Random Play by Graham Reid

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Random Play: So You Wanna Be A Rock’n’Roll Star

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  • Simon Grigg,

    And I agree that....I should've previewed...

    Just another klong... • Since Nov 2006 • 3209 posts Report Reply

  • chris white,

    Good post Graham. i'm always amazed when i see NZ bands play in london that they're usually playing exclusively to nz expats. i just dont see the point, they might as well save the money spent on these tours and work harder at home.

    simon, can i add the fantastic Brian Smith to your list... but subtract george chisholm for being english.

    ~chris

    London • Since May 2007 • 1 posts Report Reply

  • Bruce Wurr,

    Excellent post Graham, and also the replies. I must admit I've had the perception in the past that when a band plays in the US, UK or overseas at all that they must be successful and/or broken through in some way. Having left NZ and lived in London for a year now that myth has been well and truly dispersed.

    Touring and building a live fanbase is essential for any band - experience, exposure, musicianship, tightness etc and yep, most nz bands don't get close to even doing the whole of NZ, let alone the world. Someone like Blink has done a great job giving bands experience with his A Low Hum tours, and die die die are doing the hard yards as I write touring the US and will be heading over to the UK soon for their 3rd(?) tour. I would advise any band that wants to be serious to at least fund themselves a short tour of another country just to get an idea of what it's like outside of NZ, and the challenges that will be presented to them. The importance of playing live should not be underestimated.

    It's great to see this being talked about in a public forum!

    London • Since Dec 2006 • 89 posts Report Reply

  • rodgerd,

    bands used to tour relentlessly and New Zealand had a viable touring circuit which did make money for the acts throughout the eighties and into the nineties

    Well, that's what build Hello Sailor, Dragon, Mi-Sex, DD Smash et al, isn't it?

    But then I get the impression, rightly or wrongly, that venues that will pay for live music have gotten rarer and rarer. Wellington has suffered the influx of wankers in cheap-shit apartments using noise control to shut down venue after venue, for example.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 512 posts Report Reply

  • rodgerd,

    I got to the point where I don't ask friends how our show was - I tend to have a good idea of how it was myself and unfortunatly, my friends being nice people, will tend to provide nice feedback (which is well.... nice, but not really that useful).

    True story: my wife (who Scott knows 8) decided I was worth asking about her paintings only after I said something negative about one of them. She'd gotten sick of uncritical friend-response by then.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 512 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia,

    Just FYI, Neil Finn has a *cough* free and frank response to his critics in The Herald's Time Out section today. Worth a read, as they say - not least for the sight of that pompous prima donna Howard Morrison getting a (IMO) long overdue slap.

    Finally, back to the Real Groove article that these quotes were taken from. There is an argument that it might be a negative thing for New Zealand music to become an exercise in flagwaving and feelgood posturing by the Government and music industry. I was merely pointing out that we should be realistic about our chances in the wider world and not fall for an orchestrated and illusory hype job.

    There are many brilliant musicians in this country and when they do reach a wider audience it will be because they have worked long and hard and have the talent. I wish them all well.

    Well, indeed. And I must admit I got equally pissed off at the whole 'he lives in Australia, therefore he's not a real New Zealander' sneer. Even if it was true in Finn's case (which it's not), what exactly is Morrison's point beyond a rather pathetic mutation of the cultural cringe?

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12052 posts Report Reply

  • Robyn Gallagher,

    I liked Finn's comments on the one-sided Australia vs New Zealand situation:

    These are trivial matters but I mention them because some in New Zealand spend too much time worrying about Australia. If they take credit for some of our stuff it's not that big a deal. We should be calmly confident enough not to care. And anyway, they don't spend any time worrying about us.

    In other words, it's just a pavlova.

    Raglan • Since Nov 2006 • 1869 posts Report Reply

  • Damian Christie,

    I liked Finn's comments on the one-sided Australia vs New Zealand situation

    Ditto. You know, it was a real revelation to me the first time I went to Sydney, that the 'fierce trans-Tasman rivalry' was disappointingly - pathetically - just us.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 1130 posts Report Reply

  • merc,

    I have had some of the best (even, calm, insightful and interesting) conversations re NZ and NZer's in Australia, with Australians, really.
    Although Australian feral surfers have alot to answer for but that's a whole different can of lolrus.

    Since Dec 2006 • 2471 posts Report Reply

  • Simon Grigg,

    Ditto. You know, it was a real revelation to me the first time I went to Sydney, that the 'fierce trans-Tasman rivalry' was disappointingly - pathetically - just us.

    You can throw Wellie's thing about Ak and Melbourne's thing about Sydney into that statement too

    Just another klong... • Since Nov 2006 • 3209 posts Report Reply

  • Damian Christie,

    Or most of New Zealand vs Auckland, actually.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 1130 posts Report Reply

  • Heather Gaye,

    Ditto. You know, it was a real revelation to me the first time I went to Sydney, that the 'fierce trans-Tasman rivalry' was disappointingly - pathetically - just us.

    When I was in London, I met a kiwi, asked where he was from and he said "Dunedin...I KNOW I KNOW" and when I said "huh?" he launched this tirade about how "you North Islanders think you're so much better than us". I was speechless.

    Under the western motorwa… • Since Nov 2006 • 523 posts Report Reply

  • Heather Gaye,

    ...incidentally, that was after I told him I'd grown up in Whakatane. Hadn't even lived in Auckers at that point.

    Under the western motorwa… • Since Nov 2006 • 523 posts Report Reply

  • merc,

    Ipressive Dunedinitte, obviously shoulder-chips get air miles points too!

    Since Dec 2006 • 2471 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia,

    Although Australian feral surfers have alot to answer for but that's a whole different can of lolrus.

    Um, yes... I don't know about Sir Howard, but a pretty big chunk of my whanau are second or third-generation Ngati Bondi - they're just getting on with their lives and don;t have native wood chips of any description on their shoulders.

    I'm kicking myself for missing Jonathan Lemalu's recent recital in Auckland - which by all reports I've heard was glorious. WTF would anyone who isn't a sad, bitter little troll chip at the man for (if my memory serves) being based in London? It would be nice if New Zealand was the center of the opera universe, but it isn't.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12052 posts Report Reply

  • bob daktari,

    Incidentally Fat Freddies dropped out of the Top 40 albums today after two years plus. The last few months have been down the bottom where it really only means someone has merely thought about buying you to get a place, but quite an achievement.

    albums now mid price so wouldn't qualify for the album chart

    great post Graham

    when in london eons ago my first NZ band experiences were Bailter Space, who actually had a UK fanbase and thus played all these small (admittably) gigs in places I never visited again in and around London to English types, was very gratifiying to see others enjoy 'our' music, every other NZ act I saw the show was akin to a Uni orientation - that is ex pats and the bulk cared little for the actual band playing

    auckland • Since Dec 2006 • 356 posts Report Reply

  • Simon Grigg,

    albums now mid price so wouldn't qualify for the album chart

    The irony being that half the albums in the chart are sold for about mid-price rates but qualify because they are not listed as such in catalogues

    Just another klong... • Since Nov 2006 • 3209 posts Report Reply

  • Finn Higgins,

    I went because, you know, it's Herbie Hancock and stuff, but yeah it was kind of bleh. It wasn't unbearable, there were moments of greatness, but it just seemed effortless, in a bad way. I went because of the Miles association I guess, but really if you watch those videos then listen to this (Featuring Chick Corea, maybe his concert will be different)...I mean Miles Davis from almost 40 years ago basically blows away any 'new' jazz - defined as "anything that was recorded after 1970 by somebody other than Miles Davis. Hmm maybe that's too harsh - If you disagree please tell me who I've been missing, heh.

    John Zorn and the rest of the New York downtown thing, if you ask me. Not that he's "better than" Miles, unless you want to put 90s Masada against 80s Miles... but he's an important voice doing some great and - importantly - vital and alive things. If you're unaware and want a couple of good starting points then I'd suggest Masada, which has three main incarnations: acoustic (Zorn, Joey Baron, Dave Douglas and Greg Cohen), electric (variable) and string (Mark Feldman, Erik Friedlander, Greg Cohen). That's arguably the most consistently jazzy of his stuff in terms of playing idiom, especially the acoustic end of things.

    I wouldn't hold much hope for Chick Corea, unless you're unfamiliar with his 80s electric output. I'm not sure what it is with Miles and his great bands. Both Herbie and Chick seem to have gone wrong in a big way as they've aged in a way that, say, the remainder of Coltrane's great quartet didn't after he died. Or Max Roach, who I saw play in London back around 2001 with a fascinating trio composed of drums, pipa and piano playing a mix of jazz and traditional Chinese music.

    This still makes me cry, too.

    Oh, and Simon - I wrote a quite lengthy reply to you which seems to have ended up eaten as it hasn't appeared. I don't think we're actually arguing on facts, but on interpretation. I'm not out for a whine, but it seems like plain as day reality to me that the general across-the-board standard of local musicianship and sound engineering on display in public in New Zealand is of a lower standard than would be accepted in more serious markets in Europe and the US. I've even had non-musician relatives make similar comments when they've come over and gone out to see events.

    That's not to say that New Zealand is incapable of producing people doing good work - although I'd dispute some of your examples on the musicianship front as in any way seriously internationally competitive, your engineering examples are good. But I would definitely dispute the idea that it has an environment conducive to producing such people. Any achievement is one that can be put at the feet of the individuals who do so, not New Zealand in its nurturing of their development.

    The general accepted standard is low, as is the availability of good people to work and study with. Plus the standard expectation that has been generated in NZ is that musicians often just ought to be thankful to be working for free. The fact that you have to go back to the 60s and 70s - a heyday of professional musicianship everywhere in contrast with the present day - for your examples of working bands seems to back up the point. Where are modern counterparts to those show band gigs? And what do they pay?

    Engineering in NZ is an interesting one. It's not so much that the work is gone - although the trends towards home recording are the same everywhere. It's more that the acceptable public standard for which people are willing to pay an engineer money are shockingly poor, and I don't really know why considering how many otherwise decent gigs here I've seen ruined by incompetent engineering. Ironically at many of them the engineer was the only one getting paid, too, so it doesn't seem to be about money.

    Wellington • Since Apr 2007 • 209 posts Report Reply

  • rodgerd,

    Or most of New Zealand vs Auckland, actually.

    Yes, it's not like we've recently had an entire thread of Aucklanders congratulating themselves about how superior they are to the knuckldraggers south of the Bombays, and that secession would be a nice idea. They're above that, you see.

    I'm sorry, I'll get out of the smarmfest's way...

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 512 posts Report Reply

  • Venetia King,

    Really enjoyed this post, and the discussion.

    When I saw The Veils in Wellington earlier this year it was my first introduction to their support act, White Birds And Lemons. I remember being astonished by how tight they sounded, especially for such a young band (still teenagers?) - it felt like they'd been playing a LOT. Then I wondered why that was so surprising... I guess if a band really wants to get a lot of practice they'll find a way.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 103 posts Report Reply

  • Simon Grigg,

    Finn,
    Feel free to argue with me on the "musicianship" level...it's all subjective anyway, I find many virtuoso professional musicians dull, unimaginative and plodding, and that applies as much to my experience in the UK as it does New Zealand. But they have their uses. Give me inspiration over perceived musicianship anyday.
    When I first saw New Order they were shocking musicians...but then they changed the pop world (with a little help from Arthur Baker & John Robie).

    But when you combine inspiration with the skills of the likes of the Haines Brothers (are those two of the guys you dispute....they are contemporary too) or Mark de Clive Lowe...well.

    Musicianship is not a problem in New Zealand, and is not the point....I'm sorry you are having trouble getting paid but lets just say we profoundly disagree on this...however the things that Graham pointed out are...letting badly produced, badly mastered, badly written...editing....the Annie Crummer / Hollie Smith school of not letting your overwraught songs breath...out into the marketplace, or even on to the next Kiwi Hit Disc are. As much as anything it's an A&R hole....nobody calls the shots. As shitty as the Sex Pistols were musically, albeit with great ideas, somebody was smart enough to put them in the studio with Chris Thomas. And importing, as is the fashion, some no-name producer who may have worked on some band's album as an engineer, from abroad as is the fashion, or flying offshore to work with the same is no answer either.

    I've been working with a guy called Mannasseh, who's the beat maker, composer, programmer..whatever you want to call it...with a band variously called The Others / Otros / Others Requiem and the guy, with limited musician skills, is absolutely inspired. The sound-beds he creates are astounding not only me but a bunch of other longtime cynics who are hearing them. To me the future lies with people like him, inspired driven people, as it always has. We put him with Alan Jansson because Alan has the production skills to take his creativity to the next level...and bring in the odd seasoned musician when required. And to say no when required.

    Damn, another long post....

    Just another klong... • Since Nov 2006 • 3209 posts Report Reply

  • Philternz,

    I have enjoyed the dicsussion as well, but like to add the counter point that I got turned on to music when I first heard punk in the late 70's, I have loved music ever since. I love it for its noise, its chaoticness and the fact that any one can do it, and most can record it.

    For me musicianship and quality of recording are not what is important, it is about passion, enthusiasm, a great hook, jumping up and down and singing badly in the front row of a gig.

    My favourite recordings would probably be sneered at by some as being unworthy, but who cares. God Bless DYI and low-fi

    Waitakere • Since Nov 2006 • 4 posts Report Reply

  • Paul Rowe,

    My favourite recordings would probably be sneered at by some as being unworthy, but who cares. God Bless DYI and low-fi

    Suicide 2 might well have been "recorded ina biscuit tin" but there is little to surpass its energy or the thrill of hearing it for the first time (__It's bigger than both of Us__, 1989, second week at Uni)

    And I think it is on the movie The Kids Are All Right where Townshend claims that the Who were shit musicians, but that was OK. You listen to a Beatles record and they are lousy musicians as well! I know he's being self deprecating, he later said that he could do anything on the guitar that Hendrix, Clapton et al could do, he just chose not to...

    Lake Roxburgh, Central Ot… • Since Nov 2006 • 563 posts Report Reply

  • Nobody Important,

    I think he was, in an off-the-cuff way, saying something that we need to hear more. The press releases about our bands at SXSW or playing a big Waitangi Day gig in London, or having a track added a TripleJ or flying to some Sydney-side MTV bash with a bunch of hangers-on need to be put into perspective.

    I've been saying exactly that for years, and been denounced bitterly as well. How much of the kiwi hype in UK media was produced by ex-pat kiwis? Weren't we flying them (and any other blaggers they round up) down here to attend special 'conferences' and 'showcases' in return for them telling 'our media' how kiwi music was on the cusp of global success?

    Pieter Whatsername from NZ Fashion Week obviously learned something, as they similarly fly in ex-pats and 'influential' (as in 'not really') media to tell us how good our frocks are. Good on Karen Walker who's doing what needs to be done to crack it internationally but does anyone really believe Madonna walked into a NY store and said "I must have these jeans"??

    Everyone in a band should read this blog and think about.

    It's worth repeating, so I have. Graeme your blog is spot on, but unfortunately too big for a T Shirt print.

    expat • Since Mar 2007 • 319 posts Report Reply

  • Simon Grigg,

    And I think it is on the movie The Kids Are All Right where Townshend claims that the Who were shit musicians,

    They got there though...and somebody was smart enough to stick them in the studio with Shel Tamy at the beginning.

    Most of the early punk records were well produced, despite the lack of musicianship...The Ramones first album, all three chords of it, is stunningly produced..but Finn is right when he says that the standard of production on show on released records in NZ is shocking. It's an issue.

    On the other hand, the joy of so many of those early DIY singles, like Suicide 2, was their raw, straight to tapeness..they were ideas and fuck you performances, and little else. Rough passion.

    Just another klong... • Since Nov 2006 • 3209 posts Report Reply

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