By FIONA RAE
The last time Mark Williams and Otis Frizzell set out to make a television series they were given cameras just before they got on the plane.
"I wouldn't say scared as kind of nervously anxious, if you know what I mean," says Williams. "It's a nervous energy, you're like, 'it's up to you now'. That's the beauty of digital cameras, it's possible, the technology's there."
"You could pretty much learn how to build a space shuttle on the flight between here and England, so I just sat down with the camera on my lap and the instruction book and learned it," says Frizzell.
That was the first series of Mo' Show, which screened last year on TV3.
For the new series, which kicked off this week on TV2 (the level of interest from TV3 was "minimal"), they've nailed it, says Frizzell.
"We're better now. We actually kind of know what we're doing."
"Without a doubt we've learned tons of stuff, right down to just simple filming techniques to sound, or editing ideas to just even dealing with the whole television beast," says Williams.
Their two-month trip whizzed through LA, Las Vegas, San Francisco, New York, Jamaica and London. Through a combination of contacts, personable Kiwi style and sheer chutzpah, they gain access to places and people we ordinary folk might never see. Or, more likely, hadn't even thought of seeing.
It's like guerrilla TV without the surprise gags. The lads film whatever they find interesting and, as befits two former rappers, Mo' Show has a hip-hop sensibility.
"I wouldn't say it's strictly a hip-hop show," says Williams, "it's just got that hip-hop attitude.
"It's guerrilla in a sense that a lot of the time it's just us with little hand-held cameras running around. No sound crew, no makeup. It's raw in that way. It's not like we bail people up in the street or blow people's cars up in the car park."
"It's just a big world out there and we like to bring it to the people," says Frizzell. "And with the advent of so much reality-based TV and when airplanes get caught on tape having a bad day and stuff, the TV public are used to seeing stuff that isn't slick, directed, camera perfection. They've been inadvertently trained to handle stuff that isn't perfectly shot if the content's interesting. Which is a big advantage to us."
One of the biggest thrills of the series was interviewing the legendary reggae artist Buju Banton in Jamaica. Frizzell laughingly describes the trip as "strangely like a spiritual homecoming" for them, as they've been reggae fans for years.
They are, however, debating whether they should subtitle the interview for the benefit of viewers unfamiliar with a Jamaican
"We're not sure yet. I'd prefer not to, because even if you don't know what he's saying it still sounds beautiful. I almost feel it would be like disrespect to him because he's still speaking English," says Frizzell.
"I said if we do that then we have to subtitle us in patois," laughs Williams.
The pair also gained an audience with Shaggy, who just happened to be at the Tuff Gong studio when they visited. Yet another example of how far you can get through sheer geniality.
"It was that same situation, where I kinda work my way in there and chat and don't come off like I'm all demanding or anything," says Frizzell.
"I still firmly believe that they actually don't take us seriously. They're like 'surely this isn't going to be on TV, these guys just managed to bullshit their way in here'. Little do they know, a-ha, with a nice grade and some tricky editing you can make it look like a real one."
They have found, however, that in the glare of publicity, reggae heroes aren't top of the list. It's someone altogether more famous the pair are being questioned about.
"We spent a week in beautiful Jamaica and it was amazing, spiritual experience," says Frizzell, "and they're like, 'yeah, yeah, yeah, but what's Halle Berry like?' But she's as big as stars get at the moment so I can't blame people for being curious," says Frizzell.
"But the whole trip was like a two-month highlight. And I can't stress enough to people who are like, Halle Berry this and Pierce Brosnan that, to tell the truth, we met people you've never heard of who are just far more interesting, you know what I mean?"
Williams and Frizzell have been friends since fourth form at Selwyn College. In their younger days they made records under the moniker MC OJ and Rhythm Slave. In that 21st century, hip-hip style sort of way they've had a host of jobs and projects: Frizzell as an artist, tattooist and MC; Williams as a DJ, MC and even an actor.
"That was the first series of Street Legal, I had a real cool part. Real bad, bad gangster opposite Jay Laga'aia and that was great. I died a bloody death in the end, which was a shame because they couldn't bring me back," laughs Williams.
"To me, it's all part and parcel, the music and making the show, doing the radio or doing acting, it's all on the same plane for me, you know what I mean?"
They are well known to 95bFM audiences for their Wednesday drive show and, in what is very big week for them, tomorrow night are the hosts of the b.net music awards at the Bruce Mason Centre, the alternative music awards that are largely decided by public vote and run through the b.net network of stations. The awards will be broadcast on TV2 next Friday.