Tuesday, January 17, 2012

BDO pops off

In 1997, I talked a friend of mine into going to the Big Day Out with a camera, and we filmed a documentary short on what was being touted as the last Big Day Out. Organisers were talking about how it might be the last one, they didn't know if they would be returning.

Earlier today Auckland BDO organisers announced a ticket discount for concert goers, a first for the event. This evening, another announcement - this would be the last time the BDO would come to Auckland. Sound familiar?

A wave of nostalgia for the festival in its final year would drive up ticket sales, you could cynically suggest. But of course the economics of the BDO are very different now from 1997. This really could be goodbye.

In early January, BDO organiser Ken West announced a new partnership for the event, linking up with US event promoters behind the popular festival Lollapalooza. Maybe this saved the event for Australia, but not NZ.

R.I.P Jimmy Castor

photo: Dollar Bin Jams

Heard of his passing via Twitter, as posted by Chic's Nile Rodgers, who said "It's all over his fb page. Condolences to your family, brother Jimmy Castor. If it weren't for you we'd have never met Diana Ross!"

Jimmy Castor was sampled by everyone from the Spice Girls to Eric B and Rakim, NWA to Neneh Cherry and more. Hero to b-boys and breakers across the globe.

Noise11 reports that "The cause of death is as-yet-unknown, but Castor’s grandson P.J. Romain said on Twitter that his “grandfather is unresponsive at the hospital,” before breaking the news eight hours later in a tweet that said: “My grandfather Jimmy Castor died today at 2:30 on MLK day.” He was 71.

UPDATED: BBC News: Soul musician Jimmy Castor dies at the age of 71
New York Times: Jimmy Castor, Musician Who Mastered Many Genres, Dies at 71
NYT reports the cause of death was heart failure.
Wax Poetics alumni Matt Rogers has this excellent detailed timeline of Castor's life, with numerous audio/video clips, on Village Voice

Saving culture

This month marks the 10th anniversary of the passing of Jonathan Dennis, at 49. He was someone with a keen passion for preserving our country's cinematic history, and was instrumental in the setting up of the NZ Film Archive, becoming its founding director in 1981. He salvaged and helped restore countless hours of our moving images for future generations. We owe him a huge debt of thanks.

Contrast the Film Archive and Dennis's efforts with the archival gap that is currently lacking in our music scene - more and more recordings disappear every year, and valuable materials get lost or destroyed. Recording studios shut down, record labels go out of business, and they throw their archives in the rubbish.

NZ On Air refuses to take any kind of cultural stance with their music video funding and have never done so since the scheme began in 1991 - getting music video makers and bands to submit their videos to the Film Archive is voluntary, and NZOA says it's not in their mandate. This needs fixing asap. Promoting culture (our music)  to commercial TV while ignoring the need to save our culture doesn't cut it.

You only have to look at Robyn Gallagher's ongoing reviews of all the NZ On Air funded videos on her site 5000ways to see her recurring lists of missing videos.  There are a lot of them that have vanished. The current piecemeal approach to archiving our music history simply isn't enough. Too much is slipping thru the cracks.

I did the following interview with Dennis for the August 1991 issue of Stamp magazine. Radio NZ is playing a radio documentary tribute to Dennis on January 19th at 7pm.

Jonathan Dennis with Witarina Harris at the opening ceremony,
Te Maori Wellington, October 1986. Stills Collection, NZFA

Illuminating History

Jonathan Dennis is the very fine individual who was responsible for the arrival on our shores of the showcase of the films of Asta Nielsen, one of the first and greatest stars of early silent European cinema, seen at this year’s Film Festival But his involvement with the preservation and presentation of movies from both the silent and sound era goes back further He was the driving force behind the establishment of The New Zealand Film Archive in 1981, and saw it through its difficult adolescence, departed last year for greener pastures.

After reveling in the delights of the Asta Nielsen films (you all did, right?), lt seemed like a good time to look at this ‘scratchy old movies’ business in greater detail, throw it under the magnifying glass and ask why people have such trouble watched old movies.

“My interest in film preservation started in the mid seventies when the realisation came to me and a small number of others that films that had been made in New Zealand were being lost with an alacrity that was becoming depressing The process of turning that around took several years, a long tame, actually, and involved personally for me a lot of politics, a lot of trying to work out just what we wanted and what was possible. We started the Archive with an insane sense of enthusiasm, we had a dogmatic belief that It was possible.

“We were cunning enough and persistent enough that we could wind our way through the various beaurocracies that were either trying to prevent it happening, or couldn’t care less. My aim initially was to make people care, make them see that there was a sense of time and place contained within these images that touched people in a particular way. I spent two years training at film archlves in Europe and North America.

“The Archive developed differently from our overseas counterparts The basic idea was the same as with the people who started the major archives overseas, such as Henry Langois in Paris and others – they loved film; that was the starting point. But most of the great film archives were started in the thirties, we were really late in starting, and what that gave me at the time was an opportunity to look very carefully at the structures and operations of my international colleagues, and I found that very few of them were what I would want to have, or be part of, in this country So I came back not so much with a sense of what I wanted but what I didn’t want.

“There were several people who were inspirational to me – one of them was Len Lye. Len posed a question to me which was ‘nice idea to have this archive and all, but would it aid creativity?’ I was annoyed about it at the time, I thought ‘what does he mean?’, but over the years it took on an importance that was central to how I wanted to operate.

“The other person was an extraordinary woman called Mary Meerson, who’d helped establish the Cinemetheque Francaise in Paris. She kept reminding me that for fllms to live they have to be in front of people. Armed at a subconscious level with Len’s question and Mary’s ideas, it was a matter of trying to see just what need there was There was the initial slog getting the expertise and standards in place, film preservation is incredibly specialised, detailed and time consuming, the Archive operates according to the internationally prescribed standards for film presentation; initially the laboratory had the utmost difficuylt in meeting those requirements, so that took a while.”

The Archive went through several stages; at first Jonathan used shock tactics to elicit a response from the public; he got his hands onto some repulsive decomposing rolls of film from our past and paraded them around, giving the pitch of ‘look what we are losing’, working on the great loss principle. (”lf there is any reasons why the loss of a particular ltem would be regretted in the future, there is a case for preservation”) with a showman’s technique “I always thought film archives were part of showbusiness and I could be entrepreneurial about it – one didn’t have to kowtow to other people’s ideas of what a film archive should be, all dullness and formica.”

“This initial approach gave way after a little while to a need to show people not only the destructlon, but also what was being saved, and why these images were so precious, saying loók at what we’ve just found and preserved, isn’t it fantastic’ (and often it was). With the destruction element there, if we didn’t get some more money everything else would be lost too. It worked very well.

"But none of it would have been possible if it hadn’t been for the general public response to what we were trying to do. People would hear me on the radio, and they would send five dollars or something, people actually took it very personally that these films were being lost, as indeed they were -of the early films made here before the thirties we’ve lost 80% of them.’’

“You have to remember that the Archive was started with a permanent staff of me in one room premises we were sharing with Bill Gosden at the Federation of Fllm Societies in Wellington (the Archive’s association with the Film Festival really dates back from there), and an initial grant from the New Zealand Film Commission of $5000.

“Whatever I wanted to do, including be able to pay myself, I had to raise the money. So we existed for the first five years on grants, mostly from the Lotterles Board and sympathetic ministers but they were always one-off, there was never guaranteed funding.

“When we finally had something to screen people responded extraordinarily, and what grew from that was the concept we called the Travelllng Film Shows, using the whole country as a national film theatre. We undertook to make the films accessible to people where it was most appropriate, their own images, history and memories as they existed on moving usages for both Maori and Pakeha. From the early series of screenings it became extremely clear that Maori people preferred to be able to watch their particular treasures in their own surroundings on the marae rather than in a theatre.

“From that grew an attempt to make the Archive fully bicultural, a process that hasn’t fully happened, but the princlples on which it could happen exist in a very clear way; it was a notion of sharing.”

"Not all masterpieces are 
created in the present"

It was important to note here that the Archive sees itself as kaitiaki or guardian, not owner, of its moving image collection, an essential distiction in relation to films such as the early anthropological films of the Maori from earlier this century. The Archive’s direct action of taking its treasures to the people is vastly different from any other film archive in the rest of the world.

“It was regarded with amazement and awe by our international colleagues. It sprung from a response to the fact that we’re not Europe, America; it was a sense of trying to examine who we were, where we were, and what we could do about it in a way that had some meaning here. With the Maori films I have never taken them overseas as part of retrospectives unless they were accompanied in their own right by their own people (mostly by kaumatua Witarina Harris). It was essential that they were accompanied by someone who could speak on their behalf.’’

The Archives screenings in conjunction with the Film Festival date back to 1984 with the presentation of The Adventures of Algy, shot in New Zealand and Australia in 1925, it was accompanied by musicians performing live in the cinema, a truly splendid event.

“The Festival also offered us the possibility of bringing to the country films that seemed to me had some importance; they had last been seen here 50 or 60 years ago and hadn’t been in general circulation since, and films that should be seen as part of our literacy of cinema. We were linked to the international film archive movement and had the treasure houses of all of the world’s archives to choose from.

"It worked for several reasons; one, it gave us a chance to bring in work that had been restored by our colleagues, people could see this material looking gorgeous, so the concepts people had about old films would start to be smashed. Secondly, if they were successful, like Henry V (tremendously successful because Laurence Olivier chose to die just before it, extremely endearing of him, we thought), it funded our travelling shows and our marae screenings.

“I should make it clear that I resigned from the Archive in March last year, and have had little or no involvement with it now except for the Asta Nielsen screenings in conjunction with them. So it’s a little different now in that I’m not at the Archive, I have even more freedom to scan around.

“Also I wanted a slightly stronger sense of context. Our Festival screenings often seemed to me isolated one off things. This time I wanted people to have the opportunity to explore slightly wider, so you could actually see two or three and draw your own conclusions and sense of time. With the Asta Nielsens, it meant we could take a look at German cinema over quite an extended period and see films that had never been shown here. Who would now fund a major feature film of Hamlet with a woman in the lead role? We have Mel Gibson, but would we see the reverse – Glenn Close playing Hamlet? We never would.

“When she achieved success, for a period anyway, she was able to control what she was doing. By then she was the greatest European film star, she’d made a lot of people a lot of money, UFA Studios were built on the success of her films. So putting these works in a context was important. But it’s fraught with problems.

“One is confronting what I think of as illiteracy – presenting these films is a risk, always, it’s like mounting a small opera – some people’s cynical and patronising reactions to the films, it seems so limited in perception; I can’t be bothered with 1991 telling 1920 what it thinks of it, or just how superior we are because I don’t believe it. Not all masterpieces are created in the present.”

Getting people to take that risk is difficult; a dash of showmanship comes into play; there’s the Archive’s musical collaborations with composer Dorothy Buchanan, providing scores for live accompaniment, “trying to get people to recognise what is being presented is special.”

Asta Nielsen’s career spanned 22 years, she made 66 movies, all but one of them silent. Nielsen’s career came to a close around the same time as the arrival of sound in movies – was this one of the factors that bought about her decline? “Well, things changed, the times changed. When she began in 1910 it was not to make her a film star, it was to attract the attention of Danish theatrical producers to the range of work she was capable of; she was a very successful stage actor but was feeling very limited by the roles she was being offered.

The Abyss was an attempt to change that, and it did change things, but not in the way she’d intended. The theatrical establishment paid no more attention to her than before but the success of the film internationally led her to Berlin. She got a contract which gave her exceptional freedom to make eight ‘Asta Nielsen films’ a year for five years. So she could explore the widest range of roles and characters, dramas, comedies she was a great comic actor and an even finer tragic dramatic actor. Before World War I she was probably the best known film star, certainly within Europe.

“By the mid twenties things were already changing in Germany, her last major films of the twenties were Joyless Street and Tragedy of the Street, both of which she plays a similar kind of role , an older woman trapped into prostitution. She then returned to the stage in Berlin and played a wide range of classical roles. With sound there was a problem, she felt, because of her strong Danish accent. She chose to leave Germany in the mid thirties because of the rise of Nazis; she was offered her own studio but chose not to be a part of that.”

“I don’t know whether she felt there would be possibilities back in Denmark – but there certainly weren’t, and if there were they weren’t going to be offered to her. Denmark simply didn’t respond to having her home. Parochialism, perhaps? So she wrote her autobiography then and it was a great success, but it didn’t lead to anything. She made her last film in 1952 and apart from the documentary she made in 1968, she never really worked again, and that is quite astonishing, because as the documentary makes fairly clear, she was a very powerful woman, still. It was a waste of her final forty years. She tried to open a cinema in Copenhagen eleven times and was turned down every time.”

On the Joyless Street, Nielsen worked with the director G.W. Pabst, who would later give the world Louise Brooks as Lulu in the classic Pandora’s Box (1928), a film the Archive bought here several years ago in an absolutely exquisite print.

“Asta had already played this role in an earlier version, and there is a section of it included in the documentary. It’s interesting to see how like Asta Neilsen Brooks looked; Louise Brooks knew about Asta Nielsen, she had the same hairstyle, same look as Asta used for Lulu, there are strong similarities.’’

What bought about your departure from the Film Archive? “I felt the time was right, a number of cycles had been completed; some of it was seeing Mana Waka to completion, my involvement with that had been about seven years. It was time for me to let go, and reclaim some of my own life.’’

Since Jonathan’s departure last March he has treated us to the delights of the Asta Nielsen screenings; his current project is editing a book examining the New Zealand film and television industries and their cultural contexts, due for publication next year.

It is a book that is long overdue in this country, an idea whose time has come, finally. Featured will be essays from Merata Mita on the place of the image in Maoritanga and the impact of filmed images on Maori culture), Roger Horrocks (on experimental film and video making and its part in creating a distinctive local film culture), and producer John O’Shea (his observations of film and television culture from 1940 to 1979).

Film and television producer Alison Webber will provide a feminist perspective of both industries, and Peter Wells will write on the politics of inclusion and exclusion during the 70s and 80s, in relation to his own work (Jewel's Darl, A death in the family.) Geoff Murphy writes on the problems of making films in a country this side, and Russell Campbell examines documentary film-making here.

Also featured will be interviews with many of the leading directors, such as Jane Campion and Vincent Ward, and producers who have made (and continue to make) the moving images that represent ourselves on screen. Coming to a bookshop near you next year.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Danny Lemon

Juicing the lemon

By Jeff Neems, Rip It Up, 2000.

Call them freaks, fanatics or just true fans, but there's no denying that record collectors are dedicated followers of music. Wellington's DJ Lemon (AKA Danny Setford) may not have the biggest collection in NZ, but he talks with Jeff Neems about having one of, if not the best.

“I really hate pissing people about, you-know-what-I-mean, but I’m aways doing it’’ says DJ  Lemon in his only-left-south-London-yesterday kind of way. After rescheduling twice to talk about his record collectors addiction, we finally met up, but he was 40 minutes late to get to one of his favourite watering holes, Wellington’s Matterhorn on Cuba St. I assure him it’s no problem. The genial ex-pat English DJ orders a plate of chips and his trademark drink, a steaming concoction called a Blue Blazer.

At 41, Lemon is aware he’s the oldest working club/bar DJs in the country and the topic draws much lively conversation from him. His reputation as a reggae, soul, funk jazz and house selector precedes him. Some say his collection of material to be amongthe largest in the country. When I put it to him he’s considered by many to have the largest and finest reggae collection in the Southern Hemisphere, he’s extremely modest.

“Well,” he remarks “I’ve never actually said that. I don’t know if mine’s the biggest? I haven’t seen everyone else’s. Stinky Jim, he’s got a serious selection and I know most of the key collectors. It’s not like I’m completely self-reliant. It’s certainly a compliment though. I’d say it’s a refined collection.”

No argument, however, that he may well be in the leading pack as far as Aotearoa’s most stunning music collections go. He can’t keep his entire collection at hand, and it’s distributed around three places in Wellington. He keeps about 500 records he’s playing at the moment, with more stashed away elsewhere and others boxed up in another friend’s garage.

Lemon’s unsure of exactly how extensive his selection is. “I haven’t counted it, but it’s between 5000 and 6000 titles, including between 2000 and 3000 7 inches, about 2000 albums and the rest are 12 inch singles,” he estimates.

A music selector of sorts for the past 15 years and a collector for even longer, it’s more than a little surprising to find the man has only recently considered himself a DJ.

“It’s only in the last 18 months or two years I’ve felt entitled to call myself a DJ. I feel I’ve put the work in. Before that when people asked me what I did, I just told them what my job was. Now I feel quite comfortable saying, yeah, ‘I’m a DJ’.”

He’s a working DJ who, with a residency at the back bar of Studio Nine, admits to going to bed early to get up at 5am for his 6am to 10am slots playing house at the Edward Street bar.

Lemon has been a New Zealand resident for the last 19 years and he’s happy to call Wellington home, having taken out New Zealand citizenship. He’s never returned to England after he left in 1981, although throughout the interview his comments often linger on his formative experiances at West Indian community roots reggae dances in his native South London.

“One thing you don’t see here in New Zealand,” he says, “is slow dancing, When I came ‘ere, that’s what I was used to, you-know-what-I-mean. Back in England a lot of people slow-dance to reggae, soul and garage, people getting intimate on the floor. You just don’t see that here. I mean, people really love and respect the music, and the people who make it and play it, but they don’t slow-dance to the lovers rock and the roots like they do in England and Jamaica, I don’t think they’re entirely comfortable with it.”

Stories abound of Lemon’s supposed links with reggae megastars across the globe, which he downplays. “No, I don’t know Lee Perry,” he says, refuting one rumour he’s well connected with Jamaica’s most eccentric producer. “I do know Neil Fraser (the Mad Professor) and I am in contact with him, we share a lot of common reggae interests and we exchange notes on music,” he says, before relaying the oft’ told story of the Mad Prof’s recent visit to DJ Lemon HQ. 

Neil, roots-singing cohort Earl 16 and MC Nolan Irie spent seven hours at Lemon’s place, recording sections of Lemon’s extensive rare 7 inch and 12 inch collection to mini-disc, an occasion he remembers fondly and describes as ‘monumental’. ‘’Neil was very interested in some of my lover’s rock sevens, I had to re-catalogue my records afterwards.’’

Before we return to the reggae trainspotting chitchat, during which the term ‘’absolutely essential album’’ crops up a number of times.

Lemon is happy to admit he, like nearly all reggae fans, is indeed a trainspotter. Some English collectors have an encyclopaedia knowledge of the genre, and Lemon seems no exception, reeling off titles and artists faster than they can be committed to memory.

He can’t concede reggae’s his favourite genre, although he will say ‘’the most dominant, definitely. I mean I love my house and my soul and that but the reggae, the roots and the dub are dominant in my collection. I look for house that has a similar sense of purpose and weight to the reggae I play,” he says.

Although a regular at Wellington’s Flipside, he gathers much of music through his vast selection of global music contacts. I’ll ‘ave a look through any list anyone cares to send me, but I do rely on my network of contacts beyond anything else,” he says. They include Wackies London agent Rae Cheddie, Top Beat’s John Mason, London selector and Roots Foundation member Marek, and the aforementioned Mad Prof. However, he states a number of his contacts are not what he considers high-profile people.

He’s never been to Jamaica, but has visited New York, home of a number of highly relevant reggae labels, where he says people were very interested in his collection. He owns 7 inches and 12 inches, of which there are only a few hundred in existence, and is thoughtful in recommending African brothers ‘Torturing’ or Simeon Tyrone’s ‘Do Good In This Time’ alongside the dub brilliance of Augustus Pablo/King Tubby collaborations Rockers Uptown and Inna Firehouse as essential reggae purchases, He rates African Youth’s Forward A Channel 1 as his single favourite tune.

Before departure from the UK he was a member of the Anti-Nazi League, and he regularly returns to the topic of respect and unity among the music and greater communities.

“As white people, we need to be trying to sort it out, and there are people doing that. I do it with music."  He initially approached ZMFM in search of a specialist show, only to be told the soul and funk he wanted to play “was only listened to by people in Porirua.”

Needless to say, Radio Active beckoned, and he has selected tunes on regular occasions for the stations specialist reggae, dub and house and jazz shows. He’s recently been taking a break from the station but is keen to return to on-air selecting in the near future.

The Roots Foundation, which celebrates its 10-year anniversary next year, is probably the outlet he’s most often associated with. The five (Lemon, Goosebump, Mu, Koa and London-based Marek Nielsen) formed in 1991, and Lemon himself declines to accept the title of 'driving force'.

“Certainly”, he says “I was one of the driving forces, but the other guys are great too. They’re all fantastic DJs in their own right, and John (Pell) is a very good promoter.”

And so will Lemon be spinning discs when he’s 50? “I ‘ope so!” ha replies amiably. He doesn’t consider himself the country’s finest DJ, and admits he was stunned to find out he’s been nominated for a B-Net award. “I don’t even know who nominated me,” he laughs. “I like to think I mix a tight, quality selection, whatever I’m playing, whether it be house or reggae.”

And whether it be house or ever more popular reggae, roots and dub that he’s spinning, there’s little doubt the young Kiwi crowds will be paying respect in huge amounts to this veteran and pioneering force in the New Zealand music scene.

Saturday, January 14, 2012


From this week's CES (consumer electronics) show in Las Vegas... source...

"The vinyl revival continues apace, and ION’s here to make sure you can enjoy your cherished slabs of music anywhere with the LP 2 GO. Running off four AA batteries this US$70 device will chuck out sweet, sweet analogue through its built-in speaker or headphones, and can rip records to a USB-connected computer."

Abbey Road: the top selling vinyl LP 3years in a row

Q: Why is the Beatles’ Abbey Road the top selling vinyl album three years in a row?
A: Cos its the only Beatles album currently available on vinyl, according to this US article.

"... Since the album was released on vinyl in the U.S. in 1991, it has sold 151,000 copies as opposed to 4.1 million CDs for the same time.

Many are curious why the band’s iconic Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band isn’t the top dog or perhaps Rubber Soul, maybe Revolver. The answer is easy: the only vinyl Beatle studio album to be released, so far, is Abbey Road.

The day when the entire catalogue is repressed will surely come and, yet again, another surge of record buying will push the band’s total worldwide sales toward the inevitable three billion mark (take that Michael Jackson)...

... A breakdown wasn’t available, but The Beatles have now sold more than 10 million songs and more than 1.8 million albums worldwide on iTunes."

Hat tip to Simon Grigg for the link - Simon mentioned on Twitter that the Beatles catalog is available on vinyl outside the US, see amazon.co.uk.

Ring The Alarm playlist, BaseFM, Jan 14

The Jets - Crush on you - extended version
John Davis and the monster orchestra - I just can't stop
Curtis Mayfield  - Underground
King Curtis - Memphis soul stew
Zapp - More bounce to the ounce
Geisha boys - The bose - Gamm Doin James vol 4
Lord Echo - Things I like to do
Cornershop - The 911 curry
Mad lion - Own destiny - KRS1 remix
Farm fresh sound system - Roots once again - Max Rubadub remix
Jah Stitch - Raggamuffin style - Smith and Mighty
Footsie - Cuss cuss - Footsie dub
Jimmy London - I'm your puppet
Johnny Osbourne - Budy bye
Afrikan simba - Protect I/Protect I version
Barrington Levy - The winner
Congos - Congoman - Carl Craig edit
Hakan Lidbo - Trinity
Fat freddys drop -  Midnight marauders - Pylonz and Kinetix remix
Lee Scratch Perry - Devil dead - Adrian Sherwood and Little axe remix
Dub Asylum - Skatta
Mr Chop - Greedy G
Chin chillaz  - LTD
Gil Scott Heron - The revolution will not be televised
Bobby Hughes combination - Karin's kerma
Double identity - Jah arise - Dawn Landes remix

Friday, January 13, 2012

In the shadows

DJ Shadow interviewed in GQ Magazine, touches on his involvement with reissue projects..

Reissues take a lot of work
"We did just do Stone Coal White's [self-titled] album for which I had licensed and sat on for eight years because it is so hard. Ever project I've ever done has been out of a sense of duty and a sense of needing to contribute something. Financially it's just not rewarding and it's really hard especially when once you have kids. Numero really wanted it to work, they said they would press it and do all the work. ...

" ....It's just so frustrating that people can't understand what's being lost right now. I have lent most of my energy to the Numero group. Just recently they are wrapping their Boddie Recording Company: Cleveland, Ohio compilation and they needed a really clean transfer of Lou Ragland's Hot Chocolate album. I sent it to them. Or they wanted a Marvin Petersen album they needed to take a picture of.

"Because I've got a decent collection and I'm willing to work with them gratis, I've contributed a lot to their compilations and I'm happy to because they are putting in a massive amount of effort to do what I consider historically significant work, in the same way blues guys did in the Sixties and the Seventies."

Dunedin Sound vinyl worth megabucks

From Otago Daily Times...

"Original vinyl albums are fetching upwards of $100, as collectors eye a piece of Dunedin music history. Tony Renouf, of Too Tone Records, said rare Dunedin 7-inch and 12-inch records continue to be sought after, such as the 1981 debut single from The Clean, Tally Ho.

A copy of that single, which had never been played, had a $250 price tag at the Northeast Valley store. 

It was not uncommon to have people from outside Otago or even the country looking for hard-to-obtain Dunedin vinyl, with some rare Flying Nun items going for between $50 and $650, he said.

Despite the demand, Too Tone has no online presence and Mr Renouf refuses to take phone orders - "I buy the stuff locally. I source it locally. Why shouldn't it be made available locally?"

"Trading online is soul-less. It is just horrible. I would rather just hang out in a record shop, where I can talk to people about music. I can share music, and they can look at it."

If Licks Could Kill

If Licks Could Kill - Antenna boss Trevor Reekie spills the beans

From Murray Cammick's weekly column at Xtra, Wednesday May 10, 2000.
In the first week of June, a compilation of artists from the indie Antenna label "If Licks Could Kill" will be released. Antenna was founded in 1996 by Pagan Records as the Pagan label had become pigeon-holed as a "roots" label with artists like the success of artists like the Warratahs, Chicago Smokeshop, Al Hunter and Paul Ubana Jones. Antenna is positioned as a "cutting edge" label for alternative, lo-fi, dub etc. Artists on the label's first compilation include Eye TV, Darcy Clay, Tadpole, Voom, Trip to the Moon, Pluto, Cosa, Dub Asylum and Mr. Reliable.

I had a coffee with Pagan and Antenna founder Trevor Reekie to get his thoughts on the state of record-making nation, as Trevor has shaped Pagan since Mirage Film Studio started the label in 1985. He ran Pagan with partner Sheryl Morris from 1988 (when Mirage went bust) until the mid-90s when Tim Moon took over as Trevor's business partner.

In the 80s Pagan was known for its No.1 pop hits by the Holidaymakers (Sweet Lovers), Tex Pistol (Game Of Love) and The Parker Project (Tears On My Pillow). Other artists to get started on Pagan include Greg Johnson (Isabelle), Shihad (Devolve) and the Strawpeople (Have A Little Faith).

MC: You don't record contemporary pop now, like teen singers, boy bands?

Trevor: There's nothing to say we wouldn't if we liked it, but vacuous pop is best left in the hands of vacuous record companies. This year we will have chart success. Times have changed, it was easier to have a hit back in the 80s, there were only two TV shows and two FM channels and people used to buy singles.

MC: Isn't it easier with NZ On Air video grants etc?

Trevor: Those grants make life easier to set up a single and help finance a video but they don't make it any easier for the single to get to No.1. The main difference now is that marketing spend is a huge part of a successful record. In the 80s perhaps a record could stand on its own merits a bit more.

MC: Do you do the A&R? [record biz term "Artist & Repertoire" which means look for and nurture talent.]

Trevor: Tim Moon and I both do A&R. My role is now easier because Tim has come on board and put business structures in place and we formally sign artists. He's got an A&R role and a finely tuned sense of marketing. The workload is distributed over two people.

MC: In the early days did you not have contracts with your artists?

Trevor: We had verbal agreements or one page letters of intent which didn't really stand-up once a cheque book was flashed in front of people's noses.

MC: You had success with Shona Laing (Glad I'm Not A Kennedy) in New Zealand, Australia (via Virgin) and the USA (TVT Records).

Trevor: It cost a hell of a lot of money.

MC: Didn't you get it back from sales?

Trevor: No. It didn't sell enough. To succeed in Australia is always the same, you have to go and live there. For an artist to break into the UK or the USA it requires more than going to live there. You have to have this huge machine behind you. The machine has to see a return on their investment and they have to be coerced into making that investment.

MC: Do you still have an eye on overseas success?

Trevor: Yes. I can see a band like Tadpole appealing to an international audience. And Pluto. It's really a question of finding the right people in the machine to say, "Yeah, I like this act."

MC: How do you sign new acts?

Trevor: Pluto, for example we became aware of because they were friends of Dave, our studio engineer. I fell in love with the guy's voice and his words. We met with them, we felt we could work with them, they were nice guys. That's always crucial that we can work with them. Then it's a matter of sussing out a deal, not only rights-wise but financially too.

MC: Do you see growth ahead for indie labels?

Trevor: I think I do. The function of an indie label is to pick up on artists that otherwise would be overlooked by a major multi-national label. I think the majors want to encourage the indie's nurturing role. Motivation and potential can be measured at an indie level. Quite often the level of expectation at a major label is too high. An example of that is Eye TV . . . 10 years of association and three albums before a Top 10 hit. I couldn't see a major label hanging in that long?

MC: Would musicians be that patient nowadays?

Trevor: Well, if their motivation is their belief and the artist is still believing in themselves. Yes.

MC: Major labels think "throw money at it" is the answer and so do most musicians.

Trevor: I think that's a fallacy, throwing unlimited quantities of money at something doesn't guarantee success. One of the things we establish as an indie is that resources are limited, so that is written into our agreement.

Coffee time has to end as Trevor describes a very expensive video made for a local act by a major label as "one of the more astute pieces of folly I've seen lately."

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Shut Up and Play the Hits

Shut Up and Play the Hits is a new documentary about the last days of LCD Sound System.  The trailer is phenomenal. Wow.

From EW; " One of the most unique-sounding Sundance films this year has to be Shut Up and Play the Hits, which follows LCD Soundsystem frontman James Murphy in the days leading up to and immediately after his beloved act’s final live performance, at Madison Square Garden last April. 

" Directed by Dylan Southern and Will Lovelace, Shut Up intercuts concert footage with intimate access to Murphy as he deals with the fallout from his decision to walk away from such a successful enterprise. The film premieres on Sunday, Jan. 22, at Sundance." 

Sirvere 2001

Phil Bell with his son Ethan. Photo: Ian Ferguson

DJ Sir-vere (aka Philip Bell) interviewed by Otis Frizzell, in Pavement, Aug/Sept 2001 issue.

Papakura Papa

Fast-talking local hiphop legend Otis Frizzell talks to the quiet achiever of NZ hiphop, Philip Bell, AKA DJ Sir-vere, about the father of two's new baby – ground-breaking hiphop mix album Major Flavours.

DJ Sir-vere. Sounds imposing, eh? Don’t be fooled. Philip Bell is a humble homeboy, a businessman and, above all, a family man. The most severe aspect of this guy is his realistic views on himself, local and international hiphop and where he fits in the big picture.

He is arguably one of New Zealand’s longest running and most consistent hiphop representatives, educating the masses via television (MTV’s Wreckognise), radio (bFM’s True School Hiphop Show and Mai FM’s Late Night Hype), print (Pavement’s hiphop column) and, of course, numerous live sets. For Bell, hip- hop is a scene to be shared.

As the founder of the New Zealand ITF (International Turntablist Federation), he has been responsible for bringing the biggest names in the hiphop DJ universe to our shores. Bell is also part- owner of Beat Merchants, a specialist record shop in Auckland that supplies countless vinyl junkies with those hard- to-find gems.

Most recently, Sir-vere has just released Major Flavours on Universal Records, a devastating compilation featuring some of todays biggest hiphop superstars and a hand-picked selection of local artists, all brilliantly mixed by the man himself.

PHIL BELL: You’ve got the subdued me today. I’ve been looking after Ethan [three years old] and Reon [nine months old] so, yeah, I’m not shock rappy guy.

PAVEMENT; I was gonna ask you about that. You’re a businessman, a husband and a dad, yet all the ‘hardcore homies’ and 'badness niggahs’ are still down with you. How come?

PB: I have absolutely no idea. Hiphop’s my other family. I’m straight up with people when I do my business. I don’t go out of my way to be down. I wish I could elaborate.

P: How old were you when you knew music was going to be such a big influence on you?

PB: Fifteen, My dad was a fitter-welder but also ran discos in the weekend. We’d watch Ready to Roll, write down the tracks, then go and buy ‘em. Dad was actually making money as a DJ. He was the man! I remember at one gig, Dad needed to go to the toilet, so I stepped up to the turntables. It was my first DJ experience. I was 14. Then came Beat Street and Krush Groove. I saw Beat Street at the Civic and, bro, it was big. It totally changed me. I was about 17.

Kerry Buchanan at Rock'n’Roll Records started to lend me music. Every Friday night, Barney [Pavement editor] and I would catch the train from Papakura to town and go record shopping. We never had any money but we’d always come home with heaps of records, I can get a date on this... [Phil turns to his wall of vinyl – about 10,000 records – and pulls out Run DMC’s self-titled album] . . . Here: Electro 5, 1984. 84 was it, for me, anyway. That’s when my mind changed. It went from Frankie Goes To Hollywood to Afrika Bambaata. Now I can’t imagine having all these records and just listening to them by myself.

P: How did the ITF thing come about?

PB: ln 1997, I got a call from this guy who was bringing Roc Raida to Australia for the ITF. He contacted Manuel Bundy to see if he was interested in getting him here and Manuel passed it onto me. I didn’t really know much about the ITF but I wanted to see Roc Raida, so I took it on. It went off!

P: Coolest international DJ?

PB: Roc Raida. He’s the man. And P-Trix too.

P: How come you put so much local content on Major Flavours?

PB: The local content is like, ah, what do you call it? A Trojan horse. Sometimes people pass over local stuff for the big international stuff: Dre and Eminem, you know. This way they get both. The local artists are good quality. And people who might never hear it, kids out in the middle of nowhere, will be rocking to it now.

P: Favourite New Zealand crew?

PB: Deceptikonz. They’re talented but they’re also cool. They’re hardcase dudes, y’know?

P: Got a favourite hiphop album?

PB: Yeah. Nas’ Illmatic. Easily. Absolutely. Still play it all the time.

P: Ultimate New Zealand hiphop track?

PB: The Truth by DLT and B Ware. Also, Upper Hutt Posse’s E Tu because it kicked me into action. They were the shit!

P: What about the future of Aotearoa hiphop?

PB: Hell, I don’t know. Who can predict? But with people like Dawn Raid, others are going, ‘Why the fuck aren’t we doing that?’

P: Any last words?

PB: Recently, someone asked me, ‘Do you live hiphop’?’ Well, no. Not really. Everything I do, It’s all purely for my family’s benefit. It’s a bit of a tired old tale but I do absolutely everything for my wife and kids. Except for drinking beer and watching rugby, my life is my family! All my records are Ethan and Reon’s and when I’m finished with them and they’re old enough, they can do whatever they want with them. Play them or sell them. Fuck, bro! There’s a good deposit on their first house right there!

P: Whose house?

PB: Phil’s house!

[note: some spelling corrected from the original article, ie Roc Raider. Anything I missed, let me know.]


Over the holidays I was reading a great book, Our Noise: The story of Merge Records, the label that got big and stayed small, published in 2009 to celebrate to 20th anniversary of that US indie label. It served as a fascinating counterpoint to the somewhat chequered corporate history of Flying Nun, and its various twists and turns at the hands of various bosses driving the label.

Merge was founded by two members of the band Superchunk, Laura Ballance and Mac McCaughan, who also wrote the aforementioned book, in conjunction with writer John Cook. The book uses mostly straight quotes from the people running the label and the bands, giving you a good sense of what these people are about and how they run their label.

Merge has a strong association with New Zealand music, through picking up varous Flying Nun acts for US release, such as the 3Ds, The Cake Kitchen, David Kilgour, Alf Danielson (of Chug), The Bats, and The Clean.

Mac told Pavement magazine [December 1994 issue] that he first got exposed to Flying Nun acts "...when I went to school in New York. There's a lot of good record stores there, and friends of mine who worked on student radio stations in Boston were listening to things like Goblin Mix and This Kind of Punishment, and I'd just go downtown and buy the stuff. And then we started buying everything that we could find that was on Flying Nun.

"Back home I'd been listening to Black Flag and other hardcore bands, so at first the Flying Nun stuff was a little fey sounding. But the songs were so good and the production so lush sounding in a way, it was fairly stripped down and not at all slick, and it seemed to be trying to achieve different things from most of the bands that I had been listening to..."

here's a handful of snippets from the book...

They toured The Clean in the US in 2001... Superchunk was scheduled to play at CMJ in 2001 - their new album was due for release a week after the Sept 11 attacks. Mac: "The Clean were scheduled to play that same night as Superchunk. Those poor guys had arrived from New Zealand on the 10th to wake up to that on the 11th. They wanted to leave the US immediately, but of course they couldn't... it was a really emotional night... The Clean did a really powerful version of this old song of theirs called 'Too much violence.' The air smelled burnt. I was really glad we made it happen in a way that seemed to make anyone who came feel a bit better."

Probably the best indication of how they run their label is the way they dealt with Arcade Fire...

Following the huge success of their debut album on Merge (which went on to sell 400,000 copies in the US), Arcade Fire started taking meetings with various major label types, desperate to sign them. They went into these meetings as research, aimed at finding out exactly what these people at mainstream labels did. They were contracted to do another album for Merge, and fully intended to honour that commitment.

This attention led to Mac finding himself meeting with Seymour Stein (Sire Records). Mac says "His [Stein's] attitude was 'Hey, this record is doing so well, you must not be able to handle it. How can we work together?"And the answer is 'We can't'... We hadn't known Win and the band very long, and while they seemed like great and principled  people, when someone is throwing large sums of money at you, it becomes easier to justify bending those principles a bit.... it was a relief when it became clear that they were just taking in the whole scene, and not shopping themselves around."

In 2006, Arcade Fire were up for a few awards at the Grammys, and took Mac along. Mac: "The Grammys last forever... it's in a basketball arena, and they sell everything that they normally sell at a basketball game for food except they dont sell alcohol... When they said 'next up, Sting', that's when we were like 'okay, let's go to the parties'."

They'd heard that Bruce Springsteen was making the rounds of the Grammy parties, and spent the rest of the night turning up at a party to find that the Boss had just left. They caught up with him at the Interscope party.

Mac: "The first thing I saw when we walked in was Dr Dre playing pool... U2 was holding court there, too...."

Mac got to meet Springsteen, shake his hand and say "thanks for everything. You're one of the reasons that I'm involved in music at all". Mac says he then talked with Jimmy Iovine for a while. "I didn't tell him that I thought he stole Trail of Dead."

In 2007, Mac was asked to appear at the Future Of Music Coalition's annual conference in a panel discussion. It kicked off with an introduction that listed the music industry's woes; sales were down 14% year on year, 2,700 record stores had closed in the previous 4 years, Tower Records had gone out of business the year before...

Following this tale of gloom and doom, the moderator asked Mac how Merge was weathering the storm. "Business is great for us," said Mac. " The last few years have been our best ever. People may be buying fewer bad records, but I don't see them buying fewer good records."

RELATED: Mr Knox and the Nun (Chris Knox interview excerpt from Forced Exposure, 1993)
Flying Nun sound and pictures ( Flying Nun artwork)

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Beat Merchants shuts shop, focuses online

Via NZ Musician: Beat Merchants, one of Auckland's last surviving independent record stores will close the doors of its Grey Lynn shop at the end of January, in what owner Jason Howson says is a move to cater for the growing demand in people that prefer to shop online.

"...We’re continuing in business with a more effective online presence, pursuing our strengths as far as product lines and aligning the operation with what we feel will work in the long term..."

The last day at the current site is January 25, before the merchants lug their vinyl crates to a new office space located at 377 New North Road, Kingsland. By appointment, customers will still be able to visit the space and stock up on Graffiti Art and Music supplies. A launch date for the new website is yet-to-be-confirmed.

Beat Merchants was based in Victoria St for many years, and included staff such as Nick D, Dubhead, Mouli, DJ Sirvere, and Big Matt (RIP). They moved to their current base at 555 Great North Rd, Grey Lynn in December 2010.

DLT 96 interview

I've scanned and converted the text for a few old interviews with some important local hiphop figures, here's the first one. More soon. 

Musical Messenger: DLT

With arguably New Zealand's finest hiphop album under his belt, DLT is poised to deliver his musical message to the world.

By Ila Couch, photo by Stephen Langdon. Pavement magazine, Oct/Nov 1996

A lot has changed on the local hiphop scene over the last two years. Since Pavement featured a dozen local scts in its pages in December 1994, a number of hiphop artists included in the story have gone on to previously unheard of success in a genre of music which isn’t high on the agenda in this country.

As rugby prevails over art in New Zealand, rock prevails over rap. Previously, only Upper Hutt Posse and Three the Hard Way, who reached number one in the singles chart with Hiphop Holiday early in 1994, had shown the potential this music might have in the hands and hearts of local exponents of hiphop.

But the astronomical achievements of OMC’s Pauly Fuemana, who this year had a trans-Tasman number one and top five British hit with How Bizarre; Teremoana, who achieved a critical high with her cover of Nina Simone’s Four Women, and Dam Native, whose debut album is almost completed, have proven the potential of our homegrown talent.

DLT otherwise known as Darryl Thomson, a founding member of Upper Hutt Posse and DJ with Joint Force, has spent the past two years quietly and efficiently crafting what is arguably the finest hiphop album to be released by a local act. DLT’s debut album The True School has already spawned the number one single Chains, featuring former Supergroove soul man Che Ness on vocals, and has engendered the kind of critical praise rarely applied even to the cream of the international hiphop community.

DLT’s responses to the questions in Pavement’s hip- hop article two years ago revealed a man and musician with pride and a lot to prove – to himself, his peers, the public and to his long- term partner and mother of his children.

When I pass a copy of the article to DLT for an update, I’m relying on the strong possibility that his opinions have changed.

However, his partner of seven years, Natasha, laughs and says, “I’d say they probably haven’t.” If anyone should know, it’s her. Natasha has been DLT’s partner for seven of the 10 years he’s devoted himself to making hiphop his career. lt’s been a struggle for both of them because local hiphop, never a great revenue-spinner in New Zealand, has to provide for both them and their two children: two-year-old Arnia and five-year-old Reegan, who are cared for at home by Natasha. “I’d look back now and wonder how we did it,” she says.

“But I never said to Darryl, ‘stop this shit and go get a nine to five job so we can feed our kids’. It’s just understanding the love between two people, that you can decide I’m going to stay at home while you make the money.”

DLT admits though, that for a long time he felt bad about robbing Natasha of a career in modeling, a job Natasha insists she doesn’t miss at all. “I did it because I could but it was never my scene.” DLT laughs and says, “Nah, she was too cool, too human, with too much class.” “And besides,” adds Natasha, “I always told Darryl I was going to get paid back, that those were the hard times.”

In the previous story, DLT was asked, “Is New Zealand hiphop still growing and improving?” His answer then, I remind him, was, “No, because knowledge don’t get you laid or played or paid.” I ask him if having a number one single has changed his perspective. He knows I’m expecting him to say “yes’’ and laughs before he answers “no’’. But his response has more to do with the music industry itself than it does with the state of local hiphop.

"Chains so far is a one-off lt’s a fluke. And next week, that rank Brazilian song, Macarena, will be number one. Which is ironic because we’re on the same label.”

DLT is talking about music as a product, a commodity shopped around to music retailers, the press, television and radio. It’s all about hard selling, good timing and who has the best product that month.

“If there was something corny and tacky that was number one all over the world when Chains was about to be released, then [BMG] would have had to go with that. Radio stations follow what’s happening in the charts overseas which is exactly why Mai FM will follow white America and pick up that song which is number one over there.”

When Chains was in its fifth week at number one, DLT paid a visit to the offices of his label, BMG, where he says plenty of people were incredulous at how successful the single had become. “No one could believe Chains had made it to number one, let alone stayed in the charts for so long,” smiles DLT.

One of the most provocative questions in the earlier Pavement story - “Are there any race problems in the New Zealand hiphop scene?” - produced a strong and unequivocal response from DLT: “Yes. ‘Whites think they Have every right to rap and brown people hold it different it’s sacred. The only thing we have control over are our mouths and thought.”

DLT takes a minute before he gives his answer to the question now. “My views on white people and rap, and this is only my opinion, not what drives me but what I’ve been thinking about lately is, why do young white kids like negative, angry, black rap? Like, almost the harder it is, the more kids like it. They’re the ones that buy that shit. Public Enemy’s biggest buyers were the white kids of America. A collection of other great minds have come up with the idea that it’s a luxury, a bunk jump, a ride on a rollercoaster. You can control the fear. You can buy NWA's greatest hits and take it home and put it in your CD player and get ‘kill, whitey, nigger, fuckin’, suck a cock bitch, motherfucker’, and then you can turn it off. And that’s the luxury.”

In contrast to much of gangsta rap, consumed as it is by grown men exaggerating or blatantly lying about anything and everything, from how well hung to how incredibly dangerous they are, hiphop is sacred to DLT. He’s talking about his life, his reality, not fantasising about how many ‘bitches’ he’s scored or how much money he’s made.'

Underpinning his mission to tell the truth as he sees it are the 14 years he spent in Maraenui, Napier, a “ghetto” where “at ten-thirty, when it got dark, all you’d hear was women being beaten.” It was a life he didn’t have the luxury of being able to switch off or change the channel from to something better.

“My mother was a beautiful woman who really cared about life and living because she came from a loving family’’ he explains. “She got ripped off. My father got her pregnant. He scampered because he cared more about himself than anything he created or built. That’s the pain in my life, in my head. So I’ll never leave my kids; that’s not an issue.

"My mission on The Trueschool is to keep brothers like myself out of jail. And that ain’t no Baptist, Wesleyan or Anglican thing. It’s a bit of Islam, a bit of Buddha, a bit of Ratana, a bit of everything. You can jump on the bandwagon but it’s all just love; me giving props to young hiphop men in Aotearoa and slowly getting rid of the fear and ignorance.’’

At 16, unhappy with his mother’s choice of a new husband and disillusioned with school, DLT left Maraenui and walked to Wellington. He ended up spending the next couple of months in jail, not behind bars but with his cousin, a prison officer, who would take him to work every morning at six.

“Basically, in his nice brotherly way, he was saying, ‘Keep the fuck out of here’," says DLT. “He didn’t say, ‘Hey bro, come here. See that motherfucker over there? That’s going to be you in a couple of years’. He didn't do that shit to me.” In his own way, DLT is doing exactly the same thing through his music, pointing out the pitfalls in life.

“The only thing that fucks me off about home is that the government has turned my homeland into a ghetto. I don’t want to go home to ignorance and frustration. That scares me, going home to that shit. That’s where the core of the family is based. It’s painful; it’s a mental thing. It’s not that I’m ashamed of the hood but I just don’t trust myself not to get caught up in the trappings. And that’s not dissing my family, not dissing home. This is what hiphop is about, this is what The Trueschool about, knowing this shit. Once you know these things, then you do something about it inside.

“First of all, you stop blaming yourself, you stop blaming people around you, 'cause you’re all in the same fucking boat. And you start looking out; you start feeling for those people who are in the same position as you, rather than detesting them.”

Against the odds, the relative success of local hiphop acts like Upper Hutt Posse and Three the Hard Way and hiphop artists like DLT, Teremoana and Pauly Fuemana, suggest that New Zealand can sustain a healthy hiphop scene. Does DLT believe we can support our own hiphop industry? Yes, he says, and is adamant it could truly thrive in this country, particularly with easier access to computer equipment.

“It’s going to be that kids will be able to make their own albums at home,” he reasons. "People can already go down to Noel Leemings and buy the stuff they need. What we’ve got to do is get this equipment into garages in Otara, Maraenui, Riccarton and Porirua, instead of having to go through an industry that will cut off your arms, your head and leave you immobilised.”

And what about DLT’s own future in hiphop in Aotearoa? Despite the fact Chains hit the top spot for five weeks, DLT doesn’t believe the message got through. He says there are a lot of hidden messages in the song relating to life in New Zealand.

These include the obvious clever references to nuclear contamination: “...An extra eye for my son, another foot for my daughter”. But there’s also talk of self-esteem; the idea of money and love doing as much damage as they do good; and a few other gems that are discovered after a closer listening.

Despite making him and his family extremely proud, the success of Chains and True School hasn’t provided DLT with the unrestrained satisfaction one might expect. He’s still striving for perfection, still intent on taking the medium and the message on to higher levels.

“We’ll never make the perfect rap song,” he says, ‘’but Chains is moving in the right direction and will keep me making another 60 songs until I make another one like it.”

To say hiphop is a way of life for DLT sounds cliched and contrived. So it’s best if he has the last word on why he’s so dedicated to making music. “The real shit is to make life good for our women and children,” he says.

“That’s real hiphop in Aotearoa.”

RELATED: DLT talks about Deepgrooves and Auckland in the early 90s.

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.