Stella By Starlight – Miles Davis (1965)
I was 16 and been raised learning classical piano. I'd got into pop music piano but wanted to be doing jazz. I borrowed this from the Auckland Public Library, back when you could borrow records, and it really spoke to me. I think it's the way Herbie Hancock plays his harmony on the piano, it's perfect.
Breakfast in America – Supertramp (1979)
Growing up I felt really disconnected from the classical music I was learning. I wanted to play modern music. I'd go to this music store downtown after school and tinker on the keyboards. The guy who worked there played keyboards in a glam/pop band where they all dressed like French aristocracy and he introduced me to the music of Supertramp. It was the first pop music that musically blew my mind.
I bought the Supertramp songbook and would sit at the piano playing all their great hits. It was really fun and that was the big thing because I hadn't had that experience with classical piano. And it wasn't what my parents wanted me to do. 'Oh, this is what you want me to do? Well, here's something you don't want me to do'. Rebellion through Supertramp. Isn't that funny?
Teddy's Jam – Guy (1988)
One morning before high school assembly my boy Joe walks over to me with his Walkman, puts his earphones on my head and plays Teddy's Jam. It was like the gates of heaven opened. A lot of my school friends were listening to music that I just couldn't relate to; the Pixies and bands like that. It's the difference between guitar-based music and keyboard-based music.
This had a fat synth bassline, the rhythm was really funky and the drums really cut through. I was like, 'I love this! What is this?'. Teddy's Jam was my slippery slope gateway into that whole world of New Jack Swing and Native Tongues hip-hop. It set a whole trajectory for me. I ended up going out and buying my first keyboard and first drum machine. I wanted to be Teddy Riley.
Say Hey – Branford Marsalis Quartret (1990)
I loved Do the Right Thing and was a fan of Spike Lee and he did this jazz movie, Mo Better Blues. I didn't have any friends who liked jazz so I called up a girl I liked and took her to see it. The movie was all right but the music was killing. It had this energy that I'd never heard before. It was clear it was coming out of that 60s Miles Davis thing but it had a fresh flip to it. On top of that the guys all looked amazing. The styling was fantastic. I was fairly impressionable ... The next day I went to Marbecks and got the soundtrack on CD.
Loveless – 4Hero (1997)
I had a very active jazz career locally and spent all my time doing serious acoustic jazz gigs. But once a month I'd do a really fun jam gig. We'd have two drummers, rappers, Manual Bundy would be on the turntables ... it was this whole other world. One day I had the realization, 'why am I being so serious about the serious music when I could be serious about the fun music?'. It was a huge pivot for me.
One year later I was in London, collaborating with Metalheadz, meeting 4Hero and working with Bugz in the Attic and that became my life for a decade. But the gateway track for all that was, no question, Loveless.
I remember being in a club and someone saying to me, 'that's Dego from 4Hero', and I was wasted - oh man, I was so wasted - and I remember going over to him and being like, 'whoa man … I love your sh*t man. I love it.' Anyone that knows Dego knows that's not the way you approach him ... We got on fine after but it wasn't a good first impression.
Better Than Change – Dallas (1999)
It's a timeless song. I personally think it's the greatest soul song to ever come out of New Zealand. Dallas is so heartfelt and the emotions are so true. He's not what I'd call an athletic singer. He's not trying to do all these histrionics with his voice he's just trying to connect you with an emotion. Its impact on me was huge.
Dancing - Omar + Zed Bias (2011)
When I first heard this I was on a dance floor in London. That was a time when the idea was not to go out to hear songs you knew, or as a DJ to play songs that people wanted to hear, the idea was to play music that no one had ever heard before. That was the club culture.
This track came out of a community that I was very much in the thick of and a part of. When it dropped it was a validation because the track blew up. Eveything we'd been striving to do; it challenged dance floors, it challenged the status quo and it worked. Dancing is the pinnacle of all that.