August 28, 2013

NZ Musician review

NZ Musician's Martyn Pepperell reviewed my book in their Aug/Sept issue... thanks!

"These days Auckland musician, graphic designer, DJ and writer Peter McLennan is probably best known for the social and cultural commentary he offers up through his dubdotdash twitter handle and blog. Between 1992 and 2003 however, McLennan was a freelance journalist for a number of now defunct and still-running magazines such as Pavement, Selector, Lava, Rip It Up, North & South and yes, us here at NZ Musician.

Earlier this year, McLennan collected up close to 40 of the more crucial music articles and interviews he wrote over that time, compiling them into this slim yet illuminative volume, I Believe You Are A Star: Interviews with New Zealand musicians, DJs and artists.

Being titled after a Dimmer song of the same name, McLennan kicks things off with an awkward yet interesting discussion with Shayne Carter, conducted just prior to the release of Carter's ‘Dimmer’ album of the same name. From there he surveys the ’90s and early 2000s of New Zealand's indie rock, hip-hop, soul, electronica and dub reggae scenes, more often than not catching now prominent names on the cusp of rises which, viewed retrospectively, often have a certain inevitability about them.

Amongst other gems, we hear from P-Money during his first interview in which his father actually felt like he was reading about his son; the sadly departed Darcy Clay dreams of travelling to Africa; and the heavily tattooed (and then dreadlocked) Tiki Taane recounts the day he wandered around Dubai in shorts and a t-shirt.

McLennan is a thoughtful listener and observer, and a writer who misses little. With I Believe You Are A Star he gives us the opportunity to reflect. A segment of our musical underground invaded the mainstream, and McLennan was there, documenting some of the pivotal shifts, when and as they happened."

July 9, 2013

Book reviews

Esteemed DJ/writer/record label boss Stinky Jim has reviewed my book on his blog, read on...

"Been meaning to spout something about this for a hot Sandringham minute, but it’s taken this long to get round to it. Full disclosure demands that I state that I consider Peter a mate, and sometimes colleague on the decks or typewriters or suchlike, and this tome has a couple of interviews/features with me and RTM associates, so – y’know unreliable witness! 

"However, as much as I have protested in the past that there really is no need for any more books on recent NZ music (and generally maintain so) I think Peter’s is well worthwhile, and the exception that just kind of proves that rule. Lots of interviews and features, decently written by someone who knows the score – what more could you wish for? The price is nice too, stupidly nice, follow the links and school up." 

A review of my book  from Grant Smithies, Music Editor, Sunday Star Times...

"In this collection of brief, insightful interviews with musicians, producers and DJs, many first published in magazines sadly now defunct, Peter McLennan has given us a valuable addition to the burgeoning shelfload of books examining contemporary NZ pop music.

A musician and DJ himself, the writer’s own ego and opinions are largely invisible; he is more interested in canvassing the views of his subjects than presenting his own, making the book feel more like oral history than critique.

Result? Calmly and in their own words, musicians tell us about their creative process and ponder the difficulties of getting your music heard in this little country of ours.

With a stylistically diverse range of performers and the earliest interviews carried out two decades ago, “I Believe You Are A Star” gives an overview of sounds, scenes and careers that have changed phenomenally since the original pieces were written.

Many of the musicians are interviewed at pivotal points in their working lives- some caught in the updraft, others trudging along a creative plateaux, a few in decline, two now dead - which makes for fascinating reading when the reader can fill in the gaps as to where these performers went next.

From noise rock to electronica, reggae to hiphop, te reo Maori music to chart pop, much ground is covered on McLennan’s magical mystery tour, and you’re only too happy to tag along for the ride."

And from Philip Matthews, in The Press/Dominion Post, Saturday July 6th...

"It's always good news when New Zealand rock music is taken seriously as cultural history rather than ephemera or commercial failure. Exhibit A: The excellent Audioculture website that launched in May. Exhibit B: Books such as this, which compiles magazine articles written by music journalist Peter McLennan between 1992 and 2003. 

The title is borrowed from Shayne Carter's first album as Dimmer, and McLennan's 2001 interview with Carter opens the book. It's a good way to set the scene for the pieces that follow, which are about the difficult business of making music in New Zealand as much as they are about the creative output. 

In the end, you do it for love not money, and the same idea might apply to publishing: several of the magazines that these stories appeared in have since hit the wall and McLennan's book was independently published in the same DIY spirit that informed much of the music."

You can buy the book at Conch Records, Real Groovy (Akl), Slowboat Records, RPM Music (Wgtn) and online from, and also on Kindle here.

June 26, 2013

Seeing stars

photo: James Hancox

I did an interview recently with Mike Alexander of the Sunday Star Times. He put a short snippet of that in his music column  a few weeks back, and the full interview went up online this week. Read the Q&A below.

Stars in the making

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'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.

June 20, 2013

Talking book

Auckland City Harbour News. Click to enlarge

I've done a ton of interviews in the past few weeks about my book, highly enjoyable. Was chatting with Chip on BaseFM, Max on BFM, Charlotte on KiwiFM, Nick D on GeorgeFM, Murry on Radio Ponsonby, and the folk on Caffeine and Aspirin on Radio Active.

Had a great time on TV's U-Live with Connor and Eli, charming young lads.

Here's an interview I did with RadioLive's Wallace Chapman - Wallace and I used to co-host an arts show on BFM called the Culture Bunker, back in the day. Top bloke.

Made it into the Ponsonby News, Sunday Star Times, NZ Herald's Timeout, and the Auckland City Harbour News. Hoorah! Got a copy yet? It's only $20.

Ponsonby News - click to enlarge

May 27, 2013

My book launch was fun!

I had the launch for my first book I Believe You Are A Star on Saturday afternoon, up at Conch Records in Ponsonby. Lots of friends and family came out to support me and buy my book, it was great!

We had pineapple lumps and assorted lollies, tasty beer thanks to the folk at Hallertau, and a wicked DJ set from BaseFM's Dylan C, spinning all-nz vinyl, mixed impeccably. It was a fun time. Thanks to everyone who came along. And thanks to the staff at Conch for hosting it. Love your work. [Photos by Justin Redding, Frances Chan - cheers!]

You can buy the book at Conch Records, Real Groovy (Akl), Slowboat Records, RPM Music (Wgtn) and online from, and also on Kindle here.
Dylan C, DJing all-NZ vinyl. Wicked set!

BaseFM's Chip Matthews and friends

On Kindle...

My friend who lives in Las Vegas sent me this photo last week. She is reading my book on her Kindle, while, riding the bus. Yay for the internet!

May 24, 2013

Book launch tomorrow!

Me and my book. Photo: Grant Apiata

My book launch is on tomorrow, if you're in Auckland, come on by! Here's some info....

'I believe you are a star' is the book debut for local musician/DJ Peter McLennan (Dub Asylum/Hallelujah Picassos/BaseFM). Come and help him celebrate the launch!

The book is a collection of magazine interviews written between 1992 and 2003. McLennan talked to locals just starting their recording careers (P-Money, Stellar, SJD, Black Seeds), through to established artists (Salmonella Dub, Shayne Carter, DLT, Bailter Space) and more.

Books will be available for sale on the day (only $20!), the author will be signing copies, and DJ Dylan C will be playing a special all-NZ vinyl set. The first 25 copies sold at the launch come with a free mix CD of recordings mentioned in the book. We also have complimentary beer thanks to the good folk at Hallertau. Swing by!

You can buy the book at Conch Records, Real Groovy (Akl), Slowboat Records, RPM Music (Wgtn) and  online from, and also on Kindle here.