TUNE! with Dark Ballad

Welcome back to TUNE! our ever-expanding playlist of the music and culture that inspires our favourite artists. This edition we find out what Ōtautahi artist Dark Ballad has on his musical radar – after all, is there a more apt artistic moniker than his? With his penchant for darker imagery, it might not be surprising to see a healthy dose of metal and heavy rock, but there are also some hip hop entries and a certain British icon, showing a bit of variety! As the artist explains: “These are all songs I frequently listen to whether I’m drawing in a black book with a few beers, in the studio printing woodblocks, or driving around looking for spots…” – so let’s dive in to the soundtrack of Dark Ballad…

Bone Thugs n Harmony – Mo’ Murda

My favorite song of all time. My cousin introduced me to Bone Thugs at an early age and I immediately fell in love with the intoxicating mix of hardcore gangsta rap delivered with the smoothness of R’n’B. Mo’ Murda has all four members killing it over a beat that’s a sample of the classic I’d Rather Be With You by Bootsy Collins, another of my faves.

The White Stripes – Red Rain (Live)

In my opinion, the White Stripes are the rawest and most effective live band of all time. The difference between them live and on record is night and day. They’re great on record, but live is a whole different beast. The visceral and distorted slide blues of Jack with the simple yet thunderous cacophony of Meg’s drums can only be done justice on live recordings and “Red Rain” is the prime example of this.

Rainbow – Stargazer

The best song with the best rock vocalist of all time, Ronnie James Dio. A true progressive symphony. One of the sickest intros of any classic rock/metal songs of all time too. Just epic in every sense.

Led Zeppelin – When the Levee Breaks

I love blues and I really love when great rock bands cover old blues and gospel songs (Nirvana with Where Did You Sleep Last Night and the White Stripes’ Death Letter) and this is the prime example of this. 

Limp Bizkit – Break Stuff

Once a Limp Bizkit fan, always a Limp Bizkit fan (unless you grew up and your music taste evolved, which mine didn’t). I was around 12, with spiky hair, frosted tips, a wallet chain, and dressed head to toe in Dickies, and at the time counter culture things like Eminem, South Park and Limp Bizkit became huge and I loved them all. An absolute breath of fresh air compared to what came before them in the 90s. My love for them and this song in particular was reignited after seeing the havoc it incited at Woodstock ’99. 

Creed – One Last Breath

What started as a meme between PK, Klaudia (Bartos) and myself quickly turned into us finding ourselves playing this band every chance we got. Similar to Limp Bizkit, Creed was one of my faves in the early 2000s and this song in particular always hits that nostalgic nerve, as well as being a new favorite for us as a group!

Jimi Hendrix – Bold as Love

A beautiful song. Mind-blowing guitar and melody from the GOAT. As a weekend warrior guitar player, Jimi is pretty much all I try to learn these days. Everything you learn while trying to master a Hendrix song can be applied to any other song afterwards. Chord embellishments, phrasing, chord structure… This song in particular is a favorite go-to of mine in the throes of a party.

Metallica – Orion

It was incredibly difficult to pick just one Metallica song. I love so many on their first four albums equally, but I picked Orion because it invokes the most memories. From the cosmic opening to the relentless marching rhythm of the verses to the melodic and serene interlude, this instrumental from Metallica has fuelled many journeys in cars packed with too many people on licenses with too little qualifications.

Isis (The Band) – False Light

Isis (named well before the terrorist group came to popular consciousness) produce the most beautiful metal of all time. Similar to the reasons I picked Orion, False Light is seared into my memories of good times with best friends. Isis’ music sounds like what a camera panning slowly over a recently apocalyptic wasteland looks like. Slow, methodical and somehow beautiful yet brutal and hopeless. Bittersweet, just like the memories attached to it.

Bizzy Bone – Roses

Bizzy Bone was always my favourite member of Bone Thugs. From his rapid fire delivery to his melodic chanting on tracks, I always waited eagerly for his verses more than the others. In recent years, Bone has failed to find any traction in the new landscape of rap filled with minimalist lyricism and trap beats so far removed from 90s G-funk and gangsta rap that it may as well be a whole different genre. With Roses though, Bizzy has managed to find his way in with a vengeance. He is able to use his versatile style to not only fit in on a great trap beat but absolutely destroy it with blistering aplomb. I’ve always loved the dark, brooding simplicity of well-produced trap beats but have never been able to jive with the rappers rapping on them. Bizzy changed that for me when married the best bits of old and new on Roses.

Rod Stewart – I Was Only Joking

Rod Stewart was my Mum’s favourite singer growing up and naturally, that love was passed onto me. It’s always funny when we are drawing with friends and having a drink when the shuffled playlist goes from something like 2pac or Korn to a sad ballad from Rod Stewart, but once its started, we often let Rod play for the rest of the night. His storytelling, soul, musicality and sheer number of great songs land him on this list. I picked I Was Only Joking, but it could have been any number of his other great songs.

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