Monday, October 06, 2003

San Quentin, I hate every inch of you.
I ended up watching two tv programs this weekend featuring prisons. Friday was Breaking the Silence: Truth and lies in the war on terror, a documentary by journalist John Pilger (thanks to the NZ Herald for thoughtfully renaming the show The War is a Fraud, just in case you weren’t familiar with Pilgers leftie leanings), and the other was Johhny Cash Live at San Quentin.
Pilger set about examining the war in Iraq, backgrounding the reasons given by the American and British leaders for the war. He picked apart their flimsy justifications, til there was nothing left but bones. It was very depressing.
He showed more of those sickening images of the prisoners of war, or 'enemy combatants' as the US calls them, held in shackles, blindfolds and masks in Guatanamo Bay. The 641 detainees have no rights under the Geneva Convention, as the US doesn't consider them POW's, and they haven’t been charged with anything. They’re in limbo.
He interviewed such US neo conservative hawks like William Kristol, who wrote the document for the right wing group Project for a New American Century suggesting Saddam's removal(supporters include Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Pearle, John Bolton). When Pilger asked him about Americas new role, in attacking solid democracies, he said they have never done that. Pilger corrected him, noting that America has intervened in other countries 72 times since the Second World War. You really don't try and play fast and loose with a journalist of the calibre of Pilger; he does his homework. Kirstol responded by saying that Pilgers claims were ludicrous. Cut to a list in alphabetical order, scrolling down your tv screen, naming all the countries. When he interviewed US Undersecretary of State John Bolton, after the interview finished, Bolton made a dig at Pilger, saying “Are you a member of the Labour party?” Pilger shot back, “no they’re the conservatives in my country”. “You must belong to the communist party,” replied Bolton, laughing. Yeah, funny.
A former senior CIA officer and personal friend of George Bush senior said that when Bush senior was in the Whitehouse, Wolfowitz and Rumsfeld were commonly known as ‘the crazies’. That’s what the Whitehouse thought of them, then. Now, they’re in power. Pilger dug up footage of Rumsfeld shaking hands with Saddam, back in 1992, when the US was supplying Iraq with chemical weapons.
Watching this made me think how can powerful men live with themselves, when they appear on my tv night after night telling lies to maintain their status quo? Pilger’s final words talked of there now being two superpowers, the US government of George W Bush, and the rising tide of public opinion. He talked of the battle between these two forces, closing with the observation that "If we remain silent, victory over us is assured."

And there’s the late Johnny Cash, singing "San Quentin, I hate every inch of you..." inside San Quentin, to the prisoners, back in 1969. You wouldn't get away with that today; the powers that be woudn't allow it. They'd want to vet your material, check your lyrics first. The modern equivalent might be letting Ice T into a jail in LA to sing Cop Killer.
Cash's performance is amazing; what a brilliant storyteller. He talks about a song he wrote, about getting arrested in Mississippi for picking flowers, and spending a night in jail. "Imagine what they'd do if I'd picked an apple!"
The latter part of the film is intercut with prisoners telling their crimes, and it comes to one prisoner who tells about going to a party, making a pass at a girl, and at the end of the night there's just him, the girl, and her 12 year old son, who was in bed asleep. He and the woman were on the couch, the son comes in and says what are you doing to my mother, and the guy ended up strangling them both - he didn't know why he did it. He got taken to court, found guilty and the judge sentenced him to death. The rest of the film switched between Johnny Cash's performance (including the first public performance of A Boy Named Sue), the prisoner, shots of the gas chamber, and a guard describing the routine of a condemned prisoner. Sometimes I despair for this world, and then I just get angry. Hats off to Bruce Springsteen for saying impeach the President.

I went to the Auckland vs Northland rugby game at Eden Park on Saturday - watched Auckland run out onto the field to my song R U Ready, for the second time. As they ran out I turned to the field, and there they were - half a dozen of those agile young women for the Auckland Sky City Cheerleaders on the sideline facing the stands, dancing one of their routines.... to my song! It doesn’t get much better than that, aye.
Auckland won 50-17, moving up from 8th to 4th in the NPC championship. I wanted to get there earlier, as the Black Ferns (NZs world champions womens rugby team) were playing a World XV - I saw the last ten minutes. There was absolutely nothing about the game in The Saturday Herald, and the Sunday Star Times had no coverage of the game either - good on you, tv news for covering the game. The Black Ferns won 37 nil. They are seriously good.

Thanks to the Guardian’s list of the top 40 bands in Britain today, I now know that there is a band in the UK called Selfish Cunt. For some weird reason, the Sugarbabes sit at number 14 while Mr Scruff is at number 38. That is just wrong.

Thursday, October 02, 2003

Watch your back
Quote of the week - Mike Puru, host of TV2's 'yoof' news show Flipside, after a news item on the revival of Its In The Bag with Havoc and Newsboy... 'yes, Its in the bag, now there's an oldie but a goodie, bit like Havoc."

Wednesday, October 01, 2003

Mike King is a cheeky darkie
Okay, he called himself that, all right? I watched Mike King Tonight on TV last night - yes, its a blatant ripoff of Letterman, but so what? Its not like TV here is reknowned for originality - look at all the other copies of overseas formats we have on at the moment - from Changing Rooms to that ripoff of Fear Factor. It's a very funny show. No, really.
Mike King knows about timing, and he keeps the interviews snappy, and devoid of waffle. Last night, interviewee Lana Cockroft was wearing a GE Free March t shirt, and King commented on it, saying he was into that too - "I'm GE - genitally engineered" and quick as a shot, Lana says "so that must be why everyone calls you a dickhead!" King put his hands on his head and said "You got me". Too right, mate. The NZ Heralds Greg Dixon didn't get some of the jokes... "(King) got his laugh, but this kind of lowest common denominator joke panders to one audience while making the other switch off - can a chat show afford to do this?" Hell, its late night TV, who cares?

Pop star Moby is angry, bless his bald little head. One of Moby's fans is being sued by the RIAA, and Moby is less than impressed...
"personally I just can't see any good in coming from punishing people for being music fans and making the effort to hear new music. I'm almost tempted to go onto kazaa and download some of my own music, just to see if the riaa would sue me for having mp3's of my own songs on my hard-drive."
He's also been thinking about procreation...
"Now, for the first time in my life. I want to make babies," the 38-year-old said. "If anyone wants to make babies, let me know."

Tokyo is cool - now you can take a taxi that's done out in Hello Kitty decor....
"TOKYO, Japan (AP) -- How's this for a relaxing cab ride: slide into the back seat of a pink and baby blue sedan with two Hello Kitty characters painted on the side, sit on a Hello Kitty blanket and listen to Hello Kitty music piped in through the sound system.
This mobile paradise for fans of the popular kitten character is the latest service offered by a Japanese taxi company, Kanachu."

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.

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....