Archive for the ‘New Zealand Music History’ Category

The Strange and Bizarre Saga of the Mobile Stud Unit: A Legendary Hamilton Band Who Was Anything But.

September 11, 2016

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Rohan Marx, Leader of the Mobile Stud Unit.

From the Waikato Times, Thursday, October 9, 2003:

‘Hamilton punk rock band MSU celebrate their aluminium anniversary with the “Monsta 10-year Break-up/Blowout Extravaganza Gig” next week. MSU have become something of an icon in the Hamilton music scene. They have released three albums, had four nationwide tours of NZ’s University Orientation circuit and six number one hits on student radio. Lead singer Rohan ‘Marxi’ Marx plans to reunite the four current and seven previous members for the anniversary performance. Marx: “MSU appeal to the more male audience, it’s not that we are misogynistic, but we do have a more male bend – it’s no more sinister than that. We write our stories and songs with a more male focus, creating for our own amusement with a self-effacing sense of humour, taking the piss and having a good time.”’

– Gail Ormsby

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A few years back I was hosting the breakfast show on Hamilton’s Free FM and once in a while it was my habit to bring in someone with strong opinions to review the events of the week. On this occasion it was local identity Dr Richard Swainson (or Dr Ezy as he was so named for the many years he managed the Hillcrest branch of Video Ezy) and he was asked, as was everyone, to bring along a song.

He duly arrived and passed over a CD and a slip of paper with the songs name written on it. I didn’t take to much notice as I slid the CD into the player and prepped it to go but I did notice the CDs cover which  featured a de-shelled mussel overwritten with the word ‘Flaps’. I thought briefly that the image possessed sexual overtones, but being otherwise occupied I put the observation away for later analysis.

The song itself was called ‘Wheel of Clitoris’ and still the penny remained firmly stuck in the slot even as the words rolled out live across a goodly proportion of the greater Waikato and Bay of Plenty. I was too busy chatting with my guest organising our next segment to take much notice and it was only the imposing figure of the station manager standing at the studio window making slashing motions across his throat that finally caused the penny to fall and the mental machinery to spring into motion.

The song ‘Wheel of Clitoris’, a rather clever and catchy little track, was an un-subtle exploration of the art of cunnilingus and judging by the parade of phone calls that followed it took a number of unwary listeners by surprise. It was also my first real introduction to a band I had hitherto only known by vague reputation.

Dr Swainson it turns out had been the bands ‘officially sanctioned’ photographer and number one fan and thought the whole episode hilarious, a smooth stunt well played. By some miracle I escaped another suspension and on the upside I had a nice little story to bandy about, one that precariously tied me into the broader tale of one of the cities most notorious musical episodes, the legendary Mobile Stud Unit. As for the song itself, this lyrical sample pretty much sums up the overall tone of the band:

 

Walking down the road minding my own business/ going down to the dairy to buy some smokes/you said I am woman hear me roar/so I licked your pussy till my mouth was raw.

 

The Mobile stud Unit, (MSU for short), cannot be described without the personage of Rohan Marx at fore and centre. A diminutive figure with thinning hair and prescription glasses, he was an unlikely figure found often as he was parading about town in his famous 1970s style lime green jump suit, the same one he wore for any number of MSU gigs around the city and later, the nation.

Marx, a small town boy from the South Waikato, (Otorohanga), was big trouble in a little package. After a youth of misappropriating bottles from the backs of Dairies and the towns one Supermarket and claiming refunds on them to feed his ‘Spacies’ addiction, he began his High School years as a boarder at Hamilton Boys High from where he was quickly dispatched after an incident or three with alcohol.

Eventually enrolled at Te Awamutu High (the next town up from Otorohanga) he discovered a mentor in the form of the schools music teacher George Brooks who helped give the young Marx direction and before long he was singing in the schools jazz choir where he discovered the joys of performance. Marx: “I learned the rudimentaries of stagecraft and discovered that I was not so much a musician as I was a performer, a conduit between the band and audience. After that all I wanted to do was play live music.” Which is exactly what happened in 1993 when Marx and a loose collective of friends from Otorohanga and Te Awamutu  met up in Hamilton at the University of Waikato and formed a band.

Initially called Herman and the Hymens they performed the entirety of Side A of the Violent Femmes self-titled debut album at the annual Contact FM Christmas Busking Contest. Victorious co- winner’s, they shared the cash prize with another local band The Romantic Andes while claiming the secondary prize of a support slot with The Muttonbirds at the following years University of Waikato Orientation festivities.

The fledging band decided to try out some originals at a gig that included a somewhat notorious incident with the man destined to become one of the nations leading singer/songwriters. A bet saw Marx body-slam Muttonbirds leader Don McGlashan hard onto the stage during the sound-check and causing some moderate injuries and a world of hard feelings.

A rather upset McGlashan called the band “a bunch of pissed wankers,” a phrase that provided them with a suitable slogan which was oft used on posters and other promotional material for a long time thereafter. The fledgling MSU was a shambolic unit of seven that performed a series of songs Marx describes as “ridiculous shit juxtaposed together.” “We were a cacophony that could barley play in tune but it was a lot of fun.” Perhaps not for McGlashan, but it was a beginning.

 

 

The name Mobile Stud Unit came via Gareth Robb the bands first drummer. It was name his sister had been using to describe the hot guys at Te Awamutu College and it seemed to sit well and without irony considering that the band would never come anywhere to close being sex gods. This was a boy’s band playing lads music and as Marx notes during our interview, only once during their career did a female audience member pick up a member of the band for sexual gratification fulfilling for one lad at least a rock and roll fantasy that would remain forever but a dream for the rest of the collective.

The lucky lad was guitarist Dave O ‘Shea who was ‘had’ on the steps of the Dunedin Post Office at 4am in the morning after a gig at the University of Otago a year or so later. The young lady in question thought she was shagging a member of the 3D’s (who MSU has opened for earlier in the evening) and was somewhat upset if not sickened when she learned the truth of the encounter.

By the end of 1993 the band had improved markedly and capped off the year opening for The Able Tasmans at a University gig. Marx: “It was first time we played with a full sound kit and engineer it went off. I remember thinking just how far we had come. We played in time and we had a set list of properly constructed songs. We had turned from a fun shambolic mess into a finely tuned outfit.” But it was not to last.

The original band members were quietly falling away and through the next year the line-up remained volatile as new and old members came and went. Despite the uncertainties the band managed to produce their first album – 1994s ‘My Pyjamas Smell Acidicky’ – which featured the bands first notable student radio hit ‘Bob’. A song about a breakup, ‘Bob’ was personal tragedy made comic.

The cassette (recoded in guitarist Jamie Stones flat on a four track driven by Dave Whitehead latterly of sound design company White Noise Limited who created the sound art for films like The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies among others) featured a hand stitched flannelette cover, made from old Pyjamas, with cordial split over the fabric to make it look like the pyjamas had been ‘pissed in’.

 

 

A Waikato Times article from March 23 1994 describes the band as ‘being out to save the Young White Male ethic from extinction’. Marx: “A lot of young white males are unsure of their identity. They’ve been pecked at by just about everybody. Everything they’ve grown up to believe in is wrong. That’s why we have to redefine the young white males identity – it’s in danger of slipping from the culture.”

Marx goes onto describe the bands modus operandi, “We usually don’t tune up for gigs because it sounds more interesting that way,” while offering some insight into the bands broader musical philosophy: “We try to keep the songs simple enough for the average person to grasp. We are not like some artsy-fartsy French movie, there is really only one level (too many Hamilton bands take themselves too seriously and we offer some light relief) and people seem to like it.”

The bands typically non-PC attitude, a trait well explored in song and more notably in band posters, often saw them in conflict with various Feminist groups on campus as well as the LGBT community, hipsters, hippies, rock stars – besides The Muttonbirds they fell offside with Head Like A Hole with the satirical ‘Head Up Yer Hole’ – and pretty much anyone else easily offended (usually by accident rather than intent – MSU were many things but malicious they were not).

Often the source of official complaints to various University authorities, all this but served to firm up the bands mythology drawing more of the ever curious to gigs of ever increasing size. Marx: “We were a reaction against the P.C. fashion that was defining Waikato University scene at the time, that and the shoegazer bands that were playing to audiences of 3 or 4 people around the city.”

 

 

By 1995 the original Mobile Stud Unit (Jamie Stone, Jude Richards, Dave O’Shea, Gareth Robb and Jock Ellis) had moved on leaving Rohan to his own devices. A chance meeting with drummer, songwriter and broadcaster (Contact FM and later UFM) Dean Ballinger found Marx with a suitable creative partner and a chance to rebuild the band. Hamilton alt-scene stalwart Chris Paki took over guitar duties and ‘Stormtrooper’ Huw O’Connor the bass. Marx: “In a matter of months we went from folksy vaudeville to British inspired punk.”

The band is prominently featured on the cover of the August 25, 1997 edition of The Waikato Times. It is a photo from their performance at the Contact FM ‘Battle of the Bands’ at the Wailing Bongo with Rohan Marx to the fore in all his lime green glory. Despite losing to The Nerve (composed of former MSU members Jude Richards, Jamie Stone and Joko Ellis) the 2nd incarnation of MSU managed to steal the glory if not the main prize.

Later in1997 the band released their second album ‘Blood Spew’. Named for an incident on Hood Street in Central Hamilton when Rohan was out on a bender and started vomiting blood (turned out to be the first symptom of an oncoming hiatus hernia) it was recorded by local sound icon Dan Howard and mixed by Scott Newth (who was destined to find his fortune as the Datsuns soundman). Marx: “It’s my favourite because the energy and enthusiasm comes through and the rawness and proficiency are all there in just the right amounts.”

1997 was also the year that saw compulsory student unionism come to an end at Waikato University and with it most of the vibrant music scene the fees paid for including student radio station Contact FM and student venue The Wailing Bongo. To close off the Bongo MSU headlined 6 bands for $3.00. 600 people turned up and to make the occasion all the more memorable Marx decided to set himself on fire.

Wearing a homemade fire suit (wet jeans, wet jersey and welding gloves on top of wet surgical bandages) he was doused in two litres of petrol and lit with a cigarette. “I went up like a human fireball and started to boil under all the wet gear. Helpful lads from the audience tried to douse the flames with beer to no effect. Sadly the whole stunt was poorly timed and only 70 people witnessed it.” (The fire was eventually extinguished and Marx emerged from under all the gear with only superficial burns to his head and nose).

 

 

In 2004 the band teamed up with Datsuns guitarist Christian Livingstone and recorded ‘Flaps’ in The Datsuns makeshift studio in a room above the Cambridge Town Hall. The success of ‘Flaps’ caught everyone by surprise and the small run of 400 copies (burned on a home computer) sold out almost immediately.

The albums combined yielded a number of student radio hits including ‘Tony Tourettes’ (from ‘Flaps’) – a song about a bloke who gets stabbed in the head and develops Tourettes Syndrome and is later cured by a hit on the head. The chorus says it all –

Fucken fucken fucken fuck fuckity shit fuckity fuck cunt cock shit piss you fucking wank you fucking bitch’.

‘Beef Curtains’ (from ‘Blood Spew’) – is an ode to vaginas and is played out through an extended visual metaphor about a man living inside a vagina.

And then there is ‘Stu’s Pie Cart’ (from ‘Blood Spew’). The straightest song the band ever did turned also turned out to be its most enduring and popular.

Marx: “Stu owned the River City Diner, a mobile food cart that he set up near Steele Park off Grey Street in Hamilton East every Wednesday night through Sunday morning feeding pissed students on their way home from town. The band got to know him and we roped him into voicing our adverts and cook sausages at gigs.

I wrote a song about him after I heard he had died. It works because it a heart felt ode to a friend who hadn’t died, the council had just shut him down on hygiene grounds. It is probably the best MSU song because it embodies all the stages of the band and was something other than depraved. It was a proper serious song that was still fun.”

Stu Nicholls actually died in 2015. “He was a fucking character and he loved the song and he said quite often, ‘play that at my funeral’. One of my favourite memories of band is hearing song being played at the funeral at the Newstead crematorium. The place was fucking packed.”

The song ‘Gonna Bash’ (from ‘Flaps’) appears on the soundtrack to Waikato made and NZ Film Commission funded supernatural thriller ‘The Locals’ courtesy of director Greg Page, a long time friend and supporter and in 2008 the band released ‘Roadkill’, a compilation CD featuring the entirety of the MSU catalogue. On November 14, 2008, at Ward Lane in Central Hamilton the band said their final goodbyes at the ‘Roadkill’ release gig………. or so everyone thought.

 

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The band have since reformed twice to play Paul Martin’s (Blackjack, Devilskin) annual Gemini Party (most recently in 2015) and though offers still come in for gigs (notably from Palmerston North where in their heyday the band were virtual superstars) there is no great enthusiasm for anymore reunions. Marx: “We would need a whole bunch of new songs for me to consider doing it again. Frankly, a lot of the earlier stuff doesn’t gel with me as a middle aged man.”

 

The MSU Experience:
Marx: “For the audience it was a rollicking good time, like an Oompah band without the Oompah. The second version was a great fun band with lots of laughs and great disgusting lyrics. As we good older, lazier and fatter, the punk element dropped out and we became a good Kiwi rock band. That last stage  was the third and final version of the band. Terry Edwards replaced Dean Ballinger on drums in 2004 investing the outfit with a new feel and overall it was the most musically literate.

One of things I loved the most about being in MSU was looking out into the audience and seeing two thirds dancing and singing along and the other third listening to the lyrics and laughing. These latter types were usually always newbie’s to the MSU experience.”

 

Afterword:

When writing the story of a band with as long a history as MSU it is often as much about as what you leave out as what you have put in and believe me, I have left out plenty. Alongside the sexual depravity that fills out the songs there are the stage costumes made from toilet paper, the naked but for the sock thing, the fake breasts, pigs head football, the incident of the bass guitar and an unappreciative audience member not to forget the various national tours and the litany of misadventures that filled out the spaces between the gigs. MSU was the Rock and Roll dream ‘lad’ style and if it wasn’t for the total lack of female groupies, it would have been perfect.

 

 

Where Are They Now?

Chris Paki (Guitar) is driving a milk tanker for Fonterra and playing in four different bands.

Terry Edwards (Drums) is the manager of Credit Union Hamilton and plays in two cover bands.

Aaron Watkinson (Bass) is copywriter and sound engineer with MadiaWorks in Auckland.

Dean Ballinger (Drummer and Lyricist) is a tutor at the Screen and Media Department at Waikato University and an authority on Conspiracy Theory (the subject of his Masters thesis).

Jamie Stone (guitarist) teaches guitar on Waiheke Island.

Gareth ‘Griff’ Robb (Drummer) is a Sonographer in Wellington.

Jocko Ellis (Percussion, Vocals) is an Intermediate Schoolteacher in Te Awamutu.

Dave O’Shea (Guitar) is a Legal Executive in Hamilton.

Jude Richards (Bassist) is a subversive garage musician in Australia.

SS Stormtrooper (Huw O’Connor – Bass) teaches marketing at the University of Waikato School of Business.

Rohan Marx (Vocals) graduated Waikato University with a Degree in Film and English. After selling space in the Yellow Pages for a couple or three years he took on the thankless task of trying to keep the Universities Static Television afloat. Later he found a job with car/campervan rental company Online Republic in Auckland and is now General Manager.

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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.

This Is Andrew McLennan

February 21, 2016

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At the age of ten, Andrew McLennan (born 1960) bumped the dial on the family radio and was shocked to hear music coming out. “I thought that the radio was all about horse racing and had no idea there was music.” The song was The Doobie Brothers ‘Black Water’ and the beginning of a love affair with music that would take Andrew all the way to the top of the local industry. By the age of 22 Andrew McLennan was just about as ‘pop star’ as it is possible to be in New Zealand. At the age of 30, somewhat disenchanted with where he was with his career he gave the music away and embarked on a new course of life, one that would take him a fortune before almost destroying him.

Andrew was 14 when his father on his way out to the pub pushed open the bedroom door to say goodbye and Andrew caught unawares hastily hid the magazine he was reading behind his back. Naturally his father thought it was some kind of pornographic mag and demanded to see it. It was just a music magazine, the kind that Andrew had been buying and pouring over every chance he got, soaking up stories of bands and songs and dreaming of fame and fortune. It was at this moment that he gave his father the news that he was going to be a singer in a band. “Yeah Yeah,” was the reply.

For a kid whose ambitions were to sing in a band, Dunedin born McLennan found himself exactly at the right place and time living as he was just down the road from Westlake Boys High on Auckland’s North Shore, a school where a serendipitous meeting of like minds was about to take place.

His wider circle of schoolmates included Richard Von Sturmer, Don McGlashan (“I was so in awe of his musical gifts that I felt very shy around him”), Mark Bell, Ian Gilroy, Peter Warren, Rob Guy and Tim Mahon. Bell, Gilroy and McLennan formed a band called Titusucanbe which they later renamed The Whizz Kids. The Whizz Kids were a Petri dish, a nurturing ground that mentored a group of young musicians who later contributed to some of that generation’s most exciting music- Blam Blam Blam, The Crocodiles, The Plague, Pop Mechanix, Lip service, Coconut Rough and The Swingers.

For Andrew it was straight out of school and straight into fulltime music. Between 1978 and 1980 he fronted both The Whizz Kids and The Plague, played some keyboards and wrote some of the songs. The Whiz Kids were power pop; The Plague was art rock theatre anarchy. The Plague seems a strange contrast to Andrew’s mainstream pop ambitions, but Andrew explains it was because of school-mate (poet and screen writer) Richard Von Strummer. “Being involved with anything he had a hand in was always something special.” (Everyone in The Plague were known by the surname Snoid, explaining why Andrew McLennan is sometimes referred to as Andrew Snoid).

In 1980 Andrew joined one of the nations top touring acts the Australia bound Pop Mechanix, replacing their long time vocalist and founding member Dick Driver. Playing support slots for Spilt Enz, The Stray Cats, Joe Cocker and Eric Burden the band were building a solid reputation and playing to ever increasing crowds when Armageddon hit. A Sydney outfit called Popular Mechanics claimed a conflict of interest and approached the bands label CBS Records and asked for $5000 in return for relinquishing all rights to the name. The record company refused and a protracted court case flowed severely denting the bands momentum. The judge ruled in favour of Popular Mechanics and Pop Mechanix lost the right to use their name in all territories except in New Zealand, Canberra and the Northern Territory.

Andrew: “CBS could have paid the cash but didn’t, they were not going to be pushed around by a small time band that had only released one independent single. It was all about the labels arrogance and it fucked us.” (Tim Murdoch of Warners NZ later reclaimed the rights to the name and gave them back to McLennan). The band soldiered on as NZ Pop then The Zoo eventually returning to NZ to continue as The Pop Mechanix but for Andrew it was all over, (temporarily as it turned out). Feeling somewhat disenchanted by the experience he accepted an offer to join The Swingers.

Andrew had played with the Swingers a year earlier at the XS Café in Auckland taking on vocals for a cover of The Suburban Reptiles track ‘Saturday Night Stay At Home’. “When Phil Judd called me a year later and asked me to join the band the chance to work with him was too appealing but I did feel like a rat jumping a sinking ship as far the Mechanix were concerned.”

The Swingers were faltering under the weight of their mega-hit ‘Counting The Beat’, a song that had become so all consuming it had stopped the band from moving forward and Judd’s solution to this dilemma was to recreate the band. In 1992 Andrew took over lead vocal duties from Judd, taking some of the weight of his shoulders and allowing him to concentrate on the guitar but it was to no avail. Andrew: “The Australian audience didn’t get The Swingers and ‘Counting The Beat’ was all they wanted to hear. It was soul-destroying.”

Despite everyone’s best efforts the band was playing to ever diminishing crowds and losing money. Finally Judd pulled the plug but it wasn’t all a loss as Andrew explains: “Working with Phil was an accelerated learning curve. I got to work with a musical genius who taught me simple things like routine and discipline. His attitude was awe-inspiring. He would start off every day with writing then we would learn new songs and when the rehearsals were done we would spend the rest of the day doing bonding stuff like playing baseball. Phil taught me how to run and manage a band and apply a workman like attitude to the creative process.”

 

The Swingers with Andrew McLennan (Mushroom Evolution Concert 1982)

 

With the end of The Swingers Andrew returned to NZ in 1993 and taking what he had learned from Judd applied it to his next project Coconut Rough. He sat down and wrote 22 songs some of which were demoed at Mandrill and then shopped them around.

The response was positive, especially so as regards a track called ‘Sierra Leone’. After working through a few offers the band signed with Mushroom. Andrew remembers taking a call from Mushroom boss Michael Gudinski who expressed his feelings on ‘Sierra Leone’ with a hearty “Maaaaaate!!”

 

Coconut Rough- Magic Hour (shot in an abandoned cement factory in Warkworth in 1984)

 

Shazam: Coconut Rough making of Sierra Leonie Part 1

 

The song was released and went top 5 in NZ and top 50 in Australia. “The irony of it was that the one hit wonder thing that effected The Swingers so badly became our yolk to bear as well. ‘Sierra Leone’ became the only song from our repertoire that people wanted to hear and no matter what we did we couldn’t follow it up.

I was 22 years old and that song was everywhere. It sure as hell gave me my seventeen and a half minutes of fame but it also became this albatross I couldn’t get past and for a long time I struggled with it. I don’t feel that way now because it’s grown beyond me and I am really grateful for the royalty checks, they never ceases to amaze me.”

Coconut Rough eventually imploded, partly due to the weight of ‘Sierra Leone’ and in 1986 Andrew rejoined Pop Mechanix for “3 years of productive and well-paid work” but when the band decided to relocate to Christchurch to take up a long-term residency Andrew didn’t want to make that journey and bowed out. Instead he took up an offer from Tim Murdoch of Warners NZ who paid him to go Los Angeles and write songs with producer John Boylen (Sharon O’Neil, The Little River Band, Boston).

 

POP MECHANIX – Pale Sun (1987 Friday Night Live)

 

1990-91 was spent living at Boylen’s Laurel Canyon home/studio, “I wrote and recorded all day most days but I was not confident about what I was doing and on top of that I was missing home. I was a bit despondent and escaped as much as I could and explored the city by car. I discovered these specialist vintage toyshops and started buying up bits and pieces and I began to think this is something I could do.” Packing up the toys he had collected, he returned home and in 1993 opened a shop on Parnell Road called ‘The Old Tin Toy Shop’, a retail and Internet operation that became a money making machine and paid for a heady lifestyle that included plenty of partying. Between 1985 and 2000 Andrew kept his musical hand warm, performing on and off with A cappella group The John Does, (Peter Elliot, Jay Legia and Nathaniel Lees).

It all started coming apart in late 2005 when Andrew purchased a noted collection of Disney memorabilia in San Diego. The purchase required a hefty bank loan and when he realised the collection was not going to be as easy to sell as he thought and with numerous other deals to maintain he began to feel the pinch and increasingly stressed he started losing his grip. In 2007 he walked away from the business narrowly avoiding bankruptcy.

“I was a workaholic who was abusing alcohol and drugs. I had been living a dishonest life and it cost me my business and the woman I loved.” Suffering burnout and clinical depression he lapsed into in a state of morbid paralysis that friends worried might cost him his life. With prompting he sought assistance at specialist clinic where he met meet Kevin Findlater (Bulldogs All-Star Goodtime Band, Hogsnort Rupert, Dave and the Dominoes) who had gone through something similar and was now mentoring patients working their way back to recovery. Andrew; “Kevin urged me to start writing music again saying that it would be the key to my recovery and that through music I would find myself again. I don’t like admitting it, but he was right!”

 

Andrew McLennan’s Telling Tales: Hiding In Public

In 2010, three years after the fall, he picked up the guitar and wrote ‘Cabin Fever’ the first of 25 new songs, 12 of which have been recorded at Kevin Findlater’s home studio for Andrew’s debut solo album ‘Hiding In Public’. Between writing and recording he has been keeping himself busy with live work and while the venues are smaller than the ones he played in his hey-day they are always full and the audiences enthusiastic.

Andrew McLennan is intelligent, thoughtful and no longer ambitious in the way he once was. These days it’s all about the craft and enjoying the moment. Reflecting on the new album, Andrew looks up and fixing me with that intense stare of his matter of factly states that “I have been away so long that it is not a comeback, it is a beginning.”

Epilogue:

Andrew picks up an acoustic and belts out a couple of songs, ‘Cabin Fever’ and ‘Hiding In Public’, both reflective pieces that examine aspects of the dark years still only freshly out to bed. These are catchy, relevant and honest songs replete with a depth of character that can only forged through the school of hard knocks. But these songs don’t feel sorry for themselves; Andrew is too clever and self-aware for that. These songs are like old friends, the kind of friends who know you intimately and they are like the man himself, memorable and interesting to be around.

 

On Depression:

“A friend once told me that that there was a process to these things, a beginning middle and an end I would come through it and be ok, I remember feeling that was ‘mumbo jumbo touchy feely’ nonsense that offered no consolation. He was right though. I had to do a lot of work and make big changes to my lifestyle and attitude. I am good these days, really good. I watch for signs of the ‘black dog’ and if I sense it lurking in the shadows I actively do something about it. I fear it in a healthy way. I don’t ever want to go back and I’ll do my best to never let it catch me again.”

 

On Phil Judd:

He can just go places most people can’t. He is a bandleader not a member. May not necessarily mix well with others. He is complex, both aloof and genial, he isolates and suffers. He is intense and hilariously funny, sometimes dark and unfathomable – he can be a right prick as well as utterly charming. I know he has had his demons, perhaps its a price the gifted pay, I don’t know, but somehow he keeps on producing Juddesquely brilliant music. I remain a fan and I’m still in awe of his talent. He is unique.

 

Andrew McLennan’s Telling Tales: Jumping Out A Window

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

February 21, 2016

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One Man Bannister – The Matthew Bannister Story 

February 21, 2016

onemanbannister

Matthew Bannister (born 1962) arrived in Dunedin with an itch. His head was filled with dreams of The Beatles, The Kinks and Fairport Convention and a vague notion of making music like they did, big bold albums defined by great playing and lofty musical experiments, songs drenched with harmony sitting atop soaring melodies and chorus’s that hooked and wouldn’t let go. Fortunately for Matthew he was at exactly the right place and time because a musical revolution was about to sweep over Dunedin that would make that kind of dream possible for those so inclined.

Scotsman Bannister is 17 years old and swimming the unfamiliar cultural waters of Otago Boys High. On his way to join the schools guitar club he walks into David Pine. Pine points to Bannister’s guitar case and they start talking music. Inspired they are spurred into action decide to form a band but first Pine needs to learn the guitar so while that is happening Bannister joins an established covers band called Feedback. While the music is not exactly Bannister’s thing, he finds in bands leader Gavin Keen something of a mentor and in the band a suitable education.

A little while later Bannister and Pine, now studying at Otago University, put together a band called itself Sneaky Feelings. On a trip to Christchurch they come to the attention of Roger Sheppard who invites them to record for his fledgling Flying Nun label. They contribute to the labels legendary 1982 Dunedin Double E.P (alongside The Clean, The Verlaines and The Stones) and over the following 6 years record and release 6 singles and 3 albums of original material. Of the three albums it is 1986’s ‘Sentimental Education’ that gives us the best portrait of Bannister as the young artist, songwriter/arranger.

The bands first LP 1983’s ‘Send You’ had been driven by David Pine and was a great success both commercially and critically. For album number two Pine stepped back and Bannister up. Contributing half the songs, drafting the arrangements and directing recording process, this was Bannister’s baby.

Drawing deeply from his love of sophisticated pop music, this album was less Beatles (Bannister’s musical touchstone) and more Burt Bacharach, a composer Bannister had long admired and whose style had coloured Bannister’s musical palette as much as anything he had taken to heart. The Bacharachian influence abounds throughout ‘Sentimental Education’, an affair filled out with strings, brass, lush harmonies and Hammond organ, it was more Brill Building than Flying Nun and in that context went down like a lead balloon with many of the labels inner circle who had nothing but contempt for The Sneaky’s thoughtful and ‘wet’ approach to music.

Chris Knox (the labels conscience and spiritual leader) famously said to the band of the album as it was being prepared for release “I’ve heard your album and it sucks.” This statement combined with poor sales and middling reviews (from the local press, the British and European press were more enthusiastic) stalked Bannister for a long time after reinforcing his doubts and uncertainties and confirming his belief that the audience preferred Pines words and melodies to his own. Bannister took it hard.

 

Sneaky Feeling: Husband House

 

History has been much kinder to ‘Sentimental Education’ and for other Bannister penned Sneaky’s songs notably ‘Husband House’ which the subject of a loving article written by Canvas Magazines deputy editor Greg Dixon. The album has been written about a number of times over the years by a variety of people who had fallen in love with it when it was released and had never quite gotten over it.

I was one of those and in 2015 tracked Bannister down and recorded an Audio Documentary with him that explored the album’s creation and aftermath. After we had finished the documentary I asked Matthew what he had been doing since The Sneaky’s parked the van up in 1989. He pulled out his i-Pod and over a few beers dazzled me with tracks from his post-Sneaky’s catalogue.

The Sneaky’s last hurrah was a rather desultory 1989 European adventure that left Bannister washed up in Rennes France, broke, bereft and alone. He limped back to NZ and got a job at the Auckland University Library where he met multi-instrumentalist Alice Bulmer and found a new lease on life.

Alice replaced David Pine as Matthew’s main muse and together with Alan Gregg they formed The Dribbling Darts of Love, later shortened to the Dribbling Darts (Bannister, a Shakespearian scholar, lifted the name from the great mans play ‘Measure for Measure’). Between 1989 and 1993 The Darts released two albums, 2 E.Ps (through Flying Nun) and scored a minor chart hit with their 1999 single ‘Hey Judith’.

 

The Dribbling Darts Of Love: Hey Judith

 

The Dribbling Darts faded and music generally took a backseat as Bannister and Bulmer focused their attention on raising and supporting a family. Over the next few years Bannister worked as a journalist/music reviewer, checked the accuracy of crossword puzzles for the Women’s Weekly and sub-edited at Rip It Up, scrapping together a living however and wherever he could.

In the mid-1990’s Bannister decided to write a book about the Sneaky’s and get some stuff of his chest while setting the record straight. “I felt we were being written out of the label’s history and indeed out of indie history, for example our non-appearance in various articles about Flying Nun, in indie discographies, in local rock polls and worst of all, our exclusion from 1991 Flying Nun 10 year retrospective Getting Older”.

‘Positively George Street’ was published and released in 1999 to rave reviews. Part musical autobiography part historical account it examines place and time with irony, humour and at times a measured but withering acerbic fire that is squarely aimed at Bannister’s critics within Flying Nun, notably Chris Knox. There is a strong case for marking ‘Positively George Street’ as one of NZ’s best musical biographies, but whatever that case, for Bannister the writing was an exorcism that put to rest the ghosts of the past.

Suitably set free Bannister returned to University to study for his PhD (in media) graduating in 2003. His thesis later appeared as his second published book ‘White Boys, White Noise: Masculinities and 1980s Guitar Rock’. He otherwise filled out the decade playing lead guitar for The Mutton Birds (1999).

13 years after the last Dribbling Darts last release Bannister, Bulmer and their new band The Weather went into the studio with producer Ed Cake. The result was ‘Aroha Ave’, a labour of love whose long gestation came close to being financially ruinous. (Bannister describes working with the obsessive Cake both as joyous and as an exasperation he would not ever care to repeat). The album was completed in 2006 did not see the light of day until 2008 by which time the Bannister’s had moved to Hamilton where Matthew had secured a job as a Thesis Supervisor at WINTEC’s Media Arts School.

With a small financial grant in hand, he had the album mastered at the WINTEC recording studio by Zed Brooks who also polished up a home made solo album called Moth (released under the moniker One Man Bannister). Both albums received startlingly good reviews and while they did not exactly reignite his career, they certainly lifted his profile.

 

The Weather: Aroha Ave

 

By this stage the various members of The Weather had dispersed about the world so Bannister set to work on a new project called The Changing Same who released their self-titled debut album in 2011. One of Bannister’s ongoing musical themes concerns ‘place’ (a theme that is partially informed by his fear of being alone and rootless) heard in tracks like the Sneaky’s ‘Husband House’, The Weathers ‘Aroha Ave’ and most recently with The Changing Same’s ‘Hillcrest’, a descriptive song of the Hamilton suburb where Bannister lives and a song that has become something of minor city anthem alongside Chris Thompson’s ‘Hamilton’ but unlike Thompson who states ‘Greatest little town in New Zealand/But I’d do any thing to get away,’ Bannister has discovered a convivial and easy going city that suits both his needs and temperament. *(Hamilton has produced two musicians named Chris Thompson. The one mentioned here is a folk singer, not the one who became vocalist for Manfred Mann).

 

The Changing Same: Make Up My Mind

 

In 2013 Bannister watched with interest as his students tackled a recording project where they were assigned classic albums and asked to re-record them. One of the albums was The Beatles ‘Revolver’ which proved too difficult for those concerned and was abandoned but not before it had set Bannister’s creative mind into motion.

He decided to have a crack at it himself and the result was released later that year on Powertool Records to universal acclaim. Peaking at number 16 on the national album charts, One Man Bannister’s ‘Evolver’ became his most successful post Sneaky’s endeavour, both critically and commercially.

Bannister: “You release something original and the response is ‘Ho Hum’ but then you say ‘I have reinterpreted the Beatles’ and everyone is interested.” The irony has not escaped an artist who has long struggled for recognition but there was an upside. On the back of that success he was approached by boutique German cassette label Thokei Tapes who released the third One Man Bannister album ‘Birds and Bees’ in 2015.

 

One Man Bannister: Tomorrow Never Knows (Evolver)

 

Bannister played ‘Evolver’ in its entirety at the 2104 Hamilton Gardens Festival accompanied by a band and a 12-piece string section. I was a little late arriving for the performance but as I walked up the hill toward the outdoor show I was struck by the lush rich sound drifting through the warm Hamilton night.

By the time I arrived on the scene the audience was lapping up the magic Bannister was conjuring. He was mesmerising, a towering figure belting out the tunes of his youth, the very songs that had set him his musical course so many decades before and you might say he had come full circle, but he hadn’t, not quite. The full circle came with the news that Sneaky Feeling had reunited and recorded an album of new material (due for release sometime in late 2016 alongside a planned re-issue of Sentimental Education).

 

One Man Bannister: A Boy And A Girl (The Birds and Bees)

 

 

The Amazing Musical Adventures of Darryn Patterson Harkness.

February 21, 2016

 

20Darryn2015 copy

Darryn Harkness is a songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, producer, engineer, video-maker, Zine publisher and installation artist. He makes a little money here and there as a jobbing musician and teacher otherwise paying for home and hearth working as a caregiver 2 days a week. Between gigs Darryn is to be found making music at his recording studio on Upper Queen St in Auckland, the home of his bands The New Telepathics and Loud Ghost. It’s where videos are planned, songs are archived and where a diverse range of artists and performers meet to create and rehearse. The Darryn Harkness story includes stints with renowned percussion ensemble From Scratch, time with The Dead Flowers, Fagan and the People, The Hallelujah Picasso’s and a stint in London that included two John Peel session and few heady years with Serafin, a British band that came within a heartbeat of the really big time. In between all this falls one of his most lucrative projects, a long and ongoing relationship with the classic silent film, Nosferatu.

Darryn Patterson Harkness was born May 3 1972 in the South Island town of Gore to parents Ian and Carolyn Harkness who met in 1970 while performing with Palmerston North cabaret act The Flairs Showband.

It was a childhood of cabaret, musical theatre, sing-along parties around the piano and travelling with his parents to gigs. Ian and Carolyn performed as a duo, providing background music for restaurants and hotels. Darryn describes it as being all very Tom Jones, Engelbert Humperdinck and Girl from Ipanema and describes his father as a “fantastic pianist” and his mother as “an amazing singer.”

Darryn: “We have always made music as a family and share a collective talent for improvising and creating original music. The first of our branch of the Harkness family to arrived in NZ in1842 and played violin and accordion for his fellow travellers without respite during the voyage from Scotland. When he ran out of known tunes, he improvised; it’s all in the ships logbooks, apparently the ships captain was quite taken by the music. Music is important to the family, it is our heartbeat.”

By age 12 Darryn was already a handy pianist but was bored with the instrument and was teaching himself drums, looking for a certain ‘musical something’ he could not quite put his finger on. Everything changed when he got to know Ross, Ian’s younger brother. “There was no rock music in our record collection, my Dad didn’t get it so I missed out on Hendrix and The Who. Fortunately that all changed with Ross.” Ross Harkness lived in Palmerston North and played in Foisemarker, a band Darryn describes “as a dirty Palmy low-fi punk sludge band.”

“Ross sat me down when I was 12 and played me music like Beefheart’s Trout Mask Replica, Can’s Tago Mago, Ornette Coleman and The Cramps. This music blew my mind and filled the empty musical space in my psyche. Ross introduced me to pot, beer, punk and most importantly Sun Ra (Darryn’s most important an enduring influence).” So close were uncle and nephew that they started making music whenever they got together. They named their ongoing project ‘Dwellers of the Temple Headlands’ and have so far made 2 CDs of their recordings, music which Darryn counts among his favourite creative endeavours.

By the mid-1980s the family were living on North Shore Auckland’s (after sojourns in Timaru, Gore and Christchurch) and Darryn found himself at Westlake Boy’s, a school with a remarkable musical alumni that includes Andrew McLennan, Peter Warren and Don McGlashan, and where he became involved in his first band, Fourpeace. Heavily influenced by Dinosaur Jr, the band made the finals of the very first ‘91FM High-School Battle of the Bands’, in 1988.

“My parents were really great, and while they did not ‘get’ the music I was making, they lets us practice at home and never begrudged the noise or the beer. The only thing they had to say about it was ‘never do it for a living,’” advice Darryn was never going to take. He left school aged 18 with one ambition, to make music. He enrolled to study Sound Engineering with S.A.E on the institutes opening day in 1990. Institutions, he quickly realised, were not for him and he left after a year. “On reflection, I would have been better off using the money I spent to study at S.A.E buying some equipment and teaching myself while making music.” The music in question was Darryn’s first post-school band, Braintree.

“Braintree was a good time and my first really good band. Loose, big and bold and not afraid to experiment, the band was as hotbed of creative activity that included three ultra experimental sub-bands, The Mysterons, Carefree-Stayfree and Space Suit, all made up of various combinations of Braintree members. The early 1990’s were an excellent time to be a musician. Getting on the dole was easy and I spent all my time making music which suited me perfectly.”

In 1993 with $5000 grant from The Arts Council, Braintree recorded and released an EP on Wildside called ‘Minds Alive’. It “didn’t sell very well” and in 1995 “the band fell apart as bands do.”

 

Braintree: Reprisemas – 1993

 

With the demise of his beloved Braintree, Darryn started going to Palmy to hang with Ross and discovered The Stomach, an 8-Track recording studio that charged beneficiaries $10 an hour under a local arts scheme. The Stomach became his second home and it was here that Stayfree-Carefree recorded the ‘Telepathic Junkie’ LP, a limited edition vinyl release, and where Darryn, under the moniker DHarkness recorded his first solo project, an EP called ‘Time Machine’.

Back in Auckland, Braintree sub-band Space Suit was gaining some momentum and the members decided to turn it into a fulltime project. In 1997 the band released its debut album, the self-titled ‘Space Suit’ on CD.

“Space Suit pushed the boundaries as much as our skills would allow us and though we were pretty ‘out there’ a lot people really latched onto our scene at the Kurtz Longue on upper Symons Street where we became something of a phenomenon, packing out the place every time we played.”

 

Spacesuit: Orange – 1997

 

It was fellow Space Suit member Gabriel White who pointed Darryn in the direction of legendary percussion ensemble From Scratch who were auditioning for a new member in preparation for a European tour. Darryn was dubious but went along anyway and to his surprise was offered the position, one that he held from 1996 until 2000. The rehearsals for the tour took 6 months and in 1998 he headed offshore for the first time. It was a gruelling tour that included the recording of the album ‘Global Hockets’, and in order to keep everyone fresh, the band took 3-month break halfway through their schedule giving Darryn an opportunity to visit London.

 

From Scratch: Global Hockets Parts I and 2 – 1999

 

 

He was there barely a week when he met musician Ben Smith at a party. Ben was the leader of a rising pop/rock band called Stony Sleep and Ben, liking what he saw in Darryn, invited him to jam with the band the next day. “We jammed on 4 songs and Ben said that in a couple of days they were going to play these songs on a John Peel session and would I like to come along and sit in? I didn’t get to met John Peel but playing in a BBC studio was an amazing experience.”

There was some talk of Darryn joining Stony Sleep but with From Scratch reconvening in Germany in a couple of months the timing wasn’t right and in the meantime Darryn was scheduled to return to New Zealand to play bass on the third Dead Flowers album. While he was home, he took the opportunity to record a track under the name The New Telepathics, a solo project that he describes as “A mixture of Jazz, electronica and soul.” The track, ‘All About The Eye’, appeared on Mikey Havoc’s 1999 Sony compilation, ‘Havoc’s Magic Set’.

With the Dead Flowers assignment complete, he headed back to Europe, finished the From Scratch tour and headed back to London to meet up with Ben Smith who was at a loose end, Stony Sleep having fallen apart while Darryn was in NZ. The pair started jamming and a new band was born, the Brit-Rock orientated Serafin. The buzz was immediate and in early 2000 Serafin won the NME ‘Peoples Sound Competition’. The prize was a spot at the V-Festival opening for Joe Strummer and a two-page feature spread in the magazine.

With another feature in Q Magazine pushing things along, they signed a licensing with Taste Media whose portfolio included Muse. They played the Brixton Academy with Muse in 2001 and in 2002 released two EPs, EP 1 and EP 2. The video for a single, ‘Things Fall Apart’, became a huge hit on MTV Britain and following an appearance at the SBSW festival in Austin Texas later that year, they were signed by Electra America and advanced $300,000 and set to work recording an album with Dave Sardy (Marilyn Manson, Oasis, Red Hot Chilli Peppers) in LA.

Electra decided against an American release for “No Push Collide” but set it loose in Europe in 2003 to rave reviews. Sales were healthy but nowhere more so than in France where the band, championed by the French music press, became a major touring act. Darryn: “I remember the first time we played Paris. The tour bus pulled up outside the venue, a 2000 seater, and there was huge crowd of people milling around. We wondered what was going on? It turns out they were there to greet us. We were surprised to say the least.” By the time of their second French tour, they band were so popular they could easily fill any number of 10,000 seat venues.

The next two years saw the band busy headlining on the European festival circuit culminating with consecutive spots at the Reading and Leeds festivals and support slots touring with Frank Black, Muse and Breeder. They were heady times but sadly, they didn’t last. Problems arose when their label Taste Media was sold to Warner Music in 2004. The band, as many do in this situation, found itself in contractual limbo and unable to operate as a going concern. Visa difficulties for Darryn added further weight to the bands problems and despite one more album, 2007s ‘To The Teeth’, the moment was lost.

 

Serafin: Things Fall Apart – 2003

 

 

Serafin: News – 2007

 

With Serafin in hiatus, Darryn focused on his New Telepathics project and began gigging around London quietly building an audience. Visa requirements meant he had to leave the country every three months, so he regularly disembarked to Germany were he kept a flat and operated a slightly different version of The New Telepathics. “I was living and playing in the district around the Bauhaus, a revelatory experience in design but the music scene was very ordinary and the locals had never seen anything like The New Telepathics before. Every time we played clubs in the area the crowds were so large they would spill out on the street. It was crazy.” The New Telepathics opened doors in Berlin for Darryn and he was given the opportunity to fulfil another of his ambitions, to exhibit as an installation artist. Combining sculptural art, music and Zines, the shows drew solid crowds further enhancing his stature within the cities art and music scene.

 

The New Telepathics: Remember Fela – 2004

 

Between 2004 and 2010 The New Telepathics released 11 albums (variously on CD, vinyl and cassette) but Darryn’s biggest success during his post-Serafin years was with F.W Murnau’s Nosferatu.

“When I wasn’t in Berlin I was living in a squat in Brixton and often played the Brixton Cinema Café with The New Telepathics. One day I approached them with this idea I had about live scoring F.W Murnau’s silent vampire film Nosferatu.

They agreed and I did the gig with a keyboard and a bowed guitar in the main theatre. Over 300 people turned up and my share of the door was one thousand, three hundred pounds. It was so well received that they invited me to do it again.” With the help of The Future Cinema Club of the UK, the word spread and in 2007 Darryn undertook a 16-date tour of UK cinemas culminating with a spot at the Edinburgh Festival in front of an audience of 900. In 2009 he bought his Nosferatu to Auckland Festival of the Arts, bringing an end to his European sojourn.

In 2009 he signed to Mushroom Publishing who placed New Telepathic tunes on the TV shows ‘Home and Away’ and ‘Outrageous Fortune’. That same year he was invited to join Fagan and the People and played on their album ‘Admiral of The Narrow Seas’. In 2011 he joined The Hallelujah Picassos and featured on the bands 2012 EP, “The Bullet That Breaks The Key”.

In 2013 he released a New Telepathics album called ‘Clapping with Rockets’. Reviewer Graham Reid suggested that it should have been two EPs, one rock orientated and the other jazz. This set Darryn to thinking and a year later Loud Ghost was born, a separate entity to The New Telepathics, one dedicated to his rock orientated inclinations.

The first Loud Ghost album was released in 2015 to rave reviews and the project looks set to become a permanent fixture on Darryn’s calendar. With new projects from The New Telepathics and The Hallelujah Picassos underway and a bevy of video and Zine productions in the works, the Darryn Harkness story rolls on in its own inimitable way.

 

Loud Ghost: Fire Up – 2015

 

Darryn: “I am both a pop songwriter and avant-garde musician, an artist who enjoys the idea of bringing those two incongruent ends of the universe together. People tend to pigeonhole me as a ‘left of centre’ musician. I don’t see myself that way at all. I consider myself to be a pop musician and I like the idea of a good pop song, I just do it differently to most other people.”

Darryn is married to musician/academic Immy Patterson and his son Melvin, Immy’s stepson, who at 6 years of age is already an accomplished drummer and prodigious songwriter, looks set to carry on in the long established Harkness family tradition of creating and making music.

 

The New Telepathics: My First Shotgun – 2009

 

The New Telepathics: River Call Me Now – 2010

 

The New Telepathics: Change of an Astronaut – 2010

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Brief History of The Modern Era of Hamilton Recoding Studios, 1980-2015

January 27, 2016

    TandysStudio1  Tandys Recording Studio Hamilton

When I sat down to write this account about the modern era of Hamilton Recording Studios the first obstacle I encountered was the lack of chronicled information. Despite the fact that for a time the studios in question were vital to the various musical scenes in operation throughout the city and the focus of some intense creative activity, so much the wider story had been lost to memory. It was a labyrinthine puzzle but quietly the stories emerged revealing a tale of studios rising, failing and being gutted to create new studios in new locations. It is the story of passion, innovation and self-taught engineers struggling to maintain a professional recording industry in a small but rapidly growing city looking for a creative identity.

These days Hamilton boasts a serious number of recording studios led by The Porch, a facility that can be counted among the nations best, but this wasn’t always the case. While Hamilton and the wider Waikato region had a couple of small production facilities and the odd 4-Track ‘home’ recording studio prior to the 1980s, if any of the cities bands or musicians required something more from their recordings, it was off to Auckland they went and the welcome was not always as warm as it might have been.

Stories abound of grumpy engineers who drew the short straw and got the ‘Hamilton Band’. It was during one of these experiences with an engineer and some derogatory comments about Hamilton music at a well known Auckland sound recording facility that budding sound engineer Zed Brookes (there with his band Step Chant Unit putting the final touches on their soon to be hit single ‘Painting Pictures’) decided that he was going to create a decent recording studio in Hamilton and so by-pas the less than satisfactory attitudes of Auckland.

At the time the bands drummer Neville Sergent was working behind the counter of a Hamilton branch of a Tandys Record store, a chain that that proliferated across the Waikato, Bay of Plenty, Coromandel and King Country. The chains owner was musician/songwriter/performer Neil Nooyen who was thinking about building a recording studio where he could work on his own music. Sergent introduced the Brookes and Nooyen and in Nooyen, Brookes found the capital he needed and in Brookes, Nooyen found the skills and enthusiasm required to make his dream happen.

 

Tandys Recording Studio.

The barn on Nooyen’s lifestyle block just off Morrinsville Road (at the edge of the Hamilton suburb of Hillcrest) proved to be suitable and in 1985 Brookes set to work designing and building and the result was a warm and inviting studio space at the end of a gravel driveway about 3 minutes off the main road. The studio began very simply, just Brookes and his Tascam 4 Track Cassette Porta-Studio before upgrading to a 4-Track analogue system sourced from new partner Rex Wade’s Pirongia based Studio. The Nooyen/Brookes/Wade partnership lasted less than a year before Wade left to set up his own studio on Tramway Road (The Tramway Road Studio). By this stage the demand for Tandys services were enough to convince Nooyen to invest some serious money. The result was a state of the art 16 track facility.

Belying its bucolic façade, Tandys was hive of activity that often ran 24/7 trying to keep up with the demands of a hungry musical community. While Brookes initially carried the bulk of the workload he quietly built up a team of young enthusiasts to assist. Dennis Marsh had learned the basics of sound live mixing working behind the console for his brother Phil’s band; legendary Morrinsville based rock covers band Bad Jelly. Between gigs Dennis spent his time at Aerial Railway, a basic 16 track analogue facility set on a commune just north of Coromandel, expanding his craft under the supervision the studios creator Johnny Irons. When Dennis heard there was a new studio open for business just down the road from his home in Morrinsville, he turned up and offered his services.

Brookes: “Dennis was a good foil to everything. He could be annoying, (when he felt strongly about a recording he would argue his point until he got his way) but every so often totally nailed it. He was a bit of a hippy really, a free spirit who came and went as the winds blew him.” Dennis was killed on his way home to Raglan after finishing a live mixing gig in downtown Hamilton when the car he was driving hit a horse that had escaped onto Te Rapa Straight on the cities Northern boundary.


Dennis Marsh RIP.

 

Marcus Pope, a young and talented intern, met a similar fate while helping Brookes move house. After dropping some boxes off he got into his car and ran off the road and was killed instantly in circumstances that could only be described as freakish. Brookes: “Nowadays he’d probably be identified as ‘on the spectrum’ but he was a good kid and loved audio. I think about him all the time.”

Brookes met both Scott Newth and Grant Brodie when they came to Tandy’s to record with their respective bands. Both demonstrated a talent and enthusiasm for the mixing desk and “just stayed on, learning as they worked”. Brookes: “I met Scott Newth when he came in with his synth pop band Love and Violence and got on really well with him. He managed Tandys studio for a time in the later years, then we worked together at the Zoo studios. We tag-teamed it on heaps of projects, we knew each other’s production style well and could offer slightly different flavours to client’s projects. Scott ended up pursuing the indie thing and I went more commercial.”

Scott Newth became the 6th member of the Datsuns, recording much of the bands early work and running their live mixes, a job he still does today. Grant Brodie (Grok, Inspector Moog, Dribbly Cat Attraction) graduated from Tandy’s and went to work at The Rock 93FM’s production studio in downtown Hamilton. When the station was purchased from its founder Grant Hislop, Brodie stayed on with its new owners Media Works, and now manages the media groups Auckland based production studio, a role he has maintained for over 20 years.

In 1993 Brookes left Tandys to set up The Zoo Studio in central Hamilton. Scott Newth took over the running of Tandys for a brief time before handing it over to local sound enthusiast Dave Whitehead who ran the studio until it closed in 1997. Nooyen had been expanding his chain of record stores at around the same time the Internet driven digital music revolution was gaining momentum and after opening a superstore store in central Wellington, Nooyen found himself precariously over extended and the studio was sold to raise funds. Not long after, the Tandys chain of record stores (named after the iconic American record store) shut up shop for good.

Dave Whitehead, who had been dabbling with film sound, went to Wellington and started White Noise, a film sound production company. Over the last 20 years he has worked on over 60 film and TV projects including The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings Trilogies, Tin Tin, District 9, Snow Piercer and Elysium.

As for Tandys, the equipment was purchased by local student radio station Contact Fm (the University of Waikato) where it was grafted onto the Fridge, the stations production studio.

 

Tandys Zed and Scott Brodie

Zed Brookes behind the console at Tandys (with Scott Brodie of Grok)

Gear:
Originally the studio ran off Brooke’s 4-track Tascam Portastudio and his effects units and synthesizers, then upgrading to Rex Wades’ Tascam 8-Track Reel-to-reel and Tascam mixer and a custom-built patch bay with JBL monitors before upgrading to Fostex 16-Track. A client (a debt collector) sold the studio a Studiomaster 8-buss console he had repossessed from a Rotorua studio and was storing under his bed.
Brookes: “We got it for a good price and later expanded it with another 8 channels to get 24. We bought a Roland MC500 MkII sequencer for our MIDI stuff (everything was entered in numbers), eventually upgrading to an Atari computer with Creator and a Unitor adaptor for striping time code to tape. I remember I even wrote code for it to work out room modes. We bought an Akai S900 sampler and got the trigger input option for triggering drum samples. That thing was worth its weight in gold. We bought some nice microphones, some Omni mics and we got some very expensive B&Ks that were amazing. We had an early 500 rack with some nice modules. We bought one of the first Sony DAT machines, you had to add an extra 15% reverb to your mixes as the rest would just vanish off the DAT.”

Some of the artists who recorded at Tandys Studio: Neil Nooyen, Pretty Belinda, Jono Jack, Silken Blue, Step Chant Unit, Tim Armstrong, Stonehenge, Adult Mayflies, Jim an Joe, Valhalla, Andy Bramwell, Steve Jackson/Desperate Chaps, Steve Hancock, 3 Men Missing, Andrew Johnstone, Book of Martyrs, Blackjack, Brendan Dugan, Ritchie Pickett, Bruce Dennis, Calamari Bushmen, Daisy Chain Halo, Whisperscream, Coustic Harmony, Quantum Leap (QL), Rare Vision, Rik Bernards, Rob Egan, Roy Forlong, Run For Cover, Sound Insight, Merenia, Merv Pinney, Navigator, The Crawfords, Hoola Troupe, Pieces Of Cod, Kaimai Cowboys, Ken Hughes Jr, King Biscuit, Living Proof, Tony Edwards, Love and Violence, Cold Shock, Doug Pepperell, Epic Thruster, Fire and Ice, Gary Spain.

Tandys Recording Studio released the very first Hamilton CD in 1990, a compilation album of songs by various Hamilton musicians and bands called ‘Just Teasing’.

  1. Neil Nooyen – Hang on Sloopy
  2. Broken English – Second chance
  3. Desperate Chaps -She couldn’t love me
  4. Love and Violence – Wish (Oh girl)
  5. Jim ’an’ Joe – (Can’t do it) without you
  6. Pretty Belinda – Cyclone Bola
  7. Step Chant Unit – Doesn’t time fly
  8. Love and Violence – Messages (Egyptian paradise)
  9. Neil Nooyen – No. 17
  10. Zed Brookes – Ugh, Wipeout
  11. Silken Blue – Prisms
  12. Second Helping – Frosty winter blues
  13. Te Tapu – Here we go again

 

Tim Armstrong: Guilty 1991 (Filmed inside Tandys Studio)

 

Hoola Troupe: Never Good Enough 1990

 

Merenia: U Know I Like It 1991

 

Fridgerecords

The Fridge Studio Logo

The Fridge Recording Studio.

The Fridge (named so because the studio was set inside an old industrial fridge complete with fridge doors and no windows) was formerly the radio stations production studio but with the arrival of ‘state of the art’ gear from Tandy’s, it became the recording venue of choice for the cities thriving alt-music scene and operated in its first incarnation until 1998.

The Student Union funded Contact FM was one of the victims of the ‘ideological war of attrition’ being waged by the right-wing/Libertarian political group ‘Student Choice’ against the Student Union’s compulsory funding model that ‘subsidised’ operations like Contact. Between 1996-1998 Contact starved for funds struggled to survive. Broke and spiritually spent the station shut its doors on the 17th June 1998. The Fridge went into hiatus until being revived in 2009 when Contact FM was re-established on 88.1FM, (a low power frequency signal). With local sound engineer Dan Howard at the helm, the Fridge ran for several more years until finally shutting its industrial grade doors for good in 2014.

Among the many acts who used the Fridge during its first incarnation were:

Grok, Nodrog, Hand of Glory, Big Muffin Serious Band, Dribbly Cat Attraction, The Emersons, Wendyhouse, BwaDaRiddim. Greg Locke (The Trons) often used this studio to record bands, as did Dave Whitehead, Scott Newth and Gordon Bassett.

The Hamilton compilation CD ‘The Fridge’ was recorded in the studio and released in 1995:

  1. Dean – Unfortunate flux
  2. 5 Girls – ITN Glamour
  3. Widdershins – Comfort Women
  4. Tugboat – Old timer
  5. Aquarium – Dispatch
  6. Boil Up – Karmagetit
  7. Nodrog – Don’t Grow
  8. Cave – Sicko
  9. Tsunami Band – Spit out the sun
  10. Phones and Accessories – Motorola
  11. Inchworm – 1987
  12. Wendyhouse – Skinny medley
  13. Hand of Glory – 16 tons
  14. Bwa da Riddim – Dob
  15. Mobile Stud Unit – Bob
  16. Big Muffin Serious Band – Who walks in when I walk out

 

Recordings from The Fridge 2009-2014:

The Prime Numbers – unreleased EP 2009, The Shrugs – Behold / Silver Bullet single 2009, Dynamo Go – Poor Alfred single 2010, Dead Fires – Hinterland single 2011, Dick Dynamite and the Doppelgangers – Live at The Fridge 2011, Hot Blooded Ripper – Live at The Fridge 2011, Penelope The – The Fridge Sessions 2011, Devilskin – demos 2011, The Shrugs – Costume Drama, 2012 Sora Shima – You are Surrounded 2014, Wizz Kids – The Fridge EP 2014

 

Dick Dynamite and The Doppelgangers: Deviant (From Live At The Fridge) 2011

 

Musicare Recording Studio and Peak Records 1989-

At around the same time as Tandys was breathing new life into the Waikato music scene out on Morrinsville Road another sound revolution was underway at the polar opposite end of the city on Sandwich Road, just off Te Rapa Straight, the cities northern gateway.

This story begins and ends with and self-taught Christchurch sound engineer Lawrence Arps who had found his way to Hamilton via repeat visits as the guitarist with covers bands Shady and Trooper. While in town, the bands would hire live rigs from Claudelands based Musicare Sound and later when Lawrence decided to move to Hamilton and took up with local cover acts Ragged Edges and The Break, he got to know the crew at Musicare Sound well enough for them to recognize that he not only had an interest in sound, but was a ‘pretty capable’ technician and between 1981-1987 Lawrence was kept busy doing live sound on Musicare rigs for various local (Midge Marsden, Knightshade) and touring acts at iconic city venues like The Hillcrest Tavern and The Lady Hamilton nightclub. Using the live rigs, Lawrence also did some informal recordings at various locations around the city including a session with songwriter Mike Farrell who was demoing the songs that ended up on Midge Marsden’s career defining ‘Burning Rain’ album.

In 1987 Lawrence left Musicare temporarily to work full-time at Home Run, a 16-track analogue facility in a factory space at the top of Sandwich Road (where it meets Te Rapa Straight). While Home Runs bread and butter was producing jingles for local radio it did take on a few bands from time to time. Arps: “As I became more proficient with the recording process I produced an album for The Wetbacks which lead to Knightshade (who I was mixing live). They asked me to produce their first two EPs.”

Home Run, struggling to stay solvent, went out of business in late 1989 and was bought up by Neil Reynolds owner of Musicare Sound who moved his operation from Claudelands to the Sandwich Road studio. Arps found himself back where he had started.

Arps: “Over several years we recoded many songs, albums, jungles, audio books, and soundtracks. Notable recordings include the 8Forty8 album ‘Edge of Time’, The Politicians album ‘Test Pattern’, Joy Adams’s ‘Come Home Baby Darling’ single (1990 NZCMA Country song of the year) and Craig Pollock’s (Knightshade) solo album ‘Just Looking’ (All released via Musicare’s label Peak Records). After doing some recordings for the Wintec Maori Performing Arts Department I ended up doing the Aorangi Genisis album (a Broadway style Maori language musical) and 5 albums of Kohanga Reo resources, as well as several other Maori language albums. Around this time I also helped mix ‘Acoustic Spirit’, an album by Dave Maybee and Peter Skandera.” (‘Acoustic Spirit’ was nominated for a NZ music award in 1994).

Lawrence left Musicare in 1994 and went onto teach Audio Engineering at Tai Poutini Polytechnic where he rewrote the Certificate course, helped rewrite the Diploma course and Live Sound course. “I moved into management in 2000 and oversaw the establishment of MAINZ Christchurch, designing the floor plan for the Polytechnic’s first recording studio. Through these years I also ran a trust helping young musicians prepare for the Smokefree Rockquest and now I’m in Wellington where I am employed as deputy Chief Executive at Whitireia New Zealand”. Arps still plays guitar and is currently producing an album for his band MochaChocoLatte.

Musicare’s equipment has continued to put to good use with Dave Maybee and Jason Horner recording Joy Adam’s award wining country music album ‘Higher Ground’ (featuring artists such as John Hore Grenell, the Trenworths, Liam Ryan -The Narcs and Ritchie Pickett). Jason also recorded The Nerve’s ‘Gobby’ album (1997) and assisted Dave Maybee with the Coalranger’s 2003 album ‘Harbourlight’ (Recorded in Lyttelton with the Musicare studio on location). The studio remains a popular production and demoing facility now based in the Hamilton suburb of Pukete.

 

Politicians: Energy 1985

 

8Forty8: Don’t Turn Your Back 1993

 

Joy Adams Come Home Baby Darling 1990

 

 

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The Crew at the Zoo (Owner grant Hislop on far left of image)

The Zoo Recording Studio, 1992-97

The Zoo Studios, (564 Victoria Street in Hamilton) started off as the Rock 93FM production studio, recording advertisements, station imaging and occasionally some artists, Morrinsville based Country rocker Richie Pickett being the first, but Grant Hislop, owner and founder of The Rock had more ambitious plans for the production studio envisaging a ‘state of the art’ recording facility where he would record local bands for a label called Hark, whose mission statement was to nurture the untapped talent abounding in regions like the Waikato.

It was when local band Blackjack approached Hislop with their Zed Brookes produced album Deal, (recorded at Tandys in 1991) seeking airplay that Hislop realised he might have found the right person to help him get his studio idea off the ground. After several meetings, Brookes agreed to leave Tandys and go to work for Hislop full time. At 564 Victoria St. Brookes set to work on his most ambitious project yet, building and designing a state of the art digital recording studio, one destined to match the best that Auckland had to offer.

Blackjack’s bass player Scott Davies was the manager of Hamilton Demolition (an iconic fixture of the cities DIY scene) and through him Brookes was able to source most of the required building material including the soundproof glass for a fraction of the cost of new materials. Brookes describes the construction process: “It was a bit of a community effort. Sooz Brown (Three Men Missing/Silken Blue) sewed the entire inner fabric lining for the studio as one single piece and other local musicians with particular skills in design and carpentry pitched in as required at mate’s rates in effect creating a ‘million dollar studio’ on a very low budget.

ZOO CRoom Rear

Gear:

Brookes: “When I came on board, the Rock production studio was running off a stupidly heavy TAC Scorpion desk wired up backwards, the result was that the studios Shure SM57 microphones were acting as little speakers. When we rebuilt the studio, we were looking for consoles that had some sort of automation, so for a while we had a Soundtracs Solo console. Then we moved up to an Amek “Big” console imported from the UK. This cost about $80,000 and Grant (Hislop) had to sell his shares in the Rock and The Edge to pay for it. It had computerised recall and automation like a low-budget SSL.

After removing the old console and rewiring every single insert jack ‘the other way around’ the import company forgot we needed it pronto and eventually, after stressed-out phone calls, they sent a guy down with the console on a trailer. To make matters worse after the first power-up the consoles power supplier caught fire, so we had to put the old console back in, and rewire everything until we could get a replacement power supplier from England about 10 days later. This was pre-internet, so updates involved dialing-up the manufacturer’s computer on the phone.

Initially big soffit-mounted JBL monitors were our main speaker system, and later on some Tannoy concentric monitors were added (amazing sound). Early recordings were on multitrack analogue tape, but eventually we bought some modular Alesis digital tape decks (“Blackface” ADATS), revolutionary technology that eventually required every single component inside them be replaced. Mix automation went from an Atari with eMagic Notator controlling the console mutes to a PC with the Amek’s proprietary Supertrue software controlling VCAs, mutes and MIDI triggers. The MIDI was a bit erratic to say the least. Our first hard drive died after 2 days. We also had some samplers – an Akai S1000 (which was awesome), and a really primitive (but kind of cool) Ensoniq Mirage.”

The Zoo officially opened on the 19th April 1993 with the Muttonbirds performing live to air in the studio via The Rock in a show dubbed The Electric Kitchen, a couple of weeks later the studio hosted another Electric Kitchen, this time featuring the Greg Johnson Set. (Other later Electric Kitchen Sessions included performances by Emulsifier and The Dead Flowers).

Properly baptized the Zoo was open for business. Nelson band The Exploding Poppies (winners of the 1992 Smokefree Rockquest) were the first band to use the studio, and the resulting song made it onto a NZ on Air – Kiwi Hit Disk, a sign that everyone at the Zoo took as a positive omen for the future.

Brooke’s managed the studio for a while, but with Hislop’s label Hark Records gaining momentum and increasing demands from his growing network of regional radio stations for in-house production new staff was hired to assist. Dean Leary (8Forty8/Hoola Troupe) and Darren McLean were hired to manage the day-to-day operations with Scott Newth, Grant Brodie, Dave Lowndes and Dave Whitehead acting as assistant engineers to Brookes. With the city lacking any formal training facilities for sound engineers, Dave Lowndes later established The Zoo School Of Audio Engineering.

Despite the fact that the studio was operating 24/7, it was struggling financially and without the income from the Rock and the Edge, (Hislop had sold his shares in the popular radio stations to finance the Zoo), Hislop debunked to Wellington to take up a radio management position in order to earn some money to keep his dream alive but without his enthusiasm, vision and drive on hand, the studio started losing clients and with mounting debts was forced to close in 1997.

Later that year Wintec (The Waikato Polytechnic) purchased the studios assets for their fledging School Of Audio Engineering and contracted Brookes to install the equipment and supervise the initial courses. It proved to be a good fit and Brookes stayed on for a number of years teaching sound engineering and songwriting.

 

Zoo Glass Painting

Zoo Studio Painting on Glass by Andrew Johnstone

 

Artists who recorded at the Zoo, including demos, singles, EP and album projects:

Blackjack, Jacqui Keelan, Tama Dean, Dusty Rhodes, Andy Bramwell, Craig Pollock, No Utopia, Zarzoff Brothers, Midge Marsden, Tim Armstrong, Sydney Melbourne, Dave Maybee,

Tim Mellalieu, Max Creepy, Subliminal Warfare, Knightshade, Bad Jelly, Tetnus, Stan Morgan, Pania Moka, Strangetown, Dave Williams, Inchworm, Denied Serenity, Andrew Johnstone, Richie Pickett, Datura, Living Proof, The Narcs, Dead Flowers, Blinder, Silken Blue, Fuckpig, Acrobat, Murray Jeffrey, Liam Ryan, Andrew Newth, Ashley Puriri, Bittersweet, Bitumus, Blunt, Chris and Rhonda Johnson aka Moofish.

Darryl Monteith, Death of a Monkey, Exit Wound, Fat Mannequin, Girls Talk, Greenstone, Hip Shooters, Ian Whitehouse, John Michaels and the Cheap Dates,

Julz Cairney, King Biscuit, Kumquots, Living Proof, Loose New Romans, Love and Violence, Makere Roa, Max Creepy, Midge Marsden, Mike Garner, Native Soul, No Thrills, Pitt Ramsey, Psyclops, Rare Vision, Romantic Andes, Ronnie Taylor, Scott Davies, Silken Blue, Slip of the Tongue, Stan Morgan, Subliminal Warfare, The Set, Tim Armstrong, Tombstone, Tony Koretz,

Trevor Shaw, Tumbleweed, Vivid FX, War Pigs, Wayne Panapa, Whisperscream, Wiki Thompson, Zooper.

 

Inchworm: Come Out Come Out 1995

 

 

King Biscuit: Crazy Dreams 1994

 

Fat Mannequin: Room and Spine 1997

 

The WINTEC School of Audio Engineering.

Besides acting as an educational facility, Wintec’s studio was available to hire and helped fill a gap in a city still desperately short of quality recording facilities. The Datsuns recorded ‘Super Gyration’ (their first single) here in 2000 and Katchafire, their first album, 2003’s ‘Revival’. Other notable local artists to use the facility were Psyclops, Scooter, Moofish, Tweeter and Leithe, otherwise Brookes was kept busy mastering numerous media projects that included Auckland band The Weather’s (helmed by Matthew Bannister, former member of iconic flying Nun band Sneaky Feelings), Ed Cake produced album ‘Aroha Ave’. Brookes also mastered Bannister’s solo album ‘Moth’ here.

Gear:
With Wintec’s considerable financial resources at hand, Brookes added an early version of Pro-Tools (V3) to the studios kit and acquired 16-track 2” Studer tape recorder that was renowned for a curious fault- the ‘transporter’ often failing to stop when instructed to do so. The school purchased one of the first CD burners, a very unreliable Studer that cost $18,000, the blank CDs feeding it cost $30 each.

Brookes eventually left Wintec to take up a position at MAINZ Auckland and since the studio has ever continued to expand in scope. As well as serving the thriving School of Audio Engineering it is also used in numerous capacities by Wintec’s broad Media Department.

The dreams of the Tandys, Musicare, Home Run, The Fridge, The Zoo and numerous other smaller enterprises might have ended in an unsatisfactory manner for those involved, but their legacy lives on in a large catalogue of diverse recordings which mark a coming of age for the Hamilton music scene. Once isolated and somewhat insecure about its ambitions, Hamilton music as it stands today thrives footing it with the best the nation as a whole has to offer in genres as diverse as Jazz, Rock, Metal, Opera, Rap, Hip-Hop, Pop and everything experimental and Alt. On shaky foundations, great things have been built.

 

The Datsuns: Super Gyration 2000

 

Katchafire: Giddy Up 2003

 

 

 

Book Review: ‘How Bizarre, Pauly Fuemana and the Song That Stormed The World’

November 16, 2015

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Music Impresario Simon Grigg first met Pauly Fuemana through his nightclub ‘Cause Celebre’ on Auckland’s High Street in the late 1980s.  A young and “devastatingly charming” young Pauly was a regular and rather naively (as it turned out) Grigg offered him a small bar tab, one that was quickly used up and looked like it was never going to repaid.

Anxious to recover something from the deal, Grigg set Pauly to work at various tasks around the club and discovered in Pauly “the worst employee ever”, one more concerned with his looks and the ladies than clearing tables and washing glasses.

Regardless, it all turned out pretty good for all concerned when a few years later Simon heard a track that Pauly had been working on with Producer Alan Jansson called ‘Doof it Up.’ Impressed, he immediately signed Pauly to a fledgling label he had created to release Nathan Haines’s debut album. ‘Doof it Up’ (street slang meaning  ‘to have a scap to work things out’ but not in an overly aggressive way) became ‘Big Top’ and then finally ‘How Bizarre’, a phrase Pauly borrowed from Alan’s wife Bernie who was a frequent user of the term.

Simon knew he was onto “something pretty special” and organised a licensing deal with a “less than enthusiastic” PolyGram NZ whose opinion quickly changed after the Australian arm of the label saw the songs commercial potential and rushed it to release.

The song went to number one across Australasia in 1995 and next stop was Britain where the song failed to fire significantly on first release. It wasn’t until British radio superstar Chris Evans heard the song while on holiday Australia in 1996 and started playing it on his BBC 1 Breakfast show that the song hit properly. Grigg: “When the song hit in Britain we were rushed over to appear on Top Of The Pops and there we were (Pauly was broke and still living in a council flat in Auckland) sitting in the Green room with the Spice Girls. Baby Spice came over to Pauly and said “You’re Bizarre” and Pauly replied “You’re Spicy.” It was all pretty surreal.” From there the song set Europe alight, (in particular Germany, the worlds third biggest music market) and finally in 1997, it cracked the really big time, America.

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Image: Simon Grigg and Pauly Fuemana circa 1995

Initial attempts to get the song released in the States had been met with resistance from Labels with comments like “too quirky” but it was via Canada that ‘How Bizarre’ got its ‘in’. Upon release it went straight to the top of the Canadian charts. Radio listeners on the other side of the border locked onto it and started asking their local stations to play it. A radio station in Buffalo (upstate NY) put it on high rotate and it spread like a virus, hitting right across the State and most notably in New York city where it went ballistic. The rest of the story is history.

With the Lorde phenomenon lighting up the local scene in recent years, it’s easy to forget the impact of ‘How Bizarre’, our first really big international hit. Kawerau boy John Rowles had scored first with two substantial hits in Britain back in the late 1960s (‘If I Only Had Time’ and ‘Hush, Not Word To Mary’). In 1980 Split Enz came close with the True Colours album and the single ‘I Got You’ but it wasn’t until Neil Finn’s Australian based Crowded House scored internationally with the single ‘Don’t Dream it’s Over’ in 1986 that a native child hit the really big time, and big as it was, ‘Don’t Dream its Over,’ looked a bit pale in comparison with what was to follow with ‘How Bizarre’, a genuine all purpose hit in every market in the world, from Asia to the America’s, Europe, Africa and everywhere else in between.

From 1995-97, the song itself shifted some 4 million units and the album around 1.5 million units and is still a money making goldmine today thanks to royalties from advertising, movies, TV show placements and ongoing airplay.  Grigg: “It’s the song that keeps on giving. The amount of serious money one song can generate is phenomenal.”

Simon Grigg’s book ‘How Bizarre: Pauly Fuemana and the Song that Stormed the World’ charts the course of the song from it’s humble origins to its world dominating success, but this is not just the story of a song, it’s also the story of the creative minds behind it, most notably Mr Fuemana himself, a man Grigg describes as being “both extraordinarily talented and deeply flawed.”

Pauly came from humble origins; the son of a Niuean father and a Tuhoe mother he grew up on the ‘mean streets’ of Otara and suffered ongoing wounds from a deeply dysfunctional family life. Grigg: “Pauly was psychologically ill equipped to deal with fame and handled it rather badly despite the efforts of a robust management team. At his worst he was a ‘fantasist’ who loved the ‘bling’ and surrounded himself with sycophants, at his best he was a humble collaborator and a loyal friend with a generous spirit.”

While taken to fits of violence and paranoia, “Pauly,” explains Grigg, “also had a good heart. He took care of his wider family, paying of debts and mortgages but fell pray to those within the family who felt entitled and demanded ever more money from him.” Grigg’s goes onto explain that for a time Pauly was “seriously wealthy” but his need to be seen as ‘the man’ and his spendthrift ways led to his financial undoing and eventual bankruptcy.

Pauly died in 2010 from respiratory failure following a protracted battle with ‘chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy’, (an inflammatory disorder of the peripheral nervous system). Fuemana’s funeral was held on 5 February 2010 at a Pacific Island Presbyterian Church just off K-Rd in Central Auckland. There were 200 people in attendance.

Simon Grigg was there and it was during “the very moving funeral service” that he decided to write it all down, as it was: the good, the bad and the ugly- fearing that if he didn’t, the real story would never be told as it actually was. He was there, all the way through, a hands on witness to one of the more cautionary tales in the Kiwi cannon and his account is one grand ripping yarn from the first page to the last.

Grigg’s book is a modern fable about the pitfalls of fame and celebrity, a riveting account of a highly complex man and a detailed exposition of the machinations at work in the music industry at large. Destined to be classic, ‘How Bizarre’ the book is not just for music fans, it is a ‘story for the ages’.