Hard News by Russell Brown


Friday Music: Back to a thousand dances

The remarkable thing about Courtney Barnett is that she's not only touring the world saving rock 'n' roll, she's the active centre of a whole Melbourne scene via her indie label Milk Records. And she and her Milk Records friends went even further recently when they performed Patti Smith's Horses album for the Melbourne Festival.

Happily, it was captured on video. And from the spine-tingling and oh-so-familiar chords that open Adalita's version of 'Gloria', it's brilliant and emerges as not just a tribute to Patti Smith's album, but an evocation of the soul of Melbourne's rock music tradition. Watch it loud:


On a more modest, but equally heartwarming, level, alt-Auckland paid tribute to one of its own last Saturday at Real Groovy Records. To mark the first vinyl release of Darcy Clay's Jesus I Was Evil EP, his original band and guest vocalists got up to play some of the songs. Among them, Mr Mikey Havoc, as captured by Peter McLennan:

Peter's videos of other tunes are here. But there's also a recording of Emily Littler's brilliantly rockin' version of 'All I Gotta Do' (the guitars were a lot louder live btw):

I'd like to hear Street Chant cover that. Just sayin'.

PS: I gather Real Groovy isn't far off announcing its future location. It's not K Road and it's not even far from where the store is now. But what they're doing sounds really cool.


Echo Festival, formerly McLaren Valley Festival, was cancelled by its promoters yesterday, citing "slow ticket sales". It seems a fairly long way out to be cancelling a January festival, but I wonder if the promoters ever really had a handle on what they were doing.

I was one of the people who actually had bought a ticket for the first of the relocated Vector Arena shows and I'm pretty bummed that I won't be seeing what was, for me, a dream lineup – Flaming Lips, Jamie Xx, Courtney Barnett – at such a good price. But I also wonder if that huge bill over two nights was really viable. I know of one promoter who put in a sensible offer on one act and was about to sign then got gazumped by Echo.

But that does leave a bunch of international acts at a loose end in this part of the world in January and I would think some of them will be picked up. We can always dream of the Flaming Lips at the St James or Jamie Xx at the Town Hall ...


There's some rich irony in the fact that the year the Vodafone New Zealand Music Awards hit peak outrage was the one when Paul Henry didn't appear.

Even the decision not to screen the Best Māori Album award – as plainly unsatisfactory as that was – isn't new. That's been the case for the past two or three years. It's not possible to screen a live show on commercial TV without skipping some parts (in all, six awards were not covered and it was TV3's decision which ones they were).

But this year's combination of an unconventional host and a live broadcast on a mainstream channel (last year was the first time the awards went out live, but that was on Four) aroused the ire of a great many people who normally don't care much about New Zealand music at all.

I don't rate Taika Waititi's hosting performance quite as highly as he does – he wasn't bad, but I'm not sure if he has the stand-up chops for the kind of lengthy monologues he was doing. But the staging (which looked awesome live in the room) and the ins and outs of the broadcast programme didn't do him any favours. It made a lot more sense in the room.

It's a tricky balance for Recorded Music New Zealand. To stage a big show they need sponsors (in addition to help from NZ On Air) and those sponsors place a high value on prime-time TV exposure. But MediaWorks' habit of treating the awards as a promotion for its media assets (Jay Jay and Dom presenting the hip hop award?) is becoming grating.

I gather there's a mood at RMNZ toward bringing the awards more back to the music. That would be good. Imagine how much fun the Exponents Hall of Fame tribute would have been had it rocked out with three star-studded cover versions instead of just one. I think making the end of the night more like a gig is something worth considering.

But, you know, I thought it was a good night and I had a great time at and around the middle-aged media white guys table (REPRESENT!) at the very back of the room. And I'm rolling my eyes at the pearl-clutching going on in the likes of this terribly-written Stuff review. No, Gin Wigmore wasn't slurring (I'm not sure if she's even drinking after her recent illness) and her trash-talking of fellow nominee Anika Moa (see the prequel in Anika's red carpet report) was funny as hell.

Look, while there might be a few too many sponsor tables these days, it's still a hall full of music folk. They might just become more boisterous and social as the evening wears on. Some of them might even say cuss words. I know, I know – everyone should sit respectfully through two and half hours of free drinks. On some planet ...


I remember the summer the Jesus and Mary Chain's Psychocandy came out. I remember the place I lived in Marlborough Street. I remember my friends coming around, and playing it loud and looking out the window as our metre-high lawn undulated in the breeze. Yes, we might have been high.

Will I get along and see the Reid brothers playing the album through at the Powerstation on March 4? I believe I will. The irony is of course that when that record, a studio creation, came out they were more of a novelty than a live band. (One of the first acts I saw when I landed in London in 1986 was their labelmate Slaughter Joe. He really could not play live.) I don't expect to be the case in March.


Audioculture has published an appreciation by Arthur Baysting of the rock 'n' roll illustration and animation of Joe Wylie, who has latterly been a valued member of the Public Address reader community. If you've ever admired Joe's work, this is an absolute must-read.

Chris Bourke has a nice tribute to New Zealand jazz pioneer, broadcaster and critic Ray Harris, who died recently. Chris also makes this observation:

He was also known for fronting an excellent television show on TVNZ of overseas jazz clips, Jazz Scene, which ran on Sunday afternoons in the early 1980s. Tune in and you may catch Billie Holiday or Duke Ellington or Dave Brubeck. How unimaginable is that from our public broadcaster now? For many musicians of all ages it was essential viewing: they’d drag themselves out of bed around noon, enjoy it with the first beverage of the day, then try and hold it together till Radio With Pictures later that night. Now, we have YouTube, but it’s not a shared experience to the same extent.

Elsewhere, John Seabrook in the New Yorker tries to convince Adele that she's going to destroy Spotify (and thus the entire music industry) by not immediately releasing 25 for streaming. I think not.



Fresh out of Red Bull Studio in Auckland, Spycc takes the smooth up another level. Love that sample from Les Sins' 'Grind'. Free download.

Elsewshere in A-Town, Jah Red Lion and the mighty Dub Terminator are together again for a wicked tune about ... well, you know what it's about. Free download.

Matthew Crawley and some other men have convened to record and release some more dirty surf rock. Their new EP Hints is on Bandcamp and it sounds like this:

Wigan's DJ Harvey takes a cue from 'Gypsy Woman' for this total party banger. Free download.

And thanks to Jen Ferguson for the heads-up on this. London original Pete Heller has posted a mix based on his classic warm-up set for Shoom and the track listing – from 70s funk to electro and classic deep house – is heavenly. Click through to the Soundcloud page for the full list. Free download.


And finally ... With all the celebration of the Exponents this past week or two, maybe it's a good time to reprise a lesser-known Exponents song that's one of the best things they did. It's just perfect power pop. And Parnell Baths!


The Hard News Friday Music Post is kindly sponsored by:

The Audio Consultant


Badasses of Auckland

Hello! We have one more Orcon IRL talk event for the year – and this one's a bit different. Rather than being at Golden Dawn, we'll be in Aotea Square on December 5, as part of Summer in the Square. Look here's our Badasses of Auckland event page. It's very official.

Badasses? Yes, badasses. Esther Macintyre and I will be talking to three people who each in their own ways take no prisoners: ace New Zealand Herald education reporter Kirsty Johnston, who upends every round she comes to and shakes out the stories; film producer Ant Timpson, who has found ways to make movies and take them gurgling and screaing to the world; and Sophie Roberts, who has had a big, bold first year as Silo Theatre's artistic director. And then we'll all convene on a panel and answer your questions.

We'll be under a shade tent in the square and you might just be relaxing on one of the free deckchairs. Our session officially runs from 1-5pm, and it'll start with some nice music and finish with a performance on the bandstand (there's a bandstand) by current 95bFM No.1 L V J, with the talk parts in the middle.

We'll take breaks so you can go get drinks and things and you can stay for it all or just stroll up for a bit. I'll update you with runsheet times next week. But for now, make note that we're in Aotea Square 1-5pm on Saturday, December 5 and we'd love to see you.

Thanks, as ever to our friends at Orcon.


The Police Ten 7 State

There is a popular genre of "observational documentary" programmes on TV that depict agents of the state, most notably police, as they go about their work. On the face of it, these shows – Motorway Patrol, Dog Squad, Drug Squad and the others – provide an insight into what the police do on a daily basis.

In reality, they don't, because as a condition of their participation, police have control over the content of the shows. So in practice they're public relations vehicles for the police which never show or say anything the police don't want shown or said. You might think they're harmless enough programmes – but what if the same rules applied to research and reporting outside family-hour TV? What if the police could control what anyone said about them and who was allowed to say it?

You don't have to imagine it. It's what's been happening to sociologist, author and Canon Media Awards blogger of the year Dr Jarrod Gilbert.

As Jarrod explains in his New Zealand Herald column today:

I've been banned from accessing basic and uncontroversial police data. As an academic who studies crime, this is rather crippling. It's also a staggering abuse of power.

The police have deemed me unfit because of my "association with gangs". This association won't surprise many people: I did New Zealand's largest ever study of gangs. It was long, exhausting and sometimes dangerous work, but it was worth it. The research culminated in an award-winning book, and academic publications all around the world.

To get my results I used - in part - an ethnographic method; in other words I hung out with the gangs.

 I have been deemed unfit to undertake crime research because I know criminals through studying crime. Bloody hell.

I know Jarrod and he told me this week that this bizarre situation has been going on most of this year. As he explains in the column, he requested a copy of his police file to try and determine what reasons the police might have for preventing him from conducting his work:

In reply I got pages of black ink. Everything has been redacted: censored.

I know a lot of what's underneath the black ink, because I was photographed, my licence plates were noted down, and I was asked to provide my details to the police on numerous occasions during my fieldwork. This may sound unusual, but this is how police keep tabs on gang members. When I was with gangs, they quite naturally did the same to me. If you think there might be something more sinister under that black ink, I certainly don't know what it is. What I do know is that with it blacked out I can't defend myself. 

It actually gets worse. This isn't solely about Jarrod and any other academic the police might see fit to blackball. It turns out it is not so new but very much news that the police have been imposing research contracts on anyone who seeks information that ought legally to be available to any of us under the Official Information Act.

The degree of control the police sought over research findings and publications was more than trifling. The research contracts demand that a draft report be provided to police. If the results are deemed to be "negative" then the police will seek to "improve its outcomes". Both the intent and the language would have impressed George Orwell.

Researchers unprepared to yield and make changes face a clause stating the police "retain the sole right to veto any findings from release". In other words, if an academic study said something the police didn't like - or heaven forbid was in any way critical of the police - then the police could stop it being published.

These demands were supported by threats. The contracts state that police will "blacklist" the researchers and "any organisations connected to the project ... from access to any further police resources" if they don't abide by police wishes.

This is scary and unacceptable and must be resisted as forcefully as possible. I might be wrong, but I don't anticipate Jarrod's employers at the University of Canterbury will die in a ditch over this. So it therefore falls to the rest of us to declare that what the police are doing to Jarrod and the control they seek to impose on others like him is incompatible with democracy.

I invite my fellow journalists, academics and other members of the public to join me in saying so in the discussion for this blog post. This cannot stand.


The Message

The announcement of Phil Goff's intention to seek the Auckland mayoralty yesterday was able and organised. Various important constituencies were represented in the room, the messaging was precise and the first person to be greeted by name in the candidate's speech was the present deputy mayor, Penny Hulse. So she's on board.

I wasn't able to take an extensive look around, but those present also included Green Party Waitemata local board member Vernon Tava and Ranginui Walker and his wife Deirdre.

The banners flanking the stage read:

For A Better Auckland: A city where talent and enterprise can thrive.

Both the speech and the acccompanying video repeatedly hit this theme. Goff opened:

I’m standing for Mayor because I believe that together we can create a better Auckland. A city where talent and enterprise can thrive - whether you’re a hip-hop artist, a scientist, a tradie or a businessperson. A city where we care about each other, our environment and our way of life. That’s the city I want to lead.

And then:

The late scientist and entrepreneur Sir Paul Callaghan talked of making New Zealand a place where talent wanted to live. He got it absolutely right.

My vision is of Auckland unleashing itself as a creative, innovative and entrepreneurial city. It should be a centre of learning and a centre of culture. A city rich in diversity and proud of its Maori, Pasifika, European, Asian and other heritage.  A place that attracts and nurtures talent and enterprise. As we grow, we must be a city where trade and investment can thrive. Where business is easy to do.

And finally, hitting it again:

I’m working for a better Auckland. 

A city where talent and enterprise will thrive.

The benefit of the "creativity and innovation" line is that it is so broadly aspirational: "a hip-hop artist, a scientist, a tradie or a businessperson," can all hear themselves being flattered and valued in it. Most of us would like to think of the city as attractive to the kind of talent we value. It's a fuzzy but clever message.

Goff alighted on diversity more than once, averring that:

We must be an inclusive city.  Where diversity brings richness not division.  A place where people don’t have to live in gated communities with poverty and homelessness on their doorstep. Where people can earn an income they can actually live on. A place where every Aucklander can reach their full potential.

You can't be part of local government in Auckland without talking about transport and housing. On the former:

We need to do more than just finish the motorway network. We need to get on with the city rail link to double passenger capacity and deal withcongestion at Britomart.  We need light rail on the isthmus, in the East and out to the airport. 

My friends at TransportBlog coughed politely over the idea of light rail to the airport and Christine Caughey wondered exactly what he meant by "finish the motorway network" (was he raising the Eastern Motorway from the dead?). But there seemed no doubt that Goff supports the bus-trains-bikes strategy already unfolding in the city.

"It’s the same for housing," he continued:

There are ways to bring supply and demand in housing back into balance and Auckland should be strongly advocating for those solutions.  Policies that give the building industry confidence and certainty to gear up for construction. Policies that put home buyers ahead of speculators. More intensive housing in the city and along arterial routes is needed.  But that must be balanced by good urban design, plenty of public open space and protection for areas of high heritage value.

It got more interesting when he talked about paying for these components of the Better Auckland. There was a re-run of what he had already said in interviews about learning to do more with less:

... operate effectively and efficiently ... eliminate bureaucratic duplication and waste ... fiscally prudent ... Rate increases have to be brought under control and offset by cutting waste and finding savings.

He also repeated his criticism of the two reports on Auckland Council assets released last week as a "waste" of half million dollars: privatising Watercare or any other asset was off the agenda. Being a politician, he was then this morning all over the massive effective ratepayer subsidy to Remuera Golf Club members outlined yesterday by Bernard Hickey. The irony being, of course, that this story came directly from one of the reports Goff dismissed as wasteful and pointless.

But the other side of the financial message was more interesting.

Funding for this infrastructure can’t just come out of rates.  Auckland pays its fair share and will continue to do so. But the Government must also provide funding to meet the needs of growth. After all, a large portion of the Government’s revenue comes from taxes paid by Aucklanders.  It must bring the funding forward to anticipate future needs rather than waiting until gridlock paralyses this city ...

We need to put our own house in order and make Auckland New Zealand’s best performing city. When we do that, we are in a stronger position to leverage Government resources to meet the needs created by rapid growth ...

I know how central government works and what it takes to make it responsive to our needs.

There's a similar line in the video:

 I know what makes central government respond positively. My role is to get the best deal for Auckland.

It seems likely that we're being primed for an administration where Hulse continues in her role of wrangling the various interests on Council and Mayor Goff talks to government, probably with a degree of Auckland Exceptionalism that will piss off the rest of the country.

And going by his quotes to the Herald after Goff's announcement, the Prime Minister is okay with that. I don't think the Right will try to put up a sensible candidate against Goff. For all that the capable Victoria Crone is musing about standing as an independent, she'd be mad to do so. Goff is standing as an independent, but he has an able and experienced centre-left machine on board. Crone, with no political experience and no machine of her own, would be obliged to go swimming in the crazy soup of the Auckland centre-right.

Perhaps Key reasons that giving the Auckland centre-right a leg-up would complicate the internal balance of the National Party. Morely likely, he realises that Goff already has a considerable head start and it would be better to work with him than to have to deal with a political neophyte, or worse, a flaming nutbar.

What this all means to contests within individual wards next year remains to be seen. I suspect the centre-left is hoping that backing a strong, experienced and well-known candidate will provide momentum and motivation. It could also turn out the other way, with centre-right candidates promising to keep Goff honest.

Goff was at pains to emphasise that yesterday was not a campaign launch, merely the announcement of his candidacy. Policy will come with the launch proper, next year. He has already drawn some clear lines: finance the CRL more quickly, prevent Port expansion into the harbour, don't privatise Watercare. But he will need to take good advice on what he chooses to say around the complexities of the Unitary Plan, the Auckland Plan and the Long Term Plan before having to actually state policy on them. Populism gets very perilous in that area, especially when you're promising "protection for areas of high heritage value."

But yesterday's launch was competent and confident. After he spoke, Goff circulated easily for photographs while the press waited at the door of the room. His meeting and greeting completed, he turned, strode to the door and delivered his lines. He clearly does know how this is done. 


Phil is down with the kids.

Phil is down with Auckland's ethnic communities.

The media awaits.

The stand-up.


Friday Music: All Being Well

Morena! All being well I will have crawled out of bed and hit "publish" on this post after a late one at the VNZMAs and I am now preparing for the very important job of having a couple of wines later with a friend and colleague. As a further excuse, my hard drive died and I still don't have my proper work computer back. What other possible option is open to me? Exactly.

But tomorrow, I will be at Real Groovy Records to join in celebrating 45 years of 95bFM. There's a live broadcast and stuff going on all day, including the release of Darcy Clay's 'Jesus I was Evil' EP for the first time on vinyl. The six tracks will be performed by Darcy's original band with guest vocalists, from about 2pm.

And I'm here to tell you that Buzz Moller will be vocalising 'Joelene' in the style of Darcy, Matthais Jordan will be sing 'What About It' and Emily Littler will also do a tune. And the singer lined to pay tribute to 'Jesus I Was Evil'? Only Mr Mikey Havoc.

It's really great that this release is part of 95bFM's current Bombathon pledge drive, because he's part of that story. As this great 2008 Sunday Star Times story notes, it was Bill Kerton at bFM who put his demo tape to air, and years later, when b spent a weekend counting down its 95 greatest tracks, number one, as voted by the listeners, was 'Jesus I Was Evil'. They called his dad on air and he was so pleased and proud.

I remember him, Daniel Bolton, as a sweet little guy with a lot going on in his head. Too much going on, in the end. I think the last time I saw him was on a bFM bus Breakfast, smiling, with a beer. But I still love that handful of songs he made. I heard this one on the b the other day and thought, man, that's mint ...


This has been doing the rounds on my Facebook network. Matthew Barnes spent too long on hold with IRD and snapped. (Note that I'm mates with both Dave and the Exponents and I'm pretty sure they'd find this as funny as everyone else.)


Aly Cook's Alan Jansson-produced album Horseshoe Rodeo Hotel came and went a bit earlier this year. But the single, 'Midnight Cowboys' this week shot to the top of the Australian country chart. It's a very Janssonesque pop-country hybrid: drums, a strum and a catchy-as-hell chorus. But the co-writer is actually Brent Hayward, aka Fats White. I recall him telling me at a party more than a year ago about this special song he had. And here it is:


The Unofficial Flying Nun Vault has come up with something a bit special. The Enemy, live at Beneficiaries Hall, Dunedin, 1978. It's fierce. And as Simon Grigg said to me, you can see why they terrified all the local punkers when they hit Auckland:


Andrew Moore's great New Zealand skateboarding history No More Heroes has been recut with a new Flying Nun soundtrack and is finally cleared and available for purchase on DVD at the Flying Out store. Here's the trailer:



Sleepers Union (featuring Simon McLaren of Love's Ugly Children and Mark Anderson of the Onedin Line) are back with a new album. They launch it tonight at Golden Dawn, along with Soccer Practise, and I presume they'll be playing this catchy little number:

Also on tonight: Grayson Gilmour and French for Rabbits at The Tuning Fork. And The Great North take their (yet unrecorded and untitled) album preview tour to The Wine Cellar.

Thomston has his first new track since signing with Sony Music. It's in the alt-pop-R&B vein of previous releases, but a bit bigger and shinier. I'm impressed:

A new remix from Boycrush's Girls on Top EP: this is by Introverted Dancefloor (aka Bevan Smith) and it's some haunted house. And a free download!

And finally, it's not actually new but it's certainly seasonal. If you click "buy" on this sampler stream, you go through to same on Bandcamp where you can buy that and get Copycat's retakes of a swag of summer soul classics. He might be in New York now, but he's apparently still on southern time ...


The Hard News Friday Music Post is kindly sponsored by:

The Audio Consultant