The Palace Of Wisdom

Biography

The Palace of Wisdom originated in 1999 when well established Christchurch rock’n’roller Ben Johnstone (Guitar/Backing Vocals – Hi-Tone Destroyers, The Incisions) got together with intimidating vocalist Andrew ‘Ox’ O’Connell, adding hooky guitar riffs to O’Connell’s hurricane force vocals. The resulting recording was released as part of the No Thanks To New Zealand On Air compilation in 2000. Matt Alien (Hi-Tone Destroyers, Black Panthers, Space Dust, Slavetrader) joined on drums, with the line-up complete by English bassist Ian Lloyd.

With Lloyd’s departure in late 2000, ALC5 (yet another Hi-Tone Destroyers member) joined the group on Bass, however after a year with the group he was also replaced, this time by the legendary Mick Elborado (Scorched Earth Policy, The Terminals, Gas, The Axemen, Drowning Is Easy etc), who became a mainstay in the group and is responsible for the bands huge, over-driven bass sound on the excellent Pills EP.

The group then started to rotated through a number of drummers with Nick Harte (The Incisions, Shocking Pinks, Black Albino, CM Ensemble, The Urinators) in February 2002, Tim MacDonald (The Incisions, Shocking Pinks) in March 2003, Simon Nunn (Steffan Van Soest Hit-Machine, The Undercurrents, Kate in the Lemon Tree, Weaponized, Hi-Tone Destroyers etc) in December 2003, and then Chris Andrews (a million lights, Mysterioball, Idols of Eve, Pop Hits City, O’Lovely) in November 2004.

This line-up was the longest of the group, though recordings from this era (which lasted almost 4 years) are limited to Stuck In The Suck. After a disastrous recording session at Christchurch’s MAINZ, and other internal issues – Mick Elborado left the group. Jared Kelly (The Pickups, Blue Moon) then joined in May 2008, with Andrews and Kelly switching instruments after their first practice.

2008 was a particularly important year for the group, recording the Common Threads EP with the lineup of O’Connell (Vocals), Johnstone (Guitar), Andrews (Bass) And Kelly (Drums) Before Stink Magnetic‘s Aiden Moody (Bad Evil, Grand Chancellors) joined as a 2nd guitarist, moving down from Palmerston North. This was an important change for the group as in late 2009 founding guitarist Ben Johnstone left to raise a family in Canada, and Moody took over his lead guitar duties.

Both Kelly and Andrews left for other towns in 2010, however Ox enlisted the help of drummer Michael Summerfield (The Undercurrents, Cowboy Machine), before Andrews rejoined in early 2011 on bass guitar. The group played the very last show at historic Lyttelton venue El Santo Porteno, just 2 days before the February 2011 earthquake. This disrupted the progress the group had been making, with guitarist Moody moving on to form surf group The Grand Chancellors.

The group resurfaced in early 2012 with Jared Kelly once again playing drums (replacing a departing Summerfield), with John Harris (Lonely Harris Club, Doctors, BnP) quickly establishing himself as their latest guitarist. Summerfield would eventually find himself back in the group after a hilarious stage moment at the (now bull-dozed) New Brighton Tavern which saw Kelly replaced mid-set by multi-instrumentalist Rhett Copland, and this line-up played quite a few shows over the next couple years.

Which Palace’s recorded output completely stagnant Ox formed a new group with guitarist Dave Branton named The Ruling Elite, which eventually picked up Andrews (switching to 2nd guitar). Eventually both groups began utilizing talented free-form drummer Rory ‘IRD’ Dalley – with the new group quickly writing and recording a whole swag of new recorded output, whilst Palace remains a tight live-act-only type of group.

Over the course of the last 15 years the group has played a string of high-profile support slots, including The Chills, The Datsuns and of particular note – US group Dead Moon, who the group cover (‘Unknown Passage’) and are of particular importance to vocalist O’Connell with their never-say-die attitude to Rock’n’Roll. The Palace of Wisdom’s set is augmented by a number of re-interpreted covers, often quite removed from the originals, or obscure in their origin – this includes The Great Unwashed‘s ‘Born in the Wrong Time’ (as ‘Sending Him Away’), and Joy Division’s ‘Sound of Music’.

 

Members

  • Andrew ‘Ox’ O’Connell (Vocals, 1999-)
  • Ben Johnstone (Guitar, 1999-2009)
  • Matt ‘Alien’ Johnstone (Guitar, 1999-2002)
  • Ian Lloyd (Bass, 1999)
  • Alan ‘ALC5’ Cameron (Bass, 2000-2001)
  • Mick Elborado (Bass, 2001-2007)
  • Nick ‘Harte’ Hodgson (Drums, 2002-2003)
  • Tim MacDonald (Drums, 2003)
  • Simon Nunn (Drums, 2003-2004)
  • Chris Andrews (Drums/Bass, 2004-2010, 2011-)
  • Jared Kelly (Bass/Drums, 2008-2010, 2012)
  • Rhett Copland (Drums, 2012)
  • Aiden Moody (Guitar, 2008-2010)
  • Michael Summerfield (Drums, 2010-2012)
  • John Harris (Guitar, 2010-)
  • Rory Dalley (Drums, 2015-)

Discography

  • The ‘P’ EP [2001 Self-Released]
  • Candy Pants [2002 Self-Released]
  • Pills EP [2003 Self-Released]
  • Stuck In The Suck [2006 Self-Released]
  • Burnside EP [2008 Self-Released]
  • Common Threads EP [2009 Self-Released]

    Links

  • MySpace
  • BandCamp
  • Facebook
  • LastFM
  • Photo’s on Flickr

Barnard’s Star [August 2006]

When I remember Barnard’s Star what comes to mind are the places I saw this wonderful Christchurch group perform and how the venues added to the overall experience. I think my initial exposure to the group was at the Venus Cafe, a long since departed coffee shop – one of the first ‘hip’ such joints to hit the scene in the mid 90s. Located on Lichfield street above what was for a period the Liquor Lounge and also a gay bar whose name escapes me; Venus was often filled with University and late High School types, wasting away half a day sipping on a huge hot chocolate, along with a scattered few yuppies apparently ‘slumming it’ – I distinctly remember seeing a press review of the place which noted that half the crowd couldn’t afford to order anything.

Still, the Venus Cafe put on some wonderful shows; from the table-climbing antics of The Black Panthers to the reserved but eclectic sounds of the Dialtones and Barnard’s Star themselves. I can remember bassist Helen Greenfield wrapped in a big woollen coat, plunked on the floor playing bass guitar whilst surrounded by band mates – guitarists Nick Guy and Marcus Winstanley, and original drummer Frazer Talbot. The idea of Barnard’s Star was formed by Nick and Marcus during a music lecture at Canterbury University in 1996. The band became more that just an idea at a party a few months later. Although only two members (guitarists) at their first jam session, the band soon acquired a bass player (Helen) who couldn’t play but informed them that she was joining anyway.

That’s how Barnard’s Star was Started. (The name Barnard’s Star was only supposed to be a working title, too) we soon realised that we needed a drummer and Started looking. That’s where Frazer came in. Frazer Talbot, an enthusiastic young drummer, joined us after we’d auditioned him in a garage out at Nick’s parents’ place in Marshlands. With a drummer on board we started to write new songs and think about playing live.
– Helen Greenfield

Barnard’s Star was an ever-evolving outfit, who made some huge strides over the course of their short life-span. From Nick and Marcus’s original idea in 1996 the group mutated through mellow but rather sonic walls of guitar to more ethereal sounds – with the electronic input of Talbot’s successor Tyrone Thorne allowing the group to become more production-orientated. This diversity is quite present in their recordings as the sparse, minimalist early singles differ quite dramatically from the polished, free-flowing later EP – which was self-recorded, mixed and remixed by the group, eventually surfacing on the Beat Atlas imprint in 1999.

We planned to record an album but that never eventuated it has a very cool working title Sonoluminesence. Not sure what happened with the band; we dissolved very slowly. Tyrone went overseas and is now working in London. Marcus, Nick, and I are still in Christchurch doing our separate things. It’s a shame really. I was listening to the EP recently and thinking (a) how great it is and (b) how it hasn’t dated (which, in my opinion, is the sign of a great record) – even though it is getting on to 7 years since it was recorded.
– Helen Greenfield

The second show I recall (which Helen also noted as one of their best) was supporting Dunedinites HDU and Cloudboy at the Lumiere Theatre – one of the most bizarre and sorely missed features of Christchurch cultural make-up. A compact movie theatre with a trippy lobby area filled with strange memorabilia and oddities (not to mention some great pinball machines and stacks of Spaceman Candy), the Lumiere was known for its bizarre feature events. They put on events like the ‘Incredibly Strange Film Festival’ and shows such as this which left the audience stuck in two minds whether they wanted to sit in the back and watch the bands play whilst ‘The Brave Little Toaster’ was projected behind them, or somehow squeeze up the aisles and attempt to dance somewhere near the front. What a wonderful place – one of my other exposures to the venue was a movie double header of ‘Microcosmos’ and ‘Baraka’ with Christchurch stars The Puffins creating their own live soundtrack to the features.

Making a superb support choice, Barnard’s Star outshone their southern counterparts at this show, incorporating all the articulate guitar-work of HDU with the whimsy and warmth of Cloudboy to really show what Canterbury is capable of (apparently the groups soundcheck was delayed by the HDU boys watching the finale of the rugby – another event in which the Cantab’s trumped their southern counterparts). Marcus Winstanley related that the band were a lot louder than most people anticipated – as he would mix the shows from the stage and had a tendency to push the levels. They would take on a bombastic, sonic nature; in fact Chris (from defunct local popsters Degrees K) related that their Harbor Light EP release alongside Roy Montgomery was something of a religious experience due to their shear volume.

[We played with] The Puffins, Bailter Space, Roy Montgomery, The Verlaines and Bilge Festival, Kate In The Lemon Tree, HDU and Cloudboy, Le Mot Cafe and Sea Worlde [a group who would later evolve a little, move north and change their name to the Nouveau Riche].
– Helen Greenfield

The primary recorded artifact of the band is an involving, pulsing self-titled EP, recorded at The Research Center with help from Mike Richardson (who also helped set up the groups Beat Atlas label) and mastered at Kog. The Research Center was the Former Rotherham District Hospital; a bizarre converted rural hospital manor which also served as the studio for The Puffins unreleased album sessions, and set in a secluded farmlet in North Canterbury.

It’s a top notch recording that connects as a single entity, flowing through 5 glorious, long and eclectic textural tracks, rich with tone and character. Using vocals as just another layer in a dense mix of pulsing synths, shoe-gazer guitar, digitally manipulated sounds and robotic bass. Unfortunately the EP never really had a chance as a radio favorite, with songs like the magnum opus ‘Jupiter Spirals‘ and the My Bloody Valentine reminiscent ‘Arc Infinity‘ clocking in at ten and a half and 8 minutes a piece.

After the group eventually faded away to their own pursuits, a handful of tracks surfaced on a variety of compilations – the last of which ‘(Terabytes, Terawatts) And Terra Incognita‘ is probably the most removed recording in their output, having gone through a great deal of revisions and remixes in its life-time it’s an ebbing electronic creation; drastically different from the material the group produced just a couple years earlier. In fact, Tyrone is currently working on a couple further remixes, though whether they finally see the light of day remains to be seen (and heard).

These days Helen Greenfield and Nick Guy perform on the fringe of Christchurch music circles as part of the Southern Oscillations collective and in solo guises as Mela and Lytteltronics, Helen has also recently joined synth and guitar duo Thomas:Parkes, and Nick is one half of the Torlesse Supergroup alongside legendary guitarist Roy Montgomery. Though Tyrone has moved to London after a spell with the Sydney-based ‘Swingingingtastybag’, Marcus Winstanley has continued to be a feature of the Christchurch music community, currently performing with Mini-Snap, The Dialtones and The Undercurrents, whilst also finding time for production sound work.

So a genuine Christchurch group who made a dramatic impact both as a live outfit and with their outstanding recordings and production work who expanded the limits of what a local band could be. I thoroughly recommend tracking down their EP if you’re interested in the outer limits of guitar, melodic electronics, or just plain great, involving music.

Contact geometric@clear.net.nz for a copy of the EP (whilst still available).