Flash Fiction – Meatloaf knew how I felt.

Everyone is wearing activewear but me. I’ve never felt so inactive, so sloth-like. We’re all getting coffee, but afterwards the activewear wearers will go and be active. That’s what they signed up for when they got dressed this morning. I will eat a scone.

You’re looking out the window, right-angles from me. There is a self-consciousness about the way you’re holding yourself, back straight, your concrete smile. You’re wearing trainers.

I think I see you look over, when I turn to look at the man with the dachshunds, but I can’t be sure.

The last time we saw each other I was on a rowing machine sweaty and out of shape. Embarrassed, I pretended not to see you. I can’t make flirtatious small talk when I might throw up my spleen. You walked away to lift weights and I turned the music up in my headphones.

The time before that, I had bought you a drink in a nightclub and then left when you accepted it.

The athletic gentleman you’re with has the kind of tights on that help your blood pump effectively, or hold your stomach in, or perform micro-colonoscopies. As you go to pay, he is out on the footpath stretching.

The time before that, was when a boy we knew had killed himself and we held each other at the funeral. I remember the rain in your hair.

As you walk past my table, I look up, faux-casual, and exclaim, “It is you! I thought you looked vaguely familiar.”

Your eyes were like earthquakes. You sat down across from me and talked quickly. My ears buzzed. You were even more beautiful now you were here. I felt awash with light, though, what were you saying?

Did I want to go for a run sometime?

No, I didn’t.

Still from the Meatloaf music video, I would do anything for love.

Poem: George Thorogood’s not bad to the bone

Maybe his family got forklift high

threw the kind of parties to get lonely at

worked the slots or the corners or

not at all and then started the day.

Maybe they looked at him like a car crash

garish steel jutting out and safety glass

not cutting anyone who’s already dead.

Maybe he turned his back on

a backed in corner, put his fists to the wind

or thereabouts, took a crowbar to a murder

followed a girl out of town before

doing enough U-turns to become a circle.

Maybe when he broke his jaw in a pub brawl

he got that stutter. Maybe he didn’t start

the fire and it was Billy Joel all along.

It’s just that no one is born b-b-b-b-bad.

*originally published in takahē

Short Story – Everyone We Expected

It was everyone we expected minus those who should’ve really been there. Chattering and chortling continued nevertheless. It was as if the ghosts of the vacant didn’t really fill in space like overgrown traffic islands. My girlfriend toasted and called for everyone to sing Happy Birthday. I think there was cake that no one ate. No one wanted that sacrifice mouthful of ruddy beer ruined by the sweetness of cake.

Taxis were called and one burdened soul was tasked with herding feebleminded drunks into cabs. We converged on a bar named for the illiterate; The Book and Badger, or The Horse and Cart, or Hall and Oats or something. Shots and more beer reigned. The music seemed specifically designed to get people to dance by creating untold anxiety from the knees down. We danced like the junkies and punks we used to be. Then people leaving. People called fond farewells and casual hoorays. A kiss goodbye from my girlfriend. A raft of handshakes. Then you.

You drew your hair back like a pull-start lawnmower and your face sparked with a glimpse of affection. Or was that guilt? Or just your after work drinks finishing too early? It’s too hard to tell in this light.

You slip across the room and lean on the polished wood of the bar. The sleeves of your navy button down are rolled up to the elbow showing off an infinity of gipsy bracelets. I try looking past you at the ghosts we left behind, but you swerve into my line of sight. I feel like I’m playing the piano one handed, but order us drinks anyway. You pick out every angry thought I ever had for you and throw them over your shoulder like salt for good luck.

*A long time ago this story was Highly Commended in the National Flash Fiction Day competition. I just recently found it, and thought to put it up. Originally published here

Album review: Tiny Warm Hearts by Louie Knuxx

Louie passed away midway through last year (2021). I did not know him, though I have been a fan of his music and podcast for a long time. I saw this review I wrote for his last album as I was looking for something else. The websiteI wrote it for is now kaput, so thought I should repost. It’s a small testimony to the man. RIP and love to his friends and whānau.


Louie Knuxx has been in the thick of a resurgence in progressive rap in Aotearoa for more than a minute. His last record, PGT/GRR took his gruff vocals and spun them out over interesting beats and dark topics at a time when his peers were pushing boundaries too. PNC released arguably the record of his career, The Codes, the same year and @Peace had come up with the sci-fi fuelled philosophical masterpiece, @Peace and the Plutonian Noise Symphony and both had shown up on PGT/GRR. It was a time to be incredibly proud of the hip hop scene, but if anything, it felt like Knuxx could go further. On Tiny Warm Hearts, he has.

The most noticeable feature on the new one from Knuxx is the superb beats. They eek out over the record, a dark underwater feel with sparks of sweet treble like coming up for air. In and of themselves, they are cool and interesting, but it is their pairing with Knuxx’s flow which makes the sound both unique and infectious. Opener, Body, with great support from MZWETWO is a smooth number that is a must listen, but it works on the album as someone slowly opening a door. It gives a hint of what is to come, but not the whole view just yet. By the time the album crawls through to stand out in the hall, tracks like YARP, and the title track the view is full.

Knuxx’s lyrics can be hard to capture as they ricochet around these beats. That might put people off on another record, but like Blu or Oddisee lyrics, you end up going back over the tracks again and again to catch the gems. Just like his perfect pairing of beats and delivery, Knuxx’s pairing of stark imagery around sex and crime is paired with great lines you don’t expect on a record with these themes. “This apartment snazzy/the décor even better” has to make you smile on a track about Suzie’s Perfect Pussy (PPS). Because this album is still up for a pay-what-you-like/koha to download, it’s a must grab for anyone digging rap that is confident in stepping outside the comfort zone.

By Hp

Album review: Charles N Charge

Ngāti Māhanga son, Charles N Charge aka CnC, has been crafting politically conscious and verbally dexterous raps for quite some time, but his latest album is a powerful step forward. The Pre-Conditioned Hori is short in track numbers (8) but heavy in themes. Charles’ complex and sometimes heavy personal journey is on show here, but he wants to discuss more than that; more than Enderly and Frankton, more than gangster rap, but broad swathes of Aotearoa from his perspective. 

Following a quick intro, opening track, ‘Stand in Your Truth’ quickly tells listeners this is going to be honest, pono retelling and frankly that might rub people the wrong way. Charles launches headlong regardless. As he lyrically cuts up anyone from doubters to passive aggressive onlookers, he also drops some of the best lines in Aotearoa rap;

“You couldn’t cast a better leading man/Dr Ropata returning with these surgical murderous hands.”

It’s the matching of different elements that demonstrates the depth of Charles’ lyricism. On ‘Fuzzy Noise’ he makes more family friendly references to the likes of Bill Burr and Cookie Monster, but on the very next track he retells stories of using a flathead screwdriver for a burglary. His rhymes don’t stop there though, he contextualises the story around making sure he can provide school lunch for his daughter after having been rejected for a job due to his gang associations.

This is a distinctly Waikato, Kirikiriroa, sound and the sense of place grounds the soulful beats and syncopated rhymes. Whether Charles is referencing Tainui waka, Hamilton hip hop hero, Slip of the Tongue, or Waikeria prison, keeping the markers local gives a strong sense of identity. There is a sense of knowing Charles and his home intimately after spending time with these songs. That’s in part due to his honesty he referenced up top, but also because he is willing to give so much more than generic punchlines and crime metaphors, he gives himself.

Music: Interview with Mel Parsons

Mel Parsons is hunkered down in her home in Christchurch’s port township of Lyttelton. The early Summer rain has been insistent, and for the singer-songwriter who’s so often on the move, staying in must seem a little strange. 

Lyttelton has become a focal point for NZ folk and country musicians over recent decades. The likes of Nadia Reid have lately recorded there, while Delaney DavidsonMarlon Williams and Aldous Harding call it home. Parsons has been living there for a couple of years, and likens it to a little Wellington with an exciting and creative community. In reality, she explains, just because a number of well-known musicians are based there, it hasn’t become it a hub for performing necessarily. 

“I’m more likely to see Delaney in Auckland,” she laughs, having revealed that he lives just down the road. Likely the result of her typically busy touring schedule as much as anything.

At any one time, either her or her contemporaries are, in normal times, likely to be on the road. 

Repeatedly acclaimed for her achievements as a self-managed artist, Parsons has made a life as a touring performer, solo and with band. Covid has certainly hampered that, and when there are no gigs, there is very little income. Keeping busy through the uncertainty since early 2020 she’s recorded new music and played various showcases, including a ‘Brothers in Arms’ album tribute show, a natural fit given she’s long been a fervent Dire Straits fan.

“I can’t have been too bad,” she jokes, acknowledging she found herself being asked back to perform for similar ‘Abbey Road’, ‘Live Rust’ and ‘Goodbye Yellow Brick Road’ tribute shows. These events were loved by audiences, and as a regular member of the supergroup that also featured the likes of Davidson and Laughton Kora, Parsons was able to get her fix for playing live.  

“I can’t have been too bad,” she jokes, acknowledging she found herself being asked back to perform for similar ‘Abbey Road’, ‘Live Rust’ and ‘Goodbye Yellow Brick Road’ tribute shows. These events were loved by audiences, and as a regular member of the supergroup that also featured the likes of Davidson and Laughton Kora, Parsons was able to get her fix for playing live.  

Recent shows have been the first playing her own material in some time, and even that hasn’t been easy. Auckland’s gig in particular needed to be rescheduled several times. Parsons has been working on the songs for a new album with guitarist/producer, Josh Logan for some 18 months. The combination of Logan’s soundscapes and Parsons’ lyrics makes for ready pathways to connection for listeners.

New singles Carry On and Already Gone have been brought to audiences for the first time, and she talks enthusiastically about how her songs take on a life of their own once released, despite all the delays they’ve been subjected to. Carry On became an anthem of sorts for people getting through lockdowns, despite being written much earlier and without the imminence of closed borders and traffic lights on the horizon. 

Already Gone is more straightforward and while willing to say the song shares a feeling of being in a relationship physically, while emotionally already having moved on, Parsons wouldn’t be drawn on what personal connection might lie behind the song. 

“I don’t want to dive too deep into where this song came from, or my feelings then, because I think when things are explained too explicitly people think that it’s about a particular thing, and maybe don’t put their own story into it.” 

She gets a lot of pleasure from having audiences find her music, and though many will know of her as a steely solo performer, she and points to her band (which often includes cousin Jed Parsons), as being essential in bringing together her songs and the energy onstage. The forthcoming album, which is yet to be given a name or a release date, will no doubt feature a masterclass of band performances. 

It seems Lyttelton’s rain isn’t going to break, and the lyrics of Already Gone spin around our conversation, yet Parsons seems chipper – excited about her upcoming record, her new home and hopes of getting back to playing live soon. 

This was originally written for Nz Musician and can be seen in its original format here

Poem – Breaking up with a real artist

The last fingers of August light ring the bell

I am standing in a doorway looking out

behind me, squares and rectangles

are whiter than the wall, clean,

where your paintings hung

we have a bowl in the hallway for keys

wallets, an old smoke alarm

a screwdriver

only its empty now except for the screwdriver

you are walking down the stairs

in a post-structuralist tizz and I can’t

find a place to put my eyes

inside, I look to where your shoulders

should have been, naked collarbone

among a rumpled set of sheets,

but you took them too and

I stood by thinking only, it will be cold later

and my name isn’t on the power bill.

Hang up, 1966 by Eva Hesse

Originally published by StylusLit

History Occasionally Repeats – That time I fell in love with Auckland rockers, Raw Nerves

Auckland garage rockers, The Raw Nerves were one of my favourite bands of 2012. Their combination of punk, grunge and Motown swing is refreshing, vibrant and most of all, the best thing to dance to since some sort of dance infused robot music. Ok, Daft Punk. And they’ve done it again with a sneaky new EP.

The opening number, Scared of Serious Drugs, is fast full of pummelling drums and chunky guitars. It has that feel Iggy and the Stooges knock out of the park at their peak and that The Ramones swum in and out of depending on their own drug use at the time. That might seem like pretty high praise when compared to the greats, but I promise it is not given lightly.

The next track, Fuck Brooklyn, is blistering in pace and maybe my least favourite on the EP, but if you like your punk rock at full throttle, you’ll appreciate it. Third song, I’m Not Gunna Try is an apathetic anthem to anyone who just can’t be bothered and is doing piss all quickly. Stand out track is the Motown tinged, Rapper Stole His Girlfriend. Jangly guitar’s and smashing hi-hats give the vocals a real lush backing. And that is part of the secret to this music; it’s simplistic, but full. It is also absolutely worth your time, download it for free/koha from bandcamp.com.

Interview with local Hip Hop legend, Poetik

Hip hop is full of rags to riches stories, but few are told as authentically as Poetik’s. His debut studio album, Poetik Justice is a pinnacle in that journey, but his work ethic would suggest that this is just one summit he will climb, he’s not coming down. The record is a testament of what hard work brings and while some might celebrate, especially as Poetik Justice just when number 1 in the NZ Top 20, when I called him for a chat, he was still working.

Poetik may have moving in his soul. Losing his mother as a very young boy, he was housed by various aiga in Aotearoa and Samoa and so as an artist it’s no surprise he has found homes in Western Sydney, South Auckland and Los Angeles – that he learnt to find a home in hip hop. In 2020, the team, including Bass685, were hoping to head out to L.A. following a show in Samoa to record what would become Poetik Justice, however, like projects across the board, Covid put a stop to that.

Stuck in Tāmaki Makaurau, Poetik started putting in the work locally. With the majority of an album completed, he understood that there was something missing from the songs – an emotional connection, something richer. So, they were scrapped. He tells me that cutting them ended up being an easy decision and the result, a better record. The album feels confessional, intimate and he has clearly spent time on his lyrics ensuring they’re not only authentic, but he is willing to be vulnerable too. Tracks like I FEEL and HAPPY BIRTHDAY show a depth that other rappers might be too scared to make. The album is invigorated by their inclusion and offer something truly personal.

Crafting music and selling it out of the trunk of his car may well pay some of the bills, but Poetik’s other life made doing that a real test for this album. Poetik, who has stood firm with his associations and world of street rap faced the prospect of that world taking over his musical one. He explained matter-of-factly, “there were murders going on around this record,” and those stories play out in songs across the album. While he raps that his laterst charges were dropped, in conversation, he comes across as a peacemaker. Some popular figures in hip hop stylize and glorify violence, but Poetik spoke at length of the importance of bringing people together and finding peace.

As a young person, he lived in a world that many would have seen as a path to destruction or winding up a “hooligan” as he puts it with a chuckle. A father by 14, but with no real role modelling from his own father, he had to learn everything himself. He spoke nostalgically of smoking weed with older Samoan boys who had been deported from the US having himself been kicked out of schools more than once. They rapped and understood the West Coast sound and while he waited until he was old enough to join the military in order to have a steady income, he rapped too.

Fast-forward in time and his songs reach audiences worldwide and feature West Coast heavyweights like MC Eiht and Kokane, the very same artists who have appeared alongside Kendrick Lamar and Snoop Dogg respectively. While Poetik acknowledges how blessed he has been to have such an organic collaboration with West Coast greats, he is just as happy to get family members, Melodownz, SmokeyGotBeatz and Lucky Lance on a track. I ask if there’s any plans to tour with his cousins and he laughs and says there is, but its always over a beer and they really haven’t organised anything yet.

He heaps praise onto others as we talk particularly those who have helped him as he has faced a steep learning curve in the music industry. He explained there was a lot of pressure to do things a certain way or change up for one reason or another. He’s defiant, “We went through hell to get here, why would we change?” but even then, he’s talking about how to bring others up with him, how to empower people outside his circle. He’s been speaking in the Oranga Tamariki Youth Justice facilities trying to inspire young people to lean into their talents the way he had to learn to lean into his. He stays humble.

I realise again that I’m keeping the man from his work, so I thank him and let him get off the phone. He takes the time to say he appreciates my call and to thank god and I’m left with the impression of someone real, not just a musician doing the obligatory chat to promote a record, but someone trying to connect with others. I put Poetik Justice on my headphones again and conclude that’s exactly what he’s doing.

By Hp

Please note, this was originally written for Too Much Sauce. They are super cool and you should check them out.