Hard News by Russell Brown


Weirder yet

Yesterday on Facebook and then on the Dubdotdash blog, guitarist Aaron Tokona published the first part of a lengthy rant about his time playing on Kim Dotcom's Good Times album. It is evident that he was disillusioned by the experience, to put it mildly, but it wasn't clear what had moved him to let rip now.

This weird story published in The Press this morning offers some insight:

Tokona said he decided to talk about his experiences with Dotcom after receiving an email.

"Tom Scott of HomeBrew, with the help of musicians around New Zealand, was organising a series of concerts up and down the country called Vote, to get people motivated to take part in the election," Tokona said.

"But Kim Dotcom has directly stolen this idea and is doing the same thing."

I can say that this is wrong. There is a music-themed get-out-the-vote project in development, but while Tom was part of early discussions and will participate, he's not involved with the organisation, which is quite advanced and has been co-ordinated via Loomio and email. (Apart from anything else, Tom's not even in the country at the moment.) I'm not involved but have stayed in touch on a journalistic basis. It seems a good initiative. It's not called Vote and the organisers are not particularly concerned about a Kim Dotcom-sponsored equivalent, if such a thing exists. So Aaron's got that all wrong.

(Edit: See the comments for this post for a statement from Laura O'Connell Rapira on what RockEnrol is all about and what they're doing.)

But that, of course, is not the lead. That would be:

Christchurch musician Aaron Tokona, who played guitar on Dotcom's album, said German-born Kim Schmitz, also known as Kim Tim Jim Vestor or Kimble, took part in "racist day" during the recording of his album last year at Auckland's Roundhead Studios.

"On racist day you were allowed to speak freely, make racist jokes and it was OK apparently," Tokona said yesterday.

"He could be called an evil Nazi and given the Hitler salute and he would call people ‘his little n......'."

Last night, Mikee Tucker, who is the founder of Loop Recordings and is now involved with The Internet Party, sent me this statement from Neil Baldock, the longtime engineer at Roundhead Studios, where the record was made.

Roundhead Studios sound engineer Neil Baldock says that during the recording of the Good Times album at the studios, artists working on the album would have carte blanche to “trash talk” each other.

This was something that had been brought to the studio by the African-American members of an international recording act working on the album, who said it was a tradition they had started some years previously to blow off steam during long and sometimes stressful periods in the recording studio.

Everyone in the studio would rib each other on subjects normally considered taboo. These were never personal attacks and there was no malice. It was all closed door fun.

Neil Baldock, sound engineer at Roundhead Studios, says:

“When the producer of an international band came to work on Good Times in our studio a couple of years ago he told us that for years when the group toured the world they had a jokey kind of banter session. It was just a crazy, fun thing, and we joined in. It would go on for no more than five or 10 minutes during recording sessions that lasted hours and hours, so it was no big deal. Whatever minority group or nationality might have been in the room was fair game and everyone dished it out equally. Nobody got offended. They got me for being white and freckled. Kim didn't actually know about it, but was in the studio one day and joined in. He copped it over his weight. He was there for a few sessions, then it kind of died out.”

The "international band" is the Black Eyed Peas. The group's musical director Printz Board (who has signed off on Baldock's statement) and one of their producers, Deryk 'Sleep Deez' Mitchell, worked on the record, along with West Coast hip hop producer Rellevant and America singer Ilati, plus a bunch of locals including Tiki Taane and Laughton Kora. It seems fair to say the album is less than the sum of their talents.

Edit: Neil Baldock left Roundhead on good terms in July last year and is currently overseas  for a few months exploring his options. Information I was given earlier that he left after conflict and is working for Dotcom's Baboom music service was incorrect on both counts and I'd like to apologise to Neil for its publication. 

Whatever happened with trash talking and "racist day" it does seem clear that the game came from the African American members of the recording party. With hindsight, it also seems clear that Dotcom should have refused to play, particularly in a room with smartphones (there may be a video), but he's not exactly known for careful forethought amid jolly japes.

This will certainly not help Dotcom and the Internet Party. Even given that it wasn't his idea, it will be seen as another reflection on character. But if (as I have been told) the same story was being saved up for later release by Whaleoil, it being broken now may be a small mercy.

I asked Whaleoil this morning and he declared he would "neither confirm nor deny the release of the videos and the timing of the release" and referred to "a BBQ in Corsica and the nasty little incident on Isola Butelli."

So it appears there's more to come, pending various people's decision on when to (as British tabloid journalists like to say) pull the chain on it.

NB: Yesterday, like the New Zealand Herald, we began running the Internet Party's candidate ads. This is not connected at all with the story.

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