foundrymagazine.co.nz FOUNDRY –
They say you should never meet your idols; you will be disappointed. I say: bollocks. This issue’s Foundry cover comes courtesy of Glen Ross; possibly the most uniquely talented individual I’ve ever met, a personal musical hero and most importantly, a genuinely kind and honest human being. After sharing a bill at the Crown Hotel almost two years ago, my relationship with Ross organically grew until I was recently asked to fill the drum stool for a show with his new outfit Kilmog. As a longterm devotee and admirer of his previous work with the now sadly defunct Onanon, my appreciation for his talents reached new heights as I immersed myself in his most recent catalogue of songs.
Sam Valentine Sub-editor
As both an artist and a musician, Glen’s work oozes freeform creativity, exploring his personal fascination with morbid humour, the tragedy of the human condition, the grotesque and death. Lyrically, this obsession manifests in engrossing tales of Jeffery Dahmer, drug use, and family life; but one composition, ‘I Love My Dog’, stands out as particularly spine chilling. As Ross tells it, the song is based around a true incident in which a young girl, after misbehaving at school, was forced by her Father to murder her beloved pet dog. In defiance, the girl turns the intended weapon on herself – ending her life in the grave she’d recently dug by hand. Poignantly transferred by Ross into the mournful couplet, “I love my Dog/ Now I’m going to blow my fucking brains out” the song stands like much of Ross’ output, as a tragically beautiful work of art.
Angus McBryde Web & Advertising
Home Baking Gavin Bertram
I. Henderon & D. Ager
Running Around with the colour Brown Hannah Herchenbach
New to Foundry
Interviewed within by Foundry stalwart Gavin Bertram, Ross shares his story surrounded by the distinct visual images and style he’s crafted throughout his career, the images themselves often striking depictions of the grotesque and the unusual. Listen, stare and enjoy Glen’s work – a true underrated talent and someone I’m proud to call a friend.
24 Gavin Bertram
Always meet your idols, they might just turn out to be even more than you could have ever expected. Mine did.
Go ahead John
Want to contribute?
Fish vs Monkey
Gavin Bertram Hannah Herchenbach Basti Menkes
Enjoy, Sam Valentine. Foundry Editor.
High Fliying Birds Basti Menkes FOUNDRY –
Home Baking This issue’s Foundry cover is by Glen Ross, whose art has been seen around Dunedin at least as long as his music. Both have left their distinctive mark on the city’s cultural landscape.
by Gavin Bertram
AROUND late 1994 or early 1995 a friend excitedly reported back from the Empire Tavern, then the undisputed epicentre of Dunedin music. What he’d witnessed at the venue was a thrillingly unhinged noisy outfit that he compared to the demented racket we’d been creating at home. Around the same time a raft of self-published comics emerged in Dunedin, some of which were distributed for free around Dunedin record shops. These were the works of Ross Campbell and Glen Ross, who just happened to be in that band at the Empire. They were called Ed Gains, and later I’d have the strange pleasure of performing very briefly with them one very drunken night at the Crown. Briefly because the volume was so extreme and the noise so terrifying that the plug was quickly pulled to save the hearing – and sanity – of whatever disgusted audience remained. While that was essentially the end of my live music foray, both Campbell and Ross are still involved in music and art a decade and a half later. Campbell moved to Auckland and formed the Ed Gains Experience and the Demi Whores, while Ross remained in Dunedin and eventually formed Onanon, who split in 2009. FOUNDRY –
“Meeting Ross was a like finding a lost twin in some ways,” Ross says. “We’re just into lots of similar ideals and thought patterns. Having a partner in crime was pretty cool.” That was at high school in Mosgiel, where both were already immersed in art and music, the latter of which was inherited from family members. Campbell got an electric guitar when was about 15, and Ross followed soon after. So began jams that continued a few years later when they found a practice room at the legendary Vogel House in Dunedin’s warehouse district. The stoned sessions there began around a non gigging band called Fish Eye Soup, with an older guy called Darryl Grundy. “He wanted to be in a famous band,” Ross recalls. “But he had never played guitar or written songs before. We used to have the craziest jams. I think Ross has still got some of the tapes.” This eventually morphed into Ed Gains. That first gig at the Empire happened after a particularly charged jam with Mike Kean, brother of Martin Kean, who was an early member of The Chills and a
foundation member of Stereolab in London in 1990. “We were really into The Dead C and making noise,” Ross says. “We had this practice that was like ‘that was fucking awesome man; finally we’ve done something we’re proud of’. And we went into the Rock Shop that week and were talking to this dude who said ‘you couldn’t be any worse than this band playing next to us last night’. And we were like ‘where do you guys practice?’ ‘Down at Vogel House...’” Regardless of the attitudes of the more conventional music scene, the early to mid-1990s era was a great time in Dunedin. Cheap practice spaces abounded, and a handful of venues supported the many bands that existed. As Ross notes, the Empire was “like a
railway station” for like-minded people, often with plans to start a band or a comic. It didn’t last though; by about 1996 things were beginning to stagnate, despite there still being some great bands around. Campbell went to London for a year and began seriously recording on a four-track. When he returned to Dunedin he was motivated to continue what he’d started in the UK. “When Ross came back we jammed heaps,” Ross says. “It was a really good time for him creatively – he’d had a year to just fuck around, and he was coming up with these really cool songs. And we were also having these really fucking great noise jams. HDU had just put out Fireworks and Shellac had played here, and we were
Behind this issues cover. “I’d just finished doing a story for (Dunedin comic) DUD,” Ross explains. “To be honest I was at a bit of a loss what to do for the Foundry cover. I’ve got what kind of looks like a shrine out in the shed where we practice. It’s kind of accumulated over the last few years and I thought it would be kind of cool to draw something like that. It was really fun, I quite like it. The gun is something I’ve had since I was a kid; I think it was my great uncle’s, and it is actually an old Fun-Ho (ancient NZ toy company) gun. And a mate gave the Buddha to me a few years back; his mum had given it to him. And the poison bottle is something my grandfather had given me. All of them are sort of symbolic of things.” Ross has been interested in art for as long as he can remember. He became interested in comics through American artist Robert Crumb, and was later inspired to start drawing his own when he saw excellent Fantagraphics comics like Daniel Clowes Eightball and Peter Bagge’s Hate in the early 1990s. Dunedin’s comic scene was healthy at that time, largely through the work of now Too Tone Records’ proprietor Tony Renouf. “Tony had done Treacle and I did some stuff for that,” Ross says. “He started doing the (student paper) Critic strips and that was really good, we started getting a good work ethic with it. He’s such a good organiser of things.” He claims to be “pretty fucking selfish” when it comes to drawing, and that it’s “pretty much all about me”. And that’s main appeal – it offers a great outlet for where his head is at. Ross says it’s very different to music in that sense, because it’s far less direct and obviously takes longer to reach fruition. “With drawing you have an idea and you’ve got to lay it out, ink it, and continue it the next night if it’s taking too long,” he considers. “It doesn’t materialise straight away. Being able to get your ideas onto a piece of paper and visualise it is something I really love. It’s totally your vision: even with music if you’re playing with other people it becomes this other thing. With drawing in a sense it’s your pure thoughts.” FOUNDRY –
listening to heaps of stuff like that, and Mogwai was really big on the turntable in our flat.” After they played one memorable show as The Vampires, Campbell left for Auckland, and Ross admits to being a bit disappointed as he believed they could have done something cool. Before he left Dunedin, Campbell told Ross that he should start his own band, which was met with an unenthusiastic response. However, in a roundabout way that is exactly what happened. In Auckland Campbell played with guitarist Donald Ferns, who soon returned to live in Dunedin. Ross and Ferns had previously worked together, and began to have jams, which eventually became more organised and solidified into Onanon, with bassist Karen Mclean and drummer Alan Cameron. “It was really good playing with those dudes,” Ross says. “We were all into the same stuff and they kind of convinced me to start tuning my guitar which was probably a good thing. And I’d never really written a song in a lot of ways – they always seemed too premeditated and not sort of spontaneous enough. But I brought a couple of them along and the guys really liked them so it was like ‘let’s keep on writing more songs’. It’s really great when you’ve got people who are into playing your songs.” From their beginnings in 2000, Onanon achieved a lot over the next nine years. With Cameron’s drum stool taken over by Ants Anema, they recorded a bunch of EPs and the Hang on I’m Still Mutating (2004) and Home Baking (2008) albums. Over that time they honed their chaotic, melodic Pixies-esque rock, which was largely defined by a darkly malevolent vein of humour that is pure Ross, and is similarly evident in his art. Onanon ran their course and ended in 2009, but not before they
recorded one last EP at the Masonic Lodge in Port Chalmers. Bad Vibrations has just recently been released, and can be downloaded from Bandcamp. Having performed solo as GRoss previously, Ross has since played his own songs under the loose banner of Bad Horsey, and now Kilmog. Lesley Paris, ex-drummer of 1980s Dunedin legends Look Blue Go Purple, and Ross’s Onanon colleague Ferns have been involved, and since 2010 guitarist Richard Ley-Hamilton has been a central force. The member of young Dunedin bands the George Kay Experience, Mr Biscuits, Males, and Blonde Hash approached Ross after a solo set. Having jammed at home for over a year, and played a handful of shows, they’d like to record an album of Kilmog material in the near future. “It’s been good having Richard, he’s fucking awesome,” Ross reflects. “He really knows how to make the most of the songs - he can really put the meat on the skeleton. And he’s just so into it, which is a big part of it, having someone who believes in what you’re doing. It’s easy to get disillusioned about doing solo shit, like ‘why am I doing this?!’ But I just want to let it happen naturally. I’d be happy to record it ourselves. Richard’s got a little bit of experience and I’d quite like it to be sloppy and messy. I like that whole aesthetic.” F
FISHvs MONKEY Two independent Dunedin record labels, both dedicated to vinyl, have recently celebrated significant birthdays. Fishrider owner Ian Henderson and Monkey Killer boss David Ager get together for a chat about what they do. BOTH musicians and huge music fans, Ian Henderson and David Ager’s record labels have been central to the continuing health of Dunedin’s music scene over the last half decade. Henderson set up Fishrider Records in 2006 to release an album from his band The Dark Beaks. Since then he’s released albums by The Puddle (fronted by his brother George and for whom Henderson drums), a seven-inch split single from Robert Scott and Adalita Srsen with the Puddle, and more recently the debut album from Opposite Sex.
all photos: John Needham
Vinyl only Monkey Killer Records was launched by Ager in 2008 to release the second album from Dunedin quartet Onanon, which also happened to be their swansong (until the recent release of the posthumous digital only Bad Vibrations EP). He’s released a single from Mountaineater, an album from Operation Rolling Thunder, and an EP from his own band Idiot Prayer since. Running a small independent label is clearly a labour of love, as the two elaborate on in this conversation.
Ian: I’ve actually started to get very enthusiastic about the idea of releasing stuff. Which in itself is a worry, because with every release there is the financial thing, and there’s also the investment of time. Realistically I reckon two a year is plenty. Which is sad because there’s so much stuff which potentially could be good. David: You get people ask every once in a while to put stuff out on vinyl. But it’s just not possible. Ian: I’m happy to help other people doing their own thing, but in terms of Fishrider it’s got to be something I really like and I really believe I can do something with. That makes it worthwhile. I kind of think the most important thing label’s can still offer is the time and the commitment and the focus. Band’s need to focus on writing music. Some people say labels aren’t relevant anymore. But I think little guys like us can be relevant in terms of facilitating. It’s not in the traditional model of ‘you give us your songs and your soul and we’ll make money and give you a fraction back’. I see us being more of a partnership. Helping the bands to get their music to people. FOUNDRY –
David: It’s more of a way to get the thing to exist. And it only exists on an arcane format and appeals to a certain number of people. Operation Rolling Thunder has done pretty good numbers for the amount of shows they’ve played. Ian: I know from when I started Fishrider, the thing that just about killed it was trying to distribute it myself. It was okay in Dunedin. You’d go to Wellington and they were a bit standoffish, and in Auckland they were just pricks to be honest. David: Yeah, Auckland just didn’t want to know. ‘Nah’, ‘ok, thanks’. Which is a bummer, because plenty of people from Auckland have asked for it.
STARTING OUT David: I was intending to do a seven-inch singles club and I went to the trouble of at least asking one band and not having that great a response, and getting a price out of Dale for four bands. Financially
it didn’t add up. Then doing Onanon there wasn’t a lot of thought except for just wanting to do it.
David: I think it’s the label’s responsibility. Particularly after approaching them and saying ‘I’d like to put your thing out on vinyl’. Once you’ve done it you’ve got to promote the thing because there’s a shitload of your money sitting in there.
Ian: I was pretty naive. The first challenge was recording it, and then it was ‘great, now what do I do?’ The internet, when I was recording the album, I’d Google ‘how to record vocals’ and sift through that. I’d understand enough to know what I was doing. And it was the same later, Google ‘self-releasing an album’. There’s just a lot of time spent reading and researching. But I like being given challenges and working out how to do it. David: One of the big inspirations for being able to do it on vinyl was the guys from Keretta – Midium and the Kingsland Vinyl Appreciation Society. The first time Keretta played here I approached Will and he was really friendly and I asked how you go about it. He put me onto Vinyl Factory and what not. It was easy once you saw that someone had done it. There wasn’t a lot of New Zealand vinyl then, but there’s quite a lot now. Ian: One of the things I’ve found has taken me a while to get over is that you’ve kind of got to be a bit of a media slut in terms of selfpromotion. Neither of us are really that comfortable with it. But what I’ve come to is realising it’s not about me, it’s just what I’ve got to do for my artists. I owe it to them to give the label profile which gives them profile.
Ian: With the stuff I’m doing it’s almost to the point of saying ‘look, it’s here, it’s great, listen to it’. Which I’ve done all my life; I got into fights at school for saying ‘you’ve got to listen to this weird German record!’ The reason I put out the Puddle and put out Opposite Sex was because I wanted to have the record in my record collection. So I’m going to have to release it. VINYL Ian: I can go and grab Monster Movie by Can, and say that in October 1976 I bought that in a shop in Cologne, Germany, Can’s home town. I don’t think I can remember where I bought any CD, and yet they’re the same thing. That’s one of the things for me with vinyl. I sometimes get self conscious about being from a different generation or whatever, but I can’t imagine anyone saying ‘I can remember the time I downloaded this song from iTunes’. In order for something to have value it’s got to be capable of being lost or destroyed. So it’s got to exist physically in some kind of form. CDs can be destroyed but they can also be copied. Records
are the antiques of the future. It’s weird that it’s such arcane, old technology because to me this is the archival format for music.
bigger behind them that can give them a push and organise them. Having seen them play over the last two or three years they’ve blown me away every time so I was pretty lucky to be able to put out their 7” inch, and it was certainly the biggest seller. In spite of the expense – the price of records is getting more expensive.
David: It’s so simple, and you don’t need a good hi-fi system to play it. It’s still the best form of sonic reproduction as far as I’m concerned. Ian: I’ve thought about if there was another band I wanted to release, how would I do it? The next Puddle album which is just about ready was all done by Bob Frisbee in Auckland. And that was actually really great, not recording it. Meeting somebody who’s been doing it for a long time and he does it my kind of way of doing it, quite low key. When I record here I’d be pressing record and running over and jumping on the drums. Often you’d play it back and things would be too loud or too quiet. So just being able to concentrate on being the drummer was really good. David: It’s funny, you’ve kind of gone the opposite way to me, where the first thing you put out was your band that you’d recorded. The first thing I put out was a band who’d already recorded. The last thing I put out was my band, and you’re going the other way. THE BUSINESS David: I can’t do (Mountaineater) justice, they need something FOUNDRY –
Ian: But you’re using Vinyl Factory in Australia. The dollar is stronger than the US dollar and the prices are twice as much as the US plants. Why the fuck did EMI put that pressing plant into the ocean in 1990? I reckon the best investment that Creative New Zealand could make would be helping to set up a pressing plant in New Zealand. If I had a distributor in Europe and a distributor in America and could leave three quarters of what I have pressed in America that’d be great, it would actually work. But it’s costing about $4 to bring each record back to New Zealand and at least $15 to post it back overseas. There’s $20 just in freight. I sent the whole sale list to people in the States and they said ‘are you serious about these prices?’ and I said ‘I’m losing money on these prices’. MOTIVES Ian: Three things made me start up Fishrider Records. One of them was Ben Howe at Arch Hill Records not replying when I sent him the Dark Beaks album. Second was Blink from A Low Hum, and I said to him ‘you are my biggest inspiration, you’re the reason I’m
doing this’. He was big on saying ‘don’t wait for anyone else to do it for you, do it yourself’. The other one more recently was the Mark One Flying Nun Records. When you look at that first ten years when it was pre-corporate music industry bullshit, it wasn’t following a trend, it created a genre, a style of music, something out of nowhere. It was just like ‘this is great music, let’s release it’ and then it created its own thing. And there was a level of trust which I’m trying to do. That’s what labels can still offer a band - it’s giving them a family or a home to fit on.
David: I’m really proud of the entire catalogue, every single release. Operation Rolling Thunder is fucking amazing.
David: Having a release legitimises a band. There are a lot of bands who don’t get to the point of playing a gig, or to recording anything, so having a release makes a band real in a way, it’s like a time capsule.
FISHRIDER RECORDS CATALOG:
Ian: In some respects it puts the expectation back on them. Opposite Sex didn’t have any particular ambitions, they just like playing music. But in releasing this and the interest around it, saying ‘you guys in a year’s time, a lot of people could have heard your stuff. Have you thought about what you might want to do?’ If it does take off a bit it’s up to them what they do with it. Unlike most labels, if they turned around and said they’re not going to do it any more I’d be happy because I’d still have a classic album. But it could be the start of something and it’s really what they make of it. You do it for the present but you also do it for the future.
Ian: I like the fact that regardless of whether I end up with boxes under the house of these things, there’s albums in Sweden, Florida, Louisiana, New York, and London - the fact these things exist in people’s collections. There’s nothing more exciting than finding an email from someone saying ‘can I buy your album?’ F
The Dark Beaks – Spill Your Heart (2006) The Puddle – No Love – No Hate (2007) The Puddle – The Shakespeare Monkey (2009) The Puddle – Playboys in the Bush (FISH 004, 2010) Robert Scott & Adalita Srsen/ The Puddle split 7″ (FISH005, 2010) Opposite Sex – Opposite Sex (FISH006, 2011) MONKEY KILLER RECORDS CATALOG: Onanon – Home Baking (MKR001, 2008) Mountaineater – Mata/Sunfired 7” (2009) Operation Rolling Thunder – III (MKR003, 2010) Idiot Prayer – Falconer EP (MKR004, 2011)
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Running around with the colour by Hannah Herchenbach
photo: Hannah Herchenbach | illustration: Angus McBryde
What made Mike Cathro want to be in Ireland? “I didn’t want to go to London yet.” It wasn’t about hunting heritage. “That’s more Scottish. Originally I had plans to take a trip...” He pauses to consider the reasons he never made it. “Mainland Europe was more attractive.” The sun is turning to a low glow on late Sunday afternoon in Dunedin, and the band is holding their heads. Last night Brown played at the Circulation Festival at Whare Flat. Now the band is in the backyard of Mike’s flat in North East Valley. Brown’s drummer Ben Sargeant is wailing on balls with a bat. Paul Cathro, the bassist, is bowling balls at him. Mike picks flowers while they go at it. “Apart from going on a huge tour the band hasn’t played too much since I’ve been back,” Mike admits. “There were a couple house parties, and a couple shows at Mou Very.” There was a Refuel Unplugged gig. “Before going to Ireland we didn’t gig that much, we were just writing and recording songs in Paul’s room with the help of friends.” The band didn’t play much outside of Dunedin. But Brown is still a somewhat recent incarnation. It started with Mike playing alone as Baraka and the Finnish Hymns, until he came to feel he didn’t like the sound of it. “I decided I’d like a name change. It was pretty early on, so I figured it hadn’t been going on long enough for anyone to notice...” Mike laughs at himself as he says it – “so I changed it. I wanted a name that you couldn’t immediately attach anything too concrete to.” The band was named after Mr. Brown, his rat. It was a thing of comfort, one could say, for the three had played together before in Biff Merchants. “It was easy to get Ben and Paul to help,” Mike says. “Having played in bands with them before, you know it’s going to work. You know the way that each other are going to react or contribute. In Ireland there are just so many singer-songwriters writing about...” “Love,” Paul Cathro finishes for him
with a touch of cynicism. What were Paul and Ben doing while Mike was in Ireland? They both turn to each other. “Alizarin Lizard?” When not doing the bass for Brown, Paul Cathro doubles as the lead singer and songwriter of Alizarin Lizard. Ben Sargeant is a fellow Lizard on the skins. Last November the band rolled out a 44-date tour over the islands with Rackets. In August the band hit the road again, but this time took Brown instead along with them.
“The people in here are going to kill us.” “Traveling with Alizarin Lizard is good,” Mike says, “because you add one more person and there’s a whole different band.” They laugh. (For the record, the other member of Alizarin Lizard are keyboardist Logan Hampton and bassist Chris ‘Bugs’ Miller). The tour wasn’t as long though – this time the dates were trimmed down to twentyfour, and took just under six weeks to complete. “You definitely have some weird moments,” Ben confesses. “Every tour there are a few weird moments.” “Our van got graffitied in Wanaka. We couldn’t make out what it said. The whole trip we couldn’t figure it out. A cop asked us about it.” “And Palmerston North,” Mike insists. “There was three people at the gig, and one of them was on the door. And we needed to sing for our accommodation. We hadn’t sorted any. This man was literally dangling the keys above our head. We had to perform in a karaoke bar next to where we were playing. We thought, ‘The people in here are going to kill us.’” Giving you the side eye. “Literally,” Ben insists. “There was this one guy – he did Metallica’s ‘Enter Sandman’. He didn’t move the entire time. He grabs the microphone and –” Ben imitates his lidded eyes – “it was like all of the anger
that was seething in him was just coming out. We were like – Ahhh!’” “How do you follow that?” Mike marvels. In lieu of a plan, the band sang Beatles songs. Crowd pleasers, but Paul is pragmatic about it. “Yeah well we didn’t want to get bashed.” “You do get a little crazy,” Ben admits towards the end. “It takes its toll on the senses. We actually made up our own language.” In an instant the band emits a clucking sound in unison that is a bit like a tsk but goes on in the distance. “We would use that while driving,” Paul says. “It was a hangover from the Alizarin Lizard tour with Rackets last year. If someone was doing something where, oh, that looks a bit dodgy, there would just be that sound throughout the van.” “There was one close moment. This guy was overtaking us, and it was just in time when he crossed back into the other lane. We were going, ‘This is it. We’re gonna die.’” Mike laughs. “Bugs joked that sound would probably be the last thing we ever heard as we went sailing off a cliff – tk-tktk-tk.” A cartoon appears of the image of their van flying over the handrail, deer ears perked to the noise – tk-tk-tk-tk – as it arced in a perfect rainbow over their heads. “You find when you come home, you’re still using the language,” Mike muses. “It takes you a while to get out of it.” “This time we were all legit.” Mike insists. “Warranted and registered up for this trip. Well – registered after the first stop,” he
admits. “We had to get the money from the Invercargill gig.” “For the last tour we had just thrown another row of seats in the van.” Ben laughs. “That was the whole back row. If the van came to a stop the whole back row went – Rrrrr –” He imitates it sliding forwards against the van floor. “If a cop stopped us, we would have been forking out some cash.” “If we fail,” as they wrote on their blog before the trip, “we’ll see you back in Dunedin.” All three members of the band hail from Dunedin, born and raised. “It’s home, but there’s something different about it,” Mike says. “I can’t quite put my finger on it. You always come into Dunedin the same way. Coming over that hill, there’re a lot of emotions. On the one hand you are excited about seeing your friends. On the other, there are all kinds of attachments. Everything has emotions attached to it.” Though there are good things about the town. “That was the thing about being in Ireland. You appreciate things that you used to take for granted – the community here, the network of friends I have. You can walk down the center of town and see five people you know every time. When I was walking down the street in Ireland, initially I had no idea where I was going to play. I’d look at posters and think, ‘I wonder if they need a support act.’ But you have no one to write to ask that. You just have no idea. That was one thing I valued when I came back.” “We have all these beaches. You don’t stop and think about
how beautiful it is around here. Just five minutes past Tomahawk beach is Smaill’s. The peninsula, Lover’s Leap... It’s so beautiful. Except normally you go –” “Fuck that,” Ben finishes for him. “It’s raining.” His eyes dart to the window as if suspicious. “Why is it always raining when you come back?” Dunedin shows up a whole lot more in Mike’s lyrics than Ireland. Take ‘My Love is a David Bain Jersey,’ for example. “When I was in Ireland,” Mike laughs, “I had to preface that song with an explanation of, ‘Here was this guy, and he was accused of killing his family. During the trial he wore these jerseys, and one of them supposedly his mother had knitted. I was writing the song, and thinking about how relationships go through stages, how there are all these different sorts of colours to them. I thought, ‘What is the most colourful thing I can think of?’” Surely such a jersey is metaphorically loaded. Does it not only reflect the stages of love, but also a place where what now remains is a relic of something now long gone? Where perhaps the very emotion that was the reason for its existence has since been turned upside down and negated, and everything it once stood for has vanished? Mike’s face drops. “That’s awesome!” Ben laughs. Mike wrinkles his face. “I never thought about it like that.” The Dunedin references don’t stop at David Bain. Brown FOUNDRY –
songs also speak of Corstorphine, the Moeraki boulders and King Edward Street. “I do like writing for the people of Dunedin,” he says. “I feel that I am. There are certain things that make you feel more grounded. Like the things that everyone recognises from childhood. I like to draw from things that I believe are these shared childhood memories... people that can associate with Cherry Farm or wondered about the Moeraki Boulders being unhatched dinosaur eggs when they were younger. When I was little I remember thinking the streetlights over on the opposite hills were extremely bright stars. I like to play on that innocence and contrast it with what I know now.” “India was the place I really freaked out,” Mike says. “I saw the amount of people that genuinely struggle. It was the one moment where I had a sense of scale of how big the world is. There are all these people and all of them have their own hopes and dreams. How many of them are going to work out? How many of them are going to wither and die?” Sounds like a quarter life crisis. Mike holds perfectly still as if frozen. Then he laughs and reaches for his packet. “Ahhh... Cigarette?” The lovely little ‘Kosmonavt’ is a song about such things. It’s one of those songs where you sit up when you first hear it. “Do I know this song? Yes, I believe I’ve heard it before in my dreams.” “I tried to make it so you could take it a few different ways. So you could pull different meanings.”
“Its strength is that the beat is kept simple,” Ben says. Paul nods. “Such a beautiful melody.” When local Dunedin friends Thundercub took over The Local show on Radio One in August, drummer Samdrub Dawa insisted on playing the Brown song ‘Kosmonavt’. “So beautiful...” Samdrub Dawa mused on air. “...but the lyrics are so fucking bleak.” Mike is laughing. “They are! They are! I guess I was in a bleak place. I had this idea of doing astronauts who had been sent out into space to find out the meaning of life or something. And they went so far out, they couldn’t come back.” It isn’t far from what happened. America was not ready to blast its first shuttle into orbit when it did. The country was in an arms race with the Soviet Union to the death. The astronauts on that first flight have said that they had to make frantic calculations every minute to avoid death. “I suppose it was almost a romantic idea,” Mike muses on
his song about people who went into space and never came back. “What if they went too far? I liked the idea that if humans were going to try to find the meaning of life, they would fail. There are things that they shouldn’t try to figure out. Life’s mysteries.” There are some things humans shouldn’t question. There’s just some stuff we should not know. “It’s not all bleak,” Mike insists. “Through traveling you get more of a sense of what you want to do. In Ireland I was working for an Internet direct mail company. It was a bit soul damaging. But I found things out about myself. [I knew I wanted to do] something that benefits other people, that creates value that isn’t material, that creates meaning in other people’s lives.” F
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . ndry u o f o t . W N. E. . . . . . . . . . . .
t s e v r a h e g n a Str They say: Strange Harvest is a two-piece band from Dunedin, formed from the jetlag of finding a way to place lyrics onto low-fi rhythms. Justin Strange and Bianca Harvest make bedroom music for lovers/ actors/chefs and the gardeners of Fat Earth that deliver you your vitamins. They strip back the noise & throw down Casio beats; psych-synths. Then they put the noise back together. It’s a mind-meld of The RZA and Dinosaur Jnr. with a twist of lemon. It’s Wu-Tang for the incredibly lazy. And no one likes a serious gardener. Bianca is a former member of The Rise of the City Cat Cult - watch out for a reunion in January 2012, and formerly of The Autoharpies. Justin is a former 111 Operator. We say: Sickly sweet reverbed vocals and hypnotic lo-fi casio might sound awfully cliché but here they’re deftly deployed with heavily melodic results. On Foundry’s favourite ‘Citadel’, its Haunted Love meets Wavves in four minutes of organic home recorded glory. R. Stevie Moore would be proud. Local record label, Lttl Paisley, will drop the Strange Harvest debut album in January 2012. In the meantime, live up to your cashmere and check out their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Strange-Harvest/228760307162555
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Razorwyre | San Francisco Bath House, 23rd December 2011 Megan Easterbrook-Smith FOUNDRY –
Guitarist John McLaughlin made such an impact when playing for Miles Davis that the jazz legend named two songs after him. That was just one chapter in the guitarist’s colourful musical life, which has also included jamming with Jimi Hendrix, leading the fusion ferment of Mahavishnu Orchestra, and finally winning a Grammy in 2010. by Gavin Bertram
Notes in music cannot be misunderstood. This is what is marvelous about music.
UNQUESTIONABLY the worst interview experience I’ve had was an ill-fated attempt to engage King Loser in 1997. The encounter quickly descended into open hostility, with the assorted surly Losers clearly taking exception with me. And so my weak line of questioning was mocked and sneered at. However, I felt some minor vindication when my probings to Messrs Heazlewood and O’Reilly about favourite guitarists was unpleasantly deflected back to me. Without hesitation I replied “John McLaughlin”, a proclamation that was met with the audible sound of King Loser jaws clanging to the floor. They simply couldn’t believe that someone as ineffably unhip as myself could have heard of the English jazz guitarist, let alone have heard his work. “You like John McLaughlin!?” O’Reilly scoffed, almost choking on the words. I did indeed, though I was only familiar with his work on Miles Davis’s In a Silent Way, Bitches Brew, and On the Corner albums. And had been lucky enough to catch McLaughlin’s trio in Wellington the previous year.
learned – the words ‘John McLaughlin” are charged with some intangible magic. Given what McLaughlin has done along an interwoven musical and spiritual journey, that shouldn’t have been a surprise. “I don’t know what lies behind the passion. But it doesn’t matter, as long as it’s there. It’s not that you don’t suffer a little bit, because it drives you, but in a way that’s the petrol in your engine.” SPEAKING from his home in Monaco, The almost 70-year old McLaughlin is an engaging and thoughtful interviewee. His essential honesty and deep insight into his music, his spirituality, and what lies behind both and how they’re interconnected, is refreshing. He’s also humorous and light-hearted, and more than happy to retell tales he’s already related hundreds of times in interviews. Of course they’re more than worthy of the reiteration – stories of studio sessions with Miles Davis, of jamming with Jimi Hendrix in New York, of the incendiary proto jazz fusion monsters of Tony Williams Lifetime and the Mahavishnu Orchestra, and more.
The ‘interview’, such as it was, became slightly more tolerable from this point, as Heazlewood pointed me towards the equally amazing A Tribute to Jack Johnson album. And so a valuable lesson was Given what McLaughlin has achieved in music it’s surprising that he only won a Grammy in 2010 for the previous year’s Five Peace Band record with his ex-Davis band mate Chick Corea. Naturally the guitarist is pleased with the honour, though he says it ultimately doesn’t matter to him. “I wouldn’t be human if I said I didn’t care,” McLaughlin considers. “But throughout my life I’ve had a lot of same praise as finding and lot of your own way in music. There are always set backs criticism also, and but it doesn’t matter. As long as you persevere you’ll in a way you have to disregard come through. Look at me – I came through after 50 both of them. If you get worried because years!” people criticise you then what are you made of? You have to keep going for your own goal, which is What came after Five Peace Band was a broad finding your own way in life, which is basically the gesture towards a record that had a momentous FOUNDRY –
impact on McLaughlin’s music, and the connection between that and his immersion in first Western, and then Eastern, spirituality. That album, John Coltrane’s A Love Supreme, was released in 1965, a couple of years after Doncaster born McLaughlin launched his professional music career. It’s infused with the jazz saxophone icon’s own deep spirituality, and feeling that he was merely a lightening rod, channelling the music that came through him. For McLaughlin it was perhaps the most important entry in a catalogue of formative musical experiences that began when a Beethoven record his mother played gave him goose bumps. After early piano lessons he found the guitar when he was 11, and delved into Mississippi blues, flamenco music, and pioneering jazz guitarists like Tal Farlow and Django Reinhardt. Jazz soon became McLaughlin’s life, predominantly through the transcendent works of Coltrane and Miles Davis. He mentions Davis’s Milestones as being a revelation, though A Love Supreme married the two most important strands of his life. “Prior to that the only consciously spiritually aware music was
really relegated to Western or Eastern classical music,” McLaughlin explains. “But with this recording Coltrane almost singlehandedly integrated the spiritual dimension of the human being into jazz music. This was very important to me, because I already was seeking a spiritual identity in my own life, so the encouragement I got from this recording, I’ll never be able to repay that debt. It was wonderful to have this record come at that time.”
“Everybody that played with Miles learnt from him. He was like Picasso to the painters. That’s true genius.” AFTER performing in the heat of the Swinging London scene of the 1960s with the likes of Alexis Korner and Graham Bond, McLaughlin embarked to the United States in 1969 to be part of Tony Williams Lifetime. The band formed by the Miles Davis drummer was a foundation act in the nascent jazz fusion movement, which would soon be given a major boost by Davis’s own restless exploration. The English guitarist, whose reputation preceded him, was immediately called into Davis’s sessions for In a Silent Way – his first fusion volley, and one of the movement’s guiding works.
“Miles was, in his inimitable way, finding out what I was made of,” McLaughlin recalls. “In a Silent Way is a Joe Zawinul tune, and he was there, Herbie (Hancock) was there, Chick (Corea) was there. We ran it down a couple of times and Miles was not happy with it. Miles said ‘why don’t you just play the whole thing on guitar alone?’ I’m not freaking out, but how am I going to play a piano part on the guitar? And he says, ‘okay, just play it like you don’t know how to play the guitar’. He was renowned for these obscure statements to his musicians. “So I threw all the chords out, and started doing the melody with this open E Major, and I noticed Miles signaled for the recording light. I start alone, and Chick’s doing some little cosmic dust, and Dave Holland’s in behind, and then Wayne (Shorter) and Miles came in. No tempo, no harmony, nothing. And we got to the end, and I tell you, my clothes were wet with sweat from nerves. And he said ‘play it back (to producer Teo Macero)’. For me it was so amazing to hear what he had done and what he had been able to pull out of me.” He subsequently played on the trumpeter’s still resonating 1970 fusion masterpiece Bitches Brew, which includes the track John McLaughlin, 1971’s Tribute to Jack Johnson and Live-Evil, and 1972’s funk rock meltdown On the Corner. Tracks from the many Davis sessions McLaughlin sat in on during
this early 1970s period also appear on the Get Up With It and Big Fun collections, the latter including Go Ahead John. It’s amongst the best showcases of his incredible, incendiary guitar playing, which at that point fused jazz technique, rock pyrotechnics, and choppy wah-wah infested freak outs. These recordings with Davis quickly cemented McLaughlin’s place in the vanguard of radical guitarists emerging from the turbulence of the late 1960s. Others included Carlos Santana, Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, and Jeff Beck. He’s recorded with Santana numerous times, and jammed with Hendrix in New York during his early days in the US. McLaughlin only has praise for the man who’s been universally recognised as the greatest rock guitarist in history. “Jimi had a huge impact on most guitar players including me,” he says. “A lot of us guitar players had already been experimenting with feedback from the mid 60’s, but Jimi nailed it down. He revolutionized the electric guitar.” That revolutionary spirit even intoxicated Miles Davis, who was introduced to Hendrix’s playing when McLaughlin took him to see the movie of the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival.
This was the guitarist’s reintroduction North American rock audiences, after making his name with the Jimi Hendrix Experience in Britain. As such, it was amongst his most explosive performances, and he set his Stratocaster alight during an unhinged version of Wild Thing. No wonder it was a revelation for Davis, who was at the time courting rock audiences while causing ruptures in the staid world of jazz. “Miles was entranced,” McLaughlin says. “He kept saying ‘Damn... damn...damn...’. It was very funny, but it was clear that Jimi had blown him away. He’d never seen anything like it.” He remembers the solitary occasion he jammed with Hendrix, in March 1969 at the Record Plant studio in New York. That session, which ran from 2am to 8am, was recorded by producer Eddie Kramer, who worked on all the Jimi Hendrix Experience albums.
“In terms of my life’s work, I’m a musician and I’ve always been a musician. That’s it.” CLEARLY this period in New York during 1969 and the early 1970s was an amazing thing to have been a part of. Playing with the Tony Williams Lifetime and Miles Davis, McLaughlin was at the epicentre of the nascent jazz fusion movement.
McLaughlin says it was a big party rather than anything serious, and also included drummer Buddy Miles, who was part of Hendrix’s Band of Gypsys. While it was a memorable experience, the guitarist says it wasn’t the most productive time. “By the time I moved to New York I was playing a big Gibson Hummingbird with a DeArmond pickup,” McLaughlin says. “When Mitch Mitchell (Experience drummer) invited me to come by the studio
where they were recording, I had only this guitar and when we arrived in the studio the volume was intense! I plugged in my Hummingbird, but it was impossible to play in such an acoustic environment. My guitar was just freaking out with feedback. Feedback is great when it’s under control, but not when it’s not. Jimi was genial. A very sweet unassuming person, like all the great players I’ve ever met.”
He credits both of those musicians with being instrumental in pushing him towards forming his own band. Williams encouraged him to write music for Lifetime, and McLaughlin says that’s where a lot of the “internal work and musical realisation” that informed Mahavishnu Orchestra was done. But it was Davis who went out on a limb and suggested the move. “It was in November 1970 and I was with Miles,” McLaughlin says. “We were playing in a club near Boston. There were just the two of us after the gig, and out of the blue Miles turned around to me and
said, ‘you know John, it’s time you formed your own band.’ Which really blew my mind; I had no idea where that came from. But since he was the most honest man I’d ever met in my life, I thought he must mean it, so I did. And that was the Mahavishnu Orchestra. He came to our concerts, he would come regularly.” The quintet, filled out by keyboardist Jan Hammer, violinist Jerry Goodman, drummer Billy Cobham and bassist Rick Laird, was amongst the most incendiary of the fusion bands of the era. All players were virtuosos, capable of playing at ridiculous tempos, which would change on a dime and veer off on any number of tangents. Electric and powerful, but also capable of nuance, Mahavishnu Orchestra were amongst the most compelling act of any sort in the early 1970s. But despite McLaughlin’s deep exploration of Eastern spirituality, under the tutelage of Indian guru Sri Chinmoy, the band was a volatile unit. The first line-up split after two albums – 1971’s The Inner Mounting Flame and 1973’s Birds of Fire – as opposing Laird/Cobham/ McLaughlin and Hammer/Goodman camps formed. “I think probably one of the elements that contributed towards its dissolution was the fact we had too much commercial success,” McLaughlin reflects. “This band was a great musical success; it was fantastic, people loved it, and then it became a commercial success. And as my ex-manager said one day, ‘John, failure is easy to deal with. Success is much more difficult’. We were making tons of FOUNDRY –
money and going everywhere around the world playing and I think we were ill prepared for it.” A second version of Mahavishnu Orchestra with only McLaughlin remaining recorded 1974’s Apocalypse, 1975’s Visions of the Emerald Beyond, and 1976’s Inner Worlds. The guitarist was musically restless though, and recorded several mid-1970s albums as Shakti, with Indian musical legends including violinist L. Shankar, percussionist T.H. Vinayakaram, and tabla player Zakir Hussain. There were also numerous albums by other jazz fusion performers that McLaughlin guested on. And he’s never stopped. Since that era he’s recorded again with Miles Davis, Mahavishnu Orchestra, along with many solo albums and collaborations. Through it all, it’s been an unbridled love of music driving him ever forward.
“In music, or in any of the arts, if you don’t have a passion for it you might as well find another job,” McLaughlin concludes. “Inspiration is a very mysterious entity, because when it comes everybody can feel it, and when it’s not there everybody knows. There are periods where it will come and it will drive me and I’ll be outputting everything that it’s dictating. At the moment I have absolutely nothing in my imagination that wants to be written down.” F
High Flying Birds Silence. A few guttural murmurs, and clearings of the throat. Then cue a brief drum roll, as short-lived as the percussive prefix to My Bloody Valentine’s ‘Only Shallow’, and suddenly everything is underway; a 100-piece choir soars dreamily encircled by a baroque string section, and a 44-year-old Mancunian father of three belts out vivid, audacious couplets with little cohesive meaning, stretching out syllables to their absolute breaking point.
Basti Menkes FOUNDRY –
nor anything as psychotically uncool as ‘Bring The Light’.
This, ladies and gentlemen, is the extravagant commencement of Noel Gallagher’s solo career. Previously known as the more restrained Gallagher brother, the brains rather than brawn behind Oasis, Noel has decided to make his first solitary venture into music-making a momentous one. Aforementioned opener ‘Everybody’s On The Run’, once a crude, sparse guitar tune reliant on Roger Waters’ technique of implying scale rather than bluntly stating it, inflates itself to epic proportions within a matter of seconds, the mix flooded with samples of rain, cascades of angelic harmony and understated acoustic strums. Indeed, this scale is reminiscent of Be Here Now, Oasis’ bloated folie-de-grandeur LP of ‘97, but unlike the grating, overdubbed cocaine supernovas featured therein, ‘Everybody’s’ size is achieved in a much more stately and self-conscious manner. And, despite its resplendent enormousness, there is a surprising amount of space here in which the listener can actually breathe; all the big-legged, beery arrogance begot by younger brother Liam, the cacophonous three-minute intros, the barely-disguised Beatles rip-offs, the endless electrified guitar solos, all feel shrugged off, surrendered in search of something more charming and altogether more tasteful. Less than one minute into Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds, Oasis can be officially declared dead. To call the first High Flying Birds album a post-Oasis record would largely be accurate. Aside from the muscular, morose ‘If I Had A Gun…’, this is not music that could’ve or would’ve survived on an Oasis record. Touts of wheezy brass keep a handful of these tracks from simply playing out as variations on ‘The Importance Of Being Idle’, the staccato, funereal and heavily Kinksy highlight of latterday Oasis, and the inclusion of a glammy, piano-driven floorfiller (‘AKA… What A Life!’) to mark the beginning of Side B only further distances this album from Noel’s previous work. Oasis comparisons aside, one could only describe this ten-track recording as a classic rock album, feathery and precise in its aesthetic and with a pleasantly retro vibe throughout (lyrical themes including lemonade, village greens and at least three references to televisions). As one might expect, there is less crunch here and more craftsmanship than exhibited by Beady Eye, Liam’s ongoing half of the Oasis division; nothing as sonically direct as ‘Four Letter Word’, FOUNDRY –
In terms of overall quality, High Flying Birds ranges from fantastic (‘Soldier Boys And Jesus Freaks’, ‘Stop The Clocks’, ‘Everybody’s On The Run’, ‘AKA… What A Life!’) to fair (‘The Death Of You And Me’, ‘AKA… Broken Arrow’). The less arresting numbers are far from all-out failures, they just lack cohesion or direction; second track ‘Dream On’ begins with a gloomily descending melody, initially bound for somewhere downright interesting before awkwardly doubling back on itself and collapsing somewhere placid. Then proceeds a non-stop barrage of almost-hooks and failed motifs, none quite memorable enough to stick out or to survive out of context (if somebody asked me to hum the song to them, I’d probably cry), but enough to keep the song buoyant considering their abundance. It is not bad, simply uninspired, especially in contrast to its regal predecessor. As well as ‘Everybody’s On The Run’ going from down-to-earth to dramatic, fellow Oasis carry-overs ‘If I Had A Gun…’, ‘(I Wanna Live In A Dream In My) Record Machine’ and ‘Stop The Clocks’ all had interesting expansions from demo to album track. ‘If I Had A Gun...’ began as a dry and fragile ballad Noel performed at a soundcheck, his once incomprehensible cries now traded for shouts, his coarse acoustic scratches for a latent electric lead and muddily plodding rhythm section. Equally middling, ‘Record Machine’s once simple, narcotised beauty has been lost in over-production and orchestration, its scorched psychedelia now swapped for a fruitless stadium stroll. The least faithful modernization, however, is incidentally the most successful; closing number ‘Stop The Clocks’ has been transformed from a cloudy, rapturous guitar song to a fluorescent life-affirmer, more akin to Radiohead’s ‘House Of Cards’ than Noel’s own ‘Don’t Look Back In Anger.’ Noel’s voice is stronger this time around; his words glowing with a green neon outline thanks to some bizarre reverb wizardry and backed by ethereal vocal keyboards. The final raucous minute of the song is embellished with brisk patters of bongo and jolts of squealing sax, a smile-inducing testament to Noel’s artistic liberation and hopefully a taster of what’s to come. After the first couple spins, the impression is given that Noel is beginning to truly branch out creatively, channeling from a much larger influential palette than the Lennon-McCartney tributes of yore, but is yet to jump in the deep end. His reputedly adventurous follow-up, a psychedelic collaboration with electronica duo Amorphous Androgynous, sadly overshadows this good rather than great record, a release 2012 should be happy to see. Listen: Everybody’s On The Run, Stop The Clocks, AKA… What A Life! F
Published on Jan 3, 2012
Published on Jan 3, 2012
Within these pages we talk to artist and musician Glen Ross, and interview with label founders Ian Henderson & David Ager, chat to Dunedin b...