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Philip Bell aka DJ Sir-Vere is the prolific DJ behind the popular Major Flavours series (and Mai FM’s programme director). The sunny Aucklander korero ka pai on Homegrown, Savage, and Karaoke Machine. He declines to comment on “often lovely ladies around”, and tracks he’d play if Titewhai walked in the club:

Tell me a good story about performing with Savage, one of Homegrown’s headliners?

In the mid 2000s I played in Dunedin a lot—many times a year. There was this club called Bath Street which was incredible—always packed and the sound system was next level. I took Savage down there and the crowd ate him up. It was so insane he climbed up on top of the speakers—the place exploded! I’ll never forget it.

What was Savage singing from the speakers?

He was freestyling over instrumentals, Roots Manuva ‘Witness the Fitness’ and ‘Agent Orange’ by Pharoahe Monch. He just loved those beats.

Tell me about a favourite Savage track?

My favourite Savage track is the freestyle he did for me on Major Flavours Vol. 2. At the time I didn’t really know him and my MC at the time, MZRE, said ‘you should let him do one’. What I got back from him was a tough, menacing song—it was wicked. We’ve been great friends ever since.

Why see Savage live, as opposed to just pumping it at home?

I don’t believe that it is even comparable – live versus at home listening. There is something very special about the live environment, and certainly about the connection between the audience and the artist.  Savage is unique live, his stage presence is all encompassing. A vocal giant and in stature, his ability to command your attention is impressive.

Can you explain the Karaoke Machine concept a bit more?

About eight years ago I was touring Major Flavours Vol. 6 around New Zealand. In my touring party was DJ Ali, DJ Shan, and PNC. Our Christchurch stop included a gig at the now demolished Concrete Club, an earthquake casualty. The gig was great and by about 3am, close to closing time, PNC and myself decided to get on the mic and rhyme along to our favourite songs. Shan on the decks and me and PNC on the mic, it was a very funny moment. It lasted well into the morning. I took this very fun concept and converted it into a set of our favourite songs from around the globe, and enlisted PNC—who was there that night—K One and Che Fu. We are trying to do justice to some hip hop classics.

What tunes might you drop at Homegrown?

The majority of the songs we are doing are from overseas—PNC does Jigga’s ‘Big Pimpin’—but I’m also get them individually to do each others songs, e.g. PNC and K One share verses from ‘Chains’ with Che doing the hook.

What makes Che special to perform with?

Che and I are very old friends. I was involved with A&Ring his first album (2 B Spacific) so we go way back. I think he’s one of Aotearoa’s greatest MCs and singers. It’s an honour to have him on board. Plus we are both serious sneakerheads, so it’s a chance to catch up and talk Jordans.

How do you describe your style as a DJ?

I’m all about the party. That is the key to me. That’s been the base of my career to date and continues to be. I love watching a great turntablist and their skills, can appreciate a reggae selector and their tunes, but me, I’m the party rocker. A club full of people and my decks and I’m good to go.

What do you want the audience to take away?

A big grin on their face. It’s supposed to be fun and in no way serious, however we want to treat the classics with dignity. Personally for us, being able to perform songs that mean a lot to us is a great platform. We will be belting them out.

Other hiphop acts performing at Homegrown include David Dallas and Homebrew. What do you find exciting about them?

I’ve been a fan of both of them for years, and seen them develop into huge entities in New Zealand music. The introduction of the band element has taken their stage show to another level.

What’s your response to people who don’t have no love for New Zealand hip hop?

Don’t listen, because we don’t need you. Aotearoa hip hop is made by the people, for the people. If you have no love—then it’s not for you.

Elaborate on your love for Chris Rock?

I just think his honest humour really struck a chord with me. I think his new material is okay, but nothing on his shows from six years ago—just some incredibly raw and honest fun. I love Russell Peters too.

What’s your proudest accomplishment?

My children. In the music business I’d say being involved in the signing of the legendary Urban Pasifika Records and working with the late, great Phil Fuemana—he’s a pioneer. Also in 2007, I won the Urban Music Award for Best New Zealand DJ in Australia, I was very proud that night and played a memorable set at the afterparty. I’ll always remember that night.

Name a formative hip hop inspiration who still inspires you?

Roc Raida (RIP). One of the original X-Ecutioners crew, Raida was the man to me. When we met he was a World DMC champion and one of the biggest DJs in the world, yet treated me like a peer. Then I visited NYC and he invited DJ Raw and myself to his house in Harlem. He was a great man and we miss him dearly.

Name a formative non hip hop inspiration who still inspires you?

Dana White. He’s the owner of the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) and has a work ethic like no other. Plus he’s a straight shooter who tells it like it is: I like that.

What’s your advice to a guy like me who can’t dance to save his life?

Just do what you do. If people worried less about what people thought of them, and more about just having a good time, the world would be a better place.

Alexander Bisley previously profiled the Black Seeds’ Mike Fabulous, also performing at Homegrown. He can be contacted at alexander.bisley@gmail.com, and tweets @alexanderbisley.
Filed under: ARTS, Features, Interviews, Music


Alexander Bisley is an editor-at-large who has contributed in-depth interviews and more to The Lumière Reader since 2004. He’s written extensively on culture (and sport) for all of New Zealand’s leading outlets, and also makes his living freelancing for international publications including The Guardian, Slate, and The AV Club. He’s published by The Independent, BBC, Vice, The Sydney Morning Herald, Playboy, and Slate France, and has been paid once by The New Yorker.