The Palace Of Wisdom

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), Johnson (Guitar), Andrews (Bass) And Kelly (Drums) Before Stink Magnetic‘s Bad Evil 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 Aiden Moody (Bad Evil, Grand Chancellors) 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.

Of the course of the last 13 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’.

Discography (picks in bold)

  • 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]

See-Also

Vacuum Blue Ladder

The Vacuum Blue Ladder formed when Bill Direen joined Stephen Cogle (Bass / Vocals) and Peter Stapleton (Drums / Lyrics), who were also making music as the duo Victor Dimisich Band – a group that would later release an EP on Flying Nun, and can be seen as the starting point for the more recognized Terminals, plus Stapleton and Cogle’s many variations. However – the Vacuum were quite different from these future groups, as Direen was an important creative force in the group who added his own color to their sound and songwriting.

The members took advantage of their connections to the album importing business, encompassing inspiration from the most obscure (in New Zealand’s mid 70s environment) corners with the likes of the Velvet Underground and West Coast U.S. psychedalic artists the 13th Floor Elevators (along with the staple Nuggets bands)… the very best in gritty, noisy and creative garage rock.

Like before we were in Vacuum we had a backyard band sort of thing. We used to play in this room down the back of my parents’ house. A woman called Theresa played guitar with us and we wrote songs. The ones we did with the Vacuum, most of the songs were written by Bill, which was a source of conflict eventually, and so we took our songs and did them with the Victor Dimisich Band
Peter Stapleton

Guitarist / Vocalist Theresa Mcquire joined and left in 1976, making way for Direen to front the band, and soon Peter Fryer had joined on violin. The combination of Direen and guitarist Allen Meek created a rift in the band, with Cogle and Stapleton restricted to the side-lines.

…They got pretty close. Peter and I would come along (to practise), and Bill and Allen would’ve spent a long time working things out. In the end, it sort of goes, that I got fired, by Bill. ‘Cause I didn’t mix with him. I remember.. Peter meeting me over the christmas period, we sort of had a christmas break, and he said oh, Bill wants me to tell you that you’re out (laughs). And I said oh, that’s fine, it suited me. And I was replaced by Segovia
Stephen Cogle: taken from Have You Checked The Children?

Jon ‘Segovia’ Markie (soon to make his name with the Axemen and later Shaft) joined Direen, Meek and drummer Malcolm Grant (the Bats) on bass to complete the final line-up of the Vacuum in 1979. The band eventually dissolved in the very early 1980s, but resurfaced with the short-lived Kaza Portico – Segovia in the mostly-covers outfit the Volkswagons, and later in Ritchie Venus‘s Blue Beetles.

Direen eventually took the shortened Vacuum as the name for his theater group, and continues to write, act and perform to this day.

Discography (picks in bold)

See-Also