Darkroom

NOTE: This post probably contains quite a few errors and an inaccurate timeline – there is very little info online about old Christchurch venues, so I welcome all corrections and additions!

Also known as: Part of ‘The Archive’, along with Galaxy Records and Next Gallery

Location: 336 St Asaph St, Central Christchurch

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Current Status: Running!

Active as a live music venue: 2011 –

Bar Manager: Marcus Winstanley

Bookings: info@darkroom.bar

Website: http://darkroom.bar

Capacity: 100

After the devastating Canterbury Earthquakes of 2010 and 2011 closed (or even destroyed) virtually all of Christchurch’s live venues, entrepreneur Jasper Bryant-Greene and local musician T’Nealle Worsley (Bang! Bang! Eche!) saw a vacant hole in the local live music scene.

With virtually no previous building experience, the duo started the conversion of an old clothing manufacturing warehouse on St Asaph street, stripping the site back to the bare wood before installing a full bar, stage, upstairs accommodation, toilets…

Charlie Ryder of Bang! Bang! Eche! at The Archive’s opening party

Initially an all-ages house-party was held in May 2011, christening the building as ‘The Archive’ with performances from Valdera, The Transistors and Bang! Bang! Eche! – an absolutely stonking welcome back to live music in the garden city.

Once the full renovations were completed the bar itself was christened ‘Darkroom’ – Bryant-Greene developed the in-house ordering / payment himself and Worsley brought substantial inside knowledge and previous experience (despite her young age) to booking excellent live acts and running the bar.

The duo put substantial care in developing strong craft alcohol selections and creating a relaxed environment with comfortable refurbished furniture – even the outside (but enclosed) drive-way was utilized as a smokers area.

Log Horn Breed at Darkroom

Darkroom lives up to its name – the venue is VERY dark, particularly around the stage itself. They have a great PA system with strong foldback wedges and a powerful PA that is more than a match for the size of the room (which itself is quite small).

The mixing desk sits opposite the stage and is sheltered from other noise in the venue, making for nice and clear band/desk communication. A 2nd floor space beside the desk has been used in the past for a 2nd stage, allowing for long band line-ups with quick change-overs.

Hannah Harding aka Aldous Harding, at Darkroom in October 2011.

Darkroom was immediately successful. An early show by Bachelorette had people queuing out the door, and as one of the few available performance spaces in Christchurch they had their pick of live acts. Though as is the case with most venues – even some future super-stars found it tough to draw large crowds at times:

I used to play there with Aldous Harding every 3rd Wednesday to approx 5 – 10 people, for free.
– Simon Gregory

Marlon Williams did a short residency, playing to similar crowds, sometimes only to the staff. And The Unfaithful Ways. And All Seeing Hand, plus many, many more.

– John Bell

Galaxy Records moved in to an available space in the Archive, and for a period RDU ran a remote studio from the site, too. The last space in the building was refurbished and turned in to an art gallery, originally called Room 4 – however after this closed an additional stage was built and this back room space became available for paid gigs (Mick Harvey, Die! Die! Die! and Shayne P Carter etc), while Darkroom retained a free entry policy.

With the venues general success (and a keen interest in upmarket liquors), the duo decided to open a 2nd venue – the New Regent Street whiskey bar The Last Word. Eventually Worsley would take over running The Last Word.

Photo I took of Peter Gutteridge at his last Christchurch show at the Darkroom, March 2012

However in 2015 some financial issues were unearthed encompassing both bars – as a result over the course of several months several changes would take place.

Fine whiskey importer Whiskey Galore decided it was in their best interest to keep The Last Word open, and took over the running of the bar as it looked like it was to close.

Marcus Winstanley would take over propriety of Darkroom, starting a new chapter in the venues promising history. Thankfully Winstanley is a fixture of the local music scene (as a guitarist or drummer in a variety of bands – Barnard’s Star, The Undercurrents, Minisnap etc) and was previously a tutor at Christchurch’s MAINZ music recording school – for a period he was the venue manager of the Media Club, and has been involved with several other venues over the years as well.

Winstanley made several changes on taking over the venue:

I decided all shows (Darkroom included) needed cover charges and it was a lot of work to have both venues going and personally, I thought the sound quality in the back room was sub-par, so I decided to flag it.

Rebecca started up the gallery again so it’s been running as NEXT Gallery since 2016. After they moved from New Regent Street (Next door to The Last Word), the Canterbury Society of Sonic Artists operated their venue The Auricle out of NEXT Gallery from July 2016-July 2017

– Marcus Winstanley

Darkroom Alleyway

As of Winter 2017, Darkroom is the most active live music venue in Christchurch, with firm connections to up-and-coming bands (through Winstanley’s connections to MAINZ, plus a young clientele), as well as plenty of established bands up-and-down the country on tap.

Darkroom also hosts comedy and performance nights, and has strong ties to both the gallery and record store, with the occasional market or special event that encompasses each.

The Original DarkSpace

Lastly Darkroom has established a strong connection with Space Academy – the multi-use venue opposite on St Asaph Street; so far this has resulted in a handful of co-hosted multi-venue events (i.e. ‘Dark Space’), plus shows are usually planned to accommodate each others crowds.

History

2011: The Archive debuts with a warehouse party in May – eventually Darkroom opens as the music venue, with Galaxy records following.

2013: Darkroom proprietors Bryant-Greene and Worsley launch The Last Word whiskey bar on New Regent Street.

2015: Marcus Winstanley takes over the proprietorship of Darkroom.

Contact Details

info@darkroom.bar

Links

Skank Attack

Skank Attack were stalwarts of the new zealand music scene in the late 1980’s, becoming known for high energy live performances, and their tireless support of local musicians.

The group formed in the winter of 1985, when Phil ‘Scrub’ Simpson and Jeff Eden were bored and freezing in a drafty wellington flat. There was nothing good on telly, so they began messing about with guitars, as much to be distracted from the wind chill factor in their bedrooms, as from any defined musical aspirations. To their own surprise, they had soon written a handful of songs and become so excited about the idea of forming a band, that they immediately recruited drummer steve cochrane and skank attack was formed.

Within weeks they played their first gig, a private party, where they appeared alongside the Primates. Dave Nendick made his debut on vocals, but upon his departure soon after, Simpson took over and the band continued as a three piece, quickly gaining a reputation for the energy and enthusiasm of their live shows.

Simpson and Eden remained the creative engine of the band, constantly writing new material (they steadfastly refused to play anything but originals). Meanwhile Cochrane exhibited a flair for promotion and set the group a punishing schedule of gigs, which meant that they evolved quickly into a tight unit. Inspired greatly by certain UK bands of the day, they set out to create a sound that relied on a driving, propulsive beat, overlaid with a rhythmic dynamic between the instruments and their intelligent, socially aware vocals. A review of a show they played with the Bats said, ‘the songs were built up layer by layer, until it was almost difficult to believe that only three people were responsible for such an overpowering aural assault’.

Skank Attack were always interested in creating an element of visual interest to their performances and public image and they became known for projecting abstract visuals over the stage, while eden’s developing involvement in graphic design led to some striking poster designs.

Although they quickly developed a loyal following, their music was ultimately too intense to appeal to mainstream audiences and too ‘arty’ to be accepted by many in the post-punk, concrete bunker era wellington music scene. Their time came however, when they began embarking upon the first of several national tours, trolling around the country in a huge ford impala, affectionately known as ‘the skankmobile’. Bfm were supportive in airing their demos whenever they arrived in auckland and camaraderie developed with fellow musicians in the city, like Fish For Life, the Warners and Cicada.

In the spirit of self reliance that was so much a part of the time, the group released an ep under the banner of ‘Skank Records’, which received positive reviews from influential figures like Colin Hogg, but ultimately failed to capture the fullness of their sound. Skank Attack were always about supporting other musicians and while Phil Simpson championed local music on his weekly NZ music show on radioactive, Steve Cochrane released a compilation of wellington bands entitled ‘Where The Wind Blows’, on the Skank label. The two date release party organised by the group (this time operating under the tongue in cheek moniker ‘Skank Undertakings’) broke attendance records at the cricketers and was a huge success.

Skeptics Nick Roughan became important in shaping the group’s sound and a love-hate relationship developed, based on his incessant demands for ‘Skank Beer’ and the groups irritating perfectionism. The acrimonious banter that resulted, livened up many a tour journey in the skankmobile.

Incidents that the band recall most vividly, include playing to a bunch of immobile, monged-out mushroom heads at a New Plymouth pub, run by hairy local motorcycle gang ‘The Magogs’. The total silence between songs was the most unnerving thing they had ever experienced-even the unflappable Roughan got fidgety. The lads were traumatized further, after a Dunedin gig with David Kilgour. He kindly offered to let them crash on the floor at the venue, but failed to remove the local mad person before he shut them in for the night. She proceeded to ride her bicycle in circles around the dance floor for the remainder of the evening, muttering darkly about murder. Then there was the time the back of Phil Simpson’s trousers and underwear began to dissolve on stage in front of a full house. Realising (as his naked butt became totally exposed) that he had sat in battery acid at a car repair yard on the way to the gig, he had to brazen it out as if it was all part of the show. The crowd loved it.

Always game for a laugh, the band once infamously set up at 9am in the morning (with power from a generator) outside the NZ music convention and played a raucous set in support of a New Zealand music quota on radio. By a typically Wellington coincidence, the office of the councils’ noise control officer was directly opposite and said official wasted no time in summoning the police and swiftly writing out a noise control order. The resulting photographs finally got the band some press attention and while the event itself was witnessed by only a few bemused passers by, influential figures like Karen Hay and Mike Moore were among them.

By 1988 the group had evolved into a tight professional outfit and the highlight of their live performances came when doug hood booked them to play support for Hunters And Collectors at the Union Hall, Wellington in 1988. The group relished the opportunity to play through a kick-arse sound system to an audience of thousands rather than hundreds and despite initial heckling they won the crowd over with a totally committed performance. It was one of the last times the band played together.

Before going their separate ways, the group determined to record an album. A number of sessions took place at ‘Writhe Recordings Studios’, with Bailter Space‘S Brent Mclachlan and Roughan doing the business on the controls. The bands sound was finally captured in a way that did it justice. Local filmmaker Grant Lahood shot a promotional video for the track ‘Limbs Akimbo’, but sadly the group’s momentum and cash had run out (Roughan now had it all) and while the video was screened on radio with pictures, the record it was intended to promote was never released.

For the past ten years Jeff Eden and Phil Simpson have lived in london. Eden is a graphic designer and has recently been making short films and soundtracks. Simpson works as a photographer and has shot many musicians including John Cale, Catatonia, Manic Street Preachers and Super Furry Animals. They remain unclear about what became of their former drummer. Steve Cochrane-where are you now?

Discography (picks in bold)

  • Glass And Skank Attack Live! [Live Recording W/ The Glass 1986 Skank Skank001]
  • Skank Attack Ep [1987 Skank Skank002]

See-Also

Toy Love

Biography

The new wave sequel to the seminal kiwi punk band The Enemy, Toy Love expanded the Enemy’s brutally primal sound to include organ, angular guitar, and even more literate vocals.

By this stage of his musical development (early 1979 through 1980), lead-singer and song-writer Chris Knox was at his most populist peak, writing songs like ‘Pull Down The Shades’ and ‘Squeeze’, which became New Zealand pop classics.

Toy Love was more than just Knox’s band though, they welded his charismatic and warped vocals to Alec Bathgate‘s eclectic guitar playing, a young Paul Kean’s explosive bass playing, the poppy hooks of Jane Walker on keys, along with Mike Dooley holding up the fort on drums.

Toy Love were a band highly in demand, creating a stir on both sides of the ditch the band played continiously, holding up residencies were-ever they would land, but (due to the economics of the time) barely scraping by financially.

Everything would eventually came to a screaming halt when the band launched into recording their debut album. The sessions were a farce, with the band clashing with their engineer who just didn’t know how to handle such an eclectic and wild bunch of misfits.

They were tired.

The resulting album, though still containing quality material, wasn’t a patch on their earlier singles, each song sounded flat and warn-out and compounded the collapse of the group as a working unit. Knox and Bathgate would soon split to form the legendary Tall Dwarfs, whilst Paul Kean would become a part of The Bats.

The group made a triumphant return to the New Zealand album charts on Record Store Day, April 22nd 2012 with the release of the Double LP Live at the Gluepot, an extremely limited (400 copies worldwide!) live album sold exclusively at Real Groovy in Auckland.

Members

  • Chris Knox (Vocals, 1979 – 1980)
  • Alec Bathgate (Guitar, 1979 – 1980)
  • Mike Dooley (Drums, 1979 – 1980)
  • Phil Judd (Guitar, 1979)
  • Paul Kean (Bass, 1979 – 1980)
  • Jane Walker (Keyboards, 1979 – 1980)

Discography

  • Rebel/Squeeze 7″ Single (1979, Elektra, Z10015)
  • Don’t Ask Me 7″ Single (1980, Deluxe, Z10022)
  • Toy Love 7″ EP (1980, Deluxe, 20630)
  • Bride Of Frankenstein 7″ Single (1980, Deluxe, Z10029)
  • Toy Love LP / Cassette (1980, Deluxe, Z20008)
  • Cuts (Reissue / Anthology 2005, Flying Nun Records, FNCD473)
  • Live at the Gluepot Double LP (2012, Real Groovy Records)
  • Swimming Pool Split 7″ (w/ Knoxious 2012, Real Groovy Records, KNOXIOUS)
  • Pull Down The Shades DVD (Video Compilation 2012, Real Groovy Records, RGDV01)

Links

 

The Clean – Getaway

2001, Flying Nun, FNCD459

The Clean are something of an enigma to me – i’ve just caught them live on the Getaway tour and they still show the qualities that hold them in my heart as perhaps the finest live rock act i have ever seen. I’ve grown up with their music and they were an integral part of my continuing obsession and devotion to the New Zealand music scene. Getaway is only their fourth full-length album proper (along with their seminal early release album compilation) in 23 years of existence and sees the band attempting to further refine their sound.

If your familiar with The Clean’s past, you’ll know that their 80’s material was quite lo-fi and raw in its delivery. Since then they’ve managed to develop a strong jangle-rock presence through their first two albums and then exploited a more pop-centric and quirky side on the somewhat chaotic last album unknown country. The 5-year gap leading into Getaway has seen David Kilgour deliver a spate of fine singer-songwriter albums of quirky intent, brother Hamish has been keeping himself busy in New York with expatriate kiwi band Mad Scene, whilst Rob Scott has continued performing with his outstanding band The Bats.

Though maybe not as immediately grabbing as their earlier singles, the best tracks off of Getaway posses excellent melody and the natural flow that The Clean has made all their own. Album highlights like the opener ‘Stars’ and the Rob Scott-led ‘e-Motel’ show what can be done with a minimal amount of chords and perfect execution of guitar feedback. The album differs from their earlier punchy efforts, concentrating on developing strong grooves laced in reverb and echoes at a leisurely-relaxed tempo.

I think this album is more of a consolidation of the changes each of the bands three members have gone through over the past 5 years than a well-defined album. It does hold up very well as a collective piece though, as the songs (often just short vignettes of creative instrumentation, as they tried and failed somewhat on Unknown Country) posses a common laid-back and quirky vibe. Instrumental tracks like ‘Twilight Agency’ find the band experimenting with less traditional instrumentation, as each of the band members have partaken in on their other musical outlets, particularly Robert Scott’s 2000 album The Creeping Unknown, which was complemented by a great deal of lush electronic soundscapes.

Guests Ira Kaplan and Georgia Hubley (both of Yo La Tengo) lend a hand on two tracks, adding guitar and drumming contributions, without really having much of an effect on the general scope on the sound. I’d like to see The Clean produce an album that captures the somewhat ethereal magic that they produce as a live unit, as they’re still missing an album that pushes the sonorous noise-rock limits as their live show does.

The album does, however stand as an enjoyable, relaxed addition to their catalogue, but is by no means a leap forward in the style they had previously developed. As a point of note, it’s probably their most cohesive and effective of their actual full-lengths (as their albums always tend to be somewhat reunion efforts) and is a fine purchase if you’re looking for melodic rock without pretense. To get a firm reflection on what The Clean are about, i’d suggest tracking down the (compilation’ album first (or catching their amazing live show), but Getaway is still a fine purchase.

The Bats [February 2006]

Over the last 20 years The Bats have garnished a label of dependability – and with good reason. Though now taking a little bit of time between releases (one might jump to the conclusion that ‘At The National Grid’ is more like a reunion album than simply their first in 11 years), The Bats continue to write, record and perform scores of catchy, poppy tunes – jangly, homely and folky tunes filled with images of Bob Scotts‘ Central Otago past and propelled by one hell of a dynamic rhythm section.

One of the longest surviving Flying Nun groups still with their original line-up (the other would be the Tall Dwarfs), The Bats have continued to be a live fixture over the past decade, particularly in Christchurch; where the majority of the group now resides.

The story goes that when The Clean initially broke up in late 1982, Bob was flatting and jamming with Paul – who had been quite active with the great Toy Love, and various groups round Christchurch such as seminal pre-punk outfit The Detroit Hemroids and Jay Clarkson’s Playthings. Eventually Malcolm Grant (who had sat behind the kit for a later incarnation of Bill Direen‘s The Vacuum and local popsters The World) was brought into the fold, with Kaye completing the line-up by 1983.

I met Bob at the clash concert in the Christchurch town hall in the early 80s, he had moved from Dunedin and was looking for a flat, and my flatmate was leaving so he introduced me to Bob. Then we both ended up moving in to longfellow street with Paul and Malcolm among others, they had drums and amps set up in the living room and that’s when we started playing as a band. I didn’t have many expectations of The Bats, i’m pretty sure I didn’t think ahead much at all in fact but i’ve always loved playing Bob’s songs and playing live in all kinds of places.
– Kaye Woodward

During the hey-days of Flying Nun The Bats could do no wrong, with catchy singles such as ‘Made Up In Blue’ and ‘Block Of Wood’ and the critically-lauded debut LP ‘Daddy’s Highway’ all being perennial underground favorites. However the group never really garnished any popularity – The Chills were a bit of a one-off in terms of stardom for New Zealand bands, and so groups such as The Bats settled for creating fine tunes – and often. In the decade to 1995 the group amassed a terrific body of work – some 5 albums and a handful of eps and singles. Of course the other side of the dice was their live show, an exhilarating experience full of catchy sing-a-long numbers, and some cracking instrumentation – Paul’s a bit of a hero of mine in terms of bass-playing (he’d perfected the chugga-chugga sound by 1985), and they’ve always exuded a homely friendliness that few bands seem to match.

In recent years the garden city trio of Kaye Woodward, Paul Keen and Malcolm Grant has built The Bats side-project Minisnap up from the ground, performing a whole new collection of catchy, wistful pop tunes – with Kaye leading the way as vocalist. Meanwhile Dunedinite Bob Scott took a few years to reunite with his buddies in the clean whilst formulating new tunes for the stellar new LP – and of course everyone in the group has the odd day job, too.

We had been talking about doing a new Bats album for 2 or 3 years before actually doing it. Everything takes ages now of course because of everyone’s jobs and children. Bob came up from Dunedin for the main session at the national grid (which is John Kelcher’s 8 track studio in Cashel Street) over Easter 2003, the view was across to all the mannequins in Ballantyne’s lingerie department but the people/mall action down below was quite entertaining.
– Kaye Woodward

Although the studio experience with John Kelcher was a friendly and natural one, with an opportunity to jam and flesh out ideas, Bob described a handful of the new tunes as ‘complex’ to write, which combined with an unfortunate incident only compelled the delay in the albums development:

After that session Paul got busy over the winter digitizing, loading and eq’ing the tracks at home; but in August our computer (and a whole lot of other stuff) got stolen. We had to go back and re-digitize the 8 track, but were too busy and couldn’t really get into it until after summer. We did a final over dub/mixing session at home with Bob in Oct 2004. More mixing, the artwork and mastering was done and labels pinned down over the next 6 months, then we did preparation building up to a New Zealand and U.S. Release in October 2005.
– Kaye Woodward

Eventually the album was released in late 2005, with critical acclaim spreading across from the States, along with reports of brilliant college radio support – after a matter of weeks CMJ (a chain of radio stations across the USA) had reported ‘At The National Grid’ as one of the top ‘adds’ across the country – rising up the charts in nearly all of CMJ’s 200 stations. The group plan to bolster this support by playing the famed South By South-West festival in Austin Texas, then a quick tour around the main centers.

The plan is to go for 2 weeks and try and play to as many people as possible and give the album a boost. We are doing some in-stores too and they are great for getting through to people. The album seems to be going really well so doing these shows should help a lot. It will be interesting to see the mix of old and new fans. Emails have proved to be a great way of keeping in touch with and making contact with new fans.
– Bob Scott

With an impending European and UK release through Little Teddy and Egg Records, the group are looking forward to a successful 2006, though they’ve got a relaxed approach to touring these days after their previous overseas experiences:

We could have perpetuated our career overseas by touring a lot more and our labels would have liked that but I hated the tour bus style touring we did in Europe and the US In 93. Up till then we had always driven in vans or flown and stayed in hotels or with friends. We did some dates with Radiohead on that 93 tour, they were a big successful band but even they were traveling round in tour buses so I thought that if success meant spending months every year in a tour bus I didn’t really fancy it.
– Kaye Woodward

Minisnap – In My Pocket EP

Self-Released, 2002

Self-releasing seems to be the way to go in New Zealand at the moment.

Minisnap have finally put out their long awaited ‘In My Pocket’ EP, the title track of which has been garnishing RDU playtime for quite a while now. It’s a nice production, 4 original sparkling pop gems (which includes a hidden bonus track) and the obligatory dance remix, produced by fellow Christchurch native Jolyn Mulholland (aka Gasoline Cowboy).

Featuring Kaye Woodward’s distinctively upbeat vocals and guitar and the fine rhythm backing of Paul ‘Superbass’ Kean and Malcolm Grant on the drums. Expect thick grooves, off-kilt rhythms and some lovely flowing guitar, just in time for summer.

 

Mike Hex [January 2004]

What does Arclife do for the Dunedin community, and specifically, what’s your role in the trust?

I’m not a member of the trust; there was a trust set up in the early days of the Arc Cafe, but now they are two different entities. This change happened last year so Arclife Records is now being run by myself, Thom Bell and Stephen Kilroy.

What’s Arclife up to at the moment? Major changes a-foot?

Apart from having a new company to run the label we received a $10,000 recording grant last year from Creative NZ to record three bands: Heka, Hiss Explosion and Kahu.

Have you been working with any up-and-coming artists or bands we should keep an eye out for?

We have a compilation [from] last year we hope to release soon. Heka are about to finally release their debut CD. Bob Scott (The Clean / The Bats) has a lost Dunedin folk songs CD coming out in march. I’m a big fan of the Undercurrents and hope to do something with them soon. There’s enough to keep us very busy for the next year, that’s for sure.

And Hiss Explosion? Any new recordings in the midst?

Thom Bell has bought this kick arse desk from Vancouver/Canada and we hope to marry that up to the 2″ 24 track tape machine we have down here and get busy in february.

How do the Hiss Explosion recordings differ from your solo outings? How does Peter fit in to the creative process?

Well, solo stuff is done by me at home on my old four-track dirt-tracker so it’s raw and ready and Hiss Explosion has been experimenting with bigger tape machines, so obviously the quality of recording comes down to tape width. I’ll always record and track in analogue tape. Can’t stand that pro-tools sound – too crisp and clean for me. Solo i’ll experiment more with sounds and objects etc.

The Hiss Explosion play Creation on February 6th 2004 as part of the Waitangi Day Special along with International Telepaths (also from Dunedin), Into The Void, Substandard and Idols Of Eve.