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?