Toogood pieces of advice

Drop the F word and end well, says Shihad star

ALASTAIR PAULIN
Last updated 12:58 08/05/2014
Simon Isemonger
ALASTAIR PAULIN/FAIRFAX NZ
ROLE MODEL: Shihad and The Adults frontman Jon Toogood, centre, made members of Motueka High School punk-pop band Papers Scissors and their fans give the heavy metal face after a Musicians Mentoring in Schools session on Tuesday.

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Motueka punk-pop band Paper Scissors gave Jon Toogood an earful this week and got one in return.

After they blasted him with their new song, This is for You, the former Shihad frontman unleashed the truth on music, fashion, bass lines and pushing the boundaries.

"Our mission for today: Find alternative words for the song "Harry is a F....." Whatever spins your propeller in your personal life is OK but in a song, it's not going to fly. I reckon that song's really, really good but in a schools' music competition, you won't be able to play that song with that line," he told the band at Motueka High School.

Toogood was visiting as part of the Musicians Mentoring in Schools Programme by the New Zealand Music Commission.

After spending Monday and Tuesday at Motueka High School he spent the rest of the week at Collingwood Area School and Waimea College, which he also visited last year. The programme helps celebrate New Zealand Music Month in May and is also a useful lead-up to the Smokefreerockquest, for which entries close today.

On Tuesday morning he put Paper Scissors through their paces as they rehearsed one of the songs they will perform on the Smokefreerockquest.

"The song is great, they're really good, but they don't rehearse enough," he said.

He told guitarist Alex Parry that his black shirt was a good look for a punk-pop band and helped them devise a bassline for new bassist Max McAlpine, who had been enlisted overnight after Toogood had told the band they needed a bass player.

As the band tightened their arrangement in a practice studio, half a dozen other senior music students lurked outside an open door, like fans backstage after a gig.

Toogood made lead singer and guitarist Julian Mittman teach Max the bassline, complaining that he was a "typical lead singer - he thinks, because it is in his head, that everyone else knows what he's thinking".

The students lapped up his advice because of his vast industry experience, said the school's head of music, Hillary Sinclair.

"They believe him when he tells them what is going to work and what isn't," she said.

"And he can speak to that vulnerability of just how scary it can be and how amazing it is when it works."

Toogood said he spent a couple of weeks a year doing the mentoring, which the music commission arranged when he could spare time in his schedule. He is currently based in Melbourne and said it was a great way to get around New Zealand, and joked that it was "a good way to steal young people's ideas".

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He said he found talent at every school he visited and that making music seemed much more achievable than he was starting out, partly because there was now Kiwi music on the radio and opportunities such as the Smokefreerockquest.

But his overriding message was that music had to be worked on.

"You've got to be a nerd - music's just another skill, like physics or accounting."

His final advice was, fittingly, about the ending. "Trust me, you can play like crap but if you have a good ending, everyone thinks you were amazing. If you all end together, they'll think you were really tight."

- Nelson

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