Making of: Tribe Music Videos (1999)

Beautiful beaches, cliff tops, a dance hall, a story of romance and love, and an inspirational song - all these are elements of the two Tribe music videos that were made in New Zealand in September - October 1999 for the first Tribe album.

Members of cast and the Cloud 9 team have been interviewed - as well John Williams and Matt Prime, the songwriter-producers of the Tribe album - and there are some exclusive pictures from the videos (as well as behind the scenes) that have never been seen anywhere else!

The start

It all started in early September 1999 when John Williams and Matt Prime flew to the Cloud 9 production centre in New Zealand, where they were to stay for two months away from their homes in the UK to record the first Tribe album!

John Williams and Matt Prime are highly respected and talented songwriters and producers who have worked with some very famous and successful artists in the music industry. They both love the Tribe and had written some original songs that were inspired by the Tribe and these were the main songs to be recorded during their visit to New Zealand.

“The Tribe album is totally inspired by the Tribe,” says producer John Williams. “Every lyric was written with the Tribe lifestyle in mind, and each song attempts to endorse the Tribe philosophy. Musically we wanted it to be pop but with an emphasis on drums and percussion creating a Tribal atmosphere”.


John Williams likes that the Tribe has “no adults, which gives the characters a chance to recreate a better society that attempts not to repeat the mistakes of the past”.


To begin with, members of cast were given CDs containing “first drafts” of the songs showing how the songs and vocals went. The cast in the Tribe are not only talented actors and actresses but are singers, dancers and musicians, and listened to the CDs to learn the songs.

Filming on Tribe Series 2 started in August 1999 and cast members had a very busy schedule due to their work on Tribe Series 2. In addition, there was also schoolwork to do in between filming.

Due to the nature of the production schedule on Tribe Series 2 there were some breaks in filming and cast members would travel to the music-recording studio to record music with John Williams and Matt Prime. Says Michelle Ang (TAI-SAN) “We were told the day before and had a scheduled time put into the call sheet (this shows what filming is to be done for the next day)”. Ari Boyland (KC) says “we fit it in between working and school work”.

“In New Zealand there were three of us in the recording studio – Neil Mallender was the engineer and Matt Prime played a lot of the musical instruments. I attempted as the record producer to make sure the ship was steering in the right direction. Matt Prime and I wrote all the songs which were generally a 50/50 collaboration both lyrically and musically,” says John Williams.

On arriving in the recording studio, cast members would sit down and chat with John Williams and Matt Prime about what was to be recorded that day. “At the studio John and Matt would run through the song we planned to record” says Michelle Ang. “Then I`d go into the sound booth and we would record the song in parts”.

“I practiced the songs when I arrived there, then John explained what was going to happen and then I went into the sound booth and started to sing!” says Jaimee Kaire-Gautalu (CLOE).

“The atmosphere in the studio was quite relaxed with John and Matt,” adds Dwayne Cameron (BRAY). “We could all have a laugh and still go in and pull off a good job as the results show. You would be called whenever you had time away from shooting”.

Different members of cast would be in the studio on different days depending on their filming schedule. Sometimes Meryl Cassie (EBONY) would record in the morning and in the afternoon there might be two hours with Caleb Ross (LEX) and then a couple of hours with Sarah Major (PATSY). After recording with cast members, John and Matt would work together on recording instrumentation and trying out different elements for the songs.

“A typical day would be to arrive at the studios at 09.30 am to start recording and we finished at about 10-11 pm at night – of course, we took breaks to eat!” says John Williams.

Did you enjoy recording the album?

Antonia Prebble (TRUDY): “Yes, I really enjoyed it. John and Matt were really relaxed and made you feel very comfortable. They were also really supportive”.

Caleb Ross (LEX): “Loved it! Every moment. John and Matt were great to work with”.

Michelle Ang (TAI-SAN): “I love singing so it was good to get a chance to work with John and Matt. I did get a little bit nervous but once we got going my tummy stopped churning and I had heaps of fun”.

Ari Boyland (KC): “I didn`t feel that nervous but it was fun”.

Ashwath Sundaresan (DAL): “I felt nervous at first but John and Matt started supporting me. I really started getting excited”

Jaimee Kaire-Gataulu (CLOE): “It was loads of fun and Matt and John were both great people. You didn`t have anything to be nervous about!”

Dwayne Cameron (BRAY): “I wasn`t really nervous, I saw it more like a new challenge”.

Ella Wilks (DANNI): “I loved singing in the studio and yes, I was quite nervous at first but it did get a lot easier as it went on”.

Meryl Cassie (EBONY): “It was a great experience especially because I like to sing! The songs we recorded are very catchy and cool to sing. Getting into that recording studio was a great thrill”.

John Williams: “I had a fantastic time in New Zealand. Everyone from Cloud 9 was friendly and helpful and excited by the project. We were constantly amazed by the professionalism of the Cloud 9 team”.

From recording to record

All of the vocal tracks were recorded by cast members during John Williams and Matt Prime`s two-month stay in New Zealand. Musicians also worked on different tracks in New Zealand and the UK.

After the tracks are recorded, the next stage is to mix them all together. How loud should the vocals be? Is the guitar too quiet? Should the drums be louder? Should there be more percussion? All of these issues and more are determined in the mixing process. Each track is mixed and all the vocals and musical elements – and the balance between them – is sorted out.

“Making a record is like creating a painting. You have to keep layering with vocals and instrument effects. Each song takes on a life of its own and often some of the last musical additions arrive accidentally although most things are planned. It is an organic process until the record is completed,” says John Williams.

What are the songs about

“Abe Messiah”

One major song – that is performed by all main cast members – from the Tribe album is called “Abe Messiah” and viewers in the UK will recognise this as the end theme tune for Tribe Series 2.

“It is a celebration of life with a positive message to make the most of each new day, and how important it is to work together as a team and to believe in ourselves,” says John Williams.

Caleb Ross adds it is about “the dawning of a new way of life filled with hope, love, and harmony”.

We cannot reveal too much of what the song is about, as we don`t want to give away what happens in Tribe Series 2, but Michelle Ang says, “Abe Messiah is foreshadowing some events in the second series. It involves a baby being born”

“This is the place”

This track is performed by Caleb Ross, Dwayne Cameron and Daniel James (ZOOT).

It is “a love song, remembering past times and wondering whether one can relive old memories” says John Williams.

Caleb Ross agrees and “the song tells a story about someone losing a loved one and then realizing how much they meant to them. Its that you dont know what youve got till its gone”.

Dwayne Cameron adds, “its about a lover leaving you. Its about memories of all the good times and bad times that you shared with that person – and this is the place where it all happened”.


– The Tribe album uses all kinds of instruments from the classic rock music set up of drums, bass guitar and keyboards. “But we also had the opportunity to work with the NZ Sinfonia and we used orchestral instruments such as French horns, violins, cellos, flutes, clarinets, oboes and tympani. We also used a Samoan gospel choir, a horns section and of course – the Tribe!” says John Williams.

– Famous musicians who appear on the record include Steve White – who plays drums for Paul Weller – and Gavin Wright – who played violin with Oasis.

– The song “Abe Messiah” features 65 separate musicians and the entire cast of the Tribe.

– Meryl Cassie (EBONY) sings “The dream must stay alive” on the opening credits of Tribe Series 2.

John Williams and Matt Prime are currently in the UK and are working on mixing the tracks together in the Tribe album.

In the meantime, John Williams has the following advice for anyone who has dreams of going into the music business and one-day recording their own music – “Go for it! It is a very competitive field and if at first you don`t succeed then keep trying! It would be a good idea to enroll on a course that will give you some essential information and training, for example, sound engineering. Also you must develop your musical skills. Above all, you must be patient – success is 95% perspiration and 5% inspiration!”

Scene one

In September 1999, the cast and crew were hard at work on production of Tribe Series 2, which started principal photography in August 1999.

John Williams and Matt Prime had flown to New Zealand from the UK and were hard at work in the recording studio where they worked on the first Tribe album with cast members, in between breaks in their schedule from filming.

The album was progressing very well and the songs had a clear structure and feeling to each of them.

The Cloud 9 team had planned to film some music videos for some of the songs from the album. This would be done during filming of Tribe Series 2 as this was the right moment to do so - for example, all the cast members were together at the same time and place (as well as the Cloud 9 team) and it made sense to structure the production schedule to accommodate two music videos.


Before filming of the videos could start, planning began and issues had to be determined ranging from what songs would be chosen for videos? What videos would be filmed for these songs? How could this be fit into the production schedule of Series 2 - as well as continued activity on the Tribe album by the cast, in addition to their homework! It was a busy time!

Two songs of the many outstanding songs on the Tribe album were chosen - “Abe Messiah”, the theme tune for Tribe Series 2 sung by all the cast - and “This is the place”, a love song featuring Caleb Ross (LEX), Dwayne Cameron (BRAY), and Daniel James (ZOOT).

The music videos would need to reflect both songs. The Executive Producer of the Tribe, Raymond Thompson, worked with Department Heads at Cloud 9 (from the Art Department to Wardrobe, make-up) on the theme and “story” for each music video.

"Abe Messiah" is an inspirational song about a baby in Series 2 but “This is the place” is a love song and a story of romance - so each video needed a different theme to reflect this.

Planning focused from scheduling days of shooting in the production schedule for the two music videos, to working on costumes, hair and make-up designs, to working on sets and props, to choosing beautiful locations.


While the Cloud 9 team planned, the cast members made their own preparations for the music videos.

Both songs are different and would need their own choreography and dances to coincide with the “feel” and timing of the songs. A top choreographer, Andrea, worked alongside the cast on different moves and routines for each song.

The choreography was also shaped because each song is different - the entire cast performs “Abe Messiah” but Caleb Ross, Dwayne Cameron and Daniel James perform “This is the place”, and each video would need a different emphasis in the choreography.

Michelle Ang (TAI-SAN) is a great dancer who enjoys dancing and has a lot of experience. She was the Dance Captain for the Tribe cast members and also contributed to the choreography - and to helping other cast members learn the moves.

“We had a short time to learn all the moves - but we all helped each other” says Michelle. “The choreography was pretty easy but effective. We had a choreographer too - but she let us help invent some moves. The quote “practice makes perfect” applied in a BIG way!”

Did you enjoy the dancing?

“It was fun,” says Ashwath Sundaresan (DAL), “and our dance captain Michelle made up some very snazzy moves”.

“The choreography took a little while to get down, but the effort was well worth it in the end” - Dwayne Cameron,

“It took a while for us all to perfect the dance but the end result was worth it” - Victoria Spence (SALENE).

“It was really fun and the dancing was great!” - Ella Wilks (DANNI).

“We didn’t have much time to learn the dance, but it wasn`t too difficult!” - Caleb Ross (LEX).

“Our dance movements weren’t too hard to do” agrees Meryl Cassie (EBONY), “and eventually we got the hang of it - and it worked out really well”.


After all the preparation and rehearsals for the cast and Cloud 9 team, the shooting days arrived to film the music videos.

The cast and team traveled to some beautiful photogenic locations set against cliffs with gorgeous views of the ocean, and lovely sandy beaches.

The cast are used to filming by being in the Tribe each day, but a music video was different. There was no dialogue to say - and no lines to learn!

“Filming the videos was basically like normal filming of the series” says Michelle Ang, “but we had music played!! Being on location was nice because we were at some beautiful places”.

“It was really cool,” adds Victoria Spence. “I had never filmed a music video before so it was interesting how it was done”.

The cast danced to the music that was played through a loud speaker and followed their choreography and routines.

“The whole gig was really different - I had never done anything like it” says Dwayne Cameron.

A 45-foot tall crane was used (with the camera on top) and this led to some great footage as the camera sweeped up and down and across.

“It was so much fun but freezing” says Sarah Major (PATSY). “When we were dancing on the beach it started to rain at one point but we didn’t complain!”

“We went to some cool locations for the videos,” says Ashwath Sundaresan.


After the shooting days, the footage was sent off to post-production where it was edited together and the videos were completed.

A few days later, the cast and team got together for a special preview of the music videos and everyone was delighted with the videos - so much so that they were watched over and over again!

“The whole thing was fun,” says Jaimee Kaire-Gataulu (CLOE). “Learning the choreography, filming, singing at the studio - but the best part was watching the final result”.

“It was fun,” adds Dwayne Cameron, “and I learned different things from the experience”.

Caleb Ross agrees “the music videos were a lot of fun”.

“It was awesome” - Ashwath Sundaresan.

“The video clips were fun to make” - Ari Boyland (KC).

“That was really wicked to do!” says Meryl Cassie. “We`ve seen the end result and I thought it was cool”.

“The video of Abe Messiah shows the all round entertainment qualities of the entire cast of The Tribe,” admires John Williams, songwriter-producer with Matt Prime. “It is a colorful exhibition of the style and aspirations of the life-force that is The Tribe. In particular it illustrates the unity and harmony of the song lyric - it is a joyous celebration of life and beauty. The video also dramatically reveals the magnificent landscape of New Zealand, and is its panoramic atmosphere.”

For “This is the place”, John Williams calls the video “a wonderful marriage of visuals and music! The boyband video featuring Danny, Dwayne, and Caleb, again shows the fabulous potential of the The Tribe cast. In particular the dance routine, and individual vocal performances, again highlight the tremendous depth of the performers featured on the record. There is something for all fans of The Tribe television series”.


Cloud 9 finalized details with a major record company and the Tribe album was released in 2000. John Williams and Matt Prime were back in the UK working on the final mixes of the tracks for the album.