We are thrilled to share the news that AudioCulture, “the noisy library of New Zealand music”, turns five years old this Thursday May 31st. Aptly launched in New Zealand Music Month in 2013, the website is an online celebration of the people who have created our music: the music we know and love, plus fascinating stories of lesser-known but important chapters and characters in our musical history.
And it’s not just the musicians’ tales that are told – AudioCulture celebrates the scenes they shaped, the audiences they played to, and the people who were turning the music industry wheels.
This is the very first banner to feature on AudioCulture when the site launched on May 31st 2013, DJ Manuel Bundy:
AudioCulture was founded by Simon Grigg who, among the many strings to his bow, founded the ground-breaking independent label Propeller Records (home of the Screaming Meemees and many others). While documenting his own hefty musical archives, he decided to veer off point (just a bit) and share what he knew about legendary New Zealand labels Zodiac and Pagan Records. That was a “tip of the iceberg” moment: if those labels didn’t have an online history already, how many others were waiting in the wings? And that’s when the idea of AudioCulture was born.
Simon consulted with many in the New Zealand music industry, who all agreed there were many gaps to be filled. PPNZ gave him the nod to get the ball rolling, so he trekked around Wellington with a ton of supporting letters seeking funding for the idea, and in 2012 the team was over the moon when NZ On Air agreed to fund AudioCulture.
AudioCulture reflects the nature of the music industry in a small country; it’s a team effort, pulled from many strands. Brigid Grigg Eyley came up with the name and Philip Kelly developed the look for the site. Murray Cammick, founder of Rip It Up and record labels Wildside (the original home of Shihad) and Southside (Moana and the Moa Hunters and many more), was Editor at Large from 2012 to 2015.
In September 2016 Simon stepped back as Content Director (he remains as Founding Editor). He handed the reins to New Zealand music historian Chris Bourke, author of the 2010 Book of The Year Blue Smoke. Chris is joined by musician and writer Steven Shaw, the site’s editor, who has been there since the start. AudioCulture has curated a pool of more than 45 noted writers and contributors, and proudly displays thousands of images of New Zealand’s music scene, including a large number that are published for the first time.
The unabated passion of AudioCulture’s team is poured into creating a repository of Aotearoa aural history treasures, from Aaradhna to Zonk!. There are few boundaries; as well as pop stars, the site covers pop, rock, and towering personalities such as Howard Morrison, Dalvanius and Prince Tui Teka. Also, contemporary artists are featured, among them Moana Maniapoto and Anika Moa. AudioCulture covers the popular, the Pacific, the punk, and everything else these Shaky Isles create musically.
Site editor Steven Shaw puts it well: “Music gets right into your mind, your heart and soul; the memories and associations are a huge part of us individually and collectively, they show us where we’ve been and who we are. The more stories we tell, the more we learn about ourselves as a nation in terms of identity.”
AudioCulture is funded by NZ On Air, and is produced by the Digital Media Trust alongside screen heritage site NZ On Screen. Two crucial partners for AudioCulture, which help with audio and images, are Radio New Zealand and the National Library of New Zealand.
Simon Grigg , Chris Bourke and Steven Shaw share their favourite moments from their time with AudioCulture.
What are your favourite aspects of your work with AudioCulture?
Simon Grigg: “I love the image collection part – going to people’s places with a scanner and opening trunks and albums. And going into the depths of things like Auckland Library and into the Phil Warren archives. Talking extensively with some of my heroes mattered, as much as learning to appreciate why music that I didn’t really like mattered so very much. I love the Allison Durbin story penned by David Herkt, a dear friend of mine who got it: his last line: “The Queen of Pop might have turned into Sad-eyed Lady of the Lowlands, but Allison, don’t give up. We love you.” Every place you went on the internet was about drugs and arrests etc, but David penned a love letter to her and it made me cry.”
Chris Bourke: “People really respond to what AudioCulture is doing, so they are starting to dig out their own photo albums. When we share them, it revives interest in the act, and helps create a picture of New Zealand's cultural history. Sometimes it takes a lot of leg work to find the images, and when you do hit paydirt it's a great thrill. Images of the late Ike Metekingi and the earliest Maori showbands are an example. Our pages on acts such as the Chicks, the Kal-Q-Lated Risk and Garth Young are especially rich, in stories and images.”
Are there any particular stories that you worked on which were particularly memorable to you?
Simon Grigg: “For the very first time, accurate in depth histories of not only the stars were on online, but the likes of music promoter Phil Warrren (a mentor and hero of mine). Before AudioCulture, 90% of what we have created and most of the images on the site were not online anywhere. The downside is that all those rare old records that AudioCulture has featured are now worth a fortune – we did that!”
Chris Bourke: “Recently giving the Topp Twins full coverage was very satisfying as they are now comedians to many people, rather than musicians. Sadly, it's when a musician dies that we publish some of our best stories. However, it is even more gratifying to do it while they are still alive!
And the stories generated by our editorial team and our writers are very satisfying. Peter Wells writing about the Civic, poet/actor Alan Brunton on early Christchurch rock'n'roll, Bill Direen writing about a tour he did in Europe, Jenny Morris on songwriting: these ideas are when the flexibility of AudioCulture can take risks editorially.”
Steven Shaw: “Tracking down Bunny Walters really was a highlight for me. To hear Bunny talk about the early days breaking into show business, or discussing the whole ‘Brandy’ vs Manilow’s ‘Mandy’ myth was wonderful. He loved that he hadn’t been forgotten. The story went up mid-2014, Bunny died December 2016.”And the future of AudioCulture?Steven Shaw puts it beautifully.
“There are some acts or scenes we haven’t got to yet; plenty are in the pipeline. This is a work in progress, and to say ‘it’s done’ will always be premature. It’s about the music, the people who make it and who entertain us; it’s about those who participate, the audience too. Shared experience brings a solid bond with it, we had a huge reaction to the stories about the 1984 Queen St riot: the “Thank God It’s Over” concert. It’s the same with memories of venues that are now gone, the Kings Arms being a recent example.
“Music gets right into your mind, your heart and soul; the memories and associations are a huge part of us individually and collectively, they show us where we’ve been and who we are. The more stories we tell, the more we learn about ourselves as a nation in terms of identity.”
Top Ten AudioCulture stories 2013 - 2018
Our most popular story ever (so far) is Michael Hollywood's travels through Wellington nightclubs in the 1980s. We can only assume that alot of our readers must have frequented them at some point in their lives!
For more information,and interview requests, please contact AudioCulture publicist Renee Jones