Sheep Technique [01/07/2008]

My very last Sheep Technique (kiwi music show on student radio station RDU); with Paul, and with an aborted interview with Cindy (previously known as Sandra) from former Flying Nun single band 25c.

Bible Black – Hell of a Woman
The Renderers – Low to the Ground
The Clean – Point that Thing Somewhere Else
25c – The Witch
Front Lawn – A Man and a Woman
25c – Don’t deceive me
The Good Housewives – Concerto in D Minor
The Stones – See Red
Spacedust – Too Much Action
3Ds – Outer Space
Steffan Van Soest Hit-Machine – Woman By My Side (Mexican Man)
Ticket – Mr. Music
Shaft – The Downhill Racer
Scorched Earth Policy – Sunset on the Loading Zone
Scavengers – Mysterex
Toy Love – Bride of Frankenstein
Reduction Agents – Urban Yard
Blam Blam Blam – There is No Depression in New Zealand
Pop Art Toasters – What Am I Going to Do
Tomorrows Love – 7 and 7 Is
King Loser – 76 Comeback
Straitjacket Fits – Life in One Chord
Palace of Wisdom – Found and Lost
Wreck Small Speakers on Expensive Stereos – All of This
the Bats – Block of Wood
Snapper – Snapper and the Ocean
Bitch – Wildcat
Die! Die! Die! – Sideways Here We Come
The Androidss – Auckland Tonight
Lawrence Arabia – Half the Right Size

Toy Love

The new wave sequel to the seminal kiwi punk band the Enemy, Toy Love expanded the Enemy’s brutally primal sound to include organ, angular guitar, and even more literate vocals. By this stage of his musical development (1979 through 1980), lead-singer and song-writer Chris Knox was at his most populist peak, writing songs like ‘Pull Down The Shades’ and ‘Squeeze’, which became New Zealand pop classics. Toy Love was more than just Knox’s band though, they welded his charismatic and warped vocals to Alec Bathgates eclectic guitar playing, a young Paul Kean’s explosive bass playing, the poppy hooks of Jane Walker on keys, along with Mike Dooley holding up the fort on drums.

Toy Love were a band highly in demand, creating a stir on both sides of the ditch the band played continiously, holding up residencies were-ever they would land, but (due to the economics of the time) barely scraping by financially.

Everything would eventually came to a screaming halt when the band launched into recording their debut album. The sessions were a farce, with the band clashing with their engineer who just didn’t know how to handle such an eclectic and wild bunch of misfits. They were tired. The resulting album, though still containing quality material, wasn’t a patch on their earlier singles, each song sounded flat and warn-out and compounded the collapse of the group as a working unit. Knox and Bathgate would soon split to form the legendary Tall Dwarfs, whilst Paul Kean would become a part of the Bats.

The group made a triumphant return to the New Zealand album charts on Record Store Day, April 22nd 2012 with the release of the Double LP Live at the Gluepot, an extremely limited (400 copies worldwide!) live album sold exclusively at Real Groovy in Auckland.

Discography (picks in bold)

  • ‘Rebel’/’Squeeze’ 7″ Single [1979 Elektra Z10015]
  • ‘Don’T Ask Me’/’Sheep’ 7″ Single [1980 Deluxe Z10022]
  • Toy Love 7″ Ep [1980 Deluxe 20630]
  • ‘Bride Of Frankenstein’ / ‘Good Old Joe’ / ‘Amputee Song’ 7″ Single [1980 Deluxe Z10029]
  • Toy Love Lp/Cassette [1980 Deluxe Z20008]
  • Cuts Double Cd Anthology/Reissue [2005 Flying Nun Fncd473]
  • Live at the Gluepot Double LP [April 22nd 2012 Real Groovy]

See-Also

Tall Dwarfs

After Toy Love (the bastard son of The Enemy) disintegrated in 1980, Chris Knox and Alec Bathgate were so fed up with the ‘band’ approach to making music, that they formed The Tall Dwarfs as a performing collective absolutely opposed to the way they created music in the past.

Not that i’ve ever desperately wanted to have sex with Alec, ’cause he’s not really my type y’know, ’cause he doesn’t have breasts and a vagina. Apart from that, if i was to have sex with a fellow male musician it would probably be Alec
Chris Knox: Taken From Popwatch #10

Bringing in any number of contributors, the Tall Dwarfs forged a whole industry from home-recording. Knox had recently purchased a simple 4-track recorder, and it become the bases for the Tall Dwarfs recording regime (as well as the initial lo-fi steps of the just-formed Flying Nun label). Because of this freedom to recorded whatever and whenever they could, the Tall Dwarfs grew incredibly eclectic and bizarre, collecting fragments of found sounds, unusual toys, and whatever other ‘beautiful accidents’ they could muster, turning it into a beatles-influenced stew of pop (and not so pop) moments.

Over time, in the united states the Tall Dwarfs and knox’s solo material would become synonymous with the new zealand scene – as knox had become something of an iconoclastic figure with then-trendy lo-fi movement. Although Knox’s solo material started to take precedence over the Tall Dwarfs in the mid-90s (bathgate now lives in christchurch, knox in auckland), they continued to release album after album almost annually.

Discography (picks in bold)

See-Also

Alec Bathgate [November 2004]

Alec Bathgate isn’t a household name in new zealand. Though his most famous group (the tall dwarfs) and his subsequent partner-in-crime (Chris Knox) may have achieved a level of recognition slightly beyond the typical indie-rock crowd, bathgate remains one of new zealand’s best and lowest profile song-writers. I spoke with Alec on the eve of releasing just his 2nd solo lp, the Indifferent Velvet Void, due to be released in november 2004.

So it’s been a clear 8 years since [debut solo release] Gold Lame came out. Have you gotten sick and tired of people telling you to release another album yet?

Well, actually, not many people have been hanging out for another album! I occasionally have someone tell me how much they like gold lame, which is nice, but not many people seem to have discovered it.

What was the inspiration for the Indifferent Velvet Void?

Lyrically there seem to be some deep issues being thrown around.

There’s a few themes that run through the songs on the album (death, loss, self-doubt, confusion… All that good stuff). So, yeah, it’s a bit dark, but quite poppy as well, which hopefully offsets what the lyrics are saying.

Is your writing and recording methodology different from the way the tall dwarfs work? Has much changed from the early days of Chris’s 4-track?

Tall Dwarf songs are recorded pretty quickly as we don’t normally have long together. The songs tend to then evolve over a period of time (whenever we can get together to do further work on them). Generally we don’t know when we begin how they will end up. With the solo album i would completely write a song before recording it and would have a fairly clear idea of how i wanted the final track to sound. My album was recorded on computer which has sort of replaced the 4-track as the preferred recording medium for the home recordist (even though tape is still better). Having 24 tracks is pretty insane after years of struggling away with a 4 track, plus there’s lots of effects built into pro-tools that you couldn’t possibly afford to buy as outboard gear.

The album is coming out on Auckland label Lil’ Chief. How did you connect with them? Do you still feel part of the Flying Nun roster?

Chris Knox gave them a cd-r of the album late last year (after Flying Nun had turned it down). I really liked the records they had put out and their enthusiasm for what they were doing, so was really happy that they wanted to release it. I’m still signed to F.Nun for Tall Dwarf releases and they’re reissuing the Toy Love album (early next year i believe).

Scott Mannion from Lil’ Chief / the Tokey Tones appeared as a Tall Dwarf [along with Pumice’s Stefan Neville] for a recent Helen Young Studios session. Are there any plans to release the material?

I was impressed by the re-takes of ‘The Brain That Wouldn’t Die’ and ‘Nothings Going To Happen’. We were really happy with how the Helen Young session worked out, particularly as we only had a short time to learn the songs with the other people (we hadn’t played with any of them before and only had two days to practice). We’ll possibly do a short-run pressing of them sometime in the future to sell at gigs.
What’s your most proud moment on the album?, i guess your aware i’ve been thrashing ‘Should I Wake Up?’

Most people who hear the album seem to mention ‘Should I Wake Up?’ ‘Slow Fuzz’ and ‘Broken Cup’ are probably my favorite songs on the album.

Are you a picky song-writing?, do you think taking such a long-time between releases has worked well for your albums?

I never intended to do another solo album. It just requires soooo much work, so i guess it took 8 years to muster up the enthusiasm to go through it again (plus we did three tall dwarf albums in that time)…All the songs were written over the 18 months i was making the album, i didn’t have any songs hoarded away, and in the year since i finished it i haven’t written anything. I think it’s good to have a break from writing (and playing music) to keep it interesting and enjoyable.

Any plans on any live performances or videos for the album?

I did the wunderbar gig in lyttelton a few weeks back and also did two shows with pine in auckland last weekend. I’ve always been reluctant to play solo, but i’ve actually been enjoying it! I ‘d actually really like to play some more.Rnas for videos there’s a plan to do a video for ‘Slow Fuzz’, so hoping that works out.

The Bats [February 2006]

Over the last 20 years The Bats have garnished a label of dependability – and with good reason. Though now taking a little bit of time between releases (one might jump to the conclusion that ‘At The National Grid’ is more like a reunion album than simply their first in 11 years), The Bats continue to write, record and perform scores of catchy, poppy tunes – jangly, homely and folky tunes filled with images of Bob Scotts’ Central Otago past and propelled by one hell of a dynamic rhythm section.

One of the longest surviving Flying Nun groups still with their original line-up (the other would be the Tall Dwarfs), The Bats have continued to be a live fixture over the past decade, particularly in Christchurch; where the majority of the group now resides.

The story goes that when The Clean initially broke up in late 1982, Bob was flatting and jamming with Paul – who had been quite active with the great Toy Love, and various groups round Christchurch such as seminal pre-punk outfit The Detroit Hemroids and Jay Clarksons’ Playthings. Eventually Malcolm Grant (who had sat behind the kit for a later incarnation of Bill Direen’s The Vacuum and local popsters The World) was brought into the fold, with Kaye completing the line-up by 1983.

I met Bob at the clash concert in the Christchurch town hall in the early 80s, he had moved from Dunedin and was looking for a flat, and my flatmate was leaving so he introduced me to Bob. Then we both ended up moving in to longfellow street with Paul and Malcolm among others, they had drums and amps set up in the living room and that’s when we started playing as a band. I didn’t have many expectations of The Bats, i’m pretty sure I didn’t think ahead much at all in fact but i’ve always loved playing Bob’s songs and playing live in all kinds of places.
– Kaye Woodward

During the hey-days of Flying Nun The Bats could do no wrong, with catchy singles such as ‘Made Up In Blue’ and ‘Block Of Wood’ and the critically-lauded debut LP ‘Daddy’s Highway’ all being perennial underground favorites. However the group never really garnished any popularity – The Chills were a bit of a one-off in terms of stardom for New Zealand bands, and so groups such as The Bats settled for creating fine tunes – and often. In the decade to 1995 the group amassed a terrific body of work – some 5 albums and a handful of eps and singles. Of course the other side of the dice was their live show, an exhilarating experience full of catchy sing-a-long numbers, and some cracking instrumentation – Paul’s a bit of a hero of mine in terms of bass-playing (he’d perfected the chugga-chugga sound by 1985), and they’ve always exuded a homely friendliness that few bands seem to match.

In recent years the garden city trio of Kaye Woodward, Paul Keen and Malcolm Grant has built The Bats side-project Minisnap up from the ground, performing a whole new collection of catchy, wistful pop tunes – with Kaye leading the way as vocalist. Meanwhile Dunedinite Bob Scott took a few years to reunite with his buddies in the clean whilst formulating new tunes for the stellar new LP – and of course everyone in the group has the odd day job, too.

We had been talking about doing a new Bats album for 2 or 3 years before actually doing it. Everything takes ages now of course because of everyone’s jobs and children. Bob came up from Dunedin for the main session at the national grid (which is John Kelcher’s 8 track studio in Cashel Street) over Easter 2003, the view was across to all the mannequins in Ballantyne’s lingerie department but the people/mall action down below was quite entertaining.
– Kaye Woodward

Although the studio experience with John Kelcher was a friendly and natural one, with an opportunity to jam and flesh out ideas, Bob described a handful of the new tunes as ‘complex’ to write, which combined with an unfortunate incident only compelled the delay in the albums development:

After that session Paul got busy over the winter digitizing, loading and eq’ing the tracks at home; but in August our computer (and a whole lot of other stuff) got stolen. We had to go back and re-digitize the 8 track, but were too busy and couldn’t really get into it until after summer. We did a final over dub/mixing session at home with Bob in Oct 2004. More mixing, the artwork and mastering was done and labels pinned down over the next 6 months, then we did preparation building up to a New Zealand and U.S. Release in October 2005.
– Kaye Woodward

Eventually the album was released in late 2005, with critical acclaim spreading across from the States, along with reports of brilliant college radio support – after a matter of weeks CMJ (a chain of radio stations across the USA) had reported ‘At The National Grid’ as one of the top ‘adds’ across the country – rising up the charts in nearly all of cmj’s 200 stations. The group plan to bolster this support by playing the famed South By South-West festival in Austin Texas, then a quick tour around the main centers.

The plan is to go for 2 weeks and try and play to as many people as possible and give the album a boost. We are doing some in-stores too and they are great for getting through to people. The album seems to be going really well so doing these shows should help a lot. It will be interesting to see the mix of old and new fans. Emails have proved to be a great way of keeping in touch with and making contact with new fans.
– Bob Scott

With an impending european and UK release through Little Teddy and Egg Records, the group are looking forward to a successful 2006, though they’ve got a relaxed approach to touring these days after their previous overseas experiences:

We could have perpetuated our career overseas by touring a lot more and our labels would have liked that but I hated the tour bus style touring we did in Europe and the US In 93. Up till then we had always driven in vans or flown and stayed in hotels or with friends. We did some dates with Radiohead on that 93 tour, they were a big successful band but even they were traveling round in tour buses so I thought that if success meant spending months every year in a tour bus I didn’t really fancy it.
– Kaye Woodward

Christchurch in the 80s [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 RnB 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 postpunk 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 – eventually became a family restaurant and is as of this writing a backpackers pub] 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 recognised 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 1980s.

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

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

Chris Knox and the Nothing

After the abstract computer-orientated Friend project, Chris Knox (guitar and vocals) got back to business as a live performer by forming the Nothing with the very talented Stefan Neville (Pumice) on drums, and Jol Mulholland (Gasoline Cowboy on guitar. The trio record their self-titled debut in a real studio – the first time Knox had done so since his days in Toy Love.

Discography (picks in bold)

  • Chris Knox and the Nothing [2005 a major label]

See-Also