Saturday, June 16, 2007

Rest in peace... DJ Big Matt

Matt Watson, aka DJ Big Matt, passed away on Friday June 15. Matt was born in Australia and moved to New Zealand in 1972. Matt discovered reggae from his older brother, and started DJing reggae and ska along with soul and rare groove as the club scene in Auckland sprang into life in the early 80s, at Quays, Zanzibar, Collage, Monitor Room, Fingerpop & The Press Club.

He hosted the legendary Skavoovie Sound nights at the Gluepot, and shared his love of reggae over the radio with listeners for ten years on the 'Downbeat Show' on 95BFM (with co-host Yardboy, aka Michael Wells, and later Ruffian, aka Jon Coles), and then for a year on Base FM with 'Wickidness', until his day job as a locations manager for Shortland St took over.

Matt was a scooter fanatic, running a scooter shop for many years in Richmond Road. I first came across him DJing at a party there, in the back yard, with Yardboy. I worked alongside Matt as part of the Bassteppa Sound System, and spent many a happy night mixing up effects and delays while peering at Matt's selections, trying desperately to read the labels so I could rush out the next day and buy them too.

He loved sharing music, and when I'd go to visit him, he'd delight in pulling out new tunes and say "have you heard this?" and then drop the needle on another great record he'd discovered while searching the net­ - he was an internet fiend when it came to finding records. I remember him playing me a tune we'd discussed often, telling me he'd got it online from a record store in Glasgow. He was dedicated to the pursuit of fine tuneage, and he was happy to tell you where he got it from, because he wasn't elitist about his tunes, like some DJs.

His passion for music was overshadowed by his passion for his family ­Trish, his partner of over 20 years (they met when he was living at the Red House), and his two children, Henry (4) and Lola-Jean (1). Three weeks before he passed away, Matt and Trish got married in a very moving ceremony. He succumbed to cancer, aged 42. He wasn't ready to go.

His funeral was attended by everyone from scooter boys to Shortland St stars, DJs, and many more. His co-host on the Downbeat Show, Michael Wells, talked at the funeral about how he first met Matt, when he bought a scooter off of him. "Naturally, it broke down." Matt fixed it and it then, it broke down again. And again, and Michael couldn't afford to get it fixed, so asked Matt if he could work to pay it off, and Matt gave him a job, out back in the yard, hence his DJ name.

Big Matt was a wicked DJ, and a fine, fine man. He will be greatly missed.

Leave a message his Myspace page here, if you want...

Friday, June 15, 2007

"Oh, New Zealand. There’s Vikings there, right?”

The New Zealand Invasion: Digi-Folk Now!
By ALESSANDRA STANLEY, New York Times, June 15, 2007

It sometimes seems as if there is only one joke, and it’s innocence. From Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton to Jerry Lewis, Will Ferrell and Steve Carell, a comedian is as funny as he is unknowing.

The humor can be physical or verbal, the character boorish or endearing, but the key is a childlike lack of self-awareness.

The heroes of “Flight of the Conchords,” a new series that begins on HBO on Sunday, are as witless as they come. Jemaine and Bret are young New Zealanders adrift in New York who hope to break into the music industry with their “digi-folk” two-man band, also named Flight of the Conchords.

They passively bumble through life and the shabby downtown apartment they share without money or contacts and with barely any friends. They have a fan club of one, Mel (Kristen Schaal), a female stalker; and a band manager, Murray (Rhys Darby), an officious deputy cultural attaché at the New Zealand consulate who promises to find them gigs but refuses to book anything after dark because New York is too dangerous.

“You could be murdered,” Murray warns. “Or even just ridiculed.”

“Flight of the Conchords” is funny in such an understated way that it is almost dangerous to make too much of it — it could collapse like a soufflĂ© when the door slams. It’s much slighter than HBO’s big production comedies like “Curb Your Enthusiasm” and “Entourage.” It’s also a little sweeter, less a satire of show business than wry self-parody.

And that seems to be the way HBO comedy is headed in the post-“Sopranos” era. The network hasn’t found its next big thing and is instead trying out new material in modest bites. “Conchords” is a summer fling of a series, but it is funny, at times very funny.

As in “The Office,” or Ricky Gervais’s “Extras,” the humor lies in a deadpan exchange of inanities, punctuated by long, puzzled silences. It’s a comic style that’s been around a long time and served up many ways since the 1984 mock-documentary “This Is Spinal Tap.”

What distinguishes “The Conchords” from other, similarly dry, sardonic comedies is that at certain junctures the two heroes freeze the action and burst into song in subtle parodies of pop music videos that are almost plausible and deliciously absurd. The range is impressive, everything from David Bowie-style ’80s pop to rap and reggae.

Jemaine, smitten by a pretty girl he sees across the room at a party, croons:

"You could be a part-time model

But you’d probably still have to keep your normal job

A part-time model

Spending part of your time modeling

And part of your time next to me

My place is usually a little tidier than this."

Jemaine is played by Jemaine Clement, the taller, bespectacled half of a real-life music and comedy duo from New Zealand with a cult following in the United States. Bret is Bret McKenzie, the duo’s shorter half. In interviews they have said their series was partly inspired by “Cop Rock,” an ill-fated 1990 show by Steven Bochco that was part crime series, part musical, though even this could be a joke.

Both men are mild and shaggy-haired and speak in flat New Zealand accents that American characters on the show find baffling.

Bret gets a job holding a hot dog sign near City Hall and befriends Coco, a fellow sign holder. When he gives his name, she thinks he has said “Brit.” He explains he is from New Zealand. “Oh, New Zealand,” she says brightly. “There’s Vikings there, right?” Bret politely agrees.

The two friends compete over girls in a subdued, clueless way and sometimes quarrel, but never raise their voices or demand explanations. Nothing seems to perturb their placid befuddlement, not even Murray, who demands a roll call at band meetings in his office, even though it’s just the three of them in the room.

Bret comes home one day with a grocery bag and hands Jemaine a thick sandwich, which he promptly begins eating. When Jemaine asks Bret how he paid for the food, Bret blithely explains that it was free, that he found the bag lying on the street. Jemaine rushes to the sink to spit out the hand-me-down meal, but stops himself.

“I was going to spit it out,” he says calmly. “But I think I’ll just eat it.”

After agreeing that they are quite poor, the duo break into a song, “Inner City Pressure,” in the style of a Pet Shop Boys video.

"You know you’re not in high finance

Considering second-hand underpants

Check your mind

How did it get so bad

What happened to those other underpants you had."

The music parodies are clever, but part of the series’s appeal is the sheer novelty of New Zealanders as comic heroes. New Zealand as an obscure and backward country that no American can find on a map is a recurring joke. On the phone Bret assures his mum that no, he doesn’t need a gun, and that she would be amazed at how many television channels there are. He’s not sure how many, actually, but wows her with the assurance that it’s more than four.

“Flight of the Conchords” is cockeyed and a lot of fun. To say much more might ruin it.

NOTE: Prime have bought the series, no screening dates yet.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Mashups get dusted.

Idolator reports that "The mash-up--a modern genre of popular music in which two seemingly at-odd songs are blended together--died yesterday. It was five years old.

The style of music came to prominence in 2001, with the release of Freelance Hellraiser's "A Stroke Of Genius," which combined songs by the Strokes and Christina Aguilera. As recently as last fall, it was still being celebrated on content-desperate weblogs, or "blogs."

However, in the last few months, friends and family claim the genre had grown sick from uninspiration. "It basically become a way for white-boy bloggers who never cared about dance music to suddenly write about rap and hip-hop," says San Diego DJ Kahootz. "They'd pretty much ignore Clipse or Nas until someone mashed them with a Rilo Kiley song, and then you'd wind up with some terrible track called 'Mo' Adventurous.'"

Around the world this morning, prominent bloggers mourned the loss, claiming that the mash-up was still vital. "Man, this sucks," says Dale Wilkinson, who runs "I just had a friend ProTool a version of [Jay-Z's] 'Big Pimpin'' with [Fleetwood Mac's] 'Big Love.' Now I have to find something else to post about. Do you know if there are any tickets onsale for anything anywhere?"