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) 🙂
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.
“Are you just a vision in my mind?…. Must be some explanation for feelings of this kind..”
(Solid State – Just A Vision Marcus Intalex and St Files Remix. Renegade Recordings)
1998 was a year for firsts in DnB in New Zealand, our first visit from an MC, and even more exciting to us ladies, our first visit from fellow Female Jungalists in the form of Metalheadz resident DJ’s – Kemistry and Storm. They were renowned for being the darlings of DnB scene with their sassy attitudes and tear out tune selection. Not to mention they were both gorgeous, Kemi with her short blonde dreadlocks and Storm with a sharp black bob. They were both wearing chunky Metalheadz necklaces and I loved watching them whisper in each others ears, and laugh and wave at the crowd. The entire front row was dominated by girls, as if we were at last claiming our place in DnB through the representation of these talented women, and we whooped and cheered and sang til our voices were hoarse.
At the end of their set I reached up with my flyer and asked them to sign it. Kemi wrote ‘All bad girls big up’ and Storm wrote her name with a kiss. I was so chuffed, and still to this day have the flyer amongst my collection.
After they had finished they both headed for the bathroom, and my girlfriends and I made a beeline after them, hoping to be able to say hi. When we got into the bathroom they had already been cornered by a girl who we knew could talk a donkeys ear off, and I knew if I didn’t interrupt them soon they would have to head back to the DJ booth and then back to the hotel. I grabbed Storms arm lightly.
“Hey, sorry to interrupt you but I wanted to just say something to you real quick” The two of them broke off their conversation with the other girl and turned and smiled at me with interest.
“Hey we saw you up the front loving the tunes. You know your Drum n Bass!” Storm nodded encouragingly at me.
“Yes! and I just wanted to say thank you so much because you ladies are a massive inspiration to me, to all of us girls. I really love Drum n Bass and I hope to be up there like you one day”
“You wanna be a DJ?” Storm asked me.
“Um.. maybe more like a singer? Or actually.. an MC?” I blushed saying it out loud, especially to them. It was one of the first times I had acknowledged such an idea in public – not even Joe was really aware of this ambition.
“Hey thats cooool” Kemi raised her eyebrows at me “There’s not many girls who MC”
“Yeah you should do that! We need more Women in the scene” Storm echoed her.
At that moment the doors to the bathroom opened and more girls poured in calling to each other and laughing loudly.
“We better go” Storm gave me another big smile “its a bit crowded in here. Nice to meet you girls, maybe we’ll see you up there one day!” She pointed at me as they breezed out into the club.
I was stoked. It was my first bit of encouragement, even if at that stage the vision I had of myself as a DnB MC was still just a fledgling idea.
However my life of Drum n Bass still very much centered around Joe and his aspirations and DJing. He also was flourishing with his graffiti, being employed to paint some of the shop windows in town such as Euphoria and Cheapskates. He and James Pylon were also getting more and more into the idea of creating their own promotions company, putting on the kind of parties they wanted to see happening in Christchurch.
The first thing they did was create a logo and brand name. They decided to play on the name of their Drum n Bass radio show on RDU that had started getting more of a following. And so their promotions crew became ‘Scientific’.
The first party they looked at throwing was one called ‘Spectrum’ using a state of the art lighting design and having local DJ’s spin all styles of DnB.
While they were deep in the planning of this, Two of our favorite DnB acts came to town.
Bryan G and MC Moose brought the funky, jazzy side of DnB to New Zealand. We had had a lot of tech step acts pass through, playing their more industrial, Amen break laden beats and while I enjoyed it, it wasn’t what had really stirred my passion and interest for the music. It was the vocal tunes, the soulful melodies, the kind of DnB I felt I could really dance to that got me going, and Bryan G and Moose were the first International act I can genuinely say got me losing it on the dance floor.
The set was a revelation. Hearing the tunes I had heard on the ‘One In The Jungle’ tapes finally being played through the huge Ministry sound system, confirmed for me how diverse and special the genre was. As for Moose – his loose free flowing MC style was as complimentary live as it was on the radio.. I was well and truly hooked.
The Back Garage at Juice hosted Scientific’s first party two weeks later and myself and James’s girlfriend Emma were recruited in to help, along with some other supportive friends and DJ’s such Solid State, B Line (who was then going by the name Intera), Mr Steel, Anine, Wizard, and Teo and Paulio doing door and guest list along with Emma and I. We cleaned up the space, helped hang camo nets, and Teo burned some sage to cleanse the room of any negative energy.
The lead up to the gig was definitely a headache. I felt the investment in the lighting rig seemed to be a costly and unnecessary expense but I remember James being convinced that it would give our party the extra edge it needed. We had to try and pull in as many people as possible and with ticket sales being below average, Joe and James were frantic with ideas to get more people coming. We flyered streets of parked cars and ran ads on RDU. The guys even had t shirts printed so that we were easily identified as crew at the party, and to help push the brand out in the street.
The flyer in particular is very memorable. It was the first flyer I’d ever seen that had a pin in the middle of two circular cards and as you spun the cards around, cut outs in the flyer would reveal who was playing and at what time.
When show time came, everything ran smoothly, the lighting rig with lasers was epic, the sound system booming and all the DJs represented their flavor of DnB perfectly. The only thing missing was the crowds. While there was a nice turn out it wasn’t packed as we had all hoped and I could sense the frustration from Joe that they had done so much and it didn’t seem enough. I remember Joe and I had a few arguments that week leading up to it and after. It didn’t help that my Nana Harvey passed away two days before the party.
My Nana Harvey – my Mothers Mum was a sprightly 83 when she died. It was sudden and she was found lying across her bed after having pressed her medical alert alarm. Nana Harvey was an amazing little woman. I remember her for her long grey hair down to her waist that she tied in a bun at that back of her head with two combs in the sides to hold back the strays. She lived in a little Granny flat on Domett street in Opunake and when I used to stay with her as a little girl, I would lie in the tiny, lumpy single bed with its pink bedspread that was the same bed my Mother had slept in as a girl, and listen to the distance roar of the ocean.
She had the most beautiful garden with all sorts of flowers in it from wild flowers and roses to succulents and Birds of paradise, a big black plastic barrel in which she collected rain to water her garden, and a healthy vege patch with strawberries and ruhbarb.
Her house was also full of pot plants and she had a big old piano in the hallway that all her children had learned on when they lived at the farm house in Oanui.
Nana’s cubboards were always full of treats, biscuits and scorched almonds, the freezer was stocked with ice creams and her fridge with home made lemonade. She was hard of hearing and often used to repeat herself with an ‘I Say…’ at the beginning of her sentence which us kids used to imitate, however this lack of hearing was of benefit to me when Nana had to drive me to singing lessons or to competitions. I would have the stereo up loud with my Hip Hop blaring and Nana wouldn’t bat an eyelid.
“Yak Yak Yak Yakayakaykyak” thats all this music says” she said to me one day on our way to New Plymouth “Yak Yak Yak”
I cracked up, I was pretty stoked she even let me play my music!
I remember Nana had a few battle scars she liked to show me, the top of one of her thumbs had been nipped off while she was changing the lawnmowers catcher. She also had a twisted scar all down one arm from where she had touched the moving rollers of the old mangle washing machine as a girl, and it had proceeded to pull her hand and then entire arm in crushing it as she tried to pull free. As Nana’s husband had been crippled in a tractor accident, she had had to take on a lot of chores that Grandad was unable to do, and she pushed her lawnmower herself until she was almost eighty. I admired her strength and tenacity, and though at times she tried to be strict, she was very sweet natured, always looking after us kids if my parents couldn’t, and gave us cuddles and sweets.
Now I was in the middle of mourning her death and trying to help put on our first rave as the Scientific Crew. It was little wonder that Joe and I were often stressed and took it out on each other.
When Spectrum didn’t go as successfully as planned I thought Joe might be put off. But instead this only seemed to spur him on, to think of ways to make his future parties run more cost effectively, and reach the desired audience. It wasn’t just about bringing a bangin’ party to town either, it was all about timing. At this time Christchurch was one of the best places with regards to being spoilt for choice on what to do on a night out. Especially if you were into dance music. It seemed like every week right into the weekend, one of the bars or clubs had a night on that catered to the different genres and tastes of its attendees. So putting on a party meant trying not to clash with other prominent nights especially those that were of a DnB nature, and making sure you booked well ahead if you wanted a particular venue.
Spectrum was just a taster for Scientific in terms of putting on a party. There was so much more to come yet.
“Its good times and its good vibes, as we go deeper and deeper…” (Mutated Forms ‘Blue Magic’ DJ SS remix featuring Tali – Formation Records)
Late into May came the opportunity to hear the first ever DnB DJ/MC combo to visit New Zealand. It was DJ SS and Warren G. (Yes the same name as the Hip Hop singer/rapper, but definitely not the same person!) I remember the poster, a slick blue and orange affair and every time I passed one in town I felt a leap of excitement. Finally we would get to hear what it was like to have a real ‘host’, a proper MC flowing over DnB. Though we had a few rappers in town who could hold their own, MC Green was our only real self proclaimed DnB MC but he had more of a toasting type style than straight out freestyle flow and hype. Seeing MC Warren G would be interesting to say the least.
When they arrived at The Ministry I remember feeling incredibly hyped, and I watched as they weaved their way through the packed crowd to the front, the odd raver reaching out to pat them on the back as they walked by, like a sportsman heading out into the field.
SS did not disappoint playing everything from Jungle to the current flavors and some unknown tunes as well which got everyone rubber necking. The back part behind the DJ booth where a few of those playing were usually allowed to stand, had been cleared of people so Warren could do his thing and not be bothered, and so off he went.
Us girls screamed with excitement as he called for rewinds and for the crowd to make some noise and he swung the white towel he had on round his neck round and round above his head whipping us up into a frenzy.
What I really noticed was depending on the tempo of his flow, depended on how I found myself moving. Rather than my movements just being dictated to by the beats, I was dancing to his rhythm and syncopation of words. It made everything feel so much more rhythmical. Im not too sure how blown away I was by what he was MCing about, In fact I probably didn’t even notice, I just remember the huge grin I had plastered on my face watching him command that crowd.
I thought to myself “Imagine if I could do that… I would love to do that!” Reading through the DnB magazines I hardly ever saw any Female representation, and while there definitely was love being shown to DJ’s Kemistry and Storm, Dazee, Spice, WildChild and Rap within those pages, I never saw any Female MC’s acknowledged. Maybe they just weren’t out there getting the gigs..but maybe they were… and if they were why did we never hear of them? There had been a mix tape floating round Christchurch from the UK in which a couple of ladies had been given the mic for a moment, but what I heard in those few minutes never connected with me, or made me excited. The feeling of wanting to do what Warren was up there doing started to etch itself very deeply into my mind. I had thought I had always wanted to be an actor or a singer, but this urge I felt was something else altogether!
I found myself wondering over the next few days if being a Female MC in the DnB scene was difficult, I wondered how much you earned, if you got to travel like these guys did, maybe if there weren’t any standout Female MC’s out there, I could change this. I could be the first Female MC to really make an International name for myself.
The seed had been sown and my overactive imagination was gladly watering it.
In an earlier blog post (https://darkdayshighnights.com/2017/01/19/new-configuration-new-riff-and-new-structure/) I mentioned that some of the students at NASDA were given an opportunity to audition for The television entertainment show ‘Showcase’. I had not been asked as I was far from what our head of school – Luisa, wanted as a representation of NASDA, and when I casually mentioned this to my Mother she was livid. How dare Luisa determine weather or not I was good enough?
“You don’t have to audition through the school you know” My Mum said over the phone to me one night. “You can enter via writing to them or sending in a tape, I saw something about it in the local paper that they’re looking for people to come on the show”.
“Pfffft” I made a noise into the receiver “I don’t wanna be on the stupid show anyway. It’s too mainstream. I wanna be an indie artist, I wanna rap, there’s no place for someone like me on that show”.
Little did I know that my Mother disagreed and despite my lack of enthusiasm to audition, she sent in a video recording of me singing at the piano playing one of my own compositions.
When I was home for the holidays Mum excitedly broke the news to me that she had sent the tape in and what’s more I had been invited to be on the show! “I don’t wanna do it” I protested, “Its not my thing, this is you just wanting me to do what you want!”
“How dare you?” Mum retorted angrily, “After everything I have done for you – this is an amazing opportunity – you have to do it!”
“I DONT WANT TO!” I yelled til I was hoarse in the throat “Can I not make up my own mind about what I want to do? Between you and Luisa at NASDA I don’t know whose worse!” I stormed down to my room and slammed the door. Very mature I know. To be honest I wasn’t that bothered she had sent in the tape..I was kinda excited I had been accepted. I was just horrified that it was for a hackneyed recording of me singing at home and I hated the fact she had done it for me, in typical show Mother fashion!
I had a few days to think about it and then the show’s producer rang us anyway to confirm if I would be able to come at the end of the month and perform or not.
I snatched the phone out of my Mums hand and had a word with the producer. “Look I’m very grateful you asked me but really I am only happy to do this if I can sing one of my own songs”
“Of course!” The producer replied, “We’d be delighted to have you sing your own work, and our studio producer can even create you a backing composition”. I was not expecting that.. The chance to have one of my own tunes on telly with its own orchestral backing track was pretty cool. I hung up the phone and looked at Mum who was grinning from ear to ear.
“I guess that settles it then. Im gonna do it”.
As well as Showcase, University and getting into my Drum n Bass, For me personally a lot was changing as well. Some of my friendships that I had maintained as being strong and healthy in the past began to deteriorate. One was with M who it soon transpired, not only had a habit for sleeping with some of the other girls boyfriends, but was a compulsive liar and a thief. A few of us began trading stories about certain things going missing whenever M stayed and slowly things began to add up. Clothes, jewellery, even large amounts of cash. In hindsight I couldn’t believe how blind I’d been. The signs were all there. I made a conscious decision to spend less time with her. M’s reputation in Christchurch became tainted, she lost many friends, and rather than seek to fix things and make it right, she moved up to Auckland to work in retail and live with her sister.
Being a bit older than many of my girlfriends, I enjoyed taking on the big sister role and offering advice to my friends when they needed it. But if these friendships were going to jeopardise my reputation and my relationships with others (especially with my boyfriend Joe who I was fiercely protective of) then it wasn’t going to work. I think people hang onto certain relationships and friendships because they are afraid of not having that person in their life and what that might mean, or they see that person as being beneficial in other ways (in which case its not a friendship its a business acquaintance) or, they just don’t know how to say the words “I cant be friends with you anymore’.
Learning how to identify which relationships were healthy for me, and who was genuine in their friendship with me was one of trial and error. As much as it often hurt, I would move on from people very quickly if I felt they were dragging me down with their negativity, attitude or behaviour. I know no one is perfect and I accept my friends faults and imperfections as they do mine. But I am talking about energy that is detrimental to your own well being. If every time you are with someone and all they do is get wasted, or moan, or dump on you negativity and leave you feeling exhausted, then either you need to address this with them, or walk away.
The kind of energy and attitude you project will ultimately draw the same like minded people into your life, but this wasn’t an idea I was familiar with at that time, or able to fully practice until some years and many friends later.
However around this time I met a young girl who was to change my life forever. Her name was Melissa Sharplin or ‘Misi’ as she came to be known.
I was supposed to be heading out to a 21st one night and didn’t have any high heels to wear (such was my hard core trainer addiction), and was lamenting over this fact with Amanda outside our new favourite coffee shop, C1. Just at that moment a very pretty girl, with dark curls and huge blue eyes came over to say hi to Amanda. Apart from her pretty looks I noticed her clothes. She was rocking some sky high black platform boots, a high waisted pencil skirt with an asymmetrical grey fleece top over her bare arms with fleece sleeves ruched up to her elbows. She was also wearing a grey fleece type of band/hat in her hair with the curls falling out the back. I knew instantly she must be into fashion and making her own clothes.
Melissa was very friendly and smiled brightly upon being introduced to me. Amanda asked her if she knew anywhere I could get some heels from to wear to the 21st that night.
“Hey I have tons of heels you could borrow!” she exclaimed “You’re about my shoe size too.. Do you guys wanna come over to my house and try some on?” I was very taken aback by her polite generosity, and I instantly liked her.
“Sure we’ll follow you!” Amanda drained her coffee “Come on Tali lets go” We jumped in her wee car and followed Misi over to the other side of town. Misi’s Mum lived in Merivale in a gorgeous 1960s house with a swimming pool. The first thing I noticed when I walked in was the bright decor and the fantastic art work on the walls. I was particular taken by a pop art piece of a Women drowning in spaghetti
“Wow I love the art! Who did it?”
“Me!” Misi beamed “That one is mine and this one over here…” she led us around the house showing us pieces of her art and then downstairs to her Mothers sewing room where her Mum Gillian designed wedding dresses and fabulous frocks for women.
I was blown away by the talent of both her and her Mum and we chatted non stop the whole time.
A few days later when Misi came to collect the shoes she had lent me, she arrived wearing a similar outfit to when I met her but in yellow and black and with yellow fleece leg warmers from her knees down over her platform boots.
“Look at you all yellow and black” I said welcoming her warmly into the front room.
” I know, Im like a little bumble bee, my legs all full of pollen..” I laughed, she was so cute! I knew Misi and I were going to become firm friends, especially with our similar interest in art and fashion, and when she said she loved Drum n Bass but didn’t know much about it and wanted to know more – I was sold! We were chatting away in my room when I asked her what she was up to in life, and Misi explained that she was going up to Auckland to live and work for the next three months to get some experience in fashion and retail. I couldn’t help but feel a bit disappointed that this awesome chick I had just met was now going away for three months! We promised to keep in touch and go to a Drum n Bass party the minute she got back to town.
Two days after SS and Warren G had been to Christchurch, I flew up to Wellington to be met at the airport by a representative from Showcase, and headed out to the Avalon studios where it was being filmed. it wasn’t my first foray into television, I had entered an after school competition for a program called 3:45 LIVE! which involved Mum and I flying up to Auckland and me performing a short skit in front of the camera’s when I was 13. I’d also sung in front of the camera for a documentary on Taranaki’s local opera singer Malvina Major who was an international star.
However this was rather different. I was on my own, and hair, makeup and clothes were a big deal. We had a run through of the song as a kind of dress rehearsal and then later on that evening it would be filmed in front of a live studio audience. I had been sent the backing track that the studio had created for my original composition – ‘Breath’, and it sounded pretty slick, and as well as this there were lots of other competitors.
As it turned out, Fiona and Karen, my two friends from NASDA were also in this heat doing an Irish duet, which Luisa had helped them pick out and practice. I thought this an odd choice for a contemporary show such as Showcase but I never said anything. I had kinda kept it on the down low that I would be performing anyway, but as they lived with one of my best friends Mat, they knew we would be competing against each other. Despite this we were all very nervous, so it was nice to have familiar company.
I didn’t muck around, I went out there and sat in front of the huge grand piano they had for me down on the floor, and with the lights blazing in my eyes I sang my little heart out.
We were given feedback and scores at the end of our performance and not really being that good with numbers, it took me a moment to realise that I was in the lead. A couple of performances later and it transpired that I had won! I was pretty ecstatic, but also now even more nervous. I had just three weeks to write a whole new composition for the semi finals. Fiona and Karen missed out on a second and third placing, but were very supportive and excited for me that I had won our heat.
As first prize in my heat I had won a palm top computer worth $1,000 but I ended up selling it as I didn’t really need one and preferred the cash. Over the next three weeks I wrote my second offering to Showcase, and again an orchestral backing track was created to go with it. Mum and Dad flew down to Wellington to join me at this one, and though I had tried to fight it, I had a bad cold which kept me coughing and sniffing right up to my performance. This time I was in a heat with another of my ex NASDA colleagues, Simon Roborgh.
Simon had a big strong voice and handsome features, but again he was singing a song that it seemed Luisa had picked out for him. It was old fashioned and very musical theatre, and though he sang well, Simon did not place. I on the other hand, much to my disbelief came first again. Mum and Dad were ecstatic, cheering and whistling loudly, and presenting me with a bunch of flowers as I walked down into the wings of the studio. This time around I won $2,000 cash which would certainly make things a lot easier finance wise at home.
Again I would have just another three weeks to pen a new song and have to go through it all again, which though exciting was also rather stressful. I had a lot going on at university as well – studying for exams. Luckily, my social life was pretty quiet for the next few weekends.
Mum and Dad went to Australia for a holiday a few days before my final Showcase performance so they weren’t able to come show their support. However my sister Marnie was living in Wellington at the time and she came with a friend to watch me sing. I also had some of my old High School/University buddies who were still living in Wellington, Jude, Leanne, Nicola and Suzanne all come also, so I felt a lot of pressure – especially being the winner of my previous two rounds.
Backstage at the finals I felt a tremendous stress building up inside my stomach and I was back and forth to the toilet with nerves feeling like I was going to be sick. I remember being in the bathroom and getting down on my knees to pray asking that if this really be my path, that I should pursue a career in music – that I be given the sign to show me. I guess I meant please God let me get 1st, 2nd or 3rd – as each placing meant a trip overseas. First place got to fly to London, (and with that being the birth place of Jungle and Drum n Bass it meant that was obviously my destination of choice!), Second place was a holiday in LA and Third place – Hong Kong.
That night as I watched the others perform, I began to feel quite confident. Apart from one girl who sang and played guitar and who had a sweet voice, the others were I felt – cheesy and old fashioned. There was a group of three who sang and danced, but it was really all about the lead singer, One guy sang ‘I believe I can fly’ an R Kelly song that I have always found so kareoke, and his performance of it was good, but predictable.
At the end of our performances, instead of giving us scores, we were only given feedback and this time, at the end of the show we were all lined up on the studio stage and one by one, given our scores
As they went through and came to me, my points were read out. I wasn’t great with numbers but it didn’t take a genius to work out that I did not have the highest score. I felt gutted inside and I had trouble hiding my disappointment. Suddenly the floor manager called a halt to proceedings as something wasn’t right on set. They called for ‘Action’ again and re read my score. Again it was the same, again I didn’t smile.
The Floor manager called a halt again. I couldn’t help thinking to myself maybe they had got the scores wrong.. maybe I was supposed to have a higher score. As quickly as I thought it, I could hear the words of my old music teacher Julie Cudby ringing in my mind. “Whatever placing you get, weather you are first or last, you smile and accept it gracefully”.
“And…action!” The scores were given again. Mine remained the same, the crowd clapped and cheered and this time, I gave a huge smile. Of course I did not want to look a sore loser, and looking back I truly believe this hiccup in proceedings had been a chance to ensure I remembered to be grateful and maintain my humility and grace.
As it turns out I gained third place and won a trip to Hong Kong, and knowing that I would be taking Joe on our first holiday abroad together was hugely exciting!! The girl on her guitar came second and Mr Kareoke with his R Kelly rendition came first. I should have expected this. It was a mainstream family show after all, and music for the masses was always going to win out.
Afterwards there were drinks and canapés, and all the finalists and their friends and family were invited to socialize and rub shoulders with the judges and presenters. I noticed that some of the performers had press packs and demos with them, and were looking at one of the judges with anticipation as if waiting for a chance to talk to him. I remembered then that the guest judge who had joined the panel for the final had been introduced that night as being from some major record label. I watched as one by one the contestants chatted with him, obviously doing what they could in that time to introduce themselves and tell him about their music and ambitions.
I turned back to continue my conversation with my friends, I had not seen some of them since High School and I was more interested in catching up and giving them my time and attention – especially given they had come out to show their support.
A few minutes later, when one of my friends got up to go to the bar, the Record Label representative came and sat himself down in the empty seat next to me. “So Natalia…how did you enjoy the show..?” He smiled at me and ran his fingers through his thinning hair.
I smiled back “Good thanks yeah it was cool” I couldn’t help feeling he gave off an air of arrogance. I was instantly uncomfortable.
Then we had a conversation that went something along the lines of – He told me he thought I was a great songwriter and had a good voice, I said thanks. He asked me if I could see myself writing a whole album of pop songs. I said no, I wanted to work on more left field tunes, I loved Drum n Bass, and loved rapping.
Did I not enjoy singing at the piano? Yes I did but it wasn’t what I wanted to define me. He said I was pretty much the strongest ‘Artist’ in the room. I said if that was the case then why didn’t I win? And his reply echoed the thoughts I had had earlier. It was a mainstream show and the winner was someone whose placing meant better ratings for the show and so forth. I gave a little sarcastic snort “I knew it”
He tipped his head on the side and looked at me quizzically “You have no idea who I am do you?”
“No idea, no” I replied honestly taking a sip of my wine.
“I’m the head of A&R at Polygram Records. Nearly everyone here tonight has been on my case about getting a record deal. Why aren’t you trying to sell yourself to me?” I actually have to laugh now thinking that if my parents had known who the guest judge was they probably would have packed me off to the show with a folder of everything from childhood photos to old recordings I did on the tape player.
I had not been alerted to the fact we had a guest judge before the show started, and if we had I was so busy preparing and warming up that I either had not heard, or taken any notice.
And now here he was in front of me, and while some people would have jumped at the chance to have a audience with an A&R from a major label, absolutely nothing in my heart compelled me to switch up and change tact. There was no pull to sell myself and who I was, and so I knew in that instance this was not an opportunity I was meant to take. However, if this was to be our only meeting I should at least make myself memorable in a positive way.
I sat up in my chair and looked him in dead in the eye.
“It is lovely to meet you, and while I appreciate that you think I am good enough to meet with further, I don’t really see myself as being a pop singer. I want to travel and see the world and have real experiences before I write an album. I don’t think I am ready for that kind of thing yet, but thank you.”
He was silent for a minute and then nodded his head approvingly. “Well if that’s how you feel, then good on you. I have no doubt you’ll be just fine.” He smiled and shook my hand and walked off to talk to the next finalist waiting their turn.
Years later I look back on that encounter and wonder if I made a mistake. Should I have tried to score myself another meeting with him? What if I had been given a record deal? I wonder what sort of artist I would have been marketed as. I shudder to think it may have been as an acoustic, piano playing pop singer. I think of all the amazing places I have been with Drum n Bass music, the wonderful people I have met, the fans I have gained and the friends I have made. I wouldn’t trade that for anything.
I knew that day sitting at that table in Avalon studios, that there was something else waiting for me, and it wasn’t far off. I felt in my heart that while I may have to wait a bit longer – when the time came for me to earn my place in the spotlight, it would be because the timing was right. Because I was ready.
“New configuration, new riff and new structure, Built on the frame that’ll hold the room puncture. Tight, we wrap it up, its wrapped tightly….” (Brown Paper Bag – Roni Size Reprazent – Full Cycle Records)
The following weeks at NASDA were a rounding up of final assessments covering acting and monologue, clowning skills, Ballet and movement and a keyboard and singing test. During this time there was also some filming taking place for some sort of documentary regarding the school, and several students (Luisa’s most promising) were asked if they would like to audition for a reality talent show called ‘Showcase’. ‘Showcase’ was the late 90’s version of X Factor or Idol, but slightly more conservative, and at the time I remember feeling annoyed that Luisa didn’t ask me or some of my other friends if we would like to Audition. It was all a bit hush hush so not all the students would be in the know, only her favourites were asked to audition – but word got around and it really did seem like the final nail in the coffin for how I felt about the way the school worked.
Graduation happened the 1st of November and I wore a beautiful pure silk, long chinese style dress in emerald green, white and black that I had found at one of the op shops, these huge white platform sneakers I borrowed from Jasmine, and I had my hair styled by my friend Pene. I had two blonde streaks put in the front of my hair and he gave me this awesome avant garde hair style (spikey pig taled Harajuku vibes) with two chop sticks – as was the rage at the time. I remember going up on stage to get my certificate from Luisa at the graduation ceremony and as she handed me my certificate and kissed me on the cheek she whispered ‘Trust you to find a way to wear sneakers to your graduation!’ I laughed – it was true! and in response I kicked my trainers into the air in delight.
The next big international rave to hit Christchurch for November was the return of Ed Rush and this time with DJ Trace. Known for a more techie vibe which DnB seemed to be progressing into, these guys were tipped to annihilate The Ministry dance floor. My friends and I planned our outfits carefully, all got ready together in advance as per usual, and dropped half a trip each as soon as we arrived. Ed Rush with his shaved head, and bad boy Trace – got to work smashing up the place, with stand out tunes of the night to this day being – ‘To Shape The Future remix’ and ‘Locust’ (the bass line rattling the metalwork of the club and sending glasses smashing to the floor!) Mo came and stayed with me, and I saw him again the following Wednesday night at Base for a weekly night he had started doing with Pots called ‘Friction’
The following week, I invested what money I had saved for Mo’s birthday in buying a silver link chain – the chunkiest I could afford (which wasn’t that thick, but beautiful nonetheless) and I took him for dinner at the casino. I gave him the bracelet at dinner and the look on his face when he saw it was worth every cent I had scraped together. It certainly was a month for proving how much we cared for each other. A few weeks later on the 18th of December -my birthday, it was my turn to be surprised. Mo, who I was now calling by his real name Joe – is an amazing graffiti artist. I had seen a few pieces he had drawn and when we were hanging out together he was always sketching and drawing designs and bombs in his art book.
On the day of my birthday we invited some friends over for food, and he made a big show of taking me by my hand and leading me across the road over to a vacant lot where a huge empty wall had been. Now it was covered in the most beautiful piece of graf I had ever seen. It said in huge letters ‘Happy Birthday’ then in smaller letters ‘Tali xx’ and right in the middle, a picture he had spray painted of me. It was the most beautiful, touching and generous gift anyone could ever have given me. I burst into tears of happiness with ‘Wow’ and ‘Thank you’ being the only words to cross my lips for five minutes. It stayed there on the wall for months as a testament to his love for me and that we were finally ‘official’. That night we went to ‘Crackers’ a jungle party at Base the boys had put on to celebrate Christmas, and Joe played one of my favorite tunes ‘Distance’ by DJ Ron and made a big deal of yelling and smiling at me as it came on. I was well and truly in love for the first time in my young life.
Obviously the biggest event of the year that everyone looked forward to was The Gathering – held in the same spot on the dusty dry farm in Takaka. I was especially excited as this year I would be going with my boyfriend and he was DJing! Matt and Julie were both keen to come and Matt offered to drive us in his little white VW beetle he had at the time. We loaded it up with supplies and our two tents and began the mission out of Christchurch up through the pass towards the mountains. We chose to leave a day early and stay the night prior to the festival at Matts parents house in Nelson. It meant a hot shower and hearty breakfast courtesy of Jen and Martin before we headed off just before lunch time.
The scenery on the drive from Christchurch up to Nelson is incredible. While the drive in total is quite long at around five hours, this is pretty standard to most Kiwis who know the best way to see the country is to drive it. Our roads are generous and wide in most places, and the flow of traffic pretty minimal.
However on the way up to Takaka, once we were about half an hour away from the site this began to change. Traffic started to get busier ahead of us, and in a repeat of the previous year, we could see a long line snaking up the hill, the car roofs glinting in the distance. Once we got to the top of the hill we turned right down the gravel road and crawling along at around 10-15km we had our tickets checked, car searched and access finally approved.
On site there was no special camping for artists or family, it was just wherever you could find a spot. Most people went for the shade of the trees as temperatures up on the hill could reach a stifling 32 degrees in the midday sun. At night it dropped down to around 8 degrees or less, and so our bags would be filled with shorts and t shirts for the day and the obligatory hoodies and puffa jackets for the evening.
Joe wasn’t playing til the following night/morning so we spent the 30th enjoying the festival, exploring all the different zones and showing our support to various friends playing. The Gathering was great in that while it was supported by some commercial companies (Playstation, Redbull, Pavement Magazine and B.net radio) this was barely noticeable. Their involvement almost felt discreet and apologetic, unlike many festivals these days where the main sponsor is thrust in your face with everything you are offered to eat and most certainly drink.
Once New Years was over, our next big International DNB act to hit Christchurch was another Subtronix event, this time with the return of the man of the moment – Doc Scott. He came and played Valentines Day at The Ministry and it was of the first raves where I was totally straight. Although Joe liked to drink and smoke weed, I didn’t like to get too wasted around him in case I should say or do something to embarrass him or myself. His reputation as a DJ was growing and people observing him were ultimately observing my behavior too. Doc Scott tore the roof off The Ministry and left many happy, hot and sweaty ravers in his wake. Around this time Joe also took over from Pots’s radio show on RDU as he moved to Auckland. Joe renamed the show ‘Scientific’ and he, Detour and Sean D did a Doc Scott special in honour of his visit to our shores.
Doc Scott Flyer. Note the highlighted sentence: “Doc Scott will not be touring internationally in 1998 except for his visit to New Zealand”
As it was now the beginning of a new year I had to figure out what I was going to do with myself, and not wanting to leave Christchurch I decided to enroll at Canterbury Uni and finish my B.A in English Literature there. As well as this I enrolled in a couple of other subjects to help me finish my papers, Australian and American Lit and Music 101. Why I did not think to take Music when I was at Vic I will never know. It was basic theory that I had studied when I was 12, and American Literature also quickly became my favorite subject with the choice of Literature to read and study being really interesting and enthralling. I guess I was also at the age where I felt like I could take on University with confidence and not worry about the social side of things. I had my friend outside of Uni, and with the exception of a couple of awesome friends I made while there, I just focused on the work when I was on campus.
A week after orientation began Joe took me down to Dunedin for the first time to meet his parents. While I had been to Dunedin once before, it had been a quick journey that I didn’t remember much of. We took a mini bus down there, which was a five hour drive. Joe brought five mix tapes with him – each one an hour long, so we knew the journey was ‘five mix tapes worth’. Even though CD’s were pretty much the standard then, you couldn’t beat receiving a mix tape of DnB that someone had made for you, or a radio show that had been recorded, and we would sit there with our walkman’s on, swapping tapes back and forth.
Joe’s parents lived in Port Chalmers, just out of Dunedin on the peninsula. Their home was a beautiful old house with extensive gardens overlooking the sea, and the walls were covered in his Fathers beautiful prints and paintings (his Dad was an artist) or pieces from other artist friends. They welcomed me with hugs and huge smiles and I was instantly smitten by them both. Joe showed me his old trainer collection in his bedroom wardrobe, full of limited edition Nikes, and Fila’s and me obviously being mad into my trainers through the obsession that seemed to develop in our music scene – I was intrigued. Joe always had his own eclectic style, mixing vintage sports vibes with the freshest T shirts and trainers. Even to this day he is one of the most styling people I know.
To begin with in our music scene, a lot of people wore the same stuff regardless of what style of music we were into. I loved the way everyone dressed haphazardly initially – the girls in cute vintage petticoats over flared trousers, and tight vintage t shirts. Nearly every single one of us sported an indian bindi in between our eyes or glitter on our cheeks. The boys wore oversized everything, from jackets to jeans. However it became more obvious the genres that people were into over the next couple of years as each scene evolved and developed their own style, and fashion became more streamlined.
Trance kids were more colorful and sparkly, the hair a little more crazy, those into House music definitely dressed up more, and us girls into DnB wore plainer, more tomboyish gears, set off by tiny boob tubes and singlets that would come out after all the hoodies and jackets had been peeled off, with our cargo pants sitting on our hips.
What is really positive to note here is that the fashion that was definitive of my raving years in Christchurch was, (apart from the Nike AirMax and Adidas shell toes we all rocked, and some of the special finds we got from the little Japanese boutiques) – mostly all made in Christchurch itself. At that time the city was churning out some incredibly talented designers, and for the next two or three years the fashion we wore was very much influenced by what the designers were making and dressing us in. Labels such as Subvert, Project, and Lumiere, were all supported and rocked by the rave scene, but at that time no one had more of a devoted following than the label Urchin.
Urchin was created by designer Claire Hammon who back then had an upstairs work shop in Cashel Mall. It was initially started as more of a skate/streetwear label and Claire herself was genuinely surprised at how fiercely the rave scene adopted her label as its own.
At the time Claire was slowly starting to infiltrate some of the local shops with her gear, but most of us went to her for customized orders. I remember going up there for my beige cargo pants, the first with a fitted, flattering waist, but larger legs so we could move easier. I had the obligatory little long sleeved zip up sweatshirts to wear under my sleeveless puffa vests, and underneath all this would be the tight fitting singlet with mesh racer back to keep each raver cool despite the sweaty club. Wind breakers and puffa jackets from Helly Hanson, Columbia, Ralph Lauren or Northface were the order of the day to keep out the freezing winter cold in Christchurch, and all of this was mixed in with the odd bit of NZ snowboarding or surfing label. (I am glad to say I graduated from the petticoat over pants and flared trousers brigade rather quickly after meeting Joe).
I also have to point out the exceptional talent shining through in the way of flyer and poster design. I have collected a heap of flyers and kept them all in a book, and every time I look back on the designs I am still impressed. Such time and dedication went into making nearly all but the most budget of flyers, look stylish and clever with some sort of stand out feature. (Although some of the blurbs promoting the events on the back of the flyers were at times cringe inducing) These got even more amazing the following year with 3-D flyers that stood up on their own, some that turned 360 degrees, one printed on an actual circuit board, and others with pockets in which were placed little cards with the featured DJs biographies on them.
The next visitor to our sunny shores was a first timer in Christchurch and very much anticipated. Grooverider, representing his Prototype imprint, had played a more varied set genre wise when he visited Auckland two years before. But this time around he would be bringing the freshest of Drum n Bass dubplates and we were excited to say the least. His selection showcased the sound of ’97 – ’98 perfectly, the tech step vibes the No U -Turn boys of Fierce, Nico, Trace and Ed Rush and Optical were known for, the heavy bass of Boymerang, Dillinja and Mampi Swift shaking the walls, and the vocal laden, Jazz and Soul goodness of The Full Cycle boys, Roni, Krust and Die, with some Ray Keith and Peshay thrown in for good measure.
Flyer for Grooverider gig at Ministry, Christchurch.
Every International that played in Christchurch would come laden with goodies in the shape of dubplates and white labels that DJs and producers here could only dream of getting their hands on. There wasn’t much in the way of mailing lists for our DJs to get sent fresh tunes through, more that it was a battle of wits as to who got there earliest when the record stores got their new batches in. Therefore it was integral that DJs here in NZ made positive connections and relationships with those who visited, to ensure they would be given the odd VIP or added to a mailing list.
This usually was only reserved for those putting on the parties or if playing at them – those lucky enough to get a word in with the DJ for more than two minutes. Some of the Internationals were receptive to meeting new faces and gladly obliged, others often jet lagged or tired from a whirl wind tour – were not.
However there was a definite hireachy that I could see with those that put on the parties and who chose which DJs visited. The main promotions company was Subtronix, based in Auckland and which consisted of Dave Roper and Geoff Wright, and while we were appreciative of a lot of the DJs who toured, some of us down there in the South Island would have liked to see more variation.
The other way in which we would get to hear about the latest tunes was through mix tapes sent over to those in the scene who had London connections. These would often get passed around from one DJ to another who would make their own recording (if allowed) of the tape and usually it was a recorded set from ‘One In The Jungle’ on BBC’s Radio One. There is an infamous tape that I remember Joe had from one of these shows with Ray Keith in the mix and MC’s Moose and Navigator hosting from 1997. Not only was I in love with the selection which included some of my favorite tunes of the moment (“Piper’, ‘Maintain’, ‘Brown Paper Bag’) I was intrigued by the MC’s. (click the link above) This was something different to all the Hip Hop hosting I had heard before, these guys chatting over the beats adding to the tunes vibe, and each had a very distinctive voice and flow – not to mention their gorgeous London accents! I would say they were my first taste of hearing what a UK DnB MC sounded like and I loved it.
While researching for this book I found to my absolute delight there is a page on Mixcloud where you can listen to all the ‘One In The Jungle‘ podcasts from as far back as ’96 with people like Ed Rush and Roni Size in the mix.
I am in baby Jungalist heaven finding these, and its a great place to get a Drum n Bass education, especially if like so many nowadays you think DnB started with Camo and Krooked, Netsky or Chase n Status!
As well as the usual collection of train spotting DJs lucky enough to be standing up the back of The Ministry DJ booth, eagle eyes on every record being placed on the decks, there was always another line as close to the decks as possible down on the dance floor. To be able to know the name of a tune, or who produced it, was considered the ultimate DnB knowledge, but quite often visiting Internationals would write something different on the white labels, Weather it was because it helped them identify how the composition of the track went, in a record box of so many tunes, (Who remembers the ‘Bleep Bleep’ tune? But what was it really called?!) or maybe because it was a white label and they themselves didn’t know the actual name – or, maybe it was to throw train spotters off, such was the exclusivity of tunes in those days. Now you can find tunes all over the internet, ripped off radio shows, recorded at clubs, leaked before release – and this hunger for the freshest selection has actually taken away from the precious exclusivity that centered around Dubplates.
In some ways it means less waiting time for a tune that could be played at a rave, as sometimes no one would be able to get their hands on to actually play or listen to a certain track until a year later! Now you can pretty much hear a tune and google or youtube it and someone would have put up a version. Albeit usually a crappy overly compressed version.
I can understand the frustration that not being able to get your hands on a track created amongst people, but I liked that special quality, as to me it gave the DJs and producers the right to be considered legends and lauded for what they brought to our shores.
Around this time as well, magazines like Knowledge and ATM were being imported into New Zealand, and it was here that we really learned about Bass Culture. These magazines covered everything from the whose who of DJ’s, MCs, producers, and labels, to advertisements for nights at clubs we had never heard of, with lineups of four or five DJs on them that we could only dream of seeing altogether in one night.
The more into the music I got and the more in love with Joe I fell, the more it felt like it made sense for us to get our own place together. Joe had previously lived here and there when he moved from Dunedin up to Chch – flatting with Jay for a bit and then falling out with him over whatever dramas those guys had going on, and he had practically moved in with Julie and I. In May Joe and I found a lovely little flat around the corner in Peterborough street with a huge sunny backyard and made the move in together.
At this time Joe started working with James Meharry aka Pylon on a weekly night called ‘Technical’, and booking the DJs they preferred to hear and deal with. People such as Solid State (Who pretty much got on with everyone in the scene), Mr Steel (Similarly), Intera, 48 Sonic from Auckland and so forth. James had been around in the scene a long time, working on various projects and festivals, but it was at this time when he and Joe struck up an alliance that there began the first real prominent shift in the DnB scene in Christchurch. Though at times through the strength of opinions and egos the two of them would clash heads over certain elements of production or design, they were also both incredibly ambitious and had big ideas for the future of our scene.
It was then in 1998 that they began to discuss the possibility of using their Technical night as a springboard to create their own events and their own promotions team, with the idea of bringing over International DJs they wanted to hear and meet, and inject an independence into the South Island DnB scene that had previously always been dominated by Auckland. As I would often end up a part of the conversations, making dinner for them both as they sat at our kitchen table discussing ideas, I inadvertently also became a part of this exciting, progressive movement.
Fierce and Nico and their No U-Turn tour hit town a week later and having blown all my money at ‘Operation Snowstorm’ my friend Jody who worked at Java bought me a ticket because he knew I was desperate to go and had no funds that week. I was blown away at his generosity (I think he might have fancied me a bit haha) and very excited to be able to attend. DnB heads stuck together in this way and we would do whatever we could to ensure the whole crew was in attendance.
This was the first International DnB night to be held at new club ‘Base’ and it seemed to work perfectly capacity wise.
My friend M, who I was spending more and more time with, pulled me right up to the front to assume our position of front left. Fierce looked no more than a kid (he was only about 18 at the time he first came to NZ) and they stormed through their set smashing tune after tune of their signature Tech Step DnB, as the crowd whistled, cheered and hollered at them for more until the very end.
A couple of weeks later, there was another local rave on in town called ‘Voyager’ which was held at The Civic. The Civic was a grand old red brick building with deep carpets and art deco windows that were practically rattled out of their frames with each baseline dropped. It amazes me still that parties were allowed to be held there, but smoking inside was a definite no no due to the Civics historical nature, and for the first time we had security enforcing this.
As per usual I went down there with my girls to dance the night away, but on this night someone tapped, or should I say pushed me on the shoulder. I turned around and looked up into those lazy lidded eyes. It was Mo.
‘What’s up?’ was the staple DnB boy greeting in those days. ‘Not much” I grinned up at him ‘What’s up with you?’
I forget what else we spoke about, probably not much, I was definitely intimidated by him, but there was an undeniable chemistry that we had both obviously felt that night when we’d met in that snow covered field at ‘Operation Snowstorm’.
After visiting some of the other ‘zones’ with my friends, I lost him in the throng of people. I thought he might have gone home, and as I was done dancing for the night I said good bye to my friends and started for the door.
Just at that moment Mo caught my arm and pulled me into a darkened side corridor. ‘Am I staying with you tonight then?” he asked. I cracked up at his forwardness. We quickly arranged that I would leave first and he would follow me out ten minutes later so that no one would suspect anything. It seemed we had a mutual dislike for people knowing our business! Without having to think too much about it, I took him home with me to my house in Beckenham.
The Grand old Civic building in Christchurch, before it was destroyed in the earthquake of 2011
Thus began what I can only describe as an interesting courtship. Mainly of him and I seeing each other rather covertly initially, due to the fact that his ‘mates’ which consisted of the ‘bad boys’ of DnB, such as Jay ‘Pots’ ‘MC Green’, ‘Phantom’, ‘Wiz’ and ‘Medelin’ all seeming to have a love/hate relationship with my group of girlfriends and I. While my friends and I were definitely considered a staple of the DnB scene, There were lots of instances of people sleeping with other peoples girlfriends and boyfriends, and rumors and arguments and dramas, all of which I was always some how considered a part of due to the little ladies I hung out with – even though I was never actually involved.
I was probably even more disliked for the fact that I stood up for myself, said what I thought and didn’t try to kiss anyones arse to be liked. If those guys had a problem with me – good. I didn’t care about trying to be ‘liked’. Lord knows I did enough of that at High School and Uni. And so over the next month, Mo and I saw each other ‘secretly’ – although I obviously told all my girlfriends!
My raving intertwined with my classes and performances at NASDA, and try as I might it was often hard to focus on school, when all I could think about was the next DJ coming to town. Being at those dance parties gave me such a feeling of freedom and self expression, that when I went into class on the Monday, I often felt the complete opposite. NASDA, as amazing as it was then for the things we were able to learn and experience, also had a bad habit of trying to herd us all into the same box.
Singing classical songs on which we were marked as part of our singing work seemed unfair, considering some people had natural operatic voices, and others – like myself, had more smokey laden Jazz voices. However rather than being accepted, this was considered a sign of poor vocal health, or an unwillingness to conform.
Im not going to sit here and pretend I didn’t deserve to get called up on my quality of voice, I certainly smoked more weed and cigarettes than I should have, and using my voice excessively probably happened at nearly every loud dance party I attended. But I felt if my style of voice and choice of songs I wanted to sing had been embraced more, I would have felt more at home and comfortable being told what to do every day. When I think back to this time in my life, I personally was struggling with what I now know as my ‘Impending cloud of doom’ side. I often felt trapped and confused as to what I was doing and where I was going and if I was indeed on the right path.
Elizabeth our acting coach said to me a couple of times that I came across as disingenuous, and even my good friend Matt said it was often like I was trying too hard to be ‘something’, even if I didn’t know what that something was. It is little wonder I was romanced by my house mate Julie’s ideas of Christianity and God and her certainty that he would show me the way.
Rather than have faith in myself, I considered myself a Christian at this time in my life and put my faith in God. I realised this was rather contradictory to my weekend behaviour, but hey, I was desperate for some direction, and praying about it and going to church seemed to help a little – as if handing over the weight of my own responsibilities to someone else.
We were about to start a performance at NASDA called ‘Narrow Road To The Deep North’ in which I played a soldier and barely said one or two lines, until the end of the play when I stripped off completely naked and drenched in water, crawled up onto the stage at The Arts Centre (while it was snowing outside I might add) as if I had just escaped a drowning.
I wasn’t that bothered about getting naked, I had asked if I could have that part, simply because I didn’t have much else to do. However once the play kicked off and the director had to leave to go back to Auckland, it didn’t feel like many of us were that into it. Apart from those playing lead roles, the rest of us mucked about back stage, forgetting cues and lines and generally falling into a mid year slump. I know I personally felt very removed from the whole thing – getting naked or not. The overall reviews of the play were not great.
Although it was only the beginning of August, we also began auditions for the schools musical number which would mark one of our bigger productions of the year and indeed our final show. Called ‘Nine’ This was more up my alley – a chance to sing musical theatre with a show that contained exciting characters.
I prepared hard for this – and after doing what I felt was an awesome final audition, I went out and partied that night at a rave called ‘Nurobend’ a DnB party with tickets designed to look similar to a Neurofen package.
‘Nine’ was cast on the following Monday and I got the duel role of ‘La Fleur’, and ‘Darling’ – which I would share with another student, Richard, on alternate nights. Both roles had solo vocal numbers and plenty of lines for me to feel more involved this time around.
As a second year student I was also allowed to perform outside of NASDA and I played all around Christchurch, at The Arts Centre on market Saturdays, Honeypot and Java, all with my keyboard my Mum had bought me, and singing my self -penned songs of drama and lost love. I also used to busk on Friday nights sometimes with my friend from Broadcasting school Lee Prebble. This was where I first honed my skills as a singer/songwriter and many people tell me they remember seeing me back in the day, singing out on the street!
It was coming up to the August holidays and so Julie and I decided we would mark this time by moving out of the five bedroom Beckenham flat we had shared with Carey, Simon and Blair, and moving into a two bedroom house together.
We knew this would mean more rent, but we were definitely best friends by this stage and felt it would be worth it. We looked at a few places to rent, and one day after a disappointing viewing, while walking down Madras Street we came across a cute little cottage that we liked the look of and which appeared empty.
We called the local council and finding out who owned it, we then called the owner and asked if we could be the next tenants. It was small but perfectly formed, with just the two rooms at the front, the kitchen and lounge as one big room at the back, and a little lean to bathroom with only a bath, basin and toilet. Despite this it was perfect for us, West facing, with a cute little back yard and private front fence that still allowed the sun to flow into our bedrooms. We moved in and spent the next couple of weeks holiday getting comfortable in our new nest.
With the new show in production, my days became more and more intense with Nine rehearsals beginning, ballet class, theatre repertoire classes, voice coaching, and chorus classes with all of us coming together to learn our unison pieces for the musical. I found these classes particularly exciting – I loved a good harmony, and hearing us all singing together always felt so good. These were interspersed with little parties in the weekend that would tide me and my friends over until the next International came to town.
It was with great anticipation and excitement that we learned a few weeks later that the next DJ was someone that most of us had waited a long time for – DJ Zinc. I was ecstatic, “Super Sharp Shooter” was a huge anthem at that time, with many of us diehard DnB heads looking back to the roots of DnB and getting into Jungle. However when I looked at my diary I was gutted. Zinc fell on the same date as my Mum’s 50th and there was no way I could miss that.
I went home to Taranaki on the Friday for two nights and we certainly had a hell of a party at my parents. I even wrote and performed a song for Mum on the piano. However in the back of my mind all I could think about was Mo, the Zinc party and what I knew I was missing.
I returned to CHCH hearing agonizing statements such as “It was the party of the year” and, “Zinc educated us in what Jungle is and where DnB came from” and the inevitable from one of my girlfriends “Mo and Wiz looked so cute dancing up near the front with their hair all braided”. (I was mad into long hair!). While I was gutted, there was no time to think about it – ‘Nine’ was going to open the following week and we were well into rehearsals now, especially as we now had an orchestra behind us.
For the next ten days and nights we performed out at Canterbury Teachers College which had a big stage and dressing rooms, and everyone seemed to have a really good time. My parents came down to check it out and with very commendable reviews given in the paper, I was mentioned twice and had my picture printed. Considering I was always a bit of an underdog at NASDA, what with my unconventional husky soul voice, penchant for rave music and desire to write and perform my own material – I didn’t exactly fit the mould of what our head of NASDA envisioned. She even pulled me into her office one day that month and told me that I had not improved, that my voice was never going to get any better, that I would never ‘make it’ in the music industry and that she was even considering not passing me, such was the annoyance my unconventional voice and unwillingness to bow to her more ‘Classical’ styles – filled her with.
I shot back at her that my Dad had spent a lot of money sending me to NASDA and if she wanted to fail me – by all means try – she’d be hearing from our lawyer. She fixed me with a tight smile and with a slight waver in her voice replied “Im sure it won’t come to that”
(Can I just mention that many years on from having graduated from NASDA I have actually since been back to give an inspirational talk on my achievements and how to follow your dreams with the right attitude and focus. This is kinda funny considering this was a school I almost couldn’t wait to leave such was the oppression I felt towards it the end. However NASDA now embraces many different types of voices and styles particularly in Musical theatre, Soul and Jazz which I am really pleased to see, and I was invited by the new head of NASDA, a former student).
Karen, Damian and Nicky – three of the lead characters in our NASDA musical ‘Nine’ 1997
At the end of our somewhat disastrous play ‘Narrow Road To The Deep North’ I had barely stuck around to pack out. I had tidied a little but with my friends waiting to go into town, and a bitter taste in my mouth over what I felt was a shambolic production, I had slipped away without staying to the end of pack out.
I had received a bad mark on my report and a dressing down from Elizabeth, so I was really expected to make a concerted effort on the last night of pack out for ‘Nine’. The only problem was – it fell on the same night as a rave out at White Cliffs, a good hours drive from Christchurch. Mo was DJing at this party and he had anticipated that this would be the rave we would ‘officially’ hang out as a couple at. I was feeling gutted – no one was going to still be in Christchurch at 11 p.m – everyone I knew would have already headed out there, and with no social media back then to put the call out – I again felt trapped.
It was hard to explain to any of my class mates or Elizabeth the pressure I felt that I should show up and be there for Mo. He would take it personally if I didn’t go, even if I had a more than valid excuse. I couldn’t help but express tears as I packed out, sweeping the floors and dilligently finding a place for costumes and props. (It didn’t help either that I was slightly pissed on the Vodka that Matt and our classmate Esther had smuggled into the dressing room to drink after!)
It was then that one of the members of the orchestra who had played the drums for the musical, offered to give me a lift if I paid him some petrol money. My heart lifted – I wouldn’t miss that party after all! I set about packing out as quickly as possible and was ready to go by 12.30 a.m. With my new friend (I am so sorry I cannot remember your name dear driver!) and his car full of his drums, we headed out to White Cliffs. I was so grateful and happy to him for his generosity of time.
After the drummer dropped me off I skipped into the festival with my ticket in hand and quickly found my mates. Obviously my first question was ‘Where’s Mo?” and when he saw me walking towards him through the trees with my red puffa vest on and hood up, his face broke into a huge smile. He hugged and kissed me in front of everyone. “I actually didn’t think you were going to come’ he admitted, ‘And I was pissed off cos I thought you cant be that into me if you weren’t gonna come out here to hang out’
“Well I’m here so obviously I am” I smiled up at him. My heart gave a flutter of excitement as he took my hand, and with that we headed off to listen to the next DJ, dancing until the sun came up.
“Something’s come over my soul, out of my control… My soul..” My Soul – Marcus Intalex, Metalheadz 2002
My second year at Performing Arts School kicked off with us preparing right away for our first live show – ‘Cabaret’. A night of singing and dancing that would officially ‘introduce us’ to the theatre world audience. We had intensive classes right up to the weekend of March the 20th with voice coaching and learning how to use a microphone onstage. We also had choreographed dance moves and a tap dance number. All up it was nothing short of full steam ahead, and we loved it considering we had waited a year for our chance to get out there.
In the meantime, things at our wonky house in Worcester street were starting to grate on my flatmates and I. Doors were coming off hinges and bulbs kept blowing, it seemed little by little our house was falling apart and we were paying extortinate rent for it.
Then one day someone broke into our house, fucking up the lock and taking some things from Simon’s room which was at the front of the house. We complained to our land lady about it asking her to fix up the doors and sort things out, but she seemed too busy and wouldn’t come around when we asked. It happened again on another day, someone tried to get in the back door. This was the last straw. Sick of our house and waiting on our land lady, Simon took charge, said we should move out, and within a day had found us all another house down in Beckenham, near the Port Hills.
We paid a deposit determined to get the hell out of Worcester street. To be honest us girls were scared someone may try and break in during the night, and our house was so decrepit, no locked door would prevent them should they want to come in.
We left the house taking all our furniture and most of our belongings to our new home on the Saturday leaving only a small amount of things behind. Then, that night, whoever had been trying to break into our house – finally got in. With nothing to steal, they spray painted the walls, pissed all over the carpet and cooked up some eggs that had been left in the fridge on an old rusted fry pan!
We assumed they were glue sniffers as that seemed typical gluey behavior and when we went back the following day to get our remaining things and saw the mess, who should be pulling up at the same time but our land lady! We had a right old argument with her in the street, her protesting that we were not allowed to leave before our lease was officially up – us complaining she had given us no choice and there was no way we would be staying.
Despite this, she took us to the small claims court to make us pay the remaining five weeks rent. Amazing what some people can get away with.
Still, we were glad to be out, and our new house was a big family home with five bedrooms. Unable to decide who got what room – we drew straws. Julie and I definitely drew the shortest straws moving into the smallest rooms, but still the house was warm and dry and everything worked – that being the main thing.
It was a time of changing locations for a few of us, as my boyfriend Sam moved from Lyttleton, over the hill and into town. Interestingly he moved into the well known ‘127’ Apartment where Techno DJ Richie ‘Grind’ lived with a couple of other people. The apartment was an old office converted into a living loft space which was pretty cool, but Sam’s room turned out to be an old bank safe! It had a huge concrete door that you had to wrench open to get inside – and once in, it was a big black square space with only enough room for a bed on the floor and a wee shelf. Still, it served him fine for the time he lived there and it was convienient he was so close.
Not long after we celebrated being together 6 months, things started to change between us, and one night, Sam broke up with me. To be fair, we didn’t really go out socially together, my love of raving and DnB was not shared by Sam, and it played on my ego and insecurities, as well as his.
I was definitely gutted as we had had a pretty awesome summer together, but as winter began to set in, I was determined to get out there and socialise with my friends and not let it eat me up. Besides, NASDA was as consuming as ever and there were plenty of raves to be attended.
A new club opened up in Christchurch, ‘Base’ on Columbo street which was upstairs and which started to hold a regular DnB night. To also help take my mind off things, my girlfriend M convinced me to buy an invitation only ticket for a forthcoming rave happening that Friday night called ‘Operation Snowstorm’ which was going to be held at a secret location.
According to the black and white invite, for $60 we would get a ride on a bus to the location in the evening after work, plus ‘extras’ (whatever that meant), and a bunch of DJ’s spinning DnB and Techno. We were told to dress warm and bring an overnight bag and with my snowboarding jacket being the only warm thing I had, I rocked that over a pair of black trousers I’d worn to school that day.
I boarded the bus to ‘Operation Snowstorm’ looking around at all the faces that were joining us on the trip. I think there were probably no more than 80 of us. The bus headed out of Christchurch and an hour or so and two mix tapes of DnB later, we were winding up a snow covered road to a group of cabins set back in the woods. Apparently it was on someone’s farm – to me it felt like we were in the mountains! As we hopped off the bus everyone was handed their ‘extras’ which was either Ecstasy or Acid I can’t quite recall – whatever it was I do remember I slipped it into my pocket with a mixture of trepidation and excitement.
When we got inside the main building it was freezing, and the boys who had organised it quickly set about putting up a screen, assembling the decks and turning on the heating. We all sat around as a movie played, and steaming mugs of hot chocolate and tea were handed around, not to mention some massive joints. At the end of the movie M and I went outside to check out the cabins and the room we had been allocated. We let some slivers of acid dissolve on our tongues before venturing back inside the main building where the first of the DJ’s had started to spin some tunes. Not long after that my body temperature righted itself and no longer cold, and feeling pretty high – we girls ventured out into the snow to explore and to dance under the stars.
M and I were wandering along chatting animatedly and checking out a field of perfectly covered snow, when we came across a guy smoking a joint on his own. He was tall with a thick head of hair fighting with the adidas head band he had tried to tame it with. He had a prominent nose and beautiful full lips with lazy lidded eyes.
He was dressed in a huge puffer jacket and hightop sneakers and as we made conversation with him he made fun of my conservative black trousers and snowboarding jacket. I snapped back, saying something witty that obviously caught him off guard and which made M laugh uproariously. Taking offence, this boy proceeded to playfully trip me up, which sent my already loose and relaxed body falling over into the snow.
Too high to do anything but lie on my back and laugh, I looked up at him demanding he tell me his name. He introduced himself as ‘Mo’ and sauntered away, a huge grin plastered on his face.
‘Who IS that guy?’ I asked M as I got to my feet wiping the snow off my now damp trousers.
“He said! – His names Mo!” M laughed in reply.
‘I know, I know” I muttered, my eyes trailing after him as he walked confidently off towards his friends. “But who IS he?!”
This Mo character made me feel much the same way that Drum n Bass had the first night I had really listened to it… like I wanted to know more about it. Like a bunch of butterflies had suddenly take flight in my stomach..like an unknown appetite had just been roused, and I felt a sudden desire to satisfy it.
1997 in Christchurch started off with a bang with some top international Breaks and Drum n Bass acts coming through New Zealand, with the first three months hosting DJ Trace, Doc Scott and Dom & Roland. While I missed Trace due to being out of town, I was however, there for the Subtronix ‘Nasty Habits’ gig with Doc Scott at The Ministry, who had support from Subtronix’s own Presha and D-Rave from Auckland and local boys Pots, Silencer, Phantom and MC Green.
Doc Scott was responsible for one of the biggest Drum n Bass tracks of 1996 ‘Shadow Boxing‘ and as I was familiar with the track, I was excited to see the man who had produced it – playing it in the flesh.
Off I went assuming it would be just another regular rave at The Ministry, getting high, dancing til dawn and spending time climbing onto the roof of the club via the back ally, to look at the stars and smoke some weed as the bass filtered up through our feet.
Little did I know that the night was to change things massively for me in a music sense.
I remember that I enjoyed Doc Scott’s set, and I remember the bottles rattling off the table and onto the floor when he played ‘Shadowboxing’. At that time we never thought the bass could get any deeper.
When his set finished, there was a definite change in atmosphere for me. Maybe my acid wore off, or maybe it kicked in, perhaps it was to do with the fact the next DJ played a set that embodied a different vibe within DnB – but for me, around 3 – 4 a.m I fell in love with Drum n Bass honestly and truly for the first time.
Sometimes, thats all it takes to get a persons attention. A single track, or a specific DJ’s set.
In the twelve months since I had been in Christchurch, ‘Breaks’ had started to switch up, and ‘Drum n Bass’ had started to emerge in the scene as a more ‘pure form’ of music. As well as this, the all genre raves I had first attended were now being streamlined into parties aimed at one particular genre, and each had begun to grow throughout New Zealand of its own accord, all with a very loyal following.
No longer did DnB have to sit next to other genres in order to work in a club environment, its fan base was growing fast and this was proven with raves like Trace, Dom & Roland and of course Doc Scott, and the crowds they pulled. Suddenly we were hearing nothing but pure, unadulterated DnB all night, and new and different forms of Drum n Bass began to emerge within the genre itself also, so that everyones appetite could be satisfied.
This was also the chance for local DnB DJ’s to really come through and make a name for themselves. Again, no longer having to fight for a slot next to House, Techno and Trance DJ’s, those who loved DnB and longed to mix only to a DnB crowd could begin to build their own brand and style within the scene.
And so it was on this night that a local DJ by the name of ‘Silencer’ got on the decks and dropped his first record, a brand new tune which I was to later discover was Krust’s remix of his own track ‘Maintain‘.
Dry ice filled the room and a swirling wind sound coursed out of the bass speakers. Then a haunting voice cut through the darkness.
“In this world of minnnne… 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…. I know what it is and I got to Maintaaaaaain”
Then the beat kicked in and I felt my mind stand to attention. The beat was minimal, punctuated with laser like sounds, and these husky Feminine vocals that sounded slightly off key, cut across the track – loud, understated and raw. The message her lyrics contained spread throughout the room like a beautiful virus. Everyone had their hands in the air and smiles alighting on their faces.
I immediately felt my body react. Dancing to this form of music was different to how I had ever moved to Breaks or even to Hip Hop. I dropped low in the hips, and pulsing back and forth at the waist to the bubbling beats, I barely stopped moving for the next three hours. The set was full of DnB infused with funk and soul influences and several vocal tracks, all flowing seamlessly into the other. On we danced until the night finished at around 6.a.m.
As the lights flickered on I looked at the shiny, sweaty, happy faces of people around me stretching out their dance weary limbs. We were all clapping and cheering and in that moment I realised I had found it. My niche, my place, my passion. The kind of music that was to follow me and which I would follow for the next ten years. The music that would ultimately shape my future.
My girlfriends and I drifted down the foggy streets arm in arm, laughing and shouting out to those heading off to their after parties or to their homes. I recall falling into bed exhausted from dancing, but with a smile on my face and a new determination to know as much as I could about Drum n Bass music.
“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 – for 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.
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.
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.
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.
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. 🙂