Born in Liverpool in 1939, Dylan Taite came to New Zealand with his parents in the 1960s. Adopting the stage name Jett Rink, Taite soon joined a band. With “Jett” sitting on the drum stool, The Merseymen released an album (A Night at the Beatle Inn) and three singles in 1964. Two more singles were released the following year before the band broke up.
Moving to Christchurch in 1970, Taite joined the NZ Broadcasting Corporation and began a career in television that he would pursue for the rest of his life. What Dylan brought to his new job were contacts. He knew everyone in the music business and as promoter Ian Magan would later say, he was part of the gel of the industry.
One of Dylan’s first scoops, in 1973, was an exclusive interview with the Rolling Stones. It was just the beginning. Almost every band or solo star who visited these shores was given the Dylan Taite treatment. Whether a formal sit-down interview, an airport door-stop or, in the case of Lou Reed, a snatched (and now lost) conversation in an Auckland pharmacy where Dylan had tracked him down, Taite brought the stars to our prime time news screens. Paul McCartney, Alice Cooper, Moby, a then largely unknown White Stripes, Alanis Morissette, George Thorogood, the Datsuns… they all ended up on TVNZ news broadcasts.
As his son John has said: "What people around the world were barely exposed to, Kiwis watched on the six o'clock news while eating their dinner!” That was part of the magic of Dylan Taite. And the stars remembered Dylan and his style too. A second meeting with Paul McCartney saw the former Beatle commenting that he’d been looking for a shirt the same as Dylan’s since their last interview.
And Dylan loved music. He wasn’t afraid of changing times and tastes. As his son said, “Dylan was always focused on talent. He had an uncanny knack of picking trends before they were cool and jumping on the next interesting thing, and whether that talent was destined for popular success didn't really interest him so much."
So he was in London in 1976 when the Sex Pistols were first making their mark on the scene, and Dylan caught a whiff of the zeitgeist. He did a memorable interview with the truculent band members at the gates of Buckingham Palace. It was an idea that clearly resonated with Pistols manager Malcolm McLaren who later had the band sign a record deal outside the London landmark.
An interview that was to have historical importance was yet to come. Former Split Enz member Mike Chunn argues that "Dylan's greatest moment was possibly his interview with Bob Marley. It's just all part and parcel of Dylan's legacy of great interviews."
Bob Marley and the Wailers came to New Zealand in 1979, but the reggae great declined to be interviewed. Dylan Taite was not the type to be put off easily. He knew Bob and the Wailers were football mad. He hung around. When the band and entourage eventually emerged for a kick around, there was Dylan. He donned his boots and was eventually summoned to make up the numbers. And Dylan did what all good reporters do…he cultivated his contact. Eventually a sit-down interview was granted. It’s one of the clearest (to non-Jamaican ears) and most in-depth TV interviews ever conducted with Marley, ranging from his Rastafarian beliefs to his music. Extracts appear in almost every documentary about the Jamaican superstar including 2012's acclaimed Marley.
This was Dylan Taite at his best, using his deep knowledge, his personality and his tenaciousness to get one of the great interviews. Dylan was also active on the local scene, making sure up-and-coming bands got the exposure they deserved and, at a time when it was a controversial issue, championing a New Zealand music quota on commercial radio stations.
As well as time on magazine shows Top Half and Good Day, Taite reported for legendary music slot Radio with Pictures on everyone from The Clash to music festival Sweetwaters. But a change of news management at TVNZ in 1995 saw Dylan leave the state broadcaster. It seemed he no longer fitted the mould. His appealing but idiosyncratic style was not seen to gell with a more regimented presentation. Instead he went to TV3 and late night show Nightline.
Eventually Taite did return to TVNZ, this time as a producer for current affairs show Sunday, which screened his final interview…with Moby.
Dylan Taite was involved in a car accident late in 2002. Although he appeared relatively unscathed, his health deteriorated and, a month later, after complaining of feeling unwell, he lapsed into a coma and died on 22 January 2003.
But Dylan’s story was not yet over. In 2009 Independent Music New Zealand, along with the Taite family, established The Taite Music Prize in his honour. The first prize was awarded in 2010.
IMNZ business development manager Dylan Pellet said Taite "was a bit like New Zealand's answer to John Peel in that he didn't care how much a record sold or what genre it was. If he loved it, he'd try to convince others to give it a listen. He was an enthusiastic champion of music he believed in."
Profile written by Keith Tannock; updated on 3 March 2022
José Barbosa, 'Dylan Taite aka Jett Rink, John Taite' AudioCulture website. Loaded 14 April 2014. Accessed 20 August 2014
Ian Henderson, 'Putting The Taite Back In The Taite Music Prize' The Corner website. Loaded 4 April 2013. Accessed 20 August 2014
Grant Smithies, 'A tribute to Kiwi musical talent' - The Sunday Star-Times, 14 April 2013
Sarah Stuart, 'Veteran rock reporter splits with TVNZ' - The Sunday Star-Times, 12 March 1995, page 21
Judith Tizard, 'NZ culture richer for Dylan Taite’s contribution' (Press Release) 23 January 2003
NZPA, Herald staff, 'Dylan Taite dies' - The NZ Herald, 23 January 2003
'Back in the day Farewell to Dylan Taite' (broken link) TVNZ website. Loaded 22 January 2003. Accessed 20 August 2014