Ritchie Venus (and the Blue Beetles)

Ritchie Venus (real name: Michael Braithwaite) is a bit of an oddity in the Christchurch scene. A quiet, timid man in conversation, he’s been creating music since the first wave of New Zealand rock’n’roll way back in the 1950s – idolizing our original superstar Johnny Devlin.

Yet, unlike a number of other kiwi musicians, he languished in obscurity, even in his own home town – being known more for his Elvis impersonations (which he has done regularly for quite some time at Lyttleton’s brilliant Wunderbar) than his original music, yet has released a number of albums, full of his own original rock’n’roll classics. In the mid 90s and poignant documentary and the Renderers brilliant cover of his live favorite original Forbidden Planet led to a bit more exposure, but Venus still remained a relatively unknown character.

Discography (picks in bold)

  • ‘Bleeding Heart’/’Josephine’ 7″ single [1981 Flying Nun FN008]
  • Rebel Blood [1987 Onset/Offset PRA2387]
  • You Can’t Fight It [1989 Onset/Offset RV008]
  • Rockin’ to the Grave [1989 Onset/Offset]
  • The Ballad of Ritchie Venus [2000 Onset/Offset RV11]
  • Sunrise [2002 Onset/Offset]

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Ripper

Legendary and short-lived indie punk label that debuted right on the cusp of the New Zealand underground explosion (i.e. they predate and are noted as a precursor to Flying Nun). Ripper was basically where New Zealand punk first surfaced with the likes of the Suburban Reptiles, the fleetingly popular Swingers, Scavengers etc – basically the cream of the early New Zealand punk scene.

Get hold of the ak79 compilation – later reissued as a joint release (with many bonus tracks) through Flying Nun and Propeller which was Rippers’ key archival document, and one of the finest compilations any New Zealand label has ever put out.

Compilation Discography (picks in bold)

  • AK79 [1980 RPR1]
  • Hauraki Homegrown 1980 [1980 RPR2]
  • Ghost Milk Soup [1981 RPR005]
  • Rip Shit Or Bust 12″ ep [1983 rip026]

Rik Starrr

Appearing as a one-off 7″ single in 1995 (during a speight of similar projects from the likes of King Loser and the 3D’s side-projects such as Chris Heazlewood‘s solo debut Spacious etc), the rather dubiously Australian-themed ‘A Sort of Holiday’ single was something of an undiscovered gem – and the recording debut of Auckland wacko Edmund Cake (aka Edward McWilliams.

Though the single itself went nowhere, Cake later resurfaced as a critical member of bizarro-pop trio Breast Secreting Cake (later redubbed to the slightly less vulgar Bressa Creeting Cake), who in turn released a heck of a debut album and the left-of-centre video-hit Papa People.

Discography (picks in bold)

  • A Sort Of Holiday [1995 Flying Nun FN338]

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The Rip

Violinist Alastair Galbraith‘s first band. Flanked by Robbie Muir (who went on to make his name with the Dead C)and Peter Jefferies they put out 2 extremely hard to find eps in the mid 80s that show-case Galbraith’s brilliant talent for song-writing at an early age.

Galbraith was originally inspired by witnessing the Clean playing a series of hall gigs back in Dunedin, and immediately formed the Rip with Muir. Both were only 15, so early live performances were a bit of a struggle. Thankfully after a particularly tragic debut (their even younger drummer Nicholas couldn’t make the show – a roped in replacement murdering the 2 songs they managed to play), Wayne Elsey (the Stones / Double Happys) offered a helping hand:

[Wayne Elsey] was there and asked me to come and sit on the steps with him, and just…Blew me away. He told me that i had something, something that he couldn’t really describe, not a great musical talent or instrumental proficiency, more of a spirit that he could see when i played, and that i had to keep doing it. He offered to help me any way he could, and he actually did that over the next few months. He got Robbie a better bass, let us use their practice space, got us gigs supporting the Stones and just encouraged us the whole time, saving us from a very, very short career.
Alastair Galbraith

Discography (picks in bold)

Video Clips

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S.P.U.D.

Brash and noisy Flying Nun rock act from the early 1990s.

Discography (picks in bold)

  • ‘Breakdown Town’/’Slo’Gin’ 12″ Single [1990 Flying Nun Fn132]

  • Sour Mini-Lp [1990 Flying Nun Fn133]

  • Gnaw [1991 Flying Nun Fn198]

  • ‘Creep’/’Recliner’ Cassette Single [1991 Flying Nun Fn211]

  • ‘Recliner’/’Shitman’/’Hee-Ha’ 7″ Single [1992 Flying Nun Fn238]

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Robert Scott

Bass player for the Clean and highly prolific singer-songwriter for the Bats (whom he formed while the Clean were on hiatus in the mid 80s), Rob Scott released his own solo album in 2000, and took the albums name (Creeping Unknown) as his moniker for subsequent tours around New Zealand, Europe and the United States.

However closely linked to the Bats, The Creeping Unknown was a darker album aimed at being an organic cross-pollunation type release (it encompassed a lot of electronically produced soundscapes and texture) than any of his Bats recordings. It faired pretty well, being a pretty clean progression towards a more modern sound (though not quite as effectively as say, Shayne Carters’ Dimmer project).

Scott made his start as an underground tape enthusiast, forming the Every Secret Thing cassette label in the late 70s, and releasing a handful of albums from his own projects (primarily Electric Blood) and many others by the likes of Michael Morley and Denise Roughan (including a very rare Wreck Small Speakers On Expensive Stereos release).

Since 2002 Scott has become increasingly prolific once more, with a variety of home-recorded releases appearing on the low-rent Powertools label, on more professional efforts on Flying Nun, and a couple of joint singles.

Discography (picks in bold)

  • Black Forest 7″ [w/ Alastair Galbraith 1998 Self-Released]
  • The Creeping Unknown [2000 Flying Nun FN447]
  • Tudor Gates EP [2002 Self-Released]
  • @Radio One CD-r EP [2003 Self-Released]
  • Songs of Otago’s Past CD-r [2004 Powertool Records]
  • Tascam Hits [2004 Powertool Records PT065]
  • Moonlighty Potato [w/ Ginna Rocco 2006 Powertool Records PT065]
  • Too Early 7″ Single [2010 A Small Number of Things]
  • Moonlight Potato [w/ Ginna Rocco 2006 Powertool Records PT044]
  • That’s What I Heard 7″ [w/ Adalita Srsen and the Puddle 2010 Fishrider Records]
  • Ends Run Together [2010 Flying Nun FN507]

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Scorched Earth Policy

Legendary early Flying Nun band (1982-6) that would later reform to become the Terminals, marking the debut of a young Brian Crook (later to form the Max Block and the Renderers). They put out a couple of highly sought after EP’s which contained some of the original versions of Terminals songs such as ‘Lolita’ and ‘Mekong Delta Blues’.

Initially they seemed more pop focused (well pop in the way that say, the Verlaines are pop) but the dark, rattled approach of Peter Stapleton soon turned them into something far more nefarious and disturbing. The Keep Away From The Wires compilation was put out by Medication in the late 90s and collects all their recorded material, along with live out-takes (though they’re of questionable quality). Pick up anything you can find from these guys.

Initially Stapleton (drums / lyrics) was flanked by a young Mick Elborado (bass / vocals – who carried a few songs from his Drowning Is Easy days) and Mary Heney (guitar, vocals, organ and drums – came from 25 Cents, a short lived ‘party band’, along with short stints in both the Victor Dimisch Band and the Pin Group) and Mick’s old bandmate Ian Blinkinsop – though he left before their first public appearance. Andrew Dawson soon joined to replace Ian on vocals, and brought around recently arrived ex-hastings lad Brian Crook who…

Was into German music at the time, y’know, Can and Faust and that sort of stuff. Some weird hybrid between German music and the Beach Boys I think I was kind of thinking about. Yeah, when i finally got to the Scorched Earth practice, the songs were y’know, two minutes long, or something. And Peter was really into that ‘Pebbles’ thing. And Captain Beefheart. Y’know, just, every practise, out would come the Captain Beefheart album.
– Brian Crook, taken from Wade Churton’s ‘Glam, Punk and Scorched Earth Policy’

Over the course of the bands 2 year run, Onset/Offset label-founder Campbell McClay (bass) and Catherine Upson (backing vocals) made contributions to their recordings.

Discography (picks in bold)

  • Dust To Dust 12″ Mini-Lp [1984 Flying Nun Fn028]
  • Going Thru’ A Hole In The Back Of Your Head 12″ Mini-Lp [1985 Flying Nun Fn042]
  • A.D. Cassette [Live Recording 1986 Passage Passage10]
  • Foaming Out Cassette [1991 Xpressway X/Way 20]
  • Keep Away From The Wires [Compilation 1999 Medication Med04]

See-Also

Scavengers

High-profile first wave Auckland punk outfit (archivists declare them THE original New Zealand punk outfit) who actually evolved out of the 1b Darlings, a glitter and glam r’n’b cover act dating back to 1976 comprised of Michael Simmons (soon to be Mike Lesbian – vocals), Marlon Hart (Mal Licious – bass), Simon Monroe (Des Truction – drums) and Paul Cooke (Johnny Volume – guitar). During late ’76 and 77 the band laid low, practising and cultivating their attack on new zealand, with a slew of imported british singles as their inspiration.

With the explosion of punk in New Zealand in min ’77, they steeped forward into the limelight, bringing the punk spectacle to Auckland along with the Suburban Reptiles, and brought out a couple of singles (including the fantastic anthem ‘Mysterx’ – later used in a telecom ad!, and the even better ‘True Love’), featured on the AK79 compilation. In the early 80s the Scavs had a number of line-up changes, eventually renaming themselves the Marching Girls and then relocating to Melbourne – producing an underwhelming EP.

They eventually had an album produced post-humously (from their some-what limited recordings) in 2003 with their self-titled (Scavengers) release.

Discography (picks in bold)

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SF

The short-lived Sean O’Rielly project that spawned a 7″ on Flying Nun, during their mid 90s side-project series (which also spawned Ghost Club, Spacious, and Chris Heazlewood‘s solo career).

Discography (picks in bold)

  • ‘Cat Face’/’Semi’/’Sleepy Hollow’ 7″ Single [1996 Flying Nun Fn357]

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Shocking Pinks

Formed by Nick ‘Harte’ Hodgson in mid-2003, The Shocking Pinks are one of the most exciting and memorable bands to spring out of Christchurch in the last 5 years. New Zealand’s exponent of the dance-punk revitalisation – The Shocking Pinks encompass a vast variety of styles into their (utterly original) sound, blending disco, shoegazer guitar, new wave keys and vocals and punky rhythms into a mish-mash of undeniably danceable funk.

Valentines day 2004 sees The Pinks release their debut full-length ‘Dance The Dance Electric’ on Tim Baird’s Christchurch-based and usually house-orientated Pinacolada label. Reduced down to a four-piece (though their stylist Antonia De Bere gets a credit) of Harte, Tim McDonald (keys / percussion), Johnno Smith (bass / vocals) and Danny Bare (guitar – Ex-Substandard), the debut is startling different from their early 4-track attempts (though most of the recordings were done in such a lo-fi manner), with their heavy A Certain Ratio influence shining through on a number of tracks, which are now very varied and dynamic.

Though now somewhat missing a front-person (the album features vocal cameos by the Brunettes Heather Mansfield and original vocalist Mel Smith (Emerald Green, The Greenmatics) their sound has indeed fleshed out, and the band intends to sort out a relationship with the American DFA label.

More news came about with their January 2004 pre-release tour – after internal squabbles, the returning news was that the band had called it quits – though the album was still to be released on valentines day. After a couple of weeks, Harte re-appeared, announcing the band would march on – now with a completely new line-up featuring Harte taking both drum and bass roles, with newcomers Kit on guitar, and Marie on synthesizers (while advertising for a new drummer).

Things turned a little bizarre from this point on, with members of the original line-up reinstated for one-off gigs, then yet another new line-up and an eventual New Zealand tour (which ended unceremoniously with yet more departures). Finally, with The Pinks profile rising substantially both nationally and internationally, Harte took over sole responsibility of the group, signing a contract with Festival Mushroom (through Flying Nun), with plans for an EP and sophmoric EP in the works.

Circa 2004-5 The Shocking Pinks are a one-man recording project, though he has a new and established live band of Herbert Palmer (guitar – also of the Leper Ballet), Gareth (synth, vocals, percussion), and Tom (bass). In September 2004 Harte formed a new duo as a sideline to The Pinks, Black Albino – making their debut supporting touring US troop Hawnay Troof and high-flying Aucklanders Die! Die! Die!. Black Albino are somewhat closer to Harte’s previous outfit the Incisions, and featured former Pink and Incision Tim McDonald.

The Pinks gradually spaced out their live performances during 2005 and early 2006, after Herbert Palmer left the group for foreign shores. However in mid 2006 Harte finally got word of his impending US record deal, signing to DFA records in New York City. The group played a supposed final Christchurch show in August 2006, with Harte heading stateside for the re-release of Infinityland under DFA, with a four-record deal in the wings.

However it took almost a year for the DFA to actually release their first stateside material – a white-label 12″ record; whilst Nick was actually still in Christchurch, and even continued to play shows and house party’s before eventually leaving mid 2007. By the end of the Pinks New Zealand lifetime the group was essentially Nick fronting (on guitar) the Tiger Tones (less bassist Ashlin Raymond) – a local group the Pinks have had a strong influence on.

Discography (picks in bold)

  • Dance The Dance Electric [2004 Pinacolada Pinacd02]
  • Sway [2005 Self-Released]
  • Mathematical Warfare [2005 Flying Nun Fncd494]
  • Infinityland [2005 Flying Nun Fncd497]
  • Smokescreen 12″ [2007 DFA]
  • Shocking Pinks [2007 DFA]

See-Also