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Katchafire proud of Kiwi heritage

Katchafire are fiercely proud of their New Zealand culture, but musically the seven-piece have championed the spiritual sound of Jamaica – reggae.
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But as the band lays the foundations for their fifth studio record, they have decided to bring more of their Kiwi heritage into the feel-good music that has given them a live following around the globe.

Katchafire have started tracking six new songs with the aim to release their fifth studio record in early 2013.

“The boys aren’t too much for sitting around and conceptualising, we’re more emotionally driven and feel our way a bit more,” co-vocalist and guitarist Logan Bell explains.

“Because there is five songwriters [in Katchafire] we have a massive pool of creativity to choose from.

“That works in our favour.

“But because there’s so many writers it’s hard to pull together an underlying theme [on an album], so we’ve started thinking a little bit about that.

“The thing we came up with, to have in the back of our minds when being creative, is to think about who we are as a people and how unique it is to the rest of the world.

“We see our home as a very special place, and our culture as well.

“It’s inspiration to draw from so we want to bring that through in the music as well.

“I think that the reason why we want to bring our New Zealandness out more in the songwriting.

“We are very unique and maybe our past albums haven’t showed that as much.”

But the singer doesn’t believe that their New Zealand culture is completely absent.

“We are definitely unique in the fact that we like to sing a lot and harmonise,” Bell says.

“We’re very heavy on three-part harmonies singing good melodies.

“That’s one point of difference from other reggae territories [around the world].

“But we try to stay very pure to our roots – roots reggae.”

Katchafire, from Hamilton on the north island of New Zealand, have appropriated their band name from the title of The Wailers’ hugely influential 1973 record Catch A Fire.

The term means “catching hell” or “getting in trouble”.

In 1997 the group originated as a Bob Marley tribute act.

Writing original music was the logical step.

“[Original music] was an after-thought – definitely a natural evolution,” Bell says.

“Some of the guys were writing before the tribute band [formed], but the tribute band brought us together and gave us a good grounding and schooling in roots reggae – the genre that we love.

“We got to play great songs every night from the greatest reggae artist that ever lived.

“A year into playing bars and nightclubs around our home city we started writing our own music and going abroad a bit more.”

There have been line-up changes over the years, with the current roster including

guitarist Grenville Bell, keyboardist and vocalist Haani Totorewa, bassist Tere Ngarua, percussionist Leon Davey, keyboardist and saxophonist Jamey Ferguson and drummer Jordan Bell.

Katchafire now have five songwriters in the group, but everyone has input.

“At the start there was two and now the rest of the band get in on the fun,” Bell explains.

“[Writing reggae] is a similar process [to other genres].

“Most of the writing is broken down to a guitar or a keyboard – for most melodies the weapon of choice is the gutiar.

“A lot of the songs are written on the road, at gigs or downtime in airports, hotels.

“A lot of the ideas start on the road then we take them into the studio and refine them a little bit more.

“We just let it happen naturally.”

Katchafire are returning to their Australian fans for a tour throughout August and September.

With “close to 300” shows under their belt since releasing 2010’s On The Road Again, the band will be well rehearsed.

“I would say we average 100 shows a year - it just trips me out thinking about that,” Bell says.

Katchafire will perform in 22 Australian cities on this tour.

“We’ve been blessed ever since the first time we came to Australian shores with a lot of Kiwis being in [Australia], but also a lot of reggae lovers,” Bell says.

On the “Irie Australian Tour”, the band will be promoting their new single of the same name.

Irie is a word with Jamaican origins that means “excellent”, “great” or “good quality”.

“For us it’s about fun and getting back to see our loved ones and the friends we’ve met in Australia, and are going to make,” Bell says.

“That’s what we mean by ‘irie’ tour - it’s about good vibes.”

Katchafire have spread their feel-good anthems around the world, proving that reggae remains a universal interest.

“I think it’s just gone from strength to strength,” Bell says of reggae.

“When we first started it was definitely a lot harder

– it was hard to get on to commercial radio.

“But reggae is a huge world genre and I’m amazed that every part of the world we go to loves reggae, from Poland to Egypt to Dubai.

“These places all love a bit of reggae, good vibes – irie vibes!”

# Katchafire perform at The Cambridge Hotel on Sunday, September 23.

Katchafire are performing at the Cambridge Hotel in September.

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200 jobs atWesTrac head office

More than 200 Maitland workers have secured jobs at WesTrac after the company established an Operational Headquarters and Training Institute at Tomago.
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The facility, which was opened on Thursday, will cater for the company’s NSW and ACT interests and will have employed 1100 people by the time it reaches capacity.

The company has 400 employees and is looking for an additional 150 workers for a range of roles.

Chief operating officer Darren Tasker said the business was focused on growth and once it reached capacity further plans for expansion would be put in place.

“We’re looking for people to fill a variety of roles including those with trade-based skills, people to work in the warehouse and people to fill sales and administration positions,” he said.

“We’re a support service to the

mining, transport and construction industry and government sectors, so we require a diverse range of skills to fulfil our operations.”

Mr Tasker said the company chose Tomago because it was close to a hub of skilled workers.

“It’s in close proximity to a large community who have a strong trade and industry background and it’s in close proximity to the Port of Newcastle and the Upper Hunter mining industry,” he said.

It cost $160 million to build the complex which has 12 major purpose-built facilities, security buildings and extensive hardstand areas on the 23-hectare site.

WesTrac’s Newcastle operations including Thornton Parts, Thornton Service and Tomago Truck Centre have moved to the Tomago site.

Visit www.westrac南京夜网.au/careers for details of the 150 positions available.

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East Maitland drug bust: man, 50, arrested

A 50-year-old man faces a string of serious drug charges, after police executed a search warrant in East Maitland yesterday.
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Police attached to the Central Hunter Target Action Group attended a Rous Street address shortly before 2pm, where it is alleged an elaborate hydroponic system was located in a garage.

A total of 34 cannabis plants were found growing inside the garage.

More than 500 grams of cannabis head and more than a kilo of cannabis leaf were also found.

Police also seized an amount of cash.

The seized cannabis plants have an estimated value of $85,000 with the seized cannabis leaf and head having an estimated value of $15,000.

The man was arrested and charged with five offences. He has been granted conditional bail to appear before Maitland Local Court on August 13, 2012.

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Coppins in relay final

Emily Coppins.Thornton athlete Emily Coppins (pictured) has qualified for 4x400m relay final at the World Junior Championships in Barcelona.
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The 18-year-old was the third runner in the girl’s relay team that finished fifth in their heat with a time of three minutes and 40.57 seconds on Saturday.

The Australian squad went through to the decider after America and Romania were disqualified for changing batons outside the permitted area.

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Bulldogs not taking Wyong lightly

A bruising, hard-fought 28-22 point win in round five means there will be no room for complacency when Kurri Kurri host Wyong on Saturday.
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The Bulldogs, sitting third on the Newcast Rugby League table, are doing their sums like all the other finals aspirants and coach George Ndaira said every game at this time of year was important.

Not that Ndaira is overly concerned about his team taking things likely, with their willingness to turn up each week and play to their best the most pleasing aspect of their season.

“The boys always turn up to play and this week will be no different,” Ndaira said.

The Bulldogs attacking options were on full display against Maitland in last week’s Mercury Shield victory and Ndaira said having multiple attacking options was something they had worked on.

“We’ve worked on our shape, we’ve got plenty of quality right across the field. Players who are able to make the right decisions in attack and defence.”

Ndaira believes Kurri’s blend of experience and local talent will serve them well once the semi finals arrive.

“One of the great things about Kurri is that I’m not a one-man show, there are a lot of blokes with a lot of experience who the younger blokes can turn to.”

One of those experience players, Jesse Royal is likely to miss another week, but Justin Peterkin will come back into the side after serving his suspension.

Kick off is at 3pm.

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Brodie needs public’s help

Too many people suffer the consequences of having their vehicles stolen every year.
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They put up with the inconvenience of having to catch public transport, or depend on lifts, while they wait for their insurance companies to fork out money for a new vehicle.

They also put up with the seemingly never-ending paper chase to make claims, not to mention having to deal with the already over-stretched police force.

And they feel that their personal space, and possessions, have been violated. All these are legitimate responses to an all too prevalent crime in our society.

But spare a thought for Lorraine Jones, Matthew Swain and their 21-year-old daughter Brodie who has multiple disabilities.

Their family Holden Commodore was stolen from a car park in Rutherford on Tuesday night – inside the boot were the sides to Brodie’s mobility scooter.

Without the sides to the scooter, Brodie is essentially housebound and her quality of life – her independence and her self-esteem – substantially curtailed.

The family are battlers and could not afford car insurance; without a car their lives will be all that much harder.

The thief/thieves would not have known the value of the scooter sides to this special young woman.

We can only appeal to any skerrick of decency they have to leave the car in a public place where it can be found and, together with the scooter sides, returned.

The alternative is that someone must know something, so please do the right thing and contact the police.

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Labor outrage at $40m TAFE cuts

Jenny Aitchinson.Maitland Labor Party branch president Jenny Aitchison has challenged the state government to reveal the cuts planned for Maitland TAFE.
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Ms Aitchison is outraged at the government’s decision to cut $40 million from the state’s TAFE budget and wants confirmation that there will not be any job losses or courses cut from the Maitland campus.

She said TAFE was an affordable option for training and if courses were cut it would force students into private sector

training, which would cost more.

“Cutting $40 million in the TAFE budget isn’t achieved by printing on both sides of the paper – that amount means structural change,” she said.

“We’ve already had enough job losses, we don’t need any more.

“It’s ironic the government is cutting TAFE funding when [Minister for Women] Pru Goward is out there encouraging women to study trades and [Maitland MP] Robyn Parker is an ex-TAFE teacher who attended the Hunter Women’s Network award last year and praised the importance of TAFE.

“How can people train if there is no course? Women especially need TAFE to train because it offers flexibility with balancing family, child care and training.”

A department of education spokesman said Hunter TAFE was required to achieve ongoing efficiencies and operate effectively like other government agencies.

He said there had been minor adjustments to courses offered in semester two based on a decline in student demand in certain vocational areas.

“This has allowed Hunter TAFE to the meet the continued increase in apprentice and trainee enrolments and other programs in critical skills shortage areas,” he said.

The spokesman said Hunter TAFE regularly reviewed and adjusted courses to meet skills requirements and demand for training services.

“Adjustments to course offerings take into account student demand, employment growth, skill shortages and industry requirements,” he said.

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Pickers to plug leaks

Colby Schrader.Maitland Pickers will take no prisoners in defence when face Central Newcastle on Sunday.
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Pickers captain Colby Schrader said lapses in defensive communication had been identified as one of the key issues during the club’s soul-searching session on Monday.

“We’ve been leaking too many points – on average 20 points a game,” he said.

“For 10-15 minute periods there is not a team in the league who could break our line.

“But then the communication has dropped off and holes appear and we have two or three tries scored against us.

“We are scoring points, so it really does come down to keeping our defensive line solid and communicating better for the entire 80 minutes.

“We lost our last two games by four and six points, if they had have gone the other way we wouldn’t have needed a meeting.”

The Pickers have three training sessions this week, with a session on Monday following the players’ talk, a Tuesday session which incorporated under 17s from the region and Friday’s final session before Sunday’s game at St John Oval.

Schrader said the team would be finalised on Friday, but halfback Jade Porter would be missing because of playing commitments with Country NSW.

He said Darcy Etrich had done a good job in Porter’s absence last week, but it was a tough call with the dummy-half playing out of position.

The Pickers go into the round 13 clash in fifth position on the Newcastle Rugby League four points behind Wests, but with a game in hand.

Schrader said the playing group was still very confident of going well in the finals.

“We’re not too concerned about making the finals, but we do have to start winning to get ourselves in the form we need to reach our goals,” Schrader said.

“Semis football is a whole different competition and we believe we have the experience to give it another real good shot.”

In other round 13 matches Macquarie Scorpions take on Lakes United at home on Saturday, Port Stephens Sharks meet South Newcastle at Lakeside Sporting Complex and Western Suburbs host Cessnock at home on Sunday.

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Teammates stick through thick and thin

BUCKET LIST: Les Thompson (right) is helping his former Woodberry Warriors teammate Phil ‘Reg’ Newton to fulfil his ‘just in case’ bucket list as Newton fights cancer with his mates by his side. Rugby League in many ways typifies the Aussie spirit of mateship – teammates standing together united to defend their line.
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That spirit of mateship at Woodberry Rugby League is alive and well as players from the late 1970s through to 1990s stand by their mate Phil “Reg” Newton in his fight against cancer.

The former premiership player and coach has drawn up a “just in case” bucket list and top of the list was making the reunion with his teammates.

Plans for a 40th reunion to mark the club’s inception in 1974 have been brought forward a couple of years and already 100 people have booked to be part of the action at Woodberry on July 21 at the Warriors home game against Dungog.

Newton’s good mate Les Thompson said bringing the reunion forward would enable everyone involved in the club to help Newton in a successful fight.

“He is so well loved across the community, wherever he goes people always call out ‘G’dday Reg’,” he said.

“We went up to the State of Origin in Brisbane for part of his bucket list and sure enough we were stopped in our tracks with a ‘G’day Reg’ there.”

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Maitland opens heart to Westpac Helicopter

A GOOD SIGN: Peter Brereton from Westpac Helicopter and Peter Robinson from Maitland Auto Parts with the new sign. The people of Maitland have opened their hearts and offered to replace and protect a banner promoting the city’s largest fund-raiser for the Westpac Rescue Helicopter Service.
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Last week the Mercury reported that vandals had slashed the $400 Christmas in July banner as it hung on a billboard along the New England Highway at Rutherford.

Since then Maitland Sign Shop has manufactured a new sign for the charity while staff at Maitland Auto Parts, High Street, have offered to hang the banner each day and remove it each night.

“It’s just amazing that after the down of having the sign all torn and shredded that there are people who come along and say they’ll help us without charge,” Westpac Rescue Helicopter Service Maitland Support Group chairman Peter Brereton said.

“It goes without saying that we are a charity group without a lot of money to spend so when this sort of thing happens it’s devastating but there are some wonderful people in our area and our group received numerous phone calls from people offering to help.”

q The Maitland Westpac Rescue Helicopter Service Christmas in July event will be held at Telarah Bowling Club on July 28. Tickets are $60. For more information phone 4934 4021 or 4932 3768.

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