Hard News by Russell Brown


Friday Music: Grey Fucking Area

"That was for my favourite politician, John Key," says Jon Toogood after 'Grey Area', the first song on the Sundae Sessions video in which Shihad say goodbye to York Street, the now-closed studio where they made their first three albums, and premiere their blazing new one, FVEY.

The song opens with the lines "I am a reflection/I'm what you want to hear," and at one point Toogood barks "The leader is a traitor!"

At the other end of the show, the crunching riff of 'You Think You're So Free' pauses and restarts over a chant of "G .... C .... S .... B!" 

FVEY -- the title is a contraction of "Five Eyes" -- is frequently political, often angry. Dissatisfaction with the state of the state isn't exactly rare in the musical community, but most artists don't have the tools to express such a sentiment the way Shihad do. On the evidence of this brilliant live session  FVEY really fucking rocks.

I saw Shihad play a set drawn largely from their first two albums, Churn and Killjoy, when they supported Black Sabbath last year and it sounded lean and fresh. That's the mode they've taken into their reunion with Jaz Coleman, who produed Churn 22 years ago.

The full hour-long (including interviews) Sundae Sessions video itself looks great (eight cameras!) and sounds like thunder, and Hugh Sundae and his team deserve a pat on the back. Props to sponsor Barkers too. It's out today because the album is out today, but by chance both come along at a good time to make a point about political expression.

You may have seen on the news this excerpt from the Internet Party's 'Party Party' gig at Canterbury University, which was posted to YouTube by the party a week ago:

It is, according to alleged "political marketing specialist" Jennifer Lees-Marshment in the Herald today reminiscent of "propaganda, chanting-type campaigning more reminiscent of Hitler and fascism [in Nazi Germany] than New Zealand in the 21st century." She has not been alone in this sort of stupidity. Godwin's Law really is getting quite a workout.

That so many people felt compelled to compare it to a Nazi rally was down variously to political cynicism, lazy ethnic bigotry (would anyone have summoned the Nazis had Dotcom not been, y'know, German?) and, apparently, never having been to a hip hop show before. Some NBR readers didn't seem to realise that when people thrust one hand in the air at a hip hop show, it's not a Nazi salute.

Is it rude and unsophisticated to chant "Fuck John Key!"? Of course it is. It also quite within the bounds of the kind of protest marches long attended by the kind of students at the Party Party. And according to people there, it was going on before Kim Dotcom even arrived. Here's a short video shot by one of the musicians who played, more than an hour before Dotcom took the stage. You can guess what the kids are chanting in the background.

That a crowd would spontaneously begin such a chant is not as unlikely as it might seem -- because it is not new. Tom Scott of @Peace and Home Brew has been leading hip hop crowds in the same chant for about three years.

Amid the sea of conservative fainting fits Massey University's "political marketing specialist" Claire Robinson, declared Dotcom guilty of "inciting hate speech" (she should perhaps have googled the meaning of hate speech before she ventured her learned opinion) and said that in "sinking to such a low" the video "cut down" Internet Party leader Laila Harre. Robinson may not be in touch with the party's target market.

There were also claims (come on down, Matthew Hooton) that the evil Dotcom had plied students with free booze (wholly untrue) and that "paid Internet Party staff members" had instigated the chanting (no evidence it's the case and strongly denied).

Both network news shows pretty left out the fact that this was a tour of musical events: gigs that cost $30 on the door. One News' report blandly described it as a political rally, and the sight of a bunch of young people going nuts might have looked pretty bizarre without that context. 

But they weren't all wrong. These were originally pitched as get-out-the-vote events, but played out as campaign rallies. And in doing to they've taken taken oxygen (and some acts) from RockEnrol, which actually is a youth GOTV push, and doesn't have a lot of money. (This is actually why Home Brew's Tom Scott, the author of the shocking three-syllable chant, is no fan of Dotcom.)

But a while ago, when I described RockEnrol as independent group and tweeted their crowdfunding site, I got a clatter of responses back on Twitter to the effect that they weren't really independent, because they had, well, views. Which they do: views shared principally with the youth climate change lobby group Generation Zero.

But is that where we've got to? That it's impolite to go believing in things? Well, perhaps we're seeing the ultimate example of the campaign some people would prefer in the strange meeting in the Prime Minister's electorate, where the crowd will be forbidden to give voice and candidates will be expelled if they so much as mention each other's names. We couldn't have a fucking argument breaking out, could we?

People are entitled to their political enthusiasms and their  political anger and if there is a time to express those, it is surely in an election campaign. For some people, the campaign will be about selfies with the Prime Minister and that's fine. We should also be able to tolerate less decorous forms of expression.


Also fresh this week: Mavis Staples belting it out with Chuck D. It is righteous:


The bedroom producers keep flowing. Twenty one year-old Tim McGiven, aka Boy Wulf, comes almost fully formed with this:

There's a free download if you click through on the player and more to be had on his Soundcloud.

TheAudience also has a profile of Valere (aka music student Shana Llorand) and the delicatde, multi-threaded pop of 'IKTIL' from her EP Weary Eyes:

Again, more on Soundcloud.


A couple of label ventures: Papaiti Records, who have ben around a little while and have a nice website and a stable of young, dreamy indie outfits. Also also a bootleg page that captures recent shows from their scene.

And Wellington's Early Morning Records, who, paradoxically, are launching their big thing in the early evening. (6pm today, for global reasons) but have a few things for visitor to look at before that.

And I'm delighted to see that Range's Henry Rivers album has made it to the curated retail space at Flying Out. One of a variety of projects involving my friend Blair Parkes, it's a warm, tuneful, wisftful work of guitars and vocals. And you'd want to consider getting the vinyl album version just to own the cover art, which is another instance of Blair building art from the detritus of earthquake-damaged New Brighton. It reminds me of brushstrokes:

And awesomely enough, Flying Out is also selling, as of today, the digital version of another Parkes project, the L.E.D.s' classic debut album We Are the L.E.D.s. I think I once described it as "Kraftwerk meets the B-52s". That's ten bucks you could spend well right there.


Aussie-born Auckland-resident DJ Dan Aux has a new album out, it's called The Playlist and it includes this blazing cut with Hamilton rapper Raiza Biza:

Auckland's Dub Terminator is giving this track this week. It sounds like the title says:

The excellent New York DJ duo Golden Pony have got on to Australia's Chet Faker and whipped up this remix. It really works -- and you can click through for the free download:

And finally, another freebie: a lovely smooth remix from Tall Black Guy, who plays the Ponsonby Social Club soon:


The Hard News Music Post is sponsored by:



The silence of the public square

Most commentary on the Internet-Mana deal has focused on what the former can bring the latter -- that being money and the fizz of celebrity. But it's also worth noting what Mana brings the Internet Party -- that being some old-fashioned campaign experience.

The parties' joint national roadshow seems to have benefited from a blend of both, and I suspect that the Internet Party wouldn't have been turning up to loudly campaign at places like Avondale Markets without Mana footsoldiers alongside.

Laila Harre announced her intention to stand in the Prime Minister's Helensville electorate for basically the same reason that Christine Rankin is standing in Epsom -- not to win (although Rankin stands to be more disruptive than Harre), but for the attention. If Key was to consent to a campaign meeting in his electorate, where he could be challenged by Harre, so much the better.

Well, scratch that. There will be a meeting, but no one will be challenging anyone.

'It's not a debate. Please don't call it a debate," meeting organiser Holly Ryan said, describing the event as a ''cross-party candidates' meeting'' to give the public a chance to have questions answered.

Those questions must be submitted, in writing, before the event starts.

''There is to be no debate at all. Candidates have been warned they will be thrown out if they mention other candidates or attack any other parties, or anything else like that, at all,'' Ryan said.

Silence would be demanded from everyone but the speaker, with one warning before those disrupting the meeting would be removed.

''It's on that basis that the prime minister agreed to be there.''

The Prime Minister's office insists, in the same story, that it has played "no role in the shaping of the rules for the event". Someone should probably check on that, but it appears that Ryan, who is active in the local community, drew up the rules in the hope that a lockdown might encourage her local MP to attend.

From the original notice for the meeting:

Parties will have opportunity to set up stands in the church hall, with public welcome to attend from 6pm to chat casually.

The main meeting will commence in the church at 7pm. Seating for 230, with sound system. Each candidate will have 5 minutes to present themselves, followed by written questions from the public, drawn for order. At 9pm the meeting will end, with opportunity for everyone to return to the hall for informal discussion and refreshments.

The meeting will be tightly managed, with any interjectors removed after one warning. Questions may be answered by the party policy supporters, seated behind the candidates.

Let's not scorn the value of an actual discussion about policy, or of voters being able to ask questions and be heard. But it's not hard to envisage the policing of voters' responses on pain of ejection going horribly wrong. Who, pray tell, will be identifying and ejecting offenders? Will a giggle be permitted but a guffaw disallowed? Will there be a buzzer to sound when candidates accidentally mention their opponents?

The irony is that the Helensville lockdown is at odds with what is shaping up as a surprisingly interactive campaign. By his own account, Colin Craig chose his scary hoarding portrait with the intention of provoking a response, and that response has been quite creative. It's a form of engagement.

At any rate, the unusual rules for Monday night's meeting have done nothing so much as draw lines to be crossed. The TV cameras will be there in the hope that they will be. That's now the main event. The only thing missing is David Carter in the Speaker's chair.

PS: I'm interested in hearing from you about the vibe of meetings in your 'hood. Feel free to report.


New Mana

For 22 years, Mana magazine has told Māori stories and celebrated Maori heroes. But when Mana celebrated its 100th issue in 2011, there was a hint in the note from founding editor Derek Fox that he wasn't sure where where it could go or how long it could sustain itself in an increasingly difficult print market. In April of this year, Fox called time: it was "no longer prudent" to continue publishing and time for a rethink. It might have been the end.

But last week, Mana came back: redesigned, revived, renewed. Fox, who isn't getting any younger, has licensed the title to Kowhai Media, publishers of New Zealand Geographic, with Leonie Hayden in the editor's chair.

People in the music business will know Leonie as the bright, hard-working editor of Rip It Up (where she brought new life to another venerable title) and Groove Guide in recent years, and she brings quite a bit of her music heritage to her role at Mana.

It's hard to imagine Fox going with Aaron Moffitt's great pic of American rapper ScHoolboy Q playing in Auckland in June, or with Jessica Hansell's profile of Maori punk rocker and zine publisher Sarsha-Leigh Douglas, but they both work in the context of the magazine. 

One of the challenges for Māori media ventures is the need to serve demographically diverse audiences, united only their Māoriness, and it will be interesting to see whether Mana can bring in younger readers without alienating the older long-term readership.

I'll be talking to Leonie on Media Take this week. In the meantime, you can check out the new Mana website and mobile apps.


There was another media unveiling last week: Telecom lifted the covers a little on its Lightbox subscriber-video-on-demand venture, which will open for business at the end of the month, charging $15 a month. That news prompted Sky -- which has a good deal of the kind of content Lightbox offers locked up in its premium Soho channel -- to reiterate its own SVOD plans. Quickflix, which probably doesn't have the budget for the kind of TV drama Lightbox and Sky will offer, is already in the market. And rumours persist that Netflix itself will eventually open up in New Zealand.

But only a minority of viewers even know how connect their TVs to the internet. How big is the market these services are chasing? I'm joined on this week's show by Rod Snodgrass, head of Telecom Digital Ventures, the unit that is launching Telecom into television with Lightbox and has various other ideas in the pipeline.

I've also been having a play with the Lightbox beta, via its iPad-only iOS app (Lightbox will also be available on Windows and Mac OS, more devices to come by the end of the year). The app is is well-designed and notably snappy and the content is being delivered by Akamai, but I've been having some trouble watching videos via AirPlay to my Apple TV. I'll have to see if I can fix that.

Also on this week's show, Toi looks at the three-yearly crop of election hoardings, what they signify and what's being done to them.

That's all on Media Take on Maori Television at 10.10pm tomorrow night (right after Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer). But you're most welcome to join us for this evening's recording. Just come to the Victoria Street entrance of TVNZ at 5.45pm today.


Steven Joyce: Prick or Treat

The first time I saw Steven Joyce speak to an audience, he was a prize prick. Indeed, I can't recall a senior politician being as openly contemptuous of a crowd as Joyce was opening the second day of NetHui 2011. It was astonishing.

The second time was last month, when he spoke at the launch of a new business service, to an audience of banking and business people. He was relaxed and wrly humorous, transgressing only in the frequency with which he used the opportunity to campaign for votes.

In the latter case, Joyce was among friends -- quite literally, in the case of his former ministerial colleague, Simon Power, Westpac's General Manager Business Bank, Private Bank, Wealth & Insurance -- and presumably felt he had something to gain by being engaging.

Joyce's appearance on The Nation this past weekend was clearly not such an occasion. He heckled and interrupted not only his fellow panelist, Labour's economic development spokesman Grant Robertson, but The Nation's host, Lisa Owen, who wound up shouting too. Robertson ruefully reflected later on Twitter that the discussion had not been great viewing. It wasn't. It was almost unwatchable. Which was perhaps Joyce's intention all along.

Joyce may have simply been prepared to look like an arsehole if it meant depriving Robertson of a sensible soundbite on regional development, an area where National is somewhat vulnerable. He knows it's not him the general public needs to like, when the Prime Minister retains an almost unprecedented level of popularity. And even when it comes time to contest the throne, Joyce's opponent is widely supposed to be Judith Collins. The likeability bar is not set terribly high.

But a series of tweets from Colmar Brunton last week shed a really interesting light on Key's consistent popularity. Only a third of voters believe John Key when he says he had never heard of Kim Dotcom until the eve of the raid on Dotcom mansion -- and 19% don't know and 48% believe Dotcom when he insists Key very much knew about him

So two thirds of all respondents and, according to the full report43% of National supporters, either disbelieved Key or weren't sure. Fully a quarter of self-declared National Party supporters actively believed the Prime Minister is lying about a matter on which he has staked his credibility.

That question was asked in the context of a poll in which Key's support as preferred Prime Minister increased by a point to 48% and his party's support edged up to 52%. It's evident that a fairly large proportion of those who pick Key as preferred PM don't share the trust and affection for him that, say, Jonah Lomu and Mike Hosking do.

Those voters may simply be looking for stability and competence and not finding it on the Left. After David Cunliffe's weird lost fortnight of apologising-for-aplogising, perhaps that's not surprising. Had Cunliffe simply stood his ground on his Refuge speech and his family holiday, voters might have stood a chance of knowing who he is, even if they disagreed with him.

The irony is that when I looked up my original post about Joyce's NetHui horrorshow, I noticed that I'd recorded Cunliffe as being brisk, straightforward and relaxed, even as he basked in Lawrence Lessig's praise for his telecommunications reforms. That Cunliffe (and for that matter, talk of his regulatory achievements) has gone missing. Labour should send out a search party, if it's not too late.

But being popular ain't easy. Cunliffe isn't polling anywhere near Key as preferred PM, but he's not doing so badly that there's any show of a dark horse from any party overhauling him. National Party support is strikingly consilidated on Key: there are 14 people (including seven current or former Labour MPs) in the Colmar Brunton poll before we get to Joyce, who attracted support of 0.1%, equating to one person in the entire sample. That's half as many as Kim Dotcom, but more than Judith Collins, who polled no votes at all. If and when John Key decides to quit parliamentary politics, he will leave a large and possibly quite destructive vacuum to fill.


Friday Music: Curatin' for Your Love

I'm pleased and intrigued that Lorde has been commissioned to curate the soundtrack for the next Hunger Games movie -- and I'd like to claim credit. Well, I can't really, but it was obvious to me after Ella picked Lorde's Mixtape for us last year that she is a curatorial talent and it's not hard to see her career developing in that direction.

It also puts me in mind of something Adam Holt said to me as her music was beginning to take off about the importance of good taste in an artist's arsenal. She's certainly got that.


It's a big week for David Kilgour: not only has the prodigious four-album vinyl set of The Clean's Anthology landed (see rave review from Britain's The Line of Best Fit blog), but he's previewing End Times Undone, the new album from David Kilgour and the Heavy Eights, which sounds pretty great. You can listen to it here:

What with The Chills earning storming live reviews on their European tour and NME running a spread on the Flying Nun heritage, it's all quite nice.


It's also nice to see the Hallelujah Picassos back with 'Salvadore (Miles Away from You)', a sweet little pop tune that happens to be the band's first new recording in 18 years. You can click through on the player here to grab it at a price of your choosing:

Cool new tune from pop culture rhyme artist Randa on TheAudience:

You can download that and another new one, 'Fortress', at Randa's Soundcloud.

Another nicely idiosyncratic local hip hop track from the excellently-named Lost Bandits Forgotten Royalties:


I like what Shihad are doing in premiering their new album FVEY with a gig to raise money for the Christchurch Earthquake Recovery Fund. The show at Christchurch's CBS Arena will be free, with the revenue coming (hopefully) from a  $19.95 charge to watch it live via Sky Box Office. I've never bothered with Sky Box Office before, but I think the price is not unreasonable -- and that live concert broadcasts in general represent a largely untapped opportunity for artists.


Heard this on the radio last weekend. Proper mad. I like it:


If you want to know what the kids are up to -- and how those bedroom producers sound on the big big stereo -- there's 95bFM presents bANG!, an electronic showcase tomorrow night at the King's Arms, featuring Race Banyon, Totems, Career Girls and more.

Race Banyon is also playing tonight at Golden Dawn with She's So rad, who will be presenting both their disco and shoegaze sides. I think I'll be getting along there.

And ... oh god, I need to go outside. Post some good shit of your own in the comments, hey?

But wait, there's more! The long-lost and legendary promo video for 'I'm Bored' made by Iggy Pop during his 1979 visit here and screened on Radio With Pictures recently turned up on YouTube. Features The Beehive and a great many Kiwi liggers ligging. It cuts off early but not before the famous woman-throws-wine-over-Iggy moment.


The Hard News Music Post is sponsored by: