“Super Sharp Shooter, shooting super sharp shots!” (DJ Zinc, Ganja Records, 1996)
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.