Hard News by Russell Brown


Monday Music! Outrageously right

One of the real triumphs of the Outrageous Fortune prequel Westside has been the way its creators have curated and employed music to tell their story. Music was a part of the original series, but Westside's use of period tunes to evoke each year of its era took things up a level.

And I think series two is up a level again – perhaps because it moves into the era where its creators James Griffin and Rachel Lang have their own strongest musical memories, but also because 1981, the year in which the whole series is set, was an incredible year for New Zealand music.

Beat Rhythm Fashion's 'Beings Rest Finally' hung pensively over a post-adutery scene, The Clean's 'Tally Ho!' trumpeted the mad dash through the fences of Rugby Park in Hamilton and Herbs' 'Dragons and Demons' closed on a thicket of internal dramas. Not every song is from 1981, but those three were. They were harnessed not only to evoke the times but to communicate feeling – and they were each perfect

I've been involved in several different projects that aim to amplify music's role in our wider culture. I could only aspire to doing it as well as James and Rachel have done here.


Here's heritage you haven't seen before!

The press release that accompanied them says this:

Available for an all too brief moment between the early 1960s and the dawn of the 70s, Maori language pressings of international pop and rock are some of New Zealand’s most sought after vinyl treasures.

Sporting unique cover designs, and pressed up in ludicrously small editions, they now command serious money on the collectors market. Finding good condition copies is difficult – these records often partied hard – so as the popularity of Te Reo continues to grow it’s instructive to look back and appreciate these charming reminders of a more innocent time in New Zealand popular culture.

A selection of seven of these rare record covers are now available to buy as high quality A3 250gsm prints from Arcadia Bookshop, Newmarket.

In truth, these sleeves that never really existed – but don't you want them to exist? – are the creation of designer Chris Mousdale. 

"They're completely contrived, designed from scratch," Chris explained to me. "I wanted them to look like they should exist. The old Letraset still works wonders! I had boxes of it from years ago – whole sets of fonts – and I can just never throw it out."

Ironically, the thing that took the most time was recreating the imperfection of old pre-press technologies – missed registrations and even cheap printing. Chris points out that many New Zealand releases were budget two-colour print jobs.

"You'll see that some 1960s LPs have blue type on the back, because they dropped black out of the process to save money."

Chris began the project after look for online resources for Te Wiki o Te Reo and finding most of them a bit dry.

"It's great hearing it on the radio, but on the stuff that's around us, printed labels and packaging, you don't see it. It's that sense that it would be lovely if this existed in a better world."

There's another reason to pop into Arcadia and buy one of these images: it will help with finding for Chris's big project: the forthcoming book of the graphic arts work of Chris Knox.


I used to have an old joke about how musicians are great but make terrible flatmates: they've never got any money and they smoke all your dope. But, in truth, committing to a life of music, even if only because there's nothing else you're fit for, can be really hard. There are multiple lifestyle risks and, especially if you're actually making the music, little money.

I think it's laudable, then, that the New Zeaand Music Foundation is aiming to get a picture of the music community via the new  New Zealand Music Community Wellbeing Survey, which seeks responses on a range of topics, from income to health, substance use and family relations.

According to the Foundation, the survey is "open to performers and producers, roadies and riggers, record company and label staffers, DJs and choir members, artist managers and promoters: in fact everyone who is making their way full time, part time or as a volunteer in music."

General manager Peter Dickens says the aim is to move beyond "a considerable amount of anecdotal evidence pointing to many challenges that exist for people working and volunteering in music. This study will help us further identify these challenges, gauge their seriousness and hopefully provide support that will help people to have a healthier, more productive and more fulfilling involvement in their chosen music field."

The confidential survey is open now, and will close at the end of July. I would recommend that anyone working and playing in the biz takes a few minutes to complete it.


My sources tell me that the rain and mud made Glastonbury festival harder work than usual this year – and of course, for many of those there, the Brexit result killed the party a bit. But the lineup, behind the very mainstream headliners, seemed rich from this side of the world.

The event, as ever, was magnificently covered by the BBC. If you want to full sets you'll have to ask the internet about that, but but the Beeb has plucked a single clip from many performances and while you might quibble with the choices (having watched a stream of Underworld's rousing set, I'd have gone for 'Cowgirl'), it's good to have them. So, it's 'Two Months Off' then:

And that song from LCD Soundsystem:

That song from Beck:

Happy times with Earth, Wind and Fire:

An ironic 'Mr Blue Sky' from ELO:

A little of what I'm told was a moving, mesmerising set from Sigur Ros:

And did I say there were no full sets available? Happily, a fan ripped UMO's set from iPlayer and posted it. It's still there, for now, and it's great. You know you're going well when the crowd starts singing 'Happy Birthday' to your soundman:

Feel free to post any other clips you fancy in the comments below. Just post in the URL of the video and it'll automagically embed when you save.



Just one this week – I'm still catching up from not having been able to write this post on Friday like I usually do. My favourite Aussies with another remix. Click through for a free download.


The Hard News Friday Music Post is kindly sponsored by:

The Audio Consultant


Back in Christchurch

The walk from Pomeroy's Pub to the Antigua boatsheds is a passage through several different cities.

Along Kilmore, at the northeast corner of Christchurch's CBD, the gaps are largely filled, first with new townhouses jammed into compounds, then commercial buildings in the new Christchurch style: quick, squat, steel-boned and glassy. The new Piko Wholefoods building, consciously organic in in its materials and style, stands out. It seems determined to fit its purpose rather than its circumstances.

Across the river, the Margaret Mahy playground is a colourful oasis, both whimsical and defiant. Even on a Friday morning, kids are all over it. But the gaps are much wider here, and by the time I'm at Colombo Street looking south I'm getting the familiar, discomfiting feeling of not knowing quite where I am.

That's because I'm nearing the huge precinct reserved for the government's troubled convention centre. It sits inert, paralysed, empty, incoherent, holding all else back. Passing between the border of the centre-to-be and the yawning ruin of the cathedral, I feel glum and a little angry. What even is this place?

The empty Rydges hotel still stands concave and useless on the Cambridge Terrace corner. That stereo store on the ground floor is still advertising its long-gone bargains. The new platforms on the riverbank look like a nice gesture.

But further down Worcester Boulevard, it's all different. The Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority may have been wound down in April, but that doesn't seem to have changed much at number 62. The Boulevard cafe is crammed and the doors of the tower buzz with entries and exits. People carrying papers shake hands in the sunshine. It's like a slightly overdone movie scene, shot in portrait not landscape.

"Everything is going to be alright", declares Martin Creed's 46-metre neon work across the face of Christchurch Art Gallery across the road. It might be ironic but it does feel comforting. The front of the gallery feels as if the place isn't quite used to being open again, but inside it's happy. The new exhibitions feel playful; the curators have taken the chance to bring out the bangers. There's a Doris Lusk collection and a slightly daft room drawn from the collections and themed on hair. Works by Van der Velden and McCahon are co-located. As there is a constant flow of light still pours out its buttermilk sun, undimmed by anything.

And, of course, Ronnie van Hout's Quasi perches on the northwest corner of the gallery roof. In a computer-generated model I saw, Quasi/Ronnie seemed to be scowling, but the real thing just stares sternly out to the suburbs. Is he defiant? Accusatory? Whatever. It feels better. Van Hout's work is an antidote to worthiness and its influence on the gallery is welcome and appropriate.

The Arts Centre isn't looking as open-for-business as I'd expected, but there's clearly something going on there. People, and not just builders, are working inside. And at the end of the boulevard, RDU's famous mobile broadcast truck sits in advertisement of #RDU40, the anniversary exhibition for the city's alternative radio station – as if parked up by drunk students. The exhibition, which includes a performance stage and a live broadcast studio, is really nice and I bought the teatowel.

Down at the boatsheds, where my friends and I hired canoes 40 years ago, I hire a bike. The new fleet of sit-up bicycles is pretty sweet – the kind of kit that a flat city wants. I ignore the well-meant tourist instructions and head east. The CBD's broad, one-way boulevards are perplexing; one moment cluttered with cars, the next wide open and empty. The painted cycle lanes are a boon, until they unexpectedly disappear.

I'm headed for one place I haven't been since the earthquakes: the old AMI Stadium at Lancaster Park, which I've seen peeking across the rooftops so many times.  It feels hard to get to and mournful on arrival. So big, and so quiet. A work ute pulls up next to me and the driver gets out for a smoke. He stands quietly, looking through the fence. They're not really going to replicate this structure inside the avenues, are they?

Looping back, I easily find a happier place. Turns out, one can simply walk into Hagley Oval. It's soft and open and a nice place to be. (Two days later, I bump into Health Minister Jonathan Coleman at the airport, on the way back home from the National Party conference. He, too, has visited the oval and found it congenial.)

That evening, Fiona and I meet Emma Hart for a beer at the pub – which is as noisy as ever – and then we go over to Cafe Valentino on St Asaph Street. When St Asaph was the border of the CBD Red Zone, it seemed pretty bleak, a place no one wanted to be. Now, it's home to a mini-hospitality precinct. This isn't a place anyone would have chosen before, but it's a place.

Fiona remarks on how busy and colourful Valentino is and the age range of the patrons. Emma says she thinks there was a desire to get out, eat and drink after the earthquakes, and that the loss of venues to do that meant different demographics found themselves shoulder to shoulder in a way they wouldn't have before. The pizza is big and excellent.

The following evening, after a day visiting family in North Canterbury, we go with Kris and Tom Vavasour to Bootleg BBQ, in Welles Street, one over from St Asaph. Again, it's big and bustling and host to a range of demographics. The beer is good and the BBQ platter for two is nearly enough for four of us.

We have enough time on Sunday morning to head for another place I haven't been for a long while – the Port Hills. I'd forgotten how nice it is in Cashmere, the way the houses command a view. Victoria Park, on a glorious morning, is a spectacular place. There are dog-walkers, cyclists, hikers. It feels very, very different to the flat city below.

Is Christchurch finally recovering itself? Or did I simply this time avoid the places that still ache? A bit of both, probably. On three crystal days in July, it seemed, for the first time, to be shaking free of trauma. But the city's heart seems seized between beats, waiting for central goverment to either abandon its edicts or bloody move on them. And that statis is not the fault of the people here.

But ... "I ache in the places where I used to play," drawled Leonard Cohen in 'The Tower of Song'. You might venture that Christchurch has begun to play in the places where it used to ache.


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