5000 Ways To Love You is an extraordinary site and an extraordinary project. The site's author, Robyn Gallagher, decided to watch every NZ On Air-funded music video made and offer up a short commentary on each. The full mission of this perfectly named site is here. Unfortunately many of the older videos are missing, so Robyn has also made it her mission to fill as many of these gaps as possible. With the arrival of NZ On Air funding, the 1990s was the decade that New Zealand music video came of age, thus it seemed appropriate that we ask Robyn to make a list of the most iconic New Zealand music videos of the 1990s.
Prior to the 1990s, New Zealand music videos were funded via a combo of record labels, mates’ rates and TVNZ's in-house freebies. Everything changed in 1991 when the newly formed broadcasting funding agency NZ On Air launched its music video scheme. Not only were more artists able to afford to produce music videos, the videos were of higher quality. Music video production was also a vital training ground for a new generation of film directors. We take a look at 11 iconic music videos of the 1990s.
Before the funding scheme launched, the Headless Chickens produced this video the old-fashioned way. Here band member Grant Fell takes the ordinary world of an Auckland petrol station and slowly reveals it to be the chaotic, claustrophobic nightmare of Ivan's bleak existence. It's one thing when a carload of toga-wearing hoons show up, but another matter entirely when there's a spooky life-size puppet dancing around the forecourt.
Moana and the Moahunters
'A E I O U' (1991)
NZ On Air's pilot scheme for music video funding started in 1991, with Moana and the Moahunters being one of the first three groups to receive the $5000 grant. The song is a fresh, bilingual dance track encouraging Māori youth to embrace te reo Māori and the video picks up on the energetic vibe. Using cutting-edge blue-screen technology, director Kerry Brown combines dance, fashion and design to create a super cool video that could only have come out of New Zealand. Spot the soon to be ubiquitous NZ On Air logo superimposed in the background.
'Four Seasons in One Day' (1992)
Crowded House never received NZ On Air funding for their videos, with their record label happy to pick up the tab. Like the Moana video, 'Four Seasons in One Day' was directed by Kerry Brown and features a lot of blue-screen effects, but it's a lot more sophisticated. The video is laden with symbols of Pākehā culture (marching girls!) and unmistakably New Zealand landscapes. But before any of that has a chance to get boring, Brown throws in some Dali-inspired surrealistic scenes.
'Hey Seuss' (1993)
The noisy, mixed-up world of 'Hey Seuss' comes to life in this Dunedin-based video by director Andrew Moore. We find The 3Ds playing the song in a room decorated with Dr Seuss-inspired creatures, designed by guitarist David Mitchell. The band also takes a break from the Seussian world, relaxing in a vintage train carriage (filmed at Dunedin railway station). It's a good, fun video that perfectly complements the noisy pop of the song.
The Mutton Birds
'The Heater' (1994)
Director Fane Flaws worked with The Mutton Birds on five of their early videos, each capturing the group's offbeat spirit. 'The Heater' tells an unusual story of a man seduced by his electric heater, and the lyrics provide rich imagery to fuel the visuals. Don McGlashan plays the nerdy Frank, with actor Elizabeth McRae as his mum. Shot almost totally in black and white, it's set in a world of cluttered junk shops, suburban bedrooms, and bacon and eggs. It's a rather unusual video, it helped give The Mutton Birds their only No.1 single.
Jan Hellriegel's debut video 'The Way I Feel' is a favourite for many, but three years later she released the dark and luscious 'Geraldine', another video by Kerry Brown. The video was shot on the back steps of St Kevin's Arcade in Auckland and contrasts an innocent busking scenario with a debauched collection of Jan's freaky friends. Performer Mika also appears at his gender-bending best, transforming from a sensible looking businessman into a wild cabaret demon, dancing amongst the fire-breathers and showgirls.
'Behold My Kool Style' (1996)
Hip-hop videos don't usually look like this. 'Behold My Kool Style' takes the then trendy style of Quentin Tarantino's films and gives it a New Zealand twist. We see men sitting around a table, playing cards, smoking and drinking, but these fullas are dressed in sharp Edwardian suits and holding tokotoko. Jonathan King (who was one of the most prolific music video directors of the 90s) scratched the film by hand to give the sepia-tone scenes a vintage look.
'Taller Than God' (1996)
For a group that never played live, music videos were an important part of the Strawpeople experience. 'Taller Than God' is set at an ageing motel (Formica, candlewick bedspreads, floral wallpaper), with Fiona McDonald playing the receptionist. The motel has attracted a number of ordinary looking guests who are all getting up to unusual activities in the privacy of their rooms. Directed by Justin Pemberton, it's an ambitious, very cinematic looking video.
'Jesus I Was Evil' (1997)
So what happens when you want to make a music video but don't have NZ On Air funding or the deep pockets of a record label? You do it yourself. Directed by David Gunson, 'Jesus I Was Evil' was shot on a Handycam and made for "$250 and a bottle of whisky". It looks it, but that perfectly matches the lo-fi swagger of the song. Darcy Clay's indie bogan attitude is gleefully celebrated, mixing footage of the 1997 Summer Series concert in Albert Park with Darcy being non-evil around Auckland.
This is The Feelers in peak form. Directed by Duncan Cole, the video includes a reasonably sophisticated plot involving a young woman who's on the run. This is contrasted with the band performing at the majestic Hawke's Bay Opera House in Hastings, with all three levels of the art deco theatre heaving with Feelers fans. The video's conclusion brings The Feelers and the fugitive together for a surprisingly emotional ending - something that few music videos can manage.
Back in 1999 no one would have guessed that the Popstars series would evolve into the global Idol and X Factor talent show franchises. The 'Tonight' video is an unashamedly girly pop-stravaganza, full of slumber party hijinks and romantic gazes to the camera. But most noteworthy is how good the video's production values are. In the decade to come, the winners' videos of local Idol and X Factor winners always looked like something filmed quickly and cheaply. TrueBliss, however, got the deluxe treatment.