out that someone had very cleverly edited it to sound like a CD skipping or a radio dial surfing - but making those poor girls trying to walk to it was just cruel.

When the Supreme Award NZ Hairdresser of the Year is announced the title goes to Penny Ainsley of Bettjeman's Orakei. She's so bubbly and excited that it's truly delightful. Her supporters in the balcony go absolutely nuts. After thanking half the planet, she holds up the trophy, and says 'let's party!'. The music roars - the Undertones' 'Teenage Kicks' - and Penny and her model walk the catwalk a few more times before figuring out which way to exit. British DJ John Peel listens to this tune once a week - it's his benchmark for judging every pile of new releases he receives. Listening to the song blast around the town hall as it empties out it's not hard to see why. Such a glorious guitar sound!

And then it's off in search of more food. Did I mention we hadn't had dinner before this thing? Slight oversight there. No time. Silly boy.

In the Concert Chamber is the party, a crammed room of people listening to what the programme describes as "renowned DJ and entertainer" Mikey Havoc. Goodshirt continue the retro theme later on.

In the foyer downstairs we locate the food: more insubstantial nibbly things. Finally we source the real goodies - cute cardboard boxes of cold soba noodles with chicken. The video screen is playing a documentary about The Doors and in the corner is Radar and Entertainment TV shooting interviews with the important people. Before we entered the screen was showing a doco about the Clash with some amazing footage of the band playing live in some dingy club back in 1977, hurtling through 'I Fought The Law', which was electric. That's what I just don't get. Punk rock and hairdressing in 2003? They don't even go together in the same sentence, let alone in a room with several thousand hairdressers. Can anyone explain this to me? (It's as strange as Bill Ralston being told to chop $5 million out of his budget by TVNZ's board so the Government can get a dividend while that same Government gives TVNZ $12 million to help it meet its charter obligations.)

Still, we scammed another box of noodles as we were leaving. All in all a highly entertaining evening. Thanks, Radar.
And so it begins. Hello / Kia Ora from Auckland New Zealand.
Whats the aim? Who's the target? Language is a virus, said Mr Burroughs. Playing with words is the best fun. From William Gibson to Kraftwerk, there's still fun to be had with the english.

... And then we have the abomination that is the NZ Herald's television coverage. They seem to think it is acceptable to preview a show by writing out the whole plot, which, if its a comedy, means they give away all the punchlines before you even see them. I've had to make myself avoid reading their tv section, in case they blow another storyline from something I want to watch. You could always make up your own tv programmes. Chad Taylor came up with a few recently, such as this one...
"Karen Walker: The Smell of Fabric
Three-part dramatic mini-series. Parker Posey plays Kiwi designer Karen Walker. Runs over three nights on TV1; part three postponed indefinitely by Wednesday night netball." How could you go wrong with Parker Posey? She's fantastic.