Tuesday, December 18, 2012

A Christmas Present

Great news!!

Up until Boxing Day I'm making a demo of one of my new solo tracks free to download right here.

Please feel free to share it round and please let me know what you think; as your feedback - as my fans - is the best I can find anywhere.

To download, just click on the word "download" on the player below.

A merry festive season to you all and I hope you get to make some great new memories surrounded by the ones you love the most.


Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Albums of my Week: Kiwi Quickshots

Luke Thompson
The new album from a guy from my hometown, Tauranga, who gets better and better the more he writes and releases material. Folky melodies and stories pair with 60s-inspired instrumentation and Thompson's pop-inclined vocals to make these songs a great addition to a relaxing summer soundtrack. PLUS, it's a free download...what a generous man!  

The Impending Adorations
This hypnotic, atmospheric album is the latest project by Paul McLaney aka Gramsci. It's an organic electronic album that, in its opening minute, could strike you as almost abrasive - but as further layers emerge, this becomes the background to a mesmerising and melodic story, almost an imitation of life itself. Listen to it with a great book or with great evening conversation. 
Great North
I've mentioned Great North before on here - they're an extremely underrated NZ act and should be heard a lot more. They released a new album a few months ago which has since been nominated for NZ Folk album of the Year and had a song nominated for a Silver word is slowly getting out. I don't need to say much else, just have a listen and spread the word if you like it!

Links have been flying around the internet the past week as people discover the songs available to stream via There is no information on the artist, no description, no pictures. This is the way new music is and should be marketed in this internet age - especially if the music is great. Which this is. It's all a wonderful concoction, in my mind at least, of Ellie Goulding, Lana del Rey and The Weeknd with the youthful punch of an act like Kesha. For me, this blows away all current well-known solo female pop artists in NZ, all of them. And all from a 16-year-old from Takapuna who's still at high school.

Monday, December 3, 2012

I see my freedom from across the way...

This week officially marks the first step on a new road for myself as a songwriter.

On Wednesday evening I'll play my first ever set of music that is 100% me, under my name and presented only by me. It's a small gig, at Auckland's Wine Cellar, but I believe it's the perfect way to start this new journey.

I am in the process of starting again in my musical career in almost every way possible, building everything again from the ground up. And though these things take some time to sort themselves, the things for me that don't - songs - are coming fast and strong.

I can't wait to share this journey and these songs with the people that have supported me and that's why this week is so exciting for me.

Thank you again for listening.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012


Since this blog is supposed to be a documentation of the things I get up to in my life, it makes sense to include my first foray into the world of television presenting.

Last week I spent five weather-blessed days being filmed exploring one of the most scenic places in the world - Queenstown - for Be Guided television. If this is news to you, I previously explained it all here:

I visited a bunch of local businesses, including a luxury helicopter charter company, amazing restaurants and some unique artistic endeavours.

It was a whole new world being on the other side of an interview and I actually quite enjoyed it - I found it much less stressful just asking questions and being a goof than having to come up with interesting answers to things like "what's the most rock 'n' roll thing you've ever done?"

BUT, enjoying it is only part of a satisfaction-equation - the other part is whether I'm actually any good at the role! And that's harder to judge from where I stand...I suppose the proof will be in the pudding.

For now though, I'm contracted to do more filming in Wellington and Auckland so they'll just have to put up with me!

Below are some pictures of Queenstown's sights and a video of my chopper ride up a mountain, enjoy!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

On The Road

Following on from my completion of The Fountainhead, the next mid 20th century book I tackled was On The Road by Jack Kerouac which I finished a few weeks ago.
The first thing that struck me about this book, smack in the head, was the style of its prose. It's fast, frantic - unlike anything else I've ever read before. I'm used to writers varying their tempo - a steady opening third with moments of tension and pace that build toward a turn in the plot before the words steam ahead, split and then converge together in a satisfying end.
Apparently Kerouac sat at his typewriter after connecting large sheets of paper together and began to type - stopping only to sleep and briefly consider the basics of nutrition. After three torrid weeks, the draft was done. And hence why the book reads the way it does - it's one, sustained paragraph of consciousness, expressed without breath, seemingly for fear of the creative tap drying out.

This book is like punk for rocknrollers. It expresses the energy of the writer, the characters and the time in which it was written. It unashamedly approaches all aspects of society at a time when a lot were under a strict veil. It expresses a unique sense of freedom that largely doesn't exist in the Western world any more but also challenges the reader as to whether this dreamed freedom-without-consequence is truly desirable.

Another thing that struck me throughout the book was how evident it is that Van Morrison must adore it. There are so many lyrics and themes from this book that arise in songs by "The Man" and even when you look at what Van Morrison stands for musically, this book could come close to matching it in a literary sense. It's about great stories - adventures, dramas and tragedies. It's about freedom, heritage, youth and age. Even that sense of sitting down and typing a stream of consciousness could, in my mind, be compared to the way Astral Weeks is often expressed. All this made me love this book even more.

Again, I took some clippings of my favourite quotes within the book to share with you, so enjoy - or just ignore these and read it for yourself!

"Central City is two miles high; at first you get drunk on the altitude, then you get tired, and there's a fever in your soul."

"I looked everywhere for the sad and fabled tinsmith of my mind."

"He's filling empty space with the substance of our lives, confessions of his bellybottom strain, remembrance of ideas, rehashes of old blowing. He has to blow across bridges and come back and do it with such infinite feeling soul-exploratory for the tune of the moment that everybody knows it's not the tune that counts but IT..."

"At night in this part of the West the stars, as I had seen them in Wyoming, are big as roman candles and as lonely as the Prince of the Dharma who's lost his ancestral grove and journeys across the spaces between points in the handle of the Big Dipper, trying to find it again."

"...he wears his thick-soled shoes so that he can't feel the sidewalks of life."

"I realised that these were all the snapshots which our children would look at one someday with wonder, thinking their parents had lived smooth, well-ordered, stabilised-within-the-photo lives and got up in the morning to walk proudly on the sidewalks of life, never dreaming the raggedy madness and riot of our actual lives, our actual night, the hell of it, the senseless nightmare road. All of it inside endless and beginningless emptiness. Pitiful forms of ignorance."

"'Yow!' yelled Dean. 'And all in that sun. Have you dug this Mexican sun, Sal? It makes you high. Whoo!'"

"For a mad moment I thought Dean was understanding everything he said by sheer wild insight and sudden revelatory genius inconceivably inspired by his glowing happiness. In that moment, too, he looked so exactly like Franklin Delano Roosevelt - some delusion in my flaming eyes and floating brain."

"We agreed to love each other madly." 

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Album Of My Week: Damn the Torpedoes

This past week I watched one of the best music documentaries I've seen - Runnin' Down A Dream.

The reason this doco stood out for me was because Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers' story is the absolute musicians' "dream". Small-town friends record demos, drive across country to LA, get signed, one failed album, then success came and steadily built into a legacy act that's survived (more or less) almost 40 years together.

I also loved this film because I could relate to Tom Petty as a songwriter - he's a story-teller, he's straight to the point, he's not afraid of hooks or to be himself. In fact, if you watch the film you'll observe that he stands by his 'self' and vision fiercely - a trait that also translates into his dealings with the music industry in general in that he doesn't stand for the exploitation that pervades its core.

It's almost four hours long but has everything a good doco should have to keep you interested - great stories, contemporary opinions, tour footage, drama, loss and insight.

Since finishing it I've been on an almost non-stop Tom Petty binge and his third album with the Heartbreakers is a ridiculously good highlight. It has Refugee, Don't Do Me Like That, Here Comes My Girl and Even the Losers amongst other great tracks that showcase what Tom Petty is all about as a songwriter.

Next time the sun shines, pop it on and soak up a true classic.

Here's the trailer for the Runnin' Down a Dream doco too:

Sunday, October 28, 2012

The Fountainhead

I've been pounding down mid 20th century literature of late and thoroughly enjoying it.

A month or so ago I finished Ayn Rand's The Fountainhead - a philosophically thought-provoking novel that was one of those books that, on a kindle, crept from being quite short in my mind to being somewhat of an epic - my 'percentage completed' bar was escalating at a painfully slow pace despite all efforts. However, after some internal battles, I resigned myself to the marathon and began to enjoy the offerings.

It presents what has since been classified as Objectivism - you can read for yourself what it's all about - and it certainly challenges society's so-called norms.

But I'm not in the business of publicly philosophising so I'm just going to throw some quotes from the book that stayed in my mind a little longer than others.

If you anticipate being in a ponderous mood for a good few weeks, give this book a go.

Next write up will cover On The Road by Jack Kerouac, which I finally got around to reading and just finished.

The Fountainhead - quotes

"If a writer wrote merely for his time, I would have to break my pen and throw it away. (actually originally Victor Hugo)

"My basic test for any story is: 'Would I want to meet these characters and observe these events in real life? Is this story an experience worth living through for its own sake? Is the pleasure of contemplating these characters an end in itself?"

"A great building is not the private invention of some genius or other. It is merely a condensation of the spirit of a people."

"When facing society, the man most concerned, the man who is to do the most and contribute the most, has the least say. It's taken for granted that he has no voice and the reasons he could offer are rejected in advance as prejudiced - since no speech is ever considered, but only the speaker. It's so much easier to pass judgement on a man than on an idea. Though how in hell one passes judgement on a man without considering the content of his brain is more than I'll ever understand."

"I mean the one that claims the pig is the symbol of love for humanity - the creature that accepts anything. As a matter of fact, the person who loves everybody and feels at home everywhere is the true hater of mankind. He expects nothing of men, so no form of depravity can outrage him."

"Those who speak of love most promiscuously are the ones who've never felt it. They make some sort of feeble stew out of sympathy, compassion, contempt and general indifference, and they call it love. Once you've felt what it means to love as you and I know it - the total passion for the total height - you're incapable of anything less."

""What achievement is there for a critic in praising a good play? None whatever. The critic is then nothing but a kind of glorified messenger boy between author and public. What's there in that for me? I'm sick of it. I have a right to wish to impress my own personality upon people. Otherwise I shall become frustrated - and I do not believe in frustration. But if a critic is able to put over a perfectly worthless play - ah; you do perceive the difference! Therefore, I shall make a hit out of - what's the name of your play Ike?" "No skin off your ass," said Ike. "I beg your pardon?" "That's the title." "Oh, I see. Therefore, I shall make a hit out of No Skin Off Your Ass."

"Most people build as they live - as a matter of routine and senseless accident. But a few understand that building is a great symbol. We live in our minds, and existence is the attempt to bring that life into physical reality, to state it in gesture and form. For the man who understands this, a house he owns is a statement of his life. If he doesn't build, when he has means, it's because his life has not been what he wanted."

"Before you can do things for people, you must be the kind of man who can get things done. But to get things done, you must love the doing, not the secondary consequences. The work, not the people. Your own action, not any possible object of your charity. I'll be glad if people who need it find a better manner of living in a house I designed. But that's not the motive of my work. Nor my reason. Nor my reward."

"That, precisely, is the deadliness of second-handers. They have no concern for facts, ideas, work. They're concerned only with people. They don't ask: 'Is this true?' They ask: 'Is this what others think is true?' Not to judge, but to repeat. Not to do, but to give the impression of doing. Not creation, but show. Not ability, but friendship. Not merit, but pull. What would happen to the world without those who do, think, work, produce?"

"The need of the creator comes before the need of any possible beneficiary. Yet we are taught to admire the second-hander who dispenses gifts he has not produced above the man who made the gifts possible. We praise an act of charity. We shrug at an act of achievement."

"No work is ever done collectively, by a majority decision. Every creative job is achieved under the guidance of a single individual thought. An architect requires a great many men to erect his building. But he does not ask them to vote on his design. They work together by free agreement and each is free in his proper function. An architect uses steel, glass, concrete, produced by others. But the materials remain just so much steel, glass and concrete until he touches them. What he does with them is his individual product and his individual property. This is the only pattern for proper co-operation among men."

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Mary Poppins

Last week I had the immense pleasure of attending Marry Poppins, the musical, at the Civic Theatre in Auckland.

I haven't been to a lot of musicals in this country and the ones I have attended have been lovely, but not particularly amazing. I guess this is because our best local talent looks abroad to find paid work and companies from abroad rarely visit New Zealand due to limited profit potential vs logistics.

So it was with some delight that I found myself absorbed in a top quality musical within the bounds of my little city, albeit provided by a company of Australians.

The story of Mary Poppins, in my opinion, isn't one of the strongest out there and so it relies on musical delivery and visual presentation to entertain to its fullest potential. And this is where this version really stood out.

Already within the fantastical confines of the Civic, the stage was an incredible, wheeling, revolving, transforming hub of activity that surely took every member of the audience convincingly into imaginary England. I won't give away any spoilers on here, but it's safe to say that the company of actors explored almost every possible way to use the Civic's theatrical space.

The delivery of the story itself was impressive as well - especially since we were informed before the show began that, due to an injury, we were to have an understudy play as Mary Poppins. If they hadn't told us a thing, I would never have guessed this was the case.

Apart from a few lapses in accents (personal gripe I know), the company performed flawlessly.

It was a very entertaining evening and one I would certainly recommend for all ages.

I believe the show runs until mid-December, so there's plenty of time to check it out and soak up a rare world class musical in New Zealand.

Monday, October 15, 2012

A new adventure

In just over a month I'm going to be taking on a new challenge in my life - TV.

In late November I will begin filming as host of a New Zealand travel show called BGTV which is played largely on the Air New Zealand in-flight entertainment system, but also on the Living Channel.

I've never been involved in television in a role other than being interviewed and I've never considered it, to be perfectly honest. So, in a time of my life filled with new beginnings and challenges I figured why not throw something else in the mix.

This will in no way detract from my music (which is coming along nicely thank you), in fact, it may even play a part in the series in some form if the situation allows.

This is obviously something I'm really excited about and feel totally blessed to be a part of - I can now say I have been paid to do a great triumvirate of jobs so far in my life: write/perform music, watch sport and, now, travel.

Chur to the chur.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Album Of My Week: Simone Felice

More folky, story-telling goodness for you from me this week...just for a change right?

I know I'm getting rather one-eyed in my recommendations, but I simply cannot help what I gravitate towards and, right now, it's probably influenced a lot by the kind of music I'm recording myself.

In fact, this album has a lot of the production values that I envision my final album-product to be like - an emphasis on the story and the natural ways people go about communicating those tales through music. So I suppose that's why I'm throwing it out there.
I don't know much about Mr Simone Felice and, like most books and music that come my way, I cannot remember who recommended it to me. But this self-titled album is awesome and my memory-less brain thanks my now forgotten benefactor.

This album is for people who are into Josh Ritter, Noah and the Whale, The Low Anthem, Great Lake Swimmers, Iron and Wine, Nebraska, etc...

Here's a single from the album - it's probably not particularly representative of the whole record, as it's much more upbeat than most of the other tracks, but it's a great song and it's a reflection of his very evident songwriting qualities.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Inspirational NZers

Last week I had the pleasure of sharing a stage with some New Zealanders doing some amazing work for their communities.

I travelled down to Timaru for a night to provide some added entertainment to the "Speaker's Tour" of the NZer Of The Year Awards and I was made to feel rather insignificant by these inspiring speakers.

I had already heard Sam Johnson, the face of Christchurch's Student Army, tell his story and had already been won over - their cause is, what seems to me, a rare altruistic light amongst a generation of young people who are becoming increasingly self-absorbed. They're next big push for Christchurch and its people is an event called The Concert so get involved if you aren't already.

Joining Sam on the stage was a man on a mission to change one of the country's most notorious suburbs, Flaxmere. Henare O'Keefe is a highly charismatic figure who holds a genuine love for his community and its people and is doing all he can to spread that same mantra to as many of his neighbours as possible. In the process, he's also setting an example for others in New Zealand and his work has even spread to other parts of the country already. Here's a little video on what he's all about:

The other significant speaker I heard and also had the privilege to spend four hours driving with that day was Billy Graham - another man on a mission to change the culture of his hometown. Naenae has been a suburb in steady decline since the 1980s and, like Flaxmere, has garnered a rather undesirable reputation. Billy has gone about changing a community with a dwindling spirit to one that is now on the road to renewal - all through him establishing a boxing gym, one that instills within young men respect, discipline and self-motivation. Besides this he's also no doubt helped the suburb in reducing its crime rate by 30% since the gym's inception.

It's in encountering these people that one sees first hand that people are out in our country actually helping others. With the state of our political climate, it's easy to be cynical about what's being done about our people's futures. But there are people helping and they're not waiting for votes or funding, they're going out and making change happen. 

I hope the inspiration I acquired last week can last into my future endeavours and I can do more to help people through my work than I've done in the past. 

I hope you guys can feel this inspiration as well and can do your part to help make our awesome country's dark places brought into the light. 

Monday, September 17, 2012

Grizzly Bear

The new Grizzly Bear album Shields is great for this drizzly it here:

An honour

A day after my experience with Kidz Rock, I spent a day at my old high school - Tauranga Boys' College.

The chief reason for my visit was to act as the guest speaker at the annual Old Boys Dinner in which Bryan Gould was named Old Boy of the Year. I basically told the story of how I came to be me and played a couple of songs with my acoustic guitar. The night was a success and it was awesome to see a lot of familiar faces as well as meet some inspiring new ones - Gould being one in particular.

The school has undergone quite a culture-change since I was there - in a very encouraging way. During my education path, my exposure to Te Reo and Maori culture in general basically ceased as soon as I entered high school. At the time I didn't really mind and didn't think much of it, but as I grew older, saw more of the world and met more people I developed some distinct jealous-pangs towards those who had.

These days the education system does a much better job of integrating Te Reo into the curriculum but then it's up to the schools themselves to involve Maori culture in general within school life. And this is where Tauranga Boys seems to have improved greatly.

During the day I attended and played a song at a full school assembly. It all seemed pretty straight forward until the head boy demanded the boys all stand and deliver to their guests the school haka.

Over 1700 boys then proceeded to raise all the hairs on the back of my neck in providing me a truly special experience, a true honour, something I will always remember.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Kidz Rock

This week I was fortunate enough to be a part of a great enterprise between Tauranga primary schools called Kidz Rock.

This year was the fifth year the event has taken place and involves ten schools across Tauranga that put together bands every year. Those bands then spend a day receiving mentoring from local musicians, hear professional musicians' advice and perform a concert in front of a healthy-sized local crowd in a small theatre.

I've been a part of mentoring schemes to schools in New Zealand before but these were the youngest kids I'd worked with - and it was scary how good they were.

When I went to primary school I was lucky to get my hands on anything more than a recorder or an out of tune acoustic guitar. These kids have electric guitars, electric and acoustic drum kits, bass and double-bass guitars, ukeleles for Africa...and basically anything else you'd ever want to play. These kids also have zero inhibition about picking one of these instruments up and learning the gist of it. 

They were easily more proficient than kids I'd visited at high schools and also had none of that horrible mid-teen self-consciousness which can stop any kind of expression in its tracks. I believe a large reason for this is the Kidz Rock event.

By giving these kids something exciting to work towards and be a part of, they're driving themselves to achieve things that really are amazing for their age as well as things that are particularly exciting for music in this country. If these kids keep doing what they're doing now, for the next ten years, we are going to witness some extreme talent rise to prominence in New Zealand. And what this means for the industry is that artists with mediocre talent, but a bit of an image or corporate push, that currently find success, will be washed away.

It was awesome to be a part of the event and I'd encourage other schools out there to start something similar if they have the chance as it really adds an exciting element to a local community and our country's culture.

Here's one of the bands I remembered to cool. 

Also, another band has a website, music videos, endorsements and a song on iTunes....all things I have none of right now!! Incredible...

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Album of my Week: Songs of Patience

From the first note of the first song I heard from Alberta Cross I was a fan. So it's always a great week when a band like that releases a new album.
This, their second, is a more expansive record than their first - it has more shades of expression in sound and content than their first and is a lot more hook-laden (which people may rebel against...but it just makes me sing along a whole lot easier).

If you haven't heard of them before, they're a US band with a leg in each camp of Southern Rock and British Rock - quite like another great band I've touted on here before: Boxer Rebellion.

There aren't many rock bands left in the world (sorry), but these guys are holding the flag pretty damn high right now, so listen if you're still a fan.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Don McLean

I've stolen the reference to this from Bob Lefsetz' latest email, but I've also cut it down to the parts that resonate. 
These questions were recently put to Don McLean, the writer best known for the song American Pie.
I've found that while the innocent pursuit of your passion is a valuable perspective, the view from the other end of the road can always add a new and valuable shade to your outlook.
When you look back over four decades in the music business, what do you consider to be your greatest accomplishment?
The main thing I would like to say is that I have become the person I wanted to be. As opposed to reaching goals but being an alcoholic, or reaching goals but having four failed marriages, or reaching goals but having kids in rehab. A lot of people reach their goals, but at a terrific price.
Is it safe to say, then, that you never cared about fame?
I had a recording contract with Clive Davis for about a year. He kept sending me wimpy little songs to sing and I didn't want to do them. So we ended our association. I guarantee you if I had decided to sing those songs, with the production values they would have used, I would have had hit records. But I didn't want those kinds of hit records. I don't want songs that don't mean anything. You wind up regretting it in the end anyway. Because if you get a hit that you don't like, you've still got to sing it.
Songs come and songs go. So what do you think about the staying power of American Pie?
It's a real honor and a gift. The thing that I value about the songs that Buddy Holly wrote and that Elvis sang, the songs by Pete Seeger and the Weavers, those songs are my friends. Better than my friends, in fact, because they're always there. And my hope is that people will consider my songs to be their friends as the years go by.
You're doing a concert tour in England next month. At age 66, have you ever considered retiring?
It's not really a career. It's a way of life. It's like breathing. I can't do anything else.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Closing one door...

When I joined Midnight Youth my ambition in life was to write and release an album – I didn’t care what it cost or how it was received, I just wanted that record in my hand to share with my family, friends and, one day, kids.

We were a gang of boys jamming twice a week and playing the odd show in small pubs around Auckland for three years before my life changed - I had the chance to achieve that final goal, to record an album.

Once it was released I had acquired, briefly, that fleeting feeling of utter contentment in life.

Then the record happened to be successful and I chose to leave my fulltime job and follow my music and a new set of goals. It was a huge life-change and one that I’ve followed for the past three years around the world, constantly soaking up the highs and lows and growing in my musical journey.

Six years after that dream began I’ve come to the point of another new beginning. It’s a long time - in a period of a person’s life where personal realisation and change is rapid - and what I’ve recently discovered about myself is that, to be happy, productive and to grow more as a person, I need to make a fresh start. In order to do this, there is no doubt in my mind that I need to leave my band.

Midnight Youth has, undoubtedly, given me some of the best years I will have in my life and I am well aware that I may never have the same kind of commercial success in a chosen field ever again. I will forever be indebted to the guys in the band and the people who supported and fell in love with the songs we created and gave me a stage to perform upon.

But life isn’t all about perceived success; some of it is about love, passion, challenge and change within your own mind and those closest to you and these things, unfortunately, present no smooth, constant road.

I have now chosen to pave my own street, pack my own bags, strip myself naked and, importantly, sing my own song. Follow me if you choose…

Monday, September 3, 2012

Album of my week: Karen Dalton

So I've cheated a little this week but it's all because two days of fleeting spring inspired me to go on a musical mission to find a soundtrack to my sunny book-reading.

What I came up with wasn't an album, but more of a catalogue.
Karen Dalton was a folk musician from the same era as early Bob Dylan who didn't find huge success but was very well respected in that scene at the time.

She released a total of two albums and they make for the perfect soundtrack for quiet, breezy, summer sessions. There's a wide variety of tonality in her songs and her unique voice makes those tones all the more interesting.

It's all twangy, jangly, loungy, folky goodness from a time everyone wanted to live in, so get yourself a taste if that sounds like you.

Monday, August 27, 2012


Romanticism is the conceptual school of art. It deals, not with random trivia of the day, but with the timeless, fundamental, universal problems and values of human existence. It does not record or photograph; it creates and projects. It is concerned - in the words of Aristotle - not with things as they are, but with things as they might be and ought to be.

- The Fountainhead (Ayn Rand)

Friday, August 17, 2012

Album Of My Week: Passing Stranger

I'm not sure who exactly recommended this album to me, it was found in the musical notes I take down in my iPhone, but before I begin I must say thank you very much.

Passing Stranger is the debut album from Englishman Scott Matthews. It was released in 2006 and had some buzz in the UK at the time but I've only just made my discovery. 
Again, it's a folky, acoustic-based record - very much my buzz right now as you could tell - though this is definitely more rootsy than others I've recommended. His voice has shades of a bunch of great vocalists - Jeff Buckley, Justin Vernon, Nick Cave...he also can be more accessible on the record in a Jack Johnson kind of way...(hate me if you will, I believe Mr Johnson has written some lovely wee songs, so there!)

It has a good mix of quiet, light songs but he definitely does rock in The Fool Is Fooling Himself and is always in the blues. It's a great album and I'll now be seeking out his subsequent efforts for sure.

Have a listen, but if you like the sound of a rootsy, bluesy, folk album mixed up with Jeff Buckley, Nick Cave and Bon Iver just get it now.  

This song rules:

There's nothing like a week on a musical retreat.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Album of my week: Blues Funeral

The past few weeks I've been working stupid, stupid hours covering the Olympics (and my rent money) and all these graveyard shifts got me the a good way!

I first discovered and saw Mark Lanegan while living in Sydney a few years ago - I didn't know much about him apart from the fact he played a big part in the grunge scene in the early '90s. I was too young then to really dig deeper than Nirvana, Pearl Jam and Stone Temple Pilots, but Lanegan's band Screaming Trees were an underground favourite of the time and one I've recommended on here before.

His voice is incredible. When I saw him in Sydney I couldn't believe how powerful such a low voice could be. In fact, it's always something I've pondered - how male singers with very low voices struggle to be heard in the music world...most of the time, when they do rise to the surface, it's for pure novelty-factor (think Crash Test Dummies). Maybe it's because a good low voice is a rare thing (think Johnny Cash) or maybe people generally respond more positively to more of a tenor range - either way, Mark Lanegan is a rare thing to behold.
He's just released his seventh studio album, Blues Funeral. The album name does a pretty good job of describing the sound really - it melds classic rocknroll instruments and blues frameworks with synthetic instruments and rhythms. It comes out as a modern-sounding record with just enough elements from yonder to make it sound learned and classic.

Have a listen and give it a crack if the below track gets you going.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Bob Lefsetz - music and money

I subscribe to a music/industry writer called Bob Lefsetz. He sends out at least one email a day on a plethora of issues, bands, books and people. While some of it can fly over or around my head, if you filter through it he makes some great points about the music industry as it stands today.

He sent a great one today basically about playing music as a career and why this just isn't the place for those who want to get rich quick anymore. You've got to be in it for your passion.


There's great music today, there is in every period, but why were the sixties and seventies such a fertile era, why did we get not only the Beatles and the Stones, but the entire British Invasion, the San Francisco Sound and the great acts of FM radio?

You've got to start in the U.K. Every famous musician of the sixties said they performed to avoid a life of drudgery, in the factory. They didn't think it was forever, playing music, but it was a great respite from the inevitable. They struggled to succeed for as long as they could. And when the Beatles broke through, all hell broke loose.

Sure, the Beatles' music was great. But when America saw the Fab Four on "Ed Sullivan", suddenly everybody wanted to be them. Their performance inspired an entire country to pick up guitars, to play drums, to be just like them.

And what did they want?

The joy of playing music.

The sex.

And the money.

Today people listen to the radio and watch "American Idol", but a whole swath of the public has no desire to imitate these performers. Because they just don't make enough money. In other words, only those with dim futures, with few advantages, slog it out in music.

Oh, of course that's a generalization. But if you lived through the sixties, you know that back then everybody had a band. Today you might sing karaoke, but very few have the life of a professional musician in their sights. Because not only are the odds long, when you make it, it doesn't pay enough.

They say MTV saved the music business. One could argue quite strongly it killed it. As for the excoriated disco that killed rock... We now know that corporate rock deserved to die and that it's disco that survives. Yes, all the beats of EDM started in disco. Disco was made by a marginalized group who lived to party every day. And punk and new wave were experimental and vital sub-genres of rock that rebelled against what came before. But everyone in the game knew you could get rich if you had a hit. Even Johnny Rotten.

Now you just can't get that rich playing music. Which is why Bono is a partner in a venture capital firm. Can you imagine that back in the sixties, our musical heroes becoming bankers? Impossible!

So Reagan lowers the tax rates in the eighties and suddenly incomes start to diverge. And the record execs don't want to be on the wrong side of the divide. They no longer care about music, they just want money. The acts are disposable. It devolves into formula by the nineties. And by time MTV stops playing music, at the advent of the twenty first century, after the executives have wrung all the cash out of both new acts and old, via overpriced CDs, the scene was dead.

And I don't know when it's going to come back.

The acts have no soul, no backbone anymore. The first thing they want to do is sell out to the Fortune 500, do endorsement deals. You see they want the money. And their handlers are imploring them to do this, because they want their commission. Everybody's chasing an ever-shrinking piece of the pie. And anybody who is smart is staying out. What did David Geffen say last week, "I'd kill myself if I got into the music industry now."? As for the consumer, he's screwed incessantly. Wall Street rolled up the concert business and ticket prices went through the roof. And very few acts want to go to paperless and keep prices low, because they too want the cash, they too want to live the lifestyle of the rich and famous. They're chasing the bankers, who make millions year in and year out. Very few musicians do, but that doesn't mean they don't try.

Sure, banking is boring, but tech is not. Which is why a huge swath of the youth make apps, are entrepreneurs, they want to be in control of their own destiny and make a fortune, the sky's the limit in tech. But there's a definite ceiling in music.

And the radio stations were rolled up, hell, Bain Capital and Thomas H. Lee Partners took Clear Channel private and squeezed out billions, despite the company being in extreme debt, and now stations have innumerable commercials and they all sound the same. And they'll only play what's on the major labels. Who won't sign something left field without instant radio play, they don't want to take that chance, there's too much money involved.

The rich are getting richer and the musicians are being left out. And yes, piracy contributes to income deprivation, but it's more complicated than that. Adele sold ten million albums in America and she doesn't do any endorsements. Her music is perceived to be honest and from the heart. That's a role model for you. But no one's following in her footsteps. No one is taking a risk. Then again, you can't manufacture Adele on an assembly line, you can just recognize genius and nurture it. But that's no longer the job of the music industry.

The fact that so many are so wealthy is putting a huge dent in our cultural institutions. Sure, there were scalpers in the sixties and seventies, but no one paid ten or twenty times face value, because no one had that kind of cash. You could get a good ticket back then. It's almost impossible today.

And the first thing a musician asks is "How do I get paid?" That's the culture we've developed. Paying your dues, doing it because you love it, very few are willing to play that game for decades. Furthermore, most people didn't make it in the sixties and seventies either. But they didn't complain ad infinitum about not being rich, they just played bars, got drunk, got laid and eventually gave up or were satisfied being journeymen.

Our whole country is asking why it can't be rich. What do the Republicans say, they're the party of the rich and the soon to be rich? Not everybody can be rich. But this mentality has people perpetuating income inequality, believing that one day, when they're wealthy, they want taxes to be low, and has the lower classes fighting for scraps, that's what reality TV is all about.
We won't have another heyday for music until we're all in it together, until income gaps decline. Hell, there haven't even been any protest songs since the economic collapse and ten years of war. No one is speaking truth, they're just speaking money, and it hurts us all. 

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Album of my week: Gentle Spirit

This week it's an album that sometimes sounds like it's as if Led Zeppelin reformed and re-recorded an album consisting entirely of acoustic tracks - Gentle Spirit by Jonathan Wilson.
It's a largely sleepy, acoustic-based record that is very folky in terms of the stories it tells but it puts a spin on what can be a pretty straight-ahead genre by presenting the listener with some really original musical surroundings to the guitar - all designed by himself as the album's producer. It features guest appearances from some incredible musicians and

He's a California native who's a sure-fire example of a songwriter that has earned his way and grafted within the industry before releasing something himself - previous to this album he was largely a producer and guest musician on a ton of albums, some that were very successful in their field. Tom Petty, Elvis Costello and Jackson Browne, among others, are all talking about him and scrambling to work with him - he's nailed it with this record.

At age 37 Wilson released his first official studio album late last year to amazing critical acclaim - take one listen and I'm pretty sure you'll hear why. If you enjoy please spread the word and get great music heard.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Album of my week: Heaven

This week I've been indulging in an album from a band I think have just nailed their sound - The Walkmen.
Heaven is the band's seventh studio album after being a band for 12 years, so a pretty good strike rate in terms of productivity. I loved their last album, Lisbon, and I was definitely interested to see what would come next.

As is often the case for bands, the exact sound of this collection of songs doesn't vary a whole lot from their previous release - but I'm of the opinion that this record has a few more spoonfuls of magic in it.

Their sound is electric-folk - low production values, live recordings, expressive and rough-edged vocals all revolve around folk stories. If you like Arcade Fire, Modest Mouse, Cold War Kids, Gaslight Anthem etc then take a listen and get the album if it tickles you.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Album of my week: Sweet Heart Sweet Light

This week I've got myself into a brand new album from a classic British rock band, Spiritualized.
It's a 70s sounding, very Lou Reed-esque, collection of largely up-beat but lyrically dark tracks - a combination I appreciate lot!

The first single from the album is what made me fall for the album - Hey Jane is an almost 9-minute folk rock epic that just doesn't seem to get boring despite its length. The long tracks continue throughout the album actually, and while that can sometimes come across as too self-indulgent to me, I don't mind it one bit this time around.

Here's the song that got me, hopefully it gets you too and you can then enjoy the whole album.

Monday, July 2, 2012

July - a month of firsts

I have devised a simple way of being productive in the coming month.

I have a number of things happening to me in July that will be 'firsts' for me and I marveled at how good that makes me feel to know they're lined up. So I decided to take this feeling further and make this coming month a whole month of 'firsts' - one every day.

For example, yesterday I had my first kick-around at the Auckland Domain and today I'm making my first ever hearty winter stew.

They can be relatively trivial things like the above, though if I can, I'm aiming for some more significant entries into my life experience.

This week, I'm playing my first ever professional gig under my own name. It's not a huge deal and it's just me and a guitarist, but it's a challenge I haven't come up against before and I love the idea of it.

Next week I head into a studio to record the first ever batch of songs that will be released under my own name.

Hopefully my list of 'firsts' will add up to an exciting month and one that can bear fruit that I can share with you at some point in the future.

Let me know if you decide to follow my suit and if anything exciting comes of it!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Album of my week: An Awesome Wave

I've got a tonne of new music to listen to at the moment, so I'm going to post my highlights over the coming weeks on here.

First up is an album that stood out on first listen - Alt-J's debut, An Awesome Wave.

It's hard to pinpoint the sound on this record - at times it sounds ethno-pop, other times plain electro-pop - but the main thing is it's one of those albums you can put on around the house or in your car and at no point feel the urge to skip a track or turn it off.

What I didn't realise before writing this entry was that their main single, Breezeblocks, had its video directed by a good friend of good friends of mine who live in New York. Crazy small world. That's the video below, so please enjoy and get the album if you're feeling generous.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Great wee read

I think a lot of people can relate to this, or at least parts of it.

Found courtesy of

You’re Alone All The Time
JUN. 11, 2012 By MOLLY GARD

You’re alone all the time.

That’s the well-kept secret. When they talk about living independently for the first time, it’s not about doing your own laundry or waking yourself up in the morning or paying your own utilities. Independent is a fancy word for alone, and that’s why so many capable people struggle. People who thought that they were prepared, that they would flourish under this new system because they had been functioning at such a high level for such a long time. Nobody mentioned that the challenge isn’t functioning. The challenge is doing anything other than functioning. The challenge is to transcend being and start living again.

And maybe it sounds easy because all your basic needs are still being met, and many elements of your former life are still around in one form or another. Look, there’s a soccer game over there, here’s a band you can play in, here’s where you can drink coffee, here’s a camera you can use. It’s all the same, really. What do you mean there’s nothing to take pictures of? There’s buildings and trees and people. Just point and shoot.

So you arrive, after months of waiting and longing, arrive thinking that your new life will be your old life but better, knowing that specifics from your past won’t transfer but hoping that all the important things carry over. And maybe you get lucky. Maybe some do. But maybe nothing feels like home. And that brings us back to the thesis:

You’re alone all the time. At first it’s unbearable and agonizing and physically painful, the sense that you no matter what you do, you will do it in solitude. At first you die a little more every hour on the hour, you cringe whenever something reminds you of the past, which of course happens every moment. But slowly, you adjust. Soon, it’s only the mornings that hurt, when you wake up and realize you’re still alone, and the evenings when you’re tired and you spent all day winding yourself up and you don’t have any more energy to cope. And then, soon enough, the mornings and evenings are bearable too. You learn to use any human interaction as energy to get you through the day, or you learn to survive in isolation, maybe even embrace it. You become more and more comfortable spending hours or entire days without speaking to anyone. Sometimes, when you absolutely cannot take it anymore, you call your mother, or chat with someone who suddenly means more to you than they ever did before. But you function. You make it through. You have good days and bad days, like any other person. Sometimes you laugh at a joke, and then immediately marvel at the miracle of someone making you laugh, of someone else bringing you joy again. Every once in a while, someone might hug you, and it’s the best thing, even if you don’t know why.

So that’s the plateau. Where you’re fine. Where you smile through the good days and wade your way through the bad. And sometimes you feel great, and you chastise yourself for feeling over-dramatic earlier, and your confidence in your new life swells. And sometimes you break, and you consider flying or driving home right that second because you cannot handle another hour of the emptiness gnawing inside you. Gradually, your highs get a little bit higher, and your lows get less frequent, and you start describing life as “good” instead of “fine” and you generally mean it. You’re doing well. Sometimes you even feel alive.

But then your sister comes to visit, or your boyfriend, or some pal from high school. And you remember what it’s like to not just know people but understand them, to know their habits and their preferences, to recognize their shirts, to touch them without thinking about it. You remember how good it feels not being alone, and you try to soak up every moment and absorb enough energy to last the long winter. Often it’s awkward because you have nothing in common but memories and mutual affection, so you spend a lot of time staring at each other and wishing you could think of something more interesting to do, some way to better appreciate your visitors, to better make use of your time. You don’t want to waste this. But maybe you do.

And then they leave, and you break again, and your “good” drops to “fine” and then to “okay, I guess.” But soon enough you trick yourself into forgetting how it feels to see love in someone’s eyes, and you adjust back to solitude.

And that’s as far as I’ve gotten. I’m assuming it gets better. I keep reading the same Bukowski poem, the one that goes:

There are worse things than
being alone
but it often takes decades
to realize this
and most often
when you do
it’s too late
and there’s nothing worse
too late.

I try to believe him, but it’s hard when you’re alone all the time.

Friday, June 8, 2012

This gets me pretty excited...

Wouldn't mind hearing more actual music, but by the looks of the trailer, this will be a big every way. I can't wait.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Germany - pointing the way?

I found my recent visit to Germany very interesting in a quite unexpected way. Yeah, I expected to be taken in by the music, culture and rich history, but I didn't think I would be affected by its government's vision and policies.

Now, I'm not an overly political or environmentally-conscious person - I take a keen interest but am in no way an activist - but the way Germany is going about planning its future in a world of scarce resources seems particularly admirable, especially to a citizen of a supposedly "clean and green" country.

While taking a train from Berlin to Hamburg, through the country's heartland, I noticed numerous windfarms and fields painted bright yellow with flowers. They were everywhere and upon talking with locals I discovered why. Germany, it turns out, is one of the most progressive countries in the world when it comes to developing both sustainable and alternative energy. The windfarms are part of a wider plan to have 35 per cent of the country's electricity come from a renewable source by 2020While the flowers belong to a plant called Rapeseed which is subsidised to grow and helps contribute to a huge biofuel industry. Through exploiting wind, the sun and water Germany is one of the most innovative renewable-energy creators in the world and this policy is tied to another which plans to eliminate nuclear power production by 2022.

With this brought to my attention, it made it confusing for me to find that in my home country, a country apparently proud of being innovative and environmentally-conscious, there seems to be a distinct imbalance between renewable and non-renewable energy development. While there is a definite need for some traditional forms of energy production - coal, oil, gas - I don't believe we should be taking huge risks for their development and there really doesn't seem to be enough emphasis on the future of our country's energy, especially when compared to a place like Germany.

Now, I'm not even close to being an expert on this topic, so I'll stop there and state that this is an impression more than anything else, but one that was imprinted pretty strongly on me, so I felt compelled enough to write it down.

Now for some Michael Jackson.

Friday, June 1, 2012


Last night had the unexpected pleasure of going along to see Opossum play in Newmarket, Auckland.

I hadn't planned on going along to the show as I've arrived back in Auckland completely out of the loop of social events - but a good friend had a spare ticket and invited me along with him. Now I'm glad I said yes.

I had only heard a few songs from Kody Neilson's (Mint Chicks) new project before the show and I was pretty open-minded about what to expect.

What came at me, in a room only capable of holding around 60 people, was a groove-ridden, rock 'n' soul sound full of great tunes and beats.

Kody began the show on keys, while Bic Runga held down the drums - they swapped after a few songs and Bic played the last few on guitar...yeah, they're great musicians and inspiring to watch from my point of view. The standout in the group's sound is rhythm - the drum work and, especially, the bass grooves and tone from Michael Logie were perfect - and this creates what is an interesting and captivating bed of sound to base pop melodies and harmonies around.

Needless to say, I bought the album right after the show and absorbed it on the drive home - it's an inch too fuzzed-out for my own personal sensibilities, but it's a great set of songs that really come alive when brought to a venue and played loud.

Definitely check out the songs and a live show soon if you can!

I want

I know it's winter, but there are no clouds and I need these sunnies!

Jonathan Calugi is a graphic designer from Pistoia, Italy. Despite no formal training Jonathan has worked with international heavy weights such as Nike, Sony and Delonghi, utilising a combination of raw talent, enthusiasm and a tongue in his cheek. 

His 8 1/2 sunglasses are "created shades for the twighlight sun on the seas of a Lego Timbuctu City". 

Thursday, May 31, 2012


While I was in Singapore I took part in probably the biggest interview of my life.

We stumbled upon the producer of BBC World Asia at a swanky Nokia party at the Ritz Carlton and she was interested in putting a story together on the Music Matters event we were a part of. Ideally, she would have got hold of someone with a bit more news-clout, but I suspect she was stuck with me after other potential guests fell through.

The upside to it all was that the presenter, who I'd seen numerous times in early-morning BBC viewings, got to have her second guest ever in the studio with her - the guest previous to me being Malcolm McLaren - and her first ever "live performance".

There wasn't supposed to be a performance, I was awkwardly put on the spot, so I hope it didn't come across too cheesy to viewers :s

Anyway, this thing went out to 230 million household worldwide and it was all done live after a big night out so, all things considered, I count it as a success!

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The Bane of Our Tour

Meet Simon's pedal board or, as we named it, "Purple Heart" - the bane of our touring existence.

This thing was 23kg of awkwardness - no wheels, a shitty little knobbly handle and a big enough size to create a mission for any man lugging it from van to venue, van to train, train to train, ground to third storey...

We all took a bullet for this bastard, hence its name, and we're all glad we've seen the back of it. For now...

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Tour - Days 31 & 32

Somehow two days have been lost in my writings...they're somewhere between Auckland and LA and maybe LA and London...I apologise profusely.

Number One
Going home
I was about ready for this, the long ride home. Although we somehow made it very hard for ourselves - we played a show Friday night (horrible venue, but fun) and stayed up all night to catch a flight to Hong Kong at 5am. Four hours later we arrived in a rain-soaked Hong Kong with the prospect of a further 36 hour wait until we made the trip to Auckland. It wasn't an ideal situation but at least we got to have some rest before we jumped on the final plane trip of the tour.

Number Two
Hong Kong
I arrived in Hong Kong battling stomach cramps from, I think, being dehydrated as hell on our last night in Singapore. The pain didn't really relent while I was there so it may have actually been a bit of a bug (I'm discovering I must have a sensitive stomach). So I pretty much spent the whole 36 hours in our hotel and its immediate surrounds. The best part of it all was that our hotel was no normal hotel - it was the Panda Hotel. And not just in name, this place was all about pandas, they were everywhere - and you have to love an animal that makes it seem like its only goal in life is to look good while becoming extinct.

Number Three
Welcome to fabulous...
Welcome to fabulous...Auckland! On Monday morning we descended through a thick layer of cloud to catch sight of a dull, rainy and cold cityscape - my home. As amazing as this adventure has been, there is nothing like the prospect of the comfort of friends, family and loved ones in the place where you live. That, and a decent coffee.