Christchurch in the 80’s [By David Swift]

The Christchurch scene of 1980-82 is pretty legendary, and rightly so. This was most fertile period of rock’n’roll in the city since the beat-boom days of Chants R’n’B circa 1966.

There were some very good Christchurch punk bands (notably the Vauxhalls) in 1978/79 and a picky audience of 200 or so original-school three-chords hipsters, but it was only as the punk phenomenon flowered into post-punk that the number and quality of bands blossomed.

Think of it as the difference between The Enemy and Toy Love. It was cooler to say you had seen The Enemy in a small crowd, but Toy Love were a better band packing out 800-capacity bars.

Christchurch was second to Auckland in 1980 for the passion of its punk/new wave crowds. Toy Love, The Swingers, The Features would travel down and regularly pull 500-800 people at the DB Gladstone or the Hillsborough Tavern. Occasionally the Aranui Tavern on Brighton road [edit: Pages Road, on the way to Brighton] would also host these kind of bands.

The primo local groups in 1980-1982 were the Pin Group (because leader Roy Montgomery – now a Lo-Fi legend in the USA – was an essential cog in the city’s cool – he was manager of the EMI shop on Colombo St that was totally given over to NME-approved sounds….the company wasn’t that keen, but it was just about the most profitable EMI shop in NZ as a result), The Gordons, The Newtones, The Androidss, Scorched Earth Policy, Victor Dimisich Band, The Playthings, Kaza Portico / The Builders (Bill Direen‘s bands), The Volkswagens, 25c, Yeah, Mainly Spaniards were a bit popular too. I may have missed a few out….(at the same time there were kids in punk covers bands, pub rock bands, etc). But the above names were the central musical identities in a community fired by the Velvets/Stooges/Jonathan Richman/1960s USA Garage Punk/Pere Ubu/Wire – yet compelled to make their own music.

Roger began Flying Nun in early 1981 (I was the first journalist to write about the label, in The Press) because it seemed to him that if no one recorded these groups they would be lost to history.

At the same time, bands from Dunedin began forays to Christchurch where they knew that their original music would go down well with a knowing crowd that held no truck with punk covers bands. The Clean‘s first big gigs were at the Gladstone and their reputation sprang from there by word of mouth. Roger was so blown away by them he instantly marked them down for a 45 – Tally Ho.
The Verlaines, The Stones, The Chills and Sneaky Feelings also ploughed that furrow. At the time no one in Christchurch was in thrall to any ‘Dunedin scene’; in fact there wasn’t one as such. As far as we knew, there was just a few really good bands down there who had been blown away by The Enemy / Toy Love and wanted to make their own contribution. And to have it recognized in Christchurch as there wasn’t enough support for their originality down there.

Some ChCh bands quickly carved out a reputation in Auckland too. The Gordons are probably the best example. I saw their first ever gig at the Hillsborough Tavern in early 1980 (supporting Toy Love, or was it the Swingers, can’t recall exactly) and they had only been together a week and only had five songs but played them twice to rapturous acclaim from 600 people.

The Gordons did it different – offering a discordant wall-of-noise with some melodies years before Sonic Youth. Years later, in fact, SY professed huge admiration for the three, two of whom I went to school with at Ashburton College. I remember the Gordons doing three sell-out nights at the Gladstone in 1983 and just being excited at the sheer size of the Marshall stacks they had shoehorned onto and around the stage in that tiny pub. It was incredible the passions that a local band playing original music inspired – one of the great legacies of punk.

At the other end of the scale, Bill Direen was a huge talent, playing the rawest nuggets flavours in his bands The Vacuum / Kaza Portico / The Bilders yet he never made any commercial headway. The Bilders’ ‘Schwimmin In Der See’ EP (Flying Nun 1982) remains one of the label’s very best discs and the retrospective ‘Max Quitz Vol 1’ (1994 Flying Nun CD) is pretty essential to understand all that was good about garden city garage rock in the early 1980’s.

In January 1986 i made my first trip back home after 18 months in the UK and was delighted to see that Sneaky Feelings were to play the Gladstone on a saturday night while i was home. But unlike four years earlier, the pub wasn’t full and i only knew three people in there. Sneakies were still great, but that was the end of the era for me.

The Clean

Biography

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 Hooke featured in several configurations).

Gutteridge was a major force in the band until artistic differences saw him leave (later forming Snapper), to eventually be permanently replaced by Rob Scott in 1980. They were at their prime when touring in the early 80’s, 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.

Members

  • David Kilgour (Guitar/Vocals, 1978 -)
  • Hamish Kilgour (Drums/Vocals, 1978 – )
  • Peter Gutteridge (Bass/Vocals, 1978 – 1979)
  • Doug Hood (Vocals, 1978)
  • Lindsay Hooke (Drums, 1979)
  • Debbie Shadbolt (Bass, 1979)
  • Jessica Walker (Bass, 1979)
  • Rob Scott (Bass/Vocals, 1980 -)

Discography

  • ‘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]
  • Late Last Night 7″ Single [1994, Dark Beloved Cloud, DBC020]
  • ‘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]
  • Slush Fund Mini-Album [2001, Arc Life]
  • Anthology Double-Cd [2002 Flying Nun Fn468]
  • Cracks In The Sidewalk Ep [2002 Arc Life Arclife015]
  • Syd’s Pink Wiring System [2003 Cleano Cleano0001]
  • Mashed Compilation [2008, Arc Life, AHR033]
  • Mister Pop [2009, Arch Hill/MORR Music/Merge, AHR042/MM095/MRG325]

Links

 

Darcy Clay – Songs for Beethoven

1998, Antenna Recordings, ANT012

Originally published as a retrospective feature review for Stylus Magazine

There’s a distinct possibility that you may never see this album in even your most reliable of indie music stores. Darcy Clay was an unusual talent, a young guy with a cog loose upstairs who reveled in being challenging and ad hoc.

In late 1997 Darcy sent a four-track recording of his latest track entitled ‘Jesus I was evil’ to the Bfm college radio station in Auckland, New Zealand to ask what they thought of the track. The quirky little number which sounded somewhere between ween and the tall dwarfs was immediately play listed and became an underground phenomenon. Bfm used their promotional power to release the track as an EP, still in its crude 4-track recorded form, and within 2 weeks of release the track hit number 5 on the New Zealand charts.

This success had never been achieved by an independently recorded release since The Clean‘s ‘Tally Ho!’ back in 1981. All of a sudden Darcy was a celebrity, he appeared on New Zealand’s (then local) MTV station in his signature Evil Kinevil outfit and formed a high profile backing band for the live shows that he now was being asked to perform.

Darcy Clay (born Daniel Bolton) only managed to complete 5 of those gigs, which were usually beautifully chaotic messes, before taking his own life in March 1998. Darcy was only 20 years old and left scores of people asking why.

The recording here makes up half of Darcy’s tragically short career-output, a live recording of his last gig, which happened to be opening for Blur during their New Zealand tour. The crowd is enormous, Darcy’s only been on stage a handful of times before, and absolutely everyone in the audience go crazy when he breaks into the opening bars of ‘English Rose’ in a haphazard casio-toned keyboard style (and comical finishes by proclaiming ‘Bold move’). No other truly creative and independent musician has ever met with this complete an approval from a mainstream audience.

Moving into a full-band configuration, the band plays Darcy’s unusual mix of country-fried guitar-punk with vigor and chaotic glee, including the obligatory cover of Dolly Parton’s classic ‘Jolene’ late in the set. Rounding off the night Darcy announces they have one last song, his one true hit, ‘Jesus I was evil’. it’s a loose and heavy track, awash in guitar-feedback and sing-shout vocals proclaiming the evils of his former past. The track makes a slick reference to Joe Walsh – ‘I used to crash parties and Maserati’s, and I was evil’ and has a demented shine that is indescribable.

And so his performance ends. later, Blur came on stage and proclaimed that he was the most enjoyable opening act they had ever seen. Darcy touched people. he showed that you didn’t have to be a brilliant and slick musician to be successful, he did it merely on the fun and drive of his music and mere weeks after his death was voted the ‘most promising’ of New Zealand musicians, in a sad posthumous conclusion.

I recommend anyone who has the opportunity to purchase this recording, or his studio EP for ‘Jesus I was evil’, to pick them up immediately, so you may be able to understand what people saw in Darcy, and why those of us who cherished his music miss him so much.

David Kilgour

This week I got to interview one of my idols – New Zealand Music legend David Kilgour; who’s song-writing, singing and guitar-work has been a cornerstone of the New Zealand sound since the Clean first surfaced in 1979.
Tell me about your new album ‘The Far Now’. Rather than producing the album in the States (like 2004’s ‘Frozen Orange’ Nashville), this latest album is a purely back-home release?
In a lot of ways the recording of Frozen Orange in nashville came about by serendipity and coincidence. The Far Now approach was to record when we had a song or two or three, keep them fresh and then wait till the next batch turned up and so on and so forth.The Far Now was released in the USA on Merge and in Australia on Remote Control.

The Album was produced with the Heavy Eights, Solo, and with the help of Alan Starrett what did Alan bring to the project?
Once we had the basic tracks recorded Alan came up to my house and recorded for a day. I think all his contributions were pretty much recorded in one hit. I tend to let Alan do whatever he wants on whatever instruments he feels suits the track. Alan is very good at first takes being his best takes.

Are you a collaborative song-writer?
Well I co wrote a lot of songs with the Clean etc. And more and more the Heavy 8s are contributing to the songs. Especially Alan and Tony

David Kilgour – A Feather in the Engine

2001, Arc Life, ARCLIFE016

The Clean seems to be drifting more towards lead guitarist David Kilgour’s now-prominent laid back sound. 2001’s reunion album ‘getaway’ was a refreshing slice of acoustic pop washed in feedback, all three members lazy vocals, mixed together with bass player Robert Scott’s jangle tendencies, and drummer Hamish Kilgour’s noise-rock leanings.

David’s first solo album since that promising reunion is as refreshing as ‘Getaway’, and seems to come together more as an album. Kilgour shows the same sense of melody he’s renowned for and even though the album doesn’t ‘rock’ as such from start to finish, he shows he can create a little heat with the more upbeat ‘today is going to be mine’.

Kilgour’s appears to be pushing his song-writing abilities, as the album is quite introspective, with David’s vocals quite up front in the mix. They are often backed only by his familiar echo-enhanced acoustic guitar. It works to a certain extent, as the album is definitely a very pleasant listen, but as with the cleans last full-length, it feels like something is missing.

We’ve seen Robert Scott flirt with more electronic and soundscape grooves on 1999’s ‘The creeping unknown’, and now Kilgour seems to be following the same path, mixing in an array of more classical instrumentation (check the ‘Instra 2’ tracks – particularly the reprise). The album comes out as more of a complete album than the clean’s previous reunion album (the pop-centered ‘unknown country’) which divided a lot their fan base – but the question still stands on whether Kilgour has succeeded in his intentions.

It’s great to see a man with such a fine ear for melody and groove as Kilgour mixing in elements of piano, cello, keyboards and violin to his guitar pieces though, and i for one appreciate his attempt to diversify his music. I’d like to see Kilgour follow through on the sound he’s slowly making his own, his solo material is sadly oft ignored – and yet contains some of the most gentle yet dramatic instrumentation and infectious lyrics of the current lo-fi scene.

The Enemy

Biography

Young Dunedin guitarist Alec Bathgate and drummer Mike Dooley lined up Invercargill-born record store employee Chris Knox as a bassist in mid 1977, unaware he couldn’t actually play. Eventually the group would secure a gig at the Old Beneficiaries Hall, so Mick Dawson was brought in – allowing Knox to assume his rightful vestige as the new groups vocalist.

Knox was a long-haired, bearded counter-culture type – but more in the hippy frame than the burgeoning punk style of the time. The group would encourage crowd involvement and invite their mates around for regular practices, hashing out a vast selection of original songs in public.

In a breezy 18 month life-span the group would play a ridiculous amount of shows, firmly establish themselves as New Zealand’s very best original punk group, inspire the formation of groups such as The Clean, The Chills and Bored Games – and mutate into something completely different before they even unleashed a studio recording on the world (though a handful of studio cuts have made it on to compilations over the years).

The Enemy’s legend was based on Knox’s confrontational stage antics (stealing Iggy Pop’s tricks like rolling in broken glass, cutting himself etc), unconventional appearance and dress and free-flowing lyrics – though the band were no slouches either!

It the tail end of the seventies The Enemy played at our school dance. Chris Knox was the evilest person I’d seen. From the start I was dreading the moment he might come off the stage, and, like, tap me on the shoulder or something.

I thought I was punk but inside I was cowering. Thank god they only lasted two songs before school principal Dave Rathbone ran onto the stage and kicked them off.

– Shayne Carter [Taken from Mysterex: Kiwi Punk and Beyond #3]

The Enemy were HUGELY influential – venturing North to Christchurch just a couple months after forming, and eventually rolling on to Auckland to dominate their local punk scenes, everything would eventually come to a close when Mick Dawson decided to head home to Dunedin.

The trio of Bathgate, Dooley and Knox would go through a couple line-up changes, and head in a New Wave direction, reconvening as Toy Love.

Note: AudioCulture has an EXCELLENT history of the group on their artist profile.

Members

  • Chris Knox (Vocals, 1977 – 1978)
  • Alec Bathgate (Guitar, 1977 – 1978)
  • Mike Dooley (Drums, 1977 – 1978)
  • Mick Dawson (Bass, 1977 – 1978)
  • Phil Judd (Guitar, 1978)

Discography

  • The Enemy At The Beneficiaries (2001 Archival Live Recording, Restrainer Records)

Links

 

Martin Phillips

Although Martin Phillips can essentially be regarded as the heart and soul of his two-decade old troop the Chills (and the only surviving member of some 20+ line-up changes), Phillips has released material in a solo capacity which he clarified as being a seperate entity from his long-standing band.

2000’s ‘Sketchbook Vol. 1’ was a finely compiled and represented anthology of some of Phillips lost material – as over the years he has taken it upon himself to record several hundred hours of song-fragments that failed to make it to release.

Phillips originally debuted back in the late 70s with the unrecorded The Same – a punky troup who shared the same characteristics of the early Clean, though a little greener-still behind the ears. The Same were born into the same scene that spawned Shayne Carters’ high school gang Bored Games, and were inspired to action by witnessing small-town heros the Clean and (primarily) the Enemy in their formulative stages.
Discography (picks in bold)

  • Sunburnt [1996 As Martin Phillips And The Chills Flying Nun Fn303]

  • ‘Come Home’/’How Much This Place Has Changed’/’Lies, Lies, Lies’/’The Streets Of Forgotten Cool’ Cd Single [1996 As Martin Phillips And The Chills Flying Nun Fn340]

  • ‘Come Home’/’The Streets Of Forgotten Cool’ 7″ Single [1996 As Martin Phillips And The Chills Flying Nun Fn340]

  • ‘Surrounded’/’Friends Again’/’Stupid Way To Go’/’Yabba Dabba Doo’ Cd Single [1996 As Martin Phillips And The Chills Flying Nun Fn365]

  • ‘Surrounded’/’Yabba Dabba Doo’ 7″ Single [1996 As Martin Phillips And The Chills Flying Nun Fn365]

  • Sketch Book Vol. 1 [2000 Flying Nun Fn415]

See-Also

Great Unwashed

the kilgour brothers formed the great unwashed during one of the clean‘s many 80s break ups, and decided a different focus was necessary. they ended up performing in a more acoustic approach, with warped little psych-influenced numbers of increasing strangeness.rnafter an ep the band added original clean bass player peter gutteridge and ross humphries (ex-pin group) for a large scale tour of new zealand and another ep. the ep was released in 3 seperate prints, one version being a double 7″ incased in a shower-curtain, that had been painted in a jackson pollock type manner (watch out for this rather rare version, my own copy has suffered badly from the plastic and has an inordinate amount of surface noise).rnpretty soon they had again split, only to reform once more as the clean towards the end of the 80s. a lot of the material from this period was collected on the clean’s oddities 2 compilation, though the great unwashed collection is an essential (and of far greater fidelity) release.
discography
picks in bold

David Kilgour

as a strong song-writer behind the seminal flying nun 3-piece the clean, david kilgour developed his own style of country tinged psychedilic rock-guitar playing, earnest vocals and a distinct kiwi sound that he made all his own. kilgour (and his backing band the heavy eights) have a more relaxed sound than the signature sound of early clean (closer to the post-clean great unwashed sound), trading scott’s chugging bass and the punky approach of the clean’s early recordings for a melodic approach.
in the late 90s, with the cleans’ drummer hamish kilgour now living stateside, the heavy eights became david kilgours main output, and each new recording further fleshed out kilgours voice as a solo song-writer. in particular, 2002’s excellent a feather in the engine (and the subsequent cracks in the sidewalk ep) hold their own, or even surpass each of the cleans’ later-era albums.
in 2001 kilgour received the new zealand order of merit for his ‘services to music’, having been a force in music since the late 1970s. in 2004 kilgour signed to ben howe’s arch hill label for the domestic release of his next album, forzen orange – to be released in september.
discography
picks in bold

  • david [1989 cleano productions / alley oop fanzine AILEYOOP1]
  • ‘you forget’/’splash yr jewels’/’nothing (vol. 1)’ cassette and promotional 7″ single [1991 flying nun FN219]
  • here come the cars [1991 flying nun FN220 / FN487]
  • sugarmouth [1994 flying nun FN282 / FN488]
  • spiritual gas station 7″ / cd ep [1994 flying nun FN308]
  • first steps and false alarms [1995 ajax AJAX040-2] rn
  • david kilgour and the heavey eights [1997 flying nun FN397]
  • ‘the bootlegger’/’dirty hallway’/’down mekico’ 7″ lathe-cut single [self-released]
  • ‘way down’/’vernon’/’walking’ 7″ lathe-cut single [self-released]
  • ‘my sky’/’instrumental 1 + 2’ 7″ lathe-cut single [self-released]
  • ‘i lost my train’/’instrumental 2’ 7″ lathe-cut single [self-released]
  • ‘i caught you lookin’/’way down here’ 7″ lathe-cut single [self-released]
  • a feather in the engine [2002 arc life arclife016]
  • cracks in the sidewalk ep [2002 arc life arclife017]
  • frozen orange [2004 arch hill]
  • here come the cars reissue [2004 flying nun FN487]
  • sugarmouth reissue [2004 flying nun FN488]
  • the far now [2007 arch hill]

The Mad Scene

Biography

When Hamish Kilgour moved to New York in the early 90’s he immediately joined Bailter Space, but Mad Scene were to become his new band.

Enlisting his partner Lisa Seagul, along with Bill Grestel and Robert Vickers – Mad Scene had more of a pop focus than any of Kilgour’s previous outfits, and unfortunately were never as strong as either The Clean or even early Bailter Space.

Members

  • Hamish Kilgour (Vocals/Guitar)
  • Lisa Seagul (Drums)
  • Bill Grestel
  • Robert Vickers

Discography

  • A Trip Thru Monsterland (1993, Flying Nun Records, FNCD191)
  • Sealight (1995, Summershine, SHINECD016)
  • Chinese Honey EP (1996)

Links