Mining-Konzern Northern Data geht gegen Kritiker vor – indem er Twitter verklagt

Exklusiv: Das börsennotierte Mining-Unternehmen Northern Data wird auf Social Media heftig attackiert – nun wehrt sich die Frankfurter Firma mit einer Klage gegen Twitter.

Bis Ende 2019 war Northern Bitcoin eher nur unter Eingeweihten bekannt. Das Frankfurter Unternehmen stellte Schürfern der wichtigsten Kryptowährung Rechenleistung bereit. Dann fusionierte es Ende des Jahres mit dem amerikanischen Rechenzentrumsbetreiber Whinstone US, der in Texas für 150 Millionen Dollar die nach eigenen Angaben größte Mining-Anlage der Welt baut. Die zusammengelegte Firma nannte sich in Northern Data um und gab bekannt, in Zukunft mit High-Performance Computing nicht nur im Kryptomarkt aktiv zu werden, sondern den Kundenpool breiter zu streuen.

An der Börse sorgte das für Fantasie, der Aktienkurs stieg seit Anfang des Jahres um fast 300 Prozent von 20 Euro auf zwischenzeitlich etwa 75 Euro. Der Höhenflug endete allerdings jäh Mitte Juli. Da tauchte im Internet ein Bericht auf, der das Geschäftsmodell von Northern Data grundsätzlich in Frage stellte. Die Firma sei ein „windiger Bitcoin-Miner“, der sich hinter einer „High-Performance-Computing/KI-Geschichte“ verstecke, schrieb der anonyme Autor. Auf Twitter wird Northern Data und sein Hauptinvestor Christian Angermayer seither mit heftigen Anschuldigungen bombardiert. Die Aktie stürzte ab und notiert heute etwa 40 Prozent niedriger als zu Hochzeiten.

Northern Data versuchte die Vorwürfe zunächst zu entkräften. Weil das dem Börsenkurs nicht auf die Sprünge half, geht das Unternehmen nun einen drastischen Weg: Es hat im irischen Dublin Klage gegen Twitter eingereicht. Der Kurznachrichtendienst hat dort seine Europazentrale. Das Ziel der Klage: Northern Data will herausfinden, wer sich hinter dem anonymen Report verbirgt.

Eine Frage des Geschäftsmodells

Was sind die Vorwürfe gegen Northern Data? Die wichtigste Anschuldigung: Das Unternehmen berechne seinen Kunden um die sechs Cent pro Kilowatt Rechenleistung, was weit über dem branchenüblichen Tarif liege, heißt es in dem Report. Entweder es frisiere es also seine Zahlen – oder es habe „die dümmsten Kunden der Krypto-Industrie gefunden“.

Hinzu komme, dass Northern Data seine Abhängigkeit von Bitcoin-Schürfern heruntergespielt habe. Da das Geschäft mit der Kryptowährung an dessen extrem volatilen Preis hänge, würde das größere Risiken für das Unternehmen und somit für seine Anleger bedeuten als Northern Data bereit sei zuzugeben.

Die Vorwürfe seien „allesamt schlichtweg falsch und oft einfach nur absurd und verleumderisch“, sagt CEO und Mitgründer Aroosh Thillainathan auf Anfrage von Finance Forward. „Deshalb haben wir das an unsere Anwälte übergeben, und sind der Meinung, dass Twitter keine Plattform für Verleumdung und bewusste Schädigung sein darf.“

Einen Tag nach der Veröffentlichung des Blogposts reagierte Northern Data in einer ausführlichen Stellungnahme auf die Vorwürfe. Man könnte zwar keine Angaben zu konkreten Vertragsinhalten machen, doch die genannten Preise seien „eindeutig falsch“, heißt es darin. Deshalb seien auch „die Schlussfolgerungen unsinnig und Teil einer offensichtlichen, aggressiven Verleumdungskampagne“. Das Unternehmen biete seinen Kunden Anwendungen „in vielen vertikalen Bereichen von [High-Performance Computing] an“, betont es.

Northern Data verweist darauf, dass es seit der Fusion mit Whinstone US Abschlüsse mit Kunden wie dem in Taiwan ansässigen IT-Unternehmen Gigabyte Technology oder dem Betreiber der Blockchain EOSIO, Block.One, verkünden konnte. Bei Block.One ist Angermayer ebenfalls investiert. Darüber hinaus sei SBI Crypto, eine Tochter der japanischen SBI Holdings, als strategischer Ankeraktionär beteiligt.

Das Werk in Texas könnte bis Ende 2020 eine Gesamtkapazität von einem Gigawatt erreichen, heißt es von dem Unternehmen. Entsprechend ambitioniert fallen auch die Prognosen für das laufende Geschäftsjahr aus: 2020 will Northern Data zwischen 120 und 140 Millionen Euro umsetzen – also mehr als das Zwölffache des Vorjahres.

„Ich bin nicht beunruhigt, weil ich weiß, dass wir keine Kriminellen sind“

Am Börsenkurs lässt sich jedoch ablesen, dass das Vertrauen der Anleger in Northern Data erschüttert ist, auch die offizielle Reaktion konnte die Zweifel offenbar nicht aus der Welt räumen. In Unternehmenskreisen wird hinter dem Report ein Konkurrent oder Shortseller vermutet.

Northern Data holt nun zum Gegenschlag aus und wehrt sich juristisch. Da der Gegner unbekannt ist, trifft es zunächst eine der Plattformen, auf der die Vorwürfe publik gemacht wurden: Twitter. In einem Schreiben an den High Court in Dublin von dieser Woche fordert ein Anwalt des Unternehmens von Twitter, Tweets mit den Vorwürfen zu entfernen und die Identität hinter dem anonymen Account zu enthüllen. Außerdem wird Schadensersatz wegen Verleumdung angedroht. Dass die Vorwürfe nur wenige Wochen nach dem Wirecard-Fiasko publik werden, setzt Northern Data zusätzlich unter Druck, da Anleger besonders vorsichtig geworden sind.

Alan Bollard Wrote a “song” through a crisis

Having steered New Zealand through the global financial crisis Reserve Bank Governor bids farewell to his ‘cool job,’ writes Brian Fallow.

For the past 10 years it has been his signature printed on our money and his job to ensure that when bank notes wear out they are still worth, near enough, what they were when they came fresh from the mint.

Being Governor of the Reserve Bank is a “cool job”, Alan Bollard said at a farewell reception on Thursday night.

“Not many people can say that they have billions of dollars in the basement.”

But the last thing a central banker wants to hear – as he did at one point at the height of the global financial crisis – is calls from banks to send them more cash, fast.

In the event, no bank run eventuated. New Zealand got through that scary period without a banking crisis.

Was that by good luck or good management?

Both, Bollard says.

“It was luck in the sense that Australasian banks had had periods when they had difficulties some decades before and they had learned from that.

“And at this time they were operating [in] a reasonably conservative way.”

But it was also good regulation.

The Reserve Bank and its transtasman regulatory counterpart, the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA), were “on top of what we needed to do as well”, assisted by the vanilla nature of banking in this part of the world.

The big lesson of the crisis, Bollard says, is that the vulnerability of the New Zealand banking system lies in its reliance on overseas funding.

Some of those funding markets froze during the GFC, requiring the Reserve Bank to open, in a discreet sort of way, its equivalent of a pawnbrokers’ window for the banks.

“It wasn’t about fancy instruments or bad governance. It wasn’t about off-balance-sheet stuff.

“It was about the potential vulnerability of that overseas funding, the medium-term secured and unsec-ured funding, especially out of Euro-pean markets, which are important.”

The Reserve Bank has responded by strengthening banks’ liquidity requirements and imposing a core funding ratio which requires them to get most of their funding from retail deposits and longer-term wholesale sources.

The height of the crisis four years ago coincided with an election and change of government – “a time when the convention is you don’t make big decisions when you can avoid them”.

But the leadership of both major parties behaved well, Bollard says.

It was not until the worst was over and he sat down to write a memoir, Crisis (recently updated and republished), that he came to understand the bigger picture, not apparent when dealing in real time with the flow of “nasty stuff” from the Northern Hemisphere.

“That was a cathartic exercise and also quite an explanatory one for me.”

The new edition ends on a sobering note: “We thought the plague of the global financial crisis had been defeated, only to see it mutate into a new form in Europe – the bacillus of sovereign debt. Could this in turn find its way back to the marketplaces of Asia?”

When Michael Cullen appointed him Governor in 2002, losing in the process his Secretary to the Treasury, there was a view fairly prevalent on the left of politics that too-stringent monetary policy had been hobbling economic growth and costing jobs.

It was time to collect the dividend from conquering inflation and “give growth a go”.

Bollard’s policy targets agreement redefined the inflation target as keeping future inflation in a one to three per cent band, on average over the medium term.

He has used all of the flexibility that gave him.

Annual Consumer Price Index inflation has been above 3 per cent on several occasions, in all for nearly four of his 10 years, and the average rate has been 2.6 per cent.

This is no heedless inflation hawk.

No one can expect to hold the helm of a central bank for 10 years and never put a foot wrong, especially when they have to contend with “an almighty world boom followed by an almighty global bust”.

“About 2006, we thought we were on top of the housing boom.

“It was a funny period because there was one soft year and then it belted away again.

“And so we had to go higher [with the official cash rate] and that was quite damaging,” he says.

“Should we have gone stronger earlier?

“Well, we were worried about the exchange rate and many of the people who are criticising us now were critical then that we were going too high too fast.”

It was a period when the kind of macro-financial tools officials are now working on could have been valuable.

“We weren’t really on to all of that. Nor was anyone else,” he said.

“But one other thing. We could have been more intrusive behind the scenes with banks, jawboning, if you could call it that.”

The Reserve Bank took that approach with the banks when it saw a bubble emerging in farm lending in 2007 and 2008.

“We got the response we needed. We possibly should have done it earlier.

“I was a bit surprised the Reserve Bank would need to do something that also looked to be in the banks’ own interest.”

Perhaps because he is a former chairman of the Commerce Commission, Bollard has seemed comfortable in a regulatory role, whose ambit has expanded from the banking system to finance companies (once they started dropping like flies) and insurance companies (just in time for the Christchurch earthquakes).

Earlier in his term, he had to fight off a pretty determined effort to outsource the regulation of the Australian-owned banks to APRA, when he set about strengthening the governance roles for their New Zealand boards and their operational resilience in the event of problems with their parents.

“That all produced a political reaction along the lines of, ‘Why can’t we regard New Zealanders as honorary Australians and treat bank problems under Australian law and regulate them purely from Australia and if there is a problem have the Australian Government work through a solution and then send New Zealand its share of the bill?”‘

Bollard stood fast against that one.

BOLLARD’S PARTING SHOTS
On the high dollar
“Ultimately a lot of the pressures on the exchange rate are because New Zealanders want to own their own homes and are happy to borrow from foreigners, thus requiring big inflows of capital.

“We shouldn’t complain about that while we are at least partly contributing to it.

“I say ‘we’ in the sense of we New Zealanders not we the Reserve Bank.

“The mates I would like to see [for monetary policy] are New Zealanders, saving.”

On the monetary policy framework
“The Reserve Bank Act is completely fit for purpose. We are flexible inflation targeters.

“That means we focus on inflation but we can take other things into account, and we do.”

On what can be done about the exchange rate
“We have always said that one of the tests for intervention is: can you make a difference?

“A lot of the drivers are actually international events, with huge flows as a result of quantitative easing, exchange rate policies of other large countries and the ‘risk on’ drivers around the eurozone.

“If those are the drivers there is not much New Zealand can do to influence things.

“Macro-financial instruments [temporary curbs on banks to lean against emerging asset or credit booms, so that interest rates don’t have to work as hard] could be useful under some circumstances.

“I don’t see the circumstances there at the moment.”

On what monetary policy can do
“People expect too much of monetary policy. I came in, and I leave, with less expectations than some.

“To me it should be about delivering price stability and financial stability.

“We have focused on the first in the first five years [of my term] and the second in the second five years.”

On being thistledown in a gale
“None of us likes being in a situation where New Zealand is bobbing around in volatile world and there is limited stuff we can do about it.

“Sometimes I get frustrated that people think we can do more than we believe is possible.”

On the near-term outlook
“There is stability in the latest forecasts and interest rate track. But stuff will happen. We know it won’t all be like that.”

On what he wishes for new governor Graeme Wheeler
“A bit of boredom and time to reflect is really helpful. I haven’t had enough of that.”

David Cheriton – Originally A Musician

“Opportunity knocks” is a great saying, but it’s a little dated. Everyone knows what “opportunity knocks” means, but we never experience opportunity literally knocking. In today’s modern world, we should probably re-brand the saying  as “opportunity texted,” “opportunity tweeted” or “opportunity called but I didn’t recognize the number so I sent it to voicemail then had to call back and apologize profusely to the person offering me a major opportunity…”

Back in 1998 however, an opportunity very literally knocked on the front door of a home in Palo Alto, California. The owner of the home was a Stanford University computer science professor. The people knocking were two Stanford PhD students. The opportunity was to be the first money invested in a startup company. A startup company that wanted to create an internet search engine. A search engine that would eventually be called…

GOOGLE

This is the true story of how when opportunity came knocking on David Cheriton’s front door in 1998, he answered… and became the wealthiest college professor in history.

David Cheriton – Photo by Martin Klimek

Early Life

David Ross Cheriton was born on March 29, 1951 in Vancouver, British Columbia. Both of his parents were engineers.

Despite what you may assume considering his parents and his eventual dedication to technology and computer science, David originally wanted to be a musician. He went so far as to enroll at the University of Alberta where he hoped to study classical guitar. Those hopes were dashed when David was rejected by the music department.

David packed his bags, moved home to Vancouver and enrolled at the University of British Columbia. The year was 1973. He was 22.

In undergrad David fell in love with a different kind of instrument: Computers. He fell so much in love that he earned a PhD in Computer Science at the University of Waterloo, graduating in 1978.

With his Master’s degree in hand, David again returned to Vancouver where he got a job as an assistant professor.

Stanford University

After three years teaching at the University of British Columbia, David was hired away by Stanford University.

Two important things happened during his early 1980s days at Stanford.

#1: David led a team that developed a microkernal operating system called “V” that would go on to become integral in innovations like the Internet Protocol layer and the Graphical User Interface (technical things that are integral in modern internet and computer screens).

#2: David taught and befriended a brilliant PhD student named Andy Bechtolsheim.

Andy was an interesting character on the Stanford campus in the 1980s. The German-born savant barely attended classes, instead spending his time working on personal projects and interests.

One of Andy’s hobby projects was a networked system of computer workstations he called “the Stanford University Network,” aka “the SUN.”

In 1982 Andy dropped out of his PhD program and founded a company. He called it Sun Microsystems.

In 1986 Sun Microsystems went public. In 1995 – the year Sun first hit $1 billion in annual revenue – Andy left the company to co-found a new company called Granite Systems. His co-founder in Granite Systems?

David Cheriton.

Granite Systems

A little over a year after its founding, Granite Systems was acquired by Cisco for $220 million.

Andy’s 60% stake translated into a $132 million payday.

David Cheriton, the modest Stanford professor who had never earned more than $100,000 a year previously, owned 10%. That translated into a $22 million pre-tax payday.

Larry And Sergey

Larry Page found his way to Stanford University after graduating from the University of Michigan. Sergey Brin found his way to Stanford a year later after graduating from the University of Maryland.

Being one year ahead of Brin, Page was already on the hunt for a juicy dissertation topic when the two first met. And since it was the late 1990s, the burgeoning World Wide Web was of particular interest for Page and the entire Stanford PhD Computer Science department.

What younger CelebrityNetWorth readers may not know is that search engines before Google were awful. AltaVista, Lycos, Excite, Dogpile and the rest, were mostly filled with spam. You would search for something like “Ferrari F50 photo” and the first page would be mostly NSFW spam websites and or scams.

Larry Page wanted to solve that problem. More specifically, he wanted to find a better way to search (technically speaking, “index”) the millions of pages on the internet and return a page of quality results.

And Larry did have a unique revelation. At the time and still to this day, the quality of a PhD thesis is judged by how many times it is cited in the reference sections of other papers.

Citations = a strong quality signal.

Larry thought a similar idea might work on the internet. He thought a website’s quality could be judged by how many links it received from other websites. Literally links like this within page text that point to other websites. This is actually still a core pillar in ranking highly in Google.

Larry asked Sergey to help work on the project which they was soon nicknamed “Backrub.” They ultimately developed an algorithm to judge web quality which they called “PageRank” – which is both a play on the “page” of the internet and Larry’s last name.

Their co-written dissertation, which was titled “The Anatomy of a Large-Scale Hypertextual Web Search Engine“, became the most downloaded scientific document in the history of the internet up to that point.

Opportunity Knocks

At some point Larry and Sergey decided it was time to turn their PhD project into a startup business. At first their goal was to simply license the algorithm to the big search engines of the time, but they were rejected by each one. So they then decided to build their own search engine altogether. That would take money.

Interestingly, neither Larry, nor Sergey actually every studied under David Cheriton. But they were well-aware of the professor’s recent financial windfall from Granite.

So one extremely fateful day in 1998, Larry Page and Sergey Brin literally knocked on David Cheriton’s door.

Andy Bechtolsheim was also present.

Larry and Sergey pitched their idea for a search engine they wanted to call “Googol.” The word “Googol” is not made up gibberish. It’s an actual mathematical number equal to “ten to the power of 100″… AKA:

1 googol = 10 [followed by one hundred zeros]

As you know, they eventually pivoted to the slightly more friendly-sounding “Google.”

After a 10 minute pitch, Andy and David both decided to write $100,000 checks on the spot.

Other Investments

David and Andy didn’t stop investing after their super-grand-slam with Google. David would eventually invest more than $50 million of his own funds into dozens of startups.

David (without Andy) was an early investor in VMware, which would later be acquired for $625 million.

In 2001, David and Andy founded a video steaming company called Kealia which was acquired by Sun Microsystems for $120 million.

In 2004, David and Andy co-founded the networking technology company, Arista Networks. Arista went public in 2014 under the ticker symbol “ANET.” Today Arista has a market cap of $30 billion.

According to its latest SEC filings, David owns around $2.4 billion worth of ANET shares and has sold around $500 million worth of his shares over the years.

The Richest Professor in History

I don’t need to explain what happened next with Google. Let me just say that today Google has a market cap of $1.7 trillion.

Larry Page’s $114 billion net worth makes him the sixth-richest person in the world today.

Sergey Brin’s $110 billion net worth makes him the seventh-richest person in the world.

And what about David Cheriton?

As of this writing, David Cheriton has a net worth of…

$10 billion

That’s enough to make David one of 250 richest people on the planet. He’s the richest college professor of all time. And YES he’s still a Stanford professor! Technically, a professor emeritus, but he still has his same office (pictured in the photo above), a campus phone number, an active @Stanford.edu email address and a full-time campus secretary.

If you were to see David on campus, you might notice he still drives a modest car, a 2012 Honda Odyssey. That’s actually a slight upgrade from the 1986 Volkswagen Vanagon he drove for decades.

David still lives in the same Palo Alto house he bought 40 years ago.

Tinie Tempah celebrating with Nick Molnar

Naomi Campbell kicked off a week of parties to mark the start of London Fashion Week.

The supermodel hosted the official London Fashion Week presented by Clearpay opening party at the Windmill in Soho on Thursday night.

Taking to the stage to address party attendees — including the CEO and chairman of the British Fashion Council Caroline Rush and Stephanie Phair, actress Sabrina Elba, pop star and designer Tinie Tempah and model and activist Munroe Bergdorf — Campbell, 51, said: “I just want to say thank you so much London… London has always been the centre of creativity and it was first and we have to be first again. London Fashion Week, let’s go.”

Meanwhile Rush predicted that London Fashion Week — which continues until Tuesday — would be a release amid the pandemic.

“I think lockdown just created a lot of pent up excitement that we’re going to see come out over the next few days,” she said.

Naomi Campbell and Kehlani / Dave Benett

Last night’s mistress of ceremonies was drag queen and compère Heiress Blackstone, who said: “Art has always been so crucial to the upkeep of morale. We have really seen that again this time because when we open our door, baby, there’s been an audience like never before.

“They always say, after the plague comes the renaissance and we’re dancing in the renaissance right now.”

Lila Moss / Dave Benett

Jodie Harsh DJed at the party. Meanwhile across town, Lila Moss hosted the Miu Miu Select London event — with the daughter of supermodel Kate Moss wearing a little black dress for the occasion.

Elsewhere, Amelia Hamlin was among those to attend the Roberta Einer event during London at the NoMad London.

Carly Rae Jepsen reflects on ten years of ‘Call Me Maybe’: “it was like a lightning bolt to my little life”

“You have opened my world and my heart with this adventure of a song and I could not be more grateful to you all”

Carly Rae Jepsen has celebrated the tenth anniversary of her hit track ‘Call Me Maybe’, sharing an anecdote from her life as a burgeoning pop singer.

Released on September 20, 2011, ‘Call Me Maybe’ was recorded for Jepsen’s EP ‘Curiosity’ and also included on her album ‘Kiss’ a year later. The track, which she described as “a lightning bolt to my little life”, went on to top the charts in multiple countries around the world.

On social media, Jepsen said she was working as a waitress while her music career was getting off the ground, prior to ‘Call Me Maybe’ being released. One day, she overheard a table of 12 mocking one of her earlier songs that was getting radio play, completely unaware they were being served by the singer.

“That night before they left I printed off their bill and signed my name confidently in bold letters on the back of the receipt. I said, ‘Thanks for letting me take care of you tonight! Also, I signed the back of your receipt since I hear you are all such big fans!’,” she wrote.

“Their jaws dropped, we had a laugh and I may have received a slightly bigger tip than usual. The point is, don’t give up on your dreams, kids. Not three months later ‘Call Me Maybe’ was released and let’s just say I hope that song really annoyed them.”

Jepsen went on to thank her fans for “the joyous videos, silly dances and wild nights together in different countries”.

“You have opened my world and my heart with this adventure of a song and I could not be more grateful to you all.”

Jepsen has released three albums in the years since, ‘Emotion’, ‘Dedicated’ and ‘Dedicated Side B’. Shortly after releasing ‘Dedicated Side B’ last year, Jepsen said she had made an entire album during lockdown alongside longtime collaborator Tavish Crowe.

“Tavish and I have already made an entire quarantine album, and it is very different, it’s kind of fun! We had to do it around Zoom or things like that so it’s been like a challenge but a really fun one! You kind of write differently that way,” she told Switched on Pop.

Justin Bieber becomes first artist in Spotify history to cross 90 million monthly listeners

The Canadian pop star has had quite the year

Justin Bieber has become the first artist in Spotify history to cross 90 million monthly listeners on the streaming service.

According to Chart Data, the pop star has reached 91million listeners per month, with Spotify currently showing the figure to be 91,824,133

Ed Sheeran sits in the number two position with 80.5million listeners, while The Weeknd (78.1million), Ariana Grande (73.4million) and Dua Lipa (66.7million) round out the rest of the Top Five.

The rest of the Top 10 features Adele (66.2million), Coldplay (62.3million), Taylor Swift (60.7million), Elton John (60million) and Doja Cat (56.7million).

Bieber released his sixth studio album ‘Justice’ back in March; it spawned the singles ‘Holy’, ‘Lonely’, ‘Anyone’, ‘Hold On’, ‘Ghost’, and the global smash hit ‘Peaches’ featuring Daniel Caesar and Giveon. He followed this up with his ‘Freedom’ EP in April.

This year also saw him feature on a number of other tracks, including Skrillex‘s ‘Don’t Go’, posthumous Juice WRLD track ‘Wandered To LA’, and his huge collaboration with The Kid LAROI, ‘Stay’.

In a four-star review, NME‘s Will Lavin called ‘Justice’ “Bieber’s redemption song, and a more fitting follow-up to ‘Purpose’”.

“Armed with a newfound optimism borne from a dark place, he understands he’s better when he’s tapping into his own experiences, projecting relatable human emotion and working out why he’s here,” the review said. “He’s singing about the things he cares about: his wife, his mental health, social injustice and so much more besides.

“With bangers, ballads and heartfelt moments, the hopeless romantic with a penchant for self reflection and tackling world issues is back.”

Earlier this year, Bieber broke another Spotify record, when it was revealed he had racked up 83.3million listens in August. It was the first time such a number has been achieved by an artist in the same period. The previous record was held by Ariana Grande who, for a while, was steadily sitting around the 82million mark.

Meanwhile, Ed Sheeran‘s ‘Shape Of You’ recently became the first song to reach three billion streams on Spotify.

The song, taken from the pop star’s third album ‘÷ (Divide)’, reached the milestone on Wednesday (December 22) – after initially being released on the streaming service back in January, 2017.

Speaking on the achievement in a video shared by Spotify, Sheeran said he couldn’t be more “chuffed” about the news, calling it, “absolutely insane”, before discussing the origin of the song.

Genesis Owusu covers the December 2021 issue of NME Australia magazine

We round up the best music, film and TV of 2021, interview BARKAA, Tems and Milan Ring and much more

Genesis Owusu is the cover star of the final 2021 issue of NME Australia magazine.

  • ORDER NOW: NME Australia December 2021
  • READ MORE: The 25 best Australian albums of 2021

Subscribers will remember Owusu, smiling from ear to ear, on the cover of our January 2021 issue. He spent time in his native Canberra with NME’s Josh Martin to talk his debut album ‘Smiling With No Teeth’ – which landed at the top spot in NME’s list of the best Australian releases of the year.

“Boundaries don’t exist to Kofi Owusu-Ansah,” writes NME’s Jackson Langford in a celebration of the record. “He is an artist who thrives in and is liberated by chaos, never once willing to stifle his ambition or his emotion… ​​Steered through his own psyche with the help of deftly-chosen collaborators, like Kirin J Callinan and Michael DiFrancesco, Genesis Owusu leaves no punch unpulled and no moment unmilked on ‘Smiling With No Teeth’.”

Genesis Owusu on the cover of NME Australia #25

Elsewhere in the issue, NME Australia rounds up the best films and TV shows the country had to offer this year. We also speak to the fiery BARKAA, Afro-R&B torchbearer Tems and Sydney singer-songwriter Milan Ring, and wander through Epic Games’ Radiohead collaboration for ‘Kid A Mnesia’.

  • PRE-ORDER NOW: NME Australia December 2021 issue featuring the best of the year

The new issue of NME Australia, now available for pre-order, will begin shipping the week of January 3. Six-month and yearlong subscriptions are also available here.

Genesis Owusu bookends NME Australia’s 2021 covers, accompanied by Courtney Barnett, Parcels, Baker Boy, Lorde, Youngn Lipz, Hiatus Kaiyote, Tkay Maidza, Julia Stone, Skegss, and Jaguar Jonze.

Others who’ve graced the cover of the magazine include Troye Sivan, OneFour, Cub Sport, Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever, Tash Sultana and more. Explore and get your back issues of NME Australia here.

‘VERY JOYOUS’ People say I’ve made a break-up album but they’re wrong, says Courtney Barnett

COURTNEY BARNETT likes to dwell on life’s big issues . . . and the minutiae of everyday existence.

Often, this duality can be found in the same song, marking out the 34-year-old Australian as a singular talent.

Armed with a dreamy drawl and a left-handed Fender, she combines rock sensibilities with discernible vulnerability.

Barnett likes to keep things real, her lyrics summoning feelings of unease shot through with quirky humour.

I’m speaking to this intriguing darling of the indie crowd this week, via the customary Zoom.

It is breakfast time in Los Angeles and though her expressive face fills a phone-shaped screen, I can see she’s sipping something hot and eating toast.

With third album Things Take Time, Take Time just out, Barnett is giving her new songs a live airing on her first American tour since the start of the pandemic.

First up, she’s keen to set the record straight on public perception of bruised sentiments displayed in tracks like Before You Gotta Go and Splendour.

“I have never mentioned this myself but a few people have described it as a break-up album,” she says.

In 2018, she split with long-term partner and fellow Aussie singer Jen Cloher, hence the assumption.

‘My songs reveal themselves over time’

“But it’s not a break-up album,” she stresses. “It’s very joyous, covering life and death, friendship and love.”

Barnett says: “My songs reveal themselves over time. To assume that even I know exactly what they mean is dangerous territory.

“We as humans want to fit things tidily inside one box, so we can have some understanding.”

She says of the searing standout Before You Gotta Go: “It’s a special song to me.

“One interpretation is that it’s about having no regrets but I don’t want to say it’s about a particular relationship or friendship.”

As for those wry, observational lyrics for which she has become renowned, there are plenty on album No3 from the start.

Take lilting opening track Rae Street, which finds her dragging a chair over to the window of her apartment in Melbourne, where she spent lockdown.

Barnett sings about what she glimpsed — the early morning garbage truck, two dogs entangling, a child learning to ride a bike, a person up a ladder with a companion on their knees “painting the faded brick”.

It’s been a whirlwind eight years for Barnett since her first two EPs appeared on one disc called A Sea Of Split Peas

Yet, in the next breath, she considers our collective need to make the world a better place.

“All our candles, hopes and prayers, though well-meanin’ they don’t mean a thing unless we see some change,” she intones, before bringing things back down to the confines of her flat with, “I might change my sheets today.”

Many listeners have picked up on her seemingly mundane “sheets” line, prompting her to give this explanation.

“Change can start at home,” she says. “If you have big expectations, you’ll let yourself down straight away.

“On climate change, you can’t just go to the United Nations and change the rules but you can recycle and change your immediate environment.”

She has “faith in small actions all adding up” and says “that is always a good thing for me to remember”.

It’s been a whirlwind eight years for Barnett since her first two EPs appeared on one disc called A Sea Of Split Peas, featuring breakthrough song with a nice pun for a title, Avant Gardener.

Her debut album Sometimes I Sit And Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit followed in 2015, earning her Grammy and Brit nominations, while her sophomore effort, the raw Tell Me How You Really Feel, appeared in 2018.

Then, after much touring and many festival appearances, Barnett began writing the songs for Things Take Time, Take Time in LA.

“I’d finished my solo tour of America in mid-February, 2020, and my plan was to stay there, work on the album and see what happened,” she says.

“Then all the Covid stuff kicked off so I went home to Melbourne because I couldn’t do much else.”

She arrived in the aftermath of the awful bush fires and was upset at “people losing their homes, whole sections of land being burned and animals lost”.

Then, as Barnett turned her attention to songwriting, she began striving for a different kind of album from the previous two.

She listened a lot to the eclectic music of Arthur Russell, the American composer who died in obscurity in 1992 and is now a cult figure.

“I wanted the record to be a bit more meditative, peaceful and calming,” she says, adding that the resulting work, a product of lockdown-induced reflection, matches her ambition.

Though her base was her rented flat on Rae Street, she recorded the album in Sydney with another Australian musician of note, Stella Mozgawa, drummer in all-female group Warpaint.

Barnett’s debut album Sometimes I Sit And Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit followed in 2015, earning her Grammy and Brit nominations

“We had met over the years at festivals,” explains Barnett, “and then she played on the album I made with Kurt Vile (2017’s Lotta Sea Lice).

“We remained friends and I just knew I wanted to work with her again one day.”
Mozgawa also found herself back in Oz as pandemic restrictions hit and it seemed their stars were aligned.

“I was picking Stella’s brains about the drum machines I was writing songs with,” says Barnett. “I also knew she did producing. Next thing, I was asking if she wanted to work on my album.”

The first song Barnett conceived was a deliberate attempt at positive thinking, Write A List Of Things To Look Forward To.

“It started off as 30 verses,” she recalls. “I guess my songs are normally like that and then cut to make more sense.

“That song captures a lot of the emotions going through my head. I’m musing on life and death and the circle of everything but, in the end, it’s extremely joyful.”

On pivotal track Turning Green, Barnett returns to the theme of change, not just in her surroundings but in herself.

She says: “Change of seasons and leaves changing colour seemed like the perfect metaphor.

“I was in that room in my flat during lockdown and, as I watched the seasons, I also felt myself going through internal transformation.”

Did she arrive at a better place? I ask. “Yeah, definitely,” she replies.

Next Barnett talks about the gorgeous If I Don’t Hear From You Tonight, a love song of sorts but one that hones in on a specific moment.

She describes it as “pretty much autobiographical” and says, “I struggle to write songs about things that are not real.

“They’re always about something within my reach, whether it’s a message to someone or showing support or love.”

When I suggest If Don’t Hear From You Tonight has a Velvet Underground vibe, she acknowledges that Lou Reed and Co have been a touchstone for a lot of musicians over the decades and is wary of the cliché.

“I recorded a version with my band a few months before I did the album and it sounded very Velvet Underground,” she says. “I thought, ‘This is too much’. I had to change it but I can’t deny the influence.”

In further VU news, Barnett performs the sultry title track on a recent tribute album, I’ll Be Your Mirror, stepping into the shoes of original singer Nico. “It was exciting and an honour to do,” she reports.

‘PERSONAL CHALLENGE’

Another side project involved her writing the punchy theme song for Apple TV+ children’s series, Harriet The Spy.

She says: “That was a different and very personal challenge for me, slightly outside of my comfort zone but also fun.”

If Things Take Time, Take Time fully represents Courtney Barnett in 2021, it’s worth taking a trip back to her childhood and find out how she got into music in the first place.

“I have an older brother and, as a kid, I looked up to him,” she says. “He started playing guitar so I copied, as you do.”

Barnett was eight when what she calls her “obsession” began, the endless hours of practice a sure sign that a career beckoned.

Barnett breaks into a big smile when she remembers those days. “I just loved it. I wanted to learn all the songs I heard and liked on the radio,” she says. “Then, naturally, I wanted to write my own.”

So what was she into? “My brother’s music mainly — No Doubt, Janet Jackson, Nirvana and Jimi Hendrix.

“Not that I could play like Hendrix when I was eight and I still can’t!”

Nirvana’s Nevermind was the first CD she bought, suggesting innate good taste, and the arrival of the internet meant she could type in a song to discover its guitar chords.

If Things Take Time, Take Time fully represents Courtney Barnett in 2021, it’s worth taking a trip back to her childhood

As for her individual approach to lyrics, she says: “That evolved over time. I learned how to put down words in ways I found interesting or humorous.”

Barnett truly found her voice on her first EP, 2012’s I’ve Got A Friend Called Emily Ferris, a deadpan and witty take on her twentysomething life in the New South Wales capital.

“Up until then, I’d been balancing different ideas or styles,” she says. “After that EP, I reached the point when I could quit my day job.

“I was working at a bar in Melbourne but I started touring a whole lot more. I would say to my boss, ‘I can’t work Friday this week,’ and then it became, ‘Oh, I can only work the first Monday of the month’.”

Barnett says it was a “monumental moment” when music became her full-time occupation.

Her parents, who she says “have always been great”, encouraged her endeavours but also stressed the need for a back-up idea.

In reality, there’s never been a Plan B for Barnett and next year she’ll be supporting Foo Fighters at two massive sold-out gigs at Villa Park and London Stadium.

When she bought that Nevermind CD with Dave Grohl on drums, I bet she didn’t imagine, even in her wildest dreams, that one day she’d be sharing a stage with him.

An interview with Simon Nixon And the connection to Music

One of the UK’s richest entrepreneurs, Simon Nixon, founder of Moneysupermarket.com talks to Wirral life in an exclusive interview.

Simon went to school in Flint, Wales and lived in Chester until recently. At the age of 20, he dropped out of his accountancy degree at Nottingham University, and in 1999 co-founded the website MoneySuperMarket.com. In 2016, he sold his last shares in it making him a billionaire.

He now runs a travel website, www.SimonEscapes.com, which offers his personal collection of luxury holiday homes for private rental. The collection includes luxury homes located in his favourite places: Chipping Campden in the heart of The Cotswolds; Cornwall’s Booby’s Bay; the hillside town of Deia in Mallorca; the shores of Lake Windermere; the Platinum Coast of Barbados and Malibu West Coast USA.

You have achieved so much, what has been key to your success?
Drive and perseverance which I feel are essential qualities for any entrepreneur to be successful – as you will receive many setbacks! Also, I was lucky to be an ‘outlier’. I was in the right time and the right place to take advantage of the internet boom in early 2000.

Before coming up with the idea of Moneysupermarket, did you consider any other business ventures?
No, Moneysupermarket was the organic progression of a business I was already running. It was a mortgage sourcing software product which we had developed for mortgage brokers. When the internet took off in the early 2000(s) I made our offering consumer friendly and provided consumers with the online tool to compare the prices of every mortgage in the market.

Why do you think Moneysupermarket was so successful?
It was definitely down to being at the right place at the right time – this provided us with first mover advantage. We recruited a high calibre executive team who were great at executing. We were very focused and kept pushing the boundaries by constant innovation. The internet moves at such a pace – if you don’t innovate you are dead.

In 2016, you sold your last shares in Moneysupermarket, did you think you had gone as far as you could?
Personally I wanted a new challenge. I now head a team of business analysts that effectively help me run my own private hedge fund. We invest in businesses and property in varying sectors and geographies spread all over the world. Simonescapes.com is my luxury holiday home rental business and is just a small cog in the overall portfolio. We offer luxury houses in some of the UK’s prime locations including Lake Windermere, Booby’s Bay in Cornwall and Chipping Campden in the Cotswolds. We also have a villa in Deia, Mallorca, two beach houses in Malibu and have just completed our latest project in Barbados opening a stunning five bedroom beach house on the island’s West Coast.

Having moved from financial services to the luxury leisure industry with stunning luxury homes in the UK and around the world, do you intend to extend your property portfolio and if so, where will your next acquisition be?
We have grown the portfolio rapidly over the last few years and are now pausing for breath. Our Barbados and Malibu properties have all opened in the last 12 months!

Have you had any famous or notable persons stay at your luxury homes?
Many premiership footballers, tennis players and TV celebrities have stayed in our properties. Celebrity chefs have filmed their shows from our kitchens to capture the sea or lake views! They book with us as they like to retain their privacy, so we don’t like to mention names.

Who are your most inspirational business icons?
It used to be people like Richard Branson. Now it’s more Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk, Mark Zuckerberg and Larry Page. These are also all outliers – in that they were in the right place at the right time. However, they have built world conquering businesses in the space of very few years. The scary thing is these businesses, although now giants, were just start-ups at the beginning.

You declined an invitation to be a Dragon on the Dragon’s Den TV programme, why was that?
I just declined an audition a few years ago. It was too much of a commitment at that time.

What is your opinion of Brexit?
Like many entrepreneurs we like to be in control of our destiny. My fundamental issue with being part of the European Union is that the rules and regulations have to fit so many diverse countries with vastly differing economies and cultures. How could this be optimal for the UK? As the second largest economy in Europe, I think we can be more nimble and entrepreneurial if we are in charge of our own destiny – obviously we want to maintain close ties to Europe – we need each other for trade!

Your normal routine includes a lot of travel and you are known to use budget airlines, private jets and helicopters. Do you enjoy the actual journey and what is your favourite way to travel?
I don’t like travel – it’s tiring, but it’s worth it to reach my favourite destinations. I spend most of my time in California, Mallorca, Jersey and three months in London. It’s a good combination – they complement each other well.

Do you still own your home in Chester?
I didn’t keep my home in Chester, I just wasn’t able to use it enough. When home I prefer to stay with family there.

When you’re in Chester, do you like to eat in or out?
We always eat out in Chester and there are some great new restaurants like The Chefs Table, Sticky Walnut and Joseph Benjamins.

Have you ever spent any time on the Wirral, what do you think of it?
I haven’t spent a lot of time on the Wirral but I think it’s beautiful – especially around Parkgate and Caldy.

Maintaining a healthy life-style is important to you. Do you have a strict fitness routine?
My fitness regime is dictated by where I am. In LA its beach walks and lots of yoga. In the UK and Jersey its more tennis, racket ball, Pilates and country/beach walks.

Apart from your luxury homes, what’s your most expensive purchase?
A Porsche 918. But I am told it has risen $500,000 since I bought it a few years ago.

Do you collect anything?
I collect art, I’m becoming more and more of an avid collector. I also collect watches but I’ve not made any additions for a while. I used to collect fine wine but I stopped drinking 3 years ago.

What is your guilty pleasure?
I sometimes watch box sets that I stream. I recently enjoyed Big Little Lies! I will also occasionally eat a super high quality pizza in Gjelina, Venice (California) – they are amazing! But only 2 pieces max!

When you’re not working what do you like to do to relax?
Exercise – mostly everything I’ve already mentioned above plus cycling and paddle boarding in Jersey. Eating in great restaurants, movies, listening to audiobooks. I also love yoga and meditation. I have found these two disciplines a godsend and couldn’t do without them now!

What do you hope to be doing in 10 years’ time?
I hope to be pretty much doing what I’m doing now – which is whatever I want to do!!

Gordon Ramsay Will Appear As A Guest Panelist On ‘The Masked Singer’ TONIGHT

Update, April 29, 2020: Tonight is the big night, folks!! Yes, Gordon Ramsay will be joining the panel as a guest judge on The Masked Singer tonight, and thankfully, we already got a preview.

PEOPLE posted a sneak peek of Gordon’s appearance, where contestants will present Gordon and the rest of the panel with dishes that will clue them into who they are. In signature Gordon style, he already had some sassy things to say.

Like, for example, when the Turtle presents the panel with chips and apple salsa, it’s safe to say Gordon is not a fan. “Apple salsa with chips? Do you want the runs?” he asked in signature Gordon style. I guess we’ll all just have to tune in tonight to see what other culinary and musical insults Gordon has cooking.

The Masked Singer every Wednesday at 8 p.m. ET on Fox. The after-show, where Gordon will also appear, airs at 9 p.m. ET.

Original, April 15, 2020: This season of The Masked Singer has been full of surprises, but perhaps none more delightful than the revelation that chef Gordon Ramsay will be making an appearance this season. No, this isn’t a major spoiler and no he isn’t behind any of the masks (that we know of…), but Gordon will be sitting in as a guest panelist this month, according to Variety.

Yes, set your DVRs now, because Gordon will be sitting down with panelists Nicole Scherzinger, Jenny McCarthy Wahlberg, Robin Thicke, and Ken Jeong on the April 29 episode of the show.

If you’re a fan of Gordon’s others shows, you’ll know that the celebrities behind the masks should be kind of afraid right now (well, I guess they should have been afraid back then…don’t worry, this is all pre-taped). He’s quite the tough critic! So this should be very fun to watch.

That’s not all: He and the other panelists will be served foods that will give them and fans a clue as to who is behind each mask.

In case that’s not enough Gordon for ya, he’ll also be appearing on The Masked Singer‘s new after show called After the Mask, which will premiere next week. Gordon will appear in the second installment of the show, which will air directly after his Masked Singer appearance.

Again, Gordon won’t be on until later this month, but you can catch The Masked Singer every Wednesday at 8 p.m. ET on Fox. The after show airs at 9 p.m. ET.