Simon Grigg and Audio Culture (the noisy library of New Zealand music)

Audio Culture: The Noisy Library of New Zealand Music has recently been added to the music resources in Auckland Libraries Digital Library. It is not only an excellent resource for the study and appreciation of New Zealand’s popular music history but also a fine way to lose hours of your life.

The sites original architect, Simon Grigg, and his co-conspirator, Murray Cammick, will be speaking at the Auckland Central City Library on Thursday Oct 3rd. A Facebook event page has been set up for the event. By way of introduction to the event Simon was good enough to answer a few questions for us.

Did your experince with your own blogs kickstart this project?

Yes it did. I've been slowly trying to archive the music and times I've been involved in
over the years as we have such huge gaps in our popular music documentation and the public availability of it. There are several amazing blogs and sites but no one place where we could look at all of it and see how it all fits together. The concept came together in mid-2010 and it developed from there. I had early talks with several people, notably journalist Gary Steel, RIANZ's Chris Caddick, NZMC's Simon Woods, Universal's Adam Holt and Gemma Gracewood and the site grew from there.

The site seems to be all encompassing, embracing many, many different facets of NZ music, was that the plan from the start or did it develop over time?

If you look at my history it embraces punk, indie rock, hip-hop, dance music, jazz and pop so there was never any chance that AudioCulture was going be one-dimensional genre wise. We are a small country and so many things and people stride over multiple genres – it's our strength. AudioCulture hopefully gives some context to that. So, in answer to your question, it was always the plan.

Why do you think this is important?

Music is a part of our national lifeblood. We are one of the heaviest per-head music buying nations in the world and we buy and listen to vast amounts of our own music. And more than that, our music has a wonderfully unique flavour melded by our physical place in the world (and our isolation), our joining of cultures, our climate and the changing cultural mix of the nation. We grow up, meet our partners, go out to and are quite obsessive about the music we make, perhaps only secondary to sports. Music is us.

Do you think there is a danger we are losing our pop culture history? (I have often been surprised by how much the library does NOT have in its collection)

We have been in grave danger for a long time. Not of losing our pop culture history, but of losing big parts of it. Whilst there has been increasing amounts of ours musical past gathered and collected we also missed large parts of the story and it simply goes if we don't grab it. The work of various amateur bloggers and historians, libraries both regional and central, Radio New Zealand, and writers such as Chris Bourke, Gareth Shute and John Dix have gathered together large parts of the musical legacy of New Zealand. Our job is not to replace these people and organisations but to to add to the amazing body of work that exists. I think it's also important that our musical past and its related cultures are visible and accessible. That is a big part of our brief. It's an exciting story and we want people to know as much about extraordinary musicians like The La De Da's as they do about The Rolling Stones.

I also think we need to understand the scenes and communities that grew up around our music. It's fine to write about a band or singer, but what of the culture and world they came from? That melded them and they melded it.

As part of doing this have you discovered stories or music that you were previously unaware of? if so, what were some of those surprises?

Countless stories. Rarely a day passes when I'm not given writing or an image that just astounds me. Some of our writers have vast archives and an encyclopedic understanding of New Zealand's music and its music makers. We also have musicians coming to us daily offering unpublished images. I love this story of Chris Malcolm – born in NZ, brought up in the US. He came to to NZ in the 1960s and wrote one of the great psychedelic pop tunes of the era. Before Grant Gillanders submitted this story I had no idea. The same writer has submitted an extraordinary piece on the 60s group The Pleazers which explores the relationship between a band and their label in the 1960s in a way I've never read before. It will go up shortly.

Another of the goldmines is the Phil Warren archive at Auckland Library. There is so much in there we want to explore – so many stories that we've not even touched on yet. 

Simon and Murray's talk will take place on Thursday 3rd Oct on the second floor of Auckland Central City Library in the Whare Wananga from 6pm.


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