Hard News by Russell Brown


(Good) Friday Music: In and out of the woods

Oro Festival went off at Woodhill Forest on Saturday, blessed with some lovely autumn weather. It was an ambitious show – although given the scale, more a big outdoor party than a festival as such – and not everything went right. The bar didn't work (although the Hallertau beer was delicious if you could get one) and I'd had considerably more than my fill of pop drum and bass by the time SoccerPractise took the stage at 5pm. And then after SoccerPractise, Jeru the Damaja just got it totally wrong and spent the next hour and a half loudly and painfully dying. If he'd just shut up and rapped a few tunes ...

But the site is fantastic and the ambitious project of getting nearly all the punters to the site and back to the city by bus worked very well. (My crew managed to be first aboard a double-decker bus back and enjoyed the upstairs front seats all the way. We totally felt like legends.) The portaloos were top-notch, if too few in number (just get in porta-urinals next time). And having been at a couple of events this summer that were overseen by the dreaded Red Badge security, it was also really nice to see security done well. (That was certainly aided by the truly blessed absence of drunk twentysomething douchebros.)

The concert production was absolutely top-drawer. Everything sounded great without being deafening and the lights and LED screens bordered on the hallucinogenic. SoocerPractise stepped up and used that opportunity really well and Dave Seaman's set demonstrated why he's a DJ legend.

And Underworld? Underworld were amazing. I've seen them before, at the 2003 Big Day Out. This time their show was at once spectacular and intimate – and, I fancied, very British. I thought I heard echoes of The Fall in amongst the beats and and it felt more like a performance, the work of artists, than you might expect of a voice-and-machines duo. They seemed to be loving the setting too.

And yes, of course, they finished with that great English folk song, 'Born Slippy'.

I think Dave Roper and his team deserve great credit for pulling off something so innovative, and their partners, Ngati Whatua o Kaipara, are to be congratulated too. They're aiming to do it again next year and I hope they can.

If there is a show next year, I'd like to see more bar and toilet capacity, of course. And musically? I reckon there's scope for something more experimental in the afternoon. Something like Floating Points on that stage would be brilliant, or a wide-ranging Theo Parrish set, or some deep local electronica. This could be a showcase for electronic music of all kinds.

Anyway, here's a pic of the remarkable sky as the sun went down behind the hills.

And a snippet of Soccer Practise:

And someone else's video of 'Born Slippy', because I was not about fiddling with my damn phone at that point ...


Next Saturday, the 22nd, is Record Store Day.

In Auckland, Southbound Records say they'll have around 300 of this year's RSD releases available first-come-first-served from 9am. And they have live music from 2pm, with Stretch playing songs from his debut album Bury All Horses, then Jed Town's group Ghost Town perfrming and signing copies of their album, Sky Is Falling. Keep an eye on Southbound's Facebook page for updates.

Real Groovy also has quite a programme of events, with live performances including X-features (Jed Town's a busy boy that afternoon!).

In Wellington, Simon Sweetman has the lowdown on Slow Boat's RSD activities, which include performances by Teeth and French for rabbits.

Feel free to chip in in comments with anything I've missed.


The 22nd is also the day of JPSE's sold-out show at the Hollywood in Avondale. And ahead of that, 95bFM's Justin Redding talked to Dave Mulcay about his musical life in JPSE and elsewhere. The interview features some previously-unheard live-to-air material from the group's 1993 US tour.


Further to last week's post, the managers of The King's Arms have affirmed that it's "business as usual".


Ban Ban Ton Ton blog has an interesting interview with Ben Stevens, the founder of the new Wellington record label Strangelove Music – about, among other things, why he's chosen to debut his label by releasing a 34 year-old Portugese pop record.

Ben's release plans for the rest of the year do sound interesting:

Its a bit magpie-ish but I hope there will be some sense of musical cohesiveness coming through with future releases. There’s 7 or 8 things at the moment mapped out over the next 18 months all going to plan. Some beautiful timeless music from Cathy Vanishing Twin; a project by Simplex 2 – oddball Australian session music that was never properly released which my buddy, Jeremy Crown Ruler, discovered. Some very special Scandinavian material and another Portuguese artist to come.

I’m also headlong into developing a compilation of 1980s Leftfield / Avant material from New Zealand, which has been a huge amount of fun and very revealing. Connecting with local music mafia I didn’t already know and burrowing through Radio New Zealand’s station archives.

My sense is that there's a whole bunch of oddball 80s material waiting to be rediscovered here.


There are some jazz things happening.

Ijebu Pleasure Club celebrate a year in business with a show (with TV Disko) at Golden Dawn on the 28th.

New Kamasi Washington!

And old 70s "spiritual jazz", in the form of the Lloyd McNeill Quartet's Washington Suite, which has been re-released in all formats by Soul Jazz. I grabbed the MP3s of this earlier in the week and it's just a beautiful record. It's like this ...

And finally, Open Culture recalls one of the great Sun Ra stories.



The now-LA-based Chelsea Jade dropped a new pop tune this week, and it's pretty glorious:

Bob Moses get the Love Thy Brother treatment. Smooth and heavy ...

Kolsch turns the Flume/Little Dragon track 'Take a Chance' into a nine-minute euro monster:

Some loose-limbed afro-disco:

Which I found in Beam Me Up Disco's Spring Disco Chart ...

A pumping Petko Turner edit of Herbie Hancock's 'Just Around the Corner' (free download).

A Karim dub of Prince's 'Hot Thing'. (Free download – just click the "buy" button.)

A particularly good episode of Jazzie B's Back to Life radio show for your long weekend:

And finally, this from Hamilton's Terrorball, if only because my darling threatened me with bodily harm if I didn't stop it. There's something in water in H-town. Something strange. (Free download if you're brave enough.)


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Representing New Zealand music


Media Take: the poor health of mental health services (updated)

Last September on this site, psychotherapist Kyle Macdonald wrote a post under the provocative title The stark reality: New Zealand no longer has a functional Mental Health Service. In the post he noted that the week prior Auckland had lost eight acute psychiatric beds. Staffing levels at the North Shore Unit, He Puna Waiora were so low that it was not possible to staff the unit safely.

Kyle also noted:

Since then we’ve heard that the same situation exists within the Auckland District Health Board who currently have 18 vacancies within their acute unit.   Counties Manakau DHB is also experiencing staff shortages with many staff working double shifts just to keep the unit open.

The Auckland DHB Community Acute Services, who manage acutely unwell people in their home to prevent them going into hospital, has now been closed altogether due to not having any staff available to run it.

The PSA believes that many other regions face the same issue, including Wellington and the West Coast.  They have called these cuts just the “tip of the iceberg” when it comes to the reality of the problems we now face in the public mental health sector.

Last week, that happened: it was announced that up to four beds at Wellington Hospital are to close because of staffing issues.

Around the time of Kyle's original post, NZ Doctor published a news story headed Ryall’s removal of mental health from priority list persists under Coleman’s reign. The story noted that while mental health services were still officially (ie: according to the minister) "ring-fenced" as a result of the 1996 Mason Report, which led to sweeping reforms of the mental heathcare system, in practice that does not appear to be the case. It quotes then-Green party Health spokesperson Kevin Hague:

Hague cites the 1996 Mason Report and its “game-changing solutions” as evidence of what an inquiry can achieve, but says the gains have been eroded.

“Before Mason, mental health used to be called the Cinderella service,” Hague says.

“We’re absolutely back to those days, probably worse.”

He’s on the same page as Labour’s Annette King in arguing why. Both say it goes back to the decision by former health minister Tony Ryall to remove mental health from the list of priorities.

Hague's calls for a fresh inquiry into the system fell on deaf ears. But Kyle, Mike King and others embarked on a project with ActionStation called The People's Mental Health Review, the results of which are now being collated.

Kyle and Mike both appear in this week's episode of Media Take.

In researching the show I tracked down the 96 Mason Report – or to give it its full name, the Inquiry Under Section 47 of the Health and Disability Services Act In Respect of Certain Mental Health Services.

The report was commissioned after a series of tragedies associated with failures in the mental health system. Reading it, it's impossible not to be struck by the similarity between the conditions it described 20 years ago and the flaws critics are identifying now – most notably, the way that acute services are increasingly having to do the work of under-resourced community-based services. It feels as if the hugely important reforms after Mason are unravelling.

The show also features Mental Health Foundation CEO Shaun Robinson, who doesn't use such strong language as Kyle and Mike – and that's the subject of some friction on the show – but is nonethless frank about his "disappointment" with the state of the system and the government's failure to address its problems.

There's also Māori clinical psychologist Pikihuia Pomare, who is fascinating, and the excellent Lucy McSweeney, a protege of the Foundation's mentoring programme who has launched a petition seeking to have mental health education made a compulsory part of the schools curriculum.

And it's not all bad news. We note in the show that on the same day last month not only did Jono Pryor deliver a stigma-shattering message on talking about mental health issues after the suicide of a friend, but The Rock radio host Bryce Casey talked about the same thing.

Given the problems in the system, it seems especially useful that guys like these  – blokes talking to blokes – are using their public profiles to talk about mental illness.

Anyway, it's a good show, along with the additional 15 minutes of discussion with all the panelists together. There are links below to watch both on-demand and we'll also bundle it in together with some other stuff for the hour-long Media Take that screens at 11.30am on Sunday.


On-demand links:

Media Take Episode 4

Episode 4 extended "open floor" discussion

Media Take (the long version) screens at 11.30am Sunday on Māori Television.


Behind those Herald home-buying stories

The latest in an apparently endless series of you-too-could-buy-a-house-if-you-weren't-so-lazy-and-worthless stories appears on the New Zealand Herald website today. It is titled: From $30k deposit to $1m planned portfolio in a year: one couple's story:

Two 24-year-old Aucklanders, who collectively saved about $30,000 for their first place in their first year of work, could have a $1 million-plus portfolio by the end of this year.

It seems too good to be true – and, naturally, it is.

So how did a couple only in their first year of working life afford all this?

"We borrowed 60 per cent of the purchase price. The rest of it came from parents as an equity gift," he said.

So, yes, the couple didn't buy a $640,000 unit off the back of $30,000 in savings. Their deposit wasn't $30,000 as the headline and intro claim – it was $256,000. I think most twentysomethings with jobs could get a bank to lend on that basis. But of course, most twentysomethings don't have parents in a position to pitch in a quarter of a million dollars.

Herald property writer Anne Gibson's story also embodies another trend in these stories: that the way to buy a house in Auckland is to become a property investor. Yes, cities need landlords. But the idea that we should all turn home ownership into a speculative business is completely mad. Auckland has quite enough of that.

But one more thing: it's yet another Gibson story mentioning property investor Ron Hoy Fong and/or his "coaching family" Ronovationz, which runs property investment seminars. I count 14 of them since the beginning of last year. Last week, there was this interview with Ronovationz "Property Wealth Coach" Gary Lin, whose idiotic advice includes  such gems as:

"If I were 16 years old today, I would join the army and toughen the f*** up ...

"Then, when I'm in my early 20s I would get an education or trade and read hundreds of books on wealth creation, personal development, habits of successful people. Then I'd do an OE and build a successful profession overseas, chase the money, see the world, build up a saving at the same time or learn about business and start up businesses.

"Success will come when one has developed the rich mindset, rich habits, and has taken action. Complaining on Facebook during work hours will do f***-all to their lives."

This is not, of course, how Lin himself got on the ladder. As another Gibson story, from January last year, explains, Lin got into the housing market courtesy of a $200,000 wedding gift from his father. But perhaps Lin does have a few tricks: here, in this forum he encourages people to get around restrictions on lending to investors by lying to their banks.

In another story in November, Hoy Fong declares that the "secret" to buying a house in Auckand is to use your parents' equity in their house, which will "probably" be mortgage-free. In a Herald Focus video on the same date Hoy Fong explained more about how "easy" it was to buy a house this way and scorned New Zealanders who "stay just over broke" by working at conventional jobs. The same video is also on the site as Why you should buy property now.

 Two days before, another Gibson story reads like an advertisement for Hoy Fong's coaching business:

What is stopping New Zealanders from getting rich?

That's the question a $23 million 31-property owning Auckland landlord, Ron Hoy Fong is asking at a seminar in Auckland on Saturday.

In February last year, Gibson had Hoy Fong urging Aucklanders to buy as many properties as possible "and  get in before the Chinese". (To be clear, Hoy Fong is a third-generation Kiwi and his grandparents were market gardeners. He was a civil servant who made his initial wealth by building then franchising the Tofu Store chain.) A month later he was in another story, predicting that the Auckland market was going to" go bananas".  In September he was back crowing about the $500,000 capital gain he scored on a property he bought that March.

This kind of bullish sentiment is integral to both of Hoy Fong's businesses – his "coaching" and his actual property investment. But whether the Herald should be making itself available as a megaphone is another matter.

Its not only the Herald of course. Stuff has run a series of how-I-bought-a-house stories too. And presumably, these stories run so often because people read them, even if only to look for the inevitable gotcha.

But maybe, just maybe, repeatedly running stories sourced from one company urging people to get into property on the expectation of easy wealth gains isn't a very healthy thing to do.


Friday Music: Disruption

Back in the old days, – and I'm talking the 1990s here, kids – we used to talk about "internet time" and "internet years" as an expression of how fast change could manifest in a low-friction, connected world. Every day, a crazy new idea, an old way disrupted and a fresh, flaky build of Netscape.

But more than once in the past decade I've reminded geek audiences that their sector has changed far less quickly and precipitously than some of those they like to mock as dinosaurs. Trust me on this, I'm a journalist. 

Further evidence: this week's figures from Recorded Music NZ, showing that in 2016 streaming accounted for half of recorded music revenue. Three years ago, when Pure Heroine came out, the figure was 7%.  Lorde's second album will earn its keep in a very different way to the first.

Moreover, the 700% growth in streaming revenue – from $5m in 2013 to $43.3m in 2016 – has helped the industry to a second year of growth, after a long decline. And, because people still like to buy things, vinyl now accounts for 14% of sales – $2.5m in 2016, up from $1.6m the year before. Public performance income (mainly licensing revenue from sound recordings aired on TV and radio, and public performance of recordings in bars, gyms and the like) is up too, at $14.2m, from $13.7m in 2015 and $11.6m in 2013.

RMNZ hasn't released a breakout for local artists as opposed to the local industry, but I'll see if I can get that. It remains true that unless you're a creative director or a screen producer (in which case, sync local!), the best way to support local artists is to pay to get into their gigs and buy their recordings in any format. You could listen to nothing but local indie bands on Spotify and your money would still go mostly to Ed Sheeran and Drake. That's how this works.


My friend Mark Peterson, who has manned the sound desk at the King's Arms Tavern for the last hundred years or so, posted a Facebook live video of the unusual events at the bar last Saturday, when the council, acting on a noise complaint from a local resident, summoned a crew of police officers to close down a gig by visiting American doom metallers Windhand. He and dozens of his Facebook friends were understandably appalled.

The fact that the show was able to be summarily closed down, rather than turned down, was a matter of interpretation by noise control officers. They had issued a warning after a complaint about the gig the night before, and decided that the fact that another show took place the next night – as had been advertised for weeks – amounted to non-compliance. So they called in the cops and left with "a speaker and a mixer" to make sure no more music could be played.

In this Stuff story, the promoter who brought Windhand here slates the King Arms management, but I'm not sure that's fair. Even if venue management were aware of the council's interpretation (which isn't clear), what were they supposed to do? Cancel the show? And I'm also not sure that staging the gig earlier would have helped – the Saturday complaint was received well before midnight.

Look, we're in the midst of change in the Newton area. It was dense with housing until the 1960s and is beginning to be reoccupied. It was the emptying-out associated with the motorway junction that created the space for a live music venue to operate. The pub itself has been sold for residential redevelopment and will close down next year. But it would be a shame if this storied venue's life ended with a whimper.

And really ... dear resident, if you didn't want to live near a live music venue, you shouldn't have bought or rented a place next to a live music venue. The KA has spent more than $100,000 on sound mitigation over the years and, frankly, it's not really that loud outside. Some people should stick to the suburbs.

There is a petition calling on the council to protect the future of live music in the central city and I think that's an entirely reasonable request. A city full of flash pads and empty of culture isn't much of a city at all.

UPDATE: Helmet’s promoter has pulled their show out of the King’s Arms and moved it to Galatos, understandably unwilling to bear the risk of the council shutting it down on the night. This is really sad.


Whoa. Turns out that shitty Pepsi ad was anticipated 18 years ago by the video for the Chemical Brothers' 'Out of Control'. And the original director, W.I.Z.  was frankly appalled to see satire become reality:

He explains the video was originally inspired from a lyric from The Clash’s ‘White Man (In Hammersmith Palais)’, “Huh, you think it’s funny turning rebellion into money.” 

The video, which he calls a self-fulfilling prophecy, was meant to show that nothing is sacred when it comes to profit margins, “not even heartfelt expressions for social justice.”


If you're out on the town tomorrow night in Auckland, there's a lot to see: Nadia Reid at the Tuning Fork, Delaney Davidson at Freida Margolis (actually, that's sold out), Ijebu Pleasure Club at the Portland ...

And, yes, a bunch of rascals young and old at the King's Arms for Punk It Up. Please don't let this be closed down. Please.


Me? I'll be dancing in a forest at Oro Festival.



I posted a couple of things from the Parisian DJ Florent F recently, but I don't think I shared this, which I've been loving. Hit that free download button!

And one for the wedding DJs! A pretty cool rework of 'Grease', with the drums brought to the fore. Click through for a free WAV download:


The Friday Music Post is sponsored by:


Representing New Zealand music


Food and dancing

There are many ways to illustrate Auckland: houses and dollar signs, motorways full of traffic, the irrelevant and unreal adventures of its "real" housewives and bogus bachelors on television. I prefer to take visiting friends to Avondale Markets on a Sunday morning, to shop for old books and bok choi.

I wasn't born in this city, but I feel at home when I'm standing shoulder-to-shoulder with Chinese matrons, eyeballing each chilli or tomato before either dropping it in the bag or flicking it back contemptuously to the pile. I learned from watching them that it was okay to do this.

It's an example of the way food provides for commonality in modern Auckland – not in the banal "thanks for all the takeaways" sense, but where we're sharing practices. And so, in a different way, is the annual Auckland International Cultural Festival at Mt Roskill's War Memorial Park, where there is food and dancing.

Mum happened to be in town during the festival weekend a couple of years ago, so I took her along. She lives  in a retirement village on the Kapiti coast and I wasn't quite sure what she'd make of all this diversity. She loved it – it was a world she literally had not seen.

This year's festival took place on Sunday, when it was warm and occasionally sunny. It seemed bigger and brighter than ever and nearly everyone was smiling. And I enjoyed being in a space where, as an Aucklander of European heritage, I wasn't part of a majority (although probably still a plurality). But more than that, there's something grounding about people looking different but doing the same things. Like, for example, dancing:

As Vaughn Davis noted in his post on Monday, Auckland isn't a racial or social paradise, however much we might like that idea. But Sunday was a happy time and I only wish I'd stayed longer, taken more photographs, eaten more food and and locked up my bike and danced. If you have images from the day, do feel free to share them here – just use the "upload file" button by the comment box. You'll need to have typed something in the box for it to work, and 500k to 1MB is a good size.