8 Mar 2018

The Mixtape: Hugh Sundae

From RNZ Music, 4:00 pm on 8 March 2018

Hugh Sundae started his career as a volunteer at Auckland's 95bFM when he was fourteen. Twenty five years later he's just finished a three year stint as General Manager. In this week's Mixtape Hugh talks about his multifaceted career, and six of his favourite songs.

Hugh Sundae

Hugh Sundae Photo: Trevor Villers

Hugh Sundae began his broadcasting career aged fourteen when he started volunteering at Auckland student radio station 95bFM.

By seventeen he was filling in as host on the station’s breakfast show, before going on to co-host TV shows Music nation, Space, Ice As, and contribute to Close Up and 20/20.

He spent five years as Digital Entertainment Editor for the NZ Herald, where he launched the acclaimed concert series The Sundae Sessions.

Three years ago he returned to bFM, this time as General Manager, a role he’s just left.

Here Hugh talks us through six of the songs that mean the most to him.

1. Ultravox - Vienna

“I always thought it [came out in] 1982, when I was four. But for a long time you never heard that song, on the radio or TV or anything. It was just forgotten.

So when it would come on I’d be like ‘oh my god’, and I’d tell whoever was next to me “this is my earliest memory!”

And then one day I actually looked it up, [found out it came out in 1980], and was like ‘oh god, I was only two!’

It was my first obsession this song. I tend to like dark music, and I also have a bit of a soft spot for grandiose music, and I think it’s both those things."

2. Bic Runga - Ruby Nights

“Bic is obviously incredibly talented, and a great songwriter, and commercially successful, but also has another side to her that crosses over to the alternates.

There’s a quality to her songwriting that transcends whether or not it’s alternative or mainstream. It’s just great music.

I think [Birds] is my favourite album of hers, just because it is so dark. Of the more commercial artists that I do like, I tend to like their lowest-selling albums.

This song, it’s orchestral, and has lots of minor chords, and goes off on a bit of a vocal ‘ahhhh’ tangent towards the end.”

3. Doprah - Stranger People

“Just a great, great band. Some really stunning songs on that album. I’m just gutted they broke up.

Every once in a while a band comes along and they release this great album, and you’re like ‘awesome, I’m looking forward to watching this band's career’. And then they stop.”

4. Delaney Davidson - Broken Wheel

“It’s a two and a half minute song, and the last fifty seconds of it is when it really earns its money. It’s pretty traditional Delaney, who I’ve got a lot of time for, I think he’s great. Just such a great performer as well as songwriter.

Just the way he wrestles with the guitar for the last fifty seconds, and does all these wonderful chords and harmonies, and then the drums come in. It goes from being a minor to a major song, and ends on this really happy vibe.”

5. Connan Mockasin - It’s Your Body (live @ The Sundae Sessions)

“We’d always done the sessions in studios, and we kind of wanted to do something different with Connan. Nick Abbott, who I’d worked with in the UK, had sent me this video he’d made of a band in the UK that he’d shot on the roof of a building. It just looked great.

So we thought let’s find a building in Auckland City where there’s stuff going on in the background, and put a concert up there. So that’s what we did with Connan. We brought in everything: the lights, the cameras. We’d been putting a lot of work into it.

But I lost my brother suddenly, about a week before it.

[The concert] had to happen. We were committed to it. And there was a lot of talk about whether we should do it. But there was never going to be another opportunity, and it just ended up being the night before his funeral.

I’d never really understood what shock was before. Like how people can do things in circumstances when you look back and go ‘how did you possibly do that’. And the shock lasted for several months, so it wasn’t till much later that I thought ‘how did I pull that off?’

It was this great thing in the sense that it took my mind off it, as much as it could, for the days leading up to the funeral, but there was this really weird atmosphere. Everybody knew. We were all working on this kind of in tribute to him.

So yeah, it worked out to be a pretty special night,  for those reasons.”

6. Brooke Fraser - Brutal Romance

“Every once in a while there’s a commercial artist that I can appreciate.

I remember getting a call from Paul Mckessar. ‘Hey, I’m working on this Brooke Fraser album.’ I was at Kiwi FM at the time. He was like ‘she’s got this album coming out, you’ve got to hear it’.

And so I listened to it and was like ‘oh my god!’

I really got into it.

And I just wanted to prove that chart music can have good qualities that even a cynical old dick like me can appreciate.”

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