Blast from the Recent Past

The weather’s too good this weekend to spend time indoors writing a long blog post. So here’s Another New Zealand Music Month Post, immodestly featuring my old band… I discovered this clip that I didn’t think was online, but someone’s posted it. The song is The Original off our first album. Luckily I don’t appear the clip at all!

Filmed over a weekend on a road near Muriwai beach, in downtown Auckland, and on the cycle path along the Northwestern Motorway… shoestring budgets and digital post-production all the way!


I hope we never forget how great music can be… here’s Herbie Hancock and The Headhunters playing Chameleon in a live TV performance from 1974/75…

The video starts at the end of the head/main theme, and goes through the solo section to the end.

In addition to perfect mid-70s hair, Herbie Hancock has the perfect mid-70s keyboard rig… Fender Rhodes Suitcase electric piano (with those gorgeous twin speakers), with a Hohner Clavinet on top. On Herbie’s left is his ARP Odyssey Mk 1 synth and on his right he’s got an ARP 2600 – the same instrument used to create the voice of R2D2 in Star Wars.

ARP 2600

This how you rolled in the days before digital and in 1975, Herbie was right at the cutting edge of musical electronics. Drop in at 4’50 for Herbie’s Odyssey solo. It’s totally for the win, especially his dance at 6’38.

Paul Jackson‘s rubber fingers are on bass. Mike Clark (the funkiest white drummer ever?) drops snare hits where you least expect them. Bill Summers is nailing it on pandeiro during Herbie’s Rhodes solo, and Bennie Maupin is on tenor saxophone and percussion.

Approximately 575 million high school jazz bands have murdered this song over the past 30-odd years, (and I’m as guilty as the next guy), so it’s nice to be reminded how it’s supposed to be done. I could watch this repeatedly, all night.

A pretty good mid-1980s version of Chameleon by Herbie and the Rockit Band is also on YouTube (ignore the annoying visuals and listen to the music):

Funk Video Banned by TVNZ

  • Here’s follow up to a post from last month about Auckland band The Hot Grits. It seems that their video is too controversial to be shown on national TV channels in New Zealand.

    Not even a “post-9pm/Adults Only” rating. Actually banned from the airwaves. It’s apparently the only music video to have been banned by TVNZ since 1988.

    TVNZ broadcast Bugsy Malone at least once a year, which features kids acting out gangland violence and murder. But apparently kids drinking milk is offensive? Sure there is adult subtext here, but is there nobody at TVNZ who could see humorous intent? Sheesh.

    The Hot Grits – Headlights

    Hot Grits

    The Hot Grits are a large-scale funk/afrobeat band that sprang from the same Auckland funk’n’soul scene as one million dollars. They’ve finally got around to releasing their first full-length album, It’s Too Drunk to Be This Early.

    The Hot Grits occupy the red corner of the funk arena, exponents of straight up-down afro-funk with not a few overdriven guitar solos and a sprinkling of politics added to the stew. Apart from anything else, they are great live band.

    Their first video for the song Headlights is worth checking out. A great concept well-executed, and a good example of how you can make an entertaining video with a limited budget.

    Musica na Cabeca


    It’s finally happened. On Saturday April 19th one million dollars plays its final gig ever, at 4:20 in Auckland. It’s been a long journey for the band since 2000, a journey in which I was a fellow traveller for about 6 years until Europe shouted louder than the funk.

    Saturday 19th will be a great celebration, and I think it’s worth remembering what a groundbreaking band we were. The first kiwi band to break the longstanding taboo on clandestine Brazilian immigrants, the first to play for Bobba Fett’s solo dance party and the only band to ever outnumber the crowd at a gig in Hamilton.

    Musically, too, the band pushed boundaries, no better illustrated than in the song Energy State – our first album was called Energy State, but the track itself was never included on the album, because it was too dangerous. Its sheer funky power severely maimed several engineers during mixing and a test version of the album actually had to be removed from a flat in Waterview by a Hazardous Materials Unit from the City Council:

    one million dollars – Energy State (Unreleased)

    Apart from these tricky moments, being a member of the band was a huge privilege, certainly one of the greatest experiences of my life. Beyond the small achievements of three albums (Energy State, Soup Kitchen and Stand Up for the Shake Down), several music videos, tours around New Zealand, Vanuatu and to Sydney, it was the people who I will never forget. Musicians, engineers, flatmates, friends. They all know who they are, and the problem with a funk band is that there are so damn many of them that if I start thanking them individually I’ll leave someone important out.

    So guys, have a great night on Saturday, alongside our old friends The Hot Grits and our devil spawn The Shades. I’ll be thinking of you all, and the great times we spent together. It was worth every minute. Peace.


    Live at Fest Napuan, Port Vila, Vanuatu. October 2004

    Stopping a Goddamn Riot

    James Brown – Get Up, Get Into It, Get Involved
    From Revolution Of The Mind: Live At The Apollo Vol. 3 [Buy]

    Sunday’s Observer includes a feature by Ed Vulliamy telling the story of James Brown’s April 1968 concert at The Garden in Boston. It was the night after the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr.

    The city council decided at the last minute to televise the gig in a bid to prevent the sort of rioting that had hit many other cities across America following MLK’s death. It became a bona fide piece of pop (and American) history.

    james brown

    The article tells the full story, and it speaks to the power of James Brown at the time – not only as a performer, but as a symbol of black pride in the United States. I’ve been trying to think of any popular artists who have similar political and cultural clout today in the early 21st Century. (Any suggestions? Kanye? No, Bono does NOT count.)

    At one moment in the concert, the stage was rushed by a group of kids, eager to shake Brown’s hand. As the police moved in, Brown refused their assistance, taking control of the situation himself. The events were broadcast live to the whole of Boston, and rather than scenes of police dragging black kids offstage, Bostonians watched James Brown’s horn section calmly persuade the stage invaders to return to the audience, so the concert could resume. JB told the crowd:

    “You’re not being fair to yourselves or me either… now I asked the police to step back because I think I can get some respect from my own people. Now we together or we ain’t?”

    Now THAT’s what I call crowd control.

    There ain’t many performers, then or now, who could deliver political punch that was tight, compelling and totally funky like James Brown. Check Get Up, Get Into It, Get Involved from Brown’s July 1971 engagement at the Apollo:

    “We don’t need revolution / We got to have the Constitution”

    A manifesto that would still work today. It could be Barack‘s perfect soundbite, if ever he wants to do a Public Enemy and sample JB on the campaign trail. It’s perhaps more powerful than Yes We Can , (a sincere and well-produced idea that will help get the kids out to vote, but it still tastes like another Live Aid style celebrity love-in).


    Staying with Boston and politics, matt has written a funny piece about John McCain’s daughter’s efforts as a blogger… she managed to pick the Ramones‘ most explicitly anti-Reagan song (Bonzo Goes to Biturg) for her Super Duper Tuesday playlist. Awesome.

    Furieusement Funk

    Varius Funkus – Get on the Beat
    From S/T: [Available via email for 15.00 EUR]

    Poitiers, new capital of French Funk?

    When I was living in France in 2001, going clubbing meant stepping back to 1982. OK, this was in Mulhouse, hardly a trend-setting place, and I’ve heard the town described unfairly by other French people as “un trou“.

    The uncontested hit du moment was Tomber la Chemise by Zebda – involving a lot of waving your shirts in the air at 2am. It’s a good thing that the song never made it to the anglo-saxon world and that nobody in 2001 had cameras in their cellphones.

    Mulhouse – not the capital of French funk. But a nice town when you get to know it.

    These experiences left the impression that fever for disco froth never quite died out in France. Indeed, discothèque is a French word. The ‘French touch‘ electronica that gained global prominence around the turn of the 21st Century reflected this continued fascination, and was exemplified of course by the success of Daft Punk. When their single One More Time came out in 2001, a provincial French city was surely the song’s true native context.


    Varius Funkus is a band that proudly continues the funky theme in French pop. They hail from the unlikely city of Poitiers (famous previously for its university and the Futuroscope theme park), and offer a fine line in funk inspired by Parliament-Funkadelic and Bootsy’s Rubber Band.

    The groups is led by guitarist/singer Cédric Morisseau, drummer Gwenael Drapeau and Manuel Gablain, a polymath trumpeter of some considerable talent. Varius Funkus is party music, it’s “on the one”, and their 12 track debut album Varius Funkus is so indie that foreigners can only order it by email…

    Varius Funkus on myspace

    You Couldn’t Make This Up

    Some readers of this blog know that I was in a band back in New Zealand. We recorded an album, it got released in Europe in 2004. A few years later, a high school band in Hungary called “Ice Monkeys” covers one of the songs, and puts the video on Youtube. They play all the horn lines on keyboard, which is just too cool.

    It’s strange to think that somewhere in Eastern Europe, a bunch of teenagers heard our album and decided one of the songs was worth learning and putting on their set list alongside Simply Red, Lenny Kravitz and the Doobie Brothers. Globalisation, anyone?

    Here’s the original recording and video of Who You Are, for comparison – the video was filmed in Auckland, upstairs at Galatos and on Stephanie’s back lawn in Takapuna, overlooking Rangitoto.