Saturday the 26th of June 1999. It was finally here. The day of Scientific’s first Christchurch international show, featuring DJ Bailey and MC Flux. The hype and anticipation around this day was electrifying and nerve racking. Joe and James were out and about all day, down at the venue finalising lighting and sound, and sorting door staff and door sales. Joe had played with Bailey the night before in Auckland, and it sounded as if it had been a very successful night, so I was hopeful that Christchurch would bring the same.
My work for Scientific was pretty much done so I didn’t have to worry too much, the next time I saw Joe would be at dinner with Bailey and his girlfriend Nina, who had decided to come for the trip, and of course, MC Flux. My friends and I were on the phone to each other all day, discussing outfits and pre drinks, and I appreciated how much support and positivity they were showing, knowing that I was actually a bundle of nerves. We had done everything we could with regards to pushing the event. Posters and stickers all round town, flyering at local events, and radio ads on RDU. But even so, there was an immense amount of stress. What if something went wrong? or we didn’t sell enough tickets?
Later on, we had an early dinner with Bailey and Nina (Flux was sleeping) where we all got know each other a bit better, before we dropped them at the hotel to get ready.
I had some of the girls around for pre drinks and once we were ready, we headed down to The Ministry in a taxi. As we rounded the corner onto Lichfield street I inhaled sharply. There was a queue outside the club. But not just a little queue.. it stretched right down the street to the next alleyway. “Woah.. do we have to stand in that?” I remember one of the girls saying.. “Nah, Nah we go to the front!” I laughed. My chest swelled with pride knowing that by the looks of the crowd our first international event was going to be a success. Not long after we had entered the club, I was alerted to the fact that our guests were arriving and so I went out to greet them. When Bailey, Flux and Nina came walking down the alleyway to the entrance, people were calling out to Bailey and taking photos with their cameras. Again I felt a flutter of pride. We had made this happen!
The dance floor was absolutely packed and there was a genuine feeling of excitement from everyone that this was a night put on by Christchurch promoters for Christchurch ravers, with a completely fresh act that they had never seen before. The level of energy, and respect for Bailey and Flux was infectious. All around me people had huge smiles on their faces, and though I could see Joe was still slightly on edge with nerves, I could also see him and James were visibly so stoked that everything was going to plan. I remember Joe giving me a huge cuddle and kiss and saying something like ‘We did it!” before zooming off again through the crowd to attend to something else and how proud I felt in that moment to be associated with Scientific and to have Joe as a partner.
Bailey’s set was amazing. His reputation for long, smooth rolling mixes, blending soulful tunes in with harder, more driving sounds meant the Christchurch crowd were not disappointed. People screamed and cheered, clapped and danced, the dance floor continuously packed from beginning to end. However it was a couple of the tunes that Bailey dropped which are what I automatically think of when I look back on this gig. One of them was called “Inta Warriors’ The Special Forces remix, I feel like Bailey may have either opened or closed his set with this…does anyone else remember?
The other tune that really stuck out was another Special Forces tune called “Something Else” but I didn’t know this at the time. Looking over Bailey’s shoulder (like the DnB nerds were were), we could see the dubplate had “Bleep Tune” scrawled in marker pen on it. These alternative names that the DJs often gave their dubs meant any nosy trainspotter would be thrown as to what the tune was actually called. This gave the tune (and the person playing it), so much more reverence, as they had access to certain tunes that we would have to wait months to get our hands on. I remember this tune got a rewind as soon as it dropped,
the crowds voices lifting in a unanimous “woaaaaah” sound and all hands in the air. I remember Flux really getting into it too, feeding of the crowds energy, whipping his towel around above his head as he got the crowd to join in with his call and response “When I say DJ.. you say Bailey.. DJ!.. DJ!..”
I listened to the types of rhymes he dropped, and the phrases he used to big up Bailey and keep the crowd feeling involved, storing these moments in my mind as pieces of inspiration I could come back to for when I was practicing my own.
The whole night went off without a hitch, and though I wanted to do my bit to help pack up when the lights came on and the club was empty – there was really not much I could do. So I left Joe and James there, finishing up and counting the money. When Joe finally fell into bed next to me an hour or so later, he gave me a huge hug and whispered “We’ve fucking rinsed it! We’ve covered all our expenses and made heaps of money!” I’m sure I fell asleep with a smile on face.
The next day we picked Bailey up for some dinner, leaving Flux and Nina at the hotel resting, and a group of us went out to the movies with him to see the new Star Wars Movie (“The Phantom Menace”). We had already seen it the week before, queuing up with a tonne of other people to be one of the first to see it upon release. Joe and I were both Star Wars nerds, and more than happy to see it again. Bailey’s jet lag however got the better of him, and he fell asleep half way through. We didn’t wake him until the end of the film when the lights came up. “Dammit now I have to see it again to know what happens” he grumbled, rubbing his eyes on the walk back to the car.
On the Tuesday I had to say my goodbyes to Bailey, Nina and Flux, but also Joe, as all of them were heading over to Australia to play Perth and Melbourne. I was sad to say goodbye to our new friends, but also excited for Joe, because as he was the main promoter of the tour, he could dictate that he was to play these Australian dates. This was something he had worked so hard towards. Now it was time for me to put the work in myself, focusing on honing my lyrical skills. One day it would be me on that plane heading over to Aussie to play. This was a promise I made to myself, as I watched their plane nose upwards into the clouds.
After our adventures to the UK and Paris, upon arriving back to New Zealand, Joe and I had a catch up with James Pylon to discuss our travels and to decide upon a date on which to do our first international DnB party. The guys were set on having Bailey over, (who was incredibly keen and in turn, wanted Flux as his MC), but firstly we had to make sure he was available at the time we wanted him, and that The Ministry was also available to hire for the gig.
Both Joe and I were jet lagged for the first time in our lives, and Joe was also still recovering from his Glandular Fever, but the decided June date wasn’t that far away, and there was a lot to organise. As I had the best skills at composing and writing, Joe set me the task of creating an artist contract that would protect Scientific’s interest, and Joe was to liaise with Baileys agent directly by phone regarding date and price. James was keen to get his teeth into the flyer/poster design alongside Dan Motive – they wanted something that would stand out, and be a visual representation of our brand.
I don’t even know how I knew how to write a contract. I must have gotten a template from somewhere online, or maybe James and Joe wrote down a list of things they wanted included, perhaps I asked someone for advice.. But I do remember finding out what ‘Force Majeur’ meant for the first time, and feeling hopeful and somewhat nervous that it would be sufficient and professional sounding enough for Bailey’s agent. We were so determined to put this gig on and rep the Christchurch scene!
In the meantime, I continued my university studies to finish off my degree, and sang here and there around town on my keyboard. I recognised that I was becoming less enthused about singing in this way – as the seed of wanting to become a DnB MC continued to grow slowly in my mind, but I was still unsure of what to do about it.
Around this time I had started getting breakdancing lessons down at the YCD. We had some real solid Breakers in Christchurch, not to mention some dope DJs and MCs, and of course Graffiti artists – of which Joe was one. As a lot of the different musical genres mixed and supported each other, it was quite normal to see DnB heads at Hip Hop events and vice versa. We loved the music as much as the people that were a part of it, people like Richie Broke, Daneja, Ali, Kaboom and Antsman not to mention the all Female – Sheelaroc Crew! Not only was Breakdancing great fitness, and fulfilled my love of dancing in general, It was fun to go down there because of the awesome crew of people running the show.
One particular afternoon when I was down there learning how to crazy legs, one of the guys told me there was a Hip Hop party happening that night at The Licker Lounge with an open mic cypher and that we should come check it out. Open mic? The words rang in my ears. One of my girlfriends nudged me.. you should get on the mic tonight!! I smiled at her and whispered back.. I’m keen! Joe can’t know though.. He would never approve!
It wasn’t that I didn’t think Joe wouldn’t necessarily support the idea of me wanting to be an MC, it was just that he cared very much about what people thought about him (and that extended to what they thought about me, his girlfriend) and he would be mortified if I made a fool of myself in front of the Hip Hop crowd. Because of this, I had never really bothered to share my dream of being an MC with him. I figured he would shoot down the idea anyway. Still, I had been writing lyrics and raps for years and I was determined to try out some of my lyrics in a live setting. At least with Hip Hop – it wasn’t Drum n Bass.. so even if I fell at the first hurdle I wouldn’t be sacrificing myself in front of the very crowd I one day hoped to MC for.
When we arrived that night there was a reasonable crowd gathered, with a few people on the dance floor bopping to Antsman on the decks. It wasn’t long before a circle developed on the floor and the mic was bought out. The cypher had begun! I edged my way into the circle with my friends behind me, my heart fluttering slightly as one by one the people in the circle freestyled lyrics, or dropped some pre rehearsed rhymes for a minute or two before passing the mic on.
As it came towards me I took a deep breath and reached out my hand, my opportunity within reach. But I pretty much gripped thin air. I had been passed over. The mic had gone to the guy next to me. I glanced back at my friends who hovered at my shoulder. “Make sure you grab it next time” one of them insisted in my ear. I nodded and stepped slightly further into the circle. This time as the mic approached me, I made it much clearer than I intended to take it. I grabbed it, and once it was in my hand I waited for a count of four, took a deep breath and began to rap.
I was surprised by how the tone of my voice cut through the music.. I naturally rapped in a lower voice, as my speaking voice is quite husky – and I think this sounded effective riding on the music clearly and authoritatively, despite my nerves. My friends all cheered and whooped behind me. I only had the mic for a couple of minutes, but it was enough time to say what I wanted to say and make the impression I felt I needed to. It wasn’t a freestyle, but some of my pre written rhymes that I had been working on and practicing all evening leading up to going out, and they seemed to go down well with everyone in the room.
I stayed in the circle for another round, but the second time I had the mic – instead of rapping I sang. I found this much easier, and just freestyled some lyrics off of what the previous person had said. Again the reaction from the crowd was positive, and afterwards a couple of people grabbed me as I was walking past to tell me that they thought I’d done a great job.
Needless to say I was pretty stoked. We stayed for a couple more drinks before bouncing out of the club and down the street, all my friend chattering excitedly in support of my first ever go MCing on the mic. I had the biggest smile on my face, and though I was sure this was what I wanted to pursue, I still made sure that I didn’t say anything to Joe about it.
Turns out I didn’t need to, as someone else told him. Later in the week he hit me up. “I hear you had a go on the mic down at Licker Lounge last weekend” “Oh yeah, yeah I did” I tried to act nonchalant, like it was no big deal.
“Yeah Ants said… He also said you were pretty good” I breathed an inward sigh of relief. Even though Ants had told him, at least he thought I had done OK. “Why didn’t you tell me?” Joe asked. I explained that I thought he wouldn’t be into the idea, and maybe try and talk me out of it before I could even have a go, in doing so, I finally told him of my ambitions to become New Zealand’s first Female DnB MC.
“It’s not that I don’t think you can do it Tali” he explained. “But if you want to do this, it can’t be something that you do halfheartedly. People are naturally gonna want to criticise you and bring you down. Mainly cos there’s so many bro’s in the scene and you’re a girl. If you want to do this – it’s not gonna be enough to just be good. You need to be the best. And not just the best Female, but the best in general”
I digested what he said, both relieved that he wasn’t disapproving, and somewhat surprised by how on point everything he said was. “I will support you” he continued, “but you have to practice and practice and write rhymes and then practice some more” I gave him a huge hug and smiled up at him. “I won’t let you down. I don’t wanna let myself down. This is something I really wanna do!” Joe smiled back at me. “Then do it then” From that moment on, my focus was set. I wanted to become the best MC in Drum n Bass in New Zealand and just as Joe suggested, I began to write rhymes and practice as much as I could. Joe would play tunes for me on the turntables in the lounge, and with the mic plugged into the mixer I would recite the lyrics I had written. Joe would give me feedback and remind me of certain things, like to big up the crowd, say the DJs name and not MC over the mix.
As well as this I started studying Drum n Bass like I was going for a degree in it. Even though I had a pretty good knowledge of who was who and the names of tunes, I wanted to know as much as possible. I did this so not only could people not doubt my abilities as an MC, but they couldn’t doubt my knowledge or passion for the scene. I listened to mix tape after mix tape, studying the styles of different MC’s, and read every Knowledge and ATM magazine cover to cover, even digesting the commercials and lineups for UK events. I wanted to be considered credible in every aspect, especially because I was aware that I was less likely to be taken seriously due to there being very little Women in Drum n Bass in general.
Saturday March 27th Scientific threw another Amen party at Heaven, but this time Joe and James decided to add an extra headliner to the bill calling it ‘Amen Special’ with 48 Sonic, and add an extra date down in Dunedin at Bath Street on the Friday. Sonic was, and still is, a legend in the New Zealand DnB scene, especially as an integral part of the Auckland DnB community in the 90’s. He was well known for his impeccable tune selection, as well as being a super nice guy to work with. With support from Joe, Wizard, Solid state, Pylon b2b with Mr Steel b2b with Halcyon at Heaven in Christchurch, it was certainly a heavyweight lineup and the whole night went off.
Two weeks later on a Friday afternoon when the sun was shining and I was leaving my house to run an errand, as I opened the door, a little black and white cat with bright green eyes and a pink nose was sat on my doorstep. Being a lover of all animals but in particular cats, I was most excited to meet this playful little cat who waltzed into our house like she owned it. She was super playful and cuddly. I immediately wanted to keep her, but I knew we had to put her outside at the end of the day in case she belonged to someone.
on Saturday it was another sunny April day, and I had the door open when the little black and white cat appeared at the door crying loudly. Again she walked into our house and promptly made herself at home on the sofa in a pool of sunlight. “Hey there little one” I cuddled and patted her and she stayed there for most of the afternoon. However Grooverider was in town that night and so I had to get ready to go out. Some of my friends came over for pre drinks. The little cat was still hanging around, although neither Joe nor I had given her anything other than cuddles. “Aww you should keep her!” exclaimed my friends as we put her outside, locked the door and went off to rave at The Ministry. That night Grooverider smashed out another brilliant set, with the most memorable track of the night for me being Grooverider’s remix of Jonny L’s “Piper”, the deep progressive Bass line embedding itself into my soul.
When we got home in the early hours of the morning, who should be sleeping on our doorstep but the little Black and white cat again! Despite Joe insisting we should leave her outside, I managed to convince him that it was cold and she obviously wanted to stay and we should let her in. So in the little cat came and this time went to sleep on our bed. Despite checking if anyone in the area owned her over the following days, and putting the call out to local vets and the SPCA – no one claimed the cat. So within a few days we had named her after my new favourite tune – ‘Piper’, and she was happily bounding around the wild flowers in our back yard during the day, and sleeping curled up under the covers at night.
The next Scientific shows were all within two to three weeks of each other, firstly with ‘Funktion’ at Base featuring Auckland DJ’s – Aaron (who played Breaks) DJ Motion, and Pots. This was James and Joe’s way of extending a hand to Auckland DJ’s to show them that they were welcome to come and play for our Christchurch based promotions company.
This was followed up with another local lineup back at Amen for ‘SIN’ and a combined Techno and DnB lineup for our tenth show ‘Bacteria’ – at a new location ‘Daegar Bar’.
For this one we tested out a few stickers to put around town, and play on the ‘viral’ tagline, with the intention to do the same for the Bailey gig.
Again I was on writing duties for all three shows, creating the blurbs that went on the back of the flyers. I would pour over my thesaurus trying to come up with new ways to describe the beats and bass. Reading back over them now cracks me up! So much hype in so few words! All these show set the bar for us as we continually built our local reputation while working on the upcoming DJ Bailey and MC Flux show.
In between ‘Sin’ and ‘Bacteria’ – Subtronix brought back the ever popular Doc Scott to New Zealand, on his ’31 Records’ tour. This was another massive night at Ministry with Scotty being a staple favourite amongst us DnB heads. This time he brought MC Justyce with him who perfectly complemented the soulful, yet progressive beats Doc Scott provided. With this night being so successful it only added to us the pressure, that our first international for Scientific be one to equal, if not better – this particular night.
“I see you, can’t you see I’m – paper thin, I’m made of neon, weekend come – I gotta see ya, take your time and consider..” Ultra Obscene – Breakbeat Era (XL Recordings 1999)
Leading up to our trip away to the UK, Joe and James organised yet another party, this time a purely local lineup. ‘Scientific presents Cells’ with Katalyst, Dexta and Grind playing Techno, and Solid State, Mosus (Joe) Pylon and Wizard playing DnB. The guys had been trying to find a venue for a while that would accommodate the sort of party we were putting on – it wasn’t going to be huge like Ministry, Base was getting tired, and Heaven was too small. Finally they negotiated to use a downstairs venue called ‘The Bassment’ on Manchester street. Emma.A and I were on tickets and guest list for the first half of the night, and watching group after group of Jungalists and Techno heads come down the stairs was very exciting. The night looked like it was going to shape up to be a success, and it was. The place was packed until 5.30 a.m and I knew from Joe’s face that things were going as smoothly as they could. The only negative was that we ran out of the water we were selling, which was a bit of a mistake. It was hot down in the Bassment and we certainly could have made more of a profit selling water to thirsty ravers.
The following day, Joe was on a high, people had had a great time, the DJs were all paid and had enjoyed themselves and best of all, Scientific had made its first profit on a gig. It was the perfect send off for Joe and I as we packed our bags for London and flew out three days later via Singapore.
Before we left Joe had set about making as many contacts as he could with labels, DJs and agencies. His idea was that he would make the connections and then follow these up visiting as many of them as we could whilst in London. One of the people who he particularly showed an interest in was a guy called DJ Bailey, who despite not being a producer, was very well known for being one of ‘Metalheadz’ finest DJs for his selection and mixing style. Joe felt that if we made the right impression and followed up these connections, this would see us in good stead for future international events.
I look back at this time and recall that even although Joe very much insisted we do what he wanted us to do while in London – seeing the people he wanted and needed to see for his business, I no doubt fully felt the benefits of these connections years later. Seeing the rave scene in London first hand, prepared me for what was to come only a couple of years after, and I certainly admired and respected Joe’s professionalism and ambitious nature in trying to create these connections. It cemented for me how imperative it is to follow things up and keep your relationships with people flourishing and positive.
Landing at Heathrow the first thing I noticed when we got off the plane was the temperature drop. It was colder than anything I had ever felt, even living in Canterbury with its freezing dry winters, this took my breath away. We quickly set about pulling jumpers and our puffa jackets out of suitcases, changing our footwear and wrapping scarves round our necks. We took the high speed Heathrow Express into the West of London and then got a cab to our complimentary hotel which was on the edge of Hyde Park.
After checking into our gorgeous hotel we were straight back out for a meeting with Caroline and Sonya at Groove Connection. Their agency was run out of one of the rooms in their terrace house, and from what I can remember I think Joe was there to try and secure a tour for Bailey and generally talk about other artists on their books for potential future events. I was rather intimidated by this meeting and just sat and listened, letting Joe do the talking.
That night we took the underground to ‘Swerve’ at The Velvet Rooms. This night was DJ Fabio of BBC Radio 1’s weekly DnB night and consisted of liquid funk from him and other residents. I don’t remember who else played that night, I was pretty jet lagged but I know I managed to have a wee boogie on the tiny dance floor. Swerve was small but perfectly formed in my opinion. With red velvet curtains and booths snuggled in the corner, it felt classy and cool at the same time.
Thursday we set off to do some shopping, in particular, trainer shopping – such freaks were we about our footwear. I scored myself some bright fluro green Adidas which I had spotted a girl wearing the day before. I was very excited to be heading out that night as we were going to go to ‘Bar Rumba’, where on Thursdays it was home to ‘Movement’, run by Bryan G and the V Recordings crew. Another trip on the underground to Tottenham court road and using the A-Z mini London edition we had bought, we eventually found our way down Shaftsbury Avenue to the club.
There was a long queue outside but somehow Joe had managed to swing us guest list through the various connections he had made. Inside we walked down some stairs and into a long rectangular club with a bar at the back. One thing I couldn’t help but notice was the variation in races and faces and languages being spoken. There seemed to be a lot of different people down there for the same experience, to attend the famous Movement night, legendary for its nights of the freshest, funkiest DnB.
Luckily for us the night we were there involved a visit from one of our favorite DJs and producers of the moment – Full Cycle’s DJ Krust. Bryan G played a dope set with a few tunes I recognised from visiting DJs and mix tapes, but it was Krust who absolutely tore it up.
He came walking through the crowd pulling his box of records and dubplates, it’s size overwhelming in comparison to what DJs at home rocked up with – but he certainly bought his ammunition. Krust had the crowd going crazy up the front of the club, myself included. He dropped ‘Warhead’, ‘Share the Fall remix’ and ‘Brown Paper Bag’ much to everyones absolute delight, but the tune of the night and which to this day I still absolutely love was a tune featuring a singer named Leonie Laws on a side project Die and Roni Size had going on called Breakbeat Era. The tune was called ‘Ultra Obscene’ and was like nothing I had heard before, or was currently hearing from DJs visiting New Zealand. (I didn’t know all this about the tune at the time – it was a few months before I found out what it was actually called and who it was by). I remember watching this black guy next to me with dreads falling about his shoulders going absolutely nuts, dancing in a way I had never seen before, syncopated with the music. Both he and I were absolutely lost in the music and I just had this huge grin on my face as I thought to myself ‘I wanna be here every Thursday night!”.
As Joe and I boarded the night bus back to Queens Park where our hotel was, we were all a flush with excited chatter. “This is why I want to bring out the DJs to New Zealand that I like” Joe said “I want to hear tunes like that, not just tech step and amen heavy tunes, but tunes that are cutting edge, and doing something different. That’s especially what Full Cycle are doing I reckon”
I had to agree. Full Cycle certainly were my favorite label no doubt, I was so chuffed to see Krust play, but could only imagine what it would be like to be in the presence of Roni Size!
On Friday Daz came into London to meet up with us. It was so nice to see a familiar face and to have someone play tour guide for the day. Daz took us shopping in convent garden and to some of the landmarks of London. We had dinner with him at a Pizza Hut (ew) but it was hard to find anything vegetarian and in our budget in the centre of Tottenham court road, and to be honest, it was good to just get out of the cold and sit down for a while. Daz had arranged for Joe and I to get guest list the following night at One Nation, a huge rave happening out East in Stratford at The Rex.
After another day of sightseeing on the Saturday, plus a visit to see Clayton at Renegade Hardware, another prolific DnB Label, we headed back to our hotel to get ready to go out. Stratford was the opposite side of the city to where we were staying, but by now we were pros at using the underground and getting around, so we found it relatively easily.
It was exciting being able to stand in the guest list queue again, especially as there was a huge line stretching right down the street.
I couldn’t quite believe the artists that were all on the line up. These were people we could wait years to see, let alone all on the same bill on the same night. While it was more of a jump up DnB line up we had had a good couple of nights experiencing the deeper side of DnB so I didn’t mind, and was especially amped to see Zinc, seeing as I had missed him in Christchurch the time before. On the line up alongside Zinc was, Mickey Finn and Darren Jay back to back, Hype and Andy C back to back, Swift and Kenny Ken Back to back, Brockie and Nicky Blackmarket back to back, with Randall.
The MC’s were guys I had never heard of before apart from Moose, and certainly in a style that was different to what I was used to. Det, Skibbadee, Fearless, Shabba D, Foxy and IC3, these were the Dons of double time on the mic. They spat rhymes like they were going out of business, and I remember straining to make out what they were rapping about but being super impressed by their style. They certainly got the crowd super hyped. The Rex was a huge venue and fully packed with ravers. There were balconies with people dancing looking down on the dance floor and everywhere I looked, again I saw different faces and races, all united for the love of the music.
The DJs were all up on a stage behind the decks and during their sets these girls dressed in tiny little costumes came on stage and shook their booties in time to the music bending over in front of the crowd so you could see up their skirts. I was quite confused by their presence onstage. I got that they were supposed to maybe create hype, but I just felt like it made the whole thing sexualised. However, another group came on after them wearing caps and crop tops with baggy trousers and they danced more in unison with each other which I preferred. I was snapping away with my camera in the dim light, thinking of how I would explain dancers on stage at a rave to my friends back home.
What I did definitely notice however was, apart from the dancers, there wasn’t a single female on the line up. No MC’s, vocalists or DJs to be seen in the shape of a female and it bugged me a little. I knew in my mind I would love to up on that stage on the mic hyping the crowd for anything, and yet, there didn’t seem to be a place for women on the lineup – at least, not at that kind of rave. The only Women I saw were there were cast as objects of titillation.. even if that was not their intent. The crowd was also mostly made up of guys. There were a few Women here and there, but it was pretty much guys when you looked out into the sea of faces.
We left around 3 a.m, knowing we had a long night bus ride ahead of us back to West London. While I enjoyed the experience of going to a super club and seeing so many big names, I knew I preferred the smaller confines of a club where the DJ was within reach and the energy much more contained.
On the Sunday we headed East to visit Daz. He had arranged for Joe and I to stay one night with him, and for Joe to have a mix on the pirate station Syndicate. Joe also hoped they might get some bombing in too, such was his lust for painting Graffiti! We met Daz at one of the tube stations East of the city, and then he took us onto the District line out towards Essex where he lived. It was a freezing cold, damp day in London, and as we sat on the train heading out of the city, I watched as the winter sky darkened early, feeling the warmth of the trains heating seeping into my chilled bones.
We raced past tall estate houses that seemed to be built in the middle of no where, their windows shaped like gloomy eyes and the anntenne on top reaching towards the sky like desperate fingers. We passed fields with motorways running above and through them and every concrete space awash with colourful graffitti. I tried to capture it on our camera as we whizzed by, and took notes in my lyric book.
I felt a strange feeling. Back home in New Zealand, we had all this endless, beautiful space. Huge mountains and vast forests, wind swept beaches with barely a soul in sight, all perched at the edge of the world and a draw card for many a tourist.
But as beautiful as it was, I also often felt frightened by it. It was like the vastness and emptiness stirred a sadness inside of me I couldn’t quite explain. As if I was being swept along with the westerly winds and out to sea, Like I was drowning in the silence and uncertainty of it all.
With my head against the glass staring out the window at distant pinpricks of light from the surrounding boroughs, I felt the enormous space of London spreading out around me, huge and scattered, grey and damp. But I wasn’t afraid of it, I was compelled. I was inspired, I felt my heart tug ever so slightly at the thought of making my home there, of the verses I could draw from this enduring, crowded, and unfamiliar place.
We eventually got off the train at a stop called Plaistow, and walked to a wasteland area with some concrete walls lining the tracks. Here we met another one of Daz’s mates who had bought with him a bunch of paint and nibs for the boys to do some bombing. It was absolutely freezing, not a smidgen of sun to be found in the sky, and after the warmth of the train I felt the cold even more.
Joe took his puffa off so he had his arms free to paint so I pulled it on over the top of my own and sat watching as the boys each threw up a piece. Joe’s nose was red and running, the tips of his fingers poking out of his fingerless gloves looked like they were turning blue, and yet on he painted. I knew it was a massive buzz for him to be leaving an imprint of himself in the form of his art on these walls, but still I felt myself shaking with the cold and hoping we would leave soon. As the last drop of light was extinguished from the sky and the night well and truly set in, the boys took photos of their efforts and finally we clambered back onto the train for the last stretch home to Daz’s house.
Grays was a little borough with more terraced houses and tiny yards, and we grabbed some real English fish and chips to eat back in the warmth of Daz’s front room. That evening Joe had his first ever mix on pirate radio – ‘Syndicate’ alongside Daz. It was another achievement and tick in the box for him, although he seemed to be fading by the end of the show. We put it down to being tired and jetlagged, and went straight to sleep after smoking a huge blunt back at Daz’s house.
In the morning it was time to say another sad goodbye to Daz, but not before he gave Joe some dat tapes with new tunes on them for Joe to get cut at the infamous dubplate cutting place – ‘Music House’. However, this was still my holiday too, and part of it was that I wanted to go to Paris!
We had arranged to leave on the Monday, so we took the over ground back into Waterloo, and set off that afternoon taking the train out of London, down to the coast and under the English channel into France.
As we came flying out of the channel tunnel we passed fields covered in snow, and little country houses with quaint barns in which they kept their animals sheltered. I was so excited, chatting away, calling for Joe to look at this and that. I was on my knees, nose squashed agains’t the window by the time we came pulling into Paris.
The first thing I noticed was that the sun was out! Though it was late afternoon and still chilly, and the sun was thin and weak on the ground, it made all the difference. The outlines of all the old buildings were sharp and clear, the river Seine glittered as it snaked its way down through the city. Paris Nord was very much like Waterloo, a huge, beautiful old art deco building with vaulted ceilings and bustling with people. Using my best school-girl French I asked the information desk for help in hailing a taxi, and with the address of our Kiwi friend Al scribbled on a piece of paper, we managed to get a taxi into the city to where he lived.
It was awesome to see our old friend from Christchurch again, especially as Al was letting us stay for two nights and offered to show us around. He was also pretty much fluent in French which would make all the difference in shopping, eating and getting around. In the two brief days we had there we tried to pack in seeing as much as possible. Visiting Monte Mart with Sacre Coure the beautiful basilica church on the hill overlooking the city, The Arch De Triumph and the massive glass La Defence that mirrored the Arc at the other end of the city, obviously The Effiel Tower, as well as trying to get some shopping in at some of the local boutiques. I was so excited and inspired by Paris, skipping down street after street calling for Joe to catch up. Joe seemed grumpy and low in energy, it riled me somewhat as it felt like we had spent the last few days doing what he wanted, and now we were in Paris which I had wanted to visit ,so much he was being a grouch!
We left Paris on the Wednesday and were only back in London for a night before we left again the following day. This time we headed out West to Bristol. Home of Full Cycle and Knowledge Magazine. As the train pulled into Bristol I noted the cute jumble of colourful houses lining the hill. It was clear day and I liked that I could see fields in the distance, the masts of ships along the waters edge down by the harbour, and that for a change there were less people on the streets.
Joe had made friends online with a girl named Rachel who was one of the editors of the magazine. She had invited us to visit and show us Bristol, but unfortunately there wasn’t anything in the way of club nights happening when we rolled into town. Still we had a good 24 hours there, so Rachel took us to local joint Cosies for a drink and we went to the Full Cycle offices where Joe had arranged a meeting with Gary, who was overseeing Full Cycle, to talk about getting on their mailing list. I’m not sure if I was fully aware of what was going on when we turned up at the office, but what I do remember is walking in and seeing that through the office was another room, a small studio with a glass window.
There, sitting in his office chair on the other side of that glass was DJ Krust. During the meeting I don’t remember what was said between Joe and Gary (Krust’s brother), I just kept throwing glances through the glass window at Krust, but I was too shy to ask if I could go in and meet him. Finally Gary noticed my glances and said to me, “you wanna meet Krust? I can tell you do! Go on, go in there and say hi” He called out to Krust and signaled to him that I wanted to come in.
Krust beamed a huge smile at me and opened the door so I could enter. The room was small and every space taken up with compressors, a mixing desk, keyboards, a computer and so forth. He was very softly spoken with a prominent Bristol Burr in his R’s.
I could feel my face hot and pink the whole time I spoke to him, telling him I loved his music, and that Joe and I had all his tunes.
“If its alright, before we go, I’d love to get a picture with you?” I pulled my camera out of my purse.
“Sure” He obliged, and Joe took a picture of us together, my jaw hurting from my huge smile. I couldn’t believe I had met one of my Drum n Bass idols!
Our trip to Bristol was far too brief, and we were back on the train and into London the following day. Joe had scheduled a meeting with Nico from No U – Turn, this time in some warehouse in an industrial area of town. We were there for a while, my interest waning as the talk revolved around tunes and DJs and the like. I loved DnB and I loved talking about it for sure, but all the rushing around and travel was starting to take its toll.
The 20th and 21st of February was our last weekend in London. On the Saturday Joe had made a booking to get dubs cut at The Music House which was in Holloway, North London. This was a pretty exciting thing for two young Jungalists from New Zealand, and sitting there in the tiny little room in a queue with others waiting for their dubs was certainly eye opening. We were there from when it opened, lined up on chairs, no one daring to move from their spot in case someone else got in first.
Each Dubplate took about half an hour to cut and when lunch time rolled around and we were still waiting, I went out in search of food so Joe wouldn’t have to leave. One guy we got talking to had come over from Germany to get his dubplates cut, another from the North of England, but we had certainly travelled the furtherest. We watched as people came and went, Micky Finn and A Sides, another guy we thought looked like Lemon D. Just as we were nearing our turn, a huge black guy came cruising into the building with dat tapes in his hand and walked straight through into one of the cutting rooms. “Gotta get these done before tonight, do you mind fittin’ me in bruv” we heard him say. I frowned thinking of how it would mean another half an hours wait, but when Joe leaned over and whispered to me, “Im pretty sure thats Mampi Swift” I cracked up. Course we would wait if Mampi Swift was in the building!
Finally our turn came and we watched in awe as the machine spun round and round etching its needle into the plate and creating the grooves. An hour later and we left the building, mission accomplished, dubs in hand, smiles on faces.
Sunday was spent shopping and picking up souveniers for family and friends, I was desperate to get myself some Nike Air Max reissue 95’s but we ran out of time. We had to get ready for our final night out in London – this time going to the famous ‘Metalheadz’ night. Unfortunately for us the venue had been shifted from the legendary Blue Note to another club whose location I can’t recall now.
When we arrived it was already quite busy, and as you entered you passed by the dance floor, up some steps and to the bar at the back. It was here that we finally encountered DJ Bailey, the Metalheadz DJ that Joe and James were determined to bring out to NZ. Bailey was friendly and charming, with long black dreads, a babyface and a huge smile that instantly made me feel comfortable. After a quick chat I left Bailey and Joe to talk business and hit the dance floor just as Goldie arrived. He came storming in full of energy, his gold teeth flashing in the lights, and went to work on the decks with the ferocity that only Goldie can. It was super surreal seeing him there in front of me DJing, bouncing up and down and roaring with enthusiasm.
His album ‘Timeless’ was an incredible piece of music that merged atmospherics, soaring vocals and crisp DnB beats together like nothing else I had heard previously, and which had been a staple in my record collection the last three years. ‘Inner City Life’ was the kind of track I would put on in the car and imagine I was driving through the streets of London, huge buildings around me, a rush of people and traffic. Now I was actually there I could see how fitting a sound track it really was for London life.
Before I knew it, it was midnight and the night was ending. Joe and I said goodbye to Bailey who gave us both a hug, and again the whole way back to the hotel we chatted excitedly about the vibe, the music, and of course our next steps with Scientific. ‘Well Bailey is keen, so as soon as we get back we need to send his agent a contract” Joe was practically chomping at the bit to get back to NZ, despite the fact he also looked incredibly tired and rather run down.
We flew home to NZ the next day, and within two days of arriving back Joe was diagnosed with glandular fever and was in bed for a week. The Doctor said he’d probably had it since Paris, hence his feeling under the weather and lacking in energy. But despite this, he had soldiered on making those contacts, and securing what was to be Scientific’s next big show.
As I lay in bed in the darkness unable to sleep, my thoughts were like a neon light, flickering on and off inside my mind. “I want to be an MC” “I can’t be an MC” “I want to be an MC” “I can’t be an MC” until finally I drifted off, my dreams awash with people and busy streets, tall buildings and endless beats.
‘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.
“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.