Issue Six 2009
In the midst of this media-hyped global economic crisis, it seems harder than ever to fight for creative causes when there are rent payments due. It wasn’t until I read Naomi Klein’s writing that I began to truly understand the importance of vehicles such as music, poetry, art, and film to influence social and political change. This issue of Exposure Lifestyles was born from my curiosity to understand how individuals in Aotearoa’s creative communities use their passion to affect change in society. What that ‘change’ looks like depends on who they are, where they’re from, the stories they have to tell, and what they want to achieve from their work. Every person interviewed in this issue felt a deep connection towards producing work that meant something to them and gave something back to their audiences. They showed me that it doesn’t take an army to create a movement or advocate for change; it takes personal dedication, sweat, blood, tears, good ideas, and a whole lotta passion! In the past, standing on a soapbox in Hyde Park and shouting was the way it was done. These days, protest exists in our songs, film scripts, poems, digital downloads, well-crafted reviews, music festivals and, always, always in the beating heart of our struggles. Challenging the status quo and our habit of ‘doing things because we’ve always done them’ was something we felt was worthy of a reminder in these recessionary times. To change the way text runs across a page, to pay typographic homage to one of our great painters, and to reveal intimate tit-bits alongside important conversations with the incredible individuals in this issue was our way of adding to the debate. We leave it in your hands to take the discussions off the page and on to your internal soapboxes. Enjoy! PAT
Editor: Pat Shepherd Sub-editor and Proofer: Amie Mills Cover Illustration: Ross Liew a.k.a. Trust Me Typography Design: Claudia Riedel meets Gordon Walters Contributing Photographers: Guy Coombes, Amelia Handscomb, Terry Klavenes, Pat Shepherd Contributing Illustrators: Peter Campbell, Anita Clark, James Coyle, Amie Mills Contributing Writers: Glenn Colquhoun, Kerry Donovan-Brown, Loren Horsley, Toby Laing, Eliorah Malifa, Warren Maxwell, Amie Mills, Jessie Moss, Age Pryor, Tania Sawicki-Mead Web Design: Stephen Horner Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org Past Issues at: www.exposurelifestyles.com & www.exposurelifestyles.blogspot.com The views expressed in this publication are not necessarily those of the publisher or editor. No part of this publication may be reproduced in any form without the express written permission of the publisher. Exposure Lifestyles is subject to copyright in its entirety. ©EXPOSURE LIFESTYLES 2009 All Rights Reserved.
SEEKING HARMONY Music is as much a fundamental human experience as eating, drinking, procreating, and sleeping. People of all ages, races, religions, times, and places experience music in some form, at some stage in their lives. For many of us, music is an integral part of everyday living, whether it be through traditional ceremony or as a full-time job. According to author, musician, and neurologist, Oliver Sacks, “Music can move us to the heights or depths of emotion. It can persuade us to buy something, or remind us of our first date. It can lift us out of depression when nothing else can. It can get us dancing to its beat. But the power of music goes much, much further. Indeed, music occupies more areas of our brain than language does – humans are a musical species.” We humans have played music since the very beginning. No one knows why because we don’t need it to survive. Why then, when there are so many other things necessary to living, do humans invest so much time creating, engaging in, and listening to music? Perhaps there is no point attempting to answer this question as the fact remains, we all need music. Amidst that need is a deeply held belief in the power of music to create social change. We are social beings; we rely on each other in every sphere of life. As has been sung many times before, by musicians
as diverse as folk’s, Joan Baez, to reggae’s, Dennis Brown, “No man is an island, no man stands alone.” Equally, it must be said that no woman is an island and no woman stands alone. Whether we like it or not, we co-exist. Just as every act and every motion we make has an impact, every chord progression and lyric affects another. Every moment of every day, new experiences add to our bodies of knowledge, which in turn shape the way we see the world. To a greater or lesser extent, we are all a part of each other’s sphere of influence. In this sense, social change is a constant. It can be a massive shift in social structures and institutions, or a small change in societal relations, behaviour, and communities. Just as each ant brings another grain of sand to the hill, each person on this planet is adding to the ever-changing direction of the social world. What’s more, some people have much greater influence in changing that direction than others. This is where the problem lies, which many musicians and artists have identified, in the imbalance of power in society. By song and art, they have attempted to speak for the oppressed, the environment, and the speechless. The majority of the world’s people are poor; they are the ‘othered’, the marginalised, the women and children. More often than not they are defenseless and
powerless. You may take someone’s right to selfdetermination, to adequate clothing, shelter, food, and water, but there is one thing that can never be taken away – freedom of thought. The music lives in our minds. When white America stole Africans and sold them into slavery, their salvation was in the songs they would sing as they were forced to work. When the indigenous peoples of South Africa were oppressed under Apartheid, their survival existed in four-part harmony. As Uncle Bob once sung, “Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery. None but ourselves can free our minds.” Ani DiFranco states, “Any tool is a weapon if you hold it right.” Time and time again throughout history, recorded and remembered, music has been a well-held tool for change. In this day and age, here in Aotearoa, life is pretty good. We are the lucky ones. But there is always room for improvement, and there are plenty of other people who need our help. Aotearoa is part of a global musical community where we are constantly bombarded with messages through song. And most of it is from pop music, which, depending on the person, can encompass genres as diverse as rock, reggae, country, soul, funk, RnB, and folk. As Pete Townshend said, “The effect pop has on society is incredible. It’s a powerful thing.” There are a huge number of musicians out there currently having their say on a vast number of topics, from climate change to capitalism, from racism to sexism. As the late South African reggae singer, Lucky
Dube, said, “Musicians have always educated people through music… Music, I think, should be teaching and talking to people about important things in life.” Whether you are a passionate lover of music or a passive listener, to some extent, we all absorb the messages that music sends us. Is it the responsibility of the musician to speak consciously and eloquently about the ills of the world and provide solutions? Does music serve a different purpose now than it once did? I believe that as we are all human and therefore dependent on one another, we have a collective responsibility to each other. I am answerable to you, just as you are to me. Music provides us with a great opportunity that should not be overlooked. We can use it wisely or recklessly. Tim Buckley once said, “You can daydream with music ... it takes you away and creates a new world.” I like to think that we are all personally creating new worlds and that we can all somehow, as the great, Mahatma Gandhi hoped, “Be the change you want to see in the world.” I stand with Joan Baez when she says, “My devotion to social change will go on until I fall into the grave.” But then again, perhaps John Lennon was right when he said, “It’s just a song man, it doesn’t mean anything.” With the highest regards to those featured in this issue, and to those who weren’t and should have been but didn’t fit! Finally of course, to Pat, for making it happen yet again. With the deepest bow of respect and gratitude, my hat goes off to you.
You may not have realised it, but Nick has been perched on the edge of your earlobes for decades; coaching, critiquing, and generally making sense of the music that enters your auditory entranceway. You’re most likely to hear him on National Radio’s, The Sampler, and come across him nestled in amongst the music pages of The Listener. Photography by Guy Coombes Interview by Age Pryor
What led to you becoming a music journalist? I think music led me to being a music journalist. I sometimes say I was a musician first, but when I think back, they’re parallel passions I had ever since I was a kid. My dad was a writer. I got this little printing press when I was about 10, a tiny little hand printer thing, with wax stencils, and I used to make a school newspaper: I gathered the material during the week, printed it every Sunday night and stapled it up, 25 copies or so, and I’d take it to school on Monday morning and hand it out in the playground. I was the music critic for that paper! Sometimes I had to write the whole thing myself, but other kids contributed too. How about becoming a musician? I drifted into it. When I left school, as far as I could tell, there was no prescribed career path for being either a musician or a music journalist. I kept asking what am I going to do? I worked on building sites, in warehouses and things. But when I was 18 or 19 I joined Rough Justice, which was Rick Bryant’s band, and that was a fulltime job. Rick hadn’t done anything except play music for years. I got into that band because I’d already joined The Windy City Strugglers, which was the opposite, that was really part-time. Did you play with other bands? Yeah a lot of shorter-lived bands: in the early ’90s a band called The Pauas, me and Alan (Norman), plus Steve Roche and Neil Duncan from The 6 Volts, who’d just split up. I played in the Pelicans in the early ’80s, and The Living Daylights in the late ’80s. And after The Pauas it just reverted to the Strugglers. It’s funny, other bands have come and gone, but the Strugglers has been ongoing, ever since I was a teenager. So when did you start writing for a job? That’s something I drifted into even more than music. It was the mid-eighties, after Rough Justice had broken up. I’d been to Teacher’s College, and during that time I was flatting with the woman who was editor of Salient, and she needed a reviewer. At the same time I was involved with Radio Active, doing a soul music programe. And while I was there, Charles Mabbot, who was the station director then I think, he was the Listener’s music reviewer. And he was leaving, so he said, “you should be doing this job.” I put a little portfolio together, stuff I’d written for Salient and that kind of thing, and took that along to them. And I got the job – that was 20 years ago.
In terms of music journalism, if somebody feels that their writing should be of a high standard, can it become more about them than about the functionality of a music review? For sure, that’s a real trap. I guess one thing I have done is read a lot of criticism. I like reading criticism of any variety, so for example someone like Pauline Kael who was a New York film reviewer, her pieces are just exemplary pieces of criticism. You don’t even have to agree with her, although she’s very persuasive. But basically they’re beautiful pieces of writing, in every sense: the way they’re structured, the way the arguments are presented; they’re humourous, plus her frame of reference is really wide, so any film she sees she can immediately put it in a context, without being patronising. She’s sharing her knowledge with you. So someone like that, basically it’s a lesson in how to write any kind of criticism. You were a kids TV star, you’re a musician and a behind the scenes reviewer. Are you an extrovert or introvert? It’s interesting. I notice it in the Strugglers, because they’re essentially a band of introverts. But I think musicians mostly are. Being on stage is what you’ve got to do to be a musician. It’s almost a paradox. Playing music is essentially an introspective occupation – if you’re going to do it with any depth, it’s something that takes you into yourself and you’re pulling stuff out, and then you’re sharing it. But you know, doing all that stuff in public is quite a strange thing! And what about you as an actor? That was a one-off thing, when I was about 10 or 11. It was a fantastic experience actually. I think because of my cousin Alun (Bollinger), who was 10 years older, and a NZ Broadcasting Corporation cameraman, he was part of that whole circle of people that became BLERTA, you know, Geoff Murphy, Bruno Lawrence, and all those people. At that point they hadn’t quite gone independent, making their feature films. They were busy hovering around the fringes of the NZBC, being anarchic, and disruptive, and making television programmes, and being paid for it! And this guy called Derek Morton, who was definitely part of that enclave, a real bohemian, he directed this show called Kidset, a kids television show, and honestly there’s nothing today on TV that’s as radical as that programme was, in the late ’60s. It was a programme with a cheesy presenter, and the kids would routinely embarrass him, or beat him up, tie him to his chair and the kids took over the show, and this was really symbolic, this is what Derek wanted to do with television, with the world! And you had a lead role in this? I had a couple of roles in it, one was reviewing comics. And actually yeah, when I think about it, that was my first paid job as a reviewer. It was called Comic Comment.
What’s the difference between your personal music energy and the energy for exploring others’? I only play music with other people, and at it’s best it becomes easy, because when everything’s locking together, you’re just one person in the canoe, and the power of all these people together really shifts it somewhere you could never go on your own. That’s a great feeling. With writing you have to generate the energy yourself. If the music’s got you excited it makes it easier to write. I find it really hard, even dispiriting to write about things I don’t like.
me that their lives were changed by hearing The Beatles or Bob Dylan, to believe it – to believe that the actual course their life took was different, and that they can trace it directly to hearing a piece of music. Stanley Booth, one of my favourite writers on music, says, “In the sixties we believed in a myth that music had the power to change people’s lives. Today people believe in a myth that music is just entertainment.”
Do you choose not to write negative reviews? Often.
What’s going to happen to the toothpaste though!? It’s just going to spread everywhere … obviously the old gatekeepers have lost control of the gates. For some reason though it’s typical of this era – I wonder how degraded a version of something can get before people dismiss it. I mean the idea of watching a feature film on a cellphone or an iPod boggles my mind! A wide-screen TV’s bad enough! It’s like people just get the sketchiest idea of what that thing’s meant to be. Then again, when I was a kid I used to listen to a crappy old transistor and The Beatles would come crackling through that, and it was enough of the message for me to respond.
Is that a policy? No … it brings me down writing negative stuff I think. I’m not saying it can’t be intoxicating to do it sometimes, and I think some writers get really hooked on that, but I think it’s a bit dangerous too. I have to say, if I do write a negative review, it’s usually from some sense of responsibility. (laughs) Also as a critic you’ve got to be honest, you owe that to your readers. And you’re not in the business of writing people’s press releases, a critic’s first responsibilty is to your reader. Is there a sensitivity between being a reviewer and a musician? No. For me, not at all. I think that continuing to play music informs your criticism, it’s a good thing. It reminds you constantly of how hard it is to make good music, a good record. I mean I’m totally aware of my failings as a music maker … but I know how bloody hard it can be to make music. Do you believe in the power of music to change the world? Yeah that’s really interesting. It’s a huge question. There’s a song on Neil Young’s new album I think called ‘A Song Can’t Change The World’(laughs) ... yeah I think broadly music can change the world. But music is not a separate thing either. It’s very hard to completely disentangle it from all the other social forces going on. It’s an important part of all that. Now if you look at the Flower Power era, you know, I’ve heard enough people of that generation tell
And the digitisation of music. What do you see happening? I think the toothpaste is out of the tube, and you can’t get it back in!
Is there a NZ music? How do we musicians find/create it? Yeah there is a NZ music, in the same way that there’s an American music or an English music. But you see, if you scratch English music, and you don’t have to scratch very hard, you’ll find layers of American music, like The Rolling Stones and The Beatles you know. And NZ is the same. It’s NZ music because it’s made by New Zealanders, and often without even thinking, New Zealanders reflect something of themselves, they don’t even realise it. The best stuff is a bit unconscious. If you think about the number of NZ songs that use the sea as a metaphor, and distance, and this idea of travel, all those ones like Whaling, and Six Months In A Leaky Boat, and Gutter Black, they’re all about vast distances. I don’t think any of those people sat down and said, “I’m going to write a real NZ song now”, but of course all of those people had that experience that the rest of the world is so far away, and they felt like bloody pioneers trying to take their music overseas. So I think it’s unconscious but definitely NZ – no one in England or America would have written those songs.
Childhood hiding spot: In the pines near our house in Kelburn, or at the back of the Record Specialists in town. Book that shaped you: Lost Highway by Peter Guralnick made me want to write about musicians; Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain made me want to see the Mississippi. Advice you’ve never forgotten: As a critic, never say anything in print you wouldn’t be prepared to say to the face of the person you are writing about. Inspiring website: Journal of the Institute For Astrophysics and the Hillbilly Blues: www.celestialmonochord.org/
Armed with a Houdini hat that houses a thousand imaginations, Gaylene, navigates the way she sees the world onscreen and shares with us the stories from her past. Those stories are like her headgear: playful, complicated, practical, and just a little bit magic. Gaylene, what can you tell me about this film you’re working on at the moment? Home By Christmas is an interview-based film. I interviewed my old dad before he died. He had never wanted to talk about the War, but in the end he did. He did it once, and he did it on a tape recorder for me. After that, he never mentioned the War again. In the film we have a reconstructed interview. You know there’s an actor in a costume, who has studied how my father spoke and researched how he moved, and he is giving the interview. So this film is a return to your parents’ experiences in the Second World War, experiences you investigated previously in War Stories Our Mothers Never Told Us. How have you returned to this story again? In a way I suppose with these films I have been investigating why my world was as it was when I was little. Your parents’ relationship is always most mysterious. Mine had a war in it. There was ‘before the war,’ and ‘after the war,’ and a place not talked about – ‘during the war’ – that was like a secret place. What things do you consider when bringing an interview to life onscreen? It has to have all the hallmarks of any great performance: clarity, immediacy, and emotional connection. This flows from pure truth being expressed clearly onscreen. People who can tell the same story over and over, they’re not really giving you their memory of what happened. They’re giving you their memory of how they tell that particular story. That doesn’t work so well onscreen as pure memory. Pure memory is far more emotionally connected. When I’m doing an interview I’m always trying to listen for that truth.
Secret vice: Taking calls in the bath. Could not do without: My swanky German hot water bottle. Fav big hair band of the ’80s: Rocking Horse – a local band with not particularly big hair, but I bet they have less now! Your spiritual place in Aotearoa: Now that I have sold the woolshed – I guess it’s the woolshed. The folks in Golden Bay will never see the back of me. Photography by Amelia Handscomb Interview by Toby Laing 11
But Home By Christmas is a reconstructed interview? Yes, and it’s a filmmaking challenge that delivers riches if you can get it right. When you film a real interview, you have one camera and you have a real person who tells you a story. Now if you’re lucky and they’re a brilliant storyteller, they might be able to repeat the truth in the storytelling once at the most. In Home By Christmas I have two cameras and an actor channeling. We do takes – each one subtly different. Tony Barry is particularly good at connecting with the emotional truth. Very invigorating. That’s an interesting hat! I was fortunate to receive an Arts Laureate Award from the New Zealand Arts Foundation. It’s an award for a mid-career artist. It’s to honour your past work and to encourage your future work. I realized that being ‘P’ for ‘Preston’, my award would be at the end of a long evening and that some levity might be required. Joe Bleakley and I designed this hat for the occasion. What kind of hat does a mid-career artist need Toby? A hard hat. A hard hat! Had a few knocks! Guard against future brain damage! We also have a light on top to light the way so the artist may proceed into the future with confidence. There’s also a light on the back (strobing red emergency light). We have a past! Which is why the hat also has the rear vision mirror so that we have a selective view - particularly good for interviews. You can also use it to see young artists coming up behind you and possibly trip them up so that then you can ‘help’ them! Then as they proceed into their glorious future they can mention you! There is a feather duster on the top of the hat because I am a multi-tasking female artist. A woman’s work is never done. There is also a horn (which hoots loudly) so that other lesser beings can get out of the way to let you through and of course on the back of the hat there is an ‘L’ plate. ‘L’ for ‘Laureate’ and finally there are wings for thoughts. Regardless of how earthbound you are, you need to let your thoughts fly!
Teremoana threw out the rule book along with the notations before they had a chance to settle in for a lifetime. Decades on, she is still making music first and foremost for herself. As a musician, mother, wife of King Kapisi, websitemaker, Anime fan, and ferocious reader, she lives by the unruliness of her passion to always speak out when she’s got something to say.
How did music influence you before you joined Upper Hutt Posse (UHP)? My earliest memory of music was from as early as four years old. I remember singing the Rainbow Song from The Muppet Show in bed. To this day, I still don’t know all the words, but I knew I could pick up a tune unusually fast. My mum and dad always had music around. I know Gene Pitney tunes, The Beatles, The Everly Brothers etc. That was my dad’s choice of music. My mum listened to popular music at the time and sprinklings of Charley Pride, Freddy Fender, Engelbert Humperdinck, Donna Summer – mostly party music and anything that could be played on a uke and guitar. When I was seven, my parents separated and I lived with my mum. I went from a middle-income family to your standard low socio-economic household where alcohol and drugs were the chosen painkiller for any grown-up concerns. By the time I was nine, I was working in a dairy that paid me in food. I was a mathematics whiz with the ability to work out transactions in my head. Then I progressed to delivering local papers, and later helping my mum with her job. She was a cleaner at the local high school and various buildings in Lower Hutt City. With my very first pay packet I bought my very first tape deck. By the age of 14, I had made myself a ward of the state so I could receive a benefit to pay for me to catch the train to school. I lived 18kms away from high school and when we had no money I used to cycle to school, leaving around 5am. I always managed to be part of the school choir and kapa haka group through school, but it wasn’t until I got to high school that I had an official singing lesson. I didn’t understand much of what my singing teacher was trying to teach me (she tried to train me for opera). The only aspect of her lessons I use still to this day is the ability to hold a note for a really long time due to her teaching me the ‘opposite’ way of breathing whilst singing. School and music were my saviours for the day-to-day madness. I listened to Radio Active’s Wednesday Night Jam (Mark Cubey, Rockit V, Rhys B, TP, KOS163). My late step-dad had the most influence on me in terms of music. He had all the Bob albums, Zapp, The Ohio Players, The Heptones, Chaka Khan, Led Zeppelin, Frank Zappa – a mixture of funk, rock, and reggae. We had a good relationship in terms of understanding good music. Photography by Terry Klavenes Interview by Eliorah Malifa
Anything musical in school came natural, but I couldn’t get into the groove of the music class in high school. I was in the choir for a minute but the technical jargon threw me off. Music was something that I felt and expressed, not what I read off a piece of paper following notation. Rules took the joy out of music for me. Music was and still is approached with no rules. By the time I joined the posse I had something to say. It’s just that it has taken me over 20 years to get it on an album for release. How important has it been for you to showcase your own beliefs through your music? There was no conscious thought to showcase my own beliefs. I write as I feel. I sing as I feel. I read a lot. I listen a lot. I observe a lot. I once wrote and sang a radio commercial for Coke because it paid the rent for a couple of months. There is music to pay the bills. There is music that I express from the deepest, darkest, and brightest recesses of my life experience. One gets constant airtime (and paper), the other doesn’t. How do you see your music influencing the younger generation? I don’t see my music influencing the younger generation at all. I think this interview and the stories that come from my experience in life will be more influential. Influencing the younger generation through music has to be coupled with my image, marketing, and the commodification of my music. I don’t cater my music specifically to anyone except for myself. Music is the only aspect of my life that is truly selfish. I am only concerned with influencing our own children and growing our boys into good men. We have four boys aged 8–16 years of age. Does the YouTube and bebo era impact the way your music is listened to? I made a conscious decision 10 years ago that I would utilise the Internet to release my music. I then proceeded to learn how to make a website and learn graphic software. It came natural to me because I had started learning music software back in the late eighties (Dr. T on an Atari 1040ST) and then continued learning music hardware through the nineties. I actually created a few websites and run them myself. So more aptly, the Internet is a definite tool for me to release my music. It is just another distribution channel.
What DVDs or music have you got on repeat lately? I will usually buy all the latest local releases and listen to them at most twice (everything from The Mint Chicks to Nat Rose). I listen to old Stevie Wonder, the Classic Hits radio station, and my music. I work on average 16–20 hours a day, seven days a week. Not much time is used for listening to other people’s music. I collect comics and toys, so I watch a lot of Anime and Madman releases in my down time. I read a lot too. In fact my husband set up a room in our house dedicated as a library for all my books and comics. Everything that interests me from Adam Smith’s, Wealth of Nations, to Frantz Fanon’s, Wretched Earth, to Black Dots’, Hip-Hop Decoded, to the Kebra Nagast. Knowledge is Power. You’ve collaborated with many strong indigenous Kiwi acts; is there a shared social view that draws you to work with them? We seemed to be in the same place at the same time. I joined the posse because DLT’s (original DJ for UHP) girlfriend at the time had a little sister that I knew at school and she knew that I rapped. Moana (Maniapoto) picked me up from a tour that UHP did in the late eighties. She could see that I had the potential to add something to the Moahunters so I joined the group. By
this time I had moved to Auckland and I was living in the city with the UHP boys. Moana and her husband at the time took me in. Everyone else I’ve worked with I’ve met on my journeys. You tend to hang with or attract like-minded people. On your website you say, “I had to let it be for a while, well, let the bullsh*t industry be…” How has your career been affected by the music industry? Recently, I had a casual conversation with someone about the Pacific Music Awards (PMA). I told them that I was initially dead against trying to run our own music awards alongside the RIANZ Music Awards (RMA). What was the point of giving PI musicians an award for their achievements that have no true bearing in the real world music industry? They get an award and then what? The person informed me that the RMA were dropping the PI category and that is one of the reasons why they decided to start the PMA. Therefore, acknowledgement of music that is not geared for ‘commercial’ airplay would either be squashed by
RMA’s decision or uplifted by its own people (PMA). This justifies an award if only to give back to these musicians their self-esteem as quality artists who may never make it into the mainstream as long as RIANZ had a say in it. So I had to change my tune slightly but threw in the fact that there needs to be real support for these artists and not by funding grants only. They need to pick up their business skills and be shown ways to make a living off their skills. We ended the conversation in agreement. The industry operates by selling mindless music rather than the actual art form or its creators. I always knew there was a game to be played (like every industry) and I didn’t like it. Then one day all of the negative and positive elements fell into place and that was when I knew I had to figure out an alternative route to get my music heard. You have to have a deep belief in yourself and your skills as a singer/songwriter that is un-fuck-able, even by you. In order for me to get to that point, it took time, experience, maturity, growth, my children, love, and copious amounts of pain. www.teremoana.com
If you were a comic strip, which would you be? Garfield Something your children have taught you: Patience – so in turn has raised my tolerance level for bull-shit.
Website that inspires you: www.tinytoonescambodia.com Fav DVD box set: Samurai Champloo
Secret vice: Sniffing Pine-o-clean – don’t ask.
Ragamuffin Children recently released their latest, and most superbly crafted album, The Seahorse Emporium, into the musical ocean, climbed out of their sea-faring tour boat, and took time to reflect on why they do what they do so well. Photography by Pat Shepherd Illustration by Anita Clark Interview by Kerry Donovan-Brown
What are the key factors to working successfully and creatively together? Brooke: As long as we are all heading in the same direction musically, and respect each other’s opinions and talents, things seem to go swimmingly. Anita: Not to take things so seriously. That is a big thing for me. We work hard towards things and spend a great deal of time organising and being businessy, as well as being creative, but it needs to be fun. As soon as things become boring, you have lost the plot somewhere along the line. We have definitely had our arguments, so respect towards each other is also a huge thing to consider. Ben: I’m happy as long as it’s always forward in a musical sense. People say that Ragamuffin Children’s sound is maturing. For me, that’s a wonderful thing. We seem to be taking steps towards working together a lot more by jamming together and creating layers and connections rather than taking more niff-like, singular, boxed steps towards a track. Have your beliefs been profoundly influenced by a particular artist? Anita: Our beliefs come more from reading books and researching. I think for me, musical influence is strictly musical. I don’t look to see what their belief systems are before I listen! Brooke: My beliefs come from all around; books, the media, other people’s opinions. Ani DiFranco and John Butler Trio inspired me when I was younger, and Trinity Roots for the things they talked about in their music. Ben: I think I’ve taken on most beliefs, tumbled them around inside my head for a while and then spewed them back out into the cosmos – keeping all the nutritious bites and poises. Cosmos by Sun Ra had a big effect inside my head just before I met the Ragamuffins. “It’s times like these you’re reminded of what you already know.” Myth and folklore can carry powerful messages. What fairytale or nursery rhyme do you think we should turn to for guidance? Ben: I guess it could be someone’s fairytale, but I always liked George Orwell’s, 1984, and from my school days, Animal Farm. Those two novels got me thinking at a young age about the greater world.
Fav childhood toy: A wombat called Douglas. I still have him. I had imaginary cat friends also. (Anita) What scares you? Being in the dark and not knowing what’s in it. I’m also afraid of driving on steep gravel roads. (Brooke)
What makes you laugh out loud? Animals doing funny things and farts at the wrong times. (Tui) Anita: I’m going to say Hansel and Gretel. One of the big problems in the world is the greed of people. That is possibly the thing that annoys me the most. If Hansel and Gretel weren’t so greedy in trying to eat the whole house of gingerbread, the witch wouldn’t have captured them. Where would you draw the corporate sponsorship line? Anita: The line is quite a vague one, but if it disagrees with our morals, then we won’t do it. There’s no point doing something one of us would regret… Brooke: There is always complete freedom as to what we choose to attach our name to. I don’t think we would ever feel pressure to do something for money if we did not think it was a moral decision. We would not endorse a product that involved cruelty to animals for example. Do you think musicians are in a good position to educate listeners about social issues? Brooke: I think to a degree musicians are certainly able to educate their particular audience on social issues or at least let their audience know their personal opinion on an issue. Some artists are more inclined to do this than others. Anita: I don’t think that as a band we try to educate people about social issues, and I’m not really sure that it should be up to us either. Everybody has different opinions but mostly everyone is on the same page (or maybe only the kind of people I know?) Ben: As a band, I think we’re too young to try and educate others about social issues. This comes with living a life and experiencing life situations. For example, pioneering folk like John Lennon used their fame and music to educate people about world crisis. There’s always a fine line between social issues and publicity. The music industry goes hand in hand with advertising and publicity stunts. It makes it hard to believe everything you hear or see.
Whose role do you think it is to teach our generation about social issues? Brooke: I guess the role falls to anyone who chooses to take it. Obviously there is a huge network of social and political campaigners and organisations who make an amazing difference, but really, every person has the means to impart knowledge to another if they want to, and everyone can find out information about an issue if they decide they want to be informed. It’s a personal choice. Ben: Anyone can take the role as a knowledge-giver although not everyone is good at it. Kids are the next generation. Install amazing, true knowledge upon them and then hopefully things may get better. What do you hope to achieve with the music that you make? Anita: To stay creative always. As long as I’m happy with what I’m doing and achieving, that is a good thing. I never really made the decision to become a musician, it just kind of happened. So who knows, maybe I might make a career change along the way ... and become a lawyer. Ben: Everyone is different. I do treat music as a bit of a hobby. I also use it as a release and as a learning tool. I hope that the music I create in any given role carries throughout time. I don’t want it to be popular in the now but picked up by my kids and my kids’ kids etc. Too much music these days is attached to popular culture. It all seems a bit disposable, short-term, and convenient. Brooke: A life of doing something I like doing. If all else fails I will become an undercover spy working for Animal Rights organisations worldwide, and admired for my incredible, ninja-like stealth. Music should be seen as a viable job, not a hobby, and people sometimes overlook this. www.myspace.com/ragamuffinchildren
The man is a living legend, politically conscious, crusader for the rights of his people, and frontman for the reggae band Unity Pacific. Tigilau has been making music that matters for decades and was recognised for this with a Lifetime Achievement Award at the recent S3 Pacific Music Awards. Photography by Pat Shepherd Interview by Warren Maxwell
Do you think we will ever see anything like the Dawn Raids of the early ’70s or the 1981 Springbok protests ever again? Yes. 31 years ago I wore my Polynesian Panther T-shirt down Queen St in Auckland City, marching in protest against Auckland City Council and the New Zealand Government’s joint action in evicting Ngāti Whātua off their own lands up at Bastion Point. You know how that ended. 31 years later on exactly the same day I wear my Polynesian Panther T-shirt, marching up Queen St in Auckland City in protest hikoi against the same joint actions of the same joint people – Auckland City Council with its Mayor and the New Zealand Government with its Prime Minister – yet again acting jointly in a similar greedy, racist, and oppressive manner. To the same people! My people! The Dawn Raids? Well, the so-called T Raids they did on Tame (Iti) and a whole lot of sleeping families down the East Coast in the early hours of the morning kind of rings a bell doesn’t it? They won’t change. We won’t change either. You know how this is going to end ay Warren?
If you could go back in time and change anything in your life, what would it be? No changes. No regrets. I am that I am.
Your most memorable musical moment? Last Saturday night at the S3 Pacific Music Awards when they surprised me onstage after I had received the Award for Lifetime Achievement in Music, and Che Fu and The Krates struck up my song, From Street to Sky. They were hidden behind the curtains! I joined in and sang with my beloved son in whom I am well pleased. Still, as they say, the best musical moment is yet to appear. What are the key ingredients to composing music that ‘sounds’ like it comes from Aotearoa? Guitar and vocal harmony are two ingredients. Pacific flavour is another. Then you have language, which is Reo. The younger generations will hopefully be educated as to what you and so many others did for all New Zealanders back in the ’70s and ’80s so that it never happens again. Do you feel like we still need to be vigilant towards exposing corruption? We have to be today, more vigilant than ever before.
What new battles do you see Māori, Pacific, and Polynesian peoples needing to address in these modern times? New battles? Ok, what about the scourge of the evil drug ‘P’? Declare war on it. Make some noise about Chinese organised crime lords targeting our country and the corrupt so-called pillars of society here who are profiting from it. Do something about it. What about war on illiteracy and poverty? Loneliness and hunger? If you are eligible to vote, did you? What about war on pollution? Shall I start on the racism that still exists here? Lastly e te Rangatira – any advice for aspiring young musicians wanting to make a career in the musicbidnezz? Be true to yourself most of all, practice every day at what you really want to do with music, and, if you hang with the best, you become the best. www.myspace.com/unitypacific
Song from your childhood: I Remember You by Frankie Ifield.
Something that inspires you: S3 Pacific Music Awards inspires me immensely.
Secret vice: Staying awake when I know I should be sleeping.
Piece of New Zealand history that should never be forgotten: The Second World War. ANZAC.
Photography by Pat Shepherd Interview by Loren Horsley
Keisha is a household name. She’s like the butter to your bread or the milk to your muesli. She’s also deeply passionate about important goings on in the world, and how our lives are shaped by the storytelling we are exposed to. What campaign would you put your name and face to? I would love to see Yellow Ribbon Trust come back. It was unfortunate that their funding was cut. They represent the very important issue of teen suicide. It is relevant to New Zealanders as we have extremely high rates of suicide here, and I don’t believe it is talked about enough. Pushing things under the carpet is useless. Talking about it does not encourage others to do the same, but rather helps parents see the signs and shows teens that they’re not alone in how they feel. It teaches them that there are other options. Does film have a responsibility to examine social issues or is it acceptable for it to be purely escapist? I believe there is room for both types of story telling. There is nothing more wonderful than going to a cinema and totally immersing yourself in it, feeling emotions in the dark, and forgetting about the world. I also love that through film we can learn about issues that we are ignorant about. It’s a fantastic way to learn. Do you have an ethical bottom line about what roles you would accept? Yes. It’s not too rigid though. I work on a premise that I want to tell good stories and I believe good stories come in all genres and in different forms of storytelling too. There is always going to be a personal aspect to my work decisions, and I obviously have to think hard about taking roles that may go on to affect my life after the film has been released. Interview continued on page 34 27
From the music of Homefire Burning to the reggae rhythms of Nga Morehu, Tihikura, takes his place in the great line of Parihaka composers. Leaving Wellington, and concrete constraints on creativity behind, Tihikura returns to the birthplace of his ancestors to focus on his solo work, be with his whanau, and nurture the surrounding nature.
Photography and interview by Pat Shepherd Article written by Amie Mills 28
The story of Parihaka is embedded in the history of Aotearoa. It has travelled the length of our country on museum crawls, is written into our history books, and lives on in the music of the annual Parihaka International Peace Festival. Tihikura Hohaia and his father, Te Miringa Hohaia, are among the entrusted ones to bring this festival to life, and breathe sweet music into the hope and future of the Parihaka movement. Enveloped by the beauty of the Taranaki landscape, Tihikura has recently returned to his rural roots of Parihaka to assist with the preservation of the festival site. Tihikura believes that a powerful fulfilment comes from the physicality of this work, “…[it] keeps you in good shape but you also draw spiritual sustenance from the land. You get this energy; the sustenance the land gives you because you’re giving to it.” The concept of spiritual nourishment is one that surfaces when talking about ngā mōrehu, which Tihikura translates as ‘the survivors’, and the legacy of Parihaka for those descendants, survivors, victims, and fighters of the violent Land Wars. As Tihikura explains, “That is our legacy. It’s one we can’t escape; one we don’t want to escape. We want to sing about it and embrace it. You can either let yourself live in darkness, bitterness, and hatred or you try and find light within that. You try and create something for yourself out of what you’ve got. It’s very easy to get dark and bitter when you read about the history of Parihaka.” The beauty of this statement comes from his understanding that for change and growth to take place, we collectively need to find a way to ‘dress’ our messages with hope. Once we have done that, we will bring people with us. Tihikura describes his journey with writing and singing music as a rhythmic remedy to keep him sane and alive. It is much more than self-preservation though as it affects those around him, “[There is a] wonderful sharing that goes on between yourself and the audience and even better when they ‘get’ you. You’re not hitting somebody over the head at a protest rally, you are delivering this sweetness that people are lapping up or eating. It is food for thought and it’s a form that people will listen to from start to finish. It’s such a wonderful, healing medium. Musicians from liberation struggles around the world have realised that. It’s given them life.”
As a necessary bed mate to this hope and belief in the innate goodness of man however, are the armaments of self-determination and fearlessness. Tihikura argues that, “… you can’t just lie down and die otherwise justice will never be served. You will get rolled over. You have got to be assertive and that’s where I’m at in my music. I see my music as a vehicle.” This vehicle exists to speak truth and seek liberation. This raises a complex question around the responsibility of audiences to hear lyrical honesty. As Tihikura points out, “There is a fine line between singing your truth and dumping on people. I think people are hungry for roots music that is rootsy, gutsy, honest, and the truth, but I do wonder if they are really prepared for the truth, other than this message of peace and love. You’re only going to have peace when there’s justice and that’s what I sing about
stories to be heard out in their own ways. Tihikura’s music is a more palatable and yet still powerful form of this protest. It is also a unifying force in the face of cultural alienation. According to Tihikura, an inevitable outcome of the victimisation Māori suffered at the hands of colonial violence was the internalisation of suffering, “… you become estranged from your culture so you don’t know who you are and where to turn when the pressures of this foreign world envelop you, and quite often you become foreign to your own culture.” It makes sense then that spiritual connection to the land is as deeply rooted as music is to the wellbeing and reparation of the soul. As Tihikura points out, Māori were encouraged by the Government of the time to move to the cities, and it was during this diaspora that so many lost touch with their cultural base and lost enormous tracts of land
Best kai to cook on a cold winter’s night: Watercress, lamb chops, and Māori potatoes.
Something your children taught you: Hold on tight.
What makes you laugh out loud: My tamariki /children. Fav movie quote: “Oh Connor you can do that to me forever if you like!.” “Aye lass, I will” – The Highlander in my songs.” Concepts of ‘peace, love, and justice’ have become synonymous with outdoor music festivals but as Tihikura carefully argues, “There is too much of it out there.” I cannot help but feel that he is right and that we face another bout of tokenism when it comes to our outward embrace of ‘peace and equality’. If we are to truly consider the reality of what that ‘peace’ might look like, we need to fearlessly address inequality in our society. Tihikura’s point is that we are naive to talk about peace “… without really being prepared to address Māori sovereignty and the proper standing of Māori in this country. Once it is addressed, then I think you will really start to see peace.” There are reasons why Māori are overrepresented in crime, substance abuse, and mental illness statistics. As Tihikura believes, “… the causes of [this] are strongly rooted in injustice and the hard thing in today’s society is that [we] don’t really want to know about the injustice … but it’s what needs to be spoken about and brought into the open and cleansed.” He argues that the first stage of dealing with these problems is accepting that they exist. Apportioning blame is not a part of this process, but understanding that “… one culture or system perpetrated [injustice]”, is. It rests on our shoulders to allow those
through confiscation. As he puts it, “… we had no choice but to take what was being handed out to us… When that happened we really came under the hammer of the justice system as we became visible in the cities and that’s when we really became prey to the justice system.” Decades on, the impacts of this reality are yet to lay rest among the roots of the land, and until they do, we need to continue singing their stories. Tihikura’s father, Te Miringa, envisioned Parihaka International Peace Festival as a tool to breathe passion and life into the history of the place and the future of the movement. Te Miringa, a respected musician in his own right, grew up in Parihaka as a young man, became involved in the Māori renaissance and activist movement, Ngā Tamatoa (the Young Warriors), and moved back in the 1970s to work among his people, raise a family, and show his commitment to the place. Tihikura believes that his father’s dedication and local support base are what made it possible for him to get the festival off the ground. Celebrating its fifth birthday next year, the Parihaka International Peace Festival embodies world-class eco-philosophies and sustainable environmental practices. In the same way that the music and cultural events at the festival are more than simply forms of
entertainment, the environmental ideology of the event is more than just a public relations point of difference. As Tihikura points out, “Our culture tells us intrinsically that the earth is our mother and the sky is our father so through linking into our cultural teachings we naturally have an obligation to look after our mother. When you’re running an event here we want to ensure that we pass those messages to all our visitors who come.” He acknowledges that it’s “really cool” how many of those attending the festival arrive with historical understanding in one hand, courtesy in the other, and, “… come to tread lightly and respectfully.” One of the lessons to be learnt from Parihaka is that remembrance is crucial but so too is revival. A regeneration of responsibility to the land throughout our lives is what Tihikura believes should stay with us long after we walk away from the event gates. “I hope people take that principle beyond festivals and into their everyday lives. I think festivals are a wonderful staging point to highlight those issues, but I don’t believe that just because you’re at a festival you wear that hat on a particular day. I would hope that people wear that hat every day.” For whatever reason people choose to sing, and for how ever long we continue to dance in the firelight
of our ancestors, Parihaka reminds us that it shall not be forgotten. As Tihikura believes, the legacy lives on and there is much still to be done. “We are still fighting for peace. The war is not over. Whether or not there is so-called ‘peace’, we are at war internally. We are fighting for this elusive justice; whether that be recognition of our land rights, an end to patriachalism by the land courts and land tenure system that dominates our farms, or the ability of our people to administer certain areas of our social lives, such as justice, education, and health. While we’ve come a long way, we’ve got a long, long way to go still.” His journey stretches ahead, the path seemingly lined with weapons strung in purposeful harmony. “There are all these songs, these verses that pass this history down to the next generation. Whether [our ancestors] know it or not, they have inspired me and I think they knew what they were doing when they wrote this stuff. Our history is passed down through song. There it is as a gift, a taonga from our ancestors to us. What better way to honour them than to continue?” www.parihaka.com email@example.com
Photography by Pat Shepherd Interview by Amie Mills
Talk us through some of your creative collaborations. I have worked with a mixed bunch of artists. I’m a genre jumper so I don’t really have one posse I work and grow with – I have several. My line-up determines the sound I’m going to achieve at each particular gig. At the moment, it’s resulting in a blend of Petone reggae, soul, RnB, hip-hop, country, silky ’30s jazz, and a big dose of Aotearoa chill factor. On the CANDY release tour, I arranged it so that I was working with four or five different line-ups and keeping it fresh. Ultimately, my music is meditative and downbeat with driving lyrics, but depending who rocks the rhythm section or whether I perform with a horn section or a string section, it can go to a new place each time. I used to write and tour with Ecophonik (natural environment meets breaks) a few years back, sang with some roots DJs and bands in acoustic groups as a teenager, and now jam with some of Wellington’s finest, hand-picked talent. My current band is amazing and they each bring diverse musical backgrounds to the table adding to my indistinguishable sound. I love getting the opportunity to jump into a project as a vocalist/writer. Most of the time I’m the driver of the project, so working on someone else’s tune is like being a passenger on a scenic tour. Do you believe that music has political significance? Yes it can if you intend it to, either in a direct/topical way or indirectly through social reflection. Music has always been a vehicle for empowering and rallying the under-dog. Most other media is controlled by people with money and is fuelled with propaganda. Music is emotive, accessible, and highly contagious, so it is a very effective political vehicle. People open themselves up to music. It gets into your pores. It infiltrates. Because it is perceived with an air of ‘fiction’, you are seen merely as an ‘entertainer’ so you can get away with saying a lot.
If Hannah Howes’ musical talent existed as a tactile thing, it would be a perfectly formed, and ever-soslightly imprinted love letter from a gently spoken creature to its passionate lover. Her lyrics flicker across the musical canvas like dancers, and the meaning of the songs linger long after the recently released, CANDY, takes its final curtain call.
Secret vice: Eating chocolates in bed when I first wake up. Fav childhood cartoon: Roadrunner. But it always annoyed me that the Roadrunner got away... Wylie Coyote was so hard done by. Advice that’s inspired you: You don’t offer anything by being small – by showing your greatness, you give others the OK to shine. In the same vein, don’t deflect praise – it’s an outright insult that bums everyone out.
Interview continued on next page 33
Continued interviews… interviews
Your lyrics often sound like poignant ‘calls to action’. Can you explain your lyrical approach? Lately social issues have taken more of a front seat in my writing. Actually, the past few years I’ve probably been talking in even proportions about mental state, New Zealand state, world state, spiritual state, and the state of my relationships. I write because of a dense accumulation of experiences, people I meet, conversations, dreams, or intuitive feelings I have. My songs tend to unfold all at once after I have enough reason to write them. I don’t really battle with them. I’ll attempt them once or twice or five times but they only make the record if they are completed in one sitting, and if they have a timely quality they hold that immediacy for me. In the past couple of years I only seem to sit through the duration of the politically/socially charged songs I’m writing. I tend to lose interest after not very long when I’m writing about myself. The emotion passes and I don’t go back to it. Or I start writing about myself, get perspective, and then channel that emotion into more key issues. What other creative outlets keep you happy? Eating ka pai kai with my family, hanging with my soul sistas, and enjoying the gentle sounds of nature. I like to make myself new clothes on the odd occasion. I have a background in fashion and sculpture and where the two cross. Do you believe it’s important for musicians to use their music as a platform to speak out? I think it is important that musicians speak from their true experience. If the state of the world or one aspect of the world weighs on your mind, you have to express your opinion. It is actually the responsibility of every individual to take care of their community and environment, express their opinion, and think beyond our own situations. But where do you begin to find words when the world’s media tells you something entirely different from the truth? A lot of my lyrics are born from conversations I’ve had. I have very inspiring friends and have met inspiring strangers. In my mind, the musical platform is becoming saturated and it is the political songs that will stay in the history of music forever. www.myspace.com/hannahhowes 34
Do you find there is an expectation for you, as tangata whenua, to be engaged in indigenous and social issues? I choose to only be involved in social issues I have a passion for and also have knowledge about. It can be quite easy to sign your name to a whole bunch of different causes, but what happens if you don’t truly care or are not totally aware of the issues? It becomes redundant. I am involved with WSPA for SAVE THE WHALES. It is disgusting how inhumane the whaling methods are still. I am also interested in climate change and have just become a GREENPEACE Ambassador. Our world doesn’t end when we do. I am very determined to do my part to keep a resourceful world for my daughter, grandchildren, and generations beyond. Is there anyone you have worked with who inspired you, not only in terms of creative talent, but in the way they use their celebrity for the greater good? Rawiri Paratene has a lot to do with The GREEN Party and is an MP for my local region. I admire him for standing up and taking that role on. It always strikes me how appallingly wasteful the screen industry is with resources. What is the most extreme example of wastefulness you have seen in your career? I am very aware of the carbon footprint I create by being a part of the film industry. The best I can do is try to balance that out by living as eco-friendly a life as I can every day. Simple things like ‘reduce, re-use, recycle’ truly make a huge difference. I have seen a lot of excessive waste in the industry. I can recall being flown to London for two days for a costume fitting! That’s pretty extreme.
Bluetack or sellotape? Bluetack – love making little animals. Fav quote: Always wear clean knickers – mothers worldwide. Dream co-star: Meryl Streep Your spiritual place in Aotearoa: Glen Innes, Auckland. Who are you listening to at the moment? Ladi 6
KAREN GRANT www.artistiK.co.nz
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