Hard News by Russell Brown


Friday Music: If DJ was your trade

Being a DJ is the best and worst of jobs. When it falls into place, it's brilliantly affirming: you're the king or queen of the moment, the people are with you and you are their joy. On a bad night, it's a very lonely place indeed.

All that counts double if you happen to be a working DJ playing several nights a week in venues where the punters may or may not be into what you're doing. But it's good for stories, and we aim to get a few of those told at next weekend's IRL at the Golden Dawn in association with Orcon.

Our key interview is with AJ Bertenshaw, the founder of Serato, the New Zealand company whose products – most notably Scratch Live, which allows digital music files to be manipulated with special time-coded vinyl on conventional turntables – have revolutionised live DJing and made it a global leader.

Serato has a verrry interesting announcement to make, which you'll hear about next week.

Meanwhile Esther Macintyre will talk to Aroha Harawira, who has bucked gender stereotypes to become one of the country's most in-demand club DJs.

We'll have a short set from Tobi and MC Silva of Jafa Mafia, stalwarts of Auckland's underground dancehall reggae culture, who debut at their new (and hopefully long-term) venue at the Edinburgh Castle that very evening – patties, jerk chicken and all the bass there is.

And then Aroha will join hip hop godfather DJ Sir Vere, Murray Cammick, Tina Turntables and DJ Dubhead (who is currently celebrating 25 years on the airwaves at bFM) and Esther and me to answer questions and tell stories about being a DJ.

I think it'll be a good afternoon both for people who want to know about the craft, and for all the other DJs in town (note: you'll have an excellent opportunity to take the piss out of your mates by submitting questions for the panel).

So that's 2.30-5.30pm at The Golden Dawn in Ponsonby, October 3.

It's free, but as usual, you'll need to RSVP here.

And if you can't make it, it'll all be live on the internet thanks to to the wizards at 95bFM.

Thanks Orcon!

PS: Note also that Dubhead and Stinky Jim are celebrating their respective 25th radio birthdays with a boffo gig at Neck of the Woods tomorrow night.


Hey, this is cool. Chills founder Martin Phillipps has been chilling (see what I did there?) in London and doing the odd solo show in advance of the new Chills album. And this week, he got up with Liam and Neil Finn and did 'Pink Frost'.

There's another video from further back that's also worth a look.


Eddie Johnston has signed, as Lontalius, to the New York-based Partisan Records and for his first release has matched a soft, vulnerable tune with a video of him doing one of the more vulnerable things you could do on camera: learn to ride a bike. I don't know why he couldn't ride a bike (I blame the parents), but it works beautifully as an image. And it's nice the way it casts friendship as love.

Also from the foaming cultural crucible that is modern Wellington, the Phoenix Foundation employ Oscar-winner Bret Mckenzie to dig a hole for himself in the video for the title track of their marvellous new album. I really, er, dig how this ends ...

And in a third work of moody light, Nadia Reid's strong, melancholy 'Call the Days':

The degree of international media support for for all three is worth noting. Ed's video was premiered by i-D, Nadia's was featured by NPR Music and The Phoenix Foundation's was the subject of another Guardian story.


It's really good to see former Big Day Out promoters CRS back with a plan for Western Springs. I'm not surprised they're back at the Springs – so much work went into getting the consents for the first (and now last) Big Day Out on the site that it would have been a shame to walk away.

The Big Day Out organisation and brand wasn't really worth anything any more, but the name of the new festival announced this week for March 19, 2016 – Auckland City Limits – is very much a nod to the company that acquired the Big Day Out, C3 Presents, which has run the Austin City Limits festival for years.

C3 itself has been subsumed by the giant Live Nation, so the pulling power in terms of lineup will be considerable. But in the first instance I'd be looking to Byron Bay Bluesfest, which happens across the Tasman the following weekend. In which case: The National, The Wailers, Steve Earle – and Tom Jones!

It seems pretty clear that Auckland City Limits won't so much be "Son of Big Day Out" as "Parents of Big Day Out". Kids under 10 get in free with a ticketed adult and there will be a "Kiddie Limits" zone. Which, when you look at who lives in the surrounding suburbs, makes sense.

Who won't be happy about this: the promoters of WOMAD 2016, which appeals to a similar crowd – and takes place on the same weekend, in New Plymouth.

Which leaves the indie kids to Laneway, which is of course returning to the Silo Park site for one more year. The lineup announced this week doesn't contain an act that makes me think "OMG! I must be there!", but it's quite an interesting one. I'm well up for another viewing of Flume and a first look at Shamir, and I wouldn't mind Health, Grimes and Beach House either.

But for local music nerds the real interest is actually further down the bill. This will be a big show for Lontalius – and a debut for Leisure (a long-worked-on project featuring Jordan from High Hoops and friends), Scuba Diva (aka Lorde's keyboard player Jimmy Mac, interviewed here) and new next-big-thing Auckland producer Baynk.

With McLaren Valley featuring Flaming Lips and Disclosure (with, you'd have to assume, a certain special guest) and Splore still to announce, it's a busy summer ahead.

But you know what? Whoever books Jamie Xx gets my love.


Vinyl-heads: Discogs finally has a mobile app.

Lawrence Arabia has a solo tour featuring new songs next month.

And we've finally been able to get Chris Bourke's magnificent Silver Scrolls history posted at Audioculture.



None bigger in the world this week than 'Magnets', Lorde's collaboration with Disclosure for their new album. She doesn't seem to know how to make a bad one. It got its world premiere on Zane Lowe's Beats One radio show:

And the two New Zealanders talked a bit about how it came together:

There's also a teaser here for the video.

Tom Healy's Paquin project is back from a fairly long layoff with some more freaky electropop. Free download!

95bFM favourite Boy Wulf has a new album (iTunes / Spotify)and it's pretty cool. You can hear four of the tracks on Soundcloud:

A nice new Dan Aux touch-up of Maala's 'Touch' (free download!):

And a first taste of Scuba Diva. Swooshy, beaty and slightly delic:

Finally, I'm delighted to say I've secured a new sponsor for the Friday Music post. More on that next week.


The positive option of Red Peak

I don't think John Key moved to support the Greens' bill to include Red Peak in the the flag referendum out of any positive sentiment. I think he did it in a desperate attempt to save face for an awfully-executed project that, according to the latest polling, has been rejected by two thirds of New Zealanders.

He was desperate enough this week to waive the absurd, anti-democratic condition he had earlier imposed on Labour – that his support for any bill must be matched with a promise to stop criticising him and his process.

But I am pleased to see Red Peak included, if only because it gives me the option of a positive response to what I regard as an awful result from the flag consideration panel.

I will vote for Red Peak in the first stage of the referendum because I like it and the stories that have grown alongside it. I like the fact that it has achieved a groundswell absent from any other part of this misbegotten exercise.

And if Red Peak turns out to be the favoured choice in the first stage, I will vote for it to be the new flag in the second.

If it does not, I will vote against changing the flag in the second stage. And then I will hope that Red Peak or some other viable flag design continues to be engaged with thereafter and is adopted unofficially by New Zealanders, because that would be better than the banal market-research process we've been subjected to. I will look forward to a time when a new flag is adopted in a more competent way.

And that's it, really.


On youthful indiscretions

There are a number of things to bear in mind regarding the story about British Prime Minister David Cameron putting his thing in a pig. The first is that the claim has been published as an open act of political revenge and publicised by a newspaper whose beef with Cameron is essentially that he is not hateful enough.

Although he insists that he was not motivated by vengeance, the co-author of the the very unofficial biography Call Me Dave, the billionaire Lord Ashcroft is clearly vexed by his inability to buy himself a good ministerial post, confirming as much in his introduction to the book:

Ashcroft wrote that he had a personal “beef” with Cameron because he had not given him a role in the coalition, claiming that Nick Clegg, the Liberal Democrat deputy prime minister, had blocked it. Cameron later reconsidered and offered Ashcroft a job as a junior whip in the Foreign Office.

Ashcroft wrote: “After putting my neck on the line for nearly 10 years – both as party treasurer under William Hague and as deputy chairman – and after ploughing some £8m into the party, I regarded this as a declinable offer. It would have been better had Cameron offered me nothing at all.”

And the book is being serialised by the Daily Mail because of course it is:

One rival newspaper executive described the serialisation and timing as a “declaration of war” by the paper’s editor-in-chief, Paul Dacre, on Cameron, who he believes is too soft on serious issues such as immigration and Europe.

Even though the claim is thinly-sourced and malciously intended, it's only human to respond with porcine puns (it's pretty hard to leave "The Prosciutto Affair" on the table) and it's not like this is one where many of us are going to say "didn't we all do that when we were young and stupid?" The claim that the revolting arses in Cameron's Oxford toff club required initiates to burn a £50 note in front of a beggar is pretty well outside normal human experience too.

But The Sun has gone with a more common indiscretion in its take on the book:

Described as a “hatchet job” by Mr Cameron’s supporters, the Tory grandee’s book also alleges he smoked cannabis at Oxford and later took cocaine.

Another close pal of the PM claimed the class-A drug was openly passed round a dinner party attended by the Camerons in the late 1990s.

The pal said: “I would be astonished if Dave had not taken cocaine at some point. He has been around it for a long time. He told me once about it being handed round at a Cotswolds dinner party. People were leaving the table and returning with bright eyes and dusty fingers.

This doesn't quite have the impact it might have had before Barack Obama recorded his own youthful use of cocaine and cannabis in a book before even contesting the US presidency. Cameron was no longer a foolish student by the late 90s, of course. He was busy trying to get himself selected for a safe Conservative seat. But a lot of people in Britain took cocaine in the 1990s.

There is an older, more gentle and amusing, story about Cameron's alleged drug-taking as a young man. Is it him in his dungarees at 00:13 in this video of a bunch of loved-up ravers swaying, smiling and gurning in a field in 1988?

Inconclusive, thought The Guardian. And really, people thinking it might be Dave was hardly likely to do him any harm. Unless, of course, he'd been unfortunate enough to have his E found by a police officer in 1988 and received a criminal conviction, which would have hampered, if not totally tanked, the political career he so keenly wanted.

But as Gary Younge points out in a good column in The Guardian, not all young people are as lucky as Cameron, and they tend to be less lucky if they're the wrong race, sex or class.

It's not necessary to even go as far as revenge porn to suppose that a young woman who flashes a boob on social media today might be setting herself up to be slut-shamed when she seeks a prominent job in 10 or 20 years' time. Or, maybe not. Maybe we'll have no choice but to be a lot more understanding now that the internet never forgets.

The irony is that before he became Prime Minister, Cameron spoke against the war on drugs and even when he was standing for the Conservative Party leadership, said this:

"Politicians attempt to appeal to the lowest common denominator by posturing with tough policies and calling for crackdown after crackdown. Drugs policy has been failing for decades."

Like Obama, Cameron obeyed political convention and shelved his reformist scruples on becoming leader. But it leaves us with a fairly obvious contradiction. To have (allegedly) fucked a dead pig is weird and politically damaging – but quite legal. To have taken recreational drugs as a youth is both common and commonly accepted, even in political leaders – but a potentially life-blighting criminal offence if you're unlucky enough to be caught at the time. Perhaps we should look at that.


NZME and you

When the New Zealand Herald shifted to a new compact format three years ago, one of the key undertakings of its editors was that the printed paper would leave "commodity news" to the 24-7 Herald website and concentrate on developing and delivering its own stories.

It was a good philosophy and it it helped give the reinvented paper clarity and purpose. It made it seem that the people in charge actually wanted to be publishing a newspaper – especially in comparison to Fairfax, where progressive centralisation and sharing of content across titles has had the effect of diminishing the importance of individual mastheads.

But the Herald's publisher was literally a different company three years ago. APN New Zealand is now NZME and it, too, is building a content factory, or as it was characterised in an announcement last Wednesday“world-class integrated newsroom” serving the company's print, radio and digital businesses.

It's this shift, which will be made real when all NZME's media businesses move under the same roof later this year, that is partially behind the shock news that as many as 30% of the Herald's editorial staff may be made redundant. You may have heard that the likes of Michele Hewitson, Brian Rudman and John Drinnan are for the chop, probably along with the staff of Canvas. But there are also many people you won't have heard of – the backroom heroes who make the paper.

The staff either sacked or invited to "consult" on their futures (which basically means they'll be asked to compete for jobs involving more work for less money) are largely over 40, experienced and on decent contracts.

Fairfax, where the Sunday Star Times in particular is feeling more purposeful than it has in a while, isn't looking so bad now.

In part, it's just money: the recent columnist cull at the Herald was prompted by a 20% budget cut. The Herald can't really afford to publish new columnists unless they either write for free or can arrange to be paid by a third party.

But things are more complicated when it comes to the likes of Canvas, which does not lose money – indeed, it's a proper little cash cow, delivering millions of dollars a year in revenue. I'm sure Shayne Currie was telling the truth when he said to NBR that “we have no intention of closing Canvas magazine”. My guess is that resources will be pooled with other supplements in an attempt to generate similar revenue with fewer resources – and, inevitably, less experience on board.

Let's be fair: the Herald has done more in recent years to support investigative journalism than any other news organisation in the country. This week, like every week, you'll read important stories by very good reporters. But the trajectory is away from that and toward the reality that already greets twentysomethings as they come into the news trade via "digital"– high-volume, low-resource content-wrangling.

NBR's anonymous commentator put it more bluntly:

Opines one old hand, who preferred not to be named, the restructure "is an idea dreamed up by desperate accountants who have not learned that synergy only looks good on paper."

"The dedicated brand managers of each title and their expertise will be lost,” they predict. "The internal competition among the journalists for the scoop will be a thing of the past.

"NZME will arrive at a dysfunctional, vanilla, boring newsroom trapped in a 24-hour news cycle without the time or motivation to find real stories."

These are disrupted times. I recently shared a panel with media managers who acknowledged that although the digital momentum was effectively unstoppable, it wasn't clear what would keep up revenue in future. I sympathised with them. I also couldn't help but notice that the representative from NZME seemed to regard the words "content" and "advertising" as interchangeable.

The people running media companies now often do not have media backgrounds. NZME CEO Jane Hastings, for example, is a former SkyCity executive. And although the details of Alastair Thompson's report in April are strongly debated (see responses from Tim Murphy and Colin Espiner), it's hard not to feel uneasy about the the backlash after a Herald business story critical of SkyCity's practices as an employer was published this year. For all the denials, I have been told about editorial decisions being overruled to block sympathetic reports about Mediaworks or its staff, because by sheer commercial logic, they are the competition.

The problem is, if anything, more acute at Mediaworks. A recent report by Nick Grant for NBR claimed that since Mark Weldon took the helm, the profitability achieved in its television division under his predecessor, Sussan Turner, has gone away and the TV business is now "tracking toward a run rate ebitda loss of $15 million a year." (Turner has now been snapped up to serve on the TVNZ board, where they probably can't believe their luck.)

Worse, Grant also claims that offers for the company in the range of $400m early in Weldon's tenure were rebuffed because he had convinced its board that he had a plan that would substantially increase its profitability and hence its market value (which would mean bigger bonuses for Weldon and his board when it was sold). Grant wrote:

Now however group ebitda is understood to be about $20 million and the asking price for Mediaworks is estimated at between $250-$300m.

The poor thinking evident in the launch of Scout does suggest a top management that really doesn't have much grounding in editorial. (It's not that they're doing celebrity gossip, it's the dumb way they're doing it.)

Alastair Thompson wrote in April that what he was reporting:

... goes a long way to explaining why Paul Thompson, the former Group Editor at Fairfax, told RNZ staff last Wednesday that they were very lucky they were working for a publicly funded broadcaster with no exposure to the advertising market.

But it's hardly all dandy there, with public broadcasting entering its eighth year of a budget freeze. The government shows no sign of lifting its sinking lid on the public good. Do more with less is the new normal.

By contrast, I'm told that NZME's executive salary bill has increased by at least two million in the past couple of years. That must grate terribly for the experienced editorial staff who will find themselves with an uncertain future and uncertain prospects of employment. It's cold out here.

Many journalists I know joke grimly about having picked the wrong career. What else do we all do? Will there be a correction, or is this the new reality? Spinoff publisher Duncan Greive's recent "exit interview" with departing Metro editor Simon Wilson is in part a lament for a golden age when Metro could afford to put writers on crime stories (and hence have them sit in court for a month). "It feels like you are describing a fantasy world that I can’t even imagine existing," Greive responds.

Whatever happens, we're all going to have to do a lot more hustling. In which spirit, forgive me if I remind you that you can be a a donor or voluntary subscriber to Public Address. Our crowd income is under $1000 a month, but it really does help enormously in maintaining the site. I'm also grateful to Orcon for its commercial support of IRL at Golden Dawn, which relies on Public Address reach (please, watch the half-hour IRL highlights video, it's pretty cool). I'm going to (finally) sign us up as Press Council members and I'm looking at another crowdfunding model in a meeting this week. I'd like to do more.

In the meantime, if you're after a speaker, chair or moderator, talk to my agent and if you're interested in supporting Public Address with advertising, drop me a line. Now if you'll excuse me, I have some more hustling to do ...


RWC 2015: This wasn't in the script!

The British bookies had South Africa 1-500 favourites to beat Japan in their opening Rugby World Cup pool match overnight. Instead, the Brave Blossoms pulled off one of the greatest upsets in international sport – after spurning an injury-time kick at goal that would have earned them a draw.

As one writer put it:

A few hours earlier, Georgia made a scarcely-credible 213 tackles and missed only 16 to achieve a more modest upset (but an upset nonetheless) in their match over Tonga. Superbly organised by their New Zealand coach, former Southland player Milton Haig, they thoroughly deserved their win. As in the Japan match, the crowd was vocal and throughly engaged.

"Now we just need Argentina to thump the All Blacks," quipped one of my Twitter correspondents this morning.

Ha ha, yeah. No! Don't even say that!

I find myself oddly grateful that the All Blacks launch their campaign tomorrow against a known quantity in Argentina. On paper, it's the New Zealanders' toughest pool match, but at least we have a recent template for beating them. On the other hand, this will be a stronger side than the one we faced in the Rugby Championship.

If the two upsets have provided a great opening weekend for Rugby World Cup 2015, the opening game in the "Pool of Death" was more of a mixed bag. England lacked dash, verve and security at the breakdown, but the impact of their bench in a securing a vital bonus-point try against Fiji, right on full time, was huge.

That opening match also demonstrated someof the ways in which the tournament could go wrong. Are we really going to see things that have taken place right in front of the referee constantly relitigated by the TMO?

And if this is to be a tournament of lineout drives and rolling mauls, the side in possession has to be refereed too. England's first try was a clear truck-and-trailer (where was the TMO review there?) and most of the drives in the cup so far have flirted with obstruction and offsides.

It will be something of a relief to see the All Blacks actually play tomorrow morning if it gives editors a chance to actually report a match. In yesterday's Weekend Herald, the front page and the front pages of the Sport and Business sections were all dominated by hero pictures of men in black jerseys. I completely understand how folk who aren't interested in the game might be a little annoyed by all this.

Anyone who saw the look in the Springbok players' eyes in the last quarter of their match will have recognised it – it was the look on the All Blacks' faces during that infamous quarter-final in 2007. The this wasn't in the script look. 

Steve Hansen seems to have been careful to dial down the stress as his team trains in London, wisely allowing them to have a pint if they want one and trusting their judgement on the limits of socialising.

At any rate, we'll finally get to see the way they'll play, whether they've been holding back and how those punts on selection shape up – especially from the bench. Hopefully, we'll see Charlie Faumuina get the run he needs and maybe we'll have a longer look at Kaino as reserve lock. It would be nice to confirm Dan Carter's regained sense of purpose wasn't a one-off and for Conrad Smith to shake off the cobwebs.

Oh, yeah. And it would be really good to win. 


Highlights: Japan vs South Africa.

And Georgia vs Tonga: