All Seeing Hand, Seth Frightening and Yvnalesca

Seth Frightening
Seth Frightening
All Seeing Hand
All Seeing Hand

First in a series of 4 excellent gigs at the Darkroom over ANZAC day weekend. Wellington Groups All Seeing Hand and Seth Frightening supported by mellow local beat maker Yvnalesca.

Click here for the complete photo set on Flickr.

Mount Eerie at the Wunderbar w/ Seth Frightening

Mount Eerie
Mount Eerie

In 2001 the then Olympia, Washington based group The Microphones would release what would become their most critically acclaimed release – the phenomenal double-album ‘The Glow Pt. 2’. Receiving rave revues and even topping influential independent taste-making magazine Pitchfork’s end-of-year album list, the album was at the time the best indication of Phil Elverum’s considerable talent as a singer, songwriter and producer.

Elverum was essentially the only core member of the group, and with 2003’s thematically appropriate album ‘Mount Eerie’ (the narrative of the album involves Elverum death, before discovering the face of the Universe) he decided to conclude the group, with subsequent material released under the name Mount Eerie. This new moniker implies a more solitary approach from Elverum, and also emphasises Elverum’s connection to outdoors, evoking scenes of foggy mountain-tops, rustling wind and dark nights.

Touring New Zealand under the Mount Eerie name before concluding at the excellent annual festival Camp A Low Hum – Elverum played a terrific show at Lyttelton’s Wunderbar, ably supported by Wellington-based singer-songwriter Seth Frightening. With audience members attentively crowding around the stage, Elvrum ran through 12 songs of sheer beauty and feeling. Most songs came from the thematically-separated recent albums ‘Clear Moon’ and ‘Ocean Roar’, but a few earlier numbers were thrown in for good measure.

Mount Eerie at Camp A Low Hum
Mount Eerie at Camp A Low Hum

Elverum played shimmery 12-string guitar, occasionally tempered with bursts of loud reverb, whilst his soft, boyish vocals weaved stories on top. From the softer, welcoming sounds of Clear Moon to the dark and tumultuous scenes of Ocean’s Roar – Elverum is a master of evoking imagery and feeling. I had the great pleasure of catching Mount Eerie a further two times on the tour, with Elverum consistently delighting crowds.

Songs for Christchurch: Album Release Show

Songs for Christchurch
Songs for Christchurch

We are pleased to announce the album launch of Songs for Christchurch at a free concert on February 24 at 12pm in the Re:START mall. Songs for Christchurch is a unique music-driven fundraising effort responding to the devastating earthquake that occurred in February 2011. It is a compilation album consisting of songs donated by 21 local and global artists, including Grammy-award winners Imogen Heap and Flight of the Conchords.

This musical effort towards the city’s recovery was made possible through donations and all proceeds from the album go towards community projects that are focused on reconstituting Christchurch.

The project has three goals: raising as much money as possible for the projects in Christchurch, promoting Christchurch and New Zealand artists to overseas audiences, and putting on a free live concert in Christchurch’s CBD.
Raised monies will go to community projects in Christchurch run by the following four organisations: Gap Filler, The Festival of Transitional Architecture, Life in Vacant Spaces, and Architecture for Humanity.
The album launch, presented by Art Beat, will feature 5 of the artists from the album: Delaney Davidson, The Nudge, Electric Wire Hustle (sound system), AHoriBuzz, Jessie James and the Outlaws. The concert is also the culmination of four months of performances organised by Art Beat, who have made it possible for some 450 musicians to appear on stage.
The artists featured on the Album:

International: Imogen Heap
Christchurch: AHoribuzz | Delaney Davidson | The Eastern | The Unfaithful Ways
New Zealand: Tim Finn | Flight of the Conchords | The Black Seeds | Electric Wire Hustle | Greg Johnson | Spartacus R | LA Mitchell | Jessie James and the Outlaws | The Black Seeds | Fly My Pretties | Dear Frontier | The Nudge | Ladi6 | The Yoots | Mara TK | Fat Freddys Drop | Giles McNeill

Project Director: Barnaby Bennett
Artwork: by NZ Illustrator John Baker and designers Alexandra Clark and Maia
With support from: Munki Studios | Native Tongue | Stebbing | Freerange Cooperative Ltd | Christchurch City Council | Fledge | Loop Recordings | Sony Music | Girlie Action
All proceeds go to: Architecture for Humanity | Gap Filler | Festival of Transitional Architecture | Life in Vacant Spaces

The Project Director, Barnaby Bennett, and some of the artists will be available for interview to discuss the project.
For any media queries or interviews, please contact Emma Johnson (songsforchristchurch@gmail.com, 027 622 1727) or visit the website: http://songsforchristchurch.org/

The Bilders at Darkroom

Bill Direen
Bill Direen

Wow it certainly has been a long time since I’ve contributed to thebigcity – sorry about that. It’s been a pretty quiet holiday break in Christchurch, at least musically – however I’m really looking forward to Mount Eerie’s tour and of course the great annual trip to Camp A Low Hum – both in February.

 

Last week however I had the great privilege to catch the latest line-up of Bill Direen’s might group the Bilders. Direen’s back catalog of fantastic songs (‘Do the Alligator’, ‘Love in the Retail Trade’, ‘Sad But True’ etc) is truly immense and this sharp three piece pulled out all the pieces.

Mick Elborado and Stu Page
Mick Elborado and Stu Page

Word has it their drummer (and fantastic film-maker) Stuart Page was in a car accident earlier in the week and shouldn’t have been playing, but he soldiered on anyway. It was also fantastic to see Christchurch legend Mick Elborado back on stage, playing bass the way only Mick can play – he contorted and tore up that ‘Mickenbacker’ on the more excitable numbers. Direen himself was relaxed and demur up front, leading the fellas through-out the night.

Click here for all the photos from the night.

Mumford and Sons

Mumford and Sons
Mumford and Sons

And here’s another pro job. I was whisked in and out of CBS Arena for these shots of Mumford and Sons.

Huge crowd, lots of young girls screaming their love for the English 4-piece during the 3 songs I was in the photographers pit.

Seemed to put on a pretty slick performance – I’m not familiar with their music at all…

 

Click here for the rest of the photos.

Mumford and Sons

Mumford and Sons

Anika Moa, Boh Runga and Hollie Smith

Hollie Smith
Hollie Smith

Time to clean up some pro-work I’ve done recently.

 

The Press sent me to St Michael’s and All Angel’s Church for the recent Anika, Boh and Hollie show and I took these photos.

St Michael's and All Angels Church
St Michael’s and All Angels Church

Darkroom’s 1st Birthday

Brown Leaves
Brown Leaves

The dynamic duo of T’Nealle Joie (Bang! Bang! Eche!) and Jasper Bryant-Greene (who ran the Gold Sounds record label, releasing T54’s first recordings) saw a hole in the Christchurch Music and entertainment market after the earthquakes of February 2011. With virtually no live music venues in the city and very little night-life to speak of, the pair leased ‘The Archive’, a multi-use venue on St Asaph Street, initially with a warehouse all-ages event that featured the Transistors, Bang! Bang! Eche! and Valdera. After a refit the Archive would go on to encompass the venerable Galaxy Records, a studio for the RDU radio station, the art space Room 4, and perhaps most importantly, the Darkroom.

Transistors
Transistors

Back in October 2011 the new bar opened with the experimental sounds of US sound artist C Spencer Yeh and a very special sell out show from Christchurch’s own Bachelorette. Over the course of the last year the venue has not only grown in reputation as Christchurch’s finest local venue for independent music, but also in stature, with additional seating area, a huge array of drinks and an ever-increasing clientele. Saturday marked the Darkroom’s 1st birthday, and as a tribute to the early history of the venue, the same key groups were present to celebrate.

Brown Leaves are a rebirth of prior group Valdera, featuring the same duo of James Musgrave (guitar, vocals and pedals) and Matt Scobie (drums), though in a punkier, more straight-forward style. These days Musgrave seems more comfortable as a front-man and the duo ripped through a short set of sharp, jagged rock numbers with gusto.

Bang! Bang! Eche!
Bang! Bang! Eche!

Speaking of gusto – the Transistors have recently returned from the United States, touring alongside Japanese Rock n Roll icons Guitar Wolf. Lead singer James Harding was a live-wire, bouncing around the stage but still hitting ever mark in their blistering, non-stop show. The trio showed the well-honed chops of a group that’s spent months on the road together, not stopping for a breath during their opening handful of songs.

Lastly Bang! Bang! Eche! took to the stage, building up the tempo of their performance as the night came to a close. With Joie and Charlie Ryder exchanging bass, guitar and keyboard parts, vocalist Zach Doney triggering electronic effects and climbing around the audience, and drummer James Sullivan as energetic as ever behind the kit – it’s hard not to have fun at a Bang! Bang! Eche! show. What a great way to cap a terrific 1s year as a venue.

You can see more photos from this show here.

Carb on Carb w/ Males and Coate

Carb on Carb
Carb on Carb

Carb on Carb are the Auckland-based Indie-pop duo of Nicole Gaffney (Guitar and Vocals) and James Stuteley (Drums) – an outgrowth of former group Mammal Airlines (which also featured Giles Thompson). Friday’s show at the Darkroom featured the group supported by top-notch local emo group Coate and Dunedin trio Males.

Coate have settled in to regular performances at the Darkroom, their intricate songs catching many a keen ear. With front-man Will Roud delivering melodic, driving vocals and exchanging guitar lines with 2nd guitarist Taylor Welsh, the 4-piece are one of the most technically accomplished groups in New Zealand.

2nd group Males are new to Christchurch, the poppy trio wearing their hearts on their sleeves as they flew through a selection of indie-rock numbers. Bassist Sam Valentine caught some flack for his haircut, one particular punter pointing out the young guy’s resemblance to Blur bassist Alex James. Their songs push the low-frequencies to the front, and the trio displayed an infectious enthusiasm throughout their set.

Both Carb on Carb members have been heavily involved in the Auckland all-age music scene – Gaffney’s previously played guitar, synth and sang with popular Auckland teen group Moron Says What?!, whilst Stuteley is partly responsible for Papaiti Records, an independent record label that compiled and released the excellent ‘Pressure to be’ album (distributed in the United States by Calvin Johnson’s legendary K Records). I was impressed by the groups catchy, shuffling songs, noisy guitar and Gaffney’s subdued vocals – they’re well worth tracking down on BandCamp.

See the rest of the photos here.

Also – Carb on Carb played a house-party alongside Christchurch’s Dance Asthmatics and new duo X-Ray Charles the previous night. Photos from that party are here.

The Pin Group: Article on Ambivalence

The Pin Group. film by Ronnie van Hout

Roy Montgomery
Roy Montgomery
There’s a short film from 1981 by prominent Christchurch multi-dimensional artist Ronnie van Hout that’s been well-circulated on Youtube recently. The film opens with an evocative poem by (Pin Group contributor and early member) Desmond Brice, backed by guitarist Jon Segovia. The footage eventually cuts away to the equally evocative bass playing of the Pin Group’s Ross Humphries, running through the opening rumble of the brilliant ‘Ambivalence’, which is of particular note as it was the very first single distributed by Flying Nun Records.

In a general sense I think it was the accumulation of hard-to-get DYI punk, post-punk and obscure 60s vinyl coming from the UK and the US shared amongst a handful of folk committed enough to fork out large amounts of cash to pay for imports that led to a realisation that if no-one else was going to back the equivalent energy and garage aesthetic here then we had better put up or shut up.
– Roy Montgomery

Ross Humphries
Ross Humphries

A young Roy Montgomery bites his lips as he builds the intensity in his guitar playing, carefully looking over his shoulder at Humphries as drummer Peter Stapleton brings the song to full velocity. The sound is muffled, but Montgomeries husky baritone still powers through the murk – “I don’t know how to react to you, or even if I should” goes the opening line.

I think the lyrical content from Peter Stapleton and Desmond Brice was very filmic and atmospheric albeit rather bleak and fraught in a psychological sense. Desmond made no secret of his lyrics as recriminations or self-recriminations and used to refer to himself as Jim Despondent at the time – a not-too-subtle Doors reference.
– Roy Montgomery

The film gives a glimpse of a defining era in Christchurch music; free from the hype that would be thrust upon the Dunedin scene within the next few years.

Montgomery had been a keen purveyor of British and American Rock’n’Roll since his teenage years, avoiding the “oompah, thigh-slapping ‘schmaltz’ music” of Germany (he lived in Cologne with his British Mother and German father till the age of 5) and formed his first, in-name-only band – the Psychedeliks.

The only one with an actual instrument was me. I had a Diplomat six-string electric bought from Sedley Wells as a package with an amplifier that dated back to the late 1940s and which took about a week to warm up. I couldn’t play guitar at all at the time but I did come up with the band name and the spelling of it and I decorated the drum kit made out of crates with “crazy” lettering. We were as influenced by the Monkees as we were by anything really countercultural.
– Roy Montgomery

Peter Stapleton
Peter Stapleton

However at this stage in his live Montgomery was more music fan than musician, a regular at local non-pub gigs at venues like the Caledonian Hall and English Park where he can remember “an Epitaph Rider bailing me up in a toilet to scrutinise the Maltese Cross I had hung around my neck”. The Pin Group didn’t start taking shape until around 1980, pre-cursor groups ‘Compulsory Fun’ and ‘Murder Strikes Pink’ uniting Montgomery with Ross Humphries.

I was still learning to play guitar so three-chords/three minutes/buzzsaw music was the norm. The Saints were a big influence for me at that time. But we had a few atmospheric, brooding, plodders that anticipated the Pin Group modus operandi a year or two later.
– Roy Montgomery

The early Pin Group recordings were not particularly well received – mostly due to the crude murky quality of the recordings and pressing, a teething issue of the fledgling label. To add to that their live shows ended up a little odd, to say the least.

Typical audience reception to the Pin Group was bemusement as far as I could tell. I remember Bill Direen doing headstands on the dancefloor of the Gladstone to one of our songs but I think he was making some sort of Dada anti-art statement. On another night two women in bondage gear whipped one another for another number while a vibrator buzzed happily on a nearby beer-soaked table. Dancing and other expressive audience participation was not common for us so we had to be grateful for what we got.
– Roy Montgomery

However over the past 30 years the group’s reputation has grown substantially, partly due to the later success of the groups members (Peter Stapleton and Ross Humphries with the Terminals, and Roy Montgomery in a solo capacity), but also the powerful nature of the songs themselves. When Roger Sheppard was reunited with the Flying Nun label in 2010, creating a definitive Pin Group release was high on the labels list of priorities. Packaged with artwork by van Hout and mastered by Montgomery and engineer Arnie van Bussel, the release (named ‘Ambivalence’ after the terrific debut single) lays bare the gloomy, dark and dynamic sound of the Pin Group.

Over the course of the double-albums 20 songs (compiling all previous releases plus a live recording rescued from Montgomeries Earthquake damaged home) the listener is treated to gloomy, powerful songs that not only evoke a certain vision of Christchurch but indeed New Zealand at it’s darkest.

Buy the album here.

Complete Interview here.

[Published in an edited form by the Christchurch Press, Sep 21st 2012]

The Pin Group: Complete Interview with Roy Montgomery

Tell me about your early exposure to music (both listening and playing). I understand your mother worked for the British Forces Network radio station and that you were in a teenage group called the Psychedeliks?

I lived in Cologne, Germany until shortly before my fifth birthday. Although the “Allied occupation” was more or less over the Anglo-American cultural colonisation of Germany, the condition that many German filmmakers of the 1960s and 1970s used as a launching point for their work, was still in full swing. I don’t remember the oompah, thigh-slapping “schmaltz” music that bedevilled popular local music. I remember Elvis and rock and roll when I try to recall Germany. The Psychedeliks were a band in name only and I think I was pre-teen, technically speaking. The only one with an actual instrument was me. I had a Diplomat six-string electric bought from Sedley Wells as a package with an amplifier that dated back to the late 1940s and which took about a week to warm up). I couldn’t play guitar at all at the time but I did come up with the band name and the spelling of it and I decorated the drum kit made out of crates with “crazy” lettering. We were as influenced by the Monkees as we were by anything really countercultural.

What was your perception of Christchurch as a teenager in the 1970s?

It depends a little on which part of the 1970s you are talking about. The early ‘70s felt very exciting. I was a regular, albeit slightly-out-of-place, attendee at local non-pub gigs at places like the Caledonian Hall or English Park. Bands like Butler played regularly and it was like having Hendrix’s cousins living in the same town. I barely noticed the drug culture and was a source of amusement to the core stoners who followed various bands around. I remember an Epitaph Rider bailing me up in a toilet to scrutinise the Maltese Cross I had hung around my neck. That was the happy hippie period for me. Things got weirder as the decade wore on. I remember sitting in the Christchurch Town Hall in what I thought I was a pretty adventurous pin-stripe suit from an op shot waiting for Lou Reed to come in the mid-70s when he was touring Rock and Roll Animal and looking behind me to see several people dressed so outrageously that it made Lou Reed look like an accountant when he finally took the stage. I distinctly remember one Maori gentleman who was dressed in a Hussar’s uniform with an Afro and white make-up. Not long after that I found The Gladstone and the denizens there who seemed bent on carrying on the tradition of Andy Warhol’s Factory irrespective of the bands who played the three-nighters.

What can you recall about the time spent in (Pin Group pre-cursors) ‘Compulsory Fun’ and ‘Murder Strikes Pink’? Did these groups have a different sound from the Pin Group?

These were “precursor” bands. I was still learning to play guitar so three-chords/three minutes/buzzsaw music was the norm. The Saints were a big influence for me at that time. But we had a few atmospheric, brooding, plodders that anticipated the Pin Group modus operandi a year or two later. There were also the seminal hangovers from the glamrock and hippy era: Compulsory Fun opened their one and only show in 1980 at the England Street Hall with a cover of Roxy Music’s Virginia Plain, much faster of course than the original, and ended with The Byrds Eight Miles High done in manic overdrive well before Husker Du had experienced their own epiphany on that tune. Murder Strikes Pink used an image of Franz Kafka in posters for its handful of gigs at the Gladstone. Need I say more?

Can you lead me through the events that bought about the very first Flying Nun single? Tell me about the recording and your relationship with Roger in the early days.

In a general sense I think it was the accumulation of hard-to-get DYI punk, post-punk and obscure 60s vinyl coming from the UK and the US shared amongst a handful of folk committed enough to fork out large amounts of cash to pay for imports that led to a realisation that if no-one else was going to back the equivalent energy and garage aesthetic here then we had better put up or shut up. The first Pin Group recording was technically a Flying Nun distribution deal rather than an in-house recording i.e., the Pin Group paid for the recording, paid for the pressings, paid for the screenprinting and sleeves and Roger marketed it outside of Christchurch. You’ll have to ask Roger but I think he got to starting a label by a process of elimination. If you were not going to be in a band but you were not content to just stand there and watch your friends embarrass themselves in bands what else could you usefully do which no-one was doing? Band “managers” were rated about as highly as car-dealers. Label owner in the mould of Rough Trade seemed worthy to all and sundry at the time.

Peter Stepleton was playing in the Victor Dimisich at the same time as the Pin Group – do you remember other notable groups from the era? Did the Pin Group play at pubs or parties, or other locations, and what was the typical audience reception for the Pin Group?

The Pin Group played all of their ten or so shows bar one at the Gladstone. The other was at a Dada Cabaret night in the Arts Centre. Just prior to formation of the Pin Group the Vacuum Blue Ladder Band, the Vauxhalls, Vapour and the Trails and Stanley Wrench and the Monkey Brothers and were notable groups who played regularly in the late 1970s. 25 Cents, the Volkswagens, Hey Clint, Mainly Spaniards, Ritchie Venus were local contemporaries of the Pin Group. The first wave of Dunedin bands were making their tentative sorties to Christchurch at this time as well. Typical audience reception to the Pin Group was bemusement as far as I could tell. I remember Bill Direen doing headstands on the dancefloor of the Gladstone to one of our songs but I think he was making some sort of Dada anti-art statement. On another night two women in bondage gear whipped one another for another number while a vibrator buzzed happily on a nearby beer-soaked table. Dancing and other expressive audience participation was not common for us so we had to be grateful for what we got.

Were the groups songs trying to evoke a certain mood, feeling, etc? Your later solo releases often contain a cinematic or landscape type feel, and you’ve been involved with theatre.

I think the lyrical content from Peter Stapleton and Desmond Brice was very filmic and atmospheric albeit rather bleak and fraught in a psychological sense. Desmond made no secret of his lyrics as recriminations or self-recriminations and used to refer to himself as Jim Despondent at the time – a not-too-subtle Doors reference. I think both of them were writing words in a film noir style but it took the music that I was coming up with at the time a while to catch up. I think I was getting there about the time of Pin Group Go To Town and it went off more or less on its own after that. Often black and white but also technicolour or at least glorious Sovkino colour. My work with the Free Theatre in the mid-1980s which involved doing sound and lighting design for theatre before straying acting was to begin with less a deliberate choice about honing a particular scene-making or scene-evoking craft than it was about worrying that my girlfriend was going to make off with bohemian members of the theatre group and having to justify my presence at rehearsals and shows. The fascination with working in experimental theatre, which very few people seemed to understand at the time, and the creative scope afforded by its enforced minimalist aesthetic came a little later.

How did the new ‘Ambivalence’ release come about? I understand you worked with Arnie van Bussell on mastering the release – but where did you source the live recording?

I don’t know how much “pre-loading” or seed-sowing was done by Bruce Russell in this matter but Roger Shepherd rang me at some point in 2010 to announce that having reclaimed Flying Nun one of the prime re-release projects he had in mind was the Pin Group. I thought that this was a chance to correct a minor error on the Siltbreeze compilation of 1997 where a Coat demo had been accidentally substituted for the Flying Nun 003 track. The idea of doing a decent Ronnie van Hout artwork package was part of Roger’s pitch but I thought that it could do with an extra dimension if possible. As it happened our house got turned upside down in the September 2010 earthquake including the attic in which a daunting quantity of old cassettes had been carelessly stored. Some poorly labelled but vaguely familiar tapes had floated to the top of the mound of debris. I recognised these as various Pin Group live mixing desk tapes from the Gladstone which were only really meant at the time as working documentation to learn from for future improvement. I took it as a sign that something would have to be done to tidy up these loose ends. Hence the live recording.

Have you ever considered a reunion?

That ship has probably sailed. It was hard enough to get me on stage the first time around which frustrated Peter and Ross, understandably. And although I have mellowed a little in the ensuing decades and I believe that Peter, at some very and genuine fundamental level just loves making music with others I think that Ross, in particular, would struggle to see the point in it. I don’t think the old songs would be too complicated to reprise and our stage act was hardly athletic so we could probably do a reasonable impression of ourselves but it was more about the recordings than the shows back then so it is not an easy case to make.