In the days before email, when even toll calls were prohibitively priced, we would write each other letters. Rambling affairs, typed single-space (yes, some of us had typewriters – we weren't cave people) and full of news, gossip and extravagant ironic abuse. I wish I'd kept my letters from Roi Colbert.
Roi died yesterday. His health had been bad for a while, but it's still very sad and there will be many of us mulling our memories of the man today. I hadn't seen Roi since the last time I made it to Dunedin, and that's a while ago. The first time I met him was the first time I went to Dunedin. In some sense, he was Dunedin – or at least a feature of it. Today, it's like The Octagon's gone.
As Amanda Mills explains in her excellent Audioculture article (which properly calls him by the name his parents gave him – "Roi" was his own coinage), his shop, Records Records, was central to Dunedin's musical explosion in the early 1980s. Kids would come in to pick over the second-hand bins , check the bass-player-wanted ads on the noticeboard, or just to see Roi. He'd sit there on his stool occasionally making good-natured comment on what you'd brought to the counter. He was Flying Nun's first distributor in the city too.
But it wasn't just his shop. Roy and his wife Christine were extraordinarily generous with their home. When Fiona and I decided to join Murray Cammick on the train to Dunedin to see The Clean's "last" gig in 1982, we arrived with nowhere to stay. We stayed, of course, with Roi and Christine. They were generous and kind, even after I rather rudely beat the high score on his pinball machine (I honestly still don't even know how this happened).
On later visits to the city, Shayne Carter and I would get righteously blazed and walk up the hill to Roi's place for epic games of table tennis. As Amanda notes, Roi's place was also where you could watch music videos. He'd been in early on the home video revolution, and never let his choice of Betamax get him down.
Other people knew Roi much better and longer than me, but I related to him as a journalist – originally a sportswriter – who loved music. In his later years, he wrote a column for the ODT, whose entries included this achingly funny account of a conversation with Shayne Carter about what the words to 'She Speeds' actually are.
Last year, he wrote a column which began with an appreciation of my story on the meth-contamination boondoggle (lauding me as "yet another towering investigative journalist reared on the demanding cliff-climb of music writing") before branching out with some thoughts on stamp collecting, art, used cars and Donald Trump. The paper paywalled it, so he sent it to me to make sure I saw it.
As recently as March, he had this excellent feature on Nadia Reid in North & South. Nadia thanked him on Facebook this morning:
I believe he argued with nurses and doctors to let him out of hospital to attend the show. He sat in the front row and I so loved having him there with his lovely wife Christine. A month back, at a Flying Nun event in Dunedin, we were talking, he must have sensed some doubt in my voice, and he said to me:
"You've made two records Nadia, that is the hard work done, they will last forever, now you just sit back and enjoy the ride."
What an incredible golden soul.
Roi, who was helping young musicians believe in themselves a decade before Nadia was born, was doing it until the end.
In that same month this year, Dunedin's Octagon Club was transformed for two nights into a recreation of of Records Records, which closed in 2005, the year that Roi had his kidney transplant. The blog Urban Dream Brokerage ran some great photographs of the event, including this one, of Roi sat in the audience with Shayne Carter, the wild, talented kid he did more for than anyone. It's just a beautiful image.
So, thank you Roi. Thank you from all of us.
Fittingly enough, there are some Flying Nun reissues out this week.
There's an expanded 2LP version of Bressa Creeting Cake's self-titled debut, available for the first time on vinyl. I have very fond memories of the original launch party for this record, which was staged at Alexandra Park racecourse, on a day when the Bressa Creeting Cake Mobile Pace was won.
And there's also a 2LP reissue of Garageland's debut Last Exit to Garageland, which also incorporates their first record, the five-track Come Back Special EP. Chunky guitar-pop ahoy!
This is also reissue day for Micronism's landmark Inside A Quiet Mind on Loop Recordings, which has been richly remastered by Chris Chetland. There are links here to the various places you can buy and listen to it – including high-quality downloads on Bandcamp. The Bandcamp page also has a rapidly-shrinking stock of the 200-copies-only 2LP version, although Southbound, Flying In and others have some copies too.
I could explain further, but I think it's best to just direct you to Grant Smithies' brilliant Star Times story on how a brown kid from Tokoroa 20 years ago made the record that basically defined New Zealand techno music – and then just stopped.
The KLF are back! Next month, they have a book and an event called Liverpool: Welcome to the Dark Ages, for which there is a trailer:
Others aren't so sure – and one Reddit user claims to have downloaded the whole 900 terabytes of music sitting on Soundcloud's servers. Sadly, I see Soundcloud has forbidden The Internet Archive to do the same thing.
It's a brutal world out there in music streaming. Soundcloud has a staggering 175 million users a month, but it hasn't found a way to make money as a legitimate streaming service – and it faces one big competitor with an apparently limitless ability to lose money (Spotify) and another which simply doesn't need to make money (Apple).
What's happened here is that when Soundcloud began a decade ago, streaming was simply a way to preview a record as, perhaps, a path to a sale. These days, the stream is the sale, and the owners want to be paid. It's an environment that doesn't sit well with the kind of content – remixes, mixtapes and edits – that were the great thing about Soundcloud in the first place.
If Soundcloud does fail and isn't rescued with a sale to a larger company, there will be others there to fill the breach. But on this blog and a thousand others, a whole lot of embeds will break and stay broken.
Light will doubtless be shed on the changing music industry by guests from Billboard, Bandcamp and 4AD at September's 2017 Going Global Music Summit at Roundhead Studios in Auckland. This looks really interesting.
Miloux has posted a bubbly rework of her new single 'Paris' and it's sweet as. I don't know if there are any release plans, but the original is on Bandcamp.
This track is a 54-minute mix of 1960s tracks by the Haitian group Les Shleu Shleu and it's beautiful, swinging stuff.
Auckland's Dub Terminator got together with the Ragga twins and this happened ...
Aussie-born Miamai-based DJ Thomas Jack has a new EP out today (it's on the streaming services) which reminds me why I used to post his tracks all the time. Smooth, sweeping techno ...
An upbeat, danceable edit of Cedric Im Brooks' classic track 'Africa'. (Free download with Artists Union palaver):
And finally, some remixed Mississippi blues. Straight-up free download.
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