Invited as an SAE Auckland employee to observe and absorb APRA AMCOS NZ’s SongHubs Sphere event last week, Lani Purkis reports that it was “a life-changing experience.” After mulling it over for a few days she provided NZM with this intriguing personal account.
I have been battling with how to put August 6 – 10 2018, into words. SongHubs Sphere was a week in the studio without men – something I didn’t experience much as the bass player for Elemeno P. Often on tour I’d be the only girl in a 30-person touring party. However, I started my engineering career with all-girl punk band Foamy Ed, so initiatives like SongHub Sphere, SAE’s yearly ChicMix workshops and Girls Rock Camp Aotearoa feel like a return to my roots. And a step in the right direction towards gender balance in the music world…
As a child I was obsessed with Prince, so upon hearing that Susan Rogers, his audio engineer for four vital years, would be one of four international guests I cried. Twice. I couldn’t believe my luck! Heading off to Roundhead Studios along with SAE audio lecturer Lora Thompson I was excited but also, very nervous. We almost held hands in support as we stepped into a kitchen packed full of Kiwi legends and international luminaries.
I spent the first day of SongHubs in Studio A sitting quietly in the corner watching in awe as Susan Rogers gently twisted dials on the outboard gear and set up microphones while simultaneously guiding and supporting the songwriters through their process. She spoke softly but with authority about song. She spoke in colours, in shapes and in feelings. She sculpted sound around how it should work within the music, where it should take you and where you should feel it. She is a genius, and nobody left her presence feeling anything but privileged.
Days 2, 3, 4 and 5 were a whirlwind of seminars, masterclasses and of course, tonnes of songwriting. Lorde made a surprise visit on Tuesday to give an encouraging talk on self-belief, and reminded us all that she is still human! We got to hear Suzanne Vega talk, request Bic Runga to play the drums on your track and then go out at night to enjoy discussions and commentaries on the gender imbalance we are watching slowly shift. It was a magical week that ended with a listening party of 39 minutes worth of new next-level music.
The highlight for me though came after the listening party. The songwriters moved into the control room and listened to the songs over and over again. They danced together like they had known each other since childhood, and they sang along to other creations like they had heard the songs a thousand times.
They had learnt something about themselves as writers, as composers, but also they had learnt of their strength as women united. And that is why SongHubs Sphere was an event that could very well guide those who attended throughout their lives as musicians. I seriously believe this could be a week that helped change history and I am incredibly thankful to APRA AMCOS NZ, SAE, Chelsea Jade, Victoria Kelly and the multitude of songwriters who let me be a part of it.