Hard News by Russell Brown


Friday Music: A genuine original

I sometimes have mixed feelings about leading these Friday posts with obituaries – it just seems to happen too often – but Celia Mancini's passing this week cannot go unremarked.

You may know Celia, or you may have seen or heard her with King Loser, the Axel Grinders and a number of other fine beat combos over the years. Or perhaps you recall her personal TV show, Slightly-Delic on Triangle TV in the late 90s.

I wasn't close friends with her, but I knew her a long time – since the 1980s, when this fearless kid called Celia Patel turned up on the scene. The same things that could make her maddening and difficult at times also made her brilliant company at others. She was a genuine original with a fertile mind, a penchant for trouble and a raging sense of style.

I feel glad that the last time I saw her was such a good time. Sandy Mill and I were DJing at Golden Dawn and none of our friends turned up – but Celia stuck around after playing in the band beforehand and hung out with us for hours. She was great company: funny, wise and full of words. It feels good that my last memory will be of dropping 'Get Into the Groove' and watching her show the kids how to dance.

One of my  favourite Celia stories was told to me by Matthew Crawley and also centres on Golden Dawn. King Loser were all set to play the bar – and she called off the gig because the bouncer offered her a glass of water! The nerve of the man!

Anyway, just to process the news, Stuart Page put together this tribute video.

Let's also throw in this 1998 clip from Slightly-Delic, with Celia and her band Mother Trucker playing her song 'Eric Estrada'.

And just for good measure, Cushla Dillon's video for King Loser's 'Comeback Special', in which Celia slays. A lot.

One consolation is is that Celia, no matter how chaotic her life was, was one of those people who kept everything. My friend Andrew Moore, who is well into his forthcoming King Loser documentary, You Cannot Kill What Does Not Live, posted this pic from from the big box of stuff Celia gave him ...


Chris Knox has a new batch of paintings for sale on his Tumblr. It went up on Wednesday and about two thirds of them are gone, but you might want to look at them anyway. I was lucky enough to see many of these works when I visited Chris, and they are very much his way of interpreting his experience since the stroke – after, that is, teaching himself to paint with his left hand. I was quite struck by how much one particular group of them reminded my of Smoke Signals, the gallery show that Askew One based on his own seizure.

Anyway, you can't have this one because we're picking it up tomorrow ...


There's a different flavour of rock 'n' roll art on show at Railway St Studios in New Market. New Zealand Herald cartoonist Rod Emmerson has a show there at the moment and it includes depictions of Nick Cave, Leoard Cohen, David Bowie and, my favourite, this one.


The Others Way went off on K Road last Friday night – and again demonstrated that it's a festival unlike any other. It's like one big, long party, and the demographic must surely be more than four decades wide. I missed a lot of the stuff that other people raved about (this is inevitable) and still saw a bunch of performances I really loved.

The gloriously retro Arthur Ahbez and band at the Thirsty Dog (new album imminent), Don McGlashan stepping up to sing 'Not to Take Sides' with Sneaky Feelings, Hex getting a boogie-rock direction on, the party vibe of Disasteradio at Whammy, Lawrence Arabia in tremendous form – and deep into the night, Micronism, who did not disappoint.

Arthur Ahbez

Daily Keno


Lawrence Arabia



Wondergarden is back at Silo Park on New Year's Eve and the lineup is pretty spectacular: UMO, Nadia Reid, Swidt, Leisure and more.

Wellington's Lord Echo gets to stand in on a Bandcamp Weekly and stacks it with local tunes.

Stinky Jim and Joost Langveld – aka Unitone Hi-Fi – have established a Soundcloud page to showcase their discography on Bandcamp. And it includes this free download:

Robert Scott has done a Songwriters Choice for Audioculture and it's an interesting selection.



I've been exploring the considerable online presence of the Rotterdam-based DJ-producer Ronny Hammond and I believe I've found a new favourite. There are tracks like this slinky groover (free DL, just click through and hit the button marked "Magic Button"):

And this new funky mixtape (free DL):

And an older one, more on the fuzzy disco tip. Equally cool - and also a free download (just click that little down arrow).

A bangin' edit of Laneway 2018 headliner Anderson.Paak (free DL):

There's also this, from an incredible new three-hour compilation of edits – everything from Fela Kuti to Bobby Womack – from the Canadian label Speakeasy, which is free on Bandcamp.

A gorgeous techno remix of The Juan McLean's 'The Brighter the Light'...

Which comes from this very cool free La.Ga.Sta. compilation on Bandcamp. (Also includes a Dimitri from Paris rework of a Salsoul Orchestra oldie and an intriguing Marine Girls(!) edit.)


And that really is enough for your weekend kitchen-dancing requirements, I believe. See you next week when I'm not half-dead with a cold.


Drugs and human rights

Had the leaders of the National Party contented themselves with simply promising more resources for police along with a long-overdue boost of $40 million for drug dependence services (including a very welcome 1500 new inpatient beds), their announcement today would have been quite admirable. But that, you'd have to guess, would not have suited their electoral purpose.

So instead, we had this:

In an extraordinary press conference following the announcement at the Higher Ground drug rehabilitation centre in West Auckland, Bennett said some gang members had "fewer" human rights than others and Prime Minister Bill English said it was good that New Zealand lacked a written constitution as it gave governments flexibility.

Police would be able to search the houses and cars of known gang members with a previous serious violent conviction at any time with no warrant under the new law, which Bennett admitted presented a human rights issue.

"It probably does breach the rights of some of those criminals but they have to have had a serious violent offence behind them already and a firearm charge and on the basis of that we are going ahead with it," Bennett said.

Asked point blank whether she believed criminals had human rights, Bennett replied "some have fewer human rights than others when they are creating a string of victims behind them."

It's a deep irony that these words were spoken at Higher Ground, a facility which exists to help its clients believe that they are human beings, with rights and responsibilities like all of us – a place where people who have gone lower than low participate in their own rehabilitation.

And it's ironic too, that a party seeking elected power would push in the opposite direction to the rest of the democratic world. As disappointing as the outcome document from last year's United Nations General Assembly Special Session on Drugs was, one of the big wins in the document and the process that forged it was its call for member states to bring drug enforcement activities in line with human rights obligations:

Promote and implement effective criminal justice responses to drug-related crimes to bring perpetrators to justice that ensure legal guarantees and due process safeguards pertaining to criminal justice proceedings, including practical measures to uphold the prohibition of arbitrary arrest and detention and of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment and to eliminate impunity, in accordance with relevant and applicable international law and taking into account United Nations standards and norms on crime prevention and criminal justice, and ensure timely access to legal aid and the right to a fair trial.

New Zealand signed up to this document. The National Party now proposes that we renege on that commitment by moving to deny human rights to certain people. In doing so, it would move us in the direction of Philippines leader Rodrigo Duterte, whose bloody purge is literally based on dehumanising drug users. It's hardly police death squads, but it is a tiny step in that direction.

Yes, there are bad people in gangs, and some of them have been convicted of dealing or manufacturing controlled drugs. Some of them may have continued to do so and it's the job of the police to bring them to justice. But if they have served their sentences it is a breach of our Bill of Rights to indefinitely subject them to arbitrary searches.

Bennett's tidy demarcation of drug dealers and users into merciless baddies on one hand and victims on the other is also not reflected in the real world, but it appears it will be reflected in her role in charge of the government's new methamphetamine strategy. From the Herald's report on her appointment to that role last month:

The Bay's Te Tuinga Whanau Support Service executive director Tommy Wilson said the current system of criminalising people needed to change.

"[We don't need] task forces of police coming in," he said. "The secret is to reconnect them."

Mr Wilson said there were common factors between those in the region who had fallen on hard times.

"I've found the same set of circumstances and solutions with both homelessness and P users, and that is that they're disconnected people.

"Connection to your marae, your sporting group, your church. Put the resources into those organisations, and you'll get a change and answers.

In other words, the most effective solution to drug problems is making people feel more like citizens, not less.

The package announced today also includes a proposed new charge of "wilful contamination", which represents a doubling-down on the "meth contamination" boondoggle and represents another way of criminalising people with drug problems. It's hard to take seriously as a public health measure from a government that refuses to mandate that rentals meet basic health standards in other respects.

And there will be another thing we haven't seen before: drug dogs as a commonplace at domestic airports and ferry terminals. This is unlikely to seriously hamper the meth trade – the most likely travellers to be caught will be those carrying a little weed. For the rest of us it'll feel just a bit more onerous to travel.

Still, at least we know where Paula Bennett and her party stand. And in being "flexible" about human rights, it's not with the rest of the United Nations community.


About last night's medical cannabis question

The medical cannabis question from a cancer survivor in last night's leaders' debate was an absolute gift for Jacinda Ardern, and she didn't miss. Her swift, succinct "Yes" was everything Bill English's uncomfortable, qualified answer wasn't. 

It was also effective cover for the fact that Ardern's Labour Party doesn't really have a proper policy on the issue.

Which isn't to say that Damien O'Connor's private members bill – which Andrew Little had already promised would be the basis of a law change within the first 100 days – wouldn't be a useful step forward. O'Connor's bill would remove the requirement for approval by the Associate Health minister or ministry officials for every prescription of a medical cannabis product.

But there has already been progress there since O'Connor's bill was drafted. Sativex, the only pharmaceutical-grade product with Medsafe approval, can now be prescribed by doctors without reference to officials. As of this month, products containing CBD will also be able to be directly prescribed by doctors – although CBD will (pointlessly, given that it's non-psychoactive) remain a controlled drug and approved products will remain expensive and difficult to source.

O'Connor's bill would also place the onus on the Ministry of Health to nominate non-pharma-grade products that could be prescribed. There has been progress there too, thanks to the patient, tireless advocacy of Medical Cannabis Awareness New Zealand (MCANZ) and an openness among ministry officials that wasn't there two years ago. MS sufferer Huhana Hickey has been legally using a cannabis-oil based product from the Canadian company Tilray and says it's better and easier to tolerate than Sativex. It's also a bit cheaper – that is, about $1000 a month for someone like Huhana. Which is still too much.

At this point, it's worth looking at the exact wording of Liz Morris's question to the two party leaders last night.

Recently when I went through chemo I had to consider the whole issue of cannabis. My question is this: pharmaceutical cannabis is inaccessible and very expensive. Would you consider legalising cannabis for medicinal purposes, for the extension of life and pain relief – so people like me don't have to consider being criminals and would know the quality of what they're taking?

That's what Ardern said an unequivocal "yes" to. And that "yes" goes well beyond any actual policy Labour currently has.

That probably actually matters less than it might appear, because there's already a medical cannabis bill – Julie Anne Genter's members bill – that will go to select committee during the next parliamentary term. As I noted when the bill was drawn, there are legitimate questions about the text of the bill. The vexed issue of grow-your-own provisions will be subject of considerable debate and the original draft of the bill will undoubtedly change.

But it's there, it's in the process already – and that's extremely significant. MCANZ has been quietly approaching political parties with a useful paper outlining policy options, including suggestions on how home growing could be regulated.

It would all be a lot easier, of course, if the general law on cannabis was changed. And happily, there's a pathway there too. The Misuse of Drugs Act 1974 is finally due for review in the next term. There's likely to be considerable interaction between the processes for that and Genter's bill.

Would the government of a Prime Minister Ardern go there? I think so. Little was conservative on drug law reform – which is why Labour doesn't have a coherent policy beyond chanting that drug use should be considered a health rather than a criminal issue. By contrast, last year Ardern was one of a handful of New Zealand public figures (Metiria Turei was another) to sign a public letter to the UN Secretary General calling for an end to the war on drugs.

It's actually somewhat similar to what's happening around capital gains tax  – Little's departure has allowed the issue to go back onto the table, but they don't have a policy so they're obliged to be vague. I don't expect them to magic up a policy they don't have in the month before an election – indeed, I'd rather they didn't. This stuff isn't trivial.

But I think the indications are promising. A couple of weeks ago, in the Media Take green room, I reminded Kelvin Davis that I'd interviewed him a couple of years before and he'd said that he didn't support decriminalisation and then gone on to hope for reform that was basically decriminalisation. He just couldn't quite say it.

And now? Things had changed, he said – he was all the way there. The time he'd spent involved with the New Zealand corrections system had seen to that. And in that show we recorded and in Māori Television's leaders debate, he said so. In the latter, he used the example of a whanau he knew who feared seeking help for their son's meth problem because they didn't want him exposed to the criminal justice system. It was powerful because it was practical.

On Wednesday on Back Benches, Wallace Chapman quizzed Peter Dunne on his proposal to legalise and regulate cannabis, and asked Labour's Chris Hipkins why his party couldn't go there. Hipkins repeated the usual health-not-criminal line – and then acknowledged that the logical end point of that philosopy was likely something like what Dunne proposed.

So I think that the intent is there – and that given the way the Parliamentary stars have aligned, intent is all that's required for now. There's a medical cannabis bill up for grabs and a once-in-two-generations opportunity to modernise our drug law. Realistically, genuine progress on either will only be possible if Labour leads the next government.

But even that's not a given. I interviewed Peter Dunne this week for a story I'm working on – and it was a conversation I simply couldn't have had with any other MP. A Labour-led government will need to find such a person. It may be that the list of requirements – senior enough to be an associate minister, policy nerd, affinity for the issues – can't be satisfied in any one person. That's okay, too. Put two people on it. And make at least one them Māori. No conversation on drug policy in New Zealand can be had without Māori. Bottom line.

However it's worked out, this needs to be taken seriously. It's time.


Media Take: Scandals, selfies and "social"

The ostensible topic of last night's Media Take show was Mike Hosking's awful performance over who can vote for the Māori Party (answer: anyone, of course). But, especially in the extended "open floor" korero, it developed into a frank, intriguing discussion of the nature of political campaigning in 2017 – and how to survive political scandals.

We had pencilled in the Māori Party's Tamaki Makaurau candidate Shane Taurima, but when his party's co-leader Marama Fox also became available, we decided to welcome them both on the show, on the reasoning that Shane would have a useful perspective on the Hosking debacle as a former TVNZ journalist. Then, having booked Shane Jones, Winston Peters' superannuation whoopsie (and its potential dirty politics storyline) rather fell into our laps.

The other guest was David Bowes, CEO of the social media research form Zavy, whose Election Tracker offers an interesting insight into the how the respective parties are faring on the social media platforms. Among other things, it vividly illustrates the "Jacinda effect" – both the volume and sentiment of interactions with the party's Facebook content soared from the day the new leader took over and that hasn't really stopped.

On Twitter, no party gets out of negative sentiment – although I do wonder about the parsing of language that creates that measure – but New Zealand First does surprisingly well. And the Greens just about have Instagram, that sunny space, to themselves.

The highs and lows of National's Facebook sentiment are also instructive. Its worst moment was this picture of Bill English congratulating John Key on his knighthood – and it is currently on an upwards trajectory thanks to "Hardworking New Zealanders are not an ATM for the Labour Party", which has been shared more than 2000 times. That line is working for them and you will hear variants of it from now until election day.

But something interesting happened when I put printouts of those graphs on the desk before we started recording. What are these, Marama Fox wanted to know. What's it say about us? How are we doing? She's keenly aware of the way social media can enhance her party's languishing public profile – globally, even.

She'll need every bit of presence she can muster – because the latest polls from the Māori electorates contain a cruel irony. Māori Party candidate Howie Tamati is showing a strong and unexpected lead over the Labour incumbent Adrian Rurawhe in Te Tai Hauāuru. If that holds, there may not be enough party vote to get Marama Fox back into Parliament on the list – and that would be great loss for Parliament itself. (And that is an if: as Gavin White has noted on Facebook, the Māori electorates are tricky to poll for various reasons).

It's something we say every election – but this time I think it's actually true. My sense is that all the candidates have clear instructions around "social". And a lot of that involves pictures. I'm not sure whether Jacinda's people set up the Miss Piggy encounter or just recognised a golden photo-op when they saw one, but ...

I was moderator for a Film Auckland forum on the parties' respective screen industry policies last week, and the moment I called time, the panelists whipped out their phones for selfies. Peeni Henare took one with Chloe Swarbrick – an MOU selfie, if you will.

That forum also included something that hasn't been a feature of many public discussions in this campaign: the presence of the National Party. We were quite unable to fulfill our promise to present a National candidate on Media Take this week. Working through a list, we thought we had Botany MP Jami-Lee Ross, but after "checking with Wellington" he was suddenly busy that evening. National is also not doing any of Māori Television's debates. The sense is that they've been consciously narrowing their message and who they talk to.

So I'm grateful to minister Maggie Barry for fronting at the screen industry forum. And it seems worth noting that even given her advantage with ministeral briefings, she acquitted herself well. Judging by the conversations in the room afterwards, she won votes.

We should perhaps pause to acknowledge how hard many other candidates are working in this campaign – most notably those from the Green Party, who will be keenly aware of the ground they need to recover. Chloe told me that she doesn't have a free night from here until election day. And James Shaw – who stepped in at short notice for Metiria Turei at our Orcon IRL event a couple of weeks ago – may need to take care he doesn't exhaust himself.

I like the fact that even as the process of persuasion goes more and more digital, we seem to be seeing more real-life interaction too. I think that's healthy.

Media Take Episode 12

Media Take Episode 12 extended "open floor" korero


Friday Music: Warming up for a night on K Road

Things are heating up ahead of next Friday's The Others Way Festival. Sneaky Feelings first album in forever, Progress Junction, is released on the day of their warmup show at Hamilton's Nivara Lounge next Wednesday. It's a canny collection of songs – three from each band member – that doesn't sound quite like any of their previous releases, but is most identifiably Sneaky Feelings.

(Note that there's a Hamilton sideshow featuring Disasteradio and All-Seeing Hand the following night at the same venue.)

Elsewhere in the lineup, I mentioned the great new Disasteradio album last week. There's also the new single, ahead of their debut album, by Hex (see an interview here on Under the Radar):

Jonathan Bree just released this dark, sumptuous new single:

Bespin have a trippy af new video:

The Friendly Poetntial crew have announced that they'll be joined at their show by k2k – aka Katherine Anderson, who makes this kind of smooth house groove:

Wax Chattels have a new single streaming on Under the Radar (along with an interview). It's about Gillian Anderson. The song, that is, not the interview. Well, okay, the interview too ...

And of course, there's the Going Global Music Summit running on the Friday and Saturday.

And here is the timetable for next Friday.


Oh, and The Others Way will also feature Silver Scrolls finalist Bic Runga, whose 'Close Your Eyes' was included this week in the awards' first ever all-female finalist lineup, along with Lorde's 'Green Light', Aldous Harding's 'Horizon', Chelsea Jade's 'Life of the Party' and Nadia Reid's 'Richard'.

If five women out of five is a first, it's not exactly a surprise: women have been been making much of the creative pace in New Zealand music. The Apra initiative to improve gender parity in its overall membership – announced three weeks ago – is well-timed.

PS: I am Team Nadia, and 'Richard' isn't even my favourite song on Preservation.


Next Friday is also the release date of Neil Finn's new album Out of Silence – which hasn't been recorded yet! That all happens live on the internet tonight on Neil's YouTube channel, from 7pm. These sessions have been my last few Friday nights, and I'm just full of admiration for Neil for what he's doing here.

To keep you going till then, here's the archived stream of last Friday's "gig night" in the studio, which featured an audience and a great cameo from Onehunga's Swdit:


Alan Perrott has done a really nice interview with Murray Cammick, whose exhibition of rock 'n' roll photography runs until Sunday at Black Asterisk gallery on Ponsonby Road. Murray will be DJing there on the final day from noon till 3pm, which is all the reason you need to pop in.

The story also features a great photo of Murray himself. And Murray has just shared this picture taken by Terence Hogan in 83-84 – which reminds me rather startlingly of how young Murraywas when he hired 20 year-old as deputy editor of Rip It Up.

And finally, the gallery has republished Murray's account of how Bob Marley invited him to play football, which includes this immortal memory among others:

Within 24 hours of arriving in New Zealand, the tour party had put out a desperation call, they’d used up all the herb.

Someone had grossly underestimated what Marley and entourage needed to keep the show on the road.


Dangerous Minds has a nice story on the last night of Iggy Pop's The Idiot tour, which was also the last night that David Bowie played in Iggy's band.

The New Yorker on how the "Golden Record" that 40 years ago went out onto the cosmos with the Voyager 2 probe, was compiled. It's by Tim Ferris, the science journalist who was part of the wonderfully-named  Voyager Interstellar Record Committee overseen by Car Sagan.

Ferris puts to rest the story that the committee tried and failed to license the Beatles' 'Here Comes the Sun', but also shares this:

I sought to recruit John Lennon, of the Beatles, for the project, but tax considerations obliged him to leave the country. Lennon did help us, though, in two ways. First, he recommended that we use his engineer, Jimmy Iovine, who brought energy and expertise to the studio. (Jimmy later became famous as a rock and hip-hop producer and record-company executive.) Second, Lennon’s trick of etching little messages into the blank spaces between the takeout grooves at the ends of his records inspired me to do the same on Voyager. I wrote a dedication: “To the makers of music—all worlds, all times.”

The occasion is the impending release of a 40th anniversary box set of the recordings. You can check out a sampler here:


Island Records has posted Keep On Running, the excellent 2009 BBC documentary about the label's history, on YouTube:



A swoony new serving of R&B out today from Leisure:

The pulsing 'If Only', from Racing's EP The Bass, out today and on the usual services: