Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Raggamuffin in deep funk?

Under the optimistic headline "Big Day Out done; Long live Raggamuffin", the festival's NZ director  makes some amusing claims.

The article starts out by rebranding Raggamuffin as a funk festival (not a reggae one as previously advertised) and then it gets interesting...

"Next weekend's funk festival will be the event's fifth birthday, and promoters are promising the biggest act line-up yet.

The Rotorua-based two-dayer will feature internationally renowned Jamaican reggae and dub artists Sly and Robbie, as well as headliners Arrested Development and Hawaiian-based Pacific reggae artist J Boog.

Raggamuffin's New Zealand director, Jackie Sanders, said there would be twice as many acts as at last year's festival and an extra stage had been added. It will be bigger than the Australian leg, in Perth, Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane..."

And how do we know for certain that Rotorua's Raggamuffin will be bigger than the Australian leg? Well, all the shows on the Australian leg were cancelled back in September last year. Some side shows were talked about for Australia following the cancellation. 

Sanders continues: "We decided that the way the economy is going we'd throw a bit more at the New Zealand festival this time, and that decision seems to be working."

Blacklisted?

READ: Universal Music Goes To War Against Popular Hip Hop Sites & Blogs on Techdirt

Hat tip to Russell Brown for the link. 

".. A few weeks ago, leading ad firm GroupM, a part of marketing giant WPP, proudly announced that it had "adopted an aggressive new anti-piracy policy" for its digital media buys. What that meant was that it prohibited vendors that it worked with from putting ads on any of a giant list of sites that it had declared were "pirate sites" -- defined as "sites that support piracy or contain any illegally distributed content...."

[Sites listed include Nahright, The Internet Archive, Vimeo and Soundcloud.]

"... Back in 2009, Vibe produced a big list of the "50 hottest rap blogs." This is basically a who's who list of the top sites in hip hop, and the places that most music producers want to see their music appearing, because it's how they get attention these days. 

Yet, if you run down that list, you start to notice a pattern. An awful lot of those sites are on GroupM's "banned" list. I went through the top 12 sites on that list, and seven of them are "banned" as piracy sites, despite being some of the most popular promotional vehicles for artists and labels alike. Also, a bunch of the top hip hop blogs teamed up a while back to form what was called the New Music Cartel -- and every one of those sites is on the "banned" list...."

"... [the list] appears to show that Universal Music has decided to declare war on the online hip hop ecosystem that promotes its music in a big way -- and some of those sites are hitting back. First of all, it's worth noting that these blogs and sites are considered instrumental to promotion in the hip hop world, and Universal Music knows that. 

"In talking to some of the folks at sites involved, you learn pretty quickly that they get sent tracks and other promotional info from insiders at Universal Music -- including high level execs -- all of the time. On top of that, hip hop artists themselves regularly rely on these same sites, and link people to them via their own blogs and twitter feeds. And yet, a whole bunch of these sites are on GroupM's list... and they got there because Universal Music told GroupM to put those sites on the list..." 

gif kraft


Ah, Kraftwerk gif'd.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Red Eyes tour NZ



Australian reggae outfit The Red Eyes tour NZ for the first time soon, and later this year they play Papua New Guinea, also a first for them. Exciting year! Two members of the band are originally Kiwis, so this tour marks a homecoming of sorts for them. 

Nice Up has an interview with the band here. The band say "We tend to have a darker edge, so the themes are heavier, and the focus on dub means that no one has ever accused us of being 'Barbecue Reggae'!... Expect a big live show, with our two-piece horn section, four-part harmonies, and very energetic front-man El, who reviewers frequently compare to a Maori Iggy Pop."



Some background... "The Red Eyes - Australia’s much loved dub/reggae monster group - celebrate their 10th birthday in 2012 with their first NZ Tour, kicking off at Mint Bar, Wanaka on Jan 26, before taking in venues in Dunedin, Wellington, Leigh, Hamilton and Auckland. They will also appear at the inaugural Winchfest music festival and wakeboarding comp on Jan 28 performing alongside Katchafire, Cornerstone Roots and more.

The Red Eyes ‘NZ Homecoming Tour’ heralds the prodigal return of NZ’s long lost sons El Witeri and Damien Charles. Born and bred in Auckland, the two musicians’ musical roots were developed touring around NZ throughout the 90’s before they reconnected in Oz and honed their alternative dub/reggae style for an appreciative Australian audience.

Over 10 years their fan base has grown exponentially, seeing them play major festivals throughout the pacific and Australia including the 2011 Australian Raggamuffin tour with Jimmy Cliff and Mary J Blige.

Established in 2002 The Red Eyes’ successful 2nd album ‘Red Army’ was a finalist for Best Blues and Roots Album at the Australian Independent Record Label Awards and lead singer El Witeri was a finalist for APRA songwriter of the year. 2007 release ‘Rudeworld’ and their two EP’s ‘Highplace’ and Prolific/My Kingdom’ have collectively sold over 12,000 copies worldwide.

Exploding onto the NZ turf with a string of club dates through Jan and Feb 2012, The Red Eyes are touring their new track Circles, the first single release from their anticipated third album."


Circles by The Red Eyes

Thu 26 Jan: Mint Bar (Wanaka)
With The Nomad (DJ Set)
Fri 27 Jan: 12 Below (Dunedin)
With Skull Dubbery and DJ Jungle Far I
Sat 28 Jan: Bodega (Wellington)
With Newtown Sound feat Israel Starr
Sun 29 Jan: Winchfest (New Plymouth)
With Katchafire and Cornerstone Roots + more
Fri 3 Feb: Sawmill Cafe (Leigh)
With Dam Native and DJ Dubhead
Sat 4 Feb: Flow Bar (Hamilton)
With guest DJ Captain Nemo
Sun 5 Feb: Kings Arms (Auckland)
With Guest Dam Native & DJ Dubhead

Mark de Clive-Lowe mixed

Best of Mark de Clive-Lowe mixed by DJ Spinna. 34 tracks of MdCL originals, remixes (Omar, Shirley Horn, Ed Motta) and collaborations with Kenny Dope (Masters At Work), DJ Spinna, Phil Asher (Restless Soul), Zed Bias and more. Track listing here. Nice one. Free download.

Mark de Clive-Lowe's ninth solo album, 'Renegades' is out now on Tru Thoughts Records.'

The Best of MdCL Mix by DJ Spinna by Tru Thoughts

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Vinyl is making a comeback #257

Okiedoke Records founders Clint McEwen, left and Rob Vera pose with their first vinyl record in Oklahoma City , Wednesday January , 04, 2012. Photo by Steve Gooch, The Oklahoman

"Today vinyl is making a comeback, as it has been doing periodically since the CD came along 30 years ago.

What's different this time is that it isn't just being bought by middle-aged blokes trying to relive their youth, but by consumers of all descriptions who want their music to be tangible and, ideally, audibly impressive...."

From "Records a labour of love in modern world", The Australian.

Meanwhile, in Oklahoma...

"Oklahoma pair stake out new career as vinyl record producers as medium makes comeback

Vinyl records, declared dead a quarter century ago, are making a comeback. It was enough to prompt friends Rob Vera and Clint McEwen to take a shot on forming their own record company in Oklahoma City, Okie Dope Records...."

"... "One of the things American record companies haven't caught on to yet, but in U.K. they have, is if you buy a record in the U.K., it comes with a digital code for the download," O'Brien said. "Here, you still have to buy it twice. In the U.K. the product is so much better. It gives you that much more incentive to buy that. They're even reissuing old records in vinyl in the U.K,"says Vera."

Read more here and here.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

R.I.P Winston Riley


The legendary reggae producer has died, aged 65.

From The Grio: "Innovative reggae producer Winston Riley has died from complications of a gunshot wound in Jamaica. His son Kurt Riley says the 65-year-old producer died Thursday at University Hospital of the West Indies, where he had been a patient since he was shot in the head at his house in November.

Riley also had been shot in August and stabbed in September. His record store in Kingston's downtown business district was burned down several years ago. Police have said they know of no motives.

From the Jamaica Observer: "Kurt Riley told the Observer this morning that his father's grieving relatives could not figure out a motive behind the attempts on his father's life.

"Unfortunately Daddy didn't wake up so we could talk to him to find out if there was something he was not telling us. He was a straightforward man, who was allergic to hypocrisy," he said.

Winston Riley produced the late General Echo's The Slackest album on his Techniques label in 1979, and was instrumental in the development of the careers of Sister Nancy, Buju Banton, Cutty Ranks, Lone Ranger, and Frankie Paul."

Classic Winston Riley productions... love these...






ADDED Via Large Up - Top ten essential Winston Riley tunes

Basement 45s Salute to Winston Riley by CultchaSound

Call me Al



President Obama making a speech at the Apollo Theatre, Jan 19. He mentions  that Al Green is in the room, and starts singing one of the Reverend's songs. Obama has sung at the Apollo and got an ovation. Heck yes. Republicans don't roll like that.

Dotcom dot gone?


Yesterday morning, Megaupload.com founder Kim Dotcom was arrested along with 3 associates by NZ Police in Auckland , as part of a co-ordinated effort with the US Dept of Justice and the FBI, who have issued an indictment against Megaupload.com. Four FBI staff were in NZ to assist Police. The FBI has been working with our Police since August last year on this case.

The four accused appeared in North Shore district court yesterday afternoon, and were remanded in custody until Monday, when there will be a bail hearing. Kim Dotcom told the court  that he has "Nothing to hide."Lawyers for the US gvot plan to oppose bail. Kim Dotcom will spend the weekend in jail. Today is his 38th birthday.

Kim Dotcom was last in the news in December, over a music video he made to promote Megaupload.com, called the  Megaupload Song. Universal Music had it taken down form Youtube over alleged copyright infringement, as it featured some of their artists, but  Megaupload were able to produce signed contracts with the artists involved, such as Kanye West and Will.I.Am.

NZer Gin Wigmore was chosen by Kim Dotcom to sing on the track, but after her recording session at Neil Finn's Roundhead Studio, her manager and label (Universal) refused to give permission for her inclusion, and she was replaced by Macy Gray. The vidoeo initally attracted over 2 million views. Read more on that in my previous post.

Two Police helicopters arrived at Dotcom's Coatesville mansion, but Dotcom did not want to co-operate, retreating to a safe room in the house, which Police eventually accessed - he was found near a sawn-off shotgun.

Dotcom's assets in NZ have been seized, including $10m in financial assets (this number is the same as the $10m he invested in government bonds as part of his bid to stay here). Luxury cars worth $6m were taken also, with various custom licence plates such as God, Good, Bad, Evil, Police, Stoned, Mafia, Hacker, and Guilty.

photo: Autoblog.NL

The NZ Herald reports that the "indictment accuses Mr Dotcom's Megaupload.com of costing copyright holders more than US$500 million in lost revenue from pirated films and other content, and has generated more than US$175 million in criminal proceeds."

The US Dept of Justice shut down Megaupload.com and a  number of associated websites, and charged Dotcom and others with "engaging in a racketeering conspiracy, conspiring to commit copyright infringement, conspiring to commit money laundering and two substantive counts of criminal copyright infringement."

The indictment includes emails between the accused, purportedly showing that Kim Dotcom had instructed his associates to "copy Youtube, one to one." Another email exchange stated that “we’re not pirates, we’re just providing shipping services to pirates”.

US hiphop producer Swizz Beats was listed as the company's CEO on its website in its late 2011 redesign, but according to Megaupload's lawyers, he is not officially CEO.

Following news of the arrests, the group Anonymous attacked and took down websites for the US DoJ, FBI, BMI, RIAA and Universal Music.  Anonymous posted a video on the attacks to Youtube.

Megaupload.com is attempting to get back online, tho it seems unclear just how they have the funds to do that, given the extensive list of asset seizures by the US DoJ.

RELATED:
Read an interview with Kim Dotcom here.
Vice: We read the Megaupload papers so you don't have to.

The FBI/DoJ statement on the prosecutions.
The NZ Police statement on the arrests.
The DoJ indictment in full.
The NZ extradition treaty (PDF) with the US.
Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade's information about extradition from NZ.

ADDED Tues Jan 24: List of other filesharing sites facing shut down by the US, after Megaupload's closedown... includes Filesonic, Mediafire... read it on Pastebin

Follow the traffic: What MegaUpload’s downfall did to the web - This is a fascinating series of graphs...

ADDED Wed Jan 25: Kim Dotcom has been denied bail, and remanded in custody (jail) til at least February 22. His lawyer is appealing the decision to the High Court.

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

ADDED Feb 3: Kim Dotcom's bail appeal to the High Court has been denied. He had earlier told the court he has no desire to flee New Zealand and wants to fight the charges against him "on a level playing field".

“I want to stay here, prove my innocence and get my money back,” he said. Source. It is expected he will now further his appeal.


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.

R.I.P. Etta James

Etta James passed away Friday, aged 73. New York Times obit here.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Thursday, January 19, 2012

JBrown and the Mic Smith remixed

Some tasty free business from some talented local fellas. Get in there


R.I.P. Kearney Barton

Kearney Barton - early 70s. Photo: Kearney Barton/Light in the Attic

If you've ever heard Wheedle's Groove (70s Seattle funk and soul compilation) you know who this fella is. From Light In The Attic Records, who released Wheedle's Groove and the follow up...

"Last night we got an email from Kearney Barton’s niece Patti, telling us the incredibly sad news that Kearney passed away peacefully at 8 PM. He was 81-years old.

Over the last couple years, Kearney’s health had been deteriorating, but he was still sharp as a nail, hanging on and cracking jokes when we last saw him over the holidays. To say Kearney was a pioneer of the Northwest sound would be a massive understatement. Maybe he was the inventor? Whatever the tag, we miss the man.

He taught us about the Frantics, the Sonics, Little Bill, Don & The Good Times, and so many more, but the one that really blew our minds was Black On White Affair’s “Bold Soul Sister, Bold Soul Brother,” recorded by Kearney in February ’70 and released on his Topaz label. It’s the tune that led me to Kearney’s doorstep in 2003, hoping to convince the wizard to let us license the single for inclusion on a comp of Seattle soul from back in the day.

I quickly discovered the man had a heart of gold and a sense of humor that would make your grandfather proud. He was a genuine sweetheart who loved to work and record and record some more, making his famous cookies for guests, and watching a hydroplane race now and then. I remember him saying he’d had a bunch of calls from overseas reissue labels wanting to license the single, but he felt reluctant. Kearney liked the idea of working with a local label. Bless his soul.." 

DLT 2000

Under pressure (published in Pavement magazine, June/July 1999)

When you're responsible for making New Zealand's finest ever hiphop album, the pressure to produce an even more impressive follow-up is intense. Theis didn't deter Darryl DLT Thomson, who recruited both local and international talent to graduate from True school to Contents Under Pressure [note: album was retitled Altruism by time of release]

By Stephen Jewell. Photo by Stephen Langdon



In the 20 years since Sugarhill Gang's Rappers Delight became the first rap single to top the charts, hiphop has grown from a purely Black American phenomenon to a worldwide success. Dis, rappers, break- dancers and graffiti artists can now be found in all four corners of the globe, from France to Russia, South America to Australia and, of course, New Zealand.

Hiphop first emerged in New Zealand in the early 1980s when the seminal hiphop film Wildstyle came to town. But it was Upper Hutt Posse who produced New Zealand’s very first rap single, E Tu, paving the way in the late ‘80s for todays impressive range of New Zealand hiphop artists such as Manuel Bundy, Urban Pacifica, Dam Native and King Kapisi.

Darryl DLT Thomson began his musical career DJing for Upper Hutt Posse before striking out on his own in 1996 with the seminal album The True School, a wonderfully ambitious, intrinsically New Zealand synthesis of hiphop, reggae, dub and jungle. DLT’s entry into the competitive hiphop market not only spawned Chains, his chart-topping collaboration with former Supergroover Che Fu, but also showcased other undervalued local talent, including the Mighty Asterix, B-ware, Teremoana and Mark 'Rhythm Slave’ James.

Now on the cusp of the new millennium, Thomson is set to take New Zealand hiphop to the next level with Contents Under Pressure, an album which has him working with some of the best hiphop talent from around the world, including Canada’s Rascalz and Kardinal Offishall, Germany’s Ono and Shabaam Sahdeeq from New York’s label of the moment, Rawkus Records.

The last time I spoke to Thomson back in 1997, he and Che Fu were off to New York the following day for three months of living hiphop first hand in the home of East Coast rap. So, how was New York, Darryl?

“It was good,” Thomson tells me when we meet up again two years later in the Auckland offices of his record company, BMG. “It verified everything and helped reaffirm things. It was good to see it with my own eyes and to feel it and smell it. It’s not a fantasy but a reality of where we feel our world is. We, of course, live in this plain, nice, green, lovely place. It was a bit deeper than in just a fashion sense.”

However, Thomson’s New York experience didn’t lead directly to any of Contents Under Pressure's global collaborations. “It probably started the first day that I heard any of these artists,” reflects Thomson; “as a young guy, lying there thinking, ‘I’d love to be in the same room as, say KRS 1.' I just love that stuff. From the day I bought Criminal Minded, I’ve dreamt of meeting these people and saying... I suppose, when I was 16, it would have been, 'Yeah, that’s what it’s like where I live.' But nowaday, if I met KRS 1, for example, I’d have to say 'hello, how are you doing? Love your career'.”

Thomson is definitely taking his elevation to the international hiphop stage in his stride, believing it to be a long overdue promotion for New Zealand hiphop.

“It’s just the next album,” he claims. “Nothing’s changed. lt’s a step forward, a step up. This place is just running behind schedule, behind time, through denial of the rest of the world, ie the black world, existing.

Music, art, anything... We basically know the truth. I seem ahead but I’m not. I’m just in time with the rest of the world – or so I like to believe, in my materialistic world. It’s only a simple fact of pleasing my own tastes and my own standards that’s got me here.”

Contents Under Pressure's impressive guest list first began to take shape when Thomson went to BMG’S Kirk Harding with a wish list of hiphop luminaries with whom he wanted to work. “I just wrote down my favourites and handed the idea via the telephone to my publisher, Mitch Rubin, because he’s hooked up in the hiphop world and the music world generally’’ explains Thomson. “He said, 'Yeah, I’ll ring them.' Between us, we came up with a probable list of 15 acts and it went down to about 10 who were willing. But some of them... The excuses!

"I went straight to the top. The highest of the high. KRS 1 is up there on the top of my list; Linton Kwesi Johnson; Xzibit from the Alkoholilcs Liltwit Crew; Rakim... The brothers and sisters who are trying to change the mental state that we exist in. Invisibility they called it in Time. It’s not an attempt to be Quincy Jones, Moses, anyone like that. I was given the opportunity to make my dream list. Its like pushing your shopping trolley through the supermarket and grabbing whatever you wanted.”

An impressive line-up of worldwide rap talent was eventually assembled, most of whom, like Thompson, are rising stars in their own home markets, verging on breaking out into the global hiphop scene.

“There’s both compromise and propaganda in that,” explains Thomson. “It’s partly down to the record company wanting the cheapest artists out there because they had to initially fork out the money to get these people on the record because, if this fails, heads roll. But also, for me, any rapper is good. At the end of the day I don’t mind as long they are talking good shit.”

Harding embarked on a trip to Europe and America in 1997, during which he met Sol Guy; who worked for Arista Records in New York before setting up his own management company Figure IV Entertainment. Figure IV's roster includes two of the brightest talents in Canadian hiphop, the Rascalz and Kardinal Offishall, both of whom contribute to Contents Under Pressure.

According to Kemo, the Rascalz’s DJ and producer, the opportunity to collaborate with DLT was an opportunity too good to pass up. “It’s cool. It’s different,” he tells me down the line from Vancouver.

“We haven’t really done anything like this before but with the next album we release, we want to go worldwide and connect with all types of people from everywhere.’’

So what’s the hip-hop scene in Canada like? “It’s very diverse,’’ claims Kemo. “A lot of Filipino kids in Canada are into breakdancing. You can’t really separate it. Every culture is involved, every race. A lot of black people in Canada are from the West Indies and they’ve got that flavour in their rhymes. Myself, I’m from Chile and hiphop is large down there. Hiphop is definitely worldwide. We’ve been to Europe and I was surprised by the amount of fans who come out. Even if they don’t understand the language, they relate to the music and the presence of the show.”

Unfortunately, the status of hiphop artists in Canada appears to be remarkably similar to that in New Zealand, where the musical style has struggled to gain recognition from the music industry. Comparable to the way The Feelers cleaned up at the New Zealand Music Awards, where Che Fu could only pick up Single of the Year with Scene Three despite the huge success of his album 2 B Spacific, the Canadian music industry begrudgingly gave the Rascalz an award in 1998, presenting it in the first five minutes of the show before the telecast had even begun. The Rascalz had no hesitation in turning the award down, though.

"We wanted to let the Canadian music industry know that the way they were giving us the award was just a token gesture,” explains Kemo. “Even before we won the award, we were like, ‘We’re going to give these people a piece of our minds.’ This year though, they let us perform during the televised part. They gave us what we asked for, so we were like, 'All right!’”

Toronto-based rapper Kardinal Offishall, aka Jason Harrow, also believes that the state of Canadian hip-hop is changing for the better. “A couple of years ago, people like Master P wouldn’t have been able to get played but now Canada is opening up to different genres,” says Harrow. ‘A lot of Canadians are being exposed to different flavours and people are open to a lot more different styles.”

Harrow’s contribution to Contents Under Pressure should be extra special, with the Canadian set to play rap rag team with South Auckland’s Lost-tribe on a track about ‘common wealth’. “The song’s got a different kind of feel but I can flip it and add a nice flavour,” declares Harrow.
“To me, it’s intriguing. Doing stuff with people around the world is the dope stuff. It’ll be good for me over here and good for them over there. It’ll open up doors.”

Thomson also recruited European-based rappers for Contents under Pressure, including South African-born, German-based Ono, who contributes rhymes to the track Black Sun. Once again, it was Harding who made the first connection when he met Ono’s publisher in London. ‘’I was so happy when I was told that I was going to be on a record in New Zealand,” laughs Ono, on the phone from Cologne, Germany “It's so far away. Not many people get that chance.”

Ono is a self-confessed Michael Jackson fan who hadn’t heard hiphop until he moved to Germany 12 years ago. Before then, I didn’t know anything about hip-hop, apart from breakdancing’’ he declares. “I didn’t know that breakdancing was a part of hiphop. I thought it was a dance that people in South Africa did.”

Ono has already recorded two albums for Warner Music’s German offshoot, Downbeat Records, also home to Rockers Hi-fi and Earl 16. His second album was released earlier this year and contains collaborations with Jeru the Damaja and The Roots, musicians who, along with A Tribe Called Quest, reflect Ono’s more cerebral attitude towards hip-hop.

“I like groups like A Tribe Called Quest and The Roots because of their lyrical content and how they rap,” Ono explains. ‘’How they speak about things is not the usual street knowledge. They have smarts in their rhymes. They don’t use the usual ‘Nigger this, Nigger that’ language. It’s more universal, which is something I can relate to myself.

"It’s not old school. I call it general school. They’re in a class of their own. I consider their music songs, whereas most people, even though I like their stuff play tracks. If you listen to an A Tribe Called Quest song, I can almost follow the arrangement of their music. That’s what I loved about the DLT song. It has a beginning, a little talk and an intro and then it has strings and different elements. It’s not just one loop and a baseline. There’s more to the song than a beat and a sample.”

Ono’s lyrics for Black Sun embody this sense of depth, meaning as much to black South Africans as it does to Maori.

‘’I’m very fortunate over here in Germany because I’m doing something that I love doing, which is making music,” reflects Ono. “But, although I’m glad to be here, sometimes I have to think of what would have happened in my life if I’d stayed in South Africa, how the time that I spent there influenced me as a person.

" It made me strong and made me understand that I’m not here for nothing. I have a mission. I have to make everybody else who has experienced what I experienced in South Africa feel strong and not to think that their lives are wasted because they are black.

“DLT told me what he is all about, so I thought, 'Okay, since we seem to be from the same background, I could lace it like that’. DLT and I have the same goal: to remain strong. Black Sun was dedicated, not just to black people, but to all people who are oppressed, to just make them understand that even though they are black, they shine like the sun, the black sun.”

Contents Under Pressure undergoes a distinctive change of pace on Liquid Sky, a languid, r&b inflected ballad sung by Ryad, an Algerian-born vocalist who was raised in Paris but now lives in Brooklyn. Ryad compares himself to Lenny Kravitz and Seal but, despite being signed to BMG’S Urban offshoot, nobody seems to know quite what to do with him.

‘’Here in the US, everything has to be in a certain format,” he explains from New York. ‘’To be a hip- hop or r&b artist, you have to be black. I’m not that but some of my early music had elements of that.”

According to Ryad, Liquid Sky happened purely by accident.

‘’My publisher had a tape of some tracks that DLT did,” says Ryad. “I listened to the tracks and there was one that I was interested in. I went into the studio and recorded the song in a couple of days. DLT heard it and obviously liked it, as Liquid Sky has ended up on the album. I’ve never met DLT but we’ve spoken a couple of times on the phone. I’m glad that it happened like it did because he’s a great guy. He’s very grounded, very spiritual.”

Ryad refuses to be pinned down when it comes to explaining the actual meaning behind the lyrics to Liquid Sky.

“The first time I heard the track it was very cinematic,” he recalls. “I saw this picture of a couple in a motel room in the desert. They’re in the middle of nowhere, which is a metaphor for being in the middle of nowhere in their lives. It’s a moment of silent conversation between two people who have known each other for a long time and aren’t strangers. It all takes place in this room with the neon light outside flickering in the rain; all those B-movie cliches. It’s whatever you want it to mean. I’ll be interested in what DLT thinks the meaning of the song is.

“Ive heard DLT’s other album [True School] and it’s very much in-your-face hip-hop,”continues Ryad. “It’s a nice contrast to have a song like Liquid Sky on his album because everything else is so much about reality. I don’t know what the other writers have written but when I spoke with Darryl, he told me about his background, how he grew up, and his tribe... I felt the same way growing up in France being an Algerian, with racism and all that stuff.

"I grew up listening to hiphop, dub, reggae... When you grow up in the projects, that’s what you get. I was going to say ghetto music but it’s basically music that points the finger at something.That’s what I used to do at the beginning but now I’m more into writing lyrics which are a lithe bit more passive. Not being a doormat but but saying ‘Hey, listen. This is a moment of music. Trust me, this is ambient music.’ These are ambient lyrics. There’s no real defined drawing, just a combination of colours. As long as they have some meaning to you in your life, then it works.”

After True School's home truths, Thomson has broadened his scope on Contents Under Pressure to encompass more universal political concerns.

Simply witness the album’s title. “Contents Under Pressure is a state of mind,” declares Thomson. “It refers to the hook-up with graffiti and the way that hiphop is recognised. There are strategies. We’re going to blast out with a hip-hop track. Since I’m holding stuff will be worth something overseas and I’m going to be at home, I have to hold something in. Slamming some hardcore hiphop lyrical expression down the throats of New Zealand on air.. . Not Brendan Smythe [from NZ On Air] and his crew, but the whole concept of New Zealand as an industry. Fuck, they’re all my best friends: Dave Dobbyn, Neil Finn... But I have to hold myself in because the whole of South Auckland, over a million people, has been denied. Whenever a new radio station starts in Auckland. it’s always classic this or rock that...

“King Kapisi comes out with a tiny indie track, a great video and a cruisy hiphop sense and it just dives into the charts,’’ continues Thomson.

“It rips it apart locally and destroyed video by the fucking Feelers.We saw this happening when we moved to Auckland in 1988: ‘Fuck it, let’s get on top of that one. we’re been happy all this time but now it’. We’ve been happy all this time but now it’s gone beyond where thought it would go.

"Even though I've lived and dreamed of the day when rock didn’t dominate our airwaves, I didn’t dream it would be so quick, so overnight.”

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Jam!

I've been lucky enough to DJ at Jam a few times, it's a fun gig. The new venue is Honey, a rooftop bar in downtown Auckland, it's very funky little spot. 

Hosted by my fellow BaseFM DJs CoopaBlu and AveragewhiteDJ, you've got 6 DJs, and you get to play two tunes, and then it switches to the next DJ, they play two tunes and switch again, and so on. Goes like that all night. Whole bunch of fun! 

Kicks off 8pm til late, at Honey, O'Connell St. This Friday night.


"After 2 years of rocking things in Ponsonby - we have decided to take 'Jam' downtown for some sweet summer action, and where better than the Honey Bar Rooftop on O'Connell Street in the Central City - because Jam and Honey ALWAYS goes together (we have it on good authority!) After a cracking launch (proper) back in December, we kick straight into things with 6 DJs on the 2 tune rotation backtoback ALL NIGHT!

Brought to you each and every month by CoopaBlu and AveragewhiteDJ - with Lowe1, Sarah Tonen and special guests Peter Mac and Cian!

So head up the stairs for a night of straight out soul, boogie and a bit of everything-else-Friday-night. All in the traditional Jam style of a 2for2 tune rotation, all night! Can (and with this lineup, definitely will) go anywhere musically, but that is how we like it."

New Dub Terminator!

NZ producer Dub Terminator and his vocal partner Ras Stone drop a wicked new tune, free download too!

Mamma africa - Dub Terminator & Ras Stone ( FREE DOWNLOAD ) by Dub Terminator

Sky'High

Brand new ep for this Australian MC, with production by NZ's P-Money. Killer tune is Don Dada, sampling the mean reggae tune by the same name from Supercat. Free too.


Stony Island




Stony Island film screening in LA. Sounds very cool...

"The first film by acclaimed director Andy Davis (Under Siege, The Fugitive, Holes), Stony Island follows the rise of a fictional working Chicago showband at the close of the ’70s. Shot entirely in Chicago—largely without permits—the film features a legion of classic Chicago players, including Gene Barge, Phil Upcharuch, Larry Ball, Richie Davis, Tennyson Stephens, Ronnie Barron, and a young Susanna Hoffs, alongside Dennis Franz and Rae Dawn Chong.

We’ve been talking to Andy about reissuing the film for years, but have never come to any kind of accord. He has graciously allowed us to screen the original 35MM print for the first time in Los Angeles in over 30 years. Our friends at Cinefamily are co-hosting at their Silent Movie Theater.

The details:
Stony Island
February 10th, 10:30PM
The Silent Movie Theater, 611 N Fairfax Avenue, Los Angeles

Additionally, Andy Davis will be doing a director’s Q&A, and Numero will DJ on the Cinefamily patio for a few hours after.

Stereo Freeze

Here's a great review from local DJ Bro90 (David Carroll) - thanks, fella! Also an interview I did in December on Radio BaseFM's Native Tongues show.

I'm popping up to Radio BFM's Freak The Sheep show tonight (Wed) for a chat, on at 10pm. Tune in!




DUB ASYLUM - Stereo Freeze [Loopy Fruit Recordings]
Review by David Carroll AKA Bro90, In The Pocket blog

Dub Asylum is the nom de produceur for Peter McLennan (of noted '90s NZ noisesters Hallelujah Picassos). Stereo Freeze gathers six tracks, old and new, which were recently threatened with permanent deletion thanks to a manky old hard drive. Freed of their former confines, they each stack up very nicely against Dub Asylum's past work.

Melodica features heavily on opener Jumping Jack Skank (amid spacious echoes and a bouncing reggae beat) and on the dark, heavily percussive Get It Together (sounding like the theme music for a Jamaican version of James Bond); and the instrumental EP features appearances from Chip Matthews (Opensouls, Anika Moa) and Olly Harris (WBC/Kolab). McLennan belies his Picassos roots with plenty of genres peeking out from between the sweet reggae grooves - Skatta lays down slow-motion Afrobeat grooves for a horn-heavy skank to drape itself over - but dub really is the glue holding this excellent release together.
4 stars from 5



The Fourth Way




Spied these cool  Japanese reissues over at Dustygroove.com.... featuring Kiwi Mike Nock, in early 70s jazz funk mode...




"A killer album from funky jazz combo The Fourth Way – one of the best groups of the progressive jazz era in America, thanks largely to the work of its excellent members! First to get big credit is Mike Nock – the Aussie [New Zealand] pianist who worked with Yusef Lateef in the mid 60s, and really came into his own by the time of this album – grooving on electric piano in a stone cold way that still sounds great today, and also doing wonderful on the acoustic keys. Next up is Michael White, one of the few jazz violinists to really know how to groove – and how to avoid getting too flowery at the wrong moments.

"The group's completed by a fantastic rhythm team – drummer Eddie Marshall and bassist Ron McClure, who plays a range of electrified basses! The album kicks off with the incredible break track "Everyman's Your Brother", and the whole thing's great – with tracks that include "Bucklehuggin", "Dance Of The Mechanical Men", "Openings", "Gemini Trajectory", and "The Sybil".



Werwolf: A seminal slice of jazz rock – recorded by Fourth Way at the Montreux Jazz Festival in 1970! The group's greatest appeal at this point is the keyboard work of the great Mike Nock – playing Fender Rhodes here with a very raw sound, plus an Oberheim Ring Modulator – which sounds even wilder at times!

"The tracks are long and jamming – with some fairly free electric violin work by Michael White, and more grounded rhythms from drummer Eddie Marshall, alongside bassist Ron McClure – who really makes the tunes rumble! Titles include "Spacefunk", "Tierra Del Fuego", "Mesoteric Circle", and "Brown Rice".

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

LP2Go


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.