Culture vulture and freelance journalist Peter McLennan has written extensively about New Zealand music for Real Groove, Rip It Up, Pavement, NZ Musician and North and South.
He recently published his first book I Believe You Are A Star - a collection of articles he wrote between 1992-2003 on some of New Zealand's most influential music makers including Che Fu, Bailterspace, SJD, Sola Rosa, Hinewehi Mohi, Dawn Raid and Mark de Clive-Lowe.
"I get to meet some fascinating people writing these pieces," McLennan says. "I feel very lucky to have met them - that is part of the reason why I got into magazine writing. I wanted to meet these creative people and find out their process and they turned out to be I'd want to meet anyway."
What's taken you so long (to write a book)?
I've always wanted to do a book and now thanks to the internet, anyone can. You aren't reliant on getting the official seal of approval of a book publisher, much in the same way a musician who can get organised can harness the internet to get global distribution, via Bandcamp or iTunes, without needing a record deal. You still need to produce a book that other people want to read, of course.
Given that most of the articles are more than a decade old, why now?
I had previously collected some of them on a website dedicated to my writing, and this is like a compilation of some of the best pieces. I helped out a friend doing the cover design for their self-published book about 2 years ago, and after seeing how good the finished product turned out, I wanted to tackle my own book. I dug thru my archives (magazines, floppy discs, word docs) and came up with the local music angle. I used Amazon.com's self-publishing service Createspace. There's no upfront costs, or minimum number of books you have to order, And it's stocked in Amazon, so it's available worldwide. And on e-book/Kindle.
The interviews cover about a decade (1992-2003) and they also neatly fit in with the rise of NZ music locally, in terms of wider recognition and radio airplay.
I didn't plan that bit, that was just a happy accident. Back in 1992, local music was less than 2 per cent of commercial radio, by 2003 it was hovering near 20 per cent. Our own music was no longer invisible on radio.
What inspired you initially to start writing about music?
I started out writing about film, as I'd studied that at art school. I shifted into writing about musicians and DJs, and kept writing freelance as a side gig for a long time, mainly as I enjoyed getting the chance to meet musical peeps who I'd want to meet anyway, and got to pick their brains about their creative process.
And learning how to write well and tell their stories in their own words was really enjoyable.
One of the best reactions I got to an interview I did was from P-Money (in 2001), who told me his Dad liked the interview I did with him, 'cos it was the first interview his Dad had read that sounded like him.
Have you ever felt intimidated or nervous going into an interview situation?
Shayne Carter was a bit intimidating, but that was probably because he didn't send out advance copies of his debut Dimmer album, and made me sit with him in Sony's windowless boardroom and listen to the album in full, before doing the interview.
And of course, he's an alt-rock superstar, so there's that too. As far as asking fanboy questions, I think that's perfectly okay. You gotta ask the obvious questions sometimes. Just don't make them your first questions.
As someone who has been very pro-active in chronicling the origins and history of rap and hip hop in New Zealand, what's your take on where things are at in 2013?
Music is pretty cyclical by nature, so after local hip hop peaked in mid 2000s, it dropped off by the end of that decade. Now it's back on the upswing, thanks to talented cats like David Dallas, Homebrew, Supervillians RMC, Ladi6, @Peace, Tipene, and more. Hip hop is still a hugely exciting genre for me, even though it's 30 years old now.
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