Sound engineer and producer Mark Tierney co-founded 90s group Strawpeople with Paul Casserly. Tierney’s screen career has seen him mix music and film-making. He presented music show CV (1989), auditioned Popstars for the influential show of the same name, and directed (sometimes alongside Casserly) a run of music videos known for their ‘urban style’. Since shifting to the United States and the United Kingdom he has co-written Iraq documentary Return to Kirkuk, and directed and co-written London-set movie thriller Moving Target.
The video is stylish and urban and cool ... but it can’t be a Mark Tierney video without a slightly dark twist ... Robyn Gallagher reviews Mark Tierney's video for Rikki Morris track 'World Stand Still', 5000 Was to Love You website
Popstars was a key forerunner of the late 1990s reality television explosion. The series followed the creation and development of an all-girl pop band called TrueBliss (Carly Binding, Keri Harper, Joe Cotton, Megan Alatini and Erika Takacs), who went on to record several NZ chart-topping singles and a platinum-selling album. Also a hit was the series format, which sold globally and helped inspire Pop Idol/American Idol, the franchise that would dominate reality TV for years to come. These excerpts are from each episode of the series, from the second to the final.
The search for a New Zealand Spice Girls is underway in the first episode of this pioneering reality series. Manager Peter Urlich (formerly of Th' Dudes) and record company executive Mark Tierney (ex-Strawpeople) hold public auditions to find an all-female pop group for their record deal and TV series. The good, the bad and the unfortunate are out in full force. After an exhaustive selection process, Urlich and Tierney whittle down the talent to 15 hopefuls. The format for the show sold to multiple countries.
In 1992 songwriter and guitarist Andrew Brough left Straitjacket Fits, determined to perform his own brand of "f***ing uplifting pop music". Three years later he formed Bike with drummer Karl Buckley and bassist Tristan Mason. Debut single 'Save My Life' was a finalist in the APRA Silver Scrolls. Brough was a fan of sunny, West Coast guitar jangle and 'Save My Life' has a bob each way: guitars chime, while a morbid lyric ('Don't you try and save my life /cos' I'm already dead') floats overhead. Director Mark Tierney chooses a dreamy palette which combines orange with monochrome.
In the early 90s Australian David Barraclough joined The Exponents as a guitarist and songwriting partner for singer Jordan Luck. ‘La La Lulu’ was one of the results. Directed by Mark Tierney, the video sees the band – besuited a la Reservoir Dogs – hard rocking in a studio then driving around a quarry, before tagging and demolishing their ride. It borrows a graphic style from US conceptual artist Barbara Kruger, flashing slogans like ‘online erotic’ over the band. ‘Lulu’ got to 13 in the NZ charts, and would be the band's final single to break the top 20.
The video for 'Cool World' melds a mood of paranoia — including flashes of recording equipment, and worried words about surveillance — with numerous images of a model in a silver halter top, dealing to a punching bag. The Samoan brothers Ioasa create a smoothly percussive sound, which echoes overseas bands like Roxy Music and The Blue Nile much more strongly than other music coming out of Aotearoa in this period (1995). The song is taken from Grace's only album Black Sand Shore, which writer Nick Bollinger later rated as one of New Zealand's 100 finest.
Vocalist Victoria Kelly is very much the focus of this moody Strawpeople video. Singing enigmatically of dreams, knives and possible obsession— and magically changing outfits off camera, in patented music vid style — she performs in a shadowy, red-lit dive for an audience that consists of Strawpeople founders Paul Casserly and Mark Tierney. Tierney left the group in 1996. Plans for Victoria Kelly to take on a bigger role in Strawpeople would be derailed by her increasingly busy career as a film composer. ‘Beautiful Skin’ was composed by Strawpeople collaborator Greg Johnson.
Strawpeople Paul Casserly and Mark Tierney took themselves to Hong Kong (with guest vocalist Leza Corban) for this video. Corban's jazzy vocal and the chilled beats contrast with the hustle and bustle of the cityscape (still under the flight path of Kai Tak airport at the time). The trumpet is courtesy of Greg Johnson and the sampled voice is Richard Nixon talking to the Apollo 11 astronauts on the moon. Co-written by Tierney and Casserly with Anthony Ioasa, Sweet Disorder won the 1995 APRA Silver Scroll for songwriting, plus the songwriting gong at the 1996 NZ Music Awards.
Stephanie Tauevihi (Shortland Street) was vocalist of choice on this cover of Australian band The Church's biggest hit. Strawpeople founders Paul Casserly and Mark Tierney cast themselves in unlikely roles as guitarists, and share the directing duties on this typically stylish video. It captures the song’s sense of emptiness and disconnection in its tale of an astronaut’s love (although the song’s original inspiration was an Amsterdam club, not the astral Milky Way). The woman in spectacles with the mysterious office machine is played by DJ/actor Phoebe Falconer.
This black and white video is certainly not the first to adopt the patented 'are these images connected, or is it all a trick' approach. A woman crouches in a nightgown; a man waits in an expensive looking chair; a confident woman in a distinctive dress enters the room, possibly for the cash. Taken from 1994's Broadcast, probably Strawpeople's most successful album, 'Trick with a Knife' features vocals by Fiona McDonald. Strawpeople founders Mark Tierney and Paul Casserly make fleeting appearances.
It's the first semi-final in the first series of this stand-up comedy talent quest presented by Jeremy and Nigel Corbett (who assert their edgy, early 90s credentials with a running gag about Nirvana). Judges Ian Harcourt, Theresa Healey and Strawpeople's Mark Tierney preside over a line-up comprising a very composed Michele A'Court, mildcore rappers Hip Hips, The Back Garden, Jo Randerson (in angry-ish feminist mode), a particularly hirsute Jon Bridges and eventual winner Late Night Mike (with Harcourt generating as many laughs as the contestants).
Following the demise of alternative music show Radio with Pictures, TVNZ tried a new approach to feeding the country’s diverse audience of music fans. Taking over in the same Sunday night time slot as RWP, new show CV began each evening by concentrating on mainstream music, then progressively widened the musical palette as it got later in the evening. After an elaborate animated opening, enthused young presenters Robert Rakete, Larnie Gifford and Mark Tierney offered a new style to the minimalist cool seen on RWP.
In this April 1989 excerpt from music show CV, local bluesman Midge Marsden interviews BB King between flights at Auckland Airport. Sitting with his beloved Gibson guitar Lucille, King reveals his dissatisfaction with his own guitar playing, his family's distaste for blues music while growing up, and his belief that the growing sophistication of blues has helped it win increased popularity. He also mentions Bono writing him a song ('When Love Comes to Town'), and his take on friends James Brown and Ike Turner getting in trouble with the law.
In a nod to his theatre training, Whale Rider actor Rawiri Paratene (then better known as a presenter on Play School) unveils three stories to a marae audience. A bored schoolboy (Faifua Amiga) banters with a sarcastic teacher; a musical number features a prostitute (Rena Owen) and her client; and a young girl and her grandfather prepare and wait for the body of her father at the pā. This was the first screen drama directed by Don Selwyn, who argued "what Rawiri is saying in his script is that there are lots of things Māori which are left out of the education system."