The Greg Page Story or “How a Chubby Nerd can make it in the Real World.”

D4 Ladies Man shoot (directed in drag)

Ok, you might not know the name but if you are any kind of fan of New Zealand music you will certainly know his work. Greg Page, or Pagey as he is known, has made 91 music videos over the last 23 years for a variety of local artists from The Datsuns through to Six60 but that’s only part of the story. When he is not putting images to music, the star of the 2011 TV Reality show ‘Bigger, Better, Faster, Stronger’ and the former voice of Vodafone (5 years) paints, plays drums (Rumpus Room, Paul Martin’s World War Four), makes television commercials, designs band posters…. oh and once even made a feature film.

Grinning from ear to ear Greg Page answers my query as to his birth date with “Osama stole my birthday” (9/11/72) another of the droll one-liners that roll of his tongue with abandon. Page is tangential, his mind leaping about from one unrelated subject to the next, making oddball connections and spinning off yarns like there is no tomorrow. I want to nail him down, but that would be a shame, so I sit back and do the best I can scribbling notes and asking questions that fly right past him.

Page is a proudly born working class boy from Palmerston North who sketched and tapped (the drumming thing) his way through Freyberg High (the same High School his more sedate parents attended) and after finishing 7th form went to work at a restaurant called the ‘Fisherman’s Table’ for a year. The owner nicknamed him the ‘Turtle Ninja’ because “he was a small and fast moving demon” who proved himself to be versatile and adaptable employee.

He remains grateful to the Chinese family who owned ‘The Table’ for teaching him how to work hard and maintain a smile even when ‘dog tired’, an art that has served him well in his subsequent career making music videos and TV adverts; juggling tight time and money budgets, ornery film crews, demanding clients and reluctant performers.

The sketching proclivity led him Auckland’s UNITEC where he studied painting for a year. His tutor Peter Fahey suggested he go to Hamilton and enrol at the new Media Arts dept at WINTEC. “It’s a young and dynamic school, one that might better suit your energy and inclinations.” It turned out to be one of those grand moments of delightful synchronicity as Hamilton’s Hark Records was getting underway and had several NZ on Air Music Video grants under its belt and no one to make them happen. Page stumbled into the label via his mates the local alt-band Inchworm who had recently won the top prize at the Waikato Rock Awards.

Their prize included time at the Hark owned Zoo Recording Studio and they bought Page in to make the video for the song they had recorded and once he was in the door that was the end of any formal education. He began churning out videos for the new label while carefully keeping a foot in the door at WINTEC so he could continue to use the equipment but the time demands meant he could not complete his course work and graduate, besides once the word got around that there was a video maker around town, Page’s fate was sealed.

During his final year at WINTEC (1994) he made 10 music videos including Knightshade’s comeback single ‘Television Eyes’, Inchworms ‘Come Out’, Throw’s ‘All Different Things’ for Christchurch Label Failsafe, and a video that remains something of a personal favourite, ‘Food’ made for Hamilton indie-band 5 Girls.

 

5 Girls: Food

 

Knightshade: Television Eyes

 

Inchworm: Come Out

 

That same year he was caught surreptitiously filming Shihad at a University of Waikato Orientation gig. Hauled up by the bands manager Gerald Dwyer, Page showed him the footage and a suitably impressed Dwyer introduced him to the band. Based on that meeting they later asked him asked him to make a video for their song ‘Yr head is a Rock,’ (1996).

 

Shihad Yr Head Is A Rock

 

The one thing that all these videos had in common (with the exception of Inchworms ‘Come Out’) was that they were all stop-start animations made using plasticine, a style that was fast becoming Page’s speciality. In 1994 he also released a short film called ‘Decaff’ based on a subversive claymation character called Decaff who was in short, Page’s alter ego.

 

Decaff

 

Page is a nice guy, eager to please and somewhat naive but underneath lurks an anarchistic social commentator and frustrated bad boy. ‘Decaff’ was attached to Kevin Smith’s hit movie ‘Clerk’s’ for its NZ run and as a result of the exposure became something of a cult sensation. This brought him to the attention of advertising giants Saatchi and Saatchi who commissioned him to make a short for ‘NZ on Air’ celebrating a centenary of NZ cinema.

 

NZ Centenary Of Cinema

http://www.nzonscreen.com/title/centenary-of-nz-cinema-greg-page-1996

 

His 1996 short ran alongside a short made by John O’Shea, the godfather of the modern NZ film industry or as Saatchi’s put it: “A hundred years of NZ cinema through the eyes of the nations oldest and youngest filmmakers.” This broke him into the world of televisual advertising and he has since made so many 100s of adverts that he has lost count. Page: “I don’t make the big ads, I make the ones that run either side of them, the bread and butter ads. I am a workman like ad- maker, a tradesman builder. The camera is my hammer and I will build anything that is required.”

The next few years are all go and include a two year paid stint as Breakfast host on Hamilton’s UFM (1998-99), the commercial station that picked up the frequency vacated by the University of Waikato student radio station Contact after it was shut down. For both years his breakfast show rated third in the city and he is credited along with his co-host Dean Ballinger (Mobile Stud Unit) for creating the phrase ‘The Tron’. On a quest to find another slogan for the city other than the much mocked ‘Hamilton, Where It’s Happening’ a listener phoned in with the phrase ‘Hamiltron, City Of The Future’ which Page and Ballinger shortened down to ‘The Tron’. The rest is history.

In 1995 Pagey a self-taught drummer (“I learned by watching Inchworm drummer Rob Talsma do his thing”) joined his first band, Hamilton alt-rockers Rumpus Room. Otherwise made up of the three Newth Brothers Andrew, Scott and Kent (whose previous projects included pioneering Hamilton electronica act Love and Violence) Rumpus Room is still going today and Page though domiciled in Henderson (“Bigger Hamilton”) still makes regular runs down to The Tron for gigs and band practices but perhaps his most famous musical outing was with Paul Martin’s metal outfit World War Four.

At the 2005 edition of metal guru Paul Martin’s famed annual Gemini Party, (a big event on The Tron’s social calendar where Gemini’s and their friends get to together to party and listen to metal on June 1st), Page took a deep breath and approached Martin and asked if he could try out for the vacant drummer stool in Martin’s World War Four. The pair hit it off and he spent 6 years (2005-11) on the World War Four team and remembers opening for Black Sabbath with Dio at the G-Taranaki Festival as the absolute highlight. “I learnt a lot form being in World War Four. The experience (especially playing for Motorcycle gangs) made me less naïve about how the world worked.”

There were other bands including a regular spot as fill-in drummer for legendary Hamilton satirical Punk band MSU (Mobile Stud Unit), Malestrum, a fake Norwegian metal band that was rolled out for various events including the annual Hamilton Fringe Festival and some time with Auckland Prog. Rockers Ishtar.

 

Rumpus Room: JBS

 

Rumpus Room at the Porch recording Studio (Greg Page on Drums)

 

It was while driving back to Henderson after a Hamilton gig in 2000 that Page saw 3 kids standing on the side of the road at Gordonton on the cities Northern edge. “They sort of appeared out of the fog and just stood there staring and it scared the shit out of me.” 3 years later he had turned the moment into a film script. Making a feature film had long been on the ‘to do’ list and he had vowed that if he had not made one by the age of 30 he would give it all up and go truck driving. Three weeks before his 30th the film commission gave him $2 million and work on the first (and so far only) NZ feature film to be shot entirely in the Waikato was underway. “It busted my cherry and made me into a man,” says Page of the experience.

It was also an opportunity to showcase the Hamilton music that he loved so much (Inspector Moog, The Datsuns, MSU). “I had made music videos for eight of the eleven artists featured on the soundtrack. The other three bands are all my friends from Hamilton on whom some of the film’s characters are very loosely based.” ‘The Locals’ was made using proper old school film trickery (no computer generated effects) and stunts were often done “not strictly by the book” (e.g. sometimes safety harnesses got in the way of a decent car stunt and were dispensed with). It was a Kiwi DIY experience that Page remembers as “being scary as hell what with all that money to look after and 40 people on the crew who depended on you to make the right decisions.”

The film didn’t exactly set the box-office alight but it did get an international distribution deal and through regular TV screenings (in the US) and appearances at festivals ‘The Locals’ has long maintained a solid cult audience, both for the story and the music. Months before the release of ‘The Locals’ Page went to see a film that had been setting the international box-office alight. Called ‘The Sixth Sense’ he slumped at the big reveal in the closing scene. “I thought I had created something special with the ending in ‘The Locals’ and there it was, the exact same thing in this other movie. I had been beaten to it.”

 

The Locals trailer

 

During a stint as Guest tutor at WINTEC 2010 he told the students “I broke all the rules and I urge you to do the same. Use the gear, (you have paid for it) and just get out there and do shit,” which pretty much sums up the Greg Page method. His advise on how to get a good performance from a band on a video shoot? “Taking a band out of their comfort zone gets the best out of them (in other words torturing them heh, heh).”

Some of his more memorable shoots include ‘Dominoe’ for Fur Patrol; “ I made them stand in a swimming pool full of water for hours. It was slow torture but produced a great performance,” much like the shoot for Betchadupa’s ‘Sleepy News’. “I made them stand in fake rain for several hours. It was bloody hard for them but they delivered. I could not get LMNOP happening for the ‘Verona’ shoot so ended up sticking them in an industrial ice-cream freezer wearing t-shirts. It was minus 28% C and it proved very motivational.

The D4 wanted to emulate the New York Dolls for their song ‘Ladies Man’ but felt uncomfortable dressing in NY Doll’s style drag so I dressed up in drag as well to relax them”. Another D4 shoot, this time for ‘Exit To The City’ proved especially memorable and “filled with magic I have not been able to emulate since.

The band were positioned in the back of a van and I instructed the driver to take the corners ‘as hard as she could’, and I told the band – ‘this might be rough’. It was rough. If you look closely you might see Vaughn (bass) fall over and smash his guitar stock into Dion’s (guitar/vocals) head.”

 

The D4: Exit To The City

 

Page: My most recent clip (2015) was for SJD’s ‘I Wanna be Foolish” and it is no better or worse than my first clips and making it reminded me why I love making music videos. My motivation? I make music videos to flex my creative muscle and be free and silly.

I have tried all kinds of things over the years with music videos but I keep returning to my first love, animation. It’s a grind but it lubricates my problem solving instinct and keeps me fresh and original. I always step sideways and inside out when faced with an animation problem.”

When he isn’t on set Pagey can be found hard at work in his home studio painting (he maintains a prodigious output) and designing posters for bands. “There have been hundreds, all made by ‘old school’ methods, i.e. no photoshopping,” and if an artist/band has only a small budget for a video, Page will often do it on his own in his shed using whatever he has at hand including his smart phone. His next goal is to reach the 100 music videos milestone and fingers crossed, another feature film.

I ask to name his favourite music videos?

“The two P-Money clips ‘Falling Down’ and ‘Angels’ because we shared a similar work ethic and visual aesthetic and we worked well together despite the music not being my usual thing. I was at a peak when I made those. They have lots of ideas and they seem less forced than some other work I have done.”

 

P Money: Falling Down ft Milan Borich

 

P Money: Angels

 

Page has made several videos for The Datsuns including their first, 2002’s ‘Super Gyration’ (shot in an Onehunga Panel Beaters shop) but he ranks the video for their 2006 song ‘Waiting For Your Time To Come’ as one of his most special. “The Datsuns let me to do whatever I wanted for this project and the result is Greg Page through and through.

It was painted frame by frame and I just got lost in it (and I absorbed so much paint in the process that it kept me awake for 6 straight days heh heh). It was one of those magic clips that just made itself. I was low and not busy when I did that one and it reawakened my love of what i do.”

 

The Datsuns: Waiting For Your Time To Come

 

“I chose SJD’s ‘I Wanna Be Foolish’ because it was the made using the same free form process as The Datsuns ‘Waiting For Your Time To Come’. It’s a method I really enjoy and I appreciated SJD’s trust throughout the project.”

 

SJD: I Wanna Be Foolish

 

Greg Page Quotes:
“Inspiration comes to me when I stop trying to be like others and also when I’m in the shower.”

“Cooking is exactly the same as Directing a shoot, it’s all about pressure.”

“Being a Director means I get to do interesting stuff. It’s bloody hard at times but probably better than having a proper job.”

“The older I get the more I am becoming ‘Decaff’ my first animated character.”
“With age I’ve realised its ok to be good at your career and not be famous and rich.”

“Sometimes I want to quit directing but then I remember that I am not made for the normal world.”

 

The Making of The Datsuns Bad Taste

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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