Saturday, March 19, 2011

Ring The Alarm playlist, BaseFM, March 19

Linton Kwesi Johnson - Bitch dub
Prince Fari  - Mozabites
Noel Ellis - Dance with me
Dennis Bovell - Rowing version
John Holt & the Paragons - I've got to get away
Barrington Levy - It's not easy
45nm - Rider
Overproof sound system - Kingstep - Unitone hifi remix
Tenor fly - Mind weh yu seh
Kenny Dope and Madd racket - Supa
Maceo and the macks - Soul power 74
Charles Wright and the Watts 103rd st rhythm band - 65 bars and a tatse of soul, Girl from Ipanema
Colman Bros - She who dares lounge mix
Fulgeance - Sour socca
El hijo de la cumbia - El ghetto va a mover
El michels affair - Detriot twice
Betty Davis - Stars starve, you know
Philadelphia allstars - Lets clean up the ghetto - Danny Krivit edit
Cloud one - Atmosphere strut remix 1979
Scratch 22 - For walking faces
Lewis McCallum - First date
Lord Echo - Thinking of you
Footsie - Cuss cuss Footsie dub

Friday, March 18, 2011

So fresh, so clean.

Following the controversy surrounding the painting over of artist Askew’s mural on Poynton Tce by Auckland Council contractors, TVNZ show Media7 decided to take a look at the issue. They opened with a prerecorded interview with Askew about his legal mural and what happened with it being painted out and the aftermath. (Watch it here)

The opening piece with Askew included shots from a NZ Herald video with Rob Shields, Auckland Council's graffiti prevention officer... he describes tagging as low level urban terrorism....

The next part was a studio interview with Mayor Len Brown. Len discussed what had happened, admitted the Council was at fault and wanted to put things right.

Len talked about wanting to make sure Council followed due process, and that ultimately it was the owners decision about what goes on their wall.

Russell asks Len what is the role of these people (graffiti prevention staff Rob Shields, Tony Crampton) and do they get to decide what art is? Len says that “when you get people out in the workplace who are passionate about their job, and Rob certainly is, you’re going to make the odd mistake, and he sure did on this occasion”.

Russell – “Has he acknowledged that to you, that he made a mistake, even in getting involved?”

Len: “Look, Russ, this is a new job. I’m trying to get to meet 8 and a half thousand employees, as well as 1.4 million people, so I haven’t had the hook up with him on this issue as yet”. Len kept returning to saying it's up to the owners what they do with their wall, and "we have to follow due process".

So, Len admits that he had not talked to Rob Shields about what Shields told the owners. So how can Len claim to follow due process if he doesn’t even know what happened with his own staff?

Russell asks Len several times during the interview why Rob Shields got involved talking to the owners about the replacement mural, and Len never directly answers the question.

Rusell – ‘I wonder if this hasn’t exposed a wider issue. You’ve set yourself up as the hiphop mayor…’

Len laughs and says ‘I didn’t set myself up as the hiphop mayor..’

Russell ‘Well you allowed yourself to be…’

Len, ‘aw, look at me…do I really look like the hiphop mayor?’

Len, every time you jumped onstage with Savage before you became Auckland Mayor, we thought the same thing.

Len is big on being anti graffiti, it was a pitch that served him well as Mayor of Manukau city, and it’s an issue that many people feel strongly about. So when he talks about the Poynton Tce mural as ultimately being up to the owners to decide, what he is saying is this: property owners pay rates. Artists don’t. Property owners have money. Artists don’t. Property owners vote. Artists don’t.

Feeling disenfranchised yet?

All through the interview. Len addresses his interviewer Russell Brown, as Russ. He does this because he knows it makes him seem friendlier to viewers, never mind he doesn’t know Russell from a bar of soap. And while Russell mentions Askew by name several times, the Mayor chooses not to. He refers to ‘the young fella’ ‘the person’ or ‘that guy’. He chooses not to use his artist handle Askew, because Len knows that using his name gives him legitimacy. And making graffiti artists legitimate is not an election platform. Demonising taggers is though.

But where does that lead? The Council’s own report on graffiti spends only 3 of its 28 pages on education,. The rest of it is devoted to eradication. The education aspect is played down, as the report says it is very costly.

So, today’s teenagers running round with a spraycan in their hands are criminals and vandals, because trying to educate them instead is seen as not cost effective in the short term.

And let’s face it. Len Brown is only interested in the short term. Because he wants to get re-elected. In the long term, criminalising a generation of teen taggers from poor backgrounds will overcrowd our jails in 10-15 years time. But that doesn’t bother Len Brown, because by then he will have another cushy job. His empathy with the poor doesn’t extend to spending money on their plight.


Scratch 22. Photo: Sam Nixon

Local producer and DJ Scratch 22 has his debut album on the way, Distance from view, out next month on Round Trip Mars. First single Medicine Man will be out April 11. He's produced music for the Unscene, Tourettes, and done remixes for Mint Chicks, Electric Wire Hustle, and I've had the pleasure of working with him on a Dub Asylum tune too, called Ba Ba Boom.

To get you primed for his album, here's a couple of his fine funky tunes. Free download too (and if you haven't checked out  the Round Trip Mars label compilation Invaderism, go have a listen, that's free too). And a couple of his remixes below to listen to.

Death is the Dancer by Scratch22

Shivani Strut - Scratch 22 by Round Trip Mars

Electric Wire Hustle - Again (Scratch 22 Remix) by Scratch22

IMAYB - Scratch 22 x Mint Chicks by Scratch22


Photo credit: Greedmont Park

I wrote about Spree Wilson late last year, but if ya missed that, here's his story.

Spree Wilson started out making music in Atlanta as an intern for Dallas Austin, and then hit out for New York. He lived in the train station when he got there, then after a few weeks a friend hooked him up with Q-Tip, and he was on his way. This is his new single, definite Atlanta flavour via Outkast. Free download too. If radio get this, it will be huge. Catchy as hell.

Spree's debut album The Never Ending Now," due out April 5.

Everything I Own by spreewilson

DC day

New video from Oddisee - "The video was shot in Washington, DC by Zack Schamberg. We just wanted it to have a "day in the life" kind of feel. Chat over breakfast, go digging & hit a few museums. I honestly do that all the time."

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Colourblind - The Auckland Dance Scene in 1993

Following article was written by Andrew Schmidt, originally published in Metro in 1993, and online by Schmidt on his Mysterex blog in June 2008 - blog has now been deleted. I heard about this from Jonathan of Point That Thing, who says Andrew is planning a new blog but with a different focus. And the definitive book on NZ punk/post-punk.... I referenced some of this post in one of my earlier articles on Deepgrooves, here.

"This story landed on my desk after Warwick Roger noticed a change in Auckland street fashion. “Guys with their caps on backwards,” he said, in that arid way of his, half mocking, half curious. He'd originally assigned it to Carroll Du Chateau, as a tease no doubt, but had sensibly changed his mind.

I was not enthused. This wasn’t my patch. I knew, like, nothing about street wear or even the music that gave birth and momentum to it. And you can tell at times in the investigation-into-an-emerging-musical-subculture the piece turned into. It’s one of my favourite stories none the less.

I had no contacts in those worlds. It was all cold calling. Which was a good thing as outsider preconceptions are more easily swept aside than community bias. Turned out the closer I got the more I recognized anyway. Interviewing 3 The Hard Way in a down market rental in Avondale, the boys draped over cheap furniture, playing me their latest recording, the future number one Hip Hop Holiday, was a scene out of any emerging music community. Just the the details and time were different.

I also got to meet Simon Grigg for the first time. Simon was courteous and helpful as he counted a table full of gold coin in his High Street office, but his partners in the nightclub had a bone to pick with Metro which had slagged them off in the naughty Felicity Ferrit column. After they burst through the door and fronted me about it, I laughed, and denied everything (the truth as I’d only just arrived in Auckland and had little interest in city gossip).

Next through the door was Paul Rose returning some walkie talkies used on election day. Paul had managed The 3Ds and ran the small but perfectly formed Furtive Records imprint in the early to mid 1980s releasing classic records by Tall Dwarfs, The Newmatics, The Skeptics, and The Prime Movers. He’d been part of Richard Prebble’s defeated Labour campaign in Auckland Central. Prebble having been replaced by the Alliance’s Sandra Lee. I was living on Waiheke Island at that point and the place was levitating with joy over Lee’s victory. Which I didn’t mention. These were confusing times for the left.

3 The Hard Way - Hip Hop Holiday (1994)

“You see I grew up in a brown neighbourhood,
I learnt a few lessons like a white brother should,
about the struggle that goes on and on and on,
because all hatred’s wrong.”

“Colourblind” — Matty J and the Soul Syndicate.

Matty J’s the guy in the blue denim dungarees behind the counter of Truetone Records in the Manukau City Centre rapping quietly with two beanie-wearing South Auckland homeboys about the latest dance sounds. The guy with the solid gold earring and the merest hint of a beard. He’s four days away from the release of his new swingbeat single “Colourblind”, a soulful dance track that draws on his experience of growing up in South Auckland and his love of black dance music.

“Colourblind” is part of an explosion of Auckland dance and groove music edging its way onto the city’s more progressive radio stations and record shops, a local musical flowering of the large Auckland dance subculture, which draws its inspiration and style from black urban dance music and its identity from the culture of the performer.

Dance culture didn’t spring up overnight, nor is it limited solely to young Maori or Polynesians from South Auddand. You’ll find just as many white, middle-class, inner-city types getting down with it, and smaller scenes have developed in parts of Auckland like Avondale where rap/hip hop outfit 3 The Hard Way hold sway. It’s a youth subculture that’s pulling racial barriers down, not by assimilation, but by respect for the uniqueness of different cultural groups.

Matty J Ruys grew up white in a brown neighbourhood. When his parents arrived from Holland in the late 1970s they settled in Bader Drive, a state house street in Mangere. The young Matty attended school with the sons and daughters of two earlier waves of urban immigrants: Maori drawn to the city in the 1950s, attracted by work at the Southdown and Westfield freezing works and in the developing industrial areas of South Auckland, and Pacific Island families seeking employment in the booming 1960s and early 1970s. His ears pricked early to the wealth of black American sounds finding favour among the kids of South Auckland, and Stevie Wonder and The Jackson Five were early favourites.

Shortly after Matty’s ninth birthday the Ruys shifted to Otangarei, a mainly Maori suburb of Whangarei where one day, while crossing his primary school field, he was set upon by a gang of Maori youths and severely beaten. The attack left him suffering almost daily from epilepsy for seven years, but it didn’t make him a bigot and his respect for Maori culture remained high. And you’d still find him and his mates, with their squares of vinyl down, practicing their break dance moves to the Sugarhill Gang, Grandmaster Flash’s “The Message” and Malcolm McLaren’s “Buffalo Girls”. In tune with the times he appropriated a street name from a fave Herbie Hancock tune, “Rocket”.

When he graduated from Tikipunga High School he was presented with a special award for the school’s best Maori/ Pakeha.

After school, Matty moved into mime and acting and changed location to Tauranga where he appeared in stage musicals, including one more in tune with his roots. Fight The Power was a hip hop musical which played to large crowds throughout New Zealand.

Matty’s big break, however, came from the most unlikely of places —a Valentine’s Day special edition of Blind Date on which he sang the questions to the woman contestants. He was spotted by the Straw People’s Mark Tierney and subsequently sang backing and lead vocals on the 1993 World Service album.

More vocal work followed with Annie Crummer, Hinewehi Mohi, Moana And The Moahunters and House Party. Matty had also linked with former Coconut Rough and Street Talk keyboard player and composer Stuart Pearce to begin his own project, Matty J and the Soul Syndicate.

He finally returned to South Auckland in 1992 and secured a job at Truetone Records where he put his enthusiasm and knowledge of dance music to good use, importing the latest dance discs from overseas.

He has mana among the area’s young brown population, but it’s not instant mana. “When you meet new people, it’s ‘who are you?, ‘who do you think you are?’, ‘where do you come from?” he says. “The respect comes from living out here and being a part of the life. You get no respect unless you have an understanding of the people and where they come from. You’ve got to listen, not just talk, and have a love for the culture, food and the people.”

Dance music in South Auckland attracts a young crowd and draws heavily on American rap for its sound, style, attitude and role models. The words and sounds of the urban American black under-class speak directly to the kids. Black American-dominated sports, especially basketball, are also popular.

They have a lot in common dark skins, low socio-economic status, aging near-identikit housing, young populations at risk from crime and unemployment, and societies dominated by a white ruling class. That the cool SA sounds are black and the clothing of its adherents an imitation of black American street wear says more about recognition of the similarity than slavish imitation. Among the area’s Samoan teenagers there is an additional stream of influence from American Samoa and the substantial Samoan expatriate population in California.

There’s also a downside. South Auckland youth gangs have adopted LA gang monikers like the Crips, Bloods and Ghetto Boys. Matty j describes South Auckland as “a smaller, less-populated South Central”, the mainly black area of Los Angeles torn by gang violence and drugs — but also home to some hot - rap acts.

In spite of its popularity, there are few places in South Auckland for contemporary dance music fans to get together, and as a consequence the movement is mainly underground with enterprising fans hiring local halls and booking DJs and live rap acts like Radio Backstab and the Pacifican Descendants.

Nightclubs generally don’t cut it, but The Duke of Wellington Tavern in Mount Wellington and the New Soul Cafe in the Mid City complex off Queen Street are favoured out-of-area hang-outs.

It’s not the music that instantly hits, however, it’s the dress. Around the corner from Truetone Records is Blitz, South Auckland’s major street wear outlet. The clothes there aren’t cheap— it can cost up to $800 for a complete outfit. Throw in a Discman or Walkman and the price tag for cool surpasses a grand. But price doesn’t deter. Fans will do without, scrimp and save to buy the latest Starter jacket, Vans, Airwalk and Fila trainers, 26 Red, Split, Mooks, Mossimo or Stussy shirts or vests and Workshop or Levis jeans.

Then there are the ever-present NBA caps, a colourful pork pie hat and coloured granny glasses or shades made popular by black groups like De La Soul and Arrested Development.

The clothes are so highly prized, some fans will just take them from others, and assaults for street wear aren’t unknown.

Behind the Blitz counter Eddie Wright is looking sharp in the latest street wear and rapping keenly about acid jazz — the danceable jazz/funk hybrid that has quickly gained favour among one section of the city’s dance community. With his little beard and bead-adorned Split shirt, he looks like a modern version of a 1950s beat bard.

Blitz has been open for a year, and despite the recession, trade has been good. Most of the brands popular with the dance culture are from overseas, aided by tariff-free importing which has made offshore fashion quickly and more cheaply available. Two local brands, however— Workshop and Zeal — are deemed to be worthy of inclusion in any cool wardrobe.

Established two years ago, Zeal tapped directly into New Zealand and worldwide youth culture for clothing ideas. That’s not just dance culture, but surfing, skating and snow boarding. The label also looks back at styles from the 196Os and 1970s, with the new range of 50s-styled casino shirts harking back to the smooth styles made popular by Italian doo wop groups and teen idols like Dion. For young women the Zeal Babe label currently includes neon 1970s-look flares and laceside hip pants. By taking the best bits from older youth cultures and leaving out the embarrassing excesses, Zeal has lines which look neat in the 1990s and surprisingly undated. With popular clothes lines in the youth market changing as quickly as fave dance songs, Zeal has fresh designs in the shops every12 weeks.

New off the racks this season is Rave wear, the “Manchester look” popularised by that city’s white dance bands New Order, the now- defunct Happy Mondays and the Stone Roses, and a line of clothing influenced by the worldwide economic recession.

Recessionary clothing became popular as more and more young people joined dole queues or went to tertiary training. In both cases they had less money in their pockets and the age-old op-shopping ritual be- came less a giggle and more a necessity, but the desire to look good didn’t dim. Suddenly old styles and fashions became popular again as adventurous but poor dressers hit the streets. Cue platform shoes, clogs and flares, the former lepers of fashion history, now feature on a trendy stepper near you.

The pinched economic times also prompted a demand for cheap, hard-wearing clothing that looked good, and that’s when clothing companies like Zeal stepped in to manufacture items like denim railway shunters’ jackets and wide-leg jeans. Now, having reaching a sales peak in New Zealand, what one of the partners describes as “a commercial cottage industry” is expanding into Australia.

Tapping the same market, but the musical vein, is Auckland dance music label Deepgrooves which recently set up a Sydney branch to break its roster of acts in Australia.

Label boss Kane Massey is one of a number of young Aucklanders revitalising local music by dipping into the city’s well of brown talent. He joins longtime black music fan Murray Cammick’s Southside Records, home to Maori chart act Moana And The Moahunters; newcomer Tangata Records which includes Emma Paki and Gifted And Brown among its acts; and Pagan Records which has dance mistress Merenia on board. Even Flying Nun Records, one of the last New Zealand bastions of three chord pop and white guitar noise rock, has the very danceable Headless Chickens.

Deepgrooves releases cover the whole dance music spectrum from the High Street hip hop of Urban Disturbance and old school rap of The Hard Way through the acid jazz of Cause Celebre regulars Freebass to the jaunty reggae of the Mighty Asterix and Jules Issa.

3 The Hard Way are a young street smart hip hop crew from Avondale. As their first release tells it, they’re “straight from the old school” of rap.

TTHW’s members have spent time in early Auckland rappers Total Effect, BB3 and Chaingang, but it’s 3 The Hard Way now and the sounds and name fit just so. They’re West Auckland homeboys, they grew up there, and that experience is in the music — the early chaotic days listening to older brothers’ reggae, George Clinton hard funk and early rap, cobbling together equipment from old Technics stereos, learning their sounds from DJ friends Nick Roy and John Petueli.

“The words are about what we’ve been through,” says rapper Boy C (Chris Maiai). “About how hard it was to get into the music. ‘When we first started we didn’t know anyone,” adds DJ Mike Mix (Mike Patton).

First up from 3 The Hard Way is “Hip Hop Holiday”, a song based around a sample of 1OCC’s “Dreadlock Holiday”. The sounds are hard, thanks to some assured DJing from Mike Mix and DJ Damage (Lance Manuel), but not so hard that a chart hit is out of the question. That’s fine with the band, they haven’t compromised the music they want to make, and they want as many people to hear the music as possible. Next up is a hip hop version of Jimmy Cliff’s “Many Rivers To Cross”, to be followed by a song for their kids — Boy C and DJ Damage both have young sons.

It’s taken 3 The Hard Way a while to get into the studio, so now they’re not wasting any time. New Zealand On Air has proved that its ears aren’t too far from the street and has stumped up two recording grants and a video grant. And what 3 The Hard Way learn about recording, playing live and putting out records will stay in West Auckland. Part of the plan is to record and encourage other local outfits still struggling away in garages, moulding their sounds.

Talking to these three it’s easy to know why dance music is the street buzz of the moment. Like the best new movements it’s grown out of an underground scene and is propelled by young people jacked up on the sounds, but singing and rapping about their environments to an audience that can relate directly to those concerns and experiences. To borrow a phrase from black soul label Motown, it’s the sound of young brown Auckland, and it’s a new voice that’s seldom been heard here. With the swelling young Maori and Polynesian population rising in the city, there’ll be plenty of ears keen to hear songs that reflect their worlds.

Chances are those same ears will be tuned to Mai FM or bFM’s specialist dance music shows. Despite some criticism that it’s too conservative and lacks an ear for harder dance sounds, the Ngati Whatua-owned Mai FM is a vibrant addition to the city’s otherwise ossified airwaves. It’s up, comfortable with its format, and spot on with its audience.

Mai sales and marketing manager Vivien Bridgwater says the station is listened to by one third of Auckland teenagers under 19, with young Maori and Polynesians most strongly featured. It’s an audience long ignored by most Auckland radio stations. “Radio Hauraki knew it had a large Maori listenership because of the number of calls it got from South Auckland,” she explains. Good for the ratings no doubt, but hardly pleasing to advertisers looking for listeners with loose bucks in their pockets.

Mai FM, however, draws its listeners from a wider group — young urban dwellers, many of whom lack their parents’ weighty antipathy toward things Maori.

Meanwhile, up the hill and over Albert Park, bFM is still bursting from the airwaves with fresh sounds, some of the most inventive ads on air and that peculiar arrogance of young people still two steps away from the full-time work force with half a degree in their back pocket.

Programme director Graeme Hill puts the station’s dance content to the left of Mai’s, with harder-edged acts like Cypress Hill, Ice T and Body Count featuring. Local dance acts feature liberally in both the general playlist and on Freak The Sheep — the station’s well regarded New Zealand music show which combines up-to-date releases with information and interviews.

The student station’s most popular specialist show is Beats Per Minute, a Thursday night dance music slot hosted by nightclub owner Simon Grigg. Back on back with BPM is the Techno show, showcasing sounds from European dancefloors, and Planet writer Stinky Jim chips in with his Stinkygrooves two-hour slot crammed with current ragga and reggae sounds.

Cut to High Street, Friday night. Seeing and being seen. That’s the scene outside The Box and Cause Celebre. Out to the right of the entrance, a young guy is leaning casually against a bank window, dangling a cigarette from a teenage hand, checking the hang of a new Split top beneath a low-slung glitz bead necklace, glancing down at his new Timberland boots partly exposed under baggy wide-leg jeans, then coolly up again at a group of young women huddled together with a casual familiarity.

Closer to the door an older fat guy with a mo, curly hair and a plunging open-neck shirt is arguing with the bouncer as a group of his fashion-victim friends mutter encouragement and look nervously around. “Does it make you look tough to talk like that,” the bouncer says calmly, not looking to budge, reassured by the milling presence of dozens of young rappers, ravers and dance- culture debris in that last descending stretch of the street between Freyberg Place and De Bretts.

The doorman’s there to ensure only the people who fit get into the club. It’s a modern variant of the old club “mix”, only it’s an “attitude standard” he’s enforcing, not the abhorrent racial mix which some Auckland nightclubs have used to keep Pacific Islanders and Maori out and white paranoia in their clubs at a minimum. Half the club’s dancers know each other says Box and Cause Celebre part-owner Simon Grigg, and he wants to keep an atmosphere with no fighting or harassment of women.

A graduate of the Auckland school of punk rock (late 70s/early 80s version), Grigg managed early~80s chart-toppers the Screaming Mee Mees and Blam Blam Blam and, through his indie record label Propeller Records, released 50 discs, some of them seminal. He folded Propeller Records in 1983 and, like many young New Zealanders of his generation, suddenly found the Shaky Isles too small and headed for London.

His music tastes were also changing —he’d had a secondary diet of funk via one-time flatmate and Rip It Up editor Murray Cammick, and reggae and Parliament from his punk days — but two factors sealed the new obsession: the raw vital early rap coming out of New York on the Sugarhill and Joy labels, and the emerging club culture in London. With now-legendary clubs like the Wagg Club, Club For Heroes and the Mudd Club among the 30 good clubs pumping out dance music in London, Grigg found himself impressed by the innovative underground dance culture in the city.

“People like to dance, they like to have a good time,” says Grigg. “And there’s so much music coming out, it’s exciting to listen to and you always want something else.”

When Grigg returned to Auckland in 1985 he set up the Stimulant Records label with dance club supremo’s Mark Phillips and Peter Urlich to release Black dance music. Stimulant’s first single “Say I’m Your Number 1” by Princess hit number two on the New Zealand charts.

Next, Grigg quickly moved into running dance clubs with business partner Tom Sampson: first the Asylum Club in Mt Eden Road’s Galaxy Ballroom, followed by the Playground below Urlich and Phillip’s Brat Club in Nelson Street.

The next move was to High Street and the Siren in the former yuppie hang-out Club Mirage, and then, in 1988, Grigg and Sampson bought the club and renamed it Cause Celebre and featured a quiet jazz atmosphere and young acid jazz outfits like Nathan Haines’ Freebass. Celebre’s alter ego, full-on dance club The Box, followed in 1990 when Grigg and Sampson bought the old RSA basement next door.

Staying popular among the dance crowd involves more than just playing music in a club. The sounds need to be current, they change at a frenzied pace, what’s in one month can be history the next.

Gerhardt Pierard, DJ at Cause Celebre, caught the dance club bug in Palmerston North where he hosted popular nightspots the Buffalo Bar and Fez Club, playing a mixture of post-punk, rap, hip hop and funk. Stints at Urlich/ Phillips and Grigg/ Sampson clubs followed before he too shuffled off to England and Europe where he made a comfortable living playing up to five London clubs a night and select bashes for the London film community for the New Zealand-run Urban Dance Culture, until returning to New Zealand in 1991.

For Pierard the key to being a good DJ is knowing the audience, being able to read the crowd and not being afraid to play new songs. Having a new record that goes off, rather than just playing the “hits”, is where the thrill comes from on his side of the turntable. Nocturnal by both profession and inclination, he’s still looking frazzled at 2pm the next day, but that’s nine hours before The Box and Cause Celebre open. The clubs wind down at 6am, shortly before the morning sun nudges its way into the new day. Then it’s off down the street to the 24-hour cafe for a coffee and toasted sandwich, and home to sleep as the city wakes and shakes itself.

Most Fridays and Saturdays, 1000 late-night party people pass through The Box and Cause Celebre, fuelled, insists Grigg, by little more than their love of dance and a bottle of beer. Unlike overseas dance cultures, there’s little evidence that Auckland’s relies on psychedelic uppers like ecstasy and acid for its spirit or energy.

The dance club set are mainly older and perhaps more sophisticated than their South Auckland dance culture counterparts. Mosthave good jobs and work in the inner city, often in retail or the hospitality trade. They’re likely to shop at High Street’s hip clothes shops like Ember, World and Workshop, and hang out at its cafes, making the fashion district an enclave of cosmopolitanism alive both day and night with nattily dressed young people, the smell of coffee and the sound of voices.

Cut to seen-it-all-before cynic. But it’s all just another fad in the city of fads and fashions, isn’t it?

Well, yes and no.

Strip away the clothes, the music and the attitude for a minute. What you have left is another generation searching for an identity out of the shadow of school and family, in those confusing years between school and adult responsibilities. In some ways rap, house or techno could just as easily be beat, punk or disco, but to dismiss it as just another fad is to miss the point.

Music subcultures articulate in dress, music and attitude the tenor of their times, although not that many young people think of it in that way. They’re simply looking for somewhere to belong, to celebrate the naivety and enthusiasm of youth.

Subcultures are often complex and can touch profoundly some people’s lives. They embrace all the things of life. They spawn their own media like Planet and Stamp, their own gathering places like the High Street cafes, shops and dance clubs, and their own values, icons and attitudes. Even when the music is gone and many who lived the life have swung away towards careers and family, the values, attitudes and relationships formed will still colour their lives.

And it’s in what was learned that the lasting value remains. The racial diversity and tolerance of the city’s dance scene in no way reflects Auckland society as a whole, but it’s a positive model of what Auckland should and could be — a Pacific city with a distinct style.

It’ll take some adjusting to, New Zealanders know so little of the people they share a country with, but as Matty J says, it’s time to stop talking and start listening.

The shakers in the local dance scene are young outfits like 3 The Hard Way and people like the frenetic Kane Massey, a Samoan/German who runs a magazine, two record companies and has so many new ideas sliding off the end of his tongue you wonder where he gets the energy.

The media like Planet and Stamp embrace Maori and Pacific Island influences in an unpatronising way by using models of all colours and running stories adult achievers both brown and white, written and photographed by talented young people both brown and white.

And the soundtrack? Well, it’s likely to have changed by the time this story is read, but expect to hear more New Zealand acts on the charts, singing and celebrating the Pacific nation they live in. Noble naive songs like Matty J’s “Colourblind”.

“I ain’t no try hard this is the real me,
doing what I cart to spread some racial unity.
We may not look the same, not on the outside,
but skin should never be an image we hide behind.”

Posted by Andrew Schmidt at 1:17 PM


P-MONEY said...

wow dude, this one really took me back. Thanks for posting it. I was 15 in 1993 and still living with my parents in Papakura. I would save my pocket money to take the bus or train to the city and walk around high st. or put some clothes on lay-by at Blitz in manukau, haha. It was so exciting for me really took me back with this one. thank you. 7 July 2008 10:10 PM 
Andrew said...

You're welcome. Thanks for the great music. 8 July 2008 2:50 PM

Simon said...

Shit, I'd forgotten all about that story. It reads quite well after all these years..ta Andrew,,love your work.

Simon 9 July 2008 1:55 AM 
Andrew said...

Thanks Simon.

It's funny. P Money describes a later version of what was going on in my head when I wrote that story, only my friends and I were coming in from Paeroa and Hamilton (having left Papakura by then), and it was the early 1980s. We took our clues from the stories and ads (very important) in Rip It Up and haunted record shops such as the Record Warehouse in Durham Lane and Rock n Roll Records down the long hallway with Kerry B behind the counter.Bought our black strides from Bluebeat behind the Civic. 9 July 2008 12:58 PM 

Simon said...

Rock n Roll Records down the long hallway with Kerry B behind the counter.

Owned by a lovely woman called Jan..wherever she may be now. It's first shop was up in Symonds St near the Kiwi Tavern and it moved to next door to where Real Groovy is now (they were in Mt Eden Rd) with Simon Mark Brown (later Bongos) and Kerry. I still have dozens of records I bought from them..they used to save me all the 60s EPs.

More trivia..Bluebeat was originally owned by one of the girls who was later in the Idle Idols..Leone Batchelor. She went out with, and moved to Australia with Mike Caen from Street Talk (I went to school with Mike) and was the sister of Johnny Batchelor from Johnny & The Hookers. One of my girlfriends (Linda Niccol, now a screenwriter in Wellington) worked there for a while. 10 July 2008 2:40 AM

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

RIP Smiley Culture

"Reggae star Smiley Culture dies during police drugs raid on Surrey home". Link.

"British reggae star Smiley Culture has died after a police raid on his home, it was reported today. The musician, who had hits in the Eighties, is believed to have stabbed himself as police swooped on his home in Warlingham, Surrey.

The 47-year-old, real name David Emmanuel, was due in court after being charged with conspiracy to supply cocaine in September last year. It is believed he died in the kitchen after police tried to resuscitate him."

From the Guardian... Smiley Culture made us proud to be black and British...

"Smiley's first and best hit Cockney Translation with its classic line, "Cockney have names like Terry, Arthur and Del Boy / We have names like Winston, Lloyd and Leroy" stopped you dead in your tracks at the very moment when black Britons were wrestling with the Tebbit acid test.

"I didn't realise that I could support England and the West Indies until I heard it. Because 25 years ago black guys were still struggling to get into a lot of the white clubs – which were of course playing black music. Our parents stood up to this discrimination by building mobile discos called sounds or sound systems, playing tunes from back-a-yard."

Smiley Culture on Top of the Pops, check the horn section dressed as coppers


There's a new compilation coming out March 29, pulling together some of the finest tunes from Latin label Fania Records. Here's a free taster.

Justo Betancourt- "Pa' Bravo Yo" (mediafire) audio preview below...

Justo Betancourt- Pa' Bravo Yo (From Fania Records 1964 - 1980) by Strut

From: Fania Records 1964-1980: The Original Sound Of Latin New York (March 29th, Strut)

"Taken from Strut's comprehensive retrospective of the hugely influential Fania Records, 'Pa' Bravo Yo' is one of the biggest hits vocalist Justo Betancourt achieved on the label. 

An infectious cut lead by his deep vocal, the song first appeared on his 1972 album of the same name. Fania Records 1964 - 1980: The Original Sound of Latin New York will be out March 29th on Strut, featuring a 32-page booklet including a full Fania label history, memorabilia, album artwork and many previously unseen photos from the Fania archive."

CD 1
1. Johnny Pacheco - Dakar, Punto Final
2. Orchestra Harlow - La Juventud
3. Joe Bataan - Subway Joe
4. Ray Barretto - Mercy Mercy Baby
5. Bobby Valentin - Use It Before You Lose It
6. Willie Colon - The Hustler
7. Joe Bataan - Mambo De Bataan
8. Roberto Roena - Consolacion
9. Ismael Miranda con Orchestra Harlow - Abran Paso
10. Richie Ray & Bobby Cruz - Sonido Bestial
11. Willie Colon - Che Che Cole
12. Cheo Feliciano - Anacaona
13. The Fania All Stars - Quitate Tu (Live At The Cheetah)
14. Justo Betancourt – Pa’ Bravo Yo
15. Ismael Miranda - Asi Se Compone Un Son

CD 2
1. Ray Barretto – Indestructible
2. Willie Colon - Calle Luna, Calle Sol
3. Roberto Roena - Que Se Sepa
4. Bobby Valentin - Coco Seco
5. Celiz Cruz & Johnny Pacheco - Quimbara
6. Tommy Olivencia - Pa’Lante Otra Vez
7. Hector Lavoe - Mi Gente
8. Mongo Santamaria - O Mi Shango
9. Sonora Poncena - Bomba Carambomba
10. Ruben Blades & Willie Colon - Pablo Pueblo
11.Hector Lavoe - El Cantante
12. Ruben Blades & Willie Colon – Pedro Navaja
13. Celia Cruz Y Sonora Poncena - Sonaremos El Tambo
14. Fania All Stars & Celia Cruz - Cuando Despiertes

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

No more grey walls


The folk at have set up a petition, called No more grey walls.

Please go and have a read and sign it, if you want to show your support for Askew and for street art in Auckland. Cheers!

Here's one of the comments left on the petition...

Melissa Crockett: "I host a lot of journalists for Tourism NZ, promoting great parts of the city. In the last month I had a Chinese film crew who requested to view and film graffiti art around Auckland City, and last week I hosted a travel writer for The Times (UK) who asked to visit grafitti art in Ponsonby and K'Rd. 

"He was writing about an Insider's Guide to Auckland - for people visiting during RWC. He was very enthusiastic about graffiti art and is planning to include locations of good work around the city. He (and I) would be horrified if it was grey washed out by RWC time!"

Monday, March 14, 2011

RIP Ritchie Pickett

From Sunlive Tauranga: "Piano player, singer and songwriter Ritchie Pickett died peacefully last night in his Cambridge home. He was aged 56.

"Ritchie regarded as one of New Zealand’s finest country singers and songwriters, as well as one of the country’s most dynamic performers. He first came to national prominence in the late seventies on TV programme "That’s Country".

Ritchie Pickett on Wikipedia.

Vinyl is making a comeback - Delhi edition

From the Hindustan Times...

"About a decade back, Radio & Gramophone House in Connaught Place, one of the oldest music shops in the city, did away with the shelf displaying Long Play (LP) records. About two months back, it restored its exclusive LP shelf, now full with recently released LPs of both western and Hindi film music. “We restored our vinyl shelf because now there is a sudden spurt of interest in LPs. Many of those who approach us are youngsters who have dusted off old LP players bought by their father and grandfathers. In the past month alone, we have sold dozens of LPs and new players,” says Rishi Jain of Radio & Gramophone House, set up in 1951 by his grandfather.

Jain is not exaggerating. Long play records are staging a quiet comeback, with top music shops across the city once again storing and selling them.

Landmark, the largest book and music retailer, has a rack devoted to LPs at both its Delhi and Gurgaon outlets. At present, the Gurgaon outlet has almost run out of stock. “We’ve sold almost our entire stock of LPs. There has been a huge rise in demand in the past couple of months,” says Albert John, in-charge of the music section at Landmark, Gurgaon."

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Ring The Alarm playlist, BaseFM, March 12

Freddie Kruger - Something good
King Tubby - Morpheus special - Kid loco dub mix
Loopless - Pink blue hotel
JMX feat Tikiman - Tikisong
Suizen - Cartesian space 4D mix
Manasseh - Tear down
Kabanjak - Dub to go - Ancient astronauts remix
Damian Marley and Nas - Nah mean - DJ Nu-Mark remix
Mos dub - History town
Revolutionaries - Beware - DJ Kentaro mix
Prince Jammy - BQE dub
Pappajim - I am a Robot
Disrupt - Robot version
Dawn Penn - No no no (you dont love me)
Seu Jorge and almaz - The model
Karl marx project - Osc
Oddissee - Viva Brasil
Bobby Valentin - use it before you lose it
Joe Bataan - Subway Joe
Original tropicana steel band - Spanish hustle - Kon 12" re-edit
Fulgeance - Tribute to Masekela
Gwen Guthrie - Getting hot
Johnny Hammond Smith - Fantasy
Manu Dibango - The panther
Dennis Coffey - All your goodies are gone
Hot 8 brass band - Sexual healing
Shogun orchestra - Cigars of the pharoah

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Need Coffey?

Get this in ya. House Shoes mixes Dennis Coffey's history Of funk....

Constellations - The A to Z of Dennis Coffey: A Mix By House Shoes by Strut

Check Out The Mix: download (mediafire) (soundcloud)

Constellations - The A to Z of Dennis Coffey: A Mix By House Shoes

1. Scorpio Intro- (feat Dennis Coffey, Jazzy Jeff, Jake One, and Q-Tip)
2. LL Cool J- Jinglin' Baby
3. Dennis Coffey- Main Theme (Black Belt Jones OST)
4. Dennis Coffey- 7th Galaxy*
5. Dennis Coffey- Ride Sally Ride
6. The Temptations- Cloud Nine
7. Rodriguez- Sugar Man
8. Marvin Gaye- I Want You
9. Dennis Coffey- Garden Of The Moon
10. The Spinners- It's A Shame
11. Dennis Coffey- Never Can Say Goodbye
12. Dennis Coffey- Whole Lotta Love
13. Diamond D- No Wonduh
14. Isley Brothers / Dennis Coffey & Lyman Woodward- It's Your Thing
15. The Floaters- Float On
16. The Dramatics- In The Rain
17. The Dramatics- Whatcha See Is Whatcha Get
18. Dennis Coffey feat. Mick Collins (Dirtbombs) & Rachel Nagy (Detroit Cobras)- I Bet You*
19. Edwin Starr- Easin' In (Hell Up In Harlem) / Digable Planets (Nickle Bags)
20. The Temptations- I Can't Get Next To You
21. The Undisputed Truth- Smiling Faces Sometimes
22. Dennis Coffey feat. Mayer Hawthorne- All Your Goodies Are Gone*
23. Outro

* denotes material from the upcoming Dennis Coffey album, out April 25.

Askew on Poynton Tce mural

Messages via Twitter from Askew, one of the artists behind the Poynton Tce mural that Auckland Council painted over...

"Just an update. Poyten tce tenant and I let landlord know we just want to return things to how they were before, no council involvement...

Unfortunately the landlords have been convinced they need to let Rob Shields manage the wall despite the official council line.

Poynten Tce Update: If I want to redo it now I have to submit a design for selection alongside other artists Rob Shields has selected. WTF?

I painted and maintained that wall for 10 years free of charge with no complaint. Now the situation is being rectified but...for the landlords and not the artists. You see how Council are missing the point entirely? They don't understand or respect art.

If the landlords had paid for the last mural I could understand them being compensated but we are the ones that did it out of our own pocket."

So, it would appear that Mayor Len Brown has no control over his own staff.

Mayor Brown responded via Twitter "Council met with owner & tenant. We wont choose design - in the end it's up to owner what goes on their wall". So either Brown is getting misinformation from his staff, or he's being economical with the truth. 

ADDED  Friday 11 March. Askew has written about all of this on his blog. Go have a read. It's grim reading.

Essentially, this is a problem created by the Council.

They illegally painted out the mural,

they failed to explain why they thought the mural was to be painted out,

they failed to explain why an anti graffiti volunteer (not even a Council employee) was able to get this mural painted out,

they've failed to explain why their graffiti officer has got involved with the replacement mural,

and they've destroyed a successful working relationship Askew had built up over ten years with the owner/ tenants and with the neighbours.

Doesn't make Len Brown look good, does it?

Porirua to Detroit

New video from Isaac Aesili "With You In My Bed" featuring Aaradhna & Buff 1... from Porirua to Detroit...

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Rose Royce

This song popped up on my iPod today, I mentioned it on Twitter and someone sent me the link to this mad video. Lead singer with a chicken costume on her head.

Rose Royce - Wishing On A Star
Uploaded by coolfunk. - Watch more music videos, in HD!

Fat Freddys cancel Coachella appearance reports that Fat Freddys Drop have cancelled their Coachella appearance...

From Musicfeeds: "Fat Freddys Drop have just announced on their facebook page the band will not be able to play at Coachella this year. Due to the band being an independent and funding their own tours, the $60 thousand needed to get the FFD over to California to play was an amount too large for the band to sustain. "

Fat Freddys FB page currently  reads " We're very sad to announce that Freddy's will not be making the trip to Coachella.As an independent band that operates entirely within the confines of their own bank account, Fat Freddy's are unable to sustain the financial loss required to make this trip happen.... we're so sorry. We tried really hard.... We'll find a way to make it up to you. The disappointment is bitter for all of us." (The bold is from the FB page.)

I left a comment on Musicfeeds asking where the 60k figure came from - their response - "When the note first went up there was a figure quoting $60k, it has since been changed." [see above quote]

The Music Industry Commission provided Fat Freddys with some assistance via its Outward Sound programme, with a Stage Two grant, which is worth up to $30,000, according to their site. Keep in mind we're talking about 9 people on tour, with airfares, accomodation, food, transport... It still amazes me that Fat Freddys go to Europe each summer and don't end up broke.

I've emailed the Music Commission for more information on this, and if the grant has to be paid back if the proposed tour is cancelled. Will update.

UPDATE Wed 9th, 10.10am The Music Industry Commission's website says " Grants are funded on a dollar for dollar matched basis. Expenditure must be paid for in advance of reclaim. A portion of the grant will be with held until final reports have been submitted."

So the grant isn't paid out in advance. The band/artist has to front the money in full, then get the grant paid out on proof of expenses. More details here.

UPDATE Thurs 10th: Heard back from Alan Holt at Music Industry Commission...  He says "The way Outward Sound works is that grants are paid out after the specific costs of the activity have been paid by the successful grant applicant. We do not give the artist/label a lump sum before the activity takes place. Grants are made for specific costs and activities - if those costs are not incurred or the activities do not happen then the money remains with us."

One of the big hurdles facing Fat Freddys is building up an audience in the US so they can get bigger gigs and earn a better fee. They've been touring Europe for eight years now, and have built up a solid reputation as a live draw, which means they get decent fees, so they don't come home empty-handed. Starting from scratch in the US is a daunting prospect financially, I imagine.

Another big hurdle is getting work visas for the band and crew. Last year Fat Freddys made two visits to the US, on a one year visa. Now they have to apply for each tour, as the work visas have changed. This means each member of the touring party has to fly up to Auckland for an individual interview at the US Consulate. This new rule must be making it way more difficult for NZ bands to seriously consider breaking the US.

Mister Johnny Sagala!

Via Mr Rimoni TMD's blog. Johnny Sagala (Lost Tribe) with a song produced by Mark Tierney. according to DLT in the intro. Spot the late Phil Fuemana in the vid too singing the choruses.

Can on Top of the Pops

Experimental Kraut rockers Can on Top of the Pops. Out of it, bro.
Hat tip to Benny S for the vid.


The crew from Serato headed off from NZ to Los Angeles for NAMM trade show in January and stopped by to catch up with the Beat Junkies - Babu (Dilated Peoples), Rhettmatic and J-Rocc. This clip is pretty damn cool.

Fade to grey

Art colours our city, from the Aucklander, Jan 20, 2011.

excerpt: "Cleo Barnett is leading us to a small alley near K Rd, across from Beresford Square. Even though we parked just a few metres away from here moments ago, we didn't notice the graffiti then so we're surprised when we see it. The graffiti covers an entire wall and I stand for a couple of minutes trying to take in the whole frame.

Street art like this is all around Auckland, but Mayor Len Brown has now called for the eradication of graffiti. Cleo represents the opposition.

"I really love art and I love crazy artists, the art world, and creating."

At the bottom of the story Mayor Len Brown responds. Worth a read, in light of the Poynton Tce mess. Brown: "These are two very different issues. Graffiti vandalism is not the same as permission-based art. I am determined to take a hard line on graffiti vandalism. Graffiti-style murals, created with the permission of property owners is a very different story...."

Also from the Aucklander, another mural gets painted over. This mural had been regularly painted by artists for five years, and was painted over by Auckland City Council in August 2009. As soon as it got painted over, tagging appeared. The Auckland City Council staffer behind this was Rob Shields.

Readers of The Aucklander respond here, including the artists involved.  Some excerpts....

Paul Goldsmith of the Auckland City Council writes: "It's a bit odd to have self-appointed artists acting as if they have a God-given right to paint images - "artistic or otherwise'' - on public spaces and then getting upset if it gets painted over."

Several local residents wrote saying how much they liked the wall and the colour it bought to their neighbourhood.

"We had the same artists who painted the Parnell wall come and paint a mural on our local scout den as we had been plagued with taggers. We have not had any problems since. After seeing the results of the painting, other scout dens have used the same group with the same positive response. The kids and parents love the result."- S Carr.

The artists also wrote, saying "Whilst painting the new mural [after it got defaced, then painted out by Council in July], Auckland police officers also came to inspect the situation and understood the creative and artist merits of the work we were creating and gave us the all clear to continue the mural...

... Upon completion of the painting, we were graced with the presence of Mr Rob Shields, a former police officer and the Auckland City Council graffiti prevention officer.

Mr Shields threatened us with arrest and ordered us to leave the site immediately and deemed our artwork "glorified tagging" and "vandalism". Twenty four hours later our artwork was gone.

Our efforts to reason with Mr Shields, emphasising the love and appreciation we had received whilst painting the murals only resulted in a phone call from Mr Shields informing us that we were lucky to escape arrest and that our artwork had been ordered to be removed...."

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Free Riki

Riki Gooch (aka Eru Dangerspiel) just dropped some new tunes on Soundcloud, download and pay what you like (or free). Get in there.

Rap tales

If you follow Ice T on Twitter, you'll know about his debut documentary, The Art of Rap. Trailer just dropped. If you don't follow Ice T on Twitter, what is wrong with you? (Kidding)

"Set to drop in the fall, Ice T introduces a trailer to his documentary “The Art of Rap.”  He takes us to the roots of Rap and Hip Hop, showing footage from the Bronx, live freestyles, and some words from the masters of the game (to name a few: Grandmaster Caz, Chuck D, Big Daddy Kane, and DJ Premier.)" via Sedgwick and Cedar blog.


From Hiatus feat Linton Kwesi Johnson. "Single released April 11th, which is the 30th anniversary of the Brixton riots that levelled much of the town centre that both Linton and I call home."

This is the second single off the album Ghost Notes, from Iranian-English producer Hiatus - real name Cyrus Shahrad. Also includes remixes from Aaron Audio and Rebel Sonix.
(Hat tip to Nerdy Frames)

Monday, March 07, 2011

Snoop X Dam Funk

I read about this a few weeks back, finally found some mean video of it. Snoop Dogg drops in at HVW8 Gallery in Los Angeles, Dam Funk on the ones and twos, Snoop grabs a mic... check it...

Saturday, March 05, 2011

Vinyl is making a comeback (story #251)

Never gets old... latest installment from News Herald in Northern Ohio.
Vinyl records are spinning back around and gaining popularity.

Greg Beaumont, the owner of Record Den in Mentor for 38 years says he’s pleasantly surprised vinyl records are big once again... Vinyl is now 15 percent of Beaumont’s business and growing.

"If you would have told me vinyl would have made this big of a comeback 20 years ago, I would have said, ‘Yeah right, so will 8-tracks,’ ” he says. “The younger generation is very interested in it, and that seems to be fueling it.”

Nathan Tramte, a 20-year-old Painesville resident, says he got hooked on vinyl three months ago when someone at a skate store had him listen to a 45 rpm record. Tramte liked the experience so much, he immediately went out and bought a record player for $20 at a thrift store.

Such errors are rare... yeah right

Poynton Tce mural before Council painted over it

Vankansan bar owner John Brunton by the site of former mural. Photo: Jason Oxenham

Contractors paint over mural. From the front page of the Auckland City Harbour News.

This same story also featured in The Central Leader, but with one additional line of text at the end of the story. We'll get to that in a minute. Some excerpts from the article...

"When is graffiti art?

It's a question the Auckland Council struggled to answer after its contractors painted over a popular mural that was in place for more than a decade on Poynton Tce, near Karangahape Rd.
The mural was on the side of the Vansankan karaoke bar and was developed by artists over the years.

Bar owner John Brunton was shocked to find it gone early last week even though it had his and the building owner's permission to be there.

"It was a little bit like the graffiti gestapo turned up. It was painted over during the day and the bar opens at 9pm," he says.

"We've had no communication with the council. It's amazing they can waste so much money painting over it and then have to paint it again."

The council's website says graffiti art, or bombing, is permitted if the building's owners give consent.

Mr Brunton says the mural was a popular spot for people to visit. "Over the last 12 months that we've owned the business, I've seen people standing outside there numerous times getting their photos taken....

... The K Rd Business Association has also been negatively affected after printing about 10,000 pamphlets highlighting art in the area with the mural on the front cover. The pamphlets were to be handed out during the Rugby World Cup.

"It's really obvious if the business association makes it the front page, the community feels quite strongly about it," precinct manager Barbara Holloway says. "I'm not sure what was going on."

... Council manager for community development and partnerships Kevin Marriott says painting over the mural was a genuine mistake. "The council is taking full responsibility to rectify the situation and install a new artwork as soon as possible," he says. "Council contractors mistakenly painted over this mural after a request by an Auckland Council anti-graffiti volunteer," Mr Marriott says.

[and the closing sentence that made the Central Leader but not The Harbour News?]

"Mr Marriott says such errors are rare and the council's partnership with volunteers working on graffiti removal programme has been successful."

Rare? Ah, no. Here's a few examples. I heard of another one today  - a few years back, when Michael Lett Gallery was on the corner of Krd and Edinburgh st, they had an exhibition where the artist had work inside the a gallery, and also outside, on the wall. The artist had painted a piece that resembled a graffiti tag in his own style, and which was part of the exhibition, and was painted with permission of the owner. The Council painted it out.

The Council spends $5-6 million a year on graffiti eradication. Education would seem a better long-term option, surely. The Council's report on graffiti vandalism (see pdf at bottom of link) for the Community Safety Forum is 28 pages long, and devotes a mere 3 pages to education and prevention - it also notes that initiatives targeted at youth, while they are worth pursuing, "... are time consuming, requiring appropriate superivision and resourcing". In other words, too expensive, compared to hiring painting contractors. The rest of the report focuses on actions that essentially criminalise young people.

Also some education of Council's own staff on what is tagging and what is art would be useful. Here's an example why this might be cost effective.

A mate of mine, Greg, told me this story via Facebook.

"I was once signwriting a white ply hoarding down the bottom of town, y'know, old-school brush, stick, can of paint, middle of the day, wearing white overalls, all properly coned off with warning tape etc, when a council graffiti officer told me I might as well stop now cos she had already called one of the crews and they would be down to paint it out shortly.  I just laughed in her face and told her she better make some calls. I was painting a huge Westpac logo at the time."

Ring The Alarm playlist, BaseFM, March 5

New age steppers - My love
Quantic - Cuidad del swing
Barrington Levy - Shine eye girl dub
Jackie Mittoo - Totally together
Resonators  -Sweet dub affair
Dub Colossus - Negus dub
Smith and Mighty - B line fi blow
The Clash - Magnificent seven

Hypnotic brass ensemble -Alyo
Dennis Coffey - Don't knock my love Pt 1
 DJ Day x Miles Bonney - Skyy can you feel me
Daru Jones and Kissey Asplund - Please
Erykah Badu - Get munny
Mophono - The edge remix
UBB - I believe in miracles
Leon Haywood - I wanna do something freaky to you
Manzel - Evil wicked mean and nasty
George Clinton - Do fries go with that shake?
Mark Ronson - No one knows
Outlines - Waiting in line inst
Border crossing - Jump down
Ranking Joe - Don't follow Babylon - BAF meets Wai wan remix
Sugar Minott - Informer 
Sabres of paradise - Wilmot II
PD Syndicate - Ruff like me - ShyFX and T Power remix
Moody boyz - Destination Africa - spirit of freedom version

Soul Sessions postponed

Due to the weather. Stink

Friday, March 04, 2011

Double-check yourself

Just got a reply from Mayor Len Brown's office regarding the graffiti mural on Poynton Tce that was painted over by Auckland Council last Thursday (story on that here)... His response in full...

"The Mayor became aware of this situation last week and was briefed by council staff who were looking into it.

Staff had immediately started an investigation when The K Road Business Association alerted the council to the issue.

It was discovered that this was a genuine error and the council is taking full responsibility to rectify the situation and install a new artwork as soon as possible. Council contractors mistakenly painted over this mural after a request by an Auckland Council anti-graffiti volunteer. The council was under the impression that the business owner wanted the work removed.

Key staff have already met to discuss how the matter will be resolved and have had initial conversations with all parties, including the original artist, regarding a replacement mural.

This incident is unusual. It does provide us an opportunity for us to work more closely with business and property owners and our volunteers to ensure any private property, including murals, are not damaged.

To ensure that this doesn’t happen again, council staff have created a more robust process which includes always double checking with business owners and property owners before any graffiti is removed. In addition, the new art work will be placed on a ‘No Action List’ ensuring there is no confusion whether any artworks should be removed or not."

ADDED Just as I posted this blog, Askew popped up on Twitter and posted this: "Poyten Tce wall vs. Auckland Council = Political check mate. I won't be repainting that wall."

Dragons and demons

Couple of cool old videos from Herbs have popped up on NZ On Screen. Nice one! Che Fu sampled Dragons and Demons on his 2005 album Beneath The Radar on the song D&D.

Soul Sessions on tomorrow

SOUL SESSIONS is a free, outdoor, art/music event. An afternoon in which to enjoy a handful of established and emerging street artists featuring members of the Cut Collective, Cinzah Merkens and others painting live, to a soundtrack provided by DJ's Adi Dick, Peter Mac, Ed G and more.

Starts at midday and goes to 6pm, and it's free! Come on down. Part of the Auckland Fringe Festival too, so it's all officially arty and stuff. And Myers Park is an under-appreciated jewel. Come and hang out. Weather forecast for Saturday aint great, so tune in to BaseFM for updates.


When I was in Wellington DJing at Webstock a few weeks back, I managed to squeeze in an afternoon of digging at Real Groovy and Slowboat Records, which made me very happy.

I scored a handful of goodies at Slowboat, and walked up to the counter to purchase them. I had a Screaming Meemees 12" (Dancing with stars in my eyes, #375 of 1000), the IQU EP featured above, several Three The Hard Way CD singles on Deepgrooves, and a Sneaky Feelings CD. The guy behind the counter took my purchases, looked at them for a minute, then looked at me and said "Are you Peter McLennan?" He'd deduced who I was based on my purchases. Smart chap! His name is Jeremy.

Turns out we'd corresponded over the years and crossed paths on the internet, as you do. I had a lovely chat with him about the state of music and music retail, and he told me that new vinyl does well for them, but the problem is sourcing it, in some cases.

For Flying Nun's new releases on vinyl, because Warners no longer deal with small shops, he has to order it from a one-stop outfit in Wellington, who then order it from Warners in Auckland, who get Roger Shepherd to ship it up to them from his Wellington base. Funnily enough, it's easier for Slowboat to deal directly with Roger rather than do that ridiculously convoluted purchasing routine. Warners also handle the digital distribution for Flying Nun too.

There's a great article on record shops I posted a while back, that profiles Slowboat and Real Groovy, written by Gordon Campbell at the end of last year. Slowboat owns their premises, no rent overheads.

IQU were a studio outfit from Auckland, who released an EP in 1984 on Jayrem. From the liner notes for the EP, the band were ...

Betty Monga, Paul Agar - vocals; Jon Lowther - keyboards; David Meech - Guitar; Ryan Monga - Bass; Robert Mayo - Drums; Percussion - Jay Foulkes.

Engineered by Mike Farmer, produced by Paul Crowther and IQU. Recorded at Echo Park Studio, winter 84. Digitally mastered. Disc mastering: Roy Carr, EMI Wellington. Sleeve design: Jon Cooper and IQU. All songs composed by Jon Lowther.
IQU Organisation: J Lowther, R Mayo, A Lamont.

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Record digging just got nerdier

Okay, this is nerdy as hell, and I love it. WANT.

"The iCrate iPhone app, which bills itself as the ultimate search tool for record collectors and crate diggers, provides mobile crate diggers with such features as a barcode scanner, record rarity, average selling prices, current offers, audio samples, location tagging, and guides to the best record stores around the world." Via Crate Kings.

Apple also announced the launch of the new iPad 2, arriving in NZ March 25. Best bit for music heads - it can run Garageband and iMovie, both available as apps for $6.49.

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

More vanishing art

Credit: Component, from Cut Collective, Source

 Today I discovered there's a lot of disappearing artwork in our city. Here's the tale of one example (hat tip to Kost TMD). A mural was painted by Dan Tippett and DLT next to the Kingsland train station in 2006, and cost ratepayers $30,000. It was removed in 2009 to make way for improvements to the station for the Rugby World Cup.

Tippett says "It's sad to see it go because it was so well received by the community. It seems crazy that these cultural references to this area and Eden Park are disappearing. It's a shame, but just one of those things I can't do anything about.'' The mural was painted to discourage tagging. Read Art goes to the wall, from August 2009.

In today's New Zealand Herald, Ana Samways picked up my blogpost from last Thursday on the Auckland Council painting over a mural in the CBD.

A number of commenters in that earlier post also pointed me to more murals that have been buffed (painted over) by the Council. There are at least three of them in recent times, apparently. One was a mural painted as a tribute to a young couple and their baby, all killed in a car accident when a truck ran into their car.

The action at Poynton Terrace now appears to be part of a wider cleanup effort, possibly linked to the Rugby World Cup. The AKT blog reports that efforts are underway to paint out tagging and graffiti from the rail corridor. That blog, like the Council, seems unable to tell the difference between tagging and graffiti art.

Len Brown apologised via Twitter to Askew yesterday. He also replied to me, saying "looks like a genuine mistake by council staff. My office is moving to sort it out".  Today the Mayor contacted Askew via Twitter to say "council officers should be in touch with you, business owner & K Rd Ass. with options."

Hamish Keith suggested via Twitter that "a good plan would be to make a register of murals - in fact we need an audit of cultural resources of the whole damn town."

Do you love Kool Herc?

free download [140MB]

"We at Saturn Never Sleeps emailed our friends to put this compilation together - We Love DJ Kool Herc is our way of saying thank you for his contributions to music & culture. Please consider donating directly to Herc and his family on his official website to help with any previous and future medical costs he may have. More info, streaming player, and King Britt's personal thoughts on Kool Herc here.

This compilation features tracks from DaM-Funk, Damon Bennett, Dego, King Britt Presents Sylk 130, Ursula Rucker, Lushlife, ZIN, Hezekiah, Jneiro Jerel & Indigo, Soul Litchfield, Illvibe Collective feat. Ethel Cee, Rucyl, Shigeto, Galapagoose, Ras_G, Chuck Treece, Suzi Analogue, Stef Eye, and Peter Kirn."

Soul Sessions

SOUL SESSIONS is a free, outdoor, art/music event. An afternoon in which to enjoy a handful of established and emerging street artists featuring members of the Cut Collective, Cinzah Merkens and others painting live, to a soundtrack provided by DJ's Adi Dick, Peter Mac, Ed G and more.

Starts at midday this Saturday and goes to 6pm, and it's free! Come on down. Part of the Auckland Fringe Festival too, so it's all officially arty and stuff. And Myers Park is an under-appreciated jewel. Come and hang out.

Monday, February 28, 2011

What have you done my brother?

This great little story popped up in the latest newsletter from Daptone Records. Gabe Roth had planned to "tweak the lyrics to amputate all of the religion out of them ... It wasn't out of disrespect. Just like Wilson Pickett, Ray Charles and all the rest of the great R&B singers, we figured Naomi had to change "Jesus" to "baby" in order to sell some records ..."

Didn't quite work out that way tho...

Daptone Records Co-owner/Producer, Bosco Mann, on Naomi Shelton & the Gospel Queens and the recording of this album:

Recording this record was a challenge. When Cliff and I first conceived of it, we wanted to do an album of all message songs - meaning, we wanted to do all uplifting songs, songs about righteousness, but no literal gospel. Songs about "Love", but not calling Jesus' name. Kind of like the songs the Staples Singers and Curtis Mayfield did when they crossed over. We started rolling tape in 2006.

On Cliff's recommendation, I had gone through a lot of gospel songs that we were already doing on church gigs and tweaked the lyrics to amputate all of the religion out of them. I changed "Hem of His Garment" to "If All My Money Were Love", and "Pray On My Child" to "Walk On My Child". It wasn't out of disrespect. Just like Wilson Pickett, Ray Charles and all the rest of the great R&B singers, we figured Naomi had to change "Jesus" to "baby" in order to sell some records. There was a lot of precedent for this approach to recording a "gospel-tinged" soul record. I also wrote a handful of new tunes for these first sessions like "By My Side," "Am I Asking Too Much", "Rise Up,"and "Movin'" (the latter two never made the final cut for the record.) We were still recording on the old 16 track tape machine then.

The results were mixed. That first take of "I'll Take the Long Road" (a song I'd originally intended for a reggae group) came out beautiful. It was just one of those natural studio moments that just worked, and in the end it was one of the only things from this first session to make the wax. However, most of the rest of the session was not as fruitful, we shelved it and got into some other things for a few months.

We reconvened in 2007. We had some different back up singers, another drummer, and some new songs. I believe we kept "By My Side" from that session. Not because the backing was flawless, but because Naomi slaughtered it to the point where we couldn't ask her to cut it again. Other than that, the outcome was little better than the first sessions.

Again, we shelved the project. It was better than the first sessions, but we knew that Naomi deserved a great record. It was painful for me personally, because I knew how much she and Cliff wanted to get a record out. Cliff had seemed content to release the first sessions. I didn't want to hold them back, but Neal and I agreed that the sessions hadn't yet reached their potential.

I took a lot of time after those sessions, listening to tapes and comparing the performances to Naomi and the Queens' live show. At some point I had to acknowledge that they were just putting a little more into the songs about Jesus. These were women who were sincerely in love with Jesus and you could hear it in their songs. Not that they didn't dig in to some of the other songs that I'd written - Naomi had taken some of them to heart and was really breathing life into them - but the gospel songs would have to be just that: gospel songs. Neal and I shrugged and made peace with our place as two more Jews putting out records about Jesus.

In 2008 we brought them back into the studio with a fresh approach. Some things had changed. I called in friend and local jazz drummer Brian Floody for most of the sessions and Homer Steinweiss for the rest. The Queens' line up had changed as well, bringing Cynthia Langston in to sing the top parts, leaving Edna Johnson on the bottom, and solidifying Bobbie Gant in the middle. The studio had undergone some changes as well. By that time, we had abandoned the 16 track for an 8 track Ampex machine. This meant we didn't have enough tracks for each of the musicians and singers to have their own tracks.

My first instinct was to let the background singers just gather around one mic, which would open up a couple tracks, but just before the session, I changed my mind. We gave each singer their own mic and their own track. Some of these songs were new to them and they didn't have all of the parts and blends completely worked out. I needed them on separate tracks in order to make sure we could sit them right in the mix. Because of that, we had to economize the tracks for the rhythm section.

We put the bass amp and guitar amp facing eachother and stuck one microphone in between. It actually wasn't hard to get a balance and I could control the bass pretty well with the low end of an eq. Similarly, the piano and organ were mixed together on a single track. (There were a few tunes where I screwed up the balance between the keys. "Where'd the piano go?," Cliff would ask me. I had to group mix the backgrounds, fly them to another track, and overdub an additional piano on a handful of songs. You can hear the ghostly original piano poking through on some of the tunes.)

The other major change was giving Naomi and the Queens back the original gospel lyrics. Suddenly, tunes like "What More Can I Do" and "What Is This?" started coming to life. I think we recorded on a Thursday and Friday evening and took the weekend off. That Sunday I listened to the roughs and was much happier with what we had. It just felt that the record needed one more tune, something heavy and dark to balance all of the transcendent optimism of the record. I grabbed my guitar, strummed a couple minor chords and scribbled out "What Have You Done, My Brother".

Like the other's I'd written for Naomi, it wasn't a brilliant song by any stretch of the imagination, but it had a rhythm and a message that she could really get into. She took to it right away and we cut it in couple of takes. We decided to cut A Change Is Gonna Come on that last day two. Cliff put together the backgrounds and we overdubbed them afterwards. A combination of finally having the right line-up and the right songs (with the original lyrics) made this third session a success. After a few days of voting, fighting, and a lot of splicing, through which many songs and verses met there painful end on the cutting room floor, we chopped the tapes down to what the truly essential moments. Naomi Shelton & the Gospel Queens finally had a Daptone record.

What Have You Done, My Brother? is the only record that I've ever recorded that I could sit and listen to from the moment it was finished. Most records I can't enjoy for years. Like lots of great records, It didn't sell so well. Perhaps the irony is that after all that people actually couldn't get their heads around buying a gospel record. I have no regrets about going back to the Jesus lyrics, though.

We made a deep, natural, soulful record. I think we captured what makes Naomi the most beautiful and powerful singer around. I have yet to record another record that made me as proud."