Hard News by Russell Brown


Friday Music: Out there in the world

Friday Music posts here don't generally have much to do with my day job helping make a media TV show, but next week's Media Take is an exception. We're putting together a New Zealand music month-themed programme and one of the things I want to look at is whether the "Lorde Effect" happened.

When Ella Yelich-O'Connor got on her way to pop stardom a couple of years ago, there was a feeling that her success might open the door for other New Zealand artists. Or, at least, that having "New Zealand" on your calling card might get your calls returned for a while. To an extent, I think it did.

The most obvious example is Broods, who were there at the right place and right time to win themselves a major international record deal off the back of a single Joel Little-produced song. It helped, of course, that they had a few more songs in the bag and a manager who had learned his lessons.

Separately – but still enjoying some sort of halo effect – Janine Foster (aka Janine and the Mixtape) was working her way towards a deal with Atlantic Records in America. Again, there was a manager who had learned his lessons: Andy Murnane and his business partner Brotha D hit a point in 2007 where the company they'd built, Dawn Raid Entertainment, was in a mess and would have folded had they not been helped out of liquidation by South Pacific Pictures founder John Barnett.

Now, in their own right and as part of Frequency Media Group, they are both the hub of South Auckland soul and hip hop and New Zealand hip hop's bridge into America. Murnane in particular has developed key US media relationships – Billboard, MTV and others – that helped make Janine and her strange, serious R&B a proposition for Atlantic. After two years of working her brilliant Dark Mind EP, she released her first new EP with Atlantic this month:

My emphasis on management here is intentional. For decades, it was the missing piece of New Zealand music and it's beyond debate that Lorde's manager Scott Maclachlan played a key role in her extraordinary rise. Hence the chatter about Lorde and Maclachlan parting ways this month, which extended to this shitty piece of clickbait by Eamonn Forde in The Guardian, which was ably answered, in The Guardian, by Elle Hunt. I'd debate a couple of things Elle says, but she's essentially on the money.

There's a persistent myth around Lorde that she was manufactured by Maclahclan and her label, Universal Music. It's hard to think of a pop artist for whom that is less true. Forde gets it half right when he writes about the role of a good manager being the that of the person in the room who says "no". In Lorde's case, the grown-ups around her said "no" a lot – but they said it to the outsiders who wanted a piece of her. They gave her room to develop.  She's an 18 year-old savant now. She has a great publishing deal, a label that understands her and a powerful booking agency – and she's back in that tiny studio in Morningside making music with Joel. I really think she'll be okay.


As I noted recently, Scott Maclachlan has a new teenage talent. Thomston has started on his round of festival sets and showcases in Europe. He seems to be taking being "the next Lorde" with good grace. If he has anything in common with Lorde apart from their age, it's that they approach their respective versions of pop from strange angles, and say oddly serious things with it. (You might also say the same thing of Janine.)

Thomston isn't the only one in Europe. Eighteen year-old Eddie Johnston characterised his current global round of meetings and shows with this emoji masterpiece:

And Princess Chelsea sold out this hall in Prague this week (pic by Ben Howe):

Headed that way before too long, presumably, are the Phoenix Foundation, whose new album Give Up Your Dreams, is out August 7 on the British-based Memphis Industries label. This week they dropped a cool new single, 'Mountain'.

You can have that right now if you pop over to their web HQ and pre-order the album.

Also on the wires this week, the first taste of a new album from Pikachunes:

Pikachunes is interviewed here by Noisey – and is one of the 7 Kiwi bands you need in your life named this week by the Austraian website hhhappy. When local publicists frequently despair of places to even pitch stories, the frequently enthusiastic coverage of New Zealand music outside the country is quite remarkable.

And that's very much the case right now for Ruban Neilson, aka Unknown Mortal Orchestra. Pitchfork's story on the story behind the new UMO album Multi-Love is utterly fascinating. NPR has been preview-streaming the album, as has The Guardian.

But you know what those guys aren't doing? They're not giving you the chance to win a copy of the Multi-Love album. Well, I am. Three copies, in fact. Just click the email link at the bottom of this post and mail me with "UMO" as the subject line. I'll draw the winners over the weekend to give everyone time to get in there.


I really need to stop writing this blog post and get on with my day, but a couple of things to note ...

If you want to come along to the recording of that Media Take show, we'll need you at TVNZ (vctortia Street entrance at 5.30pm on Monday. Our guests will include Dawn Raid's Brotha D, Mark James Williams (aka MC Slave aka Loggy Logg), Jan Hellriegel, NZ On Air's Sarah Crowe and a panel of waiata Maori artists still being confirmed.

Tomorrow night in Auckland is like dance music Christmas. At Society & Nook in Exchange Lane the legendary (and I'm not using that word lightly) New York disco producer and DJ John Morales is playing a very intimate show. And 100 metres away in Vulcan the original house music vocalist Robert Owens is playing at Cassette – he also plays Bodega in Wellington tonight.

And you know what? I have a double pass to John Morales to give away. Click the email link at the bottom of the post and put Morales in the subject line. I'll draw that this evening so you can be well-prepared.

Meanwhile here's Morales's simply magnificent dub of Candi Staton's 'Young Hearts Run Free', a record he actually helped mix back in the day. No longer a free download, but I suspect he'll drop it tomorrow night:

In a completely different vein, next Friday the 29th, Wellington's Eyegum Music Collective is staging another one of its house parties -- this one featuring Graeme Jefferies of This Kind of Punishment and Cake Kitchen fame.

And on that same day in the morning, 95bFM is staging a great-looking Breakfast Club show featuring Pikachunes and the best punk band in town, PCP Eagles, from 6am to 9am at Real Groovy Records.

And finally, as a reward for reading all the way down, here's a free download of a sweet-as house remix of Chelsea Jade covering Rihanna. You're welcome ...


The Hard News Music Post is sponsored by:



Mediaworks: The only horizon they see

When it emerged last month that Campbell Live was facing the axe, I ventured that Mediaworks had become far more Julie Christie's company than it was John Campbell's. And I think that's the reality behind the news that Campbell Live is to be replaced and its eponymous host will be leaving the building.

The people who make Campbell Live could have done no more to prove the programme's fitness during the six weeks it was officially "under review".

In part because news of its demise gave the show the kind of presence in the public mind that had been denied to it by Mediaworks' refusal to do any marketing, audiences shot up. On 16 nights in those six weeks, Campbell Live was the top-rating show on the network. Strong stories – most notably the Gloriavale series – drove the national conversation. It actually probably helped that they knew they had nothing to lose.

But it's highly likely the decision had effectively been made before the review even began – and that  this simply isn't the kind of show Mediaworks wants to run every night at 7pm.

The kind view would be that although the threatened show delivered tremendous 5+ ratings, the people who watch it weren't sticking around for the fare Mediaworks was choosing to screen after it. Basically, it wasn't providing an ideal lead-in for the reality shows that are the core of TV3's programming strategy and they needed something that did, even at the cost of killing a programme that on many nights was the most popular thing it screened.

But I'm not sure if some of the people involved deserve any such kindness. There are politics of various kinds at play here. The atmosphere behind the scenes at TV3 was toxic well before the rest of us knew there was a problem. Julie Christie's actions in, as a Mediaworks board member, appointing herself to a new senior management position and then mouthing off to staff about Campbell's impending demise still seem astonishing.

Christie's conduct may have ensured John Campbell himself a decent settlement. And while he will be desperately sad to leave, he should go out grandly, take a well-earned rest and then come back with something new. There will not be a lack of demand for his talents, and he now has the scope to do something different, perhaps even something outside linear TV.

It will be difficult for his colleagues. TV3's new current affairs show – let's call it 3 Sharp – is supposed to be on air in six to eight weeks and the only way they'll do that is to retain Campbell Live staff, even recruit the new co-hosts from the existing payroll. They will all have very mixed feelings.

The current Mediaworks strategy does not look kindly on stubbornly independent programmes. The intention is to create a joined-up media company in which each arm serves the other. Already, its radio hosts are required to talk up the reality shows on the TV arm, on air and on the internet. Both will have to promote the interests of the company's new events and and touring partnership, MediaWorks Nine Live.

Already, the establishment of the new Mediaworks Foundation as a channel for any charitable or fundraising activitiy anywhere in the company has limited the scope for the kind of advocacy Campbell Live has long done. I'm told the policy ("sick and vulnerable children only") will even prevent something as humble as an unapproved Facebook share. I also wouldn't be terribly surprised if there was pressure for "client engagement"  to influence 3 Sharp's editorial decisions.

But the absolutely key thing to understand about Mediaworks' current state is that its board of directors and senior executives are focused on the "exit event" – a trade sale or an IPO – that will deliver them millions of dollars in bonus payments. The far side of that sale doesn't really exist for them, still less for Mediaworks' present owner, the "vulture fund" Oaktree Capital. That is the only horizon they will, or can, see.


First-person media and the kids your kids are watching

This week's Media Take, which you can watch online here, looks at a form of media which, if you are older than a certain age, may be a bit of a mystery to you. The kind where the camera looks in, rather than out.

Our guests included teenage Aucklander Liam Wavewider, whose remakes of photographs of mostly female celebrities – from Nicki Minaj to Miley Cyrus – have won him two million followers on Instagram. And 18 year-old Benny McNugget, who has 35,000 subscribers to a YouTube channel where he basically talks to the camera about being Benny. His Kiss Me I'm Desperate video has been viewed mre than 230,000 times.

They're not messing about. Liam's pictures take up to a week to execute and Benny's videos are clever and thoughtful. Late last year Benny was part of a Coca-cola promotion modelled on the one the company ran in Australia with Jamie Currie, the Napier schoolgirl whose Jamie's World Facebook page has 10 million likes. All three share an agent.

But they're also quite open about being oddballs. They reach out. Benny's most recent video is about how sucky it is being a teenager and having no friends:

The video pinned at the top of Liam's YouTube channel page is a remarkably frank, honest account of his own struggles with anxiety:

I put it to them that there's a Freaks and Geeks character to what they do, and Liam said: "I don't understand the question." Of course.

But it's not hard to see the value in kids talking unmediated to the camera. That's what made Attitude's Hey There campaign really sing. Young people with disabilities got to give their own account of themselves. Blake Leitch's video, which serves as a demonstration of the voice-recognition software he uses to do his writing, is quite a profound piece of work.

My own son, Jimmy Rae Brown, also made a popular video for the project, clearing up misconceptions about autism. I now just show people his video when they want to know. It wasn't a leap for Jim to start talking to the camera, because it was simply a matter of taking up a media form he's grown up watching: the vlog. There has been a lot of Angry Video Game Nerd and Nostalgia Critic seen (and heard!) in our house. Lately, Jim watches Repzion and Erika Szabo. He also, of course, makes his own film and video game reviews.

Our third young guest on Media Take, Vicki Makutu, the producer and director of the Te Mangai Paho-funded Hahana webseries, might not seem to belong in this category: Hahana is not a vlog. But she's pretty clear about the influence first-person media had on what she made. She's a working TV editor, but she didn't make Hahana like it was TV: its jumpcut editing style is consciously modelled on on vlogs. That was, she says, essential in in making something her audience would relate to. It's also worth noting that Ep 2 of Hahana features the sweary young Maori comedian Jimi Jackson, whose career, as he puts it, "started from a Vine".

There's some useful comment in the show from Pani Farvid and Jade Le Grice about how how first-person media – from selfies to vlogs – offers its creators control over their images: its point of view is the subject's own.

The question, I guess, is how this creative form shapes conventional media, which are produced on quite a different premise. Selfies are a part of celebrity and political culture and form the content of a Kim Kardashian's new book. But what happens to TV when no one under 20 watches TV and everyone's a TV announcer? It's all quite interesting. And it might just pass you by.


Friday Music: So Rad

For the past two or three years She's So Rad have been moving adeptly between two identities: the lush shoegaze outfit and the game console disco version of 'Breakout'. Their long-awaited second album Tango, out today, goes some way towards reconciling their many styles.

The oldest track here, 2012's bursting 'Confetti', sits alongside 'Say the Word', with its David Dallas rap. But I think it it's also a showcase for Anji Sami's role in the group. If their debut, In Circles, could have been taken for a Jeremy Toy studio project, Tango is absolutely the work of a band with two songwriters. Sami's cascading 'Cool It', with its mad Brian May lead break from Toy, is one of my favourite songs of the year and it's far from the only great thing here.

That's available now on Bandcamp (along with the option for a limited-edition hand-numbered CD), on iTunes and via Spotify. And they're playing an album launch show at the King's Arms tonight.


The Other Crate Record Fair is on tomorrow from 9.30am at Allpress Gallery, 8 Drake Street (by Victoria Park Market) and it has a slightly different angle this time, centering on curated selections from the crates of five local DJs: Sir-Vere, Stinky Jim, Dbhead, Selecta Sam and Average White DJ. Jim has put together some words and pictures about what he'll be offering up.

But it's the name that's not on the poster that might get a few folks excited. The great Nigel Horrocks is letting go some of his jazz collection. Whoop.


A bit of Friday fun. Some of the folks at Music 101 have been musing over a potential New Zealand Music fantasy First XV and Zen Yates-Fill has had a crack here. I'm not sure about some of his picks – and even his colleague Samuel Flynn Scott is emphatic that there are too many small folk.

Shall we have a go? I've made a start. Feel free to debate ...



12 and 13: Anika Moa and Hollie Smith.

Strong and skilled with a long history of playing together. The Nonu-Smith combination of this team


10: Shayne Carter

Shayne's dalliances with the round-ball game set him in good stead as a pivot. Stylish, tough and, importantly, popular with the ladies.

9: P Money

What do you want in a halfback? You want fast hands, that's what.

8: Mu (Captain)

More mobile than he looks – it's all the golf – and absolutely the guy you want calling it from the back of the scrum.


6: Ladi6

Tall, athletic and creative – and always a lineout option. Handily, already has the number.

5: Samuel Flynn Scott.

The Luke Romano role. Good-natured off the paddock, an enforcer in the tight.



2: Tiki Taane

Busy around the fringes, but also a surprisingly strong scrummager.

1: Coco Solid

A thinking loosehead. Disruptive at scrum-time, more than useful around the track.


Douglas Lilburn



Over on Audioculture, Andrew Schmidt tells the story of Sweetwaters in two parts: Sweetwaters on the rise - 1980 to 1982 and Sweetwaters on the wane - 1983, 1984, 1999. Included is this Murray Cammick pic of everyone's favourite security guy, Alby, who if memory serves me correctly, was a former traffic cop. 

Andrew is also the author of a very welcome profile of Bruce Russell.

Another good read: Twelve Questions with Ashley Page, who got the top honour at the Music Managers Federation awards this week. It ranges from how his dad Larry fell out with Ray Davies to how he came to manage Joel Little.

One Percent Collective has four questions for Music 101's Melody Thomas.

Vanguard Red finds out what High Hoops is feeling right now.

And Spin runs a bunch of tunes (including 'Pink Frost'!) past UMO's Ruban Neilson, shedding light on his musical soul in the process.

And one from the video crate: NZ On Screen has the lovely Gemma Gracewood-fronted ukulele doucmentary Bill Sevesi's Dream.


There's quite a bounty of tracks this week. Notably, Boycrush is back with a new tune (free download!) featuring Madeira (aka Kim Pflaum, formerly of Yumi Zouma). The drums are louder than they were on his debut EP Everybody All the Time;  it's lush, light and delicious pop with a groove. From the Girls on Top EP due for release on May 27.

The guys from Rocknrolla Soundsystem are back with another brilliant edit. Aretha's 'Chain of Fools' is right in their mid-tempo sweet spot and they don't miss. There are many pointless edits in this world. Here's one that picks up the spirit of the original and finds some new places in it. (Click through for the link to a free Bandcamp download.)

Not available as a download (guys?) but really nice: Wellington's Paddy Fred takes on High Hoops' shimmery 'Heatwave':

'Bohannon' isn't just the name of a track on the last Fat Freddy's Drop album. It's also the stage name of cult disco producer Hamilton Frederick Bohannon. This remix (free download!) doesn't stray too far from the drowsy blues of the original.

It's an age – nearly a quarter century – since Tracey Thorn released A Distant Shore, an album with all the wistful melacholy of a seaside town in winter. And now she's returned to that feeling with an EP of songs composed for the soundtrack of Carol Morley's film The Falling. She plays all the instruments herself and the recording of each was a first take in the studio. There's a Rolling Stone interview here. And here's one of the tracks:

Over at TheAudience, fuzztone fun with Auckland three-piece Heroes for Sale:


An eclectic, unexpected new mixtape from the corporate HQ of the Young, Gifted and Broke collective:

And finally, most people were working in New Zealand when the webcast of Prince's Dance Rally 4 Peace in Baltimore went out, but a recording of part of the show is up. Note that at 37:18 he eases into a seriously funky (no, really) version of the Waterboys' 'The Whole of the Moon'. (Hat-tip to David Bishop for that.)


The Hard News Music Post is sponsored by: