Archive for the ‘Wellington’ Category

I AM TERRIBLY excited to tell you all that the Wellington Central Library is to stock vinyl again from next month. Yes, it fucking is!!!

I saw the music chaps a couple of months ago sizing up the area and couldn’t quite believe my eyes: vinyl being loaned out at libraries once again? After 15 years away?!

This truly shows that vinyl is now THE main form of listening to music.

I do harbour some doubts though: given the condition some oafsome oiks leave a CD in after hiring it, I’m feaful of what condition the records will be when they are returned. I am confident that most people who take the records out are considerate and will treat them as they would their own. But it only takes a few selfish eejits to spoil it for the majority.

Wellington Libraries’ music man, Monty Masseurs (stop it, he is not a porn star) has gone out to Slow Boat records to carefully chose a good few hundred items for sensible folk to borrow.

See some of them in this promo clip the library has done itself:

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Black Seeds guitarist Mike Fabulous has his eye on some real goodies at Auckland’s famous music store Bungalow Bill’s when Porky catches up with him.

“I have a great passion for obscure vintage guitars and there’s many to choose from here. Alas, it’s pretty much window shopping; it’s not as if I can afford to buy any of them. It’s still fun though,”

Indeed it is and a good way of whiling away your time before catching a flight to the Capital, Wellington, where the multi-talented band are based.

Surprisingly, Fabulous tells me, it’s only now that the Seeds, who’ve been around for about 12 years, have got a decent recording studio and rehearsal space here in the country’s greatest city, a move that came about through the finest forms of communication still available to man – word of mouth.

Previously the Seeds have been recording at The Surgery, which is also in Mt Cook. “That’s great to record in but outwith that we haven’t had a decent space where we can all meet, thrash some ideas around and then play them. It’s changed our world really and gives us way more options,” he says.

The benefits of this is that they have a space to practice ahead of the Double Scoop Summer Tour, a national jaunt that takes in all sports of obscure and groovy venues. None of the dates are in Wellington, sadly, but the Seeds are regular performers on Cuba and Courtenay.

That will be followed by a tour of Australia, a plan to lay down some tracks in the studio for about three months then take the groovy, reggaefied Seeds sound to Europe and the United States. And sometime thisyear there’ll be a new album, the follow up to 2008’s fantastic Solid Ground.

In the meantime, you can blow your mind by listening to two recently-released albums, the remix-heavy Specials and Live Vol. 1, much of which was recorded in Wellington as well as remote musical outposts like Paris and London. And Fabulous’ solo album Melodies, released under the Lord Echo moniker and fuses Afro-disco, soul, reggae and Ethio-Jazz is out now.

Specials includes remixes made up by internet boffins who tweaked tracks posted by the band on the web. See www.theblackseeds.com for more details.



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The Tunnel

The Mt Victoria road tunnel was opened in 1931, an era when cars didn’t have seat belts or indicators, nor passengers really as only the wealthy could afford them.
It is the only real link (other than a couple of circuitous detours) connecting Wellington’s international airport and its populous eastern suburbs, and the city centre and everywhere north of it. It’s usually clogged with traffic and is not a pleasureable drive.

Hell, driving doesn’t compare to walking though. The ageing thoroughfare has a raised walkway along the side, with space enough for two skinny people walking extremely close together. One of them has to be no more than 5′ tall to avoid hitting their head against the slope.

It’s also used by cyclists who just slam past, not giving a toss if a pedestrian’s forced onto the waist-height wall, or thrown into the traffic below.
Walking through is a fucker enough with the pollution and incessant noise of traffic, then you’ve got this bizarre Wellington tradition: tooting the horn in the Mt Vic tunnel. That’s a bit of an ear-bleeder. But I have to confess that, after my experiences with inconsiderate cyclists, I now hoot just as I’m passing them in my car, hoping to  give them a jolt.

No-one can quite say what the reasoning behind this is but most drivers just seem to like the orchestral sound of the horn in this claustrophobic alleyway.

Many people who walk through it, do so every day, the cost of the bus being prohibitive for a short journey to the other side and the only foot alternative being the steep climb over the forested Town Belt, which is a must-avoid at night.
Initial predictions, back in the late 20s, were for 4,000 cars per day. By 1995 it was 33,000 per working day and God knows what it is today.

There are plans for alternative tunnels, which may well ease congestion in the tunnel and new Wellington mayor Celia Wade-Brown has put transport at the top of her hitlist, perhaps leading to such radical innovations as light rail in the city.

I walked through the tunnel today, with my iPod playing the New York Dolls at near full volume and I still could barely hear Trash . My lungs need a good airing now.
Just thought I’d let you know, should you ever drive through.

* This is a slightly revised version of an article posted in 2009.

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Hikoikoi are the kind of band the world needs just now in these unstable, uncertain times; an act that has an unshakeable dedication to peace and equality.

Thankfully, they’re also a damn good band, an excellent self-titled debut album released last year heralding their unique form of roots reggae.

Hikoikoi are heavily involved in the Parihaka Peace Festival in Taranaki, and Hikoikoi, the album, was laced with conscious-heavy tracks like Jah Armour and A Deeper Revelation.

With that in mind it’s a little of a surprise to hear from dreadlocked bassist James Coyle that Hikoikoi’s sound is evolving away from the sounds that has its roots in Jamaica.

At the office where he works part-time as an architect in Wellington, Coyle told me more about the new direction and something that won’t change – they’re dedication to just causes

James Coyle, Paul Wickham and Ben Wood

Porky: What’s the plans for the band just now?

James Coyle: We’re recording a lot in the studio just now, and have finished one song that we’ll be releasing in September on a nationwide tour. It’s called Timewalking and signals new ground for the band. Quite often we have been focused on roots-reggae but this album will have elements of rock. A lot of the other songs that we’ve demoed for this upcoming album have a harder edge, they’re less cruisy than previous songs.

Porky: And what of the lyrics and themes on the new material, does that have a harder edge as well?

JC: We have a strong message, that of peace, but also a strong interest in past events, for example, atrocities carried out during World War 2, and also in this land, issues of colonisation. In the past we’ve supported the kaupapa of quite a few information concerts, like one in Tuhoe to support in the struggle of the people there. The police raids (in 2007) and what’s also happening now (the Government’s rejection of the Te Urewaras being returned to Tuhoe) – I like to think that music is part of a solidarity campaign, to push for past wrongs to be corrected.

(for more on Tuhoe: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ng%C4%81i_T%C5%ABhoe)

(And for more on Te Urewara and the Tuhoe tribe: http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/3677975/Tuhoe-negotiators-told-Urewera-off-the-table)

Porky: Can you give the readers an indication of what to expect on the single?

JC: We have a guy called Kieran Rynhart directing the video and it looks like it will be an interesting one. He’s starting from scratch with an image of a land that has nothing, then develops with mountains growing from the oceans, animals inhabiting the land and it goes through to the early discoverers of New Zealand, the colonisation of New Zealand and looks into the future.

Porky: Any idea when the album might come out?

JC: March next year. We’ll also be touring then.

Porky: Did you pick up some influences from other bands or just decide you wanted to do more rockier sounds?

JC: I think it’s the influences within us. There are three of us in the band with our personalities shaping the band. For example, Paul (Wickham), the singer – his previous band was much influenced by rock. Roots-reggae is something that unites us all but I’m very much into jazz, particularly Miles Davis.

Porky: It’s interesting how you are changing, as the debut album was very much a reggae record with various other influences.

JC: Looking back, we really dig that sound but we also found it quite cruisy and we thought that things should get a bit more intense. We have a pretty intense live show and the album will reflect that live sound. Our drummer, Ben (Wood), who also does a fair bit of producing, has a lot of experience in drum’n’bass so he also adds an interesting dimension in the studio.

Porky: Where are you recording, in the boat sheds again?

JC: We worked in two studios at Hikoikoi Reserve (in Petone) but Paul has since moved his business to Akaratawa, which is that crazy road that goes from Upper Hutt to Waikanae. It’s a beautiful property, the river runs through it and there’s plenty of swimming holes. It’s a great location and the garage where we record has an interesting sound that’s impacting upon on the band.

Porky: You say Paul is a businessman and you’re an architecture undergraduate, so to some people it might be a bit of a contradiction that Hikoikoi is about peace, justice and equality.

JC: I guess the only people who have time to be actively fighting for those things are devoting their whole life to it or allowed the time to do it, which we don’t. But when you talk about business, Paul is a traditional boat builder, so he’s working with his hands every day, and he’s a very humble man so when it comes to writing lyrics and composing music he brings that humbleness into it. He really thinks about the world, and the suffering of people less fortunate than we are in New Zealand. One track from the debut album, Sudan Sun, was projecting ourselves into their shoes and imagining what it must be like to be that hungry and oppressed.

Porky: I was reading a piece on a blog that said you were more of a consciousness reggae band than an activist reggae band, but it sounds like you’re a bit of both.

JC: We’re nothing like some activists, there are some activists who devote their lives to changing the corrupt systems. It takes a lot of commitment to be an activist and it is an aspiration of ours to devote more of our time to that.


Hikoikoi playing in Wellington 2007


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The Phoenix Foundation are a six-piece from the capital of New Zealand, Wellington, who are one for the tuned-in.

They’re not the attention-grabbing, headline-making, hype-spinning band that the country sometimes produces and, unlike some of those particular acts – chose your own from the list – are capable of making some Damn Good Pop Music.

Buffalo (EMI) is the latest example of a sound that’s captivating with a thoughtful touch. Please take a trip through the city’s Town belt and hill suburb of Mt Victoria on the opening track, Eventually, and take your brolly with you.

Be enchanted by by the child-friendly Flock of Hearts, be invigorated by Pot and singalong like a mad thing to the wonderfully fruity lyrics of Orange & Mango.

Buffalo is a gloriously simple record, one that is very New Zealand in its themes, but also sounds like it could traverse traditional musical snobbery and parochialism, and appeal to, say, indie fans in Manchester.

It’s the fourth album from a band that’s been around since the late 90s, and is garnering positive reviews from the national press.

The ride began with the debut album Horse Power in 2003, progressing through Pegasus (2005), and Happy Ending (2007) which was given a decent run when released on limited scale in the UK.

Before a gig in Wellington, as part of their national tour, I caught up with frontman Samuel Scott in one of the city’s cozy wee cafes.

How’s the tour going?

The tour’s been going great. We’ve just had a show at the Powerstation in Auckland which sold out. That’s pretty cool as that’s probably the biggest venue we’ve ever played at, so it felt like we were stepping up another level.

After this tour I believe you’re going to London?

Later in the year, that’s the plan. We did a soft release of Happy Ending last year, putting it out on iTunes and doing limited runs at Rough Trade stores and other independent stores. On the back of that it got great reviews, such as in The Independent newspaper, so we felt we should go back there and capitalise on that. Hopefully, we’ll get a record deal over there soon.

Tell me about the recording of Buffalo, as it was done a little bit differently.

Yeah, we did some of the initial recording work at our own studio so we had more time to mull over the first set of ideas but we also worked from those initial recordings, so in a way we turned what were kind of demos into finished recordings. On previous records we fussed over things in the studio and over-worked them. On this one I think we got it just right. It was definitely an un-angsty album to make and I think it sounds like our least angsty album to date.

It seems to have worked as the reviews have been pretty good.

Well, people have been either calling it our best album or our worst one. Personally, I think it’s got qualities that weren’t on the last album. Happy Ending has that extra level of professionalism and big kind of big radio-friendly rock tunes but Buffalo has a humble quality to it which I relate back to Horse Power, our first record, so it’s more of a continuation of what we were doing six/ seven years ago, sort of bedroom recording music, low-key and intimate. It’s very close to our heart in terms of the music we want to be making.

And I guess doing things here in Wellington and New Zealand is very different from how you would do those things in London and Europe?

We have a lot more time in Wellington, like what I was saying about recording in our own studio here. But finding the same kind of kind of facilities is almost impossible in London, people are actually recording in their bedrooms because that’s the only place they have to do something. The two cities are so different in so many spheres. I like London, there’s always things happening there but I mainly enjoyed London as a travelling musician. I don’t think I could live there for too long, it’s too fast. I’ve lived in Wellington all my life and there’s so much more for me to enjoy here.

And there’s a bit of a Wellington influence on Buffalo, for example there’s a line in the opening track, Eventually, about Mt Victoria, which obviously would mean little to people in Christchurch and Auckland but clearly means a lot to yourself.

Yeah, that song’s about going for a walk in the Town Belt around Wellington during stormy days, something I enjoy quite a lot, going out in the worst-possible day and actually embracing the awful weather in this town, such as what we’re having today (it was raining heavily – ed). Wellington doesn’t always influence the way we write but it does creep in.

Are you benefitting from downloads or suffering because of them?

We do okay sales wise, every record feels like it’s getting us to more people. We’re not particularly concerned with the shrinking of the CD market because as long as you keep innovating, things will pick up in some way that no-one has picked up on yet. And vinyl sales have picked up over the last couple of years, they make up a really tiny proportion of the market but they’ve gone up quite a lot and they appeal to people who like us, to a slightly older audience who want that high sound quality. And if it’s a download, they want a decent sound not a crappy MP3 from a file-sharing site.

And what about solo projects, I know the band members like to do their own thing outwith the Phoenix Foundation, are there any plans on the horizon?

Not from me at the moment. I’m just focused on the Phoenix Foundation and ensuring that we’re doing everything we can to push Buffalo, and try and get it out there overseas. I’m already thinking of another Phoenix Foundation record before any solo project. I had a lot of fun doing those solo records and soundtracks but I’m really excited about the band again and being part of a group.

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Hikoikoi google





Who? Hikoikoi

Title: Hikoikoi
Border Music

Tell me more: New Zealand has a strong tradition of reggae, roots and dub. Over the years, while reggae in its homeland Jamaica and in places like Britain has largely become dancehall, in Aotearoa it remains fairly true to its origins, often insterspersed with soul or even jazz.

Why the fek should I listen to this? Sometimes, modern reggae falls flat because the artist is trying too hard to be faithful to Bob Marley and other legends, or, conversely, they don’t respect the music enough. But Hikoikoi sound like they have mastered their art. Every track hits a high standard, but I will reserve a special mention for Prophetless, as it tackles how the rich are made and sustain their control: “From the profit of poor nations/ You built your foundations/ Leader puppets you employed them/ Leader puppets will destroy them.”

Tena rawa atu koe Eru for allowing me to hear this and Tiki Taane’s remix album, Flux.

Or should I take it a stick to it and beat the shit out of it? As it’s one of the albums of 2009, probably not.

Trivia: Much of Hikoikoi was recorded in an isolated boatshed in Hikoikoi Reserve (where the band took their name) in Petone, north of Wellington.





Spinal Tap



Who? Spinal Tap

Title: Back From The Dead
The Label Industry

Tell me more: A pumped up to 11 special edition from rock’s most legendary legends. In 1984, the film This Is Spinal Tap was released and it was kinda  popular. This is the soundtrack, updated with six extra songs and reworkings of the others as well as an hour-long DVD featuring the ageing trio explaining the “meanings” of each track and … AND … a pop-up diorama package that unveils three 12-inch action figures along with a pop-up Stonehenge (almost actual size).

Why the fek should I listen to this? From Cups and Cakes to the misogynistic cover of Smell the Glove, the film and its accompanying soundtrack cover the Tap’s gloriously inept career and comeback tour in the USA. Morrissey or Dylan could never have written lyrics such as “My baby fits me like a flesh tuxedo/ I’d like to sink her with my pink torpedo”.

Or should I take it a stick to it and beat the shit out of it? Jesus, if you don’t like the album, or the DVD, bin them .. cos it got a pop-up diorama action package! Oh bugger, Nigel Tufnel’s got caught in my shirt sleeve.

Trivia: Early video versions of the film had a special disclaimer inserted at the end stating that the band did not actually exist, for all the very stupid people in the world.









Who? Aleks and the Ramps

Title: Midnight Believer
Tell me more:
Melbourne five-piece with one album, Pisces vs Aquarius (2007), behind them.

Why the fek should I listen to this? You’re probably familiar with Australia’s greatest musical talents – Rolf Harris, Slim Dusty, Peter Andre, the chap who plays Paul Robinson on Neighbours … but actually there’s some other guys and gals who make records. Among them The Ramps, who have a dark outlook on life (“Reading the result of your autopsy, I could swear that you were watching me”) matched by an equally dark sense of humour. And that comes out in the music on Midnight Believer, a mixture of at times uplifting indie rock, a la Walking the Garden, that has some gloriously disjointed riffs, and more sober moments, notably the first half of Circa 1992 Ideas before it suddenly becomes something of a pop song. Titles such as Destroy the Universe With Jazz Hands suggest they are either far from serious or completely bonkers.

Or should I take it a stick to it and beat the shit out of it? Midnight Believer lacks enough ideas to sustain it for a whole album, and falls flat at certain points. Maybe a mini album may have been more appropriate.

Trivia: Their website lists individual band members functions including: snoring duck, Swiss cheese and extreme wheeze.






Ido Tavori




Who? Ido Tavori

Title: Rhythm Is A Beggar
Love Poem records

Tell me more: Tavori, a British-based Israeli, is the founder of Love Poem records, an outlet for experimental, underground music.

Why the fek should I listen to this? Rhythm Is A Beggar expounds upon Tavori’s love of urban underground beats, stirring in lashings of hip-hop, downbeat and electronica. An intriguing 26-minute trawl through a genre that continues to mutate and develop.

Or should I take it a stick to it and beat the shit out of it? There are breaks in this love-in for some hip-hop lyricism which does not quite work on this kind of largely mellow and experimental album.

Trivia: Although the cover names the artist as Ido Tavori, the spine attributes the music to Ido Tavori & friends.










Who? The Undertones

Title: An Anthology

Tell me more: Two-disk trawl through the wonderful career of a wonderful Northern Ireland new wave band of the late 70s/ early 80s era. First disk is of singles, album tracks and b-sides. Second disk live tracks, demos, rehearsals and rough mixes.

Why the fek should I listen to this? Normally I try to avoid best ofs, but given that 27 of the 56 tracks here are from the vaults and there’s plenty of obscurities among the remainder, this is clearly an effort made with love and devotion. Also includes a neat booklet with a history lesson and details of where and when each track was recorded (though sadly not where released). Played to death by DJ John Peel, Teenage Kicks has become the girls and chocolate-fuelled adrenalin anthem for the ‘Tones but they possessed loftier ambitions and subsequently made scores of short bursts of fantastic pop classic. My Perfect Cousin may have been the first top 10 hit to mention table-football game Subbuteo.

Or should I take it a stick to it and beat the shit out of it? I was wary of the outtakes and whatever else they could find bonus disk, but I find the rough-and-ready quality of these straight-from-cassette recordings quite endearing. But I have to take issue with the chronology. Putting debut single Teenage Kicks among later, more seductive, tracks is bemusing. By the early 80s the Undertones had become more soulful, and there’s an ill-fitting feeling to those tracks following or preceeding rip-snorting punk-inspired singles.

Trivia: A reformed Undertones (minus Feargal Sharkey) sometimes play support act to a little-known outfit called Celtic FC at Parkhead these days.





Attic Dweller





Who? The Beautiful South

Title: Superbi
Sony BMG

Tell me more: There are far more famous albums by the Beautiful South than this, but I chose this deliberately as it’s one of the latter works from the Hull band, released in 2006, when they’d lost their lustre and ability to sell albums by the vanload. Neither Gaze (2003) nor the collections of cover versions, Golddiggas Headnodders & Pholk Songs (2004) would be described as anything more than average.

Why the fek should I listen to this? Superbi has all the usual elements to a Beautiful South album – tales of lost and lost and the rain in Manchester. The opening track and The Cat Loves The Mouse sound like old South, catchy and captivating.

Or should I take it a stick to it and beat the shit out of it? The South were a pivotal band of the early 1990s but all albums since have struggled to match the brilliance of 0898 or Choke. The same can be said of the country-tinged Superbi but there are several highlights and it does grow after a few listens. Eight months after its release the band split up.

Trivia: In a recruitment drive reminiscent of the Human League signing up two schoolgirls after Phil Oakey saw them dance at a Sheffield disco, Jacqui Abbott was stacking shelves in a supermarket before being enlisted by Paul Heaton after he heard her sing at an after-show party.

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