Hard News by Russell Brown


Friday Music: After Kiwi

It is no slight on those who have worked there to say that Kiwi FM – which, it was announced today, will close at the end of the month – was born and lived in somewhat odd circumstances.

Its birth was principally the consequence of an accomodation between a commercial radio industry that was prepared to swallow a few dead rats if it meant fending off the dreaded prospect of a youth radio network, and a Labour government that wanted to show it had achieved something.

Thus, with a symbolic flourish, Helen Clark herself announced the launch of Kiwi FM on Waitangi Day 2005. The new station replaced Mediaworks' much-loved Channel Z, which had withered since the company shunted it onto a less powerful frequency to make room for The Edge. It is not to deny the goodwill of many of those behind the launch to observe that its key selling point was always its critical flaw: it would play 100% New Zealand music, as if that was in itself a genre around which listeners would converge.

The station did not flourish, and it would have been closed after about a year, had not Karyn Hay successfully presented a proposal for Kiwi to move on to three reserved public FM frequencies, which would cost Mediaworks nothing to use. The new Kiwi was subsequently established as a partnership between Mediaworks and the ministries of Broadcasting and Economic Development.

In a letter published on this site, Hay explained the undertaking:

In order to fulfil the criteria to broadcast on these frequencies (and I have to add here that it was Brent Impey – ‘He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named’ in one particular quarter – who gave me the opportunity and the platform to find a solution) we agreed that we would work towards becoming a not-for-profit organisation and extend the Kiwi format to be more inclusive of a wider range of artists, including more specialist programming, and in doing so would provide a vibrant and diverse outlet for a burgeoning New Zealand music industry.

We applied for New Zealand On Air funding to make these specialist shows just as any radio station in the country has the right to.

The letter also contained a really ill-judged swipe at "holier-than-thou" student radio, and it attracted some tart responses.

A loosening of Kiwi's charter requirement to play only New Zealand music – in favour of a 60-40 split with tunes from elsewhere – came in 2012 but it was probably too late.

But here's the thing: the people Kiwi FM made some really good radio throughout its existence, they provided great exposure for a range of local artistsm and the station fostered some key talent – notably in Breakfast hosts Glenn "Wammo" Williams, Wallace Chapman and Charlotte Ryan. For all three of them, it provided a place to go after student radio. A place where they could continue to make intelligent, adventurous radio.

The news of Kiwi's closure is sad, but it does create space – in more than one way – for a future venture with similar goals; one not stuck inside a commercial media company with its own goals and priorities (in that sense, you could see Kiwi as a little like TVNZ 7). After we've farewelled Kiwi FM on March 31, we should start thinking about how to keep making this kind of radio and, just importantly, how to get it to its audience.


If you haven't seen our post of the music photography of Ian "Blink" Jorgensen, and the personal stories behind the images, do go and have a look. It's brilliant.

There's a good and largely untold story in Andrew Schmidt's Audioculture feature on the mid-80s West Auckland punk scene, and such bands as Vicious Circle and Dead Image – who eventually became The Warners:

They were already The Warners when Dead Image’s first major interview appeared in June 1985 – ‘The Men, the Myth and the Flab’, by Celia Patel (later of King Loser) in Book of Bifim. In it, the band are optimistic, talking about the addition of new guitarist, Jon Baker (Deep Throat/ Call Me Sir), cheekily dissing local TV stars and DJs, and reminiscing about good shows gone bad. Like the time they got the plug pulled on them at Beachhaven, when the noise control officer clocked them at 130 decibels (a jet is 120 dB), and the cool dance at Piha, where the Armed Offenders Squad turned up.

Chandler: “They tried to arrest Billy because they reckoned Billy was running around with a gun. These wasted surfies thought it would be a laugh to ring up Henderson police and say that the drummer pulled a gun on the crowd.

“We were sitting outside when they arrived. We’d already played. The cops made a beeline for me and said, ‘You look like the only sober one here (I drove out there). What’s going on?’ His mate had a rifle over his shoulder and the Inspector had a gun on his hip. They said, ‘Well, we’re gonna find out who it was. We’ve driven all the way from Henderson and were gonna find who it was.’

“We went outside and someone grassed up this surfie and his girlfriend. They owned up to it straight away and got pummelled by the cops. The cop smashed the surfer’s head into the roof as they put him into the car.”


You got that sort of thing back then ...

Elsewhere an interesting list of the hottest tech topics in music from SXSW – including whether algorithims are better at mixing live bands than a human soundperson.

This guy seems to have a point when he explains why Spotify pays so little – because of the way subscription revenue is pooled. 


Jan Hellriegel has been approaching music with joy and purpose over the past year and her theme for 2015 is a a series of co-writing projects, including her new song, 'For the Love of Glory' was composed with Martin Brown. It's a great song, realised in lavish style:

Now, this is very relevant to my interests. "Boy genius" Race Banyon has done a lovely house remix of Chelsea Jade's 'Night Swimmer', all tones and ticks:

Mystery New Zealander Space Above. Sort of an astro-Beatles vibe. I like it!

And yet more from RocknRolla Soundsystem: this time, their second mix CD. Track listing(from The Beatles to Beck and Etta James) and $7 Bandcamp purchase here:

Over at TheAudience, a smooth, fluid (and all-too-short) groove from Ashes Holland. Click through for a free download:

Classic indie guitar soundscapes from Kane Strang:

And sophisticated hip-hop soul from Fortunes:

22 year-old bFM fave Boy Wulf, whose TheAudience track I featured a couple of weeks ago, has cleared his hard drive and packaged up 15 tracks as an extended EP on Bandcamp. This is the title track (and his bFM hit) and it's a free download.

And, finally, some fine funky Friday fare to download from A Skillz and Krafty Kuts ...


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