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  • General

    From the Archives: Review of the Day – Spartacus R/The View

    31.01.17 | Permalink | Comment? | By

    Spartacus R

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    [Transcript]

    Spartacus R
    The View
    (LOOP)
    Eclectic wellington six-piece band Spartacus R have returned with their second album. Continuing with their popular psychedelic and layered approach, the band melds a variety of influences which appear to range from down-home funk, alt-country to conventional folk and blues. While successfully maintaining their original sound, The View offers a more traditional song structure than the previous effort with the vocal delivery nicely complementing the, at times, beguiling melodies. Singer Ryan Prebble’s delivery varies in approach from a sombre Jonny Cash-like tone to a more enthusiastic and upbeat delivery reminiscent of 8525’ singer Fred Schnider. While Prebble’s harmonies with the other guest vocalists sound lovely, I prefer the instrumental sound of this band. The vocals seem to distract from the already overflowing soundscape and are more suited to the LP’s intimate moments such as ‘Step into the Light’. If you’re already a fan, the opening tune ‘Rapata’ is all you should need to hear to be sure that the ‘R’ still have it going on. This band is great to see live too so keep an eye out as they are sure to tour this LP soon.
    Jason Guy-Clement

    Spartacus R – The View (CD)
    Spartacus R – The View (Vinyl)

    Spartacus R review from ‘Rip It Up’ No. 345 Mar.-Apr. 2012. Used with permission.


  • General

    From the Archives: Brooke Fraser’s first press clipping

    24.01.17 | Permalink | Comment? | By

    Brooke Fraser

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Huge learning curve for the girl with the golden voice
    By Ross Henderson

    [Transcript]

    SHE’S got the sort of voice that can raise the roof, but 15-year-old Brooke Fraser is keeping her feet firmly on the ground.

    Last month, the Naenae College fifth former won the Hutt valley regional final of the Pepsi Smokefree rock quest — no mean feat considering she was the only soloist in a competition dominated by hard rock hands.

    She also grabbed the Most Promising Woman Musician Award tor the two songs she’d written and performed.

    But she’s not letting the success go to her head. Brooke knows how tough it will be if she’s picked as one or the nine finalists to go to the nationals in September.

    “It’s been a huge learning curve,” she says or the work it’s taken so far. This has included making a video of songs, writing a press release, designing a poster and making progress reports.

    To make the finals, she still must beat two other regional finalists, who have to complete the same tasks.

    Though the selection criteria are tough, she says it gives an idea or what it’s like in the music industry.

    She’s also had to accept she can’t always live up to her own high expectations.

    ‘‘I’m a perfectionist. Every time I come off the stage I kick myself . . . but you can’t be perfect every single time.”

    Brooke, who is the daughter or former All Black Bernie Fraser, says the support of her family has been “awesome”.

    Brooke has been playing piano since age seven and performing since 13 and writes all her own material.

    “I prefer to do my own stuff instead of covers, because otherwise you’re always going to be compared.”

    The songs are inspired by different situations and feelings. One of the songs, Above, has made it on to an album, recorded in Hong Kong.

    Her musical tastes are eclectic. They include everything from Nat King Cole and George Benson to Lauren Hill and Ricky Martin – extending to classical music and American Indian chants.

    Despite her passion and talent for music, Brooke is keeping her career options open.

    Possibilities include music production, journalism or cultural anthropology. She’s currently kept busy as a presenter on Saturn TV and as photographer for the youth page of the Evening Post.

    There’s also the classical piano lessons she takes each week.
    “I’m always on the piano, but I’m never doing what I’m supposed to, I’m always fiddling with new songs and stuff,” she says.

    Since becoming a national competition in 1999, the rock quest has swelled in popularity year by year.

    This year, more than 500 bands from 18 regions entered, compared In 120 bands from five regions in 1990.

    The 1992 finalist Bic Runga is now enjoying success as an artist in her own right, with a record deal with Sony Music. Anika Moa, a 1998 finalist, has just signed a deal with Warner.

    And who knows, the Avalon teen with the golden voice could be next.

    From ‘CONTACT’, July 22, 1999.

    Grateful acknowledgement to Fairfax Media for letting us use this material.


  • General

    From The Archives: Rip It Up – 1 2 3 4 Mockers

    18.01.17 | Permalink | Comment? | By

    Mockers

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    [Transcript]
    1 2 3 4 Mockers – Mark Phillips

    One of the most inspired band names in recent times must surely have been the Ambitious Vegetables. The Veges were a bunch of young Wellingtonians who because of their age did not get the chance to play and develop the way they deserved. But that was in the good old days.

    Now, the ex-Veges, Andrew Fagan, Gary Curtis and Charlie Mannell, are with Dale Monaghan, and called the Mockers.

    Andrew takes up the story:
    “We formed as the Mockers in May 1980. We started playing in July, and our first single, ‘Good Old Days’ / ‘Murder In Manners Street’, came out in September.

    “We had no idea of how to go about putting out a single at that stage. We just took our tape down to the pressing plant and asked if they did singles for anybody. It was all very Mickey Mouse. Our major problem was distribution. We only managed to get the single into Wellington shops.

    “The best thing was the recording only cost us $350 so we covered costs after the first 200 sales.”

    So did you look for live work?
    “At that stage we hadn’t even played! We were working on the theory that if you had a good demo, you could use it to get gigs. We did get some supports, mainly at the Last Resort. It was great, because in those days you only needed to play for half an hour if you were the support band.

    “I’d hate to be starting out in Wellington now, because the only place you can really play is the Terminus. It’s very hard to have an hour of worthwhile material when you’ve only just started.”

    The Mockers have never really done any touring.
    “We’re afraid to tour until we think our name is well enough known,” says Andrew. “We don’t want to end up thousands of dollars in debt, like so many NZ bands. At the moment we have day jobs, which is why we stay in Wellington. It’s easy to play at night and work in the day, as long as we don’t have to travel. I think the best way for us to do things would be to move to Auckland and exist the way we do now.”

    Can you see yourselves turning professional?
    “Perhaps. Although in strict terms we aren’t professional now, but we do have a professional attitude. I think the necessity of turning professional is only brought about by touring.”

    Are you afraid you might go stale by staying in the one place?
    “The fact that we play to the same audience all the time means we have to work a lot harder to keep them interested. We’re continually writing new songs to combat it.”

    The Mockers’ second single, ‘Trendy Lefties’, has been out now for a few months. Despite its strong commercial appeal, it didn’t make much impression on the charts.

    Were the band upset at the reaction to the new single? “Yes,” they chorus.
    “We thought of it as our most commercial song,” says Charlie.
    “It’s really put us off releasing commercial stuff. Next time I think we’ll just do whatever song we feel like.”

    What’s the sentiment behind the song?
    “It’s about factions,” says Andrew. “It’s the way everybody accuses everybody else of being trendy, when they’re really caught up in their own little trends.”

    Maybe that’s why the radio stations didn’t play it.

    ‘1 2 3 4 Mockers’ from Rip It Up, No. 52 November 1981. Used with permission.


  • General

    From The Archives: Rip It Up – Bella Kalolo/Have Paper, Will Travel

    13.10.16 | Permalink | Comment? | By

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    [Transcript]

    BELLA KALOLO: HAVE PAPER, WILL TRAVEL

    Hard slog and an undeniable talent have lead Poly-soul chanteuse Bella Kalolo around the country and across the sea to Glastonbury and beyond, in what has been a landmark year.

    by Martyn Pepperell

    In person, Bella Kalolo is a larger than life personality with a winning smile for everyone she meets, and the kind of filthy laugh you can’t help but warm to. Homemaker by day, soul singer by night, the last few years have seen Kalolo’s daydreams become, as she puts it, “full blown realities.” Relaxing in a bar on Cuba Street in Wellington after a morning spent judging emerging talent on TV1’s Good Morning show, she reflects on a whirlwind year – one in which everything has changed.

    “I think it‘s just my hair,” she laughs. “I don’t want to blow my horn, or whatever you blow, but I’ve got a good work ethic, I guess?” Kalolo has recently returned from a trip to the UK and the US, where, backed by her band The Soul Symphony (musically directed by her husband, Alistair), she performed at the legendary Glastonbury festival, London’s Origins and City of London festivals and made several key appearances in New York City and Boston. She’s also gearing up for the release of her debut album Without The Paper, a suite of shimmering Polynesian soul as much Aretha Franklin as it is Jill Scott.

    Armed with songs naturally informed by the world which surrounds her, Kalolo found her music instantly understood by UK and US audiences.

    “With the likes of Amy Winehouse, the UK is just keyed into soul,” she explains. “They understood it more in the States though… I mean, it’s the home of soul, so there was an instant connection. I never wanted to replicate what they do there though, so it was such an amazing feeling to see that pay off. I stuck to my guns with my sound and it still spoke to them.”

    For Kalolo however, arriving at this point has been a long journey. A born performer, she entered the music industry in the ‘90s, working a more traditional route than most.

    “I was mostly singing for money as opposed to singing because I wanted to be creative,” she reflects, meaning televised talent quests, musicals, Christmas in the Park-style performances and advertising jingles. It was a studied apprenticeship, one which took her from her hometown of Christchurch, to the bright lights of Auckland, and eventually Wellington.

    BellaK

    Along the way, she parlayed her traditional performance approach into drama work, acting in TV2 series Jandal’s Away and popular NZ film Sione’s Wedding, amongst other ventures. Through the music came opportunities to work with Renee Geyer, Dave Dobbyn, John Rowles, Nathan Haines, Hollie Smith, Fat Freddy’s Drop and others, slowly but surely spreading the gospel of her scorching soul/R&B tonality. She met her husband in Wellington, at Downstage Theatre, the venue in which she recently held her Wellington album release show. He’s a bassist, and amidst the tussle of married life, they‘ve been slowly chipping away at her own music. 2008 saw debut single ‘I Feel Like I’m In Love’, 2009, her first EP, The Road Ahead.

    A couple of years ago, they realised that being married, writing music together and self-managing shows and releases wasn’t the best idea. As a result, respected DJ and band manager Ayesha Kee was brought into the mix. Since then, all cylinders have been firing. “Ayesha is integral to us,” Kalolo enthuses. “She’s freed our time up a lot, and taken us places.” One of the doors Kee unlocked for the singer (no pun intended) was the world of showcases, most critically Sounds Aotearoa 2010 in New Plymouth and as a result, the Australian World Music Showcase 2010 in Melbourne. At AWME Kalolo and her band knocked the socks off Malcom Hayes, a buyer from Glastonbury, who quickly offered her several slots at this year’s edition of that most storied of festivals.

    From there, the team’s focus became not just completing Without The Paper, but making it to Glastonbury. As their deadline approached, more dates emerged, and the trip became a Transatlantic showcase. It wasn’t easy though. “We got funding from Creative New Zealand, which we were really grateful for,” she admits. “That only covered about a third of the cost though. I wouldn’t say we came back in the red, because it’s more like a pink or a maroon, but it was hardcore.” Regardless, Kalolo feels like it was worth it, noting friendships formed, contacts made and future bookings obtained, as well as a new sense of confidence.

    “I feel like there is no limit now. It feels like everything is possible,” she enthuses. “1 am in love with the thought of that, because before, being an artist was a daydream, rather than a full blown reality.” From backing vocalist and behind-the-scene musician to front and centre stage, Kalolo’s trajectory has been circuitous. Her goals might be just beyond her reach, but they’re not beyond her sight.

    Bella Kalolo:
    Bandcamp
    Facebook

    ‘Have Paper, Will Travel’ from ‘Rip It Up’ No. 343, Oct-Nov 2011. Used with permission.


  • General

    From The Archives: Rip It Up – The Black Seeds/Another Chapter

    28.09.16 | Permalink | Comment? | By

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    [Transcript]

    The Black Seeds – Another Chapter

    The Black Seeds’ Barnaby Weir was forced to reevaluate after a recent health scare. His priorities remain intact and inline with the band’s central ethos however – family, music, good times. Rip It Up sat down with co-frontmen Weir and Dan Weetman to talk about the new album and the world they’ve created.

    Near the end of February this year, Barnaby Weir, the co-front-man of The Black Seeds had a close call. Sitting across from me at the kitchen table in his Petone home, he thinks back a couple of weeks, still visibly shaken. “I recently got a virus called Myocarditis. It attacks the heart. I woke up the other day, felt dizzy and caught a cab to the hospital. It was kind of like having a minor stroke or heart attack. It was a good thing I got to the hospital when I did, because they sussed it.”

    Only 33-years-old, Weir has a changed air. “lt’s kind of a blessing in disguise,” he continues. “lt’s a reminder that it’s a good time for me to calm down a bit.” Sitting to the left of him is The Black Seeds other frontman, Dan Weetman, who with a beanie pulled tightly over his afroesque hair, and thick black rimmed glasses, is today looking decidedly like a darker skinned Jemaine Clement. Interjecting with a gentle chuckle, Weetman offers some serious advice: “Have some kids bro!”

    With the start of April marking the beginning of a week long, six-territory release for their new album Dust and Dirt, followed by a five month world tour, the timing is far from ideal. However, over the course of The Black Seeds 12 year foray through the soundworlds of alt-reggae. cinematic funk and Pacific soul, it’s always been a reactionary process. “We’ve been doing this thing for the whole of our adult lives,” Weir says. “It’s hard to think of doing anything else,” Weetman continues. “When things happen, we deal with them.

    Having five years ago accepted that holding a fixed line-up for an eight person band would be nigh on impossible, while working with their core line-up of Weetman, Weir, Mike Fabulous, Tim Jarray and Nigel Patterson, they operate with a rotating brass section line-up. “The biggest major changes to the line-up were when Brett McKenzie left to focus on Flight of The Conchords, and thank god he did,” Weir says. “And then when Rich [Christie] and Shannon [Williams] left because they didn’t want to play gigs all the time.”

    Coupled with strong management from Triple M Management, who also handle Lawrence Arabia, Conan Mockasin and The Phoenix Foundation, they’ve set up a situation where the entire band and operational staff are able to draw a fulltime income.

    “We’ve been in that space for a wee while,” Weir says. “We realised you’re not making money if you’re not gigging,” Weetman continues. We can’t take people away from their families for too long though, family has to come first. What is pretty cool about this upcoming tour though is it’s compacted into five months, so by the time we get to August, everyone can have three months of quality time with their family, which is pretty much unheard of in any other job.”

    “We’re all friends, and our management are all old friends of ours also, who have grown with us,” Weir says. “We didn’t go up to Auckland and look for management, we made our own industry.”

    DustDirt

    With Dust and Dirt, a record that Weir describes as “two years in the writing, road testing, planning and recording,” they look to build on their past successes. “Traditionally, live has been the most important thing for us,” he says. “It’s been where we’ve built our audience. But we’re better at recording now, and we’ve been doing it ourselves.” Working in their own studio space at Mount Cook, they let their long term recording/engineering collaborator Dr Lee Prebble sit this one out, instead utilising the pool of skills existing within the band. Mixing rocksteady—era reggae with blaxploitation funk, instrumental dub, synth driven p-funk, Weir’s country/folk song- writing and voice, and even a surprising foray into garage/surf rock on ‘The Loose Cartilage’, the record builds on their existing soundworld of good friends and good times.

    I ask Weetman and Weir a question: If The Black Seeds were a hallway with doors on either side, how many doors would there be? Weetman replies. “I think there will be a lot of doors, and they will still be building more.”
    Both had so much to draw from when it came to writing songs from experience, or about real life events, that during the sessions they actually put down enough material for another album. For now though, they’re focused on their impending release and tour, and adapting to the music industry in the digital era. “Normally we’re chasing our tail with overseas releases,” Weir admits. “This time we have a worldwide release over ten days, an extensive tour to go with it, and all without any major label involvement.” “It’s pretty cool!” Weetman chuckles enthusiastically.

    Twelve years in, and despite Weir’s recent scare, The Black Seeds show no real signs of slowing down. Their philosophy stays centred on family, and even more critically, appreciating what you have. “To be able to record an album, release it overseas and tour the world, that’s pretty cool,” Weetman says. “If we were doing a gig tonight, there would be people who would be excited about it all day. I always try to remember that feeling and never take it for granted on stage. You can get pretty disillusioned with life easy, so I hold onto that feeling.”

    Dust and Dirt is out 9th April. The Black Seeds tour kicks off 24th May in Dunedin. Head to ripitup.co.nz for a full list of tour dates.

    The Black Seeds:
    Website
    Facebook
    Bandcamp

    ‘Another Chapter’ sourced from ‘Rip It Up’ No. 346,8 Apr.-May 2012. Used with permission.


  • General

    From The Archives: Rip It Up – Tales Of The Tracks/Willy Moon

    06.09.16 | Permalink | Comment? | By

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    [Transcript]

    TALES OF THE TRACKS/WILLY MOON
    by Des Sampson

    Wellington born Willy Moon travelled the world to find inspiration for his debut album, Here’s Willy Moon, with stopovers in London, Berlin, Valencia and Morocco all contributing to its vibrant mix. But it’s his obsession with pre-‘60s pop, a cut-and-paste approach to songwriting and hip hop-inspired production which have propelled Moon into another world, with Jack White releasing ‘Railway Track’ on his record label and Apple picking up Moon’s infectious single ‘Yeah Yeah’ for their latest iPod ad. No wonder Moon is finding it hard to keep his feet on the ground and is keen to tell us about every song on his exhilarating debut album: Here’s Willy Moon (2013)

    Get Up
    “The story behind this song is I wanted to make an uplifting song that was about self-empowerment, and discovering that if you want to achieve things then you have to rely on yourself, because nobody else is going to give you hand up. So, it’s kind of an atheist gospel song, which is why it has the gospel singers on the chorus – I wanted to assert that point. It was a very different song when it started out though because it was kind of a funk song — there were no strings on it, like now. It just had a very basic beat running through it.”

    Railway Track
    “Jack White’s always been a hero of mine and I’m a huge fan of all of his music, and everything he does. One of my strongest memories is going to see The White Stripes at Big Day Out, when I was 15, and getting completely off my face watching them. So, when I found out he liked this song and wanted to release it on his Third Man record label – just to have that connection with him – was something that was really special to me. This song was me trying to find a common ground behind big Spaghetti Western themes and Black Spiritual music because, at the time, I was listening to a lot of Ennio Morricone and field recordings from the 1920s, so I wanted to reflect that mix with it.”

    Yeah Yeah
    “That song was kind of a sampling experiment because I wanted to make something that was completely built out of other records. So I set myself a challenge to do that and Yeah Yeah is what came out of it. I just started throwing things together – it was really me just cutting and pasting all these different songs together – and that’s what I came up with. But it was trial and error, because I just tried all these different samples together – until it worked.”

    What I Want
    “That was one of the first songs I wrote. I recorded a demo of it a few years ago and it was kind of a really basic rock ‘n’ roll song. But I picked it up again when I was finishing off the album and had another go with it. I still don’t know where the inspiration for a lot of that song came from – it just popped into my head. A lot of my songs start out like that – I’ll have an idea or a concept, a lyric or guitar riff and I’ll chuck it around for a while, and nothing will come of it, so I put it aside. Then I’ll come back to it a number of months later, and then, suddenly, it all makes sense as a song. So it’s basically a process of digging into something and finding the music within it, which often takes a long time, like it did with ‘What I Want.”’

    Fire
    “It’s a song about obsession, addiction and being inexplicably drawn to something. I liked using the metaphor of pyromania to explain that, because there’s something primal within us which is drawn to fire going right back to prehistoric times when fire was one of the first ways that we were able to tame our environment, cook food and protect us from being attacked by animals. In terms of the composition of that song, I really wanted something that was quite atmospheric.”

    I Wanna Be Your Man
    “That was literally the first proper song I ever wrote. I was living in Berlin at the time and listening to Buddy Holly, Bo Diddley and all this 50s rock ‘n’ roll, so it grew out of that. lt’s a song that is really close to my heart because it was the first thing that I wrote that I really liked. Also, it was through the process of making that song and recording it that I developed a sense of what I wanted to do as an artist.”

    Working for the Company
    “It’s one of the few songs that I’ve done where I came up with the whole thing in my head. All the horns on it and everything about that track came pretty much straight out of what I was hearing in my head. When we came to play it live and record it, I had sing the horn parts into the microphone and get the horn players to then play it back, so we could write down the actual music, learn all the parts and work out how all they came together. It was actually remarkably easy to piece together, because I was lucky enough to work with really talented musicians who knew where I was coming from.”

    Shakin’
    “I found the Little Willie John recording of that song a year or two ago and just fell in love with it. His voice on it is absolutely incredible, which is why I waited a long time to cover it because I didn’t think I could remotely do it justice, as his version of that song is amazing. But I always loved sitting down and playing the guitar riff in it and singing along and I ended up recording it one day. But the reason it ended up on the album is because I often book studio time and then the night before I realise I have nothing to record, so you’re kind of forced to do something – and that’s why I decided to record it and see what it sounded like. So that came out of one of those sessions.”

    She Loves Me
    “That was the second song I wrote, again in Berlin, straight after I did ‘I Wanna Be Your Man.’ It’s probably the one song by me that’s most influenced by ‘60s pop, bands like The Kinks. But then I put it through a mangle! That song’s very stripped back and very simple, which can sometimes be more powerful than having something that’s overproduced.”

    I Put A Spell On You
    “I tried different vocals on that and I soon realised that there was no point trying to out-crazy Screamin’ Jay Hawkins’ version was a losing battle. So I thought I’d make my recording quite different from his, and I really like my recording of it. It’s very special to me and I’m quite happy with it.”

    My Girl
    “That sort of comes from my love of a type of music, that isn’t really represented elsewhere on my album, which is dumb, bubblegum pop songs. I’ve always loved Phil Spector stuff and always loved The Ramones and The Cars – all that kind of music. Also, lyrically, it’s kind of a rejection of commercialism, consumerist culture and also the customs surrounding how we’re meant to woo someone and make them fall for us, which is all bullshit. At the end of the day, it’s not about what you do but about a connection with another person and that’s what the songs about.”

    Murder Ballad
    “That actually started out as a murder ballad and it had lyrics, about a cop finding the body. But after we recorded it, and I had a version with the lyrics on it and a version which was an instrumental, and after talking to the guy who I recorded it with we decided that it sounded better as an instrumental, so that’s what we put on the album. In terms of influences, Nick Cave – who I love – and Henry Mancini were the two main influences on that song.”

    ‘Here’s Willy Moon’ is out in April.

    ‘Tales Of The Tracks/Willy Moon’ sourced from ‘Rip It Up’ No. 351, Feb-Mar 2013. Used with permission.


  • General

    From The Archives: Rip It Up – History Sometimes Repeats: The Journey of NZ hip-hop /Sir-Vere

    26.08.16 | Permalink | Comment? | By

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    [Transcript]

    HISTORY SOMETIMES REPEATS
    by Sir-Vere

    With Rip It Up celebrating another landmark birthday, Sir-Vere takes a look at the journey New Zealand hip-hop has taken over the same timeframe.

    The success of Home Brew in the last few months is extraordinary – but I have seen it before.

    In 1988 I remember watching TV and a group called Upper Hutt Posse appeared on my screen. I was a member of an Auckland based hip-hop group (UCD) – and the thriving local scene – but UHP trumped everyone by releasing the first genuine Aotearoa rap song with E Tu. This proved to be a defining moment in New Zealand hip-hop.

    ‘E Tu’ was a call to arms to Maori in Aotearoa to stand and be counted – but it also served as an inspiring anthem for any that were committed to releasing quality, localised hip-hop. The video in particular struck a great balance of elements of the American artform, and striking images that could only originate from here taiaha, pukana and moko.

    In 1996 UHP DJ, DLT, fashioned a slice of Wellington/New York hip-hop, teaming up with Supergroove frontman Che Fu with stunning results. ‘Chains’ did the unthinkable, hitting the number one spot on the RIANZ chart, and holding it for five weeks. Although we didn’t need the recognition from the establishment, the outpouring of support and love for locally produced hip-hop was encouraging.

    Che Fu would go on to release his solo project, one I was lucky enough to be involved with from a label perspective – and that would set the bar for what any kind of future NZ hip-hop/soul would be measured against.

    Ten years on from the release of ‘E Tu’, a young South Auckland DJ/producer named P-Money diligently hammered away on his primitive gear in a Papakura basement. Inspired by the early 2000 sounds emanating from the American movement – evident in the music he would produce – and encouraged by the domestic progress made to date, he made an instant mark with some quality demos. By 2000, Money had connected with Christchurch based rapper Scribe, and in 2001 released the seminal Scribe 2001.

    That track, and the subsequent Big Things long player, heralded a new era in the local movement. Based heavily around boom bap sounds thundering out of New York at the time, the NZ scene transformed, and production bars were raised to the tenth degree.

    Enter also the Dawn Raid family with their strong South Auckland roots, and far more ghetto centric style. The Deceptikonz epitomised every budding rapper’s dreams – albums, videos, tours and from a crew that sported four individually gifted MCs.

    Add the Dawn Raid movement, Che Fu’s soaring solo career, Scribe‘s rise to fame, and P-Money’s driving production across all these projects – and you have what many consider the golden age of NZ hip hop. Beside these obvious success stories, there was also a thriving underground movement, with labels like Breakin’ Wreckwordz releasing quality albums.

    It’s no surprise then, that in 2011/2012 we have Homebrew and David Dallas doing the business. Like all genres there are cycles, and, as evident in the prior timeline, it’s time for hip-hop to shine again. Dallas’ solo career was born out of the semi-demise of Frontline (producer 4I was tired of the touring). With Dallas also collaborating with the world-class production duo Fire & Ice, the buzz started to build with his online presence, and his clever lyricism struck a chord with hip-hop purists tired of the gimmicky content the genre had presented in the early-mid 2000s.

    His debut Something Awesome in 2010 showed signs of greatness with tracks like Big Time, Runaway, and the poppy Indulge Me – featuring Devolo of Deceptikonz fame – all displaying the kind of skills that pointed to a star on the rise.

    Come 2011 and the spectacular The Rose Tint set, and Dallas had developed into a fully-fledged artist. Songs like Take A Picture struck a chord with hipsters and purist rap fans the country over, and Caught in a Daze saw Dallas chopping it up with bonafide US buzz artist Freddie Gibbs. He retained his local roots with vibey cuts like Postcard and Sideline with local legend Che Fu.

    In the press and at live shows, David Dallas was picture perfect; eloquent, easy on the eye and a touch shy – a publicists dream come true but it was his stellar music alone that made him stand out both here and overseas.

    Which brings me full circle from 1988 to present – and the almighty Home Brew. I was first contacted by Tom from Home Brew via my Myspace page some years ago – back when Myspace was still cool. He told me he was producing music that I needed to hear and proceeded to send me some CDs. Initially I was sceptical, as I always was when contacted by artists out of the blue, and the CDs he dropped to me lay dormant for some months.

    I did however listen to them much later (although Tom will maintain I never did) and was instantly intrigued by his unusual tone. The feel and vibe of the tunes belied the content of the music. Although there was a lot of beer drinking and backyard lounging, the music also spoke of defiance and welfare-state protest.

    Couple their early EPs with the superbly conceived Last Week set, and then a series of seriously funny viral videos, and the set up for the debut album was complete. Their self-titled double album did the unthinkable in May 2012, debuting at number one on the NZ album charts.

    Which brings me back to the interesting 24-year journey it’s been from ‘E Tu’ to Under The Shade. While many quiz me about how ‘nothing has been happening in NZ hip-hop for a while’ – truth be told that it’s always alive and well, it‘s just that the masses choose not to check it out. NZ hip-hop will always belong to the people – and I try to say that in the most unpretentious tone l can.

    The artform, and subsequent music, was born out of the ghettos in the Bronx in New York. It was then reinterpreted by a group of Maori in Wellington. It was further fashioned by a series of gifted wordsmiths across this fine country, and is currently riding the top of the charts on the back of three drunken, drug taking kids and that’s just fine. Like I said, this music is by the people, for the people. Let’s keep it that way.

    ‘History Sometimes Repeats’ sourced from ‘Rip It Up’ No. 347 June-July 2012. Used with permission.


  • General

    From The Archives: Rip It Up – Shihad/Beautiful Machine

    29.07.16 | Permalink | Comment? | By

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    [Transcript]

    Shihad: Beautiful Machine/Ghost From The Past
    By Steve Newall

    Shihad still rock harder than anyone else live and for many they evoke memories of a happily misspent youth as well, which makes them the perfect subject for a film. The producers of Shihad: Beautiful Machine agree.

    Everyone’s got a story about Shihad and their own unique connection with the band. Having a spew while they played one of their many evening Big Day Out slots maybe, or (much more romantically) a pash on the footpath outside Auckland’s Power station in the ‘90s. l’ve had my share, the proudest being part of making their incredible homecoming show at Aotea Square happen in 2005 when I worked at the NZ Music Commission, and the most fun memory being their 2010 Killjoy show on my last day at that job — what I can remember of it.

    Their records, performances and presence across our country’s stages, airwaves, and media have intersected with so many individuals’ lives over the last 22 years that the notion of cramming the band’s history into a documentary might seem almost foolhardy. Somehow it’s all been condensed into ‘Beautiful Machine’, hitting cinema screens during this year’s NZ Music Month.

    Producers Grant Roa and Laurence Alexander, the former whom you might recognise as kindly Uncle Rawiri from the film Whale Rider, started work on the film some four years ago. The idea of a band documentary appealed from the get-go, and their choice of act was never too far away. As Roa puts it, “You’re kind of limited in this country for music documentaries for the big screen. There are groups you can look at doing something for on TV, but we were never interested in doing that. We wanted something epic and theatrical, and it’s a reality — there was only Shihad.”

    Roa already had his own Shihad story — he was a bouncer at the James Caberet in Wellington almost two decades ago when crowds of a thousand people were being sardined into the 270-capacity venue for Shihad shows. The crowd, says Roa, was “just absolutely mental, and I remember sitting there going ‘fuck I hate this music’. But I always found it fascinating.” Obviously that fascination still exists, since Beautiful Machine involved an exhaustive process of interviews, poring over archival footage and shooting live performances. “Off the top of my head, we had something ridiculous like 600 hours of content, so poor Cushla Dillon [Beautiful Machines editor] just sat there for the first month and watched it,” Roa recalls.

    While the notion of documenting the band may have seemed obvious to those outside it, I ask if it had ever occurred to Shihad themselves?
    “No, no, never,” says Shihad’s Jon Toogood. “A while back we wouldn’t have minded putting all our videos together on one DVD or a concert or something like that, but never thought about making a doco, especially a feature doco. We’ve done so many interviews with C4 along the way and Max TV, and blah blah blah. I just thought if you really want to do all that you can just get that shit and put it all together. Getting Sam Peacocke involved [as Beautiful Machine’s director] was a lucky fucking masterstroke. He met our parents and families and partners and everything and went ‘What is this about? What does it mean to be in a fucking rock band?’ rather than ‘Shihad, I’m a big fan, I really like that record’. Sam didn’t have that angle at all — ‘what are the sacrifices people have to make, what does it mean to make a record, what does it mean to put your heart out for everyone to see, what does it mean to make mistakes and stay together, and what are the compromises you make?’

    “When it comes to the band everybody knew the story,” Toogood continues. “There’s nothing hidden from anybody really. The best move to make this movie as good as it is was to get Sam to direct it. [He] just wanted to know the story genuinely because he’s such a decent human being and his intentions are right and good we felt at ease opening up to him about things. He sort of became part of the family, didn’t push too hard, and asked smart questions that weren’t everyday sort of music media questions. They were about personal stuff and family and the effects of what we do have on those people.”

    With its emphasis on band relationships of both the internal and external kinds, and mountains of archival footage, Beautiful Machine isn’t just a film for Shihad fans, and in a way maybe it’s not even a music documentary at all. Let’s leave the last word to Toogood: “Really its sort of incidental we’re musicians,” he concludes. “We could be any fucking profession. That’s what’s really good about the movie, it’s about family and loyalty, trust and friendship, and all those human things.”

    Shihad’s beloved manager and Flesh D-Vice frontman Gerald Dwyer tragically passed away from a drug overdose on the day of the I996 Big Day Out, but his charisma and energy are still evident in Beautiful Machine’s archival footage.
    Toogood: “It reminded me how charming and funny he was. The big funeral and death thing is what I focused on when I thought of Gerald, the loss of Gerald rather than the man himself. The film reminded me of how hilarious he was and how much fun he was, and that was really positive for me. I found myself laughing my arse off when he was counting the money in Timaru and stuff like that. It’s just gold — that’s the Gerald I sort of forgot, that was part of how cool he was.”

    “I found it quite hard to watch John Kingston and Andy Craig talk about him dying, that was pretty fucking hard to watch, but it was really positive for me on a whole, just reminding me how fun it was hanging out with him.”

    ‘‘It was a real shame that he was a little bit too rock ‘n’ roll for his own good in the end ultimately. That mistake has been made over and over and over again around the world and it still continues to be made. We’ve been lucky enough to not fall into that trap and [Dwyer’s death] made us realise what a waste that was and what a waste it would be for any of us to do that.”

    Cameras were rolling in Pacifier’s Los Angeles rehearsals ahead of their ill-fated Viper Room showcase, making for one of Beautiful Machine’s many fascinating moments.
    Toogood: “lt’s terrible, it’s insane! I’d totally forgotten those expensive rehearsal spaces with people sitting there telling us what to do and where we should be changing, and honestly it was like I think I had put it out of my mind because it was so fucking awful. But again that goes on every day in LA and we just thought these people knew better than we did — and we were wrong. No one knows better about our music and how it should he presented than us but we’ve learnt that lesson right there.”

    “lt’s actually insanity. I wasn’t really mentally 100% anyway. I was still reeling from fucking overdoing it in Australia and the world was fucking changing. Everything was going crazy and I didn’t really want to be in America because it was just fucking awful. It just sort of happened, you know. It all happened quite fast, even though we were there for what, 6 to 8 months, I can’t even remember how fucking long it all seemed really fast to me. That whole name change, there were arguments and arguments and arguments and me going “no fucking way” and “fuck this” and it was awful [laughs] — but it’s really interesting to watch! It’s very cringy to me, but at the same time it’s gold footage really isn’t it?”

    Shihad.MachineShihad: beautiful machine.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    ‘Beautiful Machine/Ghost From The Past’ sourced from ‘Rip It Up’, No. 346 Apr-May 2012. Used with permission.


  • General

    From The Archives: Rip It Up – Orchestra of Spheres/Planetary Alignment

    19.07.16 | Permalink | Comment? | By

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    [Transcript]

    Orchestra of Spheres: Planetary Alignment
    By Martyn Pepperell

    Orchestra of Spheres may be inspired by intergalactic observation but they’re slowly but surely taking over our world, one festival – and children’s show – at a time.

    Over the top of a naive, lilac background an octopus is playing a strap-on keyboard and a chicken-crow-hybrid is playing an electric guitar. Below the contorting limbs (12 in all) Orchestra of Spheres is spelt out in bright, primary-coloured bubble lettering. It’s a poster for a show the band played in February with Alphabet Head at Capital-E, in Wellington. Promoted as ‘funk for the whole family’, it was a show for kids.

    Rewind two months and the costumed crusaders are playing All Tomorrow’s Parties’ ‘Nightmare Before Christmas’ in the seaside hamlet of Minehead in the UK; a three-day event generated by one of the world’s most critically lauded music festivals. Handpicked by Caribou, who curated the third day, the band spent their time at the English resort enjoying bands chosen by Caribou, Battles and Les Savy Fav, that included No Age, Washed Out, Fourtet, Sun Ra, Toro Y Moi and a raft of other indie who’s-whos. Dan Beban explains how they ended up in the surreal setting. “We got asked by Caribou because they came over to Camp a Low Hum about a year ago and asked us to play at the ATP festival then. We thought ‘That’s cool, but how do we afford to go?’ A woman from Berlin who is part of a collective of agents who book all these alternative and underground acts got in touch with us, said she’d heard our music and was keen to book some shows for us.” Done and done.

    Cover image

    If the music Orchestra of Spheres enjoyed at ATP is at all conclusive, their influences are exponentially more obscure. “The first day was [curated by] Les Savy Fav, the second day was Battles and then Caribou. We turned up in the evening of the first day, but I wasn’t into any of it — then again I didn’t like the band curating, either. There was some really good stuff on the Battles day; it was quite different. The Caribou day had an ethnic, non-indie music thing going on. There was free jazz stuff and things outside the regular American indie-rock world which was really great. The Battles stuff was awesome; they had this great Japanese act and they had Underground Resistance, this classic Detroit techno group.”

    Orchestra of Spheres could have arguably played any of the three days and assimilated with the acts around them. They are inspired by the universe and have universal appeal. Five year olds are mesmerised by their outlandish costumes and Oriental headwear, and critically acclaimed bands are impressed by their schizophrenic musicianship. Their debut album, ‘Nonagonic Now’ – released in New Zealand 18 months ago and just put out by their international label, Fire Records – is reminiscent of the assaulting, industrial percussion of Battles (‘Hypercube’, ‘There is a No No‘), the schizophrenic punk-jams of Les Savy Fav (‘Spontaneous Symmetry‘), and the world-psychedelia of Caribou.

    Their sound is more than the sum of their parts however, which is appropriate considering their fascination with physics. “The cosmic part of our deal comes from stuff we’ve read. I was reading about using more than two, three or four dimensions recently. The reality of what we’re actually existing in is so incomprehensible and we don’t have the tools to understand our universe. It’s sort of cosmic gobbledigook but it’s interesting to sit down sometimes and think ‘Holy shit! No one has any idea what is actually going on!’ So those ideas are used in the songs and our sound comes from that sort of wonder.”

    Musically Orchestra of Spheres are a hybrid of the solid-yet-eclectic sonic experiences each member brings to the band, as Beban explains. “We all come from different angles. I’ve come from playing improvised music and free jazz and that more out – there noise stuff. But I’m also really into groove music/trance music but from Morocco and things; whatever comes my way really. It’s a melding of all that stuff; not in a prescribed way, we just go with what we enjoy. For example Jeremy (Coubrough) who plays drums was Vjing at the Gathering ten, twelve years ago so he’s come from that angle as well as playing in bands. Everyone’s got different things going on. We all just mix it together like a big soup.”

    When asked about their post-All Tomorrow’s Parties plans, Beban exclaims: “Funny you should ask that today! We’re just off to set up and record now. We’re going to set up our instruments and not discuss what we’re going to do; it’s going to be improvised because we’re trying to generate new songs. We’ll jam for maybe four or five hours and go back and grab the bits that were good and try and replicate them and see if we can play them again. Some of the tunes we play now we wrote a year ago but we’re only playing them well now after playing them 100 times. They’re always changing which is really fun; they never stick to the static song structure.” And while they’ll always find time for a kids performance, Orchestra of Spheres – international releases, European tours and all – are about to exist on a whole new plane.

    ‘Nonagonic Now’ is out now.

    Orchestra Of Spheres:
    Bandcamp
    Website
    Facebook

    ‘Planetary Alignment’ sourced from Rip It Up, No. 346 Apr-May, 2012. Used with permission.


  • General

    From The Archives: Rip It Up – The Phoenix Foundation/Tale of the Tracks

    05.07.16 | Permalink | Comment? | By

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    [Transcript]

    TALES OF THE TRACKS/THE PHOENIX FOUNDATION
    by Des Sampson

    When Samuel Flynn Scott, Luke Buda and Conrad Wedde met at Wellington High School it was their shared love of music – and the TV show MacGyver – which led to them forming The Phoenix Foundation, in 1997. But they never expected to still be together, or more popular than ever, 16 years on. In fact, according to Flynn Scott, they may never have released any records together if it weren’t for a twist of fate from the off, with their debut album Horsepower.

    Horsepower (2003)
    This Charming Van

    “That song is a very important in the history of the band, because we’d basically broken up after doing the China Cove EP, in 2000. Luke was overseas, Conrad was working on other stuff and I didn’t know what I wanted to do because I wasn’t really happy with any songs that I had written. Then I started this notebook, where I wrote down all these stupid song titles, and ‘This Charming Van’ was probably the stupidest of the lot. But, from that, I wrote this song about a really boring job I had for a film company, where me and my friend Puck were driving out to a warehouse in this crappy, old van and tidying up all their props. We spent nearly a month doing that, which was mind-numbingly boring, but I got a quite beautiful, haunting song out of it! Then Luke got back from overseas and, even though the band didn’t really exist anymore, I showed him the song and suggested we record it, to see what happened. He was really keen to give it a go and while we were recording it Conrad came into the studio, heard the song and decided he wanted to add some beautiful piano parts to it. So, if that song hadn’t come about, I don’t know if The Phoenix Foundation would have ever happened because it really was the rebirth of us, as a band, and helped kick start us into making our first, full length album.”

    Let Me Die A Woman

    “That song came about from me watching this really disturbing film about sex changes and trans-genderism, called Let Me Die A Woman. It’s quite a morally suspect film — I think if someone was to make it now, it would have to be done more honestly and sympathetically — and when I watched it I found it really upsetting, but also very moving. Even though that film was where the ideas for this song grew out of, I don’t know if the song itself has anything to do with transgender issues… It does have a pretty poignant video though, which maybe reflects the mood of that film.”


     

    Pegasus (2005)
    Damn the River

    “There are two sides to Pegasus. Either the songs have vocals on them and are quite short and snappy, or else they’re instrumental, more convoluted and quite film-like. ‘Damn the River’ is probably the best example of one of the short, snappy songs because it just has a couple of verses, a couple of choruses and then an outro. It was us trying to do something like a Smiths’ single, which is why it’s only two minutes long. I’m still really happy with that song, how it sounds and how we managed to refine it down to this little explosion of pop. I think we really did get the pop structure completely right on it.”

    Hitchcock

    “The flipside to a song like ‘Damn the River’ is ‘Hitchcock.’ It’s an instrumental that was written by Will Ricketts, when he was still in the band, and then dressed-up by Luke and Conrad. It’s a very haunting, weird, zombie-rock piece of music which somehow ended up being one of our most popular songs. It’s also the song that led to us writing music for films and for TV, because it has a cinematic quality that our music didn’t really have before that. Since then we’ve done a few songs for television and film, which we never would have ever done if we hadn’t written ‘Hitchcock’ first.”


     

    Happy Ending (2007)
    Bright Grey

    “I think the one song that sums up Happy Ending best is probably ‘Bright Grey.’ Before we did that song — and this album — we tended to write songs individually, then bring them to the band and finish them off together. But ‘Bright Grey’ was a new way of working for us. It was a much more collaborative effort, with the whole band having a part in writing it, as with most of the songs on Happy Ending. It’s a piece of music that Conrad originally came up with while he and Luke were doing the music for a film called Eagle vs Shark. But it didn’t get used in that film, so I took their demo and wrote a pop song around it. That level of collaboration was something we’d touched on before, but really came together on Happy Ending. The other thing about Happy Ending is that we wrote it after touring the States, so the songs on it, like ‘Bright Grey,’ have a much bigger, fuller ‘radio’ sound to them. I think that’s probably why it’s most people’s favourite record of ours – even though it’s not really our favourite record! But it meant ‘Bright Grey’ got played on the radio a lot, along with ‘40 Years’ and ‘Bleaching Sun,’ so that was good, I suppose. ‘Bright Grey’ is still probably our biggest single in New Zealand, to this day.”


    Buffalo (2010)
    Wonton

    “We really wanted to go for a Roxy Music, Avalon-era type of song – a really polished, lush sounding song – which I think we achieved with ‘Wonton.’ I still like that song; I think it’s a pretty special track. But it was also really hard work and took a lot of editing. We laboured over that song for a long, long time. After doing that song, I’ve become very wary of ever having to heavily edit music again! Also, it’s kind of counter-intuitive doing that, because you’re meant to be creating something that captures a feeling, or a moment — not labouring over it for ages. But that does happen on some songs, I guess, and on ‘Wonton’ it happened a lot – far too much!”

    Buffalo

    “In contrast, ‘Buffalo’ was a really easy song to write. Conrad had the whole guitar part already worked out and then Luke started jamming on it and we all joined in and the lyrics and the chorus just happened very quickly, very easily. If you do something which feels good, right off the bat, and you don’t end up changing hardly any of it, that’s usually a pretty good sign that you’ve struck upon something that’s quality. Songs like that, where the core idea comes really quickly, are always going to be the best songs. People seemed to agree because ‘Buffalo’ — the song — got playlisted on the BBC, in England, and also played in Germany and across Europe which helped break that album overseas. We had such a good time making [the album] ‘Buffalo’. We did most of it at our own studios and it was really relaxed and fun. I look back on that time very fondly.”


    Bitte Bitte

    “That’s a song that I wrote, about when I was in Berlin. I was travelling with my wife – we’d been married about six months – and we took off on a big, overseas holiday. We had a couple of weeks in Berlin — we hired an apartment there — and really loved it. Berlin has a great underground scene and a really cool vibe to it, so the song is all about that and our experiences while there. It’s also an observational song; it’s about the part of town we were in, the gentrification that we saw taking place in the city, while we were there, and the consequences of that change and how it affects the whole character of the city. It got played on the radio in Germany, so we got to play a few sold out shows there, as a result of that.”

     

    Fandango (2013)
    Friendly Society

    “When we wrote ‘Friendly Society’, which is 18 minutes long, we realised that we’d have to release a double album – just because we didn’t want that song to not be on the album, and we knew it wouldn’t fit on a single one! But that was cool. We’ve always loved double albums, because they allow you to stretch out the music and explore lots of different things. The very first recording session we had for Fandango was two and a half days at Roundhead Studios, in Auckland, and that track was what we came up with. It was a live take, so what you hear on the album is pretty much what we recorded that day. We then did an overdub for it, straight afterwards, and got everyone in the band, as well as Neil Finn – who was just wandering around the studio – to come in and play guitars, do some chants and funny vocal stuff. My vocals on it are pretty trippy because Luke had an idea for me to sing the song though an effects pedal. So, when we were at Roundhead studios, I rummaged through Neil Finn’s guitar effects pedals – he has loads of them – and then put all these effects on my vocals, which made them sound really weird.”

    The Captain

    “Luke started writing that song – and ended up singing it – but he didn’t really have any vocals for it, except the line about the captain and a bit of mumbling. So, Luke and I sat down to work on the vocal arrangements together. When we did, I started imagining this person who’d left the sea and was now stuck on land, feeling a bit lost and ungrounded. I think that’s something the video for the song conveys — that sense of loss. It’s one of those songs that’s not really coming from a deep, heartfelt place though because it’s not about, for example, a relationship. But I think it’s still quite poignant and has a surreal quality to it. Although Luke and I wrote the lyrics together it’s very much a Luke-type of song with that yearning feeling he tends to have in his songs, where even uplifting melodies make you feel quite sad!”

    Sideways Glance

    “That’s another one of Luke’s songs which I came up with the vocals and lyrics for, but he sings. For me, that song is about feeling very awkward within your relationship. It’s about finding yourself at a party or a club with someone, you’re drunk, and you suddenly realise you’re not enjoying yourself – or being with them. There’s that moment of realisation, where you look at them, and think; ‘we should be having fun. Why aren’t we having fun together?’ It’s quite tragic, in terms of the lyrics, but it’s also quite a funky song, which makes it more fun.”

    Thames Soup

    “‘Thames Soup’ is one of my favourite songs on Fandango and the lyrics on it are quite personal. It’s a song that’s very much about being in a band, on tour, and away from your families for months at a time. There’s a weird sense of detachment and remoteness you feel when you’re on tour — especially if you’re somewhere like the United Kingdom, which is literally on the other side of the world and in a completely different time zone. It also makes any conversations you have very disorientating because when you talk to your family, back in New Zealand, they’re just getting up and starting their day and you’re either just ending yours, or you’re out, down the pub, getting pissed! That’s pretty surreal.”


    The Phoenix Foundation:
    Bandcamp
    Website
    Facebook

    Text from ‘Tale of the Tracks’ sourced from ‘Rip It Up’, No. 352, April-May 2013. Used with permission.


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