RIP Peter Gutteridge

On Monday, September 15th I saw an innocuous Facebook post by Doo Ragnarok, aka Duane Zarakov, aka Pat Faigan – a fairly typical post by Pat, who spends a great chunk of the day posting excellent youtube clips of classic songs – in this case The Great Unwashed’s ‘Born in the Wrong Time’, which is one of my all time favorite songs, Kiwi or otherwise.

The Great Unwashed – Born in the Wrong Time

However the responses to this wonderful song were different than usual – a whole heap of sad comments. This is how I found out Peter Gutteridge – founding member of The Clean, The Chills, The Great Unwashed and his own group Snapper – had passed away that morning.

Peter Gutteridge
Peter Gutteridge, After performing at the Darkroom in 2012

Pretty soon the rest of the world had caught up on Peter’s passing – Simon Sweetman seemed to have the first story online about his passing, and this interview from Mess and Noise back in April last year seems to be the most informative insight online in to who I believed to be New Zealand’s greatest song-writer.

I took the photo above back in 2012 after catching Peter play a live acoustic set at Christchurch’s Darkroom Bar back in 2012 – Peter was very conscientious about his appearance, making sure I drew as much of the ample character in his face as possible. I got just two shots; the above color shot which seems to portray fire and brimstone, a swaggering but downtrodden character. However the 2nd shot I took (below) seems to show another side of Peter – there is warmth and frailty in his eyes – a complete transformation.

Peter Gutteridge at Darkroom Bar 2012
Peter Gutteridge at Darkroom Bar 2012

Considering the depth of Peter’s music, this transformation is not surprising. Though known for the huge walls of feedback and straight for the jugular approach of songs like The Clean’s ‘Point That Thing somewhere Else’ (which he was always keen to remind us – he wrote at the age of 17), he also had a deeply emotional, quiet side – Snapper’s ‘Gentle Hour’ and several of the Great Unwashed’s song hint at this.

I managed to catch Peter playing a couple times in the past 2 years, with the reformed Snapper playing at the 2013 Camp A Low Hum being a particular highlight – it was great to see Peter passing the baton to a new generation of Dunedin kids, with a backing band that included Bad Sav’s Hope Robertson and Though Creature’s Danny Brady.

Peter Gutteridge with Snapper
Peter Gutteridge with Snapper at Camp A Low Hum 2013

So Monday was a very sad day in New Zealand Music. We’ve lot one of our greats, a fantastic song-writer that has just begun to resurface after a long absence from the public eye.

Rest in peace Peter.

Peter Gutteridge (and Brother Love) at the Darkroom

Apologies to Brother Love for missing their set – though I did talk to ‘the Brother (aka Martin Henderson) and the long-time ex-Christchurch sludge-rockers are back in the garden city again, with more shows on the horizon. You might remember Brother Love and the Homebacon Gang, playing shows with the likes of Space Dust, Ape Management and King Loser throughout the 1990s.

Peter Gutteridge at the Darkroom
Peter Gutteridge at the Darkroom

It was a rare treat to see legendary Dunedin-based songwriter Peter Gutteridge too; It’s been ‘more than a decade’ since the Snapper frontman last played a show in Christchurch, and according to Gutteridge he hasn’t been playing live in Dunedin either, although he still continues to write and plans to record new songs.

With Snapper known for pulsating Synth and Heavy Guitar drones adding a hypnotic rhythm to essentially dark pop songs, Gutteridge surprised the ample Darkroom crowd by starting his set with folky acoustic versions of his songs. The set began with a sober, melancholy performance of ‘Born in the Wrong Time’ (a song Gutteridge had written whilst in the Great Unwashed) played in a very minimal, stripped back acoustic style, ringing out repetitive individual notes on his guitar akin to the droney sound of his Snapper recordings.

As a founding member of several of New Zealand’s finest bands (The Chills, The Clean, The Great Unwashed and Snapper), Gutteridge’s back catalogue is full of involving, heady and evocative songs, but Snapper’s signature pseudo-hit ‘Buddy’ seemed to be the most recognized by the crowd, enticing a few upfront to sing-a-long.

He finally switched up a gear with the last handful of songs – playing with ear-piercing electric guitar and pulsing synth and understated bass from Henderson in support. I was transfixed by the duo’s sound in this configuration, much akin to the solo Gutteridge recordings I’ve heard (there’s an Xpressway tape from the 1980’s called ‘Pure’), which makes sense as he opened this 2nd set with ‘Dry Spot’, a song he’d released on a 7” for Crawlspace Records in 2000, culled from a live recording.

Great to see one of New Zealand’s best underground musicians back and playing music again, and I would definitely look out for future recordings.

[Published in the Press 5/4/2012]

The Chills

Over the years the Chills have released a number of brilliant pop songs, right from the outset their material has been catchy and melodic, and have a certain eerie quality to them that separates them from most mainstream pop outfits. All their brilliant early material such as the Dunedin Double split EP (shared with the Verlaines, Sneaky Feelings and the Stones), and the Rolling Moon and Pink Frost singles were compiled in the mid 80s on the Kaledeiscope World album, which was later reissued with bonus tracks once released as a CD. Probably the best example of the Chills vast catalog, it must be considered a vital purpose, unless you can get your hands on the very rare original New Zealand-only Flying Nun vinyl copies releases.

The Chills live at the Jetset Lounge
Liberty or Love – Live at the Jetset Lounge [2004] filmed by Ben Johnstone

The Chill’s brilliant young drummer Martyn Bull became ill with leukemia in 1982, passing away in early 1983. Band leader Martin Phillips almost brought the band to an end, but after a hiatus of sorts he decided to carry on, replacing a number of band members (which became a habit for the Chills – over 20 years, Phillips is the only surviving member out of over 40 musicians).

By this time they had developed a rather large fan base in the UK thanks to the signature hit ‘I love my leather jacket’, and Phillips decided to write their first full-length album ‘brave worlds’ in britain, after picking up a record deal with rough trade to release the (now dedicated to Martyn Bull) compilation album Kaleidescope World. Brave Worlds was a great success – being one of the Chills most consistent yet dynamic releases, the simple beauty of ‘Wet Blanket’ showed that Phillips had nearly reached a level of pop perfection in his song writing.

In the succeeding years the chills continued their trend of recycling contributing members, and producing quality pop tunes. After the brilliant follow up albums Submarine Bells and Soft Bomb (which saw considerable success, especially with the aptly named single ‘Heavenly Pop Hit’) the Chills went into somewhat of a decline, with Phillips working through a number of emotional and dependency problems. Most of the later nineties dragged for the Chills, as only the somewhat lukewarm Sunburnt was produced in the later half of the decade.

Around the turn of the century Phillips formed a new band, with new members Todd Knudson (drums), Rodney Haworth (bass) and James Dickson (keyboards) going on to become Phillips’ long-serving accompanists. This line-up has continued to tour and produce new songs, even unleashing lost material from his plentiful songbook (through several rarity compilations, and the intriguing Sketchbook album) in a solo capacity [see Phillips solo entry].

In 2004 the ‘Stand By’ EP was released – 8 songs the now established Chills touring group had been performing alongside their classic repetoire. This remained the last original material the group would release for almost a decade until new single ‘Melted Gold’ appeared as a streaming song on the popular Pitchfork magazine.

Discography
Picks In Bold

  • Dunedin Double 4xep [1982 W/ Sneaky Feelings, The Stones, The Verlaines on Flying Nun Dun1/2]
  • ‘Rolling Moon’/’Bite’/’Flame Thrower’ 7″ Single [1982 Flying Nun Cold001]
  • ‘Pink Frost’/’Purple Girl’ 7″ Single [1984 Flying Nun Cold002] Rn
  • ‘Doledrums’/’The Hidden Bay’ 7″ Single [1984 Flying Nun Cold003]
  • The ‘Lost’ 12″ Ep [1985 Flying Nun Fn Cold004]
  • Kaleidescope World Mini-Lp [1985/6 Flying Nun Fn Cold005 / Fne13]
  • ‘Green Eyed Owl’/’I’Ll Only See You Again’ 7″ Single [1986 Bonus With Fne13 Flying Nun Fn47 1/2]
  • ‘The Great Escape’/’I Love My Leather Jacket’ 7/12″ Single [1986 Flying Nun Cold006/7 / Fnuk]
  • ‘House With A Hundred Rooms’/’Party In My Heart’/’Living In The Jungle’ 12″ Single [1986 Flying Nun Fnuk11]
  • Kaleidescope World [1986 Flying Nun Fne13]
  • Brave Worlds [1987 Flying Nun Fn090 / Fne12 / Fnuk12]
  • ‘Wet Blanket’/’I Think I Thought Of Nothing Else To Think About’ 7″ Single [1988 Flying Nun Fn097]
  • Submarine Bells [1990 Flying Nun / Slash/Liberation 30342]
  • ‘Heavenly Pop Hit’/’Part Past, Part Fiction’/’Water Wolves’ 7″ Single [1990 Flying Nun / Slash/Liberation
  • Soft Bomb [1992 Slash/Liberation L30782]
  • ‘Male Monster From The Id’/’Double Summer’ Single [1992 Flying Nun]
  • Heavenly Pop Hits [Compilation 1994 Flying Nun Fn306]
  • ‘Come Home’ Single [1995 Flying Nun]
  • ‘Surrounded’ Single [1995 Flying Nun]
  • Sunburnt [1996 Flying Nun Fn303]
  • Secret Box – The Chills’ Rarities, 1980-2000 [Compilation 2000 Definitive Music Dm001]
  • Stand By Ep [2004 Flying Nun Mpm001]
  • ‘Melted Gold’ digital single [2013]

The Clean

Formed in 1978 by David Kilgour (gat/vox) and Peter Gutteridge (bass / vox), and eventually settled on Hamish Kilgour (drums / vox) as the permanent 3rd member after an assortment on configurations came and went (Doug Hood enjoyed a short tenure as vocalist, before leaving town as Toy Love‘s sound man, and Lindsay Maitland featured in several configurations). Gutteridge was a major force in the band until artistic differences saw him leave (later forming Snapper), to be replaced by Rob Scott in 1980. They were at their prime when touring in the early 80s, and the compendium of these years (entitled Compilation) documents this period beautifully.

The Clean developed what was dubbed the Dunedin Sound. A somewhat dark take on noise rock that incorporated elements of classic pop, driving rock’n’roll. Sardonic and almost creepy take on lyrics, with vocals to match. David Kilgour employed open guitar tunings and Rob Scott produced rhythmic, repetitive bass lines, that Hamish Kilgour would compliment with pummeling, primal drum rhythms (though role changes were common, all 3 members sung and played guitar) – all tinted by the Kilgour brothers penchant for psychedelic and scratchy lo-fi.

Over the course of the next 20 years, the band would go on long breaks and split a number of times for the members to form their own bands (most notably Rob Scotts’ the Bats and David Kilgour‘s solo outfits). After original single Tally Ho shot up the New Zealand chart in 1981 – simultaneously establishing The Clean and the Flying Nun label that had formed around them, The Clean released the pinnacle of their recorded out – the hugely influential Boodle Boodle Boodle ep. The EP managed to actually better the singles success, eventually reaching number 5 in the New Zealand singles chart (astounding for an independent release in the early 80s) and remaining in the charts for a full 6 months, easily reaching gold status.

The follow up EP ‘Great sounds great, Good sounds good..’ was another success, but by now the band were tiring of their new found fame, and worried about the effect success would have on their music. Needless to say The Clean disbanded at the top of their game in 1982 with the release of the momentous Getting Older single (a genuine perfect pop song). It wasn’t long though before the original clean line-up (with a returning peter gutteridge) reformed as the Great Unwashed – a poppier and more acoustically based approach than their early recordings. The Great Unwashed never quite reached the peaks of The Clean and again they disbanded (after a mere 2 EP’s yet again), with each member going back to their subsequent side-projects.

Thankfully, throughout the later 80s and into the 90s, The Clean never really stayed apart for too long, and after a while the (now cemented) trio of Kilgour, Kilgour and Scott were back to a more permanent existence (or at least productive between variable lengthed hiatus). Their first album proper Vehicle was a well rounded example for the band, if lacking a bit of the spark from their early eps. After establishing a reputation on the us college scene in the early 90s – yet another reunion album was planned. Modern Rock came out in 1994, and was a fairly wild departure from The Clean’s signature sound, being somewhat fragmented and often unfocused. It did however show that The Clean were capable of a wider scope, with strong pop elements and less heavy-handed lyrics than its predecessor’s.

Unknown Country – which could probably be considered their first comeback album seems to divide their fans more than any of the other albums. Its poppy where their previous albums were rocky, and quirky where they had been driving and somewhat chilling. I like the change in direction, but i know a lot of other people see the album as a band caught in two minds (usually attributed to their on again / off again history).

In 1996 Flying Nun started work on a tribute album to The Clean as part of their own 15th anniversary celebrations, gathering together a number of the musicians that define the New Zealand music scene, as well as those that have been influenced by The Clean with their own work. Overseas artists Pavement, Guided by Voices and Barbara Manning added their own tributes along side those from not only Flying Nun acts, but also the likes of a number of current electronic acts and other significant kiwi artists and bands. The album (titled God Save The Clean) was a success, and the release culminated in a gigantic gig in Auckland where The Clean were joined by a great deal of the artists who paid tribute – making a great night all round, and putting The Clean back into the limelight on the New Zealand scene.

This rekindled interest may have been a wake-up call to the boys, as they quickly became a semi-regularly touring band, and eventually began focused recording again. The result – Getaway is something of a triumph, a successful reformation by all counts and an excellent taster of The Clean’s current sound, check out the full review for more detail. The trio followed up their positive press in the United States (The Clean’s releases are now tied to David Kilgour’s US home – Merge Records) with Anthology, another document highlighting The Clean’s seminal earlier material on the first disc, but now accompanied by a well-constructed summary of their subsequent release on a 2nd disc.

Currently the band still remain mostly in hiatus. Hamish firmly resident in New York (with the Mad Scene and his own solo career), David seems to be forever gaining in stature as a solo musician in Dunedin – the nashville recorded Frozen Orange album being a particular success. Rob Scott has always been a bedroom musician back in Dunedin (outside of the mostly-Christchurch based The Bats), though its taken Powertool Records till just recently to finally put one of his home releases out in to the market, with Tudor Gates arriving in 2004.

Discography (picks in bold)

  • ‘Tally Ho!’/That Platypus’ 7″ Single [1981 Flying Nun Fn002 / Ying One]
  • Boodle Boodle Boodle 12″ Ep [1981 Flying Nun Fn003]
  • Great Sounds Great, Good Sounds Good.. 12″ Ep [1982 Flying Nun Fn Good001]
  • ‘Getting Older’/’Scrap Music/Whatever I Do It’S Right/Wrong’ 7″ Single [1982 Flying Nun Last1]
  • Odditties [1985 / 1995 Flying Nun / Cleano Productions Fn Odd One / Fn223]
  • Live Dead Clean 12″ Ep [1985 Flying Nun Fn Ldc 001]
  • Odditties 2 [1987 W/ The Great Unwashed Flying Nun / Cleano Productions Fn Odd 2]
  • Compilation [1988/1990 Flying Nun Fn Comp001 / Fn154 / Fne03 / Fnuk03]
  • In A Live 12″ Ep [1990 Flying Nun Fne29]
  • Vehicle [1990 Flying Nun Fn147]
  • Modern Rock [1994 Flying Nun Fn292]
  • ‘Trapped In Amber’/’Ludwig’ 7″ Flex-Disc [1994 Bonus With Fn292 Flying Nun Fn311]
  • Unknown Country [1996 Flying Nun Fn349]
  • Getaway [2001 Flying Nun Fn459]
  • Anthology Double-Cd [2002 Flying Nun Fn468]
  • Cracks In The Sidewalk Ep [2002 Arc Life Arclife015]
  • Syd’S Pink Wiring System [2003 Cleano Cleano0001]

See-Also

Mr. Big Nose

One Of Rob Scott‘S Many One-Off Bands – This Time With The 3ds Dave Saunders, Ken Stewart, Alan Haig And Peter Gutteridge. They Put Out The Various Outtakes Cassette On Scotts’ Own Every Secret Thing Label.

Discography (picks in bold)

See-Also