Archive for the ‘Interview’ Category

This is Zed Brookes (Hamilton Music Legend)

June 15, 2016

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Zed Brookes behind the counter at Tandy’s Te Awamutu sometime in the early 1980’s

Between 1985-95, Zed Brookes was an essential part of the greater Waikato music scene. During his ten years behind the desk, first at Tandy’s then The Zoo Recording studios, he recorded hundreds of demos, EPs, albums and singles in a variety of musical styles from alt-rock to metal, country, pop, experimental, folk ……..well you name it and he did it always with a smile, a quick and wit and unflappable efficiency. Zed, a calm perfectionist, was the master at getting it done right and sounding good, but that is only part of the story. Outside of the studio, Zed has led a number of successful bands including Step Chant Unit and Schrödinger’s Cat and sat in on several others including MOoFish and Silken Blue. Zed Brookes is no household name, not by a long chalk, but his influence on a generation of Waikato music makers, as a mentor/educator, engineer and musician is one that is long overdue for acknowledgement.

Mark Brooks was born July 1960 in Lanark Scotland. He was 5 years old when the family emigrated to NZ, settling first on Auckland’s North Shore before moving to Mt Roskill and then back to Scotland. “I was 7 years old when we returned to Scotland and by then I had lost my Scottish brogue. The kids at school mocked my Kiwi accent mercilessly, calling me Frenchie while throwing stones at me.” Fortunately for the oddly accented Mark, this Scottish sojourn was temporary and a year later the family were back in Mt Roskill.

Zed recalls always being into music and remembers with particular fondness sitting in front of the families radiogram aged around 7, exploring his fathers “curious” record collection which included a number of Hank Williams records and classics like Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake, a juxtaposition of sounds which informed the proto-musician in ways that would emerge many years later.

By the time his teenage years rolled around, his tastes, in part due to the influence of his father’s record collection were by comparison with his peers at Green Bay High somewhat unusual and included Eno, (here he cites Eno and David Byrne’s My Life in the Bush of Ghosts as especially influential), The B-52s Devo, Lee Hazelwood and Nancy Sinatra. “I was a teenage music radical,” laughs Zed, “always on the lookout for something out of the box.”

It was Devo who steered Zed toward his first instrument, the bass guitar. The bass guitar is not often the first port of call for a young ‘wannabe’ musician, but Brookes was drawn to both its sound, “I liked the low frequencies,” and in the case of Devo, “it’s looks”. Devo’s bassist Gerald Casale played a custom made bass of unusual design, one that the teenage Brookes found rather fascinating, enough so that he decided to make a replica. At this stage he had an after school job assembling bunk beds in a joinery factory. Using the factories equipment and an old second bass he has as a template, he cut a guitar shape similar to Casale’s then designed and built a preamp and using the pickups from the old bass, assembled his first instrument.

Brookes is a natural when it comes to technical matters, perhaps a proclivity inherited from his father who was a marine engineer, and thought the sciences were going to be the place where he could apply his skills and make a living, so after leaving school in 1978 he took up a trainee position as Lab technician with Scion, a Crown Research Institute based in Rotorua. Scion specialized in forestry research but aside from a project that turned wood pulp into alcohol he found the work boring.

Of more interest was the bass guitar and his downtime was spent practicing in his room at the forestry workers hostel he called home, fielding complaints about “the bloody racket”. His first band was a 3-piece proto-synth band called ‘Zena and the Diodes’, a name he choose because it echoed his burgeoning interest in electronics. Zena, a kind of diode, was also the source of the nickname by which he has forever since been know. “I had three friends called Mark and it was kind of confusing and people started calling me Big Z, after the Z in the bands title, and after a while that became plain Z.”

 

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Brookes at work in his Home based 8-Track Cassette Recording Studio somewhere in early 1980’s.

Zena and the Diodes started off as a covers band whose music was all about “what we could play rather than what we wanted to play and whatever it was that could get us through a gig, usually a mix of blues (which appealed to the local pub audience and some Devo for ourselves).” As the band became more adept it evolved into more of an alt-band and as the line-up stabilized, focused more and more on original material.

In 1981, the band, feeling somewhat frustrated by the small Rotorua scene, relocated to the bright lights of Hamilton City in search of opportunity, the move also bringing an end to any notions Zed has about being a scientist. The band at this time is described by Zed as a proto-synth band with an ever-evolving catalogue of technology that did not include a guitar. “It’s not that we didn’t want a guitar, it’s just that we had failed to find someone who was the right fit.” The lack of a guitarist becoming something of a marketing hook and being as they were at the forefront of a new fashion for synth orientated bands they managed to draw reasonable crowds of the curious every time every time they played the Hilly (Hillcrest Tavern).

With his attention turning ever more to matters musical Zed cashed in his life insurance and purchased a Tascam Porta-Studio 242 (a 4-track cassette recording system) and taught him self the basics of recording while demoing the bands songs. Itching for some extra sound colour, Zed made the switch to guitar when they discovered a compatible bassist in Dean Carter. With a guitar in the lineup and with a new drummer (Neville Sergent) the band decided that along with a change in sound, a new name was in order.

Names were put into a hat and the result was Step Chant Unit. The bands first release, the 1983 cassette EP ‘I.C Dreams’, was recorded on the Tascam but the song that was to make their name was recorded at Mandrill in Auckland for the princely sum of $2500. Zed: “Painting Pictures was an expensive song to record and the time spent making and paying for it basically equaled the lifespan of the band.”

 

The song was picked up by Wellington label Jayrem and was released in 1985. Painting Pictures peaked at 26 on the national singles charts and suddenly the band found them selves in demand. They were flown down to TVNZ’s Avalon studios in Wellington to film a clip for Radio with Pictures and with the national exposure were able to tour the North Island to reasonably sized audiences and score support slots with some of the bigger touring acts bands like Peking Man. Step Chant Unit ceased operating in 1985 when Zed went to work full time as a studio engineer at Tandy’s recording Studio.

 

 

Through the 1980s and 90s you could find a Tandy’s Record Store on the main street of just about every town throughout the Waikato, Bay of Plenty and King Country and it was via drummer Neville Sergent who worked behind the counter at a branch of Tandy’s that Zed met the chains owner Neil Nooyen, a meeting which opened the door to the next phase of his professional career. At this stage Zed was working at a glass factory in Hamilton, (he notes here with some irony that his specialty was cutting soundproof glass, a product he would soon be buying) and had just recently sliced the tips of four fingers on one hand and almost lost a finger. He remember playing four nights in row at the Hillcrest Tavern in considerable pain and leapt at the opportunity to move to a less dangerous job and one more in tune with his inclinations.

Nooyen owned a small lifestyle block on Morrinsville Road at the cities southeastern edge and finding themselves at ease in each other company hatched a plan to convert the hay barn into a recording studio. Zed was tasked with the design and fit out and in 1985 the studio opened for business. Zed: “We started out with my Tascam Portastudio and recorded bands and artists live to cassette until we met Rex Wade who had was running a 4-Track Reel to Reel recorder in a small studio near Pirongia.” Rex joined the team and the studio upgraded with the 4-track being replaced by a 16 track when Rex left. While working at Tandy’s, Zed met former Three Men Missing keyboardist Sue Brown. They married, produced 2 sons and an EP under the name Silken Blue. They eventually parted ways.

In 1993 Zed met Grant Hislop who had recently moved to Hamilton to start two radio stations, (The Rock and The Buzzard re: The Edge). With the radio projects providing a steady cash flow, Grant’s next plan was to finance a record label (Hark, specializing in regional NZ music) and recording studio whose primary focus would be to record music for the label. Local rockers Blackjack approached Hislop and asked him to playlist a track off their album ‘Deal’ which had been recorded and produced by Brookes at Tandy’s in 1992.

Hislop was impressed with the quality of the recording and approached Zed with an offer. With a huge budget at his disposal, Zed was invited to design, build and fit out a state of the art recording facility. He accepted and a few months later The Zoo opened for business on the main street of Hamilton, a 24/7 commercial production facility that served The Rock and The Edge, feed Hark Records and made a little money on the side as the regions first school of audio engineering.

 

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Zed Brookes begins work on the Zoo recording Studio, North End Victoria Street Hamilton 1993.

When The Zoo went into liquidation in 1997, (Hislop’s eventually sold his shares in the radio network he had been building to maintain both The Zoo and Hark’s expansion, but with cash flow expectations not keeping up with Hislop’s ambitions, the whole thing eventually collapsed), the Waikato Polytechnic (now WINTEC) purchased much of the equipment for their burgeoning School of Media Arts and contracted Zed to install it. It turned out to be an agreeable association and Zed stayed on as a tutor and returned to making music.

 

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Zed Brookes in Sydney working on the mix for the Narc’s ‘Push The Boat Out’ 1996.

Schrödinger’s Cat (later renamed Wonderbug before morphing into St. Lucy) operated from1997- 2000. The 2000 EP ‘Joes Brain’ sold out at the release gig at the legendary Hamilton Venue J.B.C (Jazz Blues Concept Bar) and a track ‘Don’t Matter’ appeared on the TV series Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers.

 

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Brookes with Schrödinger’s Cat and life partner Susie Warwick.

In 1999 Zed worked with Chris and Rhonda (Hoffmans) Johnson (formerly Three Men Missing) on their MOoFish project. A resulting album, ‘MOoFishin’, was released in the USA after the track ‘Dark Side of A Man’s Mind’ received substantial airplay on through the American College Radio network. The album spent several weeks on CMJ College Music Charts.

While working at The Waikato Polytechnic Zed completed a Graduate Certificate in Music and Film Sound through Queensland’s Griffith’s University and in the early 2000s moved to Auckland. After a time working in production at Mai FM he returned to teaching Audio Engineering, this time at MAINZ. Besides his work as an educator, Zed runs a Sound Production Facility from his home on Auckland’s North Shore, makes music as a solo artists Bemuzed and Mr Zeberdee and continues to participate in various band projects, the more recent include DMZ and outfit he formed with former Step Chant Unit bassist Dean Carter. They released one album in 2007 called Ampersand. Zed’s long awaited debut solo-album ‘Oh Cacophony’ is on its way and should be available sometime in late 2016.

 

Brookes alter-ego Mr Zeberdee with his song Zombies from 2014

Brookes the Educator from his tutorial series Logic Pro for Smarties.

Production, tracking, mixing, or mastering work includes;

Midge Marsden and Bullfrog Rata/The Datsuns/Malevolence/Backyard Burial/ Katchafire – Revival album/The Babysitters Circus – Everything’s Gonna Be Alright – Single,/Maitreya – Aio album/Nina McSweeney/Alan Brown Trio/The Twitch/Ritchie Pickett – All Strung Out in an Bunch album/ Dead Flowers/Hoola Troupe/Goon/Trillion/Liam Ryan/The Narcs – Push the Boat Out album/Matthew Bannister/The Drongos/Rattler/Knightshade/Blackjack – Deal and Kicasso d’Muse albums/Moofish/Book of Martyrs – Purified 7x album/The Boogadagas/John Michaelz & The Stone Babies/Rumpus Room/Kokomo Blues/Scooter/Tweeter/Love and Violence/Tim Armstrong/Bad Jelly/King Biscuit/Tetnus/Calamari Bushmen/Exploding Poppies/Bilge Festival/Davey Beige/Andrew Johnstone-Wallflower album/Silken Blue/Jacqui Keelan/Merenia–Maiden Voyage album/Step Chant Unit/Neil Nooyen/Road to Amber/DMZ/Schrodinger’s Cat/Wonderbug/Adult Mayflys/PD Corp/Jim ‘an’ Joe/Broken English/Pretty Belinda/Second Helping/Te Tapu/Zooper/Enshrine/Dead Pan Rangers/Daisy Chain Halo/5 Girls/Bitumus/Bruce Dennis/Brendan Dugan/Cygnet Committee/Datura/Desperate Chaps/Henderwood/Inchworm/J Harry Long/Joe 90/Leithe/Loose New Romans/No Thrills/Pieces of Cod/Pregnant Hippies/Psyclops/Somersault/St Lucy/Step Chant Unit/Subliminal Warfare/The Crawfords/Three Men Missing/Valhalla/Whisperscream.

 

 Love Injection from ‘The Wallflower’ by A. Johnstone Recorded and Produced Zed Brookes at Tandy’s and The Zoo Recording Studios Hamilton NZ 1990-93

 

Bands and Discography:

Rotorua:

Zena and the Diodes

Bass and Vocals: Zed Brookes

Drums: Malcolm Lowfroth (aka Flat Beer), Roy Morris, Paul Morgan

Guitar: Andy Bangs, Graeme Durham

Keyboards: Sue Toms.

The First (1981)

Drums: Steve Tarr

Guitar and Vocals: Paul Hetet

Bass and Vocals: Zed Brookes

Keyboards: Sue Toms

The Lemmings 1982-83

Drums and Vocals: Malcolm Lofroth

Keyboards: Sue Toms

Bass and Vocals: Zed Brookes

 

Hamilton:

Step Chant Unit 1983-88

Bass and Vocals: Zed Brookes, Dean Carter

Keyboards: Sue Toms, Stephen Giles

Drums: Neville Sergent

Guitar: Roy Forlong, Mark Wilson, Brian Brighting

I.C Dreams 1993 Cassette EP

1.I.C. Dream

2.Planet Zero

3.Into the Storm

4.Rainy Day

 

Painting Pictures 12” 1985 Jayrem

Side A: Painting Pictures

Side B: The Game/Painting Pictures Alternative remix

 

Silken Blue 1991:

Keyboards: Sooz Brown, Grant Brodie

Bass: Zed Brookes

Guitar: Dave Hickling

Silken Blue EP 1991

 

MOoFish 1999:

Guitar, Keyboards: Chris Johnson

Vocals, Guitar: Rhonda Hoffmans Johnson

Programming, Keyboards, Bass: Zed Brookes

Album: MOoFishin

 

Schrodinger’s Cat 1997-2000:

Guitar, vocals: Zed Brookes

Drums: Natalie McKelvie

Guitar, Vocals: Mark Tupuhi

Bass: Aaron Watkinson, Dave Terris

EP Joe’s Brain 2000

1.Don’t Matter

2.Joe’s Brain

3.Perfect Wave

4.Shades of Grey

 

Wonderbug 2000-2002:

Guitar, Vocals: Zed Brookes

Guitar, Vocals: Mark Tupuhi

Drums: Natalie McKelvey

 

Auckland:

DMZ 2003 >

Guitar: Zed Brookes

Bass: Dean Carter

Drums: Mark Griffiths

Album: Ampersand 2007

 

Darkelle 2012:

Guitar, Keyboards and Vocals: Zed Brookes, Julz Taylor-Reid

Bass, Keyboards and Vocals: Aaron Watkinson

 

‘Oh Cacophony’ 2016

Solo album featuring Jan Hellriegel.

Zed Brookes: Producer/Engineer/Instruments/Vocals.

All songs by Zed Brooks.

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Peter ‘Rooda’ Warren, A Drummers Story

December 4, 2015

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Whatever happened to Pete Warren? The question came up one day while a friend and I were revisiting some of the Kiwi music of our youth. Pete, or ‘Rooda’ as he was know, came to the attention of the nation as the drummer of DD Smash who in the early 1980s were the biggest rock band on the local scene. We were playing the DD Smash song ‘Repetition’, a track from the bands triumphant 1982 album Cool Bananas, (the first kiwi album to debut at number one on the NZ charts), and reminiscing about Warren who in band photos of the time standing beside Dave Dobbyn (his long time partner in crime), golden curly locks cascading about his head and wearing a signature uniform that included split colour Lycra pants, looked every bit the rock star.

He was easier to find than I expected, thankyou Facebook, and replied to my request for an interview almost straight away. So what ever did happen to Pete ‘Rooda’ Warren? Quite a lot as it turns out, but first, ”Why Rooda?”

“That name was coined by a guy called The Future who was with me in a band called Lip Service. He called me Rooda because I was rude, as in not shy about saying whatever was on my mind. It was not a sexual reference as everyone thinks.”

A native of Auckland’s North Shore, Pete Warren burst into this world back in 1958 and from the start he was as he would always be, a restless and energetic soul. What we would describe these days as O.C.D, ‘Lord Bloody Go Fast’ (as he was nicknamed by his paternal grandparents) responded to the challenge “I betcha can’t?” with a firm and definitive “I betcha I can.”

Pete: “I lived life at 1000 miles per hour from the very start and could always go harder and faster than everyone else which meant when I got older, drinking more and being able to take more drugs than anyone else.”

Mum was hard on me, she always said she loved me the most, and worried that I might kill myself, she often locked me down.” By Pete’s own admission, it was pretty tough for his mum (Marie Josephine) struggling to keep 4 precocious boys in order through the long months his father was away at sea.

Warren senior (John), a master mariner out of Middlesex in England, was like his son, something of a trickster/jokester who ran away to work the merchant navy aged 15. His first two positions ended up on the wrong end of U-Boat torpedoes, but a few days at sea in a lifeboat were nothing for this hardy kid who, despite the dangers, couldn’t wait to get back onto a working ship. When he eventually retired he tracked down the Captains of the U-Boats concerned and befriended them. Not one to hold a grudge, he was a mischievous, tough and hard working man, beloved by Pete who considered him more like a brother, than a father.

Pete was a drummer from the start, “I was a tapper and tapped everything in within reach”. The endless tapping became something of a contest of wills between father and son, the father tired of telling the son to desist at the dinner table, would wait patiently for the right moment then flick him hard across the right ear, an act that was carried out so frequently that Pete’s hearing in that ear remains somewhat lacking to this day. However, it was through all this ceaseless tapping that Pete taught himself the rudiments of the art of drumming.

He was 10 years old when he finally obtained his first drum kit, a 1935 Olympic Vaudeville Kit, with pig skin vellums and zildjian cymbals. He found it in the classifieds of the local paper and his mother agreed to pay half the $90 asking price. It was a big moment for the young Warren who has been working toward this for 3 years delivering NZ Herald’s in the morning and Auckland Stars at night. “It was a very rare model, similar to what Levon Helm played in The Band, and if I had of kept it would be worth a fortune today but hey, I was a kid and I had my sights set on eventually getting something new and sparkly which I did when I was 13.”

The drum kit became Pete’s life. He set up in the washing room and started up playing at 6:30am every morning then it was off to school and then straight home and back to the washing room. “The ceaseless noise and the endless complaints from neighbours drove Mum insane but she never let me know about any of it until many years later. She wanted me to get on and do my thing without having to worry plus having a drum kit downstairs kept me under control, which meant she had one less thing to worry about.

My early influences were Miles Davis, Oscar Peterson Trio, Bill Cobham, Weather Report, Tower of Power, Emerson Lake & Palmer, Al De Miola, Herbie Hancock, Chase, Buddy Rich Big band, Ellington, Zappa, George Duke, and Dr Tree. A wonderful lady named Dianne Hargreaves, who lived at the bottom of my street, introduced me to this music at age 12.

My mate lived next door to her and when hanging out at his place, I would hear this mad piano-playing coming from her place. I remember going up to her door (which was always open) and peering inside. Her whole house was filled with records, posters and memorabilia and at centre stage was an upright piano. From that moment on I was a fixture in her living room. Dianne forgot I was there and played her records and the piano, always chain-smoking. Except for the smoking, Dianne was a massive influence on me because she took off my blinkers and opened my mind to the possibilities of music.”

At around the same time Pete met Frank Gibson Snr, a man he came to call his ‘second father’. “When I turned 12, mum decided that I was old enough to bus into town (Central Auckland) on my own and I would head off in search of music. I was in Lewis Eady’s music store one day when I heard this drumming coming from the stairwell. I went up to have a look and discovered Frank Gibson Seniors Drum Shop on the top floor.

After that I spent so much time there that I started to refer to Frank as my second dad. He was a mentor, a friend and the first person to really believe in me as a musician.” At this point in the interview Pete chokes up a little, overwhelmed by the memories before going onto describe the many different ways that Frank helped find his feet as a drummer. “One year Frank gave me his own personal Be-Bop Jazz Kit as a birthday gift, a possession I treasure to this day. I was touring Europe with Disciplin A Kitschme when I got a letter from my brother telling me that he had died. Now, I am a bit of a hard man, but Frank’s death really caught me off guard and I wept openly for days.”

By the time Pete was 14 the family had added a rumpus room to the house. It turned out to be the perfect rehearsal space for his first band. Ethos was a kind of psychedelic rock band that featured fellow Westlake Boys High student Don McGlashan. Of course the addition of electric guitars and a bass to the drum noise gave the neighbours even more grief, a burden Pete’s parents continued to carry in stoic silence.

“Ethos was Don McGlashan (lead vocal/keyboards), Scott Calhoun (vocals/bass), Brian O’Donnell (vocals/guitar) and me on lead vocal/drums. At about the collective age of 14 we were playing 3 nights a week at Bob Sell’s ‘KNIGHTCLUB’ (the first real nightclub on the Shore, located on the roof of `Shore City`). The Song set was stuff like Hendrix, Deep Purple, Yes, Steely Dan, Stones, Steppenwolf, 10cc, Rory Gallagher, Queen, Cream, Blind Faith, Elton John, Grand Funk Railroad, Chicago Transit Authority, Sex Pistols, Ramones, Van Morrison, Neutral Smith, Mamas & Papas, Beatles and CSNY. We were also writing our own stuff as well.”

The band members, with the assistance of Mary Warren, had all secured special permits that allowed them to play on licensed premises, (back then the legal drinking age was 20), and for Pete it was a passport to the world and allowed him to say “yes” to every gig he was offered, gigs which included a 6 month stint with Prince Tui Teka when he was 16. “The Prince heard I was a handy drummer and wanted to interview me over dinner which turned out to be fish and chips on the bonnet of his Ford Falcon. We played Glenfield’s Thunderbird Valley Inn for six weeks then The Flying Jug in Panmure before heading down country to play The Trees in Tokoroa.

After that I did a season with Tom Sharplin at the Mandalay in Newmarket. I played for anyone who needed a drummer. I wasn’t fussy and I didn’t care about the money, I just wanted to play.”

Lip Service 1977-1980

Pete was 18 when he formed Lip service with Dave Marshall (formerly of Waves) and an old mate from Westlake Boys Rob Guy, (a guitarist know as the ‘The Revox’). “We were basically a bunch of long haired hippies who arrived on the scene just as punk was exploding and while we were influenced by punk, we weren’t considered punk because we played too well. The punks despised us despite the fact we could play harder and faster than them, and feeling at bit out of place the only thing we could to do to bring us up to date was to cut off our hair“.

The band, with a rock sound that could be described from today’s perspective as new wave, immediately hit the road. We would arrive at a venue, set up our stage, (a complex affair of white polythene and air conditioning vents that required nearly three hours to assemble), sleep for an hour and then play for 3 to 4 hours, sometimes to just person. Often all we could afford to eat after the show were chips and a burger, then we would party, sleep and in the morning we would be up again at 8am and packing down before hitting the road again.”

Through constant gigging the band built up a big enough following for the guys to make a living but it was via manager Charley Grey and the summer touring circuit that the band found its biggest paydays. The Summer Tours were very lucrative and basically paid for us to be a touring band for the rest of the year.”

Their manager Charley Grey also handled The Dudes, who were by this stage of the game the biggest band in the country and Lip Service often found themselves on the same bill, usually in the support lot. “This is how I got to know Dave (Dobbyn, the Dudes songwriter/guitarist). We shared a similar sense of humour and got on really well,” but before the famous relationship blossomed, Lip Service had one more mission to complete.

They came to the attention Joel McCready, then head of the local arm of CBS Records who signed them up to 4-album deal. “We only ever actually made one album, the self titled ‘Lip Service’ record. We recorded it at Glyn Tucker Jr’s Mandrill Studios with producer Graeme Myhre. It was released in 1979 and went straight to the bargain bins.”

I tell Pete that I actually purchased this album based on the cover picture, which features the band posing with mannequins, a surreal sort of image that appealed to my sensibilities. Pete laughs and tells me that he hated the image with passion and blames it for the albums poor sales, nevertheless he is still fond of the record as am I and listening back to it now with its angular guitar melodies, wailing lead vocal and pop/rock sensibilities you are offered a glimpse of what was to come with DD Smash. One track in particular stands out, a sharp piece of social commentary called Playschool, a terrifically hardy number, it would have sat easily beside The Swingers and the Spelling Mistakes on the classic punk compilation AK-79.

The Line-Up:

Brian O’Donnell: Bass, Vocals

Rob Guy: Guitar

Dave Marshall: Guitar, Vocals Drums,

Peter Warren: Drums, vocals

 

 

DD Smash

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Pete: “By 1981 Dave had had enough of The Dudes and approached me and Rob (The Revox) about starting a new band. We joined Dave and Lisle Kinney (Hello Sailor) and did 6 weeks of secret rehearsals at the Rhumba Bar in central Auckland before heading off to Hamilton and our first ‘test gig’ at the Hillcrest Tavern. The place was packed; people were hanging from the rafters and going crazy and we realised that we were onto something pretty special.”

I ask Pete about the name DD Smash and he recalls: “It was the usual struggle band have with names. We tried all kinds of things then Dave’s manager suggested Dave Dobbyn’s Divers. We were running out of time with our first gig coming up fast but there was no way I was going to be one of Dave’s divers so I suggested DD (Dave Dobbyn) Smash (Pete was an infamously loud drummer whom Dave had previously nicknamed Smash).”

Pete and Dave were together for 8 years, a near decade that included three huge selling DD Smash albums, Cool Bananas (1982), Live: Deep In The Heart Of Taxes (1983) and The Optimist (1984), a sojourn that included Dave’s big solo breakthrough with his work on The Footrot Flats soundtrack (1986).

DD Smash had been in Australia for several years prior to the career defining success of Footrot Flats, a time Pete describes as hard, hard slog. Signed to Mushroom Australia they were gigging hard trying to build an audience and besides solo gigs, they scored prominent support slots on tours with some on the biggest names on the Aussie touring circuit, (Midnight Oil, Misex and Dragon). Pete: “We were playing as many as 9 shows a week and mostly losing money. To compete properly on the scene, we needed trucks worth of sound and lighting gear and a 2-3-man road crew and it all costs. Basically the support slots on the big tours subsidised our solo shows.” Despite all of this, bands records failed to sell.

Dave’s 1986 breakthrough solo hit from the Footrot Flats movie soundtrack ‘Slice of Heaven’ (No1 in Australian for 4 weeks) changed it all. Crowds improved, as did the bands quality of life but as Pete explains, “The writing was on the wall for me and I failed to see it.” It was clear by now that Dave’s future was as a solo artist and it was during the first sessions for The Loyal album (1988) that Pete was taken aside by Dave’s manager and given his marching orders. “Why?” I ask. “The drugs,” replies Pete matter of factly.

Pete had been a heavy opiate user for many years and concedes that the drug was getting in the way of the relationship. “Dave hated confrontation and it had become my job to organise the band and make sure they knew and understood the song arrangements, on top of this I took care of all the hard personal stuff that goes on between band members and looked after Dave who suffered terrible stage fright. It was my job to care for him and coax him out onto the stage. This was the tough part of band life and I soaked it all up. “ The abrupt end came as something shock to the drummer who had stayed true to Dobbyn throughout the difficult times, line-up changes and excesses of the rock and roll scene and it caused him some degree of grief but he concedes that the breakup was mostly his own fault. The famous relationship had come to an end and it was time to move on.

Between Dobbyn gigs, Pete spent the 1980s as a drummer for hire and did a stint on the Australian cabaret circuit with Marsha Hines, (“It was all very glamorous and a step up from the grimy rock scene but it wasn’t for me.”) and did some work for The Divinyls, (this was before they hit the big time with ‘I Touch Myself’). Back in NZ he played sessions for advertising jingle king Murray Grindlay, The Netherworld Dancing Toys, Shona Laing, played on Graham Brazier’s classic ‘Inside Out’ album, and filled out the drum stool for Satellite Spies in 1986 when they supported Dire Straights on the Kiwi leg of their massive ‘Brothers In Arms’ Tour, all the while leading his own band Rooda.

In between all this he got to share a joint with Bob Marley and play football with Rod Stewart both of whom he met while working as ‘road crew’. Later he joined Midge Marsden on his 1991 tour of Australia, Britain and America.

“I had a reputation as a ‘trouble shooter’ drummer because I could play reliably to a click track in the studio and deliver a decent beat, often in one take. And if for some reason a drummer couldn’t make a gig, I would get the call and sit in and pick it up as I went along. I didn’t need to know the songs.”

 

The UK, The Led Zeppelin Audition, Farwell to the Dragon, Two-Car Sex and the Big Time in Eastern Europe.

In 1993 came the sort of opportunity that every ‘drummer for hire’ dreams of, an invitation to audition for Led Zeppelin. The band was preparing for their 25th anniversary and a big tour was on the cards. Unbeknownst to Pete his name had been put forward by friend, Auckland based British musician Malcolm Foster (The Pretenders/Simple Minds), and after a 4am phone call from Zeppelin’s management enquiring about his availability, he found himself flying out to the UK to play an audition that never happened.

He turned up to the rehearsal studio at the appointed time but Zeppelin never showed, they were elsewhere arguing up a storm. Needless to say, the 25th anniversary celebrations of one of the world’s biggest ever bands failed to eventuate but the excursion turned out to be a positive thing for Pete. Away from the Kiwi drug scene, he decided to clean up. He went cold turkey approaching the three weeks of sweats, pain and sleeplessness with his usual stoicism. “I did this to myself and had to take care of it myself.” This was the end of Pete’s long relationship with ‘the dragon’ and the needle.

Clean, he teamed up with Malcolm Foster, who was on a break from Simple Minds, and formed a Led Zeppelin tribute band. “We were building a big reputation and word got out to Robert Plant who came along to see us. He was so impressed that he gave us his endorsement and that opened doors for us right across Europe. We got to play all the big cities but the singer, who could do Robert Plant so convincingly that people actually thought he was Robert Plant, struggled with stage nerves and eventually packed it in and that was the end of that.”

Next up was Two Car Sex. “I answered an advert in the New Musical Express for a rock band seeking a vocalist and got the job,” (Pete had long provided back vocals as part of his ‘drummer for hire’ package and can sing up a storm. Managed by Rod Smallwood, (Iron Maiden) the band built up a solid reputation on the London pub circuit and just as things were starting to look like the band might be headed for the bigger time, Smallwood decided to divest himself on much of his management portfolio and concentrate on Maiden and the momentum was lost. Regardless, the biggest success of Pete’s career was just around the corner.

 

Disciplin A Kitschme 1995-98

groupimageDisciplin A Kitschme is a Serbian band, a spin-off of the seminal Yugoslav New Wave bands Šarlo Akrobata, and Ekatarina Velika. Formed in 1982, Disciplin is centred on the talents of Dušan Kojić “Koja (Black Tooth) and has had several incarnations in style ranging from punk to funk, jazz-fusion, Motown and jungle, all with a good dose of Jimi Hendrix inspired rock thrown in for good measure. The band is still going today and has taken on a blues inspired sound in its current manifestation.

The Pete Warren era Disciplin A Kitschme recorded two albums.

‘I Think I See Myself on CCTV’ (1996) was recorded at Iron Maiden’s Fortress.

‘Heavy Bass Blues’ (1998) was recorded at Adrian Sherwood’s ON-U-Studios.

The Line-up:

Black Tooth – Bass (Serbia)

Gofie Bebe – Vocals and percussion (Grenada)

Pete ‘The Beat’ Warren – Drums. (After Disciplin first appearance on John Peel’s iconic BBC Radio show, Peel amazed at the intensity of Pete’s drumming thereafter referred to him as ‘The Beat’).

“We were the first true ‘drum and bass’ band in London and were championed by the likes of John Peel, Fatboy Slim, and Adrian Sherwood. The real deep clubbers loved us but our records never sold well in Britain. In Eastern Europe it was a different story. We had three number one singles across Serbia, Montenegro, Croatia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Bulgaria and Romania and our albums sold around 150,000 units apiece but there was no royalty gathering system in these territories back then and the only money we made was from gigs. We were playing sold out arenas and if we had of based ourselves in Serbia we could have lived like kings but our base was London and once we changed the currency into sterling it was worth bugger all.”

It was Pete’s relationship with Rosie, the mother of his two British children Genie aged 14 (a gymnast) and Caleb-Tobias aged 16 (an actor) that caused Pete to leave the band. “I was away touring a lot and it was putting a big strain on my relationship with Rosie and I thought if I left the band and became more available it would help.” It didn’t, “In the end my drugs, partying and general bad behaviour were more than she could cope with. A t-shirt Rosie gave me for my 40th birthday sums up best how I was back then. It read: I AM 5.”

 

Surrey, Shark Attack, Love, Home and Silt Control.

His relationship in tatters, Pete, emotionally spent and on the ‘bones his arse’ left London and found a home at Pound Farm in the rural heart of Surrey, first in a horse van and then in a broken down VW Kombi. It was at the local pub, The Black Swan, that Pete met the players that were to become Shark Attack. Again taking on lead vocal duties, Pete, tanked up on tequila (“I was not a natural frontman and needed a few drinks to loosen up”) led the band through their regular Sunday night slots. They became a favourite of the local chapter of the Hell’s Angels who got them a slot on the Bulldog Bash, the gang’s annual national gathering. It was a lucrative gig and caught up with Angel’s as they were, the drugs were cheap and on tap and Pete found himself spiralling once again into the world of partying and drugs, (this time cocaine).

It was during this time that Pete met Pavla, a young Czech woman who was over in the UK improving her English. “She was half my age and I just thought she was just a beautiful young woman playing with an older man for a bit, but she stuck around. I had ruined every relationship I had ever been in through my partying ways and I thought if we are going to do this, it was time for me to ‘man up’ and face my demons.”

With Pavla’s encouragement, Pete sorted himself out and with the relationship blossoming, the couple set off for the Czech Republic to meet her parents. “I was about the same age as them and a bit rough and ready and they were not pleased at all and after a coupe of weeks insisted I go. I headed back to NZ, got a job, set up a home and a few months later Pavla arrived and we have been together now for 15 beautiful years. Basically she saved me and helped me to become a better man.”

By this stage Pete had a labouring job with a construction company that specialised in big projects like shopping centres and road construction. “I surprised myself because I really loved the work,” and his enthusiasm and reliability saw him being offered ever more responsibility. He found his second calling in Environmental Management specialising in Silt and Erosion Control.

His job was to make sure that silt and soil did not escape construction zones and pollute natural waterways and his ideas and innovations saw him becoming an increasingly in-demand speaker at conferences and exhibitions. “I didn’t wear a suit just my muddy work clothes and spoke passionately from my heart about doing the right thing for the environment and it was, I think, for these reasons that the people I was speaking to related to what I was saying.” Pete was having the time of his life, and then bad luck struck.

“I got trapped beneath a 220kg roll of anti-erosion fibre the crew and I were carrying up a bank. The pain was excruciating but I got up on with the job. As the days passed the pain became unbearable. I was taken to hospital and scans revealed major back damage.” After four years on the construction site, it was over and the next three years were spent recuperating. With the healing underway Pete found himself making music again and with the encouragement of one of his brothers, decided to go teaching and pass on his knowledge.

He placed an advert in the local paper, The Rodney Times, and got a response straight away. “It was a light bulb moment for me because I realised that I absolutely loved teaching. Most drum teachers say you can’t teach the art until kids are 8 but I teach from 5 years on. It’s a great age to start drumming and the kids are like sponges, they just soak it all up.” Rather than teaching a prescribed formula, Pete’s methods are intuitive and he approaches each pupil in a unique way, a method that keeps his services in demand at schools and homes across the North Shore. “I’ll teach anyone who wants to learn, I just love it.”

 DD+Smash+ddsmash

The Final Word

As a writer of other people’s stories, it is important to cover all the details but sometimes one has to proceed with caution regarding certain subjects bearing in mind that not everyone is open minded and accepting as myself in regard to the vices, troubles and indiscretions of others. That said, I cannot complete this story without examining some details of Pete’s former life as a drug user, being a big apart of his life as it was for as long as it was.

He got his first taste of ‘the dragon’ when he was 15 and his last just prior to heading for Britain in 1993 and while he was, by in large, a man who managed his habit and was able to function normally in the wider world, there were periods of excess and danger including several close calls after overdosing and some reckless needle sharing which resulted in Pete contracting Hepatitis A, B and C. He discovered this not long after arriving in Britain and was fortunate enough to find himself one of the first patients prescribed Interferon Alfa. The outcome was positive and once again ‘Lord Bloody Go Fast’ escaped a near miss.

While he never returned to the needle he found other ways of getting high, notably via cocaine, which he consumed excessively for a number of years. As mentioned earlier, it was Pavla who proved to be a positive and moderating influence and on that note I will leave the final word to the man himself:

“I am not only grateful to be alive but grateful that I met a woman who made me feel grateful to be alive and I am grateful that she puts up with me because at heart, I am still just a lad. I am also grateful for my children. Leyla Anne is 9 years old and she’s a singer. Sebastian Charles is aged 7 years and he’s a drummer. He has his own kit in his room and I have never given him a lesson, he’s a natural who has picked it up on his own. I can only hope that the example of my life lessons will help make their journey through life a little easier.”

*For this writer, these stories always end on a wistful note. One has had the privilege of being invited into another’s heart and soul and the interview subject always ends up becoming a friend, a person you have bonded with in a unique and particular way and Pete Warren has been no different. If you want to know more about the man himself and hear some of the music he has made over the decades, listen in to the podcast. Otherwise you might find him playing at a pub on Auckland’s North Shore with his mate Lee Grey. If you do, don’t forget to bowl on up and say hello. He’d love that. He’s that kind of guy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shep Gordon- Jewish Polynesian

February 11, 2015
Shep Gordon, legendary Talent Manager

Shep Gordon, legendary Talent Manager

Shep Gordon, legendary Talent Manager, is the subject of a new documentary film by comedian Mike Myers Called Supermensch. It hit the headlines recently when a drunken Johnny Depp presented Myers with an award for his film at a glittering Hollywood ceremony.

I didn’t have time to ask Shep about this but I suspect it was all a stunt and stunts are what Shep does.

He was still only 19 when he took on Alice Copper and made him notorious. He didn’t know what he was doing which turned out to be a good thing, “I was right out of the box and it worked for me.”

“I bought this poor chicken along to a gig and threw it into the crowd. Alice knew nothing about it and we were both surprised when the audience tore it apart. Blood shot out everywhere. It was insane. I hadn’t thought it through but it worked.”

The next day photos were in all the papers and a shocked nation wanted to know more about this crazy Alice Cooper guy.

A little while later the phone rang and a sultry female voice asked him if “he could do for her what it was he had done for that freak Cooper?”

“Who could say no to Raquel Welsh,” he says with a wry cackle. Then she says to me, “I want you to be my Escort at the Academy Awards in four days time.”

“Well, of course,” he barks down the line. Suddenly there he is, bemused and bewildered and walking Raquel along the red carpet, crowds cheering and cameras flashing arm tightly around her waist.

“We arrived in a limo and as she got out she tore her dress. “Welch slides back into the car and says, “Shep, my dress is broken and you are going to have to hold it together for me.”

“So here I am at the Academy Awards, sweating nervous buckets because my arm is wrapped around the most beautiful movie star in Hollywood.”

His father, who had watched the whole thing on TV, rang him the next day to express his pride and admiration at his son’s achievement.

Only a couple of years before Shep was making a living dealing pot. “A dangerous profession?” I prompted.

“Not really,’ he replied, “Pot was not on the radar. I remember one day the cops knock at my door. There’s a pound of weed sitting on my couch and all they care about is my car which is parked in the wrong place.”

It was through Pot that he got to meet a certain crowd of musicians that included Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix. “I would sell them pot and one day Jimi asked me what it was I do and I said I sell Pot.” He told me that I needed a cover story in case the Cops got curious, “a cover story that accounts for the money”. That’s when Hendrix asks Gordon if he’s Jewish.

“Back then when a man asks you if you are Jewish your best option was to run, but Jimi was different so I said ‘Yes’.”

Hendricks looks at him and thinks for a moment before saying “If you are Jewish then you should be a manager.”

Shep stumbled upon the struggling Alice Cooper a few days later agreed to pay him $10 a week to tell people that people that Gordon was his manager.

“Suddenly I was his manager, I hadn’t thought about it but now it occurred to me that perhaps I should actually do something, not that I thought I was a manager or knew what a manager did.”
Honour and integrity are not words often associated with the music business and Gordon muses for a while before saying that he has never done anything bad to his clients nor wanted ever wanted to.

He knows secrets but would never tell. That’s a given. He would never betray a client confidence nor seek to rip them off. It’s not in his nature.

He warns his clients, “this business might kill you, fame is dangerous,” and he often wonders at the moral dilemma of giving someone fame. “On one hand you’re giving them what they want but one the other hand you are aware that what you are offering is a mixed blessing.”

I cannot let the time slip by without a brief mention of Groucho Marx, a man I have admired since childhood. When Gordon became his manager, the frail old comedian was nearing his end. Despite his age related difficulties, Groucho remained intellectually sharp. “I couldn’t speak around him. Here’s this old man who is just so clever with words. What could I possibly say?” Shep pauses then adds, “Words were his life.”

Shep has lived in Maui for 40 years and we talk about living in Polynesia. He mixes with the locals and enjoys Polynesian culture, ‘the real one, not the Disneyland version.” I ask him if he feels Polynesian and he replies that he would like to think so, “In a former life” before wondering if a Jews Polynesian is thing. He laughs.

He’s off to a Umu, (hangi) the next day. With wild pig and deer hunted from the hills, it’s going to be a large familial gathering of friends and he’s looking forward to it.
He expects to die on Maui, but he’s not dead yet.

These days he manages Celebrity Chefs, a phenomenon he is credited with creating.

I tell about my year in hospitality industry and my conclusion that chef’s can be sociopathic narcissists.

“That was true for a long time but those days are gone. These days Chef’s study at Culinary Institutes and come into the workforce prepared and focused. They are a lot more respectful of their staff and better team players.”

He goes on to say that the Culinary Arts are populated by all shades of personality, and just like every other art suffers the rogues as well as the geniuses.

Lindsay Stirling- A New Music Marketing Pioneer

January 28, 2015

 

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Lindsay Stirling, violinist/Dancer/Choreographer, first stepped into the public sphere with a series of appearances on the 2010 edition of America’s Got Talent. She made it through to the quarterfinals where she was stopped in her tracks by judges Sharon Osborne and Piers Morgan who both agreed that she was something of a ‘one note performer’ and didn’t have the versatility for the big time.

Lindsey-“I was crushed, devastated, humiliated and disappointed but I wasn’t ready to give up.”

Taking matters into her own hands, she began creating videos of her choreographed performances, which she then posted up on YouTube.

“It’s exciting to be a part of this new wave of how things can be done. I was tired of waiting for a someone to believe in my projects so I thought- “I can do videos myself and throw them up on YouTube and find my own fan base.”

Lindsey is among a small group of new artists who have used YouTube and other ‘new media’ outlets to market their talents to the wider world with impressive results. Currently she has some 6 million subscribers and has recorded just over 700 million views. Her productions are lavish and imaginative routines that speak volumes about her personal vision.

She has found the experience deeply liberating and has derived great satisfaction from being able to do things her own way, staying true to her personal vision without any compromise. “Rather than having people telling how things have to be done you get to be the author of your own success to get to write your own story and get to do your art as authentically as possible.”
Her 20102 eponymously titled debut album, Lindsay Stirling, (released on her on own label), has so far racked up sales of sales of some 700 thousand units worldwide, 400 thousand of those in Germany where she maintains a fanatical fan-base. “The Europeans have a special place in their hearts for classical music and electronic music alike. I do both and they love it.”

Last years Shatter Me peaked at number 2 on the US charts cementing her place as one of the world’s major independent music artists.

Lindsay comes from humble origins. Born into a sprawling Mormon family in the city of Santa Ana, California, she discovered the violin through listening to her parent’s extensive collection of classical music records. She was drawn to the sound of the violin and convinced her parents to fund lessons. They could only afford 15 minutes per week from a dubious teacher who assured them that 15 minutes a week was pointless.

Taking what she could from her weekly lessons, she would go home and improvise and copy what she heard on records expanding her skills and repertoire.

She applied herself to dance the same way. The family possessed a videocassette, compilation of Michael Jackson music videos, which she watched obsessively, copying the moves and learning about the art of choreography. Later when the family came into possession of a computer she poured over YouTube clips of the TV show So You Think You Can Dance, soaking up the moves which she practiced over and over in front of the mirror.
“My story would have been very different if I had a ton of money. Because I had no resources I had to learn how to do things myself and it’s really shaped my art.”

Despite a ‘gloriously’ happy childhood, Lindsay’s mood deteriorated through her late teens. “I was incredibly unhappy; I loathed myself and hated everything about myself.”

Despite possessing a small frame, “I knew I wasn’t fat,” she became obsessed with her weight. “If I wasn’t the skinniest girl in the room I felt like I had failed. I felt if I got skinnier I would become beautiful and have some self worth and social value.”

It took her a while to grasp she had a real problem.

“Anorexia is such a strange disorder. It’s really hard to describe how real the problem is when it exists in your own mind and it is hard to realise you have it and that its not normal or even that it’s a problem.
Once she began to acknowledge she had a problem Doctors advised her that it was incurable, but not inescapable.

“You can get passed it but it never quite leaves you alone.”

These days stress is the main trigger for Lindsay’s food obsession.

“When I get stressed out it starts to come back, but every time I go through this cycle I get better at overcoming it.”

These days Lindsay is much happier in her own skin and is at pains to stress that fame and wealth have not changed her. She credits the faith she grew up in for helping to keep her grounded and focused. “The Church of the Latter day Saints is my safety net and knowing that there is a God who loves me gives me strength.”

Our time is almost up and I ask Lindsay what her audience can expect to see at her upcoming gig at The Powerstation in Auckland on Saturday, 14th February

“It’s a loud energy filled show; I dance and twirl and do back-flips and jump all over the stage for an hour and a half and there are numerous costume changes. It is suitable for all ages and it’s a fun eclectic experience.”

I close the interview by asking her what words of wisdom she has to offer young women contemplating a career in the arts and entertainment industry?

“Any successful person is successful because they don’t give up. The road to success includes many failures and disappointments. Riding out those disappointments is the key. We have to learn to let failure drive us rather than destroy us. Stick true to what you love and don’t ever change yourself to fit what other people tell you to be.”

 

Listen to the full interview on Rip It Up Radio:

 

 

Sleater- Kinney: No Cities to Love.

January 22, 2015
American West Coast rockers Sleater-Kinney return with their first new album in 10 years

American West Coast rockers Sleater-Kinney return with their first new album in 10 years

Iconic American West Coast post-punk rockers Sleater–Kinney have just released their first album in 10 years. Called No Cities To Love, it’s a cracker, or in the words of the bands softly spoken drummer Janet Weiss-

“It’s gangbusters, very powerful and melodic. We sound possessed”.

Indeed. The album is a joyously merciless effort reminiscent of the new wave of American rock bands that grew from the fallout after punk had burned through the US in the late 1970s, tipping the rock scene on its head and mixing it all up into new colours and textures. I am reminded in particular of seminal new wave band Television or perhaps to be more precise, Television’s guitarist Tom Verlaine, whose angular and acerbic guitar riffs seem to inform the shape and textures of Sleater-Kinney’s edgy melodic experiments.

It is an album of sonic and melodic juxtaposition, both dark and light, with hints of late career Who, lashings of Grr-Girl ascetic and plenty of good old-fashioned impassioned rock and roll. Vocalists Brownstein and Tucker wail and rage in grappling harmony while their twin guitars veer between howling assault and moments of transcendent beauty, all of which is deftly unified by Weiss’s relentless rhythms.

Thematically, it’s an angry post punk polemic that takes aim at the political and economic inequalities that mark the state of life in the US in early 2000s. The album also looks closely at power and how the meaning of power has changed in American life over the 20 years since the band first started playing together. It’s a rallying cry, urging us out of dreamlike complacency and in the words of Howard Beale, (played by Peter finch), from the 1976 film Network “”I’M AS MAD AS HELL, AND I’M NOT GOING TO TAKE THIS ANYMORE!”

The band arrived arose out of Olympia, the capital city of Washington State, in the early 1990s, taking its name from a motorway exit prominent in the city. With Carrie Brownstein (vocals and guitar), and Corin Tucker, (vocals and guitar), at its core, this feminist post-punk band went through 3 drummers before auditioning Weiss in 1996.

Legend tells a similar tale to the one that surrounds The Who and the audition of one of Weiss’s drumming heroes, Keith Moon, who according to Daltrey conducted his audition with such intensity, the band felt like they were standing behind a ‘jet engine’. For Tucker and Brownstein, their first experience of Weiss was similar. Recalls Brownstein- “She started up pounding the skins so hard we stopped playing and looked up at her in astonishment.”

I got a pretty good idea of what Brownstein meant when I watched the YouTube clip of the band performing Jumpers on Letterman back in 2005. Weiss is a demon; head swinging wildly in time with the beat and arms pumping the sticks like there’s no tomorrow.

Weiss recalls- “It’s a small room with a small crowd filled out by TV cameras and Dave Letterman is sitting just a few feet away from you. I was nervous because we had to shorten the song for time reasons and I was worried that I might forget the change. We started playing and the nerves disappeared and I remembered what I had to do. I was glad when it was over and we didn’t screw anything up. It was fun”

Weiss came to drumming late. She loved watching and listening to drummers but didn’t pick up the sticks herself until she was 22. Besides Moon, she is heavily influenced by Charlie Watts, John Bonham and Topper Headon from the Clash, (‘the real drummers’ as she describes them, adding, “unlike myself”), as well as the drummers with local Portland bands like Crackerbash, Hazel and Bikini-Kill.

“These drummers I saw with my own eyes and could feel the air hitting my chest. I learned a lot from watching those bands.”

Weiss is a thoughtful speaker who explains that the band never meant so much time to pass between albums.

“Corin had started a family and Carrie got involved with the TV comedy show Portlandia and I got busy doing session work and touring with various artists, (Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks, Wild Flag, The Shins, The Go-Betweens, Bright Eyes and Elliot Smith to name but a few), and time went by. We suddenly began to realise that if we were ever going to make another record it had to be sooner than later.”

After several months of song-writing sessions the band entered the recording studio and pretty much punched it out in two weeks. “We pushed ourselves. There was desperation to say it all to get it all out onto the page. We were realising that we didn’t have forever to do this stuff.”

The realisation that time was catching up on them partly informs the ferocity and pace of the album. “It’s different when you are a young band, you have different needs and priorities” says Weiss. “Now that we are older we are much more aware. Being adults with lives and families and careers forces us into the moment. We have a lot to say in a short amount of time, and that plays to our intensity.”

No Cities To Love is the bands eighth album but it has been the live playing that has really fed the bands heart. “We are a band that loves playing live. We are ambitious and we want to impress and we always play as good as we possibly can.”

I finish up the interview by asking Janet if the band has any plans to bring their sold out US tour to New Zealand.

“I hope so, it’s been a while since we were there and we only got to see Auckland and I really want to get out and visit the rest of the country.”

‘No Cities to Love’ is out now.
Listen to the full interview on Rip It Up Radio:

Interview: Brooke Fraser-Brutal Romantic

January 13, 2015

 

Brooke Fraser on music, marriage and being a creative artist living in the world.

Brooke Fraser on music, marriage and being a creative artist living in the world.

When Brooke Fraser was a student at Wellington’s Naenae College, she imagined that her love for words and storytelling would be expressed through a career in journalism. But that all changed after she met ‘Elemeno P’ drummer Scotty Pearson while on a trip to Auckland in 2002.

After hearing her play (Fraser was already and accomplished musician), he introduced her to producer Matty J. who became her manager. They recorded some demos and shopped them around. The interest from various record companies was immediate and after some thought Fraser signed a multi-album deal with Sony Music NZ.

Her first album What to Do with Daylight was released in 2003. It debuted at number one on the NZ charts and yielded five top twenty singles. Demonstrating her talent for thoughtful lyrics, a gift for melody and a penchant for powerful and uplifting choruses, the album established the basic template for what was to follow.

Albertine arrived three years later – an album forged through her experiences promoting social causes in Africa, in particular, Rwanda. Like its predecessor it was a huge hit in Australasia and broke through in North America, peaking at number 90 on the Billboard Hot 100 Chart.

Flags was released in 2010 and was a sensation from the get go, with the lead singleSomething in the Water topping the charts in several international territories including Germany, the world’s 3rd largest music market.

After an extended period of touring, Fraser took time off to get married and then went travelling, searching for ideas and inspiration for new songs – a journey that has taken her and her husband from Stockholm to New York and finally Los Angles, the city she currently calls home.

Preparing for her new album she put aside her usual compositional tools, the piano and guitar, and applied herself to learning to write music on a computer, an arduous and exhilarating process which opened many new doors for her creative expression. “It was a bit like being a kid in a candy store with all these new sounds and beats to lay against my voice,” she says.

It was while in Stockholm when suffering from the flu that the ideas that would establish the themes for her new album took root. Lying in her bed, she was contemplating the forms of social interaction that have proliferated since the arrival of the internet when the songPsychosocial appeared fully-formed in her head. She sang it straight in to her laptop, some of the original vocals remaining on the finished album track.

The new album Brutal Romantic, co-produced by Fraser, was recorded in stages over the last two years in various London studios. With bigger beats and layers of synthesizers, there is a harder edge to her sound. She acknowledges that while some fans would prefer her to keep on making What to do with Daylight over and over, her instincts have always been to challenge herself and innovate rather than rely on a workable formula.

Fraser is part of a particular tradition of female Kiwi singer/songwriters that include Shona Laing, Sharon O’Neil, Bic Runga, Ladyhawke, Kimbra and Lorde;  women who have all forged unique musical careers.

She appreciates the opportunities NZ affords women – an encouraging society that she says makes no distinction between the sexes when it comes to career and life choices.

When asked about the explicit sexuality exhibited by many current female artists, in particular American performers, she says that while she is no prude, she is disturbed by the exhibitionism that many women feel they must resort to in order to sell albums.

Fraser recently attended the MTV awards in Los Angeles and was somewhat shocked by the overt sexuality on display. “I was the only woman wearing trousers in a room full of tiny skirts,” she says.

She expresses pride in the fact that for most NZ female artists, the music is first and foremost and that sexual themes are mostly explored with subtlety and depth of feeling rather than bombast.

Her musical career has been unexpected and largely unplanned and she has no concrete goals for the future other than to keep writing songs.

“I hope to record a new album sooner rather than later, four years between albums is way too long,” she admits. Her most pressing ambition at this point in her life is have a child and “add to our little family unit of two”.

She is enjoying married life and finishes our interview with a quote she picked up recently: “Marriage is being with someone who bears witness to your life and you to theirs.”

A state of union that she says has further enriched her life.

Fraser will be touring the country to promote her new album Brutal Romantic early next year, beginning March 20 at the Founders Theatre Hamilton and finishing April 1 at the ASB Bank Arena Tauranga.

Check out the full interview below:

 

 

 

Interview: Kevin Bloody Wilson, Rhythm and Roots

January 13, 2015
Kevin Bloody Wilson, a man with a mission.

Kevin Bloody Wilson, a man with a mission.


Kevin Bloody Wilson is a busy man.

Australia’s master of ‘bawdy’ comedy plays around 120 shows a year – a heavy schedule which takes him all over the world, including Canada where he has a sizeable cult following.

Prior to last year’s Canadian tour, he filled out his Performing Artist Visa Application and ticked the R-Rated box in order to advise audiences that his show was intended for mature audiences. His application was duly processed and approved on the proviso that he refrain from using the word c**t, a word whom authorities advised him was not acceptable in Canada.

On the opening night of his tour in Toronto he stepped out on stage and debuted a new song, You Can’t Say C**t in Canada which featured the refrain ‘but you can say gateway to her guts / fury noose / velvet purse among many other local colloquialisms for female genitalia.  The audience went wild and the song has gone onto become something of a Canadian cult standard.

Born Dennis Bryant in Sydney in 1946, he moved to Western Australia in his early 20s where he found work as an electrician at the Kalgoorlie Gold Mine. He later formed a Country and Western band called Bryan Dennis and the Country Club.

Music became the focus of life and between gigs he hosted a country music show on a local television channel. He was sacked in 1980 for playing a parody song he had written called Heaving on a Jet Plane. At a loose end he packed up his belongings and headed for the bright lights of Perth where he discovered an audience for his irreverent brand of comedy.

His first album, a self-financed affair called Your Average Australian Yobo, went onto sell some 30,000 copies and a new career was born. He has since released 13 other albums and owns his own recording and production facility in Wanneroo in Western Australia.

Kevin Bloody Wilson, while most famous for his parody music, is in fact and accomplished musician with serious songwriting credentials.  The Genie in the Bottle is a country song Kevin co-wrote with Adam Harvey that spent more than 6 weeks on the Australian Country Singles chart as well as reaching the number one video spot on the Country Music Television Channel in 2000.

His latest project is called Rhythm and Roots, a made for television documentary that traces the musical genres hat have inspired him through the course of his life. At each destination, New Orleans for Jazz, Chicago for the Blues and so forth, Kevin wrote a ‘proper’ song in the appropriate style and each song was recorded by a legend of the genre.

The idea was inspired by Kevin’s good mate the Foo Fighters Dave Grohl’s two documentary projects Sound City and Sonic Highways and with a little advice from Dave set about putting his own show together. With 12 one hour episodes it was a mammoth task that Kevin funded from his own pocket. “There is public money available in Australia for these kinds of projects but I didn’t need it. As I was planning the project I thought why take money that some other bugger needs more than me so I financed it myself.” He went onto explain that his comedy career had been very good to him and he wasn’t short of a “bob or two.”


This labour of love that explores where the music came from, where it is today, and where it’s headed in the future is due to be broadcast across Australia midway through next year.

It was while talking about the New Orleans segment of the documentary that Kevin revealed his love for Louis Armstrong and it gave me an opportunity to tell him a story about the Founder Theatre in Hamilton, one of the venues he is playing through the course of latest NZ tour.

Armstrong, an American music icon, played the Founders in 1962, his one and only ever concert in Hamilton. Local Armstrong fan and raconteur Dr Richard Swainson wanted to commemorate the occasion and in 2013 succeeded in getting the city’s permission to erect a plaque in memory of the event. During the course of his research Swainson unveiled a host of interesting details regarding Armstrong’s concert. Arriving in the city late in day, all the cafe and eateries were closed, (this was 1962 NZ remember), so Armstrong purchased some bread and luncheon meat from a Dairy and went about making sandwiches for the band. Armstrong was also carrying two cases. One contained his ‘pot stash’ the other a host of careful folded handkerchiefs. These had been dusted with cocaine and allowed Armstrong the opportunity to take a surreptitious hit while on stage in the guise of wiping the phlegm from his mouth between breaks in playing.

Kevin was delighted with these little nuggets of information and we finished the interview with a frank discussion about the iconic Founder’s Theatre. With the city intent on decreasing its debt load, (the city spent some $70million building the Claudelands arena which opened in 2011), the Founders, which has been superseded by the more up to date Claudelands, may be closed for economic reasons.
Kevin: “You tell the council they are bloody idiots. That’s a world class venue and a very special performance space. I have played there many times and I love it.”

Me: “Kevin Bloody Wilson, you’re a top bloke.”

Kevin: “Too bloody right I am.”

Kevin Bloody Wilson is touring NZ through November and December and promises a “whole shit load of new material” plus the classics.

Check out the full interview in audio:

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