Monday, May 16, 2011

Blue sky

Mayer Hawthorne dropped a new EP last week, here's a video of one of the songs as it was recorded. ELO's Mr Blue Sky. According to Mayer's liner notes, it was recorded live, in one take, in a tiny makeshift tent, at a festival in Dour, Belgium. Read an interview with Mayer about the EP on the LA Times.

X Marx the spot

The Karl Marx Project is the work of Isaac Aesili (Opensouls, Solaa) and Mark McNeil. Their debut release is out now thru European label Melting Pot Music. There's an audio preview of their album up on Soundcloud, with a few free downloads going too. Nice, beaty, bleepy disco electronica.

Karlmarx - The Karlmarx Project (album sampler) by Loopcrew

The album drops June 3 on MPM. There was a limited edition album sampler that dropped on Loop for Record Store  Day in April.

Tu meke!



The Yoots are led by the exuberant Mister Joe Lindsay, aka Ho-Pepa, the man who holds down the trombone for Fat Freddys Drop. He formed the group with his brother Sam in 2006.

They've played at festivals such as the Cuba St Carnival, bringing the warm sound of calypso and ska to the Capital. With this album Sing Along With The Yoots, they've taken the sounds of the Carribean and melded them with Maori songs such as Tutira Mai, and E Papa Waiari, to great effect. It's a glorious collection of tunes that make you want to sing along (as the title would suggest), and The Yoots have thoughtfully provided all the lyrics in the CD booklet. How helpful.



Out now on Economy Records, the folks who bought you the magnificent debut from Lord Echo (aka Mike Fabulous).



The Yoots - Sing along with the Yoots MP3s at Amplifier (incl audio previews), CD at Conch or Mighty Ape

Track listing
1. Nga Iwi E
2. E Papa Waiari
3. Pupu Ake Mai
4. E Te Ariki
5. Me He Manu Rere
6. Huai Huai
7. A, E, I, O, U
8. Ka Ru Ka Ru
9. Hoki Mai
10. Tutira Mai
11. Toia Mai
12. Po Atarau

Sunday, May 15, 2011


Karl Hector and the Malcouns are about to drop a brand new vinyl EP, you can download a track off it for free over at Stonesthrow.

"For all intents and purposes, Karl Hector might as well be another nom-de-plume of Jay Whitefield (producer and guitarist for the Poets of Rhythm and the Whitefield Brothers) who, along with Thomas Myland and Zdenko Curlija, founded Karl Hector and The Malcouns in the early 2000s. Alongside Bo Baral, other members of the Poets of Rhythm and crack Munich-based session musicians, Whitefield, Myland and Curlija crafted nearly twenty tracks for their debut, Sahara Swing, an album that swung with influences from across the African diaspora.

The trio will now release a series of vinyl-only EPs – of which Tamanrasset is the first – that will culminate in their second album. Tamanrasset‘s five songs demonstrate The Malcouns’ deft handling of musics from Eastern and Northern Africa alongside Western psychedelia, jazz and funk; the song “Girma’s Lament” -  its title an homage to the great Ethiopian pianist, arranger and vocalist Girma Beyene -  is a great representation.

High Noon Tea playlist, KiwiFM, May 15

Replays on KiwiFM, Friday 2-4pm NZT. Listen online

International observer - Minicell
Zuvuya - Black sheep
The Yoots - Me he manu rere
Moodswingers - Recede to flourish
Mood unit - Hat trap
Jellphonic and LP - Beatsreal flip
Solaa - Pharoah
Opensouls - Falling in
Scratch 22 - Communication
Electric wire hustle - They don't want
Onelung - Not over
A hori buzz -Turnaround
Fredericks Brown - Betrayal - Dusty remix
Mike Fabulous - There's something about Africa
The Yoots - Tutira mai
Otautahi allstars - Mosquito
Jefferson Belt - Creeping tings of the earth
Hollie Smith - Hiding  - Dub Asylum remix
Jet Jaguar - Gomennasai
Natan - Circus girls go wild
Riki Gooch - Ode to the vegetable
Recloose - Landed
Lewis McCallum - Fly or die
Unification - Guru

Library of Congress' Jukebox hits

I featured a story on the US Library Of Congress and their 100 miles of shelves last week. Now the Library and Sony have set up a National Jukebox, with 10,000 recordings for streaming. It  had one million pages views in its first 48 hours since launch.


National Jukebox website logs 1 million page views, 250,000 streams in under 48 hours (LA Times)

"The project has opened up the library’s archive with an initial posting of more than 10,000 pre-1925 recordings from the Victor record label, now under the Sony Music umbrella. The recordings span jazz, blues, ethnic folk, gospel, pop, spoken word, comedy and other genres dating to the early 20th century.

Sony has given the Library of Congress blanket permission to make the recordings accessible to the public, retaining the rights to issue any of them in the future for commercial release.

The National Jukebox site also has been a hot topic on Twitter, which shows numerous tweets about the site, including specific recordings users are flagging to their followers."

One reaction on Twitter: "I am so enamored with the National Jukebox. Where else could I listen to prohibition-era popular music online?"

Some background on the digitising process behind this digital jukebox.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Ring The Alarm playlist, BaseFM, May 14

The Yoots  - Me he manu rere
Syd Jones and the Troubadours - Cordova
Dutch rhythm steel and show band - Down by the river
Guinness cassanovas - Stormy
Charles Bradley  -Why is it so hard
El Michels affair - Detriot twice
Joy Denalane - Change inst
Hugh Masekela - Dont go lose it baby
Fishbone - Everyday sunshine
Beat pharmacy - Assassination of the mind - Teddy G dub
Seed - Sound a goody goody
Turntable dubbers feat Brother Culture - Get lively now - Blend Mishkin mix
Ruts DC  - Whatever we do - RSD remix
Gulls - Mean sound - strategy dub
Delroy Wilson - Can I change my mind
Roots radics - Babylon dont touch my sensi
Barrington Levy - Why you do it
Pavlov and mishkin  - Mafia
Centry - Melody of life
The Yoots  - Tutira mai
Futura 2000 and The Clash - Escapades dub
The normal - Warm leatherette
Material w Nona Hendryx - Busting out
Fredericks Brown - Betrayal
Esther Phillips - Home is where the hatred is
George Benson - Theme from Good King Bad

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Stay at home


Simon Grigg popped up on Twitter earlier today with some very exciting news... He announced that "as of today, I now have 9 previously unreleased Suburban Reptiles tracks, thought lost for 30 yrs. Quite excited." He found them in a cupboard belonging to a guy who now lives in Bangkok and who used to hang with the band. He also found some unreleased Swingers songs. He posted a pic of one of the tapes, see above. Simon says that Hospital is a Jonathan Richman song. So Fucked Up is 1969 - Stooges.

3 Sided Dream


The latest issue of Wax Poetics magazine returns to the theme of jazz, with Jazz's Mad Men. One of the albums profiled in the mag is The case of the 3 sided dream in audio colour, by Rashaan Roland Kirk. The tale behind it is pretty crazy.

Kirk cut this album while his producer at Atlantic Records, Joel Dorn, was leaving the label, as it had morphed from jazz and soul into a rock monster, with Led Zep, Cream and CSN&Y. Unfortunately for Kirk, he wanted to depart too but still had two albums to go to fulfil his contract. So, he cut two albums simultaneously. As you do.

Only hitch - the budget was a mere $21,000, and they ran out of money after only recording three sides. Solution? He handed in a double LP with music on three of the four sides of vinyl.

This blog on the album describes it a concept record and fills in the story... " the fourth [side of the record] is a blank 12-minute track with 30 seconds of conversation at the very end." Nutty.

These impressions...



Some fresh goodness from Mr Mayer Hawthorne. No covers of The Impressions tho.

MAYER HAWTHORNE - IMPRESSIONS...
Free download, 6 song EP of covers. http://sthrow.com/mayer

Jakob: nice day for an earthquake!


For New Zealand Music Month, I've hauled out some old magazine articles on local musicians that I wrote a while back. They give you a snapshot of artists earlier in their career... This interview with Jakob was originally published in Pavement magazine, 2001. Jakob are playing two shows soon; Auckland - Kings Arms on June 4  and Wellington - San Francisco Bathhouse on June 11. Jakob member Jeff Boyle is also playing as part of the lineup for Rhian Sheehan's live show Standing  in Silence at the Mercury Theatre in Auckland, May 23.




Set of Subsets is the moody debut album for Napier band Jakob. Its a heady concoction of minimalist guitar, offset with bursts of distortion and melodic delights. Following on from their entrancing EP, the album finds them still inhabiting a world of swirling guitars and thunderous dynamics. The band started out in the middle of 1998.

"Maurice (Beckett) our bass player had just come back from Sweden and Germany, and was ultra-keen on getting things happening," says guitarist Jeff Boyle, who, along with drummer Jason Johnston, makes up the Jakob lineup. "We'd been jamming together before he left, at the start of the year, and we just pushed things along a bit, and the ep songs just came out of nowhere, and we recorded it, and its just been snowballing from there ever since, really.

"The first recordings we did, for the ep, was just a fleeting idea. We had a friend with a bit of studio gear, and he said 'flick us $300 to do a little experiment with you', and so we did it over a weekend, and it was basically one-take stuff, and it ended up being sweet as. With the album we tried the same thing, and it didn't really work too well. So we re-did everything with a lot of overdubs and samples. We started recording the album in late November last year, and finished in May this year."

Playing live in the studio is crucial to the band. "That's how we write, that's how we play, so that's how we record. That's the whole basis of our approach. There's no actual physical song writing ever involved in our musical creation.

"It comes down to us getting into a room and just taking whatever comes our way basically. We try and keep all preconceptions of music out, and just let something come to us, or just fiddle around til something happens naturally between the three of us, and then once something does, then we work on it. That's just one way of trying to keep our music completely original and completely ourselves. We've got a standard-o-meter, you know what I mean? It basically comes down to if we enjoy it enough, if we all end up with nice big smiles on our faces then that becomes a Jakob song."

Once the album was nearing completion, their thoughts turned to the next step; getting the music out there. "We didn't have any plan, release-wise; all we wanted to do was record the songs we had, cos we were sick of them! We'd been playing these songs for about a year, and everyone liked them, and we just wanted to get them out, and move on to the next step. We know Paul Maclaney, who released his album Permanence through Kog, and he's been a friend and a fan of ours for the last few years. He told Kog 'check these guys out', and they gave the album a listen and they loved it. So they said 'do you want to go with Midium?' (Kog's guitar label) and we said 'yeah'. They treat us like brothers; whenever we go up to Auckland, we stay at the Kog studios. They treat us real good, we're absolutely over the moon to be on that label."

The band are quite content to continue to call Napier home, and have no burning ambition to move to the Big Smoke. "I'd much rather be in a band here, than in Auckland. There's a lot of crap you have to deal with in Auckland. I was living up there in 96, 97, and I tried to get a few things together with a couple of people, and that went nowhere, basically. It's just really hard to focus when you're in Auckland, for me it is.

"Everything is much more relaxed here, there's no media bullshit you have to deal with. There's no 'hip' scene down here in Napier, there's just a bunch of musos hanging out, jamming with each other and coming up with cool music. No one's like, keeping up appearances, trying to be real cool. Its makes it easier to just sit back and create music."

There's plans afoot for a few music videos, some travel around our fair shores and also further afield.

"Our main goal is to get overseas and play, mainly in Europe, because that's where a lot of the bands we're influenced by come from. Bands like Godflesh, Slint, Bardo Pond, Mogwai, etc etc. We just want to keep going and keep progressing, and never do the same thing twice. We think there's a whole huge space in music that hasn't been filled yet, and we want to fill it up." ok?

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Awards tour...

Taite Prize finalist Dudley Benson has written a thoughtful piece on the judging and presentation of the Taite Prize, over at The Corner blog. Sure, he didn't win, but this isn't simply a case of a sore loser. Benson touches on the nature of competitive awards and how does one judge them. It's an interesting read.

In Defence of Creativity (& The Greater Problem Of The ‘International Quality’): An Artist’s Response To The 2011 Taite Music Prize.

"...I’d firstly like to pre-empt any inevitable interpretation of this response as one of upset in my being a finalist but not winner of the award. My motivations here grow both from an overall concern that I’ll go on to describe, as well as a result of receiving significant feedback from others – both in and out of the music industry – who are also interested in discussing the judges’ decision, specifically in relation to the award criteria.

"Also compelling is my observation that when something of an imbalance occurs within our music community, very few people seem prepared to make their concerns public. I suspect artists fear being blacklisted from future chances of recognition within the circles in question, while others in media positions have business and personal relationships that they are afraid of bruising. These anxieties do not personally concern me, especially in comparison to the responsibility I feel in contributing positively to the dialogue of what in New Zealand music we consider to be creatively successful work...."

London's burning


My friend Hans wrote his thesis on punk rock when he was at university in his native Belgium back in 1980. It was a photocopied self-published document of the punk rock scene at that time.

"It explores the sociology of punk in Britain, its history and cultural aspects such as music, imagery, fanzine publications and independent record labels. The analysis section embeds the phenomenon in the rich tapestry of British post-war youth cultures.  It has a new (2011) preface and is concluded with short essays and updates. It contains original punk rock band photography and a substantial bibliography and URL resource list."

He's recently completed the huge task of translating it from Dutch into English ready for publishing, and I designed the cover for it (with a photo from Jonathan Ganley, of The Clash in Auckland). The e-book is out now on Amazon (for Kindle) and there's a print version on the way too.

London's Burning: An Exploration in Punk Subculture (Amazon)

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Dub plates: Salmonella Dub


For New Zealand Music Month, I've hauled out some old magazine articles on local musicians that I wrote a while back. They give you a snapshot of artists earlier in their career...This interview with Tiki has a tale about him walking round the streets of Dubai with people pointing at him... the explanation why is pretty funny...

(originally published in Pavement magazine 2001)


The last 12 months have been an exciting time for Salmonella Dub. Following the commercial and critical success of their last album Killervision, they launched themselves out into the big world, touring to Australia, Europe, South Africa, and the Middle East, after securing release of the album in these countries. In between all this travel, they started laying down the foundations for their fourth album, Inside The Dubplates.

Soundman and vocalist Tiki says its been a year of exciting new places and strange adventures. "I got in trouble in Dubai," he recalls, relaxing in the record company boardroom in Auckland, a long way from the political hotspots of the Middle East.

"It was so hot, I went out in shorts and a t-shirt, and people would cross the road, freaking out at me, big time. I couldn't understand why. People were stopping their cars and watching me. I spent the whole day walking round, just going 'why are these people freaking out at me?' I went back to the hotel and the reception guy was totally freaking out, going 'oh my god, you didn't go out like that did you?'

"I said 'what do you mean, like that?' And he said, 'oh, you should cover yourself up'. I said 'why?', and it was something to do with the tattoos, the moko and the dreads, it meant they thought I was the devil, basically. When you're born, I think they believe that you should die as you were born, without any markings or anything. If you do mark yourself then you are going to spend the rest of your life on earth in eternal damnation! And then I understood.

"The cool thing was, I had a bunch of kids running up and touching me, checking me out, going 'where are you from?' I got talking to them, and they were saying you just don't get bands here, it's really hard to get exposed to anything else that's happening in the world. The kids there are really starved for Western culture. That made me realise how lucky we are. Even though we're from the South Pacific, these guys were way closer to the rest of the world than what we are, but they still so isolated."

"Paris was amazing too, its got this vibe about it, it's just so old. The people there are just awesome. They're just confident, and strong in their culture and really supportive as well, and really interested in Aotearoa and the South Pacific, and the lifestyle here. A lot of the interviews I did there, they didn't talk about the music, they just wanted to ask me questions about home. They wanted to know what my moko meant, what the scene was like: Once Were Warriors always came up, they'd ask 'is it really like that?', and I'd say, 'well its like that everywhere in the world'. One question as if we all had pet sheep, which was hard case. The All Blacks always came up; I remember in a subway in Paris, there's this big billboard with Jonah Lomu selling Adidas!"

Yes, the Dub have come a long way from their Christchurch origins, back in the mid 90's. "When I was 19," remembers Tiki, "we had just started coming up to Auckland and Wellington, and that was like, the big time for me! Back then the guys were talking about playing in Australia. I couldn't believe that. The next year we went to Australia, and then we talked about going to Europe, and the next year we went to Europe, so it's starting to become a bit more realistic. I think learning that anything can happen, that its not so much of a dream, even tho we're from the South Pacific, and things are quite hard with the dollar and we're so far away, it not that unrealistic for a Kiwi band to go out there."

The new album uses the mixing skills of several talented local engineers, rather than following the path of their last few releases that utilised UK producer David Harrow. "We used David Wernham, who does live sound for Shihad. We bought him over, and he took care of all the drums, he knows how to get a good sound. We did it all with Paddy Free co-producing, so its all New Zealand flavours. It was a tight crew, we're all friends. The other thing, Dave our drummer went a bit more crazy on this one, and also not doing so many ballads, if you know what I mean. They're more instrumentals, which is kind of where we started out. "We did the last album in two weeks. This one we've had a couple of months to do it. We've had a bit more time to prepare. Rather than have such a tight deadline, we've had a bit more time to experiment.

"This is the closest album we've done that sums up the band as a whole, and captures that live feel that we've got. The character of the band has changed quite a bit, just from being on the road a lot. We've been overseas, and been checking out what other people are doing, and checking out how crowds overseas take your music, and what they go off to. For example, in France, they liked the more spacious, crazier stuff, than the funkier, groovier stuff, which is quite interesting."

The overseas experience has strengthened their belief in what they're doing. "If anything, the travel we've done in the last year, because we've taken it to different parts of the world, has made us realise is actually original. Most people who came along said 'wow, we haven't heard anything like this'. That makes us think 'okay, well, don't aspire to be anything else that's happening, this is where we're from. We're from the South Pacific, and living here is just so much different from the rest of the world, so much cleaner, open space, just a different lifestyle. I think that's something we should treasure, and be proud of. I think it's okay for us to be completely Kiwiana, South Pacific, and not try and aspire to be a UK style dub reggae act or whatever."

Tiki says the plan for this year is "get the album in the stores, release it, let the public get into it, then hit the road. We've got some gigs around New Zealand, then it's off to Australia, and France is on the cards. Canada is another area we want to nail. We'll definitely do a big New Zealand tour at the end of the year, when its nice and warm". Ah, dub in the summertime, nothing's finer.

Monday, May 09, 2011

Whiskey barons

Gyedu-Blay Ambolley - Simigwa do (whiskey barons rework) by flavorheard

Tune and a half. Check it.

But wait. There's more...

whiskey makossa by flavorheard

Osibisa - keep on trying (whiskey barons edit) by flavorheard

More from the Whiskey Barons over at Soundcloud. Lots for download too. Woohoo!

100 miles of shelves

Gene DeAnna in the Library's vaults  (Los Angeles Times)


There's a great article on the LA Times site, "Library of Congress builds the record collection of the century." It's got some fascinating facts in the Library's archive. The storage facility had  a former life as a cash depository during the Cold War.

It's "a repository containing nearly 100 miles of shelves stacked with some 6 million items [taking up 45 acres]: reels of film; kinescopes; videotape and screenplays; magnetic audiotape; wax cylinders; shellac, metal and vinyl discs; wire recordings; paper piano rolls; photographs; manuscripts; and other materials. In short, a century's worth of the nation's musical and cinematic legacy.... It's here that a recent donation from Universal Music Group, nearly a quarter-million master recordings by musicians including Duke Ellington, Billie Holiday and Bing Crosby, is now permanently housed."

"As part of the Library of Congress, this trove is available to anyone, free. But because of the complexities of copyright law, access is restricted to the library's reading rooms in Washington and Culpeper..."

Their collection sounds amazing, including such delights as every 78 rpm disc recorded by Jelly Roll Morton, or "half a million LPs, among which are dozens of surf and hot-rod music-themed discs that Capitol Records issued in the '60s to capitalize on those crazes, including "Hot Rod Hootenanny" by Mr. Gasser & the Weirdos, with cover art and songs co-written by fabled car designer Ed "Big Daddy" Roth."

The story also discusses the various formats the Library has to archive, from cylinder recordings to DAT tapes. 

"I love to give the example that the cylinder from 1900 may be easier to play back than the DAT [digital audiotape] from 2001," sound curator Barton said. "Seriously. There are a lot of DATs that just won't play now."

The most enduring formats? Not CDs or MP3 digital files.  "Vinyl discs properly stored will last hundreds of years," Miller said. "Shellac too."

Of course, getting access to this material runs into copyright issues.

Museum director Loren Schoenberg said, "My goal is to have all of it, every last second of it, available on the Internet. If it was up to me, I'd just throw it on the Internet, let everybody sue each other and happy new year. But you can't do that, because you're dealing with [musicians'] estates, labels, record companies and publishers."

Saturday, May 07, 2011

Listen: Charles Bradley live on KEXP




What an incredible voice. Live session from SXSW recorded by KEXP. Listen here.


Ring The Alarm playlist, BaseFM, May 7

James Brown - Stone to the bone
The JBs - 40th anniversary mix
Charles Bradley - No time for dreaming
Bo Diddley - Hit or miss
Mulatu Astatke and the Heliocentrics - Chikk chikka
Amadou and Mariam - Coulibaly
Leroy Sibbles - Express yourself
Conroy Smith - Dangerous
Reggie Stepper - Under me sin tang
Barrington Levy - Why you do it
Junior Reid - Boom shak-a-lack 12" mix
Junior Murvin - I'll follow you
Joe Ariwa - The train
African head charge - Dobbyn joins the head charge
Delroy Wilson - Can I change my mind
Skatalites - Beardsman ska
The Wailers - Put it on
James Brown - Don't tell it
Booker T and the MGs - It's your thing
Oscar Brown Jr - Who knows what goes when the doors close?
Aloe Blacc - Green lights
Bei Bei and Shawn Lee - East
Smith and Mighty -B line fi blow
Arken - Step off
Unitone hifi - Sneeze off
Overwash vs megalon - Apopo
NSU - West coast dub - Dub asylum remix
Lord Echo -Blueberry jam

Thursday, May 05, 2011

Mr Bradley and Mr Brenneck

Charles Bradley. Photo: LA Times

Tommy Brenneck is a guitarist with Sharon Jones and the Dapkings, and also runs the Dunham Records label, an offshoot of Daptone records. Their latest release is a fabulous soul album from Charles Bradley and the Menahan St band, led by Brenneck.

The LA Times had a nice piece on Brenneck and his collaboration with Bradley. Brenneck lists some of his favourite artists, and lets slip that he may be producing the third album from Rodriguez, who's first and second album were produced by Motown legend Dennis Coffey way back in the early 70s. They were reissued recently on Light In The Attic.

“You could tell he [the 63 year old Bradley] was just in this shell,” said Brenneck, who continues to work with the Dap-Kings in a studio-recording capacity. “He was a James Brown impersonator and he was dressing like him all the time, rocking a James Brown wig, full time. He had not found himself as an artist.”

About four years ago a collaboration between Brenneck’s own Menahan Street Band and Bradley started to take shape. “The music came, and then he slowly crawled out of his shell,” Brenneck said. “I think he’s finally casting off that James Brown mask. Even if he does do a James Brown spin or mannerism, he owns it now.”

Dub dub dub



I posted this last week, but just want to remind you folk to check it out. Enjoy! Thanks

This past week saw the release of Rescape, a remix collection from local producer NSU and I've got a remix on there of his tune West Coast Dub (listen here). I've pulled together a collection of some of the remixes I've done as Dub Asylum, kinda like a demo tape, and a few of them are available as free downloads, including one that is previously unreleased.

The first remixes I did were for the Midnights and Kolab - I hit them up via Myspace, how old fashioned is that? Funny thing is, I did the Kolab remix without ever talking to the guys - did it all via email and IM. Even though they live in the same city as me.

Devine No 5 -
The Onleung remix was done for a proposed remix collection of Onelung's 2006 album Binary Pop Songs, but that never happened due to record company stuff. Have a listen and download it for free. Thanks to Onelung for letting me make it available.

Sideways - I did a remix for Kolab when their debut album, What Comes Next dropped in 2008. You can download it for free too. Thanks to Kolab for letting me make it available. They are also available for download from http://soundcloud.com/dubasylum

Outside looking in - The Midnights, a tune that appeared on their debut album, Outside (2010) This remix was done when this tune was knocking round student radio in 2007. I'm currently working on another remix for them.

Hiding - The Hollie Smith remix was for a remix competition she had in Oct 2010. Some cheesy House mix won. Sucky, that. Still like it, tho. Do more reggae, Hollie!

West coast dub - The remix of NSU is off the album Rescape, a remix collection of NSU, out April 25, 2011.  That's the cover below.

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Kog turns


Seeing as it's New Zealand Music Month, I thought I'd dig out some old magazine articles on local musicians that I wrote a while back. They give you a snapshot of artists earlier in their career...

Coming up, Shayne Carter, Dawn Raid and a few others, written for Pavement, Real Groove and Lava/Selector magazines. This is the first of several posts over the next few weeks, keep your eyes peeled for em.... This article was originally written for North and South magazine in 1999, but they never published it.


Kog Transmissions is the name of a collective of enterprising young long haired musicians, who specialise in making and releasing dance music.

Within an astonishingly short space of time, they have established themselves on the local music scene, with little or no help from the music industry. They have done it all their own way, setting up their own recording studio, releasing their cds on their own label, and selling them at their own cd launch gigs; you pay $15 to get into the gig and get a cd to take home with you.

It's great value for money, and a great night out. The business equation reads like this: they manufacture 500 cd's, get 500 people along to their gig, and hey presto, their cd sells out in one night, rather than sitting in record shops for months and months.

Last year the Kog team released one cd a month, a very ambitious plan, but one that paid off handsomely, rapidly building a loyal following for their musical activities. This clever technique bought them to the attention of major record label Universal Music, who offered to step in and help with the distribution of their cd's around the country.

"We started the studio about three and a half years ago", says Chris Chetland of Kog, "when we moved into this warehouse [situated in Kingsland, Auckland]. Back when we started the studio we had a Metal band at the time [the delightfully named Raw Meat For The Balcony], and we wanted to record our own album, and were getting more into the technology side of music. All the people here knew each other for quite a few years before that, because we all went to school together, and had been in bands together."

They mostly went to Sacred Heart, aligning them with a musical legacy that includes such local music luminaries as Dave Dobbyn, Tim and Neil Finn, Rikki and Ian Morris, Peter Urlich, who also attended that school.

Fellow Kog member Andrew Manning says that "Kog is a place to pool talents; we try to enjoy what we're doing as much as we can, we don't work with anyone we don't like. It's a group of friends, basically." Chetland notes that "By the fact that you're enjoying doing something, you do far better at it." The Kog collective is comprised of six people, most of who live and work together in the Kog warehouse.

Overseas dj's who have visited Kog have been amazed to see them doing everything in-house, unlike the standard methods where the tasks of music production get farmed out; recording, mastering, cd-rom, artwork, video etc are all done on site at the Kog warehouse, hence, they have a lot of creative control over what they do.

Also, having their own studio means never having to pay for studio time, which usually costs up to $150 per hour. Chris estimates that to set up a computer based recording studio would cost $10,000 for new equipment and software, or under $3,000 second hand. This is where computers are making it much easier for musicians to have their own home studio, bypassing the traditional methods of recording in expensive studios, where your creativity is hampered by constantly watching the clock, as your money ticks away.

Musically, the Kog releases have been exploring various musical styles within the dance genre: Chris says "Every release we do is in a different style, which from our point of view is interesting, because you get to learn a different style of music each time, and you get to meet people out of that particular scene. And if someone likes say one of our releases that is in the House style, then maybe they'll trust us and try another one of our releases, like Pitch Black, so it breaks down a lot of those barriers."

That diversity runs from Mark de Clive Lowes jazzy dance to Pitch Black's reggae/techno, to Epsilon Blue's melodic trance, to Baitercells drum n bass. They have also ventured into commercials, doing music for Sky TV, Saatchis, Telecom, and tv shows like Havoc, Queer Nation, and even reworking the Holmes Show theme for their feature on dance music.

Chris has studied complex systems theory and philosophy at university, which has influenced their business approach. "It's like looking at it more from that angle, rather than the standard, strict hierarchical business structures that a lot of businesses operate on. It's like the elephant and the mouse; one is big and lumbering and can squash you, but if you can keep on moving around, you're always evolving, continuously and and quickly there is never a fixed point, you never become a dead state. being able to offer new angles means you can offer a fresh perspective.

"It's the number 8 wire approach; you might not have all the super slick gear, but you just find different ways of doing it. We're putting it (the music) out there in the first place in ways that are unconventional, but also getting really good placement in that environment.

"We could've done it the standard record company way, where you do one release a year, put huge amounts of money in, and wait for it to trickle back in over the next year, or you can pay it all off in one night. We just reconfigured the rules to suit ourselves, rather than just do it like any other record label.

"When you look at any system, you assess what anyone else has done, then you look for different pathways that you can bypass the things that don't fit what you are doing. We wanted to get lots of music out there, and there was no way we could do it using the standard mechanisms that record labels operate under, or most businesses, in fact. By treating it less mechanically and more organically, it grows itself."

Kog are currently putting together a cd for The Gathering, an annual dance party held on Takaka Hill out of Nelson. This is the second year they have compiled a cd for this event, highlighting some of the leading lights in the local electronic music scene, who have also played at The Gathering. The first cd was supported by tv advertising from Universal, and sold over 3,000 copies.


Read more: Kog Transmutations, from NZ Musician, 2003.

The Don Isaac Ezekiel Combination – Ire


Free download from the new Nigeria 70 compilation, out very soon.

Bola Johnson & His Easy Life Top Beats The Don Isaac Ezekiel Combination – Ire  (soundcloud) (mediafire)
From: Nigeria 70- Sweet Times Afro-Funk Highlife & Juju From 1970s Lagos (May 10th, Strut)

Strut announce the return of their pioneering ‘Nigeria 70’ compilation series with an exclusive new third volume: ‘Sweet Times: Afro Funk, Highlife & Juju from 1970s Lagos’ compiled again by series curator Duncan Brooker. 

Excavating another choice batch of rare grooves from Nigeria’s label archives, the new edition places the spotlight on some of the deeper fusions happening across the country during the 1970s as traditional guitar highlife blended with jazz and funk, hypnotic juju grooves became more progressive and young Nigerian bands came through with their own heavy West African take on U.S. soul, funk, disco and rock.

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Party at ground zero

Party at ground zero, by Fishbone, 1985.



Party at ground zero, by Americans on hearing of the death of Osama, last night. NYC.


Quick cut of footage from Ground Zero - May 2, 2011 from Dewi Cooke on Vimeo.

Monday, May 02, 2011

Dennis Coffey interview

Last week, the Hit It and Quit It radio show,hosted by Recloose and Frank Booker, ran a special on Dennis Coffey, including an interview with the man. Both Recloose and Coffey are from Detroit. Check it out.

"... Before recording his solo work Dennis was a member of Motown's surest house band 'The Funk Brothers', featuring on soul classics such as the Temptations' 'Ball of Confusion' and 'Cloud 9', Edwin Starr's 'War' and Freda Payne's 'Band of Gold'.


Little did Dennis realise that as he jammed, experimented and recorded his music that he was inadvertently laying down the bedrock for dozens of hip-hop and jungle classics to ensue over the following forty years. Some of Dennis' biggest hits were heavily driven by their infectious breakdowns, quickly becoming rhythmic fodder for the earliest hip-hop DJs and later producers of the 1980s and beyond.

We checked in with Dennis in Detroit just before the release of his brand new record, self-titled 'Dennis Coffey' on the mighty Strut Records. The album hit shelves April 25 and features collaborations with Mayer Hawethorne, the Dirtbomb's Mick Collins, Fanny Franklin, Paolo Nutini and Kings Go Forth. Also be on the lookout for a Dennis Coffey remix project in the very near future featuring 14KT, Apollo Brown, Dabrye and yours truly (Recloose)."

Listen to the show here. Also features 'Constellations: The A - Z of Dennis Coffey' mix by DJ Houseshoes.

Where's Biggie and Tupac?

President Obama suggests that now that Donald Trump has solved the 'issue' of his birth certificate, he can get onto more pressing questions, like what really happened at Roswell, and where's Biggie and Tupac? The Donald got schooled.

Dragon

Little Dragon have a new album on the way, called Ritual Union, out July 16. Here's a live preview of the first single, Little Man (hat tip: Potholes in my blog)

This track sounds kinda familiar, I think Little Dragon may have played it in their opening set before the Gorillaz show at Vector Arena last December. I really hope Little Dragon come back and play their own show, I'd love to see em in a club setting.

Bonus DL: Little Dragon remixed by Unknown Mortal Orchestra (ex Mint chicks)


Yourstru.ly Presents: Little Dragon "Little Man" from Yours Truly on Vimeo.

Sunday, May 01, 2011

South

Here's an interesting history of Christchurch record stores... written by Paul Gilbert.

"In post-earthquake #2 Christchurch (2011), the number of independent record shops sits at a precarious five with a question mark still remaining over four of these. Galaxy Records , Selwyn Street and Radar are all in premises hit badly by the quake. The week before the second quake ‘Evil Genius’ opened a shop in Lyttelton. The timing and location could not have been worse. I hope they all make a Lazarus like resurrections."

Read it in full here.

PLUS photos of Christchurch record shop ads/flyers.

Diamonds

US hiphop producer Oddisee is currently working on the new album from his group Diamond District, due out later this year. Their debut album dropped late 2009, and you can download the instrumentals from that album now for free. Preview them below, nice dirty hiphop drums with jazzy samples....

High Noon Tea playlist, KiwFM, Sunday May 1

Show replays on KiwiFM on Fridays 2-4pm, listen online.

Salmonella dub - Mercy - Mu's remix
Mighty Asterix - Sweetest girl - toughest dub
Katchafire - Sensi dub - Pitch black remix
Tehimana Kerr - At three
Fredericks Brown - Betrayal - Dusty remix
Riki Gooch - Bakade varor
Recloose live band - Racetrack in France
Onelung - Mr frisky
Scratch 22 - Devotion
Lewis McCallum - The almanac
Adi Dick - Jahjah is coming
Conray - Space dub jazz
Hikoikoi - Jah armour
Jahlicious - Want
Lord Echo - Thinking of you
Rub a dub brothers - Respirator
Tubbs - Five day night - Fat Freddys remake
Loudhaler - Sea monster run
Trip to the moon - Trance ebo express
Julien Dyne - Scissorhands
Karl Marx Project - Anti gravity
Mephisto Jones - Remember me
Module - Faultlines - Jet Jaguar remix
Unitone hifi - Up to eleven
Joint  force -Burntime inst

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Blend

Cool free tune from Blend Mishkin (straight outta Athens, Greece), off their new Disco-Vampire EP. Check out more from Blend Mishkin over at Soundcloud and Bandcamp.



And here's a DJ mix they did, full of reggae dancehall niceness... listen and download... it's 24 mins long

Blend Mishkin - It's a Dancehall Ting (DJ Mix) by Blend Mishkin

Ring The Alarm playlist, BaseFM, April 30

East side symphony - Hot pants road
Herbie Hancock - Palm grease
Jay-Z - Show me what ya got inst
Digital underground - The way we swing
Queens tag team - Jump around - Big Willi reggae mix
African head charge - Timpanya
Blend Mishkin feat BNC - Disco vampires - Turntable dubbers remix
Dreadsquad - Sweet thing inst
Roots Manuva vs Wrongtom - Big tings redone
De Phazz - Plastic love memory
Dub colossus - Uptown ranking
Shark Wilson and the basement heaters - Make it reggae
Moneyman and the super 5 international - Life
Tunde Mabadu - Viva disco
Pepperpots - Real tru love
The Emotions - Bind alley
Black velvet - An earthquake's coming
Fred Wesley and the horny horns - Between two sheets
Kashmere stage band - Thank you - extended version
Charles Bradley - Golden rule
Colman bros - El nino - big band mix
Henry Mancini - A shot in the dark theme
Melvin Jackson - Black and bold
Pete Rock - Appreciate
Funkmaster Flex and ghetto celebs - Safe sex, no freaks
Kormac - Join together

Friday, April 29, 2011

Keep it down!



From 1981, Auckland band the Newmatics, off the double 7 inch EP, Broadcast O.R. The Riot Squad rose to infamy during the 1981 Springbok rugby tour, but the Newmatics had encountered this particular group of coppers the previous year, at one of their gigs.

On the remix



This week saw the release of Rescape, a remix collection from local producer NSU, and I've got a remix on there, of his tune West Coast Dub (listen here). I've pulled together a collection of some of the remixes I've done as Dub Asylum, kinda like a demo tape., and a few of them are available as free downloads, including one that is previously unreleased.

The first remixes I did were for the Midnights and Kolab - I hit them up via Myspace, how old fashioned is that? Funny thing is, I did the Kolab remix without ever talking to the guys - did it all via email and IM. Even though they live in the same city as me.

Devine No 5 -
The Onleung remix was done for a proposed remix collection of Onelung's 2006 album Binary Pop Songs, but that never happened due to record company stuff. Have a listen and download it for free. Thanks to Onelung for letting me make it available.

Sideways - I did a remix for Kolab when their debut album, What Comes Next dropped in 2008. You can download it for free too. Thanks to Kolab for letting me make it available. They are also available for download from http://soundcloud.com/dubasylum

Outside looking in - The Midnights, a tune that appeared on their debut album, Outside (2010) This remix was done when this tune was knocking round student radio in 2007. I'm currently working on another remix for them.

Hiding - The Hollie Smith remix was for a remix competition she had in Oct 2010. Some cheesy House mix won. Sucky, that. Still like it, tho. Do more reggae, Hollie!

West coast dub - The remix of NSU is off the album Rescape, a remix collection of NSU, out April 25, 2011.  That's the cover below.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

R.I.P. Poly Styrene, Phoebe Snow

Poly Styrene passed away after a battle with cancer, aged 53. She had released a new album in March. Guardian's obit here..

From Dangerous Minds blog... X Ray Spex live in London, 2008





Phoebe Snow was 60, and died of of complications from a brain hemorrhage she suffered last year.
LA Times: Phoebe Snow obit


Phoebe Snow and Linda Ronstadt - It's in his kiss (from 1979)



Ebo highlife

Free download from Ebo Taylor- "Peace On Earth" (mediafire)
From: Life Stories (out April 12th, Strut) http://ebotaylor-lifestories.com/

Ebo Taylor- Peace On Earth by Strut
 
From the Life Stories liner notes:

Ebo acknowledges the influence of US jazz rockers Blood Sweat & Tears and – less obviously, perhaps – Deep Purple on this easy going mid-tempo piece, written a few years before it was recorded, when Osibisa and various ‘blaxploitation’ themes were hip. “I was trying to fuse rock and jazz together with highlife,” Ebo recalls. “This kind of music was ahead of its time – not very popular when we recorded it!”

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

R.I.P Margaret of K Rd

Photo by Stephen Hardy
She sat outside Verona or St Kevins arcade, asking for change or a ciggie, for 28 years (source). She passed away in her sleep, according to staff at Alleluyah. Have had her passing confirmed by someone from K Rd Business Association. Apparently she lived in Parnell and used to take to bus to K Rd every day.

ADDED Sofia Mella from K Rd shop Tattooed Heart has written a tribute to Margaret on their blog.

TV3 news item on Margaret - watch here. More on the story from Stuff.co.nz
Her last name was Hofman. A service is planned for next Tuesday at the Baptist Tabernacle, at the top of Queen St.

ADDED Found a messsage board with tales of Margaret, posted in 2009...

"  took Margaret to the Casino once after she kept questioning me about what it was like...she got all dressed up, but when we got there they wouldnt let her in, because one of the bouncers knew her...There was quite a fuss, as I demanded to speak to a supervisor...eventually they let us in, on the proviso that I was responsible for her...waste of time, as we were there 5 mins, when she suddenly realised that you couldnt smoke in there...LMAO...so we went & ate Burgerking instead, before walking home! "

"Margaret was never a model...she was however, one of Aucklands "it" girls, in the 1950,s...racing about town in a sportscar, drinking at all the upmarket supper clubs...she comes from a wealthy family! She has been married, & has had a child, who died at a young age...this tragedy split her marriage up...I was told all this by an elderly friend who knew her in those days...I asked her about it once, & she nodded her head, then told me "its in the past, I dont want to talk about it".. "

Sunday, April 24, 2011

High Noon Tea playlist, KiwiFM, April 24

Cranky B Tuffins - Visual pollution (DL)
Karl Marx project - Leaning shadows
Black seeds - Make a move - Downtown Brown remix
Kingites - Notify
Dub terminator - Global warming
Jet jaguar - Think about it later
Benny Tones - Firefly
Unitone hifi - Hair farmer
Mr Reliable - Lucky dub
Jefferson Belt - Creeping things of the earth
Tiki - It's all in your hands - Dutty ranks remix
Mood unit - Hat trap (DL)
Lord Echo - Rhythm 77
Fat Freddys Drop - Hope -Sonsine remix
International Observer - Flat
Mark de Clive Lowe - El dia perfecto
Recloose - Landed
Sola rosa - Humanised - Jason Eli remix
Scratch 22 - Cold hands
Riki Gooch - Pams bacon on special
Fredericks Brown - Betrayal
Shogun Orchestra - Leogane
Nomad - Breaking rocks
Christoph el Truento - Meow

Show replays on Friday afternoons, 2-4pm. 

Rough trades

Very interesting article from The Economist on UK music retail. Says that supermarkets accounted for over a third of UK CD album sales last year, up from just over an eighth in 2000. Also makes the point that independent music shops have survived by sticking with physical product and embracing internet sales.

This mention of Rough Trade East... "an independent in London, has a stage for in-store gigs and a coffee shop, selling the experience of visiting a shop dedicated to music as much as the recorded product itself..." reminds me of my local, Conch Records. It's why these shops are surviving, and thriving.




Their master's voice: Independents need the industry’s last retailing giant to flourish

"Music retailing has had a curious April. HMV Group, owners of the last surviving high-street music chain and linchpin of the business, produced its third profits warning of the year as conditions on the high street “remained difficult”. Yet on April 16th hundreds of bleary-eyed shoppers across the country queued from sunrise outside HMV’s independently owned competitors. They were waiting for the one-off releases on sale to mark Record Store Day, a “celebration of music” organised by independent music shops, with over a thousand outlets participating around the world.

The popularity of this event suggests that small specialist music sellers are healthy. Some are, but they need their sickly mass-market opponent to recover. Over the past decade the way Britons buy music has changed radically, and this has hurt both chain stores and independents.

Millions now purchase chart CDs, often on impulse, when they are out shopping for groceries: supermarkets accounted for over a third of CD album sales last year, up from just over an eighth in 2000. Tesco alone receives more than £1 of every £10 spent on music in Britain. Most of all, the internet has transformed buying patterns. Home delivery accounted for a quarter of album sales in 2010, an estimated half of which were from Amazon, the internet giant. Digital downloads have all but wiped out the singles market, for years the lifeblood of local record shops: 160m songs were downloaded last year (most for less than £1), but only 2m physical singles were sold, down from 44m in 2002.

When the economy weakened, these changes helped kill off three high-street general retailers: Woolworths, Zavvi (formerly Virgin Megastore) and Borders. The number of indies also plummeted. The Entertainment Retailers Association says there were 281 of them at the last count, down from 578 in 2006. Those that focused on chart music closed first, and many more lacked the resources or the will to renew leases first taken on in the early 1970s.

But some independents are thriving. They embraced the internet but avoided the distraction of digital downloads. Half the turnover of Manchester’s Piccadilly Records comes from online sales; Philippa Jarman, its co-owner, says that “one of our shrewdest decisions was to stick to physical rather than digital downloads.”

Concentrating on physical products left independents well placed to capitalise on the recent revival in vinyl, too. Surviving independents highlight the importance of having staff who are immersed in the music scene, so that they act as a trusted filter in an industry with millions of products on offer. The most successful stores have used this expertise to create a sense of community far removed from the stereotypical shop staffed by snobbish music nerds. Rough Trade East, an independent in London, has a stage for in-store gigs and a coffee shop, selling the experience of visiting a shop dedicated to music as much as the recorded product itself.

By contrast, HMV has diversified into clothing, gaming and selling tickets to events, cutting its dependence on CDs but diluting its distinctiveness. With its shares now around 10p, down from 85p a year ago, the firm may sell its book chain, Waterstone’s, and close at least 40 HMV stores. The four biggest record labels are even considering supplying the retailer with non-chart music on a “sale or return” basis, freeing cash to reduce its £130m debt.

The labels need HMV to survive in order to keep lucrative non-chart music on the high street. So too do the independents, for if HMV were to fail, the labels would cut back their operations, drastically shrinking the market. HMV’s logo famously shows a terrier listening intently to a gramophone; even the indies hope the top dog regains its form."

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Ring The Alarm playlist, BaseFM, April 23

Lee Oskar - Haunted house
East side symphony - Hot pants road
Scratch 22 - Window rattle
Buddy Miles - Them changes
Roy Ayers - Running away
Soul society - Sidewinder
Big T Tyer - King kong
Billy Fair and orchestra - I'll be true to you
Sly n Robbie - Don't stop the music
Chic - Good times
Luther Vandross - She loves me back
Eric B and Rakim - Paid in full - Coldcut remix
Mantronix - Who is it?
Schoolly D - Whe'd you get that funk from?
George Clinton - Do fries go with that shake?
Born Jamericans - Boom shakatak
Aggrolites - Reggae hit LA (playing at the Kings Arms, Wed 27 April)
African head charge - Dobbyn joins the head charge
Ray Bryant - If I were a carpenter
Rae and Christian - Ready to roll
Herbie Hancock - Magic number - Todd Terje edit
Natural yoghurt band - Latin Illusion
Sharon Jones and the Dapkings - Better things
Konk - Soka loka moki
Fredericks Brown - Betrayal
Lightning head - Bokoor sound special
Disrupt - Riddim grid
Aggrolites - Complicated girl
Puppajim - Robot version

Friday, April 22, 2011

Questioning Record Store Day

"Is Record Store Day a Bunch of Bullshit?" is the name of a post written by DJ Prestige on his excellent blog Fleamarket Funk.


"... Here’s my question, why are we just promoting independent record stores one day a year? Where are all these record and music enthusiasts the other 364 days? Rob Henry, a NJ based DJ/ Record Store Buyer had this to say:”I think record store day is just that. Not vinyl awareness day. Not a thank you to all vinyl buyers. It’s a day for those record stores to make some coin. This is their Black Friday. I’m cool with that. I hope they prosper from RSD. If the ‘industry’ needs to make an excuse for people to spend their money in record stores, that’s fine.

"Vinyl sales have increased over the past few years yet shops are closing all over the place. Who wants record stores to be solely online? We need to keep a physical connection between distributors and vinyl buyers.” This is true, it is not vinyl awareness day, it’s record store day. I get a little touchy because it has the word “record” in it and the logo for RSD has an LP and a 45 in it. However, I am posing the question again: Where are all these people the other 364 days a year? Downloading music from iTunes for pay or the internet for free?"

He also notes that Record Store Day has sponsorship from EMI, Warners, Sony and Universal, which isn't exactly indie.


He puts forward a good argument on what exactly Record Store Day has grown to signify.  Funnily enough, someone from Record Store Day's official organising team saw it and posted a response. It's a little patronising.... "Ironically, here I am typing you about a negative slanted posting about record stores running Record Store Day .... As far as not celebrating year round. I can’t help but think you are new to discovering Record Store Day."

DJ Prestige replies, pointing out his years of experience as a DJ, record store owner and promoter.  "... I still make a living as a DJ who celebrates every day as Record Store Day. In fact, I did a joint collaboration this year with photographer Eilon Paz from DustandGrooves.com where we showcased a record store owner in Brooklyn that has been a staple in the community for over 4 decades.

"Being record related, it was posted on the Facebook page of Record Store Day to help spread the message of this man who’s business was in danger of being shut down. The photo essay and short paragraph were removed shortly after I posted it. I found that a bit odd, seeing that it was celebrating a record store, on RSD. It was then I wanted to do some investigating on my own on RSD itself..."

Thursday, April 21, 2011

You want everything, all the time


Bill Wyman (Ex Rolling Stones geezer) has written a fascinating piece entitled "Lester Bangs' Basement -What it means to have all music instantly available".

"Lester Bangs, the late, great early-rock critic, once said he dreamed of having a basement with every album ever released in it... [now] A previously "rare" CD or movie, once it's in the iTunes store or on the torrent networks, is, in theory, just as available as the biggest single in the world...

Wyman talks about wanting to find the Rolling Stones film Cocksucker Blues.

"The film, a porny, drug-soaked cinéma vérité by the noted photographer Robert Frank, was never officially released. Indeed, under some sort of legal agreement with the Stones, Frank can show it publicly only when he is physically there. It tends to be presented at college events or in museum screening rooms..." it took Wyman 30 seconds to find it and about half an hour to download. He also talks about some film fans who work at restoring the films before uploading them too.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

J-Rocc mix


J-Rocc dropped his wicked debut album Some Cold Rock Stuf recently on Stonesthrow, here's a mean mix he did for Fact Mag. Available for DL for a few more days.

FACT Mix 238 - J. Rocc (Apr '11) by factmag

Direct download on Fact Mag's site.

Big playback

Onra is giving away his 2007 album The Big Payback. Why? According to Potholes In My Blog , Onra says “we never made any money out of this shit, so might as well give it for free now.” Which is kinda grim. But wait, there's more.

Onra's Facebook page has a bit more information... "I don't know if you heard about this project I made with a keyboard player from Alabama called Byron The Aquarius. We made it in 05/06, on some futuristic ish, but it was released in the summer 2007, only in Japan and France. Time to share it with the world now..."

Download: Byron and Onra – The Big Payback [Mediafire, 54MB]

Watch this: Onra on the last night of his US tour, playing Knitting Factory in New York with Oliver Daysoul, and fitting in some record shopping too... from lifeandtimes.com


Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Shalamar doco



Spotted via Twitter from Harry Allen (yep, THAT Harry Allen, PE alumni). Mean.

Doug Hream Blunt




Read this great story over on Martyn Pepperells' blog, damn it's a cool read. Doug Hream Blunt dropped a few tunes in the late 90s, then disappeared. Martyn tracked him down, after discovering his music "while trawling the internet for a Dam Funk remix of an Ariel Pink song. Googling both artist’s names together, the first entry to come up was a blog post in the Line Out Section of thestranger.com. Titled ‘Dam-Funk X Ariel Pink = Doug Hream Blunt’, writer Dave Segal’s post included a YouTube link to ‘Gentle Persuasion’."



“Yes, this is Doug Blunt! Who is this?”
Speaking down the line from San Francisco, Doug Hream Blunt literally can’t understand a word I’m saying. To be fair though, he has probably never had a phone call from New Zealand before. The loud background noise of a TV set playing and several children running rampage around the house isn’t helping either. For a moment I consider abandoning ship. “Oh, you’re from New Zealand right?” says Blunt, speaking with a tone which makes me realise he knows exactly who I am and why I’m calling.

Whist speaking with this highly underrated San Francisco singer and musician, this sort of dichotomy characterises all. With an accent which mixes American and Caribbean, Blunt will swing from having no idea what I’m saying, to connecting completely with my questions, in the process displaying an amazing degree of enthusiasm. On the other side of the scale, he’ll just as quickly disconnect from me, slowly trailing off with his sentences. And as someone familiar with his highly prized musical output, every answer or reaction sits perfectly with his sound.

I first became aware of Blunt’s work while trawling the internet for a Dam Funk remix of an Ariel Pink song. Googling both artist’s names together, the first entry to come up was a blog post in the Line Out Section of thestranger.com. Titled ‘Dam-Funk X Ariel Pink = Doug Hream Blunt’, writer Dave Segal’s post included a YouTube link to ‘Gentle Persuasion’.

An incredible song, ‘Gentle Persuasion’ blends the hazy lo-fi aesthetic Ariel Pink has become associated with, with the early eighties boogie funk/RnB feels often connected to Dam Funk; evening throwing some carribbean/tropical touches in for good measure. I was absolutely floored over by this waking dream of a tune. Faded as hell, the song sees Blunt alternate between singing macked out sexual innuendos and noodling away on his guitar. The sort of player who goes so out of key on his solos that he actually comes back into key, Blunt is aptly supported by some super beached keyboards, strutting bass, snappy drums and a gorgeous female backing vocal.

Completely captured by ‘Gentle Persuasion’, after some specific digging, I made contact with Blunt’s LA based label, OT Records and Fun. Through them I purchased copies of both Blunt’s 12inch ‘Gentle Persuasion’ record and a CD album of the same name. OT Records and Fun also put me onto a series of video clips on vimeo.com. Taken from CITYVISIONS, a public access TV channel in San Francisco, the three incredible clips show Blunt and what looks like a band of high school music students syncing along to three of Blunt’s songs: ‘Ride The Tiger’, ‘Love Land’ and ‘Caribbean Queen’. The clips are incredible, easily some of the most amazing examples of a hypnagogic state I’ve ever seen.

Rocking a mini-afro, slender black aviator shades and a cream suit, Blunt holds down guitar and vocals. His band consists of a white girl with big hair and blue denim jeans on guitar, another white chick with a cowboy hat and a leather jacket on keys, what appears to be an Indian woman in a lime shirt on bass, a funny little bearded guy on vibraphone and a spiky haired guy in a striped blue shirt on drums. Backed by a black backdrop, and positioned on a blue stage, in reference to Hypnagogic states, all three videos have a weird quality to them which makes you think they might not actually be real. It’s kind of like the sci-fi/fantasy story trope about the shop weird shop you visit once and get a gremlin from. The strange shop you can’t ever find again and seems to have been replaced by a brick wall. I was obsessed and I needed to know more.

Juggling talking with me on the phone with entertaining his three children (“They really are a handful,” he says with a happy sigh), Blunt slowly lets me in on the best kept secret that is his back story. The facts are interspersed with constant laughter and a reoccurring sense of disbelief that someone from New Zealand is talking to him on the phone. “I was born in Arkansas originally, but I came to San Francisco when I was younger, when I was seven,” he says, after repeating my question about where he is from back to himself several times. This parroted verbal repetition is a habit he displays throughout our interview.

While his parents were music lovers, they didn’t play any musical instruments themselves. That was something Blunt would have to pick up for himself later in life. Still, between them and the rest of the people on his street, he had the love of music drilled into him from young. ” I was raised in this poor neighbourhood in San Francisco,” he passionately reflects, placing emphasis on the word “poor”. “The only thing we had to do was listen to music. You know? It was really poor. You couldn’t go outside and stuff. All you could do was just listen to music. It was funny. I got addicted to it.” Raised on RnB and Rock and Roll, Blunt quickly became a record collector. As he puts it, in a very matter of fact way, “I was of that generation, so I collected, you know? I collected a lot of vinyl cause I was of that generation.”

Name-checking The Whispers and Jimi Hendrix (a name he will come back to later), Blunt had been playing guitar and singing for, in his words, “six or seven years,” when he hooked up with a young studio owner named Victor Flaviani to record at his Flaviani Recording Studios in San Francisco. As to when exactly this occurred however, Blunt is close to blank. The best he can hazard is sometime in the late 90s. “Victor [Flaviani] was a music teacher,” Blunt happily recalls. He had a music workshop so he was able to do the album for me in there.”
As to why he wanted to record a record at the time, Blunt is just as faded as he is with exact dates. “I don’t know why man? I have no idea?” he laughs. What he does remember though, is he recorded it in less than a week. “Victor was new to studio work,” Blunt says. “Since he was new, he didn’t ask a lot. And I didn’t ask a lot, cause I didn’t know a lot,” he explains, trailing off with a giggle. In terms of his studio band, Blunt teamed up with some musician friends, a couple of Flaviani’s music students, Flaviani’s sisters and even Victor himself on drums. It sounds pretty ad hoc and somewhat slapped together, and it kind of was, but not completely. “I wasn’t just whoever I could get though,” Blunt passionately states. “I felt that they could all do it you know. If I thought you could do it, I let you do it!”

Defining a capable musician as one who, as he puts it after a lot of serious thought, “Can keep a beat and keep the time and knows his chords,” Blunt’s ultimate musical icon is Jimi Hendrix. “I like Jimi Hendrix,” he enthuses with a touch of frustration. “I’ve been trying to get a weird sound like that, but I can’t get it!” “I want to sound like that, but,” seemingly on the verge of a big statement, he just trails off, dropping into silence for a few semi sad moments. Ironically, what Blunt doesn’t seem to realise, yet is constantly ticking over, and occasionally interjecting my questions with his own questions about, is his lionised cult status.

On ‘Gentle Persuasion’, an album inspired by, like he explains, “the life experiences of living all over California,” Blunt and his ragtag band of players throw down a series of seven fundamentally Californian (and cross-genre jams). Musically, the record is the sound of spending your whole life in a haze of weed smoke, whiskey and women on the beaches of California. They’re the sort of daydream funk meets glazed over radio rock jams that make doing nothing but staring at the wall all day seem like a pretty cool idea. You can literally feel how much time Blunt must have spent chilling on corners and stoops across the state, taking it all in, one breath at a time. Subconsciously drawing his lyrics from these languid days, Blunt views music as something which just pops out and comes through you. His favourite jam is his tune ‘Wiskey Man’, a tune built around the repeated refrain “I got to be mellow”. And if you ask him where he got his sound from, his answer is simple, and so damn cool. “I got it from California man!”

In terms of what he has done on the live circuit, Blunt is just as vague as he is with recording dates. He mentions having held a few gigs singing and playing guitar at the local hospital. Then there is the CITYVISIONS performance, which in typical Blunt fashion, he has minimal factual memories about and a maximum emotional response. “I don’t know man,” he says, speaking with a special emphasis which makes you realise those televised song were a special moment for him. “It was just something that happened, and I just did it. It was good. It was good to be on TV, and I did it!”

These days, Blunt is a lot more low-profile with the music. He’s a father with a young family. Worryingly though, the major reason he hasn’t been playing is he had a stoke recently. “I’m getting back on my feet, but that took it out of me,” he admits, with an underlying mixture of strength and sadness. “That was a lesson man. It doesn’t really bother me that much though, not now.” Still, as a result he isn’t playing guitar. As a replacement, Blunt has been playing the congas (perhaps an extension of flourishes of tropical feel on his earlier work?) and taking trumpet lessons. Alternating between happy and sad, he makes and amusing and really exciting musical threat. “When I’ve finished studying trumpet I will probably go back to record with Victor Flaviani and try and do some singing behind the trumpet .”

Blunt doesn’t use the internet and as a result is more or less ignorant of his cult artist status and the astronomical prices people attempt to retail copies of his twelve inch record and CD for on the internet. During our conversation I actually get the sense that processing the stories I tell him about the niche interest in his music and the manner in which it presages plenty of contemporary musical trends is probably making it difficult for him to focus on my questions. As alien as the idea is to him, he is very enthusiastic about it. The thing is though, as you can tell from listening to his songs and his earlier comments, he is one hell of a chilled out dude. People find him, he doesn’t find people. Equally, as opposed to seeking out opportunities, opportunity seeks him out. It’s situations like this which have lead to his current arrangement with OT Records and Fun, who have been pumping his CDs and vinyl records out to music lovers across the globe, for a fair, affordable price. Similarly, it’s thanks to OT Records and Fun that I’m able to interview Blunt.

Doug Hream Blunt might be unknown, he might be underrated, and he might even stay that way forever. I get the sense that none of that really matters to Blunt though. He’s made music, played music, has a family and is experiencing a late career resurgence he probably never even imagined would occur. It’s the “well ahead of your time” scenario that so many truly great artists suffer from. Regardless of what happens from here on in, one thing is certain, Doug Hream Blunt is gonna remain chilled out as hell, just like his awesomely casual musical output.

Bottling the essence of everything carefree about California isn’t easy, unless you’re so laid back, you didn’t even have to think about trying. Which in a nutshell is - the Doug Hream Blunt story.


If you want to purchase the vinyl or CD then you can contact otrecords@hotmail.com