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, Vapor and the Trails and Stanley Wrench and the Monkey Brothers and were notable groups who played regularly in the late 1970’s. 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.

Wreck Small Speakers On Expensive Stereos

Biography

Wreck Small Speakers On Expensive Stereos were a Dunedin-based duo consisting of Michael Morley (Guitar/Organ/Vocals – before forming the Dead C, 2 Foot Flame, Angelhead, Tanaka-Nixon Meeting, The Weeds) and Richard Ram (Bass/Guitar/Vocals) – though in an early video recording Morley states the group had formed ‘Up North’ before heading to Dunedin. The duo released a handful of handmade cassettes and had an affiliation with Bob Scott’s Every Secret Thing label, with both album releases and compilation appearances. Their most well known material is the River Falling Love EP which was released on Flying Nun in 1986 before being expanded and re-released by US label Ajax in 1993. Morley formed the Dead C in 1987, effectively bring an end to Wreck Small Speakers.

Featuring performances from other Dunedin musicians: Denise Roughan (Recorder/Vocals – Look Blue Go Purple, The 3Ds, Ghost Club), Ivan Purvis (Guitar – Love In A Gas Oven, Alpaca Brothers), Lesley Paris (Drums – Look Blue Go Purple, The Puddle, Olla), Bruce Blucher (Drums – Cyclops, Trash, Fats Thompson, Brown Velvet Couch, Alpaca Brothers) and Martin Kean (The Chills, Doublehappys, Fats Thompson, Stereolab). The groups recordings are based around strong rhythm tracks – usually plucked bass guitar and drum machine, with shout-sung vocals, fractured guitar riffs and organ squeels, with samples and other sound manipulations added into the mix. Though experimental, Wreck Small Speakers retained a high level of musicality and accessibility.

Both their creative genius and the quality of their songs really shines through on the groups lo-fi cassette recordings. The slinky, funky bass and proto-rap vocals on ‘Over My Skull’, the low-key beauty of River Falling Love highlight ‘All Of This’, and Denise Roughan’s wonderful appearance on their most well-known song ‘Rain’. Small scraps of the bands fairly substantial discography have appeared in the digitally archived era, however if ever there was a Flying Nun associated act that could use an anthology release it would be Wreck Small Speakers – its been almost two decades since Morley’s Dead C band mate Bruce Russell released A Child’s Guide To Wreck Small Speakers on his own Xpressway label.

Members

  • Michael Morley (Guitar/Organ/Vocals, 198?-1987)
  • Richard Ram (Bass/Guitar/Vocals, 198?-1987)
  • Denise Roughan (Recorder/Vocals, 198?)
  • Lesley Paris (Drums, 198?)
  • Ivan Purvis (Guitar, 198?)
  • Bruce Blucher (Drums, 198?)
  • Martin Kean (198?)

Discography

  • My Blue Fairy Godmother [1983 Wrecked Music WRECK14]
  • 3.V.M. EP [1983 Wrecked Music WRECK20]
  • Over My Skull Cassette Single [1984 Every Secret Thing EST 06]
  • Cave Cassette [1984 Every Secret Thing EST 21]
  • Worlds Fall Apart cassette [1984 Every Secret Thing EST 24]
  • A Summer In Taradale Cassette [1985 self-released]
  • River Falling Love ep [1986 Flying Nun FN068]
  • A Child’s Guide To Wreck Small Speakers Cassette [1988 Xpressway XWAY03]
  • River Falling Love Reissue [1993 Ajax AJAX 029]

Links

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.

RST

Aka Andrew Moon, the head of Imperial Recordings and ex-drummer for Flying Nun legends Goblin Mix. Moon worked with RSW London in the late 80s, forming Celine, but its been in RST that Moon (now as a solo musician) has found his sound as a guitarist.

Second full-length offering from this nz master of squeal ‘n sheen guitar textures. Guaranteed to pin your head to the floor with calm, carefully abraded and composed blocks of unrelenting noise. Confounds the armchair cynics who claim the guitar is devoid of meaning, in RST’s hands it is reclaimed and made to do new work creating thermal pools for your mind.
– Bruce Russell on the ‘Warm Places’ release

Discography (picks in bold)

  • Event Horizon 12″ Lathe-Cut [1995 Imperial Recordings]

  • Acceleration Stations Lathe-Cut 10″ [1995 Imperial Recordings]

  • ‘Retrograde’/’Retrograde Motion’ Lathe-Cut 8″ [Imperial Recordings]

  • ‘Voltage’/’Garden’ Lathe-Cut 8″ [Blue Silver Records]

  • ‘Containment’/’The Problem’ Lathe-Cut 7″ [Imperial]

  • R136a [1996? Ecstatic Peace E#89]

  • Warm Planes [1998 Corpus Hermeticum Hermes032]

See-Also

Bruce Russell

The man behind Xpressway, corpus hermeticum, and a significant part of the Dead C, Russell finally (after years of eclectic collaborations with a broad selection of New Zealand and international artists) released his solo album on his own Corpus Hermeticum label in 2003.

Discography (picks in bold)

See-Also

Peter Stapleton

Peter Stapleton is one of New Zealand’s most referred underground musicians. As a member and song-writer for The Vacuum, Scorched Earth Policy and The Terminals, Stapleton has amassed a body of work like no other, and established himself as one of new zealand’s most distinctive drummers. Under his own name, Stapleton has also collaborated with Bruce Russell and Kim Pieters for several experimental releases.

Discography (picks in bold)

    Last Glass [Collaboration With Kim Pieters, Bruce Russell Corpus Hermeticum]
    Sex/Machine [Collaboration With Kim Pieters, Bruce Russell Metonymic]

See-Also

Xpressway

Xpressway was formed by Bruce Russell in 1985 to release his then-fledgling Christchurch band the Dead C, live archival recordings from This Kind Of Punishment and the debut solo material from Alastair Galbraith. Over the course of the next 23 (mostly cassette-only) releases, Xpressway, Russell and his comrades themselves formed an ever-growing niche-market of dark, brooding releases, mostly in lo-fidelity form, but full of character.

Xpressway was the label that set the careers of Stephen Cogle, Peter Stapleton and Brian Crook (between them being a major part of Victor Dimisich, Scorched Earth Policy, the Terminals and the Renderers), the Jefferies brothers and David Mitchell in motion, quite an achievement. Their brilliant compilations Xpressway Pile-Up and Making Losers Happy were re-released by overseas labels in the early 90s, hastening the influence of these inspiring 23 releases.

Russell ended the label once they had achieved global recognition, as he had always intended Xpressway to be a stepping-stone toward competent distribution, and they had achieved that by the early 1990s with American labels like Siltbreeze, Drunken Fish, and Kranky and European labels Turbulence, Ajax and Raffmond picking up a fair portion of the labels many talented musicians. Russell then launched Corpus Hermeticum – an outlet for even more challanging music (mostly by his own personal pool of musicians, but expanding into even overseas experimental and underground musicians).

Compilation Discography
Picks In Bold

  • Xpressway Pile Up [1988 XWAY5]
  • I Hate Pavel Tishy’s Guts [1989? promo issued in 2 versions XWAY6]
  • Xpressway Pile=up [reissue with extra tracks 1990]
  • Making Losers Happy [1991]
  • Whats That Noise? 7″ album [1992]
  • I Hear The Devil Calling Me 7″ album [distributed by drag city 1993]

Contact Details

A Handful Of Dust

Biography

One of Bruce Russell’s (Dead C) and Alastair Gailbraith’s 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 and Galbraith duo, but eter Stapleton has been a regular contributor.

Members

  • Alastair Galbraith (Violin/Keyboard/Guitar/Lute/Vocals, 1992 -)
  • Bruce Russell (Guitar/Keyboards/Vocals/Percussion/Organ/Kazoo, 1992 -)
  • Peter Stapleton (Drums, 1993)

Discography

  • A Little Aesthetic Discourse (1992, Xpressway/Twisted Village)
  • Concord (1993, Corpus Hermeticum, HERMES001)
  • The Philosophick Mercury (1994, Corpus Hermeticum, HERMES002)
  • The Eightness Of Adam Qadmon Cassette (1994, Corpus Hermeticum, HERMES003)
  • The Seventhness Lathe-Cut 7″ (1994 , Corpus Hermeticum, HERMES004)
  • Music Humana (, Corpus Hermeticum, HERMES005)
  • Three Dances In Honour Of Sabbatai Sevi, The Apostate Messiah Lathe-Cut 7″ EP (1994, Corpus Hermeticum, HERMES006)
  • Crank #4 (w/ Alan Licht 1994, Crank Automotive, C1)
  • From A Soundtrack To The Anabase Of St-John Perse (1995, Corpus Hermeticum, HERMES009)
  • Authority Over All Signs Of The Earth Lathe-Cut 7″ Single (1995, Corpus Hermeticum, HERMES010)
  • Topology Of A Phantom City Cassette (1995, Corpus Hermeticum, HERMES020)
  • Now Gods, Stand Up For Bastards (1996, Corpus Hermeticum, HERMES013)
  • Urban Psychogeography, Vol Ii: Jerusalem, Street Of Graves (1998, Corpus Hermeticum, HERMES029)
  • Topology Of A Phantom City (1997, Corpus Hermeticum)
  • Spiritual Libertines (1996, Crank Automotive, C6)
  • For Patti Smith (2002, Freewaysound, Freewaysound003)
  • Mared’ Milk Mixed With Blood (2003, Non Mi Piace, 07)
  • Panegyric (2009, Next Best Way, NBWAY08)

Links

 

Birchville Cat Motel

Biography

Extremely prolific Wellington experimental sound-artist who also records his given name of Campbell Kneale, and as a founding member of such varied performance outfits as Lugosi, Hataitai Bowling Club, Black Boned Angel etc.

Kneale has been making music since the mid 90’s, accumulating a vast amount of (usually) limited edition CDr releases and building a name for himself overseas, were he receives a considerably higher profile (though due to the nature of his music – quite abstract, this popularity is limited to an appreciative cult following).

Though primarily the alias of Kneale, Birchville Cat Motel recordings often featured like-minded improvisational musicians, such as the superb Jewelled Wings on Freedom From. An all acoustic, no overdue stew of drone and clatter driven by just about any household item imaginable (one such moment devolves into an orchestra of wind-tubes), the recording features prominent Wellington artists Kieran Monaghan and Bill Wood (Surface of the Earth).

In 2002 I had the pleasure of conducting an email interview with Kneale, before I was really too familiar with his work. Kneale was candid and satirical, which lead to a rather entertaining interview, that can be read here.

Kneale has since gone on to establish quite a name for himself in underground circles, with Wellingtons improvisation scene being touted as something of a second-coming for New Zealand outsider music.

Members

  • Campbell Kneale

Discography

  • Birchville Cat Motel & Small Blue Torch – Split ‎(Cass)(1995, Celebrate Psi Phenomenon)
  • Birchville Cat Motel & Small Blue Torch – Split (1996, Small Blue Recordings)
  • Untitled CDr (1997, Celebrate Psi Phenomenon)
  • Birchville Cat Motel (1997, Insample / Celebrate Psi Phenomenon, In004)
  • Love, Lies, Bleeding ‎(Cass, C60)(1998, American Tapes, AM059)
  • Birchville Cat Motel / Small Blue Torch – China Slope / L.P ‎(Cass)(1998, Celebrate Psi Phenomenon)
  • Birchville Cat Motel / rhBand – Childrens Prayer To The Fourteen Good Angels ‎(Lathe, 8″, Cle)(1998, Celebrate Psi Phenomenon)
  • Tinfoilteeth ‎(Lathe, 8″, Shape, Squ)(1998, Celebrate Psi Phenomenon)
  • Split Lathe-Cut 7″ / Cassette (W/ Eso Steel 1998, Celebrate Psi Phenomenon)
  • Siberian Earth Curve (1998, Drunken Fish Records, DFR43
  • Blankangelspace (1999, Celebrate Psi Phenomenon)
  • Lion of Eight Thousand Generations LP (1999 Betley Welcomes Careful Drivers)
  • A Muslin Veil of Bravery (1999, Spite, SPITE45)
  • Cranes Are Sleeping (2000, Ecstatic Peace!)
  • Vespertine CDr (2000, Last Visible Dog, LVD022)
  • Swarming Tamagotchi Plague CDr (2000, Celebrate Psi Phenomenon)
  • Shapeshifter (2000, Celebrate Psi Phenomenon)
  • Crop Circle Empires (2000, Celebrate Psi Phenomenon)
  • She Feckless Steed ‎(Cass, C30)(2000, White Tapes, whi25.CS)
  • Birchville Cat Motel / MSBR & Eso Steel – Droop Drone Drops ‎(CDr)(2001, Denshi Zatsuon, DZ-CDR002)
  • Jewelled Wings (2001, Freedom From, FF100)
  • We Count These Prayers LP (2001, Corpus Hermeticum, Hermes037
  • Serene Trajectories Split CDr (w/ Esosteel 2002, Celebrate Psi Phenomenon)
  • Home CDr (2002, Celebrate Psi Phenomenon)
  • Mighty Spine Catcher CDr (2002, Celebrate Psi Phenomenon)
  • Zenkoji CDr (2002, Celebrate Psi Phenomenon)
  • Birchville Cat Motel vs. The Ecstasy Trio (w/ The Ecstasy Trio 2002, Celebrate Psi Phenomenon)
  • September CDr (2002, Celebrate Psi Phenomenon)
  • White Gound Elder 2 x CDr (2002, Celebrate Psi Phenomenon)
  • Creeping Frost Onset CDr (2002, Celebrate Psi Phenomenon)
  • Summer’s Seething Pulse (2003, Mar/ino Recordings)
  • Assholes of the World Unite and Hunt in Packs CDr (w/ Guilty Connector 2003, Celebrate Psi Phenomenon)
  • Untitled Split Cd (W/ Bruce Russell 2003, Celebrate Psi Phenomenon)
  • Copenhagen (2003, Celebrate Psi Phenomenon)
  • Beautiful Speck Triumph (2004, Last Visible Dog)
  • Nurse (2004, Fencing Flatworm Recordings, ff027)
  • With Maples Ablaze (2004, Scarcelight Recordings, slr21)
  • Chi Vampires (2004, Celebrate Psi Phenomenon, 1008)
  • Birchville Cat Motel With Lee Ranaldo – 30th December 2004 (2005, Celebrate Psi Phenomenon, 1011)
  • Black Void Orange Cat (2005, Celebrate Psi Phenomenon)
  • Birchville Cat Motel / A.M.* / DEL – Live At Cuba Street Carnival & Huttstock (2005, TWR Tapes)
  • Firepower Fragrant Cloud (2005, Celebrate Psi Phenomenon)
  • Birchville Cat Motel / Opaque – Untitled (2006, Kovorox Sound, KOVO-019)
  • Bees & Wasps ‎(Cass, Ltd, C30)(2006, Beyond Repair Records, Beyond Repair Records 014)
  • Our Love Will Destroy The World (2006, PseudoArcana, PACD075)
  • Her Anger Is Limitless (2006, Celebrate Psi Phenomenon)
  • Curved Surface Destroyer ‎(3xCD) (2006, Last Visible Dog, LVD 105/106/107)
  • Birchville Cat Motel & Yellow Swans – Birchville Cat Motel & Yellow Swans ‎(2006, Important Records (2), IMPREC117)
  • Fear Falls Burning & Birchville Cat Motel – Fear Falls Burning & Birchville Cat Motel (2007, Conspiracy Records)
  • Seventh Ruined Hex ‎(2007, Important Records (2), IMPREC169)
  • Bird Sister Blasphemy ‎(2007, Battlecruiser)
  • Birds Call Home Their Dead ‎(2007, Celebrate Psi Phenomenon, 1019)
  • Birchville Cat Motel With Anla Courtis – Three Sparkling Echoes ‎(2007, Celebrate Psi Phenomenon, 1018)
  • Astro Catastrophies ‎(2007, Celebrate Psi Phenomenon)
  • Four Freckle Constellation (2008, Conspiracy Records (2))
  • Second Curved Surface Destroyer )(2008, Celebrate Psi Phenomenon)
  • Gunpowder Temple Of Heaven (2008, Pica Disk, PICA004)
  • Came A Great Stallion Whose First Leap Sparked The Celestial Star (2011, Don’t Fuck With Magic, DFWM-009)
  • Glamourpuss (Unknown, Celebrate Psi Phenomenon)
  • The Stripey Tape (Unknown, Celebrate Psi Phenomenon)
  • Birchville Cat Motel & Lugosi – Split (Unknown, Celebrate Psi Phenomenon)
  • Holy Mother Of God ‎(Cass, EP, C10)(1995, Celebrate Psi Phenomenon)
  • Birchville Cat Motel / Eso Steel – Split ‎(7″, Cle)(1997, Celebrate Psi Phenomenon)
  • Grey Wolves Gather / Blue Jewel Drift ‎(Lathe, 7″)(1998, Secret Safari, 07 cones)
  • Fountain And The Love Of Tokyo ‎(Lathe, 7″)(1998, Animal Kingdom)
  • China Slope ‎(Lathe, 12″)(1998, Stabbies And The Rocket Recordings)
  • Crestfallen / Winters Crackling Glory 2 versions(2002, Killer, Killer)
  • Glass Harvest Mason ‎(7″, Num)(2003, Veglia, veglia12)
  • Screamformelongbeach ‎(CDr, Mini)(2003, PseudoArcana, PA025)
  • Birchville Cat Motel & Reynols – Split ‎(12″)(2004, Reverse Recordings, rev-001)
  • Stellar Collapse ‎(CDr, Mini)(2005, Kning Disk, 20)
  • Small Christian Victories ‎(CDr, Mini)(2006, diagnosis… DON’T! reCoRdings, DONT013)
  • The Frog Prince ‎(7″, S/Sided)(2007, Anthem Records)
  • Untitled ‎(Unknown, Celebrate Psi Phenomenon)
  • Invisible ‎(Unknown, Celebrate Psi Phenomenon)
  • Long Vanished Spirals ‎(2002, Celebrate Psi Phenomenon)
  • Chaos Steel Skeletons: Three ‎(2xCDr, Comp, Ltd)(2006, Celebrate Psi Phenomenon)
  • Chaos Steel Skeletons: Two ‎(2xCDr, Comp, Ltd)(2006, Celebrate Psi Phenomenon)
  • Chaos Steel Skeletons: One ‎(2xCDr, Comp, Ltd)(2006, Celebrate Psi Phenomenon)
  • Birchville Cat Motel, Charalambides, Tarentel – Rockumentaries ‎(3xDVDr, Mini, Ltd)(2008, Nothing Out There, n.o.t.#5b, n.o.t.#5c, n.o.t.#5t)
  • Alpine Pacific Triangle ‎(CDr, Ltd)(2014, Don’t Fuck With Magic)
  • A Tiny Circle Of Throbbing Attics ‎(Cass)(Unknown, Root Don Lonie For Cash, #115)
  • Cyclops Super Trike ‎(Cass)(Unknown, Celebrate Psi Phenomenon)
  • Birchville Cat Motel / Ashtray Navigations – Birchville Cat Motel / Ashtray Navigations ‎(Lathe, 8″, Pic)(Unknown, Celebrate Psi Phenomenon)
  • Birchville Cat Motel & 010010 – Untitled ‎(Cass, C60)(Unknown, Celebrate Psi Phenomenon)

Links

 

Campbell Kneale [December 2002]

First off, describe your music in 10 words or less

Antarcticish.

Please substitute my use of the genre label ‘noise’, i’m not particularly fond of it myself..

Neither. ‘Noise’ is term usually used by Kylie fans to make generalizations about music that threatens them. Or nu-metallers to describe soundtrack-making, punk-prog bands with beards and turntables. neither of the above have any right to use the word.

You have a huge catalog – not just under the ‘Birchville Cat Motel‘ moniker but a number of other side-projects. if somebody was interested in delving into your releases — where should they start, and why?

That’s a very big question. Tsk.
In spite of the two-car-garage sized back-catalog (i forget how many… maybe 50-60?) every Birchville Cat Motel release is different and has its own unique voice due to the fact that Birchville Cat Motel is more about a methodology, or means of making music, rather than creating a ‘sound’ easily identifiable as Birchville Cat Motel.

The early recordings were very loud and caustic, as time has progressed, the aesthetic matured and personalized, and i began to find that i was increasingly drawn to the complexities of quieter textures. i have my personal favorites which i’m sure will prompt heated debate among my peers. On a desert island with only my own records for company I would choose…

‘We count these prayers’ CD (Corpus Hermeticum, NZ) 2001
Probably the best guitar-based record i ever made. The balance between dissonance, consonance, and slow motion, junk-crush is pretty compelling. A subtly illuminating record.

‘Crestfallen’ 7″ (Killer Records, Norway) 2001
An oceanic kinda drifting thing made up from largely acoustic instruments and tweaked kitchen gadgets. My favorite ‘Sunset’ record.

‘Summers seething pulse’ CD (Elsie and Jack, UK) 2003
Actually it’s not due out until the end of December but it’s a real doozy. A very creamy platter of head-sauce. Amplified picture framing wire and electric wallpaper are only some of the first-class doo-dads i invented for this release. Rock’n’rolls very own birdman contest.

New Zealand actually has quite a collection of ‘textural’ musicians. With the success of Alistair Galbraith, The Dead C, Roy Montgomery, Wreck Small Speakers etc, how do you think people in know perceive New Zealand on an international scale?

Well, with all due respect to all those luminaries listed and not to deny the impact they have had on the perception of NZ music overseas… they represent the ‘old farts scene’. Although I am very familiar with their material, i personally don’t feel any real affiliation with these artists with regards to my own work.

These folk were making cutting edge records 15 years ago. the international record-buying public know a shitload more about NZ underground music than your average NZ music journalist. The Dead C are still invisible to the NZ music media in spite of having influenced an entire generation of musicians from Sebadoh to Sonic Youth, let alone little old me. Other than the odd bunch of records i sell at a live show, all of my records go overseas to a large audience of enthusiasts who know all about your neighbor who dubs cassettes of his band off in editions of 20.

Who do you see as your contemporaries?

If by ‘contemporaries’ you mean ‘lunatic noise buddies’, then my contemporaries are many. I mean, if you think of ‘music’ as a small subset of ‘sound’ you get a better idea of the scale of sonic ground ripe for exploration. In October i performed at the lines of flight festival in Dunedin which covered a healthy swag of artists who are prominent within the New Zealand and international community. Bruce Russell, Sandoz Lab Technicians, Peter Wright, Nova Scotia, CM Ensemble, K-Group, Omit, Esosteel… All of whom have many top-notch releases are very visible within their respective non-genres internationally.

Overseas there are communities that run parallel to the New Zealand thing too… Europe, UK, USA, Japan… And it is becoming easier, not to mention increasingly beneficial, for many of us to network with the various organizations involved for distribution of our records and touring. the upcoming European tour is all about creating contacts and forming a live circuit to get more of our music over there.

We get paid well, sell lots of records, and perform to large enthusiastic audiences. whereas, I have pretty much ‘retired’ from playing live in any regular sense here in NZ. I don’t feel compelled to play for 4 people any more.

Do you consider your music to be more influential or recognized overseas than in New Zealand?

on my most recent tour of Japan i visited record shops in Tokyo and a number of other cities that had a whole celebrate psi phenomenon section! i met bands who shyly stated in their very best English that they had been profoundly influenced by my records! it was a truly humbling experience.

I discovered first hand that New Zealand underground music is treated with near-reverence everywhere except New Zealand.

My upcoming tour of Europe i will be stopping by Finland, Sweden, Denmark, Belgium, Germany, and the UK. I have significant fan-bases in all of these countries. Most of my records go to the USA.

To contrast, in NZ I have only just started to have shows where more than a small handful of people come along. Not that long ago i was billed in a local gig guide as a visiting US guitarist!

A lot of musicians credit krautrock, japanoise and the likes of the Berlin avant garde scene as important influences. Do you feel any particular ‘scene’ has influenced your recordings?

Nope. the last record i paid money for was Motley Crues ‘Shout at the devil’.

I like some japanoise-related stuff like Merzbow, MSBR, and Guilty Connector and I performed with some of them in japan which was quite a thrill. Black-psych like Fushitsusha. I played with some of the Japanese Onkyo dudes here in NZ recently… Toshimaru Nakamura, Sachiko M, Tetuzi Akiyama, and Otomo Yoshihide… They were incredible! i loved them… but i don’t know if they have influenced me. our respective music forms are very personal. time will tell. I don’t think my music can really be internationalized the same way that New Zealand ‘rock’ is.

Birchville Cat Motel is not really influenced by music. I’m more fond of second-hand shops, train stations, old atlases, Antarctica, Siberia, Alaska, Poppy Z Brite books, dodgy heavy metal…

So do you consider your music visually descriptive? or is there some other kind of connection your going for here?

There is some other kind of connection going on. But its a lot less tangible than simply transcribing visual experiences into music. I guess godspeed you black emperor are a prime example of a band that is operates very successfully on this level… undeniable filmic and you almost feel miffed that you can’t see the pictures that should accompany this music.

For me, the experiences i like to work with are those brief fleeting ones, like childhood aromas unleashed from an old cupboard, that infuriating elusiveness of not quite being able to place a certain sensation.

Utterly evocative but impossible to fully apprehend. at these moments you become not just a person in a particular moment, but you connect with something much larger. a personal history, full of things that nobody else could understand, and that you couldn’t really describe in words.

I’ve always sought to find inspiration in my location. currently that location is suburban Lower Hutt. Suburbia has a nasty reputation for being a congregation point for soullessness but i have come to disagree. i have seen brief glimpses of a very deeply ingrained spirituality here, not connected with any obvious religious affiliation, but connected with the big patterns of human existence. work, sleep, travel, children, hospitality, home decorating… what would probably pass as ‘boring’ or ‘insignificant’ to your average e-popping, superficially urbanite, ravebunny, again links people with a much larger pattern of life that has continued unchanged, other than on the surface, for countless generations. i find the mundane beautiful and very grand.

When you played with the touring Japanese, did you play alongside Nakamura’s no-input desk? His performance here in Christchurch with Greg Malcolm was quite spectacular.

Yes. I had been aware of Nakamura’s no-input thing for quite a while and i was pretty excited about the possibility of being able to perform with him. his purity of sound and the purity of intent demonstrated in his work has always struck a chord with me (not a power-chord you understand). i did some recording with Akiyama as well… he’s a fascinating guitarist. very little of what he does sounds like an acoustic guitar.

I understand you like to keep your recordings pretty minimal – what kind of toys do you use to forge and alter your recordings?

I have no personal aversion to overdubs. In fact, most of my music is constructed using layers of overdubbed improvisations. I used to have an old Fostex reel-to-reel 8 track. it was cool but it was becoming expensive tracking down tape and DAT’s to master onto. i switched to computer after I got back from Japan.

Using the computer to record with certainly has opened up new possibilities, but to be honest, i’m not sure i want all those possibilities. sure, its great to be able to record tape-less, mix automatically, master straight to disc, and spit out a CDr at the end of the process, but the ability to ‘alter’ sounds I find hugely distracting. i use the computer as a recorder… that’s all. A bit of EQ, a hint of spatial clarification, but most of those effect knobs make everything sound like wimpy shit. Fine if you want to make electronical but as hard as it may be for some to fathom, i’m not interested in the slightest in electronica.

Do you think the likes of pro-tools and other digital manipulation applications have helped or hindered the course of experimental music?

Um… helped. the digitization of experimental music has seen it become the new punk rock… its strengthened the DIY ethic of self production, self promotion, self dissemination. (the old punk rock works for the factory nowadays)

Do you have any opinions on any of the more commercially leaning bands such as the ‘drone based’ Spacemen 3, Godspeed! Your Black Emperor etc or so-called ‘slow-core’ bands like Bedhead and Low?

Spacemen3 suck. fucking boring English twats. History should confiscate their reputation.

I’m pretty fond of GS!YBE. they’re like everything that Radiohead could have been if they weren’t fucking boring English twats. very cinematic. movie-ish. enigmatic and black.

Bedhead, never heard of them. are they English? Low. zzzzzzz… twats. what about the Melvins?!? aren’t they slow-core?

Promotion time: plug a new release on your label (celebrate psi phenomenon) that you’re not directly involved with.

‘Shutupalreadydamn! A tribute 2 Prince’ Double CD

Everybody who ever heard this says it’s the best compilation they own! 20-something New Zealand and international envelope-pushers getting very loose and covering the little-sexy-purple-muthafucker. It is absolutely stunning what people have done with some extremely non-representative source material. hits! hits! hits! everything from Birchvilles faux-arena rock, to cm ensembles drifting church organ liturgies, to Sunships sex-murder-mass destruction, to Matt Silcocks… um… ‘rap’ to… oh oh, it’s just so damn good all over. The best thing about the compilation is that it is very funny, but never crosses that fine line and becomes a ‘joke’. Tt’s unusually respectful.

Any national tour plans for once you get back from Europe?

Nope.

Would anybody come?

Hahaha. No actually, that’s entirely true. i am hoping to lure some international like-minds to New Zealand with the promise of Marmite, well-paying shows, and mature, respectful New Zealand audiences. If they are silly enough to fall for my slick stories, there could be a tour with Japanese head-crusher MSBR, Norwegian vintage-horror-flick improvisers DEL, and maybe even UK bedroom, laptop-astrologer Simon Wickham smith. We will see.