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.
The view is worth the climb – Tim Finn
Horizon – Henry Wong Doe
All Mountains are Men – Rosy Tin Teacaddy. The whole album was written and recorded in an isolated DOC cottage beside Lake Tarawera while the ’Caddies were on a Wild Creations artists’ residency.
Stories From Elsewhere – Rhian Sheehan
Atheum’s Way – Solstate
Fly My Pretties Live At Bats – Fly My Pretties
Fight from the Inside – Into the East. Artwork by Hanna Isaac.
Nature’s Best – Various Artists
Garden of Light – The Mantarays
Wai 100% – Various Artists
Some Were Meant For Sea – Tiny Ruins
The Return of Fly My Pretties – Fly My Pretties
Forest: Songs by Hirini Melborne – Dudley Benson. Applique artwork by Florence Dennison.
Home, Land and Sea – Trinity Roots
My Army of Birds and Gulls – Betchadupa
Deadly Summer Sway – The Checks
The Storm – New Zealand Guitar Quartet. Photography: Kapiti by Peter Leask.
Feel the Seasons Change: Live with the NZSO – Salmonella Dub. “A musical journey through Aotearoa landscapes.”
Haunts – Tiny Ruins
True – Trinity Roots
Tūī, Tui, Tuia EP – Dudley Benson
Fatcat and Fishface – Birdbrain
Twist – Dave Dobbyn
Higher Trails – John Hanlon
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?
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
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 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 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
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.”
“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
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:
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 (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: