New Zealand Music Month

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    NZMM: Favourite Wellington Music Moment – Flo Wilson

    23.05.18 | Permalink | Comment? | By

    For NZ Music Month the last couple of years, we asked bands/artists for a favourite memory of making music in Wellington.

    It could involve a favourite gig, a funny story from the recording studio, a moment that led to the inspiration for a song, the fond recollection of a defunct venue, or the piece of music or lyric that they were most proud of creating.

    We really enjoyed the stories people told us, so we are doing it again this year.

    Next up is Flo Wilson.

    One of my favourite memories of Wellington music was now destroyed Munki Studios; it was a concrete building off Taranaki St run by Mike Gibson that was formerly run by the NZ Secret Service. My favourite part of that space was walking into the drum room which was once the vault! You felt like you were performing in history. Mike was also one of the only male studio engineers I’d come across in my early years as a musician who also pointed out blatant sexism/ gendering of studio equipment. Awesome guy!


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    NZMM: Favourite Wellington Music Moment – Ghost Who Walks

    21.05.18 | Permalink | Comment? | By

    For NZ Music Month the last couple of years, we asked bands/artists for a favourite memory of making music in Wellington.

    It could involve a favourite gig, a funny story from the recording studio, a moment that led to the inspiration for a song, the fond recollection of a defunct venue, or the piece of music or lyric that they were most proud of creating.

    We really enjoyed the stories people told us, so we are doing it again this year.

    Next up is Ghost Who Walks.

    I remember headlining a gig at Bad Grannies with Free the Cats and the Dead Zephyrs in January of last year with Josh Brown on drums, Kirill Podzorov on keys, and Joeseph Bulbilia on bass. The place was pumping, had a great atmosphere you know, when I happened to notice none other than Neil Billington had popped in to join us for a tune or two. So we invited him up on stage and preceeded to have to this day one of the best jam sessions I’ve been involved in. The place went nuts. It was a great honour to share the stage with a top player like Neil. A great memory.


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    NZMM: Favourite Wellington Music Moment – Charlotte Yates

    17.05.18 | Permalink | Comment? | By

    For NZ Music Month the last couple of years, we asked bands/artists for a favourite memory of making music in Wellington.

    It could involve a favourite gig, a funny story from the recording studio, a moment that led to the inspiration for a song, the fond recollection of a defunct venue, or the piece of music or lyric that they were most proud of creating.

    We really enjoyed the stories people told us, so we are doing it again this year.

    Next up is Charlotte Yates.

    I’m playing a show at the Third Eye in Arthur St on the 19th. Now a brewery ( downstairs) /venue ( upstairs) but way back, it was the studio and rehearsal space for Wellington alt-jazzsters the Six Volts, three of whom who ultimately morphed into the film composing phenomenon Plan 9. Downstairs was a picture framing business, Exhibit A owned by the tolerant and music loving Dave Strauss. There was one green telephone in the building ( downstairs). The Volts’ rehearsal space was used by many local musos and dustily full of eclectic instruments and band gear. The wooden stairs was grooved by eons of feet clambering up. When the phone rang for anyone but the picture framer, he would gamely trudge up the stairs, open the rehearsal room door and wordlessly thrust a large cardboard sign with the relevant musician’s name on it to take the call. How it all worked relatively painlessly for so long its hard to fathom, but pre cell phones and digital workstations, downloads and instagram, it was a convivial place to learn the trade of ‘band’.


  • General

    NZMM: Favourite Wellington Music Moment – Transistor

    14.05.18 | Permalink | Comment? | By

    For NZ Music Month the last couple of years, we asked bands/artists for a favourite memory of making music in Wellington.

    It could involve a favourite gig, a funny story from the recording studio, a moment that led to the inspiration for a song, the fond recollection of a defunct venue, or the piece of music or lyric that they were most proud of creating.

    We really enjoyed the stories people told us, so we are doing it again this year.

    Next up is Lochie from Transistor.

    One great memory that always sticks with me is when we had the massive honour of supporting Black Mountain (Canadian psych band), alongside Dave Weir, at the amazing Bodega Bar back in 2016. It was one of our first gigs funnily enough, and we were completely terrified by it all at that point. To us, Black Mountain are this legendary band that you watch on KEXP and listen to on record, and to see them setting up for soundcheck and all that was completely surreal. That night taught us a bunch of great lessons, one being that you don’t have to be stuck up and act overly important to be a successful artist (if that makes any sense). They were all insanely welcoming and kind to us, when they didn’t have to be at all, and they played the best set ever to a packed out amazing venue. It was a massive eye opener to see how relaxed and professional everyone was that night.


  • General

    NZMM: Favourite Wellington Music Moment – April Fish

    09.05.18 | Permalink | Comment? | By

    For NZ Music Month the last couple of years, we asked bands/artists for a favourite memory of making music in Wellington.

    It could involve a favourite gig, a funny story from the recording studio, a moment that led to the inspiration for a song, the fond recollection of a defunct venue, or the piece of music or lyric that they were most proud of creating.

    We really enjoyed the stories people told us, so we are doing it again this year.

    Up next is Katie from April Fish.

    Our first “gig” was at Wellington’s 2010 Musicircus, where over 100 performers gathered to play at the same time. It was a total wall of sound but we pretended to play actual songs while people walked past pretending they could hear us. They asked for our band name – I vetoed John’s suggestions which all sounded like Transformers and suggested April Fish instead. It stuck.


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    NZMM: Favourite Wellington Music Moment – Yayné

    08.05.18 | Permalink | Comment? | By

    For NZ Music Month the last couple of years, we asked bands/artists for a favourite memory of making music in Wellington.

    It could involve a favourite gig, a funny story from the recording studio, a moment that led to the inspiration for a song, the fond recollection of a defunct venue, or the piece of music or lyric that they were most proud of creating.

    We really enjoyed the stories people told us, so we are doing it again this year.

    Up next is Neo-Soul singer Yayné.

    “One of my favourite memories would be playing at The Performance Arcade with my keys player Leo Coghini, right along the waterfront on a beautiful sunny Sunday afternoon. The vibe was just right and everyone there was really tuned in, there was a really cool energy exchange between me and the audience.”


  • General

    NZMM: Favourite Wellington Music Moment – Daniel McClelland

    04.05.18 | Permalink | Comment? | By

    For NZ Music Month the last couple of years, we asked bands/artists for a favourite memory of making music in Wellington.

    It could involve a favourite gig, a funny story from the recording studio, a moment that led to the inspiration for a song, the fond recollection of a defunct venue, or the piece of music or lyric that they were most proud of creating.

    We really enjoyed the stories people told us, so we are doing it again this year.

    Next up is Daniel McClelland.

    May 5th, 2012 – Bodega. Tommy Ill was launching his excellent album New Hat And A Haircut, with support acts from Bang Bang Eche and Golden Axe. The elephant in the room was that Adam Yauch (AKA MCA) had just died on May 4th. All rappers owe a debt to the Beastie Boys, but none more so than white-rappers like Mr Ill. He’d got into rapping as a result of License To Ill. Rather than making platitudes though, Ill launched into a cover of (if I remember correctly?) Sabotage. The room erupted. It was like a spark hit a powder keg and just exploded. Tears, laughter, rage, grief, and joy were shared as everyone belted out the words with full-force. Normally a cover like that would flop, but on that night, at that time, the loss of MCA was so devastating that we all needed something to rally around. Tommy Ill provided that, and it was one of the most electric experiences I’ve ever had. I wager everyone in the room at the time remembers it too.


  • General

    NZMM: Favourite Wellington Music Moment – Mermaidens

    03.05.18 | Permalink | Comment? | By

    For NZ Music Month the last couple of years, we asked bands/artists for a favourite memory of making music in Wellington.

    It could involve a favourite gig, a funny story from the recording studio, a moment that led to the inspiration for a song, the fond recollection of a defunct venue, or the piece of music or lyric that they were most proud of creating.

    We really enjoyed the stories people told us, so we are doing it again this year.

    Up first for Music Month 2018 is Gussie from Mermaidens.

    It was 2014, the final Camp a Low Hum in Wainuiomata. Mermaidens were a very fresh band so when we were asked to play we thought we’d made it. While we were setting up to soundcheck the sky was growing increasingly grey and ominous. The stage started to flood and our pedals and guitars started to swim. The stage manager called it quits and we were sent back to the gear tent, absolutely gutted that we didn’t get to play The Most Important Show Of Our Lives. But hold on, our dreams were then rekindled by a raincoat clad dude…”Come back! You’re playing in the noisy room!” We rejoiced, set up our wet gear and somehow managed to stumble through the set without getting electrocuted!


  • General

    NZMM: Favourite Wellington Music Moment – Hex

    31.05.17 | Permalink | Comment? | By

    Last year for NZ Music Month 2016, we asked bands/artists for a favourite memory of making music in Wellington.

    It could involve a favourite gig, a funny story from the recording studio, a moment that led to the inspiration for a song, the fond recollection of a defunct venue, or the piece of music or lyric that they were most proud of creating.

    We really enjoyed the stories people told us, so we are doing it again this year. The last of these for this year is Liz from Hex.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    When Hex first started playing music together, we used to catch a bus to island Bay and walk round the south coast to get to our practice space at the nautilus. We wrote our first song prayer for the ocean crashing on the rocks and the power of nature.


  • General

    NZMM: Interview – Damien Wilkins on Music

    31.05.17 | Permalink | Comment? | By

    Damien Wilkins is familiar to Wellington music fans with his band The Close Readers. But before his return to music, his career as an award winning novelist and Director of the International Institute of Modern Letters, he was in another band, The Jonahs, and also grew up amongst the fertile and legendary Wellington punk scene of the early 1980s. He was kind enough take the time to answer some questions about that time in his life, and that period in Wellington’s music history.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Music was an early passion of yours I believe, and you began going to punk gigs when you were 17 or 18? Can you set the scene for us a bit as to what the Wellington Music scene was like in the 80s?
    If you can bear it, I might start a little earlier . . . I shared a bedroom with my older brother and we had a little mono record player. At night we’d put on a record to go to sleep to. He was into Led Zeppelin, Santana, Little Feat. He always bought the NME and suddenly they were covering this thing called punk. One day he came home with 77, the first Talking Heads record. I was shocked at how it looked – a block of pinky red and the name in green. Where was the picture of the waiscoated long-haired band lounging on leather sofas in their castle? I would have been 14 or 15. That was a key record for me and it still jumps out of the speakers. Going to sleep listening to David Byrne singing about stock brokers making bad investments and buildings on fire. Quickly we were listening to the first Clash record, first Ramones, first Wire. The Santana albums were put to the back of the cupboard – vanquished! Then my brother left home and I was on my own. Given the options, it was some kind of miracle that I saw Talking Heads play at the Wellington Town Hall in 1979. I’ve looked up the set-list – they were playing a lot of stuff from Fear of Music. So strange, so life-affirming!

    1980 was my last year at Hutt Valley High and a group of us were regulars at the punk venues in town. Dave Maclennan has a good piece on these places here. We weren’t ever part of the scene – none of us played in gigging bands at that time or lived in the city. But the time was vastly influential on my character or on my relationship to the world. Hearing The Gordons or Shoes This High in some dark scuzzy place such as Billy the Club seemed like being let in on a terrible secret about How Things Really Were. (The Springbok Tour the following year was all of a piece – NZ was broken and we were righteous in our fury.) We also fiercely believed that these bands were the equal of anything we read about in the NME.

    There was a nasty side of course – boot boys with all their Nazi rubbish. And, as I wrote earlier on this site, there was that depressing punk/disco division which ran along race lines. The other place to name-check is Silvio’s second-hand record store on Cuba Street. As I remember it, the staff were members of the Famularo family – mainly middle-aged women who were very kind and rather puzzled by their clinetele’s purchases: the Slits, X-Ray Spex, Penetration, the Raincoats. They also had dreadful security measures and a good deal of the stock walked out the door.

     

    Who were some of the big names around in that period? Where did you go to see ‘punk’ acts at that time – which would have been pretty marginalised I imagine?
    Two out-of-town visits which sort of rearranged the furniture were Toy Love at the Rock Theatre 1980 and The Clean two years later. I don’t think we were used to a show, or actual songs, so Chris Knox in his cut-off shirt and with his actual good voice were a real shock. Footage here. The Clean are my favourite NZ band. My friend and I saw them in Wellington and then immediately decided to follow them up to Auckland, driving his aunt’s Morris 1000 up State Highway 1. The car had no wipers and no handbrake. Good times! This clip is from the same tour.

    How did a love of music turn into a desire to be in a band of your own? Was that something that was always in the back of your mind?
    I had no musical training so obviously that was a help! I bought my first amp from Braeburn’s in Cuba Street. I was still living at home in Lower Hutt and I remember carrying it through the streets to the railway station and then another 15-minute walk home. It almost killed me but I also thought, Look at this—I have an amp! My first band experience was singing with friends’ groups in living-rooms.

    How did The Jonahs begin? Did you have a regular gig somewhere? A newspaper piece says they originated from a group called ‘The Vegas Kings’ in 1985? In the newspaper piece drummer Philip Hartshorn recalls seeing an ad for a drummer on the Victoria university Library wall.
    I’d forgotten that name! We started in the garage of the Guillosson family in Wainuiomata – Grant Guillosson was learning bass and our drummer was Victor Foon, who worked on Grant’s father’s milk truck. Laurence Tyler, who was musically literate, was the guitarist. We jammed covers and then started writing our own stuff. I would usually come up with some kind of riff and then Laurence would tell me what chords I was playing, tutor Grant, and away we went! Victor was an extremely good drummer – very precise and sympathetic. There were no reguar gigs as such but we played at the Cricketers Arms, Clyde Quay Tavern.

     

     

     

     

     

     

    [Transcript]
    Jonahs not drowning but waiting on new EP / Bruce Stirling
    THE JONAHS are a Wellington band which makes fine music. Five well-crafted songs are skilfully delivered on this their debut EP. Previously they appeared on the local compilation, When the Wind Blows. Then they were described as having a “certain sprawling charm.”
    They’ve tightened up and Bills of Happiness is a polished and confident record. The Go-Betweens are one reference point for The Jonahs’ music but they have a distinctly New Zealand flavour, lyrically and musically. The guitars are more up-front with a strong rhythmic acoustic also used. Even a slide guitar comes in to highlight the title track. It is a fast-paced bass-driven song which comes closer to their live sound than the other tracks.
    The rest of the record ranges from the slow lament, Doctoring, to the hook-laden Short Letter Long Farewell that jumps along irresistibly. Somewhere in between is So Leisurely which moves as gently and easily as the title suggests.
    The vocals are sometimes a bit tentative and a stronger voice would help a couple of tracks. Even so what the singing occasionally lacks the lyrics more than accommodate. Some are wry observations of foibles such as the lion’s rock ‘n’ roll revival clubs. Others are personal perceptions of life and love that go beyond cliché without getting too cryptic.
    It’s an intriguing and likeable debut from a talented band. The Jonahs perform live at the Cricketers at the end of the month which leaves you three weeks of good listening if you buy Bills of Happiness now.

     

    You apparently has some recorded some four-track demos, one of which was included on the Skank Records compilation of Wellington artists ‘When the wind blows’ ? Do you recall how that came about?
    No I don’t. The Jonahs were a tiny blip, beyond the recall of most people around at that time. It’s also completely right that we’ve disappeared. We didn’t make an impact, we didn’t get signed, we didn’t change lives, except maybe our own. We gigged around Wellington for about a year, and then I left for London, and the band carried on for another year and then broke up. Our story was and is the story of any number of bands. Part-timers, fans.
    We did, however, have a manager. And we did make a record. The EP ‘Bills of Happiness’ came out in 1987. It was engineered by Nick Roughan, who has gone on to a full career, producing for David Kilgour, Dimmer, Die Die Die etc. (We played gigs with Nick’s band The Skeptics.) And the EP was mixed by Brent McLaughlin, drummer for the Gordons, Bailter Space etc. We got a small recording grant ($500, I think) from the QEII Arts Council. So we did actually have, I don’t know, credentials. And Colin Hogg gave the record 4-stars in the Herald and said we had a promising career ahead of us. Ha! I see the record is selling for $150 online. I’m not selling mine yet.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    There seemed a strong DIY ethos that permeated the local music scene in the early – late 80s. Was it easy to get recording time in a studio back then, or release singles or EPS?
    There was a route but it still cost a bit of money. It was outward – you had to go to a studio. Things are so inward now – bedroom studios, internet releases. But it was still very cottage industry – hand-delivering things, friends taking photos and so on.

    A newspaper piece on your debut EP cites The Go Betweens as an influence. Were there any other bands particularly influential on you at the time? Anyone from the local scene that you looked up to?
    I think REM was in there too. Not just the jangle but the suggestive vagueness of Stipe’s writing and singing. I don’t think I wrote very good lyrics. They were extremely literary. ‘Short Letter Long Farewell’, which is the first song on the EP, is named for the Peter Handke novel. No one knew what the hell I was going on about and no one asked or ventured an opinion. After I left the band, there was an interview in a local paper in which Laurence said he thought my lyrics weren’t very direct. I totally agreed with him – indeed it was one of the best things anyone has ever said to me about my work (well, said to me sort of behind my back, in the fucking press). Anyway, there’s a breakthrough song on the EP—for me at least—called ‘Doctoring’ which I still don’t mind. It has my best vocal performance, some of the band’s loveliest playing, and an urgency of feeling which took us by surprise, I think. We played it live once only, as I remember, and that was at the biggest gig of our careers. In January 87 we supported the Chills at Victoria University. 600 people.

     

    You left the band to go overseas, I think, shortly after the EP came out, is that correct? Your career took a direction away from music after that, as everyone is familiar with, but after 25 years you decided to start another band. Do you want to talk a little bit about how that came about, and what drew you back into music?
    One day I opened up Garageband on my Mac, pressed some things and you had a drum track. Cute. Then I had a electronic keyboard for the kids to learn piano on and I hooked up that via a midi cable. Again, cute. But zero ambition to do more. I started doing ‘songs’ on the keyboard – wordless things but melodic. Later I found an old mic and saw that I could record stuff via Garageband, not just play with their samples. In the attic I fished out my old acoustic guitar, unplayed for years, and started adding treated guitar to the songs. Still no singing. Finally, I thought, what the heck, try singing some words. Quickly I started investing in other gear – guitars, amps, real mics etc. A while later, with lots of songs written, David Long put me in touch with the wonderful Craig Terris, who has drummed on all the Close Readers stuff. Craig was my route finally to the Phoenix Foundation guys – Luke Buda and Tom Callwood – who play on the last record and make everything a whole lot more legit.

    What interested me from the lyrics side of things is that I seemed to have a lot of things to write about. My breakthrough song (personal breakthrough, nothing else!) was ‘Iris DeMent’ – a song about sleep-deprived parents.

    Another song which made me think I wasn’t just dicking around was ‘December’, which is about a friend, Ian Hancock, who took his own life when we were in our early twenties. I felt a new kind of freedom because I was looking back. I won’t say ‘wisdom’ but at least a way into experiences that had always seemed too mysterious to approach.

    Ian wasn’t bipolar but in retrospect I think he was depressed. He was also an extremely chirpy, irrepressible character, with a great and eccentric record collection: Motorhead, the Clash, Madonna, Adam Ant, Husker Du, PiL, the Fall, W.A.S.P., Human League, Iron Maiden. He’d spent a year in the UK when punk was first happening and he had a fondness for bands like Crass and the UK Subs. Ian always looked great, didn’t care what people thought of him. Those hostile to difference – and there were plenty in Lower Hutt – sought out Ian for punishment. With his slight build, his dyed hair, the occasional pair of tartan trousers, English brothel creeper shoes, he was a ready target. He had good stories of being chased and beaten. He was brave and reckless. Next he bought a motorbike and took up motorcross. Surprisingly, he was a good mechanic, and a natural, fearless rider.

    We’d been to school together, though he was a year younger. I used to go around to Ian’s house a lot and we’d make music. This was before the Jonahs. Ian played bass a la Genesis P Orridge from Throbbing Gristle, and I’d scratch on a guitar and intone words. We also made our own tape loops by sellotaping cassette tape together. Ian owned a Korg Synth which had a small keyboard and patches, and he also had a Dr Rhythm drum machine. At one point we called ourselves The Emperor’s New Clothes and we made a stencil, spray-painting our name on the platform at the Woburn railway station. I’m really annoyed he’s not around.

    What’s next for The Close Readers? Are you working on any new music?
    I have an album’s worth of demos and I’m hoping to record them some time this year. I continue to chip away at Lower Hutt. There’s a song called ‘Trees of Lower Hutt’ which I think is pretty good.
    With the third record, The Lines Are Open, I had enough chutzpah to send it to Robert Christgau, the great rock critic, whose columns I’d read for a while. He gave me an A- and the record snuck on to his famous Dean’s List at #83 for 2015. More or less overnight, on the basis of that, the CD sold out. There are quite a few people who buy every Christgau A- record. I should probably retire again.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    All images courtesy of Damien Wilkins except ‘Shoes this High’ poster from Onechordisenough Blog & ‘Silvios’ record store advertisement from ‘Rip It Up’ No. 8 – Feb. 1978 (Thanks to Chris Bourke for sourcing this issue for us).
    ‘Jonahs not drowning but waiting on new EP’ article courtesy of Fairfax Media. Used with permission.


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