Little Stevie McCabe (born Steven Carr) has been an underground force in New Zealand since 1983, playing an anarchic, often punky form of Rock’N’Roll through a variety of bands – most notably as a key member of venerable Christchurch Flying Nun Records / Sleek Bott act The Axemen, and even touring the United States with Christchurch institution Ritchie Venus.
McCabe was still a teenager at Cashmere High School when he got the music bug – after bearing witness to the And Band and Perfect Strangers legendary Christchurch Band Rotunda show, he put together duo The Gorillas with his high school chum Peter Rees and started churning out ‘wonky dubbed cassettes’ in Cashmere High’s music room. Things stepped up a notch when McCabe met prolific Dunedin-born song-writer Bob Brannigan:
Brannigan and McCabe met through a mutual friend and played gigs in Christchurch. They played together under many names including The Whining Plums, Hey We’re Wolves and The Twins in the early ’80s. At a Twins gig at the Empire Tavern in Dunedin in 1983, Kawowski joined the band when he jumped on stage to play the bongos.
Art School Photography graduate, photography guru, filmmaker, artist, promotional maverick and explosives expert Kawowski was playing drums with Above Ground, Bill Direen‘s band, at the time he met the other members of the Axemen and joined the band permanently.The Axemen (WikiPedia page)
In the early days of the Axemen the group would perform entirely new sets at every show; producing a vast catalogue of songs over the course of the first few years of the band; McCabe honed the approach by regularly busking around Cashel mall in central Christchurch, sometimes with his bandmates and sometimes solo.
However by late 1985, McCabe’s song-writing counter-part Bob Brannigan had left the group (at least temporarily) so McCabe began recording and releasing his own solo material under the ‘Little Stevie McCabe’ moniker.
McCabe was known for taking an unusual approach to producing and recording music – using heavily customized electric guitars or amplifying his performance in usual manners; such as on one occassion he dragged his mums old stereo console to a show. Some times he’d face negative reactions to his music – mostly due to it’s shambolic, oddball style, but McCabe always responded positively and with humor.
With home-made covers, often with some form of gimmick in the packaging (for example the group often packaged DIY cassette tapes in full sized LP sleeves) he released this never-ending stream of material on his own Sleek Bott label.
Stu and Bob moved to Auckland in about ‘87. I was playing in Christchurch from 1987 to 1990. Bob had formed the band Shaft. My wife and I got married in Las Vegas in 1990. We toured around America for our honeymoon.
When we came back to New Zealand we moved to Auckland in 1992. Bob, Stu and I were all in the same town again so we did those two records on Sleek Bott—Recliner Rocker and Dirty Den Sessions. After that we didn’t do anything together for a while.
Bob was busy with Shaft and I started a screen printing business with my wife. I started a band called CFCs in 1995. We played with Shaft for a little while. I released a solo CD called Generations (1998).Steve McCabe Interview with Ryan Leach of Spacecase Records
1998’s ‘Generation’ reached a bit of a stumbling block, with McCabe stating the majority of the album copies were still with Zero Records labelhead John Baker, stuck unreleased.
McCabe didn’t official release any further solo material during his lifetime, though he still produced and maintained a massive archive of recordings. During the later 2000’s the Axemen started performing sporadically, with the occasional internation tour and overseas labels showing interest in rereleasing their albums.
McCabe’s Sleek Bott website remains an unfinished document of just how productive and creative he was as a musician and music fan, with a massive 300 cassette archive of recordings (dubbed Sleek Bott – Read Mixed / Masters) supposedly in the process of being handed over to the Alexander Turnbull Library in Wellington, New Zealand.
Little Stevie McCabe (aka Stephen Carr) passed away in Mid-September 2023; he was 57.
- Stephen Carr (Axemen, Garam Masala, The Gorillas, songwriter / singer / guitarist / keyboardist / vocalist / percussionist / bassist / recording technician)
- Sweat it out (1986, Sleek Bott, LSM1)
- Country linesman (1987, Sleek Bott, LSM1)
- Omegabyte (1987, Sleek Bott, BOTT12)
- Germ 7″ EP (1987, Sleek Bott)
- It’s academic (1988, Sleek Bott)
- Yardbird (1988, Sleek Bott)
- Lindy Lou (1991, Sleek Bott)
- Houndstooth (1992, Sleek Bott)
- Rock’n’roll hound-dog (1992, Sleek Bott)
- Never-ending party (1992, Sleek Bott)
- Generations (1998, Sleek Bott / Zero Records)