“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.