Chameleon

Biography

Melodic pop four-piece Chameleon was formed by Jazz School students Leigh Franklin and Julian Marchant late in 1993. Drummer Bevan Davison and keyboardist turned bassist Mike completed the lineup. This was soon to change with Greig Bainbridge coming on board on bass (ex Bill Direen and the Builders) and Mark Kouvelis on drums, both of whom played in local jazz-funk band Eat My Shorts.

Their first gig was at the Dux de Lux alongside Atomic Blossom and Squirm following the release of their single Blue Soup, under Failsafe.

Early in 1995 the band won the NZ heats of the Next Big Thing competition along with Auckland Band Word, which led them to compete in Melbourne against International competition. This cemented their desire to return to Melbourne as soon as possible to take advantage of the thriving music scene there.

While there guitarist Julian contracted a mysterious illness which left the left side of his body numb and having to learn to play without feeling in his fingers. Chameleon then released a 5 track EP titled Gladwrap under Saint Records early 1996, which followed a Nationwide tour.

They moved to Melbourne March 1996 minus bass-player Greig, who had musical commitments in NZ. They then recorded 4 track EP Hot’n’tot, named after Greig’s dog Hotty.

Failsafe Records

Members

  • Julian Marchant (Guitar/Vocals, 1993 – 1997?)
  • Leigh Franklin (Guitar/Vocals, 1993 – 1997?)
  • Bevan Davison (Drums, 1993)
  • Mike (Keyboards/Bass, 1993)
  • Greig Bainbridge (Bass, 1993 – 1996)
  • Mark Kouvalis (Drums, 1993 -1997?)

Discography

  • Gladwrap EP (1996, Saint Records)

Links

 

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.

Bill Direen

Biography

One of the longest running mythic underground figures of New Zealand rock who has worked (and commanded) such significant figures in the New Zealand music scene as Chris Knox, Peter Stapleton, Maryrose Crook, Dave Mitchell, Malcolm Grant – the list goes on.

William Direen reviews poetry for the nz listener and is both taller and skinnier than me. I should hate him, but damn it, I can’t bring myself to become even … bitter… about his facility with words and notes and the way he can approximate all those dippy guitar chords that i don’t even know the names of. No, really, i can’t even loathe his fucking theatricality ‘cos the shit’s so damn good at it, and it’s beckett rather than coward and who can complain about that!”. For over 20 years Direen has remained in the shadows and developed a hugely significant body of work spanning any number of genre’s and style distinctions.

Chris Knox

Direen formed something of a legend in late 70s christchurch when he joined the existing duo of Peter Stapleton and Stephen Coogle (who had been performing as the Victor Dimisich Band up until then) to form the Vacuum Blue Ladder – a band that went sadly undocumented (though some of the recordings from the era, including the startling ‘love in the retail trade’ are included on the Direen accreditted Split Seconds).

Disciplined anarchy. Ee were trying to build a better world through making good songs

– Bill Direen

Direens’ discography as a whole is a bit hard to track, with releases under the name Six Impossible Things, Solomans Ball, soluble fish, Feast of Frogs and Above Ground and variations on the Bilders name (i.e. Bildirene, Die Bilder etc) essentially relating to Direen in either a solo or group capacity, often linked into his theatrical performances.

Since Flying Nun issued 4 separate anthologies of his work in the mid 90s (which comprise pretty much the entire Direen discography, with only the fourth volume, pyx being somewhat disappointing) Direen has been relatively quite on the music front. since becoming entrenched in theater through-out the 1980s, Direen then spent many years in the 90s and in to the new millenium as a full-time writer based in Europe.

2006 and 2007 saw new releases, and a return to New Zealand shores for Direen – settling in Dunedin. These new albums are The New York Sack (2006), recordings made with Hamish Kilgour, Allen Meek (original Bilders keyboardist) and others, and Yes Today No Tomorrow (2007), brand new recordings made on the road in USA and Europe 1995 – 2006. (Also with guests kiwi Graeme Galyer & USA musicians). A new novel, Song of the Brakeman, is a science fiction guerrilla story set after the ecological implosion of the world.

Members

  • Bill Direen (Guitar/Vocals, 1980 -)
  • Campbell McLay (Bass, 1982)
  • Malcolm Grant (Drums, 1982 – 1985)
  • Chris Knox (Vocals , 1982)
  • Mike Dooley (Drums, 1982)
  • Greg Bainbridge (Bass/Vocals/Percussion, 1985 – 1989)
  • Eddie Ohlson (Drums, 1985)
  • John McDermott (Drums, 1985 – 1989)
  • Stuart Page (Drums, 1985)
  • Tony Green (Drums, 1985)
  • Allen Meek (Guitar, 1985)
  • Karl Holdorf (Trombone/Vocals, 1985)
  • Chris Todd (Trumpet, 1985)
  • Jay Clarkson (Vocals, 1985)
  • John Christoffels (Bass, 1985)
  • Greg Bates (Drums, 1985)
  • Paul Logan (Guitar, 1985)
  • Paul Girl (Guitar, 1985)
  • Carol Direen (Vocals, 1985)
  • Maryrose Wilkinson (Vocals, 1985)
  • David Edmundson (Saxophone, 1989)
  • Tania Pekelharina (Vocals, 1989)
  • Rob Thorne (Guitar, 1994)
  • Steve Wolf (Saxophone, 1994)
  • Alastair Galbraith (Violin, 1994)
  • Victoria Singh (Vocals, 1994)
  • Stephen Kilroy (Piano, 1994)
  • Derek Champion (Drums, 1994)
  • Brett Cross (Bass, 2008 – 2010)
  • Andrew Maitai (Drums, 2008)
  • Andrew McCully (Keyboards, 2008)
  • Nikola Kapetanovic (Guitar/Loops, 2009 – 2010)
  • Richard Anderton (Percussion/Vocals, 2010)
  • Stu Porter (Drums, 2010)

Discography

  • Solomon’s Ball 7″ EP (1981, Self-Released)
  • High Thirties Piano 7″ EP (1982, Self-Released)
  • Schwimmin In Der See 7″ EP (1982 As Die Bilder, Flying Nun Records, FN006)
  • Beatin Hearts (1983, Flying Nun Records, JAN8)
  • Let’s Play (1985, South Indies, SINZ 11)
  • C0NCH3 (1985, South Indies, PRA2301)
  • Ginger Jar 7″ Single (1986, South Indies, SNGL001)
  • Cup 12″ Mini Album (1987, South Indies, SOIN5377)
  • Divina Comedia (1988 Compilation, South Indies, SOIN 477)
  • We Are The Coolest Cats in the World (1989, South Indies, SOIN BILT 5)
  • Alien 7″ Single (1991, Hecuba Records, HEX03)
  • Volume 1: Max Quitz (1993 Compilation, Flying Nun Records, FN274)
  • Cut (1994, IMD, IMDCD 10030)
  • Volume 2: Beatin Hearts (1993 Compilation, Flying Nun Records, FN275)
  • Volume 4: Pyx (1995 Compilation, Flying Nun Records, FN277)
  • Untitled 7″ Lathe (2012, OneC Records, onec023)
  • The Utopians 7″ (2014, Smartguy Records, smart035)
  • Bilders Tour Europe (Live Tapes) (2017, Self-Released)

Links

 

Minus Two

As the name implies, the Terminals Stephen Cogle (Vocals / Acoustic Guitar), Mick Elborado (Organ) and John Christoffels (Bass) formed Minus Two as a side-project excluding Peter Stapleton and Brian Crook. Apparently most of the songs on their self-recorded and exceedingly rare CD-r Beat Goes Off are Stapleton songs from the vaults (even dating back to pre-Direen Vacuum) that Crook wasn’t keen on playing (apparently their ‘too poppy’), so this abridged combo convened in the late 1990s and released this document, with Crawlspace providing some distribution.

Discography (picks in bold)

  • The Beat Goes Off Cd-R []

See-Also

Roy Montgomery

Though appearing in teenage combo the Psychedeliks as early as 1971, Roy Montgomery emerged in the early 1980s as the deep-voiced guitarist for the Pin Group, one of New Zealand’s finest under-appreciated post-punk outfits. Though the Pin Group etched their name into New Zealand history as the very first band to be released on Flying Nun with their gritty debut single ‘Ambivalence’, Montgomery literally disappeared from the music world, after the demise of the Pin Group and it’s short-lived successor the Shallows.

After spending a great part of the 1980s traveling the world and discovering other avenues (including following Bill Direen‘s lead into the theatrical arts), it took Peter Stapleton‘s encouragement to bring this talented guitarist back to music, just as he had established a teaching role in Christchurch. Montgomery, Stapleton and Kim Pieters formed Dadamah, a more reserved and fleshed out, textural approach to music which re-invigorated Montgomerys live performing.

Dadamah gave way to Dissolve (a performing duo of Montgomery and Remarkables guitarist Chris Heaphy), and the first immergence of Montgomery solo recordings in the early 1990s. By now Montgomery had established a very distinct approach to playing a recording.

Montgomery spent his most prolific, style-defining period cooped up in a New York apartment. With just his bet-up 4-pickup Teisco guitar and a 4-track recorder, montgomery started producing vast soundscapes. Odes to the New Zealand countryside, and composed as lengthy evolving suites. His Fantasia on a theme by Sandy Bull from the fantastic Harmony of the Spheres boxset is a 20 minute journey filled with huge peaks and lulls – a masterpiece of interwoven guitar.

I would probably best describe Montgomery’s playing as an elegant, shimmering molass of guitar, rich with reverberation and slow-burning melodies. Montgomeries acknowledged masterpieces (such as the sublime Songs from the South Island and True – also with Chris Heaphy) are very evocative, visual works. Often composed completely free of vocals (though not always), Montgomery forms songs as soundscapes to environments, places, and moments in time.

As we rolled further into the 21st century, Montgomery again retreated from the live and recorded music scenes, continuing his role as a university lecturer and raising his young family. Thankfully in 2004 and 2005 he did return for two live performance in New Zealand, playing the Lines of Flight and Southern Oscillations festivals in Dunedin and Castle Hill (in-land from Christchurch). Performing as the Torlesse Supergroup with Nick Guy (formerly of wonderful space dronsters Barnard’s Star), these appearances might be an indication that we can expect future releases from one of New Zealand’s finest reclusive musicians.

Discography (picks in bold)

  • ‘Submerged And Colourful’ / ‘Cousinsong’ 7″ Single [1995 Hecuba]
  • ‘Long Night’ / ‘Its Cold Outside’ / ‘Film As A Subversive Art’ / ‘German Sister’ Double 7″ Single [1995 SiltbreezeSb58/59]
  • Songs From The South Island [1995 Drunken FishDfr-22]
  • Temple Iv [1995 KrankyKranky008]
  • ‘Zabriskie Point I/Ii’ 7″ Single [1995 Gyttja]
  • Goodbye [1995 W/ Flying Saucer Attack VhfVhf26]
  • ‘Something Else Again’ / ‘Adrift’ 7″ Single [1995 Roof BoltRb 004]
  • ‘Just Melancoly’ / ‘Used To’ 7″ Single [1996 Ajax]
  • Two Trajectories 7″ Single [Enraptured]
  • ‘Sterling Morrison, Corner 10th and First, 1966’ Split 7″ Single [1996 W/ Loren Connors GyttjaOoze-08]
  • Winter Songs 10″ Ep [1997 Roof Bolt]
  • ‘Cumulus And Fugue’ Split 7″ Single [1997 W/ Azusa Plane Colorful Clouds For AcousticsCloud 004]
  • E.N.D. 7″ Single [1998 Drunken FishDfr-27]
  • And Now The Rain Sounds Like Life Is Falling Down Through It [1998 Drunken FishDfr-41]
  • ‘London Is Swinging By His Neck’ 7″ Single [1998 W/ Kirk Lake Rocket GirlRgirl3]
  • ‘Particle’/’Wave’ 7″ Single [1998 Varispeed01 Varispeed]
  • True [1999 W/ Chris Heaphy Kranky]
  • 324 E. 13th St. #7 [1999 Compilation Drunken Fish]
  • Harmony Of The Spheres [1999 Triple Lp Compilation Split With Various Others Drunken FishDfr-50]
  • Allegory Of Hearing [2000 Drunken FishDfr-47]
  • Read Less Books Cassingle [2000 W/ Kirk Lake Victory Garden]
  • Silver Wheel Of Prayer [2001 Vhf Vhf49]
  • Split album with Grouper [2010 Root Strata RSGR004]
  • Split LP with Bruce Russell [2012 Grapefruit]

See-Also