Hard News by Russell Brown


Friday Music: A Movement

Over the past decade and a half, Ian "Blink" Jorgensen has been a artist manager, tour manager, festival promoter, record label owner, publisher, musician and music provocateur. But before all that, and through all that, he was a photographer. And it's to that legacy he reaches for his latest project.

A Movement is a series of 10 themed art books collecting his music photography from 2000 to 2015. The work will be released at retail and via a book club: you sign up here (and you only have till Monday to do so) to receive a new book in the post each week.

I was offered the loan of the full set, and it's a remarkable work. We have discovered on Audioculture that the most compelling record of a musical heritage is often the photographs taken at the time, and the same is very true here.

Most of of the pictures capture the sweat, blood and snot of live performances by artists from Dimmer to the Phoenix Foundation, Lawrence Arabia, Shihad and Disasteradio, along with some bands famous largely amongst their friends, but there are also the moments of on-road ennui and horsing around that characterise band life. (Check out the picture of the Mint Chicks' Kody and Ruban Nielson at the 00:17 mark in the lovely promotional video below.) Still others catch the joy and madness of the crowds. 

During my brief time as an independent book publisher, I discovered that the book trade's idea of of promotion is generally very limited. But Ian is bringing to this project indie music's understanding of the importance of taking the object to the people. From next week, the release tour stretches from Dunedin to Auckland, with eight shows in six days in Wellington alone. In most cases, the release gigs are at unlicensed venues and people are encouraged to bring their own food and drink -- and take away their own refuse afterwards.

There are also a few screenings of an accompanying film, Movement:

The story in A Movement is told almost entirely in pictures and captions, But I'm pleased to say that Ian has curated a selection of his favourite images from the book and written several thousands of words about what they mean to him for Public Address's Capture photoblog, to appear next week. Despite our common interests, Ian and I have pursued separate paths over the last 15 years (his music camp almost inevitably clashed with my geek camp) so I'm very pleased to be able to cooperate with him on this thing.


In her NPR Tiny Desk Concert last year, Courtney Barnett premiered a funny, sad song called 'Depreston', the first new tune she had unveiled since the indie rock world had fallen in love with her two EPs. It stood out because it was new, it was different and it was good.

This week, 'Depreston' was released as another taster for her forthcoming album Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit (out on the 23rd) along with a video that couldn't be more different to the madcap clip for the first single, 'Pedestrian at Best'. It's all empty suburban streets and mournful, mundane beauty:

Also this week, another peek at another keenly-anticipated album, SJD's Saint John Divine: 'Little Pieces', a song about everyone's foibles, with Julia Deans guesting. It's the first video Sean James Donnelly has made for himself, and as my frend Gemma Gracewood noted, it has something of the playfulness of Chris Knox or Len Lye.


You know what's a lovely idea? Wellington's Old Hall Gigs, a series of music-and-arts events in nice old halls. The 2015 season opens with a show featuring a performance by Sheep, Dog and Wolf, at Charles Plimmer Hall in the wonderfully-named Innermost Community Gardens.

Jackson P kindly gave me his spare ticket for Neneh Cherry's show in the Spiegeltent on Wednesday night. The scene around the tent in Aotea Square was very pleasant, but the Spiegeltent wasn't really the right venue for a performance of her noisy new material with the duo Rocketnumbernine. Inside, it was all-seated, very hot and the stage lights mostly pointed outward, dazzling the first five rows. Some of the baby-boomers who came expecting some nice jazz-funk looked quite uncomfortable.

It was a lot better when we could get up to dance and Neneh herself was on fire, but I wasn't completely won over by the material, which got a bit synth-rock for me at times. Peter McLennan begs to differ in his review for the 13th Floor.

You'd have to pay me to see most of the acts at Westfest, but I'm glad it seems to have gone well at Mt Smart this week. The hard rock and metal audience deserves a festival, and being able to hang a local fest off Soundwave in Australia is a great opportunity.

Anthonie Tonnon begins a national tour in support of his album Successor tonight at Space Monster in Whanganui, a place where many national tours seem to begin. The album itself is officially released tomorrow, but you can hear it as Soundcloud playlist here:

I think you're going to hear plenty more about this record. I've had it for a couple of days and it feels like a real step up for him.

 Meanwhile, a week from today, there's this:

I think I'll go party with the kids.


Over at TheAudience, Dead Beat Boys channel the spirit of The Datsuns. They've got their song '2' on the new NZ On Air Kiwi Hit Disc and they're about to play a string of shows, starting at New Lynn's UFO tomorrow night.

Boy Wulf has been blowing up on bFM lately – and he has a new track exclusively on TheAudience this week:

Another remix for Janine and the Mixtape's 'Hold Me' this one with a house groove and a guest rap from Tunji Ige. It's pretty sweet:

And finally, an absolute must for party-conscious digital DJs: The Reflex has done his trademark stems-only remix job on 'Groove is in the Heart'. Contains additional Bootsy and added Q-Tip. And it's a free WAV download:


The Hard News Music Post is sponsored by:



To defame and deflect

The first of a series of reports on New Zealand's role in the Five Eyes surveillance network has been published this morning across the news services of three co-operating media companies.

The principal reporter is Nicky Hager, whose book Secret Power first shed light on  New Zealand's part in the international spying network nearly 20 years ago. He has been working with documents from the trove held by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, supplied to him by Glenn Greenwald, whose news website The Intercept also reports the story today.

Hager reveals that from 2009, New Zealand worked with the US National Security Agency to move to "full take collection" of the communications of countries around the Pacific, including those with whom we are friendly.

The reporting adds substance to what's indicated in this 2008 slide, which has previously been released by Snowden and Greenwald:

As the slide shows, the local centre for X-Keyscore, the "spy Google" the NSA uses to search and analyse global communications data, is the GCSB base at Waihopai. What we haven't known until now is the extent of the data collection New Zealand does in the region and when it shifted to the level of mass surveillance.

On Stuff, Michael Field does a useful job of explaining why we might want to eavesdrop on our Pacific neighbours, and there will doubtless be a range of opinions on the propriety of what what we're doing for our American friends.

But for now, it's interesting to look at the official response. When he was questioned yesterday by journalists about the story to come, Prime Minister John Key took what now seems to be standard approach to impending journalism: to defame the journalist:

Having yesterday dismissed Hager's story in advance as a self-serving lie – and suggested that only someone who was not "a good, hard-working honest, New Zealander" could think otherwise – Key is now declining to comment on the published reports at all:

"The Government will not be responding to claims made from documents stolen by Edward Snowden," a spokeswoman for Key said.

"As we saw during the election campaign, misinformation was put before New Zealanders in an attempt to damage the Government.

"The Snowden documents were taken some time ago and many are old, out of date, and we can't discount that some of what is being put forward may even be fabricated.

We "can't discount" that the Prime Minister is a space alien either, but it doesn't seem very likely. Indeed, I don't believe any document released by Snowden has even been suspected of having been fabricated. To say so is simply to cynically deflect the story.

 I think we can expect a range of official contortions as this story unfolds over the next few days.


Friday (Thursday) Music: Musical Vocabulary

For various reasons, I missed a lot more than I caught of the music of Splore last weekend. But a lot of what I did hear, I had a great experience with. None more so than the revelation that was Roy Ayers and his band.

I expected a tight jazz-funk group: I didn't expect the musical vocabulary employed last Friday night. Ayers' broad influence on dance music was built in to the set, not least in the tunes that, with their honking keyboard motifs, felt like deep, dark house tracks.

There was unfussy musical quoting; in one change the rhythm section dropped into a little dub reggae flourish, then effortlessly moved on. I will grant you, I was in a very good mood at the time, but my god it was fine. There's a little of it in Sean O'Connor's video here:

Not everyone shared my degree of enthusiasm for Roy, but there were other acts for whom I did not share the enthusiasm of the crowd. I mean, really, what the hell are Cat Empire? "A Womad band," my friend Nat explained, when I asked this question before storming off to get some fucking house music at the Beach Hut.

I also did not dig The Correspondents, a kind of novelty rave duo who played twice and seem to have been one of the hits of the weekend. Too bloody zany for me, mate.

And then, on the other hand, there was Earl Gateshead, a mad, brilliant, chatty old white guy steeped in sound system culture. I caught his DJ Stage set, which I think was heavier on the dub and dancehall  than the one he'd played earlier on in the afternoon. It was a nourishing reggae dinner and a show, and it made me very happy to see and hear.

I missed SJD because I was running a three-hour talk session (which went very well, thanks for asking) and then A Hori Buzz, because I needed to go and hang around our campsite on my own after three hours' talking. But I did see the Phoenix Foundation.

It is sometimes said the Phoenix Foundation's fans are 10 years older than they are, and there certainly were women and men in their 50s for whom their square metre in front of the main stage was a very happy place. But there were also kids young enough to be their kids (and who might indeed have been their kids) loving it.

What really made it special was that they played a luxurious 90 minutes in the afternoon – enough time for them to premiere some new songs, to roll out both 'Damn the River' and '40 Years', and for the punters to migrate back and forth from the grassed dancefloor to the comfort of the hillside. I think the only time I've enjoyed that band more was when they played a Great Blend a long time ago.

Later on Saturday, Race Banyon continued his record of seeming different every time I've seen him, with a typically complex and adept club set, with a new emphasis on house music – again, at a full 90 minutes. This room to move seems to be a real virtue of music at Splore. It lets you stay with a full, satisfying show, or means even half a set is a nourishing snack.

And then there was Sunday, and Mr Scruff's epic five-hour set on the main stage, 11am-4pm. Before, I didn't really grasp the the idea of a five-hour set – what actually happens over five hours? – but it ended up making perfect sense as the soundtrack to a sunny day, from the subtle sounds of the first hour to the wild finale of Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes' 'Don't Leave Me This Way' (I think it was the Dimitri from Paris edit). And then he dropped 'Satellite of Love' and rolled back into the grooves. Because, by popular consent, five hours just wasn't long enough.


 It's not all music. There was poetry too, including Tourettes' brilliant 'John Key's Son is a DJ':

Which just happens to have been released this week. You can go and get it here on Bandcamp for a dollar or more.

And, before I stop bending your ears about Splore, one more video. Claudia Tarrant's excellent account of some girls at a festival:


Janine and the Mixtape covers Nirvana! It's from a covers album project put together by the Pigeons and Planes website and you can download the whole album for free from the site.

Meanwhle, Wellington's Dre Knox thoughtfully embellishes Janine's 'Hold Me':

More local cover action, as Wellington's Black City Lights take on the Stone Roses:

 Tel Aviv's Shai Vardi doesn't usually make his remixes downloadable on Soundcloud, but in the past couple of days he's posted a couple of good new versions on the DL. This stately wobbler (don't let the Fatboy Slim part put you off):

 And this lovely Everything But the Girl remix. Spot the Yello sample:

Another free DL: Hober Mallow reworks Thelma Houston's version of Don't Leave Me This Way':

Over at TheAudience, if you like Belle and Sebastian, you may well like Wellington's Towers:

And just what it says on the label from the prolific Terrorball:


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Haphazardly to war

Here's the thing: what is happening now in the parts of Iraq and Syria controlled by Islamic State (or Daesh, or whatever you choose to call it) does represent the kind of proximate crisis that had to be fabricated to justify the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

Even if Mosul does eventually subside into the grinding, banal, corrupt state of  affairs that persists in the IS "capital", Raqqa – where the foundations of law and education have dissolved and rape seems to have become a principal means of interaction for the forces controlling the population – it will still be awful. Comparisons with any recognised state – even the dreadful Saudis – seem facile in the circumstances.

And yet, after the Peshmerga retook towns in northern Iraq, most of the Sunni Arab residents fled for Mosul. They rightly feared reprisals. Shia militias associated with the Iraqi government (and, in turn, with Iran) seem even more vengeful. Meanwhile, IS has taken provocative steps to make enemies of the states of Jordan and Egypt, which have sworn revenge and are likely to be unfussy when they take it.

The potential for the New Zealand troops being dispatched to Iraq to train other soldiers – and the force protection that will accompany them – to be caught up in something in which we should want no part is evident.

This is, as Jon Stephenson's reporting has demonstrated over years, what happened in Afghanistan: our troops handed innocent people into the arms of torturers. We also know, most notably via Nicky Hager's Other People's Wars, that the promised boundaries on what roles our personnel would and would not take dissolved before boots even hit the ground.

And we know, beyond any doubt, that IS exists as a direct consequence of the actions of the US-led coalition after 2003 in Iraq. The movement grew in the occupier's brutal prisons. We made the monsters.

IS is different to al Qaeda. It is unique in that it relies on controlling populations and territory – without land and cities it has no caliphate – and at some point before too long regional ground forces will, with US air cover, attempt to retake Mosul.  That will presumably be an unthinkably bloody event.

What would our hundred-odd troops provide? Officially, training for an Iraqi army that has had no end of training. Realistically, we will be there as moral accompaniment for the Americans. We will present ourselves as another enemy for a group that goes to extraordinary and brutal lengths to cultivate enemies.

The New Zealand government's haphazard series of justifications for joining the war have come nowhere near the weight commensurate with what we're actually doing. Even this, in an interview with Kathryn Ryan, the Prime Minister could offer only as a prediction that the deployment was planned for two years. And what were we seeking to achieve? He said:

"Sunni, Shia and Kurds harmoniously sharing power and working together in Iraq."

Even if things go as well as they possibly could, that seems an unlikely outcome.


Sunday in the City

One morning the 1980s, a man walked into my bedroom and demanded to know what I was doing there. "Sleeping," I mumbled, which did not mollify him. He was from the Dingwall Trust and had just discovered that the rooms in Swanson Street that the trust had been renting out cheaply as workshops were in fact being occupied as residences by the likes of me.

It was like that back in the day. There were some apartments, but in general it was difficult bordering on illegal to live in Auckland's central business district. For whatever reason, I was mad keen on it. I shared a dodgy warehouse conversion in Fort Street – makeshift internal walls and all – with future members of the Headless Chickens. I had a truly mint office floor above Progressive Studios in Symonds Street, where there was enough room for indoor cricket, and bands to play our parties.

But things have changed. Those lovely old rooms in Swanson Street were demolished to make way for a vile duty-free store. And the Auckland CBD's population is now heading for 50,000 – up from only 1400 in 1991. It's a massive change in after-hours density.

So what's it like now? What are the joys and frustrations of inner-city life? That's the topic of what will be the first of a series of Sunday lunch talk events under the brand Sunday Sense at Society and Nook in Exchange Lane, 95 Queen Street.

I've been talking to the manager, Chris Barron about doing something for a few weeks and he noted that it was actually local residents who'd been most keen for him to try something like this. It seemed only right that the first Sunday Sense should be about them.

So, on Sunday, March 1, I'll be talking about inner-city life with:

- Journalist and resident of Metropolis, Fran O'Sullivan.

- DJ, author and longtime CBD-dweller Peter McLennan.

- John Macdonald of Splice, a group that aims to foster community and connection between inner-city residents.

Society and Nook will serve brunch from 11am on the day and we'll have our chat for about an hour from 1pm. In between times, Peter will DJ some of the sweet rocksteady sounds for which he is beloved on Base FM and down at Webstock. Society and Nook is a really nice place and we'd love to see you (and hear from you) on Sunday week.

So, that's:

Sunday Sense: Living for the City

Society and Nook

Exchange Lane, 95 Queen Street

11am-3pm, Sunday March 1.