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."