Christian Rock [Christchurch Band]

[Interview and Article by Andrew Barry, Photos by Christopher Andrews]

Meeting with the members of Christian Rock at their spiritual (and in some cases literal) home of All Plastics Recording it is immediately clear that the band is no marriage of convenience, or mere side project.

The three musicians in Christian Rock are all at ease with each other as coffee, cigarettes, easy banter and self-deprecating wit flows. Rhett Copland, Jamie Larson and Brian Feary are all well-established members of Christchurch’s Indie scene, and despite busy musical schedules they get plenty from this latest endeavor.

I’m with them, ostensibly to discuss the lack of music venues in Christchurch but conversation jumps from left to right with ease and a sense of fun.
Topics covered include;

  • Withering (and deserved) put-downs of sacred local music cows [for names of whom, send me a fiver].
  • The ups and downs of the internet for musicians.
  • The horror that is Nelson, (“It’s shit, and too many people hate me” – Copland)
  • The merits of various member’s potential careers as gigolos, and broadcasters, Rhett not so great – (“I’d be a shit gigolo, id care about myself, not her needs”) and Jamie, pretty good (he’s a student at the New Zealand Broadcasting School).
Rhett Copland of Christian Rock
Rhett Copland of Christian Rock

This is before concluding finally in a revealing run through of the inside the actors studio 10 questions. That might just come later, and it’s a superb little pop psychology quiz.

This many paragraphs in is probably a few too late, but it’s perhaps about time to explain quite who and what Christian Rock are. They’re good friends, music obsessives, and to boot (as Copland says); “Everyone’s having fun playing.”

This sense of fun, and slightly warped humour is evident from the off, the band’s name and song titles have been described as Brilliant by Russell Brown, and I’m not about to pick a fight on such a clear-cut issue, he’s right, plus, regardless who am I to argue with the doyen of New Zealand’s blogosphere.

Rhett says the name partially comes from memories I’m sure we all share of Rockquest days where “When you’re 16, anything rock or from out of town is legit” and the inherent humour which surrounds everything in that competition,

Call me cynical or a pushover but once again I’m not going to argue that point, because for all its good, there’s something adorably and endearingly witty about Rockquest, even if it’s often by accident. Furthermore it’s hard to take issue with Copland when he says “I found Christian Rock (The genre) really funny then, and I do now”.

Christian Rock the band though, are funnily enough, a Rock n Roll group made up of atheists, described by their drummer as basically “Being more of a child-like form” than the member’s collective and numerous other projects, and “A return to guitars after the Sonics of the likes of Phobos Eros” by their vocalist.

These quotes aren’t meant to imply the band isn’t taken seriously, but rather that it opens up avenues for three talented guys to scratch musical itches they otherwise might not be able to reach.

Punk, psycho-Billy and garage rock feature on the menu, with Bob Log III cited as a key influence. All of the above can be heard in the strident ‘We’ll meet at Riccarton Mall to fuck” some would argue the band’s legacy is safe already, just through having had a song of such a name grace the airwaves of National Radio.

Jamie Larson of Christian Rock
Jamie Larson of Christian Rock

But there’s more in store, the irreverent sensibilities of the band saw the first practice yield three songs from the ether, with multi-instrumentalists Copland and Feary enjoying the challenges and excitement of (surprisingly after so many band’s each) playing as a duo of guitarists for the first time.

The band is featured on [Joe Sampson’s new Christchurch-based label] Melted Ice Cream’s brilliant recent compilation, Sickest Smashes from Arson City. Sampson sums things up perfectly by stating of Copland “It’s the most energetic I’ve heard him”

Rhett Copland, self-described as musically skitzo, but better known for languid psychedelica, superb shoegaze and introspective soundscapes is firmly in more of a rowdy mode here, backed up by the equal parts perfect time keeping and machine gunning of Larson’s drumming, not to mention the versatility and force of Feary’s guitar playing.

The aesthetic of the band at this stage in their early development is just as tightly formed and well-rounded as the lack of fat on the bones of their tunes -pieces that are more missives than songs really.

Christian Rock themselves claim that it’s simply “Been fucking fun, and it’s too early (for the band) to be anything” but the early songs and presentation hint at a manifesto, and plenty more incendiary musical nuggets ahead.

Artwork features the takes of several celebrity fans about the group and the knowing touch of ‘Professional band’ is added to their official Facebook handle.

Brian Feary of Christian Rock
Brian Feary of Christian Rock

This band is simply three guys having a good time making music together; and that is about as pure a motivation as there is left in contemporary music (which on the whole is just “There to sell cars”). However, because of the intelligence and passion of the members it transcends what in lesser hands could be a cliché.

Rhett’s right in saying Its unusual to be this invested – especially in a time where the general public aren’t and so much music is simply there (as Feary puts it); merely “Written to be played to a crowd”, this is not to mention Copland’s point that “No one in New Zealand music’s made money except Dave Dobbyn”.

However, we should be thankful for the trio’s investment, as short, sharp, fun but fiery bursts of Rock n Roll courtesy of Christian Rock might just be the kick up the ass a willing, but still broken and tired Christchurch City needs.

Copland says that listening to music “You can tell when there’s genuine intent.” Those who have taken to Christian Rock so far know that intent is unmistakable, but Garden City listeners’ best make the most of this, at least in the live arena while they can; a move to Auckland, for greater access to festivals, and a more receptive audience is pencilled in for 2014.

Click here for more images from the Sickest Smashes from Arson City compilation album release party.

s artists


Highly regarded studio-based outfit comprised of core members Andrew Thorne and Wayne Bell who have had a critically acclaimed debut (2000’s Stereo Happiness) and toured as support bands for the likes of Dave Dobbyn, filling out the line-up with Joel Tolbeck and Aidan Phillips.

Discography (picks in bold)

  • Stereo Happiness [2000]
  • Devil In The Detail [2002]



Stuck On Hold…

Just been stuck on hold with Telecom; with the ole’ New Zealand Music Industry cranking over choons from Davey D to Lady Bic and noticed that miss runga’s new single has a certain little piano motif that sounds an awful lot like one Carol King’s uber-hit It’S Too Late Baby…. Surely that can’t be an accident?

Maybe Bic’s treading the same fine line of tribute that’s seen a bunch of television adverts imitate popular tracks recently; the Violent Femmes are a common target, NZ’s own D4 were mimicked in an Export Gold ad (remember Export Gold has apparently built an identity of being ‘The Beer To Enjoy When Seeing Live Music’, Tui is all about ‘Having A Good Laugh With Your Mates’ etc…), though it actually WAS Sir David on the Labour party ads a couple years back.

a artists

Atomic Blossom


The brainchild of Christchurch musician Dean Karena who first came to local prominence with his previous band Naked Lunch in 1990. [Atomic Blossom had] their first performance at an outdoor concert at the Dux de Lux in Christchurch, first up on a rainy outdoor show featuring Cinematic, The Headless Chickens and Dave Dobbyn.

Trevor Hall had previously worked as an Orientation and Activities co-ordinator for University events, but he was a relative newcomer to drumming, and the band felt they had to replace him almost immediately, shifting Hirtzel from bass to drums and bringing in Layton Pace (Trawler, Swirl).

This line-up quickly cemented itself and recorded 5 songs almost immediately, one track appearing on the Good Things compilation, the other 4 eventually being re-recorded toward the band’s album. Pace left the band after 6 months choosing to commit himself to Trawler, where he got to sing and write his own music.

Pace was replaced by Matt Monopoly and this line-up stayed solid till the band eventually disbanded in disastrous circumstances in New York in 1995. The story goes that the band continued to grow in popularity, working toward their self-released album, and building a strong following for their heavily British sonic guitar sound.

The band secured support slots for Smashing Pumpkins on the 1995 New Zealand tour, impressing the Pumpkins and management. Meanwhile Atomic Blossom’s manager was in the US working at securing the band industry support and arranging concert dates for them stateside.

AB put the finishing touches on the CD and pressed 500 copies. This was used as a demo of the bands material and hardly any of them saw public release. The album remained pretty much impossible to obtain for ten years, until Failsafe Records remastered and re-released it in 2005.

At the end of 1995 Stone left for the US, the rest of the band were to follow early in 1996. Unknown to the rest of the band Stone had tired of playing in the band and felt her leaving for the US was indication enough to the others that she wanted to leave. The other members followed in 1996 and the band united to play American concerts which secured them heavy interest from US labels, notably Maverick Records.

A record deal was as good as signed apparently before Stone chose this opportune moment to abandon the band, effectively scuttling the project.
Stone stayed in New York, and Karena, Hirtzel, and Monopoly returned to NZ and disbanded. Karena left NZ for Australia, probably disheartened by the turn of events. Hirtzel concentrated his efforts on his other band Debris. Monopoly has since moved to the UK and is presently rehearsing with Jeremy Taylor toward possible work as Cinematic.

– Failsafe Records


  • Dean Karena (Guitar/Vocals, 1993 – 1996)
  • Prudence Stone (Guitar/Vocals, 1993 –  1996)
  • Greg Hirtzel (Bass/Drums, 1993 – 1996)
  • Trevor Hall (Drums, 1993)
  • Layton Pace (Bass, 1993 – 1994)
  • Matt Monopoly (Bass, 1994 – 1996)




d artists

DD Smash

dave dobbyn‘s early 80s pop outfit, with peter warryn, rob guy, lisle kinney, scott calhoun, ian morris, gary langsfor and andrew clouston. big singles with ‘devil you know’, ‘whaling’ and of course the staple ‘outlook for thursday’ (which dark tower sampled in the early 00s, and featured dobbyn providing backing vocals), and were hugely successful with their 3 albums from 1981 to 85.
picks in bold

  • cool bananas [1982 mushroom L37832]
  • deep in the heart of texas [1983 live recording mushroom L29016]
  • the optimist [1984 mushroom L38225]

awards etc
rianz awards 1982

  • album of the year ‘cool bananas’rn
  • top group of the year dd smashrn
  • most promising male vocalist dave dobbynrn
  • top male vocalist dave dobbynrn
  • sound engineer of the year paul streekstra/doug rogersrn
  • producer of the year ian morrisrn
  • cover design of the year wayne robinsonrn

rianz awards 1983

  • single of the year ‘outlook for thursday’rn
  • album of the year ‘deep in the heart of taxes’rn
  • top group of the year dd smashrn
  • top male vocalist dave dobbynrn
  • best music video of the year ‘outlook for thursday’rn
d artists

Dave Dobbyn

one of new zealands most successful singer/song-writers, dave dobbyn has been involved in a plethora of bands (the swingers, dd smash et all) and released a number of acclaimed albums of his own material over the last 30-odd years, accumulating a number of awards and large sales numbers in the process. meanwhile behind the scenes dobbyn spent a great part of the late 70s and 80s battling alcoholism and keeping his life together.
picks in bold

  • footrot flats: a dogs tale [soundtrack 1986 magpie]
  • loyal [1988 cbs CBS 460655]
  • dave dobbyn collection [1992 festival 30733]
  • lament of the numb [1992 east west]
  • twist [1994 epic 4777922]
  • the islander [1998 sony music nz]
  • overnight success [1999 sony music nz]
  • hopetown [2000 sony music nz]

awards etc
rianz awards 1982

  • top male vocalist of the year dave dobbynrn

rianz awards 1983

  • top male vocalist of the year dave dobbynrn

apra silver scroll 1987

  • song writing award ‘you oughta be in love’rn

rianz awards 1987

  • single of the year ‘you oughta be in love’rn
  • top male vocalist of the year dave dobbynrn
  • producer of the year dave dobbynrn
  • film soundtrack of the year footrot flatsrn

rianz awards 1988

  • album of the year loyalrn
  • top male vocalist of the year dave dobbynrn

apra silver scroll 1993

  • song writing award ‘bell of the ball’rn

rianz awards 1994

  • top male vocalist of the year dave dobbynrn
  • songwriter of the year dave dobbynrn

apra silver scroll 1998

  • song writing award ‘beside you’rn

tui awards 1999

  • film soundtrack / cast recording / compilation overnight successrn
d artists

Th’ Dudes

along with ian morris (who later joined him in dd smash), bruce hambling, peter coleman, lez white and pat urlich, the dudes were dave dobbyn‘s late 70s / early 80s pop band (though slightly more rock-orientated than the later outfit) – and dobbyn didn’t even sing all the songs! th’ dudes had hit singles with ‘be mine tonight’, ‘right first time’ and of course the drunken kiwi anthem ‘bliss’, putting them in line with the exponents as the most over-played of all kiwi drinking bands through the course of their 3 albums (’79-82).


picks in bold

  • right first time [1979 key L36682]
  • where are the boys? [1980 key L37018]
  • so you wanna be a rock’n’roll star [1982 key D30560]

awards etc

rianz awards 1979

  • single of the year: ‘be mine tonight’
  • top group of the year: dd smash
h artists


highly political, yet brilliantly melodic and evocative all-maori band focused on pacific style guitar and percussion (and ever changing line-up included dilworth karaka, charles, tumahai, thom nepia, morrie watene, tama lundon, gordon joll and tama renata). infamously released the killer single ‘french letter’ in response to the rainbow warrior debacle of 1985 (french operative’s bombed the kiwi-manned greenpeace boat, killing several of its inhabitants), all in the name of frances attempts to perform nuclear tests in the south pacific. they went on to collaborate with dave dobbyn in the animated feature ‘footrot flats’ and released 4 albums between 1981 and 1987.
picks in bold

  • what be happen? [1981 warrior]
  • light of the pacific [1985 warrior]
  • sensitive to a smile [1987 warrior]
  • homegrown [1987 tribal]
  • the very best of [compilation 2002]

awards etc
rianz awards 1985

  • polynesian recording of the year long agorn

rianz awards 1986

  • international achievement of the year herbsrn

rianz awards 1987

  • album if the year sensitive to a smilern
  • best music video sensitive to a smilern
  • songwriter of the year charles tumahai / dilworth karakarn
  • polynesian recording of the year e papa / jah knowsrn

rianz awards 1988

  • top group of the year herbsrn

rianz awards 1990

  • polynesian recording of the year homegrownrn