Q&A with Adam McGrath (part 3)

Adam McGrath is well known for his work with the band The Eastern. He will be Live at the Library for New Zealand Music Month 2017.

Adam McGrath
Adam McGrath live at the Isaac Theatre Royal. Image supplied.

We asked him some questions:

What’s your favourite recent NZ release?

The Warratahs Runaway Days that came out last year. In a time where folks seem to care less and less about records, The Warratahs put a pole in the sand with a flag on the top flying high and strong with the words ‘Yeah, So what…’ stencilled on it. Any album with the song ‘Kupe’s Tears’ on it would be a classic out the block and that would be enough, but after 30 years of song for the Warratahs to still be punching in that division makes me feel unworthy and ready to give up. And also to keep swinging, get better and lift my reps of songwriting push ups.

Which other instrumental musician would you most like to share a stage with?

Well I would like to stand in the middle of the sound of Booker T and The MG’s. Al Jackson, Steve Cropper, Duck Dunn and Booker T create the sound of God in both my ears and my heart.

CoverCoverCover

Who would be your ultimate singing duet partner?

I would happily be the Cisco Houston to Woody Guthrie, or the Marvin Gaye to Tami Terrell, or the Gram to Emmylou, or Sam with Dave or any of those perfect combos. But in reality I’m the most excited about singing with the random stranger after the gig around a table. They are the shining-est (I know that’s not a word, but it feels like it should be in this context) moments of singing I could think of and no matter the fame or wonder of any of those others, there is nothing more holy than a post gig sing-along.

If a song started every time you walked into a room, what would you like yours to be?

“Rock n Roll Ain’t Noise Pollution” by AC/DC or “I just want to see his face part 1” by the Staple Singers or “High Hopes” by Frank Sinatra.

If you could’ve written any song ever written, what would it be?

I would be proud to sing Anchorage by Michelle Shocked if it was me who’d come up with it.

Adam McGrath’s Top Ten albums of all time

  1. London Calling – The Clash
  2. Nebraska Bruce Springsteen
  3. It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold us Back Public Enemy
  4. The Asch Recordings Woody Guthrie
  5. Live at the Harlem Square Club – Sam Cooke
  6. Devil Got my Woman Skip James
  7. Strangeways Here We Come The Smiths
  8. Funhouse – The Stooges
  9. Sign of The times – Prince
  10. Horses Patti Smith tied with Master of Puppets – Metallica

That’s my list and I’m sticking to it.

 CoverTop five musical influences?

  • The Clash
  • Woody Guthrie
  • Bruce Springsteen
  • Chuck D
  • Barry Saunders

 And what album is on high-rotation for you right now?

Over the years I’ve become very frightened of flying and considering I fly every week, this is very troubling. Every take off and landing I listen to ‘Hats’ by The Blue Nile and it helps chill me out. Also every morning I listen to Gorecki’s Symphony of Sorrowful Songs as I sift the many confusions in my brain over coffee.

Read our first and second batch of questions for Adam.

Here are the dates and times for Adam’s performances;

Central Library Peterborough – The Showcase Concert 

Saturday 20 May, doors open at 7pm

Te Hāpua: Halswell Centre

Friday 26 May, 3:30pm-4:30pm

New Brighton Library

Saturday 27 May, 2pm-3pm

South Library

Sunday 28 May, 2pm-3pm

The Rankin File – Ian Rankin at the WORD Christchurch Autumn Season

Ian Rankin is coming to town as part of WORD Christchurch Autumn Season, and I’ve got myself a ticket to go and hear him speak!

Ian Rankin – Sunday 14 May 6pm

Ian Rankin. Image supplied.
Ian Rankin. Image supplied.

Now it’s confession time … I’ve never read an Ian Rankin novel.

In my years working in public libraries, Rankin’s books have been ever-present and always on the move. Their uniform cover design makes them stand out really well among the larger collection and they all portray a sense of grim foreboding and cold realism.

Rankin’s name is always the first and largest text (before the title) and this is tribute to his popularity. And speaking of popularity, his Rebus novels in particular have a huge following of readers, some of whom have regularly suggested that I read his work. But I’m afraid I’ve never gotten around to it (so many books, so little time!), UNTIL NOW!

CoverI’ve just begun his first Rebus novel Knots and Crosses, and already I’m loving it. All the elements of a good noir crime story are there — an overworked under-appreciated borderline protagonist, a system of bureaucracy to overcome, the doggedness to get to the truth, and a series of gruesome crimes committed by a dangerous and difficult-to-understand sociopath … it’s gripping!

CoverI’m now an “almost-fan” and really looking forward to hearing about the author’s background, inspirations and where he’s headed to next in his writing. My experience at his talk may go either way for me in regards to my reading further works by him, but I’m excited at the prospect of gaining some extra knowledge to fuel my new reading. Who knows I might get all the way through the series! There’s currently TWENTY ONE titles in the Rebus series so it’s a decent list to invest in, and the latest Rather Be The Devil has his loyal readers queuing up for our library copies!

So, if you’re like me — a lover of gritty noir crime, but have never picked up a copy of an Ian Rankin book — then I would implore you to do so. You won’t regret it. If you’re already one of his legion of loyal followers, then come and see the man himself at 6pm on Sunday 14 May.

Q&A with Adam McGrath (part 2)

Adam McGrath is well known for his work with the band The Eastern. He will be Live at the Library for New Zealand Music Month 2017.

Adam McGrath
Adam McGrath live at the Isaac Theatre Royal. Image supplied.

We asked him some questions:

Tell us about your first live (and paid) performance?

Singing Heartbreak Hotel at the 1980 A&P Show in Christchurch. I was four and I was paid an orange popsicle. I don’t remember singing so well as it was my dancing which won the day. Never underestimate the combination of candyfloss, roman sandals and a hot day to bring out your best performance.

As a grown up, it would’ve been playing a backyard party for Dig-A-Tattoo. I was paid the handsome fee of one black flag tattoo on my wrist.

Which venue in the world would you love to play?

I always had a dream of playing inside Sun Studios in Memphis, and I was lucky enough to get to do that nearly fifteen years ago. Now considering I make my living playing music I’m more than happy to say “The next one”.

Are there any old Christchurch music venues that you’d love to see revived?

There was a moment for about a year in 1998 (before it moved to the Southlander tavern) where the Jetset Lounge in the side bar of the Provincial Tavern, seemed like a perfect place to play. Otherwise I would like to go back in time to when I was 12 so I could re-sneak in to the Blenheim Road Motor Inn and see Hammerack and Shihad when they still played covers.

What was your local library when you were growing up and which one do you use most nowadays?

Bishopdale! And it is still my Bone Marrow fave!

 Do you have a favourite book/author/style?

My favourite book is The Fools Progress by Edward Abbey. My favourite author is just maybe Kurt Vonnegut or Ernest Hemingway. And my favourite style is anything that aches with some sadness but has an essential good heart running like a thread or a beam holding the whole thing up.

Where do you go in NZ when you need a holiday?

Generally I just go home. Waking up in my own bed feels like a holiday as I spend so much time away. However Arthur’s Pass is my favourite bolthole.

Read our first batch of questions for Adam.

Here are the dates and times for Adam’s performances;

Central Library Peterborough – The Showcase Concert 

Saturday 20 May, doors open at 7pm

Te Hāpua: Halswell Centre

Friday 26 May, 3:30pm-4:30pm

New Brighton Library

Saturday 27 May, 2pm-3pm

South Library

Sunday 28 May, 2pm-3pm

Stay tuned for the next installment of our Q&A with Adam McGrath!

Q&A with Adam McGrath (part 1)

Kia ora music lovers!

Adam McGrath (Image supplied)

The big music news for 2017 is that Christchurch City Libraries will be featuring Adam McGrath for New Zealand Music Month 2017.

Adam is best known for his work being the driving force of the band The Eastern, who are widely regarded as the hardest working band in the lands. But did you know about his social conscience and the value he places on not only community but public libraries too?

I posed a series of questions to Adam in order for us all to get to know him a little better…

So Adam, what was the first album you ever bought?

“When I was ten. I hadn’t seen or heard from my Dad in two, nearly three years. He never paid child support and his name was dirty in my house. So he was like a ghost that I vaguely remembered.

One day I got home from school and on the doorstep was ZX spectrum 16kb computer and a jar full of money delivered courtesy of my erstwhile father. I was stoked, my mum full of sighs. We plugged the computer in and it worked, surprisingly. Come the weekend we hit New Brighton mall for a little shopping with the jar money, Mum got some new threads ready for a dance at the working mens club. I got a GI Joe Cobra Bore, “rip and roar, cobra bore, lots of trouble for GI JOEEEEEEE!” I still remember the advert.

But for me the holy relic of purchases on this day was a copy on tape of ‘Raising Hell” by Run-DMC. This changed my life, made me obsessed and hungry for music in a way I had never felt before, either for toys, or lollies or anything else my young brain had ever thought it wanted. That desperate desire continues unabated today. After 1000 failed jobs and nowhere/nothing starts there was no choice but to give my self up wholly to the blessing and curse of full time music and song slinging. I blame my dad, Reverend Run, Darryl McDaniels, Jam master Jay and New Brighton Mall.”

Which instruments do you play (on stage and not)?

On stage; guitar and harmonica and the nodules in my throat. On record I’ve played bass, mandolin, and keyboard. However not a single one of these, on stage or off would anyone (including most people in my band) say I was anything more than a hack and a chancer.

Is there an instrument that you don’t play but which you would love to be able to?

I would like to play the tin whistle. However whenever I pick up a tin whistle everyone around me suggests I don’t take it any further.

What was your first guitar and do you still have it?

I guess what I call my first guitar was an old F-series Yamaha, I bought for $100 at a junk shop on Manchester Street. I used to go in and play it and listen to the proprietor’s problems, health emotional and otherwise. This served me in good stead because the guitar was actually $120. It had a crack and the top lifted off from the sides, so I taped it together with yellow and green and white insulation tape.

I took that guitar all around the eastern and southern states of America whereupon even in its battered state it kept me feed and watered as it sung out across street corners from Philadelphia to New Orleans to Nashville and many smaller more lonesome corners between. After some time I guess it sensed that I had improved enough for something a little better. It’s job done, it pretty much committed guitar suicide whereupon all parts of it decided to more or less break at once; machine heads popped off, bridge pulled up, neck snapping. It was time to let it go.

It was called Rosilita and the last I saw of her she was in a wardrobe in the town of Conshocken, Pennsylvania waiting for either the dump or the next pair of desperate hands crazy enough to take her out into the world.

From now until his library performances in May, Adam will be reaching into the depth of our digital resources, he’ll be searching and exploring our physical resources, and most of all he’ll be connecting with the people of Christchurch by hearing their stories and discussing their lives/loves/losses. He will use much of what he discovers to inspire new works, songs and music, and during May, Adam will be available for a series of “Live with the Library” concerts, during which he will tell his stories of us, the people of Christchurch.

And here are the dates and times for Adam’s performances;

Central Library Peterborough – The Showcase Concert 

Saturday 20 May, doors open at 7pm

Te Hāpua: Halswell Centre

Friday 26 May, 3:30pm-4:30pm

New Brighton Library

Saturday 27 May, 2pm-3pm

South Library

Sunday 28 May, 2pm-3pm

Stay tuned for the next installment of our Q&A with Adam McGrath!

NZ Music Month 2017 – Live in the library

Christchurch City Libraries has a brand new initiative for 2017 and it’s all about MUSIC!

NZ Music Month

We are celebrating Christchurch stories. We are celebrating music. And most of all, we are celebrating libraries and the way they can enrich any creative pursuit you are undertaking, at any stage of development. Christchurch City Libraries have a wealth of resources that can help you learn, discover or simply enjoy music.

Our collections and our communities can also inspire the creation of music and we are fortunate this year to have Adam McGrath to share his expertise.

Adam is best known for his work being the driving force of the band The Eastern, who are widely regarded as the hardest working band in the lands. But did you know about his social conscience and the value he places on not only community but public libraries too?

During the time of the earthquakes Adam and his band played widely across Christchurch, acoustically and at no charge. His drive was to help communities in their recovery in the best way he could – by giving relief from stress by way of music. He continues to contribute to the creative output of our city, playing regularly here in New Zealand, touring across Australia and over to Europe, sharing the stories he has gathered along his journeys.

Image supplied
Image supplied

In the lead up to New Zealand Music Month, Adam will be spending time in our libraries all over Christchurch. He’ll be reaching into the depth of our digital resources, searching and exploring our physical resources, and most of all he’ll be connecting with the people of Christchurch by hearing their stories and discussing their lives/loves/losses. He will use much of what he discovers to inspire new works, songs and music, and during May, Adam will be performing a series of “Live in the Library” concerts, during which he will tell his stories of us, the people of Christchurch.

Come and celebrate with us at one of our concerts – hear new work by Adam McGrath, performances from our communities, or even a group made up of some of the musical talent we have on our library staff. Who knows….. YOUR story may be put to music by Adam McGrath.

We’ll be speaking with Adam throughout his process and he’ll be giving us some insight into his creative processes, and his musical background. Keep an eye on our website for interviews, Q&A, and more. Stay tuned!

Browse our full list of NZ Music Month events and performances.

“Here comes your band…”

The iconic and legendary Pixies are well and truly back and we are giving away tickets for their Christchurch show on 9 March.

In 2014 they returned from a 23 year hiatus amid much anticipation with their comeback album Indie Cindy, which was met with thunderous applause & critical acclaim (…from myself, at least!) and if they’d stopped there I would’ve felt completely satisfied as a lifelong fan. Having waited since 1991 for an album of new material (Trompe le Monde), it’s clear that they’ve picked up right where they left off – melodic, lyrical, grunty, and with bucket loads of their signature explosiveness.

Pixies
Pixies 2017 lineup. Image supplied.

It’s now the early stages of 2017, they’ve got a new bass player (Paz Lenchantin), and I’m stoked to be readying myself to see them live right here in Christchurch, on Thursday, 9 March at Horncastle Arena, as they tour their latest album Head Carrier.

Released late last year, Head Carrier is yet another example of their signature sound and songwriting styles, and if you’ve never heard them before then this album is well worth a listen if you like bands such as The Stone Roses, Smashing Pumpkins, or even The Jesus & Mary Chain – another 1990s indie band due to make a comeback this year.

If you’re keen to win a double pass to the Christchurch Pixies show just answer the simple question on our competitions page.

Good luck and see you on the night!

The last of the Bee Gee…??

At the age of 70, Barry Gibb has released a new album In the now, his first in 32 years, is at once a memorial to his brothers and a possible departing letter to his fans.

I’ve read anecdotally that Barry received ‘visions’ of his deceased brothers (Andy and Robin) which helped him in his drive and direction for this new album. Whether or not these ‘visitations’ influenced his work or not, the new album stands up as classic Barry Gibb songwriting craft and is full of Bee Gees flavour in performance.

The style runs across from the punchy dancey tracks most associated with the Bee Gees, through to the balladic style more akin to their early roots. Add to that some smooth Latin grooves and a hint of country-pop stylings, some superb quality production, and you’ve got a dynamic and soulful selection of tunes. At the grand age that he is, Barry has still got a voice that is as timeless as his craft.

The influence and importance of the brothers Gibb can’t be overstated in the annals of music history IMHO. With 28 US Top Ten singles, they were rather unfortunately overshadowed by The Beatles frenzy. But they were at the very forefront of the disco music movement and highly regarded in the industry for their songwriting.

There’s a whole raft of articles from music journals in history documenting the rise & rise of the Bee Gees, and you can access these through our fantastic resource Rock’s Backpages using your Christchurch City Libraries login.

Bee Gees

The library also offers opportunities to explore the Bee Gees back catalogue with scores & P.V.G (piano, vocal, guitar) sheet music.

In a time of bands of yesteryear still continuing to tour with material that is 40+yrs old, it should be celebrated that a giant of music is still producing quality original compositions, and he’s still touring and on his way to New Zealand in April 2017!

Barry is joined by his two sons, Ashley & Stephen, for this album which is a fitting tribute to his family’s musical history, making this another Gibb family gem – get your ears around it!

Historical Fiction of the Masses

Historical fiction is beaut and I read LOADS of it!

I find that it’s an opportunity for talented writers to explore a tiny part of history and expand on it in a way that keeps within the spirit of the times. With the added bonus of hindsight, they might get into some areas that perhaps weren’t fully described by contemporary historians in factual writings.

There’s another side to historical fiction too, and this is the tendency to lean towards topics & settings centred on ladies holding court in the drawing room or the Upstairs-Downstairs type narrative full of posh English aristocrats, much like the recently popular Downton Abbey or Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall which has had the tele treatment.

There’s nothing wrong with these stories, some of them are written beautifully and they sure make good TV fodder, but my concern is that we may be boxing the term “historical fiction” into these aristocratic themes and subsequently some other great works about the “historical common people” are not reaching audiences that would love them. So let’s get into the gritty side of what I like to call (for lack of a better term) Historical Fiction of the Masses.

CoverA fine example of Historical Fiction of the Masses (and I may be showing by Tasmanian roots here) is one of my favourite books of all time – Gould’s Book of Fish – a Novel in Twelve Fish by Richard Flanagan. He’s a Tasmanian author who most recently won the Man Booker Prize for his work (also historical fiction) Narrow Road to the Deep North.

In Gould’s Book of Fish he delves deeply into the corruption, lunacy and brutality of the penal system of transportation to Van Diemen’s Land in the 17th/18th centuries. This is a history not often told in its full brutal reality by history’s keepers, until quite recently when shame around the perceived “convict stain” was turned around and many people began speaking with pride of their convicted and transported ancestors.

CoverThere’s another very accomplished and award winning Tasmanian author who writes good “Historical Fiction of the Masses” – Rohan Wilson. His two titles – The Roving Party and To Name Those Lost are full of grit and reality and are based on real points of history, and the characters based on real people.

And there’s other great international titles in this vein too, The Revenant by Michael Punke is a survivalist story set in the 19th century Rocky Mountains frontier and has recently achieved a lot of attention with Leonardo Dicaprio claiming his first Oscar for his role as the main character.

CoverThe North Water by Ian McGuire dealing with life on a whaling ship in the North Sea & the ship’s morally corrupt crew was long-listed for this year’s Man Booker Prize

There’s a huge depth of writing in this style and a new title piqued my interest after I heard an interview with the author Eowyn Ivey on Radio New Zealand.

CoverHer book is titled To the Bright Edge of the World and during her interview she expressed her admiration for minimalist writers such as Hemingway and Cormac McCarthy. She even said that one of her best-loved books was Gould’s Book of Fish by Flanagan – how could you resist!? Her book is written as diary entries and other correspondence amongst a group travelling through the wilds of frozen Alaska, their families & their descendants. It’s brutal, realistic and believable with strong engaging characters, a weight of mysticism and a deep plot – all the elements for a fine example of Historical Fiction of the Masses!

Go get some titles like these and get reading! Ma Te Wa.

Music finds a way … The Piano to open this weekend

This coming Sunday there is a special event happening in Christchurch city with The Piano Centre for Music and the Arts opening its doors in Armagh Street. The new facility looks great and it houses some brilliant performance spaces, teaching suites and rehearsal rooms. Here’s the calendar of upcoming events. It will be the main venue for the upcoming WORD Christchurch Writers and Readers Festival.

The reopening is to feature a legend of New Zealand and Christchurch jazz, Mr Doug Caldwell. At 88 years of age & 70+ years of playing and exploring jazz piano, he’s a true master of the craft. As a fixture of the local music scene for so long, it’s fitting that he should be the one featured to reopen this new music centre, performing in the 340-seat Concert Hall on Sunday afternoon. Read Charlie Gates’ article in The Press: Christchurch jazz legend Doug Caldwell first to play new Piano music centre.

It’s not often recognised but New Zealand and Australia has a jazz history that runs as deep & as filled with quality that it rivals the American traditions. There are some truly great jazz musicians from our region and they deserve celebration, from the Australian greats; Graeme Bell, Don Burrows and James Morrison – all masters of their particular eras, to Kiwis Mike Nock, Roger Manins and Christchurch’s own Doug Caldwell.

Christchurch City Libraries holds a swathe of resources around the topic of New Zealand jazz. There are booklists on the subject, including sheet music from jazz composers from across NZ – a Kiwi version of the ever-present jazz “Real Book“. There’s also listening lists featuring contemporary artists as well as the more traditional, vocal & instrumental, PLUS a host of resources available for in-library use through our Aotearoa New Zealand Collection (ANZC)

I myself am a keen fan of jazz having studied and played in Tasmania before relocating to Christchurch and connecting with some of the local talent here, with whom I continue my explorations, utilising many of these resources to enrich my experiences and hopefully champion what I know to be a strong seam of cultural history worth celebrating and sharing.

Get along to see the concert & then get busy with your library card & see what else we’ve got – it’s a lot!
#ChooseJazz

Punker than Punk … Rock’s Backpages

An exploration of the new music resource Rock’s Backpages, available free to you through Christchurch City Libraries:

“Underrated” is a term that is widely and oftentimes overused when talking about music and rightly so, it’s a passionate subject!

When I think of “underrated”, in terms of music at least, I think of The Saints – a punk/rock band well ahead of their time, contemporaries of The Ramones, pre-dating The Sex Pistols & The Clash, and hailing from OUR OWN REGION! – albeit on the other side of the Tasman (1970s Brisbane), so why are they not as noted as these others?? They certainly deserve to be, in my humble musical opinion!

My first exposure to The Saints was being handed an old cassette (remember those?!?) by a boyfriend of my older sister back in the 1980s. The tape was many-generations-of-overdubs old with illegible scribbles all over the labels. One side had some pretty decent Australian Rock’n’Roll, on the other side … Eternally Yours by The Saints. It was loud, it was raw & packed with lyrics shouting at you to “Wake Up” & see what’s happening around you! Fair to say it blew my young mind & changed the way I viewed (& engaged) with music and the world forever, and it still sits on my regular playlists today.

See more articles about The Saints in Rock’s Backpages.

In this modern age of accessibility I’m pleased to see that The Saints are now achieving some kind of recognition, with notable artists such as Nick Cave or the Hives claiming them as direct inspiration. The growth of digitisation of historic articles is also making it possible to read about their influence and music.

CoverThere’s loads of books around these days too dealing with the histories of underground music. A good one is Mavericks of Sound: Conversations with Artists who Shaped Indie and Roots Music by David A. Ensminger, a good read looking at some interesting areas of the world underground music

Christchurch City Libraries subscribes to Rock’s Back Pages, through which you can search for and read articles from the history of the world’s music press – articles that were published at the same time as the artists were operating. It covers reviews, opinion pieces & much more – a truly valuable resource for those of us who are into music!

You can log in using your user name & password/PIN, have a look through and see what you can find about the bands that you love, the ones that have influenced you, and the ones that have changed your life – it all makes for interesting & nostalgic reading!

Stay Punk!