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: