‘All youth shall witness – the day that Babylon shall fall………’ (Babylon – Splash, Juice Records)
After Scientific’s first party ‘Spectrum’ I didn’t really have too much time to stop and think about everything that was happening as I had my Showcase final and once that was over I was straight into studying for my final exams, but somewhere in there Joe and James managed to get onboard with a party that was happening in a grand old Chinese restaurant that was closing down.
There were three levels to the building and on each level was a different genre. Level one (The trapdoor) was Drum n Bass “bought to you by Scientific’ So this was all DJs that were associated with the show and our parties, the same line up that had played at Spectrum. The Yellow Base on floor two was bought to you by the record store ‘Constant Force’ and featured Trance, hosting DJs such as Robotnic from Melbourne, Kinesis, Captain Shiner, and Pyre amongst others. The top floor was in association with another club in town ‘The Suite’ and featured House DJs such as Medicine Man, and Sneaky P.
I remember being impressed with the layout and theme behind the party, and that it seemed to be relatively successful. I finished my final exam on the 5th of November and I was ecstatic. After two years at uni, followed by two years at NASDA and a further year to complete my Bachelors Degree I had had enough of studying and exams and being judged and scored and marked! I felt the freest I had felt in a long time. I felt confident with my exams as I had studied hard and for once in my life had not found the exam process too stressful. My last two assessments in American Lit and Music had earned me my first ever A’s at University, Not to mention Showcase paid me my $2,000 from the semi final a few days after this. I truly felt like all my efforts were being rewarded.
My friend Amanda turned 21 a week later and we threw her a surprise party up at her boyfriends apartment. However I couldn’t drink too much as the following day I flew up to Taranaki for my oldest Brothers wedding.
While I enjoyed being home and seeing my family, I was anxious to get back to Christchurch. It truly felt like home to me now, like I was putting down roots and making firm friends where I felt I could be myself and whom I trusted. And obviously I had my home with Joe. In the meantime he was busy planning his next night. There was a new club about to open in town that would change things somewhat in terms of venues. While most DnB parties were held at ‘Base’ or ‘The Ministry’, there was a need for a classier, smaller venue to host a specific sort of party when the time called for it. ‘Base’ had a certain awkwardness to its design and layout and over time we got bored with it.
‘Heaven’ was a slightly smaller venue but much more stylish. With a bar full of premium cocktails, a much cosier dance floor and black faux leather booths with wooden tables, you could sit and chat and drink in near privacy if you so desired. It was also being run by two of our good friends Geoff Curtain and Aragon Urqhart. Both Geoff and Arry were massive guys, Geoff tall and broad always welcoming with a hug and offer of a glass of bubbles, Arry, really tall with bleached blonde hair and an infectious smile.
We loved those guys and we loved the fact even more that they in conjunction with Joe and James and local House DJ King Al decided to start running weekly club nights there. On Thursdays would be ‘Amen’ – (fitting, considering it was the name of the break in Jungle and that the club was called ‘Heaven’). It would be James and Joe playing DnB alongside special guests every Thursday night and for only $4. Fridays was ‘High Society’, it’s motto “High class clubbing for high class people’ and on Saturdays was ‘Ascend’ Trance that takes you from ‘peak to peak’. The idea was that the club would attract not only those passionate about the music, but along with a door man and slight dress code (no caps – but trainers were allowed) the cliental would be an older, and hopefully classier crew into the vibe of the venue itself. The club was small enough that you didn’t need a heap of people in there for it to feel packed out, and the people that attended the week nights, weren’t afraid of spending a bit more at the bar either. The flyer design’s all had a slight cohesion in that they were 3D rendered and could stand up on their own, which was another unique and clever design that Pylon came up with.
These nights proved to be very successful. ‘Amen’ opened the club by being the first night on the Thursday, and it went off, with not only DnB heads up there, but a number of DJs and their friends from different genres attending. It actually created quite a family feeling between us all that were associated with the three nights as well. Arry would often be drinking at the bar with some of the DnB boys on a Thursday despite him being a full on Trance lover, And you would not be surprised to see girls like myself, Emma and Misi donning trainers and jeans on a Thursday to brock out to DnB, only to attend the following night to listen to House, wearing diamantes and heels.
Misi had returned from Auckland after her three months away and the first thing she did was come around and see me.
It was awesome to have her back in town and it was great to be able to share with her the celebration of the opening of ‘Heaven’ and our ‘Amen’ night, and two nights later, Ed Rush and Optical when they bought their ‘Virus’ tour to town.
What was interesting to note about this party was that with it being a Subtronix party, Geoff only booked the DJs he got along with.
Since Jay had moved to Auckland and James Pylon and Joe were two of the more established DJs now running things down in Christchurch you would think Geoff would book them to play. But no, since Scientific had started up, things between Joe, James and Geoff had grown increasingly frosty with word getting down to us in Christchurch that Geoff was apparently livid we were trying to establish our own DnB promotions crew. He booked B-Line, and D -Tour, fellow Aucklander 48 Sonic and himself to play. That was it. It seemed like a direct snub to us that neither the boys or any of our crew were booked.
D-tour aka Dallas became a bit of right hand man to Geoff Wright down in Christchurch and this incensed the Scientific boys even more as at the time he was very young and seemed inexperienced at the time, and I guess they felt he should have been more loyal to the Christchurch scene. However Dal was obviously wanting to advance his career, so took this opportunity offered to him.
I felt the whole political furore that followed after this was so blown out of proportion and came down to nothing more than egos. Sadly these politics came to slightly taint our very healthy scenes reputation both at home and abroad for many years after.
Instead of coming together and working with each other on events, Subtronix decided to see the creation of Scientific as a threat and do what they could to ensure their dominance over NZ DnB would be undisputed. While I can understand that they had been working away at their reputation for some time and felt protective of what they had created, they weren’t exactly the first promotions company to ever bring Internationals to our shores or put parties on in general.
Besides, We in Christchurch especially, felt rather indignant that we weren’t able to have our own South Island run promotions company and choose what acts we would get to see. There were other DJs we were interested in and in particularly at that time, Joe was starting to make contact with some International agencies via email and phone to talk about the possibility of bringing them over. One of these was a producer who went by the name of ‘Undercover Agent’ and who ran Juice and Splash Records. As James had strong ties with The Gathering, which was a decidedly South Island heavy event, they felt this was the perfect opportunity to approach The Gathering with their idea to bring over Undercover Agent, or as we got to know him as – Daz, as the first International DnB act to perform at what had always been more of a localised event.
I am still not sure how we managed to convince him or his agent for him to come for a single gig given the length of the flight, and that he had never flown that far before. But we did. And it was on every DnB fans lips that Daz, along with another UK DJ Dave Harrow who was playing Ambient/Drone music, were the only Internationals on the bill and so were highly anticipated.
The Gathering had an awesome flyer that year, a little booklet covering everything from conservation, to detailed travel information, how to rave safely, weather you chose to be straight or indulge in drinks and drugs and what to bring with you. They also had a policy about no DJ being billed higher than the other, that all the DJs were equal in terms of what they were bringing to the party, and so it was just a long list of all the performers, Live, DJs, MCs and VJs listed one after the other alphabetically.
We were super excited and that particular year we had an extra guest rolling with us in the shape of German Graffiti artist Heindrik.
Heindrik had turned up at our house randomly one day knocking on the door and asking for Joe. Apparently he was in NZ wanting to check out our country, our Graffitti scene and to obviously do some painting. He had asked someone who he should hook up with when down in Christchurch, and had been given Joes name and our address. I cant recall if maybe he had texted Joe first and arranged to meet him, but it definitely felt random that this stranger knocked on our door and was suddenly in our house, sitting on our sofa, smelling of paint, sharing graff photos and comparing different spray can nibs with Joe. Heindrik’s work was certainly impressive. He had a knack for painting the surreal, and when Joe took him over to the wall near where he had done my Happy Birthday piece, Heindrik found a smallish wall, painted it white and proceeded to do the most stunning piece in the form of his girlfriends face in orange and yellow with drips that were artistically manipulated to glide in rivers down the wall.
While we were living together at Peterborough street, Joe would often leave me late at night, spray cans stuffed down the front of his oversized jeans and in the pockets of his puffa jacket and walk all the way down to the train tracks and walk along them tagging and looking for trains to bomb. I was always nervous about him getting caught, especially as the train yards were patrolled and had spotlights and high wire fences. I would breathe a sigh of relief when in a dozey state I would hear the lock click and Joe come home, sliding into bed next to me smelling of fresh paint and dust.
One night I convinced him to take me with him. I said if he wanted me not to worry it would be good if he showed me exactly what it was he did on these night missions. Joe pushed two cans into my pockets and one into the waist of my jeans so I had to walk with a slight gait. As we walked down the dark streets towards the tracks he briefed me on all the rules of painting in such a dangerous area. I had to be as quiet as possible with no talking, barely a whisper even, and to move as quickly and quietly as I could.
If someone came and caught us, I was to drop my cans and run, pulling the ones from my pockets and dumping them too. Even if we got separated I was to run and run until I was safely home and not look back or try to find him.
I have to say I was a little scared but also slightly exhilarated by the risk of it. My heart was beating fast as I dropped to the ground once we were near the yards, and moving the can down my jeans out the way so I could lie on my stomach, I followed Joe wriggling under a tiny gap in the fence. We lay on the ground watching the movement from in the yards just a few meters away.
There were men buffing the trains, giving them a clean, and huge spotlights that shone down on the surrounding areas and trains.
In a whisper Joe explained to me he would usually look for the dark spots, where the light didnt quite reach and how he would climb under another set of fences to get to the trains. However it was deemed too risky with me by his side and so instead we crawled around the corner of a building where there was a big white wall. There were already some tags on it, so I didn’t feel so bad when Joe handed me a can so I could do my own throw up. A throw up is like a mini bomb. Its not the same as a tag which is often just a scrawled pysedunom and if not done fluidly can look as effective as pissing paint up a wall.
A throw up is also not a full blown piece either with outline and full colours and so forth. A throw up is usually just two colours and with quickly formed letters, due to the piece being ‘thrown up’ in a hurry on a trains side panel or a wall. I had spent many nights at home smoking weed with Joe and the two of us silently drawing and creating pieces, so I had developed a bubble letter style of my nick name ‘Talie’ and I got to work getting it up as quickly as possible. It was so awesome to be there alongside Joe who was doing his own throw up, the risk of being caught juxtaposed with the feeling of bonding between us. As soon as we were done I wished we had a camera to capture it, but before I could say this, Joe tugged my arm and we were back down on our bellies crawling under the fence and heading into the darkness towards home.
And so over the next couple of weeks leading up to Christmas Heindrik stayed at our house, he and Joe often going out every night to paint. I loved that Joe had made a friend who inspired his painting, his pieces becoming less about just painting his name, and more about incorporating elements of surrealism. I will never forget there was an exhibition put on in town where local graff artists were invited to paint panels to exhibit on the walls. Everyone there painted their own name in typical style of three or four color, outline, drop shadow and so forth, except Joe. He painted this amazing shark moving through murky water, with several shades of greys, blues and browns in small streaks across the panel.
So many stopped and complimented it. He has always had a real artistic talent that I felt he could and hopefully one day again will – explore more throughly. I flew home to Taranaki for Christmas, all chatter about The Gathering and the impending arrival of Daz, and Heindrik was invited down to Dunedin to spend Christmas with Joe and his family.
The weather was dry and hot again for The Gathering that year, most of our Christchurch crew had all managed to camp near each other and it felt like old familiar ground. We had gotten Heindrik a ticket as well and he and everyone around us, was getting hyped up and milling out over the hot dusty hill to sit and bob their heads in the sun, or take refuge in one of the marquees and listen to our friends DJ. This year Joe would be playing New Years eve, and straight after Daz who would be rocking out the DnB Tent from just after midnight so I was even more excited and proud to be there.
Joe brought Daz over to our tent area and introduced him to everyone in the afternoon. We all sat there with big smiles on our faces, stoked at being able to actually hang out with someone from the UK DnB scene, as he lay on the ground on his side and smoked roll ups, looking through the book of Graffiti Heindrik had with him. Daz was a big guy, smooth brown skin, wide shoulders, sweet smile and the perfect east side London accent. We all liked him immediately, especially when he was chatting about the dubplates he had with him and what he was going to play that night! The poor guy was pretty jet lagged. It was a long way to fly for one show, economy as well, and being his size, he lamented over the fact that every time he had fallen asleep, the flight attendants had bumped his feet or elbow with their trolley.
Joe took him off to the the wee caravan where crew were camping, and where he would be sleeping so he could smoke some blunts and have a nap. Us girls in the meantime pulled out our stashed bottles of alcohol and started as we meant to go on, sitting in the sun sipping from our filled plastic cups.
That night just before New Years Eve I stood with Joe’s arms around me as we watched the DJ on the outside stage bring in the countdown. We were there with Jaz and Richie, Emma and James and a few of my girlfriends and as we counted down to one, fireworks went off in the sky above us. Joe and I had a quick kiss, before he had to dash off to the DnB tent to make sure Daz was ready to go. I stayed with my friends for a few minutes more hugging and shouting Happy New Year, before I headed into the DnB tent myself. When I got in there, Daz was up on the decks, sorting which tune he would start with. There wasn’t a soul in the tent.
My first thought was ‘Oh no, no one cares we’ve bought an International over (and our first) and they’re not going to come listen to him play’ But I shook my head laughing at myself – I knew how strong the DnB crowd was in New Zealand! I ran up to the decks and called hello up at Daz.
“Where is everyone?” he asked me his brow furrowed.
“Dont you worry Daz” I beamed “They’re just watching the fireworks, they will be here”
“I hope so Miss, I hope so” He replied.
As if on cue about ten minutes past midnight, I looked out the entrance to the marquee to see a swath of people running towards me.
Within minutes the tent was full, Daz grinned out at me, Joe gave him the signal and he dropped the needle on the dubplate.
Any signs of jetlag were gone within moments, Daz rinsing tune after tune of jungle flavours, one of his biggest tunes ‘Babylon‘ receiving screams and hands in the air from the crowd. I felt so proud knowing that James and Joe had made this happen and my friends and I danced non stop for hours, Joe following on from Daz, who stood there, spliff in mouth, clapping him on the back and smiling whenever he dropped a goodie. It was just awesome.
The following day it was all any of us DnB kids could talk about, and I felt very cool and proud to be heading off to Wellington with Joe, Daz and Heindrik, especially so the boys could go painting. If it wasn’t DnB we had heads in, it was spray cans and markers.
When we got to Wellington we were staying in a pretty budget old hotel on a corner in the centre of town. Joe had one of his Welly mates hook them up a wall to paint where it was pretty much legal to do your thing, so I spent the afternoon sitting in the sun watching the guys throwing up a joint piece on the wall, with Daz who used to paint – in the mix as well. In the evening on the way to get some food we passed some break dancers with a piece of cardboard flattened out on the ground, busting some moves with their boom box on the steps next to them.
Daz stopped and spoke to them, telling us all he used to be in a breaking crew back in the 80’s when he was a kid.
“Go on then Bro” one of the breakers egged him on, “Lets see you do your thing”
“Ah nah.. Im a bit old for that now days..” Daz hesitated, but when they all started calling out to him, he just went for it.
So our big guy started with some Up Rock, and then just dropped down into Crazy Legs, before hitting a back spin and into a freeze to finish. We were all amazed! I think he was too, it was so awesome considering he was such a big dude and had not danced in so many years – but he still had it!
As we walked away with the breakers clapping and cheering after him Daz clutched at his shoulder ever so slightly.
“I’ll be definitely paying for that in the morning I tell you what” we all fell about laughing as we watched him throw a cool as ice salute back in the direction of the breakers, although his face was contorted in pain!
A few hours later, Daz caught his plane from New Zealand back to the UK. Even though his visit had been short and sweet, we knew we would see him again without a doubt. Just before we said goodbye though, Daz gifted Joe with a few of his Dub plates.
They were Joe’s first ever. I could see in Joe’s eyes this was a huge compliment to be paid, and I watched with pride as he stroked the acetate between his hands, turning each dub plate over and over. They were small in comparison to the twelves we were used to seeing and much heavier. As well as this, Daz promised he would hook Joe up with further connections to help increase the freshness of his selection.
That night as I got ready to go to sleep in the hotel bed, Joe and Heindrik got ready to go out painting. Try as I might not to be anxious, I always was. Especially when they were going out to paint in a different city. They knew where the train yards were, it was just a matter of scoping them out. So far on their travels, Heindrik and Joe had manage to hit trains in Dunedin and Christchurch and get photos of them before they were cleaned – a huge achievement for any graff artist.
I listened as their footsteps echoed down the hall and fell into a fitful sleep. That night around 2 a.m Joe came creeping into bed.
He was breathing heavily and as I spoke with him he sounded shook up.
“We had just started on these trains in the yard and then this four wheel drive came ripping round the corner, lights full beam so we had to make a run for it!”. He had scratches on his hands from skidding on gravel and when I asked what happened to Heindrik he said he didn’t know as they had been separated. “He’ll be alright though – he knows what he’s doing” Joe tried to reassure me.
Needless to say neither of us slept that well for the remainder of the night.
In the morning Heindrik came knocking at our door. He had made it back to the hotel but only after sleeping for a few hours in the doorway of a warehouse down near the docks. He had left his sleeping bag and backpack behind as he didn’t want to look suspicious carrying them back to the hotel in the early morning. We were both just mad relieved to see him.
That afternoon we went and picked up Heindriks stuff from where he had left it.
“Wow you walked all this way from here back to the hotel?” I asked him, amazed at the distance.
“Wellington is not a big city” Heindrik replied in his German lilt. “If you can walk out of a city in less than a few hours then it is not big. A big city takes over a day to walk out of. Somewhere like London, Paris or New York.. they will take you all day to walk out of”. Having never been to any of those cities, this concept amazed me.
For now though, he would be getting out of Wellington and heading north towards Auckland. Our time as Heindrik’s hosts was done, and even though in some ways I was happy to be getting Joe to myself again, we were sad to see him go. He was such a talented and sweet hearted guy who had certainly made an impression on everyone he met.
Heindriks words had got me thinking of what it must be like to live in or even visit a big city like that. And soon we would be visiting one – London! My prize from coming third in Showcase had been to go to Hong Kong, but there were no flights on the dates that we wanted and when we could go, so we started looking at other options with the travel agent.
We discussed LA and Japan, but when the agent asked me where I really wanted to go, I said London. It was my dream to go to London.
“Well we here at the office all think you should have won Showcase” He had smiled at me, “So we’ll find you flights on these dates for this price – even if we have to make up the extra cost” I couldn’t believe it, but it was true. Joe and I would finally be heading to London In February and we knew without a doubt this would be a pilgrimage to the home of Jungle and Drum n Bass, with some of the most established clubs in the world for our kind of music!
This made up for the fact that this particular year at the Big Day Out I would be missing one of my favourite DnB artists of the moment – Roni Size, who was visiting our country for the first time. I couldn’t believe that he was coming to New Zealand but would only be playing Auckland, so I hoped that somewhere along the way with Joe and I going to London – we might see him for ourselves.