In Thrust We Trust

In Thrust We Trust is a 48 track fundraising album by the friends and fans of Dr Dean Ballinger – local musician, artist, radio DJ, writer and educator. Recently Dean (aka Dirk Thrust) was diagnosed with motor neurone disease, so revenue from album sales will help him and his family. You can buy the digital album on Bandcamp.

In the latest Kelli from the Tron podcast, Andrew Dean and Greg Locke (friends and Hollow Grinder bandmates) join me to talk about why the late 1990’s and early 2000’s music scene was so strong – and resurrecting some of that previously unreleased music for this album. With Dean unable to join us, they took turns reading the responses to some of the questions I’d posed to Dean earlier in the week. (They’re published verbatim below).

Listen to the podcast here: or find it on Spotify.

But first, Dean Ballinger’s love letter to Hamilton … published in Waikato Times (2014).

Hamilton is nothing like the sun.

Perhaps more like the dark side of the moon:

Suburbs in which the main idea of fun is the annual festival of the balloon.

If roses are red and snow is white

This town is toned in hues of brown and grey:

The river runs a lovely shade of shite

And faces blanch at the rates they have to pay.

The fair music that fills the urban streets

Is in the form of gruntings from the munters:

The homeless snore on inner-city seats

While the malls groan with brain-dead punters. But although it may want for class and pomp

Deep down I will always embrace the swamp.

Kelli: You’ve been co-credited (or blamed) for the moniker The Tron –  how did that come about?

Dean: I was working on then-operating local radio station Ufm around the year 2000 doing the breakfast show with Greg Page. We had a contest on air to think up a better slogan for Hamilton than the then current ‘Hamilton – where it’s happening’. I can’t remember the exact genesis of ‘Hamiltron – City of the Future’ : maybe a caller suggested it, or Greg and myself bantered it out over the course of the morning? Think my main contribution was helping to popularise it. It is a goodie…

Kelli: If one of your songs was to be chosen to be a theme song for the Tron – what would it be and why?

Dean: The Hollow Grinders – probably The Hillcrest Incident, named after the suburb where Andrew and I used to flat together.

MSU – I think Stu’s Pie Cart is a classic ‘Hamilton folk-song’ – ode to Stu Nichols, corpulent character who used to run the Ham East pie cart next to Steele Park back in the 90s; favourite for students and band members to get a feed of artery-killing lard at 2am after a night out.

Kelli: You wrote your thesis “Conspiratoria – the internet and the logic of conspiracy” before fake news, misinformation and the NZ Public party  – what should we watch out for next?

Dean: I suspect the next election will see another conspiracy-based party here – American far-right conspiracy theorising like QAnon has become established in mainstream politics and spread internationally courtesy of the net. I think that there’s some energy for revolutionary change from the current neoliberal consensus that the likes of the NZ Public Party were tapping into, except their idea of revolution was based on American religious fundamentalism and nationalism. Not sure if ‘we need guns to defend ourselves from the satanic illuminati controlling our brains with 5G’ much of a substantial basis for a new social order. Academic hat on sorry, I’ll take it off now…

Hollow Grinders at Circle Jerk 2018. Photo credit: Ngamihi photography

Kelli: You must have some stories with 30 odd years of gigs up your sleeve – is there one that you’d like Andrew or Greg to read out?

Dean: The Hollow Grinders played at the Whangamata Beach hop a few times, lots of colourful incidents:

–          Being stuck in an opened truck trailer with rain blowing in – band had to stop playing for fear of being electrocuted

–          Drunk who commandeered the mike and asked us to back him singing his original composition “Martian Motel Number 9’. He was probably some famous old singer and if we’d backed him we could have had a hit (more likely amateur Elvis impersonator)

–          Was playing drums when another drunk guy walked up behind me, curled up at the side of the kit and started going to sleep. Should have at least insisted he was wearing earplugs…

–          Andrew may want to relate the infamous Easter Egg story…

Kelli: What’s the Tron’s music scene like compared to when the Hollow Grinders first started? What do you think we need to keep it going / improve it / etc

Dean: Always good bands around, e.g. Bitter Defeat, The Contenders, Glass Shards at the moment, but like many NZ cities issues with venues closing and bands/scenes losing momentum. Wailing Bongo and ContactFM at Waikato University were great focus points for Hamilton music back when the Hollow Grinders started in the mid-90s, but lack of that culture for contemporary students. Nivara lounge a current focal point, but uncertain if it will survive building of the new theatre on that block. Some good support online and on-air though – Hamilton Underground Press, Hamilton music wiki, The Hum 106.7 FM (if I’m allowed to plug another radio station)…and Free FM of course.

Kelli: We’re about to play Der Student von Prague – tell us about that project and the song?

Dean: Lumiere was a ‘solo project’ of sorts where I played synths and Andrew helped produced. I did an ‘album’ in the early 2000s and worked on some other material which never quite got completed – Andrew finished off ‘Der Student von Prag’ for the compilation. I think some of the music is alright but I wanted to have lyrics so I sang as well – should I say ‘talked/sang’ like William Shatner. Hmmm. Hopefully a decent contribution to sub-genre of ‘Hamilton eccentricita’…


I’d like to publicly thank Andrew and Greg again for their amazing efforts putting the compilation together – alongside helping me it’s also an excellent compilation of music by Hamilton artists past and present (including many H-Town expats).

Should also say something about MND. Meant to be a rare disease but, since being diagnosed a few months ago, have met multiple people who have had family members with the illness or know someone who suffered from it. NZ has one of the highest rates in the world apparently. Would be good to have more resourcing towards developing effective treatments, and/or making ones currently being trialled overseas more readily available here.

Don’t be cheap – buy the album

Ep #194 Smear your mea

🎧 Latest podcast & on Spotify / iHeartRadio / Apple podcasts

In August 2017 Educator & Kapa haka star Talei Morrison was diagnosed with cervical cancer.  A few weeks later she started a blog, to share her at times harrowing journey navigating the health system for treatment – gynaecology, radiation, chemotherapy and urology.

In January 2018 she founded the #SmearYourMea – saving lives one kapa at a time to prevent what she was going through happening to others.

Less than a year after diagnosis she passed away. Her whaanau have since taken over the reigns of encouraging more wahine to smear their mea (thing).  This week we were joined by her brother, chair of the campaign Eruera Keepa as we approach the ‘National Smear your mea day’ on 30th of August.   

🎧 Listen to the interview which starts at 7min50sec > but more importantly – please make sure you are up to date with your smear test.

Also, in this podcast Michael Anderson – bass player for Auckland band The Vibes joins us to introduce their new single ‘Funk Blaster’. Enjoy!

Next week Race Relations commissioner Meng Foon & the new single from Strangely Arousing.

Ep #187 Looking for Alaska

Kelli from the Tron is a Free FM radio show and podcast made especially for people living in Kirikiriroa Hamilton. Each week I share local news, views, events and music.

A new episode broadcasts live on Free FM at 10am every Friday with the podcast available shortly after on Spotify / iHeartRadio / Apple podcasts or

Last week

Dr Gaurav Sharma – Hamilton West candidate for the Labour party joined me in the studio to share his background in medicine and business and why politics is the natural progression; what it was like to be on the frontline (as a GP) during covid19 and his priorities for primary health. Listen from 9min 👉 (🎧26-06-20 podcast)

Pitopito korero

Hamilton City Council / Te Kaunihera o Kirikiriroa wants you to have your say on the voting system we use to elect our mayor and councillors. First Past the Post (FPP) or Single Transferable Voting (STV). The yourcityelections website is a great place to educate yourself on the pros and cons of both. I support the change to STV because I think we will have a better say in the make up of the elected council. The only benefit of FPP is that its easy. If you support a change, make sure you have your say in the poll, AND sign the Politics in the Tron petition. If you’re feeling particularly supportive – please consider making a written or verbal submission.

Sign the petition 👉

Despite the Waikato Regional Council and Waikato Tainui criticising Watercare’s management of infrastructure in Auckland – they are set to allow Auckland to increase their water take from the Waikato River – at least as an short term solution. The latest update.

Last week the Hamilton City Council released an historical account by Dr Vincent O’Malley into the historical figures for which our city and streets are named.  Hamilton, Grey, Bryce and Von Tempsky.  This report seeks to inform on the facts of history, to help navigate a way forward in how we deal with our difficult history.  Read the report here.

Yesterday the infamous in Kirikiriroa Mem drive was demolished, despite a campaign to save it as a part of our cultural artistic history.  Sad day for those who inhabited it, and for those who were a part of its history.  Read more. Speaking of arts – Skinroom in Frankton has been repurposed and rebranded as Never project space. Read more

🎼🎸New music

“Fall into you” by Looking for Alaska

‘Fall Into You’ is the first single from their upcoming album ‘Light and Shadow,’ which is due for release this November. Check out the video which dropped yesterday too.

🎤Interview with Amy and Aaron from Looking for Alaska

Like two weary vagabonds hitch-hiking along the open road with nothing but a guitar and a suitcase of songs and wayward memories, pop-folk duo Looking For Alaska are ready to set the music scene alight. Members Aaron Gott and Amy Maynard offer up a sound rooted in country-style guitar and soaring harmonies woven together at their very fiber, intensified by their on-stage chemistry.

Listen to the interview via podcast 👉 (🎧03-07-20 podcast)

Next week

Rimu Bhooi – Hamilton East candidate for the Green party will be in the Free FM studio to talk about her candidacy and the issues she’d like to hear talked about ahead of this year’s election on September 19th.

One more thing; If you want to support this show, and other independent community media from Free FM in the Waikato – consider becoming a Patreon. The money helps maintain the studios, provide training and get this content to it’s national and international audiences

Podcast: Is it time for Aotearoa to become a republic? 🎧

In the first Kelli from the Tron podcast for 2020, I ask the question “Is it time for Aotearoa to become a republic?” (79% of you had said Yes in the poll on my facebook page).

To find out more I spoke to Lewis Holden, the campaign chair for New Zealand Republic to ask what our current constitutional arrangement is, who (according to the polls) support replacing the English monarchy with a New Zealand citizen and the pros and cons of doing so. We talk about how it might impact on Te Tiriti o Waitangi and finally the steps we need to take if we want this to happen. Have a listen, and head to for more info or if you want to get involved in the campaign.

Then, I talk to Hamilton based indie folk duo Lhasa (Micaela and Sam). 🎤 🎼 They met studying music at Vision College but are now on a North Island tour which includes Nivara Lounge on the 22nd of January). (You’ll also see them at Parachute this year).

Listen to the podcast, and get in touch via social media if you have comments or questions 🙂  🎧 

Episode #158 – Day of climate action

Latest Free FM podcast – also available on Spotify / Apple Podcasts

Hannah Huggan is a local climate activist who I met in July after she (and other students) presented to Hamilton City Council on why they should declare a climate emergency. The HCC decided they knew better, and didn’t – but it hasn’t deterred Hannah and other Student Enviroleaders from mobilising both other students and Hamiltonians to take action on climate, through climate strikes and next in a Day of Climate Action.

We talked about why she is motivated to ‘do something’ about our climate emergency; the actions she’s been involved in to date – and what next…

Here’s a message from Student Enviroleaders about the Day of Action!

In this podcast I share some NEW tracks – “Take me from here” from Rubita from her upcoming album “Distinctive Thrill” and “Kanikani kiwi” a track off the new album “Awa” by Maciek Hrybowicz. #localmusic

I also share “Green Room Scuffle” – a cover of a Glass Shards song, by Camoria – whose album I’m calling “Best album from the Tron in 2019”. Just saying… have a listen if you don’t believe me. #localmusic

Jake and Tess are Camoria!

Finally, I wrap up some upcoming events;

Kids Eco Festival – Waipa / Timmy Dee’s Birthday Bash! / Hamilton Crown Lynn Market / Music Swap Market / White Ribbon Hikoi Hamilton

Thanks for listening!! Latest Free FM podcast – also available on Spotify / Apple Podcasts

Episode 141: Politics and Music

Kelli from the Tron is a show about local politics, the environment and social issues for the Tron. Listen to the latest episode here (July 19th)

Nominations have (finally) opened for people wanting to represent our communities in local government. In this episode we are joined by Dan Armstrong, who announced his election campaign for a Waipa-King country seat at the Waikato Regional Council. We talk about his motivations, what he sees the opportunities (and challenges) for the region are, and what he has to offer. Have a listen – and follow his page for updates on his campaign. (Note: if you are a Hamilton resident, you can’t vote for him -but you can support him by sharing his page with people you know in that region). You’ll hear more from him in the upcoming Seed Waikato “Let’s give a shit about local politics” event.

As well as a chat with Dan, we are joined by Mukuka – a local singer songwriter who released a new single on Friday! “Time + Space” is the first single from her EP Autumn. We chat about what she’s been up to since “Just Fine” which as it happens was one of the songs I shared on the first episode of Kelli from the Tron! Mukuka uses her music to celebrate and explore her heritage. As well as sharing Mukuka’s new track, we’ve got the new one from Date Month Year – “Haunted” and it really is. Check out the video for that track.

Listen to the latest episode here (July 19th)

That’s a wrap for 2018

The end of a year is a great time for reflection. I’ve had over 70 guests on Kelli from the Tron in 2018 ranging from politicians, environmental and social advocates / activists, event organisers and bands. For the last two weeks of the year, I’ll recap some of the bigger stories and themes covered in the show and share tracks from 10 of the bands I’ve been lucky enough to interview.

Listen to Part one.

I recap the by-election, some great shows, environmental themes and Future City Festival. I share tracks from Nation, Cheshire Grimm, The Situations, Strangely Arousing and Otium.

Listen to Part two

I recap the 10 year plan, representation review and women’s issues. I share tracks from Coral, The Recently Deceived, Macaila, Funk Therapy and Glass Shards.

Episode #107 – A new approach to housing & “Drunken nights in Dublin”

Episode #107 Podcast link. 

11:11m – “Painting pictures” a track from 80s pop rock band Step Chant Unit.

15:30m – Connected living and affordable housing – it can be done, but will involve putting our current presumptions and systems aside.  Speakers from around the motu will present the community with innovative ways to address our housing crisis – through land trusts, co-housing, ecological building and truly affordable homes.  In today’s podcast we are joined by organiser – Samantha Rose from SHAMA to hear more about the kaupapa and event.  Tickets are available from eventbrite for $10, or $15 at the door.


26:07m – “Hamilton” Chris Thompson

29:37m – Pinenut Records released it’s first album by Sneaky Feelings in 2017 and is following up with the release of “Drunken Nights in Dublin” by folk artist Chris Thompson.  44 years after it was recorded.  The provenance of the acetate which was picked up on Ebay last year is fascinating – and the craftmanship that my guest Donald McLeod of Pinenut records has put into pressing the LP and screen-printing the album cover is a testament to good things taking time.  The album is being released at a one-off full band gig at Nivara Lounge on November 24th.


40:30m – “Fox’s minstrel show” Chris Thompson

44:30m – Top (more than 5) local events.

50:11m “The Simpsons” The Recently Deceived

50:50m – “La la land” Coral

Listen to the podcast here.

Episode 105 – Hamilton residents and ratepayers association and Albi & the Wolves

This week Ray from the Hamilton residents and ratepayers association joined us to talk about the association, their priorities and how we can get involved if we are equally concerned about Council’s spending of ratepayer money.

We are joined by Chris Dent, from Auckland based band Albi & the Wolves ahead of their gig at Nivara Lounge next week.


Hamilton Circle Jerk on Free FM

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To say I’m pretty darn excited about this weekend’s 10th annual Hamilton Circle Jerk is an understatement.  It’s hands down the best showcase of local music for the year – with 11 bands doing covers of other Hamilton bands songs (past or present) before sharing an original.  In this week’s Free FM podcast, the organiser of this madness Lauren joins me in the studio to talk about the concept and the bands in this year’s line up.  We’re joined by Timmy, Richard and Matt from Funk Therapy and Rob from brand spanky new band Bitter Defeat.  We spin tracks (digitally) by them, Bloodlux, Mobile Stud Unit, Hollow Grinders and local scoundrels Wink Wink Nudge Nudge.  Anyway have a listen and see you on Saturday!  Listen to the podcast.

Check out an earlier post about Future City Festival (March 2018) and the videos with my studio interviews with Bloodlux and Glass Shards.