Bruce Russell on ‘Time To Go’ [Volcanic Tongue]

Of all the profound ways in which my life had changed in that epochal year (and since the preceding Christmas I’d become an enemy of the state, among other things), seeing the Clean was the biggest. I can still recall the certainty with which I knew then that they were at that moment the best fucking band in the world. I still don’t understand how I knew it, and in many ways I’ve spent a significant portion of the last three decades trying to disprove that hypothesis, but I haven’t done it yet. Maybe the Fall were better that year. But the fact that the last sentence contains ‘the Fall’, and starts with ‘maybe’, should alert informed readers to the enormity of what I was experiencing. It was like falling in love.
– Bruce Russell – From Volcanic Tongue

Bruce Russell (The Dead C, Gate, A Handful Of Dust etc) has put together a short but witty (and mighty acerbic!) article on the Volcanic Tongue: Underground Music Mail Order and Shop website detailing the back-story to ‘Time to Go – The Southern Psychedelic Moment: 1981-86’ – a terrific compilation Bruce put together for Flying Nun capturing some of the lesser-heard treasures from New Zealand’s South Island in the early to mid 1980s. Have a read, it’s a nice little insight into how the compilation came about and the general enthusiasm Bruce has for music of the era.

It’s that kind of ‘it came from the sky’ vibe that frankly defies categorisation. You can smell the reality. These people were very literate in rock music terms, they were literate in literary terms too, and they took drugs. It was what we did to rebel. Listen to ‘Russian Rug’. You don’t produce that kind of whacked-out blending of Pierre Henri with ? Mark and the Mysterians, without engaging in the desperate ‘datura-to-San Pedro’ sub-sub-culture which characterised the South Island of New Zealand at that time: and we invented home-bake heroin, don’t forget.

– Bruce Russell – From Volcanic Tongue

And If you haven’t already; checkout/pick up the compilation itself. Contains some of my favourite tracks by the likes of Pin Group, The Gordons, Scorched Earth Policy and Wreck Small Speakers On Expensive Stereos – not a dud in the lot!

A Handful of Dust

For their first Christchurch performance together in a very long time, A Handful of Dust (otherwise known as long-time influential New Zealand fringe musicians Alastair Galbraith and Bruce Russell) played the excellently TelstraClear Club, a ‘Yurt’ structure put together for Christchurch Arts Month. Click here for the photoset.

Bruce Russell
Bruce Russell

The show featured Alastair Galbraith explaining the bizarre history of the Glass Harmonium and with both Alastair and Bruce performing solo sets before they came together for an ear-bending finale.

A Handful Of Dust

One of Bruce Russell’s (Dead C) darkest outfits, often dealing with distinct imagery and motif’s in their music and especially pro-nounced in their liner notes (most of which are distributed through Russell’s Corpus Hermeticum label). Essentially a Russell solo show, but Alastair Galbraith and Peter Stapleton are both regular contributors.

Discography (picks in bold)

  • Concord [Corpus Hermeticum Hermes001]
  • Philosophick Mercury [Corpus Hermeticum Hermes002]
  • The Eightness Of Adam Qadmon Cassette [Corpus Hermeticum Hermes003]
  • The Seventhness Lathe-Cut 7″ [Corpus Hermeticum Hermes004]
  • Music Humana [Corpus Hermeticum Hermes005]
  • Three Dances In Honour Of Sabbatai Sevi, The Apostate Messiah Lathe-Cut 7″ Ep [Corpus Hermeticum Hermes006]
  • From A Soundtrack To The Anabase Of St-John Perse [Corpus Hermeticum Hermes009]
  • ‘Authority Over All Signs Of The Earth’ Lathe-Cut 7″ Single [Corpus Hermeticum Hermes010]
  • Now Gods, Stand Up For Bastards [Corpus Hermeticum Hermes013]
  • Topology Of A Phantom City Cassette [Corpus Hermeticum Hermes020]
  • Urban Psychogeography, Vol Ii: Jerusalem, Street Of Graves [Corpus Hermeticum Hermes029]
  • ‘A Little Aesthetic Discourse’ 7″ Single [1992 Xpressway]
  • Concord [1993 Reissue Imd]
  • Now Gods, Stand Up For Bastards [1996 Corpus Hermeticum]
  • Topology Of A Phantom City [1997 Corpus Hermeticum]
  • Spiritual Libertines [1998 Corpus Hermeticum]
  • Jerusalem, Street Of Graves [1998 Corpus Hermeticum]

See-Also

The Pin Group

The birth of Roy Montgomery as a creative force (at least in terms of recorded groups), the Pin Group were a discordant cog that wouldn’t fit in the Christchurch scene of the early 80s. Recording the very first Flying Nun release single, ‘Ambivalence/Columbia’ – an agitating and badly recorded epitome to post-punk heroes Joy Division – with 2 fine songs struggling to make their way through the murk of the ultra-lo-fi recording.

The group originally formed as ‘Compulsory Fun’ with Montgomery on Guitar, Ross Humphries on Vocals, Tony Green on Drums and Dave McKenzie on Bass. When McKenzie departed the group became ‘Murder Strikes Pink’, with Humphries switching to Bass and Paul Champion filling the vacant vocalist slot. Neither of these line-ups lasted particularly long though on the group ‘went in to recess’ when Champion left the group. Montgomery then started collaborating with local Christchurch poet Desmond Brice, with Brice initially playing bass as well as supplying some of the Pin Groups early lyrics – before the classic line-up took shape.

The band were nicknamed Roy Division for their like of dark moody music a la Joy Division. Singer Roy worked in Christchurch’s main record store – EMI, and the shop was notoriously vandalized overnight with the words Roy Division spray-painted across the shop front, apparently not the work of the band and greatly embarrassing Montgomery
– Rob Mayes

Since disbanding in mid 1981, they’ve become more well known for their history than their music, which is a shame as the 3-piece of Montgomery (guitar – later of the Shallows, Dadamah, Dissolve, Torlesse Supergroup), Ross Humphries (bass – Great Unwashed, and a short stint in Bailter Space) and Peter ‘Buck’ Stapleton (drums – Scorched Earth Policy, the Terminals, A Handful of Dust et all) released some truly eclectic, original and most of all harrowing rock. Thankfully the long overdue retrospective released on Siltbreeze in 1998 provides everyone the chance to discover one of New Zealand’s most under-rated bands, and in much more accommodating (and audible) form.

The band presented a pretty gloomy image live with the members dressing predominantly in black, Montgomery playing guitar in black gloves with the fingers cut off. For all that most of their songs are far from gloom laden, being mostly melodic riff based music. The band have the distinction of having the first release on Flying Nun records, a 7″ single with black labels, and a matte black on gloss black cover, no track listings, no band name. Another 7″ followed, then an ep and later on a regroup and another recording. ‘Low Rider’ (a cover of US-group War’s classic single) was taken from a live recording of one of only about 8 performances, this one at the Gladstone
– Rob Mayes

Discography (picks in bold)

  • ‘Ambivalence’/’Columbia’ 7″ Single [1981 FlyingNun FN001]
  • ‘Coat (“Stalking Slowly”)’/’Jim (“Even Though, Scrape Scratch”)’ 7″ Single [1981 Flying Nun FN003]
  • Go To Town 12″ EP [1982 Flying Nun FN1967]
  • Retrospective [1998 Siltbreeze SB-68]

See-Also