Hard News by Russell Brown


Friday Music: Record Store Day 2015

If we're all supposed to be over Record Store Day, it appears that no one has told the stores. Tomorrow looks like a heck of a day, and not only in Auckland.

In particular, the array of of live performances seems unprecedented. The resurgent Marbecks has booked a Princess Chelsea & Jonathan Bree DJ set at noon, followed by Tiny Ruins at 1pm and Lawrence Arabia at 2pm. They've also marked down all vinyl by at least 20% for the day and will be putting out a selection for clearance at 70% off.

Elsewhere, Southbound Records have SJD and Don McGlashan playing,  Slow Boat in Wellington has Neil Finn and Tami Neilson, Real Groovy has The Cleves (aka Bitch) and Larry's Rebels, Rough Peel has Adam McGrath from The Eastern and folk band Eb & Sparrow, and Vinyl Countdown in New Plymouth has a sausage sizzle and Peter Jefferies. Peter Jefferies!

Peter McLennan has all the RSD detail, including set times, over at Dubdotdash and Under the Radar has a Roundup too. If I told you any more I'd just be trading on their fine work.

Me, I sense a an inner-city bike ride coming on Saturday, subject to the weather.


But wait! There's more. The good people at Flying Out are opening a record store on Record Store Day.

It's at 80 Pitt St, on the site of the old Shaver Shop, a few metres from Karangahape Road. Apart from Flying Nun and Arch Hill CD releases, it'll be all vinyl, in the mould of Captured Tracks. The shop will open with a bunch of stock that's not yet on the Flying Out store and boss Ben Howe tells me they've gone for a mix of marquee titles – 4AD and Matador – and more unusual stuff. There'll also be a small quantity of second-hand vinyl, although they won't be a trader like Real Groovy is.

They'll also be serving "pay what you want" coffee.

The upper floors of the building will be home to the other business Howe is associated with: Flying Nun Records, Arch Hill Recordings and Aeroplane Music Services. And there's a big basement Ben hopes to develop into an event space.


Something Nun-adjacent on Audioculture – Richard Langston (yes, the one from the telly) has written about how he came back from London in 1985 to create Garage, the Dunedin-based fanzine that to this day is prized by New Zealand music geeks. As he notes, of all the gigs he's done, "it’s the one that keeps returning, the one that still seems to serve a purpose."


Note that Flying Nun's RSD special is a re-release of Shayne Carter and Peter Jefferies' 'Randolph's Going Home' 7" (which is perhaps why Peter is venturing out on Saturday). Having missed Shayne's shows last weekend, it was great to see him play a short set at Wednesday's Grantforgrant fundraiser at Golden Dawn. Man, he's strong.

Also of interest locally for RSD, Liam Finn is releasing a 10" vinyl companion piece to his 2014 album The Nihilist. It's called The Nihilist Demos.

And as I type, the Phoenix Foundation have just tweeted this ...


This seems worth getting behind: six-time New Zealand beatboxing champ King HomeBoy has been invited to the World Beat Boxing Championships in Germany at the end of May. After hearing his story (which is pretty interesting – he was born deaf!) at this week's The Project seminar at AUT, Ben Glazewiski of the web developer Springload decided to launch a Kickstarter to get him there.

You can read more and donate here on the Kickstarter page.

And here's some of King HomeBoy's chops, in a video that has racked up 1.7 million views:


If there's been a moodier thing this week than the new video for Courtney Barnett's 'Kim's Caravan', I'm not sure I want to know about it. Part lonely melancholia, part celebration of ordinary people and their ordinary places ...


The music month shows are starting to take shape. And once again Apra will be staging Covered – a show where local artists play their favourite songs by other people. It's on Thursday May 14 and this year features Tami Neilson, She's So Rad, SJD, Mulholland and Clap Clap Riot. 

A similar event called Under The Covers will be held in Wellington on May 1 at James Cabaret.

As previously noted, the month starts with a bang with Nick Dwyer's huge Weird Night Out lineup at the reopened St James on May 2.


The tracks ...

I somehow left this out a couple of weeks ago, but here it is now. A really lovely Lontalius remix of Janine's new tune:

This lush rework of another artist's track has got me quite interested in the Afro/Euro outfit  The Very Best – a collaboration between Radioclit and Esau Mwamwaya, a singer from Lilongwe, Malawi.

Here's one of their own tracks.

Over at TheAudience, some nice electronic dub vibes from Auckland's Romantech (click through for a download):

And the atmospheric beat collage of Wellington's paperghost:


BREAKING! The Reflex has just posted his rework of the Heidi Leonore version of 'Everybody Loves the Sunshine'. Free download, because apparently it's a nice day in London:


The Hard News Music Post is sponsored by:



What would a harm reduction strategy look like now?

On Saturday, I was part of a panel on TV3's The Nation, talking about drug policy in light of the programme's interviews with associate Health minister Peter Dunne and Stargate founder Matt Bowden who both advanced the view that the beleaguered Psychoactive Substances Act can fulfill its stated purpose.

I wrote late last year about how the government's amendment banning the use of animal testing as part of the Act's approval process has effectively rendered that process inoperable, at least for the time being. The government wrecked its own law.

Dunne believes it just needs time for new testing technologies to emerge – which he grants might be five or even 10 years – and Bowden believes it's possible to find a way through the mess already, which is why he has announced a crowdfunding programme for testing as part of a product approval under the Act.

In contrast to many people shouting on social media, I do actually think both men are sincere in wanting a regulated system to work, but they do also have other motivations; political and financial.

I think the key thing is that the market isn't going to stand still. There's plenty of evidence that since they were banned from sale (when the Act's interim approval regime was curtailed) synthetic cannabinoids (oh, all right: cannibomimetics) have become more available on the black market.

This bust in Christchurch last month certainly indicated they were for sale alongside methamphetamine. And there is speculation (from Norml and others)  that the weed drought of recent months has been partly driven by criminal groups' shift from cannabis cultivation (risky, takes time and space to do) to the production of synthetic cannabis (high yield and fast). It's analogous to the huge spike in the production and consumption during liquor Prohibition in the 1930s in the US. (People went back to making and drinking beer as soon as Prohibition ended.)

This wouldn't mean they were producing the psychoactive chemicals, just spraying them in solution onto some plant matter. The process would even use one chemical often employed in meth production, acetone.

Hamilton mayor Julie Hardaker told me she'd been told by her regional commander of police that the process is widespread.

Whether that's happening or not, it does appear to me that there are now more people importing psychoactive substances via the internet. This isn't necessarily organised crime as we'd usually think of it: quantities and distribution networks are likely to be quite small.

You only need to study Erowid to see that even experienced users can get into strife with the array of substances now available. There's also the risk of people trying to eyeball doses sometimes measured in milligrams. But drugs bought this way are actually likely to be safer than street drugs – they're more likely to be what it says on the label. By contrast, the contents of street pills and powders might be dangerously at variance with what they're supposed to be.

I've seen the results of drug testing conducted at a New Zealand festival last year (with a retail testing kit). In some cases, there's not too much to worry about: the guy who paid money for coke and got ritalin. In others, they're deeply alarming. Four out of five people who though they had LSD in fact had the much more dangerous NBOMe drugs (scary dose-response curve, possibility of organ damage or death) and some "ecstasy" pills were in fact PMA, which has been linked to quite a number of overdose deaths. Only a quarter of people who submitted their purchases for testing actually had what they thought they had.

I guess the question is: what would a harm reduction strategy look like now? Not in five or 10 years, but now?

What actions would a harm reduction approach prescribe? Should partygoers be able to safely test their pills before popping them?


Friday Music: Saving the St James (and the ziplock bags of history)

The news that Auckland's St James theatre is to open for a wonderful-looking show put together by Nick Dwyer on May 2 cheered a great many Aucklanders this week, but it's important to grasp that the place opening now is not the same as it being saved in the long term.

The main St James room, ground floor only, has been made safe for use – you'll be able to walk through the foyer from April 27 – but there's plenty to do to get the rest of the place compliant. And that will require contributions from the entity that owns the building, Auckland Notable Properties Trust, a couple of private trusts set up to campaign for the theatre's restoration – and Auckland Council.

I spoke to Steve Bielby of Auckland Notable Properties Trust, who seems a really nice man who genuinely wants to rescue the theatre. He was clear that a restoration "won't happen without public support". (I'm independently told that a council contribution could run to about $30 million, but that will depend on the exact nature of the restoration proposal being put together now.)

In the meantime, the Regent, West End and Odeon theatres, including the part which suffered the fire damage that led the whole facility to be closed, will be demolished (they're actually separate buildings from the main theatre) and construction will begin on the 29-storey apartment block to be built on the site. The good news is that in contrast to the original developers' proposal, the consented development won't be built right over the top of the St James, but on the front site.

Steve also had a great story about the Auckland City librarians responsible for the Sir George Grey collection coming over to inspect the site for any items that might need preserving. They noticed quite a few small plastic ziplock bags sticking to the bottom of their shoes.

Steve explained the likely original purpose of these baggies, and the librarians nodded and decided that these, too, were cultural items which ought to be preserved in the collection. So one or to of them are now, indeed, in the Sir George Grey collection. Because history and culture take many forms.

"There are lot of people who want to ignore that part of the St James' history," said Steve of the theatre's dance party days. "But that's really what the St James was for its last 20 years. It's been a lot longer since it was actually a cinema."

There is a great deal to be done before the St James can really be said to have been saved, but everyone I've spoken to agrees that things are on a good trajectory. This is excellent news.


I'm most excited for my friend Andrew Moore, whose recut of of his great New Zealand skate documentary No More Heroes – with a new, fully-licensed Flying Nun soundtrack – has its Auckland premiere at the Point Chevalier RSA on Sunday.

The Grantforgrant fundraiser at Golden Dawn on Wednesday for former Headless Chicken Grant Fell, who has been diagnosed with a brain tumour, looks like being a lot of fun. Stuart Page and I will be bringing back acid house with a Housequake! set around 8pm.

And I'd have urged you all to get in quick for tickets for Shayne Carter's all-seated gig at Whammy Bar on saturday night ... but they've all sold!


Good to see Radio New Zealand's Music 101 not only recording sessions but capturing them as video – and using excerpts like this one to trailer the full session. This is from the Paolo Nutini session that plays in full tomorrow afternoon:


Murray Cammick's ripping yarn for Audioculture about legendary/infamous producer Kim Fowley's adventures in New Zealand is one of the best things you'll read all week. Save some time (it's long) to savour it.

And, with a new version recorded and ready for release by Neil Finn, Chris Bourke tells the story of 'Blue Smoke'.


On the heels of new material from former Mint Chick Ruban Nielson's Unknown Mortal Orchestra comes a new project from brother Kody: Silicon. The first singlr, 'God Emoji' (geat name!) is slinky and electronic:

Click through to the Soundcloud track page for Silicon's social media and website links and a link to buy the single on iTunes.

A little treat for Lawrence Arabia completists. James Milne has unearthed and posted the the original live take of 'Dream Teacher', as recorded in "a bomb shelter in Stockholm" in 2007. Wow:

I do like a good Jose Gonzalez remix and reader Sol Kahn put me onto this. It's a free download in exchange for a social media follow:

Esther Stephens and the Means have an eponymous debut album out this week, in their smooth soul jazz style:

That's $10 on Bandcamp.

On TheAudience, Wellington four-piece Grozzy have a groove:


The Hard News Music Post is sponsored by:



About Campbell Live

In the two years since it launched as the half-arsed idea of a no-name news and current affairs chief who legged it back to Australia before the bloody thing even premiered, TV One's 7pm flagship Seven Sharp has shed its founding producer and all its original presenters.

It has had stupid money thrown at it, been subject to toxic, panicky management interference and been dumbed down and messed with constantly. Under a presenter who basically holds down the same two jobs as Paul Holmes did, but without the likeability or life experience, it has stabilised  to roughly the ratings  that TV One has historically had for whatever it puts on after the six o'clock news, which provides a titanic lead-in of up to 750,000 viewers (between 300,000 and 400,000 of whom Seven Sharp keeps).

There are good people there, but if you can remember anything truly great it has done, you're doing better than I am.

Over on TV3, Campbell Live has the most journalistically able TV presenter in the country, probably the best current affairs producer of her generation, a stable, dedicated team and the oversight of the strongest and most enduring news manager of the modern TV era. While there have been some flat spells in its 10 years on screen, it has also reeled off a series of important, influential and long-running stories, and tugged its readers' heartstrings the way TV current affairs should. By contrast to Seven Sharp, it holds on to most of its lead-in news viewers and occasionally does better.

Guess which one is probably for the chop?

On one level, it's all in the numbers. As Throng noted recently, Campbell Live's ratings in the week of its 10th anniversary weren't just bad, they were some of the worst it has ever earned. Almost four times as many people watched Seven Sharp. More watched Shortland Street.

NOTE: It has just been pointed out to me what was going on in Campbell Live's anniversary week: the cricket. It looks like the two worst nights were, respectively, the night of New Zealand's semi-final against South Africa and Australia's semi against India. Seven Sharp does seem to have been less badly hit, but this is an important bit of context.

On another level: meet the new boss. As part of Mediaworks' recapitalisation in 2013, a four-handed board including former Eyeworks and Living Channel CEO Julie Christie was appointed. The conventional separation of governance and management finally fell apart in February this year when a new management role was created for Christie: acting manager of TV and video strategy.

But according to a story by Nick Grant for NBR on April 2, Christie had been making her presence felt well before that:

NBR understands last year Ms Christie made it known Campbell Live's days were numbered.

Julie's very public about what she thinks about people," says one source, "and she had a real crisis with John Campbell as a result of criticising him severely.

"She went around saying, 'He's over, he's finished'," the insider claims.

Several sources confirm Mr Campbell became aware of Ms Christie's prejudicial remarks about his future, leading to to an "ongoing dialogue" stretching over months.

That "dialogue" was still in train when Mr Campbell's contract was up for renewal at the end 2014, by which stage the matter had reached the desk of new group chief executive Mark Weldon.

Grant goes on to note that "Mr Campbell's negotiating position and resulting contract were much enhanced by Ms Christie's frankly expressed opinions."

And good bloody job too. For someone in governance to behave as Christie is said to have done – when her target was coming up for a contract renewal – is not so much unwise as insanely irresponsible. If Grant is right, she's cost the company a lot of money. She might have been able to get away with this kind of thing as CEO of her own companies, but as a board member helicoptered in to an invented management position it's frankly inept.

And yet, it's Christie's company more than it is Campbell's now. TV3 had already oriented itself towards towards event television before the new board was put in place. Christie's strategy of relying yet more on localised reality formats is risky – these shows are expensive and they run out of steam quite quickly – but it's where the company is going.

But Mediaworks is also orienting itself towards its much more profitable arm: radio. The channel that used to be C4 is now Edge TV, an arm of the profitable pop music station. With Paul Henry, breakfast TV is now simultaneously breakfast radio.

With that shift comes editorial implications. Commercial talk radio is less about diligent pursuit of the facts (and I do not mean any slight on Radio Live's many skilled news reporters here) than it is about reckons. It's the culture that allows Roastbusters radio disasters to happen.

There's still a difference. When Mike Hosking poo-pooed global warming on Seven Sharp, he was saying something that was just another idle day on commercial talk radio. On TV, Hosking was quietly hauled in after Seven Sharp's sponsor, RaboBank, got antsy about a flood of complaints via its Facebook page. And yes, now you're asking, things have reached a strange pass when the grown-up editorial voice in the room belongs to the damn sponsor.

As I write, the #SaveCampbellLive hashtag is trending number one on New Zealand Twitter – ironically achieving the all-important engagement numbers TV3 didn't get this week with the Paul Henry launch. There's also a petition calling on potential major advertisers to get in behind the show and another directed at Mediaworks management. That may not be enough to actually save Campbell Live.

If I'm right, and I don't really want to be, I would hope that a good new home – hell, maybe even a better home – can be found for the great talent on that show. Ironically, such a home would be the public broadcaster that we don't have. While some in the present government probably care about that lack, hand-wringing isn't budget and it certainly isn't vision or commitment.

If I'm to be bleak, I would venture that we're seeing a vicious circle. Part of Campbell Live's problem may be that fewer of the kind of people who would watch Campbell Live at 7pm are bothering with free-to-air broadcast television. Perhaps in the end we'll just plain stop bothering.


Media Take: The Easter Show

Because its recording took place on the last day of the Easter holiday, we decided that this week's Media Take should focus on Christianity, society and the media. It turned out to be an interesting show.

I asked my Twitter followers who might be good value on the programme and was pointed to Francis Ritchie, the Wesleyan pastor who works with TEAR Fund and recently helped launch NewsLeads, an initiative to offer pastoral attention to media workers and, eventually, provide to journalists a service similar to what the Science Media Centre does on science stories.

Others suggested the Rev. Hirini Kaa, who has an engaging Twitter presence and serves as executive director of the Maori child advocacy organisation Ririki (he has also acted as a consultant on Ngati Porou's digital engagement strategy).

Our researcher came up with Clay Nelson, who attracted attention as the principal author of the provocative billboards posted by St Matthew's in the City and is now minister at the Auckland Unitarian Church.

And we also invited a couple who have attracted more more media attention than all the above put together: Bishop Brian and Hannah Tamaki, the founders of Destiny Church. My colleagues Toi and Tipare believed the Tamakis' work in rescuing people mired in lives of substance abuse and violence didn't get enough credit. It would be fair to say the Tamakis came out of their comfort zone in appearing on the show and I'm grateful for that.

The first part of the show, with Francis and Hirini includes Francis talking about his goals for NewsLeads and an interesting discussion about Maori spirituality in what, according to Census 2013, is an increasingly non-religious nation (fewer than half of New Zealanders now profess Christian belief and 42% declare no religious affiliation at all). I'd declared my atheism at the top of the show, but I'm quite comfortable with the language of Maori spirituality as a poetic and meaningful way of relating to the world. 

Then it was time for the Tamakis, who were coming off Easter Sunday's presentations of The Final Power, a grand theatre show about family and redemption, which looked like a good story.

There wasn't the time and it wasn't the place to conduct an inquisition, and I didn't ask about money, or about the church's high-profile defections in recent years. But I did want to know whether Brian stood by some of the things he has said in public over time.

His comments on homosexuality are notorious (gays are "perverts" who are "warping" the country, etc), but he and Hannah are very publicly friends with Jevan Goulter, an out gay man who was there in support for the recording. They had attended a fundraiser for Georgina Beyer. Might Brian acknowledge his views had evolved over the years?

I also wanted to know about Vipers of Religion, an awful sermon that featured as an MP3 on his website for years. I characterised it in a blog post thus:

He describes Islam as “that devilish thing” and the construction of a Buddhist temple in Botany Downs as “opening a door from Hell”, and then goes on to link both with “immigrants … who won’t change their demon religions” and are “pouring in” to New Zealand as a result of a “demon” looking around the world for openings where God has been pushed out. They are, he claims, bringing with them the economic and social degradation that their wicked faiths have wrought on their countries of origin.

These are terrible, dangerous things for him to be telling his vulnerable flock about their neighbours.

What happened was quite strange. The questions first went unanswered and then the speech I was pressing him on was defended as the inevitable word of God. It seemed as if neither of them was capable of connecting these terrible words with real-life actions, or that the Bishop's pride would never allow for any revision. Some of the comments on immigrants at the end of the show ran pretty close to the line.

"I just wanted Brian to say he was wrong," I explained to Hannah as the lights went down.

They both laughed.

"Well he's never going to say that!"

She told me that Destiny's notorious Enough is Enough march was necessary "because what they really wanted was marriage," which was probably true. And "they" got it in the end, without any obvious retribution from God.

"And also," she said. "They wanted to make it legal for an eight year-old girl to have sex with an adult. That was in the same law."

I need hardly tell you it wasn't.

I had genuinely expected that Brian Tamaki's rhetoric might have shifted in line with his and his wife's personal lives – after all, they talk, if a little defensively, about their gay friends and family. But it hasn't. And it's not really rhetoric. In contrast to the others on the programme, they didn't seem able to actually discuss faith. I wonder if this is the true peril of living cloistered in a "City of God": you can no longer talk to anyone outside. And yet, for all that they tithe and tax and preen, the Tamakis do lift up some people who seem beyond other help.

I'm still grateful they came on the programme, and I am taking in good part Hannah's subsequent trash-talking of me on Twitter. That's okay, it was funny rather than mean, and I don't need anyone else to defend me, or especially to be rude.

Like many atheists, I am actually quite interested in religion (famously, atheists and agnostics did better in Pew Religion's quiz 2010 quiz than people of any faith) and I really enjoyed doing this show. It was great to meet Hirini and Clay in person, and I've asked Francis to think about what he could write for a Public Address audience.

I'm also glad to have been able to put questions to the Tamakis, even if the answers were not very satisfactory. For all the witless, hateful speech over the years, I don't feel the contempt for them that I do for, say, Bob McCoskrie of Family First. I don't hate them. Indeed, at times this week I felt a little sorry for them as the words whirled around them.

You can watch last night's episode of Media Take on-demand here.