Snapper

Biography

After several false starts as a founding member of (get this) the Clean, the Chills and then the Great Unwashed, Peter Gutteridge was struggling to find an outlet for the sounds pent up inside him. Recording at home with a 4-track recording unit, he formed a new sound quite removed from the loose acoustic ramble of the Great Unwashed.

These recordings were created primarily solo, but with the occassional assitance of Alan Haig (Drums) and Ex-Bird Nest Roy Dominic Stones (Guitar) – culminating in a live support show for the Delawares featuring Gutteridge on Keyboards. Delawares guitarist Christine Voice was impressed and soon replaced Gutteridge on keyboards (and backing vocals), leaving Gutteridge free to lead the band (now officially named Snapper) on guitar.

The sound of Snapper grew and grew – Gutteridge began experimenting heavily with distortion and layering voices keyboard, adding thick, dense drones to their live and recorded sound. the debut self-titled ep was released and garnished critical acclaim, as the outside world was by now discovering the delights of the new zealand underground. the concept for their releases were to treat each instrumental passage as a layer of sound, songs rolled on and coalesced into a continious amalgam of sound. this continued on 1992’s Shotgun Blossom – the bands first full-length release (after the best part of 5 years).

With the band taking their time between releases they eventually lost Haig (to be replaced by former Toy Love Drummer Mike Dooley) and Stones (who went on to form the 3Ds) in the process. ADM finally surfaced in 1996 to pretty much universal adoration – whilst some critics compared them to the departed art-punk (and synth pioneers) duo Suicide, others cited them as the inspiration for the new wave of drone-popsters such as Stereolab.

ADM was recorded with something of a revolving support line-up – Stones was replaced by Gutteridge’s old pal David Kilgour, whilst a young Demarnia Lloyd (yet to make her name with Mink or Cloudboy), Celia Pavlova (Aka Mancini – of King Loser) and Voice provided backing vocals, with Dooley staying on as drummer.

Since then, not much has been heard from Gutteridge – despite Snappers reputation growing in retrospect. In the late 90’s he played tribute to his old band the Clean, playing guitar on High Dependency Unit‘s excellent cover of the Gutteridge-penned Clean classic ‘Point That Thing Somewhere Else’, and occasionally ventured out with some live performances, now reportedly focusing on keyboard based songs.

Members

  • Peter Gutteridge (Guitar/Vocals/Keyboards, 1985? – 2014)
  • Christine Voice (Keyboards/Guitar/Vocals, 1985? – 2000?)
  • Alan Haig (Drums, 1985? – 1992)
  • Dominic Stones (Guitar/Vocals, 1985? – 1992)
  • David Kilgour (Guitar, 1992 – 1993?)
  • Mike Dooley (Drums, 1992 – 2000?)
  • Martin Phillips (1992)
  • Chris Heazlewood (Guitar, 1993?)
  • Celia Patel (Keyboards/Vocals, 1993? – 1995?)
  • Maxine Funk (2000?)
  • Demarnia Lloyd (Vocals, 1996)
  • Thomas Bell (2000?)
  • Roddy Pain (Guitar, 1997?)
  • Tristan Dingermans (1997?)
  • Danny Brady (Keyboards, 2012? – 2014)
  • Hope Robertson (Drums, 2012? – 2014)
  • Jack Reid (Guitar, 2012? – 2014)

Discography

  • Snapper EP (1988, Flying Nun Records, FN110)
  • Dark Sensation 7″ Single (1990, Avalanche, AGAP010)
  • Shotgun Blossom (1992, Flying Nun Records, FN216)
  • Vadar 7″ Single (1993, Flying Nun Records, FN264)
  • ADM (1996, Flying Nun Records, FN294)
  • Hammerhead Live 7″ Single (2002, Crawlspace, SPACE010)

Links

 

John White

As the distinctive voice of Mestar, John White has become quite a well known figure in new zealand music, particularly in his home-town of dunedin, where mestar first formed, and where Cloudboy have become such a loved troup.

John toured with Demarnia Lloyd‘s excellent avant-pop outfit Cloudboy during their european tear to coincide with the release of the excellent Down At The End Of The Garden album, releasing his first solo album along the line.

A breezy mixture of low-key lullaby’s based around John’s delicate, almost child-like voice, accompanied by gentle acoustic guitar, plus a similar palette of instrumentation to the excellent Cloudboy debut; the albums 2nd half that veers towards droney string-section experiments – quite a dramatic change. In 2006 Jody Lloyd’s She’ll Be Right records reissued White’s excellent debut. In 2011 White resurfaced in Dunedin with new group The Blueness.

Discography (picks in bold)

  • Balloon Adventure Cd-R [2002 Self-Released]
  • Mogwash [2004 Self-Released]
  • Balloon Adventure Reissue [2006 She’ll Be Right]

See-Also

Barnard’s Star [August 2006]

When I remember Barnard’s Star what comes to mind are the places I saw this wonderful Christchurch group perform and how the venues added to the overall experience. I think my initial exposure to the group was at the Venus Cafe, a long since departed coffee shop – one of the first ‘hip’ such joints to hit the scene in the mid 90s. Located on Lichfield street above what was for a period the Liquor Lounge and also a gay bar whose name escapes me; Venus was often filled with University and late High School types, wasting away half a day sipping on a huge hot chocolate, along with a scattered few yuppies apparently ‘slumming it’ – I distinctly remember seeing a press review of the place which noted that half the crowd couldn’t afford to order anything.

Still, the Venus Cafe put on some wonderful shows; from the table-climbing antics of The Black Panthers to the reserved but eclectic sounds of the Dialtones and Barnard’s Star themselves. I can remember bassist Helen Greenfield wrapped in a big woollen coat, plunked on the floor playing bass guitar whilst surrounded by band mates – guitarists Nick Guy and Marcus Winstanley, and original drummer Frazer Talbot. The idea of Barnard’s Star was formed by Nick and Marcus during a music lecture at Canterbury University in 1996. The band became more that just an idea at a party a few months later. Although only two members (guitarists) at their first jam session, the band soon acquired a bass player (Helen) who couldn’t play but informed them that she was joining anyway.

That’s how Barnard’s Star was Started. (The name Barnard’s Star was only supposed to be a working title, too) we soon realised that we needed a drummer and Started looking. That’s where Frazer came in. Frazer Talbot, an enthusiastic young drummer, joined us after we’d auditioned him in a garage out at Nick’s parents’ place in Marshlands. With a drummer on board we started to write new songs and think about playing live.
– Helen Greenfield

Barnard’s Star was an ever-evolving outfit, who made some huge strides over the course of their short life-span. From Nick and Marcus’s original idea in 1996 the group mutated through mellow but rather sonic walls of guitar to more ethereal sounds – with the electronic input of Talbot’s successor Tyrone Thorne allowing the group to become more production-orientated. This diversity is quite present in their recordings as the sparse, minimalist early singles differ quite dramatically from the polished, free-flowing later EP – which was self-recorded, mixed and remixed by the group, eventually surfacing on the Beat Atlas imprint in 1999.

We planned to record an album but that never eventuated it has a very cool working title Sonoluminesence. Not sure what happened with the band; we dissolved very slowly. Tyrone went overseas and is now working in London. Marcus, Nick, and I are still in Christchurch doing our separate things. It’s a shame really. I was listening to the EP recently and thinking (a) how great it is and (b) how it hasn’t dated (which, in my opinion, is the sign of a great record) – even though it is getting on to 7 years since it was recorded.
– Helen Greenfield

The second show I recall (which Helen also noted as one of their best) was supporting Dunedinites HDU and Cloudboy at the Lumiere Theatre – one of the most bizarre and sorely missed features of Christchurch cultural make-up. A compact movie theatre with a trippy lobby area filled with strange memorabilia and oddities (not to mention some great pinball machines and stacks of Spaceman Candy), the Lumiere was known for its bizarre feature events. They put on events like the ‘Incredibly Strange Film Festival’ and shows such as this which left the audience stuck in two minds whether they wanted to sit in the back and watch the bands play whilst ‘The Brave Little Toaster’ was projected behind them, or somehow squeeze up the aisles and attempt to dance somewhere near the front. What a wonderful place – one of my other exposures to the venue was a movie double header of ‘Microcosmos’ and ‘Baraka’ with Christchurch stars The Puffins creating their own live soundtrack to the features.

Making a superb support choice, Barnard’s Star outshone their southern counterparts at this show, incorporating all the articulate guitar-work of HDU with the whimsy and warmth of Cloudboy to really show what Canterbury is capable of (apparently the groups soundcheck was delayed by the HDU boys watching the finale of the rugby – another event in which the Cantab’s trumped their southern counterparts). Marcus Winstanley related that the band were a lot louder than most people anticipated – as he would mix the shows from the stage and had a tendency to push the levels. They would take on a bombastic, sonic nature; in fact Chris (from defunct local popsters Degrees K) related that their Harbor Light EP release alongside Roy Montgomery was something of a religious experience due to their shear volume.

[We played with] The Puffins, Bailter Space, Roy Montgomery, The Verlaines and Bilge Festival, Kate In The Lemon Tree, HDU and Cloudboy, Le Mot Cafe and Sea Worlde [a group who would later evolve a little, move north and change their name to the Nouveau Riche].
– Helen Greenfield

The primary recorded artifact of the band is an involving, pulsing self-titled EP, recorded at The Research Center with help from Mike Richardson (who also helped set up the groups Beat Atlas label) and mastered at Kog. The Research Center was the Former Rotherham District Hospital; a bizarre converted rural hospital manor which also served as the studio for The Puffins unreleased album sessions, and set in a secluded farmlet in North Canterbury.

It’s a top notch recording that connects as a single entity, flowing through 5 glorious, long and eclectic textural tracks, rich with tone and character. Using vocals as just another layer in a dense mix of pulsing synths, shoe-gazer guitar, digitally manipulated sounds and robotic bass. Unfortunately the EP never really had a chance as a radio favorite, with songs like the magnum opus ‘Jupiter Spirals‘ and the My Bloody Valentine reminiscent ‘Arc Infinity‘ clocking in at ten and a half and 8 minutes a piece.

After the group eventually faded away to their own pursuits, a handful of tracks surfaced on a variety of compilations – the last of which ‘(Terabytes, Terawatts) And Terra Incognita‘ is probably the most removed recording in their output, having gone through a great deal of revisions and remixes in its life-time it’s an ebbing electronic creation; drastically different from the material the group produced just a couple years earlier. In fact, Tyrone is currently working on a couple further remixes, though whether they finally see the light of day remains to be seen (and heard).

These days Helen Greenfield and Nick Guy perform on the fringe of Christchurch music circles as part of the Southern Oscillations collective and in solo guises as Mela and Lytteltronics, Helen has also recently joined synth and guitar duo Thomas:Parkes, and Nick is one half of the Torlesse Supergroup alongside legendary guitarist Roy Montgomery. Though Tyrone has moved to London after a spell with the Sydney-based ‘Swingingingtastybag’, Marcus Winstanley has continued to be a feature of the Christchurch music community, currently performing with Mini-Snap, The Dialtones and The Undercurrents, whilst also finding time for production sound work.

So a genuine Christchurch group who made a dramatic impact both as a live outfit and with their outstanding recordings and production work who expanded the limits of what a local band could be. I thoroughly recommend tracking down their EP if you’re interested in the outer limits of guitar, melodic electronics, or just plain great, involving music.

Contact geometric@clear.net.nz for a copy of the EP (whilst still available).

Cloudboy

demarnia started her musical career in the dunedin electro-pop outfit mink during the early 90s. mink went on to make 2 solid albums – their self-titled debut and the 96 release for my mink, but demarnia decided that she need to change their formula, so cloudboy was formed as a more eclectic, darker and quieter offspring. eventually mink fell away, and the more concentrated form of cloudboy took over, with mink comptriates multi-instrumentalist craig monk and string virtuoso/guitarist johannes contag filling the line-up (with demarnia on vocals and sequencing).
over the course of the next 6 years, demarnia continued to produce her own solo material (sometimes as cloudgirl, sometimes as cloud coupe, and sometimes just as demarnia lloyd) and released the trace ep as well as several tracks on the arc cafe compilations. monk is also involved with the rock-orientated suka (along with former cloudboy drummer heath te au), who are also major contributors to the arc-life cd compilations, and are well known around dunedin.
generally cloudboy’s recordings tend to be very heavy on abstract and complicated instrumentation, with their debut self-titled ep setting the standard with a complete orchestra of strings, tastefully arranged around demarnia’s delicate, frail and soothing voice. demarnia’s recordings however are far more simplified (her tour performances often feature no more than a casio-tone keyboard!) and leave everything her emotionally-packed voice and intrigueing lyrics. seeing demarnia live in an intimate setting is one of the most amazing experiences i can say that i’ve witnessed, she truly is spell-bounding.
in 2001, cloudboy released their epic creation down at the end of the garden, touring the album as an accompaniment to performance play that demarnia wrote for the music, dragging costumes, sets and an array of musicians (the album features 8 primary musicians as well as a number of guests) from one end of the country to the other. the album is flawless, it flows with grace and a dark beauty, and never falls into any of the formula’s that define pop music. in the time since its initial release, demarnia released her solo full length debut ‘set upon a curve’, and is in the process of developing a european tour for the cloudboy album and performance piece.
discography
picks in bold

  • cloudboy ep [1995 cloudboy / infinite regress]
  • ‘little prince’/’nicknames’ picture-disk 7″ lathe-cut [1996 cloudboy / infinite regress]
  • ‘pet’/’you set me on fire’ 7″ single [1996 flying nun FN347]
  • down at the end of the garden [2001 cloudboy / arc life / global routes cloud004/arclife010] rn

recommended songs
download from mp3.co.nz

  • (you’re so) prettyrn
  • cup of rosesrn

Cloudboy – Down at the End of the Garden

2001, Arc Life, ARC010

Demarnia Lloyd is something of an enigma in the Dunedin music scene. Over the past 7 years her involvement in former rock outfit mink and current band Cloudboy, as well as her solo material as cloud coupe and under her own name have kept the charming vocalist very busy.

Demarnia (daughter of noted New Zealand folk artist David Lloyd and sister of Dark Tower’s Jody Lloyd) doesn’t just limit herself to music either – for the release of last years debut down at the end of the garden, she orchestrated an entire live performance for live performances.

The album is something of an epic body of work – spanning the 5 years and containing songs that have been worked and reworked numerous times over the course of their existence. The end result is an exceedingly atmospheric, dramatic soundscape – but one that can at times over-shadow Demarnia’s heartfelt lyrical content and emotional vocals.

The album starts with a rising crescendo of sitar, tabla and violin on ‘Teaboy’ – multi-instrumentalist Craig Monk making a strong impression. Demarnia over-pronounces and creates waves of dreamy vocal haze with her tremendously breathy vocals. ‘Red Rubicon’ establishes a lyrical theme throughout the album – she describes relationship in an imperfect, often disjointed fashion, but that she is there to heal all wounds. The song mixes layers of simple keyboard drum patterns with some spicy guitar work and trumpet – traces of marimba and hefty dashes of double bass create a vast tapestry of sound.

‘Cup of Roses’ starts with hefty, pounding drum beat, breaking down to a singular bass line and layers of violin floating in and out – a huge departure from the songs original composition many years ago. Unfortunately this distracts from the melancholic beauty of Lloyd’s vocals – which often express so much emotion, but are somewhat lost under the layers of multi-tracked voices and instrumentation. Thankfully the soaring cello mid-song goes a long way towards re-establishing that emotion climaxing this song of absent love. ‘(You’re so) pretty’ continues on with Lloyd’s lovelorn desires – this time over a bed of synthesizer haze, droning bass and a bed of accompanying vocals.

A storm brews throughout the claustrophobic ‘feudal’ with many string and synth rhythms creating an environment of unease (as the song expresses lyrically). A perfect example of lloyd’s visual approach to creating music – track pulse in and out like a real storm, with waves of sound flowing in and out and engulfing the listener. ‘Tebo’ carries on Lloyd’s desires for love that’s passed her by “Driving me insane, that you couldn’t stay – Tebo” over a gorgeous driving plucked guitar piece from Johannes Contag and some coloring in the form of David Lloyd’s flute and tin whistle. Following a simple rising rhythm and a drone bass backing, the track is an album highlight for me.

‘Daydreamland’ adds a layer of funkiness to Cloudboy’s sound – Contag’s funky bass along with part time contributor (and ex-Mink drummer) Heath Te Au creating more upbeat backing for Lloyd’s vocals to float. On ‘The play’, some sampled trumpet and guest john bell’s vibraphone complement the rolling rhythm – carrying on the jazzy vibe ‘Daydreamland’ created.

Cloudboy have succeeded at creating a detailed tapestry of sound, the album literally flows from song to song, drawing heartfelt emotions from Lloyd’s charismatic vocals and the ever-soaring string arrangements, and is beautifully complemented by the instrumentation coloring that Contag, Monk and Te Au bring to the album. I do feel however that as an aspect of Demarnia’s vocal style and emotional connection to these songs, that they’re perhaps better suited to a scaled down, personal approach, as she has shown many times as a live performer.

Demarnia Lloyd – Set Upon a Curve

2002, Arc Life

Oh how CD’s have changed the face of music! Where once a double-album ‘opus’ from the likes of Led Zeppelin barely scraped the 60-minute mark, we now expect our albums to be at least 45 minutes long, which would have seen quite unusual to the music fans that preceded the digital age. I say this because the latest pop gem from Demarnia Lloyd of Cloudboy fame that’s sitting on my desk.

At a mere 26:30 spread over 9 tracks, one would be forgiven for thinking the album lacks meat. But all vinyl addicts know that’s not always the case, and that the best records are the ones that leave you wanting more.

Lloyd recorded this startling collection of songs at the historic remote smith’s grain-store in rural Oamaru, southern New Zealand. Taking inspiration from the harsh environment and the effect that had on her dream patterns – Lloyd sculptured the album as both highly visual (Lloyd and Cloudboy’s live appearances are often full theatrical performances) as well as thoroughly melodic.

Making considerable advances since 2000’s ‘Trace’ EP, the album is a complexly woven platter of breathy vocals, intricate and delicate instrumentation. Lloyd quickly establishes a melloncollie mode with opening track ‘over again, pull me in’. The song still retains the key traits of her previous outing, and without any form of percussion, the song customarily floats along on a pulsing bed of organic synth sounds. What she has done though is refine her sound to incorporate the fine touches the Cloudboy album had in spades.

Whereas the original EP was stark and relied almost solely on Lloyd’s fine voice, the new album has an ethereal soundscape aspect that’s thoroughly alluring.
On ‘Too long away’ Lloyd experiments with short electronic beats propelling the song further, creating a humming, pulsing rhythm reminiscent of Radiohead‘s more recent albums. In fact all number of electronic beats, crackles and shuffling grooves flow in and out of Lloyd’s dreamy, breathy multi-layered vocal.

‘A crooked road’ makes subtle use of plucked violin, the upbeat ‘Vell guitar’ features mandolin from contributor Jeff T. Mitchell, and pretty much every track takes a different approach to sculpting soothing sounds.

Lloyd is as on form as ever vocally, this time incorporating a fair amount of over-dubbed complimenting vocals, all in her inimitable hushed, refrained vocal (almost a single pitch throughout the album). The effect is quite gorgeous, the vocal equivalent of my bloody valentine’s guitar-drones.

A thoroughly engrossing and complete album, and a marked improvement over Lloyd’s previous releases. And yes, it does indeed leave me wanting more – Lloyd’s style seems to be evolving at a substantial rate of knots these days. With the popularity of Cloudboy on the rise these days, we can only hope that their, and of course Demarnia her self’s charming brand of dream-pop finds itself a greater outside audience.

Demarnia Lloyd

demarnia lloyd has been a particularly bright star in the dunedin music scene in the mid 90s, forming her tenure performing alongside the likes of alastair galbraith, as well as forming the eclectic, dancy mink, and their successor (whom she made her name with), cloudboy.
an increasingly prolific song-writer and a precious, unique vocalist, lloyd has performed under many different alias’s and in very different styles, but her songs and hugely inflective voice still stays as commanding as ever from release to release.
strip to just simple casio accompaniment when performing as cloud coupe, she is perhaps at her most tender, and a heck of a refreshing live performer. 2001 brought the long-awaited solo full-length set upon a curve a brief, but impressive set of songs written and recorded in oamaru’s historic grainstore, a large getaway in outback north otago.
discography
picks in bold

Mink

Demarnia Lloyd formed Mink in the early 90s, performing an eclectic mix of pop and rock with Jamaican and other more worldly influences (often varying towards folky styles). More skewered than her latter outfit Cloudboy, Mink were popular around Dunedin, without ever breaking out to New Zealand-wide popularity. Lloyd was joined by Geneveive Mclean, George Henderson, and featured contributions from future Cloudboy members Johannes Contag, Heath Te-Au and Craig Monk – along with Alan Starret and Emily Barr.

Discography (picks in bold)

  • Mink [1994 Infinite Regress]

  • For My Mink [1996 Infinite Regress]

See-Also

Michael J. Brassell: A Memorial [Mar 2004]

Michael John Brassell was a revered and cherished man. As a central figure in both the Christchurch and Dunedin underground rock scenes, Mike (known to many by his stage pseudonym, Mike Hex aka Mike/Whitey Hiss) developed a distinct creative style unhinged from his commercial surroundings. Mike championed the DIY spirit, performing, recording, producing and releasing an abundance of beloved recordings with little regard for mainstream success, but full of such beauty, it would be hard pressed for any true music fan to find merit. Highly prolific, Mike bounced around a handful of bands in the 90’s and 00’s – making his name with a noisy Christchurch-based troupe of madmen called Squirm.

Formed with Brett Lupton and a drummer known as ‘Hat’ in 1992, Squirm thrashed around Christchurch for some 18 months, releasing the ‘Feeding the ground’ full-length in tiny numbers before disbanding – only to regroup late in 1993 with Darryl Kirk on drums. This line-up would produce Squirms defining releases ‘whip me honey’ and the ‘mister mistake maker’ EP on Rob Mayes’ vaunted local indie Failsafe Records, but the Squirm boys wanted to push on for bigger things. Though the EP, recording under former Jean-Paul Sartre Experience and later Stereobus front man Dave Yetton, had interest from the in-a-state-of-progress Flying Nun label – they ultimately failed to find their mark.

The late 90’s brought about a change in line-up, with Peter Mitchell (formerly of New Zealands’ great underground sun-stained country legends The Renderers) now on drums, with former Pumpkinhead bassist Vaughan Watson solidifying the line-up for their last couple of years.

With aspirations to cross over to an american audience, Squirm took the unusual step of going it on their own, Mike forming his own recording label (Noseflute Recordings) and rechristening his Christchurch flat recording space as ‘Hex Central‘ – now a well-known spot for local muso’s. Though the DIY approach never saw them reach their goal of hitting it big overseas (and Squirm actually dissolved with the release of Mike’s first solo release), it did cultivate interest in the Hex philosophy to recording.

Mike’s low-fidelity, hiss+ recording style (all future Hex recordings would be free from the threat of any kind of crystal-clear and septic digital clarity) seemed custom made for his quirky and explorative approach to guitar playing and vocalising. Suddenly other bands were joining in on the act – Mike playing particular attention to The Centre Will Hold, a melodic local outfit of friends determined to produced the ultimate 1 minute pop song. In D Flat.

Mikes’ music (he had soon released his solo debut ‘Johnny Horse’ in small quantities, spreading a short distribution to independent pockets of Europe and the states, along with a keen – though small local following) was now sounding almost fully formed. After the release of the albums follow-up ‘the hiss explosion’, he took the step of moving to Dunedin. Taking a coordinating position with the fledgling Arc Life Recordings label – which had succeeded Flying Nun as the centre of all things low-fidelity in Dunedin, he joined locals Stephen Kilroy and Thom Bell.

With Mike in line, Arc Life thrived. New recordings from locals Cloudboy and their charming chanteuse Demarnia Lloyd, along with Renderers descendents (Brian Crooks side-project) Bible Black and the involvement of one of Mikes’ heroes – David Kilgour of seminal outfit The Clean, had Arc Life well on their way to bigger things.

In 2002 Mike released what could be his finest release, the awe-inspiring beautiful ’66’ with the Hiss Explosion – the texturally focused guitar-and-drums duo he had formed with former Squirm member Peter Mitchell for his last outing. ’66’ is pretty much a faithful recreation of how Mike and his hiss explosion sounded live – a rush of guitar, thumping drumming and melodic vocals. Based around Mikes’ obsession with a looping guitar foot-pedal (not exactly the height of hi-technology) the primitive sampler made for excellent compliment, and allowed Mike to create walls of transient, flowing sound, flush with soaring highs and lows that Mike caressed with his careful vocal approach – truly mesmerizing.

I had the fortune of organizing Mike’s final Christchurch show on Waitangi day 2004, and in an effort to promote the show, we scammed an interview used in local gig guide the package which i contribute towards, with Mike explaining where he was currently at. He talked about new releases on their way from HDU front man Kahu and perennial Dunedin feature Bob Scott putting out a CD of ‘Lost Folk Music’, along with possible recordings from The Centre Will Hold’s outgrowths’ the (still Christchurch based) Undercurrents. The big news though was that Arc was rebuilding their home-brew studio – with the help of Thom Bell (who was now playing an integral part in the hiss explosions’ sound, being the in-house sound guy) they had purchase a new studio desk from Canada and had set about putting things together.

The Hiss Explosions’ last Christchurch performance was a wonderful occasion. Christchurch has been witness to something of a re-birthing in the local scene in the last year, with more venues becoming regular performance options and the Waitangi day show brought out the kind of crowd you reminisce about, with former scene regulars and underground musicians alike coming out of the woodwork to witness Hex’s triumphant return, along with some starting performances from Substandard, Idols of Eve, Into the Void and fellow Dunedin troupers the International Telepaths.

Sadly Michael John Brassell passed just a few short weeks later, a sad victim of pneumonia; he died quickly and without warning in late February at the age of 38.

With little time to think, Fleur de Lis – a close friend and the front-woman of one of Christchurch’s most under-appreciated rock outfits The Dialtones, and myself set about stringing together a memorial gig for Mike, and with out too much trouble people were soon going out of their way to pay tribute to our fallen friend. On Friday the 12th of march, some 9 bands lined up to pay respect to Mike in their own way – the way Mikey Hex would have wanted it – with music.

Memories and reminds of Mikes past were gathered in a tribute center near the stage, a beautiful image of Mike playing at the Waitangi show, along with posters from Mike’s many bands through the 90’s (including one that was particularly significant to me – a late 90’s show were my own band made just our sophomoric appearance under Mikes lead), and his memorial signing book that was just about overflowing with loving tributes by the end of the night.

With 9 bands and some 300 punters, there was no messing around to be had. Dave Khan showed what a long way he’s gone in the last 18 months – forming an ethereal wall of sound from his keyboards and vocal harmonizing effects as drawing room – the solo moniker that seen him through a decade and a myriad of different styles. Playing out like ambient music at high-volume, Khans’ approach made the perfect melodic introduction to the night, a relaxing low-key performance.

Substandard took the occasion to make some changes – for the first time they had become a four-piece, joined by guitarist Danny Bare’s flatmate Matt on 2nd guitar and the groups first ever vocal performance. Covering Sonic Youth’s epitome of sound ‘Diamond Sea’ – a seething 20 minute song comprised of 2 distinct approaches – melodic vocal parts joined with full-frontal guitar attacks (known as the ‘Sea of Confusion’). Substandard made good on the hardest of covers, Andrew adding his own touches while trying hard to mimic Steve Shelley’s minimalist drumming, Gareth floating in and out with strong bass cues, while Danny and Matt reconstructed the piece with precision.

The Dialtones (with the ever-present sound supremo Marcus Winstanley making his 1st of 3 stage performances for the night) were absolutely bombastic. Marcus’s dominant drumming drove the band to new heights, Fleur leading the band through one of their most rousing performances and absolutely the surprise of the night. Fleur’s usually sedate vocals seemed to raise with authority above driving compliment, and it sounds like they’re truly in-line to make a welcome return to the Christchurch scene with a new high-power approach to their slightly folky rock.

With the night now pressing on (20 minute sets are one thing, but set-up times had already seen the night stretch out an hour or so) Minisnap had arrived and were inclined to take the stage next. With Marcus returning to the stage to compliment the Rob Scott-less Bats sister band as the supplementary guitarist, mini-snap sounded a little muffled and lacked definition, but still displayed a charismatic approach to their jangly guitar pop.

Arriving from wellington to take the stage as Dragstrip), former Ape Management band mate of Mike’s David Clark displayed humor and a gritty approach to guitar rock. With Darryl Kirk soon filling in on some impromptu drumming (without knowing any of Dragstrip’s stop-start song structures), he brought a smile to an already jubilant crowd. Using the kind of down-and-dirty insights that a beat poet might conjure up, Dragstrip were brash and to the point – and thoroughly entertaining.

The entertainment continued in the form of a short and explosive set from Into the Void – another in the line of bands that appeared with the Hiss Explosion on Waitangi day. The guys were right on forming, pounding away on the gig drum-kit with authority, while guitar and bass interlocked to create dense and highly rhythmic grooves. Things got a little silly late in the set when the drum kit, started inching its way off the stage, the voids drummer continuing to soldier on as his kit fell apart around him, with cymbals flying forward and his double-kick basically giving up the ghost simultaneously.

After a bit of a delay, the other surprise packet of the night – a new look Shocking Pinks took the stage for their debut performance. The Pinks have cultivated a bit of a unusual standing in the Christchurch scene, diving fans and muso’s with their infectious danceable songs, but leader Nick Hearte’s somewhat unusual approach to retaining band members. Needless to say the new line-up looked a little nervous (especially playing to such a large crowd), with new guitarist Kit not really making their new direction – closer to a shoe-gazer sound, all that obvious with some restrained playing. Cutting things short at a mere 2 songs; they ended in a flurry of sound as nick drowned the crowd in bass feedback.

Things took on a more mellow direction as the night passed 2:30 am – the much-vaunted undercurrents showing off the highly soothing melodic pop that had made them such a firm favorite with Mike. Bassist and vocalist Nick (formerly of seminal shoe-gazers Barnard’s Star, along with the guitarist – yes him again – Marcus Winstanley) really drove the band on a number of their songs, his playing adding volume (not to mention groove) to their wistful and contemplative pop melodies. One of my highlights for the night, the undercurrents unfortunately played to a fleeting crowd, weary from a late night.

Finally Eskimo – the new power-trio of Rob Mayes (bass), Michael Daly (drums) and local legend Dave Mulcahy (guitar) concluded things to a diminished, but enthusiastic crowd. Mulcahy and Mayes joked, and ran through a couple of their newly formed songs – that sounded like a slightly harder variation on Mulcahy’s former band Superette. In good spirits (not to mention having consumed many) Mulcahy grew distracted and frustrated in their third song, and quickly pulled the plug – effectively ending a long and wonderful night a little abruptly. Despite such a rough approach to a set, they did sound quite distinctive. After hearing an earlier performance to an uninterested varsity crowd a couple weeks back, Eskimo sound like they are indeed making strides towards the kind of pop gem i know both Mayes and Mulcahy are capable of.

And thus a long night was completed. Special thanks must go to sound guru’s marcus and loki, who made everything flow so beautifully, and of course the many bands that gave their time for such a worthy cause. Michael John Brassell will be remembered as a friendly and encouraging man that meant a lot to so many people – he will always be our Mike Hex.