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Record Labels

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]
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Screaming Meemees

Excellent, and highly popular post-punk / new-wave pop act out of auckland in the early 80s. Achieved unprecedented success with the release of ‘See Me Go’, a lovely poppy early single in the distinct Mee Mees style that managed to top the New Zealand charts without any radio play, purely on the popularity of their live shows and word of mouth.

How many times was this [‘See Me Go’ 7″ on Propeller] recorded and mixed. We finished the mix and went on tour, only to receive a “remix” that the marketing guy at Festival had done. It was unlistenable, although we were told that he’d substituted it for our mix on the release. A quick call to the pressing plant meant ours was substituted, the other one was quietly dumped, so the official release was ours. The funny thing was the marketing guy never noticed…..4000 copies in a week and number one…in fact the first NZ single to enter at 1.

Simon Grigg: taken from Griggs’ Propeller archive website.

The Mee Mees were soon to be touted as New Zealand’s most popular band with their rollicking debut If This Is Paradise, I’ll Take The Bag, and toured as part of the Screaming Blamatic roadshow in 1982 to huge crowds, a defining moment for New Zealand post-punk (championed by start-up label Propeller Recordings) – but their success was short lived with members Tony Drumm, Michael O’Niell, Peter Van Ver Fluit and Jon ‘Yoh’ Landwer going their seperate ways after the ‘Stars In My Eyes’ single in 1983.

Discography (picks in bold)

  • ‘Can’t Take It’ Split 7″ Single [1981 W/ Newmatics Ripper Rip013]
  • ‘See Me Go’/’Till I Die’ 7″ Single [1981 Propeller Rev8]
  • See Me Go Ep [1981 Propeller Rev8x]
  • ‘Sunday Boys’/’At At’ 7″ Single [Propeller Rev15]
  • ‘”F” Is For Fear’/’Orson Welles’ 7″ Single [1982 Propeller Rev18]
  • If This Is Paradise, I’ll Take The Bag [1982 Propeller Rev203]
  • ‘Stars In My Eyes’/’Days Go By’ 7″ Single [1983 Propeller Rev22]
  • Stars In My Eyes 12″ Ep [1983 Propeller Rev22x]
  • Stars In My Eyes [Compilation 1992 Propeller Rev501]

Awards Etc
RIANZ Awards 1981


  • Most Promising Group Of The Year: Screeming Meemees

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Skeptics

Hugely popular and influential New Zealand industrial rock act. Known for their grinding sound and one particularly visual music video – the incredible and universally banned ‘Affco’. The video shows some rather graphic freezing-works footage, and was directed by Stuart Page – also known for his band the Axemen. The video has since had several one-off showings, and is actually available directly from page – but it is far too graphic to ever receive any kind of commercial release.

David D’Ath (vocals / keyboards) and Robin Gauld (guitar) formed The Skeptics in Palmerston North way back in 1979, with Don White (drums, percussion and samples) and Ian Reiddy (bass) soon joining to complete their original line-up, heavily influenced by the first wave of British punk. After a few fruitless practice sessions and recording efforts in their high school, Gauld’s old friend Nick Roughan (who was considerably more technically adept) was brought in as a new bassist and things started to gel.

The Skeptics are set apart by the transcendent intensity of their performance. It’s uplifting by way of the band’s sheer force of will. Punishing and cathartic in the extreme, the skeptic’s noise is demanding and confrontational

– Paul Mckesser, taken from a live review in Rip It Up, 1990

Support slots and eventually their own headline slots soon showed a quickly rising fan-base – the band were growing very popular. The Pyronnists Selections EP was recorded for Ripper recordings, but a stolen master tape delayed their debut release (though the track ‘Last Orders’ was included on the Three Piece Pack compilation). After a close finish in the Auckland battle of the bands (finishing 2nd to the short-lived Gurlz) they finally made their debut with the EP Chowder Over Wisconsin, a distinctly collaborative album.

The band continued to build a strong following, running the Palmerston North venue ‘Snail Clamps’ – and started releasing material through Paul Lurkers Industrial Tapes , including a release from spin-off act the Amazing Charlton Heston. Once palmy had been conquered the band relocated to Wellington, losing Gauld to overseas study and gaining the Gordons / Bailter Space‘s John Halvorsen as his replacement, and Brent McLauchlin lent a hand as mixer (and eventually a part-time 2nd drummer).

2nd album Skeptic III and the subsequent ‘Affco’ video were produced in 1987, cementing the bands notoriety, but TVNZ refused the piece, even with digital editing to mask the gore:

The graphic scenes of animal slaughter are unnecessarily detailed and prolonged, and despite the fact that they may be everyday scenes at freezing works, this does not imply that visuals of this nature may be screened on television
– Gerry Ryan, ‘Radio With Pictures’ producer

Come 1989, work on the third album Amalgam was disrupted by D’Ath’s health. It was quickly apparent that D’Ath had leukemia, but despite rushing the albums production, D’Ath never saw it completed. He died on Tuesday, September 4th 1990, dissolving the band. Post D’Ath’s death, the band released archival and live material and compiled their work on a Flying Nun released boxed-set, though Roughan, White and Gauld’s attempt at a reunion (as hub) never really got off the ground.

The focal point was david with his slight stature, his hooked nose and his deep-set eyes. He looked like some strange, punch drunk bird and the veins in his neck bulged as he forced mysterious words and noises from his throat
Chris Matthews, taken from D’Ath’s obituary in Rip It Up, 1990

Discography (picks in bold)

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The Spines

Wellington group who had a sort of angular approach to some of their music, ska like, but also had an appealing dark edge. They released the impressive fishing 7″ EP on Ripper records. This was followed by another couple of singles then a lack lustre album on Flying Nun. The bands main man was guitarist/singer John Mcleary who wrote all the songs (along with Ross Elliot, Wendy Margaret Calder, Neill John Duncan, Gregory Brice and Ross Burge).

In their early stages the band featured the brilliant drumming skills of Caroline Easther who was later replaced and the band became more technical and less moody in their songs and delivery. Live the band had an intensity about them, but there was something very wellington about them that surfaced every once in a while. that quirky ska thing perhaps.
-Rob Mayes

Discography (picks in bold)

  • Fishing Ep [1982 Ripper Rip021]
  • ‘Punch’/’Your Body Stays’ 12″ Single [1982 Ripper Rpi025]
  • Act Your Age Ep [1984 Jayrem Jay116]
  • The Moon [1984 Jayrem Jay316]
  • Idiot Sun 12″ Ep [1986 Flying Nun Fn072]
  • The Spines [Unissued]

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Spelling Mistakes

[The Spelling Mistakes ‘Feel So Good/Hate Me Hate/I Hate’] tied for first single [with The Features recorded debut]…also sold around a thousand and briefly broke even until Phonogram heard it and asked for their compilation advance cheque back..oh well.
Simon Grigg: taken from Griggs’ Propeller archive website.

2nd generation Auckland punk band featuring Nigel Russell who succumbed to the pressures of a boot-boy fan-base at the turn of the 80s. Released a double-album compilation on Fast Food some 23 years after originally forming, after several reunion performances during the late 90s. One of their most well known singles – the creatively titled ‘Rena’s Piss Flaps’ is reportedly based on Once Were Warriors actress Rena Owen.

Discography (picks in bold)

  • ‘Reena’s Piss Flaps’ 7″ Single [1980 W/ Whizz Kids Ripper Rip004]
  • Feels So Good 7″ Ep [1980 Ripper]
  • Hate Me Hate Me Ep [1980 Ripper Rev2]
  • We Still Hate The Spelling Mistakes [Compilation 1998]
  • Epileptic Apocalypse 1979 – 1999 [Compilation 2002 Fast Food]

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The Spies

Psych-influenced Wellington-based psuedo punk outfit that proved to be the starting point for legendary Puddle front-man George Henderson (Guitar / Vocals), along with Chris Plummer (Drums), Susan Ellis (Keys / Vocals) and Richard Sedger (Bass). With many song-writers in their line-up, and with addition of Mark Thomas as a second guitarist, the Spies had a unique and eclectic sound, with songs veering in many different directions.

Unfortunately the band was short-lived, only lasting 8 months through 1979 and putting out a solitary 7″ release from a band set-list that was almost all original – though with left-field covers of Pere Ubu’s classic Non-Alignment Pact and Thomas Leers’ ‘Private Plane’. Soon the majority of the band, plus additional friends and like-minded muso’s reconvened in Christchurch to establish a secluded band house where both the And Band and the even more eclectic Perfect Strangers lived, wrote, practised, and performed.

Discography (picks in bold)

  • ‘Give Me A Reason’/’Daddy Was A Dj’ 7″ Single [1980 Ripper Rip010]

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Sonya Waters

Sonya first appeared with an EP under her own name way back in 1983 on Ripper records, but then disappeared before resurfacing in the 00s with former Superette‘r Ben Howe in Fang.

Discography (picks in bold)

  • No Pain 12″ EP [1983 Ripper Rpr006]

Awards Etc

Rianz Awards 1983


  • Most Promising Female Vocalist Of The Year Sonya Waters

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Whizz Kids

Westlake Boys High Boys Tim Mahon and Mark Bell were North-Shore punks back in 1978, initially as part of the ‘Avant-Punk-Theatre’ act the Plague.

[The Plague’s] major claim to fame came with their naked live performance (albeit covered in paint) at the 1979 Nambassa Rock Festival in front of 30,000 confused hippies
– Simon Grigg

Eventually the musically inclined trio in the Plague – namely Mahon, Bell and Ian Gilroy, ended up splitting to concentrate on the music side of things, and released a split single (with the Spelling Mistakes) as The Whizz Kids. Fairly soon Gilroy left to join the Swingers, so Don McGlashan was drafted in as their new drummer, with the band redubbed Blam Blam Blam.

Discography (picks in bold)

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Suburban Reptiles

Attention grabbing flash-in-the-pan first-wave Auckland punkers, based around James Salter (Aka Jimmy Joy – Saxophone), Claire Elliot (Zero – Vocals), William Prendergast (Billy Planet – Bass), Trish Scott (Sissy Spunk – Guitar), Brian Nichols (Shaun Anfrayd – Guitar) and original drummer Des Edwards (who turned up later in another short-lived punk band – Junk) soon to be replaced by Mark Houghs (aka Buster Stiggs) who had been playing in Neil Finns’ early outfit After Hours – before he left to join his brother in Split Enz.

Jimmy Joy (Brett Salter) and myself were going to form a jazz band, but, in late 1976, after having been shown a live review of the Sex Pistols in NME by film director David Blyth, decided that this punk thing had more going for it.
– Simon Grigg: taken from Griggs’ propeller archive website.

Under Simon Griggs management, the Reptiles dressed in stark and desheveled clothing, often in Nazi regalia, and attempted to draw attention to themselves making their live debut (borrowing Split Enz’s gear, no less).

Though far removed from the political uprising of their inspiration motherland of England, punk did make a major impact in New Zealand homes in 1977, and few bands were as attention-grabbing as the Reptiles. Billy Planet later switched instruments, replacing both original guitarists with Bones Hillman (who had made his name in the Avondale Spiders) bringing along his bass, and of course his unmistakeable punk-Hitler moustache with him.

They recorded 4 tracks at a 1977 session under Tim Finn (who according to Grigg fell asleep 10 minutes into the sessions) for phonogram, though only ‘Megaton’ and ‘Desert Patrol’ would turn up on their single with the other tracks (‘Razor Smile’ – which featured on the Angel Mine soundtrack, and the excellent ‘Coup D’Etat’) eventually compiled together onto the ‘AK79’ compilation in 1993.

Zero eventually went on to play Columbia in the stage version of the Rocky Horror Picture Show – joining the british king of glam, Gary Glitter. Reforming with Zero on vocals, Stiggs and Baldock on guitar with the Split Enz connection increasing to include Phil Judd on bass and Paul Crowther on drums they now took on a new wave approach – ousting Jimmy Joy. Pretty soon the band had disbanded, with Zero leaving for Sydney with boyfriend Joy.

Discography (picks in bold)

    ‘Saturday Night Stay At Home’ / ‘Desert Patrol’ 7″ Single [1977 Reissue Ripper]
    Suburban Reptiles 7″ Ep [2004 Reissue Raw Power]

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The Swingers

Phil Judds short-lived pub band turned superstar outfit. With Counting The Beat they became an overnight sensation, a stripped down successor to the punk bands that came before them (The Scavengers and Suburban Reptiles), The Swingers were Judd and ex-punks Bones Hillman and Busters Stiggs – a rough around the edges rock outfit with the most familiar guitar intro in New Zealand music (its now the soundtrack to a million K-Mart ads..) and a killer riff. They eventually went through rough times, with Ian Gilroy and Andrew Mclennan eventually drafted into the line-up. Their popularity soon waned, with Judd’s interest going into other projects.

Discography (picks in bold)

  • ‘One Good Reason’/’All Over Town’ 7″ Single [1980 Ripper Rpi002]
  • Practical Jokers [1981 Ripper Rpr004]
  • ‘Counting The Beat’/’One Good Reason’ 7″ Single [1981 Ripper Rpi012]
  • ‘It Ain’T What You Dance It’S The Way That You Dance It’/’Flak’ 7″ Single [1981 Ripper Rpi015]
  • ‘One Track Mind’/’Distortion’ 7″ Single [1981 Ripper Rpi019]
  • ‘Punch And Judy’/’In The Middle Of Nowhere’ 7″ Single [1982 Ripper Rpi022]
  • Starstruck [Soundtrack 1982 Mushroom]

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