writing

Excuses...


I know I haven't been updating much lately, but it's not another case of a writer running out of steam.

I've been travelling from New Zealand to Brazil and across America. I'm currently in Miami, but will be settling in Canada soon, so more updates to come then.



Joe Satriani interview

Joe Satriani interview

Ask any guitar groupie who the six-string king is, and Joe Satriani might be the first name that comes out of their mouth. The 55-year-old virtuoso has spent decades training and working with the best guitarists in the world. 

It all began on the day Jimi Hendrix died. A young Joseph Satriani ran up to his football coach during a training session and immediately announced he was quitting to become a guitarist.


Was it the universe's way of replacing one genius with another?

Joe says he can only guess. "In my 14-year-old brain, I felt I was losing something that I couldn't live without. That wasting my time playing sports was something I had to stop, and I had to learn how to play music so I could replace what I was going to be missing. It was a very emotional moment."

The fretboard wizard soon discovered he was blessed with a natural skill. He was playing in a band and at high school events within eight months of first picking up a guitar.

Elzhi interview

Elzhi interview

Jason Powers, better known as Elzhi, has dealt with the death of close friends and the break-up of his group Slum Village, but he still sounds as passionate as ever. 

“It’s more than getting paid. You can’t even put into words how it feels to put the mic out and have the crowd finish your sentence. I love to create. I love to write something, put it down in the studio and play it back. It’s a beautiful feeling man. I do it for the whole experience." 

Elzhi joined underground favourites Slum Village in 2001, a group often praised as the reincarnation of A Tribe Called Quest. Legendary producer J Dilla was partly responsible for bringing Elzhi into the group and helped him to get his first paid music gig. 

Sadly, Dilla passed away in 2006 after a battle with Lupus disease. Founding Slum Village member Baatin also died three years later due to mysterious circumstances surrounding a struggle with mental illness. 

After their 2010 release Villa Manifesto, Elzhi announced his departure from the group citing shady managers and underhanded labels. 

Despite a traumatic decade, he says he never considered quitting rap. “The way it affected my music, it made me want to get a lot more personal. You can’t just bottle those feelings up inside, so the only way I know how to get them out is express it through my music. It’s almost therapeutic for me. It’s almost like medicine.”

John Butler Trio


Saturday 7 May, The Frontroom, Wellington.
During the John Butler Trio’s stellar two and half hour performance, you couldn’t help but feel a little teary eyed at how good it was.
Beginning with Mystery Man, the group worked through their discography and also showed their political side on tracks like Revolution and Treat Yo Mama.
The concert reached several peaks with the audience singing their hardest during Better Than and Used To Get High, but it the instrumental Ocean that was truly magic. Butler showed he might be one of this generation’s best guitarists during the twelve minutes of fervent fingerpicking.
The Australian musician, who started his career busking on the streets of Freemantle, used a new guitar on almost every track as he switched between acoustic, slide and banjo. Band mates Byron Luiters and Nicky Bomba enjoyed themselves as they joked with the sold-out Wellington audience and Butler playfully criticised a fan who had requested Ocean for a second time.
Despite an annoying drunk trying his best to ruin the mood by shouting “Christchurch” during song breaks, the intimate atmosphere had everyone captivated.
Butler had the crowd under his command, even asking the audience for complete silence during a duet with his wife Danielle Caruana, who played in support act Mama Kin.
With so many adored tracks, it’s inevitable a few fan favourites such as Daniella or Media were missed, but those omissions aside, their lengthy set was near perfect.
This kind of talent raises the hairs on your neck.
By Jimmy Ness


Big Day Out 2011


Friday 21 Jan, Mount Smart Stadium, Auckland.
I’m proud to say this was my fifth Big Day Out, and despite the torrential downpour, it was one of my favourite years. Especially since I’ve made rookie mistakes other times such as not drinking enough water or drinking too much, causing me to be stuck in a mosh pit with the unbearable urge to pee.
Any who, here are the top picks from someone who spent literally nine hours in front of the orange and blue stages.
I Am Giant


After waiting two hours for my moment of glory, where I met Deftones (very friendly bunch), I headed over to the orange stage. Admittedly, I’m not really acquainted with this band or their music, but the audience were enjoying themselves and singing along word for word. Their sound was definitely reasonable from where I was standing, and even though I’m not a huge fan, they did a good job of holding down their spot on the main stage.



Rating: 3/5
Airbourne

This is another band I’m not really into because I think they do a little more than just pay tribute to AC/DC. You could say I think they are musically more suited to the pub than the stadium. But in terms of performance, they were definitely entertainers. From synchronised head-banging, throwing cans of Tui into the crowd and drinking cheap wine, these guys did all the right stuff. Mine and possibly everyone else’s favourite moment was lead guitarist Joel O’Keefe climbing dangerously high on nearby scaffolding to perform a solo as paramedics looked worried underneath.


Rating: 4/5
 




Deftones
While Airbourne were playing I could see the Deftones sound technician ripping his hair out trying to set things up. The main problem for them, and later for Iggy and the Stooges, was they couldn’t hear properly, which meant it was very hard to tune their sound. Chino’s vocals on the opening track were a bit off, causing him to shrug exasperatedly at the technicians and perform a masturbatory gesture with his microphone. However, despite my worst fears, this problem was soon fixed.


They didn’t play their White Pony classics and unsurprisingly, Tool vocalist Maynard James Keenan didn’t come out for a surprise rendition of The Passenger. But there were still plenty of great tracks thanks to Minerva, Be Quiet and Drive, Rocket Skates and an acoustic performance of Sextape. Chino hit all the right notes and new bassist Sergio Vega seemed to be truly enjoying himself with his crazy facial expressions and constant grin. Sadly an hour slot meant it was all over too quickly.
Rating: 4/5. I shed a tear.
Lupe Fiasco
Firstly, I am a huge Lupe fan. I went to BDO in 2009 just to see him perform and meeting him is still one of my favourite musical memories. But as much as I love Lupe, this performance wasn’t great. After the show began with two false starts caused by sound problems, he performed a mixture of new songs like Beautiful Lasers and fan favourites Kick Push. Usually when an MC premiers a new song live the crowd goes insane, but Lupe played about five tracks from the album which seemed a few too many. The set list was also lacklustre, the crowd would be pumping and seconds later there would be a new track no one knew whether to dance or sway to. However, he did do a great job of playing hip-hop to an audience who had just seen Deftones and Airbourne.

Lupe later told the audience he had to wait a few seconds because his next song Go Go Gadget Flow was physically tiring, fair enough, but I vividly remember him launching right into the song last time. Hearing an artist tell you to wait before he does a high energy track just seems strange.
The show also featured a very average guitar solo which caused my bogan friend to look at me in disdain, and embarrassingly I had to agree, it was weak and unnecessary.
Mr Fiasco later apologised for any sound issues and said it was because it was the first show their Steppin Lasers tour. I also think he would have been better suited to the Boiler Room. He seemed to agree when he told TV3 he was annoyed he wasn’t playing there.
Rating: 3/5
Iggy and The Stooges
I had no idea what to expect for this one, but I was pleasantly surprised. Iggy took several trips down the front row and sounded great on Raw Power and I Wanna Be Your Dog. 
He was definitely his unpredictable self with the usual crazy rambling and dancing.
Returned guitarist James Williamson was obviously still trying to get to grips with his instrument, but the whole band played their guts out.
Iggy later invited fans to come up on the stage and join the band. I could see for some people who were hugging band members and dancing with Iggy, it was a truly amazing experience.
Rating: 4/5
John Butler Trio 
My feet were numb, I was damp and my ribs were being crushed by the crowd, but I loved this band and it’s a sin their set was only 50 minutes. Relative newcomers Nicky Bomba and Byron Luiters filled the shoes of Butler’s former band mates perfectly. Everyone was having a good time, with Butler and Luiters throwing a banana at one another while still managing to play and later, all three musicians having a go on Bomba’s drum set.

Finally, John Butler’s live rendition of the instrumental Ocean was seriously moving. One of the best live performances I’ve ever seen. Look it up.
Rating: 5/5
Rammstein
I couldn’t see Rammstein that clearly from where I was standing. But they sounded fantastic and their special effects were top-notch. The band barely spoke to the audience, which is often a bad thing but in this case it just added to their mystique.
Amazing show and I’m not usually a fan.
Rating: 5/5
Tool
Let me start with a little explanatory statement:
With the most albums sold per person worldwide, New Zealand is big on Tool, and I’m not afraid to admit, I’m no different.
I know some people don’t like them or their fans, because of the sense of elitism that comes with the music and I can fully understand that opinion, but you have to admit these guys are excellent musicians with a unique sound.
Their show was slightly toned down from 2007s Big Day Out performance, which featured surprise vocals from Serj Tankian on Sober.
However, it was still a masterpiece. Yes, I used the word masterpiece.



Third Eye and The Patient were surprise additions to a set list which also included Lateralus, Stinkfist, Schism and Vicarious. The crowd were singing songs word for word and Tool’s visual show was impressive as always.
I read a few reviews which said vocalist Maynard James Keenan messed up the words to Aenima, but I couldn’t tell. He’s a weird guy, he didn’t say a lot, and it ended as abruptly as it started, but that all adds to the mystery of Tool.
All three remaining members waved to the crowd after the show with Danny Carey throwing pieces of his drum kit into the audience and Adam Jones teasing us with his whole guitar.


As I gingerly walked away from Big Day Out soaking wet and stuffed, I knew the nine hour wait was worth it.

Rating: 5/5
By Jimmy Ness

Novembre interview

Novembre interview

Novembre has always been a special band. From arctic landscapes to scorching deserts, the Italian four piece manage to convey an amazing sense of atmosphere without resorting to any of the dramatic cheesiness of a cliche metal band.

Firstly Carmelo, congratulations on another quality release.

Thanks a lot mate!

Was there a specific concept or idea you guys had in mind when writing songs for The Blue?

Not really. But thinking again, this blue/cobalt picture was always in my mind. Who knows how these things work.

Recently Novembre have been booked for a tour across the UK in support of Paradise Lost, what expectations do you have from the tour and most importantly are you excited!!!?

Absolutely. We are supporting the most important band of the post-Death Metal age, the founders of the Gothic-Doom scene. It’s such an honour for us. They’re A class people, really kind, down to Earth and helpful guys. Killer tour indeed!

Orphaned Land interview

Orphaned Land interview

 

Israeli progressive metal band Orphaned Land released their first concept album Mabool, in 2004. After receiving rave reviews for their unique style of Oriental and Middle Eastern music, they are now working on a follow-up with prog legend Steven Wilson.  

Guitarist Matti Svatizky spoke to me about Orphaned Land’s seventeen year history, beards and the Israeli metal scene. 

Hi Matti, it’s a pleasure to interview one of the creative minds from such a great band! Before we start, I must know what happened to your beard? I thought it was pretty glorious haha.

Hey man, what’s up? Thanks for the compliments, they’ll get you everywhere! Now for the more serious business, my beard! The truth is, in band photos it may have looked cool, but in real life it turned out to be a disaster, so I really had to let it go.

For those who are new to the band, can you describe what Orphaned Land is all about?

Well, visiting our website (orphaned-land.com) is a very good idea. You can really learn a lot from there, hear sample music, see my ex-beard, see the rest of the guys etc. But to sum up what we’re about, I’d say that we play metal with ethnic touch. The metal we play is influenced by the whole metal genre and has aspects such as thrash metal, heavy metal, death metal, doom metal, black metal, progressive metal and so on. However, our music is not inspired by metal only, but from other genres as well. We consider ourselves to be open-minded music lovers.

The Weeknd - Thursday review

4/5 Stars

The Weeknd's second album is a drug-fueled haze of sex and heartache. 

After releasing House of Balloons earlier this year, Abel Tesfaye went from obscurity to god-like worship. On Thursday, the Toronto based singer further broadens his soundscape. 

Instead of trying to repeat the success of his previous work, he ditches the catchy hooks and trash talking by revealing a more emotional side. His falsetto glides effortlessly over atmospheric production on tracks like 'Lonely Star' and 'Rolling Stone', and he briefly flirts with reggae during 'Heaven or Las Vegas'. 

Even Drake makes a worthy appearance, somehow managing not to bore the ears off the listener with his usual cheesiness. While it's not as instantly rewarding as its predecessor, Thursday has enough great moments to continue The Weekend's cult-like buzz. 

Look for the third part of this sacred R&B trilogy later in the year. 

By Jimmy Ness

Snoop Dogg - The Doggumentary review



3/5 Stars
The Doggumentary was originally planned as a sequel to Snoop's classic debut Doggystyle. This proved too much of an undertaking, and instead the album combines decent G-funk remakes with uninspired floor fillers. ‘Wonder What It Do’ and ‘The Way Life Used To Be’ have rare signs of ’90s greatness, with the Boss Dogg showing what was lost on his past three albums: funky beats and fun rhymes. However, the flaccid ‘Platinum’ and ‘Boom’ sound sadly like a 39-year-old cashing in on the ringtone generation with synth-heavy production and redundant collaborators. At 21 tracks, this disorderly record desperately needs quality control. Snoop hasn’t fallen off the wagon, but his embarrassing attempts at staying relevant may be his undoing. Imagine your dad crip-walking and talking like a thug – you get the idea.
By Jimmy Ness

Raekwon - Only Built For Cuban Linx 2

5/5 stars

When you are a pre-teen it’s perfectly acceptable to love a celebrity. But if you are over 18, you are probably a creep with a restraining order.

Admittedly, I try to keep my fanboyism for Wu Tang a secret, but sometimes it just takes control. This is one of those times.

Although I’m a relatively new Wu fan, I have been looking forward to this album for a long time. It was originally announced in 2005 and is the constantly delayed sequel to the classic Only Built 4 Cuban Linx, released fourteen years prior.

Like many others, I accepted the common belief that the 90’s heyday was over and it was ring-tone rap from here on out. However, despite my worst fears, Raekwon lives up to the hype and delivers a modern classic.

Surprisingly, OB4CL2 maintains the cinematic feel pioneered by the original, but without RZA completely commanding the boards. This time around production is shared between the late J Dilla, Dr Dre, Pete Rock and Marley Marl amongst others.  

The album follows the Mafioso theme of the previous release and Rae still has the grimiest slang. The more you listen, the more you’ll uncover new metaphors underneath his cryptic wordplay.

Guests are also on point with features from Ghostface, GZA, Masta Killa, Slick Rick, Inspectah Deck, and even Cappadonna’s performance is up to standard again. I missed seeing another guest verse from Nas on a sequel to Verbal Intercourse, but lyricism is still where OB4CL2 shines.

For a fan of Wu Tang or Hip hop in general, this is a 22 track masterpiece. 

Forget Blueprint 3.

By Jimmy Ness

Lupe Fiasco - Lasers review

1/5 Stars

Before I verbally destroy this album, let me begin by stating that I think Lupe Fiasco is a great artist who manages to avoid rap clichés without sounding like a rhyming science teacher. 

But that still doesn’t change the nastiness of Lasers. 

Lupe’s nemesis, record label Atlantic, should have realised there is nothing more awkward than pairing a ‘conscious’ rapper with Bieber-esqe production. 

Instead of sounding futuristic and unique like his first two albums, Lasers tries painfully hard to sound relevant, and packs 11 no-name producers with 10 ill-fitting guests. 

Lyrically nothing has changed and Lupe is as fresh as ever, but that’s not enough to save this album from the dire David Guetta sound-a-like production on ‘Break The Chain’ and the overuse of Auto-Tune on ‘Beautiful Lasers’. 

My recommendation is you buy ‘All Black Everything’ from iTunes and forget the other tracks quicker than your most painful memory.

By Jimmy Ness





Limp Bizkit - Gold Cobra review


1.5/5 stars 

Grab your baggy pants and turn your cap backwards, because Limp Bizkit is bringing the 90s back…. or at least they are trying to. Gold Cobra, the band’s first release in six years, boasts a return to their nu metal roots. 

Vocalist Fred Durst proves he still has teen angst at the tender age of 40, as he makes 100 references to fighting haters. 

His traditionally whiny vocals are backed by cliché metal riffs and electronic wankery, which the band’s only cool member Wes Borland can’t even save. 

Surprise track ‘Walking Away’ offers a quick reprieve before the album resumes the testosterone-fueled depravity. 

However, if you hold any childhood nostalgia for the Limp Bizkit era, you’ll enjoy the comedy. From the irony of Durst rapping on a track called ‘Douchebag’ to one liners such as “walk with the limp, it’s the pirate pimp,” Gold Cobra is hilarious, whether intentionally or not. Plus there’s always worse music, Crunkcore anyone?

By Jimmy Ness



Lil Wayne - I Am Not A Human Being review

2.5/5 stars

Much like Lil Wayne’s career, I Am Not A Human Being has moments of greatness mixed with terrible decision making.

Lyrically, the album is just okay, with some witty lines that are worth listening to. However, Weezy’s definitely not at the top of his game with recycled life’s a beach/bitch and we in the building, you in the front yard/apartment puns.

Mr Carter also re-uses an old freestyle on Right Above It and the over-played chorus from Young Money’s Bedrock for Popular. This brings my first problem into the spotlight, if you are releasing only 13 songs, at least follow the example of Rick Ross and make them all solid.

Stale collaborations from Young Money signees who aren’t good enough to appear on Wayne’s Carter albums also bring the album down. Yes, I’m looking at you Lil Twist, T-Streets (Who??) and Jay Sean. 

There are some diamonds in the rough though. I’m Single has Wayne taking a subtle approach to his usual punch-line flow and we are treated to storytelling reminiscent of the Weezy classic I Feel Like Dying with its woozy beat and martian vocals.

Essentially this is a mediocre album released to make money off the Lil Wayne brand and to keep the hype machine moving. And in that respect, it’s pretty successful. The songs are listenable, there are some good verses from Weezy, and it definitely makes me want to hear a solid album.

I can’t critique Cash Money Records on their business sense either; over-saturation of the music industry seems to be working in their favour. Dozens of hits and tons of mixtapes released every year, and Weezy is still as popular as ever. But the fans will soon catch on, so it’s time for an actual good album, especially after having to deal with this and Rebirth last year.

By Jimmy Ness 





Kid Cudi - Man On The Moon 2: The Legend Of Mr Rager review


4/5 Stars
Scott Mescudi aka Kid Cudi has suffered his share of controversy with reports of a former cocaine addiction, anger issues, and telling fans he was bored with rap.
On his sophomore effort Man on the Moon II: The Legend of Mr Rager, he lets his personal life impact his music with a genre-bending album that’s moody, dark and brilliant.
Production is where the album stands out and it was a brave move to go in a completely different direction than his uplifting debut. Atmospheric tracks like The Mood, The End and Maniac put a spacey touch on rap while REVOFEV and Erase Me take a stab at 70s psychedelica. Cudi addresses his personal issues directly, whether he is discussing anger problems “I found a monster in me when I lost my cool” or being outside of the hip-hop mould “cudi’s lame, wearing a kilt he must be gay”.
Despite being a claustrophobic listen with its brooding negativity, none of the tracks are particularly skip-worthy. You could complain that Don’t Play This Song would be a lot better without the consistently melodramatic Mary J. Blige, or that Wild’n Cuz I’m Young is too long, and of course you would be right, but you’d also be nit-picking.
With minimal guest features, Cudi definitely made the right choice in making this a personal venture rather than a collaborative album, as originally planned.
Guests such as Cee-Lo Green, Chip Tha Ripper and relative unknowns Cage and St. Vincent actually bring something additional to the table instead of carrying the whole project.
It’s not as fresh and immediately appealing as his prior release, but for better or worse, this album is fully injected with Mescudi’s personality. One-dimensional rappers such as Drake or Wiz Khalifa could never pull this off.
By Jimmy Ness