The Pin Group: Article on Ambivalence

Roy Montgomery
Roy Montgomery

There’s a short film from 1981 by prominent Christchurch multi-dimensional artist Ronnie van Hout that’s been well-circulated on Youtube recently.

The film opens with an evocative poem by (Pin Group contributor and early member) Desmond Brice, backed by guitarist Jon Segovia. The footage eventually cuts away to the equally evocative bass playing of the Pin Group’s Ross Humphries, running through the opening rumble of the brilliant ‘Ambivalence’, which is of particular note as it was the very first single distributed by Flying Nun Records.

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.
– Roy Montgomery

Ross Humphries
Ross Humphries

A young Roy Montgomery bites his lips as he builds the intensity in his guitar playing, carefully looking over his shoulder at Humphries as drummer Peter Stapleton brings the song to full velocity. The sound is muffled, but Montgomeries husky baritone still powers through the murk – “I don’t know how to react to you, or even if I should” goes the opening line.

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.
– Roy Montgomery

The film gives a glimpse of a defining era in Christchurch music; free from the hype that would be thrust upon the Dunedin scene within the next few years.

Montgomery had been a keen purveyor of British and American Rock’n’Roll since his teenage years, avoiding the “oompah, thigh-slapping ‘schmaltz’ music” of Germany (he lived in Cologne with his British Mother and German father till the age of 5) and formed his first, in-name-only band – the Psychedeliks.

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.
– Roy Montgomery

Peter Stapleton
Peter Stapleton

However at this stage in his live Montgomery was more music fan than musician, a regular at local non-pub gigs at venues like the Caledonian Hall and English Park where he can remember “an Epitaph Rider bailing me up in a toilet to scrutinise the Maltese Cross I had hung around my neck”. The Pin Group didn’t start taking shape until around 1980, pre-cursor groups ‘Compulsory Fun’ and ‘Murder Strikes Pink’ uniting Montgomery with Ross Humphries.

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.
– Roy Montgomery

The early Pin Group recordings were not particularly well received – mostly due to the crude murky quality of the recordings and pressing, a teething issue of the fledgling label. To add to that their live shows ended up a little odd, to say the least.

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.
– Roy Montgomery

However over the past 30 years the group’s reputation has grown substantially, partly due to the later success of the groups members (Peter Stapleton and Ross Humphries with the Terminals, and Roy Montgomery in a solo capacity), but also the powerful nature of the songs themselves. When Roger Sheppard was reunited with the Flying Nun label in 2010, creating a definitive Pin Group release was high on the labels list of priorities. Packaged with artwork by van Hout and mastered by Montgomery and engineer Arnie van Bussel, the release (named ‘Ambivalence’ after the terrific debut single) lays bare the gloomy, dark and dynamic sound of the Pin Group.

Over the course of the double-albums 20 songs (compiling all previous releases plus a live recording rescued from Montgomeries Earthquake damaged home) the listener is treated to gloomy, powerful songs that not only evoke a certain vision of Christchurch but indeed New Zealand at it’s darkest.

 

Complete Interview here.

[Published in an edited form by the Christchurch Press, Sep 21st 2012]

Teeth

Biography

80’s post-punk with a big, Joy Division-influenced bass sound that released a pretty sloppy EP on Flying Nun Records.

Dieneke Jansen (later of Queen Meanie Puss), Mark Webster and Peter Moerenhout.

Members

  • Dieneke Jansen (Guitar/Vocals, 1988?)
  • Mark Webster (Bass, 1988?)
  • Peter Moerenhout (Drums, 1988?)
  • Rex Visible (Cello, 1988)

Discography

  • Grate! 12″ EP (1989, Flying Nun Records, FN118)

Links

 

All Fall Down

Biography

Christchurch 5 piece (from the mid to late 80’s) originally started life as a 4 piece with Blair Parkes, Campbell Taylor, Easther McNaughton and Brett Lupton.

Lupton was later replaced by Bert Aldridge and the band also acquired Steven MacIntyre.

The band were a favorite support act for visiting Flying Nun bands and eventually released an EP on that label. The band did have a knack for a good melodic hook, but had an off putting feyness to them occasionally.

MacIntyre straightened the band out a lot with his well crafted simple tunes, perfectly captured in the wonderful actifed blues.

Parks and Aldridge went on to form Creeley, with Sneaky Feelings man John Kelcher, MacIntyre left for Asian worlds, Campbell moved into video production.

Members

  • Blair Parkes (Guitar/Vocal)
  • Campbell Taylor (Bass)
  • Easther McNaughton (Violin/Vocals)
  • Brett Lupton (Drums)
  • Bert Aldridge (Drums)
  • Steven MacIntyre (Guitar/Vocals)

Discography

Links

 

Arch Hill Recordings

Biography

Small Auckland-based independent label that sprung up out of Flying Nun Record’s corporate changes in the late 90’s and run by (former Superette bassist) Ben Howe to release material for his own band Fang, along with associated other musicians (fellow ex-Superette members Dave Mulcahy and Greta Anderson, and Jim Laing’s Lanky).

Characterized by having quirky pop moments (Pine released their debut in 2002 on the label) and a simple / flexible approach to recording, they’re a promising label to look out for.

In June 2004, Arch Hill Recordings announced that Kiwi music legend David Kilgour would be releasing his latest album (tentatively titled Frozen Orange) in September of the year, adding to a band roster that now also includes Ghostplane and Australian outfit Dappled Cities Fly.

Arch Hill Recordings also offer their recording facilities for non-label artists, with reasonable charge out fees. Arch Hill Studios record digitally onto Pro-Tools24, but has a well used selection of off-board analogue pre-amps, EQ, compressors, effects and other equipment.

– Arch Hill Studios

Using a pretty standard Pro-Tools/Focusrite/Genelec monitors setup along with what looks like a pretty good selection of microphones, along with solid-state and valve compressors and effects, they currently (July 2004) offer an NZ$50 per hour engineer-included rate, or NZ$350/$400 per weekday/weekend day, which isn’t bad for an Auckland-based studio.

Compilation Discography

  • Introducing Arch Hill (2001, AHR006)
  • The Hill Is Alive – Compilation 2 (2003, AHR009)

Contact Details

  • Arch Hill (Official Website)
  • Ben Howe (Label-Head / Email Contact)
  • +64 9 360-0772 (Phone Number)
  • Arch Hill Recordings
  • 331 Great North Rd
  • Po Box 68-194
  • Newton
  • Auckland
  • New Zealand (Postal Address)

Links

 

Ballon d-Essai

Biography

Christchurch based 5 piece. Released 2 EPs on Flying Nun records (both of which included comic books), and the band recorded a bunch of other material plus a live show at the Hillsborough Tavern and much of this appeared on the Failsafe records release ‘R.I.P.’, another track was also included on the 1984 accident compilation.

Lindsay left the band after the first EP and was replaced by Lyndon Frasier (Lyndon and the Liars). Steven McIntyre went on to join All Fall Down.

The band were relatively entertaining live, doing the art school thing with props and performance. they were interesting for a while in their use of 2 bass guitars and the Peter Hook melody lines from that sort of line up. They eventually started to write more traditional songs and lost the edge they originally had from being completely crap at playing their instruments.

– Rob Mayes Of Failsafe Records

Members

  • Steven McIntyre (Bass/Guitar, 1981 – 1986?)
  • Mark Rastrick (Vocals, 1981 – 1986?)
  • Scott Wilkinson (Drums, 1981 – 1986?)
  • Matt Campbell (Bass, 1981 – 1986?)
  • Lindsay Davis (Guitar, 1981?)
  • Lyndon Frasier (Guitar, 1982? – 1986?)

Discography

  • This is the level crossing 12″ EP (1981 Flying Nun Records, FN007)
  • Grow up 12″ EP (1983, Flying Nun Records, FN020)
  • R.I.P. (1986, Failsafe Records, SAFE005)

Links

 

Betchadupa

Biography

2nd generation pop rockers that aren’t too bad.

A young Liam (son of Neil) Finn started playing music in his pre-teen years, and he developed quite an ear for good melody. Joined by Matt Eccles (son of Australian hero Brent Eccles of The Angels), Chris Garland and Joe Bramley, they continued to improve and improve, both live and on record beyond their teenage years.

For quite a time they were a very popular across New Zealand and then spreading into Australia, building up a strong catalog of singles and albums, having a heavy video presence, whilst still retaining some level of independent credibility – even splitting from Flying Nun around the time of their amalgamation into the international Festival Mushroom Group.

Eventually Finn would go on to record his own solo material, finding even further success.

Members

  • Liam Finn (Guitar/Vocals, 1997 – 2006)
  • Matt Eccles (Drums, 1997 – 2006)
  • Chris Garland (Guitar, 1997 – 2006)
  • Joe Bramley (Bass/Vocals, 1997 – 2006)

Discography

  • Betchadupa EP (2000, Flying Nun Records, FN445)
  • The 3D EP (2001, Flying Nun Records, FN455)
  • Awake CD Single (2001, Sputnik Records, NZROCKPRO1)
  • Dirty Creature (w/ King Kapisi 2001, Self-Released)
  • Man On My Left CD Single (2001, Sputnik Records, NZROCKPRO2)
  • Sleepy News EP (2002, Flying Nun Records, FN461)
  • Supa Day Single (2002, Flying Nun Records, FN464)
  • The Alphabetchadupa (2002, Flying Nun Records, FN465)
  • Move Over EP (2003, Liberation Music, LIBSP5086.2)
  • Who’s Coming Through The Window EP (2004, Liberation Music, LIBEP6132.2)
  • Aiming For Your Head CD Single (2004, Liberation Music, LIBCD61332)
  • My Army of Birds and Gulls EP (2005, Liberation Music, LIBSP7160.2)

Links

 

The Builders

Biography

The most recognized of Bill Direen’s many underground projects, The Builders recordings are as varied as they are numerous, and litter his discography (often with infuriating spelling variations –  The BildersBildirene, Die Bilder etc).

Check Direen’s Main Entry for more detail.

Members

  • Bill Direen (Guitar/Vocals, 1980 -)
  • Campbell McLay (Bass, 1982)
  • Malcolm Grant (Drums, 1982 – 1985)
  • Chris Knox (Vocals , 1982)
  • Mike Dooley (Drums, 1982)
  • Greg Bainbridge (Bass/Vocals/Percussion, 1985 – 1989)
  • Eddie Ohlson (Drums, 1985)
  • John McDermott (Drums, 1985 – 1989)
  • Stuart Page (Drums, 1985)
  • Tony Green (Drums, 1985)
  • Allen Meek (Guitar, 1985)
  • Karl Holdorf (Trombone/Vocals, 1985)
  • Chris Todd (Trumpet, 1985)
  • Jay Clarkson (Vocals, 1985)
  • John Christoffels (Bass, 1985)
  • Greg Bates (Drums, 1985)
  • Paul Logan (Guitar, 1985)
  • Paul Girl (Guitar, 1985)
  • Carol Direen (Vocals, 1985)
  • Maryrose Wilkinson (Vocals, 1985)
  • David Edmundson (Saxophone, 1989)
  • Tania Pekelharina (Vocals, 1989)
  • Rob Thorne (Guitar, 1994)
  • Steve Wolf (Saxophone, 1994)
  • Alastair Galbraith (Violin, 1994)
  • Victoria Singh (Vocals, 1994)
  • Stephen Kilroy (Piano, 1994)
  • Derek Champion (Drums, 1994)
  • Brett Cross (Bass, 2008 – 2010)
  • Andrew Maitai (Drums, 2008)
  • Andrew McCully (Keyboards, 2008)
  • Nikola Kapetanovic (Guitar/Loops, 2009 – 2010)
  • Richard Anderton (Percussion/Vocals, 2010)
  • Stu Porter (Drums, 2010)

Discography

  • Solomon’s Ball 7″ EP (1981, Self-Released)
  • High Thirties Piano 7″ EP (1982, Self-Released)
  • Schwimmin In Der See 7″ EP (1982 As Die Bilder, Flying Nun Records, FN006)
  • Beatin Hearts (1983, Flying Nun Records, JAN8)
  • Let’s Play (1985, South Indies, SINZ 11)
  • C0NCH3 (1985, South Indies, PRA2301)
  • Ginger Jar 7″ Single (1986, South Indies, SNGL001)
  • Cup 12″ Mini Album (1987, South Indies, SOIN5377)
  • Divina Comedia (1988 Compilation, South Indies, SOIN 477)
  • We Are The Coolest Cats in the World (1989, South Indies, SOIN BILT 5)
  • Alien 7″ Single (1991, Hecuba Records, HEX03)
  • Volume 1: Max Quitz (1993 Compilation, Flying Nun Records, FN274)
  • Cut (1994, IMD, IMDCD 10030)
  • Volume 2: Beatin Hearts (1993 Compilation, Flying Nun Records, FN275)
  • Volume 4: Pyx (1995 Compilation, Flying Nun Records, FN277)
  • Untitled 7″ Lathe (2012, OnceC Records, onec023)
  • The Utopians 7″ (2014, Smartguy Records, smart035)
  • Bilders Tour Europe (Live Tapes) (2017, Self-Released)

Links

Discogs Entry

 

Black Girls Machine

Biography

Studio-based out fit created by Michael Weston (Crystal Zoom) with contributions from John Payne (Hallelujah Picassos), James Pinker (latter-era Gordons) and Johny Fleury (The Idles) who released an EP on Flying Nun Records in the late 80’s, along with visual material on Westons’ own Seed label.

Weston created releases (both musical and visual) as art compositions – and as such Black Girls Machine had a number of video releases and other visual components.

Members

  • Michael Weston (1986 – 1989)
  • John Payne (Keyboards, 1986 – 1988)
  • James Pinker (Drums, 1986 – 1988)
  • Johny Fleury (Chapman Stick, 1986 – 1988)

Discography

  • Esoterror 12″ EP (1989, Flying Nun Records, FN111)

Links

 

Bird Nest Roys

Biography

Another in the long line of jangle pop outfits that optimized the Dunedin sound (though they originated from Auckland).

They never quite hit the big time, though both the EP and their self-titled LP are well worth tracking down.

A little bit quirkier than their contemporaries, they eventually split up soon after the debut full-length (which is now quite hard to find), Dominic Stones went on to find success as the drummer for the brilliant 3Ds.

Members

  • Debberly Roy (Bass, 1985 – 1987)
  • Peter Moerenhout (Drums, 1985 – 1987)
  • Domonic Stones (Guitar, 1985 – 1987)
  • Ross Williams (Vocals/Guitar, 1985 – 1987)
  • Warwick Wakefield (Vocals/Tambourine, 1985 – 1987)
  • Ross Hollands (Vocals, 1985 – 1987)

Discography

  • Whack It Down EP (1985, Flying Nun Records, FN044 – Listed As FN004)
  • Jaffa Boy 7″ Single (1986, Flying Nun Records, FN067)
  • Bird Nest Roys (1987, Flying Nun Records, FN065)
  • Me Want Me Get Me Need Me Have Me Love (2013 Compilation, Flying Nun Records, FNLP530)

Links

 

Kim Blackburn

Biography

Kim Blackburn is a singer-songwriter who put out the ‘Lizards In Love‘ album on Flying Nun Records, using acoustic guitar and digital effects to give the album an experimental edge.

She had previously been associated with underground labels such as Industrial Tapes, performing alongside Sandra Bell on the cassette only release ‘Two Metallic Hearts‘.

Members

  • Kim Blackburn (Vocals, 1984 – 1986)
  • John Pule (Drums, 1986)
  • John Schmidt (Drums, 1986)
  • Leon Del-La Varis (Guitar, 1986)

Discography

  • Two Metallic Hearts Cassette (1984 w/ Sandra Bell, Industrial Tapes, Industrial015)
  • Lizards in Love (1986, Flying Nun Records, FN064)

Links