The Corner’s 2012 Year In Review: Top 10 Moments In New Zealand Music

1. 2012

In 2012, everything people had been signalling towards for the past five years finally landed in plain sight – All of a sudden your parents and work colleagues knew what a file locker was and what it was for (i.e. actually for stealing), people are genuinely worried they’ll get caught for downloading music (under the weirdest laws in Christendom), the prominence of print literally began to shrink (NZH’s tabloid format), and major artists started leaking their own albums and just giving away lead singles for free. Even Marbecks had to shut its doors.

It’s not so much that the music industry is falling apart (I hate when nerds insist on this), it’s that the market and culture surrounding music is restructuring, at pace, and right in front of our eyes. Things that people insisted they wanted, things that matched their patterns of consumption and behaviour, have finally arrived and settled in.

  • NZ on Air just clocked its first year of funding music videos under Making Tracks, where funding for actually recording the music is an additional grant
  • APN folded Volume Magazine, but now through nzherald.co.nz it has live video streaming from every major music awards show and hosts streaming albums a week before their release
  • As of December 2012, Spotify has five million paid subscribers – people want their phones to be super-walkmans because even the idea of the iPod (the icon of the 00′s) is obsolete
  • RIANZ started taking legal action against whichever poor sod in the flat pays the internet bill
  • There’s now some kind of hippy bar in Wellington that doesn’t sell booze and you pay with camping money or something
  • There’s just stuff happening everywhere, all the time.

Putting literally ‘everything that happened this year’ at the top of the list feels like a corny move, but it captures what we tried to do on The Corner in 2012. Every contributor to this site is out there watching the world change in a bunch of minor ways, and we try to give those changes some shape with our reviews and articles. Go carve this entry into a tree or something, because the things that went on in 2012 are going to be worth remembering. – Dan Taipua

2. Home Brew At The VNZMAs

Building on the hype of previous years, the 2012 Vodafone New Zealand Music Awards were a massive event. If you didn’t make it out to the proceedings at Vector Arena, the extended TV coverage would have done enough to convey the buzz. The red carpet coverage on FOUR captured Haz Beats dressed in a bathrobe and crown carrying a basket of brownies, Getban costumed as a WWF-style manager with a mullet rat-tail smoking a large cigar, Lui Silk dressed as himself, and Tom Scott made up as Jesus/El Topo leading a goat on a leash.

What didn’t make it on screen however, was about 20 seconds of Scott’s acceptance speech for Best Hip Hop Album, where he basically told the Prime Minister to go fuck himself (without using those actual words). Even if he had, bluer language made it into the broadcast, not least from the closing act of the night (an ad lib involved calling the audience ‘vacuous c-nts’). What the broadcaster couldn’t cut from the show though was Haz showing up host Ben Boyce by throwing away a gag award, history’s longest walk to the stage for their real award and, most importantly, the performance of ‘Benefit’ and ‘Listen To Us’ which more than conveyed the removed message. The 2012 VNZMAs marked the point where the mainstream couldn’t ignore Home Brew any more, even with a last minute effort. – Dan Taipua

3. Volume Magazine Folds

There was shock when we broke the news that after a brief lifespan of 33 issues, APN had pulled the plug on Volume. A year ago we listed the launch of the magazine in the exact same spot we commiserate it in now – within months of us writing that, it was over, with the last issue hitting streets only a day after the news got out.

Perhaps it was the hefty backing from owners APN that helped, but Volume felt well established in the local music industry early on, which is no easy feat. There were a couple of things that held it back though, the main one of which Duncan Greive already dealt with in his post ‘Some Thoughts On Volume’. The other issue was its web presence, or lack of one, something that was also touched on in A Low Hmm pt. 1. Online, Volume operated out of nzherald.co.nz’s entertainment section, but finding it was a challenge. As Russell Brown pointed out on Public Address, things could have been much different if the magazine had chosen to develop an online brand.

As far as print media goes in local music rags, we’re just about left with bare bones. After the departure of DJ Sir-Vere as editor of Rip It Up, former Groove Guide editor Leonie Hayden is now at the helm of the bi-monthly magazine – she’s doing a great job so far. With a lack of decent contributors, and seemingly, an unconcerned editor, Groove Guide is somehow still active. It feels barely there though with less of a focus on local music and more cover stories dedicated to a forthcoming film or a comedian that’s heading our way. Things Done Changed. – Hussein Moses

4. Home Brew Throw 48 Hour Party, Debut At No. 1

The very last issue of Volume magazine that hit streets on May 1 was tagged as a ‘Home Brew Takeover’, as in Tom, Haz and Lui actually stormed the APN offices (here’s the proof) and then laid out their editorial genius within the pages of the magazine. There was a 22 out of 11 star review of the album written by Haz’ mum, a segment named ‘Young Gifted & Moderately Endowed Presents Illegible Bachelors’, another one named ‘Young Gifted & Doomed Presents Haz’ Horoscopes’, an interview with Tom’s mum asking her how she feels about her son still living at home (“I am the boss of the TV remote”), a look back at Tom’s dad Peter Scott playing on Top Of The Pops, and a brutally frank rundown of how the album came to be, written by Tom himself.

This wasn’t just the takeover of a magazine though – days later, and in a continued run of excellent ideas, the group would celebrate the release of the record with a 48-hour album release party, inviting artists and DJ’s such as Hollie Smith, Street Chant, The ARC, Manuel Bundy, and more, to join in on the bender over the weekend. And oh yeah, they held it at a former brothel. By Monday afternoon when the hangovers were wearing off, Home Brew had the no. 1 album in the country, only the fourth local hip-hop act in history to debut at the top, and the first to do it since 2003. Did we mention that they did it with only three days of sales? They capped off the run with a brief tour of the rest of the country, opening pop-up stores in Auckland and Wellington, and showing up for a primetime feature on 20/20. – Hussein Moses

5. The Audience Launches

NZ Music Month ended this year with the commencement of The Audience, “a website for discovering new music and kick starting music careers”. It’s owned by entertainment lawyer Chris Hoquard, who also owns Amplifier, and development and operational costs are covered through NZ On Air funding. It initially got off to a popular start and has so far named Watercolours, Lisa Crawley, Mark Vanilau, Franko, Paper Cranes and Little Oceans each as recipients of a $10,000 Making Tracks grant.

Some of us are slightly more skeptical though – Dunc and Dan called it with A Low Hmm pt. II, pointing out that much of the $605,000 in funding (which runs out in June 2013) is going towards covering establishing/ongoing costs of the site rather than into actual content. Why duplicate a platform which already exists at a low cost in other more successful forms?

It’s legitimately hard to tell whether or not artists are still frequenting the site but it feels as if there’s been some dropoff from a listener’s perspective – there’s currently over 1,700 songs to slog through which makes discovering new music not nearly as fun as it should be. Obviously there’s plenty of speculation around the site, but we’re keen to hear your thoughts and feedback – let us know in the comments or chuck us an email to editor@thecorner.co.nz – Hussein Moses

6. Life, Death and Rebirth For NZ Venues

What a year of venue shakeups. Two long-standing bars in Auckland, Khuja Lounge (of 15 years) and Dogs Bollix (nearly 20) closed their doors in October, leaving their usual crowds of hip-hop, punk, and most other genres without anywhere to go. But a downward slope of money troubles and poor business meant an ill fate, and bands were at the same time evidently figuring out how to do it themselves anyway – those in the DIY all ages scene took up organising their own gigs at a gallery on 33 High Street called Snake Pit.

Sadly, this beloved spot for young artists and bands was not to remain, either. While its upper two levels existed more for art purposes, its disgusting basement held dozens of memorable shows, most of them chaotic like Street Chant’s huge video release, or TFF’s destructive final show. Though less visible and entrenched in the music scene than Khuja and the Dogs Bollix, Snake Pit’s commitment to providing an art space for the kids (or at least giving them a place to drink outside) was readily embraced – even if it meant frequently going beyond their depth. By the end of it all, the brother and sister team who had diligently co-coordinated the space were faced with eviction for the building to be demolished. But what a way to say goodbye: Snake Pit’s final show was a 20-act all-day/all-night fiasco with as much as performance art and a paddling pool. Even though its time was short, Snakepit did a fine job of limiting High Street’s commercial allure and vastly increasing its cultural value.

Meanwhile in Wellington, new beginnings were afoot with Puppies taking the place of Happy Bar on Vivian and Tory Street. Ian Jorgensen (AKA Blink), known mostly as being the onto-it guy who puts on Camp A Low Hum every year, promised in July a venue that didn’t suck. He seems to be doing alright at following through on this because people are actually coming along – people apparently can trust that Blink knows what he’s doing by now. These same indie crowds can rely on dependable, well-advertised set times too, meaning that more than usual you actually get to watch the opening band. Around these parts, it’s hard bringing anyone to the show in the first place. Other stuff like 1am mystery acts, guest DJs, loads of out-of-towners and a pretty alright miniature record store gives a few reliable ways to keep the place running. And yeah, it is just a bar, I guess – but even the selection of drinks is alluring (Irish coffee!). Here’s to more and more of Puppies, and here’s hoping Blink doesn’t spontaneously combust for at least another six months. – Michael McClelland

7. Spotify Launches In NZ

On May 22nd the New Zealand version of Spotify rolled out to a thirsty public, competing with Rdio which had launched in January, as well as Every Other Medium.

There was a lot of hype surrounding the launch – a combination of the service’s global reputation and rumours of a local version emerging since at least Feb 2012. There was a weird situation where everyone knew they wanted Spotify, but no one was 100% sure how it worked. Luckily, the basic service is free so everyone could get a taste of the desktop version, and free monthly trials were available at the outset (though they required a credit card, and began automatically billing the following month).

The main function of Spotify is the ability to quickly access a massive music library on-the-go, and it’s the mobility aspect that makes it worth the $12.99 a month for the premium service. I couldn’t count the amount of times I’d cursed Steve Jobs’ corpse when I couldn’t load an iTunes playlist of tracks I’d paid for, but not synced whenever I was last at home. The second note about Spotify is the breadth and depth of its catalogue: singles, album releases, great hits, genre compilations, live albums and every conceivable terrible karaoke version. It’s crazy out there: NZ Maori love songs with high school girls’ choirs, rap breaks from some kind of Gypsy concept album, the jazz soundtrack to French avant-garde animation, even stuff we’ve run on GSG from independents.

The desktop version is free, so by all means give it a hoon and check the playlist below:

Wiki Baker – Hine E Hine
Billy T. James – Bully Rap No.1
Music Magnet – Beez in the Trap – Karaoke Version
Tiger Tiger – Because The Night
Diana Rozz – Walk On By
Zombie Zombie – Assault On Precinct 13 Main Theme
Sixpence None The Richer – Kiss Me – Japanese Commercial Single Version Import
Mitch Hedberg – Sandwiches
Alain Goraguer – Le Bracelet

- Dan Taipua

8. Ben Howe Takes Over As General Manager At Flying Nun

Arch Hill — Street Chant, David Kilgour, Ghost Wave, SXSW, CMJ: it might not be Flying Nun, but Ben Howe has done a good job at showing that you don’t need to be Flying Nun, or be on Flying Nun, to do alright in our music industry. This might be why he scored the position of new General Manager of Flying Nun in September — a former competitor. Perhaps his powerful CV, which includes his involvement with IMNZ and Laneway Festival, contributed to his appointment. Based on this alone, it seems he’d be a “vital cog” in keeping Flying Nun a part of the music industry in New Zealand and, crucially, the world.

One of the deepest trenches for Flying Nun came in 2006 when it was sold to Warner Music, and during this time interest in Flying Nun stooped to the point where it was easily returned back into the hands of Roger Shepherd, the man who had started the label decades earlier. At this point, Howe was an active participant in the reacquisition so as to form a bond between Flying Nun, Arch Hill, and touring company Mystery Girl that would smooth out operations for all three. Ben Howe kept his involvement quiet for lack of certain grounds to stake his name on, but according to his later recollection — argued by Shepherd to be “a fantastic piece of fiction. . . better than the da vinci code,” — he was cut out of the equation at the last moment in a business decision of debatable necessity. Now, Shepherd and Howe have re-entered partnership in a way “neither of them have expected”, with HQ shifting from Wellington to Auckland where Arch Hill is based.

It sounds fairly eventful for a label of such age, but it’s hard to be surprised by changes for Flying Nun HQ anymore – they’ve been a regular occurrence since 1982. The NZ giant of indie became as much known for its shaky head office techniques as the inventive bands that brought it international praise. The fact that FN is still around after all these years might suggest they’ve learned from their mistakes, but judging by the perpetuation of such trends, some would believe it’s in Flying Nun’s DNA. Auckland’s Sharpie Crows, a new addition to the label, had to fundraise for their own album to be released this year – and they were a lucky example of a FN band who actually got to have theirs released at all. Of those in FN’s (most) recent re-emergence period, many seem to have faded away or walked out on the label completely. Even more prominent bands like Die! Die! Die! have offered a polite diss. It would have been too easy to pick on the little guy once, but after 30 years of being this country’s most reputable indie label and one of its hottest musical exports, the ‘independent and broke’ card doesn’t cut it for some anymore.

As exciting as it is that a label owner with such an important track record is picking up a label of a checkered past, Ben Howe will have to tow a lot of responsibility. His title suggests a broad overseeing of label business, but a somewhat tricky duty awaits: recovering the loss of the bands who provide Flying Nun their reputation, good or bad. Hopefully ‘What did those bands expect?’ will become a question we won’t have to ask. – Michael McClelland

9. The Shihad Documentary “Beautiful Machine” Gets Released

With a 20-plus year career behind them, Shihad were obviously going to have a lot to confront. And it’s all here; hook-ups, break-ups, breakdowns, alcohol and drug abuse within the band, the loss of their manager Gerald Dwyer to a drug overdose, the major label bidding war, the name change etc etc. You’ve probably seen the film by now anyway. Interestingly, some of those obstacles even rolled over into the making of the film. Director Sam Peacocke, who came on board after the original director Graeme Tuckett left, said that “he had not been involved in the film’s post-production, or seen a final cut of the film”. Pacific Lightworks producer Grant Roa retaliated by calling Peacocke “sociably inept” and referring to him as “a director for hire”. The film had already premiered by this stage though, and the reviews were pouring in. The verdict? Actually pretty good. In a hyperbolic review for The Dominion Post, Simon Sweetman wrote that “It’s the best music documentary that will ever come out of New Zealand”. Which reminds us, SOMEONE PLEASE MAKE SURE THIS HAPPENS.Hussein Moses

10. Herbs and Toy Love Inducted Into The NZ Music Hall Of Fame

Established in 2007 by RIANZ and APRA to celebrate and acknowledge two local artists per year, The NZ Music Hall Of Fame this year saw the induction of both Herbs and Toy Love. It was a fantastic contrast – Toy Love squeezed in almost 500 shows in about the 20 months they were together and released one self-titled album before calling it quits; Herbs on the other hand released eight albums and in their 30-year career went through 27 members (17 of which were inducted!). The ceremonies for each artist took place respectively at the Silver Scroll Awards and the VNZMA’s, with Kora covering Herbs and a band made up of members of Rackets, Tiny Ruins and Street Chant, paying tribute to Toy Love. Of course, the best way to celebrate all of this is with the music that got them here in the first place – Herbs re-released their albums Homegrown, Light Of The Pacific, Long Ago, Sensitive To A Smile, and What’s Be Happen? while Toy Love dropped a 28-song double LP and a DVD which includes 17 clips, studio performances, interviews and live shows, including a new video for ‘Swimming Pool’, directed by Newmatics bassist Jeff Smith. Following on from Live At The Gluepot, which made it to no. 11 back in April, Toy Love would do it all again with the double LP scoring the no. 15 spot on the albums chart. – Hussein Moses

7 Comments

  1. Great list – seeing Herbs inducted at the Silver Scrolls was one of the greatest musical moments I’ve seen. And Che Fu’s introduction for them was brilliant. Shot, Che.

    That Shihad doco had a huge flaw – no mention of Murray Cammick, his Wildside label released 4 Shihad albums, including their most successful album, General Electric. No mention of their failure to crack the overseas market due to never writing a hit single, a la OMC/Crowded House? And the DVD has no bonus features, no extra live footage, blooper reel, nothing. What a fucking wasted opportunity. A cheap myth-building exercise in ego wankery. Rock gods r us. Fuck that.

    Also, your statement “producer Grant Roa retaliated by calling Peacocke “sociably inept” and referring to him as “a director for hire”. The film had already premiered by this stage though..” isn’t correct. That socially inept comment was reported prior too the film’s premiere, not after, see http://www.stuff.co.nz/entertainment/music/6928513/Backstabbing-but-the-Shihad-show-goes-on

  2. Sheeeesh get Homebrews dick outta your mouth…OOooo John Key is a dick maaaaaaaaan

  3. i don’t even like homebrew’s music that much, but who else honestly did anything worthwhile this year? don’t say kimbra, because just don’t.

  4. Also be interested to see how “The Corner’s” readership has been. Personally think most of us have given up on it, but might be wrong.

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