Helping hand for Hamilton's rock stars of the future

The trust was launched earlier this month (Brooke Baker - Photo taker, Magic maker/
The trust was launched earlier this month (Brooke Baker - Photo taker, Magic maker/

Hamilton has an undeserved reputation as a bit of a cultural backwater, despite being the launching pad to international fame for the likes of Rocky Horror creator Richard O'Brien, pop singer Kimbra and NME cover stars the Datsuns, to name a few.

But that's barely scratching the surface of what the Waikato has to offer according to local musician Trevor Faville, who's got together with like-minded folk to help future rock stars make it big without having to leave the foggy Waikato behind.

The Tron Music Trust officially launched a couple of weeks ago with the aim of helping local musos make the most of the opportunities that are out there.

"We're working with local artists to try and I won't say educate, because that's not quite the right word, but work with them to give them the benefit of the experience we've got to help them to the next level," says Faville, himself a drummer, music teacher at Melville High School and trustee.

Having been based in the so-called 'city of the future' a while, he's seen the local scene ebb and flow.

"We looked at what's happening in Hamilton music, and essentially it feels like the scene has fallen away a little bit, and we figured that we were in a place where we could possibly try and do something about it. So we thought, what could we do? And what we've done is formed this trust, this initiative the idea being to try and empower the scene and get it happening again."

A key problem Waikato bands face is a lack of success in getting funding from agencies like New Zealand on Air and Creative New Zealand.

"We asked them why they don't they fund bands from Hamilton, and what they have said to us is historically speaking, the quality of the applications they've been getting have not been very good," says Faville.

"It would seem from that angle maybe that they think the songwriting isn't up to it – although I can't really believe that. It might be that the infrastructure isn't up to it – people aren't doing enough to make sure that they've got a solid gigging presence and a quality product ready to go, recordings and all that sort of thing. It might be that."

So, at least to begin with, he will gauge the success of the Tron Music Trust on its ability to win local artists recording grants and spots on NZ On Air promotional compilations.

Over time, Faville hopes it translates into a resurgence of the once-happening Hamilton music scene, which once thrived with support from local radio stations like Contact 89FM and its successor, the short-lived UFM.

"Another [sign of success would be] things like you can't get into gigs in Hamilton because they're sold out, you've got a  choice of gigs to be going to, and you've also got a local section in whatever counts as a record shop these days that says 'Hamilton music', and it's full."

The trust is off to a rocking start, with Hamilton Mayor Julie Hardaker speaking at the launch and former Split Enz bassist Mike Chunn signing on as patron.

"Lots of talented musicians with great songs slip through the cracks because they try to make it big on their own," Chunn told local paper the Hamilton Press last week.

"I think having a group that can get behind musicians, especially younger ones, and get them into the NZ On Air slipstream will make a real difference."

Faville says some of the great Waikato bands most New Zealanders wouldn't have heard of include This Night Creeps, the New Caledonia, the Shrugs and the Gills.

"I can think of a great number of bands who I think could have been huge, but I wouldn't be so arrogant to claim we could have made a difference."

The real key to success behind bands who made it out of Hamilton like the Datsuns and Katchafire, Faville says, is hard work – and without that, the trust's efforts would be wasted.

"We've got another good example recently with Devilskin. The common element – and it sounds like a cliché, I know – but they all worked. They worked very hard, and were prepared to put in time and effort over a long period of time."

He says the response to the launch of the trust has been overwhelmingly positive.

"People are really keen to see this thing happening… it's been quite heartening to see. Everyone bags Hamilton – or everyone likes to think everyone bags Hamilton – and it's been great."

More information on the trust can be found on its Facebook and Twitter pages.

3 News