Noisy? I guess so…

I feel like I’m slow­ly com­ing out of a dark hole. Of my own mak­ing of course.

I blog most­ly because I enjoy it  — and because it pro­vides a place where I can harm­less­ly vent and enthuse to my heart’s (and head’s) con­tent. I like it and it’s an escape to a place that is mine, even if that mine is rather pub­lic. But it’s a pub­lic me that I can con­trol and lim­it as I see fit.

I’ll nev­er write as well as my friend David Herkt has for many, many years, most­ly recent­ly on this heart­warm­ing — if con­flict­ing — essay 1, and make no claim to do so, but nei­ther am I ashamed of what I write now. I wish I could say that about then, but I’m not tempt­ed to quick-edit to hide that messy past either.

Three or so years back I start­ed obses­sive­ly push­ing for the thing that has grown into Audio­Cul­ture. Why? Well most­ly because I was increas­ing­ly aware that there was a hole, and it was a gap­ing and grow­ing hole, in the way we (New Zealand — no mat­ter where I live I am every day a New Zealan­der) as a nation have cap­tured our musi­cal past.

There are excep­tions of course — a range of essen­tial books includ­ing Nick Bollinger’s and Grant Smithies’ album col­lec­tions, Simon Sweetman’s sin­gles, Gareth Shute on Hip-hop, Gor­don Spittle’s song his­to­ry, Roger Watkins’ land­mark duo on 60s’ bands, and the two tow­er­ing works: John Dix’s sad­ly out of print Strand­ed in Par­adise and Chris Bourke’s Blue Smoke: The Lost Dawn of New Zealand Pop­u­lar Music 1918–1964 - plus sev­er­al web­sites. In the lat­ter cat­e­go­ry Peter McLennan’s Dub­Dot­Dash, Robin Gallagher’s 5000 Ways, Rob Mayes Fail­safe site, Chris Bourke’s Dis­trac­tions & Blue Smoke, Gra­ham Reid’s Else­where and Up The Punks are just a few attempt­ing to draw togeth­er the strands. Andrew Schmidt’s Mys­terex was one of the key sites but he’s tak­en it offline to work with us on Audio­Cul­ture. There is also the grand­dad­dy of all NZ music his­to­ry sites, Bruce Sergent’s 60s and 70s doc­u­ment but he’s not updat­ed it since 2002 so…

And there are oth­ers of course (includ­ing mine). How­ev­er, there was no cen­tral place to bring all this togeth­er and each one of the above has a degree of spe­cial­i­sa­tion. The idea was nev­er to sup­plant those sites and books but to add to them and pro­vide a kind of point­er back at them. We can nev­er hope to replace the defin­i­tive­ness of Dix or Bourke and make no pre­tence that we will. Rather, I hope that peo­ple use those books to dig far deep­er than we ever could on a site like Audio­Cul­ture and I know that we are no sub­sti­tute for those sites.

So three years back I began to push and very ear­ly on I brought sev­er­al key con­trib­u­tors into the mix. I talked to Mur­ray Cam­mick, who, as founder of Rip­It­Up and an aggres­sive sup­port­er of New Zealand’s musi­cal jour­ney over the decades, knows far, far more about where the bod­ies are buried, who mat­ters and who mat­ters a bit less (every­one mat­ters, of course I say to cor­rect myself a lit­tle) than any oth­er per­son alive. He’s also a fab­u­lous writer, huge­ly expe­ri­enced edi­tor and has a vast archive that is unsur­passed.

I talked to Rus­sell Brown, who was also an ear­ly advo­cate. I talked and got strong sup­port from the NZ Music Com­mis­sion. And from RIANZ, who’s CEO Chris Cad­dick was an unswerv­ing and a key ear­ly sup­port­er of Audio­Cul­ture. Brigid, my wife, who has been long suf­fer­ing (I will come home one day, I promise) gave me a name for the project. I can­vased and got sup­port from many of the peo­ple who are now writ­ing for us, in par­tic­u­lar, my long-time friend Chris Bourke. I blogged sev­er­al times and got a huge wave of pos­i­tive indus­try and music-dom noise and ideas.

Encour­aged and moti­vat­ed by all that I mapped out a site struc­ture at the end of 2010 for Audio­Cul­ture — the peo­ple, the labels and the scenes (plus a back­pages func­tion that we haven’t got to yet — draw­ing in some of the great peri­od­i­cal writ­ing) — which is pret­ty much as it is now. I then, in 2011, sat down with my friend2 Philip Kel­ly (via Skype IIRC, and then face-to-face) and with the draw­ings I’d made, explained how I thought it should look. Like Mur­ray, Philip is one of those core peo­ple who I — with any sort of reser­va­tion — just trust.

Philip took those raw ideas and ran with them, devel­op­ing them at first slow­ly and then in quick and repeat­ed bursts into what you see now on the screen, although it’s also grat­i­fy­ing to note that the end result is still recog­nis­ably those orig­i­nal draw­ings, at least in lay­out, that we start­ed with in 2011.

Thus we end­ed up in ear­ly 2012, thanks to that core group­ing of peo­ple, where we had the con­cept and the look. When NZ on Air came on board we were able to add to that a team of extra­or­di­nar­i­ly tal­ent­ed devel­op­ers (who like PK should win bloody awards) and the fund­ing. The point being, that despite the cred­it I’m being giv­en for Audio­Cul­ture, this was a mas­sive team effort.

But I ram­ble. The dark hole. That was where I start­ed up-page and what I’m now crawl­ing from I hope. I’m not claim­ing mar­tyr­dom or any­thing beyond self-pity but the very last thing I’ve want­ed to do at the end of months of count­less 15 hour days, scan­ning, trawl­ing, edit­ing and peer­ing at a screen, was to sit and stare any longer at a Word­press inter­face.

So The Opin­ion­at­ed Din­er with­ered a lit­tle. A lot actu­al­ly — saved only by a sin­gle post from me in the last six months — and a great one from Mur­ray on James Brown.

I guess I’m back, which prob­a­bly only mat­ters to me, but so be it. And I’ll close with the pic­ture — of the 2000 or so I’ve scanned in recent months — that I like the most today:

HerbsLiveZ

Show 2 foot­notes

  1. I hate the clin­i­cal word essay, but what? Sto­ry, arti­cle, piece? None suc­cess­ful­ly cap­ture what David has cre­at­ed here and most are worse — per­haps he can advise.
  2. Yes I know it’s the third time I’ve used the word but they are.

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