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by Trevor Reekie

Moments Like These: Murray Cammick

by Trevor Reekie

Moments Like These: Murray Cammick

Murray Cammick is a legend in New Zealand music and it’s seriously debatable if the local industry would be where it is without his outstanding contribution over the years. Photographer, writer, editor, DJ, and founding father to the Southside and Wildside record companies… a man of delightful eccentricities, a fine mind and a great sense of humour. There should be a statue of Murray in Albert Park!

Can you remember when and who took this photo and what was going on for you?

It was taken at the 1993 RIANZ NZ Music Awards by Darryl Ward. The photo appeared in Elvis Slag in the April 1993 RipItUp. The RIANZ Awards that year took place at the Powerstation, Mt Eden Rd. I was owner and editor of RipItUp (13 years at that stage) and running Wildside Records.

What was your relationship to the others in this photo?

As a promoter, Doug Hood had toured or staged many of the artists or events that RipItUp had covered, with his Looney Tours Company and with the early Big Day Outs. Looney had toured numerous alternative acts that had been represented by Aussie promoters such as Roger Grierson and Ken West.

When a new band Nirvana were playing Auckland I was pissed off that the record company could not get us a simple phone interview, so I phoned Doug and said, “Tell the Aussie promoter, if we can’t get a phoner asap we’ll put Dread Zeppelin on the cover!” Dread Zeppelin were an entertaining LA band fronted by an Elvis impersonator who did reggae versions of Zeppelin. This threat was enough to get the Aussies into action and we promptly got a phoner with Dave Grohl. Like myself, Doug lost ownership of his business due to penalties imposed by Inland Revenue.

Roger Shepherd, as the man from Flying Nun, had provided much of the fine music RipItUp had covered in the 1980s. As the music scene was so small in Auckland at the time, Roger had also lived in the flat next door to me in College Hill.

What are those two doing now?

Doug is at ihug in Auckland and I think Roger is a house-dad, looking after the kids in Wellington, while his partner works as a lawyer.

Briefly, what have you done in the years since the photo was taken?

In 1994 RipItUp was sold to Liberty Publishing Group, owned by Barry Coleman (NBR etc), which sorted out RipItUp’s tax problems. I stayed on as editor until 1998 when Barry closed the magazine. I was given the option of regaining ownership for near to nothing, but the need to make the staff (most of whom were friends) redundant was more than I could face. I also thought it was good for my health to get away from the stress of a regular deadline. Since 1998 I have run Wildside Records, done freelance writing and some travelling. I am also currently trying to organise my old arty and music photos for an exhibition and sort my hoarded music research so I can write a book.

What are your recollections of the music scene back then compared to now?

I hate cliches. The cliche I have read the most lately is – “I liked Las Vegas when it was a small town run by the mob, before the corporations took over.” I feel the same way about the music scene.

Compare 1994 Big Day Out with this year’s. In 1994 you had Soundgarden, Breeders, Smashing Pumpkins, Urge Overkill, Straitjacket Fits, 3Ds, Head Like A Hole etc. Most of these acts, I don’t own their records, but as a music magazine editor they gave you music you respected and it was easy to find great writers, passionate about music. Now music magazine formats are colour, glossy and their size is dictated by the demands of corporate advertisers who want their sneakers to look good. Not many people buy music magazines now, but they smell good. However, one can only celebrate recent sales successes with artists like Scribe on Dirty via FMR, Bic Runga on Sony and Fat Freddy’s Drop via independent distribution.

If you knew then what you know now what would you have done differently?

I would have bought one of those $50,000 houses in Grey Lynn.

What would you say are the most distinct differences between you now and then?

My waistline is reduced as I have more time to walk.

Does age make you smarter?

Yes and no. With age you know too much about what did not work in the past and what conventional (or alternative) wisdom says can’t be done! Youth does not know what is impossible so is more likely to achieve the impossible. Youth can stay up later and network while enduring loud music and general excess. Youth can take the right drugs and be oblivious to the fact that the band took the wrong drugs.

Words of advice to young people wanting to get into the music industry?

Bands should build a strong live following. The money is in live performance whether you’re U2 or brand new. The biggest USA CD seller last year was Mariah Carey (five million) and she is not in the Top 10 grossing musicians as she did not tour in 2005. Most of the Top 10 earners didn’t release a CD in 2005.

What’s on your playlist right now ?
• Earth Wind & Fire, ‘Greatest Hits Live’ 1995
• Earth Wind & Fire, ‘Live in Rio’ 1980
• Nat King Cole, ‘Live At The Sands’ 1960
• Bobby Darin, ‘Live At The Desert Inn’ 1971
• Various Artists, ‘Motown Remixed’
• Marvin Gaye, ‘Got to Give It Up: The Funk Collection’
• Various Artists, ‘The First Ladies of Philadelphia Soul’