Pete Swanson (USA) with Gate and IRD

At the Physics Room, Friday August 10th 2012

IRD
IRD
The Physics Room has been at the forefront of Christchurch fringe culture since 1996 – providing a project space for installation artists and performers of various different mediums. Currently located at a temporary site on the corner of Sandyford and Colombo Streets, the space is divided into a light, open gallery and a dark, enclosed performance area with this particular event hosted by Auckland-based ‘Innovative Audio Culture’ organization Altmusic.

Christchurch-based multi-instrumentalist Rory Dalley (aka IRD) opened the evening, creating a clattering maelstrom of sound from broken audio equipment and an assortment of percussive objects. Bending and shaping cassette and turntable noises with traditional maori harakeke (i.e. flax) instruments into a fractured cacophony.

Gate
Gate
Legendary Dunedin underground figure Michael Morley was next – performing under his solo alias Gate. Known for significant New Zealand underground acts the Dead C, Wreck Small Speakers On Expensive Stereos and others, Morley is a huge figure in underground circles. A captive audience was enveloped by Morley’s guitar and effects orchestrations – creating a harmonic, slow moving drone that evolved at the speed of molasses.

Pete Swanson
Pete Swanson
Portland, Oregon’s group Yellow Swans were known for creating intriguing, improvised experimental noise built upon Pete Swanson and Gabriel Mindel Saloman’s electronics, guitar, drum machines and vocals. After seven years playing around the globe and releasing a huge catalogue of music, including several collaborative albums with brilliant Australian group Gray Daturas – the duo called it quits in 2008. In a solo capacity Swanson’s performance was heavy on the bassy rhythmic pulses, psychedelic and swirling sounds created a frequency overload in my head, rattled my teeth and even prompted a few audiences members to dance.

Bruce Russell on ‘Time To Go’ [Volcanic Tongue]

Of all the profound ways in which my life had changed in that epochal year (and since the preceding Christmas I’d become an enemy of the state, among other things), seeing the Clean was the biggest. I can still recall the certainty with which I knew then that they were at that moment the best fucking band in the world. I still don’t understand how I knew it, and in many ways I’ve spent a significant portion of the last three decades trying to disprove that hypothesis, but I haven’t done it yet. Maybe the Fall were better that year. But the fact that the last sentence contains ‘the Fall’, and starts with ‘maybe’, should alert informed readers to the enormity of what I was experiencing. It was like falling in love.
– Bruce Russell – From Volcanic Tongue

Bruce Russell (The Dead C, Gate, A Handful Of Dust etc) has put together a short but witty (and mighty acerbic!) article on the Volcanic Tongue: Underground Music Mail Order and Shop website detailing the back-story to ‘Time to Go – The Southern Psychedelic Moment: 1981-86’ – a terrific compilation Bruce put together for Flying Nun capturing some of the lesser-heard treasures from New Zealand’s South Island in the early to mid 1980s. Have a read, it’s a nice little insight into how the compilation came about and the general enthusiasm Bruce has for music of the era.

It’s that kind of ‘it came from the sky’ vibe that frankly defies categorisation. You can smell the reality. These people were very literate in rock music terms, they were literate in literary terms too, and they took drugs. It was what we did to rebel. Listen to ‘Russian Rug’. You don’t produce that kind of whacked-out blending of Pierre Henri with ? Mark and the Mysterians, without engaging in the desperate ‘datura-to-San Pedro’ sub-sub-culture which characterised the South Island of New Zealand at that time: and we invented home-bake heroin, don’t forget.

– Bruce Russell – From Volcanic Tongue

And If you haven’t already; checkout/pick up the compilation itself. Contains some of my favourite tracks by the likes of Pin Group, The Gordons, Scorched Earth Policy and Wreck Small Speakers On Expensive Stereos – not a dud in the lot!

The Weeds

[Profile thanks to Tim Davey]

The Weeds were around for about a year in the mid-80’s, formed with the intention of having fun and seeing just how stupid they could be, while also entertaining people. The band provided a great distraction for its members from the more ‘serious’ music they were making in other groups at the time. The name supposedly came from the fact that all the members were quite skinny at the time.

Robert Scott and Michael Morley had been playing together in the Pink Plastic Gods in late 1984. Following the end of the group Scott (Bass, Vocals) And Morley (Guitar, Vocals) got together with Jeff Harford (Vocals) and Chris Healey (Drums) and The Weeds was born. All except Healey had had much experience in other bands; Scott had been in The Clean and was frontman with The Bats, Morley was in Wreck Small Speakers On Expensive Stereos and Harford had played with Bored Games. Following the tragic end of Doublehappys in mid-85 Shayne Carter (Guitar , Vocals) And John Collie (Drums) were also added to the line-up. An odd feature of the group was that they had two drummers.

Every gig they played involved some sort of dress-up theme which the whole band would participate in. One night they would be playing draped in foliage and weeds, another would be in glam gear or bad taste clothes. Their most outrageous ‘dress-up’ was playing in their underpants on the town hall stage as support to the Verlaines and the Rip at a 4XO dance. Their only out-of-town gigs were at the Gladstone in Christchurch as support to Look Blue Go Purple and in Auckland at Windsor Castle. The latter gig didn’t go down very well and the band realised that dressing up stupidly and playing music was best done only around people who knew you.

The essence of the weeds was not about serious music or writing meaningful lyrics but about having a good time. A review by Sharon Guytonbeck following a gig at the empire spelt this out:

with a couple of friends helping out The Weeds were a lot of groovy fun. Who needs ‘Live Aid’ when you can have this. Yes, The Weeds confirmed my belief that Dunedin is where it’s all happening musically. We don’t need the rest of the world when we can be at The Empire with The Weeds.

– Critic 6/8/85

Band rehearsals were for the sole purpose of writing new material which gave their on-stage sound a very fresh feel. In mid-85 the band made some recordings at Dockside Studios on Wharf St which emerged as the Flying Nun single ‘Wheatfields’, a very Velvets-influenced piece that buzzed along with the chorus line ‘It’S Been A Hard Day On The Wheatfields …’. further recordings were made later in the year at Chippendale House which to this day remain unreleased.

By late 1985 the members of The Weeds were being pulled away by their other musical projects and the band faded away. Scott continued with The Bats and Carter And Collie went on to form Straitjacket Fits. Morley was later involved in Dead C, Gate and This Kind Of Punishment while Harford became part of My Deviant Daughter.

The Weeds played only around 15 gigs but will almost certainly be remembered by everyone who saw them for their mix of shock, humour and good music.

Discography (picks in bold)

See-Also

The Stumps

The Stumps are the New Zealand superspawn of Antony Milton (Pseudoarcana, The Nether Dawn, Etc), Stephen Clover (Seht), and James Kirk (Sandoz Lab Technicians, Gate etc). With a laundry list of individual accomplishments preceding them, “Lost Weekends” brings high expectations. Compared to such seminal acts as Acid Mothers Temple and Fushitusha, these kiwis have their own twist in their psychedelic cosmic explorations. They are robust and powerful; an exciting and often overwhelming listening experience. It’ll burn out your eardrums and douse the flames in hot wax. But fear not, within these methodic blasts are moments of icy calm. Underneath all this chaos is a relaxed thread, keeping some semblance of order intact.
Foxy Digitalis

Discography (picks in bold)

  • Lost Weekend Cd-R [2006 Foxglove Foxglove121]
  • The Black Wood [2007 Last Visible Dog]
  • Split Fleet Dodge Lp [2007 Palindrone]

See-Also