Monday, 26 December 2011

Blogposts to come, but right now, I'm on holiday

And a happy winter/summer festival to you, sir/madam/Cousin It. Hope you are well and this year has been good to you. It's around this time I do my contemplative look back at the year and sign off, etc. etc. However right now I'm in stage 1 of a 3-part holiday - so blogposts like "2011 - what was that all about then?", "Projects I have lined up for 2012" and "Summer Christmas & New Year - Benefits and Drawbacks" will have to wait until I get back to windy Wellington in January. This year has been quite stressful, and the last 4 weeks especially so, so I am making it Holiday Priority Number 1 to chill the hell out. Maybe I can poach a massage off someone. Wherever you are and whatever season it is, I hope you're well and wish you a happy 2012. May the world not end like the Mayans may or may not have predicted; may the Olympics not be nearly as annoying as they promise to be; and may Christchurch finally see the end of these motherfucking quakes on this motherfucking plain. Ta ra for now Jezmarelda

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

#Occupy: My heart is with you but where is your head?

Alternatively: "The blogpost where I briefly articulate why Occupy makes me ratty"

The thing that annoys me about the Occupy movement is its woolliness. Here are the new hippies - people who want peace and love and equality, but beyond that either can't agree on what they want or don't want anything else at all.

When I was 19 I went on a massive anti-war rally in London (Sat February 15th February 2003) against the invasion of Iraq - up to 2 million people, certainly over 1 million.* Afterwards, my mother looked at the pictures and news footage of people holding signs like "No war!" and "Peace" and, always wonderfully cynical, told me it was hard to take them seriously with such empty, catch-all slogans. Being 19 I said I couldn't understand what her problem was - everyone wants peace right? Nobody wants war, right?

The Occupy movement makes that anti-war rally look like a 10,000 word essay. The primary difference in my mind is that the anti-war rally, like many that took place all over the world over that day, had an aim. It was loose and populist and woolly, sure, but the unifying aim of everyone who went on those marches was that the US and UK should not unilaterally invade Iraq on the basis of lies. Beyond that - deposing Hussein, involvement of the UN - was a mess of different opinions, but everybody was expressing their opposition to the Iraqi invasion in the manner it was done.

What does the Occupy movement stand for? Equality, fairness, corporations and the rich to pay their fair share - but does it get any more specific? Well yes, in a way, but no, if you mean the whole movement. Naomi Wolf bemoaned the mainstream media's assertion that the Occupy movement "doesn't have a message", because if you just actually ask them, Occupiers will give you hundreds of messages. Well - that's kind of my point. Occupy only exists as a worldwide movement because of its flimsy lack of specific concrete demands. The more particular and specific your demands are, the less popular it is; Occupy is barely even a "movement" in the sense it's held together by little more than well-meaning ideals and a Twitter #hashtag.

When it comes to actually making changes, there is a worrying dismissal - even a touch of arrogance - of the mainstream political channels of making laws and changing the world. "The SYSTEM doesn't work for us", they say. "Why should WE deal with a SYSTEM that's given us these problems in the first place?" Well, maybe have a care for the Labour Movement at the start of the 20th century which brought maximum working hours and humane working conditions to the working class. Or the Suffragette movement which brought women the vote. These were achieved, after long struggle and sacrifice, by people who achieved radical change within the democratic system of their nation states. Is democracy broken? Is politics corrupt? Well they certainly aren't perfect, but compare the UK to Iran or the US to DR Congo, and you might find that actually yes, we have functional liberal democracies which allow public opinion to change the law and the way our countries are governed.

I wouldn't describe Michael Moore as an arrogant man - I like him, his work and his role as a social commentator. But it was dismaying to watch him give this arrogant dismissal of the mainstream system of politics, democracy and government in an interview with Jeremy Paxman on BBC's Newsnight. Paxman asked him if the movement just wanted individual fixes to our capitalist system, or wholesale rejection of the capitalist system. Moore replied that Occupy doesn't want to tinker, it's not interested in minor fixes to a flawed system - Occupy wants to get rid of capitalism as we know it.


I expect if you ask all those people camping in the Occupy protests what they want - specific changes in order to make the world a better place - and you collated them and worked out what they all had in common, you'd find that actually, what Occupy wants are very ordinary, mundane fixes to our current capitalist system of monetary exchange. They want big corporations to pay higher taxes, and loopholes closed for the super rich (1%). They want a transparent system of funding for political parties and a fairer more representative system of government (I'm just assuming here, given the US's electoral system is even more diabolical than the UK's). They want government-funded healthcare for the poorest (well, except in Europe where we already have it) and for a stop to continual privatisation of state-owned assets and services, particularly those which provide cheaper services for the poor.

These are not exceptional demands, and they are certainly not things you can only achieve by killing the grass in public spaces.

I really want to want to be out there with Occupy. Even the nice people in Occupy Wellington, who've holed themselves up in the tiny grassy section by Civic Square - possibly the only place they can stay for any length of time and without getting into trouble with the law, because hardly anyone usually hangs out there and it's not a major thoroughfare for the public.

I'm not pleased by the violent forced eviction of Occupiers we've seen in the US, or anywhere really, and no-one should be - but the sympathy lies in these people being well-meaning pacifists subjected to unnecessary over-the-top violence, not that they are being removed from a public place they have no democratic mandate or public permission to take over.

The whole purpose of Occupy - as it started with Occupy Wall Street in September - was a sit-in protest of the financial institutions that seem to control our lives more than the democratic processes which should do. Now, the Occupy camps have moved to parks, squares and spaces outside local/city authorities - why? Because if they actually occupied financial institutions or property they'd be turfed out in 5mins flat. What on earth does St. Paul's Cathedral and the Church of England have to do with the Occupy movement? Nothing, except that a) it forced the Church of England to take a political viewpoint in full glare of the media, and b) the Church of England and St. Paul's Cathedral, like civic authorities, are both too woolly and fearful of public opinion to actually enforce trespass notices without fear of negative reaction. Financial institutions, banks, stock exchanges - they don't have to worry about it and they wouldn't wait 5 minutes before calling the lawyers in, if not the police. This is partly why I'm cynical of the Occupy "protest" - if it really was a protest, shouldn't people be physically occupying stock exchanges and the IMF rather than camping out indefinitely making DIY "universities" and "finding solutions" in whatever public spaces they won't get chucked out of?

Occupy has achieved some things. The speed of its spread as a global "movement" has been astonishing (arguably the start of truly global protests that begin and spread by social media**), and the spectacle has broken into the mainstream news and media where isolated protests could/would have been ignored. European leaders are also considering a tax on financial transactions - the "Robin Hood Tax" - which has been broached as a campaign for well over a year (in England at least) but failed to make any political traction until now. Of course you could say it's easy for European leaders (as in, non-UK leaders) to be happy about this since most European transactions occur in London. But it's a tangible change, and for me a welcome one.

However. Occupy as a political/social "movement" with aims and ideals has a lot to live up to if it actually wants to change anything, rather than camping out and avoiding the Normal Real World(tm).

To tie it up, a final, related note:

The recent NZ general election didn't deliver a shocking result, but it did shock me. Without even asking anybody, I saw 3 completely separate people express how they weren't going to vote because "there's no real choice", "no-one represents me", "it won't change anything" etc. etc. Not only are these largely bogus arguments in New Zealand which has an excellent MMP voting system, far better than the typical "democracies" of the UK and US (and actually free and fair elections unlike the shoddy farces we see in Russia, Iran, many African countries, etc.). I was shocked because these are liberal, left-leaning, outspoken, intelligent and educated people. I expect apathy and ignorance from a certain section of society when it comes to politics, whether it's the UK or NZ or anywhere really. But to have these people, who genuinely had everything to vote for against a National-led government which wants to sell off state-owned assets and mine conservation land (not to mention all the rest, e.g. rising inequality in tough economic times etc. etc.), to have these people turn around and say "the SYSTEM doesn't give ME what I want, I'M not going to vote until the system changes for ME" was very distressing. And this is the attitude I see coming from the Occupy movement, which doesn't want to engage with the political process, and doesn't want to stoop to the level of taking the fight to politicians, left or right, and thus achieve real practical gains for the poor and less well-off through our democratic processes.

[I've written this post largely without proofing it, and I've largely given up searching for links and sources like proper blogs do - think of it as an opinion piece rather than journalism. So hey, if you disagree and want to say so please do, but don't get too angry. Likewise if you agree, try not to take the side that all the Occupiers are jobless smelly scum, because that's clearly not what I've written nor what I think.]

*The week after, a regular in the pub I worked in said - and I quote - "I bet they're all fucking vegetarians!". I hate that ignorant man, whose name I never knew, even to this day.

**There are similarities with the Slutwalk movement, which really is a movement, but noticeable differences too - Slutwalk spread largely because of the mainstream media which covered its birth in Toronto, whereas Occupy has spread in spite of the mainstream media. I remember seeing Twitter updates and even watching largely uneventful live video of Occupy Wall Street in early September, and scratching my head as to why major news organisations weren't covering a major sit-in protest in the US's financial centre. By the time they were finally covering it, Occupy movements in major cities around the world were already gearing up.

Saturday, 17 December 2011

I've Got A Plan. And It's As Hot As My Pants

In an earlier post, I mentioned having a cunning plan. This plan involves T-shirts.

This year I've got stuck into designing T-shirts for fun and profit, and I'm now celebrating my 300th T-shirt design on the internet.

As usual, I am a little behind the curve - print-on-demand sites like Redbubble and Cafepress have been letting people upload their designs and make money for several years. But I'm onboard now, and I'm excited. Not just because I'm making a bit of money, but also because I believe this is part of a fundamental shift in the future of human media. But largely because I'm making a bit of money.

For those who are new to print-on-demand, here's a quick run-down:
  • You make a pretty design (or just think up a trashy slogan)
  • You upload it to a website like Redbubble, and attach a bunch of keywords
  • People searching the internet find this design and say "hey! I want that T-shirt!"
  • They order 1/2/60,000 T-shirts, you get some money (eventually). Sweeeeeeeet
Okay that's the simple version, and yes I realise I might be buying myself more competitors by excitedly explaining how it works, but hey, I'm open like that. More importantly, it's a global market - more people are getting online around the world all the time, and more people want to buy T-shirts. Okay, more people are uploading their own designs, but even more people are buying T-shirts too.

It's exciting for me for a number of reasons. Take fact I'm a musician: I've made more money from T-shirt designs in 9 months than I have from music in 12 years. Not just that though; I got into it because I was looking for a place to sell T-shirts for my books and music, but the difference is that these designs can be searched online. I'm not just trying to flog them to my friends and family (as I do with my books, unsuccessfully) - they are being found and bought by people who have no idea who I am. In a weird way, some of my T-shirt designs are promoting my music and books.

Anyway. What does this mean to me? Well, at the moment I have 300 designs, and while I'm not going to share all the gory details, I can say that it's easily covering my phone/internet & power bills. So naturally I'm thinking, what about 400 designs, or 500, or 1000, or 2000? The magic potential here is not just that I could make the same money from this as I do in my office job, but that I could make it without doing any work at all - giving me the time to record music and write books, and sleep properly, and exercise every day, and wake up when I want, whether it's late from a party or to watch the sun rise.

Am I even close to that? No.
Is it secure? No.
Is it a replacement for a job? No, because even if I made the same money as my current 40hr/week job, there is no career progression, no pension, and you don't meet people. So if this was to happen, if I really was to pack in my day job and become a full-time travelling musician-author, I would have to be making a vast amount of money and saving a shedload for if/when the bubble bursts.

At the moment, it's supplementary income, like my life modelling and occasional web stuff, and that's just fine with me.

In his amazing book Snow Crash, introduced to me by the dazzling @desdrata, Neal Stephenson's main character Hiro Protagonist (amazing name) makes some money on the side by submitting ideas for novels and stories to the central information marketplace that the US Library of Congress has become. So, as a big sci-fi fan and a fan of the potential of both mankind and technology, it's especially exciting for me to feel I am living in the future, or at least part of one person's version of it.

And this is just the beginning. There's more options out there already, and more ways to engage and make something out of ideas, and all I have to do is find them. I am an ideas generator after all.

Me on Redbubble:

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Wellington, Parallels & Feeling Good

The last week and a bit has had a surreal feel to it. Coming back to Wellington felt amazing, partly because I was coming back to the city I know, and my friends, and my flat and my flatmates, and the life I've set up here.

The only real difference is that I've got a job ready and waiting for me, and this week has been very busy. There is a lot to do, but it's fantastic not only to have a job at this time of year (when the entire country is shutting down for summer, and work is very hard to come by), it's great to be at a job where I have colleagues who I know and who know me.

Yet all this has, weirdly, given me a sense of deja vu. 3 years ago I arrived in Wellington in the spring time with a general election, and here I am now, back in Welly, in the spring, with an election. And having a job now gives me the same sense of optimism as when I first arrived full of hope and expectation. National is still in power, the Eurozone is breaking up, the world economy is in the toilet - but somehow things seem okay. Life seems okay.

I feel pretty good.

So here is to hope, and Wellington, and the coming summer, and friends and whanau (family) on both sides of the world.

Friday, 25 November 2011

#NZ #Elections - Vote Labour, Green, MMP

Yes, this is a blogpost where I - a foreigner who can't vote - tell you, NZ citizens and residents, who to vote for in tomorrow's general election and referendum.
  • Party vote Green
  • Candidate vote Labour
  • ...and of course, keep MMP
To be fair, I've lived here for 3 years, work and pay tax, and I'm not a million miles from being a resident, so I feel it's okay to have and share an opinion. That's what I do on this blog anyway.

To be brief:
  • National are almost certain to win this election, i.e. be the biggest party (but probably not a majority, for you foreigners - NZ hasn't had since a majority govt since introducing MMP. More on that below.) Labour are extremely unlikely to win, also I'm not even sure they're ready to govern again yet, and I'm not convinced Phil Goff is Labour leader material, never mind prime minister material.
  • However, having a strong opposition in Labour and the Green Party is not only healthy for democracy, it is the best hope for a check on National's "drill it, mine it, sell it" approach to New Zealand's future.
  • The Green Party will not win any electoral seats but they already have a significant presence in parliament. A party vote will help give them a strong presence in parliament, whether in opposition to the government or (less likely, but possible) working as coalition partners with National.
  • MMP is a great voting system, by which I mean, it's much less rubbish than the other ones. It represents the wishes of the country fairly, and gives smaller parties a place in parliament, and both of these things give voters a much greater choice. It also means parties have to agree and make decisions consensually, in agreement, rather than through argument and confrontation which the public don't need. MMP is a huge improvement on the shoddy outdated first-past-the-post system my country uses, and I urge everyone to vote to keep it.
Some issues:
  • State-owned assets - economic times are very tough, but they look set to be tough for years to come. National's policy of selling state-owned assets which provide income for the NZ state is worringly short-sighted, because you can only sell assets once - yet National's policy, like all right-wing parties, will always be to sell, even in 15 years when they've already sold everything.
  • Environment, drilling, mining - National have a similar short-sighted attitude to the environment - they've already tried selling off conservation land for mining, despite the fact that you can only mine land once. Not only that, but you cannot turn mined land back into pristine native bush, and it seems beyond belief that after BP & the Deepwater Horizon last year and the Rena wreck and oil spill this year, National want to drill for oil in the sea. For a country that relies and trades on its clean green reputation and its environment, these are short-term decisions with unnecessary risks which dump New Zealand with a poorer future.
  • Rivers - New Zealand's rivers and lakes are in a shocking state. It seems obvious that the Green Party has made it one of their policies, and maybe it's not a pressing issue for the country. But again, it seems insane that a country which trades and relies heavily on its clean green image has 1/3 of rivers too polluted to swim in. 1/3! It's not anti-business to get farms and industry to act faster in reducing pollution into natural waterways, it's responsibility.
There's way more than that to the election and New Zealand's next 3 years, but that's a brief summary of my verdict.

After being a fairly poor opposition party the last 3 years without Helen Clarke, Labour have run a surprisingly good campaign, and the issue of state-owned assets by itself gives a stark choice between the 2 main parties. Having seen a huge amount of privatisation in my lifetime, even under the British Labour party, I can happily say the only time to sell national assets is if it is right in principle and right in practice. Selling off New Zealand's assets at a time when it needs all the income it can get to provide for New Zealanders is a stupid decision - among other cheesy metaphors I could use, when you are in a hole, you don't sell your ladder - and something I sincerely hope National are not able to achieve.

Good luck progressives, and good luck New Zealand.

Saturday, 19 November 2011

So long England, and thanks for all the Belgian trance

Once again, I am waiting for another mega-long haul flight to New Zealand in a faceless international airport.

This time however, I have a job waiting for me when I get there. And, as is the way with the fair people of New Zealand, I am pretty stoked about it.

See you in the Spring.

Friday, 11 November 2011

Poppy madness is now out of control

The UK has officially lost the plot. It seems as though no-one is allowed to do anything or go anywhere without wearing a poppy. The BBC physically stitches one on to anyone who appears on television, and has been for over 2 weeks before today, Armistice Day.

Similarly the madness over footballers wearing poppies during matches and the furious bile directed at FIFA seems insane, considering it's never been a problem before now. It's not just about wearing them - players are having poppies stitched in to the shirts and even their boots. The worst thing about this issue is how it is driven by the British public - oh the Great British Public.

I have already described my feelings about poppies, white poppies, and never-ending silences, and that's not really changed. But I feel it is worth commenting on the sinister atmosphere and fears of being "unpatriotic", and the accusers who drive this fear. Not Sinister with a capital S like a government conspiracy or a secret plan to invade another country, but sinister in the low, ugly, uncomfortable sense.

I was glad to see a collection tin on a cafe counter the other day, rather than around someone's neck - I put in a pound, because the poppy appeal is a worthy cause regardless of what our soliders do and are sent to do. But I did not take a poppy, because I do not wish to wear one. That is a choice and a freedom - that we are so often reminded about - that our military men and women died to protect.*

"Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel."
[Samuel Johnson]

*This is a nonsense in regard to wars like Iraq, Afghanistan, Vietnam, The Falklands etc. - these soldiers fought and died because of politics and because their political leaders demanded it. But I will accept it is the case in World War II and possibly World War I.

"Time and Light" Free EP Download - Background, info, personal stuff

So, after some badgering, I finally got some of you blaggards to download this here new free 6-track acoustic EP called "Time and Light". It's still free, so if you don't have it, please do download and share!

But actually this EP is not new at all - it's the result of my acoustic recording sessions with Matthew Langley, AKA Captain What (@thecaptainwhat), AKA the beard-wielding tabourine-wearing bassist in amazing band The Library Suits (@thelibrarysuits).

My very first session was towards the end of 2007, while F451 was still coming to a close. I went over and decided my first song was going to be "Lighten Up, No Thanks", possibly the worst song choice because it had (and still has in the Without Fear recording) no less than 6,000 time signature changes. After getting not very far, we tried some other stuff. It was all very low key, and I was still getting used to playing by myself with an acoustic guitar, both for recording and live performances. These experimental sessions went on occasionally through 2008, and while they didn't yield any fruit, they were definitely useful.

Wind forward a year: September 2009, my first visit back to the UK from New Zealand. I was already gearing up to record "Without Fear" and while I had my own experimental agenda for those tracks, I wanted to do something proper - quality recordings with good equipment and a good producer. In exchange for quality real ales and the odd Chinese takeaway, Matt had me round and we recorded "Animals", "Sunshine", "The Future" and "Lighthouses" - almost entirely acoustic, with a couple of electric parts, and the same energy I put into live sets.

I think it was early 2010 when Matt sent me a package online with a surprise present - not only had he mixed all 4 tracks, he'd salvaged 2 from our original sessions: "The Tsunami, The Tank And The Barcode" and an original version of "One Last Parting Shot" which has an extra chorus and a middle bit and comes out about 6mins (unlike the Without Fear version, which I cut down). You can tell these 2 aren't exactly polished, but it is nice to have them, and I've included them as bonus tracks.

However, for some reason I'd forgotten to record all the vocal bits for Sunshine. Fail. Wind forward to later that year, August 2010, my second visit back. I popped over again, we finished those last vocal bits, but for some reason didn't render the track - Matt would do it later. What ensued was a very long period of me badgering Matt to finish it and Matt being very busy doing other things. I say this genuinely: the last couple of years Matt has been part of The Library Suits going from strength to strength, he's started his own solo project Captain What and now turned it into a band, he's worked a demanding full time, and faced all the tribulations we all have in our lives. He's a productive lad.

Wind forward to now. Over very pleasant ciders from the Essex Cider Shop, we got "Sunshine" finished and I am very pleased to present the EP as a glimpse into a past time in my own solo music project, as well as a recording in its own right.

My highlight, in a peculiar way, is "One Last Parting Shot". I'm reminded that it's possibly the last track on "Without Fear" that I haven't blogged with a description/explanation, and that it possibly deserves one the most - maybe if I get round to it I'll do a proper one, but here's some burble about the song, this recording, and me:

"One Last Parting Shot" functioned as partly me signing off from Essex in 2008, before going to New Zealand and wherever after that, but also as a personal lament about life in general. I don't think I've told anyone that when I came back in August 2003 from travelling, just before starting university, I turned 20 and imposed a deadline on myself of 5 years to "get somewhere" (whatever the hell that meant, or still means), and if I didn't, then I'd run away or do something else grand and/or stupid. I remember it was an abstract thought at the time, and I virtually forgot about it after that. Making the decision in April 2008 to go to New Zealand for a year was far more accidental than anything, but the song was written after the slow and sad collapse of F451, and came out as an account of self-perceived failure ("This is a song, about personal failure, I don't meant to deceive you...") and frustration, mixed up with my existing less-than-glowing feelings about my home town and county.

Listening to it now, it does have some fairly clunking and ridiculous lines: "I never belonged on all those drunken nights" is self-evidently stupid, because I enjoy drinking and sometimes getting drunk and always have done. Also, the "lost" middle section where I yelp "I meant everything I said" is bizarre, because I've said a lot of things in my time - publicly, privately, sincerely, sarcastically, loudly, softly - and like everyone in the world, I certainly didn't mean every single one of them. These lines are the victims of trying to get across meanings while constrained by the tune, rhythm and time limit of song. They also represent one of only 2 songs that I would call "personal", the other one being "Lighthouses", because even doing a solo project I still believe there are too many songs in the world with people singing about themselves.

But what it does have is heart, and amongst all the self-absorbed emo lamenting there is hope, and the sound and spirit of this recording certainly carry these through - even more than my own recording on "Without Fear" I would say. So anyway, while the other tracks are most excellent (thank you once again Mr. Captain) and certainly more enjoyable, this is an oddity that stands out and a personal marker, and I thought I'd mention.

Anyway, please download and enjoy the EP, and if you do enjoy please share the link and tell other people.
Muchos thanks
Jezmond Tutu

Friday, 4 November 2011

And then I just released a free acoustic EP, because I'm like that

First things first: here's a new 6-track EP that's absolutely free to download (or pay what you like). Go!

More info to follow, but for now, please click download and share. Thanks :)

Thursday, 3 November 2011

To Monetise Or Not To Monetise? Advertising, Youtube & Dinosaurs

"The public are swine; advertising is the rattling of a stick inside a swill-bucket."
[George Orwell, Keep The Aspidistra Flying]

I received a lovely little email from Youtube this morning. It asked me if I wanted to "monetize" my videos, by adding adverts to them and sharing in the profits from the fees that Youtube charges advertisers. I assume this is largely due to that there Dinosaurs video, which after reaching a peak of 500 views in a day earlier this year has now settled down to about 150 per day, which is better than a kick in the teeth.

I am glad for the invitation but I am not sure I want to.

I detest advertising. The sole purpose of advertising is to make money, and my generation has seen advertising at its ugliest, its worst, and most invasive. We are now more surrounded by advertising than we ever were, and it plays a particularly gross part in the lives of teenagers and children in trying to control their desires, their social lives, and their status. It's easy to say "just don't play the game" if you're not a teenager ostracised for not buying the right brands, and corporations spend billions of dollars every year around the world with exactly this damaging aim in mind.

Advertising is not creative. Ad agencies spend time and money believing they are creating "art", but at its core, advertising wants to sell the product no matter what the cost - the only limits on it are legal and moral. And the reason we only see ambiguous lies in advertising ("This man is wearing Deodorant Brand X and he has thousands of women crawling over him. Buy this and you will too!") instead of bare-faced ones is more down to legal reasons than the morality of companies involved.

Finally, what I also dislike about advertising is its management. Corporations and, in turn, billboard companies like ClearChannel pay vast sums of money to ensure their advertising in communities regardless of how meaningless or irrelevant the product is. No-one has a choice walking down a street what they have to look at and which massive ugly signs are placed where they live. But the same can hardly be said if a local band wants to advertise their gig, or an independent shop wants to promote itself. There is very often no space set aside for communities to advertise relevant products and services in their local area, by businesses which keep money in their local area.

However. Having said all that, I have come to accept some functional purposes of advertising, and we have seen changes in the way advertising is managed - primarily online, sadly, but still. Advertising now funds many of the free services on the internet that we take for granted, such as maps and search engines and social networking sites.

Also, while the topic of private information is a dicey one, we now have the ability to target advertising so that it is relevant to the viewer - for example, if you're a vegan you probably might appreciate not being shown adverts for Ye Greasy Dead Animal Fast Foode Chain. We're not quite at the optimal place with advertising as simply the honest notification of the right product to the right person that they might find enriches their lives, but it's a start.

The thing about Youtube is that this is entirely my call. Some sites have advertising regardless - many people have called their bluff, on the grounds it is user content which gives the advertisers a platform, meaning users deserve a cut or even majority of the advertising revenue - and in which case I would ask to be signed up immediately. But no, currently you can watch the Dinosaurs video on Youtube without any adverts on the side of the screen, and without any of those pop-up ads that we're now used to, and thankfully without any video clips, which run before your chosen video, which are becoming increasingly and uncomfortably more common. So it's definitely my choice if I have adverts on the video or not.

For now, I am going to leave it. I'm not sure of the going rate per impressions or clicks, but I have a feeling that for 150 views a day, I wouldn't be retiring to the Bahamas any time soon. If things were to pick up dramatically, I might come back and give it a go - thankfully it does appear you can turn it on and off, and I'd be happy to turn it off if I wasn't happy or couldn't control the way ads appeared. (While the pop-up transparent ads are not that intrusive, I definitely would not have the video clip ads.)

Having accepted a place and function for advertising in our economy and society, it's still up to us to decide how we control advertising and what its limits are. Personally I think the with proliferation and flexibility of online advertising, we should now be able to reduce or even remove altogether advertising from our streets and squares and public spaces. It's a dream, right?

Incidentally, I highly recommend reading or watching "99 Francs" (also known under different currencies e.g. "£6.99"). It offers scathing and hilarious insights into the global advertising industry by someone who saw it all. Of course, it's entirely fictional, but considering it revolves around an international yoghurt company called "Damione" who have a new yoghurt product called "Yoplite", it's only fictional if you've never heard of the real life references. I haven't seen the film but judging by the trailer, it expresses the story very well.
The final irony is that I had to watch an advert to see it.

Saturday, 29 October 2011

Britain, NZ, Customer Service and Product Variety (or a lack of)

I've been back in the motherland for a whole week, but it's been rather busy, and normal life has resumed only over the last couple of days. So it was only yesterday going shopping in town that I was struck by a couple of differences between here, the UK, and New Zealand.

The thing is, Britain does seem like the Land That Customer Service Forgot. On our visit last year, Kiwi Ex-Girlf was a little shocked at how poor the customer service was - you go into a shop, and there's usually no-one around to help, and even if there is they don't offer any anyway. It's a far cry from New Zealand and/or Wellington, where within the first 120 seconds of entering a shop/store, you'll be ambushed by someone asking if they can help you at all. They're cosy like that, New Zealanders.

As far as I know it's a personal space thing. In Britain, we've evolved over decades to be wary and cautious of others' personal space - in Tesco for instance, the woman at the deli counter didn't even acknowledge me until she was sure I had finished looking at the types of ham and wanted to talk to her. What comes across as being rude or dismissive (and in the case of surly teenage shop assistants, it can genuinely be these things) is actually just the instinct to give a respectful amount of personal space.

I can see both sides of the coin. For most of my life, I was always annoyed if anyone approached or talked to me in a shop - I'm just doing my thing, leave me alone, aaargh! - but have now learned to cope in the same way  as with chuggers* ("no thanks, I'm okay ta" covers it 9 times out of 10). And every now and again, as happened yesterday in Boots, I wanted to ask someone for help and there were no shop assistants anywhere to be seen.

While it's not all about personal space, I do find it ironic - one topic of discussion amongst our international friends is about exactly that in NZ, and how Kiwis feel much more comfortable if you talk at a distance of a few feet (or, preferably, metres). Yet NZ is a country with customer service by a human being deeply ingrained in its culture still.***

The other difference is that of product variety. Again, what I've found is quite counter-intuitive - you would expect Britain and Europe, with their huge markets, to have a vast array of product choice, and little old New Zealand that has to import everything to have not much. For the most part this is correct.

So imagine my bafflement when I went out to the supermarket and tried looking for a sliced loaf of soy linseed bread, or dark rye bread, or even any actual type of bread. Britain doesn't have them. What Britain has is a) white, b) brown/wholemeal, c) rather spurious "best of both" varieties which are brand products invented by the manufacturer.

Now, this is on one visit to the supermarket (Tesco****) in Chelmsford, on the back of 3 years shopping mostly in Wellington New World supermarkets. So it's not very scientific. However, my reasoning is a) From memory, both Chelmsford Tescos and Wellington New Worlds are representative of their chains around their countries, and b) Tesco and Chelmsford occupy very similar spaces in their respective markets (I wouldn't be surprised if Tesco gobbles up New World in 20 or 30 years).

Also it fits with other products, like chocolate and beer. While the UK obviously has more producers and outlets for products, and thus a large variety in the market as a whole, the average choices by the main manufacturers on a supermarket shelf are actually smaller. New Zealand's primary chocolate makers, Cadbury's and Whittaker's, have far more varieties of chocolate than Britain's standard choices of white, milk and dark.

Similarly for beer: what you have in the UK is that Carlsberg make Carlsberg lager, Carling make Carling lager, Stella make Stella lager, and so on and so on. Whereas on most NZ supermarket shelves you'll find Mac's and Monteith's each make a red beer, white beer, black beer, pilsner etc. In Wellington, we have thankfully have access to many more smaller breweries like Tuatara who also have 5 or 6 different types of beer. Even the lager-only breweries like Tui, Speight's and Steinlager have more varieties of their lager than British lager brands.

Having said that, no country - not even New Zealand - has the same real ale culture that Britain does, which I intend to make full use of while I'm here. Good day!

*Eurgh. Chuggers seem to inhabit both the UK and NZ. I'm sure there are worse crimes, like being a mime in pubic, but they still definitely deserve to be dropped in the scorpion pit.**

** Except you T, if you're reading this! I'll spare you ;)

*** Even to the point where there are no photobooths in the entire country, as far as I can work out. I still think getting a human being to physically take your passport photo is quite quite unnecessary.

**** I agree with my mother's view that Tesco is Evil and Trying To Take Over The World, and yet here we are after all these years, still shopping at Tesco - fail.

Friday, 21 October 2011

CHC Airport

So here I am, in transit again, waiting for another international flight to take me back to the motherland for another visit. This has been my longest time away from “home” (UK home, i.e. Essex/friends/whanau) ever, 13 months. The circumstances are quite quite different since the last visit, but then, aren’t they always.

In some ways, I’m very glad to be here. This week … let’s just say, if you’d had the week I’d had, you would have wished you’d had a different week. I might talk about it once things have settled.

In fact it’s not even over yet – 36hr flight (4 hours down!), stag party the next day, not to mention THE RUGBY. I’m not a sport person but you’d have to be cruel not to want the All Blacks to win. Apart from the French simply playing badly this tournament, NZ has had a shocker of a year and deserves something to cheer it up.* I wonder if Prime Minister John Key is having very serious discussions with the French rugby board.

Christchurch airport is as artificial and soulless as any international airport, but for some reason I don’t mind it so much – perhaps it’s part of becoming used to waiting. This is the 7th mega long-haul flight**, i.e. 28-40hrs, that I’ve made in my life, and while they don’t get any less exhausting, coping with boredom does become easier. Also modern airports have shops and if you sacrifice enough money to the Airport Gods, you can keep yourself watered and fed nicely and pick up some essential items you forgot. (Personally I wouldn’t waste money in the gift shops though.)

I was here once before in April 2003, leaving New Zealand after 31 days. I think I’d overdosed on scenery and was fairly happy to be moving on. Can’t remember anything about the airport – I assume there were less flat screens around then. At the time, SARS was scaring the shit out of everyone, and the US and UK were busy blowing up Iraq. There’s no particular travel scare at the moment, yet security measures are tighter now I think.

Edit – I wrote this entire blog post out before remembering this city has had not 1 but 2 massive earthquakes in the last year or so (along with all the 7000ish medium and little ones). Needless to say, the fact I hadn’t even thought about it illustrates how reassuringly normal everything seems. In fact the only clue was a very large construction area which I hadn’t even considered was to do with the earthquake.

I have a lot of hopes and goals in the next few weeks. The biggest one is just being there for my brother’s wedding next week. Then there’s seeing friends and family, including some I didn’t manage to catch last year. Another one is just chilling the hell out – it’s been a pretty stressful month. I’m keen to see people, but if I don’t respond well to being ordered to meet up somewhere, that’s why.

However, right here, right now, my wish is simply that AirAsia are on time and that I catch my connecting flight in KL – particularly after last years’s debacle with Aeroflot and Fortress Moscow Airport. Given the number of Russian women employed to shout “take off your shoes!” at passengers, it’s not a high bar!

Over and out for now

*I realise it’s just a game, and my cynical self would laugh at the idea of a nation’s entire mood being dependent on a sports result. That’s what Australians do. But NZ winning the rugby world cup would be a damn sight more important than the royal bloody wedding.

**March 2003: Heathrow -> LAX -> Tahiti -> Rarotonga
October 2008: Heathrow -> Hong Kong -> Auckland
September 2009: Auckland -> Hong Kong -> Heathrow
October 2009: Heathrow -> Hong Kong -> Auckland
August 2010: Wellington -> Auckland -> Shanghai -> Moscow -> Heathrow
September 2010: Heathrow -> Moscow -> Shanghai -> Auckland -> Wellington
October 2011: Wellington -> Christchurch (right now) -> Kuala Lumpur -> Stansted

Monday, 17 October 2011

Changing priorities - stepping back from the music, for now

I tried writing this blog without letting it turn into an emo whinge-fest, then it turned into an emo whinge-fest. I am very good at them but what do they achieve?

Anyway this is a brief note to say I am going to ease up on the music for the foreseeable future to focus on other things.

I jokingly call myself an "ideas generator", but it's with good reason, and it is just as much a boon as a curse. As an example, here's a farcical list of creative things, in no particular order, I want to do:
  • Record album "Airfix Democracies"
  • Release the raw audio of the entire album as part of "Project Airfix"
  • Write and record album "To The Greater Glory Of"
  • Write and record EP "The Great British Public"
  • Record untitled straight-up rock EP (featuring "Alchemy" and "The Hype Of Yesteryear")
  • Write and record album "Cultuur Sugoi"
  • Record Acoustic Warrior dance-rock EP "BELIEVE IT OR PERISH, BITCHES"
  • Record "Without Fear" with full band production
  • Write and self-publish novel "HYPER"
  • Write and self-publish follow-up novel to "HYPER"
  • Write series of short stories about time travel in the South Pacific
  • Write more short stories featuring Sir Ralph Beef Wellington
  • Make a short animated video for Jimmy The Dolphin And The Metric Squid
  • Make a short animated video for Jesus And The All-Stars Episode 1
  • Write more short stories for Jesus And The All-Stars
  • Record audiobooks for NO UP, NO LIES and NO NEVER
  • Create graphic novels for NO UP, NO LIES and NO NEVER
  • Work towards animated feature films for NO UP, NO LIES and NO NEVER
Every single one of these things will take a lot of time and effort to make and do properly. None of them will make me any money in the short term, and probably not in the long term either. And there is no way in hell I am slogging my guts out trying to get signed/published etc. by the mainstream recording and publishing industries - not when:

  1. those industries are about as welcoming as a castle with the drawbridge up
  2. my books are too weird to be commercial, and my music isn't even being downloaded for free, and
  3. especially not when both of those industries are in complete disarray in the age of downloads. The established industry did nothing for people like me before downloads, and now downloads are here there seems to be no reliable business models for the future.
Okay that got a bit emo whinge-festy. What can I say, I'm a pom. It comes naturally.

If I was to be cynical and self-critical, I could say that all the time I've spent/wasted on music and books the last few years I could have dedicated to gaining proper employment and progressing some kind of career. I think considering the overall scheme of things that might not have been a bad idea. Hell, maybe a real human being would have been able to do both.

It's not that I haven't spent a large amount of time in these 3 years applying for and getting rejected from jobs. I just have a feeling a lot of my friends and family wanted to tell me all along that perhaps my priorities were wrong, but being kind and generous people, they didn't say it and supported me in my teenage adventures in writing and music. Oh well.

Music is my passion first and foremost. I will continue to make music, or at least write songs with drums, bass and rock guitars, and the one thing I still really really want to do is record and release Airfix Democracies - it'll be my first full-length full-production album ever after 12 years of being in music. I'm hoping I can make this happen in 2012 - maybe there'll be a music video to go with it, maybe not; probably with some kind of album launch party, although not necessarily.

Beyond this I'll definitely continue to write, make and record music, but probably not in the pattern I've done so far. Maybe I'll record stuff and just pump it out there to the internet - as you can see from the list, I've got more than enough songs to be getting on with, and maybe without the pressure of official releases I can actually be more productive.

What I need to focus on in the near-to-mid future are 2 things:

1) My web skills, which are not quite up-to-scratch in terms of employability. I have admittedly not been spending time on it and this shows. I also get laughed at by web people when I mention my website has an iFrame - quite unfairly in my view, because I think it's suitable in terms of layout and function, but I accept I need to revamp the site into something a bit more modern.

2) Something completely different. I may just have a cunning plan...

Saturday, 15 October 2011

Not leaving twice, coming home twice

I was thinking about the fact that I'm leaving NZ next week, and that after originally planning to leave for good in June, I had actually moved my flight to October - but kept my plan to leave permanently. It was around May or June I think I realised I could stay and that I wanted to stay here in Wellington (the details and time stamps are probably in one of these messy anxious blog posts here).

But still, the concept of leaving stuck in my head. Then of course it occurred to me that I am leaving the UK as well, 4 weeks after I land. Both of these things are not only sad, they are meaningful - symptomatic of how uncertain my situation has been and still is, and that even temporary moves mean leaving things behind.

When I came over to NZ originally, and knew more about what I was doing on my return to the UK in 2009 than what the hell I was going to do in Wellington for 11 months, I had in my head the idea of signing off with the video for "London Calling". (Imaginative, because that's where I was going next. So so clever.)

London is apparently at the moment a wasteland of rioters and jobless hopelessness(-ess-ess), according to this year, so I'm not sure I'll be signing up to some box flat in Brixton or Highbury any time soon. But in melodramatic moments (much like this blog post) I've pondered about appropriate songs to leave on.

"Leave This Town" by the Levellers is a song that's stuck with me, being on the notable British mid-90s folk-rock-punk album "Zeitgeist". But while the sentiments are indeed about the need to move and move on, they are also primarily about being glad to go, being glad to leave some fictional grey and dismal town - i.e. far more appropriate for when I left Chelmsford, Essex* in the first place, than leaving vibrant and cultural Wellington. (In case it needs saying, I am never talking about my friends or family when I mention my dislike of Chelmsford or Essex.) I will have to move on from Wellington permanently at some point, and it's very unlikely that I will be glad to do so.

Anyway. This is all getting very tedious and dull isn't it?

The gist is: I realised that I am not leaving twice, I am coming home twice, which is something even fortunate people don't get to do. In setting up semi-permanent shop here in New Zealand, yet being denied residency (for now) by those cold vampires and call-centre morons in Immigration NZ, I can't say the word "home" without having to check myself - do I mean the UK? Or do I mean Wellington? The answer is both. The word has become as truly ambiguous for me as the word "can" (tin can? or I can I can't?) and other examples of appalling administrative laziness in the English language.

So here are 2 songs which come to mind for these coming weeks, which I am glad to share with you: "Welcome Home" by Scottish indie-rock band Idlewild, and "Welcome Home" by New Zealand singer/songwriter Dave Dobbyn.

I know that Kiwis will be facepalming right now, having probably heard this song X zillion times and probably thinking it's highly overrated and mediocre cheese. But I guarantee that my most of my friends in the UK, Europe, America and elsewhere will not have heard it, and while it's a little bit cheesy, I like it. Even if you aren't a Kiwi, and you don't get the notion of leaving somewhere (as many Kiwis do at some point or other) and knowing that your own country - whatever it is, and whatever it means, whichever peoples live there, a tiny pair of islands in the corner of the world - is waiting for you, and you don't get the line about a woman whose hands are trembling singing "haere mai", even if you don't get all of that, it's still a nice song.

The other song is less nostalgic but more personal to me, being by Idlewild, a band I grew up with and still love to this day. Singer & lyricist Roody Woomble has a wonderful way with words, poetic but simple and understandable, and while some die-hard early-years Idlewild fans might deride it as a pedestrian song on what is definitely not their best album, I really like it. It's simple and honest and happy, and that's what any welcome home should be.

So there we go. See you soon, and see you soon.

*Chelmsford has, according to my brief visits and my Facebook feed, improved a lot since I left. The cultural scene is more diverse and now visibly supported by the same borough council which once seemed to shit on live music. I'm not sure they've got rid of all the chavs, thugs, racists, homophobes and meatheads yet, but it does sound like there is more to occupy intelligent interesting people than there was.

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Damn you Rena for delaying my music video

Oil spills are never fun, and the only good use the wreck of the Rena might have is possibly to deter more deep sea drilling which the current NZ governing party National are so keen on. Hopefully the scars on some of the world's most pristine, magazine-cover beaches in the Bay of Plenty will mean public outcry to any planned deep sea drilling in NZ is that much louder.

However, after the single launch last Saturday and my previous blog post, I am sad to say that the music video premiere has had to be postponed until probably early December.

You may remember in the Lighthouses music video, we all got to go in an actual lighthouse - this was down to our good friends working at Maritime NZ and very kindly borrowing the keys. Totally awesome.

Less awesome is that now some idiot crashed a tanker on a well-known reef, one of those friends has been called up to help out with the oil spill situation up North, and they are a key person on the Sunshine music video which is not finished yet. To them I say go forth, help save New Zealand!

Hopefully with the aid of modern technology we can finish it while I'm in the UK, meaning that when I get back to NZ late November, it'll be polished and perfect and fit for a premiere.

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

And that was a single launch.

This blog is essentially a vast list of thank yous to wonderful people.

I don't think the word "symmetry" covers things that come in threes, but to hell with it, there was a sense of symmetry with the SUNSHINE single launch on Saturday. I fly off to the UK soon, with 3 years in NZ under my belt and not a huge amount of certainty what happens after that, so it felt especially good to have a 3rd single launch party, playing with the same 3 guys, with a huge bunch of friends, at Bar Medusa.

Here is a list of thank yous in no particular order (with helpful titles)

Tod, Gareth and Danny are 3 legendary fellows and I love them very much. Once again they stepped up to play a gig with me for little more than a case of Double Brown and the promise of a sweaty hug onstage. Without fail they played like the blinding musicians they are, and without them this gig would not have happened. Cheers guys.
Most of the time they play in an amazing band called "Throw It To The Fire" - think indie-jazz-rock you can dance to, played by Eddie Vedder/Queen, and you're somewhere close. Worth clicking like on Facebook and also hanging out for their awesome debut EP in the pipeline.


The Lucid Effect is more of a human being called Declan than an effect, and what a wonderful musician he is. I once considered looping and abandoned the idea on the grounds that you can't create full flowing songs with it, then I met this guy and he absolutely trashes that concept to the ground. See him, hear him, enjoy him aurally.

Snap Crackle & Pop are like pop, rock and punk all mixed together, except unlike Blink182 they have the rights bits of each one. It was a pleasure to have them on the bill and play a full-on hydraulic pumping set of noise-rock-dance-tunes. Catch them soon.

Then of course there is Sophie and the Realistic Expectations. These intrepid musical bastards are colleagues and friends in the world of Wellington music and it's startingly awesome to have them play - not just one set, but a 2nd at the end of the evening. Despite thinking I'd trashed my lungs in our set, somehow I found them again to scream along the high notes of "Tenderness" and was even ordered up onstage to sing the 2nd verse of "Easy". All I wanted to do was show I knew the second verse!

Just as he did at the Lighthouses launch party, our friend Jay manned the webcam without question the entire night, checking & tweaking, ensuring everything was going out live on the interwebs. I first got the idea for doing this after watching The Library Suits playing at Barhouse (now Hooga) in Chelmsford, Essex, while sitting in bed with breakfast here in Wellington. I genuinely believe this is part of the future of live music. If or how there's any money in it, and whether or not it will be venues or bands, I cannot say. But we have the technology, kids, to let people all over the world watch awesome live rock music, and I think it's awesome. Without Jay, our friends and family in UK, around NZ and all over the world (well, not sure if anyone was watching on the US East coast at 6am, but still...) would not have been able to watch it online - thank you so much sir.

Veli (@HoccusFoccus) is a tall Finnish chap who is responsible for recording every single song from both previous launch parties, and now for recording footage from this launch party as well. One of the biggest things I regret about my former band F451 is not getting enough live footage as a record to show what we were like and how much we rocked (there is one video here, actually). It's much easier now, with every camera having some kind of video mode (as my friends know full well!), but there is still no substitute for quality and Veli is a master at what he does. I can't promise when, but at some point in the next few weeks, live clips from this gig will be going up on the interweb - hopefully all 12 tracks - so keep an eye out, and thank you once again Veli.

Tamara is a legend who puts 6000% of herself into this little music venue and has made it the awesome place that it is. Tamara's put up with my nonsense for ages and was kind enough to give me a Saturday night for the launch. Go there, enjoy live bands, support Tamara and the bar by drinking vast amounts, and order a Flaming Moe. Just avoid the Jager, or you might end up on the bar grinding like a no-good hooker. Unless of course you like that kind of thing. Cheers Tam.

Charlie is a wicked sound guy, and put up with us having 4 completely different bands with completely different needs in 1 night and mixed everyone perfectly. I even asked for 6000 fucktonnes of myself in the monitors - like any self-respecting egotistical singer would - and to my absolute surprise he actually found it. Very talented man and legend.

Along with those Holograms, I now am bandmates with this wonderful girl who wrote the magical song "Winter Boyfriend" without being a singer or playing an instrument. Chiara spent about 89 hours cutting out dinosaur decorations for me and even, when I was stressed out and cried "My kingdom for a shoulder rub!", helped me out knowing full well I don't have a kingdom or even any kind of real estate at all. Expect magical musical things from this awesome wonderful lady.

It was a party, and lo, did the wonderful Bex provide awesome face painting. I wanted face painting and I'd totally do it again!

Once again I put out the call for cake, and once again the Knights of Baking came to the rescue - huge thanks to all of you guys, particularly Ms. Hilaire and (again) Chiaratown for her death-by-mocha cake. I am indebted to you, knights.

...and I guess everyone else, but I'll be honest - I spent an ungodly amount of money on posters for this night, and as far as I know, they didn't actually bring anyone. Which may be dispiriting to some, until you think about this: the entire crowd was made up of people I know who had told other people I know and who were singing and dancing and jumping around with people I know. So I don't think I am any more famous in Wellington than I was and I don't think I gained any new fans from the night, but I did spend one of my most enjoyable gigs ever with people I care about and who apparently care about me, which is WAY awesome.

There is another person and group of people I would like to thank on here, but I can't - because the music video for SUNSHINE is not quite finished yet, and it is not out. But it will be soon. Friends & chums, you'll get a note about a (probably low-key) premiere in the next week or so, everyone else watch this space and you might be able to catch it live on the internet. Rest assured people, you will get a shout out!

Anyway I think that's about all for this blog post, sorry if I missed anyone. What a great night. If any of you would like to do me a favour, download the track free and tell your friends to download it too. Making money from my music isn't important to me, but I do like people to hear it.

Until next time, you sexy sexy people.

Image pinched from Ed's Twitter stream. Hope he doesn't mind. Thanks Ed!

Sunday, 9 October 2011

Saturday, 8 October 2011

SUNSHINE out now. I'm going onstage.

The single SUNSHINE is now available for download, free or pay as you like. Win! Snap Crackle & Pop have just finished a heroic set. I'm going onstage. See you on this here player right now!

#Sunshinesingle LIVE video now

We are live on the internet right now!
Currently The Lucid Effect just finished his awesome set, Sophie REX up now! Cake lollies balloons and all the rest of it. Huzzah for the internet!

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Why I'm proud of "Sunshine"

The recorded song "Sunshine" is finally here. It has light, power, energy and space.

I am sitting here 3 days out from the Sunshine single launch party, worrying this and that and the other: about finishing the b-side "It's Not The Wine...", about getting decorations sorted, about buying things I need for the night, about why I haven't done enough promotion, about why I haven't worked hard enough on anything, etc. etc. So I thought I would take a (short) break from worrying and write about why I am very proud of this song that I have recorded and what I like about it.
  • Drums - There is no real substitute for recording real drums played by a real drummer, but I feel I've the drums on Sunshine are my best yet. In an ideal world I would have a whole day in a studio with Jon from The Library Suits or Tod from Throw It To The Fire pounding the crap out of an awesome kit, and get Neak Menter to record and produce it all. However, back in the real world of getting stuff done in a solo project, I've spent time and energy tweaking almost every single one of those drums hits to make it sound fresh, dynamic and powerful. (Well, I may have pinched some of the instrumental fills from Dinosaurs. But they still sound great.) I think I've done a good job.
  • Bass - The basslines in the verse and the chorus are two of my favourite basslines I've ever written. There are flicks and riffs and chunky progressions. There is funk, and soul, and life. Those high notes in the chorus are one of the best parts of the whole song.
  • I've used all the tricks I've learnt from producing music in the last 2 years (with some good advice from good friends) - from manually plotting the pitch to make those weird noises in the musical breaks (stuff you can hear back in "Without Fear"), to adding that awesome spaced-out synth in the post-chorus, to using EQ and compression to master the track so that it sounds loud enough and acceptable enough on anything from a large 70s stereo to an mp3 player headphones. Real producers and people who know music will be shaking their heads but this is my best effort so far and I like it.
  • Backing vocals - this song has the awesome backing vocals of Tod Robertson and Danny Droutsos (from Throw It To The Fire) and Chiara LaRotonda (@allchiara and singer of "Winter Boyfriend") and it sounds amazing. Those choruses are meant to sound massive, and - particularly with that harmony provided by Chiara - these good people make something that I never could or would have on my own. Cheers guys.
  • It is an EPIC POP SONG. Seriously, it's 5mins long, and while it's not quite the Lord Of The Rings of indie-rock, it's big and complicated enough that despite being one of my most radio-friendly songs, it would never be played on the radio even if I was bothered enough to try. And I like that. This song is not original, but it is individual. It is bold and big and fun and ridiculous and catchy and it is mine.
Right. Time to stop being emo, get some sleep, and get shit done in 72 hours. Challenge Anneka anyone?

The song is available for free/pay-as-you-like download this Saturday 8th October 2011 (NZ evening time). But you can hit that share button, if you like the song, any time you like.

Another test...

Test test test!

Sunshine single now online

Huzzah! The recording of "Sunshine" is now online at my Bandcamp for you to have a listen to before the release on Saturday. Result! Get in! More sport-related "win" expressions!


I Believe In Dinosaurs LIVE at Lighthouses single launch

FINALLY! You can tell I've been rushing through these before uploading the "Sunshine" single ahead of this Saturday's launch party. Live video of the wonderful I Believe In Dinosaurs from the Lighthouses launch night. This is one of the most fun times in my 12 years playing music - as you can see we had a good time. Naturally, epic thanks to @HoccusFoccus for filming and those awesome awesome guys Tod, Gareth and Danny from Throw It To The Fire playing. Cheers!

Free downloads of the Lighthouses single

The Magnificent 20 LIVE at Lighthouses single launch

Live video of the encore, The Magnificent 20 from the Lighthouses launch night. It's a nice, fun, cheeky little rockout instrumental. As always, huge thanks to @HoccusFoccus for filming and Tod, Gareth and Danny from Throw It To The Fire playing. Cheers guys!

Free downloads of the Lighthouses single

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Lighthouses video LIVE at Lighthouses launch

Live video of the single itself LIGHTHOUSES from the Lighthouses launch night. It's a great song and it's always a pleasure to play it live rocked up with the guys. As always, huge thanks to @HoccusFoccus for filming and Tod, Gareth and Danny from Throw It To The Fire playing. Cheers guys!

Free downloads of the Lighthouses single and Without Fear album (including the first version of Lighthouses):

Monday, 3 October 2011

International webcast times for #sunshinesingle

It gives me great pleasure in these modern electronic times to broadcast this here SUNSHINE single launch at Bar Medusa, Wellington Saturday 8th October to the whole world via the internet.

Whether you live in the UK, Australia, US West coast, or even just somewhere else in New Zealand and would like to watch the gig, below are the line-up times for a few popular time zones: NZ, UK, AUS, US West + East coasts, Japan, India. Don't worry - I've worked out summer times so you don't have to!

Just go to and, all going to plan, it should be streaming live on there. I'll also post a player here on the blog on the night.

ALL times are for Saturday 8th October. How con-weee-nient!

New Zealand NZDST (UTC +13) - Evening

8:30pm DOORS
8:45pm The Lucid Effect
9:25pm Sophie & The Realistic Expectations
10:10pm Snap Crackle & Pop
11:00pm Jez Kemp & Holograms

British Summer Time BST (UTC +1) - Morning

8:30am DOORS
8:45am The Lucid Effect
9:25am Sophie & The Realistic Expectations
10:10am Snap Crackle & Pop
11:00am Jez Kemp & Holograms

Australian Eastern Summer Time (UTC +11) - Early evening6:30am DOORS
6:45am The Lucid Effect
7:25am Sophie & The Realistic Expectations
8:10am Snap Crackle & Pop
9:00am Jez Kemp & Holograms

European Summer Time CEST (UTC +2) - Late morning

9:30am DOORS
9:45am The Lucid Effect
10:25am Sophie & The Realistic Expectations
11:10am Snap Crackle & Pop
12:00pm Jez Kemp & Holograms

US Summer Time – West Coast (UTC -7) - Middle of the night before/very early morning12:30am DOORS
12:45am The Lucid Effect
1:25am Sophie & The Realistic Expectations
2:10am Snap Crackle & Pop
3:00am Jez Kemp & Holograms

US Summer Time – East Coast (UTC -4) - Very early morning

3:30am DOORS
3:45am The Lucid Effect
4:25am Sophie & The Realistic Expectations
5:10am Snap Crackle & Pop
6:00am Jez Kemp & Holograms

Japan Standard Time (UTC +9) - Late afternoon

4:30pm DOORS
4:45pm The Lucid Effect
5:25pm Sophie & The Realistic Expectations
6:10pm Snap Crackle & Pop
7:00pm Jez Kemp & Holograms

India Standard Time (UTC +5.5) - Early afternoon

1:00pm DOORS
1:15pm The Lucid Effect
1:55pm Sophie & The Realistic Expectations
2:40pm Snap Crackle & Pop
3:30pm Jez Kemp & Holograms

Monday, 26 September 2011

Posters for #sunshinesingle @BarMedusa

Posters! Share them, print them, eat them if you like - here are the black/white and dazzling full colour posters for the Sunshine single launch next Saturday 8th October at Bar Medusa, Wellington. Click the pictures for links to full size A4 versions you can print off, share round and post up around town if you feel so inclined. Hurrah for visual promotion!

The Future video LIVE at Lighthouses launch

Live video of the smooth swinging song The Future from the Lighthouses launch night. This is one of my rare chilled out songs and it breaks up the set quite nicely. As always, huge thanks to @HoccusFoccus for filming and Tod, Gareth and Danny from Throw It To The Fire playing. Cheers guys!

Free downloads of the Lighthouses single and Without Fear album (including the Future):