Tuesday, 21 December 2010

One piece of advice to bar owners and managers

Right so I woke up on the wrong side of the bed today, so here's a rant!

My advice to bar managers!

Let the bands who are performing at a gig in your bar to pick the music played on the sound system throughout the evening. This means half an hour before the first band performs, in-between acts, and for 15 minutes minimum at the end. Either that, or let them organise someone to DJ.

Why? It gives an evening out at a bar some kind of completeness and cohesiveness.

I've been thinking about this for awhile, after watching bar staff blunder their way through an evening putting on drastically uncomplimentary music, and ruining any sense of atmosphere the bands have tried to create.

The first example I recall was when I performed at the Dux de Lux in Queenstown about six months ago. For three hours before the gig, the bar staff rotated three NZ barbecue reggae albums, right until we played our first song. After we finished, the same three records were put on rotate. Not only was this torture for me personally, it was frustrating to see the bar use such poor judgement. Let me explain.

There are many, many bars in Queenstown, offering a wide variety of nightlife options. Gigs in Queenstown are usually free, and usually frequented by tourists who have never heard any NZ bands before. By playing this brain numbing music on repeat for hours on end, the crowd in the bar is likely to get somewhat disorientated when a band which sounds completely different takes to the stage live. The background music is also likely to drive off tourists sifting around looking for somewhere to drink who really don't like barbecue reggae (but might have liked something more interesting).

The second example of a similar stuff-up happened a couple of Wednesdays ago in Auckland. We were playing a midnight set at Hitch bar in Britomart. This establishment is trying to soak up some of the spill from the massively popular indie-dance club night which goes on next door at Flight Lounge, called "Teenage Kicks." It's so popular that the lane gets blocked, and punters can ending up cueing for quite awhile.

So it makes sense that Hitch bar hires indie bands to perform a shortish set around midnight, in order to try and pinch some of the punters from Flight Lounge. What doesn't make sense is that before we played bar staff were playing a weird mix of early 2000's backpacker hip-hop (think Jurassic 5 etc) and the Foo Fighters. Needless to say no-one was there when we started performing. Even worse after we played, back went on the Foo Fighters, driving off the twenty or so punters who came in to dance to us.

Does that make sense?

Saturday, 18 December 2010

Thursday, 25 November 2010

Hannah Curwood, One2One cafe

On the 13th of December I played my first gig for Hannah Curwood at a wee cafe in Ponsonby called One2One.

Cafe gigs always feel a bit weird to me.

Firstly, I hate the feeling of resentment I get from customers who are trying to enjoy their food and drink while the band moves tables around, hauls gear, makes noise etc. I've also noticed that inbetween the time that the band sets up, and the actual gig time (which could be up to 4 hours), less people come into the cafe to eat and drink than normal, and I hate the accusatory glances from the cafe owners.

Then when it comes to the actual gig, the cafe is usually under-staffed, and can't keep up with drink orders. People tend to sit around awkwardly and cramped, and often don't really have anywhere to go if they decide they need a break from the music.

On the plus side, the volumes of these types of shows are usually pretty low, and there's no potential for a sound engineer to get in there and make things sound worse. Plus you can actually book one of these shows in Auckland a couple of months in advance!

The big 'HC' herself. Photo courtesy of Roel Wilson.

Anyway I had only had three practices with the band, but I thought we got through the set without embarrassing ourselves. I'm looking forward to "sinking my teeth" into the arrangements with the band in the future, as that's been an element of Hannah's live show I've been critical of in the past. So yeah, I'm looking forward to seeing how this project will go.

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Breathtaking Recklessness And A Jet-Propelled Car

In the mail the other month(!) I received this from Nick in London (from fulangchangandi):


It's a compilation of DIY noise/hardcore bands from London. Fulangchangandi's "Emergency" is the last track on the 15-strong track CD. Kinda cool. It was put out by the band Yokozuna.

I'm not sure how common this kind of thing is in the UK, and abroad, but in New Zealand you almost never hear of bands releasing compilations of their friends/peers music. Cool idea though!

Anyways we (the fulang) know the Yokozuna guys through the Rip This Joint! DIY community in London (who I've blogged about before). They're all really nice guys, and pretty unrelentingly DIY.

In fulangchangandi news, Nick, Stu G, and Matt are still playing around London, which is really awesome.

Okay gotta go.

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Timothy Blackman

My new PR "client" is Timothy Blackman. He's releasing his new record I've Never Lived on the 30th of August. So yep, I'm the guy ringing around the radio stations, newspapers, magazines, and all that stuff, in an effort to generate a "buzz" around his record.

A bonus of all this so far was getting to record drums on a track of Tim's, for Border Music's annual Christmas album. We did it at young recording hotshot David Parker's beautiful place out in West Auckland.

David Parker. This photo is going to end up on Classic Albums for sure.

Now he's already gone an blogged about the session, so I can just link it. Haha!

Friday, 2 July 2010

Weekend in The Lab

Over the weekend I had the pleasure of working in The Lab, a studio in Mount Eden, with my good ol' pal Thom Healy. It was pretty freakin' cool.

Over the years I've known him, Thom has become a bit of a production wizard, and has started racking up some good projects with the likes of Simon Comber, Die! Die! Die!, and various others. He's also been beavering away on his own music, and got me to lay down some drums on some of his and some of Simon's tracks.

Thom relaxing with his favorite studio tipple.

I really enjoy playing drums over tracks that are basically finished. There's a nice level of pressure to get the track right, yet there's no distracting mistakes from other musicians to put me off playing properly. I'm also a total drum and studio geek, so it's an awesome opportunity try and get really bangin' drum tones.

"Did you put a Sony C37P on snare drum? You crazy crazy man. Let me buy you a beer."

On the Saturday I helped Thom record Popstrangers, an up-and-coming Auckland band. They were really nice fellas, and were really great players. Good songs too.

Popstrangers

In short The Lab is an awesome studio. It's got really great gear, and is a really nice space. It's bugger all to hire out compared to the other Auckland studios out there, yet is pretty much on par in terms of functionality - there's just no fancy leather couches or open minibars.

Thursday, 24 June 2010

NZONAIR Funding Review

Just a quick note for those who don't yet know...

NZ ON AIR are undertaking a full-scale review of their music funding operations. You can have your say here. If you've got an opinion about NZ ON AIR, make sure it's heard!

NZ ON AIR's music funding initiatives have been under scrutiny recently from the popular press. Here's a couple of articles which I enjoyed...



I personally feel that if the staff at NZ ON AIR wanted to keep their jobs long term, they should have conducted this review, and adjusted their operations while they had a Labour government controlling their funding. As it stands, they're going to be submitting a (most probably) scathing report of their performance to a National government, who will most likely take an axe to their operating budget, and heads will roll. Not very smart at all.


Thursday, 3 June 2010

Tono releases "Tuesday Evening"

I've been helping out my pal Tono by attempting to generate some press and radio interest for the release of his upcoming EP Fragile Thing.

Yesterday the track was sent to various programme directors and DJs around the country. You have no idea how many of these people have crappy email inboxes which can't handle emails larger than 10MB. Bloody useless.

But anyways, the kind folks at Radio One are featuring the track this week, and you can download it for FREE. Do it!

I got the album artwork yesterday... It looks awesome... Watch this space! In the meantime check out Tono's fancy new press photo!

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

One of the privileges of being on the dDub emailing list.

So today I got sent an hilarious email from Derek Browne, lead singer in dDub, and one of the the head honcho's of the New Zealand "Barbecue Reggae" movement.

Derek Browne, lead singer from dDub

Usually the sorts of emails I get from these kind of people are the, "Come-watch-my-shitty-faux-reggae-band-play-at-a-pretentious-venue-where-you-don't-actually-live-for-a-ridiculous price" kind. To these I hit the "mark as spam button", and carry on with whatever I'm doing. However this email caught my eye - It seems this guy has joined some kind of weird cult, and is spreading the "word" through the dDub email list. It's all a bit strange and inappropriate really.

Anyway here's the email for your enjoyment. I'm going to hell right?

From: Derek Browne

Subject: HI guys - info on a course

Date: 20 April 2010 9:18:18 PM NZST

To: Derek Browne


Hi there guys

Derek here, from dDub.
I just wanted to check in, and let you know about an awesome course that I have done and am now helping facilitate.
It's called Avatar.

Alongside pushing dDub, playing in the band etc, I've been learning some fantastic 'tools' through this course. The tools teach you how to operate in life with more clarity, fine tune how you want to experience life and how to live your life deliberately. It's a very cool way to learn about how you truly do create your own reality - in a grounded way. You learn how you are placing limits on yourself. You then learn how to get rid of these limitations and really get on with creating the life that you prefer.

Avatar is a simple way to explore your own 'blueprint' or set of beliefs. You see how you're operating your life through these beliefs, and really understand why 'things' happen to you.
And you learn how to stop and change unhelpful patterns and things that just 'keep happening' - for good!.
That was the clincher for me with trying this course out - the fact that any positive change you make stays that way.

So - I now help take other people through the course.
I thought I'd email, let you know - see if anyone is interested in checking it out. It's a nine day course, which you can do as a whole, or divide into 3 sections. There are free intro's running in Auckland, where you get to have an experience of the tools and a glimpse into your own blueprint of beliefs. The courses run internationally, but there are two a year in Auckland - one coming up in two weeks! - on May 1st. So - I am spreading the word out there!

I know not everyone is into this kind of thing - but if you are, and enjoy a challenge, you can check it out online at.

http://www.avatarpacific.com/engels/whatmain.html
http://www.avatarpacific.com/engels/resultsmain.html

Email me back if you want to know more.
Cheers
Derek :-)


Friday, 2 April 2010

The Verlaines, Auckland & Hamilton

I had the honour of doing sound for The Verlaines a few weeks ago in Auckland and Hamilton.

On the Friday night the gig was happening at the Montecristo Room, on Nelson Street, Auckland. From my perspective the venue was "average-to good". It's mid-sized venue (I guess you could cram about 400 people in there at a stretch), with a weird pole in the middle of the room (a la Arc Cafe), and the PA, while looking impressive, was pretty boxy overall.

The gig itself was actually pretty cool - Tono and the Finance Company were on point like usual, Simon Comber played beautifully, and the Verlaines were pretty bloody good considering the difficulty of their material. There's a pretty hilarious review of the show by Haley Beatson, and a review of her review by Graeme Downes which are both well worth reading.

Ow one last thing, Montecristo had probably the worst rider I've ever seen! 12 beer between 10 performers. Nice job losers!

The next day we played at Gravity bar in Hamilton. Hamilton, Hamilton, Hamilton, what a shithole! We had to spend $400 to hire half a PA, and there was a male strip show happening over the road that night. Fun times.

The Verlaines at Gravity

I also worked out that Gravity run by the same weirdos that run Altitude (guess which bar is upstairs). It's owned by this family, I can't remember any of their names apart from Leroy (the father). He's a fuckin' odd, grumpy prick, who I've had run-ins with before (in 2004 - fortunately he didn't recognize me!).

Anyway Leroy had his system all "custom wired" so that if it got too loud his bar staff could turn the system down from behind the bar, and all that kind of shit. Unfortunately it also meant that there a bunch of other problems symptomatic of their bad wiring, including -6dB on the left hand side of FOH. The room also chronically rattled at 40Hz which made my job even harder.

So yeah anyway the gig. It was attended by about 20 people, all of which seemed to be massive fans of the headliners. The Verlaines played really bloody well, it was a massive improvement from the night before, and I was loving it.

After the show (midnight) we noticed that Hamilton was changing as it got later. More and more trashy folk were crowding the streets, security had arrived at the bar, and the bartender (who is Leroy's daughter) had taken off her sweater, and was now wearing some horrible handkerchief+shoelaces bikini top number. The music which I'd put on after the gig (probably My Bloody Valentine) had been replaced by "Cotton Eyed Joe" by the Rednex. People started streaming in. We hasitly packed up and went back to the hotel.

Epic whisky drinking post-show.

Despite how weird and wrong the gig was, I should mention that the staff at Gravity were pretty nice to us (despite Leroy being a weirdo), and we were generously looked after, all considering.

Thursday, 25 February 2010

Julian Temple Band Tour, Jan-Feb 2010

As my computer crapped out on me a few days before going on tour, I wasn’t able to update my blog while on the road. Dumb. As a result, I’ll just do a quick recap on the 4 weeks I did touring doing live sound with the Julian Temple Band this summer.

The Julian Temple Band like to tour in a way that maximises enjoyment. This means plenty of stop-offs for surfing, bakery sampling, and boutique brewery tastings, along with the usual tour highlights of regular alcohol and drug abuse. I was in high heaven. While this sometimes was at the expensive of punctuality with showing up for soundchecks and other various music related tasks, the fellas in the band didn’t seem concerned, and as I was just the sound guy, I didn’t give a rats arse.

If you’ve ever seen the movie Sideways, you’ll get an idea of the general vibe and feeling of the tour.

Here are a few highlights…

- Eating the most delicious meal ever, and hanging out with the hilarious bar staff at The Powder Room in New Plymouth.

So. Delicious.

-Watching Billy T.K. at Parihaka. He was probably the only act I enjoyed at the festival, but holy shit did he make up for it. If you ever have the opportunity see this guy play, make sure you do. You won't regret it. He dubs himself "The Maori Jimi Hendrix."

An old press photo of Billy T.K.

- Having a 70 yr old gay man asking me if I had a “stiffy” outside the Lounge Bar in Carterton. Naturally all the locals in the bar knew the guy, didn't warn me about this character, and found the whole episode (which lasted longer than it should have) hilarious.

The lounge bar during daytime, sans creepy old men.

- Raglan. The owner Peter Coddington is a legend. Forget all the other Raglan venues, and stick to the Yot Club.

The Yot Club

- Tutakaka. One of the more beautiful parts of the country, on the east coast of Northland. We played at a bar/restaurant called Schnappa Rock. I've never witnessed the wealthy Northland locals/tourists combo in a live music situation before, which was a nice novelty. It was also the gig we had the smallest PA, and ironically one of the more pumping dance floors. The staff treated us brilliantly as well.


A beach near Tutukaka.

- Playing for a rich Aucklander’s 21st at the Juice Bar in Parnell. It was fuckin’ weird. It reminded me of a cross between “My Super Sweet 16” and “The Hills”.

Canadia playing support at the Juice Bar.

- Having the please of playing The Mussel Inn in Golden Bay. The Mussel Inn is probably the best venue in the country, period. Beautiful site, great on-site brews, decent PA, amazing accommodation, and lovely people. It's no wonder they're booked out all this year, and a decent chunk of next year already.

One half of the brains behind the Mussel Inn, Andrew.

Paul playing awesome at the Mussel.

Some stink things that happened that I should mention...

- Running out of gas on the long drive from Carterton to Auckland... Thank fuck for Scott having an AA members card. Never go on tour without one fellas.

- Getting 2 guitars, and a bunch of PA equipment nicked out of our truck in Auckland. That really sucked.

- Having a gig cancelled on us 2 days beforehand. FYI The Marahau Park CafĂ© is no longer having gigs. It’s a bit of a long, stupid story, but ask me about it in person one day and I’ll give you the full drama of how the Julian Temple Band got slightly screwed over by them.

That aside I had a really awesome time, and I have to extend thanks to Jules, Paul, Scott, and Levi (aka Ferris Bueller) for having me. Cheers fellas!

Thursday, 7 January 2010

The Night Before, The Night Before Christmas, Dunedin Style.

On the 23rd of December, I did sound for a pretty big gig at Sammy's, in Dunedin, organised by the guys from Retrophonic Funk Machine (RFM). It was the first musical thing I had done since being back from the UK, and I was reminded of a few classic "quirks" of trying to play live in New Zealand.

The first quirk with live gigs in New Zealand is that quite often they don't happen in venues where gigs are held all the time, meaning that often lots of sound and light equipment needs to be hired in at great expense (usually to the musicians wanting to play). Strangely enough, this is half-true with Sammy's. Sammy's has gigs all the time, however their equipment is worn out, and kind of incomplete. To get the gig to run smoothly, RFM had to hire in a whole other PA system and lighting rig. Usually this would be extremely expensive, but this amazing dude called Iain Sweetman agreed to hire his gear, and his awesome services for stuff all cash. Still kinda sucks we couldn't use the house gear, but hey!

The second quirk is related to the first. Soundchecks, or anything related to the preperation of a gig, often run well off schedule, and way over time. Iain and myself were meant to be loading in at 12 noon, for a 2pm soundcheck. This is what we found when we arrived at 12.

The true nightmare before the night before the night before Christmas

Yep that's right. Sammy's was full of bouncy castles, and there were a bunch of little kids screaming around. We found out that it was going to be like this till 5pm! Argh! So Iain and I loaded in what we could, and rushed the soundcheck and everything else once the kids, and the bouncy castles were removed later on.

Anyways onto the positives. I was well impressed by the majority of the bands, and the awesome sense of community amongst them. It was also really great for me to see how far the bands that I knew well had come in a year, and a great opportunity for me to hear some new ones as well.

RFM

RFM busted out some pretty great collaborations with the support bands, highlights for me being the ones with The Something Quartet (who I hadn't seen before, and are awesome!), and The Julian Temple Band. If Sammy's was a bit better prepared, it would have been one of the better gigs I'd ever worked! Choice!

The Something Quartet, featuring RFM, Tono, and a boys choir.


The Julian Temple Band