Monday, September 29, 2003

Kiwi battlers!
So, New Zealand music is bigger than ever, just look at the charts, shout the PR hacks. But what about some diversity? Well here you go - heavyweight drum n bass duo Concord Dawn released their latest album recently and lookee, there it is this week at number 9 in the national charts! That is some seriously cool sh*t right there.
"Earlier in the week we'd been told we were likely to be higher than that. When we heard we were No 9 it was like 'Stink, we're not at No 3'," a not entirely crestfallen Evan Short of Concord Dawn says. Think he's taking the piss? Concord Dawn licensed songs to over a dozen different drum n bass record labels around the planet last year. They sold,50,000 records - that's vinyl. Go you good things!

I spent 23 and a half hours in Wellington on Thursday - flew down for a gig there, took my man MC Word Perfect. Had fun wandering thru town with him - he lived there for 3 years before moving up to AK. So every ten feet he saw someone he knew, from graff artist Otis to Pacifier bassist Karl Kippenburger to the folks behind Manual and Staple magazine, both excellent publications (check out the new issue of Staple, it's choice!). That's one of the things I love about visiting Welli - the central city is a friendly place to hang out, whereas central Auckland is a wind tunnel full of suits.

Still can't understand why Newstalk ZB hasn't disciplined Paul Holmes after the darkie comments. His stupid comments have now travelled the globe, reaching Ghana, and Mr Annan. World media describe Holmes as "one of the New Zealand's top journalists" or "New Zealand's most prominent journalist", although Australia's ABC referred to Holmes as a "shock jock". Mediawatch has some good links on the story. The NZ Herald has overseas reactions, such as this...
Maxwell Yifusu, a spokesman for the Ghana Broadcasting Corporation, said the national radio station had been inundated with outraged calls. "It shows total disregard for the world's highest-ranking public official and is an insult to our country."
Newstalk ZB's General manager Bill Francis defends his wayward employee, noting that "...Paul's radio show has always had a strong element of comment, heavily laced with satire. Regular listeners know and understand this. He writes his material close to deadline - there's no luxury of lengthy contemplation over its worth." So why did his producers allow him to call Mr Annan a darkie repeatedly - 7 times in 45 minutes? Did no one tell him to shut the hell up?
The latest is that the Holmes Show has lost it's sponsor, Mitusbishi Motors NZ from tonight. The managing director Paul Leighton said the apology from Holmes the following day did little to appease the original complaint. "There are some things you can't apologise for and I am afraid some things when they are done, they are done. They cannot be undone by simply saying I am sorry. That doesn't undo the damage."
What I want to know is, why Paul Holmes said those things? He's made apologies left right and centre, but offered no explanation as to why he said them.

Oh, and let's not mention the rugby - Auckland aint doing so good. Sigh.

Thursday, September 25, 2003

Paul Holmes aint no nigga hata II
And yet again New Zealand is the laughing stock of the world's media. Last time it was the Fart Tax that made world headlines, now its one of our top broadcasters mouthing racist jibes at Kofi Annan.
So there's silly old Paul Holmes on TV One's news last night, struggling desperately to remove his foot from his mouth, and he says that he's beyond regret, its not how he thinks (but you opened your mouth and said it, Paul), and that "it was just something to toss off in the morning". Paul Holmes, tossing off in the morning. He said it. (Anyone else thinking of Kevin Spacey in American Beauty? Ewww!)
And the worst part is that Newstalk ZB say that they will discipline their top employee, and its an internal matter. He'll get a gentle slap on the wrists and that's that. Maybe a fine from the BSA for a few thousand dollars. How about someone hit him where it hurts - take him off air for a week. Watch him wither, away from the bright lights of celebrity. What a bunch of hicks, silly old New Zealand. Quick, someone mention the All Blacks to distract us.

Wednesday, September 24, 2003

Paul Holmes aint no nigga hata...
"That Kofi Annan, I have got to say to you, he has been a very cheeky darkie overnight," Holmes said. "It is all very well giving a darkie that secretary general's job. We will only take so much, I am sorry. We will only take so much. We are not going to be told how to live by a Ghanaian."
Paul Homes on Newstalk ZB this morning. Seems he didn't agree with Mr Annan that the UN had kept the peace for 58 years. Holmes thinks the nuclear bomb kept the peace. Sigh. He earns enough money (a rumoured $700,000 a year), you think he could pay someone to get the bug out of his arse.... hang on, does this make him the most highly paid racist in the country?
Change the record
Less than a week ago, President Bush distanced himself from his vice presidents ramblings on the unproven links between the Sept 11 terrorists and Saddam. Now he turns round and comes out with this gem in a speech to the UN...
"The regime of Saddam Hussein cultivated ties to terror while it built weapons of mass destruction." Cultivated ties to terror - I take that implies Saddam supported terrorists like Bin Laden. It has been suggested in many quarters that Saddam's regime was a secular one, and would have nothing to do with a religious group like Bin Ladens.
Bush's speech at the UN followed earlier rebukes from French President Chirac and UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, 'who warned that pre-emptive unilateral military action without the authorisation of the United Nations risked leading to the law of the jungle.
"My concern is that, if it were to be adopted, it could set precedents that resulted in a proliferation of the unilateral and lawless use of force, with or without credible justification," Mr Annan told the assembly to sustained applause.'
No one applauded during Bush's speech. They just sat there in silence.

There's a page of reaction from various political analysts in the Herald, including this one..
Lee Feinstein, Washington Director of the Council on Foreign Relations:
"Kofi Annan gave the speech George Bush should have."

Meanwhile, Reuters reports that Iraqi women are no better off now than when Saddam ruled Iraq... "In many ways, Iraqi women are worse off than before U.S. forces ousted Saddam Hussein and are too afraid to play a big political role for fear of being a target of extremists, a senior U.N. official said on Tuesday."

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)..."

Friday, September 19, 2003

He aint the sharpest tool in the box...
US Vice president Dick Cheney has been spouting off about the alleged link between the Sept 11 terrorists and Saddam Hussein.
Mr Bush distanced himself from Cheneys comments, noting that ""We've had no evidence that Saddam Hussein was involved in September 11." And yet, nearly 70% of Americans think there is some link, according to a recent Washington Post poll - perhaps because their leaders spent the last 18 months insinuating there was such a connection, so they could justify invading Iraq. Rumsfeld is reported as wanting to invade Iraq as far back as September 12, 2001. What a bunch of trigger-happy cowboys. Bah!

I've been enjoying the newly relaunched Real Groove magazine. I think the new format and paper stock is a definite improvement, making the excellent content look less crammed on the page. There's always been plenty to read in it, if you're a mad keen music junkie like myself, but now its much easier on the eye.
David Cohen of The National Business Review is less than impressed with it. He has a few issues with the content, and the supposed originality of it...
"The magazine's rank misdemeanour, if that's not too light a term for it, can be seen on page 22 of the current issue of Real Groove, in a column appearing under the byline of one of the magazine's flagship contributors, Sarah McHendry, and titled "My last ever column 'bout 9/11."
Alas, whether this really is her last column 'bout the events commemorated around the world last week to be published in Real Groove, the authorial rights to the piece assuredly do not belong to Ms McHendry or anyone else in New Zealand. As a matter of fact, vast swathes of the work have been lifted, virtually intact, from a number of articles already in existence overseas, most notably ­ but not exclusively ­ a well known series of conspiracy orientated weekend commentaries written for the Toronto Star by the Canadian-based journalist Michele Landsberg." Nasty.

Tuesday, September 16, 2003

Not Happen Inn....
The Listener's Diana Wichtel on that train wreck of a tv show, The Big Night In...."There's a defiant meaninglessness about the whole exercise that could just see it go down in history as a Kiwi television classic."
Bang - hit the nail on the head...

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.

Friday, September 12, 2003

Nine eleven, rugby, and the Fun Lovin Criminals.
America has been bowing its head in remembrance of that awful day when terrorism shifted from the Middle East to Manhattan. Ex-pat Kiwi Jolisa Gracewood has written a fine piece on life in the Big Apple, over at Public Address. She mentions the cover of the New Yorker magazine that came out a few days after the twin towers. That magazine's covers editor is Fran├žoise Mouly - her husband is comic artist Art Spiegelman, creator of Maus.

Jolisa writes: "Art Spiegelman's cover for the issue of September 24, 2001, printed barely a week after the towers fell, was a masterpiece of understatement, a flat evocation in black on black of the stunned feeling that pervaded the city. It looked like a field of unrelieved mourning darkness, until you noticed a thin line slicing through one of the letters at the top of the page. Tracing back down, you discovered that the line was the radio mast on top of one of the buildings, both of which were imprinted on the page in a barely distinguishable, marginally lighter shade of black. You looked and looked and you could almost see the towers; one minute they were there, the next gone, and then there they were again, in a disappearing and reappearing optical illusion that echoed the way the mind struggled to comprehend their sudden absence."

Spiegelman was at the heart of it all... "On September 11th my wife and I had just stepped out of our lower-Manhattan home. Those towers had been our taken-for-granted neighbors, always picture-postcard visible a mile south of our front stoop. That morning, out of the very clear, very blue sky, a plane roared right over our heads and smashed into the first tower. The scale of the disaster was at first unclear—as many have since observed, it seemed "surreal"—and we had to get over our stunned disconnect to realize that this was no movie, and that our fourteen-year-old daughter, Nadja, was in the heart of the growing pandemonium." Her school was below the towers.

On a,lighter note the Auckland Rugby team will be running out onto the field this season to the tune of R U Ready by Dub Asylum, aka yours truly. This is very, very cool. I'm also dj'ing tonight with the Bassteppa Sound System, up at Khuja Lounge, which is a fine way to end the week.

And remember, its bad form to speak ill of the wack - Huey of the Fun Lovin Criminals explains ....

Do they think the likes of Limp Bizkit and Linkin Park have cashed in on their rap/rock/sampling mixture? "Naah," says Huey. "I don't want to speak ill of the wack, but they don't have any concept of anything other than what their penis wants to do. We do something a little more refined, I think."

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....

Monday, September 08, 2003

Whats the time, comrade?
Last week a parcel arrived for me - it was the Russian watch I'd bought over the internet. Its a beautiful metallic beast, made in Russia by Vostok, the company that made watches for the Russian military. They still sell watches featuring Soviet tanks, Mig fighters, submarines, even the KGB model. An enterprising Englishman is selling them as Russian Watches International. The prices are very reasonable, compared to the overpriced inelegant lumps I looked at in the watch shops around town recently. So what if Tiger Woods or Cindy Crawford wears that watch, its still butt ugly.
Some history: "The Vostok watch making tradition dates back to 1941 when one of the Moscow watch-making plants was evacuated to Chistopol - a little town located on the Kama River in the central region of Russia. All manner of Defence equipment was made at the factory during the war years. As soon as the war was over, however, they started to make mechanical wristwatches - the main production ever since. In 1965, the factory became an official supplier of the Soviet Union Department of Defence."
Now I've got one, I really want another. The military ones feature a red star instead of the number '12' at the top of the dial. Is it retro? Old fashioned? I don't care - these are beautifully made, solid-looking time pieces. The one I got, Century Time Modern is an automatic model - its self winding, as long as you wear it regularly. Best thing - hold it up to your ear, and it doesn't make a sound.
William Gibson studiously avoided the internet for a mighty long time, until he got hooked on searching for mechanical watches on Ebay. "I went happily along for years, smugly avoiding anything that involved a modem. Email address? Sorry. Don't have one," he says. But ...
"Then I found eBay. And I wanted to go back. Because eBay is, basically, just a whole bunch of stuff. Stuff you can look at and wonder if you want - or let yourself want and then bid on. Mechanical watches are so brilliantly unnecessary. Any Swatch or Casio keeps better time, and high-end contemporary Swiss watches are priced like small cars. But mechanical watches partake of what my friend John Clute calls the Tamagotchi Gesture. They're pointless in a peculiarly needful way; they're comforting precisely because they require tending."

So whats happening in watch auctions at Ebay right now? Someone is auctioning Mike Tysons diamond-encrusted, 18 karat gold case and bracelet, Rolex. For real, bro. The former heavyweight champion and ear-biters watch is going for $US22,500 if you want to buy it now. Seems Tyson bought it in 89, and parted company with it prior to his jail term in 93. Lots of lovely pictures, and so many diamonds, but god its an ugly looking thing. The current owner lives in Las Vegas. Surprised?

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."

Thursday, September 04, 2003

Barks like a dog
On monday I wrote about TV Ones new variety entertainment show A Big Night In. Its pretty dodgy - seems Dave Dobbyn agrees. He phoned up TVNZ and complained after his name was mistakenly associated with "that atrocity". Can you blame him? Even the promos for the show make it look bad.

The NZ Herald reports that "Dobbyn was so appalled by what he saw that he rang TVNZ on Monday morning half-seriously threatening legal action for damage to his career. He wanted it made quite clear he had nothing to do with the programme.

"I suggested ... that the white piano in the foyer of TVNZ should be lodged firmly up Ian Fraser's bum it was so appalling. The people who made that should be shot at dawn. I think there needs to be a lot of dead people after this. Although they must be dead already, really, to have made it. They have no cultural connection with the New Zealand of today, or indeed yesterday, or indeed the Neanderthal age."

The article investigates who was behind this show and its chequered history. Some of the suggested performers include the likes of Che Fu, who was considered to be too borderline for middle New Zealand, and don't even mention Nesian Mystic - too radical. Excuse me? The Topp Twins were considered to be top-billing material. As the Herald suggests, do you get the feeling that TVNZ are a bit out of touch?

"When it comes to responsibility for the shape and sound of the final product, no one's too keen to take the, ah, credit. TVNZ say Southern Star Endemol were responsible. "They came up with the way it looks, the artists, the host ... " says TVNZ spokeswoman Zara Potts.
Producer Dawn Aronie, on the other hand, says TVNZ had final approval on everything and chose the directors. "We supplied precisely what the network wanted."

You can polish a turd, but at the end of the day its still a piece of....

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.

Monday, September 01, 2003

All this and World War II
The American miniseries "Hitler: rise of evil" finished its two part run last night. It was a rather one dimensional portrayal of the rise to power of the 'evil dictator'. He came across as a twitching psycho, who was also a brilliant politican well-versed in cleverly manipulating the political climate to meet his own ends. Robert Carlyle played Hitler, and his characterisation wasn't a million miles away from his lunatic 'Begbie' character in Trainspotting.
Diana Wichel in The Listener says the miniseries "demonstrates that no period of history is too dark to eventually produce some truly excruciating miniseries moments. The drama was in trouble from the start, with some fearing that it might humanise Hitler. He always was human, which is the really scary part.
Then, in an interview, one of the Canadian production's producers, Ed Gernon, drew parallels between the rise of Fascism in a demoralised post-World War I Germany and the climate of fear in the US after September 11. Gernon was fired, which rather made his point."
The series seemed to suffer from a bunch of well meaning actors, mainly American, attempting to emote something that they didn't seem to really get. And casting Matthew Modine as the concerned German newspaper editor battling to expose Hitler and his thugs was unfortunate - he acts with all the integrity and grace of a wet blanket.
This interview with Peter Sussman, one of the executive producers says that "some of the criticism we took on the film in the early stage was, 'Don't you run the risk of making Hitler human?' And my answer was, 'I hope so.' ..."We just wanted to tell the story about how Hitler came to power. Abe Foxman of the Anti-Defamation League said it well. He said the film shows us how fragile democracy is."

If its entertainment you are after, then theres always NZ tvs latest ofering, A Big Night In. Its a variety show, with live performances from the Topp Twins, Mark Williams, Mary, and Goldenhorse, to name but a few. The set resembles a throwback to the variety shows on TVOne back in the 1970s, and some of the acts date from then too. Graham Reid in The Herald observed that "sometimes you wonder what country you are in. With TV One's Saturday night line-up you are certainly in another country. It's the past.... Big Night In was embarrassing, amateurish and shapeless. And there's nothing to be done about it. The series has been made and New Zealand on Air helped to fund it. Your tax dollar at work, folks....In the promos during the week, Pio said this was a show which made you feel okay about staying home on a Saturday night." If this show makes you feel okay about staying in on saturday night, god help you. You obviously are taking some really good medication to feel like that. Let me know where I can get some.