Last night two of the least famous people ever to ‘celebrity’ soundclash met at the Sale St CDJs. The crowd went mild as Cheese on Toast‘s Andrew ‘Biggie Balls’ Tidball met Real Groove’s Duncan ‘Just regular sized balls’ Greive for one hour of song-for-song battling. Just so no one’s under any illusions about the magnitude of this event, it’s me, Duncan Greive writing this. No one else would be remotely interested in covering it, so I’m having to be both participant and ‘journalist’ on this one, which surely isn’t too much of a conflict of interest?
I’d spent most of yesterday trying to use fotoflexer to graft a poo onto a piece of cheese on toast. The result was truly awful, but pleased me no end:
Unfortunately this meant I had severely limited my time to actually get music together to defeat my opponent. He’d been heckling me via email about how he’d already DJed for seven hours this week (which I wrote off as big-talking but turned out to actually be true), and so was clearly match-fit, while the closest thing I’d done to DJing in the last month was messing with an iPod at my saturday poker game. Which just isn’t the same.
Arriving up at 5.45, my opponent was already in the booth, beer in hand, and looking very friendly with the night’s MC, George FM’s Thane Kirby. That’s probably because they are actually friends. Things were looking bad for old Duncan. Then Tidball, the old professional, gifted me the entire COT split singles collection, including one not yet released (it comes out tonight at Cassette #9, you should go). You had to marvel at the gall of the guy. We were walking into battle, with nothing but hate in our hearts and victory on our minds, and he pulls this sick stunt.
As he intended, it left me confused and a little frightened. But that was nothing compared to his gamesmanship at the coin toss. I got to call (smart move, made him look gentlemanly while not altering the odds at all), went heads and his $2 coin (RICH!) spun endlessly before revealing the kotuku in full flight. It was here that I made the first of several errors of judgment.Here I’ll let Tidball take over the story:
“I could tell Duncan was nervous, and I had already teased him about not having a proper headphone jack to plug into a DJ mixer. ‘You’re not playing your iPod now buddy,’ I thought to myself. I won the coin toss – so when Duncan gleefully exclaimed “You’re up!” I knew that it would be great tactics to insist that, as the coin toss winner I got to pick whether I went first or second – and to make him open.”
He’s right. I screwed that one up royally. Firstly, I never checked the coin. Does anyone think Tidball is above having double-headed and -tailed coins minted? But I froze, and forgot the one of the fundamentals of battle: that of perpetual mistrust. Even worse, I lurched into speech, relief all over my face.
In my haste I’d forgotten that although the adage “nine times out of ten, you bat first. on the tenth time, you think about it, then you bat” applies beautifully in test cricket, it has no such place in test disc-jockeying. He sent me in on an appalling wicket. The crowd seemed oblivious the the high drama unfolding alongside them, which you had to take as a tacit endorsement of the music Kirby and his sidekick had been playing, mostly vintage ’70s and ’80s funk and soul. So my intrusion (I had no music which any sane man would describe as ‘soulful’) was going to be jarring and almost-certainly ill-received.
Then there was the vexing question of whether to go out hard and risk limping home (the New Zealand ODI approach) or to start things slowly and hope I built up enough momentum to create something of substance, risking never getting started at all (the New Zealand test cricket approach). Adding to my confusion was running into Maya from Shortland St at the bar. This left me in a state of EXTREME flusteration, from which I had barely recovered when I had to begin…
SONG ONE/DUNCAN: Josie Cotton – Johnny, Are You Queer?
I went with the middle ground. The song’s fantastic, obviously, but I guess I wanted to see how he was going to play it, give him an opening to go ’80s if that was his bag, not be too jarring against what had gone before, and also play a song about sexuality confusion in a venue like Sale St. In retrospect, it was a little spineless, but like I say, I was still reeling, so considered anything short of my singing YMCA in my underpants a win of sorts.
SONG ONE/ANDREW: Major Lazer – Hold The Line (Disasteradio remix)
ANDREW: “I’m a huge fan of Major Lazer and am practically wetting myself that I get to play on the same bill as them for New Years this year! When I caught wind that NZ’s keyboard wizard Disasteradio had made a remix I had to get my grubby little hands on it – and I love what he’s done with the track. I have to say though, the original mix is also amazing to drop into sets midway on a full pumping dancefloor to watch the mixture of confusion / excitement when those clippy-cloppy horse hoofs start walking! But I wanted to show off a little with an opener that probably hasn’t been heard much out yet. Tactics.”
SONG TWO/DUNCAN: Junior Senior – Shake Your Coconuts
Major Lazer wrong-footed me a little. I’d been told he was going to come at me with smash hits, and so was mentally unprepared for something contemporary and black sounding. I cued up Dizzee Rascal’s Tiesto-produced Bad Behaviour, which, with its Enya-ish epic intro and monstrous bassline rap felt like a good comeback. Then I realised he was already in my head, and at the last minute jumped back to my (broadly) new wave plan with Junior Senior. Another plus which I definitely factored in: The song’s not much more than two-and-a-half minutes long. Figured if I could talk to him for a while he might be forced into a bad decision. Wrong again.
SONG TWO/ANDREW: Mint Chicks – She’s a Mod (Ray Columbus cover)
ANDREW: “It was still early on in the set and I wanted to throw Greive off his game with something that’d be both be familiar to the crowd, but also sufficiently unusual that he’d start to sweat a little. It was time to show Greive who he was up against, frankly – so I had to drop this recording of the Mint Chicks’ version of this kiwi classic which, of course, they had performed just a week earlier at the Music Awards.”
SONG THREE/DUNCAN: Bored Games – Joe 90
Probably my low point of the night. Much as I think Joe 90 is one of the great New Zealand pop-punk songs, it does go on about 90 seconds too long for genre convention, and mainly playing it out is about showing off that I paid however much ($60? I forget) for the Who Killed Colonel Mustard EP on TradeMe a few years ago. Plus I was responding to his wheeling out the Mint Chicks, by trying out-indie him, when in fact it was a smart, populist choice. All the wrong reasons to play a song in the pressure-cooker atmosphere of a soundclash. And you could tell by the strut in Tidball’s step (boy, can he ever strut!) that he knew he had me.
SONG THREE/ANDREW: Grizzly Bear vs Dead Prez – Two Weeks of Hip Hop
ANDREW: “By this point I felt like I had ruffled Greive’s feathers sufficiently – he had just dropped Joe 90, obviously in an attempt to demonstrate some cultural cachet, but frankly I thought it was mis-placed and probably just too ‘alternative’ for the venue. I wanted to bring shit back on track with a mix of familiarity with some indie-cool – so this mash-up totally did the business, I thought.”
SONG FOUR/DUNCAN: Vistoso Bosses – Delirious
Back in the game. A perfect new wave/R&B hybrid, and a sly way of dissing his mash-up with a genuine genre hybrid. The beer was starting to take effect, I had a bit of buzz on and the belief was back. Kirby even asked who was playing, though he may well have been being sarcastic. At the time, I took it as genuine.
SONG FOUR/ANDREW: Chiddy Bang feat MGMT – Kids
ANDREW: “Frankly Greive had thrown me with the previous selection, and I felt panic starting to settle in. I attempted to keep my cool on the exterior but this selection reeked of desperation, in hindsight, and was possibly a mistake – whilst awesome, and not strictly a mash-up per se since the Philadelphia crew just heavily sample MGMT, within the first few bars I knew my game-plan was flailing.”
SONG FIVE/DUNCAN: The-Dream ft. Rihanna – Livin’ a Lie
I’m in control. Tidball’s choice sounds like a re-tread of his previous song’s formula. He’s stuck on repeat, and I’ve got a big missile in my pants. I’ve long been of the opinion that Livin’ A Lie would have been a number one single was it ever released, and would love to know why it never came to be. Ultimately though, it’s meant that one of my favourite songs of the decade languishes on a fairly obscure R&B album, and that it still sounds fresh every time I play it. Feeling really confident at this point, especially when a girl in front of us starts doing something which looks awfully close to dancing.
SONG FIVE/ANDREW: Ducksauce – aNYway
ANDREW: “Shit! Someone’s looking like they’re dancing and it’s still shy of 7pm! It was Greive’s pop-tastic previous selection that made them move. This really got my competitive juices flowing – the game’s not over yet Greive! Ducksauce are actually A-Trak and Armand Van Helden – I found this track this week and I totally love the intro of an electro build that drops after about 40 seconds to a quasi gay disco groove. If this doesn’t make them keep dancing I’ll eat my hat! Luckily I wasn’t wearing a hat.”
SONG SIX/DUNCAN: FrankMusik – Better Off as 2
Duck Sauce had really caught me off guard. I was staggering, punch-drunk – how to respond to his ratcheting up the gayness that swiftly? All I had was FrankMusik, and he saved me again. Muscular, extremely emo, maximalist, Stuart Price-production. Tick tick, tick. And under three minutes long, keeping the pressure on the opposition. I felt like this was the moment when Tidball asked the question. You define how the game will be played by your response. And even though he was still leading, FrankMusik’s hyperactivity meant that regulation house was always going to sound underprepared to follow, so he needed to move again. And move he did.
SONG SIX/ANDREW: Florence and the Machine – You’ve Got The Love (the xx Remix)
ANDREW: “Two absolutely great UK artists right now – working together on this track. I love the sultriness and lushness of this song and it seemed perfect to get us out of the gay-disco groove before men started taking their shirts off and dancing on tables at Sale St – it’s just not that kind of establishment, after all.”
SONG SEVEN/DUNCAN: Gossip – Love Long Distance
Classy move from a classy guy. Tidball’s winddown had me flummoxed, til I found the Gossip. Easy, right? New single, compared to M-People by Joanna Hunkin, Beth Ditto losing her mind on the chorus, crazed booming piano chords to close… In the zone, kid. Tidball had an audible intake of breath at this point, which I wrongly assumed at the time was his calling this cheating. Instead it was more of a ‘well-played, sir’. It was coming home. I felt supremely in control. And the following suggests I had every right to…
SONG SEVEN/ANDREW: I can’t even remember!
ANDREW: “Greive threw me totally off balance with The Gossip, because I was already planning to either drop the hyper-electro Tom Stephan remix of Heavy Cross, or the dubstep Joker Remix of Simian Mobile Disco (with Beth Ditto)’s Cruel Intention. He had knocked me out with his punch of Love Long Distance and, clearly I blacked out and don’t even recall what I played next.”
SONG EIGHT/DUNCAN: Baltimora – Tarzan Boy
All that remained was to bring it home. This might be the song I’ve played ‘out’ more than any other. Ridiculous novelty italo-disco, with jungle chanting, the worst keyboard horns ever recorded and every cheap production technique known to man. It felt good. How do you answer a song like that? I was about to find out just how low Tidball would go for the win…
SONG EIGHT/ANDREW: The Very Best ft Michael Jackson – Will You Be There?
ANDREW: “Duncan ended with some glorious nonsense in the form of that mid ’80s Italo disco classic – which I was, I have to confess, more than impressed he played off a 7″. I couldn’t admit it to his face, but he had won. Where can I go now, but only to close the battle with the ultimate closing track – off The Very Best’s mixtape from last year it builds, and builds almost to an ominous crescendo before dropping classic MJ into the mix. I had to go out fighting, even though I knew in my heart of hearts I was defeated. Well played sir.”
I have to say, playing anything involving Michael Jackson in the second half of 2009 is clearly cheating, and should be judged as such. I was very disappointed in Tidball for that. I expected more from him, and I think he let not only himself, but the whole Cheese on Toast family down with that. Despicable, really. And I wasn’t the only one.
Kirby asked for crowd applause to judge the winner. Tidball first. I loudly asked for a moment’s silence to honour the memory of the King of Pop immediately afterward. So it was pretty muted. The moment had elapsed when my applause came, and I felt no compunction in cheering loud and long for my own victory. It was awarded to Duncan Greive, in one of the most closely fought and tumultuous battles to have ever happened at Sale St yesterday. But really, we fought to a draw. It’s a great idea though, and their battle schedule (including Jacquie Brown vs Jackie Clarke) sounds amazing. Next week is a Sunrise-centric Rod Cheeseman vs Oliver Driver. It’ll be very silly. You should go.
– Duncan (& Andrew)