Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Rat patrol

"B side to the single Megaton by  the Suburban Reptiles, the first punk release in New Zealand. Recorded at Harlequin Studios, Sept 1977. At the time of upload, only ever issued on 12" in Jan 1978 and on a limited 7" in 2001."

Doug Jerebine is... Jesse Harper

NZ guitarist Doug Jerebine cut this album in London before heading off to India, back in the late 60s. Due for reissue by US label Drag City, out Jan 31. Doug will be performing live in Auckland late February / early March.

The year is 1968. A Maori guitar god of Hendrix-ian proportions leaves his native New Zealand for Swinging London, where he hooks up with an English drummer and records an album’s worth of acid-fried six-string workouts. He comes close to a deal with Atlantic Records, but instead drops out and heads to India. The tapes remain unreleased … until now!
Drag City's blurb: " Who is Jesse Harper? Doug Jerebine is Jesse Harper. And who is Doug Jerebine? Born in rural Tangowahine, of New Zealand's North Island, Doug became one of New Zealand's finest guitarists thate cut his teeth on guitar from the age of 12, learning first from a half-Maori, half-Greek instructor who introduced him to everything from George Van Eps to Hank Marvin. And one day, he found Doug teaching him. Even though he was only a high schooler, Jerebine was ready to play out.

" By the early 1960s, Jerebine was hopping around in Auckland bands, including The Embers and The Brew. After hearing the overdriven sounds of Steve Winwood and Jimi Hendrix in 1966, Doug refined his own approach to a similar effect. At the same time, dove deeply into the virtuosic sitar sounds of Vilayat Kahn and Ravi Shankar, and learned to play that instrument as well. His interest helped form his spiritual beliefs, and Doug eventually decided his true path was Hare Krishna.

Before landing in India, however, he stopped in England for a chance at making something big happen musically. In 1969 he recorded the Jesse Harper record, playing everything but drums, with the encouragement and assistance of Dave Hartstone, another London-based Kiwi-transplant from the scene."

According to this blogger, it sounds exactly like Jimi Hendrix. Which is good, if you like Jimi.

RELATED: Read Keith Newman's extensive article on Doug Jerebine.
Download “Ashes and Matches”

ADDED Doug Jerebine pops up at the Silo Park this Saturday (Feb 25), along with The Cosbys and DJ's Johnny Baker and Matt Crawley, down at Wynyard Quarter, Auckland waterfront. DJs from midday, Doug Jerebine at 2pm, Cosbys at 4pm.

ADDED:  NZ Herald's Scott Kara: Doug Jerebine: An unburied treasure.

snip..."In London in 1969, New Zealand guitarist Doug Jerebine, whose scorching psychedelic blues rock-style recalled the mighty Jimi Hendrix, recorded some songs in the hope of breaking into the big time.

Mind you, you get the feeling, that, even back then, the ever-humble Jerebine couldn't have cared less. He was encouraged to write and record songs like explosive psyche rocker Midnight Sun and bouncy blues-rock bopper Good News Blues, by his musical mate Dave Hartstone, who also gave Jerebine his rock 'n' roll alias - Jesse Harper.

But these songs never saw the light of day back then. One of the main reasons they were never re leased was because Jerebine became disillusioned with the music busi ness - and he was more interested in exploring Indian music and spiritu ality than playing rock 'n' roll.

As Jerebine told TimeOut in an interview in 2009: "Dave [Hartstone] wanted to make me into a rock star. I was daunted by that. I didn't like the idea ... I was searching for some thing higher."

In 1973 he left London for India where he became a Krishna monk and stayed for the best part of 30 years. He returned to New Zealand and started playing live again in 2009."

Audio previews on Dragcity's site.

Midnight Sun
Hole In My Hand
Fall Down
Ashes And Matches
Thawed Ice
Ain't So Hard To Do
Good News Blues
Reddened Eyes

Mr Knox and the nun

From Forced Exposure #18, 1993. Chris Knox cover and extensive 29 page interview. Was available online at Tallyho.co.nz, seems to have vanished. 

Flying Nun's 30th anniversary passed in November last year, with much hoopla. There's certainly some great music in their catalog that's worthy of celebrating. And then there's the likes of Marching Orders and Eric Glandy......

The footnotes accompanying the article written by the Forced Exposure interviewer for his Chris Knox are delightfully blunt, take these two examples...

"Big Sideways were a largish funk band with a horn section. They recorded for Unsung Records, but who cares? They are most notable for having provided work for bassist Justin Harwood prior to his joining The Chills..."   "Netherworld Dancing Toys were another bunch of Flying Nun losers. A 'soulful' Dunedin band formed in 82, they recorded three records for Flying Nun ... before signing w/ Richard Branson's Virgin label and eating utter shit."

The comment on "Netherworld Dancing Toys were another bunch of Flying Nun losers"  references the previous note in the article, on the band Marching Orders.

Flying Nun are widely acknowledged for introducing some acts that were very influential both here and overseas, especially in the US. What isn't so widely acknowledged is that Flying Nun was responsible for introducing the wider NZ public to Jackie Clarke.

Clarke was part of Gisborne band Marching Orders, who put out a 12-inch single on Flying Nun in 1983 called The Dancer - watch them play it live on TV show Shazam here. According to Chris Knox (in the Forced Exposure interview), Marching Orders getting on Flying Nun was Doug Hood's doing. "One of them [the band] was one of Doug's old boyhood mates, so Doug couldn't say no."

The interviewer from Forced Exposure asks about some of the other 'questionable projects' (as the interviewer puts it) from that era, like Netherworld Dancing Toys...

Knox: "Roger was very keen on them. I've never been able to understand why. A few of the aberrations were mine as well. Like Phantom Forth.... nobody bought it [The Phantom Forth release]. And Roger didn't particularly like it. But then there was a problem with peoples' families who had bands... you know how it is."

The Forced Exposure interview reveals that Knox met Doug Hood when Hood moved to Dunedin from the town Hood grew up in, Te Kuiti. Hood came down for a holiday and ended up settling in, according to Knox. Knox's flatmate prior to Doug was named Sarge, who was a good mate of Doug's and was a roadie for a band called OK Dinghy, who later became Dragon.

from Forced Exposure #18, 1993, p40.

And then there's that FNun pisstake country act, the Eric Glandy Memorial Big Band, featuring Don McGlashan amongst its members. Yes, Don McGlashan was on Flying Nun.

Chris Bell asked  McGlashan about it in this 2005 interview, originally published at NZBC.net.

What do you remember about making the only LP ever recorded by the Eric Glandy Memorial Big Band, ‘Adrenal Glandy: Songs of Love, Hate and Revenge’?

“Eric Glandy was the most important artist of his era, although you wouldn’t know that from the band’s live shows, recordings, or rehearsals. We hit our peak before our first practice, actually. Before we even thought about having a first practice, in fact — and from then on it was a sickening spiral downhill into recording industry hell and substance abuse. Those we influenced will certainly say that we didn’t influence them, but deep Jungian therapy will reveal that we did.”

This UK McGlashan fansite lists the band members (or their fictitious aliases) as "Desi Belle, Delta Don, Rocky Bordeaux, Eric Glandy, Manolito Klein, Priscilla-Lou Mary-Jane, Red Mcwhirter, Blind Spot and Hank Tudor."

From the original piece on NZBC.net: "Pictured is the Eric Glandy Memorial Big Band in the 1980s. Who says white men don't suit the blues? 'Delta' Don McGlashan is on the [far] right, next to NZBC Director-General Rob O'Neill touting the Fender bass (no, it's not really him, merely a more youthful facsimile); Sally Hollis-McLeod is at the back wearing the B-52s wig; Derek Ward (Listener designer) is front-centre in the brown suit; and Lindsay Marks is second left in the white jacket.  [note: Rob O'Neill is now business editor at the Sunday  Star Times.]

A comedy country act featuring two real musicians (McGlashan and Marks) along with a number of guests, the EG Memorial Big Band played original songs in costume. Some of the material was "brilliant", says NZBC blogger and audiophile Stephen Stratford. 

"Lindsay's Cowgirl Afterglow was my favourite, along with McGlashan's The Ballad of Kelvin. Kelvin, as I recall, was always delvin', and entered into an inappropriate relationship with his mother… or possibly a cow." Sadly, most other facts about the project appear to have been lost in the mists of internet time, and 'Delta Don' was reluctant to disclose just how much Stephen's copy of 'Adrenal Glandy: Songs of Love, Hate and Revenge' might be worth today, assuming he could be persuaded to part with it..."

RELATED: Flying Nun sound and pictures ( FNun artwork)

Copy rewrite

Orcon has been pulled up over one of its copyright infringement notices, sent to a customer for allegedly filesharing Linkin Park. The Dominion Post is reporting that "...an infringement notice issued by state-owned internet provider Orcon that was posted online by lobby group Tech Liberty is missing information required by the act.

The legislation stipulates warnings must set out the time each infringement occurred, down to the second, and name the file-sharing application or network used to pirate the work, as well describe the nature of the work and type of breach alleged to have occurred.

None of that information was included in the notice issued by Orcon. Spokesman Quentin Reade said it was "seeking legal clarification on the matter" and would reassess its infringement notices if necessary..."

Orocn's infringement notice incorrectly claims that the account holder is liable for a six month suspension of their internet access. This provision is in the current law, but not in effect. The Govt has said they will only introduce the six month suspension if the current provision for up to $15,000 fines for 3 infringements proves ineffective.

The Orcon customer says that " In November I received a detection notice from my ISP (image). I found the culprit PC which may have been seeding this file – note that it would have been downloaded at least 2 years prior to this law came into force. But take it on the chin as the file appeared to be seeding on a PC which is rarely used.

After removing the file, the torrent and any software capable of downloading/uploading I thought that would be the end of it.

Now a month or so later, I have received a warning notice (image) for the same copyrighted material. Now there is no way that this could have occured due to everything being removed/disabled.

I intend on challenging the notice and wanted to ask the community if there is any provision for double jeopardy as it were? Secondly, to share the information so others can be aware. Time to change ISP/account holder methinks."

Monday, January 09, 2012

Mos deaf

Blaze a stage or blaze a J? Tough choices for Mos Def

Auckland-based music promoter Dave Roper posted a link earlier this afternoon on Twitter, pointing to a story on  Mos Def's fraught Australian tour, and the huge problems around it for  Sam Speaight, the Australian promoter. Mos Def cancelled 4 out of 11 shows, leaving the Oz promoter with a net loss of around A$250,000. 

Roper said on Twitter: "Haven't listened to one Mos Def track since we promoted the Akl show. ..and that article on Mos Def and his management is actually quite tame in my opinion. Sam could have said a lot more if he wanted to... Most narcissistic of any artist toured in my 15+ years of promoting..." 

example: Mos Def's tour manager cancels a show that's already been rescheduled, then a few hours later, Speaight gets a message from Mos Def's managers, asking “Are there any other shows that we can play on this tour? Can you please investigative booking us some more shows? We would like to try and play some more shows.” .. no wonder he ended up in tears over this tour...

Speaight talks about dealing with other US hiphop artists...

"... There’s a total lack of management expertise anywhere in this end of the industry. This is the immediate reason that drives these outcomes. The people managing these artists couldn’t manage a bet in a casino, you know? Most of the time they’re friends. Very rarely are they reputable managers. A lot of music industry managers are friends, I guess. This isn’t uncommon in the entertainment business. But there’s a culture of doing business in a very haphazard and sloppy fashion that permeates the US hip-hop world. That shines through when you’ve got a manager who isn’t qualified, and also isn’t expected to do a good job. So they don’t.

"Of course that’s a broad brush stroke; I don’t want to paint every hip-hop manager with that. Conversely to my experience with Mos Def, I’ve done five Australian tours with De La Soul. Their manager is an absolute dream to work with. He’s an incredibly diligent, focused guy who does an amazing job of managing his clients to get results. Unfortunately he’s the exception as opposed to the rule..."

Sub Pop on a budget

Via LA Times... interesting backgrounder on current state of indie label Sub Pop...

" Although Sub Pop has been around longer than most indie labels there's plenty of other thriving indies all over the country such as Merge, Epitaph and Secretly Canadian ...  In the first half of 2011, according to Billboard, the market share of indies was collectively 31.2%, greater than any single major. ..."

"... Circa 2000, Sub Pop would often sign bands with $100,000 recording budgets, but they had to scale down if they wanted to stay in business. So they financed the 2003 Postal Service record "Give Up" for the cost of a hard drive and some Guitar Center gift certificates. 

"And now that record is at 1,050,000 copies and still selling 600 a week," Kiewel says. "Companywide, our biggest records from that era — the Postal Service, David Cross, the Shins, Iron and Wine, Hot Hot Heat — all cost $10,000 or less. We were being rewarded for being fiscally responsible! Low-risk, high-yield — why would we ever change that?"

Wikipedia tells me Sub Pop have had two platinum records, one by Nirvana (Bleach), and one by Flight of the Conchords. And that Sub Pop has connections to the majors...  "...Sub Pop sold a 49% stake to Warner Bros. for more than $20 million in 1994" (Source: Bloomberg, 2008). No mention of Warners in that LA Times article, as far as I can see.

Raw African-American Gospel

The LA Times has a roundup of their top 10 reissues for 2011, one that caught my eye was this...

"This May Be My Last Time Singing: Raw African-American Gospel on 45 RPM 1957-1982": One word in the title says it all: raw. Three discs of small-label private press 45s issued by churches and compiled by writer, listener and publisher of Yeti magazine Mike McGonigal, "Last Time Singing" offers a bounty of inspiration of both the professional and amateur variety: microphone-distorting screams blanketed by swinging choirs singing along in the back corner of the room, as on the Gospel Keys' "I Never Heard a Man." This amazing music will make you believe in a holy power."

From Allaboutjazz.com... " McGonigal reasons in his well- crafted notes that This May Be My Last Time Singing "is not a clinical sampler; these are songs that I'm most obsessed with, that if you dropped by my house I'd say 'you have to hear this.'" That is youthful, naked excitement, like peeling the shrink-wrap off of Green River for the first time in 1969 or downloading Tha Carter IV in 2011. It is tantamount to a friend telling you they just ate the best barbecue in his or her life and you have got to try it."

Out on Tomkins Square Label.

Saturday, January 07, 2012

Words of GSH

Theres an extract from Gil Scot Herons memoir [out Jan 16] gone up on The Independent. It's worth a read.

Godfather of rap's last words: Exclusive extract from Gil Scott-Heron’s posthumous memoir.

snip: "... In 1980, Stevie joined with the members of the Black Caucus in the United States Congress to speak out for the need to honour the day Dr King was born, to make his birthday a national holiday. The campaign began in earnest on Hallowe'en of 1980 in Houston, Texas, with Stevie's national tour supporting a new LP called Hotter than July, featuring the song "Happy Birthday", which advocated a holiday for Dr King. I arrived in Houston in the early afternoon to join the tour as the opening act. I was invited to do the first eight shows, covering two weeks, and I felt good about being there, about seeing Stevie and his crazy brother Calvin again.

I was tired already, sweaty and exhausted from a five-minute trudge uphill, learning as I trudged why this block-sized enclosure was called "the Summit". I had just found a stage entrance for a venue I had never played. The places I had played in Texas on prior trips could fit into this sprawling hothouse about 10 times and still leave room for the Rockets to play their games without me getting in their way. It was an impressive sight. Choreographed chaos on a Roman scale. But suddenly somebody called my name. Well, not exactly my name, but somebody's name for me, the name he always used, my astrological sign. So I knew who it was. It was somebody who shouldn't have seen me come in. Howzat?

The call for me rang out again, echoing around in the cavernous hall: "Air-rees!"

I scanned the upper reaches of the place, looking for Stevie Wonder.

And there he was, in a seat near the top row in the bowl-shaped theatre. He was leaning forward in my direction from the sound booth. Alone. There was no mistaking him. His corn rows were surrounded with a soft suede cover. Large, dark sunglasses hid most of the top half of his face, and a huge, joker's grin furnished the lower half. He had a wireless mike in his hand and, again with the grin, was saying, "Come on up here, Air-rees!"

I started for the stairs, still scanning. Now I could see there was an engineer-type person in the booth, but his back was turned to Stevie and I didn't believe I knew the man anyway. Or that he had identified me.

He hadn't. But since I hadn't figured it out yet and Stevie was having such a good time messing with my head...

"How you been, man," I said as I climbed. "If you saw me get outta that cab from the airport, you shoulda helped me pay for it."

"We felt your vibes, Air-rees," Stevie said, and he laughed out loud, shook his head, and held his hundred-watt smile.

I agreed to be on by 8.05 pm each night and to hit my last note no later than 9.05. That would give the humpers and stage muscle 25 to 30 minutes to change the sets for Stevie and [backing group] Wonderlove. Stevie's set would run the clock out, but at 11.30 or so he would call for back-up to do his last two numbers: "Master Blaster", the reggae-flavoured tune that included the line that was the title of his new LP, and "Happy Birthday", his tribute to Dr King.

The people producing the shows [were] worrying about us starting and stopping on time. I thought that was funny as hell, knowing that Bob Marley and the Wailers were coming in after two weeks. "Them brothers don't start rolling their show joints until they're 10 minutes late," I told [the stage manager]...."

Ring The Alarm playlist, BaseFM, Jan 7

Dr Alban - Hello Afrika -Fast blast club mix
Chinchillaz - Tiger
Liam Bailey - When will they learn
Clive Smith & Jackie Mittoo - Joyful life
Heptones - Sweet talking  -Richie Phoe dubplate mix
Cutty Ranks - Who say me done
Dub Secialists - Darker block
Tenor saw - Ring the alarm - hiphop mix
Kenny dope and Shaggy - Gunshot
Yellowman - Them a mad over me
Junior Murvin - Root train
Augustus Pablo - Dub organiser
Dub asylum - Skatta
Sly n Robbie vs D&D Allstars - Lowe1 mashup
Lee Scratch Perry - God smiled  -Moody boyz remix
Konk - Soka loka moki
SOS Band - SOS dit dit dit dash dash dash dit dit dit
Isaac Hayes - Zeke the freak  -Todd Terje edit
Diana Ross - Upside down - Original Chic mix
Raphael Saadiq - Heart attack
Harlem river drive - Idle hands
Lobo - Bambele
Bing ji ling - Hold tight - Colm K remix (free download here)
Joe Gibbs - Chapter two
Gregory Issacs - Give a hand
Brother culture - Warning dub

Friday, January 06, 2012

Peanutbutter Wolf vs Amoeba

New "What's In My Bag?" video with Peanutbutter Wolf from Stonesthrow. See what Peanut Butter Wolf found at Amoeba....

Interesting fact: PB Wolf had his hair cut just like his idol Terry Hall from the Specials when he was in high school. And his math teacher at school was the lead singer for... ah, watch the clip and find out.  And his Bob James/Nautilus story is cool too. One for the hiphop nerds.

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

The Secret Life of Skank

The Secret Life of Skank was put together by Radio NZ's Nick Atkinson, and looks at the origins of the reggae skank. Well worth a listen.

From RNZ's site: "Aotearoa is reggae's second home with acts such as Katchafire, House of Shem, Fat Freddy's Drop and The Black Seeds going to the top of the charts at will. The genre is built around one simple rhythmic motif called the skank. Nick Atkinson spoke to a DJ, an academic and several musicians to find out how and why we skank."

I discovered recently that the word skank is censored on iTunes NZ. One of the new tunes off my latest Dub Asylum ep is called Jumping Jack Skank, which appeared on iTunes as Jumping Jack S***k. After some moves from my digital distributor to inform iTunes of the particular NZ context for this word (ie its not a widely insult, but a much loved musical form in Aotearoa), iTunes have removed it from their list of banned words. Hoorah!

Welcome to Portishead... live NYC

By Peter McLennan, originally published in Lava magazine, 1999.

It's 10.20pm on a Wednesday night, and my phone rings. It's the operator at Polydor UK, calling up to connect me for a Portishead interview. Ah, the joys of modern telecommunications.

Portishead member Geoff Barrow comes on the phone, much to my surprise. I was told I'd be talking to guitarist Adrian Utley, but Geoff tells me Adrian is a bit knackered, having just done 40 interviews in 2 days, and Geoff has kindly stepped in to give him a break. What a nice chap, I like him already. So, down to business.

PNYC is the new release from Portishead, a collection of live recordings based around their televised concert recorded in July last year at the Roseland Ballroom in New York, which was screened here a while back. The cd however has only just seen the light of day, after their second, self-titled album and an arduous 10 month tour round the planet. Marketing ploy, anyone?

Geoff explains that they've been busy."We finished touring about a month ago. The response we had was pretty much complete and utter total madness. It was shocking really. We started playing to about two, three thousand, and then it started creeping up in Europe to like eight thousand, and then we came down to Australia and New Zealand, and that was another complete buzz, and then the States, and every show was sold out except for one, in Mertle Beach in South Carolina, which was a House Of Blues place, and we were told they were going into their college holiday season, and they're was actually no one there but old people, in the town! And then we did the festivals over the summer, in Europe, and in some of those we played like to fifty thousand people.

L: With festivals, do you get to see any of the other bands?
GB: Well, what I liked to do, is just getting in there early. Other people would just chill out at the hotel, and I'd usually go down with the crew and wander around the festival. To be quite honest, the European festival circuit was really drab this year. There was some really good bands like Pulp, Beastie Boys, but the rest of the stuff I thought, was really substandard, except for Asian Dub Foundation, they were really good.

L: Anyway, back to PNYC

GB: Well, with Roselands, we've been on tour, and we haven't been able to work on it at all, or edit it, or get it into some kind of shape. When you saw it on tv, it was mixed in two or three days just after we did it. There's two tracks on PNYC from the tour as well. When we got back from tour we went into the studio, just to have a listen to it, and make it sound a bit better, not to do stupid things to it, no nasty overdubbing and stuff. Because we have so much control over everything that we do, in the sense of production, artwork, videos, whatever, because of that, if we're out on tour, we can't concentrate on anything else. And we don't like things going out without us being involved in it. So we wanted to wait til now and get it right."

The concert represented not just the standard everyday Portishead line-up (if there is such a thing), but a show with all the bells and trimmings, including a horn section and an orchestra comprising members of New York's Philharmonic. Nervous then, were we Geoff?

"We were really, really nervous, about the whole thing. There wasn't an awful lot of rehearsal time with the orchestra, but we were really happy with the way it came out. It was a strange one, Roselands, cause it was at the start of the tour, and the band has developed so much since then. At the same time, because of the strings and everything else, it makes it a separate entity again, know what I mean?

A lot of people have said to us, when can I get hold of something of you live? So it's not like this massive surge of us saying 'you have to go and buy this, this is like the third Portishead record', this is just what we've done over the last couple of years, and a lot of people liked Roselands and wanted to buy it.

L: With the whole scale of the thing, did you reach a point where you thought 'Oh god, it's too much'?

GB Yeah absolutely, just before we went on! At the time I was doing press as well, about ten interviews a day, so we were rehearsing, Ade (Portishead guitarist Adrian Utley) was trying to get all the arrangements sorted, it was just like really, really full on. But it seemed to work, so I can't complain about it now! It was a huge risk, financially, all the way through. Even though the record company paid for it, you got to pay that money back somehow.

L: Was it hard taking those songs straight out of the studio, and then expanding them, and still retain some control over it?

GB Oh yeah, definitely. We worked with a brilliant arranger. When we were mixing the second record, Ade was downstairs roughly writing out the arrangements for the strings. It was difficult to do, because we had set ourselves a really difficult task. We were playing tunes we'd never played to an audience before, let alone played live before, and prior to that, we hadn't played for two and a half years. It wasn't going to be a rock'n'roll show, it was going to be us in the middle of the Ballroom with the lights fully on.

So you can't hide behind anything, it's all bang in front of you. With Roselands, for us it was like, instead of just coming out with the new record and talking about it, we wanted to just play it, but in a situation where people could see what we did, because we're not really like this celebrity band, y'know what I mean. We haven't got anything particularly interesting to say about our lives. So we thought right, let's just show people what we do.

L: The visual style of the tv concert is very striking. Where did that come from?

GB: It's based on an Miles Davis and Gil Evans tv show from the mid sixties. We didn't want it like a rock'n'roll show where it was really fast moving, cutting all the time. We wanted to have a pace about it, and to suit our music. we just thought right, lets just let the camera really work it, and suit whatever track it is. Cause most things that you see on tv, even if it's like a slow performance, if you go into a tv show and you've got a tv crew, they're always cutting around it like mad, they're always trying to find those bits so they can go 'drums to vocal, drums to vocal, drums to guitar', y'know what I mean? Really, it wasn't about that. It was setting up a mood and watching what we did, if anyone was interested.

L: What have you been listening to lately?

GB: A lot of hip hop. But it could just be like, anything that's interesting. There's a band called Arab Strap, that are on the same label as us, a Scottish band. It's like the real thing, a band that sings about their situation, which is really good. We're still into Radiohead, Nirvana, Foo Fighters. I'm not really a dance music fan, know what I mean? I don't go out to clubs and do loads of pills. It's not that I don't like it, I just don't appreciate it. It doesn't do anything for me when I listen to it straight.

L: So, what's next for you, now the touring's all finished?

GB: Well, when you've been out on the road for about a year, it's just such an odd feeling, coming back to normal life. Touring and music can bring up so many problems in your life, know what I mean? Now I've just got to sort my life out, without trying to drink too much. Cause that's the terrible one you slip into on tour.

At the moment I'm doing as little as possible. I'm just having time off, sorting out my house. It's the first break we've had really, we've been working non stop since 93, really. So, I'm done for a bit. I've just been trying to put it at the back of my mind, and doing things like hoovering. Back to reality, basically".

And with that splendid picture of domestic bliss, we bid farewell to Geoff.

PNYC (the video, cd and double vinyl) is in the shops now, and the band will shortly have a special limited edition cd-rom available through their website, www.Portishead.co.uk

Monday, January 02, 2012

Lee Scratch Perry comes to NZ

Originally published in Lava Magazine, September 1999. Dug this out after Michael Wells  posted an old pic of him and Mr Perry on Facebook - see below....

A few minutes before this was taken, Michael had asked Perry to autograph
a copy of the Lava issue with him on the cover. Photos courtesy of Big Matt.

He was there when reggae was invented. He was there when dub was invented. In celebration of the man's first and highly anticipated visit to New Zealand late last year [1999], Michael 'Yardboy' Wells took a look at the extraordinary life and times of a legendary producer, musician and visionary.

During the late 1960's, the flipside of 45rpm singles produced in Jamaica began to carry the word VERSION. These sides were usually instrumentals used to test soundsystem levels. Some producers reasoned that to issue a single with a song on either side was risky business, so it became accepted practice to reuse the bare backing track from the A-side on the B-side. At weekend dances, like those held by King Tubby's Hometown Hi-Fi, soundsystem selectors began to spin the instrumental versions of current hits following the vocal for the deejay (now called an mc) to chat over.

Dub was born from experimentation with these instrumentals, pushing the drums and bass forward in the mix, and using the mixing desk itself as an instrument. In the studio, producers utilising two and four track technology began to embellish instrumental versions with studio techniques, adding reverb, delay, dropping instruments in and out of the mix, the producer turned artist. At the forefront of this new development in recording technique two names stood out; one was King Tubby, the other was Lee 'Scratch' Perry.

Born 20 March 1936, Kendal, Jamaica, Rainford Hugh Perry grew up poor, in a small village, where he earned a reputation for being tough and streetwise. His first break came when he was hired by Studio One producer Clement 'Coxsone' Dodd, as jack of all trades, quickly establishing himself as selector at Coxsone's weekly ska soundsystem dances. Perry turned the dances into a huge success, and when he wasn't selecting he would help out with security, defending the sound equipment against sabotage from the hired thugs of rival operator Duke Reid the Trojan. Perry began his recording career at Studio One with Old For New in the early 60's but his first big hit came in 1965 with Chicken Scratch, a song that was to earn him the nickname 'Scratch'.

After almost seven years with Coxsone Perry left Studio One, bitter about not getting the money or recognition he felt was due. He crossed the street to the studios of Joe Gibbs where he recorded, I Am the Upsetter, aimed at his former boss and as a wake-up call to the recording industry. The song added to his growing list of aliases. Gibbs hired Perry to produce bands on his Amalgamated label and Perry willingly obliged, launching a string of local hits including the Pioneers 'Long Shot. This song was to introduce a new rhythm to Jamaica, one that wouldn't have a name until a year later but it is Long Shot and other Perry productions from the time that can be used to support the claim that Perry invented reggae. His association with Gibbs was fruitful but short-lived, and Perry left in a huge furor that culminated in the song People Funny Boy, another stinging retaliation, this time aimed straight at Gibbs.

In 1968, Perry decided he was better off working for himself. He hired the best backing musicians he could get, to form his own studio band that he called 'The Upsetters.'

Inspired by hot Kingston afternoons spent watching Spaghetti-Westerns, Perry and his Upsetters mashed up the dances with their fiery organ-led instrumentals. The music was soul-tinged reggae, inspired by US artists and certainly sounded formidable with song titles like Kill Them All, Return Of Django, and Vampire. The initial Upsetters left to form the backing band for Toots and The Maytals but not before producing two albums for Perry and establishing him as an emerging force in Jamaican music.

When Return Of Django hit the charts in England, Perry put together a new 'Upsetters' to capitalise on the moment. He recruited the rhythm section of The Hippy Boys, a young group fronted by singer Max Romeo and young brothers Aston and Carlton Barrett, who would later rise to fame with a singer by the name of Bob Marley. Perry took his new Upsetters on a tour of Britain, something that had never been done by a reggae group, and they were a hit. On their return, Perry reputedly pocketed most of the tour earnings, to the deep annoyance of his group.

Enter Bob Marley

As The Wailers, Bob Marley, Peter Tosh and Bunny Livingston had cut a few early tunes for Coxsone that were fairly successful, but the young Marley realised that they would need to reinvent their sound for the current trends or fade into obscurity. The Wailers rehearsed with The Upsetters and after a couple of sessions together Marley convinced The Upsetters to leave Perry and join The Wailers.

Perry was livid when heard the news that Marley had stolen his backing group. The tense stand off that followed led to Perry and Marley shutting themselves away for several hours to have it out. The two sides agreed to join forces, both would share the backing musicians with Perry as exclusive producer. The time was right for new producers to prove themselves against the dominance of rival producers Coxsone and Duke Reid, and the public were ready for a new sound.

Perry was more interested with the spooky instrumentals he had previously been crafting and didn't want to work with singers, but Bob's sufferer lyrics and plaintive delivery impacted on Perry's sensibilities. He recognised the overwhelming talent within Marley that needed guidance and nurturing. Despite their intense love/hate relationship, together the two giant personalities created some of The Wailers' most enduring songs, music many would call their best work ever. Perry and Marley shared songwriting duties during the fruitful period between 1969 and 1971 producing instant classics like Small Axe, My Cup and Duppy Conqueror, but eventually loose agreements over money and songwriting credits would spell the end of their dynamic partnership.

The relationship between Perry, The Upsetters and The Wailers was a turning point in reggae history. The foundations were laid for Bob's phenomenal rise to fame and Perry's production skills continued to develop far beyond those of his contemporaries. Marley took the Barrett brothers, formed Bob Marley & The Wailers, and signed to Island Records in 1973. Perry retained the name 'Upsetters' and formed a fresh studio band with a floating lineup drawn from a pool of Jamaica's top musicians that included Tommy McCook and Sly & Robbie. Perry kept the Upsetters going in various forms until their final incarnation in 1986.

The Black Ark.

Perry relocated to Washington Gardens, an uptown part of Kingston, in 1973, where he began constructing a recording studio in his backyard. He took a year to complete the building that would allow him complete independence and creative control as arranger, producer and artist. Perry called his studio 'Black Ark' which would have been an audacious name for any producer, except that in this case history has borne out the legend.

The Black Ark sound was deep and sticky, like wading through molasses, loping, sweetly ganja-infused rhythms resonating with muddy feedback and sampled (as we now refer to it) noises such as running water, mooing cows, children crying, breaking glass, and numerous unidentifiable 'found' sounds. Perry had a way of drawing great beauty from apparent chaos and disaster.

What makes his work so good is that he was working within a largely conservative genre, injecting chance, humour and ethereal otherworldliness without losing the thread of a good tune. He collaborated with King Tubby on two wicked dub albums Blackboard Jungle Dub with Tubby's mix in one channel and Perry's in the other, and King Tubby Meets the Upsetter At The Grass Roots Of Dub that featured one side each of uncluttered, elegant rhythms.

It was during this age of 'classical reggae' that Perry unleashed dub sides of unparalleled excellence; Super Ape, with its loping, spacey tunes and eerie undercurrents is the best example.

Perry earned a reputation for giving relative unknowns a chance to record their stuff and revitalising the careers of stars past their use by date. He would spend as long as necessary to perfect a recording session, unlike most other studios where time was charged strictly to the minute. During recording it would not be out of the ordinary for Perry to be bouncing around the mixing desk, clapping his hands, shouting encouragement, and blowing ganja smoke on the master tapes.

City Too Hot

His trademarks as an arranger and producer were experimentation and eccentricity, backed up by a wealth of technical prowess that appeared chaotic and disciplined at the same time. With only basic four track equipment, Perry was able to create sounds that still defy imitation and always seem to be just out of human reach. Soon the sound reached the ears of the mainstream music industry, and artists like Paul McCartney, Robert Palmer and The Clash starting qeueing up for a sprinkle of Perry's magic.

The studio became a cultural centre that during its heyday was known around the world for producing profoundly conscious roots reggae (check out Heart Of the Congos on Blood & Fire) against a backdrop of rising violence. Guns flooded into the island during the cold war years, and tensions grew between Jamaica, Cuba, and the US.

The heat was building up in Kingston as warring supporters for the nations' two political parties took their differences to the streets during the build-up to elections. Perry came under increasing pressure to perform his wizardry for an endless stream of hopefuls and hangers-on. Listen to Perry's City Too Hot for a musical image of the mood at Black Ark: the times were becoming increasingly dread and the situation was reaching critical mass.

One day in 1979 Perry torched his beloved Black Ark, in a desperate attempt to break free from the pressures that were building up around him and the studio. Perry's wife Pauline had left with their children, tired of the marathon recording sessions that had swallowed up so much of his life for years on end. Perry had ground himself down to exhaustion both mentally and physically.

Some of the dreads that surrounded him in the last few months were demanding protection money and generally bringing heavy vibes into the studio, too heavy for Perry, quoted after the fire: "The Black Ark was too black and too dread, even though I am black, I have to burn it down, it was too black.'' Perry subsequently suffered a mental breakdown and withdrew beneath a veil of erratic behaviour and mad, poetic ranting for which he is now famed.

Modern Dub

The 1980's saw Perry travelling extensively between Jamaica and Europe. He recorded some very dodgy albums during the first half of the decade and toured the US with an even dodgier white reggae band from New York called 'The Terrorists.'

He changed his name several times and swore that Island Records head Chris Blackwell was a vampire, even putting a picture of Blackwell in Dracula garb on the cover of the 1986 album Judgement In A Babylon.

In 1987, On U Sound boss Adrian Sherwood collaborated with Perry for the superb Time Boom X De Devil Dead, the album exceeding all expectations. Sherwood's studio band was the Dub Syndicate, a floating pool of musicians operating much like the Upsetters. The combination was a winner, and all parties came together again in 1989 for the album From The Secret Laboratory, drawing wide praise as a return to his previous greatness.

The same year Perry re-located to Switzerland with Swiss-born Mireille Campbell, who Perry married in a Hare Krishna temple. Campbell is also Perry's manager, and the couple have two children. Despite his advancing years, Perry has never given up professing his love of sex, children and everything in between.

The 1990's have seen a resurgence of interest in Perry's work. The Beastie Boys' Grand Royal magazine (issue 2) devoted around 20 pages to his life and work, and Island Records issued the 3CD Arkology set, while re-issue label Pressure Sounds compiled ultra rare sides for their Voodooism collection.

In 1997 Perry performed two sold-out shows in San Francisco and contributed to the Free Tibet concerts in New York. Most recently Perry has been working closely with the Mad Professor at Ariwa Studios in London, producing strong new material including Black Ark Experryments, Super Ape In The Jungle, a strange but entertaining jungle set and a recent reworking of his classic, Soul Fire.

As entertaining and fascinating as it is, all of the mythology that surrounds the life of Lee Perry would be of little importance without the music. Perry consciously propagates his legendary persona with wacky behaviour, creating a fantastic world around him as if living within his own cartoon character. He produced literally thousands of records, most of them seven inch singles made for the insatiable domestic consumer, and made brilliant albums when it suited him. His music is and will always be the last word on Lee Scratch Perry.

Sources: Reggae Rasta Revolution (Schirmer Books 1997), Grand Royal Magazine (Issue 2 1995-96), interviews with Lee Perry conducted by Mick Sleeper 1997-98. Special thanks to Big Matt. 

Saturday, December 31, 2011

NYE 1977

New years eve, December 31 1977: Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards of the band Chic are invited by Grace Jones to join her at Studio 54. When they get there, they are refused entry. They were annoyed, but they went back to Rodgers'apartment and channelled their anger into energy, and came up with a hit... happy new years, folks!

"... Having settled on the name Chic, and after months of peddling their demo of "Dance Dance Dance (Yowsah, Yowsah, Yowsah)" unsuccessfully around the New York record companies, the band signed to Atlantic Records. The single was released in October 1977 and raced into the US Top 5.

Still, Chic's initial success did not immediately elevate them to the top of every list. It was snowing in New York when Rodgers and Edwards stepped up to Studio 54's fabled doorway on 31 December 1977. The pair had been asked to join Grace Jones, who was partying inside the legendary club. Already they were sporting clothes commensurate with the fact that their debut single had sold a million copies within a month: Rodgers was wearing a Cerutti dinner jacket, Edwards was in Armani.

They went to the club's back door and attempted to get in. Their names weren't down. While the club rocked to "Dance Dance Dance", they were outside being denied admission.

Back at Rodgers' apartment, they started to jam. As Rodgers recounted to Anthony Haden-Guest in his book The Last Party: Studio 54, Disco and the Culture of the Night, "We were just yelling obscenities ... fuck Studio 54 ... fuck those scumbags." Suddenly, the music began to coalesce. The guitar and bass part locked in and a repeated refrain of "Aaaaaaaah, fuck off!" became the jam's focal point. Eventually, the "fuck" became "freak". "Off "became "out".

The resulting song, "Le Freak", is what Chic did in the Vietnam war; it is why 25 years later, books are being written about them. It is the epitome of the Chic sound, effortlessly crafted. The ultimate irony of turning the hatred that Rodgers and Edwards had felt toward Studio 54's door policy out on to the dancefloor and making it positive was fantastic.

Entering the US charts on 18 November 1978, the record went platinum and became the biggest-selling record in Atlantic's history. It hit No 1 in America, where it remained for six weeks. It went gold in Belgium, Italy, South Africa, Great Britain, France, Brazil, and most of the rest of the world. In Canada, it became the best-selling song in the nation's history. At Christmas 1978, Chic had the No 1 single in America. No self-respecting party of the 1978 festive season was complete without it..."

Cian's top 5 record stores

Cian (R) with Gilles Peterson, at Conch.

Found this in an old Volume magazine (old as in 4 months ago). Cian O'Donnell of Conch Records lets slip his favourite record spots. I've added links to it.

1. Rooky Ricardo's Records, Lower Haight st, San Francisco.
2. Disco 7 (Disco Sete) - Sao Paulo
3. Disk Union - Shibuya, Tokyo
4. Basement of Rasputins, Berkeley, California

ADDED Just found an article on Cian in NZ Musician magazine from 2003, here's his all time Top 5 tunes from that story.... FYI, he hails from Hereford, England. There ya go.

Que pena  - Gal Costa
The season - Beanfield
Song for Mozambique - Archie Shepp
Renaissance - Jean Luc Ponty
Lately  - Massive attack

Ring The Alarm playlist, BaseFM, Dec 31

Radio city - The hop
Prof Oz - Waves and sun - Grant Phabao remix
Luciano - Life - Creation samba remix by Da Lata
Harlem river drive - Idle hands
Orchestra Harlow - Freak off
El Chicano - Spanish grease
Joe Quijano - Fun city shingaling
Willie Bobo - Psychedelic blues
Patato and Totico - Mas que nada
Joe Bataan - Subway Joe
Eddie Palmieri and Cal Tjader - Picadillo
Diane and Carole and the Latin Watchamacallits - The fuzz
Jugoe - Ohio city
Kormac - Join together
Lord Echo - Things I like to do
Mr Scruff  - Get a move on
Wilson Pickett - Get me back on time - Danny Massure edit
Roberto Roena - Canta una simple (sing a simple song)
Fat freddys drop - Bohannon dub
African head charge - Release the doctor
Lee Scratch Perry - Jungle youth - Congo natty remix
Hortense Ellis -  People make the world go round
Dub asylum - Jumping Jack skank

Friday, December 30, 2011

Dick Smith and the CGA

So, my Freeview receiver died over Xmas. First the picture disappeared, then the sound went too. It's a  Dick Smith-branded Freeview box, model G7503. It's about two years old.

I went to Dick Smiths Wyndham St on Thurs 29 Dec 2011, and talked with a staff member and explained issue with device, I had tested the leads, and cable, all of which worked fine on other devices.

He asked if I had bought extended warranty. I said no, He said then they weren't able to do anything to help. I asked about their obligations under Consumer Guarantees Act, and was it reasonable to expect this device to only last two years, as I didn't think so, and he referred me to their head office, saying they would be available as it was a usual work day. I called the number he suggested, no answer. I called the 0800 number on Dick Smith website, no answer for their repairs/technical dept either.

I did some research online, tried asking for advice on Twitter and Facebook. I also posted on Dick Smith's Facebook page about this. There has been no response via Twitter or Facebook from Dicks Smith, although their staff are posting to their FB page over the xmas holidays  - on Dec 26 and Dec 28.

Hadyn Green of Consumer NZ told me via Twitter that he thought it was a simple CGA claim. I also looked up the CGA on Consumer NZ's site, which has some very helpful information. Basically, the device should be fit for the intended purpose, for the expected life of the device and is covered under the CGA warranty. I did not expect this Freeview box to only last two years.

I posted a question about the boxes on Geekzone, and discovered this was a common problem with this model of Freeview box, at the two year mark. A number of folk with this problem had returned them to Dick Smith and had them replaced under the CGA.

Today (Dec 30) I went back to Dick Smith, this time to their Queen St store. The first staff member I talked to listened and looked at me blankly, pointed at another staff member and wandered off to get them.

I eventually got to talk to Ben, who did know what the CGA was, and listened to my issue and agreed to send it off for assessment. He took my details and logged the issue and said it would take 14 working days, or probably longer due to the xmas holidays. So I will probably hear back from Dick Smith in late January. Wish me luck.

I will also try and find out if Dick Smith train their shop staff on the CGA. Because, based on the staff I've dealt with, they clearly do not. I've also heard a variety on anecdotal experiences that suggest many retailers try and dodge their CGA obligations.

ADDED... I got this message via Facebook from a former co-worker, who is a tech journalist and ex editor of NZ PC World... "Had a similar experience at Harvey Norman. Was buying something and the sales guy asked us to buy an extended warranty. We said no, it was covered by the CGA. He said yeah, but we'd have to take them to court to get them to honour it."

ADDED heard this about Dick Smith via someone on Twitter... "I had a big dude called Ali at Newmarket [Dick Smith] go all MMA [mixed martial arts] and try to smash me when trying to return a MP3 player lol...Took Customer Service to a new and scary level!!! He was a pretty big dude as well. My advice.. duck and weave!!"

Glad the guy I spoke to at DS Queen St this morning didn' t take that approach. And that he knew what the CGA was.

UPDATED 5 Jan 2012: When I went to Dick Smith Queen St on Dec 30, they told me they would send it off for assessment and that would take up to 14 working days, plus more for the xmas break. So I wasn't expecting a response til late January.

However, I got a phone call from Ben at DS Queen St today, and they had decided to replace it, after assessing it. They gave me a new Freeview box (at no cost to me), a Sommet SHDNZ3. So, hopefully it goes.

Dick Smith replied to my Facebook message yesterday, asking if the issue had been resolved. I said no, and detailed what had happened with Ben at their DS Queen St. I also asked if they provide training to their staff on the CGA

They replied today, saying "We certainly do give training in regards to our obligations under the CGA. Unfortunately in this case it seems our staff member did not follow the correct procedure. It is great to see Ben at our Queen St store followed the correct procedure. As you would know we are entitled to access the product before making the decision to replace/refund etc. Ben would have contacted you by now to let you know that we have accessed the product and will be replacing it for you."

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The Duke

Via Network Awesome, great clip of Duke Ellington interviewed for Swedish TV by Sven Lindahl...

The man behind Raggamuffin

The Sydney Morning Herald published a story on Raggamuffin promoter Andrew McManus on Dec 23. It's worth a read. It details the many variations on companies called Andrew McManus Presents...

excerpt: "... In business, they say, you're only as good as your name. And if that's true, Andrew McManus must be very good indeed, because his name is attached to so many of his companies that it can be almost impossible to tell where one ends and the next begins..."

"...Though drawing crowds of 30,000-plus in New Zealand, it [Raggamuffin] struggled in Australia, where it was plagued by poor ticket sales, the cancellation of headline act Sean Paul and terrible weather. The Adelaide show on February 2, 2011, pulled just 400 people..."

"...Even in New Zealand, where Raggamuffin was a raging success, McManus struggled. In 2010, his Kiwi operation Andrew McManus Presents (New Zealand) Co Limited became embroiled in a legal dispute with the reggae band Pacific Herbs. On the brink of a court date, the company went into liquidation. As of December 6, it owed $NZ394,000 ($A300,000) to creditors".

"His New Zealand operation, which promoted the New Zealand leg of his Raggamuffin reggae festival, went into liquidation in March this year, with debts last estimated at more than A$300,000. Tickets for the 2012 Raggamuffin event in Rotorua are now on sale. The promoter is McManus Entertainment".

McManus is currently workng on a New Years Eve show for Sydney... "His partner [is] Sydney Resolutions Pty Ltd, the outfit behind the Sydney Resolution concert, is the live events arm of Universal, the world's biggest music company."

Previous posts: Raggamuffin cancels Aust shows, Raggamuffin rumblings, Herbs vs Raggamuffin

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Ring The Alarm playlist, BaseFM, Dec 24

Gary Byrd - The crown
James Brown - Santa claus goes straight to the ghetto
Tye Tribbett and GA - Mighty
Lee Fields  -You're the kind of girl
Noel Pointer - Living for the city
Lowe1 - Red hot Mittoo
King Tubby - Morpheus special - Kid Loco mix
Dub Asylum - Skatta

Groove armada - Tuning in
Freddie Kruger - Something good
Buju Banton - Champion
Beat conductor - Hottest dub
The Clash - Magnificient dance
Hugh Masekela - Don't go lose it baby
James Brown - Soulful christmas
Nuyorican soul - Black gold of the sun
Curtis Mayfield - If there's a hell below we all going to go - live version
Liam Bailey - When will they learn
The Yoots - Tutira mai
Hallelujah Picassos - Rewind - Roger Perry re-edit
Lightning head - EVA
Spanky Wilson - Sunshine of your love
Sharon Jones - Aint no chimneys in the projects

Friday, December 23, 2011

Merry Christmas to you!

Just want to say thank you for reading my blog during the past year - I appreciate your support, comments and feedback. I know a lot of folk have had a very tough year, so I want to say I hope you have a good holiday break, and see you in the new year! May I recommend swimming in the sea at every opportunity, perfect Kiwi summer activity. Yes, we celebrate Christmas in summer. We're crazy like that.

[The godfather of soul recorded three Christmas albums during his career, and songs off them were compiled in the mid 90s for CD release, which doesn't seem to show up on iTunes.]


I went up to have a chat with Murry Sweetpants on Radio Ponsonby this morning about my new Dub Asylum EP, listen to the interview...

Dub Asylum on the Long Black by Radio Ponsonby

New Dub Asylum EP available on iTunes, Amplifier and Bandcamp, and all good digital stores. Check it out! Limited CD copies at Conch Records, Ponsonby Rd.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Nuyorican Soul EPK, from 1997

Nuyorican Soul is an absolutely incredible album, put together by Little Louis Vega and Kenny Dope aka Masters At Work. It features some stellar guests such as Roy Ayers, George Benson, La India, Jocelyn Brown and Tito Puente. It's salsa, latin jazz, funk, hiphop, soul... it's all in there, as Vega says in the clip. Hat tip to Giant Step for posting this.

I had this album on CD for years, from when it first came out in 1997. When I was in Japan in 2001, one of my happiest moments was walking into a record shop in Shibuya and seeing this album sitting on the shelves, as a double vinyl edition. That was a great purchase.

Giant Step have unearthed the EPK (electronic press kit) for the album. Watch it, then go get the album. It's deep. It's a classic.

Wonderful Noise

From Canvas magazine in Weekend Herald, Dec 17 2011 By Alan Perrott. Unfortunately the NZ Herald hardly ever publish stories from Canvas online, so I have scanned this and converted it to text in order to share this cool story. Enjoy.


Every self-respecting music scene should have a home, a place people can point to and say ''that's where it all came from.Christchurch has given us the Dunedin Sound, south Auckland is all about Dawn Raid, Wellington can be blamed for BBQ reggae, Rotorua gushed showbands and Gore has both kinds country and western.

Now we can add Osaka. Because, somehow, this Japanese metropolis is now home to a group of our hippest musicians. It's a connection that has not only springboarded these musicians from bedrooms to the world stage, has spawned a distinct sound that is creating a stir among some of the most influential tastemakers.

And all because a nice young man remembered his manners. As a DJ, radio host and man-about-theWellington-music-scene, Andy Mitchell has always taken it upon himself to promote local artists. If a big-name D.J was in town Mitchell would burn a CD of his favourite artists and hand it over on the night. He has no idea if anyone ever played them - and isn't particularly bothered.

“I look at it more as a kind of koha I guess but obviously it'd be a bonus if they picked up on something and started playing it themselves. I remember hearing that Gilles Peterson had discovered Fat Freddy's Drop and all I could think was that it had been on a CD I'd given to him over two years earlier.''

Then, in 2005, Mitchell and his Japanese wife moved to Osaka. When a chance to visit his local - Especial Records - came up, it seemed natural to take a CD with him. "Well it was my first visit, and, you know, it's like going to a party at someone's house; you've got to take something''.

Working behind the counter was Kenji Sakajiri. After the pair bonded over a few shared favourites, Sakajiri played Mitchell's offering and became hooked on the Fat Freddy's Drop track, Hope. ''That was the trigger for me getting in touch with this 'pure' music from New Zealand," Sakajiri says from Japan. "I was really sure that those guys could add some fresh breeze to the boredom of the current music scene."

After organising the group's first Japanese vinyl release, Sakajiri was enthused enough to launch his own label, Wonderful Noise. Record culture is possibly stronger in Japan than anywhere else, so for a small label to be noticed it needs a new sound, and Sakajiri had this new music coming out of New Zealand in mind for his.

His timing was excellent, as at the same time a disparate bunch of musicians in Auckland and Wellington were busily experimenting with sounds. Most were in established groups and assumed there was no chance their solo tinkerings would ever make headway in a country dominated by rock pop and reggae.

Julien Dyne was among them. A former member of the Opensouls, Dyne was most recently seen onstage at the NZ Music Awards sitting behind the sunglasses and drum kit with Ladi6. That's his nightly day job, otherwise he's at home in Mt Roskill playing with his music toys.

As with his labelmates, the results are a bit electronic, a bit jazz, a bit soul, a bit funk and, vocally, a lot Antipodean. It remains a style in search of a pigeonhole, although someone has jokingly suggested retro-futurism.

Anyway, through Mitchell's evangelism, Sakajiri got to hear a few tracks from the 32-year-old's first album, and was impressed. "I believe my ears, '' he says. "I was sure Japanese listeners would love this kind of music. Of course, the idea of this music coming from New Zealand is important, but the distance thing doesn't matter to me so much as it being unique and cool, everybody has been surprised by it.

“Japanese people rarely have a chance to see or hear music from New Zealand,so they are quite curious and, thanks to the releases we have put out, I think my customers now recognise these artists and are surprised at the quality. It's a bit tricky to explain, but I think they see the soulful elements as being different from what is coming out of Europe, America and Japan."

''It's gone way beyond those firstimpressions now '' says Dyne. ''It's become a friendship, he's a mate, and he's enabled me to tour to Japan twice - I'm going back again in March - and build a fan base. That's something else, going to play in a place like that after handing made my music in my bedroom. Especially as it would never have happened here.

There's a bit of indifference to this style of music in New Zealand and Australia, so when you just know you don't quite fit you have to lock for other avenues. "And he [Sakajiri] puts his music out on vinyl which to me is like a validation really because anyone can finish a song and put it on Bandcamp. I'm not sure why, but putting something out on vinyl seems to show a real commitment to your art, I feel like it has more permanence, more validity."

Their relationship has led to Dyne acting in a recruitment role, and as a result Wonderful Noise now boasts 11 New Zealand acts who make up about three quarters of their total roster. They include notables such asWellington's Lord Echo (aka Mike Fabulous from the Black Seeds), undergrounddarlings Electric Wire Hustle and Pacific heights, as well as Auckland's Isaac Aesili, producer Frank Booker, and, if the rumours are accurate, @peace, a new combo featuring members of Homebrew and Nothing to Nobody.

And the music is now flowing both ways. Partly in an effort to meet his artists, Sakajiri and another highly rated Japanese producer, Grooveman Spot, made a rare appearance outside Japan to play here earlier this month. It was only Sakajiri's second performance outside of Asia.

All the same, it is faintly ridiculous that musicians from this country have to send their music 9000 km away and then wait for whatever hard copies are left once the Japanese market has a go at them. Even then, they are only available from one store, Ponsonby's Conch [Records].

Which may seem small potatoes. But such a view misses the credibility to be gained from a label with a good reputation. A lot of important ears are pricked to what Wonderful Noise offers, and Sakajiri's New Zealanders are being played in the biggest clubs in the world by the likes of Gilles Peterson, Benji B and DJ Day.

Such promotion has given artists like Electric Wire Hustle the opportunity to shift overseas with a trail blazed ahead. Which is exactly what Isaac Aesili is hoping for as well. Known mostly as the trumpeter for Opensouls, Tornadoes, Eru Dangerspiel, Solaa and Recloose live, he's now looking to tour the Asia and Pacific region under his own name.

“It's amazing how these opportunities have come about, but with Kenji's help all these musical artists have been brought together into a sort of micro-industry'' he says. "Which is kind of funny because we've got a Japanese guy making something really worthwhile with music that doesn't really have an audience here … but it feels like the idea of exporting our our underground music has actually become viable.''

But the 32-year-old says he has got more than a potential career from the experience. "It's a real connection. Kenji's a bro officially. You can hang out with him and call him bro or cuz, so it's much more than business, it's a cultural exchange that has longevity. It's so out of left-field that this could have happened - I mean he's gone so far out of his way to tap into this scene, but it is still amazing that it took someone from Japan to connect all these local musos. Wonderful Noise will always be the reference point for what was happening on the scene at this time."

Check Wonderful Noise releases currently available via Juno.co.uk

Ten years of Daptone

Directed by Matt Rogers. Celebrating 10 years of Soul! Daptone Records Co-owners Gabe Roth and Neil Sugarman tell the story of how the "House of Soul" came about, and what makes Daptone stand out from the rest. Check out the photos of Sharon Jones wiring up the studio electricals.

ADDED: The Atlantic: In a Big Year for New Soul, a Small But Influential Label Turns 10

snip: "... Terry Currier, manager of Music Millennium in Portland, Oregon, the longest running independent record store in the Pacific Northwest, says the success of Daptone has had a significant impact on the music industry. "The soul revival has been really exciting; a lot of new bands have been given a chance like, Black Joe Lewis, JC Brooks and the Uptown Sound, and Daptone was the catalyst for spreading this style of music to a wider audience," he says.

"Not only are new bands playing '60s-era soul, but there are a lot of reissue labels like Light in the Attic Records and archival label Numero opening their vaults to release things that have never been out before or have been out of print, and there is now a big interest, especially among younger people who maybe have never listened to this music before."

"....Roth's recording process has become mythic. He uses analog equipment, including a reel-to-reel recorder. While he's been called a mad genius, Roth sees his approach as simple. "I'm always presented as some sort of analog champion," says Roth. "But that's not really the case. I don't use computers because it's not the process I enjoy. I enjoy having to commit to sounds in the studio and not having an undo button. It's about the process and not the technology."

Roth is very particular about sound and knows exactly what microphones he's using and where they're placed. "I don't listen to what experts tell you to listen to—I actually listen to sounds," Roth says. In recording he might use Radio Shack mikes, or the common SM57 or even a $10,000 condenser mic. He's not concerned with what's a good mic or a bad one; he's only interested in what works for the music. This signature sound is the defining characteristic of Daptone..."

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Don't stop the music

Simon Grigg drops his list of records he liked in 2011...

"... Almost no records make every list. In 1979 when I was a kid, Talking Head’s Fear of Music, Gang of 4’s Entertainment, Armed Forces, London Calling, Setting Sons and about a dozen other albums made every single end of year summation.

That was it unless you niched yourself in jazz, classical or country.

No longer – there are literally hundreds of records that are now amongst the best of 2011, and that’s a mighty thing. No longer are a few scribes and a few content-creating corporations defining what we like or should like. There is no need to feel insecure because you simply don’t get the widely touted top album. Or know who they are.

Now you make your own list and the rest be damned."

So... here goes. This is the album list - there's a ton of music I got this year that was digital singles and random stuff. I kinda stopped paying attention to albums.

Charles Bradley - No time for dreaming. Gorgeous soul album that manages to be utterly contemporary in its subject matter. Bradley is playing live in Oz in March, I hope some clever promoter brings him over here. He would kill it.

African Head Charge - Voodoo of the Godsent. AHC reunite with Adrian Sherwood for a cracking good album, with a Dave Dobbyn reference thrown in.

Lee Scratch Perry - Nu sound and version.
Mr Perry remixed by contemporary dance producers - Kode9, Congo Natty, Moody boyz. Mala etc. Like AFC, another new release from On U Sound, celebrating 30 years of shaking bassbins across the globe. Long may they continue.

Ikebe shakedown - Tasty self titled debut from Brooklyn afro funk ensemble.

After Hours collection - so much great Northern Soul. 3 CDs of gems

Mr Chop - Switched on - modern moog funk. Dirty filthy grooves. Covers of the JBs, Can, Jimmy Smith and more.

The Yoots - Sing along with the Yoots. Absolutely charming record, reworking well-known Maori tunes as ska and calypso grooves. Not hard to see why this was named as Amplifier's joint Album Of The Year. As Amplifier says "I started smiling when I first heard Sing Along With the Yoots, and now, if I'm feeling a bit blue, or the stresses of running a music retailer in a declining market get to me, I put this album on and for nearly 44 minutes the rest of the world doesn't exist."

Grace Jones - Hurricane dub. Splendid reworking of her most recent album, 2008's Hurricane. Sounds very reminiscent of her work with Sly n Robbie.

Where's the nearest record store? There's an app for that

The Vinyl District is a GPS-based record store locator app for iPhone and Android, and it's free. Currently US-centric, let's hope that evolves.

"Have a 5 hour layover in an unfamiliar city? Hit the “All Stores” icon for directions to the nearest indie shop and while away your time between flights digging through the crates. You can also check in and share your finds on Facebook, Twitter, and Foursquare.

Know of a store that’s just opened or just closed or just moved? Add or update that store’s status to the app..."

Bastard Jazz

"Tummy Touch Records Meet Bastard Jazz: A Brooklyn record label sound clash from two cult labels celebrating milestone birthdays this year - for free !

Bastard Jazz (who turned 10 this year) and Tummy Touch (celebrating their 15th) have each pitted five of their best bands against five of the other's hottest remixers to bring you this exclusive new compilation. Featuring music and remixes from Captain Planet, Tim Love Lee, DJ DRM, Los Chicharrons, Jugoe, Bing Ji Ling, The Bandana Splits and others..."

Truth and soul reggae

Absolutely gorgeous tune from the UK's Liam Bailey with NYC's Truth and Soul.

"Four years ago, Liam Bailey visited NYC from his hometown of Nottingham, England to write and record songs with Truth & Soul (Jeff Silverman & Leon Michels), that could help secure him the ever elusive major label deal. Shortly after the group met, an instant chemistry led to a series of reggae and soul songs that have been long-time favorites at T&S headquarters. Among those first couple songs are the roots reggae gems, "When Will They Learn".

Liam Bailey Official site / Facebook

Monday, December 19, 2011

Mega what?

Torrentfreak is reporting the latest development in the Megaupload vs Universal saga. The video is now back online (see below), but Torrentfreak quotes court documents that say   “The UMG-YouTube agreement grants UMG rights to effect the removal of user-posted videos through YouTube’s Content Management System (‘CMS’), based on a number of contractually specified criteria that are not limited to the infringements of copyrights owned or controlled by UMG,” the record label states in its filing.

Torrentfreak says "What that means, in case the preceding paragraph wasn’t clear enough, is that UMG has a private outside-the-DMCA agreement with YouTube that it can take down other people’s content from YouTube even when it doesn’t infringe their copyrights."

ADDED the founder of Megaupload is a man named Kim Dotcom, who was busted for computer hacking in his native Germany in 1997. These days he lives in New Zealand, and had originally planned to use Gin Wigmore for the Megaupload Song, but her manager and label (Universal) nixed that idea after the recording session took place (at Neil Finn's Roundhead studios).

Gin was replaced by Macy Gray. The video has now had over 2.4 million views, which suggests that Gin may have missed out on some valuable international exposure, alongside the likes of Kanye West, Jamie Foxx, Will.I.Am of Black  Eyed Peas. Read an interview with Kim Dotcom here.

ADDED: NY Times Media Decoder blog on the Youtube/Universal stoush is worth a read:
A YouTube takedown raises questions over media influence

ADDED: CMU: Universal has no special takedown privileges says YouTube.

CMU also reports that the original takedown notice from Universal was done as they claimed they were acting "against the song on behalf of one of its artists, Gin Wigmore, who said she was featured in the promo video without her permission." Except she isn't in it, according to Kim Dotcom.

ADDED Jan 20 2011 Megaupload has been shut down by US Federal prosecutors, who have charged its founder and others with violating piracy laws. Via NY Times

AP reports that founder Kim Dotcom and three others has been arrested in New Zealand at the request of US authorities. "The Justice Department said in a statement said that Kim Dotcom, formerly known as Kim Schmitz, and three others were arrested Thursday in New Zealand at the request of U.S. officials. Two other defendants are at large ... The Hong Kong-based company listed [hiphop producer] Swizz Beatz, a musician who married Alicia Keys in 2010, as its CEO."

ADDED Jan 27 MTV reports Kim Dotcom is releasing an album, produced by Printz Board.

ADDED Feb 8: Video - TV3's Campbell Live goes inside Kim Dotcoms's mansion with his bodyguard, sees  panic room where he was Dotcom was hiding

ADDED Feb 11 - Printz Board - BEP and Kim Dotcom's producer (Megaupload Song) - talks to GeorgeFMs Nick D about the case. He's been hanging with PNC and Vince Harder while in NZ.

ADDED Feb 22: Kim Dotcom has been granted bail after new evidence came to light.

RELATED:  Bail updates on Kim Dotcom