Archives For NZ Music Month

As New Zealanders our natural environment is closely tied to our identity—it’s part of what makes us who we are. It’s no wonder then, that our natural environment serves as a muse for so many of our musicians and artists.

Today, as New Zealand Music Month draws to a close, we delight in this connection with a visual feast of album covers inspired by our natural environment.

So many great album covers, so little bandwidth to transport them all to you…

Do you have a favourite New Zealand ‘inspired by nature’ album cover?

For New Zealand to become the greatest living space on Earth (DOC’s vision) we need to look after and support the things that make us great. For me, that includes our special places, plants and animals—and our music. Now that’s obviously not an exclusive list but, unarguably, we wouldn’t be the same without them.

So today, as we wrap up our New Zealand Music Month series profiling DOC musicians, have a think about what you could do to help support New Zealand to become the coolest little country in the world. I’d be keen to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

What’s wrong with Wednesday? and The Sunday Jam Band: Jeffrey Cornwell

Jeffrey works for DOC as a business architect, bringing a design approach to common business processes and models. His skills don’t stop there though. Jeffrey’s also handy on the guitar and lends his talents to several Wellington bands.

Jeffrey performing with What’s wrong with Wednesday?

Jeffrey performing with What’s wrong with Wednesday?

What’s wrong with Wednesday? came together in February as part of the MusicWorks Weekend Warriors programme, which throws random musicians together for two hours per week, over eight weeks, to assemble a set of 6–10 songs to perform at a live gig.

“It’s an interesting thing to be involved in because it’s not just about learning your parts. It can be challenging to get a diverse group of strangers together, to agree on tunes that you all are willing to perform, to learn your parts and then bring it together ‘gig ready’ in a relatively short period of time,” says Jeffrey.

“We’ve stuck together and are currently rehearsing on Wednesday nights in our drummer’s garage.”

At their last gig What’s wrong with Wednesday? performed nine covers, including tunes by the Black Keys, The Clash, Billy Talent, the Offspring, Rolling Stones, Nirvana and Kings of Leon amongst others. Their biggest moment to date has been playing a gig at Wellington’s Bar Bodega, New Zealand’s longest running music venue.

Jeffrey’s also a core member of The Sunday Jam Band, providing consistency to a revolving door of musicians and playing tunes that “lean more towards classic rock from the 70s, mixed up with some electric blues”.

Blue Highways: Jim Nicolson

What do Blue Highways (R&B/Americana), Klezmer Rebels (Jewish and Eastern European gipsy jazz), and Off Tops the Head (psychobilly with a hint of Captain Beefheart) have in common? Let me tell you—DOC Policy Manager Jim Nicolson, that’s what—or should I say who? I would’ve never guessed that, over the years, Jim has contributed his bass, guitar, and vocal skills to so many bands.

Watch Jim performing on Good Morning with Carol Bean and Blue Highways:

While I know Jim’s role, managing DOC’s policy team, gives him many memorable moments, some of his big band moments include: playing to a full crowd at the Bristol dancing (Blue Highways), being escorted by police onto the stage at the soundshell in the Wellington Botanic gardens following anti-Jewish protests (Klezmer Rebels) and escaping the angry crowd at Blackball (Off Tops the Head). Yes, I know, I’d like more information about that last one too—but no time today…

Jim Nicolson performing with Klezmer Rebels.

Jim Nicolson performing with Klezmer Rebels

Cute: Serge Kramar

DOC Test and Support Analyst, Serge Kramar, spent many years performing with German band Cute at functions all over southern Germany before coming to New Zealand a decade ago.

Winning the Southern Germany Band Shootout Competition—which scored them a cheque and recording contract—was an obvious highlight for Serge. This was, however, superseded shortly thereafter by his girlfriend getting pregnant and his subsequent move to New Zealand to look after his son.

Serge Kramer playing guitar on stage.

Serge performs a concert in a massive garage underground

Today Serge is a freelance musician. He sings in Te Reo, German, English, Russian, Estonian, Italian and Spanish—he has performed at events like the Te Aro Fair and at places such as Te Papa and the Wellington Town Hall.

Serge also participates in Tinkus dancing, a Bolivian encounter dance in which the dancers perform with combat like movements, following the heavy beat of the drum. Watch Serge Tinkus dancing in this video.

Rural Delivery: Russell George

Music has been a part of Russell George’s life for the past 38 years and it’s difficult for him to think of life without it. Playing five string banjo or mandolin, and singing for Christchurch based bluegrass/country band Rural Delivery has been a secure, psychological safe haven to go to in the aftermath of the earthquakes.

“We tend to get together to play music for our own satisfaction, rather than playing a lot of gigs, so we call our practices ‘mental health nights’ instead,” says Russell.

Russell George playing banjo for Rural Delivery.

Russell George playing banjo for Rural Delivery

Russell names Dave Dobbyn’s Slice of Heaven as a favourite ‘song of New Zealand’. And, through both his music and his work at DOC—involving everything from dealing with finance and building issues to changing towels and cleaning toilets—Russell’s certainly doing his bit to help New Zealand to become the greatest living space on Earth—a true Slice of Heaven.

DOC’s got talent – and for once I’m not talking about our world-leading conservation work. Today, in honour of New Zealand Music Month, we’re kicking off a three-part series showcasing the musicians in our midst. From Brazilian samba to electronic pop punk rock, you’ll find DOC musicians are as diverse as the ecosystems they help care for – and just as inspiring.

Delete Delete: Kurt Shanks

Formerly bass player in stellar*, DOC’s Auckland based Communications and Engagement Advisor, Kurt Shanks, is now one half of the electronic pop punk rock duo Delete Delete.

The Delete Delete duo Kurt Shanks and Lani Purkis.

The Delete Delete duo Kurt Shanks and Lani Purkis

Although Delete Delete is still in its early days, their future looks bright. Their debut single Sedated has been selected as Song of the Day on music website Cheese on Toast and they’ve been interviewed on TVNZ U, where they played their new animated video (which is, by the way, completely wicked and one you’ll want to watch):

Kurt’s job at DOC sees him doing everything from generating local media coverage for Auckland-specific DOC projects, to unearthing new ways to engage and involve Aucklanders in conservation projects.

In Delete Delete Kurt does a little bit of everything too – from playing the guitar and keyboards to singing and co-writing songs.

Whether in his band, or in his work at DOC, Kurt is always trying to convey as economically as possible the core story or emotion. “Too many words blur the picture.”

Check out Delete Delete on Facebook

Tom’s Field: Sean Magee

“A tasty mix of folk/old-time fusion with contemporary and modern flavours” is how Nelson’s Sean Magee describes his bluegrass/folk band Tom’s Field. The group’s repertoire includes bluegrass harmonies and rhythms, stomping reels and jigs, original compositions and soulful songs all interspersed with cheeky irreverence.

Sean Magee (second from left) with his bluegrass/folk band Tom's Field.

Sean Magee (second from left) with his bluegrass/folk band Tom’s Field

18 months into his time with Tom’s Field, Sean – who sings and plays banjo and mandolin – says its a great buzz to play to a dance floor full of revellers. He recommends that you “bring your dancing trousers and be prepared to raise a sweat”.

Here he is (on the mandolin) at Motty Malones Irish Bar in Motueka. If this doesn’t get your feet tapping nothing will:

Originally from the north of Ireland, with an academic background in law, Sean now provides administrative support for the Nelson/Marlborough Conservation Board and DOC Conservancy Office.

Wellington Batucada: Kate McAlpine

DOC Science Adviser Kate McAlpine cites playing in the Rugby World Cup victory parade as her biggest moment with Wellington Batucada, a group she has been involved with for about four years.

Samba is the traditional music played by large percussion groups in Brazil’s carnival parades, and Wellington Batucada looks to emulate this tradition. Kate plays agogo bells and shaker, and is also gig coordinator.

Kate performing with the Wellington Batucada.

Kate (middle front with blonde pigtails) performing with the Wellington Batucada

At DOC Kate does scientific research and provides advice on environmental weeds.

Watch Wellington Batucada perform at the Rugby World Cup opening night:

Check out Wellington Batucada on Facebook

Stay tuned for Part II of our New Zealand Music Month series, profiling the musicians in our midst, next week.

Simon Owl, judge in our very own New Zealand Idol for native birds competition

‘Bird call’ is the winner in our remix the sounds of New Zealand competition, dubbed New Zealand Idol for native birds.

Shayne Burrows of New Plymouth made the track from bird song on the DOC website, remixed with his own music.

The competition was perfect for Shayne who has always been interested in music and birds – he even uses kokako as his avatar on Twitter and as a logo for his work.

Shayne receives a copy of the brilliant Unnatural History of Kakapo DVD and Alison Ballance’s award winning book Kakakpo: Rescued from the brink of extinction.

Listen to the top five!

Listen to some of the other entries:

About the competition

The competition to remix New Zealand bird song ran throughout New Zealand Music Month. Entries came from New Zealanders as far away as Melbourne, Amsterdam and London.

Our judges picked the top five entries which were posted on the Conservation blog and here on the DOC website. The public voted to choose the winner.

Voting has closed. Read about our winner.

The judges have chosen the top five entries. Now it’s up to you to pick the winner!

The judges – Sirocco the rock star kakapo and Simon (the mad morepork) Owl – have chosen the top five entries

The grand finale

This is it. The grand finale of “Remix my mates during NZ Music Month and make me a bona fide rock star!”

At the end of this week long voting extravaganza our winner will be crowned.

The judges say ‘In the woods’ by Matt Oliver has a slight edge, but we all know these things rarely go the way the judges expect.

It’s going to be a spectacle of epic proportions – and the decision is in your hands.

Bird call

First up, let’s welcome to the page, Shayne Burrows of New Plymouth with ‘Bird call’.

Shane mixed the bird calls from the DOC website with his own music to create this mellow groove.

Bird call, Shayne Burrows (MP3, 2,733K)

The judges say:

“Best performance of the night, so far”

“Dawg, we got a hot one!”

In the woods

Now, please give a warm welcome to London based New Zealander Matt Oliver with ‘In the woods’.

Except for the tui all the bird song came from the DOC website. Everything else is composed or sampled by Shane. There is a track of cicadas and wood hammering noises heard and recorded from his mum and dad’s place in Auckland – the definitive sounds of New Zealand perhaps?!

In the woods, Matt Oliver (MP3, 4,034K)

The judges say:

“This guy is in it to win it!”

“I am in awe. Very hot dope cool track.”

King Kakapo & the Waipoua Posse

Next, let me introduce Wellingtonian Joey Hobbs!

Joey (aka Absalom) drew inspiration from the sound of desperation in the kakapo call. He gives us some pretty heavy, low key dubstep using bird song from the DOC website. So, without further ado, let’s get into ‘King Kakapo and the Waipoua Posse’!

King Kakapo & the Waipoua Posse, Joey Hobbs (MP3, 5,654K)

The judges say:

“You slayed it dude”

“Well, hellfire, save matches, love a kakapo and see what hatches!”

Moimoia (dream/memory)

And all the way from sunny Nelson, please put your hands together for Liiiiiiaaaaaam Rryaaaan with ‘Moimoia’, remixing the sweet, sweet sounds of New Zealand’s only surviving native owl, the morepork/ruru.

Moimoia (dream/memory), Liam Ryan (MP3, 6,118K)

The judges say:

“Love when you break into your morepork/ruru what-it-is-ness.”

“From my melodic sensibility, it was really delicious.”

Sirocco’s theme

Finally, to finish off this perfect page of performances, let’s hear it for another Liam. Heeeere’s Liam White, with ‘Sirocco’s theme’. And, with a title like that, there is nothing, nothing, more to say. Take it away Liam!

Sirocco’s Theme, Liam White (MP3, 5,460K)

The judges say:

“It’s a work of art, a thing of beauty… and I will finish that off with a double helping of ooh-yeah.”

“You slammed it.”

The unique melodies of the tui proved to be popular with our remix artists

So, there you have it folks. Your top five!

Both Simon Owl and my good kakapo self were completely blown away by all the entries. People have done amazing things in a very short time. And we weren’t only impressed because so many people featured the morepork and kakapo!

We’ve got something special here folks. Our birds, our music, our identity – be proud.

You’ll be able to check out all 14 entries after the winner is announced on Monday 20 June but, right now, you need to vote for your favourite!

Who do you think is worthy? Let us know in the comments and be sure to cast your official vote over on

Voting closes Friday 17 June at 12.00 pm New Zealand Standard Time.

Read my ‘Remix my mates during NZ Music Month and make me a bona fide rock star!’ post.