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The 3Ds


One of the few kiwi bands that have actually retained a consistent line-up; from their formation in Dunedin in 1988 to they gradually dissolved almost a decade later. The 3Ds were formed by ex-Look Blue Go Purple bassist Denise Roughan and 2 ex-Aucklanders who had recently moved to Dunedin – Bird Nest Roys drummer Dominic Stones and Battling Strings guitarist / vocalist David Saunders, with a 3rd ex-Aucklander – Goblin Mix guitarist / vocalist David Mitchell joining not long after after.

With the members of the group having plenty of experience in other well known kiwi bands, they immediately set out creating a large catalogue of fun and hugely varied songs from the motorcycle workshop turned practice space Cycle Salvage in Green Island.

The 3Ds songs deviate from manic guitar distortion and yelped vocals (which have been compared to The Pixies), to carefree sing-song mellow numbers; and Roughan has described the contrasting styles of the groups two key song-writers:

“The two Daves (who were really the song-writers in the band) have quite different styles which meant they kinda learnt to complement each other. Dave Mitchell – he’s quite folky actually, and even has a sort of a Middle-Eastern kind of flair to his style. Where as Dave Saunders is… his style is a lot more kind of born modern really. He’s a bit younger than us as well, very influenced by bands like Sonic Youth, so I think his style reflects that kind of noisy side of the spectrum a little bit more.”

Denise Roughan on Musical Chairs (Radio New Zealand)

Debut Hellzapoppin bought the band a great deal of exposure that was rewarded with successive support slots for many touring major-label bands, including Nirvana (just as they were reaching their peak), the Buzzcocks and Pavement – which was a big deal for a minor-label artist in the early 90s.

The groups’ most notorious moment came when they supported U2 (a group Roughan admits the band were not actually fans of) during their massive ZooTV tour show at Western Springs, Auckland. During the headliners set The 3Ds brazenly drank U2’s rider, but instead of getting in trouble, Bono rewarded their courage by giving the group a bottle of Champagne.

All three 3Ds albums (along with with their 2 EPs and various singles) have been student radio favourites over the years. Singles such as ‘Outer Space‘ from the stunning debut Hellzapoppin were released with ingenious no-budget videos, created by the band themselves – Mitchell is a noted graphic artist, and is responsible for the bands brilliant record sleeves and poster designs, as well as being a creative force behind their videos.

The band really hit their stride though with the sophomoric album The Venus Trail. The album extended the debuts’ vivid audio palette to the absolute extremes. Opening track ‘Hey Suess‘ gets the ball rolling with flourishes of guitar-buzz and manic screamed vocals, while still effortlessly retaining The 3Ds pop-dynamic, I know of no other band that can sound so abrasive yet still carry so much pop appeal as The 3Ds can. The album is quite aptly summed up by the mid-album one-two punch of the whimsical ‘Beautiful Things‘ followed by the turbulent ‘Man On The Verge Of A Nervous Breakdown‘.

Third album Strange News From The Angels saw the band fleshing out their sound to a more matured, nurtured sound – though the chaotic vibe of their earlier recordings is still present (like in opener ‘Dust‘ or mid-album number ‘The Fiery Angel‘). Sadly this was to be the end of The 3Ds, though Roughan and Mitchell continued working together as members of the London-based trio Ghost Club with ex-pat bassist / drummer Jim Abbott.




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