Thursday, August 28, 2003

Graffiti art is on the out
Graffiti art has been a key part of the annual Aotearoa Hip Hop Summit, now in its fourth year (coming up on October 10th & 11th). Held for the last two years in Auckland at The Edge (Town hall, Aotea Centre and Square), its a huge event, attracting DJs, MCs, breakers and graffiti artists from around the country and overseas. One of the most exciting parts of the three day event is the outdoor graffiti art jam in the Square, organised by local artist Askew. Temporary plywood walls are erected around the edge of the Square, and graffiti artists spend a day going hard, painting the walls, while the public wander past checking out their skills. You think its easy painting with a spray can? Give it a try sometime, its bloody tricky.
It now seems that the Auckland City Council wants graffiti out of the equation. Hip hop fans talk of the four realms of hiphop, being djing, mcing, breaking and graffiti art. Now the Council want to change 25 years of musical history, and make it three realms. Scuse the language, but WTF?

Check out this recent newspaper article...

"The Auckland City Council wants applicants for publicly funded hip-hop events to denounce graffiti.
The move is being described by one leading urban artist as an absurdity.
Graffiti art is one of the integral parts of the global youth movement, one of "four realms" of hip-hop culture that also include DJing, rapping and breakdance.
In a report to the council's law and order committee, its dedicated graffiti prevention officer, former policeman Rob Shields, recommends a zero tolerance policy on graffiti.
Mr Shields says many hip-hop artists get council funding and support for major events and they should formally denounce graffiti vandalism in writing, and also publicly during the events.
In the latest of his regular updated reports to the committee, Mr Shields writes, "The hip-hop culture has a sinister side and that side's most common form of expression is graffiti vandalism. In this light, it is suggested that all funding associated with the hip-hop culture all be linked to a requirement for the applicants to denounce graffiti vandalism in writing."
Established Auckland hip-hop icon Otis Frizzell thinks forcing hip-hop artists to condemn graffiti is absurd...."
Read more about it here.

Wednesday, August 27, 2003

We are the robots.
Its only taken them 17 years, but electronic pioneers Kraftwerk have finally put out a new album. Tour De France Soundtracks is built around a song they released as a single way back in 1983, and includes a re-recorded version of that tune, alongside 6 new tunes, and a 3 part reworking of Tour De France which shows they have been paying attention to Detroit techno. When I bought the album, I got talking to the guy in the shop, and he suggested they should've released something sooner to cash in, so to speak. He's got a point; Kraftwerk have been so hugely influential across dance genres in the 17 years since Electric Cafe that there must be a missed opportunity there. Kraftwerk were always about the art, not commerce. But then there was Expo 2000...

The last time Kraftwerk released anything new was the Expo 2000 single, which was based around a commercial they recorded for the Expo 2000 festival in Hannover, that same year. According to The Guardian, "Hütter and Schneider were paid DM400,000 (around £145,000) to come up with a four-second jingle. Snappy financial thinking like that eventually caused Expo 2000 to lose a staggering DM2.4bn (£700m) - £10 for every man woman and child in Germany - and the {German} media deemed Kraftwerk guilty by association."

The Guardian's Alexis Petridis headed off to Dusseldorf to try and find Kraftwerk, and all he comes up with one stunning fact...
"Rosso Sport certainly looks like a very Kraftwerk kind of shop. A converted industrial warehouse next to a disused railway line, it is staffed by rather stern-looking men with lycra shorts and shaved heads. One drags himself away from the giant television screen showing the Tour de France long enough to answer my queries. Yes, he says, Florian Schneider sometimes comes in here. He has two bikes. A racing model and a small collapsible bike. And with that, he curtly turns away, like a man who has suddenly remembered some kind of Kraftwerk confidentiality agreement."
Its a very groovy album, definitely 'Kraftwerk like". Have a listen at Kraftwerks site, or check out this great fan site from Brazil.

Tuesday, August 26, 2003

A hairy night out First published at Public Address
I'm surrounded by 2000 hairdressers. How did this happen? A late afternoon phone message from local comedian Radar, who is hosting the TV coverage for ETV at the L'Oreal Colour Trophy Awards 2003. He's got some spare tickets to this do. Lots of free alcohol and food, how bad can it be? Well...

We arrive and search out the alcohol. No worries there - they're handing out the bubbly as soon as you walk through the door. But as for food... there's a few waiters walking round with baskets of tiny bread sticks, and that's it. Are these people afraid of food or something?

Anyway, the stage looks fabulous, and out strolls Helen Clark to make the opening speech, praising the high calibre of our hair stylists - well, look what they did for her!

Then the fun begins. A young woman dressed as a 1930s dancer comes out lip-synching to a song out of Chicago - then Bang! Gunshots and oh, lookee, she's dead. A silhouetted figure walks down the stairs behind her; there's some strange orchestral music whining away... Oh dear, they've re-created the video of 'My Way' as performed by that famous pop crooner Mr Sid Vicious, complete with impersonator with perfectly spiked hair, as you'd expect from a hairdressing event. He lipsynchs the entire song, then shoots the woman but the gun doesn't fire so he throws it away and kicks her instead; does the fingers at the crowd and walks back up the stairs. I think it might be post-modern - or just really naff.

(Turns out he was actually singing it - the video screen behind him had a delay which made it look like he was lip synching. The talented chap in question was Clint Sharplin.)

Then the awards begin, hosted by Simon Praast and Danielle Cormack. As each of the first group of finalists paraded along the catwalk with their hair models the music blasted out piercingly loud: more punk rock, this time the opening bars of the Sex Pistols doing the Who's old clunker 'Substitute'. This music is repeated again and again and again. Later the finalists in another section are paraded to the Buzzcocks 'Autonomy' played over and over. I'm not sure what the connection with punk is here - this whole event is about celebrating the exterior, how you look. It's about artifice and the superficial, which is the opposite of punk.

The energy of the audience was great. Each time someone got up onto the catwalk with their model a small but vocal team of supporters / friends / workmates would leap up and cheer and holler for all they were worth. It was very cool. One winner even managed to fit in a happy birthday mum on behalf of a friend, very nice. Next it's David Bowie as Ziggy Stardust, courtesy of our impersonator. He's back later for another burst of wierdness as Marilyn Manson doing that old chestnut 'Tainted Love'.

The other entertainment during the evening consists of two fashion shows from the Spring collections of Nicholas Blanchet, Karen Walker, Natalia Kucija and Trelise Cooper. There were some wonderful garments but mostly appalling music. Special points to the models for Natalia Kucija, who were subjected to the sound of a CD skipping through multiple CDs. After listening closely I could make out that someone had very cleverly edited it to sound like a CD skipping or a radio dial surfing - but making those poor girls trying to walk to it was just cruel.

When the Supreme Award NZ Hairdresser of the Year is announced the title goes to Penny Ainsley of Bettjeman's Orakei. She's so bubbly and excited that it's truly delightful. Her supporters in the balcony go absolutely nuts. After thanking half the planet, she holds up the trophy, and says 'let's party!'. The music roars - the Undertones' 'Teenage Kicks' - and Penny and her model walk the catwalk a few more times before figuring out which way to exit. British DJ John Peel listens to this tune once a week - it's his benchmark for judging every pile of new releases he receives. Listening to the song blast around the town hall as it empties out it's not hard to see why. Such a glorious guitar sound!

And then it's off in search of more food. Did I mention we hadn't had dinner before this thing? Slight oversight there. No time. Silly boy.

In the Concert Chamber is the party, a crammed room of people listening to what the programme describes as "renowned DJ and entertainer" Mikey Havoc. Goodshirt continue the retro theme later on.

In the foyer downstairs we locate the food: more insubstantial nibbly things. Finally we source the real goodies - cute cardboard boxes of cold soba noodles with chicken. The video screen is playing a documentary about The Doors and in the corner is Radar and Entertainment TV shooting interviews with the important people. Before we entered the screen was showing a doco about the Clash with some amazing footage of the band playing live in some dingy club back in 1977, hurtling through 'I Fought The Law', which was electric. That's what I just don't get. Punk rock and hairdressing in 2003? They don't even go together in the same sentence, let alone in a room with several thousand hairdressers. Can anyone explain this to me? (It's as strange as Bill Ralston being told to chop $5 million out of his budget by TVNZ's board so the Government can get a dividend while that same Government gives TVNZ $12 million to help it meet its charter obligations.)

Still, we scammed another box of noodles as we were leaving. All in all a highly entertaining evening. Thanks, Radar.
And so it begins. Hello / Kia Ora from Auckland New Zealand.
Whats the aim? Who's the target? Language is a virus, said Mr Burroughs. Playing with words is the best fun. From William Gibson to Kraftwerk, there's still fun to be had with the english.

... And then we have the abomination that is the NZ Herald's television coverage. They seem to think it is acceptable to preview a show by writing out the whole plot, which, if its a comedy, means they give away all the punchlines before you even see them. I've had to make myself avoid reading their tv section, in case they blow another storyline from something I want to watch. You could always make up your own tv programmes. Chad Taylor came up with a few recently, such as this one...
"Karen Walker: The Smell of Fabric
Three-part dramatic mini-series. Parker Posey plays Kiwi designer Karen Walker. Runs over three nights on TV1; part three postponed indefinitely by Wednesday night netball." How could you go wrong with Parker Posey? She's fantastic.