Hard News by Russell Brown


Friday Music: Proper Lorde

One of the consequences of Lorde's remarkable early trajectory has been that home audiences have not – a couple of industry showcases aside – been able to see her in a small room. The first time most of her fans had a chance to see her perform was at the iHeart Radio show at the (then) Vector Arena, which she seemed a tiny, brave figure on a very big stage.

She's fixed that with this morning's announcement of the Melodrama tour dates. The biggest room she'll play is Wellington's Michael Fowler Centre – and in Auckland it's a three-night stand at The Powerstation, with the first set as an all-ages show. This is very probably going to mean some fans missing out, but it's much more like a proper gig, as if she's going back to the steps she missed when the whole thing took off. Nice one.

Meanwhile, she's been profiled by Time magazine. I'm just going to paste in the URL, because it looks so cool ...


I suspect the one to wait for is her own, written account of the bumpy road to Melodrama, which will appear in "a major newspaper" next week, to time with the album release.


The first announcements for this year's film festival round are out and I'm delighted to see that they include Bill Direen: A Memory of Others, Simon Ogston's film about the remarkable, perennially unsung, musician and writer. I count myself a member of the Cult of Bill and I will certainly be there.


It's delightful to see The Ruby Suns back. Their new album, Sprite Fountain, is allegedly out today but I can't see it for sale yet at Lil Chief. For now, here is the video for 'Waterslide', which seems to be about an artist and his art. And not just any artists but "Denmark's premier neo-primitivist" ...


This is cool: 40 years of hip hop cut together by The Hood Internet. It makes some interesting connections.



Love Thy Brother, who normally lean towards the dubstep end of proceedings, have gone fully disco and it's actually pretty great. Free download (which obliges you to follow them on Twitter):

Another fine mash-up from from Rocknrolla Soundsystem, combining the good old Dolly-Parton-on-33 with 2Pac's 'How Do You Want It'. Available to buy, along with the 'Going Back to Cali' mash-up I featured last week, from Traxsource.

Fresh from the same crew, three tracks for the Katakana Edits series, including their second visit to the fiery talent of Laura Lee. For sale at Beatport.

And finally, an hour of obscure afro-house to download and dance to ...


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Interesting Britain!

It's the nature of modern elections that as the polls close the exit poll result determines whether it's going to be a dull night for someone or an interesting night for everyone. And the UK general election exit poll – with the Tories 22 seats short of a majority – fell very much into the latter category.

You can watch the BBC's live stream of its election coverage here. Feel free to post comments and links. I'll be, er, swinging by regularly too.


Genter's Bill: Starting at last on medical cannabis

Julie Anne Genter's private members bill on medical cannabis emerged from the ballot this morning – and it raises some interesting questions.

The first thing you need to know is that there is no chance of Genter's bill (or David Seymour's voluntary euthanasia bill) even getting a first reading before this year's general election.

You'll recall me posting to the effect that the scheduled rewrite of the Misuse of Drugs Act – a process I've been told could begin as soon as November – makes drug policy an election issue. Even though it will presumably be subject to a conscience vote, Genter's bill being drawn makes it even more so.

But it's complicated, Genter's bill is written as an amendment to the Misuse of Drugs Act. It's entirely likely that the MoDA reboot and voting on the bill will aiming to amend it will overlap, and that the two could be in select committee at the same time. Genter's bill – if it passes its first reading –  would go to the Health select committee. These things are political decisions, but consideration of new Misuse of Drugs Act might also go to Health. It will need to be managed.

It seems possible subsequent readings of the bill could be deferred until there's a new MoDA to amend – which could be years. I guess it's also possible the bill could give impetus to the rewrite process, or be used to expedite the relevant parts of the new MoDA. Again, all that will be political.

Anyway, the policy statement on the bill is as follows:

The medical use of cannabis should be legal, accessible and affordable.

The purpose of this Bill is to make it legal for New Zealanders who are suffering from terminal illness or any debilitating condition to use cannabis or cannabis products with the support of a registered medical practitioner.

The Bill amends the Misuse of Drugs Act to make a specific exemption for any person with a qualifying medical condition to cultivate, possess or use the cannabis plant and/or cannabis products for therapeutic purposes, provided they have the support of a registered medical practitioner. The exemption for cultivation and possession would also apply to an immediate relative or any other person nominated by the person with such a diagnosis, for the sole purpose of administering or supplying cannabis or its related products to the person.

The Bill also ensures that non-psychoactive cannabis plants and products are not con- trolled substances under the Misuse of Drugs Act. It clarifies that a non-psychoactive compound, Cannabidiol (CBD), is excluded from the definition of cannabis, and therefore exempt. 

At first blush the "interpretations" section of the bill is the most crucial and the most likely to be subject to challenge. The definition of "medicinal cannabis", for example, is much broader than anything in current regulations. It's any weed for what ails you, basically: 

medicinal cannabis means any form of cannabis referred to in this Act, including (without limitation) any cannabis plant, preparation, or derivative, that is cultivated, supplied, or possessed (as the case may be) solely in order that it may be used by a person with a qualifying health condition for therapeutic purposes

"Nominated support person" in the bill is anyone nominated by the prospective patient to "cultivate, administer, supply, or possess medicinal cannabis" on the patient's behalf. Only a medical practitioner will need to be told that person's name.

You'll need two things to qualify to use, cultivate or be supplied with medical cannabis. The first is a "qualifying health condition" and the bill's definition of that is notably broad – 4. (d) makes it broader even that California regulations (you can read a US state-by-state rundown of qualifying conditions here):

  1. (a)  any terminal illness: and

  2. (b)  any severe chronic disorder of the immune or nervous system: and

  3. (c)  chronic back or other pain: and

  4. (d)  any other medical condition that a medical practitioner certifies may benefit from supplementary plant cannabinoids 

The second thing you'll need is a "supportive medical report":

supportive medical report means a report from a medical practitioner, containing all the prescribed information (if any), supporting a person with a qualifying health condition to use medicinal cannabis for therapeutic purposes

This not a prescription – more like a note from your doctor. Some (maybe many) doctors would doubtless be happy to fulfill this role. But I also strongly suspect you will see submissions against the bill from doctors' groups, whose members may feel that it is de facto prescribing and they want no part of prescribing drugs whose contents they cannot know.

The bill as it stands does not seem to preclude a nominated support person supplying for financial gain – and I actually don't think it should either. But if we're going to open dispensaries, we're going to need some proper guarantees of product composition, cannabinoid ratios, etc. It's going to have to be regulated, which will make the bill more complicated. 

I think you'd also need to look at ways of avoiding, say, the loophole in Oregon's medical cannabis law, which requires a doctor only to confirm the applicant has a qualifying condition, but leaves the rest to a "primary carer" with no qualifications. The situation depicted in the Weediquette 'Stoned Kids' episode, with parents free to give their cancer-stricken children massive daily doses of cannabis oil in the tenuous belief if will be a cure, isn't something we should aspire to.

In political terms, there will be some support in the National caucus for the bill to proceed to select committee, but possibly not a lot. If Labour and Māori Party MPs can't bring themselves to do that, they should pack up and go home. Dunne will vote for it at first reading but seek some changes (he's all good with the Greens now, anyway). New Zealand First, with an eye on the senior cannabis lobby, will be more supportive than some people expect. Seymour will support it, as will The Opportunities Party, in the unlikely event it is represented in the next Parliament.

Nothing ever happens soon enough in drug law reform – marijuana is alawys mañana – and for the reasons I've outlined above, this bill will take some time to bear fruit, assuming it does. But, coming on top of the mandated rewrite of the whole drugs law, it pushes our politicians even harder to actually talk about something they've mostly been trying to avoid talking for years.


Friday Music: Asking the important questions

This past Wednesday evening, a group of saints and sinners (categories not mutually exclusive) filed down the stairs of Neck of the Woods in K Road for an annual ritual: the New Zealand Music Month Pub Quiz.

The event benefits the New Zealand Music Foundation, which helps out musicians in need and contributes to music therapy for kids with special needs. It's a lot of fun and frequently quite noisy, especially when an answer is constested, which happens every year. (This year, our team was prepared to call Young Sid himself for verification when the judges ruled that he was from Otara and not Mangere as we had answered. Sadly, we couldn't find his number.)

It was good to see some new teams this year, including Spin Wigmore (aka the crew from The Spinoff) – and a new champion. The talent-packed Circa2000 edged ahead of last year's winners World Dobbynation (featuring Trevor Reekie, Russell Baillie and the Dobbynator himself). My team, The Muthafuckers From Hell, based around the staff of a well-known broadcast funding agency, came in fourth, just behind The Universal.

I thought the questions were particularly good this year – and that you lot might like to join in the fun. So here's a selection. There are no prizes or anything, but see how you go ...

What links The Human Instinct, Ticket and the Jordan Luck Band?

The Headless Chickens song ‘Inside Track’ is a cover – who recorded the original? 

What was 95bFM’s original, pre-FM broadcast frequency in 1972? 

In 1972, Sharon O’Neill briefly joined which Christchurch rock band?

Speaking of Sharon O’Neill, what was Maxine’s police case number? 

Who was the first artist to say “fuck” on national television?

What was the song title of Flying Nun’s only #1 to date? 

‘You’re Welcome’ is a song in the film Moana co-written by Te Vaka’s Opetaia Foa’I. Who sang it?

The Neve console at Roundhead Studio was originally built for what English band?

And, finally, name the artist and the album:

I'll post the answers in comments presently.

I personally got five of these 10 and the team got a couple more. If you'd like more, including some easier ones, the whole lot are on the RMNZ website.


The new Lorde single, 'Perfect Places', dropped this morning as the last track release before Melodrama comes out on June 16. It's a meditation on getting wasted and the associated activities of dancing, having sex and possibly throwing up in the bushes. She can't party without thinking, but she sure can write a chorus.

This is going to be very different to Pure Heroine – you only get to come blazing out of nowhere once, and you really only get to make something that, well, pure, once. And, watching this clip from her set at the Radio 1 Big Weekend ("thank you so much Hull!"), I wondered whether it might all happen in different places. I watched the whole set elsewhere: it's more than half songs from the first album and it goes pretty well – but when she closes with 'Green Light' the energy triples. Almost everyone in every crowd shot seems to know all the words. 

Like every song from Melodrama so far, it's an interrogation of her experience, always trying her bridge her singular life as a pop prodigy and the shared experience of becoming an adult. I think it's great that young girls will hear pop music with words like this.


While she's been in Britain, Lorde also did 'Green Light' on Later With Jools Holland, in the same show that Aldous Harding performed 'Horizon'.

At the risk of entering the recent social media argument about Harding's style, I can't help but feel that a great song isn't aided by all the gurning and vocal affectations. But, you know, it's her art, not mine. And there are far worse things for a singer than being talked about.


Reo-pop represents again (their debut knocked Justin Bieber off the top of the iTunes charts last year) in Maimoa's new song. This has had an amazing 100,000 views on YouTube in the week since it was released. 

Also fresh: some dance music of a different kind from the new Te Vaka Beats album:


Some good stuff on the local music internet ...

The Wireless interviews Robyn Gallagher about 5000 Ways To Love You, her wonderful labour of love in cataloguing and reviewing every NZ On Air-funded music video ever.

On the same site, Anthonie Tonnon contemplates music venues from Barrytown to central Auckland – and the "inverse of a tragedy of the commons" represented by noise complaints that shut them down.

On Audioculture, Amanda Mills writes up the sometimes-difficult "1990s and beyond" part of the Flying Nun story. Spoiler: there is a happy ending.

And staying with the Nun vibe (yes, yes, I know – the album was self-released in the first instance), this clip posted late last year came to my attention this week. It's a version of The Gordons' 'Machine Song' arranged in six parts for cello. Arranged and performed by Christel Vinot, recorded and produced by Jem Noble, video editing by Christopher Eugene Mills. It's very cool:

And in a diferent vein to, well, pretty much anything, Blair Parkes has this single-shot video captured at Ngakawau on West Coast. It's a preview from his forthcoming Saturations album, and it's warm like a wood fire.



My internet friends at Rock 'n' Rolla Soundsystem have a record coming out next week, and the A-side is this superior mash-up of Biggie Smalls, the NYC Peech Boys and the Bee Gees. This is fun!

It was good of Lorde this week to give a boost to this remix of 'Green Light', created by a local crew at Red Bull Studios in Auckland. I like this, but it's still not the nine-minute old-school epic I'm looking for ...

New Arcade Fire, produced with with Pulp’s Steve Mackey and Daft Punk’s Thomas Bangalter. Canadian retro-disco with a hint of Abba, innit.

And a new Karim remix of the Jamie Principle epic, for those of you with long dance memories. Free download!


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Stupidity and ignorance have been raised to virtues

The most staggering thing about Donald Trump's speech announcing US withdrawal from the Paris Agreement is that it demonstrated he has no idea at all what the accord actually is.  When he blathered that after withdrawing “we’ll see if we can try and make a deal that’s fair”, it meant exactly nothing.

Because as David Roberts explained on Vox days before the announcement, signatory countries set their own goals under Paris. And they can change or ignore those goals at no greater cost than periodically having to explain themselves to the rest of the world. To be fair, that's arguably a maximalist take on the flexibility of the accord's ratchet mechanism. This legal analysis on CarbonBrief takes a more nuanced view, but essentially comes to the same conclusion.

Basically, if Trump wants to kill off Obama's clean air inititive – as stupid and self-harming as that would be – he can. So leaving the accord has been almost entirely a matter of ideology – which is, apparently, the way it has played out in the White House, with a group including Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (who, let's recall, was CEO of Exxon freakin' Mobil five minutes ago) losing to the Year Zero cult led by Steve Bannon.

Clearly, the fact of US withdrawal is bad, although it's probably worse for the US than it is for the world. But in a way, Trump's feeble account of the decision is worse. He has done the same thing, swinging wildly against phantoms, on the matters of NATO and trade agreements, but this seems on a new level.

Unfortunately, it may be catching. In tomorrow's UK Daily Telegrah, this editorial will appear, arguing preposterously that Britain abandoning the "naive" Paris Agreement would allow it to embrace the "fracking revolution", a "technology cheaper and greener than, say, coal". This is simple bullshit. If Britain wants to argue that embracing fracking was, in the words of the accord, "enhancing its level of ambition” – as dubious a claim as that might be –  it could do so today. The Telegraph's pompous offering that "ideology must not be allowed to drive the energy debate" has precisely fucking nothing to do with Paris.

While on the one hand there is genuinely an economic and industrial wave building behind the production and use of more sustainable energy technologies – not least in the US itself – on another there is a countervailing trend: the emergence of an era in which stupidity and ignorance have been raised to virtues.