Hard News by Russell Brown


Orcon IRL 4: The Pictures

Hello! I'm delighted to say that Orcon IRL at The Golden Dawn is back this year for another season. Our talk (and music) events will each have a theme – and, because it's NZIFF time, the first one will be all about film.

Where: The Golden Dawn, Ponsonby

When: 6.30pm, Tuesday July 12 (yes, that’s two days before the film festival launches)

Hosts: Russell Brown and Esther Macintyre


The Tickled Twins: Co-directors David Farrier and Dylan Reeve reflect on what a long, strange movie journey it’s been – and where it might go next. There's a good backstory about how the film even got made that's worth hearing too.

Michelle Walshe: Director of Chasing Great, the Richie McCaw documentary. The interesting thing here is that this film is a matter of an advertising creative company – Augusto – going to the big screen. It probably won't be the last.

Ant Timpson: Everyone’s favourite bad-tastemonger talks about producing Sundance hit The Greasy Strangler (described as “a welcome oasis of filth, depravity and shock” by The Guardian) and the other films in this the New Zealand International Film Festival’s 2016 Incredibly Strange lineup.

And that's not all! There are a couple more things we'll announce soon.

Once again, 95bFM will be live-streaming the event, but it'll be much more of a prime time viewing hour.

The other big difference with this IRL is that it's happening indoors – it is, after all, sort-of winter out there – so capacity will be limited. This time, we're doing the RSVPs via a Facebook event page, because people seem to like that.

So either RSVP here on the Facbeook event page – or, if you're not on the Facebook, click the email link below this post and send me a message telling me you'd like to come along.



Dreams of New York

Matters of Substance has published my report on the UN General Assembly Special Session on the world drug problem – UNGASS 2016 – and it might at first glance appear to be a rather depressing read.

After all, this is a meeting that not only failed to deliver on the overwhelming desire for reform of the global drug control system expressed by the UN's own agencies and (to varying degrees) by the large majority of member nations, it's a United Nations meeting that failed to even condemn the death penalty for drug offences.

But there's a fairly strong argument for saying that the success of UNGASS lay in that very failure. No one can sensibly argue now that there is a global consensus on the UN drug conventions. No nation really need hold those conventions above the wellbeing of its own people. And we're seeing that reality unfold as the Canadadian government begins to consider how it will deliver on its election promise of a legalised, regulated marijuana market.

Drug law reform, of course, extends far beyond freeing the weed. It is increasingly, and correctly, being talked about in the context of human rights and development. For all the disppointments of New York, an interesting time has begun. The unfortunate post-consensus reality is that change may be a long time coming for the people of Russia, China, Saudi Arabia and the other handful of hardline countries where so many human beings live.


Friday Music: The Soft Tyranny of Streaming

I discovered this week that the national album chart includes streaming results, which is both inevitable – streaming revenue is now the biggest single category in recorded music revenue – and a bit depressing.

Until now, local and indie artists have been able to break through into the Top 40, at least for a week or two, by the simple fact of their fans rushing out and buying the album (much as Pacific Heights did in the June 6 chart). That looks like it's going to be more difficult now, with big acts and back-catalogue works likely to fare well courtesy of streaming listeners who don't react so swiftly to new releases.

I couldn't get hold of Record Music NZ CEO Damian Vaughan this morning to talk about it, but I understand why they've gone there. But it's just another step towards the charts being less connected to the joy and immediacy of grassroots music fandom.


Your mileage may well vary, but this year's official Glastonbury headliners – Muse, Adele and Coldplay – don't sound like a good time in Pilton to me. But that matters little when you scan the full lineup. Sigur Ros! Underworld! ZZ Top! Ronnie Spector! And that's just Friday.

When Adele takes the Pyramid Stage on Saturday, New Order, James Blake and M83 will be playing elsewhere on the site and earlier in the day, Mercury Rev and the great Ernest Ranglin appear.

On Sunday, it's LCD Soundsystem, Earth Wind and Fire, Bat for Lashes, Beck and ELO. It could see myself standing in a field slightly altered and really getting into ELO.

The festival's How to enjoy Glastonbury from outside the UK page consists solely of a lot of live radio and some promised video highlights (which will be easier to watch if they turn up promptly on the Glastonbury YouTube channel).

For those without a VPN solution, Filmon.tv has the broadcast channels, but that's not going to get you the six live stages in iPlayer. I know the Hola VPN browser extension is a bit ropey, but for a short-term free solution, it's probably your best bet for full iPlayer service.

If your FOMO needs treatment, I suggest Buzzfeed's Literally Just A Lot Of Pictures Of People Stuck In Traffic Or Mud At Glastonbury. This looks a bit like what happened the last time I went, in 1990 – when we left London on Thursday afternoon and finally parked up (after I threw a tanty to get our campervan into the camping zone) about 7am on the Friday.


Quite a bit on in the K Road-Ponsonby axis this week. Tonight at The Wine Cellar, Show Me Where It Hurts (Josh Hetherington on vocals and Fender Rhodes and Ronny Haynes) play a release show for the EP with Spammerz?, featuring Dan Sperber, Ben McNicoll and other jazz fiends. You can hear a taste of  Show Me Where It Hurts' electric piano songwriter swing here and the and the Spammerz? record grooves like this:

Also tonight, Bruce Russell and Marco Fusinato make noise with guitars at Audio Foundation.

And Clap Clap Riot play Golden Dawn ahead of their all-ages show tomorrow night at the Auckland Old Folks Ass. tomorrow night.

Tomorrow night, The Onedin Line make their K Road debut at The Wine Cellar, with support from Subpoena and Queen Neptune and DJing by Pennie Black and Tina Turntables.

And the friends of the late Daisy Ram are staging Doggy Style for Daisy, a benefit gig for her favourite charity, Chained Dog Awareness, at Galatos. It features Bailey Wiley, Eno x Dirty, Soltree and more and looks like a good way to hear a lot of newish electronic and hip hop acts for only $5 (plus raffle ticket).


Over at Audioculture, Richard Langston remembers The Oriental pub. Nice writing and cool posters.

And a new service will press up what you like from Soundcloud onto a vinyl record.

And Pitchfork previews Killer Road, the Nico-inspired new album from Soundwalk Collective, who include both Patti Smith and her daughter Jesse Paris Smith.



Aucklanders Sorceress celebrate their UK tour with a lovely remix from expat Aucklanders Chaos in the CBD:

More info here.

Turns out Yumi Zouma are mates with Cyril Hahn and he's done this typically delicate, floaty remix for them:

I am hanging out for the (now well-overdue) digital release of this bounding nu-disco banger:

And for kitchen-dancing purposes, this rework of The Commodores' 'Brick House' is a free download (with a bit of palaver). Yo.


The Hard News Friday Music Post is kindly sponsored by:

The Audio Consultant


Starting the cannabis conversation: The "other" law reform

The famously torrid debate over Homosexual Law Reform in 1985 was not the only racous public meeting to take place at Auckland Town Hall in that era. The year before saw The Great Marijuana Debate, which was chaired by the late Peter Williams QC. The two events even had an antagonist in common – Invercargill MP Norman Jones, who was reliably against all those sorts of things.

As we all know, reform of the law around homosexuality took place in 1986, and there followed the anti-discrimination provisions of the Human Rights Act 1993 (which may or may not cover discrimination on grounds of gender identity), civil unions and the Marriage (Definition of Marriage) Amendment Act, which effectively rewrote a swathe of statutes.

And yet, the law on cannabis – which also affects human rights – has seen no meaningful change in those 30-odd years. The law is now so troubled that New Zealand police have been practising (if selectively) a de facto decriminalisation. It's wholly out of line with the country's National Drug Policy.

The participants in 1984 were not alone in believing they were on the cusp of reform. And 10 years later, at a follow-up event at Waikato University, Helen Clark made a strong speech holding out the hope that "a consensus on a new, more rational approach" to cannabis regulation was within reach. Two Parliamentary select committees and the New Zealand Law Commission have recommend cannabis law reform. Nothing has happened.

And yet, if only because other democratic countries are acting, we may finally act too in the next few years. So what should a new environment look like? The options, from commercialisation a la Colorado to the most modest decriminlaisation, are many. And then there's medical cannabis and the accommodation with health practice that must be devised there.

These are the things we'll be discussing next Monday evening at – yes – the Auckland Town Hall. Start the Conversation is a public panel discussion featuring:

Professor Max Abbott: CNZM, Pro Vice-Chancellor, Dean and Professor of Psychology and Public Health, Faculty of Health and Environmental Sciences, AUT; Past President and Senior Consultant, World Federation for Mental Health

Helen Kelly: Former President of the New Zealand Council of Trade Unions and current medical cannabis campaigner.

Dr Warren Young: CNZM, Former Deputy President of the New Zealand Law Commission

Dr Chris Wilkins: Senior Researcher and Leader of the Illegal Drug Research team, SHORE Whariki Massey University.

Dr Huhana Hickey: Research fellow in Taupua Waiora Centre for Māori Health Research at AUT University

Tony Bouchier: President of the Criminal Bar Association.

I'm chairing the discussion, asking questions of the panelists and, later on in the proceedings, marshalling a few questions from the floor.

The event also launches the "Let's Start The Conversation", a national campaign for community discussion and debate around on the impacts of current cannabis laws. 

Like Professor Abbott, I was at the original 1984 debate (but in the cheap seats, rather than on stage).This korero might not be quite the uproar of 1984, but I can promise you it won't be boring. See you there, eh?


Start the Conversation

6.30pm, Monday June 27

Auckland Town Hall concert chamber

The organisers would be much obliged if you were able to RSVP here in advance of attendance.


Media Take: Three decades on from law reform

One memory always comes to mind when I think about the year leading up to the passing of the Homosexual Law Reform Act in 1986. I was on Queen Street, nea where I worked, when I saw a man getting two children to sign a petition.

I knew what it was: I'd been pitched several times to sign it myself. It was the petition mounted against Fran Wilde's law reform bill. Originally launched by the four MPs who aligned to campaign against the bill – National's Graeme Lee and Norm Jones and Labour's Geoff Braybrooke and Alan Wallbank – it was taken over by Keith Hay and Peter Tait who, with the assistance of The Salvation Army, campaigned for signatures in streets, schools and workplaces.

The way in which the signatures were collected was often ethically dubious. It was presented in workplaces in ways that put pressure on those present to sign – or be considered suspect themselves. My friend Brian Holland recalls his flatmate coming back from the pub and admitting to signing it "because everyone else there was". 

But I was damned if I was going to let one of the canvassers talk passing children into signing. So I called over a policeman. The officer was perplexed, the canvasser was indignant and I was furious. I maintained my position until our little group dispersed. They didn't get their two signatures that time.

Eventually, that ethical bankruptcy itself rendered the petition ineffective. The Parliamentary select committee considering the bill reported back an array of problems with the claimed 800,000 signatures, including false names (Mickey Mouse signed at least four times, the dirty rotten rodent), evidence of people signing for others and, remarkably, misrepresentation of the actual number of signatures. It was duly reported "without recommendation" – much to the chagrin of Winston Peters.

It's hard now to explain the sheer nastiness of what went on then. But three years ago, when Louisa Wall's Marriage (Definition of Marriage) Amendment Act passed its third reading, it was in many ways the a glimpse of the best our political culture could be. MPs spoke from the heart and even those who opposed same-sex marriage showed some dignity. The final vote was greeted with a waiata heard around the world.

Not a single MP would have proposed a reversion to making sexual acts between men a crime again – that's the furthest of fringe territory in 2016.

By contrast, in November 1985, Norman Jones MP told an interviewer he was trying to "talk out" the bill at its second reading – so that more homosexuals would die of AIDS as a result of the delay. Gay men and lesbians who campaigned for the bill were subject to beatings. There was a firebombing of a gay archive. I recall going on the pro-reform March in Christchurch when I happened to be in town – and a crowd of men coming out of a pub and chanting 'PUSH SHIT! PUSH SHIT!" as the march went past.

So what has changed in us these past 30 years? Are we a better country? Where do we yet have some way to go? This year's thirtieth anniversary – the bill passed on July 9, 1986 – could have been a good time to contemplate that, and to capture the memories of those closest to events while they're stll around. 

But not one of the TV networks showed any interest in screening a documentary proposed by Brian Holland, which would have done those things. Stories about who we are and how we got there apparently don't make the grade in TV these days.

So we decided that the final Media take for 2016 would mark the anniversary. And then, shortly wards, the horror in Orlanda made it all that much more acute.

So that's the show we made this week. Johnny Givins, who produced Queer Nation, broadcasts of the Hero parade and much more, is on the first panel with Louisa Wall. Then Paul Kramer of the University of Auckland and Tracey Barnett talk about America's culture war in the wake of Orlando. And Mera Penehira and Anton Blank talk about the relationship between Maori identity and sexuality in the third part.

Then, as we've been doing this year, we gathered all the panelists for an extended online-only korero. It was a good way to go out.

You can watch Media Take on-demand here.

And the additional online-only discussion is here.

PS: If you want an idea of quite how bad things got in the lead-up to law reform, the 2002 Queer Nation episode on Wellington's queer history is on NZ On Screen and shows it pretty well. The whole thing is great (Katherine Mansfield!), but the second part covers the law reform struggle and includes news footage from the time. It's intense.