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Dark Days, High Nights….

So I’ve decided to start a blog. I absolutely love writing and over the last few years I have been writing what I guess is a bit of an autobiography – mainly because I want to be able to remember this crazy life that I have lived so far – and also because during many moments where I have shared my stories in whatever situation, people have suggested I write a book about it.

I guess my life as a Drum n Bass MC, working in a predominatly Male orientated industry has certainly been interesting.  There have been many moments that have helped define and shape the person I am today, moments that I know at times I have been very lucky and privileged to experience, and others that while may not have been of my choosing and hold some regret, still have helped set me on the path I am on today.

Many people are surprised when I tell them about my beginnings, my humble roots so to speak. “So how did you go from there to get here?” is a question I am most often asked. As well as “Did you ever and do you still doubt yourself?” “What have been some of the challenges you’ve faced?” “How and why did you/do you continue?” amongst many others.

So I decided, that perhaps instead of trying to release an autobiography with all its expenses and hesitations over what to actually include, and what people might actually want to read about, I decided maybe a blog would be more practical. I have gained a lot of knowledge and experiences over the years and perhaps amongst this there is some advice or wisdom that might be valuable to people who read it. However, I also just want to share stories and moments that might give a bit more of an insight to who I am as a person.. my hopes and dreams, my insecurities and fears…things I remember from my childhood…I definitely think that there will be times where this may feel more like a book that a blog, (but thats okay cos it’s my blog so I make the rules)ūüôā

There will be some things that you may find boring or irrelevant to what or who you think I am, and other things that connect with you and resonate. Whatever you get from this, whatever I get from this – we shall see. Everything in life is a bit of an experiment no?

I do want to add a bit of a disclaimer. There will be times where I change the names and descriptions of certain people, because regardless of weather or not they are painted in a positive or negative light – it is not their choice to be included in this blog and I want to respect them and their privacy. Some people you may know, some of the situations and experiences I talk about you may have also experienced, or have even been there with me. I have no doubt that my mind has been somewhat clouded by the years of travelling, drinking, drugs, and general reckless behaviour of the last 15 or so years working as a professional musician, and so sometimes there will be things I can’t quite recall, or details I may miss. I ask you to forgive me for this, I am not a robot.

What I will try to do is express myself with as much heartfelt honesty as I can. The good bits, the awful bits and lots of things in between. I hope you enjoy reading this blog/book (whatever it may be), and that in some way it helps us – fans, friends, strangers, family… Connect – just that little bit more.

Peace!

“I Would Walk 10,000 Miles For Your Love..”

“I Would Walk 10,000 Miles For Your Love..”

“I would walk 10,000 miles for your love, cos you’re my everything, in this complicated life…” ‘Conversations’ – Mutt featuring Kevin King 2010.

 

When you have no car, and no real means of public transport other than a rickety old bus that occasionally drives through your local town and onwards to the next ‘city’ there really becomes only one option for an eager young Woman with places to go: Hitchhiking.

When I lived at my brothers house in Oakura on the coast of Taranaki, I was forever hitching to get a ride into New Plymouth on Friday nights after my work at the local surf shop ‘Vertigo’ was done. New Plymouth was where the clubs, bars and my friends were, and if I wanted to go out – then I had to hitchhike to achieve this. It was only ten minutes up the road by car anyway and people were always coming through Oakura on a Friday evening so it was never difficult.

When I moved to Wellington I continued this trend by hitchhiking with my friend Johnse – firstly up to Taranaki, and then down to ‘Entrain’ which was my first real ‘New Years Festival’ that involved rave music. Entrain was situated in the beautiful surrounds of Canaan Downs, ¬†which is situated out of Nelson, a small coastal city at the top of the South Island. It was Johnse, myself and our other girlfriend Alex, and we all had our backpacks full of clothes and snacks strapped up on our backs ready to go.

Our first challenge with regards to Hitching was getting the Ferry from Wellington across the Cook Strait to Picton which is also at the top of the South Island. We had bought the cheapest tickets  Рfor foot passengers, and we were traveling late at night.

We had intended to get off the ferry and grab a ride with someone straight into Nelson and stay the night there, however what we didn’t realise is, the Ferry lets all the passengers in cars off first and then the foot passengers. So by the time we had got off the ferry and onto the street, all the cars had gone and Picton was closed up and quiet.

There was no choice for it but to find a place to sleep for the night there and then. We walked a bit towards the end of town (which took about ten minutes) and found a grassy verge. I cannot believe how hard out we were as youngsters, but we rolled out our sleeping bags, got in them and slept for a few hours on the side of the road until the sun came up and the next lot of cars from the morning ferry came passing by, honking their horns and waking us up.

It took us most of the morning to get a ride with there being three of us, and when we did get to Nelson we sat on the steps up by the gardens waiting to meet up with our other friends. Everyone arrived quite late in the day, so again we thought it best to stay in Nelson the night and head up to Entrain as early as possible in the morning. We racked our brains trying to think of where we could camp as the local camp site was a bit of a walk away. After much deliberation we decided that the best thing to do would be wait till dark and pitch our tent in The Botanical Gardens which was definitely illegal. Despite pitching it covertly behind some bushes we were nervous that someone would spot us and report us for trespassing, and so had another fitful nights sleep.

We headed up to the Entrain site early the next day with a ride easily caught just out of town, and arrived at a gorgeous site amongst the trees where it was dry and sunny and very hot. The rave that night was only for the one night and part of it was outdoors, some parts in some old derelict buildings.

I remember getting ready to head into the festival site and seeing people walking around amongst the tents holding signs saying ‘Acid wanted’ which made me laugh at their brazen attitude. Music was pumping out of the parked up cars and there was a general vibe of anticipation in the air.wysiwyg_full_Entrain_camp

The camp ground/ parking area at Entrain Festival – New Zealand, New Years 1996/1997

The idea and the vibe of the festival was certainly cool and had the right idea – but despite it being different from anything I had experienced before – I didn’t find myself all that into it. The music was mostly Trance and Happy Hardcore which wasn’t exactly ‘me’. The site felt too small and music clashes between ‘zones’ were inevitable. Overall though, we had a fun night, and the next day was spent sheltering from the sun in the tent and trying to get some sleep as we were exhausted from our travels and from dancing all night.

When we eventually left to hitch back to Picton, Johnse and I headed off seperately from the others so as to ensure a quicker ride. We were so tired and hungry, dusty and hot when we got there that we booked ourselves into the closest B&B we could find and bought a hot pie from the bakery next door for dinner. A hot shower plus a soft bed felt like heaven to my body that had been sleeping rough the last three nights!

Not long after this, I travelled by bus with some friends from Taranaki up to ‘The Big Day Out’ music festival held at Western Springs Auckland. Myself, Carey, Karlie, Natalie and Rachael all had our favourite acts playing that we were desperate to see, bands such as Rage Against The Machine, Shihad, Porno for Pyros, Elastica and Tricky. All mentioned were absolute highlights and Tricky especially whose album ‘Maxinquaye’ had a huge influence on me. I remember Martine who sang with the band performed with her back to the audience the entire time, and during the festival there was a massive downpour of rain that soaked us through to our skin and turned the mosh pit into a mud bath.

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Karlie, Me, Rachael and Natalie after being caught in the rainstorm during the Big Day Out. (Photo by Carey) 19 – 1 – 1996

While I didn’t hitch to this particular BDO, after I moved to Christchurch at the end of January my love of hitch hiking continued throughout the South Island. At the end of my first year at NASDA myself and my flat mate Julie hitched down to Queenstown with only $50.00 between us. We relied on the goodness of strangers who often offered us food and who recommended good spots to pitch our tent for the night. We mostly avoided campsites as they cost money and tried to pitch our tent covertly in places off to the side of the road, in amongst trees where it was both free but illegal to camp.

As it was the end of November we expected the weather to be warm and compliant but instead it was still pretty cold. In Wanaka we hung out in the library for a few hours where it was warm out of the wind, and got ourselves fish and chips for dinner. Then we walked for half an hour around the lake to find a spot to pitch our tent amongst the trees behind some upturned row boats. In the night we were woken by gale force winds and freezing rain that caused our tent to leak and filled our ground sheet with water. We spent ages using a saucepan we had bought to pail the water out of the tent. Needless to say it was a terrible nights sleep, and the next day when the sun finally came out – there was a dusting of late spring snow on the mountains surrounding us!

When we went to Queenstown we were picked up by a man who we entertained with our stories of hitch hiking down from Christchurch. He was both impressed and kinda mortified that we would make such a long journey with only $50.00. When we asked him to just drop us off by some trees where we thought we could camp the night – he refused. Instead he insisted on driving us to the local campsite, paying for a site that included hot showers and giving us $20.00 towards our dinner. We were incredibly grateful and spent the money on beers and pizza that night in a rather quiet Queenstown.

Come New Years we again loaded up our backpacks and this time hitched up to ‘The Gathering’ – the first proper two day music festival celebrating all aspects of rave culture, that New Zealand had ever had. It was also touted as being alcohol free. I had a boyfriend at the time – Sam, who¬†was tall, and confident but quietly spoken with blue eyes and a shaved head of strawberry blonde hair. Originally from Auckland he lived in Lyttleton, the quaint little port town over the hills on the other side of Christchurch.¬†Sam loved The Wu Tang Clan (and Neil Diamond! lol) and made sure I got to know all their names, and played me their tunes every day. Lucky for him I loved Wu Tang! We would bump those tunes loud into the night, hanging out in his wee house on the hill overlooking the pretty port town.

I adored Sam and Him me, but if there was area where we didn’t meet eye to eye it was with regard to Raving. Sam didn’t really like the music and had no desire to go to raves with me, and though sometimes I missed his company – really, it suited me fine. I loved being with my girlfriends and getting ready to go out, and raving all night on the dance floor working up a sweat. Having never being used to having a permanent relationship I was perfectly happy going my own way anyway – something that has always been a part of my personality ¬†– even now. So I left Sam back in Christchurch and off Julie and I went on our merry way.

We were lucky enough to catch one ride from Christchurch all the way up to Takaka, the same region that Entrain had been in – but a different location, in Canaan Downs – right up on the top of a hill above Motueka. As we approached the bottom of said hill, we could already see the sun glinting off the bonnets of cars that were queuing to enter. “Woah… is that the line to get in?” We shaded our eyes from the hot afternoon sun to get a better look, and before long we too were sitting in a long line of cars waiting to drive into the one entrance – a narrow, winding, gravel road that stretched for about 12km. People stood on the side of the road sharing beers and cigarettes, playing hacky sack and pumping tunes in the warm summer sun.

Once we arrived we met up with our friends, pitched up our tent and set about exploring the site.  Set out over a dry dusty farm up in the hills, surrounded by Kauri trees, it was a beautiful area, but you had to be careful of the sink holes. They were all over the place and cordoned off so no one could camp near them. (The biggest sink hole of all there is called Harwoods hole and is about a 25 minute walk down through the trees along a path from the site. It has a drop of 200m down and is 15m in diameter and is considered an abseilers paradise). There were several large tents scattered around the festival site decorated according to their different genre of music, and one big white tent in which people could purchase food, beverages, and sit and eat out of the sun. Amongst all of this were art installations that people had obviously spent hours working on and setting up, and there were people from the crew walking (or four wheel driving) around with walkie talkies constantly crackling as anticipation for the first night there grew.

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The ‘Trance’ zone at The Gathering, Takaka 1996 – 1997

Needless to say we had an awesome time, checking out everything from Harcore and Tribal to Early DnB and Dub, Trance, Techno, House and more. During the day ambient tunes drifted across the camp ground, and into the evening when the sun went down, the fairy lights and glowing decorations hanging in ultra violet light from the trees, lit up the site. When it came to heralding in the New Year with 4,000 other revellers – we were beyond excited. It felt like this festival was truely something special and I was grateful to be a part of it! At the very end of the festival as the summer sun beat down on us all, the various zones stopped playing music and everyone came together in the outdoor Trance arena and danced in unison while festival promoters sprayed hoses of water into the hot and happy crowd.

After two amazing days, we headed back to Christchurch on the 2nd and again I was only back in my little loft room in Highpara for a few days before my desire to follow the music took over my life again. Sam decided he was keen for us to check out The Big Day Out so we¬†hitch hiked up to Wellington where we stayed the night with one of his friends. We then caught a bus via Taranaki so my parents could finally meet Sam and we picked up Carey along the way who was super keen to attend the festival again. We hitched our way to Auckland and stayed at Sam’s parents house.

The Big Day Out that year included Soundgarden and The Offspring who were definitely epic to watch and who Sam had been especially keen to check. For me, it was all about The Prodigy, the hottest new Electronic act in the world. Carey and I jumped around like crazy (me losing my beloved Beastie Boys top in the mud in the process) and even Sam started to see the appeal half way through the set, due to the dynamic performance of Keith the lead singer, who mesmerised the entire crowd.

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Keith from The Prodigy telling the crowd what for at The Big Day Out, January 1997

Afterwards, we chilled out in the bleachers and smoked some weed while we watched Nick Cave from afar, the crowd a sprawling mess of heaving bodies in the mosh pit below us. At the end of the weekend, we said goodbye and a “See you soon!” to Carey as she was moving down to Christchurch that year, to attend Broadcasting school. So Sam and I headed back out on the road down the Island to Christchurch. I remember it being an especially long and tiresome trip on the way back. I had my period and no painkillers so was in a tonne of pain, the Ferry ride seemed to go on forever and we got stuck in Blenheim for about three hours towards the end of the day. We eventually made it back to Christchurch by about 9pm and fell into bed exhausted, and relieved to be home.

As you can see, back in the 90’s hitching was the only affordable way for most of us to get around New Zealand if you didn’t have a car or drive. Even though New Zealand is geographically bigger than the UK, we would think nothing of taking a mini bus five hours here, or hitching 9 hours there. Flying just wasn’t an option due to budgets, and to be honest, some of the best sights of New Zealand I’ve seen have been while on the road waiting for a ride. That’s not to say it didn’t have its moments where I thought ‘What the hell am I doing?’ and it certainly made me grateful later on when I got my license and eventually my own car!

Back in my flat in Highpara and reunited with the girls, Donna announced that she would like to move in with her boyfriend Greg, and as it went – Julie and I had grown tired of not having proper bedrooms with windows and fresh air.

We set about looking for another flat nearby and found an old period property on Worcester Street, a creaky, wonky wooden house with a tiny kitchen and a dark lounge, and apart from my bedroom, lots of weird shaped bedrooms.¬†It probably wasn’t the most brilliant idea moving in there, there were five bedrooms to be filled and we had to find the other people to fill the rooms straight away but we were desperate for a place to live so I went ahead and signed the lease anyway.

We got talking to some people at Java and it turned out that Ky who worked there needed a place to live and was up for taking on one of the rooms. We found another two flat mates in the shape of Simon and Blair, and as Carey was coming down to Chistchurch to go to broadcasting school and needed a home, it made sense that she move in with us too.

It was actually a very happy little house in a lot of ways, everyone got on (for the most part) and we had some great times out partying at house parties and of course ¬†– raving on the weekends in true Christchurch style.ūüôā

 

 

 

New Beginnings…

New Beginnings…

Each new hour, holds new chances, for new beginnings…” (Horizons – LTJ Bukem)

I landed in Christchurch on the 3rd of February on a beautiful hot sunny summers day, and my second cousins were there to greet me.

I spent the next couple of weeks hanging out with them, swimming, sightseeing and getting to know Christchurch, all before I would begin my first term at NASDA – The National Academy Of Singing and Dramatic Art, a school in which only 12 people per year were accepted. The YMCA where I was staying seemed cool enough, full of lots of different characters. My room-mate Julie was very pretty, super friendly and also a Christian. While she was fun, and open and very kind, ¬†It seemed she was fighting a never ending battle with her good and bad ‘Angels’. We spent many nights going out discovering the nightlife of Christchurch, trying to find clubs where we could dance til the early hours, meet boys and drink. Julie sometimes would just throw her Christianity out the window for the night and get plastered, kiss a bunch of boys and be sick in the street on the way home.

It used to bemuse me the way God was so prevalent in her life yet she ignored him when she fancied. At the same time, she spoke about God with such a conviction that it was hard not to admire the strength of her faith and absolute certainty of his existence. Overall, she was a good friend to me, and despite our differences, we became each other’s best mate.

While living at the hostel I also met Donna who was a vegetarian, and inspired by her knowledge and arguments surrounding vegetarianism, I began to dabble in eating less meat, and finding out more about mass animal slaughter and production. I liked that Donna had her facts clear about why she chose to be a vegetarian, and being an animal lover myself and having grown up on a farm, I could understand her choice and again -admired her conviction.

Meanwhile NASDA was an interesting development in my life. For the first day there we had been informed in our acceptance letter that we had to be precisely on time. I arrived first and waited and watched as one by one the other 11 student filtered into the room. While I was polite and said hello, I chose not to indulge in too much conversation, preferring to check everyone out and see what they were about. I had rekindled my love of skateboarding while in my second year at university and on that first day I wore my baggy boy leg shorts and skateboarding t shirt. I guess I thought I was a bit of a bad arse compared to all these clean cut girls and guys who were entering the room, but I was soon to get to know them all in some form or another, and forge some great friendships.

We were welcomed by the second years and I immediately warmed to one girl – Emmanuelle, who looked and acted a little more alternative than the rest. I also liked the vibe of Mat who was in my year. He had a completely shaved head to the skin and these bright blue eyes. Again he looked a little different to everyone else in our year, and funnily enough, Mat, Emmanuelle and I all became very close buddies.

The first year at NASDA for students is all about breaking you down, clearing away any ego and building up that blank canvas with the skills needed for the stage, television and singing performances. Or, as Emmanuelle so eloquently put it -‘Emotionally raping you’. It sounds a bit over dramatic, but then we all were. There were often arguments with various tutors asking us to take off our jewellery, wear less makeup or dress more appropriately for class. But it was such a contradiction for young adults, trying to find out who they were and how we wished to be perceived, and often using the way we dressed and presented ourselves to do so.¬†To take away the things that we felt ‘made’ us as people, often felt like we were losing ourselves. And it was a time for feeling lost, and being found. While a lot of students struggled financially (the school was expensive) and got sick in the winter, and felt pushed and strained by the demanding schedule the school gave us, we were also provided with excellent tutors and fantastic opportunities to expand our dramatic knowledge.

We learned classical singing mostly, but we also studied performance singing and muscial theatre, jazz dance, yoga, tai chi, ballet, and tap, we learned rapier and dagger skills, radio announcing, television and stage acting and how to write our own scripted performances.

We also got tickets to see some wonderful theatre, dance and even Opera. It was a time of real self discovery, all the costumes and theatrics, techniques and rules, and I definitely learned a lot in my first year in Christchurch.

But I at this time I also discovered something else that was to completely change my course of life.

Raving.

When I had been in Wellington I had had a chance to indulge a bit in a few nights of rave music and staying out dancing til the early hours, but the raves I encountered in Christchurch, took it to another level.

The first night Julie and I found something even remotely alternative to the usual mainstream music clubs we had been attending (and which I hated) was by mere accident. We were heading into town one night, I think it was a Sunday (I was probably walking Julie to an evening’s church service), and as we passed under the Bridge of Remembrance memorial, to our left we heard music coming out of a club whose door was partially open.

Drawn by the pulsating beat and shouts we could hear filtering out into the street, Julie and I approached and curiously peered inside the door. Inside a DJ was spinning some deep House and people everywhere were dancing. On the tables, behind the bar and most definitely on the dance floor.

We stepped in over the threshold and I immediately asked the guy in front of me what was going on.

He told us it was actually a closing party for that particular bar which straight away made me feel slightly gutted. If parties were like¬†this in this bar¬† – so different to all the usual drunken bullshit of the rest of the bars on ‘The strip’ – then we had truly been missing out!

When I said this to the guy he told me we should check out a place that was opening called The Licker Lounge. He said there would be DJs spinning nearly every night of the week and was definitely the place to be.

As Julie and I left the bar and headed down the street, we resolved to hit The Licker Lounge and see for ourselves.

The weekend we finally got there was actually also the official club opening party so it was packed out with people overflowing into the street and music pumping through the bar. I loved the way that everyone looked different and made a real effort to be individual with their appearance. Everyone I talked to seemed to be creative in some way, and passionate about music and dancing, and unsurprisingly The Licker Lounge became a staple in my life for the next few years.

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Another place that Julie and I became regulars at was Java, the local alternative coffee shop. It was here that I met a few of the girls who would go on to become great friends of mine. At first I stopped there for lunch with NASDA mates when we could be bothered walking that far from the college, but then Julie and I used to leave the YMCA to visit Java on week nights for a hot chocolate, Saturday mornings for breakfast, and evenings before we hit The Licker Lounge. Here we picked up flyers announcing upcoming dance parties and heard people talking about certain DJs who would be visiting town. It was my first real taste of culture that truly appealed to me – People of all backgrounds brought together with a love of dancing and positive vibes. The first couple of parties we attended were smaller gatherings in little underground spots which gave us the perfect introduction to what was to come.

Julie and I tuned into the local alternative radio station RDU to find out when the best shows were on playing the kind of music we enjoyed (‘The Breaks’ Spinning Drum n Bass, Breaks, and Jungle 7-9pm Monday nights) and as Christchurch had such a buzzing youth culture we quickly got to know who was who around town.

I met, and rapidly developed a crush for a tall shaven haired DJ/Producer who gave me some attention over a couple of months. Despite nothing ever really eventuating between us, (except him inspiring me to write a bunch of overly emotional poems and songs on the piano), one thing I did get from meeting him was an introduction to more raves where he DJ’d Breaks, and the notion of producing your own tunes. This guy had collaborated with his ex girlfriend on a bunch of Breaks tunes, and rather underwhelmed by her voice, it was the first trigger within me where I thought “I could easily do that.. I would love to sing over Electronic Music”

¬†I then started going to the local record stores and checking out whatever CDs had been put out on the personal listening stations to see what was hot. Most of it was stuff I wasn’t really into but here I met a friendly bleach blonde DJ with a massive smile called Ben Kinesis (who played on RDU 7-9pm Thursday nights) and who often gave me info about forthcoming raves, It was also¬†where I saw a flyer for a night coming up featuring a guy from the UK called Ed Rush. Back at the Y, Julie, Donna and her boyfriend and I, all decided we would go to this night, and I also invited Mat from NASDA along as through our growing friendship we had discovered a mutual love of electronic music.

We purchased a load of alcohol and spent an hour before the gig getting rather drunk. When we eventually arrived at the venue, I seem to recall I spent a lot of the gig sitting in the side-bar smoking and drinking, and when I did finally hit the dance floor, I’m ashamed to say I was so wasted I could barely dance, and hardly remember the music.

“Unimpressed” I can hear all the DnB heads saying, I missed what could have been an excellent first experience of Ed Rush, but I can tell you now, he wasn’t spinning pure DnB back then, it was when the music was still shifting and it was still more Breaks and Electro – which again I wasn’t massively into.

What I do remember most about the night is at the end, when Mat and I left and I was spinning out so badly I could barely walk.  Mat had to carry me on his back all the way back to the Y like a sack of potatoes that threatened to hit the footpath at any moment.

The lesson learnt from this night however was one with regard to drinking and raving. It is OK to drink and it is OK to dance, but being drunk and trying to dance will never give you the full appreciation of a heavy sound system and a dope tune. Needless to say I have never really been a big drinker while out raving since then.

My first flyer that I picked up that mentioned the sacred word ‘Rave’ was called ‘The Six Million Dollar Rave’ and The headliner was Mechanism – a super talented and lovely guy who was making waves within the scene for his atmosphere infused Techno.

Also on the line up was local boy Obi-Wan vs Slipmat, the same guy – but playing two types of sets. I knew him for playing Happy Harcore, but his sound was obviously evolving. Pylon, who was spinning some of the first Drum n Bass to hit town in amongst the Breaks, and Solidstate who was playing Breaks back then too.

As with Ed Rush, The Six Million Dollar Rave¬†was¬†held in the biggest, and certainly at that time – the dopest club in Christchurch – The Ministry. It was an unconventional shape – more rectangular than anything, with a long bar along one wall, and decked out in lots of steel and wood. When I first started going there they used to open both the large main room and another smaller room off to the side. On the night I went to The Six Million Dollar Rave the other room had people like Grind playing, aka Richie, who worked at Java and so who I got to know quite well, who was playing Techno, and K8 one of the only female DJ’s around at this time who played blissed out beats to chill too.

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Back in those days the raves were all genres, and we enjoyed going to check Trance and House, Breaks and Techno, sometimes there was even a bit of Hip Hop in the side room for good measure.

From this party, it suddenly seemed there were so many awesome raves not to be missed: Flux, Spellbound, Duplokit, Tremors, Karma, Metropolis… so many things happening throughout the year, not to mention the local live bands that played at places like The Jetset Lounge, or The Dux De Lux a wicked venue down near The Arts Centre, with outdoor seating and heaters in the summer months, and a delicious vegetarian restaurant and beer brewery inside. It felt like I was absorbing music left, right and centre, and I couldn’t get enough!

Around the beginning of August, tired of living at the Y, Julie, Donna and I all decided to move in together and found ourselves this weird, loft type flat in a bunch of old offices converted into apartments nicknamed HighPara, due to them being above the PARA swimming pool shop on High Street.

Donna and I had the two rooms that stood on tall beams overlooking the lounge, and Julie had the ground floor room with no windows. In fact none of us had real windows, our rooms were a sort of mezzanine type structure, and I hung a blanket over the only ‘window’ my room had so as to block out the light from the old art deco windows that looked out into an alley way, and to keep out the smell of cooking that wafted up from the tiny cupboard like kitchen.

We furnished it with retro furniture that Donna had obtained, and filled one entire wall with rave and album posters.

Somewhere along the way I met Jasmine, a beautiful pixie faced creature with a sweet temperament. I think we probably met at Java, as she dated Richie ‘Grind’. I never argued with her except when debating about life or religion, we never bored of each others company when we spent time together and if either of us needed the other¬† – we would be there. In fact this has maintained throughout the last fifteen years and I am proud to say we are still friends. Her best mate was another pretty girl named Charlotte and I used to spend time with the two of them – often taking trips out to where they kept their horses and helping muck out. I loved horses but as my sister had one when we were younger – which she grew bored of very quickly, I was never allowed one. Through Jas and Charlotte I got to indulge in my love of horses and it was another thing that bonded us, as well as our love of rave music.

Our little posse expanded as we met Sarah and Amanda, another couple of besties who were friendly and welcoming, and who were deep into their raving. Amanda lived with her Mum, Dad and sister in Lower Cashmere and always took her camera along documenting our nights out. Sarah was softly spoken and a total romantic, and was always declaring she had a new crush on the most inappropriate boy. Then one day we met M, a tall, shaven haired beauty with a strong face and huge brown eyes, full of confidence, and a cheeky smile. She quickly became tight with our crew.

Meanwhile at¬† NASDA we as first years had spent the year learning the skills of acting and singing, but never actually performing. It was only when you graduated into your second year that you finally got to put the skills to use. Those a year ahead of us acted and sang to their hearts content and we as first years made the props and sourced the costumes, and raced around trying to fulfill the demands of our second years. I remember one winter’s evening sitting in one of the little rooms at NASDA with my knees up against the heater, sewing babies faces made out of stocking and bird seed for their play ‘Minnie Dean’.

Our building stood next to the glorious Basilica church, looking out over Barbadoes street, and as I stared out the window lost in thought, the sky suddenly opened and let loose a whirling, swirling, dusting of snowflakes.

Having never seen snow fall in a city in this way, I raced to the window squealing in delight, my nose pressed against the cold pane as the streets became lost under more and more snow, thinking to myself ‘I have to walk home in that!”.

When I finished sewing around 10.p.m, the snow had stopped falling and as I trudged through the city towards home, I marveled at the way all the old historic buildings of Christchurch glistened silently under its chilly blanket.

Even in winter we all attended dance parties, some of them up in the port hills near The Sign of the Bellbird, some out in the passes between the mountains, one perched on the edge of a still, serene lake. I never failed to be stunned by the beauty of my country and its incredible scenery in all seasons.

Christchurch in particular as a city was very beautiful. As Spring returned in October, all along the River Avon blossoms hung their heavily laden heads, as people punted in boats on the water. NASDA was getting preparations ready for its last performance of the year, a double play with a set that rotated, the first being Trojan Woman with the floor entirely covered in sand and Happy End, a musical number. It was held at The prestigious Court Theatre and so we spent most of our last days of the school year surrounded by the beautiful old architecture of the Arts Centre where the theatre was based.

I decided as an end of year treat to myself I would get my tongue pierced and as Mat already had his done and I liked the way it looked, I followed in his example and went through the very painful and uncomfortable process. Little did I know it would mean not being able to talk properly for about four days and eating only soup and ice cream! I could tell our tutors Elizabeth and Luisa were unimpressed by what I had done – but I didn’t care, school was nearly over and I couldn’t wait to get the hell out of there for the summer! The Second year students graduated on the 1st of November and on the 3rd we packed out the set of Happy End, said our goodbyes and left NASDA until the following year.

When I had lived in Wellington, if it had been the end of the year I would have headed straight home to Taranaki to get away from the city and my flat. But by this time I was fully and utterly in love with Christchurch and I didn’t plan on going home until Christmas.

I had a great bunch of friends, loads of summer parties to look forward to, and Christchurch in the summer is a gorgeous place to be – surrounded by the golden colored Port Hills, with all its secret emerald bays to swim in. If I was going to stay I knew I would need a job though, so I half heartedly went to Student job search to register, even though I already had my summer of dance parties planned out starting with that month of November – ‘Chemistry’, ‘Gravity’, ‘Karma’…however the big one that everyone was talking about was a brand new New Year’s Eve festival that was going to be held up in Takaka – the same area where I had attended Entrain, but in a new location. I had seen the stickers and flyers around town and the hype was real.

‘The Gathering’ was a dance party that would go on to define dance and rave culture in New Zealand, and indeed be the paving stone for the infamous ‘New Zealand New Years Eve Festival’. When I boarded the plane home to Taranaki for Christmas, all I could think about was returning for it a few weeks later.

“I need…. pressure release”…

“I need…. pressure release”…

“I need, pressure release….”

(‘Pressure Release’ – Tali – ‘Lyric On My Lip’ – Full Cycle Records 2004)

Touring is something that can definitely bring out the best and the worst in people’s personalities. Long periods on the road combined with little sleep, late nights and a diversion from your usual diet or exercise routines (if you have one) usually results in exhaustion and sickness. Many high profile artists – (while also having to travel long distances and play to rigorous touring schedules), have the luxury of travelling business or first class on a plane, or are on a tour bus with a few home comforts. Managers will schedule their day for them, some have personal chefs and trainers, and they will get to stay in nice hotels with clean sheets and hot water.

Others have to take the long road – hiring a car or van, often creating their own hectic tour schedules and trying to stick to them – meaning someone from the band driving and having the pressure of negotiating foreign cities or countries, on very little sleep. Sometimes the lack of budget means staying with friends, or in accommodation provided for by the promoter – which can range from a hostel in the middle of nowhere to sleeping in a smoky old room above the venue. Sometimes you are lucky and get fed by the venue or promoter, and sometimes you have to scour towns in the wee small hours for something that is open with edible food.

I understand all this because I have been there. I have seen both sides of touring and been put in situations ranging from highly stressful which involved serious problem solving to times when I have never felt so fortunate and grateful.

Back when I was signed to Full Cycle Records and my record ‘Lyric On My Lip’ was released, there was a crew of 14 of us that travelled throughout England and Europe on a huge tour bus as myself and Roni Size performed live. It was something I had always dreamed of, and I still think back fondly to times of waking in my little coffin like bunk bed and looking out my port window wondering where in Europe we were. I remember at one point as we drove over the alps into Switzerland the bus stopped at a gas station high in the mountains. Myself and Zaniah (who was my backing singer and also one of my best friends) crawled out of our bunks and still in our pyjamas and slippers ¬†– crept past our sleeping band mates and headed into the service station to stock up on snacks and water. The bus driver took a photo of us that I think Zaniah has somewhere ¬†– us posing in our PJs with the mountains towering in the background.

Another time we stopped in Brighton UK and it was one of our crews (Dynamite’s) birthdays. In the limited time we had, Myself, Zaniah and my other backing singer Hollie G ran to the local supermarket to try find him something that would suffice as a present. We grabbed a Jim Beam gift pack and the game ‘Operation’. A few days later as we wound through the Scottish Highlands, we drank the Whiskey and attempted to pull plastic parts out of the game without the warning noise going off. Considering the hectic roads we were taking and the shots we were downing this was no mean feat and resulted in a lot of laughter and staggering about the tour bus lounge trying to stay on our feet.

When there is so many of you crammed into a space it is important to be respectful of each other’s privacy and it also helps to know the personalities you are dealing with. Some people prefer peace and quiet which can be difficult if there are others who are used to attention and constant chaos! You need to have a good playlist of music and countless DVDs that can be watched. I got through about three books on tour and ear plugs proved to be an absolute essential. Not having to worry about navigation or timekeeping (except when we had some ‘free time’ to explore whatever city we were in and had to be back at the bus before it left without us), took a lot of pressure off us all – but sleep was still a treasure to be obtained whenever and wherever we could.

I remember one episode where the bus boarded the ferry to cross the English Channel with some of us still asleep on board – who didn’t hear our tour managers call to get up and leave our vehicle. (Or maybe we just ignored him cos we were so tired). I woke covered in sweat and in complete darkness as the buses air conditioning and lights had to be turned off while on board the ferry. Myself and a couple of others stumbled about in the dark trying to find shoes and clothes so we could exit the bus, gasping as we fell out into the fresh(ish) air of the ferry hold.

In complete contrast I have just finished a five day European tour with my singer/songwriter friend Georgie Fisher. Georgie organised it all for us and we travelled 3,000km’s in five days taking in Munich – Germany, Lucerne – Switzerland, Turin and Genoa in Italy, and Vagney in the hills of Eastern France. Due to her license being stolen Georgie couldn’t drive so I shared the duties with her boyfriend Wolf. Considering I have never driven on the right hand side of the road, nor have I driven a manual (stick shift) car in about 15 years, this was certainly a challenge for me. The autobahn was initially very scary as cars are allowed to drive an unlimited speed. (140km was about as fast as both myself and the old beat up Mazda we’d hired could manage), but once I’d sorted out my spatial awareness of being on the right hand side, I was well into the swing of things by the end of the second day.

Also being the only one accustomed to driving mountainous roads with steep turns it was left to me to get us up and over the Swiss Alps through the Gotthard Pass, as we drove from Lucerne to Torino. This is a legendary winding road with hairpin turns and stunning scenery from every angle. It reminded me of the Southern Alps in New Zealand and despite a few hairy moments, I thoroughly enjoyed getting us down and into the hot climes of Italy. ¬†Our accommodation on this trip consisted of staying on sofas, in hostels (Which I haven’t stayed in since 2001 when I first moved to London), and a rambling old room above the venue in Vagney France. Despite being a light sleeper, I was so exhausted after hour upon hour on the European roads I did manage to get some shut eye. However each morning we woke around 7am to get on the road as soon as possible. This combined with heat and noisy streets outside meant this usual nine hour a night sleeper was functioning on around five to six each day – and still playing shows in the evening!

A valuable piece of advice I was given years ago by my best friend is something that I carry with me throughout my daily life, and which I use as a mantra when I am on tour.

“It is not about the action ¬†– but the reaction, that will ultimately define your path in life”

In the very distant past, if something happened that was beyond my control and put me into a difficult situation I would react in a way that put me in a state of anxiety or panic. I might have become angry or emotional and this would in turn perpetuate other negative outcomes. Other people’s emotional states would profoundly affect me as well. Being a natural communicator I would feel obliged to get into the same state as them, their anxiety ¬†or anger rubbing off on me. However over the years I have learned that these outbursts of anger, or heightened states of anxiety do nothing for the situation, only serving to waste my energy further. By nature I think I am a good negotiator and the communicator in me can also mean I can be diplomatic where it matters.

Yes the situation might be highly stressful, and things might be going downhill, but now days I actually thrive on trying to solve the problem. To try to think positively that there is a way around the situation, and have faith that this moment, however crazy or tension fuelled will pass Р is a strength that I want to be able to maintain, and hopefully pass onto others.

When you are on tour you are faced with many difficult moments that require your logic or just some positive energy to be injected into the situation. Weather trying to (nicely) complain to the promoter that you are not happy with the state of your accommodation, when your car breaks down on some back road (I advise always having at least one charged phone in the car at all times for emergencies, and carry an old fashioned map if you can as Sat Nav isn’t always reliable), or when it’s 34 degrees outside, your car has no air conditioning and you are trying to navigate your way around some crazy old city with a layout that was constructed 200 years ago – how you react is¬†essential. These reactions can also be carried into every life in how you deal with your partner, boss/work colleagues, children or even random strangers.

So what is the right way to react then? You may ask.

I suggest these steps to helping maintain a positive or logical reaction.

*¬†Don’t get mad. Your ego wants you to explode and revels in you losing your shit and creating confrontation. Instead – get passively positive. For example. Last year I accidently scraped into someone with my car as I tried turning when I was in the wrong lane. Myself and the other driver parked up our cars and the guy who got out was visibly angry, his hands clenched and his mouth twisted. I could actually see the weight of his probably long and tiresome day – about to be thrown in my direction. But instead of allowing this to happen I deflected it. “I am so sorry! Are you okay? Are you hurt?” “No but you fucked my car” “I’m so sorry! It was totally my fault of course but I have insurance and this will be completely covered. All I care about right now is that you are okay and I haven’t hurt you”. This took the driver by surprise. He wanted to care about the car and the crash but by showing him I cared more about him put him on the back foot – he instantly calmed down. It transpired he¬†had had a shitty day and this just compounded it. But by speaking to him in a way that was gentle and reassuring we not exchanged insurance details but a hugūüôā

*Check yourself. Are you overreacting? Are you allowing yourself to get hyped up by others emotions or because you feel like you should? Take a deep breath and say to yourself “Okay, this is what’s happened…but now what should I do?” Try to look at the situation logically. For example – if you are lost what would be the next step? Can you ask for directions or at least try to? Can you retrace your steps or go back the way you came? (Again don’t always rely on Google maps – it pays to take a paper map and plot out your route before you take it) If there isn’t a logical solution then try to think more abstractly. Some of my most gratifying challenges have been ones where I’ve really had to think outside the box.

*Sometimes you just will¬†butt heads with people. Especially when you are in close situations you have no control over. Again try not to allow them or the situation to wind you up. I always try to talk calmly but in a way that is not condescending. (After all there is nothing worse than someone telling you to ‘Chill out’) If you are going to be spending the next two weeks travelling in a van with said person, it’s important to ask yourself is it really worth getting upset over this issue? Is this something you can raise with the person at a later date or in a different space that won’t be affecting others or the rest of your trip? Of course if it’s something that is serious and detrimental to your well being of course you have a right to get upset – but sometimes it’s just not worth sweating the small shit. It’s a waste of energy that could be used in other more positive and practical ways. Such as rockin’ out onstage!

*You have a right to the basics. By this I mean it’s not a big ask to expect that the promoter will provide you with food and beverages when you arrive after a long journey to play for them. It’s not unacceptable to expect that the bed you are provided with will have clean sheets and you will have a place to wash. It is not out of the ordinary to ask for a place in which to do your makeup and change your clothes. (although sometimes the back of a car has also sufficed) I recommend that these small things along with the standard expectations of your tech spec and discussions of how much you will get paid – be stipulated beforehand. Draw up a contract and send it to the promoter so that if there are any issues, you can refer them to the agreement you made.

*Sometimes you just have to get it out. By this I mean your sadness, anger, or frustration at the situation. Thats cool but can you do it in a more positive, practical way? If you feel stressed by driving then take small breaks when you can. Stop the car and walk into a field for a minute if its possible. When you get to your destination, can you find a spot where you can have some alone time? Not everyone has the luxury of a hotel room. So take a walk, or go to the beach, or sit in the stairwell behind the stage if it helps you have some time to clear your mind and breathe and calm yourself. Maybe try to explain to those around you that you feel a certain way (tired/PMT/homesick) and to please excuse you in advance if maybe you are having a difficult day coping. Not everyone is a mind reader, and while this shouldn’t be used as an excuse to be a shithead, it does help others understand why you might be more wound up than usual.

These are just some of the things that I do when I am on tour – many people have their different ways of coping. But before you get into the car or onto the tour bus thinking that everything is gonna be just one big fun adventure – remember to ask yourself. How will I cope if such and such happens?

Continue reading ““I need…. pressure release”…”

“Can You See What I Can See? – The Future?”

“Can you see what I can see, the future?¬†Do you feel the way I feel in this life?
Do you believe in what I believe in?¬†Time of change to set, A new feel, So –
Come to me, and take my hand, Come to me, and take my hand
Come to me, and take my hand,¬†Take my hand, we‚Äôll share the fall..”

(Roni Size, Reprazent  1997)

After I attended High school – firstly at Opunake High School and then in my final year New Plymouth Girls High School (where I received a B Bursary), I chose to go to Wellington University. After looking at the various subject options I decided I wanted to study English Literature and Theatre and Film, as there was a practical Drama paper in 3rd year I was particularly intrigued by.

There was a bit of hype around my going to University. I was the first person on the Scott family side to be accepted for – and attend university. It was definitely expected of me, so much so that I never really thought about what would happen were I to go to university and say – not like it, or do very well.

I remember my first weeks as I adjusted to this dramatically new life. I felt anxiety at wanting to fit in, the nerves of making friends in my hostel, trying not to get lost as I made my way to various lectures and tutorials around campus. Victoria and Wellington itself struck me as being very grey and concrete. The general meeting place was a communal square surrounded by the library and various other buildings, which was permeated by the smell of cigarette smoke as people collected on the steps to drink coffee and eat lunch. And there were pigeons everywhere. Fat, thin, some strong and bold, others timid and with mangled feet that we could only speculate what from. I stayed close to those people I knew from High School or were familiar with through their being from Taranaki, but I also remember spending a bit of time on my own just sitting and observing. My peers and I were instantly made aware of the hierarchy of those that were ‘second and third years’ and those of us that were freshies.

Needless to say it was a very different place from my farm up in Taranaki.

I found lectures quite boring and half the time my closest friend Sarah and I (who took a lot of the same classes) spent that time checking out boys, pouring over shops in the area, and trying to stay awake during class. I remember being so tired at one Education lecture that started very early in the morning, that I fell asleep with my head on my writing pad. I only woke when people around me started to get up at the end of class, gathering their things as I lifted my head from a pool of drool soaked paper.

It also seemed to be a lot of drinking, eating crap food, going clubbing and attending many, many parties. Other than trying out for a comedy/music performance being held by the student union (I failed to make the grade), ¬†and spending a week in the winter skiing with my cousins Phillipa and Caro at the notoriously steep Craigieburn mountain range in Christchurch, I didn’t join any drama clubs, choirs or sports teams. Someone tried to talk to me about writing for the local paper ‘Salient’ but I didn’t feel like I had enough skills.

For the first time in my life I gained weight and lost a lot of sleep, drinking nearly every night of the week and eating unhealthy food.

We went out every weekend clubbing, but to be honest I found a lot of the clubs tedious and full of rugby heads. I discovered ‘La Luna’ where they played Hip Hop and Trip Hop and a cool little Jazz club with live Jazz music. I used to part ways with my friends and go off to these places often on my own, just so I could listen to some decent music. It didn’t matter that ‘Everyone’ was going to St Johns – a huge mainstream club down by the water, I would rather be down Cuba street hanging in Cuba Cuba listening to a DJ spin some alternative sounds.

However, my main problem with this time in my life was that I struggled to know who I was at Uni or what it was I really wanted to do with my life. When you are surrounded by so many different people going to classes and socialising with them all, it can make life all the more confusing. I might like different music to my friends, but I still liked my friends! I might not like certain people in my social circle but you just had to roll with it because you saw them almost every day.

My friends and I attended a few live shows while in Wellington, The Beastie Boys were a particular highlight, touring their Ill Communication album which is still a stock favourite. I saw The Violent Femmes whom I had loved since High School. It was also a show I got beaten up at afterwards when some homies who were loitering on the street heard me singing some of the songs from the concert and decided to poke fun at me. Me being a loud mouth and rather quick to retort hit back at them with some choice words which needless to say they did not like.

I attended my much loved Pearl Jam – when my friend Suzanne and I took a car ride up to Auckland with a complete stranger, paying him petrol money and having a slight car crash just before we reached the city! We got there though and crowd surfed our little socks off, even going back the following night to see them from the back of the theatre to take in the whole musical ‘experience’. The big one of course was ‘The Big Day Out’, which happened every summer and took in a whole array of bands. Highlights included seeing the memorising Tricky, energetic Offspring and I will never forget – Prodigy. They had just exploded onto the scene and played the most hype set I had experienced in my life at that stage with the entire crowd losing their shit.

As my first year at uni finished I went back to Taranaki to see my friends and family. I spent a good few weeks hanging out with my school friend Carey up in New Plymouth who had been studying radio broadcasting and was DJing on a great new local station ‘The Most FM’, playing brilliant alternative music every day.

I tired to get a job waitressing and stayed with my Aunty Rosemary and Uncle Frank in New Plymouth, but nothing took off. I couldn’t really be bothered trying too hard if I’m honest, as I was young and out to party and have a good time.

In my second year in Wellington I lived with three guys who were nice enough but untidy and rather geeky. They thought I was cool – which shows just how geeky they were! They were also all older than me, but as one of them drove a car, it meant we could do things like take off for the weekend to go skiing up Mount Ruapehu.

I would definitely define my second year at Uni through the amount of weed I smoked and the music I got into. During High School I had never smoked weed, it was more about drinking and developing a taste for Marlborough Lights cigarettes. But Uni was  a time for experimenting so it seemed better late than never to give the green a chance.

I discovered Tricky and Radiohead, Blur and obviously Portishead. I still loved my Hip Hop, but being the mid 90’s it was all about Brit pop and Trip Hop for me. My good friend Johnse and I went and saw Massive Attack live down at the docks (which was amazing), then hit our favourite late night club Tatou. This was one haunt where I felt comfortable. The music was almost all dance music, (Shouts out to Clinton Smiley!) and I loved the big long red velvet curtains you passed through to get in, the fact the crowd was a lot older, dressed alternatively, and the club stayed open till 6.a.m.

There were never any rugby heads or preppy kids in there. It was all alternative, edgy people with no agenda other than to dance the night away to good music. I had always loved experimenting with fashion and in my second year at University ‘Grunge’ was huge. I had two pairs of Doc Martens – first a bottle green that my Mum ordered for me from the UK, then I got a cherry red pair. We all wore beanies and had dark red lips, chokers and long satin skirts with oversized denim jackets. I look at my wardrobe currently and have to ¬†laugh – 90s fashion is in at the moment and my wardrobe definitely has some versions of those very things in there – albeit updated versions!

I would say overall that while University was fun, I never really felt like I belonged. This is probably due to the fact that at that stage in my life, there was a constant pressure from family, teachers, peers, to know what you want to do with your life – and unlike my classmates – I just didn’t know. Looking back, while there were certain aspects of the whole experience that I did enjoy – it probably was a bit of a waste of time for me. I went because I felt like I should, but I honesty don’t think that I was mature enough to appreciate the knowledge I was being offered… or perhaps it was being offered in a way that I just didn’t relate to.

I remember walking out of a Philosophy class feeling a deep sense of panic that I couldn’t comprehend the themes that were being discussed there on the first day. I decided to change to a different subject immediately. I also recall sitting in a film tutorial feeling rather small and naive after expressing confusion at not being able to ‘see’ the overall concept that the film was supposed to embody. People literally laughed at me. I felt frustrated and angry that in one respect I was encouraged to have an opinion, but then was laughed at because it was a much simpler one to those around me.

What I would like to go on record saying now and that I hope I remember should I ever have children, is that in your late teens, or throughout your 20’s it is completely okay to not know what you want to do with your life. Hell some people spend years of their adult life changing their direction trying to find something that ‘fits’ and still don’t!

University used to be about gaining qualifications for a job, but these days – unless you are going for a job as a doctor or lawyer, or something that requires many years of dedicated study, you can come out of it and still be unable to find a job, or a direction to go in.

We put so much pressure on young people to have this sort of clear definitive path set out for their future that it can create a lot of confusion and anxiety. Again in hindsight (isn’t it a wonderful thing) I probably should have looked at taking a music paper, or gone travelling, or applied straight for a Drama school. Music was such an intrinsic part of me it seems strange this was not a path I thought to take.. But again – the idea of not going to University was never offered to me.

I feel that when you are a teenager, life should still be about having fun and not growing up too fast. You are essentially still a child. Your 20’s are more likely to be the time in your life when you have the experience and courage to try new things and be open to new challenges.¬†You are more likely to go through your 20’s carving out your future and finding out what your strengths and weaknesses are than when you are a teenager – simply because you are in a better position to!

Its okay to not want to go to college or University, its okay to try many different things before you settle on something, as long as you give it a go and give it your all each time.

I think it was obvious to my parents that University wasn’t offering me what I really wanted in life – and that was to play upon my strengths in Drama and Music, and to be somewhere where this was the main focus.

Luckily for me, a new door was opened when I (unintentionally) failed the papers needed to get me into my 3rd year and into the performance class I had been intrigued by right from the start. While I was devastated at the time, I quickly realised that everything happens for a reason, and my path was about to alter.

It was my second summer home from Uni. I was working at ‘Vertigo’ the surf store in Oakura, living with my brother Craig and his girlfriend and spending my evenings surfing and playing touch rugby. While visiting my parents, Mum and I sat down and talked about the idea of me auditioning for some drama schools.¬†We picked out the three key schools in the country, UniTech in Auckland, Toi Whakaarei in Wellington and NASDA in Christchurch.

While the side of me that was comfortable with where I lived and with my current friends- hoped I might get into Toi Whakaarei due to it being in Wellington, I was also open to the idea of living in a whole new location. I have always been this way.

Back when I was a little kid there was an exodus of students from Awatuna Primary to other schools around the district due to a terrible head teacher with some seriously questionable teaching methods. A lot of my friends chose to go together to the school of Riverlea, but I chose to go on my own to Te Kiri. It was the same for my final year in High School when I chose to leave Opunake High (which had a strong sport focus) – for New Plymouth Girls which had a fantastic Arts and Music department. I liked the idea of starting again as there is something wonderfully exciting about beginning anew, a chance to put behind past insecurities created by old relationships or enemies, A chance to see your life with a fresh perspective. Plus I get bored with the same view all the time.. This is probably why I have never lived in one city for longer than five years!

So, despite not having a Drama coach, I picked out two audition pieces and a couple of songs, and Mum and I set about driving around the country to audition for my three chosen schools, as each application to audition was accepted.

The audition for NASDA in Christchurch was held in the holidays in a hall in the town of Palmerston North. I had a couple of old school friends living there, and stupidly spent the night before my audition getting off my face drinking at a club and smoking cigarettes.¬† I stayed the night with some hot guy I’d had a fling with before at Uni, and when my Mum came to pick me up, (I had made her stay in a motel – yes I know ¬†– I am a terrible child) I was in such a rush I didn’t even have time to shower! Still, It didn’t seem to affect my audition too much as I received the news that I had been accepted! Suddenly the reality of leaving university was upon me, and should I choose to go to Christchurch, I would be living not just in a whole new city but a different island! I would be a long way from my family now.

Though I was nervous I was also incredibly thrilled. Finally I would be living out my dream to go to a school where everyone was into acting and dance and music, my own ‘Fame’ fantasy realised. I had an opportunity to live in a new city and despite knowing no one (bar my second cousins who lived there) – the song my heart was singing was one that for the first time in a long time – sounded completely in tune to me.

 

“If I Wasn’t Open To The Sound Around Me”

“If I Wasn’t Open To The Sound Around Me”

“If I wasn’t open to the sound around me, I would never get to where I know I should be, Maybe you could come and get to know me… Cos here’s what you might find..” ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬†(“Dark Days” – Tali – Audioporn Records 2011)

My siblings were the focus of my intense admiration growing up, and I was particularly close to Craig the eldest.¬†We would play together quite happily, despite there being almost nine years between us. (Yes I was an accident, the best mistake my parents ever made btw haha). Over the years he and I have also always shared and had lengthy discussions about music. Craig has always had an extensive and eclectic music collection. When I was very young he introduced me to some of the music he was into – Dire Straits, The Cars, Chris Rea… (I remember ‘Money For Nothing’ being huge in our house) I liked it, but nothing really stuck with me – most of it was Male led music.

Warrick was at the age of being ‘cool’ so I wasn’t really too much of an issue to him, or him to me and he listened to a lot of heavier rock. I did really like Midnight Oil which I heard through Warrick though, ‘Beds are Burning’ is still an exceptional political track.

Marnie and I had a long standing love/hate relationship. However we both loved music and through this our sisterhood would at times seem more like a friendship (much to my delight). We would listen to Wham! and dance around the room pretending they were our boyfriends, (obviously she always had George and I ended up with Andrew) and sing at the tops of our voices into our hairbrushes. As little girls we idolised Madonna and Cindi Lauper, were both confused and in awe of Boy George, got emotional listening to Sade and Tracey Chapman, and were spurred into frenzied dance moves by Jody Watley, Prince and Michael Jackson. I remember as Marnie was a bit older than me and started high school a few years before I did, her music taste also evolved into appreciating early 90s’s UK music such as Rebel MC, Snap and later Soul II Soul. As I approached my early teens I became obsessed with these albums myself – sometimes stealing the tapes from out of her room to take to school on the bus and listen to on my walkman.

I remember when I was little, about 7 or 8 years old, my parents used to take my brothers into Hawera to play hockey. It was always boring for me and so sometimes they would leave me to play at their family friends the Kelsons. Mrs Kelson, or Glynss as I called her, was well into her music. She would let me pull out the records from her precious record collection – Duran Duran , OMD and The Pet Shop Boys (all bands Marnie also was very much into) and I would sing along to my favourite songs. However I distinctly remember one day her pulling out Grace Jones’ album ‘Night Clubbing’.

“Look at this one” she said placing the cover into my lap. “What do you think of this?”

I looked at Grace Jones’ image, my young mind taking it all in. She seemed both masculine yet feminine at the same time – the cigarette dangling from her mouth, her liquorice skin glistening, partially exposed by her open jacket. I believe Grace was probably the first image of a Black Woman I had ever seen.

“Wow she’s so….black!” I remember my little voice saying in awe.

“Yes she is very black” Glynss replied in agreement, “And isn’t she beautiful? I love this image because she looks so powerful. She is a really incredible performer too and she has an amazing voice that sings amazing songs.”

I looked back down at the image and this time I saw what Glynss had described. A strong, fierce looking Woman with eyes holding secrets that could only be discovered through listening to her songs. She was sexy and beautiful and masculine all at once, and I remember feeling very wowed by her image. Later when I listened to her voice on the record I felt the same emotion again. To this day I am a huge Grace Jones fan and inspired by both her voice and her performances.

¬† ¬†Marnie and I shared a room until she turned twelve when the old nursery room was converted into her room. She had to walk through my room to get to hers though, which used to pissed me off, especially when it always sounded like good fun was coming from in there that I wasn’t allowed to be a part of. When Marnie had friends over, I became nothing more than an annoyance. Doors were slammed in my face and though I put notes under the door begging to be allowed into play, she very rarely relented.

However sometimes Marnie and I would lie awake at night with our adjoining door open, with the radio going in my room (because I got the clearest reception) and I would turn the dial until we lost some of the static so we could tune into Energy FM the best radio station in Taranaki, broadcasting out of New Plymouth. Here is where I discovered some of my first Hip Hop music such as Young MC “Principals Office’ and ‘Bust A Move.’ Lying there in my bed listening to this young kid rapping, I was enthralled by both the lyrics and the delivery and couldn’t stop jiggling my little legs to the beat.

Marnie and I were both were keen surfers as well and loved blasting tapes in Dad’s yellow ute that Marnie was driving at the time. we’d have¬†Edie Brickell’s ‘What I Am’ on, the volume up all the way out to Opunake singing at the tops of our voices. As all the trucks and cars pulled up onto the grass where we parked and unloaded our surfboards, everyones stereos would be competing with the latest jams. The local boys were pumping ‘2 Live Crew’, We would have ‘Soul II Soul’ on repeat, someone else would have Milli Vanilli or Tone Loc on. It got us all going as we donned our wetsuits to head out into the waves.

Us kids still loved gathering around the TV – especially when it came to ‘Ready To Roll’ which was our first taste of music television. Each week we would debate over which track we thought would make it to number one, whooping with delight if it was the artist we predicted. I remember Michael Jackson spending weeks at the top spot, and later ‘Poi E’ a song sung completely in Te Reo Maori by The Patea Maori Club. We loved this track because Patea is in Taranaki so it was effectively a Taranaki track at number 1! We even learnt the song at choir, such was its popularity. Interestingly enough – there has never been another song with only Maori lyrics that has reached so many or been played on prime time radio. Kinda sad considering its our native language… (Yeah what’s up with that anyway NZ radio?? ) ‘Ready To Roll’ later became ‘RTR’ hosted by Robbie Rakete, but by then Marnie was more into ‘Radio With Pictures’ a late night music television program hosted by the uber cool Karyn Hay. I remember INXS ‘Need You Tonight’ coming on and Marnie and her friends going gaga for Michael Hutchins. As I watched this sexy young man with his long hair writhing about in front of the camera I was both afraid and completely enthralled.

As a young high school kid I got massively into my Nu Jack Swing. I loved Bobby Brown,  Colour Me Bad, Tony! Toni! Tone! and Bell Biv DeVoe, and got more and more interested in listening to Hip Hop and writing lyrics. Its funny because none of my brothers or sister ever really got into Hip Hop music, it was something that I discovered a love of on my own, partially because I loved words and making up my own rhymes, and I discovered I was especially good at freestyling. My favourite program growing up (Other than The Cosby Show) was The Fresh Prince Of Bel Air, because I loved the fact Will Smith and Jazzy Jeff were also actual musicians. Fashion and music were something that were intertwined and I was heavily influenced by the fashion I saw on music videos. Not to mention that I loved dancing! I imitated Paula Abdul, Madonna and Janet Jackson, learning the steps and pulling them out whenever we had a school disco.

In complete contrast to all this, My Mum enrolled me to first piano lessons when I was ten followed closely by singing. When I first started piano Mum and Dad managed to find an old second hand piano that had seen better days. They got a piano tuner in to try and coax something that sounded in key from out of its wobbly interior wires, but there were ivories missing from the keys and a couple of keys that had lost their voice altogether. But I didn’t care. The Piano was mine and I practiced scales and songs that I was given to learn, as well as making up my own songs.

I had basic piano lessons first with Mum’s friend Christine, who taught me how to read and play. But she also suggested I should learn classical as she taught modern. I don’t know why she felt I should play Classical, but she recommended a teacher who could teach me. Piano and eventually singing were both taught to me by ¬†Julie Cudby in Hawera. I loved my lessons with her. It all began when I was very young singing with my school and many other schools around the coast at the local choir meet in Kaponga.¬†Someone sitting next to my Mother in the audience remarked that you could hear me singing over all the other children, and in tune.¬†She suggested Mum take me to singing lessons, and as Julie could teach both singing and piano – it made sense.

 Julie was a beautiful woman with dark skin, a halo of dark shiny teased out curls and red lipstick. She wore big glasses and spoke very well and their house was a beautiful old period property. Both my Mum and I loved Julie very much. She was a wonderful teacher, firm but fair, loving and supportive.

She nourished my passion for singing by entering me in competitions where I thrived and won numerous awards year after year, and by getting me involved with the Hawera theatre, singing and dancing at various performances. To this day I credit Julie with giving me the head start in life I needed regarding singing on stage, conducting myself with professionalism, (She always made me go and congratulate the winner even if I was seething with bitterness), and that practice makes perfect.

Our drives to and from Hawera were special for Mum and I too. Often we would sit in silence, musing over our own thoughts, listening to the music Mum let me play on the tape player. Or other times I would tell Mum ideas I had for stories and songs. One being, that the big plastic wrapped bales of hay, looked like alien eggs that had been laid overnight… waiting to hatch and consume the world! Mum would laugh and encourage my imagination, always telling me I should write this stuff down.

We would stop for burgers and milkshakes on the way home, knowing that Dad would have headed to the pub already, and when we got home we would settle down together, Mum painting watercolours and drinking brandy in the kitchen with a cigarette in one hand and a paint brush in the other, me in the lounge watching Quantum Leap, MacGyver or Married with Children.

The first time I won an award for piano, Julie couldn’t quite believe that what I had been practising on all that time had still managed to make me good enough to win something. She did however, suggest to my parents that if I was to become really accomplished I would need a better piano eventually.

One day I arrived home from school to find a delivery van in the driveway. Out came a beautiful chestnut coloured piano that although was an upright, didn’t have the tall backs most uprights have, but instead a flat top with a modern, sleek fold away lid.

I loved it. I knew now that I really had to step up my game and try to be the best pianist I could be. But try as I might, and as much as I grew in my first few years in High School, my hands always remained tiny. I struggled through piano exams, and was always in tears by the end as I found them so traumatic and stressful.¬†I stretched my hands as much as I could to reach the complicated chord structures but I just found it so frustrating. That coupled with¬†these intimidating elderly gentlemen who were invited to be adjudicators, clinking their tea cups and scribbling furiously in their books with every mistake made – I often faced what I can only describe as ‘anxiety blanks’.

Even after practising my heart out on my scales and feeling relatively confident going in, I would find myself completely blanking out when asked to perform the scales, my mind becoming a quivering mess of jelly. On my final year of piano exams I remember sitting there hunched over the keyboard watching my tears fall onto the keys with my hands shaking by my sides. I couldn’t remember even the simplest of scales and I felt humiliated and upset that¬† with every scale I started I couldn’t complete it.

I came out of the room an absolute mess, leaving Julie torn between trying to console me, and ready her next student for their exam. My Mother bundled me out to the car, arm around my shoulders in comfort, but her voice softly telling me it would be alright, I think it stressed her out just as much to see me in such a state, and we were both rather surprised when I received the news I had passed!

I think the adjudicator no doubt felt sorry for me, and though I was very pleased to have passed I was also incredibly relieved when Julie announced that she had decided¬† we weren’t going to proceed with Grade 6 practical piano the following year, as the adjudicator had commented on my tiny hands being ‘incapable of reaching the demands¬† that Grade 6 will require’.

I had decided myself the previous year that I didn’t want to do anymore theory exams either. They involved sitting in a classroom in Hawera High School with a bunch of other music students, filling out the exam paper and constantly watching the clock.¬†Although I didn’t find these exams as stressful, it was difficult to concentrate on studying for both these exams as well as practical piano, Singing exams, modern dance lessons, and my school work.

Mum, Julie and I all believed it would be better to focus on my singing which I loved and excelled at in both competitions and exams. I started in at Grade 5 when I was only 12 (Julie didn’t think it was worth bothering to do the first four as I would find it too easy) and sailed right through to Grade 8 just before I turned 17.

I also rinsed the music competitions of both New Plymouth and Hawera, entering all my usual sections but also being the only competitor in the ‘Singer with own accompaniment’ and Singer with own accompanist’ sections, One was singing with another student playing the piano, the other me playing the piano rather clunkily and singing at the same time.

Because I had these two sections added to my overall tally of scores, at the prize giving ceremony (a rather pompous concert that consisted of a variation of prizewinning dancers, singers and musicians performing) I collected five cups, two scholarships and left the competitions for good at the ripe old age of 17 – donating my own named cup for whoever else was willing to take on the same categories in the future.

 

It was such a contrast – on one hand, all those hours practising and performing classical and musical theatre numbers, and on the other, listening to Hip Hop, and writing raps that I would recite and remember and later deliver to my friends when I was school. I remember one afternoon bouncing round my room with a hairbrush in one hand and a beanie on my head rapping out some lyrics over a Hip Hop beat at the top of my voice. My Mum opened the door to my room and shook her head at me saying “Don’t you think you’re a bit old to be listening to Hip Hop now darling?” I looked at her in amazement. She obviously had no idea the passion I had for lyrics and rapping and how much I felt this music and style of lyrical delivery in my soul. I felt for sure there had to be a place for it in my future!

Little did I know at that time – just how right I would be.

“We must earn our chance to shine…”

“We must earn our chance to shine…”

“In this world of mine, we must earn our chance to shine.. do what we think is best, through our courage we will pass the test… Maintain… I know what it is and I got to Maintain…” (DJ Krust featuring Morgan. Full Cycle Records)

Not only are these the lyrics to the first Drum n Bass track that truly changed my life musically, (but that’s another story); But these lyrics have always remained in my mind because they speak of having the courage to do what we think is best for us and our lives even it sometimes means going against the norm. And that being able to maintain that focus and courage, while testing ¬†– can lead to great opportunities where you can truly shine.

From a young age I have always had a gutsy attitude. Mainly I think because my parents raised us to be strong and never give up. At the same time they were and always have been very affectionate, showing lots of love, compassion and support. ¬†Growing up as I was never ‘the pretty one’ or ‘the super smart one’ in social or school situations – I learned that my strength and courage lay in other areas. My wit, my way with words and my ability to stand up for myself (and often others), even if on the inside I was hurting, or it was a difficult situation to be in.

This blog is therefore about courage, and also – opportunity.

Many times when I am doing inspirational speaking at various schools and seminars, I talk about learning to spot an opportunity, and having the courage to take it. I have found through my own experiences and through speaking with others – that there is what I call a ‘yeah – nah’ attitude that permeates our culture. While I believe that humility is a very important trait to hold, sometimes being too humble can mean that we miss taking an opportunity – because we don’t want to appear too ambitious, or appear as if we were wanting something too much.

There is also the added element of fear. The fear of looking stupid if we put ourselves forward, the fear that we may fail and be hurt/humiliated/ridiculed in the process.

There have been several key points in my life where I have had ‘Yeah/Nah’ moments. Moments where I nearly didn’t take an opportunity because of the above. But at the same time, I recognise within myself that even though I may have struggled internally for a few seconds, I almost always chose the ‘Yeah’ and went for it. Why is this? I have decided it is because I realised very early on that having the courage to say yes to things can open doors to amazing places and people, and that failure or fear of ridicule is a small price to pay for this. And also I never want to look back and regret not having at least given something a go. Quite simply – the positive outweighs the negative.

Now I understand for some people this is not an easy given. We live in a society where we are fed images and ideals that tell us to reach for the stars and be the best we can be – yet at the same time don’t tell us that sometimes reaching for the stars can involve falling on your face. Hard. What it is important though is that there are always more stars. The sky is full of them – life, is full of opportunities. Its weather or not you have the courage to take the opportunity, and the risks that go along with it.

It is like falling in love. Many of us are afraid of giving ourselves over fully to someone in case they break our heart, leave us, cheat on us, or god forbid die. But ¬†at the same time – if you don’t give yourself over fully you are missing the chance to experience love at its most amazing, soul changing level.

However, another important factor that I bring up when I speak about opportunity ¬†is learning to spot a ‘good’ opportunity, as opposed to a ‘bad’ one.

We have to remember that not everything that appears amazing and wonderful always is. It is wise to tread with some trepidation.. you wouldn’t cross a rickety old bridge if there was a sign saying not to, but what if there is no sign? What do you need to look for?

I always think the most important thing to focus on are these:

1.Is this opportunity good for my health?

And by that I mean both that of your body and your mind. There have been instances in the past where I have agreed to do something because I thought it would be good for my brand, such as playing a lot of shows with terrible travel connections in between. I ended up incredibly tired, and when I am over tired I am susceptible to anxiety. Not only this but my vocals suffer.

I didn’t know that back then of course, it was only after going through the experience that I realised the correlation between lack of sleep and anxiety. I didn’t want to turn down those shows because I wanted the exposure, the money, the experience. And while initially you may be able to handle this kind of slog and have the energy – eventually, even if it takes a few years – it wears you down.

Now days I very rarely will allow travel arrangements to be made that mean I lose a lot of sleep. I express myself very clearly to the promoter or whoever is booking me, that if I am over tired my voice will suffer, not to mention my mental state. The same goes for my performance time. I refuse to start a set after 1 am and quite frankly it’s pretty shitty if a promoter expect this of a vocalist anyway. We are not robots.

If you do decide to take an opportunity that means your health could be at risk, you need to prepare yourself for this then. Try and sleep when you can. Surround yourself with positive people who help maintain your energy. Eat well and don’t get caught up in the rock n roll vibe of going out all the time as fun as it may be. Head home early, get some quiet time, take your vitamins, do your yoga – whatever it is that helps you stayed rested.

2. Is this opportunity good for my brand?

Weather or not you want to be referred to as a brand, the minute you put something out for public consumption – music, art or literature or whatever, You are marketing yourself in a certain way and therefore becoming a brand. With the advent of social media the need to stylise our brand and curate our output is even greater.

Sometimes I have taken a gig just because I needed the money, knowing that the gig probably wasn’t going to be my vibe. And lo and behold I was right. I’ve played some shows where the whole time internally I was hating it because they weren’t my crowd, and the venue was not my kind of joint. I’m not saying that there won’t be times in your life where you think ¬†– fuck it, I just need some cash though! And that you shouldn’t do it. I don’t advise starving for the sake of art! It’s just that there has to come a point where you realise that maybe doing something for the money isn’t that beneficial to you and how you want to be perceived in the long term.

A few months back I was asked if I would like to perform at a horse racing event. The money was definitely good and while I probably could have done with it – ethically I couldn’t accept the gig because I am really not into horse racing, the way the horses are treated or the hype behind it. Plus I knew the kind of people attending said event would probably not connect to my music and my vibe. So I turned it down and I felt good about that.

If you are unsure about whether or not something is good for your brand, ask others in the industry, or people whose opinions you trust. At the end of the day though only you can determine whether or not something is good by the way it make you feel.

Lastly – Could this opportunity lead to other long term benefits?

The same way my Dad taught me to ‘look through the traffic to see what’s ahead’ while driving, I often talk about doing the same with an opportunity. While something may not make you any money, or give you instant gratification in that moment – could this opportunity lead to something else in the future that does? Are you associating with people that may be able to open doors to other avenues? While there have been some artists that I have worked with or done things for in the past who haven’t exactly been forthcoming in returning any favours when I needed them, there are others who have, and wholeheartedly ¬†too – leading to wonderful experiences that I wouldn’t otherwise have had.

Look at the opportunity in that moment and try to figure out what it is you are going to get out of it – not only then and there – but possibly in the future. This may mean playing a gig for free, or for charity, or helping someone with something that requires your skill and knowledge. It doesn’t have to be an opportunity where you reap physical or monetary rewards. Some of the best things you will gain are often those that just enrich your heart and soul, or expand your mind and ways of thinking.

Part of having the courage I talked about earlier is being able to say no to certain things and certain people as well – and not worry about people will think of you. Saying no isn’t a sign of weakness. To me it shows that you are clear and focused about who you are and what you want. ¬†The other part of it is that sometimes an opportunity you think is great may go absolutely nowhere. That’s okay too! Sometimes it’s just about the experience.¬†:)

 

 

“Back To The Old School, Back To My Roots..”

“Back To The Old School, Back To My Roots..”

“Uh, lemme see ya shake in ya boots, come back to the old school back to ya roots” (Johnny L 2005)

I grew up on a dairy farm under the shadow of a beautiful mountain called Taranaki in a little community called Awatuna. Every morning when we opened the curtains in our front room, there the mountain would be. Some days cloaked in a dusting of snow, other days bare and proud, blushing in the hazy glow of the sun as it drifted down below the horizon of the Tasman Sea. Awatuna consisted of the local primary school with two classrooms and only about 25 students, our community hall that also housed the only playcentre for miles (kindergarten), a tiny little wooden church, and the local store that stocked everything from groceries to farming implements and animal feed.

Our farm was situated on the main trunk line between the towns Eltham and Opunake. Early every morning milk tankers that visited the locals farm would come rumbling past at top speed trying to make their collections and deliveries on time. Then at around 8.a.m the local buses that collected all the children from the local communities as far east as the town of Kaponga, would come tearing along the road on their way to our closest high school in Opunake.

Our home had been built by my Grandfather and father, and was a modest white weatherboard house with a black rough tile roof.¬†Growing up I remember thick carpet in varying shades of green, 70’s patterned wallpaper and a window seat that at TV time all four of us kids would line up on.¬†There was a fluorescent strip light on the ceiling above the dining table, and a wheezing, rattling storage heater along the wall blowing out heat for the winter. Later my Dad had a Kent woodburner installed with obligatory 1980’s orange brick surrounding it.¬†Our kitchen served a dairy farm family well. Painted in green, it had large pull out bins full of flour, sugar and bread.

Each morning after milking my Dad would walk up the tanker track carrying the white plastic billy with its red lid, full of steaming, frothing milk, that he would pour straight onto my glucose covered Weetbix.

Living on the farm in Awatuna, ¬†we were a self sufficient family. We had our own vegetable garden that my Mother lovingly tended full of everything from cabbages and tomatoes to more exotic cape gooseberry bushes, a guava tree, and a large walk-in strawberry hutch.¬†Out the back of our house was what we called our orchid, although it was more of a paddock, the grass kept down by sheep, with a lemon tree, pear tree and an assortment of apple trees. There was a chicken coop with free ranging chickens that provided us with eggs, and for a short time I remember behind the milking shed we had a concrete pig Sty with two big pigs that didn’t do much more than eat and lie in the sun.

In the spring, the orchid became the romping grounds for baby lambs and calves, (some which would become pets in the lead up to school ‘calf day’), and in summer it would be converted into a cricket pitch for us kids. ¬†Mum bought boxes of peaches and peeled and bottled them all herself, and in summer we would go berry picking at a farm about half an hour from the town of Hawera. We would take empty ice cream containers and wander the farm for a couple of hours, picking Raspberries, and Boysenberries, and eating our share until it was time to take them to be weighed and paid for. Not long after my sister Marnie, or me, would be vomiting up a berry coloured mess on the side of the road. Blackberries we picked wild from the side of the road, or we would get permission from a neighbour to invade their roving bushes.

One day we had a girls day out picking. My Mum, Marnie, my Auntie Vera and Nana Harvey got on our boots and headed out to pick Blackberries down the back of our neighbours farm. We had a great day, singing and gossiping and picking away, until we got to a point where there was a ditch that needed to be crossed. Mum, Marnie and I backed up for a run up and leapt it rather easily, but my Nana was getting on a bit and there was no way she could physically make the jump.

Auntie Vera came up with the idea that she could put Nana on her back, take a run up and jump across. Back then Auntie Vera was a tall, strong, country woman herself so I guess everyone thought it was possible she could get Nana across. We watched as Auntie Vera heaved Nana up onto her back¬† and took the first tentative and very wobbly steps towards the ditch. “Careful!, don’t slip!” We called out from the other side, as Auntie Vera went to jump. However she couldn’t get the speed or leverage and instead made a sort of slow motion half step/ half leap before her knees gave way, and though she made it to the other side, she collapsed in a heap with Nana rolling off her back and half into the ditch.

We all gasped and ran to where they both lay sprawled, expecting Nana to be groaning in pain or fright. Her eyes were closed and her body was shuddering as though in tears, “Oh God, Nana are you alright?!” we cried surrounding her, But to our surprise, Nana was lying there shaking with tears of laughter!

We had a tall and very long washing line that stretched between the chicken run and one of the cooking apple trees.¬†It was propped up in the middle with a long wooden beam and we would hang a large load of washing out, prop up the beam and leave it to dry, flapping ¬†in the strong country breeze. There were times when my Mum and I would be in the car, racing along the road to get home before it rained so we could get the washing in.¬† We would see the washing in the distance jumping animatedly on the line like awkward dancers, as dark clouds gathered on the horizon. As soon as we pulled into the drive I would run out the back gate and pull down the beam (being careful the washing didn’t drag on the ground),¬† bundle it up in the wicker basket, and tear inside before the sky exhaled and the rain came down. And come down it did.

Some days it felt like it would rain and rain forever. The mountain would be practically non existent, shrouded under low cloud and drizzle. Winters there could also be incredibly frosty, every few years it would snow quite hard and we would wake to a sheet of white that stretched from our front lawn to the very top of the mountain. In contrast the summers felt long and hot, and when we weren’t camping down Opunake beach, we would cool off at our local primary school pool, or frolic in one of the freshwater rivers on our farm.

Out the back of the orchid we had a large hay barn, which in winter was piled high with bales that my brothers Craig and Warrick and their friends would spend hours in, burrowing through the hay and making gaps in the bales, converting it into their den. I was afraid of trying to follow as whenever I started to crawl in after them – the dirty heels of their gumboots disappearing into the darkness – their voices would become muffled and I would quickly become disorientated in the darkness and have to hastily crawl out backwards to the safety of the sunlight and fresh air.

In Spring however, the barn was full of new baby calves. Dad would set up the big steel circular cafeteria, and he and Mum would carry heavy steel buckets full of fresh, steaming frothy milk and pour it in. Then the calves would be let out and they would rush like eager school children at home time, pushing and shoving each other out the way to get to the rubber teats. They would still be sucking even when it was empty, milk bubbles at the side of their mouths, the whites of their eyes showing as they bent their heads lower and lower to try and get the last of the milk.

If it was sunny out, the back door of the barn would be opened and the calves would bounce out into the hay paddock dotted with daffodils. I loved watching this moment. The calves would kick and frolic into the sunshine chasing each other around till they collapsed in the warmth. I would crawl through the hay paddock pushing down the long grass making imaginary corridors and rooms, the sweet smell of crushed stalks beneath my damp knees. The calves would come and sit with me as I sang at the top of my voice, or had a conversation with myself, their greedy mouths trying to suckle at my fingers or the toes of my teat like boots.

My older brothers Craig and Warrick also built wooden platforms that they hoisted up into the tops of the macrocarpa trees and hammered bits of wood into the trunks and boughs to aid in getting up there.  Warrick built a little shack out of four by two and corrugated iron below the platform and divided into teams and often accompanied by some friends Рwith Craig the oldest up the tree, and Warrick on the ground, they would fire ammunition of seeds and cones and sometimes even shoot BB guns at one another in a mock war.

I thought my brothers to be very brave and ingenious, and wanting to be like them I can remember climbing up into the macrocarpa fort, once with my brothers help, and then trying to do it again on my own when they weren’t around. I got up there slowly and with a huge amount of determination and courage, but as I sat on the platform, the wind slowly rocking me back and forth, I realised I could not get down.¬†I tried backing down the branch but my boots kept slipping and I had to quickly scramble ¬†back up to the safety of the platform before I fell. I climbed trees a lot, I thought I was pretty apt at it, and though I had fallen before, sometimes crashing down through a series of branches and often landing hard on my back or side, I had never been seriously hurt.

This time though, I wasn’t feeling so confident that I would be alright should I hit the ground below, from up on my raft of wood -it was a long way down.¬†I sat up there in tears getting colder, until somewhere in the distance I could hear my Dad whistling as he approached the cowshed. I immediately started to cry out for him and when he yelled back in reply, and began to get closer to where I was stranded, my spirits were lifted. Dad would save me!

“How’d you get up there?” Dad shaded his eyes with his hand as he peered up into the tree.

“I climbed!” I cried, as if stating the perfectly obvious, and wiped my face with as much dignity as I could muster.

“Christ” Dad muttered under his breath pushing branches aside and scratching his head as he worked out the best way to get me down. Rather than try to climb, He came from the side of the tree, coaxing me down a weaker bendy branch that almost touched the ground as I edged along it. Then when Dad was close enough to reach out to me I jumped into his arms, where he delivered me safely to the ground.

There were often many incidents where Dad or Mum had to come to our rescue. They let us run around quite freely learning lessons the hard way, and pulling us out of various scrapes and mishaps when it was needed.¬†One of these days, Mum had gone to town and Dad was out on the farm working. My sister and I were at home by ourselves playing, and Craig and Warrick were down in their huts playing ‘wars’ with their friends.

Suddenly the back door was flung open and I heard footsteps running through the house. Curious, I picked up my Barbie Doll and passed through the hallway, stopping at the bathroom where I saw Warrick shaking and breathing hard, as he looked in the mirror trying to pick a slug gun bullet out of his own forehead with tweezers! At the time I don’t think I even fully clocked what it was he was doing, I just stared at him thinking ‘That’s weird.. What is he doing?’.

It was only when Craig and his friend Neil Holdem came rushing into the house and I heard Neil on the phone to his Mum saying “Warrick‚Äôs been shot” did I realise what had happened.

At once it seemed as if Neil’s entire family came to the rescue! His Mum screeched into the driveway in her car, His older brother came blazing in on the farm bike, and his Dad even pulled alongside the road in his tractor! Once it was established it was merely a BB gun pellet that had ricocheted off Warrick’s forehead, rather than the shot gun bullet that everyone had imagined upon hearing the news, it was down to Neil’s Mum Judy to take him to the Doctors. Not wanting to leave me at home, Judy¬†bundled me into the car as well and we headed out along the Eltham Road towards the Doctors. At that moment my Mum came driving towards us, so Judy flashed her lights and Mum stopped, heard the news and took Warrick to the Doctors herself.

I spent a lot of my childhood wandering over the farm alone, content to build dams in the river, or explore for hours on end. I was often accompanied by our family dog a Golden Retriever named Zeeko, and other than talk to him, I talked to myself. It was then that I also really discovered my singing voice. I thought it sounded like I had a strong voice, albeit a bit husky, but I wasn’t aware that I had any real ‘talent’ until I was around 10. All alone I would compose songs, experiment with rhymes, and what it sounded like to sing loudly at the top of my voice.

 I also used to climb up amongst the boughs of the Magnolia tree in our garden and whisper little poems on the wind, or sometimes even conduct imaginary interviews with myself as a future famous singer. I always felt protected and safe amongst its large pink silky petals and flaxen leaves as I could watch visitors come and go and hear my Mum on the telephone in the house, but no one would even know I was there. Camouflaged against the mottled lichen covered trunk of the tree and its ever extending branches that provided the perfect seat, I sat and dreamed of growing up, moving overseas and becoming a singer or a writer.

My parents encouraged me to sing and dance, they themselves loved music and socialising.¬†I thought Mum was very beautiful when I was growing up, as she was very fashionable and wore stylish dresses that she often made herself, and despite being a farmer’s wife always had carefully manicured nails, with long slender fingers adorned with a variety of rings.¬†I would watch her in the evening before her and Dad went out to a party or to dinner, slowly painting her nails, and combing and curling her hair into a shiny bouncy halo, before spraying her wrists and neck with whatever fragrance she had purchased the last time she and Dad went abroad.

¬†When I was in primary school I remember them going to visit Australia and Bali, Fiji, Singapore and Thailand, while us kids were farmed out to stay with various friends or family members. None of us ever went with them until the one holiday we all took to Australia to visit my Brother Warrick in Queensland, but we didn’t resent them for wanting to travel – we knew they worked hard for it.¬†Besides, they always brought us home presents, their suitcases smelling like distant foreign shores, and full of exciting treasures. Decorated masks and headpieces, fake designer t shirts, my first handheld video game, and a beautiful traditional Thai doll that sat on my dressing table for years.

They also loved to have dinner parties and throw house parties. All their local friends would line their cars up on the side of the road and things would kick off with my Dad pumping out a mixtape he had spent hours lovingly making on the old stereo, or selecting records from down in the cupboard and playing DJ. (Although with one belt driven turntable, his mixing was more stopping and starting!) Back then my parents taste in music was pretty varied. In between ABBA and Meatloaf, Hot Chocolate and Jennifer Rush, there would also be some Fleetwood Mac and The Seekers.

I can remember one particularly lively party when a conga line formed and went out the back door, around the house, across the lawn and back in the front door! Though us kids would be put to bed and expected to stay there, more often than not, we, (or maybe just me) would wake up and want to join the fun. Dancing round the lounge in my nightie, singing at the top of my voice, I would be marched back to my bed with a kiss, and a firm “Don’t get up again” –¬† But sometimes I didn’t even make it there. Mum loves to tell the story that at one particular party she found me asleep ¬†with my head pressed against¬†the speaker.

Perhaps this early exposure to house parties is why I ended up loving raving and loud music.ūüôā