Celia Mancini

Biography

Born Celia Patel (and at one stage known as Celia Pavlova), Celia Mancini was a smart, creative, talented and volatile musician. A born front-woman and general icon within the music community, who was never afraid to speak her mind, and unfortunately passed away at a far too young age.

Celia Mancini photo by Bridgid_Grigg-Eyley

Patel was born in Auckland but her musical history started in Christchurch, playing in a number of bands in the mid to late 1980’s, as well as managing seminal Christchurch sonic explorers Into the Void.

Cosmic Love Vibration Cassette (Photo: Phil Clayton)

She was the original front-woman for legendary scuzzy lo-fi group The Axel Grinders (and writing their most excellent single ‘Apparatus of Love’ – Rita Le Quesne replaced her on the recording), fronted the fantastic all-girl group The Stepford 5, and kept things mellow in the lounge group The After Dinner Mints with Bill Vosburgh (formerly of Perfect Strangers).

By 1992 Celia was in Dunedin where she met Chris Heazlewood – kicking off the next phase with what must be her most well known group; New Zealand’s boundary-pushing surf-kings King Loser. For a period the duo also pulled double duty in Peter Gutteridge’s wonderful Snapper.

The group were relentless prolific in the early years – recording all their practices to 8-track tape and expanding their overseas connections with a handful of 7″ releases plus the original King Loser LP – ‘Super Sonic Hi-Fi’. The album caught the attention of Flying Nun – however Celia noted they never considered themselves a Flying Nun group, and at times conflicted with individuals within the label as it reached its commercial apex in the late 1990’s.

Celia Mancini – Kiasu 7″ Single

Celia released a solitary 7″ under her own name in 1996, and by late 1997 King Loser were no more. However she did resurface (at least temporarily) in the hard-rocking Auckland group Mother Trucker, plus created a handful of online videos under the moniker ‘Slightly Delic’, including documenting the bFM music awards, where she stormed the stage after failing to be nominated for the ‘Foxiest Chick’ award…

As the 90’s became the 2000’s, Celia disappeared from view. It wasn’t until April 2015 before she was back in the public eye – with a video performance of a reunited King Loser at Audio Foundation in Auckland. Celia sports casts on both arms, but the group rip through the classic ‘Morning Dew’ like they’d never been away.

Further live performance and a short tour followed in 2016, with director Andrew Moore releasing a promo video for a promising upcoming documentary on the band, which seems to shed a lot of insights in to what was going on with Celia (and the other King Loser members) at the time.

Celia passed away in September 2017, the news sent shock-waves through the online community. She was a bright spark and will be greatly missed.

Discography

  • Cosmic Love Vibration Cassette (As Celia Cavlova 1990, A.Void Music, A.VOID001)
  • Kiasu 7″ single (1996, Flying Fun, FN360)

Links

Into The Void [March 2005]

When a band’s been around a scene a long time, they start to develop a certain aura about them. Into The Void were always something of a notable band, with a vested interest in the local music and art scenes, they rose to national attention in the late 1980’s, released an unrepresentative debut album, then returned to the Christchurch underground.

An Into The Void show is an experience. Over the course of their lengthy existence, the void have crafted sturdy, rhythm driven songs that can explode with tremendous shards of guitar and machine-gun drumming, based on an atmospheric mix of heavy, repetitive bass-guitar and scratchy, scattered gramophone projections and often fronted by a frantic, free-roaming showman of a vocalist.

Approaching twenty years on the live scene and 10 years since their last line-up change, i spoke with newest member, bassist Dave Imlay and gramophone operator / sound manipulator Paul Sutherland, shortly after the release of their 2nd album from their practice space in central Christchurch.

Paul: Jason [Greig] and Mark [Whyte] went to art school together, and they bought a guitar together and they used to come up here. I don’t know what they did

Dave: They must have taken turns [laughs].

Paul: They called themselves the Deaf Mutants. I think at that stage Hamish Kilgour’s drum-kit was up here, as Bailter Space practiced at this space, back when they were called Nelsh Bailter Space (1986-7 maybe). And then at one stage i ended up doing something with them, playing electric recorder or something. At that stage Jason was playing guitar; somehow Ronnie [Van Hout] turned up.

(Dave interjects) Art school…

Paul: Ronnie was just part of the scene, and so he just turned up, but it was pretty obvious he couldn’t play an instrument, so he became a singer and we were a band.

Paul: I was conned into buying an amp and a bass guitar ’cause the others didn’t think an electric recorder would go down in public.

Paul: They bought me a ‘how to play bass guitar’ book by Geezer Butler [laughs]. I was so serious about it – trying to play a riff; it came with this flexi-disc of Geezer Butler playing bass, which made it into a Flying Nun exhibition.

As with vocalist Van Hout’s rise to prominence on local and international art scenes in the early 1990’s, the band themselves started getting attention. The recently Auckland-based Flying Nun committed to the band, though it would take around 2 years for their debut to finally be released (after initially appearing on the ‘Freak the Sheep‘ compilation).

Paul Sutherland quit the bass to play the gramophone full-time. James Greig joined as bass-player but he gave the bassists’ slot to Dave Imlay, so he could work on the guitar. Ronnie Van Hout and James Greig both headed overseas but still continue to work with the band when back in the country.

Thankfully, the band has kept going throughout the 1990s and into the 21st century. With an expanding and retracting line-up, the Void have always had an eclectic and variable sound but one thing has always been constant; volume.

Paul: James Greig’s experience as being our bass player was he managed to make a speaker burst into flames. That was pretty impressive. He tried blowing on the speaker to fan the flames, but that made it worse. Actually we blew up a PA at Warner’s once as well.

Paul: The volume thing is an interesting thing, (in the early days) we had a gig at the Subway were nobody stayed in the room, everyone had to leave the room because it was so loud. That was because our sound-person had just taken some drugs and didn’t know what he was doing.

Dave: I was there at the time; i think i went off to the poolroom.

In the late 1990s the Provincial Lounge on Cashel Street was an active and eclectic place to be. Thanks to Chris ‘The Hippy’ Wilson’s huge PA stacks, this tiny, decrepit venue was able to generate a fair racket, especially when a band so inclined to explode as the Void took the stage.

I have very fond memories of the Provincial, but standing in front of Into The Void, consumed by a wall of guitar, bass, and tom drums is probably what first comes to mind. Already pushed to the limits of volume, with my ears starting to feel every tonal change directly, their drummer unleashed his trump card – an apocalyptic assault of double-kick, heavily amplified through these giant wooden speaker stacks. My ears were ringing for almost 4 days.

Paul: When we started practicing we had like 10-15 watt amps. We definitely were not loud then. Mark was playing Hamish’s drum-kit, which is basically a folk-rock kit. But then a few other things changed, Jason bought a real guitar and amp, i got a proper bass amp.

Dave: Mark bought that drum-kit, which is the loudest drum-kit in the world

Paul: Ex The Androidss

Dave: I think we’re quieter now than we were a couple years ago.

Paul: I think it’s an internal tension thing, too. But i think we’re more intense, the last 2 times we’ve played the sound’s been better, i don’t think we’ve been as physically loud, it’s just more intense. Like Mark’s drums – it’s just a physical element.

There were times like when the Void played on the roof of Dave Imlay’s High Street store, confusing many passers-by. Or the time their full line-up packed the Dux de Lux, with Ronnie spouting his own off-hand take at the Fall‘s ‘L.A.’ to the jeers of the crowd. And of course there was the phenomenal Media Club gig that saw an entire room of normally restrained scensters take to the dance-floor, grooving down to a tight and engrossing Into The Void ripping out ‘Interstellar Overdrive’ and familiar Black Sabbath-like riffs, a truly visceral release.

Dave: I think it was because i could never follow what the others were doing. When Jason starts playing something, he changes it all the time, so i decided to come up with a bass-line that just repeated over and over. Repetitive riffing, though not all the songs are like that. I play it like a guitar, play chords and use an overdrive and that. Though i guess as time’s gone on i’ve become more like a bass player, more by accident. I’ll play something and (Jason and Mark) will say ‘that sounds like Geezer Butler!’ [laughs]

How does the band get it together with the overseas members when they’re away so often?

Paul: There’s two parts to that. When James visits, it’s pretty intense. He comes and lies on the floor and plays really loud and doesn’t listen [laughs].

Dave: I think we’ve gotten used to playing (with a smaller line-up), but when James comes along it takes a few practices for him to get back into it.

Paul: Where as Ronnie; it’s interesting you read – in the art world of Ronnie referred to as ‘collaborating’ with Into The Void, i don’t know what that means. Ronnie snaps in pretty well.

Dave: We had 3 or 4 practices with Ronnie last year though we didn’t play live, and we seemed to get something out of each one that was pretty good. Still, maybe it’s easier to add vocals to music that’s already figured out than to add new guitar parts.

Some time ago a date was scheduled for a recording session. The then Melbourne-based Ronnie was going to be in town for a few days (James still lived in Christchurch at the time). The album was put together from a 4 day session at John Kelcher’s National Grid studio – which had been recommended by friends, with opening track ‘John Hore’ coming from a much earlier session at Arnie Van Bussel’s Nightshift studio, after initially being discarded.

Dave: It was before i joined. ‘John Hore’ – with Ronnie playing bass.

Paul: I was sick or something, but i went to the mix down and that was really weird.

Dave: Arnie thought it was a kind of 70s prog-rock thing or something, he was trying to make it sound like yes or something.

Later Rob Buick (of the Black Panthers) turned up for a session at Nightshift, found and recovered the tape, giving the band a mix down for a song the band thought they had lost. The National Grid sessions were significantly more productive, as the band were well aware of their time limitations and were aiming for a completed album inside of 4 days of recording.

Dave: The one with John – it was done in a tiny little studio. And there were all sorts of things that weren’t supposed to happen, Ronnie doing vocal backups with himself (due to tape spillage) – it sounds great, but it was just an accident, so there were all sorts of incidents that happened with the equipment at the time. Ronnie was there dancing around for the first 3 days when we laid down the music, he would write things down at the session and work on lyrics overnight. It all came together on the last day when he added his vocals.

In time-honored void tradition, there was a long period before the album finally saw the light of day. Searching for a label proved fruitless, so the band has released it themselves on their A.Void music label.

I can say without any reserve that it’s the best thing they’ve committed to tape. Though no longer connected to a more commercially-orientated Flying Nun, you should be able to find ‘2’ in most record stores in New Zealand – i thoroughly recommend it.

Into The Void

a caustic, chaotic, sprawling mess of a band. been around since the late 80s, putting out a pretty grotty (and not particularly good) self-titled album in the early 90s, back when they had more of a straight metal focus. since then the into the void ‘crew’ (which at times can feature as little as three people or as many as 6, including a phono-graph manipulator, mark e. smith impersonating lead singer and a second guitarist to the standard bass/guitar/drums format of their key 3-piece) have developed an extremely harsh, noisy approach to groove-rock. focusing on loud, sometimes improvised rythms, heavily distorted guitar and incendially primal, machine gun drumming – they always seem to bemuse and invigorate a crowd to action.
a christchurch institution of the live scene, they can regularly be seen at the dux de lux or more cerebral venues such as the media club – but be warned – bring ear-plugs, especially when performing outside the dux. circa 2004 the band line-up is now jason grieg (guitar), mark whyte (drums), and dave imlay (bass), plus occassional performances from james grieg (guitar), paul sutherland (grammaphone) and ronnie van hout (vocals).
discography
picks in bold

  • into the void [1993 flying nun FN228]
  • into the void 2 [2005 self-released]

Mike Hex [January 2004]

What does Arclife do for the Dunedin community, and specifically, what’s your role in the trust?

I’m not a member of the trust; there was a trust set up in the early days of the Arc Cafe, but now they are two different entities. This change happened last year so Arclife Records is now being run by myself, Thom Bell and Stephen Kilroy.

What’s Arclife up to at the moment? Major changes a-foot?

Apart from having a new company to run the label we received a $10,000 recording grant last year from Creative NZ to record three bands: Heka, Hiss Explosion and Kahu.

Have you been working with any up-and-coming artists or bands we should keep an eye out for?

We have a compilation [from] last year we hope to release soon. Heka are about to finally release their debut CD. Bob Scott (The Clean / The Bats) has a lost Dunedin folk songs CD coming out in march. I’m a big fan of the Undercurrents and hope to do something with them soon. There’s enough to keep us very busy for the next year, that’s for sure.

And Hiss Explosion? Any new recordings in the midst?

Thom Bell has bought this kick arse desk from Vancouver/Canada and we hope to marry that up to the 2″ 24 track tape machine we have down here and get busy in february.

How do the Hiss Explosion recordings differ from your solo outings? How does Peter fit in to the creative process?

Well, solo stuff is done by me at home on my old four-track dirt-tracker so it’s raw and ready and Hiss Explosion has been experimenting with bigger tape machines, so obviously the quality of recording comes down to tape width. I’ll always record and track in analogue tape. Can’t stand that pro-tools sound – too crisp and clean for me. Solo i’ll experiment more with sounds and objects etc.

The Hiss Explosion play Creation on February 6th 2004 as part of the Waitangi Day Special along with International Telepaths (also from Dunedin), Into The Void, Substandard and Idols Of Eve.

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.