Cleve Cameron: Dancing Pukekos, Rockugrams And Taxis

Cleve Cameron: Dancing Pukekos, Rockugrams And Taxis

Former adman Cleve Cameron gave up a good job in a large agency this year to focus on making music. Not a stranger to music after about 15 years with The Beop,“a band from another dimension”, his solo album ‘Welcome to the Primal Digital’ was released digitally in May 2016. Taken from said album is the new music video for his new single Do.

Can you give me your elevator pitch – why should people check out your new video?

Do the thing you love to do. It makes life a good buzz. Watch this video and try not to smile. I showed someone the other day and they cried though… in a good way.

Do is a very positive song and people often shy away from writing those out of fear of sounding cheesy. What’s the story behind it?

Ironically, the song came from a very sad place. It’s one of those songs, it came through all at once… like the lyric “it came to me in a blast”. I played it much slower then though. This was in 2008 when we’d moved to Paekakariki from Sydney – for my mother-in-law with terminal cancer to move in with us, as she passed away. The song Do like other songs on the album written at that time (Lighthouse In The Storm and This Tide) were ways to imagine myself and my family out of the grief we were camping in.

For years I played Do quite fast, as kind of rebel song for dharma – on the streets. We shot a rapid-prototype on Queen Street where I cut up people’s credit cards and turned them into guitar picks. It’s pretty funny. You can see it here.

I guess all this stuff is what makes it real, honest, rather than camembert pop, which could be why so many people have started to connect with it. Stephen Langdon has captured this realness beautifully in the actual official Do music video.

How many people were involved with the video shoot and how did you convince them to be part of it?

It’s mostly all just our family and friends, so we pretty much just bribed them with cupcakes or beer. There was this amazing serendipity thing that happened on the shoot though. When we went to shoot my friend Jude Hoani weaving at the Unitec marae, I had to explain the whole kaupapa of the song to Whaea Lynda, the boss, and she got really excited and said: “Right whanau! You’re all gonna be in this music video and I want you to dance like pukekos!”… so she got everyone out and lined them up and made up the awesome pukeko dance you see in the video. It was one of those unforgettable life moments, and it’s all there in the video, for real, no casting!

Keywords tabla, taxi and Mandeep – there seems to be a story right there!

In this age of ubiquitous streaming, I think the way we experience music is really important. That’s a David Byrne thing. The songs on the album  are great to drive to, and Mandeep Singh plays tabla on the album, and happens to drive a taxi, so it was natural to launch the album in Mandeep’s cab. Mandeep will tell you all the best places to get the mood of different tracks – there are few nautical themes. His number is on my website.


The line up of people you recorded the album with is pretty stellar, too! How do you know everyone, and, maybe a silly question, how could you afford recording at Roundhead for 10 days?

Yeah, there was some amazing talent in the studio. I feel super lucky! Have a nosey on Instagram, we’ve made a ‘Rockugram’ (that’s a new thing we coined) of the recording – short loops of some of the fine characters in action: Lawrence Arabia, Ed Castelow, the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra, and Bennett, the dog.

The most significant creative allies in the project are my excellent wife Willa O’Neill (who has a glorious voice and sings on most of the songs) and Kieran Scott. Willa dared me in the first place to get the songs into the studio (there are plenty more!) Kieran is an amazing guitarist and incredibly intuitive creative human. Playing together has just been a really natural thing. The live show totally goes off!

And, yes, Roundhead is a gift to the cultural wellbeing on New Zealand. I was lucky, they did me a really good deal.