En Can M.A.

Biography

A very strange band but also strangely good from 1982-4.

These guys had some connection with the Auckland group The Features. Guitarist/singer Ljinon sharing a similar shard like guitar style and vocal approach to The Features.

The band had some sort of abstract art thing going and could either be really good or bloody awful depending on the night. They feature Vince Pinker on bass guitar, who later went on to be part of the resurrected Gordons (sans Alistair Parker), and a few drummers.

‘Eat Shit’ was actually quite cool to watch live and i remember watching Ljinon playing the guitar stabs in this song and slicing his fingers on the guitar strings, bleeding all over his guitars white scratch plate.

At the end of the song he asked the bemused audience if anyone had a band aid. no one did.

– Rob Mayes

Recorded a song that was including on Mayes’ Accident Compilation for his Failsafe Records label, and a 2nd track on Pagan’s Spins and Needles compilation.

Ljinon would eventually go on to form 3Guesses.

The group resurfaced in 2014 playing a New Zealand Music Month event at a Wairarapa Library!

Members

  • Ljinon Manson (Guitar/Vocals, 1982 – 1985)
  • Vince Pinker (Bass, 1982 – 1983)
  • Bevan Sweeney (Drums, 1982)
  • Chris Orange (Drums, 1982)
  • Lis Cotter (Drums, 1982 – 1983)
  • Floyd Rudolph (Drums/Backing Vocals, 1985)
  • Trent Revell (Bass, 1985)
  • Eric Android (Drums, 1986?)
  • Shayne O’Neill (Guitar, 1986?)

Discography

Links

 

Feast of Stevens

Biography

Their sound was definitely New Zealand – melodic and human, but their tight playing and dynamic punch set them in their own space, related to but different from other NZ guitar bands. The Feasties began performing in December 1989 and hailed from Palmerston North. They made several low-key jaunts around the country including an Orientation tour to the South Island.

They released their own independently distributed 7 song cassette in November 1990 and contributed 2 songs to the Yellow Bike Records ‘Dynamite Groove’ CD compilation of Palmerston North bands in 1991. The band consisted of two guitarists / vocalists in Andrew Coy and Hamish Anderson, with Glen Fletcher on drums and John Trimble on bass.

In March of 1992 they met up with Rob Mayes of Failsafe Records and successfully applied for an Arts Council Grant which with renewed enthusiasm lead to the ‘Etch’ EP.

The band performed a release party in their home town of Palmerston North with fellow label mates Throw performing as a 2 piece for the event.

The concert did not go without problems when on the morning of the event drummer Fletcher went missing and could not be found. Fletcher had checked himself into a psychiatric hospital, and the band had to retrieve him narrowly making the band’s show.

Further recordings were done in January 1993 at Auckland’s York Street Studios with Nick Roughan (Bailter Space, Skeptics, David Kilgour, Writhe Studios). Nine tracks were completed of which three have been released on 7″ single. Soon after the recordings Hamish Anderson made a departure from the band leaving the band a three piece.

– Rob Mayes on Failsafe Records

The band would go on to record the debut release (a 7″ single) for the excellent Crawlspace label.

Members

  • Andrew Coy (Guitar/Vocals, 1990 – 1993)
  • Hamish Anderson (Guitar/Vocals, 1990 – 1993)
  • Glenn Fletcher (Drums, 1990 – 1993)
  • Andrew Leslie (Bass/Guitar/Vocals, 1990 – 1992)
  • Jon Trimble (Bass, 1992 – 1993)

Discography

  • Etch EP (1992, Failsafe Records, SAFE021CD)
  • Amsterdam 7″ Single (1993, Crawlspace, SPACE001)

Links

Feast of Stevens on Failsafe Records website

 

Failsafe Records

Biography

Rob Mayes’ mighty Failsafe Records, a committed independent label that is as part of Christchurch as a warm Nor-Wester.

The original home of many Christchurch bands who went on to big things, as well as a great many undiscovered gems who didn’t – as well as being a great resource for those bands who saw their material ignored on higher profile labels (see the ‘Biding Our Time‘ compilation).

Their ‘Avalanche‘ compilation (named after Mayes’ recording studio) is a classic, and a firm snapshot of quality Christchurch pop.

In 2004 and into 2005 Mayes formulated a series of reissues, archival compilations, live recording released as the ‘Retrogenic’ series, compiling unreleased music from the likes of 8 Living Legs, Children’s Hour, YFC and a huge catalog of Pop Mechanix material.

Around this time the Electrode off-shoot electronic label was also brought about with the release of the ‘Do Robots Dream of Electric Sheep‘ compilation.

Compilation Discography

  • Accident Cassette (1984, 002)
  • Biding Out Time Cassette (1986, 006)
  • South Cassette (1987, 007)
  • Keepin’ Secrets (2005, 079CD)
  • Accident Reissue (2005, 002CD)
  • Biding Out Time Reissue (2005, 006CD)
  • South Reissue (2005, 007CD)
  • Do Robots Dream Of Electric Sheep (Released On The Electrode Imprint 2005, ELEC001)
  • Keepin’ Secrets (2005, 079CD)

Contact Details

Links

 

Pihed

Biography

The starting point for two key members of the Christchurch Music Community, Pihed featured Andrew Penman on Bass / Vocals (Rhubarb Collective, Golf Course Alligators, Salmonella Dub – Curious George Records), Tom Mahon – Guitar / Lead Vocal (Rhubarb Collective, Strange Loves, Holy Toledos, Del Burgers), Caroline O’Neil – Vocals (Blue Marbles), Bede Pascoe – Electric Piano, Andrew Cavanagh – Drums (Rhubarb Collective).

The band recorded a set of songs with their then live sound engineer Rob Mayes at Penman’s Christchurch flat, utilizing hired PA equipment and a borrowed 4 track. The results ended up on a split album with The Rhubarb Collective, one track –¬†“Slow Haze”¬†only available on the Failsafe Records Compilation South.

These sessions were the first of Rob Mayes mobile studio recordings which would provide the Failsafe Label with most of its material. The results were rough, and reverb heavy, this being the first time he or the band had seen a digital reverb, let alone used one.

The band eventually mutated into the Rhubarb Collective featuring Penman and Cavanagh, as well as guitarist James Wilkinson (Lap Dogs, Rua, various respected folk projects, and brother of Scott Wilkinson of Ballon d’Essai), and vocalist / Guitarist Matthew Garrett.

– Rob Mayes on Failsafe Records

Members

  • Andrew Penman (Bass/Vocals)
  • Tom Mahon (Guitar/Vocals)
  • Caroline O’Neil (Vocals)
  • Bede Pascoe (Keyboards)
  • Andrew Cavanagh (Drums)

Discography

  • Happy Anniversary Darling (w/ The Rhubarh Collective, 1988)

Links

 

John Kelcher

Biography

Former bass-player for Sneaky Feelings, released an album under his own name in the early 90’s.

Discography

Links

 

The Lils

Biography

Formed in August 89 The Lils were an Auckland based group originating from Christchurch.

Two New Zealand tours, one cassette EP and an album later, their sound is undeniably true to their roots. The Lils have been described as “high octane, polished guitar pop” and this aptly described features that make The Lils stand out.

There is a definite vein of controlled power driving this melodic based band and the tightness with which the band deliver their songs while managing to maintain that rawness and “edge”, only helps to show this bands vision more clearly.

The perfect pop song? maybe.

Lodestone sees the culmination of a years hard work by the band to capture an albums worth of material and deliver it hot to the public. it was recorded and mixed in four different studios.

– Rob Mayes of Failsafe Records

Members

  • Boyd Thwaites (Bass, 1989 – 1994)
  • Darcy Thwaites (Guitar/Vocals, 1989 – 1994)
  • James Anderson (Drums, 1989 – 1994)
  • Carl James (Vocals/Guitar, 1989 -1992)

Discography

  • Lodestone (1991, Failsafe Records SAFE018)

Links

 

Malchicks

Biography

The Malchicks formed in the late eighties in the Auckland guitar scene, and rose to prominence with substantial radio play for an early recording of the song ‘Vanilla’, which was eventually released on one of the bFM Freak the Sheep compilations.

– Rob Mayes of Failsafe Records

Members

  • Coralie Martin (Bass/Vocals, 1989 – 1995)
  • Mac Hodge (Guitar, 1989)
  • Miranda Makin (Vocals, 1989 -)
  • Lorna Kittel (Drums, 1989 – 1990)
  • Mark Pollard (Drums, 1990)
  • Simon Matthews (Guitar, 1989 – 1995)
  • Matthew Dalzell (Guitar/Vocals, 1989)
  • Jason Ennor (Drums, 1990 – 1991)

Discography

Links

 

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.