FutureFive NZ - Behind The Passenger

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Behind The Passenger

On October 31st Orcon demonstrated how to coordinate the recording of a studio single between 10 artists in remote locations using freely available software and the power of the Internet. From a recording studio in Miami, the godfather of punk, Iggy Pop, instructed and coached nine young New Zealand-based musicians in order to reproduce and re-record his 1977 single ‘The Passenger’.

Chris Leggett finds out how it was done.

When it came time for Orcon to raise its profile, it decided the best way would be to show its customers what broadband can do, rather than just tell them how great it is. It enlisted the help of advertising agency Special, whose thoughts turned to the godfather of the most do-it-yourself form of music ever invented – Punk Rock.

As Michael Redwood, account director at Special puts it: “Rather than making an ad that told people, we planned an event that showed people; to show the incredible things that Orcon customers can do using broadband. This is not high-end production technology; this is bedroom computers.”

Special harnessed the power of the Internet to make this happen, right from the word go. Quite literally, the agency found Pop’s management by Googling him. One night of phone calls and he was on board.

Orcon won’t disclose how much Pop was paid for the promotion, but Head of Brand Duncan Blair teases that, “it’s probably a lot less than you think. It was a lot less than we thought”.

Redwood, however, contends that it wasn’t the money that enticed Pop to sign on. “It’s not like he needed the money to pay off his mortgage,” he says. “I think he was actually genuinely intrigued by the idea of this never-done-before experiment. He really grasped what we were doing.”

Casting Call

Famously, Iggy Pop implored New Zealanders to participate in the promotion by submitting audition footage to Orcon’s Facebook page. “If you play guitar, play bass or hit a drum, take your shirt off – whatever – get it online,” rallies Pop on a recording made via Skype, the popular, free voice and video program that he would later use to speak with the Kiwi musicians for the live event itself. Reportedly, the call for auditions was his first time using the program.

Orcon received over 200 auditions (all of which can be viewed from the company’s Facebook page: tinyurl.com/ydyen9f), and Pop scoured through each of them and personally selected his nine favourite musicians.

The Lucky Nine

The nine musicians chosen by Pop were located mostly in or around Auckland and Wellington by pure coincidence; Pop selected them with no knowledge of their whereabouts. The band consisted of Sam Logan from Auckland on guitar, Charley Davenport from Paraparaumu on cello, Flautist Miho Wada from Auckland, Daniel Tate from Auckland on bass, drummer Tia Beaufort from Wellington, Takumi Motokawa of Wellington on marimba, percussion and piano, Ben Jurisich from Warkworth on guitar and Stephanie Engelbrecht of Wellington on drums and tambourine.

Guitarist Ra Ata Inta relocated to Canberra prior to the live event. Orcon informed Pop that this particular entrant was no longer available, but Pop insisted on his inclusion, so Orcon flew Inta back to New Zealand for the live recording event.

The process

On the day of live recording, a small technical crew was dispatched to the households of each of the nine Kiwi musicians. A Macbook Pro was used at each location, with audio and video streaming to Pop (and vice versa) via Skype on a standard, home-grade ADSL2+ Orcon connection. Video from four cameras set up at Crescent Moon Studios in Miami (which includes Shakira and Ricky Martin among the artists who have recorded within its walls) was streamed back to New Zealand via the free Ustream program. The Ustream footage documented the process at Iggy’s end, where nine Macbook Pros were set up; one for each member of his makeshift band. “Iggy worked with the different band members, listened to their takes, coached them a bit,” explains Special’s Redwood. “In the studio in Miami the engineer was helping to get the rough takes up to a point where Iggy laid down his vocal track.”

The video and audio were then put together by Curious Film into the television commercial you’ve no doubt seen by now.

Working with Iggy

It was an all-day affair for 22-year-old drummer Tia Beaufort, with the crew arriving at his place around 7am on the day of the live event. But after the early start and the initial set-up, it was all plain sailing. “It went a lot smoother than I thought it would. Once everything was set up and stuff it was actually quite easy,” explains Beaufort. So effective was the whole experience, in fact, that it’s opened even Beaufort’s eyes as to what he can do with the Internet. “Skype worked really well. I hadn’t heard of it before, and now I’ve started to use it to talk to my friends in Aussie.”

With eight other musicians vying for Pop’s attention, there was a lot of waiting around on the day, but when Beaufort did receive Pop’s undivided attention, it was quite special. “He was just telling me how he loved my audition and how he wanted me to play the drums on the final take. He was really nice; nicer than I thought he would be.”

It’s yet to be seen whether this opportunity will open up doors for Beaufort’s own bands Killing Bear and Pavillion Down, but he made sure to give at least one of them a plug during the live event.  “I was wearing a Killing Bear shirt in the video,” he laughs.

NetGuide didn’t get the chance to Skype with Pop, but he passed on the following comment about the experience: “During the session for Orcon, it was the people just as people that I enjoyed the most.  I just got a big kick out of them all and felt a lot of love. I remembered what a special place New Zealand is.”

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