Simon Grigg’s life is steeped in sound. Kiwi sounds in particular. The list of musical triumphs he’s pioneered and achieved both here and abroad is remarkably long. Amongst them, he formed numerous independent record labels including Propeller Records and huh! Records with a string of influential releases, albums, and hit singles, including ‘How Bizarre’ by OMC, which became New Zealand's top-selling pop song of all time and reached number one on the US pop charts and number one in over a dozen other countries. In 1982 he was awarded the Record Industry Association Award for Outstanding Contribution to the New Zealand Recording Industry. He’s widely regarded as one of the driving forces in the explosion of independent labels in New Zealand in the early days. More recently, Grigg’s has entered the world of music archiving, as Creative Director of AudioCulture, the NZonAir funded online narrative of the people and cultures of New Zealand Music.
What’s happening in the world of Simon Grigg for 2013?
A huge amount. For the first part of the year we were building towards the launch of AudioCulture, the NZ music website which we intend to grow over the next few years to tell the story of – and the stories from – New Zealand music’s huge landscape. We have created so much extraordinary music over the past 80 or so years (we begin our site in 1926 when the first recordings were made) but until now there has been no one place to gather all this together. We will also look at the cultures and the peripheral people (promoters, writers, graphic artists etc.) plus the places. We launched AudioCulture on May 31 with 250 pages and the response has been extraordinary.
I split my time between Auckland and Bangkok where I have a home. AudioCulture has meant that I have spent most of 2013 in Auckland and very little time with my wonderful wife and daughter. It’s been very tough but I guess I knew what I was getting into.
I’m still involved in my catalogue of music - released over the past four decades - and we have reissues and new recordings due in 2013. There is also an impending oral history of Pauly Fuemana (who I released) due on Māori TV.
Describe the most generous person you know and how they influenced you.
I’m privileged to have been supported over the years by some extraordinary people in the music world. There are many names I could mention but it seems right to talk about two people who have passed. The first, Phil Warren, was an amazing mentor. I met Phil when I was about 16 when my mother rang him to ask his advice for her son who wanted to make music. We met and he gave me a range of advice, most of which filtered down to simply believing in what you are and to never give up. We were friends from that day until his death. I miss him. He was always there for me and counseled and advised me countless times over the years.
The other was the late Jerry Wise, who ran Festival Records. When I started making recordings they distributed all but the first handful. Jerry was a great man. He took me under his wing and tolerated all our crazy ideas, and nurtured not just me but a range of other NZ record labels. Each recording was, to him, individual and special. And his open door at Festival was legendary.
Name an everyday action that makes the world a better place, yet is underrated.
I can never work out why people get so angry on the road in the West. How does it matter so much to people? How much energy is wasted by this? One thing I’ve learned in Thailand is the joy of patience. Be patient – it really doesn’t matter and it removes a little bit of conflict from an over-conflicted planet.
Tell us what inspires you and why.
I get huge pleasure from great constructive and de-constructive writing and find large amounts of thoughtful and provocative words, perfectly constructed, in a variety of online and offline publications emanating from the US East Coast; be it Vanity Fair, The Atlantic, The Nation, The New York, but most especially The New York Review Of Books. The Northeastern Seaboard of the US remains the intellectual pivot of the English-speaking world – it’s just a shame that the rest of the nation drags so far behind it.
I get great pleasure from being in Asia, just walking, talking, looking and, especially, eating. There is a positivity, vibrancy and energy that seems to have long dissipated in the self-entitled Western World. I’d happily end my days in the East.
My other passion is for the past, and how it interacts with the present and the future. I like to see it documented and love helping to do so.
And of course music. I’m lucky that I’ve never found myself restricted by styles or genres. I feel as comfortable in earthy soul music as I do in minimal electronic sounds – and pretty much everything in between it seems.
Check out more at audioculture.co.nz
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