Hawke's Bay Arts Festival / 20 October 2018 / Cabana, Napier / By Randal Petrie
The affable Roy Brown, Guv’nor of The Cabana generously provided a fitting venue free of charge, for an intimate conversation with Bollinger and Sweetman, attended by small and enthusiastic audience, with MC Jamie Macphail posing a range of questions to both writers, whilst valiantly staving off a cold.
Both men, were very quick to disabuse the notion of being “critics” with any perceived connotations of high mindedness or superiority. Both are music fans foremost, and music writers.
Each essentially followed their interests and instincts too, as fans, and led to their forays into the print media: Sweetman through Wellingtons’ Capital Times, and Dominion Post, and Bollinger for Rip It Up, The Listener, and more latterly as host for Radio New Zealand weekly review of new releases, The Sampler.
Sweetman acknowledged his colleague and co-panelist as one of his musical and writing heroes. Bollinger added that Sweetman was a past master at the cutting quip, more of that in a moment. Refreshing to hear that there is someone who doesn’t like Lorde!
Both also referred to the importance of the now much reduced print media, for providing them with their mutual entre into writing and reviewing. Bollinger acknowledged Arthur Baysting, (aka Neville on The Level Purvis of The Red Mole Theatre Troup in Wellington in the late 70s) and Gordon Campbell who preceded him at the Listener, and support of editors Alex Fry and Kevin Ireland who were supportive as mentors, helping Bollinger refine his craft.
Sweetman related his experience with a viral longstanding feud with Robbie Williams following a scathing and honest review of a Williams show, being rather like a poorly executed karaoke show! Williams responded at a show, the following night with a song “Rage” in response. Unintended consequences for both perhaps.
Sweetman also went on to comment, that writing to a deadline can be harrowing, especially if the live gig or the album turns out to be less than satisfying, citing live gig overload, where armed with multiple free tickets to review previous Wellington Arts Festival gigs, he had to provide reviews
Bollinger’s experience was to say that it was better not to review something if it was poorly performed, and concentrate on material which was worthy of note, and could be approached with enthusiasm, rather than a negative slant which did neither the artist or reviewer any favours. His own well tested formula is to equate the new release and link it back to music (albums, songs and artists from other times), outlining similarities of sound, lyric, musical nuances and probable influences. This theme for radio cleverly and succinctly joins up music over a wide demographic.
As the elder Statesman of the two, Bollinger was gracious in allowing Sweetman an opportunity to entertain the audience with another Rock and Roll story: the time he missed having lunch with Patti Smith in Melbourne.
Sweetman is working towards a potential writing project with Split Enz member Phil Judd, and adds to his blog page and website regularly.
Bollinger’s recent memoir, “Goneville” growing up in, and being part of the vital Wellington music scene of the late 70s, is available at Wardini Books.
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